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Friday, September 30, 2011

Channeling Houdini...

Well, it seems that my new dog Sadie is channeling Harry Houdini, the great escape artist. She managed to escape and disappear twice yesterday.

The first time she slipped out of her collar while on her dog run and, well, ran. We searched for over two hours and couldn’t find her. That’s because we live in a small town with friendly, helpful and well-meaning people. A lady on her way home from work found her wandering about two blocks from our house in the downtown Milford area and picked her up. The lady took her out to a local vet clinic that is about 4 miles north of town.

I would never have looked out there or thought to call there, but I did finally think to call the local police and asked if they had any lost dog sightings. Sure enough they had, since the vet had called them to report a found dog that fit Sadie’s description. We went to pick her up and had her “chipped” while we were there. Now she has a microchip that most vets have scanners to read. That chip will give them a number that will allow them to contact me. I suspect that this will be money well spent.

So, anyway, I next went out and bought one of those dog halters that look to be much harder to get out of and put it on her. Less than an hour later she slipped out of that while on her overhead run and was off again. This time my wife, while our looking for her, encountered a couple who were driving around looking for her someone who might be missing a dog. They had her in their van. She is so freindly that she'll hop in with anyone. Again she was picked up less than two blocks from home.

Now she has both the halter and a collar, both tightened up snuggly and attached to each other. If I did much more, she’d end up looking like Hannibal Lecter when they transported him from prison in the movie”Silence of the Lambs”. I don’t even know if they make little, doggy straight jackets or not; but, I’m resolved not to end up pushing Sadie around on a furniture dolly like Hannibal.

So, lesson learned today. Sadie is a cutie, but she’s also a hound and hounds like to escape and run away. They aren’t so much running away as just running – on a scent or just out of curiosity. We’ll have to watch her like a hawk when she’s out on her run.

She also showed her true (hound) colors when we encountered a particularly annoying squirrel today on one of our walks. I didn’t know that dogs could climb trees, but she sure tried. It didn’t

help that the squirrel took great sport in coming back down the tree a ways to taunt her. If I thought she’d come back I’d let her off to really chase some of the pesky squirrels that we have around here. I have no dou
bt that she fast enough to catch a few of them.

I guess we’ll need to schedule a few more trips to the bark park to let her run off some of this energy. Like a human baby, she’s at her cutest when she’s curled up asleep on the bed. So, Sadie, Sadie, Pretty Lady is now Sadie, Sadie, Houdini Lady. We can’t trust her anymore, but we can still love her.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Introducing JAMCO 7 – a new program for bank-owned homes

The market is full of foreclosed homes, many of which are bank owned and in need of repairs, sometimes before they can even be lived in. Until now, the only option for homebuyers was to try to get an FHA 203K loan. The 203K loan program is a great way to get the money needed for home repairs, but it has its own set of issues and fees/costs, plus many buyers just didn’t qualify. Click here to go to the HUD site and read about the 203K loan program. Now there is an alternative to explore if you want to buy a bank-owned house that needs some minor repairs, or maybe a new roof.

Introducing a new John Adams Mortgage program called The JAMCO 7. The JAMCO 7 allows you to close on a bank owned transaction, with John Adams, prior to some repairs being done! The repairs and our re-inspection need to be done within 7 days after closing. A roof, some painting (non lead based paint) and cracked windows are just a few of the items we will allow to be done after closing. John Adams will allow this to be done on FHA and Conventional deals.

There are some restrictions with this program as follows:

1) The buyer would need to put up to 1.5x's the estimated repair amount in escrow (John Adams holds the money). When the repairs are done, we send the appraiser out to verify and reimburse the escrow to the buyer

2) Must be a bank owned property. (No redemption period)

3) FHA and conventional loans only.

4) No VA or MSHDA loans are allowed

5) "Major" repairs are not allowed, including foundation, mold and lead base paint issues.

John Adams underwriters and management holds the right to make the final decision. They have, however, done quite a few of these over the past 12 months and feel very comfortable in what they can, and can't, do. Bank owned homes are still a large part of this market. The JAMCO 7 may help more buyers with financing on homes that they otherwise just couldn’t buy.

