Translate

Follow by Email

Monday, July 27, 2015

Don’t DIY if you don’t KWYD…

The popularity of many of the HGTV home fix-up shows has spawned a host of amateur DIY (Do It Yourself) projects and led to a host of DIY disasters. As a Realtor I end up showing a fair number of these failed projects, many of them in foreclosure. The problem is that the would-be fixer –uppers were people who didn’t KWYD (know what you’re doing). 

It all looks so easy on TV, especially the demo parts where the TV personalities seem to be having fun knocking down walls to “open up rooms”. On a few of these “reality TV” shows they at least
show the unexpected that can be discovered during the demo phase – the pipes that were running behind the walls or the shoddy wiring that is really a fire hazard or maybe they “discover” that the wall was load bearing after all and needs a major engineered beam to hold the second floor up. Many DIYers often hit those problems and more, plus they discover that demolition work is not fun – it’s sweaty, dirty, hard work and disposing of the resulting waste materials can be expensive, especially  in older (or historic)  homes that may still contain hazardous materials that were in common use years ago. In Michigan, for instance, there is only one dump left open that will accept asbestos waste and it is expensive if you have asbestos waste.  If you’re planning to “open up the floor plan” as part of your renovation; in order to avoid having your house cave in upon itself, get the advice of a good structural engineer before you start knocking walls down.

Once they get to the actual renovation work, many DIYers discover that they don’t have the proper tools. In some cases those tools might be rented, but in many cases they have to be bought, which is just another unplanned expense. Learning how to properly use those special tools can be frustrating, time consuming and perhaps even dangerous. Big wood or tile saws are serious tools that can bite the user. Before you even start a DIY project you should inventory the tools that you have and compare that to those that will be needed. You can get an idea about the needed tools by reading remodeling books. You might be able to get a good handle on the cost and skill needed to properly use those tools by attending one of the demonstration programs at your local Home Depot or Lowes store. Some even have some hands on training time.

Along with tools there is technique. Many aspects of a renovation job involved mastering specific
techniques of working with the materials involved, especially if plaster repairs are involved. It’s not that you can’t slap a bunch of plaster up on the ceiling or wall and smooth it out; it’s that it will look like you slapped a bunch of plaster up on the ceiling or wall and tried to smooth it out.  It takes years of experience for professionals to master some of the techniques involved in their trades. Even painting is an area in which the differences in results between the average DIY person and a pro will be noticeable. You can put up all of the blue painter’s tape you want and still not get a job that looks as good as a painter who cuts his edges in with a brush and no tape at all.

Before you jump into any major remodeling project also make sure that you understand the local building codes and regulations about permits and inspections. Most projects that involve major changes to the plumbing system or the electrical system and any structural changes will require both permits and inspections by the building official for your area. I’ve seen finished projects in which the walls had to be opened up again because the DIYer forgot to pull the necessary permits or didn’t get the work inspected before the drywall went up. That can be a very expensive mistake. I’ve seen building officials make the DIYer tear down the newly installed drywall so they can inspect the plumbing or electrical work. 

And don’t think that because you’re working inside and you don’t think that anybody will notice that you’re making changes that you won’t have to pull a permit or get the job inspected. Many times a neighbor will report the work or just rumors on the street (or in your Facebook posts) may alert the officials.  It could also come back to haunt you when you try to sell the place. There is a question on the Seller’s Disclosure form for Michigan that specifically asks if you’ve made any structural changes to the house without permits.  


The bottom line is that if you don’t know what you’re doing don’t DIY. You probably won’t end up saving the money that you thought you would and you may end up decreasing the value of your home or hurting yourself in the process.  You probably already have everything that you need for even the most demanding projects. It’s called a checkbook and the only skill needed to use it is the ability to fill out the checks. DIY using that tool and get the job done right by professionals.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

What the new TILA-RESPA rules mean for the buyers or sellers


When any major changes occur within industries that impact their current systems there is always a bit of “the sky is falling” reaction to them. The changes to the disclosure and closing documentation requirements for real estate transactions are no different. You have likely already seem newspaper stories about the coming TILA-RESPA changes. You may hear your Realtor® talking about it, but it primarily impacts the mortgage lenders and the title companies. Your Realtor should be able to explain things to you as well, but the primary source for information about how this might impact you should be your mortgage agent.

