Local businesses step up to keep parade going

June 29, 2012

Independence Day in Milford, Michigan will be celebrated with a parade again this year, on the 4th of July. Lots of people just take for granted that the parades, festivals and other events in Milford will go on, not realizing how much work goes on behind the scenes to organize the parade or that there is considerable expense involved. All of the parades that take place in Milford are put on by organizations that are generally non-profit, mostly volunteer groups.

The three major parades are put on by the American Legion (the Memorial Day parade), the Milford Historical Society (the Independence Day parade) and the Chamber of Commerce (the Christmas parade). The smaller parades are conducted by groups like the local Little League(the parade of little league teams down Main Street) and Milford High School (the Homecoming parade). Then there are the events that close some Milford streets, like the upcoming Summer Palooza, the Farmers Market, the Milford Memories Festival and others.

For most of these events the Village of Milford supplies Department of Public Works (DPW) and Police support. The DWP workers put up the detour signs and place the traffic barriers (and later remove them), as well as doing some extra clean-up after events. The Village Police provide traffic and crowd control as needed. Some of the events, like the Memorial Day and Independence Day parades take place on official holidays; so, those workers get overtime to work on those events.

The Village of Milford used to provide the DPW and Police support without charging the event organizers. These are community events that are put on for the citizens to enjoy, so paying for them out of tax dollars made sense when times were good and money was available. The Village’s tax base dramatically shrank in the recent “Great Recession”, so two years ago the Village Council voted to restrict the Village’s “in-kind” contribution to these events to the first $500 of cost. They cost much more than that; especially since the union contracts that both groups work under give them double time for working on holidays.

So, each group that runs these events has had to turn to soliciting financial help through sponsorships from the local community and business groups and from the citizenry. I’m happy to report that in the case of the Independence Day parade there has been great response and the parade will go on. Major contributions were made by Milford Township and the Feldman Automotive Group (Liberty Chevrolet, Liberty Hyundai and Jay Chevrolet in our area). Key Sponsorship contributors include Hines Park Ford, Lafontaine Cadillac/Buick/GMC and Veterinary Care Specialists and VCS Pet Hospital. Sponsors include The Milford Laundry and The Digital Document Store in Milford. Several individuals also sent in contributions to support the parade.

So the Independence Day Parade will go on for another year and this year it is actually on the 4th of July.I hope to see you there. Please thank and support or sponsors if you get the chance.

Also, let the Milford Village Council know that you support these events. There has recently been a proposal by some on the Village Council to stop all in-kind support for future events. I believe that these events area big part of what makes Milford the great place to live that we all love. Let your voice be heard. Email a Village Council member and tell them that you want them to continue supporting our parades and festivals and other events. Click here for a link to the Village Council page on the Village of Milford Web site.

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A local effort to help with a national problem…

June 27, 2012

I recently had lunch with a member of the Board of Directors of a local organization called Onward March. This is a group right here in the area (at 2655 Oakley Park Rd in Commerce, MI) that has taken upon the itself the mission of trying to help veterans who are returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan (or elsewhere)  and need to transition back into civilian life. The biggest need is for jobs for these ex-soldiers, many of whom have great skills that they learned in the military and all of whom have been through life-changing experiences that force one to mature quickly.

One key idea behind this organization is that of helping many of these vets become entrepreneurs, to start small businesses of their own; businesses which hopefully will add to employment. The group supplies mentoring and coaching to help these budding business men and women get started and understand better how to function in the business world. There are also targeted placement services trying to match up vets with jobs in the community. Finally the group is running a business incubator at their facility which provides office space, infrastructure and coaching/mentoring for the start-up companies until they can get on their feet.

The problem of returning vets not being able to find work has become alarming, with approximately 248,000 recent veterans without jobs this summer. There are many cases right here in our own community. Organizations like the AmVets and VFW do what they can to help, but most of their efforts are focused upon short term needs like providing food and shelter. Only through programs that provide jobs will these bets get back on their feet in civilian life.

