Two Milford restaurants close – world does not end…

September 30, 2012

The Milford Times had a big headline in the paper this week announcing that two of restaurantour family-oriented restaurants closed recently – Klancy’s and The Villa. Klancy’s was a typical. American family diner that featured comfort food and The Villa was a classic Greek Coney Island. Of course there was the immediate reaction by some that “there are too many restaurants in Milford.” I’m not sure that I buy that excuse. I just don’t think those two places offered what enough people want these days.

There was certainly more, direct competition within the Coney Island genre for The Villa.  Demetries  Coney Island has been a Milford fixture in the Prospect Hill Mall for decades and the new Americus Coney & Grill was literally just across the street from The Villa. Both have strong followings. As Mr. “T” might have said – “I pity the fool, who open another Coney in Milford.”

While there is no direct counterpart to Klancy’s in the Village, there are certainly a number of restaurants north of its location that feature American comfort food – Hector and Jimmy’s in the Village and places like Dukes, MVP Bar & Grill, The Comeback Inn and others on Milford Road in Highland – plus they have liquor licenses. If you just wanted breakfast there’s also D’s Café, which is famous locally for breakfast.

The point is that it was more likely good, honest competition for the loyalty of local diners, which Klancy’s and The Villa lost; rather than just “too many restaurants.” Neither place offered the food, service or surroundings necessary to be successful in today’s economy. We also had four new eateries open this year – Le Rendez Vous, The Blue Grill, Tavern 131 and Palate. I suspect that at least 2, maybe 3, of them will do fine.

So, how many restaurants can Milford and this immediate area sustain? More than just the local population and demographics might suggest. Several of our best local eateries are destination restaurants, drawing people from Commerce, White Lake, Highland, Brighton, South Lyon and even West Bloomfield into Milford for diner. The draw is great food, good service, reasonable prices and the quaintest little Village setting in the area.

Restaurants will continue to come and go in Milford. It’s not cause for panic or concern. Some just don’t get it right and they lose. The ones that do the best jobs will survive and prosper. It’s like the jungle law – survival of the fittest. So, come on out to Milford next weekend and sample our best. They’re still here and still serving up great meals. Now, if we could just get a German restaurant to open here…

Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide…

September 29, 2012

There was an old 1960’s song that had the line “nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide…” It was done by Martha Reeves and the Vandelas (click here to hear and see the song on YouTube). I thought of that song as I was thinking about the current tight real estate market. There’s almost literally nowhere to go if you are forced out of your home through foreclosure or because of a short sale. The rental market is extremely tight right now; or at least it looks that way.

As a Realtor®, I get calls all the time from people looking for a place to lease or rent. Usually these are people who’ve just gone through an event that forces them to rent for a few years, which they repair their credit. I try to help, but often I have to advise them to get in the car and start driving the streets. That’s because, with the market so tight, landlords are just throwing a “for rent” sign in the yard or window. The landlord avoids having to pay any commission on those rentals; however, renters who deal directly with the landlord take a risk by not having the advice and negotiating help of a Realtor.

One issue that would-be renters don’t realize is that they will need to provide financial information, including a credit check, to the landlord, so that he/she can make a decision on whether to rent to them or not. Landlords are looking for good renters whom they can count on to be there with the rent every month. They don’t want deadbeats in the place that they later have to evict.

Quite often I will have the would-be renters write a letter to the landlord explaining the situation that brought them to this point and also explaining why they are now a good rental risk. This usually applies to someone who may have had a temporary setback in life that caused them to lose their house, but who still has steady employment and a reasonable current debt load.

Things that landlords generally don’t like to see include bankruptcies, someone with temporary or part-time employment only or people whose current debt load is more than 50% of their monthly take-home pay. Those are red flags for a landlord and may point towards problems ahead. People with those things in their lives may be best off in an apartment setting for a while.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you need a place to live for a couple of years as you get your life back on track you can’t be too picky in the current market. You may also have to make some hard choices, especially as far as pets are concerned. Trying to find a place that will accept your 100lb Great Dane along with you is a BIG challenge.  Some landlords will also accept small to medium dogs but not cats. You just have to live with that, it’s their right to refuse to rent to you on that basis alone.