Here’s the gist of these rule and documentation changes.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created under the Frank-Dodd legislation that was aimed at cleaning up the financial industry mess after the housing industry collapse that brought on the Great Recession. One of the actions that the CFPB took on was to clear up the confusion caused in real estate transactions by the differences in the Good Faith Estimate that the buyer got from their mortgage rep at the front end of a real estate transaction and the closing documents, including the Buyers’ and Sellers’ Closing Statements and the HUD-1 document, that the buyers and sellers got at the closing table.

Buyers often noticed differences in what they expected their costs to be and the actual costs at closing. In addition, the mortgage industry fell into a practice of not getting the closing information to the buyers in a timely fashion before closing (many times buyers saw the closing docs for the first time at closing). It was sometimes very difficult for the buyer to even determine how much he should bring to closing, since he did not have the final documents.  There was a need identified to standardize the information that was presented to the buyer at the front end and what they eventually see at the closing table, as well as controlling the changes that might be allowed between those two times. There was also a need to get the final closing information to the buyer well in advance of the closing date, so that they could react to any changes and know how much to bring to closing.  

Based upon those needs the CFPB produced the new, consolidated TILA-RESPA documents. TILA stands for Truth in Lending Act, which was the original law that set up the requirement for the Good Faith Estimate at the front end of the deal. RESPA stands for Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which defines the rules and documentation requirement for the closing of the sale. The CFPB decided to create new rules and documents for both ends of the sale and initially stated that they would impose those rules in August of 2015. The new document that the lender will give you at the front end is called the Loan Estimate. The new closing document packet is called the Closing Disclosure and clearly presents all of the information that used to be on the Closing Statements and the HUD-1. Best of all the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure use all of the same terms and data fields (although the Closing Disclosure has some data fields concerning the cost of the sale and tax rebates on it that the loan officer would not have known at the front end) and they look very much the same. It is possible to lay them side by side and see what, if anything changed from the front to the back ends of the sale.

 Based upon an outcry of the real estate industry that they didn’t want to try to implement these new things during the height o the busy real estate season, the implementation was delayed until Oct 3, 2015. All mortgage loan officers are being trained, as are all title company people and most Realtors. Your first line of questioning should probably be your mortgage rep; however,  the CFPB has also created a new Home Loan Toolkit for buyers, so that they have a clear reference guide to the new documents and the new process.  In the Toolkit are examples of the new documents as well as helpful forms to help you choose the right mortgage product and to compare mortgages if you choose to shop at more than one mortgage company.

One of the other areas to pay attention to in the Toolkit and with your lender is the changes that are allowed between the initial Loan Estimate and the final Closing Disclosure. Those changes can and do occur because of changes in things like rates or closing dates or other factors; however, they are limited by the new TILA-RESPA rules asn can cause the whole process to be re-set to zero if they are too large. Another new rule concerns the timing requirements on the lenders and title companies to get the Closing Disclosure documents to you. The new rules require that you have them in-hand three days prior to closing. That not only gives you time to get the necessary funds ready, but also to review and challenge any changes that you see that you don’t understand of maybe don’t agree with your lender about. Keep in mind, however, that any changes that may be made during that three day period may reset the clock and push back the closing. There are exceptions which define acceptable last minute changes, but they are few and relatively minor, compared to some of the “closing table surprises” that used to take place under the old system.

