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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans and real estate…

We tend to celebrate Veteran’s Day like many other holiday in America - with Sales at most stores, with some, but not all having the day off, and, oh, by the way, say “Thank You”, if you happen to meet a veteran today. That’s just how it is and I’m OK with that. Things are a whole lot better now than they were at the end of the Viet Nam War, when a Viet Nam vet on the street was as likely to get jeered as praised. We haven’t done that to our vets for a long while. I guess wars got more popular.

One thing we have done is to extend programs to veterans, some aimed at those who came
back wounded, that make home ownership a little bit easier. The VA Hospital situation was pretty bad for a long while, but now is getting better. The VA Loan program has always been there for returning vets, but has of recent become a bit more useful to them.

Veterans who qualify may find that they can buy a new home for little or no money down, at a very good interest rate and with no monthly cost for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). Click here to read a program flyer from John Adams Mortgage Company. Most mortgage companies, banks and brokers offer VA Loan programs. Most programs also limit the closing costs on the sale.

If the veteran has returned with severe war injuries that preclude holding a normal job or is declared by VA to be 100% disabled, there is also a program in Michigan to waive the property taxes on the home. That is often a savings of several thousand dollars a year. Click here to read about the Michigan Law concerning property taxes and disabled veterans.

If you are a recent veteran and perhaps new to the whole world of VA benefits, click here to go the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs web site. You can click here to go to the VA site and explore all of your benefits. There are many more things that you might qualify for then just real estate related items. You earned these benefits through you service, so don’t be shy about taking advantage of them. 

Good luck and thank you for your service (from one vet to another). 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Coming soon - The West Huron Valley Mathnasium

Coming soon to the Huron Valley – Mathnasium of West Huron Valley!

So, what the heck is a Mathnasium? It’s a facility and staff for tutoring young people in math and math alone. There is quite a story behind the founding of this focused tutoring operation, which now has franchises all over the world. You can click here to go to the headquarters site and view the video by founder Larry Matinek – click on his picture to view the video.

I’d equate this to a gymnasium with personal trainers. First they evaluate where you are starting from, what your current math skill level is; and then they design and implement a custom tutoring program to get you up to where you need to be or want to be. Most students start out testing below their current grade level, so an initial goal is to at least get there. There is no reason to stop there and getting ahead of your grade level might open up opportunities for advance placement programs and more. Once you get started on the program your “personal trainer” is there with you to implement the program and provide the tutoring and the motivation to succeed.

In this area, with the automotive industry’s heavy need for math savvy workers and engineers, a program like this is a must. It is also a must for those who wish to go on to college after high school. The Mathnasium will prepare the student for that step. When should a student start at the Mathnasium? As early as possible. There are programs for preschoolers to help build a foundation for math learning throughout their education; as well as programs at the elementary, middle and high school levels. The High School Mathnasium programs don’t go into the college- level subjects like Calculus; but rather students focus on higher math, mastering algebra, geometry, trigonometry, statistics, and probability in preparation for high school exit exams, college placement exams, and standardized college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT.

Who can benefit from a Mathnasium?

  • Any student who has fallen behind their grade level in math or who struggle to just to keep up.
  • Any student who dreams of a future in engineering, science or other math-intensive or math-based careers.
  • Anyone who is doing OK, but just OK in math; and, who would like to do better.
  • Those going into the sciences where math skills are a base-level skill that is assumed before actually studying the particular science.

  • Those planning on going on to college after high school.
    The Mathnasium of West Huron Valley is located in Milford at 512 Highland Avenue, Milford, MI 48381, in the Prospect Hill Shopping Center (the Kroger Store shopping center) between Suzanne’s Main Street Dance Centre and the Henry Ford eye glasses place. 
Jeffrey Levin is the Owner and director of the Mathnasium. Give him a call and ask about the free evaluations they he is offering during the opening of this location. Jeffrey tells me that they will be open soon, so now is a good time to get lined up for that evaluation.
To visit the web site for the Mathnasium of West Huron Valley click here or you can call them at (248) 676-2971. tell Jeff that you read about it here. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Good mortgage news out of the mish-mash of Federal Agenci

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Government Agency in charge of setting the rules under which Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will operate has finally released the final rules for Qualified Residential Mortgages (ORM). These rules join those already in place for Qualified Mortgages (QM) and define such things as the required (or not) down payment that banks should require for mortgages. The QRM rule provides a set of requirements a loan must meet to be considered safe and eligible to be sold to investors as part of a mortgage-backed security without the lender having to retain 5 percent of the loan amount on its books. This is important because these rules define which loans the banks and other lenders may package up and sell to Fannie or Freddie or other investors. Without that ability to sell bonds backed by packages of mortgages there would be no secondary market and real estate lending would slow significantly.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) also announced that it  will release guidelines soon to allow increased lending to borrowers with down payments as low as 3 percent. FHFA, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also will help lenders who sell loans to the mortgage giants by easing standards on borrowers who don't have perfect credit profiles. The newly released rules, and thus still to come, still require that borrowers be able to prove an ability to repay the loan. You might think that would be obvious; however, it was laxity in just that area that led to the real estate collapse. The new rules define an upper limit of 43% of the borrowers’ monthly income which can be committed to repayment of all forms of debt. That seems sensible, too.

The new guidelines provide more latitude for underwriters to consider the borrowers current ability to pay rather than focusing upon past credit issues. All of this should make mortgages easier to get, especially for first time buyers or people who might have had credit difficulties during the recent recession. This will free underwriters to focus upon the current credit worthiness of the borrower and not have to take so much risk for the bank into account.  This easing also takes some of the pressure off lenders who may have feared being required to buy back bad loans that were sold as part of packages of loans. The threat of forced buy-backs had caused lenders to become overly cautious and severely constrained loans.

There are now many more Federal agencies keeping an eye on the financial industry and real estate mortgage practices in particular; all part of the changes that took place during the recession. It’s good that they are at least getting coordinated and pointing the industry in a positive direction. Check with your loan officer about what impact these changes may have for you.

