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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Still a sellers market in Oakland County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Looking back at the real estate market…

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 25, 2016

Where do you go to learn how to rock…

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


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

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

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

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

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

Rock on, Milford!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Avoiding The Latest Real Estate Fraud Scam

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

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

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

Monday, April 18, 2016

How homes have changed thru the decades…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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