So, it’s not that there’s absolutely nowhere to run to, but temporary places are harder to find. Call me and let me know what area you need to be in and I’ll look for you. In the meantime, get your credit report ready and write that letter to the landlord explaining why you’re a good risk for him/her to take. I’ll find you a place to hide, but you’ll need to help me convince the landlord that you are not a risk to run.

Never grow too old…

September 28, 2012

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this tidbit – “We never really grow up. We only learn how to act in public.” (A Paraprosdokian) How many of you know the word, paraprosdokian, without looking it up? And yet, it’s something that we use regularly to create humor. To see examples, click on the link below.

How true it that! The mark of an adult is often how well he/she has learned to act in public. Get them out of the public eye and one will often re-discover the kids that are still in them. I’m reminded of this most mornings when I see myself making a goofy face in the mirror as I prepare to shave. One can not, as an adult, make goofy faces out in public; although I will occasionally do one discretely to make my wife laugh.

It’s the kid in us all that keeps us young, that allows us to play occasionally and provides unguarded moments of pure joy from time to time. I’m reminded of another saying – “It’s not that we forget how to play when we get old; it’s that we get old when we forget how to play.”

So as you go about your daily adult routines, behaving properly in public; if you get the chance sneak a peek at a mirror and make a goofy face. You’ll feel better if you do. After all, you’ve got the rest of the day to act properly in public.

Support your local Museum…

September 27, 2012

In the midst of the current recession something quietly happened in many communities that received very little press coverage – small, local museums all over folded up shop and went out of business. These little institutions had lots in common with our Milford Historical Society museum here in Milford. They were all, for the most part, run by small volunteer organizations and likely all on shoe-string budgets. Most did not charge or charged a fee that was nominal to visit. Most were probably not open a lot – maybe 2-3 days a week, if that much. And, most had no real claim to fame, other than documenting the local history of the town, village or area through old photographs, letters and other memorabilia.

Carolyn and I have visited lots of museums as we’ve traveled in many different communities. I must admit that I tend to see and visit the ones that have some unique draw – The Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle; Spongeorama in Tarpon Springs Florida; The USS Alabama Battleship Museum in Mobile; the Jello Museum in LeRoy, New York; or the Besser Museum in Alpena, Michigan, which was started by the inventor of the Bessor Concrete Block Machine. All of those museums caught our eye, because they were big enough to advertise with road-side signs and have brochures in the local hotels.

Many small towns have little museums that are easy to miss, even if they are right out on the Main St. Most of these museums just have local artifacts and photos for the visitors to look at and most have someone from the local community on duty who can tell you all about the place and the stuff that is in the museum. These museums are Americana at its simplest and best. And they are disappearing at an alarming rate.

I suppose that some might blame our faster pace of life and perhaps our focus on the present (where an instant  message” W r u?” passes for conversation). It’s a shame really that the so-called “Me-generation” has so little time for reflection upon the past that is captured in these little museums and has chosen to  let these little time capsules fade away.

In some communities, like Milford, there is a strong commitment by volunteer groups, usually calling themselves a Historical Society or Preservation Group or maybe just Friends of the XXX Museum. Those little volunteer organization take it upon themselves to collect, organize and catalogue available memorabilia and, if they have the wherewithal, to create and run a museum in which to display the history of the area. There are one or more  of these little local museums within each County in  Michigan. You can see a list by clicking here.

Milford is lucky to have a group like the Milford Historical Society to run the Milford Historical Museum, but even it is struggling in the current recession. Membership was impacted by the recession, as were donations. The Society holds a few fund raising events each year – the Granny’s Attic Sale and the recent Milford Home Tour being the primary sources of funds to maintain and run the Museum. Those events were also slightly down this year.

So now the Historical Society has decided to try to raise money for an endowment fund by appealing to local residents to put the Historical Society in their wills and to include it in charitable giving plans. An endowment, if property funded would provide a more stable source of operational funding for our Milford Historical Museum. The idea is to have a large principal sum that is not touched, but which generates investment income that is used for the day-to-day operational needs and capital needs of the museum.

