Year ends on mixed note…

December 31, 2012

I updated my weekly stats data last night with what may end up being the final numbers for 2012, that is, if no more sales actually close today. I’m not sure how many Title Companies are working on New Year’s Eve day. The stats for the last full week of the year were very mixed. Overall in the nine markets that I track – Milford, Highland, White Lake, Commerce, West Bloomfield, South Lyon, Green Oak, Brighton and Hartland – distressed sales again exceeded 50%, closing out the year at 55% for the week.

Those final week figures pushed the distressed sales stat for all of December up a bit, too; with the White Lake, Commerce and Hartland markets at or above 50% distressed sales for the month. The lowest in distressed sales for December was Green Oak at only 17% of all sales being distressed. You can see all of the markets December activity and statistics at – just click on the “What have homes in this area sold for?” choice.

I don’t keep running totals of distressed sales for the year, so I’ll have to go back and see how that totals up for the year for the markets. The sales for the whole year are there, below the current month’s numbers. I’ll be doing some looking back at those markets over the next week or so and try to put together some trend charts from the data, which of course I’ll share here and elsewhere.

The chart of the distressed sales percentages for just the Milford market show how up and down the market has been all year, but still shows an overall downward trend –

MIlford distressed sales chart

Stay tuned for more charts and trends as I get time to do them.

It’s not new…we just forgot…again!

December 28, 2012

“There’s a view in this country that everybody’s going through what they’re going through for the first time.” (Cokie Roberts) from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. That saying would go well side-by-side with the saying by George Santayana – Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

George Santyana was a Spanish philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist who lived in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. His famous saying has been paraphrased and perverted many times and has lots of variations in use today. Essentially, Cokie’s remark is built upon the premise of that saying.

Were George around today, another of his sayings would be a perfect fit for the political fanaticism that we are witnessing in Washington – “Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.” I think that both sides have lapsed into dogmatic fanaticism that has caused almost complete paralysis. Indeed members of both parties have forgotten their aim, which is to serve the people, and have instead taken up the banners of the most radical elements of their constituency and locked themselves into an ideological battle in which there are no winners.

So as we approach the Fiscal Cliff at the end of the year, another saying of George Santyana might serve well if perverted a bit. George said, “When men and women agree, it is only in their conclusions; their reasons are always different.”  If you substitute Republicans and Democrats for the men and women in that saying it make perfect sense as we watch the “negotiations” that are going on in Washington. Both sides agree that they would prefer to avoid taking America over the cliff, but for completely different reasons and with different approached to a solution.

Marching blindly towards the edge…

December 26, 2012

“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about reform.” (Susan B. Anthony) from a recent Jack’s Winning Words blog. Had Susan B. changed the word “social” in her saying to “political”, she would have nailed the current stalemate in Washington over the so-called “Fiscal Cliff.” The politicians there, on both sides of the aisle are busy posturing to their extremist bases, rather than worrying about the good of the country. The country desperately needs real reform – reform of the tax code and reform of the entitlement programs – yet there is no political will in Washington to tackle either, lest the extremist bases become enraged.

As usual, it’s all about money. Politicians these days are essentially always running for office, always fund raising and always trying to keep their donors happy. The people whose interests they supposedly represent – their constituents back home – probably rank down about 4th or 5th on their list of concerns and things that get their attention. I’m relatively sure that the founding fathers never imagined this scenario when they started the country and created the political process of elections.

I must admit that I’ve perhaps been a bit too hard in my criticism of Speaker Boehner lately. Apparently it won’t be his recession after all, since he doesn’t have any real control over his party members. It will be the called the Politicians Recession in homage to the intransigent politicians on both sides who refuse to move towards compromise and reform. What sounds more like a WWF tag team match – The Flaming Liberals vs. the Butt-headed Tea Partiers – we are all witness to one of the greatest disservices to the country ever – allowing the country to fall off the Fiscal Cliff. It’s too bad that we can stand at the edge and throw the politicians over the cliff instead.

Actually we have a few more days of high drama ahead. Watch for more plot twists and turns in the coming week than are normally seen on a day-time soap opera. It would make for wonderful viewing on nightly TV, if it weren’t such a real crisis. At least if it were a TV reality show, maybe we’d all be allowed to vote the bums off the show. As it is, we’re stuck with these clowns. Where’s the “You’re outa here” buzzer when we need it.

What’s in your heart?

December 24, 2012

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree” – Roy L. Smith. Roy L. Smith was an American clergyman who authored several books in the 1940’s. I like this saying because it makes you stop and disassociate the commercial side of Christmas from what is really important in the Holiday – celebrating the birth of Jesus.

While we tend to focus a lot on the commercial aspects of Christmas and on family and children and presents; Christmas is really one of two Holidays each year that is really not about us. The other is Easter.

Those two days of the year, more that any others are not about us and our little celebrations; they are really about what happened over two thousand years ago – one celebrating the birth of Jesus and the other celebrating his resurrection from the death that he suffered to atone for our sins.

If one first keeps those things in their heart and mind, then whatever we find under our trees or in our baskets are just incidental bonuses – the real gifts were given long ago and they are free to all who will allow them into their hearts. Merry Christmas everyone.



End of Year Giving – Milford Historical Society Project

December 21, 2012

At the end of the year many people rush to make that last-minute charitable contribution, so that they have an extra tax deduction to count. If you are among them I have just the charity need for you.