You can now find me on the new .Realtor domain at This new domain was just launched for Realtors by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which owns the rights to manage the Domain. So, you should be seeing a lot of new wed addresses for real estate agents with that distinctive top level domain name. You can also find my posts at and at

Friday, October 17, 2014

When A House Has Good Bones

I overheard my Realtor talking about a house with good bones. What's that all about? Like many other professions, the real estate professions has developed a language of its own. What you Realtor was likely trying to say is that the house is, in his/her opinion, basically sound and has features that make it worthy of consideration. Most houses have something in their decor that potential buyers would not like in their home; however, those are mostly cosmetic or fairly superficial  things that can be overcome with modest fixer-upper projects or maybe even just some new paint. Some homes would still not be all that appealing if you replaced all of the flooring and painted every room. They might not have good bones to begin with.
So, what constitutes “good bones” in a house? That has to do with the overall structural integrity of the house, the layout of the house and the build quality of the materials and workmanship in the house. A house with good bones is not all chopped up, it has nice big rooms that flow nicely into one another and it may have the extra features that come with quality materials and finished – better natural wood flooring and woodwork, perhaps crown molding, perhaps some built-ins, perhaps a large kitchen with an island, perhaps a large master bedroom, with a nice on-suite bath and walk-in closets. These are the kinds of things that make up the underlying structure of the house – the bones. They may include and updated furnace, maybe a high basement ceiling or an extra wide garage. They are things that could not easily be changed, but which work to make the house more valuable, no matter what state its current appearance may be in.
The “bones” of the house is what you start with and upon which you plan to build. If you have good bones to start with, you can more easily get the house to the state in which you would like it to be.
Starting with a house that doesn’t have good bones may result in an on-going frustration, since it is the underlying structure of the house itself that prevents you from getting it just right. Think of it this way. There is no amount of work that you can put into a 1976 AMC Pacer that would turn it into a cool street rod that you would want to drive in the Woodward Dream Cruise. On the other hand, even a totally clapped out 1976 Camaro convertible could be the starting point for a great cruiser, if it isn’t all rusted out. Why? Because the Camaro starts with good bones and the rest can be fixed.
Having good bones has nothing to do necessarily with the age of the house. It may have something to do with condition, since even a house with good bones can become so worn out and bedraggled that it’s not worth trying to rescue. In those cases it is the land content (perhaps in a great location) that may make the house still worthy of a look-see. You’d have to be planning for a total gut job or tear-down if that is the case.
So, when you hear your Realtor tell you that a house has “good bones”; ask them to elaborate and explain to you what they see that you may not be able to recognize. I think you’ll be surprised and begin to appreciate what they are looking at that you don’t even see. Maybe their explanations will start to inspire you to look beyond the clutter and paint colors and other superficial things in the houses that they are showing you and to start seeing the “bones” of the houses that you visit. You really do want to start with a house that has “good bones” if you can find one.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Avoid being a house of horrors…

With Halloween coming up soon many homeowners get out the decorations and turn their homes into frightening attractions for neighborhood kids. Like many other things in life, there are some who just seem to go overboard. Some may turn their entire front lawns into faux graveyards, with zombies appearing to be coming out of the graves. Some may use the giant inflatable displays of pumpkins, witches or ghosts. Trees in the yard suddenly sprout
bevies of flying ghosts or hanging skeletons.

But, what if you have your house listed for sale? If you’ve listed this is a year to keep those old Halloween decorations in storage or maybe to sell them at a garage sale in preparation for your move. It is not a year to turn you home into a house of horrors. The same goes for the inside. You want people to be able to appreciate the normal curb appeal of your home and to be abler to see the inside, without the distraction of dodging spider webs with scary, big spiders on them. What has always been cute before is now a big distraction for would-be buyers, so don’t do it.
A few small and hopefully tasteful reminders of the fall season might be OK, but avoid the big scary displays. See what to avoid by clicking here, from the Twisted Sifter web site.

The same thing will apply as we approach the Christmas season. Fortunately the Thanksgiving season is usually one of restraint and more tasteful decorations, if any; however, Christmas, like Halloween has gotten out of hand over the last decade. Huge blow-up Santa figures and snow globes with flying Santa sleighs in them have become popular. Reindeer pop up all over the place and of course there is the annual neighborhood contest to see who can put the most lights on their house. Christmas decorations have become very garish in many places, all in the name of good fun; which is certainly OK, unless you are listed for sale. Restraint and conservative, traditional decorations should be your guide when decorating for the Christmas season. Click here to see what not to do.

During the Christmas season, the more stuff that you have out and on display inside the more distracting it is for a buyer and the more that they’ll feel like they must tread lightly to avoid bumping into any of your stuff and perhaps breaking something. It can be especially annoying to people who bring their own children with them to a showing when they have to spend most of their time trying to keep their kids from touching your stuff. Remember too that anything that you have of value is subject to possible theft. Don’t tempt a would-be thief by hanging your priceless antique Christmas ornaments on the tree this year.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Nationally aclaimed pianist to perform in Milford

The Milford Historical Society proudly presents highly regarded Ragtime pianist Bob Milne in concert at The Milford Presbyterian Church, 238 N Main St, Milford, MI 48381, on Friday, October 24 at 7 pm.

Click here to view the event poster with ticket information. An afterglow event follows the concert. Read the poster for details on how to attend that event. Proceeds go to support the Milford Historical Museum.

Considered by many to be the best Ragtime/Boogie-Woogie pianist in the world, Bob Milne specializes in this music style that developed in America in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Although Bob Milne comes from a classical background, having excelled as a French horn virtuoso at the Eastman School of Music, he is completely self-taught as a pianist, playing totally by ear.  When he took up saloon piano-playing on the side, he discovered what fun entertaining his listeners could be, and how natural it came to him.

Early on in this new career, Bob became fascinated by the Ragtime music found on nearby player pianos, and how listeners enjoyed it.  His “internship” lasted 25 years; he has even written a book on these experiences, The Journeyman Piano Player.

Bob naturally progressed to the concert stage, acknowledged by many as one of the best pianists of our time. He is now constantly performing across the country (and sometimes beyond) from concert halls to festivals, and everything in between, and still having fun with his audiences exhibiting ballistic speed as well as subtle harmonies.

Known as a “Ragtimist” (a term he coined), Bob Milne quickly made himself a dedicated student and presenter of this true American musical form, having acquired both a vast repertoire of tunes and extensive knowledge of their origins.

These histories and the stories of the piano players who were playing them are anecdotally
incorporated into Milne’s presentations.  (Bob also teaches music history at Florida Atlantic University every winter, and conducts a Music Retreat in Lapeer, MI each September.)

It comes as no surprise that the Library of Congress designated him a “National Treasure” when they documented his expertise for future generations, and that the U.S. State Department has utilized him as a “Musical Ambassador” in Japan and Switzerland.

Bob Milne brings endless enthusiasm, enchanting ease of playing, and an engaging manner while telling stories about Ragtime and Boogie Woogie music with warmth and humor.
Today Bob is well-known as an outstanding pianist specializing in Ragtime, Boogie-Woogie, the Blues, and the Player Piano styles of the turn of the century.

