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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wire fraud reaches new depths.

The crooks of this world are nothing if not resourceful and clever about finding ways to steal from innocent victims. Wire fraud in reals estate transactions are a recent but growing and serious problem.

The way this form of fraud works is that the bad guys hack into the email accounts of either the Buyers’ Realtor involved or the Buyers’ title company. Changes to closing policies over the last few years have dictated that all funds to be used in a real estate transaction about a threshold of $25,000 must be wired in at closing. That usually means that the Buyers’ bank or Mortgage Company sends an electronic wire from itself to the title company, effectively transferring the funds into the title company’s account.

In order to facilitate these transfers,  the Buyer arranges with his bank for the transfer by sending them the “wiring instructions” from the title company. Those instructions provide the bank routing numbers and account numbers of the title company accounts into which the funds are to be wired. In some cases the Sellers may also provide wiring instructions for the transfer of proceeds funds into their banks. Even the companies holding the mortgage on the property use wiring instructions to instruct were the mortgage payoff is to be deposited. All of those instructions are usually sent to the other parties involved in the transaction using email.

It is the use of email that the fraudsters have seized upon as an opportunity to game the system. They hack into the email accounts of the parties involved, usually the Buyers or the real estate agent, but is could also be the title company or even the banks. They basically hijack the email account and use it to send fake emails that change the wiring instructions. The emails look like they are coming from a trusted party and are passed on to the bank. The fake emails re-route the wire transfer into an account owned by the fraudsters. They immediately clean out the account and are gone with the money. Things can also get nasty as the defrauded parties try to figure out who’s on the hook for what in the loss.

We are now advising clients about this issue and warning them about the techniques that the bad guys are using. We will shortly be having buyers sign a release document that specifies that they understand this crime and what they need to do to prevent falling victim to it. the advice being given includes:

  • ·         Realtors should never be involved in forwarding wiring instructions or closing packages with wire instructions in them to anyone. Consumers should only get wire instructions directly from their title or mortgage company.  
  • ·         Buyers should never accept any email wire instructions (often included in closing packages) that are not encrypted from their title or mortgage company.
  • ·         Wiring instructions never change in mid-transaction.  Any email talking about a change should be considered fraudulent.
  • ·         Before authorizing any wire, buyers should use a 2-step verification that includes a voice-to-voice conversation with a known individual to confirm the information.
  • ·         If you are concerned about using a wire, ask the title company if they will accept a cashier’s check (typically brought in 2-3 days prior to closing to give time for the funds to clear). 
  • ·         Buyers should change their passwords to their email accounts often and use strong passwords that cannot be easily guessed by the bad guys.

It certainly seems that the very technologies that are supposed to make life easier in this case also make it much more fraught with danger.  This is yet another example of a form of identity theft (your email identity in this case) that can cause great harm

If you are about to enter into a real estate transaction; take the warnings and instructions outlined above to heart.  As the use of technology become more ubiquitous, unfortunately we must also become more and more cynical about cautious about it and concerned and careful about not letting the bad guys assume our electronic/technology identities, even for a moment.  Be safe out there!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Look at your house like I would…

Every now and then you should look at your house with the critical eye that a realtor might or that a buyer might use to evaluate it. Why? Even if you have no plans to sell, looking at your house like you have to get it ready to sell will give you a list of things that you’ve become “nose-dead” to in your home. You will have a to-do list when you are done.
Starting on the outside –

Start at the street out in front of the house and look at -
  • ·         The visual first impression of your property overall
  • ·         The condition of the driveway and walk (if any)
  • ·         The appearance of any shrubbery or other landscaping – is it well kept or overgrown?
  • ·         The appearance of the front door- the door & its hardware, lighting fixtures, stoop or porch

Walk around the house looking up at the roof and trim. Does the roof look like it needs replacing? Is the trim rotted or missing pieces, does it look like it has been maintained? Look at the windows and the back door. Look at the rear deck or patio.  Does it look like it is well maintained or does it need attention? Is there an old rusty swing set back there?

Even though you may always enter through the garage, go in through the front door.
What is your first impression of the entryway? Does it impress you or leave you cold? Is there a coat closet in the entry hall?  What is the flow from the front entry? Is there a direct hallway to the rear or must you go through another room to get there?

Walk through each room slowly, looking up for any signs of water damage, at the walls for any paint issues and at the floor for the condition of the flooring. Look for any missing light switch or electrical plug plates. Do the light fixtures look modern or dated? Is there carpet everywhere or wood floors? If there is carpet, is it in good condition? Check for smoke detectors here and on every level, as well as Carbon Monoxide detectors on every level.

What is you impression as you walk into each room? Does it look cluttered? Is your eye drawn to something in particular and is that a good thing? Can you walk easily through the room or is it an obstacle course to get through?

Look at all of the windows for signs of failed seals that need replacing. If the windows are old, aluminum sliders, it might be time to replace them and get rid of those marble window sills at the same time. Is there a fireplace in the living room or family room? What is its condition?

Go to the kitchen. Are the appliances old and dated looking? Is the countertop Formica or a more modern material? Are the cabinets dated or worn looking? Is there hardware (pulls and handles)  on the cabinets and drawers? Is the layout dated or modern (more open). How is the lighting in the kitchen? Are there modern can lights and under cabinet lighting? Check under the sink for signs of leaks from the sink or disposal. Is there a pantry? Is it adequate? Is there a dishwasher? How’s the paint? Is there a back splash and how is it? Hopefully there’s not wallpaper here or anywhere else in the house.

Look into the 1/2 bath, if there is one. Does it look modern and updated or old and frumpy? Is
it time for a new vanity and a paint job. How about updated lighting fixtures?

Go upstairs and repeat the room by room walk-through, looking for the same signs of deferred maintenance or needs for updates, especially in the bathrooms. Pay close attention to the ceilings in these rooms for signs of roof leaks.  Also check the hand rails or banisters going up the stairs to see if they are loose or don’t meet current code (max of 3”between spindles).

