Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Curb Appeal - Part 1

Despite the residual snow on the ground outside – I know, it’s ONLY the end of March! – it’s time to start thinking about ways to improve your likelihood for selling your Saline, Michigan home this spring.

Curb appeal is the aspect of your home which a prospective home buyer can see from the curb or the street. It’s the first impression your home gives to anyone who approaches your home.

There are many aspects of curb appeal to consider, including the condition of your home (roof, trim, paint, clean windows, etc) and landscape (lawn, gardens, sidewalk(s), driveway, patio(s)). Today I’ll focus exclusively on only one aspect of the “Curb Appeal” of your home – the landscape as you approach your front door.

What is the condition of your front sidewalk? Is it smooth and level? Are there trip hazards – raised/sunken sections of the sidewalk?

Are the plants along the edge of your front sidewalk overhanging and interfering with a buyer’s walk to the front door?

Do you have a fresh “Welcome” mat outside your front door?

Are the windows on the front door, or to the side of the front door, clean and shiny?

Does the doorbell work?

I’ll always recall the sale of home several years ago, for the complete effectiveness of the curb appeal as we approached the front door.

As we approached the home, the sellers had installed, to each side of the sidewalk approaching the front door, a hanging flower basket. The metal pole holding the hanging basket on each side was shaped in the form of a half-heart. In other words, when you looked at the poles from a distance, you saw the form of a Heart outlined by the poles. The hanging flower baskets were full of vibrantly colored flowers. All in all, the setting was incredibly inviting. Once we were inside the home, the buyers (who already had a fabulous first impression of the home), fell in love with the interior, and immediately made an offer to purchase. Sadly, though, this example is more unique that you might imagine.

When it comes time for you to sell, be sure to ask your Realtor® to help you maximize the first impression of your home’s curb appeal. It can earn you a higher sale price and a likely faster sale.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Who Are We All Talking To?

When you drive down the road these days, here’s what you’ll see the most:

Two out of three drivers are talking on a cell phone!

Who are we all talking to?

Is it my neighbors in Saline, Michigan all talking about the Real Estate market in their neighborhood? Is it an excited buyer talking about the sweetheart deal they just got on their new home? Are they calling a friend to join them for dinner at a local watering hole? Are they calling all their friends to b**ch about their property taxes?

Nearly every day, I watch my across-the-street neighbor back out of his driveway. As soon as he has his truck out on the street, he’s dialing his cell phone. By the time he gets to the stop sign at the end of the street, he’s happily gabbing away. What? He couldn’t talk on a land-line phone before he left? Or, are we all so craving for privacy that we have to escape to our cars to carry on a private conversation?

No wonder the plethora of “all inclusive” deals from the major cellular carriers. Apparently the 3000 minutes per month plan (that’s 50 hours each month on the cell phone) wasn’t enough! Judging from all the folks talking on their cells while driving, it clearly wasn’t enough!

There is a definite movement among our (nanny) governmental bodies, at all levels, to address the problem of distracted driving.

Folks, if we don’t get a handle on our need to constantly be holding a cell phone to our ears, that privilege will be taken away from us.

And then how shall we talk?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ann Arbor's Field of 64

The Ann Arbor News has taken the concept of March Madness to another level!

In yesterday's "Connection" section, we looked upon a familiar sight - March Madness brackets. Except, this one was a bit different.

What the News has done is take 64 great things about Ann Arbor, seeded them into 4 regions and 16 seeds, and matched them against each other.

The result? The greatest thing about Ann Arbor is Zingerman's.

Now, you may or may not agree with the ultimate champion - is there ever consensus agreement about the eventual NCAA basketball champion? This bracket will sure get tongues wagging on what was included and left out!

The other three in the final four? Football Saturdays, the Michigan Theatre, and the Art Fairs. Now, really, is there anything better about Ann Arbor than these final four?

Congratulations to Zingerman's!

Sweetheart Deals!

Every so often, it’s important to give an example of what’s going on in the day-to-day marketplace in our area.