As a sample of the wonderful evening that you’ll be in for, click here for a short video clip of one of Bob’s performances.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Do a Franklin chart on your home before listing (Part 2 of 2)

Thinking of listing? Do a Franklin chart on your home. (PART 2 OF 2 PARTS)

In my last post I looked at the things that I often put on a Franklin chart to show the pluses and minuses for a home that I may list. The last post concerned mainly things on the outside of the house, mainly about the property involved. I should have had the condition of the roof on that last list, as it is a major minus if it is in need of replacing. Also things like spalling of brickwork or chimneys should have been on that list as minuses.

This post will focus on the things that I look for inside. I usually advise the would-be seller about the three “C’s” of real estate at this point, too – Clutter, cleanliness and condition. Many of the things that would show up on the Franklin chart have to do in one way or another with condition.

So, what am I looking for inside? While you could say that this was an outside item as well, the windows are a major plus or minus. If the house is older and the windows have been updated, that is a plus, otherwise they are usually a minus. Obviously cracked windows or windows with broken seals are a minus. The same is true of the doors. If they are worn or rusty or otherwise in need of replacement they are a minus. Nicer, newer doors, especially decorative entrance doors that may have replaced builder-grade original doors can be a plus. Interior and closet doors are also items that can draw a plus or a minus, depending upon whether they are builder grade or a more upscale style and finish.

Once inside, I’m normally looking for improvements, updates and upgrades. Homes that are still all original 10-15-20 years (or more) after they were built will be full of minuses. Kitchens and baths are particularly prone to becoming “dated looking”, since builders tend to use whatever is in fashion at the time. Entrance halls may have been done in vinyl tile back in the day, but if they haven’t been updated to a nice tile they are in the minus column. Lighting fixtures are another component that the builders use whatever is popular at the time and which need to evolve with changing tastes.

The kitchen is usually the biggest minus area, if it has not been updated or upgraded. No matter how nice the Formica still is in the kitchen, it is still Formica and woefully out of date – big minus. The appliances, even if they came with stainless steel finished years ago get out of date in about 5 years. It doesn’t matter that they still work fine, old appliances are a minus. Cabinet style and colors tend to change every 3-5 years and sometimes some of the older finished come back into style, but not usually the cabinet style itself. We all know the kitchen countertop story, although it is currently had to say what is “in”, one can seldom go wrong with granite tops. The “appliance hutch” of yesterday has given way to the wine racks of today (along with wine coolers). Kitchen designs, colors, cabinetry and tops go out of favor/style with alarming frequency, so I advise customers to budget for a full replacement every 10 years and partial update every 3-5 years.

Bathrooms have the same tendency as kitchens to go out of style. Colors and sink/toilet and fixture styles and finishes change over time, as does the whole tub vs. shower thing (multi-head/multi-person showers are currently the in thing). Homeowners need to look at keeping their bathrooms updated, too.

The mechanicals – heating and cooling system and the water heater and softener (if there is one) are also things that I tend to grade as pluses (if they’ve been updated or are in great shape and not to old) or minuses (been there unchanged since day one). It s hard to move in with confidence, even if the rest of the house is great, if you are looking at a 15-20 year old HVAC system or an old hot water heater. The appliances often fall under the same age problem, if they have never been replaced either. Older owners tend to come back with the answer, “it was good enough for me; it should be good enough for the buyers.” Well, no, it won’t be and that will impact your ability to sell and the price that you get.

Inside, as on the exterior, I also look for signs of deferred maintenance or just plain laziness. Worn, chipped or missing switch plates or plug covers are common. I look for such things as chipped or scuffed corners and show molding, worn, soiled or scuffed flooring, missing drawer pulls, blinds with a missing slat or two, or maybe pull cords that no longer work and lights missing covers. Those are all things that the owners have gotten so used to living with that they don’t even see them anymore, but potential buyers will and they will wonder what other things the owners have let slide.

I also give pluses and minuses for things like the number of bathrooms and lavatories, especially in comparison to the norm in the neighborhood. Other things that can earn a plus are a first floor laundry (or even second floor in a colonial) rather than a basement laundry; a mudroom off the garage with an exterior door; a nice entrance with a coat closet; French doors on the study/office (if there is one); a large, step-in pantry off the kitchen; and a fireplace in the living room, family room or great room (extra plus if it is a natural fireplace).

I haven’t mentioned paint and paint colors yet, because much has been written about that topic; however, you will likely not get pluses for strong or dramatic colors unless they really fit the house. Most more modern homes were done in fairly neutral colors because they depend more on the style than the colors; however a few dramatic accent walls can add to the style, without becoming overpowering. If you choose to leave your teenage son’s room black or deep purple, give yourself a minus. If you think that the stars and wall mural of the rainbow and Unicorn in your daughter’s Princess room is just too cute to disturb, give yourself another minus. And if your man has turned your basement into his man-cave with team colors for the walls, chalk up yet another minus. These are just “in-your-face” redecorating challenges that you are hurling at potential buyers and not the precious moments that you think you are preserving.

Basements may earn some extra pluses, if they are finished properly. Big, empty, unfinished basements don’t necessarily rate a minus, but they get no pluses unless they are a daylight or walkout and then only a little plus, since they are unfinished. A well finished basement will actually add quite a bit of value in the mind of the buyer and can add real value to the appraisal. A well-finished basement is one in which the materials and finish of the basement match the other floors of the house. That means drywall on the walls and ceiling and good flooring. It is not one that someone put a quick dropped ceiling in and added a carpet remnant to the floor before putting in a flat screen TV and all of the old furniture from the last redecorating effort upstairs. It is also not a “man cave.”  Basements in which a 6’2” man will be bumping his head al the time are not going to get pluses no matter what.

So, now you have an idea of how a Realtor may look at your house. Go back through your list and make your Franklin chart. If you start to see many more minuses than pluses you will know that you have some issues that need attention. We see your house as a product that we have to market and you must start to look at it that way, too. Sometimes it is hard to give an honest answer to the obvious question, would you want to buy a house that looks like this one? Don’t wait for 4-5 months on the market for that light bulb to come on. Take the time to get the place ready, as a product that you would buy and that you will be proud to have someone else buy from you.

If the projects are too big or too expensive to tackle now that you're ready to sell, at least be realistic about the impact that they will have on the buyer perceived value for your house and set the price accordingly. No one is going to offer you top dollar if they end up with a long and expensive project list in mind after visiting your home. That list will grow out of the Franklin chart.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Do a Franklin chart on your home before you list it. (PART 1 OF 2 PARTS)

Whenever I get a call from someone who is thinking of listing their home, I ask to visit the home and then come back and do what I call “the pluses and minuses” review – listing the things that I saw that will likely add to (a +) or detract from (a -) the market value of the home. Many times I will put the list that I have compiled from my visit in the form of a Franklin chart, named for
Benjamin Franklin who is credited with inventing it.