Go to the basement and check it over for the same types of things. Check the heating and water heating systems for any signs of leaks and see if you can determine the age of the heating system. If the house is on a well and septic, check the well holding tank and water softener for leakage.  Open the electrical panel box and check for any signs of circuits being doubled up on breakers. Hopefully you don’t find an old fuse box. Look to see if there is evidence of DIY wiring running to the service box.

You will likely end up with a list of things that you need to do or get done. Simple things like painting you can probably do yourself; however, anything involving electrical or plumbing or the heating and water systems is probably best left to professionals.

There is additional advice that I would give you, if you were ready to put your house on the market, but that is a topic left for a future post.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Milford Home Tour Headlines a Fun Weekend in Milford

The 40th annual Milford Home Tour headlines a family fun weekend of events in Milford, Michigan, this weekend of September 17 & 18. The Home Tour, which is put on by the Milford Historical Society, features docent-led tours of five of Milford’s historic homes, 624-n-main-stwith two this year that have never been on the Home Tour before. Several homes will also feature entertainment by various individuals and groups. Proceeds from the Milford Home Tour go to support the operation of the Milford Historical Museum.
Also on the Home Tour itinerary is the Log Cabin on GM Road, next to the fire station, and the Milford Historical Museum at 124 E. Commerce Rd, just one block from downtown Milford. The Museum will feature a special Home Tour display of “Ladies’ Handiwork”, including a lace making demonstration. The Log Cabin will have games and home crafts from the late 1800’s for the kids and whole family.
The Home Tour starts at 11 AM each day running until 5 PM both days. Tickets may be 957-s-main-stpurchased at several downtown Milford locations prior to Saturday – Acorn Farm, Main Street Art, Your Nesting Place and the Milford Historical Museum – or at the homes that are on the tour either day of the tour.  Tickets are $15 for Adults and $13 for seniors. This year’s homes are located at 624 N. Main St, 324 S. Main St, 104 Second Street, 957 S. Main St and 1018 Atlantic St. For more on the houses that are on this year’s Home Tour go to the web site and click on the Home Tour Poster.
Saturday night will feature a special end-of-season concert called CURRENTS, an evening metal rockerof indie rock at the new LaFontaine Family Amphitheater, from 7-10 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19. Presented by Huron Valley State Bank and the Milford Downtown Development Authority, the concert is curated by Milford’s own Sean Lynch and will showcase three local and regional bands in one night, including hometown band 800Beloved, Grand Rapids-based Dear Tracks and Detroit’s Missionary. The concert is free to the public and will feature all original music. The LaFontaine Family Amphitheater is located in downtown Milford’s Central Park.
crusin-news-adOn Sunday, September 18, downtown Milford will be turned into a giant parking lot for the 32 annual Milford Car Show – the largest area car show of the year. Cars of all ages and type will be on display with show attendees getting to vote for their favorite cars in several categories from vintage streets rods to modern muscle cars. Over 250 cars are expected for the Milford Car Show which will open to the public at about 10 AM. Cars start showing up much earlier than that ad line up from Main and Commerce Streets all the way down to Central Park. For more on the Car show, go to
There is also a Tractor Show on Sunday starting at 11 AM out at the Huron Valley State Bank tractorparking lot at the corner of GM Road and Milford Road. Tractors of all sorts show up for this annual event; from working farm tractors to lawn tractors. There have even been a few steam engine tractors in the past.
So come out to Milford for the weekend on September 17 & 18 and enjoy the historic homes, an indie rock concert, the classic cars and the tractors. Stay and enjoy the many fine restaurants that are to be found in Milford. On Saturday you can also enjoy the great local shops in the downtown area and be sure to stop by the Milford Historical Museum for the lace making display and demonstrations.
We'll see you in Milford this weekend.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

“Stacked Sales” – a new reality in Real Estate Market…

The phenomenon of “stacked sales” – one home sale contingent upon the sale of another home and that one contingent, too - is a new reality in the local real estate market. It a great extent this is the result of the very tight market, with low inventory and few rental properties available. The stretched out mortgage process just adds to the problem.

A stacked sale scenario starts when someone decides to sell their house and starts trying to plan for
where they would go if it sold. Most sellers don’t have a second home that they could occupy even temporarily. Many are selling to downsize in their retirements or maybe to upsize to accommodate a growing family.  So they (we’ll call them Seller “A“) put their home on the market and start looking around for a new place to live. Along comes a buyer (we’ll call him Buyer “B” for clarity later in this piece) who might be one rung below them on the real estate ladder and he decides that he wants to buy this bigger house. The only problem is that Buyer ”B” currently has a house, so he puts it on the market, too. He now becomes Seller “B”.

Let’s assume that Seller ”B”’s house is a nice little starter house and that he priced it properly for the market . Buyer “B” gets an offer quickly from a first time buyer and accepts it. The first time buyer is moving out of an apartment, so he has nothing to sell. So, Seller “B”, with accepted offer in hand resumes his role as Buyer “B” and rushes back to Seller “A” with an offer to buy the house of Seller ”A”, contingent upon the closing of the sale on his (Buyer “B”) house.

Seller ”A” and his agent look over the deal and decide to accept the contingent offer. Now Seller ”A” has a real reason to become Buyer “A” – his house is “sold” and he needs a place to live.  So he goes out into the market and find the perfect place that is listed by Seller “C”. Buyer “A” makes an offer that is contingent upon the sale of his hose closing with Buyer “B”. IF Seller “C” accepts we now have stacked sale that are three sales deep. It’s sort of like lining up dominos and watching them all fall down when the first one and the head of the line is pushed over.  By the way, what do you think Seller “C” is going to do? Unless he is moving into a retirement home, he’s going to need a place to live; so he becomes Buyer “C” and may add to the stack.

