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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Get out the hand mirror and get to the truth...

hand mirror
One of the pieces of advice that I always give new agents who are just starting out is to visit a local dollar store and buy an old fashion hand mirror. I told a new, younger agent this earlier this week and his immediate reaction was, “Why is my hair messed up or do I have something on my face?”

No the real reason for the advice to make that purchase was so that he/she will have it close at hand whenever they hit a snag or foul-up or dropped ball when trying to pursue a real estate deal. I tell them that at that moment they’ll probably ask themselves, and maybe even say out loud, “Who was responsible to see that this got done?” At that moment, I tell them; they should hold up the hand mirror and behold the person who is ultimately responsible to make sure that all of the things get done to make their deals go smoothly.

Of course we all work with great mortgage reps and wonderful title company people, but in the end it is our role and responsibility to make sure that the things that need to be done to close th deal actually get done. Once the newbie actually thinks about the piece of advice that I’ve just given them they usually understand and appreciate the symbolism of the hand mirror.

In fact there are lots of other moments in business and life where looking into a hand mirror to see who you really need to hold accountable is good advice. Lots of people hire personal coaches for that purpose and pay a lot of money to someone else to hold them accountable. A hand mirror at the dollar store costs how much?  It’s also therapeutic and funny every now and then when you hold it up and then realize, “Damn, I can stay mad at that guy, even though he is the doofus who got me into this mess.”

Real estate is a lot like many of the individual sports in which one may participate – there are no teammates to complain about, no one else who isn’t pulling their load on the team; it’s just you. If you hit a bad golf shot, hold up the mirror. If you run a poor race, hold up the mirror. If you take the rapids wrong and bomb out in your kayak, hold up the mirror. I guarantee you that you can’t stare at that wrong-doer for long without getting over your anger/disappointment/frustration and finding a positive way out of your funk. After all that’s really a nice guy/gal that you’re looking at and they really didn’t mean to mess things up; so get over it, forgive the guy in the mirror and move on.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Double digit housing price recovery in 2013 in hardest hit cities

The old saying the farther you fall the higher you bounce back (or something to that effect) has certainly proven to be true in the current housing recovery. The hardest hit cities, like Phoenix, Detroit and Atlanta saw double digit price recoveries near the end of 2012, according to the year-end Case-Shiller Report released by Standard and Poor’s.. Even though the increases have slowed in those cities at the start of 2013 they are still substantial and a couple mat still end up being in double digits for the first quarter of 2013. You can read the entire Standard and Poor’s Case-Shiller Report by clicking here.


Locally, We have seen fairly steady increases in the 6-8% range year-over-year, with some areas beating those rates in some months. Tight inventory continues to drive prices upward, while stubbornly conservative appraisals continue to apply a braking effect. Out local markets could easily drive into double digit territory were it not for the chilling effect of lower than asking price appraisals. The assessors have certainly jumped on the band wagon and are raising assessments in most areas as fast as they are allowed under the Headly Amendment cap.


What this means for local homeowners, who have been hunkered-down during the recession is that it’s tie to stick their heads out of the fox-hole and take a look at where their houses may be valued in today’s market. That’s especially true for people who have waited to move after retirement or after some other life-change or who need to move to seek new employment. Now’s the time to take action on those desires and get on with life. Call me and I’ll do a market analysis for your home. The analysis is free, but knowing that you can, in fact, afford to sell your house and move on might be priceless.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cheapest place in America to buy a house - right here in Michigan

OK, so that is a bit of a teaser headline, but it's true. The cheapest place in America (or at least in the 3,500 markets that were analyzed) to buy a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home is right here in the southeast Michigan area, as reported on RIS Media the large real estate new web site in the video referenced below.

Follow this link -

Well, how about that. Keep in mind that this report is not just based on the sale of distressed homes - foreclosure and short saled - but regular sales, too. You can just plain get a lot of house for the money in this market.

I find it interesting that the area mentioned in the video is also the area that our own company database indicates is the mostly likely place from which buyers in the Milford market will be coming. So I guess they sell their less expensive homes there and move to Milford when things get better.