In the Milford, Commerce, Highland, White Lake and West Bloomfield areas, call Agnes Miesch of John Adams Mortgage at 248-684-5581for more on this great new program.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

If you can dream it, you can do it...

So, you want to be a Realtor®. Well, you’re in luck. Real Estate One is offering the 40-hour pre-licensing classes in the Brighton/Milford area to meet the classroom requirements by the State of MI to get your real estate license. This training will prepare you to take the Michigan Real Estate License test.
Classes will be October 3, 5, 6 in the Brighton office & October 10, 12, 13 in the Milford office – from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. There is some flexibility in time for those people who may have to be home to pick up children after school, etc. The cost is $99.00 for the class & $30.00 for the book. The instructor will be Pat Bean, who started her career at Real Estate One. Pat has a high pass-rate for the test for those who have been through her training.
If you are interested and the schedule for these classes fit for you, call Mary Nicole at 1-800-370-5816 for details and to sign up. Call today!

A new member of the family...

Over the weekend Carolyn and I welcomed a new member to our family here is Milford - Sadie.

We went to the Pet-a-palooza at the Detroit Zoo. We left thinking maybe we'd find a male, lab puppy and came home with a 4 year old, female, German Short Hair Pointer - go figure. Actually she adopted us, or at least Carolyn, while we were looking around.

Sadie (our name for her) is a real sweetheart. She's basically pretty laid-back, but he does have lots of energy, which means lots of walks each day. I'll definitely get my exercise with her. We've taken her to the bark park a coupe of times and let her run. She runs herself out eventually and then sleeps really well that night.

Being a hound, she can be a hand full to walk. She's constantly finding scents to track or seeing squirrels that need to be reminded that they should be up in the trees. I got one of the new head halter leads for her and that solved the pulling issues immediately. I highly recommend them.

So, say hello to Sadie; the newest member of our little Milford family.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A wonderful trip to Canada...

My wife and I went to The Stratford Festival Theater on Tuesday for a matinee performance of Camelot and then spent the night in Woodstock. What a nice day. Stratford is a delightful little town about 20-30 minutes northeast of London, Ontario. The Stratford Festival is an annual series of plays – featuring the plays of Shakespeare and other plays. There are three theaters in Stratford, with varied play bills. The Stratford Festival repertory company is purportedly the largest permanent repertory company in the world.

The Festival Theater that we went to is set is a beautiful park and we resolved to bring a picnic lunch the next time that we come. It is an easy 4 hour drive from Milford, with only a few construction detours, mostly in Canada. We didn’t have time on this trip to spend time downtown in Stratford, but a quick drive-thru showed us that there appear to be lots of cute shops and restaurants, so that’s another thing on the to-do list for next time.

I can certainly recommend this as a great day trip. The season is almost over for this year, but next year we plan to go back to see several plays. There were bus-loads of seniors at the matinee, I suspect for the same reason as we chose it – it’s easier to stay awake for a matinee performance than for one at night. I also wanted to have daylight to drive to Woodstock in, since we were going cross country on back roads to get there. I’d have gotten lost for sure if it was dark.

One frustration for me was the consequence of me buying a cheap GPS years ago. The GPS that I have doesn’t work in Canada or at least I couldn’t figure it out. Apparently I only bought the maps for the U.S. Live and learn. I could have used my smart phone GPS, but the roaming charges in data mode add up quickly, so I had printed off a bunch of Google maps at home and used them. They worked fine.

The only complaint that I have about the Canadian experience is that I think I got ripped off at a gas station – the attendant charged me 10% to do the money exchange of my $20 US, turning it into $18 Canadian. The rate that we hit elsewhere was very close to a 1 to 1 ratio. I guess there those types of crooks in every country.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What a great weekend in Milford...

This past weekend was sort of a last Hurrah for Summer in Milford, Michigan. We had something for everybody going on over the weekend.

