Things to do and places to go over the Spring Break and beyond

March 29, 2013

Whether or not you’ll be traveling out-of-town over Spring Break, go to my Web site – and check out all of the fun things there will be to do around the Huron Valley area over the next few weeks. You can start with The Great Egg Hunt out at Kensington Metropark  this week and go from there. Actually you could end up back at Kensington quite often, since they have lots of upcoming events andpiglets many of their animals will be having spring babies or litters.

For the wee ones there’s a whole series of events coming up at Max & Izzy’s in Downtown Milford. For the older kids there’s the shoot ’em up, blow ’em up movie GI Joe Revenge showing at the Milford Cinema.

With warmer weather finally arriving getting outdoors will be high on the list. Take the kids to Central Park to play on the play structures or get really adventuresome and go rent a canoe and get out on the river. Kensington will be hosting all sorts of outdoor activities , as well as their first “Farmer for a DAy ” events out at the Farm Center. This program is offered to boys and girls, ages 7 to 15 years old, interested in working on a farm. Kids will work alongside the farmers and in teams to accomplish daily or seasonal chores. This program is designed to be educational and fun. Children will leave with a greater appreciation of farm life. Most will probably come away saying, “So, I decided not to be a Farmer”, but they’ll have a better appreciation for farm life.

VFAA_PAN_GraphicThe arts are not to be forgotten either. April 13 is PAN – Poetry Art Night – at the Huron Valley Council for the Arts in Highland. Then on April 20 the final performance in the Classic Series featuring a performance by soprano Karen Roberts at the HVCA. Go tp the Move to Milford web site and click on the poster for all of the info on that event.

For those who love garage sales there are two events – the Community Sharing Garage Sale April 17, 18, 19 at the Apollo Center in Highland and the Mom 2 Mom sale at Lakeland High on April 20.

There is also a job fair for Lakeland High School Students on April 24 to allow the students and potential summer employers to get to know each other.

Freddie Mac predicts Spring Real Estate Blossom

March 28, 2013

From the Freddie Mac Web Site comes this report –

March 28
Low and relatively steady mortgage rates are invigorating the housing market. For instance, existing home sales over January and February experienced the strongest two-month pace since November 2009, while new home sales were the strongest since August and September 2008. This strong demand helped push the S&P/Case-Shiller® 20-city home price index (seasonally adjusted) in January to its highest reading since December 2008. Moreover, the number of consumers expecting to purchase a home over the next six months rose to 5.6 percent in March, the second highest share since data was first collected in February 1964, according to The Conference Board.

Here is a link to the video in which Freddie MAC Vice President and Chief Economist, Frank Nothaft  talks about this forecast.

The bottom line for sellers is to get in on this Spring fling and get your house on the market. For the buyers the advice is to take advantage of the low mortgage rates while you can and before the rising house prices put the really nice homes out of reach. It’s all good news!

New builds decline nationally, but doing OK in Michigan

March 27, 2013

From a press release by the National Association of Home Builders –

WASHINGTON, March 26 – Sales of newly built, single-family homes declined 4.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 411,000 units in February from a strong pace of 431,000 units in the previous month, according to newly released figures from HUD and the U.S. Census Department. Despite the slight decline, this is the second highest monthly total since April 2010 when the federal home buyer tax credit expired.

new construction“New-home sales have been running at a fairly steady pace the last few months, with February adjusting for the strong  sales we saw in January,” said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “While the February pace  is encouraging, housing’s recovery is being significantly constrained by overly tight mortgage lending conditions, and policymaker discussions about changes to the mortgage interest deduction could cast a shadow on future housing demand.”

“The February decline is a readjustment to the unusually high numbers that we saw in January, and we are still in line with our forecast for 2013,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “This is the kind of modest but steady growth we are expecting to see throughout the year as the economy and job market continue to improve, but constraints on borrower credit, higher building material prices and a limited supply of labor and buildable lots hold back a more robust recovery.”

Regionally, new-home sales activity was mixed in February, with the Midwest posting a gain of 13.7 percent, while the Northeast, South and West showed declines of 13.3 percent, 9.7 percent and 2.1, respectively.

The inventory of new homes increased to 152,000 units in February, which is a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace. Although this is an increase over the previous month, it is still well below normal inventory trends.

We have certainly seen the strong recovery of new home building in this area, driven mainly by the very tight inventory of resale homes. Builders are selling new homes as fast as they can get them up pretty much in all price ranges. There are still many developments that went belly-up during “The Great Recession” which have not yet restarted. Some of them are likely still bogged down in litigation and some of that is caused by the fact that so many builders got out of the business or lost all of their workers. Combine that with the tight credit market that many smaller builders face and it’s tough to re-launch a building company these days.