A Franklin chart is one of the simplest forms of chart or data display and is very easy for most people to interpret. Things on the chart are either good or bad, either a plus or a minus, either an adder or a detractor from value. There may be disagreements about the weight or size of the plus or minus and maybe even about the categories or whether something that is “good enough for me” belongs on the plus or minus side (more on that later). The point of the chart is to show the homeowner some of the things that will determine what he/she might get for the place. It can also provide a good starting point for a “to do” list of fix-ups that are needed.

So, what are some of the things that I look for and how do I judge whether they are pluses or minuses? Let’s start outside:

Location is still a primary factor for any property, although in the current market the real estate mantra has shifted from “location, location, location” to one of “location, price, price.” A home located on a busy, main road would get a big minus. A busy side street might still get a minus, but not as big of one. A quiet side street or cul de sac location might get a plus. I say might, because it still matters where that street or cul de sac is located. Another location factor might be a waterfront location, with a big plus for lakefront, a lesser sized pluses for being on a canal and maybe a tiny plus for being in a sub with some form of lake access. Being involved with water almost always gets the property a plus of some size. Other locations that would likely draw pluses are being located on a golf course, backing up to a state park or state land, being within walking distance to a downtown area, or maybe even just being located within the boundaries of a particularly good school district.

In real estate, as in some other things in life, size matters. That criteria covers both the house and the property. Having some land is a big plus for most buyers. Having lots of living space is also great, but within the constraints of affordability. Having a big piece of land isn’t worth a big plus if most of the land is swamp or wetlands (which is common in this area), so that could end up as a minus. Ravened or rolling properties and properties with water features like a pond or stream running through are pluses, as opposed to the flat, featureless landscapes of old farm fields. Having sufficient land is particularly important to horse people who need pasture space and a place to build outbuildings. It may be important to people with lots of motorized toys, too. In both of those cases, being located next to state land is usually a big plus.

While we are still outside, I look at the landscaping and any outdoor entertaining or living areas. Nice, well-maintained landscaping is a plus; whereas, weedy or overgrown yards are a definite minus. A nice paver or stamped concrete patio or a nice wood or composite deck is a plus, especially if the owner has added things like a pergola and maybe a fire pit. “Outdoor rooms” are all the rage right now and are worth some pluses if done well. An old concrete slab with a rusty old barbeque pit on it will earn a big minus. Even small “city lots” can be turned into an oasis from the everyday world with the right landscaping and can be a plus when it is time to sell. 

Pools are a real mixed bag. A nice, well-maintained in-ground pool can be a big plus; however there is a sizable faction of the potential buyer-pool that will view that pool as a health threat, if they have younger children. The pool equipment must be clean looking, up-to-date and functioning correctly for the pool to get a big plus. It helps if the house has storage and other accommodations (such as a bathroom with shower right inside the door leading to the pool) in support of pool activities. Many well done pool settings will incorporate the outdoor room concept and have the entertaining/dining area integrated. Some may even have a pool house
or cabana. Above ground pools never have the cachet of in-ground pools and many times are really minuses. Most do not look very attractive, no matter how much decking is arrayed around it and many are not as well maintained as in-ground pools. Lots of those decks that were built around above ground pools also do not meet the safety requirements for an FHA loan. I seldom see an above ground pool that I would award a plus for and many times I advise the sellers to take them out. While we’re at it, most of the time hot tubs do not earn a plus. Most have not been maintained well and it shows. A newer hot tub in excellent condition will at best not detract from the value. 

While we’re still outside, things like play structures, swing sets, sand boxes, especially at homes owned by couple’s whose children have grown and left, usually end up being in some state of disrepair and would be minuses. Specially-built features that an owner might have put in to accommodate a hobby, such as an RV parking pad or an old tennis court or even a putting green may also be minuses if they have fallen into disrepair and the new owners believe that they will have to remove them. As for garage spaces; three car garages are expected these days and any less will be a minus (slight minus for a 2-car and major minus for a one car or no garage at all). For real car guys having 4-5 spaces would be a big plus and a huge plus if one of them has a lift built in (that lift might be viewed as a minus by non-car guy buyers).

Outbuildings are another mixed bag. A horse person will give you a big plus for having a barn with stalls already in place and a smaller plus for maybe at least having a pole barn that they can modify. You might also get a plus for a hay barn, if it is in good condition. Car guys will also be happy with a pole barn with room for storing their cars - pluses if they are in good shape and minuses of they need to be torn down or require immediate attention, such as a new roof. Other outbuilding, such as sheds are of little real consequence unless they are in sad shape (minus) or there is no basement or garage for storing (then a plus, if the shed is in good condition).

Finally outside, the existence and condition of trees can be a plus or minus. We have had a hard time in Michigan with several types of invasive diseases and bugs that have decimated a large number of our trees. Having several or many large, nature trees on the property would be a plus, IF they are healthy. Having several trees that will obviously need to be taking down is a minus. If the property is a fairly new build there is a very good chance that it has little in the way of trees. Builders some time back decided that the quickest and least expensive way for them to build was to knock everything down and start with bare land. Builders very seldom even attempted to save mature trees. The results are huge new subs with not a single mature tree in sight. Each “lot package” came with a few new, small trees stuck in place after everything else was done. There may have been a few “premium lots” with a few mature trees on them offered, but very few. So, most new-build subs, no matter how “upscale“ they are get few pluses for trees.

In my next installment I will move inside and continue the hunt for pluses and minuses. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Locations that detract from value…

There are obvious locations that might have an impact on the value of a property, such as those located on a busy road or right next to railroad tracks or under an airport landing glide path; but what other locations might have an impact?

Well it turns out the airport has a wider footprint for potential value impact than just the take-off and landing
paths. That is why the Seller’s Disclosure (at least in Michigan) asks the question about whether the house is within 5 miles of an airport. All houses within that 5 mile radius are subject to the airport noise and to potential aircraft crashes that tends to happen most often just after take-off or when approaching for landings. The noise and safety concerns about properties located close to airports, especially larger airports where jets take-off and land, is what keeps the property value down in those locations.

Another 5 mile radius surrounds shooting clubs. It’s not that they fear stray bullets so much; although, I suppose that could happen; it’s really about the noise from the guns being fired. The concern is that the constant popping of the guns being shot will impact eh peaceful enjoyment of areas like a back patio or deck.  I’ve shown houses within a mile or two of
a gun club and can attest to the fact that you can hear every shot. I my case it didn’t help that the rear of the house had two obvious bullet to pellet holes in two of the windows (not from the range, I was assured; but try to tell that to an already nervous buyer).