This just goes to prove that there are still great deals on housing available if you know where to look. I can help with that. Many of the really inexpensive market areas in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland Counties are still offering great prices on very nice houses. You just need to be flexible on location to take advanatge of the best prices in decades in various markets in those areas.

Monday, February 25, 2013

You can't miss, if you'll just try...

“Get the right perspective. When Goliath came against the Israelites, the soldiers all thought, ‘He is so big. We can never kill him.’ David looked at the same giant and thought, ‘He is so big. I can't miss.’"  (Russ Johnston) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I get the opportunity to help a lot of new real estate agents get started in the business, sometimes as a mentor in our office, but most of the time just because I’m there when they have a question. One of the first things that happens to most new agents, after they’ve completed their licensing training and perhaps the introductory training that our company offers, is that they get this overwhelming feeling of “what do I do now?”

It is rather daunting to tackle a new career, especially one that is so dependent upon being a self-starter and self-motivator. The independent contractor business model for agents means that there is normally no one there monitoring and directing your daily actions. There is no instruction manual for the job, although companies like the one I work for try to have frameworks to guide new agents through the first 6 months of getting started. Still, there are lots of blank spaces in even the best outline of things that one should be doing to get started. I suspect that many newbie agents find themselves thinking, “This is so big. I’ll never get it all done.” I try to help them see that, “This is so big, whatever you do will help you be successful.”

Of course there are things that should be done before others and that’s where our frameworks and mentoring help the new agents get started. Helping people get comfortable with being a bit uncomfortable is a big early thing to accomplish. New agents are often frozen into inaction by the feeling that they don’t know enough or they don’t know everything that they should know before getting in front of a potential client. If they can get over that and realize that they’ll never know everything in this business, they’ll be OK. They need to develop the ability to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” In the case of our company they can add, “That’s one reason I joined Michigan’s largest Real Estate Company, so I’d have access to the help and accumulated knowledge of all of our great agents.”

If they can put themselves at ease with that approach while they accumulate knowledge of their own, they’ll be ahead of the game. People really aren’t looking for a “know-it-all”; in fact that usually turns them off. Rather people are looking for someone who says. “I understand what you’re asking and I’ll find out the answer.” Being genuine with that approach will also give you a self-confidence that will show through to the clients and they usually like that, too. If it helps, you should also remind yourself that just getting licensed equipped you with more knowledge about real estate than 90% of the population and every day that you spend learning from your experiences just increases your knowledge.

So get our your sling and pick out a good stone; the real estate market is so big, you can’t miss – but you’ve got to get into the game. We can help you with that. If you’re getting your license and are looking for a great place to start, call our office manager – Mary Nicole – at 248-684-1065 and set up an interview to talk about out new agent programs.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Join the First Chair Club

Join the First Chair Club and support this wonderful community project. Many people who live in Milford, Michigan know that there is a project underway right now to raise funds to create a new amphitheater facility in Central Park. The fund-raising for the project is being headed up by a group made up of the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce (HVCC), the Rotary Club and The Milford Downtown Development Authority (DDA).  The Milford Historical Society is also involved through it's role with the Pettibone Creek Powerhouse, which the Society rescued and restored.

The AMP project as it has been named includes the creation of an amphitheater with a permanent stage for events such as the summer Concerts in the Park series and other events. Also included in the project is the construction of permanent bathroom facilities for the park, to replace the Port-a-Potties now used. For more on the design and the overall project click here.

One fund raising effort is called the "First Chair Club". This is a donation program for those able to contribute $1,000 towards the project. Those donars with be special guests at the inaugural event at the new facilities - they will have the "first chairs" at that event, which is scheduled for May 20, if all of the money for the project is collected by then. See below for more or click here to see the poster full size.

First Chair Club donations may be made at the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce office on Union Street or at the Huron Valley State Bank.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

You gotta hustle to beat the FHA changes to MIP

The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) which backs most home loans made in the U.S. has announced changes that will cost everyone who takes out an FHA loan on or after April 1. Somehow April Fool’s Day seems appropriate, except that the joke’s on us all.