All of these buyers and sellers are, of course, going to be trying to pull off this string of sales with the minimum amount of personal disruption to their lives; so they’ll try to coordinate the closings such
that everybody gets up and moves one house to the right without any delays or gaps. That is unlikely to happen, but they’ll try anyway. The more likely scenario is that one or more of the buyers will have to find a temporary place to live and will have to store their belongings for a short period.  Finding that short term rental place to live is a real challenge in this tight market, so many may end up living with family or friends for a week or two.

What’s the solution? There is no easy answer for that question.  When the market was not so tight and the mortgage process was less stringent, sellers could count on having time to look for a new place to live after they had accepted a contingent or non-contingent offer. These days that time pad is pretty much gone and contingent offers are more prevalent. One “solution” is for sellers not to accept contingent offers; however, in certain price bands the market is slow enough that any offer must be seriously considered.

Most of the time these convoluted sales work and all of the sales close; however, it only takes one glitch somewhere in the chain of sale to mess the whole thing up. The chain works best of the buyer furthest down the chain is an investor or a totally unencumbered buyer, like a first time buyer just out of college or moving from an apartment. In today’s market it is a lot harder to say no to an offer in certain price bands, even if it is contingent. When a property has been sitting on the market for a long time almost any offer looks good to the seller. The real estate agents involved will try to evaluate risk in the whole chain of sales before making recommendation to their clients and will often caution against accepting an offer, no matter how good the price seems to be.

What should you do as a seller? I certainly advise that you have a plan for a variety of potential scenarios.  Have a plan for what you would do if the place sells quickly and the offer requires a quick close and immediate occupancy. Do you have a place to go and a place to store your stuff? Have a plan for contingent offers. Will you accept a contingent offer and what will you do to plan for your one move? Do you need post-closing occupancy or can you be out at closing? Are you flexible on the timing of the close and willing to pull it in or stretch it out a bit to accommodate the buyer, if needed?
 How will that change in timing impact your plans?

Selling a home doesn’t have to be a stressful process, but it does take planning and some thought about the various alternative scenarios that can occur. Stacked sales are a new reality of the marketplace, so they need to be dealt with and not just avoided. You should have good answers in mind before accepting any offer to these questions -
Where am I planning to go from here?
  • How much time do I need to be able to move out? Do I need post-closing occupancy? How much?
  • How will I get my stuff moved out of my current house and into storage or to another house and what does that cost? DO I rent a truck and the move myself or hire it done?
  • What would it cost for temporary living or temporary storage of my belongings?
  • What happens if any of the contingencies is not met? Have I made sure that I did not backed myself into a corner on a new place?

Sit and discuss those “what if” scenarios with your Realtor before they pop up and demand a quick decision.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Don’t let the bad guys get your money…

There are always crooks and other bad guys out there trying to figure out how to rip people
and companies off and they don’t even need a gun. In our age of connectivity via electronic devices and the internet, a growing number of them are figuring out how to steal your money electronically.

In the real estate industry almost all transfers of fund is done electronically these days. Only smaller transaction still use Certified (or Cahiers) Checks. Most are completed using wire transfers from the mortgage company or from the buyers’ bank (or both). In all cases the instructions to the banks or mortgage companies about where to wire the funds come from the buyer or the buyers’ lender.  

The most popular method of stealing these days involves the bad guys gaining access to the email accounts of the buyers, the buyers’ real estate agents or the buyers’ title company escrow agents. Those are the people that the buyers and agents have been dealing with all along, in most cases by email, as well as phone calls and messages. They are trusted people in the transaction.

The bad guys watch the emails in the accounts that they have hacked and when the instructions for where to wire the funds for the sale come through they are ready to pounce. Usually right near the closing time, the bad guys send a fake email, using the valid agent or title company email addresses that they have hacked. In that email, they will ask the buyer or his bank/mortgage company  to change the address of where to wire the money to an account somewhere that they control.

So, you get that email and it appears to be from someone that you’ve been emailing back and forth with about the closing and the wire transfer. You make the change with your bank and get ready to head out to the closing. Maybe your bank is a small, less sophisticated institution with little experience with this type of fraud, so they react to the email from you or from the tile company (remember it’s really the bad guys sending those emails) and change the address that they send the wired funds to.

If that last minute change is not caught by alert agents or title people or the banks the money is wired to that new account where it vanishes almost immediately. It can be nearly impossible to track what happened to the money and it is a long battle to try to get the money refunded by the parties involved, if that can be done at all.

So, the California Association of Realtors (CAR) has put out a Wire Fraud Advisory (WFA) with helpful tips on preventing this type of fraud:

The WFA makes 5 specific recommendations.
1.   Obtain the phone number of the Escrow Officer at the beginning of the transaction.

2.    DO NOT EVER WIRE FUNDS PRIOR TO CALLING YOUR ESCROW OFFICER TO CONFIRM WIRE INSTRUCTIONS. ONLY USE A PHONE NUMBER YOU WERE PROVIDED PREVIOUSLY. Do not use any different phone number included in the emailed wire transfer instructions.

3.    Orally confirm the wire transfer instruction is legitimate and confirm the bank routing number, account numbers and other codes before taking steps to transfer funds.

4.    Avoid sending personal information in emails or texts. Provide such information in person or over the telephone directly to the Escrow Officer.

5.    Take steps to secure the system you are using with your email account. These steps include creating strong passwords, using secure WiFi, and not using free services.