Subdivisions that were built on old farm land (as was the case in almost every suburb in America) can also be a problem, especially if the farm operation was recent. The issues tend to revolve around the impact of farm waste and pesticides on the water table in the area and because of the less than careful practices of farmers a few years back in terms of discarding of things like oil tanks or even old rusty cars or barrels. Who hasn’t driven by an old farm that has a field of rusting 55-gallon drums and not wondered what was in them originally. Many farmers took the money when utility companies and others came around looking for a place to dump stuff. They dug big holes, dumped stuff in and then covered the hole up and went on about farming.

In this area in Michigan, where suburban subdivisions are most often served by wells and septic systems we always recommend having the well water tested and quite often we find elevated levels of Nitrites and Nitrates. Those two residual chemicals that were produced by the waste from livestock don’t pose a big danger to adults but can severely impact young children. Here’s a good site to go read more about them.

Old dump sites, even those run by governmental bodies, can also be dangerous, especially if they were officially closed years ago. Nobody was concerned about what was being dumped into those old sites in the mid-20th Century; so, very spotty records (if any) were kept. By the end of the Century everyone became aware of and concerned by what may have been dumped in those old “city dumps.” Now many municipalities face massive clean-sup efforts to deal with things that were hauled off to the dump by utilities and industrial companies. You don’t even want to know what they are finding and you don’t even want to live next to it either. The same concerns are generally there for old industrial sites. You just don’t know what and how much was dumped into the ground at those sites and it takes a complete environmental study to determine whether or not a remediation effort is required. You might not believe that there were “industrial” sites right in the middle of your town or your neighborhood; but that was how things were done in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. A common practice back then to rid the plant of rejected work was to take it out and throw it in the pond or river or field next door; the one that you are thinking of living next to now.

Power substations and pipeline easements are usually very visible and well-marked and have their own issue in terms of property value impact. Power substations usually look fairly ugly and always surrounded by high chain link fences, maybe with barbed-wire on top. In addition they seem to attract lightning strikes, at lease the people that I know who live next to them tell me. I don’t believe that they are all that dangerous in themselves; however, if one of those big transformers blows you will feel it and hear it if you live next door to the substation. Many of them also have a constant hum that is put off by the equipment. Pipeline easements
themselves are mostly invisible, unless you live next to a pumping station or a major junction location. Then things can get a little noisy and there are usually smells associated with burning off excess gases. Obviously any pipeline failure can cause a major spill and create quite a mess that may require a lengthy cleanup. Gas Pipeline explosions ion the big pipelines is extremely rare but not unheard of. That may keep some potential buyers awake at night.

Homes located next to, across from or sometime even near mobile home parks are also impacted in value. Modern mobile home parks are actually very nice facilities with good, affordable housing. The park management usually tries to be a good neighbor, too; however, there is still a left-over stigma from the old “trailer park” days. That’s why you will often see what is designated as a “transition area” between these parks and single family home neighborhoods. Those transition areas may consist of multifamily apartment or condo units or maybe commercial/retail areas. And speaking of retail/office/ restaurant areas; the concerns with living next to them tend to be about traffic, parking and sound and light pollution. Those stores or bars or offices often don’t close down and turn everything off just because you want to go to bed at 9 PM. Restaurants/bars in particular can have customers who are quite noisy and sometimes destructive by the end of the evening. Unless you plan to spend your time in that bar next door, think about that before you buy.

Sports venues often are created in areas after many homes are already in place. Think of school athletic fields or tennis courts. Many of these venues are used at night with huge lights to illuminate the field. In addition to the light pollution that is produced when those are lit up, the crowds are seldom quiet and reserved at the events that are going on, so buy good blinds or drapes and hope that your windows block
out the noise.  Sometimes venues are built out in the country, but progress eventually brings the suburbs to the venue. Many car race tracks were that way, especially the small dirt tracks that abound across the country. Horse tracks or dog tracks may have been built right in the heart of things. All of these venues bring concerns about traffic, parking, noise and light pollution into play.

So, that’s a pretty long list of places that can detract from the value of a property. The concerns that have been mentioned, whether real or imagined by a potential buyer, all serve to hold down property values. You need to be aware of whether any of these detractors is nearby. You might see some mentioned in a Seller’s Disclosure Statement; but many, if not most, of them are things that the seller might not even mention, sometimes because they have become so used to things that they forget and sometimes because they don’t want to call attention to the issues.  Hopefully you are working with a Realtor who knows the area and who can alert you to the issues that might exist. If not, find a local Realtor who can. You don’t want to find out in the spring that sometime in the middle of the winter you bought a beautiful house that no one told you is next door to a gun club; where every day will sound like the forth of July.

Finally there is the case of buying the most expensive house in the neighborhood. Realtors will almost always advise against buying a million dollar house in a $300-400,000 neighborhood. The owner/seller might be very proud of the fact they he spent more than anyone else in the area and built his McMansion amid much more modest homes, but all he really did was throw away money, since few wise buyers will overpay that much above the neighborhood property value average.

Location, location, location has been a real estate mantra forever; but, it also has great impact on value. Hopefully you netter understand what things to look for in a location that can have a negative impact. At least factor these things into your offer, if you still intend to buy in that location.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Functional Obsolescence, what is that?

If you hang around Realtors for very long you may hear them referring to a house with the terms functional obsolescence or housing obsolescence; but, what does that mean? A house doesn’t really become obsolete in the sense that we might use that terms for other objects, like buggy whips or maybe even hard-wired phones these days. You can still live in it, even if it has become functional obsolete.


From the web site comes this definition of Functional Obsolescence –


A reduction in the usefulness or desirability of an object because of an outdated design feature, usually one that cannot be easily changed. The term is commonly used in real estate, but has a wide application. The site went on to use this example:


An original house in an older part of town that has two bedrooms and one bathroom could be considered functionally obsolete if all the other original homes in the area are torn down over the years and replaced with five bedroom, three bathroom houses. Because the old house does not have the features that most modern buyers want, it is said to be functionally obsolete, even if it is still in good condition and is perfectly livable.


So, if you watch a lot of those TV real estate shows, most of the homes that the potential buyers and/or remodelers are discussing doing major remodeling upon are functionally obsolete. In fact, most older homes that have not been remodeled or “updated” in a major way might fall into that classification. The “cannot be easily changed” part of the definition usually manifests itself as small spaces or the lack of bedroom, baths and family living space within the footprint.


Times and tastes have changed since most of the older homes were built. I pretty much know what to expect just by seeing the year that home was built. There are features (or lack thereof) that are representative of the economic state of the country and the home buyer of each era. No one in the 1940’s or earlier (some built well into the 50’s and 60’s) could foresee the need to house more than one car in a garage, so homes built then and earlier had at most single car garages. Many historic houses actually had carriage barns, some of which were converted to garages.