A repeat client, Corbin, had heard of some of the great deals in our marketplace recently, and he wanted in on the action. He called me to get an update on any “reasonable” bargains in his local marketplace.

We set up a search, using some unique criteria which I have established for determining which properties on the market really are “bargains”.

Corbin reviewed the list, and found a foreclosed property which fit his needs perfectly. We went to see it, and found it in reasonably good shape (for a foreclosure).

So here’s the details – Corbin buys a property for $150,000 which has an appraised value – even in our current market – of over $220,000. Think about that! He has just picked up a cool $70,000 in equity – all for a little paint and carpet. He’s getting a great home, at a fabulous price.

What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Valleyview Saline Homes

At this time, there are only two homes available for sale in the Valleyview Sub of Saline

1. 6931 Heatheridge, $289,000.
2. 6488 Hollowtree Ct., $299,000.

You can tour these two homes here.

If you'd like to see either of these two homes, call me at (734) 476-2063.

Read to Write

Every once in a while, I like to veer off the course of all Real Estate, all the time. Today’s topic is just such a diversion for me.

It’s always been my impression that those who write well – and those who write for a living – are also likely to be those who read widely and extensively. There are some who are so gifted with the ability to write well that they may never read more than they write themselves, but those folks are likely to be few and far between.

While I’ve always enjoyed reading, it never was a priority for me. Other than the local newspaper (mostly my favorite writer in the Sports section), several Real Estate periodicals, and an occasional book (maybe 5 books each year), reading tended to end up in my “C” priority list.

So, in order to improve my ability to write, I set an ambitious goal for this year (2008). My goal this year is to read at least 50 pages in books each day.

As of mid-March, I’m averaging nearly 60 pages per day. Not bad.

I’ve even gone so far as to post on my Facebook profile both my goal and the books I’ve read (and am reading even now). Bold, but it sure keeps me motivated!

As I write this, I’ve just begun Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. I’ll say right off the bat that I’ve never been one for poetry, so this book is a challenge for me. But, we grow stronger by meeting and beating our challenges. Some of verse can really hit me (“I project the history of the future” – think about this awhile), while others become just a jumble of words in my head. Still, I plow onward.

Mostly this year, I’ve read biographies. Andrew Carnegie (U.S. Steel), John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil), J.P. Morgan (Investments),Edmund Burke (British statesman), Mark Twain, and Frederick Douglass so far. Yet to read – Einstein, Lincoln, Washington, Horace Greeley, Edison, Tesla, Henry Ford, and many others.

Some of the biographers have done an outstanding job of writing, as the text is riveting. Some of these works were a challenge, too. It has struck me that one of the more difficult challenges is to write a biography. It certainly helps that the subject is a fascinating historical figure. Above that, though, a crafty biographer weaves a narrative story of the life and times of the subject. Many of these books have carried me back in time, such that I was made to feel like I was walking alongside the subject during their lifetime.

The fascinating part of a biography, for me, is that you can “see” across the horizon of the subject’s lifetime over the course of a week of reading. You learn how the subject’s early life affected them throughout the rest of their life. You learn how they made lemonade out of lemons. You learn how they conducted themselves with family, friends, and associates – sometimes for the good, sometimes not! You also learn how they aged – sometimes surrounded by family and friends, sometimes terribly alone. Each of these events in the subject’s life is a teaching moment for my own life – again, sometimes for the good, and sometimes how NOT to live one’s life.

It’s been said that you learn from your mistakes, but that you can become brilliant by learning from the mistakes of others. Perhaps the flip side of this idea holds true, as well. You can also become a better person by learning how great people have conducted themselves and modeling that same behavior yourself.

Has all of this reading helped me to write well?

That’s really for you, the reader, to judge.

All this reading has certainly made it easier for me to write. When you read and absorb how others have assembled their thoughts into words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and entire books, it helps you to begin to do the same. You have to learn to crawl before you can walk. With the books I’ve read so far this year, it has felt like I had to begin as a world-class sprinter!