The Milford Historical Society is fund-raising to replace the storm windowsMilford Museum exterior on the Milford Historical Museum. Now, these are n’t your ordinary, run down to Loews and picks up some windows kind of storm windows. The museum building is well over a hundred years old and part of the mission of the Milford Historical Society is to keep it looking like it did when built. That means no aluminium storm windows for us. No, sir!

Our storm windows are custom made to fit each window. They are made out of wood and each must be custom measured and made, because settling over the years has left most of the windows out of plumb and certainly not square.

We have 10 storm windows that need to be made. We have fond a retired carpenter who will make them for us almost free, but he needs the materials to work with. His best estimate is that each window will cost $150. So we need to raise $1,500 to make this happen.

The Milford Historical Society is a 501-C3 non-profit organization, so your gift to support this project should give you a tax deduction. You’ll feel great about supporting a local cause and you can see you windows when you visit the museum next year. We close for the season this Saturday and will reopen in the spring. By then we hope to have he storm windows all in place.

So get out that checkbook and make that last-minute charitable contribution to the Milford Historical Society. You can write down in the memo line that it is for the storm windows project. Send your check to Milford Historical Society, 124 E. Commerce Rd, Milford, MI 48381. We will certainly provide receipts for all donations. You can also visit our eBay page and use the Donate Now button to make a donation to the Milford Historical Society via your credit card or using PayPal. Thank you for your support.  Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

Don’t confuse values with dogma…

December 19, 2012

“Lasting change is a series of compromises, and compromise is all right, as long as your values don’t change.” (Jane Goodall)

As we continue our journey towards the so-called Fiscal Cliff this saying, which of course I found on the Jack’s Winning Words blog seemed really apropos. When I thought about it and reflected on the sound bites that we get to see every night on the news – some from President Obama and some from Speaker Boehner – it occurred to me that what we are seeing much of the time is not a display of true underlying values, but rather a stubborn defense of dogma from both sides.

Websters defines dogma thusly –

a: something held as an established opinion; especially: a definite authoritative  tenet

b: a code of such tenets <pedagogical dogma>

c: a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds

So then what is a tenet? It is defined thusly –
a principle, belief, or doctrine generally held to be true; especially: one held in common by members of an organization, movement, or profession
So, basically it can be boiled down to this – it’s true because we say it’s true.
There is certainly dogma at work in Washington on the Fiscal Cliff debate right now, on both sides of the aisle in Congress and between Congress and the President. What might have started out as basic underlying or core values of both parties has in recent years hardened into dogma that neither party can now escape in the spirit of compromise; and compromise is certainly what is needed right now.
Every decision that must be made in Washington is now viewed as a political decision, with an eye towards the next election. Politicians, especially those in the House, with only a two year term, are essentially always campaigning, always fund raising and always paying off big supporters with votes in support of their desires.  Senators seem to have a bit more leeway, but they too are always mindful of the TV cameras and “how this will play back home.”
Very few of our legislators seem to be considering the good of the country or their constituents, just what their “backers” want. The backers are so tight with the legistators that it’s been widely reported in the news that they supply the wording  that the so-called law-makers then introduce into law. That leaves them more time to go on camera to defend the dogma of their party and play to the audiences back home.
So now the dogma on one side says that people are rich when they make more than $400,000 a year and the other side says, no; they’re not rich until they make $1,000,000 a year. All of this plays out on TV everynight to an America in which many people consider those to be well off who don’t need Food Stamps to survive. How did our core values as a nation get so perverted into dogma? I’d call the beliefs driving the debate in Washington right now drivel rather than even dogma.

Foreclosures are down and the market is up – do something now!

December 17, 2012

From a recent press release – IRVINE, Calif. – Dec. 13, 2012 — RealtyTrac® (, the leading online marketplace for foreclosure properties, today released its U.S. Foreclosure Market Report™ for November 2012, which shows foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — were reported on 180,817 U.S. properties in November, a decrease of 3 percent from October and down 19 percent from November 2011 — marking the 26th consecutive month with an annual decrease in foreclosure activity. The report also shows one in every 728 U.S. housing units with a foreclosure filing during the month. See the entire report by clicking here.

The RealtyTrac report is consistent with what I’ve seen locally in the 9 markets that I track – Milford, Commerce, Highland, White Lake, West Bloomfield, South Lyon, Green Oak, Brighton and Hartland. At the nadir of the recent recession the distressed sales rate in those markets (which includes foreclosures and short sales) was running above 50% in nearly every one. Now there isn’t a single market at that level and a couple (Milford & South Lyon) have been in the single digits for a while now.

Home values have returned, too, with several markets now consistently exceeding $100/ Sq Ft on sales. Milford is now averaging better than $110/ Sq Ft. New home sales are up too, as builders return to the market, especially in South Lyon. Almost all of the markets that I track are nearing that mark.

There are still good deals to be had and the mortgage rate remains at all-time lows, so it is still a good time to buy; however, those who have continued to wait have missed the bottom of the market. For would-be sellers, now is the time to get in. A lack of inventory is driving up prices fast than normal appreciation and homes in good condition are selling fast, sometimes within a week or two.

If you haven’t check lately, at least get a current market analysis done by a good Realtor (fortunately you already know one) to see if you are still under water. Many people don’t realize that the market has already come back enough to bring them back to breakeven or better. If your plans to move have been on hold, now may be the time to dust them off and start getting excited again.