As a vet myself, I can recall the hostile environment that my generation of Viet Nam vets returned to in the 60’s and 70’s. You almost had to sneak back into town if you had been to Viet Nam, what with all of the anti-war protests and anti-military sentiment at the time. I was probably lucky not to be cashiered out right after I got back from Viet Nam and even luckier to have gone through OCS training and getting my commission. I left the Army at the rank of Captain and had just come off a good assignment teaching data processing systems analysis; so, I was able to get a job selling computers for Burroughs (a company that Ernie Harwell might say is lo-o-o-o-o-ng gone).

Today’s returning soldiers are at least greeted as returning heroes, but that doesn’t translate very often into an immediate job opportunity. Many of the vets getting out today have families, as we did back in the Viet Nam era. Some of the vets may suffer from war wounds, either seen or out of sight (or within).  From what I read elsewhere the country isn’t doing all that good of a job in providing care for those with war –related needs, so that just adds to the problem.

I don’t know if Onward March will be successful or not, but at least they are trying. You can read more about them at their web site www.onwardmarch.org . I’m sure that they could use more help (mentors and coaches and the like) and they certainly can use more money (there is a donation page on the site). With the 4th of July coming up, it’s probably a good time to remember that what we are celebrating on that day – Independence Day – go all the way back to the original founding fathers/soldiers that got this nation started.  So go to the Onward March site and check them out, then do what you can to help them out. We can’t solve this problem at a national level, but we can sure do something about it locally.


Seeing you seeing me…

June 26, 2012

Sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others.” (Ellen DeGeneres) from my favorite daily blog – Jack’s Winning Words

The problem for many of us is probably actually being able to see ourselves through the eyes of others. That usually means that someone has taken the time (and risk) to tell you how they see you or something that you have said or done. Most of the time the kind of feedback that we need just goes unsaid and we don’t realize that something that we may have said or done was insensitive or at least not received as we intended. That can be particularly true in real estate where we really don’t have the kind of personal relationships with clients that would allow or encourage them to provide feedback on our behavior.

More than once in my real estate career I’ve heard back later, usually through a mutual acquaintance, that something that I did wasn’t well received by a client. Usually it had to do with appearing to be “pushing” the client to make a decision or seeming to be “taking the other side” in a deal. As I reflected back on those situations I can now see that what I thought was just trying to keep the dal moving along could have been perceived by the clients as pushing them. Real estate transactions are often full of emotions and being sensitive to the emotional needs of clients is something that I have to constantly work on, because it just doesn’t come as naturally to me as it should. I get wrapped up in the process details and lose site of the emotional side sometimes.

The other thing that gets in the way sometimes is logic. There are just lots and lots of places in a real estate deal where logic appears to be trumpeted – again by emotion. Sometimes I realize that I’m almost arguing with clients, especially young, first-time buyers, because I’ve taken the side of logic and they are coming from the emotional side. I have to step back and remind myself that I’m not playing a parental role in the deal, just an advisory role. I need to present them the facts and options without interjecting opinion, especially a parental sounding opinion.

So, as hard as it might be, it is good advice to try to step back every now and then and see yourself as others are seeing you. Sometimes you won’t like what you see, but then you have the opportunity to make corrections and be the person that you hoped you were. Here’s a little ditty to end these thoughts.

If I can understand how others see me,

Maybe I’ll become the person I’d like to be


Is it time to list your home?

June 25, 2012

Everything that you read about the real estate market these days seems positive; so, is it time to list your home? That still depends upon when you bought or what you did when you last re-financed the house and what you still owe on it.  The market has definitely switched over to a sellers’ market. That just means that there are fewer homes on the market than there are buyers out looking. Inventory is down and the pent up demand caused by the last few years of paralysis in the market is starting to manifest itself. Multiple offer situations are the norm right now on low-end houses and even nicer homes in the mid-range.  Sellers are getting at or sometimes above their asking price (if the house is priced to the market).

So, does that mean that you’ve re-gained all of the value lost in the “Great Recession?” No! Values dropped anywhere from 30-50%, depending upon the area. Those losses aren’t going to come roaring back in a few months. While we are seeing positive appreciation in some areas, in general the good news has been that value losses have slowed or stopped and some prices are even inching their way back up. Do the math on how long it will take to recover a 30% drop in value, if he appreciation rate settles in at the historic norm of 3% to 4% and you can see that it will take a decade or more to get back to the 2005/6/7 value levels.