All this reading has also taught me to savor each day, whether filled with success or with challenges. It’s uncanny how you can read of an event in a biography, and then witness a nearly identical event in today’s world. Scary, too. Those who fail to learn by their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

With each book I’ve read, I’ve kept a journal of notes. Sometimes it’s the way the author has developed an idea, or the way the words just seem to flow together. Other times, it’s a summation of an idea the author was trying to convey in their work. I captured that thought while doing my research for this post:

What if you could learn the success secrets of the greatest people who ever lived? You can.

The lives of the famous and the infamous have been recorded in biographies and are ready for you to read and research.

The lives of great government leaders, businesspeople and humanitarians are there. You will read about successes and triumphs. You will also learn how many times champions lose on their way to winning.

In reading biographies, you may come to the startling conclusion of how much greatness you possess. You may conclude, "Hey, I can do that." You can make your life significant. Biographies help show the way. You only have to take the action to go to the library, bookstores or surf the Internet.

So, friendly reader, will you be the judge of how my reading has impacted my writing this year?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Market Statistics for Saline

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As you all know, I review our market statistics around the middle of each month.What I'd like to focus on this month is the overall strength of the market in, and around, Saline.

The first chart I’d like to review is shown below. I’ve tracked real estate activity for the Saline market since 1996. There is a definite seasonality to the market – strength in the summer, weakness in the winter. A reading above 25% is a “seller’s” market, while a reading below 20% is a “buyer’s” market.

It’s no surprise to learn that we have been in a “buyer’s” market in Saline since the end of 2004 – more than three years, now.

What’s intriguing about this first chart is the strengthening of the Saline market since October. What could be the cause of this?
This second chart (above) shows 2 lines. The top line shows the number of homes available for sale (listings) in the Saline area. The lower line shows the number of homes sold each month.

In answer to my question posed above (What could be the cause of this?), the strengthening of the Saline market since October is a direct result of fewer homes listed for sale. How could this make the market stronger? Well, with fewer homes competing for the available buyers, it’s more likely that any of the homes listed for sale will actually sell during the month. That’s what we mean by a strengthening of the market!

Another interesting observation from the chart is that the number of sales in the Saline area has been rather consistent since 2005! In a previous post, we learned about the three "P's" that you control when you sell. The homes that are selling now, have been selling since 2005, are those that have consistency between the three "P's". Go back and check that post for a reminder.

The final piece of the analysis of the strength of the Saline real estate market is the months of supply of homes presently on the market.

This table shows the “raw data” that makes up the charts shown above. On the far right hand side of this table shows the “Months Supply” in each price range. Rather than focus on any particular price range, it’s more helpful to understand the overall level of inventory of homes for sale.

As of mid-March, at the present pace of sales of homes in Saline, there are enough homes on the market to supply over 12 months of demand. This is down significantly since February, when there was nearly a 20 months’ supply of homes for sale. In the past few years, it’s been typical to have about 6 months’ supply of homes for sale, so our market is improving toward our average.

If you're looking to sell in this market, take heart! Call me!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The "Top Ten" Most Expensive Homes for Sale in our Area

OK, this post is meant solely to gain your attention. Isn’t that what “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” was all about?

Here in Washtenaw County, we’re blessed with two great universities, as well as myriad employers. The economic diversity we have in Washtenaw County is amazing. Because of that diversity, we have some amazing homes. Here are the 10 most expensive homes for sale in our area (9 are in Ann Arbor, 1 is in Dexter) as of mid-March, 2008.

1. $6,750,000
2525 Country Club Rd., Ann Arbor
18,300 sq. ft., 9 BR, 10 ½ baths.
2. $4,000,000
2900 Delhi Rd., Ann Arbor
7918 sq. ft., 5 BR, 3 ½ baths.
3. $3,950,000
5388 Geddes Rd., Ann Arbor
6500 sq. ft., 5 BR, 5 ½ baths.
4. $3,600,000
3650 Daleview Dr., Ann Arbor
11450 sq. ft., 5 BR, 6 full, 2 half-baths.
5. $3,500,000
230 Corrie Rd., Ann Arbor
9000 sq. ft., 5 BR, 4 1/2 bath
6. $2,999,000
3019 N. Maple, Ann Arbor
15,185 sq. ft., 4 BR, 3 ½ baths
7. $2,775,000
5484 Meadowcrest Dr., Ann Arbor
14,543 sq. ft., 5 BR, 7 ½ baths.
8. $2,225,000
5800 Cobble Lane, Dexter
5631 sq. ft., 6 BR, 5 ½ baths.
9. $1,900,000
5270 Geddes Rd., Ann Arbor
2907 sq. ft., 2 BR, 2 baths
10. $1,850,000
330 Barton Shore Dr., Ann Arbor
4843 sq. ft., 6 BR, 5 ½ baths.