On Saturday and Sunday the 2011 Milford Home Tour provided access to five of our Village homes (four of them historic homes), plus visits to the Milford Historical Museum and the Log Cabin was open next to the fire station, with a display of how the original settlers lived in Milford. The Pettibone Creek Powerhouse was also open for tours visits both days and the Friends of Oak Grove Cemetery provided a cell phone based walking tour of the homes of some of Milford’s Civil war heroes, all of whom are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Saturday evening the Milford Downtown Development Authority (DDA) held a reception in Center Street Park to launch the installation of several Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Old Masters art reproductions in locations around Milford. The DIA will leave the reproductions on display for a while and people may order reproductions for their homes at several locations around Milford. The DDA reception featured wine and food samples from Milford’s fine restaurants and a walking tour of the installation sites – all in downtown Milford. You can come take the walking tour of the DIA sites anytime for the next couple of months.

Then on Sunday, with all of the events mentioned above still gong on, there was the Tractor Show out at the Huron Valley State Bank and the huge Milford Car Show, which took up all of Main Street all the way through town. Awards were presented for cars voted best in several categories and for best in show. In addition the Rotary held their annual Duck Race fund raiser, with over a thousand little yellow rubber ducks racing down the Huron River. Prizes were awarded to duck ticket holders for the first few ducks to complete the race. My ducks must have pulled a hamstring or something – they finished out of the money.

So it was a great weekend in Milford, Michigan, with something for everyone to do. Start planning now to be a part of this great tradition next year. We’re already starting to plan for next year’s events. So, come on out to Milford and see why it is one of the greatest places in Michigan to live. I’ll even find you a new home while you are there.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A service worth looking into…

I hear about all sorts of services these says, some of which don’t make much sense to me or which seem to be pretty poor candidates for business success – the pooper scooper people come immediately to mind in that latter category. I mean, I know that people are busy these days, but give me break on that one. Do enough people really need someone to come to their home to scoop up pet poop to make that a viable business model? Maybe, maybe not.

I recently had a nice sit-down with a lady in one of my Chamber of Commerce groups that is with a nationwide outfit called The Fiscal Concierge, LLC. Their motto, “Live your life…We’ll pay the bills”, gives a fairly straightforward and easy to understand explanation about a key part of what they actually do for people and businesses. Basically they take over the responsibility of tracking and paying the monthly bills (the accounts payable) for people and businesses. In addition, for small to medium businesses, they also offer payroll services.

As I discussed this service with Debbie Stroup, the local rep for The Fiscal Concierge (click on the name to go to their corporate web site) it became clear why the family caregivers for an older person might want to use this service to make sure that bills get paid on time. The caregiver role can be overwhelming and taking this duty off of their plate helps immensely. It also makes sense for active seniors who might be off fulfilling life long dreams of travel not to have to worry about the bills going unpaid back home.

Unlike having automated bill paying set up through a bank, this concierge service pays all of your bills, not just those that offer automated payment and the concierge assigned monitors your bank account to make sure that there is enough money in the account to make the payments. Your concierge takes action to alert you or your caregivers when additional funds may need to be transferred into your account to cover the bills.

In addition Debbie mentioned that users of this service receive free identity theft protection from Lifelock (click here for more on the Lifelock identity protection services). These services end up providing great peace of mind to either group of seniors (and caregivers). Identity theft is a huge problem for all and especially for seniors.

Debbie also explained that many small to medium sized businesses find their Accounts Payable service to be a God-send and go on to also use their payroll services, which they offer through ADP Payroll. Small business owners have enough o worry about without having to spend time dealing with accounts payable and payroll issues. Maintaining a good record for making on-time payments is key to establishing the credit worthiness of any business. The Fiscal Concierge has also teamed up with Guardian to provide alarm services for small businesses at a very good rate to further protect your business. They could also provide the Guardian health monitoring services for homebound seniors.

So, as services go, The Fiscal Concierge seems to have very real value and is worth looking into if you are a caregiver for a senior or if you are an active, on-the-go senior. It also makes sense if you are a small to medium business owner. Give Debbie Stroup a call at (248) 366-4811 or email her at and tell her that you read about it on this blog. You won’t get any special discount, but Debbie will be happy to hear that her time spent explaining this all to me was worthwhile. I’m sure you’ll enjoy meeting Debbie, too and discussing your bill paying/accounts payable needs and maybe your payroll needs, if you are a small to medium business.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Singing in the lifeboats of life...