The electronic systems that we’ve all become dependent upon are convenient, but they are also easily used by bad guys to defraud us. Be extra cautious when wiring money for a real estate closing is involved and make absolutely sure that the address that you are wiring funds to is a valid one that was supplied by the title company escrow agent. It is much better to be overly cautious that it is to be sorry for letting yourself be fooled. Assume that the bad guys are after your money and protect yourself.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Milford's 4th of July Parade for 2016

The annual Independence Day Parade (4th of July Parade), presented by the Milford Historical Society,  actually takes place on the Monday, the 4th of July, this year; however, it will not take place using the usual parade route.
Due to delays in the road construction project on E. Commerce Road, the Milford Public Safety officials have decided that it would d be unsafe to use E. Commerce Rd as part of the parade route; therefore the parade will start at the corner of N. Main Street and E. Commerce Road. People desiring to view the parade should not set up their chairs along E. Commerce Rd in front of  the Milford Historical Museum. The parade can only be viewed from Main Street this year. The parade will still proceed all the way down Main Street to the corner of Main and Huron Streets.
The change in parade route has also necessitated a last minute change in the parade line-up locations. The parade participants will line up on N. Main Street, N. Milford Road, Detroit Street and Union Street, north of Detroit St. If you are a parade participant you can find your parade slot by clicking here to see the line-up map. All parade entrants should plan to enter the line-up streets from Summit St. There will be street guards at the north end of the line-up streets to give people more information about their parade line-up slot. The parade steps off at 11 AM, but line-up for the parade starts at 10 AM. Due to all of the road construction and detours, parade participants should allow extra time to get to their line-up positions.
If you have questions about the parade roue or your line-up slot and location, call parade co-chairs Norm Werner at 248-763-2497 or Rich Harrison at 248-935-5556. 
RotaryDucksFollowing the parade the Huron Valley Rotary Club will be hosting family fun activities in Central Park leading up to their annual Duck Race, which will be at 3 PM. Plan on spending the day in Milford.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Real Estate Market – June 2016

From the May monthly report on the market that our broker, Dan Elsea, does comes this brief overview:

“Overall, housing demand in Southeast Michigan remains strong and sales continue to exceed last year’s pace.  The market under $250,000 is especially brisk with falling inventories, the $250-500,000 range is more stable as inventory growth is matching sales growth, and the over $500,000 market is slower, relatively speaking, with inventories rising faster than sales.”

There are many reasons for the market slowdown at the upper end of the market, not the least of which is the general re-set of the economy to a lower overall average. The loss of higher paying middle class jobs has shifted the median and average home sales prices downward, as few and fewer people can afford the upper end move-up homes.

Homes price above $500,000 are sitting on the market longer and/or selling for less than many owners expected. The recent “Great Recession” had a dramatic impact on many two earner families, with many families experiencing the layoff of one or both earners. Even if both wage earners are once again working, the result of the disruption is usually a much smaller combined income. The recession also had a chilling effect on middle management positions and pay as various take-overs and mergers resulted in fewer positions and generally lower pay or reduced bonuses.

Add to all of that the beginning of the expected retirement downsizing of the Baby Boomer generation and the addition of many of the “McMansions” of that generation and you have the makings of a glut in the $500K and above home market.  That excess inventory has worked to hold down prices for those larger homes.

So, if you have a home that will price out at or below $250,000 you are in great shape to sell. Homes in that price range that are in good condition and which have been well updated sell in days or weeks at most. Even homes in that price range that need lots of work or updating will sell, but they may languish on the market, until the seller drops the price to reflect the condition.

If your home is in the $250-500K price range it may take 2-3 months to sell (maybe longer), again depending upon the current condition and whether it has been updated. Sellers in this price band would do well to pay attention to things like de-cluttering, making any needed repairs and keeping the place clean. Buyers may be willing to take on a few projects in this price range, but there is enough inventories on the market that they don’t have to compromise too much just to get a house.

Sellers of homes above $500,000 should plan on 6 months or longer to find the right buyer. There just aren’t that many buyers in that price range out looking and they are very demanding when you do find them. Most buyers in that range don’t want to have anything that needs to be done or updated when they have paid that much to begin with. Patience and persistence is required of these sellers.

If you are a buyer, especially in the lower price bands, you need to be ready to act quickly if you find the perfect house for you. You must have your mortgage pre-approval ready to present, along with your offer. You should also be in a position to make an offer with the fewest number of contingencies or concession requests as is possible for you. 

Buyers' offers are judged on their “strength”, which is a combination of offer price, proof of ability to pay and number of concessions or contingencies that accompany the offer. Asking for Seller Concessions to cover your closing costs makes your offer weaker  than someone else offering the same (or even slightly lower) price, but without the concession demand. Offers that are contingent on things like the sale of an existing house are just not flying these days, at least not in the lower end of the market. At the lower end you will also be competing with all-cash offers from investors, so adding any conditions, concessions or contingencies to your offer makes it much weaker.

If you are ready to become either a buyer or a seller, call me for a free consultation on what you should do to be ready for that role in the current market. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Ducks are coming early this year. Check It Out

Huron Valley Rotary Club (formerly Milford Rotary Club) will be celebrating their annual duck race fundraiser this year on the 4th of July this year following the Parade in Beautiful Downtown Milford.  

Designed to be a family fun event right after the parade and held in Central Park, there will be food, games, displays, music and fantastic prizes for the famous Duck Race which will be held at 3 PM.

This year count on games designed to engage the entire family so they can remain downtown Milford after the parade and enjoy the day with family and friends.

One of the Rotary Clubs major fundraisers, proceeds help us to do work with local nonprofits in our community as well as provide scholarships for high school seniors at both Milford and Lakeland High School. Duck tickets can be purchased from any Rotarian, Huron Valley State Bank, and the Carls Family YMCA.  Several other non-profit organizations are also joining in selling ducks and will earn a percent of the proceeds of the tickets they sell. 

Be sure to go to our website or follow us on our Facebook page .

For additional information, please contact Sharon Peterson at

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Still a sellers market in Oakland County

Spring is struggling to arrive, with weather lately that feels more fall-like. The Real Estate market in Oakland County Michigan is still suffering from a lack of inventory in the lower half of the market and perhaps a lack of buyers in the upper ends. 