Taking into account the current modest operating budget and the plans that The Historical Society has for improving the Museum and supporting more hours of operation, an initial goal of $5 Million for the endowment has been set. A $5 Million endowment would generate about $100,000 per year, which would allow for capital improvements and maintenance on the building, plus pay for a full time staff to work on the organization and recording of the artifacts in the museum and to host museum visits.

Is raising $5 Million for a small museum in Milford, Michigan an impossible goal, a crazy dream? Maybe, maybe not. There are certainly wealthy people in the area that may enjoy the role of patron to such a noble effort.  One could, after all, donate $5 Million towards a new building on the campus of their favorite University and perhaps get a wing of the building named after them; but, that’s one wing of one building in a  big campus. Here you could be credited with keeping the whole thing running, not just one building. You would be the big fish in our little pond.

I’m sure that the Historical Society Board of Directors would be happy to put a big plaque out front on the Museum building stating – “The Milford Historical Museum is supported by the (your name here) Endowment Fund.” So give me a call and get out your checkbook; I’d be happy to stop by and pick up your endowment check. I’ll let you know from time to time how this effort is going.

Focus upon your own goals…

September 26, 2012

“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria, if you let it.” (J.K. Rowling – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Rowling sure has that right; however, sometimes I think we are actually harder on ourselves than the world at large. Maybe that’s because we know what we were trying to do or because we see some little thing that is wrong that the rest of the world can’t even see. So, some times when the world is trying to pat you on the back and say “great job”, let it; instead of giving yourself a “Yeah, but.”

I also don’t agree with the self-esteem zealots who want to give everyone who shows up a trophy for trying. There is value in having measurable goals or standards and providing rewards for those who achieve them in sports and other pursuits in life. If nothing else, there is a personal sense of accomplishment at having achieved some goal or accomplishing some task.

If, at the end of a project or event, you can look back and honestly say that you gave it your best, whether you reached the goal or not, it can work as a personal victory and a motivator for your next try. You will often hear that some runner or other athlete has just accomplished a “person best”, which I’m sure they will take as a personal victory, whether others around them see and appreciate that or not. Once you’ve achieved your personal best, you can set the next goal for yourself.

So, like Rowling recommends; you have to decide at the end of each day which things you feel good about and which things you still need to work on improving. If you give yourself a break and wait for that end-of-the-day perspective, you’ll likely be less hard on yourself and find inspiration to continue to improve in many areas of your life. There’s less room for thoughts of failure to creep into your life, if you are always focused upon improving and moving the bar up another notch.

Fear not, but be not the fool…

September 25, 2012

“When we’re afraid, it’s because we don’t know enough. If we understood enough, we would never be afraid.” (Earl Nightengale), from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

This is an interesting quote, because it give one great latitude to expand upon the basic premise. I’ve often commented in my blogs about fear and how it drives people’s behavior. Fear most often freezes people in their tracks. Fear prevents people from doing things, some of which are important to their success. Certainly taking the time to understand what  it is you are fearing and why will help you get over those fears and move on in life.

Most of the fears that people have in life grow out of ignorance – not knowing or not understanding.  However, there is another reaction to ignorance that some occasionally display – foolhardiness. The old saying “fools rush in where wise men fear to go” is based upon that premise. So perhaps Nightengale should have added that if we understood enough we would also not do stupid things.

That brings me around to a thought that I saw today in the Frank & Ernest cartoon in the paper the gist of which is “what makes life so scary is that there are no betting limits.” People without fear take life threatening risks, sometimes completely out of ignorance of the possible consequences. The difference between the professional stunt man who drives a car off the end of a pier into the sea and walks away, verses some idiot, who does the same and dies, is that the stunt man understood the risks, took the necessary precautions and was prepared. The ignorant person just did it on a dare. The problem was there were no betting limits on that fool.