If you’re curious to see these fabulous homes, you can check them out here.

If you’d like to see any of these homes, call or e-mail me. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Property Tax Board of Review

For the past two days, I’ve been serving as a member of the Board of Review (BOR) for Lodi Township. For each of the past ten years, I’ve served the Township on the BOR on the second Monday and Tuesday of March.

The Lodi BOR consists of three members – all residents of Lodi township - myself, and two others. Until this year, one of our Board members was a long-time farmer in the township. Sadly, he passed away last year, and we missed him greatly at the BOR meetings this year. He was replaced this year by a real estate appraiser who lives in the township. Our third member is an attorney who specializes in commercial real estate. I bring “market knowledge” to the BOR. Working with these other BOR members has been a pleasure.

The function of the BOR is to hear resident’s appeals of the assessed and taxable value of their real property. Most of those who appeal are not “experts” in property value, nor are they expected to be. Many of them bring a passionate voice to their appeal. What we look for is evidence which supports the value that they place on their property. Sadly, most bring no supporting evidence, so they are less than successful in their appeal.

So, what would I like to see as a BOR member?

Ideally, I would like to see a fee-paid appraisal of the resident’s property, which supports their claim of value (presumably MUCH lower than the assessor’s claim of value). The cost of having an appraisal of your property begins at $350 and goes up from there, so most residents don’t go that far with their appeal.

Short of a fee-paid appraisal, I’d like to see a presentation of comparable properties to the resident’s own property. These comparables can come from a Realtor®, or from the resident’s own research – either on the internet, or directly at the Township offices. I know, I know, it’s very surprising to think that you could do research at the Township (or City) offices. The assessor WON’T bite your head off! Really! Most assessors enjoy discussing their work with residents.

So what kind of data should you get? By definition, a “comparable” property to yours would be a home of similar size, style, age, and location. Ideally, other homes like yours in the same subdivision will support your argument the best. If you have a 2-story home, and you bring only ranch homes as comparables, you have little chance of success. If you have a ranch, and you bring 3, 4, or 5 other similar ranch homes like yours, you have an excellent chance of successful appeal.

What if there are no recent sales of comparable properties? This is becoming a more frequent occurrence, as the number of home sales declines in our region. In this case, look for comparable properties which are currently offered for sale. If the asking price of the homes for sale is less than your taxable value, you have a strong argument in your favor.

I’d be happy to help you with your determination of value for your home in preparation for your Board or Review. I’m not a licensed appraiser, so I cannot offer you a “fee-paid” appraisal. What I can offer is an experienced opinion on your likelihood of success in your appeal. Call or write me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dan's Downtown Tavern, Saline

Every town seems to have a “local” watering hole – you know the one: It’s not highly advertised, but all the locals know about it. If you’re not a local, you’d miss it.

In Saline, that would be Dan’s Downtown Tavern. It’s my favorite
place to eat out in Saline, and has been for many years. In fact, it’s
likely that I’ve eaten out at Dan’s more often than at all other restaurants in our area, combined. Yes, yes, I know – but it’s that good.

During the summer, I play golf. Not every day, mind you, but I enjoy getting out to play as often as I can. Most of the time, it’s an afternoon round of golf, followed by a visit to Dan’s.

OK, picture this: That first swig of draft beer after a round of golf. Can you just taste it, right now? That’s why I’ve visited Dan’s so often. Order up a 2-patty burger with sweet potato fries (say what? Try them, they’re great!) and you’ve got a great post-game meal.