The charts below show that most markets are still trending towards seller’s markets in which the sellers have the upper hand and can command higher prices. That’s good if you’re a seller, but frustrating if you’re trying to be a buyer.  Much of the lower end of the market – those homes for sale under $200,000 - is still being impacted by cash buyers, many of whom are landlords picking up additional rental properties. There aren’t many distressed home (foreclosures and short sales) on the market anymore, with that category now well below 10% of the available homes (about 6% recently) in most markets. The higher end homes seem to be sitting on the market longer, with fewer $500,000+ buyers out looking right now.

Here’s a look back at the market activity in the various markets within Oakland County in Q1 of this year.

To see the reports full size click on the link below -

So, what should one take from these statistics? It depends on whether you are a seller or a buyer. Would-be sellers who've been waiting for spring to list should get their homes on the market NOW, in order to take some advantage of the tight inventory and higher sales prices. Most buyers are still looking for move-in-ready houses, rather than fixer-uppers; so, get yours in ship shape - clean, de-cluttered and with all deferred maintenance items taken care of - to get the best price.  

Buyers have to be ready to act when they find a house that seems right for them. Buyers need to have strong pre-approvals ready to go and can't afford to try to low-ball sellers in search of a bargain. If you wait a day or two the house will probably be gone. You can expect multiple offers on any really nice homes, so be prepared to bid over asking. You also will not be able to ask for Seller Concessions on most homes. The Sellers just don't have to be that flexible or accommodating in order to sell. 

If you think you'll wait for things to get back to "normal" you will have a long and frustrating wait. This is the new normal!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Looking back at the real estate market…

The local Multi-List Service (MLS) that I belong to releases market statistics, usually almost a month after the fact. Below are the some of the stats for March 2016

March Monthly Highlights:
·         All MLS sales for the month were up 7.2% Y-O-Y, from 5,140 to 5,511.
·         The median sale price for All MLS sales was up 7.3% Y-O-Y, from $135,000 to $144,900.
·         Average Days On-Market (DOM) for All MLS sales was down by 2 days Y-O-Y, from 60 to 58.
·         On market inventory decreased by 6.3% Y-O-Y, from 19,413 to 18,197.
·         94% of the on market inventory is designated as non-foreclosures and 6% is designated as foreclosures. Last year, 93% of the on market inventory was designated as non-foreclosures and 7% was designated as foreclosures.

March Retrospectives – Based on All MLS Market Activity:
·         This month, March sales reached 5,511. Over the last 10 years, March sales reached a high at 5,857 in 2010. March sales reached a low at 4,079 in 2007.
·         This is the fifth year since 2011 that the March Median Sale Price increased over the previous year. This month, the March Median Sale Price reached a 10-year high at $144,900. Over the last 10 years, the March Median Sale Price reached a low in 2009 at $42,500.
·         This month, March DOM decreased by two (2) days to 58 reaching a 10-year low. Over the last 10 years, the March DOM reached a high in 2007 at 126 days.

So, what does this all mean and how does it affect you? The stats point to a tight real estate market in which home values are increasing and inventory is low. If you have been thinking of selling, these stats say that now is a great time to be on the market. It’s still important to have a good Realtor® to help you with the pricing and to get the maximum exposure for your property. The biggest mistake that I see is people getting too greedy and overpricing their homes.

If you are trying to buy, these stats tell you that you better be ready to move fast if you see something that you like and that you can’t afford to make low-ball bids hoping that you’ll snag a bargain. The market is especially tight in the Village of Milford, where homes are selling in days rather than months. You need to have a h good, strong mortgage pre-approval and be ready to make an offer without any contingencies, if you want to get the house of your dreams in the Village. I can set you up with a daily search to make sure that you always have the latest information about what is on the market. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Where do you go to learn how to rock…

Where do you go to learn how to be a rock musician? Well, in Milford, Michigan, you go to the Michigan Rock School. I’ll bet most of you didn’t know that we had a Rock School in Milford, did you? Well, we do and it just moved to a new location and last week it sent out this press release –


MILFORD, MICHIGAN, APRIL 22, 2016 – After nearly two years operating inside the Suzanne Haskew Arts Center (The SHAC) in Downtown Milford’s south side, Michigan Rock School has moved.  While still in Downtown Milford, the performance-based music lesson studio is now in the Mill Valley Center building, which also houses Starbuck’s Coffee, and Village Bar & Kitchen, among others. 

Founded in May of 2014, Michigan Rock School began offering private lessons on guitar, drums, bass, voice and piano, and integrating rock band rehearsals, songwriting workshops, and other dynamic group programs into the curriculum.  The school caters to both kids and adults, and encourages all students to apply their musical talents through regular performances.  The SHAC’s industrial space provided a flexible environment for the schools non-traditional lesson programs, as well as a nurturing community supportive or music, arts, and creativity.

“As our business picked up and the SHAC also became busier, it became more difficult to operate our programs in the same space.  In the new location we will be able to offer more private lessons, and expand on our group classes and rock band programs.  We even have plans to build a small stage for intimate “coffee house-style” performances,” said John Kozicki, owner/instructor at Michigan Rock School.  “I’m grateful for the relationships that I’ve made on Milford’s south side, but I’m also looking forward to connecting and working with other businesses on the north end of Downtown.”
Michigan Rock School is still working with the SHAC to host monthly open mic nights inside the arts center, and teaming with River’s Edge Brewing Company for an afternoon of performances on
their stage during Milford Memories.   Also on the schedule for the summer is a summer-long beginner guitar class, a two-week songwriter’s camp in July, and rock band camps beginning in June.  Additionally, Kozicki has brought on new instructors for both private lessons and to facilitate group programs.