Typical houses for the workers of those early eras were usually 1,000 Square Feet in size or smaller. It is not unusual to find whole neighborhoods with 2 and 3 bedroom homes that only had 800-900 Sq Ft of living space when built. Almost all have had some sort of additions put on, but few could really be considered equivalent to modern built homes. Most still have what we would consider to be tiny bedroom with even tinier closets (how did those people get by with only 1-2 pairs of shoes and so few clothes?). Of course there was only one tiny bathroom, with the tub, sink and toilet arrayed down a narrow room that was often less than 6 feet across. Kitchens were small and often had an eat-in area. The “family space” was a small living room. There often wasn’t a dining room. If there was a “family area” it was often in a finished portion of the basement, which also houses the laundry area and all of the mechanicals.


When you visit those older homes one comes away wondering how they could have lived like that. You hear stories of families with 3-4 kids being raised in those tiny houses and you just have to shake your head in wonder; yet, if you talk to the people who grew up in those homes, they thought it was natural and wonderful to be so close to everyone else in the family. Of course most of them would never go back to that lifestyle now and that is the basis of the obsolescence of the property.


Functional obsolescence is restricted to really old homes. The styles and tastes in America can change dramatically over as little time as a decade. Homes built in the 1980’s and 1990’s have now become functionally obsolete in many buyers eyes, because they may not have been updated to keep up with changing styles and tastes. Some architectural styles have also become less desirable, due to changing tastes. Raised ranches and split levels that were all the rage in the 60’s and 70’s (some built well into the 80’s) are less desirable in the market than more traditional layouts like ranches or colonials of the same era.


The style that really caught on in the 90’s and beyond is the Cape Cod or story and a half layout. Builders starting putting everything for the owners on the main level and threw in a couple of bedrooms and a bath for kids or guests on the ½ story upper level. If it is a 4 bedroom layout the 4th bedroom normally is an upper-level guest suite with I t’s own bath. Other modern must have features – a master suite with “on-suite” master bath and walk-in closets, a huge gourmet kitchen with upscale appliances and upscale countertops and a big family room/entertaining area – all housed in an “open floor plan” layout.


There are some more modern features that have already run their course and may be on the way to functional obsolescence, such as “volume rooms” – those big two-story high family rooms or great rooms, which many have discovered is a costly to heat waste of space. Dining rooms have been eliminated from many designs, replaced by eat-in areas in the large kitchens or dining areas in the great rooms.


At the upscale end of homes features like theater rooms, workout rooms, wine cellars and game rooms are still in demand. Areas may also be set aside and design to meet the needs of specific members of the family, such as crafts room for mom or a toy and play room for the kids. Dad may even have his “man cave” room, although many of them are still in the garage. And speaking of the garage, one must have at least a three car garage these days, preferably one with a workshop area, too. Many upscale homes go well beyond just space for just three cars, since there may be lots of toys to be stored, too.


So what is to happen to all of the older houses that may now be viewed as functionally obsolete? It turns out that they are back to serving the purpose that they were originally built for – first homes for younger buyer who can’t afford to buy a modern McMansion in the suburbs. These homes are usually located more closely to the urban areas that are again becoming popular and they are affordable. For young couples just getting started in life a little redecorating and painting and a few trips to Crate and Barrel are all that is needed to create a cozy little starter nest.


Cute and cozy are the terms most often used when you happen into one of these older and smaller homes that has been lovingly updated or restored. You may then begin to wonder why anyone needs all of the excess space of a more modern home. Many of the new homeowners in those cute older homes have also adopted a more simple lifestyle (remember that there is still limited closet and storage space) and they seem happier for that, too.


In other cases, people will buy a functionally obsolete house and turn it into something much more modern and functional – blowing out walls to open up the cut-up smaller spaces that they started with and re-purposing spaces with the footprint. I usually advise against sacrificing a bedroom to enlarge the master suite, especially if there are only three bedrooms to begin with; however, some 4-bedroom layouts might have enhanced value with only three bedrooms, if the stolen space is used wisely. Of course, add-ons, push-outs or repurposing rooms might also add to the functionality of the house. Functional obsolescence does not have to be permanent.


Here are some more readings on this topic (and on a counterpart called Economic Obsolescence), if you care to learn more –





Saturday, July 12, 2014

Have you waited long enough?

Many people fell on hard times during the recent recession and some lost their homes to foreclosure or had to do short sales. Some may have even declared bankruptcy to get out from under their debt load. Many of these people have been living in apartments or rental properties for the last few years.  So, how long do these people have to wait before they can think about buying another home? The Waiting Period Matrix that my friend and mortgage partner, Steve Bloom, has put together will help answer that question. Click here to see Steve’s matrix.

Of course the question isn't just whether you have waited out the time that the banks want to see before they will consider you; but, also, what did you do during that time. Did you get your life and your finances back in order or did you just keep up your old ways and keep going further into debt? Hopefully you learned from the bad experience of that financial hardship and turned things around in your life. Many people did. Most of the people who were forced out of their homes actually had good jobs, but factors such as reduced overtime or maybe one of the two workers in the family being laid off for an extended period, combined with getting overextended on consumer credit, resulted in them losing their homes.

So where do you need to be credit-wise right now to get back into home ownership? You’ll probably need a 640 or better credit score, in addition to proof of steady employment and earnings. You’ll find it easier to get back in the game if you also managed to save enough for a 20% or better down payment. There are still programs that allow for as little as 3-5% down, but the credit-background scrutiny associated with those programs still might preclude you from using them. If you are a veteran and never used your VA benefits, you might also tap into that resource. The USDA Rural Development Program is still offering great programs for those who qualify on properties that are considered to be rural.

I'm not a mortgage expert; so, the best advice that I can give you is to contact a local mortgage person – I would recommend Steve Bloom (248-224-2321) of A and N Mortgage in this area - and have them take a look at your situation. Even if they tell you that you’re just not quite there yet, they can usually give you good advice on what you may need to do over the next year or so to be ready. You can read more about Steve on on Move to Milford Web site - he is the Featured Business of the Month this month

Once You've got things worked out with Steve and he tells you what you can afford, give me a call and I'll help you find that new home. It won't be easy, because the market is extremely tight on inventory right now, but there are still great houses out there. You just need to be ready to act quickly when you find the one that you want. Get your mortgage pre-approval ready. You've waited long enough, don't waste another day!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Foreclosures and HOA – by Emily Dressler

Ed. - Today's post is a guest article by Emily Dresser of the web site

What happens when a financial institution or other group buys a condo development out of foreclosure? Do they have to follow the original deed that the developer had or the agreements the original developer had with the local government as a site condominium development? Is this situation similar to a zombie title foreclosure?