FHA is required, under the law that created it, to maintain a capital base of 2% of its total loan obligations. Currently, due to eating losses on the large number of defaults on the bad loans that it backed during the real estate bubble, FHA is running at about 1.44% capitalization. The bottom line is that is need more money to continue to operate. One way that it gets money is from collecting a Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP). FHA’s is the equivalent of PMI – Private Mortgage Insurance, a term that you may be more familiar with from your past real estate dealings. So they’ve decided to increase rates and apply those increases more broadly that they do right now.

The FHA announced changes will have long-term effect on the housing market. They aren’t huge amounts, but these days every bit counts and every small increase hurts people who are already struggling to get into their own home.

First, they are increasing the MIP rates as of April 1st. The increases are anywhere from 5 to 10 basis points, depending upon the loan amount and the Loan to Value (LTV) ratio calculated for the loan. A basis point is 1 / 100th of 1 percent. So the increases equate to increases of .00005 to .00010 of added cost per month. The base MIP that these increases are being added to range from 120 to 150 basis points. So, now, on a $100,000 loan you’ll go from paying between $120 to $150 a month to paying $130 to $155 a month.  

Second, as of June 3rd, they are revoking an exemption that existed for years on loans of 15 years or less. Those loans will now have MIP premiums collected.

Third, as of June 3rd they are also revising the long-standing policy of removing the MIP requirement when FHA loans had a LTV equal to or less than 78% at the time of origination.

Fourth, they have revised the periods for which MIPs may be collected, with these changes to take effect June 3rd, also. For loans with LTV of less than 90% the MIP will be collected until the end of the loan or for the first 11 years, whichever comes first. And for loans where the LTV is higher than 90% the MIP will be collected until the end of the loan or the first 30 years, whichever comes first. That may be the biggest change in this whole thing, since many buyers could look forward to getting out from under the MIP once they made enough payments. Not so under these new rules.

The bottom line of all of this is that it’s going to cost more for an FHA loan after April 1st and after June 3rd you’ll be stuck with that increase pretty much forever (or until you sell or pay it off). So, if you’ve been kind of putzing around looking for a house, now’s the time to get it in gear and get your offer in. These rules won’t affect you if you get an FHA case number assigned before the deadline dates and the only way to make that happen is to have a mortgage application in place by then.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Strong kids make better adults...

On February 27th  the Strong Kids Campaign Kickoff Breakfast is taking place at 7:30 am at the Carls Family YMCA.  The guest speaker at this year’s kickoff breakfast is former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple. This annual breakfast kicks of the fund-raising campaign for the program that the Y runs to make sure that no children or teens are denied the benefits of the programs that the Y runs for them because of a lack of funds. The funds collected are used to provide scholarships to those programs for kids who could not otherwise afford to attend them.

With your donation to the Strong Kids Campaign, you make it possible for children and teens to take part in programs that teach them positive behaviors, allow them to explore their talents and help them grow and realize their potential. Thank you for your support and generosity!

Because of your contribution, this year the Carls Family YMCA is able to support the following programs:

•Carls Family YMCA Day Camp (Camp Huron): Last summer, more than 75 families applied for financial support in order to afford safe, nurturing and enriching YMCA camp for their children.  Many working families are unable to afford summer camp without your support. 100 campers need your support. The average family receives $100 in weekly support in order to afford Y Camp while parents work.

•Carls Swims Initiative: The Carls Family YMCA has pledged to teach 500 disadvantaged children to swim each year. In a 7 week session, the Y transforms a child from fearing water to being able to swim unassisted to safety.  The YMCA’s goal is to ensure all Carl’s children are able to swim and be safe around water. 500 children want to learn how to swim. A gift of $60 supports one child through a 7 week swim program.

•Youth Sports: These programs emphasize good sportsmanship, teamwork, persistence and skill development while setting a child on a path to an active and healthy life style. 250 children can participate in sports and thus begin a healthier lifestyle. A gift of $50 will allow a child to learn a new sport, develop teamwork skills and grow into a healthy adult.

•Character Counts Preschool: Our age-appropriate program is filled with fun, educational activities designed to expand children’s imagination.  Children learn about sharing, making good choices and group play in a caring, safe environment. They also learn the Y’s lifelong positive values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. 40 families applying for assistance for Character Counts preschool receives $250 in monthly assistance in order to ensure a quality, enriching preschool experience while family members are at work providing for their family. 