An open house is scheduled for Saturday, June 4 from 11:00am to 3:00pm at the new location.  Guests are welcome to come see the new facility, learn about lesson programs, enjoy some live entertainment, and play free video games on the classic Ms. Pac-Man machine.  Michigan Rock School’s new address is 525 N. Main St., Suite 100. 

For additional information, please contact John Kozicki at (248)766-4220 or via e-mail at or visit their web site at

Rock on, Milford!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Avoiding The Latest Real Estate Fraud Scam

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has created a video for home buyers to help them avoid getting caught up in the latest scam that crooks are using to dupe home buyers and steal their money. This involves hacking into the email accounts of Realtors or Mortgage Companies or Title Companies and issuing last minute changes to wiring instructions.  Click here to watch the NAR video.

Unfortunately, too many people still trust emails that look legit and appear to be coming from the email address of a person with whom they may be dealing on a home buy. The wiring instructions are usually just forwarded to the buyers' bank and the people there just follow the instructions. Before anyone catches the ruse,the crooks have made off with the funds that were transferred to buy the house. There nay be nothing that can be done, but at best it will delay the closing while the banks try to recover the funds.

Don't let the crooks fool you. Always double check with whoever you think sent the email to confirm the instructions or changes to instructions. Last minute changes to wiring instructions seldom ever really occur like that in legitimate deals.

Monday, April 18, 2016

How homes have changed thru the decades…

As a Realtor® I get t see a lot of homes from a lot of different decades. I can usually predicting what we are about to see, just based upon the era in which a home was built. Home styles and configurations have changed over time and homes became somewhat more predictable starting in the 1950’s with the introduction of tract home subdivisions.

The folks at Fielding Homes sent me this link to an interactive infographic that they created which shows the progression of homes starting in the 1950’s until the present. They tracked such things as the average number of people who lived in each household, the average size of the homes in Square Feet (from which they derived the average amount of Square footage the each resident had), the number of cars and later of TV’s per household and a few other statistics. They didn’t really comment on the sytles that each era embraced, which I’ll comment on a bit here.

The infographic starts at 1950, which is traditionally thought of as being the “modern era”. Homes build prior to 1950 were almost all custom built and are generally classified as “historic homes.” Interestingly in many small towns across America there are homes that one may consider to be the precursor to modern tract homes; these were the “mail order homes” that Sears and Montgomery Wards and a few other big mail order retailers sold for a while. One could literally order a home from Sears and have all of the materials and instructions delivered by rail to the local railroad stop.  The parts were all pre-cut and numbered and the homes were assembled on site by following the instructions that were sent along with the house. These homes were usually constructed by local carpenters. You can identify a Sears mail order home of you go down in the basement or under the house in the crawl space and see if the floor joists are numbered. To learn more about Sears homes, click here to see the WikiPedia page on them.

Historic homes were generally ranches (sometimes called cabins), bungalows or colonials in style. They may be much smaller than modern homes, especially the bedrooms and often the kitchens. Some may have been originally built without indoor bathrooms or plumbing (other than perhaps a hand pump in the kitchen). Some didn’t even have indoor kitchens. Assuming that you are visiting a nicer or more modern version of a historic Colonial home there would usually still have only been one bathroom and that was usually on the second floor, as were all of the bedrooms.
More upscale historic homes (usually those of the wealthy merchants of the town) might have had a parlor as well as a living room, a dining room and the kitchen on the first floor. Nice wood floors and wood trim in each room would have been normal, possibly with built-in bookcases in the one of the rooms (maybe the den or library if it had one). Really nice homes might have had two stairways, one in the front and one in the back that ended in the kitchen. Some may have even had servants’ quarters, which were usually reachable via the back stairs. Grand old houses in the bigger cities might have been three stories with a ballroom on the top level. If they had a garage, it was usually a single car detached garage.

Starting in the 1950’s the concept of subdivisions with tract houses that all looked pretty much the same came into fashion. The trend was actually a response to the need to build lots of houses quickly for soldiers returning from WWII who needed places to live. Many of these houses were the first in the communities to make use of drywall rather than plaster. Drywall was developed during WWII to make building barracks for soldiers quicker and more economical than plaster walls and ceilings. Many of these early subdivisions were built as small ranch style houses with three bedrooms and one bath, a living room and an eat-in kitchen. Many were under 1,000 Sq Ft. and most had detached garages, if they had garages at all. Today these little ranches provide the bulk of our “starter home” inventory. They also almost always had hardwood floors, but this was the start of several decades of the practice of immediately covering the hardwood floors with wall-to-wall carpet. Today’s buyers can’t wait to rip off the carpeting if it is still there and expose and refinish the nice oak flooring that was the norm back then.  

One can also find colonial homes built in this era and most are very traditional layouts – living room, dining room, and kitchen on the first floor (with maybe a library or den to balance the floorplan out) and the bedrooms 3 or 4 on the second floor along with the bathroom. Almost all of the homes that were built in the 50’s have been modified, added-onto or updated  in ways that add another bath or half-bath on the entry floor or in the basement and added the missing garage (usually detached).
The 60’s and 70’s saw the emergence of the “modern” homes and the advent of the split level home – bi-levels, tri-levels and quads. This allowed at least three levels to have full, daylight windows. It also ushered in the common practice of having the garage attached to the house with direct entry into the house. Garages got bigger in this era too, with two-car instead of one car becoming the norm. The concept of the “family room” was also introduced and the living room began to become a room that was only used when “company” came over. Dining rooms were still the norm, but many become little more than an extension of the kitchen. Kitchens were still quite modest by today’s standards and many were still “galley style.”  Most of the houses of this era had 1 and ½ baths, some even had two full baths. In the larger colonials of the era some builders even added the concept of a master bath off the master bedroom although most were fairly small by today’s standards. Wall-to-wall carpeting was still the norm during this time.