So, if you’re looking for a comfortable place to eat in Saline, be sure to visit Dan’s. Here’s all the map stuff you’ll need to find it. Enjoy!

View Larger Map

Friday, March 7, 2008

Mortgage Foreclosure Timeline

First Month Missed Payment: The first month that your payment is missed, your mortgage company is likely to contact you by mail and/or telephone to inform you of your delinquent status. A late charge is assessed on your missed payment.

Second Month Missed Payment: The second month that your payment is missed, your mortgage company is likely to begin calling the contact numbers that they have for you, in order to discuss why you have not made a payment. It is important that you not avoid their telephone calls. Try to stay calm on the phone, explain to them your situation, and what you are doing to resolve it. You still may be able to make one payment at this time to prevent yourself from falling three months delinquent.

Third Month Missed Payment: At this point, you are likely to receive a letter from the mortgage company stating the amount that you are delinquent, and that you have 30 days to bring it current. This is called your “Demand Letter” or “Notice to Accelerate”. If you do not pay the specified amount or make some form of arrangement by the date given, they are allowed at that time to refer you to foreclosure, or accelerate your mortgage. They are unlikely to accept less than the total amount due without prior arrangements. Foreclosure/Acceleration means that they forward your account to their Attorneys. You still have time to work something out with the mortgage company.

Fourth Month Missed Payment: Now you are usually nearing the end of the time allowed in your Demand Letter or Notice to Accelerate. If this expires and you have not paid the full amount, or worked out some arrangements, then you will be referred to their Attorneys. At this time, you incur all Attorney fees as part of your delinquency. The Attorney then schedules a “Sheriff’s Sale”, which is the actual date of foreclosure. The Sheriff’s Sale will be scheduled for approximately six weeks after the Attorney receives your file. You will be notified of this date by mail, along with a notice taped to your door. This is NOT a move-out date. The Attorney publishes a notice of foreclosure over four successive weeks in the local legal newspaper. After the first insertion on your property is published in the legal news, you have 4 weeks until the Sheriff’s Sale. Contact your lender NOW!

Sheriff’s Sale: You have up until the date of the Sheriff’s Sale to work out arrangements with the mortgage company or to pay the total amount owed (the reinstatement amount). At the Sheriff’s Sale, your house will be sold. An outside party may bid on your home. If no bids are received, the home goes back to the lender.

Redemption Period: If nothing is done to resolve the situation and the Sheriff’s Sale is completed, then you enter the Redemption period. The redemption period starts from the date of the Sheriff’s Sale. State law in Michigan requires that this period is not less than 30 days, and no more than one year. Most mortgages allow the homeowner six months to redeem the property with the lender/bidder, paying the amount owed plus interest and fees. If the property is over 3 acres, you may have a 12-month redemption period. You will be notified of your time frame on the same notice that states your Sheriff’s Sale date. This is still your time to reside in the home.

End of Redemption Period: If the homeowner has not redeemed the property, ownership is transferred to the lender or bidder. If the homeowner has not left, the new owner starts the eviction proceedings. An eviction hearing is held within two weeks, followed by a 10-day grace period for the former homeowner to vacate the premises. When the grace period ends, eviction is certified. Court bailiffs are notified, and they empty the premises. Any of your belongings remaining in the home are moved to the curb for disposal. The locks are changed, and you no longer may reside there.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

So, You Want to Rent, Instead?

In the Saline and Ann Arbor area, there are many different sizes and types of rental housing available to you. All you have to do is decide which kind you prefer. There are many positive and negative aspects associated with each and the type that is right for you depends on your preferences and desires. To make this process of figuring out what type of building you want to rent, here are some of the benefits and downsides associated with the various rental properties:

Single-Family Houses

Single-family houses are free-standing rental properties that are habited by one person, family, or group of renters. Single-family rental units are very much like owning your own house.

Positive Aspects: As you do not share this rental space with any other tenants, single-family homes offer the most amount of privacy.
Negative Aspects: Many of the amenities that you may expect from a larger rental unit are not available.