Currently, zombie foreclosures represent every one in five foreclosures nationwide, according to housing data firm RealtyTrac. It’s not just individual homeowners losing their homes to foreclosure; some condominium developers have lost developments to foreclosure after filing for bankruptcy.
A foreclosed or abandoned site condo complex could quickly turn into a modern ghost town and can create numerous legal issues for homeowners who purchased units in the development early on and for a homeowners’ association. Owners who moved into the development before it was completed are left wondering if the development will be finished, if the proposed amenities will be built, and if necessary infrastructures like roads will be finished. Who is responsible to complete the development? How will warranty claims be addressed? Can they stay in their homes? Will the new owner follow the covenants in the master deed?

A number of things could happen in a situation like this, and any owner is advised to seek legal counsel. Some states have laws addressing the bankruptcy of condominium developers and what happens to the HOA if the developer declares bankruptcy.

The new owner could terminate the Homeowner’s Association, or could buy enough units to gain control of the association. Many condo owners depend on their HOA for routine maintenance, landscaping, and other amenities. If the required number of units hasn’t sold for the developer to hand over control of the HOA after they have filed for bankruptcy, the homeowners are often left to defer to state law and the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act (if the state is a UCIOA state).

The homeowners who are left behind after the foreclosure sale could possibly seek judicial declaration stating that the developers’ bankruptcy is a de facto turnover of the association to the homeowners. This allows the owners to have control of the HOA, assuming enough of the units are occupied.
Emily Dressler writes for, a leading publisher of state- and county-specific real estate deeds. For a more in-depth look at zombie titles and foreclosures visit,, and to purchase a state-specific real estate deed, visit    

(Ed. – We certainly experienced what Emily wrote about locally, with several site condo developments abandoned by the original developers, many of whom when out of business or bankrupt and sold off the remaining lots or lost them to the banks. Fortunately, many developers locally just shut things down and rode out the recession and have now resumed building. In the interim early buyers were left with a feeling of abandonment and confusion over what their rights might be and what obligations they might have inadvertently inherited.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Granny's Attic Sale

A part of the "Village Lifestyle" that I wrote about last time are all of the little events that take place in The Village of Milford. This weekend there are two events to partake of going on - the annual Summer Sidewalk Sales, at which the downtown merchant literally move a part of their inventory out onto the sidewalks and conduct sales. In addition there are food tent a beer tent and music to keep the event going until 10 PM at night and beyond. The downtown merchants close up shop at 10 PM but the beer tent and music go on to provide entertainment until midnight.

In addition to the Sidewalk Sales the Milford Historical Society will be holding it's annual Granny's Attic Sale from 10 AM until 5 PM both days on the lawn and front porch of the Milford Historical Museum at 124 E. Commerce Rd (one block from Main Street) in downtown Milford. This is sort of like a church rummage sale, only on steroids and without the clothes. There are items that are donated from estates in the Milford, Highland and Commerce areas during the year, in addition to items donated by the Historical Society membership.There's no clothing at this sale, but there will be some furniture and this year there are some very unique items from area estates. There will be a collection of vintage console and table-top radios and a collection of N-gauge model railroad equipment and accessories. Additionally there is Depression-era glassware and lots of glass and china bowls, dishes and knick-knacks. Come out to Milford and find a hidden treasure at the Granny's Attic sale.

See below for some pictures of the kinds of items that you'll be able toe find at Granny's Attic -

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Milford Michigan and The Village Lifestyle…

There are many types of lifestyle properties within the real estate spectrum. Some, like golf communities and lake front communities are oriented around leisure-time activities. Others, like horse-oriented properties and gentlemen’s farms, are more about country living and animals. There are people who prefer the more rustic, “up north cabin” style, many of whom build (or live in) log homes, often in deeply wooded settings. The vast majority of America’s housing is located in what are called bedroom communities – those large suburban subdivisions with row upon row of similar looking homes, each on what are usually neatly kept lots of similar (smaller) size.  Then there are the urban dwellers in the larger cities, either in urban neighborhoods with individual homes or in the real urban setting of condo, apartments and lofts. Finally there are the small towns and villages, many of them originally farm towns, which lie out beyond the suburbs.

One such village is The Village of Milford, where I live, and it is the subject of this article on what I call “The Village Lifestyle.” Milford is a small Village of about 6,300 in southwestern Oakland County that is located about equidistance fromI-96 to the south and M-59 to the north. Milford is just far enough off the beaten path to have been spared the “Big Box Store” invasion that killed so many small towns and villages, yet close enough to that type of shopping to make it convenient for its residents. It has retained a lot of its quaint small town flavor; so much so that I often refer to it as the Mayberry of Michigan, in reference to the old Andy Griffith show.

The Milford downtown area is still made up primarily of historic buildings that have remained unchanged in appearance since the late 1800’s, but with a few more modern building and certainly with modern stores. Downtown Milford remains a place where one can shop for useful items such and clothing or shoes or furniture and in which several very good restaurants are located. Having a viable and vibrate downtown provides the foundation of “The Village Lifestyle.” The fact that we have a very good housing stock arrayed around the downtown with sidewalks to encourage walking to the downtown is also a key factor in the lifestyle of Milford.

Milford also has 6 parks within its boundaries, with Central Park in the middle of the Village being the primary focal point for events. The Huron River runs right through the Village also and it and the tributaries that feed it in Milford were the original draw for the settlers who founded the Village in the mid- 1800’s. While the original mills that gave the Village its name are long gone, the mill ponds that they were built upon remain and give the Village additional water features, including two waterfalls.

In addition to the historic buildings of downtown Milford, much of our close-in housing stock is made up on homes built before the turn of the Nineteenth Century. Another significant number of homes in Milford were built before 1950, many right after World War II. More modern subdivisions are arrayed around the Milford downtown core, many of them still within walking distance to downtown. That is important because so much of the Village Lifestyle revolves around the things that go on downtown – shopping, dining and special events.

Speaking of special events; it is the well planned series of events during the year that makes Milford special to the surrounding communities, too. There is something going on in Milford almost every month of the year, from Ladies Night Out twice a year in Downtown to what seems like the monthly parade in the summer. We have three major parades a year through downtown; these are parades that close off Main Street so that the parade can march down it. They are the Memorial Day Parade, which kicks off the parade season each year and attracts also most 1,000 veterans marching in front of applauding crowds lining Main Street, the Independence Day Parade (usually on the 4th of July) and the Christmas Parade on the weekend after Thanksgiving, which brings Santa to Milford for the holidays and closes out the parade season. Lest you think that is all, we have the Little League Parade, in which the Little League teams all march in their uniforms prior to opening the season; then there are the Milford High Home Game Parades during the fall football season and the Milford High School Home Coming Parade and the annual Martin Luther King March on Main Street.