The 80’s and 90’s saw the emergence of the “me” generation concepts – larger kitchens, master suites with on-suite baths, walk-in closets showed up  in the master bedroom and the great room concept became more prevalent, but now with large, two-story, “volume ceilings”. This era also saw the emergence of the Cape Cod style home with everything for the owners on the first floor and a 2-3 bedrooms on the upper floor, usually sharing a bathroom. Libraries or dens on first floor became more common and most were converted to offices. Breakfast rooms or nooks replaced the eat in kitchen in many homes.  In larger homes amenities such as crafts rooms or wine cellars or movie rooms became common. The laundry areas moved to the first floor or even up to the upper levels where the kids generated most of the laundry.  Garages grew to 3-cars or more and large decks, balconies and patios became the norm. It was during this era that McMansions became the norm for upper end houses, even if they were on small lots. Hot tubs had their brief heyday during this period. Hardwood flooring reemerged as a preferred choice, with lower end homes choosing Pergola or other engineered wood lookalikes to save money. Granite counters became the thing to have in the kitchens and baths.

The turn of the century saw the continuation of many of the styles and features that emerged in the 90’s, with more and more “upscale” features and amenities creeping downward into more modest houses. The living room finally went away in many homes, as did the formal dining room – both victims of the more leisurely lifestyles of the era and the dominance of the great room and family room concepts.  Kitchens and master bedroom suites became the focal points of the homes, with large and elaborate master baths becoming common, as well as “gourmet kitchens” with upscale or industrial or restaurant-quality appliances. More and more choices of materials and finished came into vogue, with many choices other than granite becoming available for countertops and many new flooring choices to choose from. Outdoor rooms with pergolas became the entertainment centers for the warmer months.

So, when you see homes listed for sale, look at the years that they were built to get an idea of what you might find if you visit them. Certainly many homes have been updated over the years, but few have been extensively renovated enough to overcome some of the initial limitations that were built into them. Perhaps the basement was finished and an extra bathroom has been added over time or the kitchen extensively updated. Few undergo the kinds of renovations that one sees on the TV shows, where the house is gutted down to the studs and redone. Even then the bed room sizes can’t be changes much without adding on, so you are still limited in what you can do with a house built before modern times. Some people make the mistake of turning a three bedroom house into a 2-bedroom home in order to gain some extra space for a master suite. That might fit their needs, but is severely limits the marketability of the home when it is time to sell and probably decreases the value.

If you make a list of your “must-haves” before you go house hunting, you can use these guidelines to help you save some time by eliminating those built in era’s where your must-haves were “didn’t-haves”. If you want a home that was built later than the 1960’s you won’t find a lot of smaller, starter homes. Builders all refocused on the needs of the Baby Boomers and started building bigger houses with more amenities. Looking in a price range under $200,000 in this area of Michigan will almost always mean looking at homes that were built before the 1970’s. There were lots of homes in the $200,000 – 350,000 range that were built in the 1970 – 1990’s. Almost everything built in the later 1990’s to the present would probably be in the $300,000 and up range.  Call me and let’s discuss what you’d like to have and what might be available in your price range.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Denying a tenant based upon a criminal record is not Fair Housing…

On April 4, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a 10-page memo on the "Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions." The Cliff’s Notes version of which may be stated - Landlords and property managers who adopt a blanket policy of refusing to rent to applicants with criminal records are in violation of the Fair Housing Act and can be sued and face penalties for discrimination. You can read the entire HUD document by clicking here.

The basis for HUD’s guidance can be found in their background material, which reads in part –
As many as 100 million U.S. adults – or nearly one-third of the population – have a criminal record of some sort. The United States prison population of 2.2 million adults is by far the largest in the world.  As of 2012, the United States accounted for only about five percent of the world’s population, yet almost one quarter of the world’s prisoners were held in American prisons. Since 2004, an average of over 650,000 individuals have been released annually from federal and state prisons, and over 95 percent of current inmates will be released at some point. When individuals are released from prisons and jails, their ability to access safe, secure and affordable housing is critical to their successful reentry to society.

Nationally, racial and ethnic minorities face disproportionately high rates of arrest and incarceration. For example, in 2013, African Americans were arrested at a rate more than double their proportion of the general population. Moreover, in 2014, African Americans comprised approximately 36 percent of the total prison population in the United States, but only about 12 percent of the country’s total population. In other words, African Americans were incarcerated at a rate nearly three times their proportion of the general population. Hispanics were similarly incarcerated at a rate disproportionate to their share of the general population, with Hispanic individuals comprising approximately 22 percent of the prison population, but only about 17 percent of the total U.S. population.  In contrast, non-Hispanic Whites comprised approximately 62 percent of the total U.S. population but only about 34 percent of the prison population in 2014. Across all age groups, the imprisonment rates for African American males is almost six times greater than for White males, and for Hispanic males, it is over twice that for non-Hispanic White males.

HUD found that landlords often do criminal background checks and then use what they find to refuse to rent their properties to people with backgrounds that include criminal convictions or even arrests, even if no conviction resulted from the arrest. HUD concluded that people of color and Hispanic people are statistically more likely to have had arrests and convictions at a rate that is disproportionate to their representation on the general population; thus using those records constitutes basic discrimination against them, with no actual proof of any predisposition that would prevent them from being good tenants. One exception apparently was made for those convicted of the manufacture of illicit drugs. A landlord can apparently be excused for not wanting their property to be turned into a Meth lab or a “grow house.”

Our criminal justice system is based upon is the concept of paying for your crime and the thought that the incarceration for crimes will serve as a deterrent to future crimes. While stories of repeat or habitual criminals often make the nightly news, there are few stories that document the many convicted felons who do turn their lives around and become productive citizens when they have served their time. There is a premise that the convict who has served his time will be given a second chance at a normal life within our society.  That second chance is made more difficult if that person is denied housing due to their past record. Thus, the new HUD guidelines.