Most of us impose our own betting limits in life through wisdom, common sense, our conscience; and yes, sometimes through fear.  If a person is missing one or more of these, life could be a short adventure indeed. So, I guess the moral today is that sometimes fear might be good as a betting limit on the truly stupid things we might do in life; however, understanding the things that you fear is the best way to overcome our fears and make the best decisions in life.

Putting life into your years…

September 24, 2012

“It’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years, that counts.” Adlai E. Stevenson) from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I’m old enough to know who Adlai Stevenson was. I even remember listening to him make speeches when he was a presidential candidate. He’s probably the smartest man that never got elected President; but then intelligence has never been required for political success.

Today’s quote is certainly a wake-up call to not waster the time that we have here on earth, but to pack as much living into that time as possible. You often hear people saying at funerals that, ”He (she) lived a good long life. If the funeral is for an older person it is true that he may have lived a long life and one can only hope that it was a good life – full of joy and laughter, adventure and wonder – a life lived to its fullest.

I think a big part of having a great life is having someone to share it with, someone to laugh at your jokes (no matter how lame) and go on those adventures with you. I have my life partner, Carolyn, and we can look back and laugh at lots of things that have happened to us on our adventures together. It’s sad to see the many people going through life without a traveling companion. Many have probably had a partner, only to lose them. That’s sad too, but at least they have the memories of those times together.

Probably the saddest are those who have never had a companion for the journey through life. I’ve met a few and have noticed that they are often very self-centered, since they have no one else to share things with.  Some are very interesting, since they’ve had the freedom to pursue things in life that others with more obligations might not experience. They’ll usually be more than happy to share stores (and pictures) of those solo adventures with whomever will listen.

But enough about sad stuff. Life is out there to be lived today; so, jump right in or grab your partner and get on with it. It the end of the day maybe you’ll be able to sit back with that significant other and have a good laugh.

Don’t be a no-show in life…

September 23, 2012

“The world is run by those who show up” (attributed to Richard Winegardt). This looks like at typical quote from my favorite blog – Jack’s Winning Words, but it’s not. This was in an article in the paper today. I tried to look it up the source of the saying and the best that I could find for an attribution was Richard Winegardt, an engineer. There are lots of variations of the saying to be found.

The intent of the saying is the important point. In life as in sports, you have to show up in order to have the chance to play or to win. And those who do show up end up making the decisions and doing the work – running things. There will always be those who sit back at a distance and criticize those decisions or the work that is done, but they didn’t show up, so their opinions are worthless or worse.

Little volunteer organizations, like churches or groups like the Milford Historical Society or the Rotary Club of Milford or the local Optimists Clubs are essentially run by those who show up – the volunteers who do more than sit off at a distance and critique what’s going on. Sometimes those who don’t participate get so upset by things that are going on that they storm off; leaving the group (an event that seldom causes big damage to the group, since they were not doing anything anyway) as a method of protest. If they were financial contributors to the group that can cause temporary pain to the group, but overall the group is probably better off without their often negative input.

In real estate the people who show up are the ones in local offices who are doing floor duty and sitting in open houses on the weekends. They are out hustling for listings or showing houses to potential buyers. There are also those who sit by tut-tutting about how they don’t do those things anymore (if they ever did). Some are fairly successful and have just forgotten that they got that success by showing up for those duties earlier in their careers. The really successful ones never forget those roots to their success and help mentor new comers through those processes and career stages.

So, today, think about the opportunities that are there for you, if you just show up. What things could you be doing in life or in business to be more successful? What activities are there to be done if you’ll just show up and make the effort? Maybe it’s prospecting, maybe it’s doing an open house, maybe it’s following up from an open house or prospecting calls. Maybe it’s just a little volunteer job with a local charitable group. No matter what it is, it won’t get done if you don’t show up. You can run things in your life and your business by choosing to show up.

Short Sales still a fact of the current market…

September 22, 2012

I had another short sale closing this week and have had more inquiries about short sales lately. Short sales are still a significant part of the current market, although, like foreclosures, they have declined as a percentage of total sales.