From Voltaire comes today’s advice ditty: "Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats."

Don’t forget to sing in the lifeboats was the title of a recent little book by Ross & Kathryn Petras that provided advice taken from the sayings and writings of great people through the ages about dealing with hardships. The main theme running through the book appears to be keeping a positive attitude and a sense of humor in the face of adversity.

We can all certainly use both in the midst of the economic shipwreck that we are living through right now. I often find it comforting to sing (if only in my head) some of the little songs that are a part of the church service at my church. Many of them are little 2-4 line songs used to introduce some part of the service, so they stick in your head quite easily. Sometimes snippets of other, more popular and secular songs seem to help.

What songs do you sing in the lifeboat?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

We’ve all fallen down the rabbit hole…

A bunch of us were discussing the current real estate market in the office the other day, when it hit me that we’ve all fallen down the rabbit hole and are now wandering around in Wonderland with Alice. That would seem to be the only logical explanation for the madness that is real estate these days. Surely the insanity that we face each day in the realm of short sales defies any other explanation.

For a while, I was using the analogy of the man behind the curtain from The Wizard of Oz to explain the great and powerful Investor – the man behind the curtain to whom everyone bowed and scraped and whose actions and pronouncements no one understood.

But, perhaps the richer set of characters in Alice in Wonderland would provide more opportunities to give face to the various banks and characters that we encounter in our real estate lives today – the Cheshire Fat Cat and the Mad Hatter would seem to be especially appropriate to represent some of the short sale bankers and negotiators that I’ve hit.

The sad conclusion that we all came to in our discussion is that this is no longer an anomaly, but rather represents the new reality of our market. I suppose the sooner that one comes to grips with that the better. As one who is naturally a bit of a cynic and can appreciate the absurd this Dali-esk landscape s beginning to look natural – “Look is that a clock melting over the side of that table? No, it’s a clock measuring the time passing on a short sale!”

What did the bank say about our offer? They said to lower the offer and resubmit it. OK, which way to the tea party, Mr. Hatter?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Post Irene - what was really covered?

One major aftershock of Hurricane Irene (See you didn’t know that hurricanes can have aftershocks, too, did you?) is that homeowners are discovering that much of the real damage caused by Irene is not covered by their homeowners insurance policies.

While those who took a direct hit by the high winds that Irene packed will likely be covered (but not necessarily); the majority of Irene’s damage was caused by flooding (either tidal surges or rain-swollen streams and rivers) and that is almost never covered (unless you have flood insurance or a flood rider on your policy). Those in land locked Vermont, who were ravaged by swollen rivers, are particularly out of luck. Most did not have flood insurance, since they did not live in normal flood zones.

The other thing that sometimes comes into play is where a possession is when the damage occurs. If your car is sitting out in the driveway and the flooding from Irene’s rains inundates it, ruining it and causing a total loss, then your car insurance policy will likely cover the replacement. However, it you parked it in the garage to avoid any possibility of hail damage and that same flood water inundated it in your garage, it would fall under the homeowners’ policy and may not be covered since you didn’t have flood insurance. There was a good article in the Sacramento Bee about the gaps in insurance coverage that are letting insurance companies off the hook for most of Irene’s damage.

Irene is one of hundred-year events that we’ve been seeing a lot of lately. If nothing else it should cause all of us to question what is covered and not covered when big natural disasters hit. If my car is in the driveway when the tornado goes through uprooting a big tree that falls on it is it my car insurance or my homeowners policy that I should turn to for coverage and a replacement? What about if it was in the garage at the time and the tree crushed both the garage and my car?

Most of us probably suffer from the FDH syndrome when it comes to insurance – Fat, Dumb and Happy. We really don’t know what is covered and what’s not. Perhaps we don’t really want to know. But, in this case; what we don’t know can hurt us. Check your coverage before it’s time to try to file a claim.