If you are a landlord you need to be aware that a practice of doing a background check and then automatically denying the applicant based upon finding arrests or even felony convictions in their background will not be tolerated. The burden of proof that you did not follow that practice is on you. For the applicant, it is still up to you to provide convincing evidence that you are capable of paying the rent and that you will be a trustworthy tenant. That usually takes the form of references and employment proof and perhaps a record of making reliable payments on an apartment or wherever you’ve been living since leaving incarceration. If you believe that you have been denied solely or primarily because of your past criminal record you should contact local HUD officials and lodge a complaint.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Dan Elsea's Jan-Feb Real Estate Market Report

Each month our Brokerage President, Dan Elsea, reports on the local Real Estate Market in SE Michigan. Since it is based on sold data, his report always trails the market a bit, but it does provide useful insight in the direction of the market. This is his latest report, which is based upon homes that sold in January and February

Another month of mild winter weather has helped boost both the number of homes sold, as well as the number of new listings entering the market. For the under $250,000 price ranges, the homes sales have risen faster than the new listings, causing a drop in listing inventories. For the over $250,000 markets, new listings are coming in faster than sales, pushing up inventories.

In all price ranges the Months Supply of Inventory(MSI) as fallen over the past 90 days compared to last year, which confirms that the overall direction of the market is still positive. As we move out of the winter months, the MSI normally declines as sales pick up speed. The pace of the decline is faster this year as a result of the increasing pace of sales. As we said in prior months, we won't really be able to judge the strength of our local metro market until April or May, once we see if the milder weather created more buyers or simply moved the same number of buyers to act earlier in the year.

Under $250,000 Price Range

There are 20% fewer homes to choose from in the under $150,000 market and 10% fewer between the price range of $150,000 and $250,000, so buyers will feel even more frustration going into this spring than last.  Pending sales (new contracts written) in the under $250,000 price range are up, while the low inventories have pushed the average price per square foot up 7% for the under $150,000 homes and up 4% for the $150-$250,000 segment. New listings entering the market are up, giving some hope of relief to buyers as the spring market unfolds.

 $250,000 - 500,000 Price Range

For sale inventories are up 4% over last year, giving buyers a few more choices going into the spring. Sales were also up quite a bit as well, 24% compared to last year. This increase in sales can be attributed to the milder weather. New listings entering the market are up about 15%, confirming that sellers are reacting to the growth in their equity and coming back into the market to sell and buy. The average value per square foot is up over last year, rising about 2%, a modest increase, influenced by a larger supply of homes for sale.

 Over $500,000 Range

Inventories continue to rise in the upper price ranges but so have pending sales, making a nice 25% jump in the past 60 days. New listings entering the market also hit a 25% increase. The average price per square foot increase of 7% over last year was the most we have seen in quite some time. We still think the trend for the upper-end markets is slowing, but because of a combination of good weather and a thin market, it does not take a big increase (or decrease) in activity to cause the higher priced markets to fluctuate on a month to month basis.

 Overall, we are entering the spring market with continued strong buyer interest, particularly in the under $250,000 price ranges, and we are beginning to see For Sale inventories build up a bit, giving buyers a few more choices than last year for the over $250,000 markets.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Home warrantees – boon or boondoggle?

The Home Warranty is a ubiquitous fellow traveler in many home sales, but not all. A home warranty is just what it sounds like – an insurance policy to protect the home buyer against a number of things that could go wrong in the home during the first year of ownership. Policies differ in what they cost and what they cover and they are usually paid for by the seller; however, the buyer may purchase a home warranty, if he does it at or before closing. Things usually covered include failures in major systems like the HVAC or the hot water heater or many plumbing issues.

The reason that not every home sale carries the protection of a home warranty is mainly due to the unevenness of the coverage of policies from the companies in the business and a history of business practices by some of them that have given the whole industry a bad reputation with many buyers. Much of that bad reputation can actually be traced to the home buyer misunderstanding the home warranty policy coverages or how the company’s business practices work when a claim is made.

Way too many people thought that everything was covered under the umbrella term “Home Warranty.” In fact, each policy has a clear list of items that are covered and those that are not, just like an automobile or home owners policy does. Many people just don’t read their policy to see what is covered and then they get mad when they call in with a claim and discover that the item that just failed is not covered. Some home owners also disagree with the standard policy to repair items rather than replace them, unless repairs cannot be made. Most warranty companies have adopted policies that replace older air conditioning units that don’t meet current standards because their repair people cannot get the parts or the Freon to deal with those older units.

The other sticking point with many is the business practice that requires that the home warranty send out the repair person to evaluate the claim. That call is usually charged to the home owner at $85, however, that $85 is refunded if a repair is needed and covered by the policy. If the repair person gets tot eh house and the “failed” hot water heater just has a pilot lite that blew out the homeowner is out that $85. That makes many home owners mad; and since they can’t get mad at themselves, they get mad at the home warranty company. 
The companies in the business also shot themselves in the foot in earlier times by poorly handling claims or providing very poor customer service and explanation of coverages. I hear the terms “worthless” all the time when mentioning home warranties; however, that if far from the truth. They can be lifesavers if items that are covered do fail. I have a neighbor across the street who got a whole new furnace less than 4 months after he moved in because his old furnace failed and the home warranty company couldn’t repair it.

So what should you do if you are buying a home and are offered a Home Warranty? I’d say go for it; but, do a little research first on the company that the seller is offering to foot the bill for. It may be better to negotiate with the seller to switch the warranty to a better company, even if you have to kick in a little to make the switch. Here is a link to an excellent article on Home Warranties and the Companies that offer them on the web site. Check it out and remember to read the warranty to make sure that you understand what is covered and how the claim process works. 

I recommend going to for helpful information about many more topics. Check out their site and all of the reviews that they have on-line there.