Positive Aspects: You can expect similar conveniences as with a single-family home when renting a duplex, triplex, or quad unit. These rental units offer greater privacy and independence.
Negative Aspects: However, like single-family homes, these rental properties may not offer as many amenities as larger rental buildings are able to provide. Furthermore, you must also consider that you do have neighbors that are closer to you than what would be in a single-family home.

Small Apartment Buildings

Positive Aspects:Small apartment buildings offer more amenities (generally) than single family homes or townhouses, while simultaneously providing a living situation that you share with a small number of other tenants.
Negative Aspects: You will have more neighbors in a closer proximity than you would if you were renting a single-family home or townhouse. Furthermore, you may not have access to as many amenities as you would have if you were to rent in a larger rental property.

Medium Apartment Complex

Positive Aspects: Medium apartment buildings will often provide many of the amenities expected from large apartment buildings, but shared with fewer people.
Negative Aspects: You will have many neighbors that you must consider when living in a medium apartment building.

Large Apartment Complex

Large apartment buildings are comprised of numerous rental units and house the largest number of tenants under one roof.

Positive Aspects: You can generally expect a greater amount of amenities and luxuries from a larger apartment building than you might from smaller rental properties. Many have on-site management and 24- hour emergency maintenance, in addition to other amenities like swimming pools, clubhouses, and fitness centers.
Negative Aspects: You are surrounded by numerous other tenants and must co-exist with others peacefully. There will generally be more noise and activity in the building, which occurs naturally with the larger population of tenants.

In general, the smaller the rental unit with the smallest number of tenants the greater privacy and a more independent living situation. However, many of these smaller units are not able to offer the same variety of amenities provided by the bigger apartment complexes.

So, if you’ve decided to rent in the Saline or Ann Arbor area, you’ll have a large number of options. If you have questions about any of the material covered in this post, please let me know. I’m always happy to answer your housing-related questions.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Michigan Women's Basketball

On Sunday, March 2, 2008, the regular season ended for the University of Michigan Women’s basketball team. For my daughter and I (season-ticket holders), it was a bittersweet day. The bitterness came from the outcome of the game, a 48-63 loss to the Golden Gophers from Minnesota. The sweetness came from the terrific turn-around from last season. This year’s team finished with a 16-12 overall record, and a 9-9 record in the Big Ten. When you consider that the team won only three Big Ten games COMBINED in the past two seasons, you understand the magnitude of the change.

The make-up of this year’s team was nearly the same as last year’s. Only one senior graduated last year – Kelly Helvey (a terrific player). Thus, this year’s team had only one freshman member – Veronica Hicks (who has shown tendencies to be equally terrific).

So how did a team that struggled last year under a different coaching staff turn it around? They did it with passion. The new head coach, Kevin Borseth, brought a new drive to his team. From the outset this season we (my daughter and I) saw it. Coach Borseth came in with the bona-fides as a great coach in the Women’s game. His team bought into it, and as the season progressed, the fans who regularly came to the games, bought into it as well. The symbiotic relationship between a team and its core group of fans was born.

When Coach Borseth was introduced last spring, he said something that struck me. He asked us to look around at Crisler Arena, and envision the lower bowl being FULL. I could picture it immediately. Then he told us to get our tickets (or, in my case, to renew my season tickets) while we still can. He was THAT confident that his team would perform such that more and more fans would show up and cheer on his team.

On January 13 of this year, Michigan hosted the Lady Spartans from Michigan State. And, what do you know? The lower bowl was nearly full!

It’s just another example of someone bringing about what they think about. Coach Borseth had already pictured the lower bowl being full of fans for his team, and it happened.

For a True Blue fan like me, it was a sweet victory that day against MSU.

I’m sure that most of you sports fans have already seen Coach Borseth’s passion on display on ESPN and other media, following a heartbreaking loss to Wisconsin on February 28. But, in case you haven’t, here’s the video.

See what I mean? That’s passion about your job!
Go Blue!

Congratulations to the 2007-2008 Michigan Women's Basketball Team!