Remember that even with multiple offers at or maybe even above asking price, the place still has to appraise for a value high enough to support the mortgage. That is currently one of our bigger challenges in the market. Appraisers are quicker to adjust than assessors and distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales) are declining dramatically as a percentage of total sales in most markets; so, the “comps” that they use will be a better reflection of the current market and values will not be as impacted by distressed sales. That’s good news. I suppose that you can take the fact that assessors have overshot the mark in the downward direction as good news too, since taxes will be lower longer as their upward adjustments will lag by a year.

The real question remains whether it’s time for you to list. The standard answer is “that depends.” Did you buy at the peak of the market? Did you re-finance at the peak and take the equity value out for other uses at that time? If you answered yes to either of those questions it’s still probably too early for you to consider listing (unless you had a big down payment when you bought and are willing to take some loss on that). Having a house that is now worth less than when you bought it is called being “underwater.” If you are underwater on your home and don’t have the cash to make up the difference a short sale may be your best option.

Many people aren’t really underwater on their homes. They don’t owe more than it’s currently worth. They just can’t let go of the “paper profit” that they thought they had when values were high. I run into many older homeowners who might have bought their home in the 60’s or 70’s for right around $100,000 and watched in delight as it increased in value to around $300,000 in the early 2000’s. Then things crashed; and now they are sitting in a home that might only be worth $170,000 to $200,000. In many cases these people were fiscally conservative and did not cash out equity with refinances; so , many of them owe relatively little on the house.  What they can’t let go of is that “$100,000 loss” that they just took on paper. Sometimes it’s because the value of their home was a big portion of the nest egg that they thought would fund their retirement. So, they are holding on and hoping that the value comes back soon. That’s just not going to happen soon.

The sad thing is that many of the retired folks who feel trapped in their homes would be just as well off to bite the bullet and sell now for what they can get and get on with life. There are so many a deferred dream of retirement that I hear that it’s a shame. That is unfortunately all too true for many Baby Boomers who did treat their McMansions like piggy banks, taking loans out for the boats and new cars and other toys along the way. They really are trapped in their homes and many did not plan well for retirement and have little in the way of funds to use to cover a shortfall at closing. For them a short sale may be the only way out.

For the rest of the would–be sellers in the market the answer remains that the value loss that you might take on the sale of your home will be made up partially or in total by the great value deals that you can get right now on a new home. That works best for those trying to move up in the market. You may be taking a $30,000 hit on your home, due to lost value; however, if you can buy a new home that has experienced a $100,000 loss in value, you are actually coming out ahead when things recover. It’s not so good if you are trying to downsize or maybe move from a house into a condo. You’ll still get a good deal, but you likely won’t make up all of your loss on the two transactions.

The best time to list your home is really more about your life needs. Do you want to retire and get on with life? Do you have to move to take a new job? Is your current home sucking all of your savings down with it?  Are you just tired of taking care of the yard and property? Do you want to move to be closer to family? Has your life situation changed dramatically and now your old home just doesn’t fit? All of those are good reasons to decide to list. You may have to take the course of pursuing a short sale and just get out from under the house.  You may even have to take money to the closing in order to sell.

It’s a good time to sell right now. The real question is whether selling at the current market value works for you. Talk to a real estate professional about your options and which might work best for you. Call or email me for an appointment to discuss your options. If you’d like to read about the short sale option, go to my web site www.MIShortSales.com and read through the FAQ section.  If you want to see what houses are selling for inthis are, go to my web site www.movetomilford.com and browse the data under the What have homes in this area sold for


Don’t be a victim of your own imagination…

June 22, 2012

Oft times I’ve found myself worrying about something that hasn’t happened and may not ever happen – it’s just my imagination running away with me. That can happen when one is facing a potentially contentious confrontation with someone else. Confrontations can occur over disagreements or because bad news must be delivered to someone. If you let it, your own imagination will take wing and create all sorts of frightful scenarios for that upcoming confrontation. The reality is most often much less contentious than you had imagined it might be. In some cases I’ve even had people (clients in many cases) express relief that I had delivered the bad news that they lost a bid on a house. It seems that they had already had second thoughts about the bid and were secretly hoping that it failed.