Those are not the only events to close off Main Street. There is our big summer event – the Milford Memories Street Fair, one of the top-50 rated street fairs in the U.S.; and the annual Sidewalk Sale and of course our big Milford Car Show which features over 200 cars all the way down Main Street. The Car Show takes place on Milford Home Tour weekend, which is an annual tour put on by the Milford Historical Society through 5 of our historic homes on the Saturday and Sunday of the third weekend in September. That is a busy weekend. There is also a Tractor Show out at the south end of town and the annual Rotary Club Rubber Duck Race in Central Park. Later in the summer or in early fall the Milford Crit bicycle races are held on a course laid out to include the downtown area. At Halloween we have the annual Parade of Costumes on Main Street in which the downtown business owners stand in their building doorways and hand out candy to the children in costume as the pass.

Speaking of Central Park; there are events there all summer long, too. Every Thursday night during the summer there is a free concert in the park featuring different groups with different musical styles. At least three times du ring the summer there are free movies in Central Park, too; and there is the annual Community Picnic that is usually in June. There are also free concerts in Center Street Park (right in the middle of downtown) at the Gazebo on Friday nights during the summer and a Farmers Market every Thursday afternoon at the south end of the downtown.

If you are athletically inclined and a runner, there are at least two races each year – a 30K on Memorial Day and shorter 5 & 10 Ks during Milford Memories. There is also the bike path that starts at the Milford library and winds its way out to the nearby Kensington Metropark, which itself has running and biking trails. There are mountain bike trails maintained by the very active Milford Bike Club and riding trails for horseback used and maintained by the local Milford Trail Riders Club. There are also two canoe/kayak liveries locally, so that residents or visitors can take advantage of the Huron River. There is also the YMCA (with workout facility and pool) and the Anytime Fitness club within the Village limits, if getting your exercise is important. There are several baseball diamonds around the Village, too; and the middle school has a soccer field as well as baseball fields.  Milford High and has athletic field and a huge swimming facility.

Supporting the needs for the arts are the Village Fine Arts Association, which recently open a studio on south Main Street – the Susan Haskew Art Center, aka. The SHAC. Milford residents also take advantage of the art and music programs and displays of the Huron Valley Council for the Arts, which is located north of the Village in Highland. For education there is the Milford Library, which runs an on-going series of reading and learnign programs and the Huron Valley Recreation and Community Education Program run by the Huron Valley School District, with classes on a variety of topics for children and adults.

Many visitors come to our little Village looking for a good meal. We have some “destination restaurants” that attract people from far away – The Milford House, Coratti’s On Main, Palete and Smoke Street BBQ – and an assortment of eateries for foods of all types. There are Chinese (Lie Ting) and Thai, Mediterranean (The Blue Grill), American Bistro (Gravity), Farm to Table (Palate) and craft beer places (including the RiverSide Brewery), as well as great bars such as the The Bar and The Red Dog Saloon. Family-oriented eateries include Hector & Jimmy’s, Main Street Grill & Bar. We have four Coney places and an array of fast food and pizza places, so there’s never a time when you can’t find what you may desire. We will soon have a new Mexican restaurant in town, too.

Of course all of the major churches are also a part of our Village Lifestyle and they are active with events for the whole community in addition to their Sunday services. You can also find some throwback places that just scream “small town America” when you stumble upon them – the little 2-chair barbershop right on Main Street, the old fashion Milford Feed store where you can buy feed for a great variety of animals and buy a bale of hay for Halloween decorating; the Milford Furniture Store and the Sweet Retreats candy store across the street both harken back to simpler days. There’s also the Milford Historical Museum with its displays of pioneer cabin life and life at the turn of the 19th Century, along with pictures and memorabilia from Milford’s past.

We also have two waterfalls, one right behind the Mill Valley Shopping plaza that empties off an old mill pond and one in Central Park that is beside the old Powerhouse. Yes, Milford has a powerhouse; one that as bullt by Henry Ford in the 1930’s to provide power for the Ford Carburetor Plant that Ford built as a part of his Village Industries project to take manufacturing out to the countryside and put farmers to work. The Powerhouse was designed by famous architect Albert Khan and is opened for public tours during events like the Milford Home Tour.

All of those things provide the physical backdrop of the events that are put on by the very strong community groups in Milford – The Milford Township Parks and Recreation Department, The Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce, The Milford Downtown Development Authority (DDA), The Downtown Businesses Association), the Milford Rotary Club, the Milford Historical Society, the Milford K of C, the local Optimists Club and others. Those local organizations plan and run all of the events that are part of the Village Lifestyle and make Milford such a great place to live.

So, what is the Village Lifestyle? It is having all of these facilities and programs and events to partake of and being able to do most of them by just walking to them from your home. Ask the people who live there and they wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

To learn more about Milford and what’s going in there go to the web sites below –

Friday, June 20, 2014

First time buyers - Assessment obligations

First time buyers and assessment obligations
Question - The seller has specified in his counter offer that he wants me to assume the assessment for the sewer hookup (or road repairs). Do I have to do that?

Answer – No, you don’t HAVE to do that. You may wish to, if that’s the only way that you can get the house of your dreams. Many local governments allow homeowners to spread special assessments for things such as water and sewer hook-ups over many years. Some specify that the assessment must be paid off if the property is sold and some allow for a new owner to assume the unpaid obligation. When the original obligation was incurred, the owner at the time committed to pay to it off, so you would be well within your rights to refuse the seller’s request that you assume the obligation.

Remember, however, that the seller is going to take the payoff of that obligation into consideration when evaluating your offer and it may well tip the balance against accepting your offer; especially if you have asked for concessions as from the seller to begin with. The seller will be looking at his “net” after all costs and paying off this debt.

Another factor to consider is the impact that accepting the assessment obligation may have on your ability to get a mortgage on the place. This will be another debt on your debt to earnings ratio and could tip things against you. Discuss this with your lender before making a decision.

In situations where a special assessment for things like road replacement is in place, you should view this as a red flag about the Homeowners Association. They obviously were not managing things well and had not collected enough to maintain the neighborhood roads. Look to see if this is likely to reoccur while you are there or if the HOA is now doing a better job of planning and collecting for future neighborhood needs.

You may also want to do some research into the plans of the local governmental bodies in the area that you like, to see if they have plans for big projects like sewers and water that will eventually result in big assessments against your property. Usually there is a master plan in zoned communities, but a quick talk with the planning and building officials will give you a glimpse of the probable future for that area.