With the advent of warmer weather, we should see more used homes come on the market, house for salewhich will help re-balance the market a bit. Right now we are in a seller’s market, with multiple bids and biding wards not uncommon for really nice houses. Homes values have improved about 8% (year-over-year) so far this year. At the low end of the market, cash is king once again, with most sales under $150,000 going to cash buyers. Those investors are buying them up to rent out, if they are in decent shape; or to flip, if they need repairs.

Once the credit industry gets tired of shooting itself in its own foot by making borrowing so difficult things should improve quickly, too. There is just a lot of pent-up demand in the market right now, leading to frustrated buyers who either can’t find what they want or can’t bid enough for homes due to the difficult mortgage situation. Would-be renters are also having great difficulty finding places to lease. So many displaced people are in credit rebuilding mode after losing a house that there is little lease inventory available right now for middle-class income families. It is almost impossible to find good homes to lease for under $1,000/mo.

My advice for buyers is to be patient and be prepared. You must be ready to make a buying decision and you must be ready with your mortgage pre-approval. You may also have to put more money into the deal than you had hoped, especially if you hit a conservative appraiser who can’t see the value of the property like you do. The market is moving in a positive direction again, in terms of appreciation; so, the risk of the property’s value dropping after you buy is greatly reduced.

Easter Egg Hunt was a blast

March 25, 2013

I helped out with the 2013 Huron Valley Easter Egg Hunt this past Saturday. What a blast! It was cold, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. There were goddie bags for the first 400 kids to show up, plus face painting and a visit with the Easter Bunny, who arrived in style in a 2013 Mustang convertible, courtesy of Hines Park Ford, one of the sponsors. The other sponsor was Genesys Credit Union.

The kids were split into three groups, based upon age 2-4, 5 – 7 and 8 – 10, with each group having its own baseball field full of eggs for the hunt. Below is a link to the YoouTube video that I created from the pictures and videos that I shot while the event was in progress. Enjoy. If you missed this year’s egg hunt make sure to put it on your calendar for next year.

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you…

March 24, 2013

 “I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen?” (John Steinbeck) from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. You could also state this thought, “I wonder how many people I know that I don’t really know?”

As I get older I’ve become a bit more introspective about thoughts like Steinbeck’s saying. I suspect we all know people that we haven’t really taken the time to see (to know). We may even hang out with them and call them friends or acquaintances, but we really have never taken the time and made the effort to get to know them.

It’s hard with some people to really get to know them, because they might be the types who don’t open up very much or like to share anything about themselves. Many times the circumstances in which we “know” someone don’t facilitate really getting to know them, especially if we know them in a business setting. I belong to a local Chamber of Commerce referral networking group in Milford and we use one-on-one meetings to facilitate getting to know our members better.

coffee meetingFor the one-on-one meetings we each commit to meet with another member for an hour long session of getting to better understand that person and their business, so that we can do a better job of giving them referrals. While there is an obvious business reason for the meeting, most members spend most of the meeting time just talking about themselves and their families and lives. It helps to really get to know them better. I haven’t come away from a single one-on-one without a much better understand of that person, as well as an appreciation for what they do for a living.

Most of the time you won’t have the artificial mechanism of a planned one-on-one meeting with someone that you might want to get to know better; however, just a quick invite like, “Let’s get together for a coffee sometime” can provide you with the setting to use to learn more about that person. The key is not to just throw out that line, but to mean it and to follow up on setting a date for that coffee get together.

Of course, one can also take Steinbeck’s message to be that we look at people in a defocused way and don’t “see” what’s there to be seen, written on their faces or in their mannerisms. As we read about tragedies like the recent teenage suicide of a Middle School student, the phrase “I just didn’t see the signs” is used over and over. People were looking at that young man and not seeing his anguish or problems. They didn’t stop and get to know him well enough to be able to intercede by seeing his problems.

Maybe if someone had seen the signs they might have stopped him and asked if he wanted to talk or if they could help. Perhaps they were too consumed walking along and starting down at their phones to notice him. Perhaps we all are too consumed by modern distractions like that which tend to take our focus away from the people around us. Stop and look around you. Whom do you really see when you look?

It’s Easter Egg Hunt Day!

March 23, 2013

Today is the day for the annual Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce free Easter egg hunt. The egg huntevent divides the kids into three different age group brackets, so that it’s a little more fair for the younger aged children. The hunt will tak place at the Duck Lake Pines Park on Duck Lake Rd in Highland. That is about a 1/4 mile south of the Duck Lake and M-59 intersection (South of the Rite-Aid store).

The event kicks off at 10 AM  with the arrival of the Easter Bunny to visit with the children. Rumor has it the Bunny will arrive in a brand new Mustang, courtesy of one of the event sponsors – Hinds Park Ford.  There will be goody bags for the first 400 children at the event and face painting, in addition to pictures with the Bunny.

The actual hunt begins at 11:00 AM with the 2-4 year olds allowed to take the field. Then at 11:10 AM the 5 – 7 year olds will be turned loose on their own field. Finally, at 11:20 the 8 – 10 year olds will be given a field of eggs to hunt on. The three groups are placed on three different baseball field at the park to allow each groups to only compete with others of the same age.