Just about the only thing that most people know about short sales is that the sale of the house is done for less than is owed to the bank. In other words, it’s a sale of a house that is “under water”. There are lots of misconceptions about short sales and some mis-information out there about them, too. I have created and run a Web site just for short sales in Michigan called There is lots of good reading material there about the process and the potential consequences on a person’s credit and taxes. If you or someone that you know is contemplating a short sale, that would be a great site to visit to find out more about this alternative to foreclosure.

I get asked a lot, “Can my family just buy the house in the short sale and rent it back to me?” The short answer is NO! Due to the amount of fraud in the early days of this recession, lenders all require the buyers and sellers to sign an affidavit that specifies that none of the parties in the sale are related in any way. That means that neither your relatives nor your in-laws can be a party to the sale. The way the affidavit is worded, even a family friend would be excluded. The bottom line is that you are not going to be in the house when it is all said and done. It’s gone. You’re out. Deal with that and get on with life.

There are lots of other questions that I get asked about short sales and they are covered in the FAQ section of the mishortsales web site. One of the big points that I try to get across at that site and help people understand is that a shot sale is way better than letting the property go into foreclosure or declaring bankruptcy. There are great articles to read about the credit and tax consequences of the various alternative routes that can be taken.

Another point that I make there is that this is a process that involves both real estate issues and legal issues related to negotiating with the lender(s) involved. I’m a Realtor® and I can take care of the real estate issue; however, I am not a lawyer, so I engage the help of a company that specializes in short sale negotiations and has lawyers on staff to help with those aspects. People considering short sales should understand how both sets of issues – real estate and legal – are going to be handled and by whom. I’m also not a CPA or financial advisor, which is why I have links to articles on the website by people who are experts in those areas and can help you understand some of the financial and tax issues involved.

One aspect of short sales has remained fairly consistent – they take a long time. I normally advise people looking to do a short sale that they should plan on at least three months and as much as six months (sometimes even more) for the short sale process. Even though the banks have been doing these short sales for years now, they are still way understaffed and the internal process within the banks way to convoluted and committee oriented. It can take weeks to even get an answer to the simplest question or request.

And during this time, the crazy thing is that the bank can be pursuing a parallel course of foreclosure. Even though you have an accepted offer for the sale in-house they will often continue that foreclosure process, which can be confusing for the sellers, because they are getting two different sets of letters and communications from two completely different groups within the same bank. The problem is that the two different bank groups don’t talk to each other and don’t know what the other group is doing. Crazy? Yes!

So is a short sale right for you? Is it the right thing to do in your circumstances? Only a meeting with your Realtor can tell. You can read about the process and the things that you should have in order to pursue a short sale on my web site. Also on that site are some guidelines about what the expectations are on the banks, in terms of the reason (most often call the “hardship”) that they should accept as your justification for the short sale. Read the stuff there and then give me a call. We’ll discuss your situation.

Was the Car Show cool or what?

September 19, 2012

The Milford Car show this past weekend was maxed out, in terms of cars. Over 300 cars showed up and stretched from one end of Main St to the other – from Commerce Rd on the north end to GM Rd at the south end, with some cars parked in Central Park as well. Cars started showing up as early as 6:30 am, with quite a line by the 8 am registration time. The picture to the right was taken at 6:45 by Rich Harrison.

The show was organized by Keith Wilson (on the left in the picture to the left) and his wife, with some early volunteer help from Rich Harrison (on the right in the picture) with the registration process. Cars of all types showed up, from original historic cars to radical street rods. Cars lined up on both sides of Main Street and the lineup stretched for about 6-7 blocks. The actual show ran from 11 am until 3 pm, with awards for best cars in various classes and sponsors’ awards taking place at 3 pm.

The Sponsors Choice winning car that will appear on next year’s T-Shirt was this wonderful 1955 Chevy Nomad street rod.

Keith has already started planning for an even bigger and better Car Show next September, so watch the Web site – for details on that.

Here’s a picture of how the street looked at noon, during the show. The street pictures here are all courtesy of Rich Harrison. Keith Wilson provided the picture of next year’s T-shirt car. Thanks to Keith and Rich for the visuals.