In other cases the initial reaction to the confrontation of an issue or problem was initially surprise or shock and then, almost always, much less contentious and stressful than I had imagined it would be. I often reflect on the wasted energy that I had expended worrying about something that turned out to be a non-event.  I’m not a big fan of the phrase, “it is what it is”; however, the attitude behind that phrase is probably worth adapting, rather than spending a lot time worrying about it. “It” certainly is likely to be less than what you imagine it could be.

I suppose that there are lots of books and self-help articles that have been written about techniques for dealing with upcoming events in a more positive way than worrying about them and letting your imagination run wild. Everything from praying about it, to yoga relaxation techniques, to doing positive visualization exercises are likely well documented.  All of them have the same goal – to stop your mind from taking you to dark places, which can then actually affect your health, too.

When I was growing up MAD Magazine was very popular with kids and, in my mind’s eye, I can still see Alfred E. Newman on the cover saying “What, me worry?”  Then there’s the sound of Bobby McFarland singing “Don’t worry, be happy” that comes to mind. All of a sudden, I forgot what I was worrying about.


Don’t put your biggest asset at risk

June 20, 2012

Our InsuranceOne agent, Annette White, talked recently at a sales meeting at our office about a big risk that many homeowners are taking with their biggest asset. In the current real estate market it has become more and more common for homeowners who want to (or need to) move to a different house (up-sizing, down-sizing or maybe just moving closer to a job) to resort to renting out their current home. Most of the time it’s because they are underwater on the current home or just don’t want to sell for what the current market can bear. In any event, many of them buy the new place and move there, with the plan in mind to fix up the old homestead and then rent it out.

That’s all well and good; however, if the renovation of the old house is going to take longer than a couple of weeks, the owners need to talk to their insurance agent about switching the insurance coverage on that house to a vacant house policy for that fix-up period.  Most normal homeowner’s policies have vacant house clauses in them that state that the house must be occupied or the coverage might be invalidated. Why? Because and empty house is an easy target for vandals or thieves. The vacant house policies are a little pricy, but they cover the owners, should something happen while it is vacant and being renovated.

The vacant house policies usually have a three month minimum, with no refund if you get the renovation done early and get renters in. The policy should be changed again when the renters are in to become master policy covering the structure. The renters should have a separate policy covering their belongings and any damage that they might cause.

This same issue arises if the place is for sale and the owner has left or maybe it is an estate sale being conducted by out-of-state relatives of an owner who has died. It’s still a vacant house, even if there’s lots of the owner’s stuff still inside.  Just having some furniture and other stuff inside doesn’t make it an occupied property and if the insurance company finds out from neighbors or others that the place hasn’t been occupied for some time (usually more than 2-3 weeks) they may balk at paying a claim if something happens.

Call Annette White at 248-795-9152 and talk to her about vacant home insurance.


So far, so good…

June 18, 2012

We  are at the halfway point in the real estate year in this area and so far things have shown improvement. Foreclosure sales are down, as are short sales. Home values have stabilized and even started to rise a bit in some of the local markets. Low inventory is still an issue for the local market, but even that seems to be getting better.

I’m seeing many sales with sale price to SEV ratios well above the 2.0 level. That says two things – prices are coming back and the assessors have overshot assessment adjustments ont he low side. You can be sure that they will adjust that as quickly as they are allowed under the Headley Amendment.

Low appraisals are still an issue, too. Appraisers are still using too many distressed sales as comps, but hopefully that will self-adjust as the distressed sales decline as a percentage of overall sales. We are also still seeing too many cases of out-of-area appraisers being assigned to appraisal jobs by appraisal management companies. The lenders are getting better about challenging that practice, so hopefully that too will self-adjust.

Of course the overall slowness of the recovery from the “Great Recession” has impacted real estate, too; however, the pent-up demand that has been building in the market is starting to assert itself, especially in the move-up segment of the market. Because of the lack of inventory, the demand in this segment is helping the new-build segment as more and more stalled out developments are re-energized. The combination of low home prices and low mortgage rates is also propping up the low-end of the market.

So, while we are not out of the woods yet, maybe we can see the edge of the forest. We have flipped over to a seller’s market with the low inventory and are seeing many areas with less than a 6 month supply on houses at the low to mid-pricing points. That’s good news for sellers but a bit frustrating for buyers. The rest of 2012 should be good also as the economy continues to improve and the market seeks a more state.