Help during this critical time in children’s’ lives. RSVP for the breakfast event by Feb 20 to Sharon Peterson (248)685-3020 or by email

Thursday, February 14, 2013

More market data for Michigan

The local Michigan real estate market continues to follow the trends that were shown in the charts below which were based upon Q4 data from 2012. As will most reports that I get, whether local or from a national source. The data is always weeks or months old. Still the data show trends that develop over time and don’t just change overnight. Different areas of the Michigan market may be on different points of the rend curve, but they are all basicallt following the same trends.


This chart shows how the key supply and demand factors are influencing values. The purple line is value per square foot, which shows an accelerating growth rate. This is a direct result of both the accelerating decline in inventory (blue line) and accelerating increase in home sales (red line).  Also adding fuel to the fire is a deceleration in new homes coming on the market (green line).



It is interesting to see how far we have moved in the market.  The following charts trace the 4th quarter activity at key dates in our market transition.  2004 was that last strong real estate year and one of the peak value years. 2008 was the peak in terms of homes for sale, causing values to start to decline. 2011 was the bottom in terms of home values. Last year showed the value rise off the bottom.



So, we are on a positive trend in every market, but we have q good ways to go to get back the value lost in the recent recession. For many, who did not buy at the peak or refinance and take out their equity, the quick run-up of prices has put them back above water and able to look at getting on with their life plans.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Market Chart - Oakland County - Jan, 2013

The chart below is one of four that you can see that show the area markets activity over the last five years. The sales are split out into $100K bands, so that you can see how each market segment has reacted to the recession and recovery.

If you want to view the chart full size, click here. The full report with charts for Wayne, Washtenaw, Livingston, and Macomb Counties as well may be viewed by clicking here.

For Oakland County this chart gives proof of our housing recovery, although we are not yet back to the sales levels of five years ago in the mid-market price bands. It certainly also shows that cheap sells. The lower price bands are doing much better in sales. What it doesn't show is how tight the market is right now and the impact of having very little to sell. For that you can go to my site - and look at the Real Estate Stats page, with charts from Altos Research that chart the average sale price and the inventory levels in the markets that I cover.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A ringing success at Highland United Methodist

My wife and I decided to attend the 19th annual Handbells Concert at the Highland United Methodist Church this past weekend. It wasn't a completely serendipitous choice, since she plays in the bell choir at our church.

This concert showcases the talents of the bell choirs of four area churches - The Brighton Bible Church, First United Methodist Church of Brighton, The Presbyterian Church of Milford and Highland United Methodist Church. In all there were well over 70 bell ringers in the concert.

What great sounds they made! The bell choirs used both hand bells and hand chimes and employed a number of techniques to make a great variety of sounds from those instruments. Sometimes they just rang the bells, sometimes they laid the bells down and struck them with small mallets, sometimes they just banged the bells down on the table, which produced its own muted notes. The techniques were wonderful in their ability to make these simple instruments sound like something else. Then there were the chimes, which have their own rich tones and sound completely different than the bells.

Each choir performed a few numbers separately. Tom Gorton, from the Highland United Methodist Choir did a solo that was very nice and I'm sure very difficult, since it involved holding several bells at once but ringing them individually. There was a choir duet involving the Brighton United Methodist and Highland United Methodist choirs and a grand finish that combined the ringers from all four churches. What an unbelievable delight that was! It was just amazing what 70+ ringers, using all of the techniques and instrument types at once could produce - very much like the full rich sound of a full pipe church organ.

The Highland United Methodist plans a special concert for next year's 20th anniversary concert. I'll make sure it is on the Community Events Calendar at my Web site - so that you can plan to attend, too. It really is a well spent hour and a wonderful experience to sit through.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Youth Assistance Program

“Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.” (J.K. Rowling) from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. I might add to Rowling’s saying by adding “and wasteful when writes youth off.”