So, the sky is not falling. From the perspective of the buyer or seller, these rules and document changes are a good thing and hopefully will make life easier. The mortgage and title company people will adapt, even while grumbling about all of the extra work and time involved (it will likely add about a week to the process). I recommend that you go download the CFPB Toolkit if you will be in the market for a house this fall. Read through it so that you will be an informed consumer who knows what his/her rights are and what to expect in the process.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Summertime in Milford…


It’s officially summer, and that means lots of things to do in the Milford, Michigan area for the next few months.

The annual 4th of July Parade kicks things off, with hundreds expected downtown to watch the parade. The parade steps off at 11 AM in front of the Milford Historical Museum and proceeds down Main Street all the way to Huron Street. Over 45 groups will be participating in the parade with candy and goodies for the kids who are watching. The parade theme this year is “Celebrating the Huron Valley” and signifies that the parade is made up of marchers and watched by spectators from
all over the Huron Valley area.  The parade Grand Marshall this year is Mary Lou Gharrity, a life-long resident of Milford who grew up in Ye Olds Hotel on Main Street  and who, along with her late husband, owned the Milford Times weekly newspaper for many years. Mary Lou is also a founding member of the Milford Historical Society and a “go to” person if you want to know about Milford’s history.

On July 10 & 11 Milford’s Downtown Merchants hold their annual sidewalk sale, with great bargains to be had on a variety of store items, plus entertainment, special prizes and refreshments and other “goings-on” downtown.   On those same two days the Milford Historical Society will be holding its annual Granny’s Attic Sale from 9 AM until 4 PM both days and features an eclectic mix of donated items and items from estate sales in the area. There are things that Granny pulls out of her attic that you won’t find anywhere else, from glass and china to furniture items. Check it out on your way to and from the Sidewalk Sale.

In August Milford’s big event of the year – Milford Memories – will take place over three days from August 7 - 9 - Ranked 41st in the Nation by Sunshine Magazine & Voted 2nd Best Festival by Vote 4 the Best. Over 200,000 guests can't be wrong! This is a huge event, with hundreds of booths featuring art and crafts and other products. It’s not to be missed. Click here to go to the Milford Memories web site.

In September we have the Home Tour weekend, which is comprised of several events over two day – September 19 & 20.  On both Saturday and Sunday, the Home tour runs from 10 Am until 4 PM and features f of the historic homes of Milford, plus 3-4 other venues for visitors to learn more about Milford’s History. On Sunday only there are three more events going on – The 31st annual Milford Car Show will take place all the way down Main Street and into Central Park. The show runs from 8 Am until 4 PM. and features nearly 200 cars of all types in multiple categories that are judged for best in category by the show attendees.  Click here to go to the Milford Car Show web site.
Also on Sunday we have the annual Tractor Show out at the Huron Valley State Bank location at GM and Milford Roads. The show runs from about 10 AM until 4 PM and features both working farm tractors and vintage collectible tractors.

Finally that Sunday the annual Huron Valley Rotary Club Duck Race is held in Central park. There Click here for more on the Duck Race from 2014. Stray tuned for how to buy your 2015 duck. For a little extra this year duck owners will be allowed to paint their ducks a different color so that it makes it easier to see how their duck is doing in the race (each duck is numbered).
will be games and activities for kids, picnic type food available for the family and other activities leading up to the moment when the 1000+ yellow rubber ducks are dumped into the Creek leading to the Huron River and all frantically paddle away trying to be the first across the finish line down-stream. The duck are sold to raise funds for the work in the community that the Rotary does and a part of the funds collected goes to the owner of the first place duck. In the pasts that was well over $1,000.


In addition to those special events, the Concerts in the Park series of summer concerts at the LaFontaine Family Amphitheater continue, as do the Friday Might Live Concerts at the Center Street Gazebo. You can go to my web site www.movetomilford.com to see the schedule of acts at those venues. Then there are lots of activities throughout the summer at the YMCA and put on by the Community Rec and Adult Ed program. You can view schedules for both at the Move to Milford web site, as well as click on the Events Calendar for Kensington MetroPark. 

There’s always something to do in the Valley.