Last night my wife and I went to the annual Taste of the Valley fund raiser for the Huron Valley Youth Assistance Program. We met and had a nice talk with the one youth counselor that the program has left after recent budget cuts. She gave us some good insight into the goals of the program to be a preventative measure to keep kids from going astray. By the time that we read about them in the paper it is often too late to retrieve a young life and set it on the right path.  Getting off on the wrong foot can start with something as simple as skipping school to “hang out” with neighborhood friends.

I certainly don’t intend to discuss what “the right path” is, but I’m pretty sure that it is illuminated by a having a strong sense of right and wrong and a good moral compass. I’m also sure that it does not require drugs or other artificial means to find it. Oakland County has a strong commitment to the youth of the community and sees them rightly as the future for the area. The County supported Youth Assistance program is one of the strongest in the state; yet even it has suffered the ravages of the recent recession with staff and program cut-backs. Fund raisers like the Taste of the Valley help some, but more is needed.

One need is not about money and is something that anyone can help out with. The YA program needs volunteers to be mentors to the youth in the program. Mentors have to be willing and able to spend time with kids who many times just need someone to talk to or to go to an event with.  Many of the “at risk” kids in the program come from dysfunctional families where finding a responsible adult to talk out a problem might be impossible

The  annual Taste of the Valley fund raiser is used to help fund the YA program within the he Huron Valley School District. The program is currently headquartered on the Apollo Center on N. Milford Rd in Highland. You can contact them at (248) 676-8492 if you’d like to volunteer or just need more information about what they are doing in the Huron Valley School District. If you’d like to read more about becoming a YA mentor or just want more information about the Oakland County YA program click here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Upcoming events in Milford, Michigan

It’s winter and in Michigan. That means it’s cold; but, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to do, especially in Milford and the Huron Valley area. There are several upcoming events for charitable causes that will be fun and help raise much needed money for worthwhile causes.

The first is this week, Thursday, Feb 7. The annual Taste of the Valley is the primary fund raising event for he Huron Valley Youth Assistance Program. The HVYA program, which is run in Milford and Highland Townships, has as its goal assisting “at risk” youth of the area. The risk is that they will pursue a path of juvenile delinquency that will inevitably lead to worse behavior later on in life. The HVYA Program provides counseling and other activities to encourage and support the youth to take a different path.

The Taste of the Valley will take place at Bakers of Milford starting at 7 pm and will feature food samples from some of the top restaurants in the area. There will also be a raffle and a silent auction for gift baskets that have been donated for this cause. Tickets are $20 in advance (you can get them at either Township office) or $25 at the door.

In Valentine’s Day, Feb 14, the Community Sharing Outreach organization has organized an event that they call Food from the Heart. This event will take place in Downtown Milford and features live music at all of the participating venues. Many stores and restaurants are participating. You can see the list by clicking here to view the poster. As with most Community Sharing event, your “ticket” to get into this event is a can of food or box of non-perishable food (of course a cash donation is always welcomed). You can stroll through downtown and stop off in participating shops and restaurants to listen to the music and enjoy your shopping or dining. For a list of performers at the various locations, click here.

In support of the Food from the Heart event, the Milford YMCA is having a Parent Night Out for children so parents can attend this fun event. Please call the Y to register call 248-714-4412 and it is $13.00 an hour for Y members and $17.00 an hour for non-members. So, plan on dropping the kids off at the Y and then enjoying a night of music and fun in Downtown Milford in support of a good cause.

Then, on Feb 16 there is LAUGHS AT THE LEGION - at the American Legion Hall, Milford. 5 pm the doors open, optional burger and fries meal available for $7 and a cash bar. The Comedy Show starts at 7 pm. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. This event benefits the Highland-White Lake Business Association Scholarship Fund and the summer-time Sparks in the Park event.

Finally, Oakpoint Church on Milford’s South side (on South Hill Rd) is hosting Milford’s Beast Feast on Feb 23 - 6 - 9 pm at Oakpoint Church - a pot luck dinner for hunters from the area. Bring a wild (or tame) game dish to pass - some other food will be supplied. Exchange stories with fellow hunters, plus a raffle and other competition. Tickets are $5. For more information go to the Oakpoint Web site.

There are also some upcoming free community events, which are just held to have fun and don’t raise money for any group.

The first is the Milford Community Snow Day - Feb 9 - 4 pm until 6 pm, in Milford Central Park - If our crazy winter weather cooperates there will be Ice Skating/ & a Figure Skating demo, Winter Crafts, Winter Games, Snowshoeing, Sled Dogs, Voyage in Time Re-enactment, Bonfire, Cocoa & Cookies, fun for the whole family. Click here to view the poster for this event.

There are also the Daddy-Daughter Dance and the Mother-Son Dance on Feb 16 - 7 - 9 pm - sponsored by Huron Valley Recreation & Community Education. The Daddy-Daughter dance will be at Milford High School and the Mother-Son Dance at Heritage Elementary School. $25 per couple for residents, $35 per couple for non residents. $10 for each additional daughter. Click here to see the registration form for both dances.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Case-Shiller Report confirms market direction...

The latest Case-Shiller report, which includes data through the end of December, 2012, confirms that the country is generally on an upswing for housing. Detroit joined four other locales with double digit home value increases year-over-year in the attest report. The chart below shows the overall US market index for 20 cites and 10 cities.
Topping the Case-Shiller list is Phoenix  with a 22.8% increase in values compared to December of 2011. Phoenix was one fo the hardest hit areas in the country, so they are starting back from a deep hole. Next up was San Francisco with a 12.7%, followed by Detroit with an increase of 11.9%. Remember that Detroit too dug itself into a deep hole, with property value losses of as much as 60-70% off the peak. Next came Minneapolis at 11.1% value growth year-over-year and finally, rounding out the top five was Las Vegas at an even 10% gain. You can see the entire report by clicking here.

It’s always nice to get confirming reports about things that I think I’m already seeing and reporting. The Case-Shiller Report always trails the market by a month or two and thus provides that good “looking back” perspective on the market.

Locally our issue is now more about lack of inventory that about low home values. Many people are still under water on their mortgages; but, many more are starting to realize that they may be OK on their home’s value and that it’s time to come out of the bunker and take a look at the market again. If you haven’t had a market analysis done by a real estate professional within the last 3 months, you are sadly out of date on the potential market value of your home.

Home owners who have been putting off plans to move or downsize should definitively take a quick look to see where they are in terms of their home’s value. Call me today. The Market Analysis is free and you’ll also get some good free advice about anything that you may need to do to get your home ready for the market now or later. Call 248-763-2497.

If you want to see what homes in the markets that I focus upon have been doing, go to and click on the “What have homes in this area sold for?” I just posted the final numbers for January late last week. There is also 5 years-worth of sold homes data there month by month.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Wonderful site for history buffs...

I'm on the Board of Directors of the Milford Historical Society and active in the events that the Society puts on, as well as serving as the Community Outreach Committee Chairman. I also maintain the web site for the Society - .

Recently we have been trying to collect stories and pictures about Milford in the 20th Century, which we are planning on putting into a new history book about Milford, Michigan. The Society already has published one book entitled "Ten Minutes Ahead of the Rest of the World", which is a wonderful history of Milford from its founding up to the start of the 20th Century. The new book will document Milford's history from 1900 until 2000.

As part of the collection efforts we have solicited input from people who lived in Milford in the 20th Century. We arbitrarily decided to start in the middle of the century - the 1950's - and work our way towards both ends. We recently asked for inputs from people who might have gone through the Baker elementary School, which is scheduled to be demolished soon. That request lead to one of the respondents sending me the link to this web site.

The web site is a treasure trove of information about the history of Michigan. The site has pictures and stories about most ( I don't know if they claim to have them all yet) of the sites that have state historic markers in the State of Michigan. Those are the markers that you see along the road as you are traveling. Perhaps, like me, you occasionally stop to read one. Sometimes these markers are the only reminders left of some significant building or place in Michigan.

Locally there are groups, like the Questors and the Milford Historical Society who have placed historic marker signage on places and things of historical significance in Milford. See our web page on interpretive markers and another page on Historic Markers around Milford. Many of the local markers are the only vestige left of long gone mills that where the root of the name Milford.

We also have a page on our Historical Society Web page that is mainly for history buffs, so go there and enjoy exploring.