The event is hosted by the Charter Township of Highland and the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce. This years sponsors are Genesys Credit Union and Hinds Park Ford. Many local chamber members contributed items for the goodie bags.

So, bundle up the kids and come on out to visit with the Bunny and let your kids have the thrill of the hunt for Easter eggs. It’s all good fun! For a map to the park click here –

Come meet The Purple Gang

March 20, 2013

The March General Membership Meeting of the Milford Historical Society is this Thursday, March 21st. Our guest speaker for the March General Membership meeting is Paul Kavieff author of three Purple Gang books, who will tell the gruesome tale of this juvenile Jewish organized crime gang reigning from 1910 – 1945. Long time Milford residents can probably recite stories about the time when some members of the Purple Gang used to like to hang out in Milford. So come hear about purple gang bookMilford’s gangster time. It’s certainly more interesting than digging up farms around Milford, looking for Jimmy Hoffa.

Paul Kavieff holds degrees from Oakland and Wayne State Universities. He is a nationally recognized organized crime Historian. Using rare police photos, mug shots and group photographs the book takes you back to the days of hijacking and bootlegging. Something the Purple Gang were experts at. But they could not play nice together so power and jealously eventually lead to their own destruction.

The Meeting kicks off with a pot luck dinner at 6:30, followed by the meeting and Paul’s presentation. The meetings are held in the Milford United Methodist Church at 1200 Atlantic St in Milford (near the post office). Remember to ware something purple or make a mobster dish to pass – like Gangster Goulash or Machinegun Meatballs or even better a cake with a file in it. You should also bring your own dinner serving set-up and a drink for yourself. The pot luck dinner is considered one of Milford’s best. I’ll see you there.

I never thought this would happen to me…

March 19, 2013

I hear that phrase more often these days as more and more people who have been just barely hanging on by their fingernails finally get out of denial and call me about a possible short sale. These are not people who did anything wrong. They did not borrow frivolously, nor live extravagantly beyond their means. They are just regular people whose circumstances have changed; some through the loss of a loved one, some through the loss of a long-time job.

Most of these people were so sure that this would never happen to them that they entered a period of denial when those circumstances changed; sure that things would somehow change back and everything would be OK again, somehow. That really never happens. So they used what savings they had and perhaps borrowed against what retirement savings they had built up and now they realize that they are in trouble. They’ve started getting nasty letters from their mortgage elderly womancompany or other creditors.

This situation is especially hard on the elderly, who were brought up in a society that still put value on personal responsibility and paying one’s debts. Just the thought of being in this situation is too embarrassing for them to discuss easily, even with friends and family, much less a complete stranger. And yet they must get it out in the open in order to do something about it.

I have a web site – – that they often find or that I send them to read. I tried to create that site to allow someone in this circumstance to have the ability to read, in anonymity – about the options that they might have in this situation. It’s not a fancy site, as I state on the opening page; but, there’s nothing fancy about this situation that brings people to it. It is just a few pages of straightforward information that I hope will help people better understand the options and make better choices for a course of action. I get lots of call from that site from people far out of my coverage area, so I refer them out to agents with short-sale experience on other areas. If they’re in my area I try to help.

As is pointed out in the reading material at the site, success with a short-sale is far from guaranteed. Many of the big banks are so inept at doing them that the foreclosure departments from the same bank often win the race to see who can take the house first. Bank that took bailout money from the government are also required to offer alternatives such as loan modifications, but many of the big banks have also figured out ways to get around those laws by selling off the servicing of those loans to smaller companies. The fat cats will always find a way to game the system.

So, while the real estate market is improving, short-sales and foreclosures still make up about 40% of all sales locally and I will continue to get those calls from people who never thought they would be in that position. I’ll help if I can.

Builder Index belies fragile recovery

March 18, 2013

Issues with credit and appraisals, as well as frustrations with the industry infrastructure causes Builder Confidence Index to slip, again –

BuildersWASHINGTON, March 18 – Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes paused for a third consecutive month in March, with a two-point reduction to 44 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released today.

“Following eight consecutive months of improvement, builder confidence leveled off in January and has since edged down several points,” noted NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “Although many of our members are reporting increased demand for new homes in their markets, their enthusiasm is being tempered by frustrating bottlenecks in the supply chain for developed lots along with rising costs for building materials and labor. At the same time, problems with appraisals and credit availability remain considerable obstacles to completing deals.”

“In addition to tight credit and below-price appraisals, home building is beginning to suffer growth pains as the infrastructure that supports it tries to re-establish itself,” explained NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “During the Great Recession, the industry lost home building firms, building material production capacity, workers who retreated to other sectors and the pipeline of developed lots. The road to a housing recovery will be a bumpy one until these issues are addressed, but in the meantime, builders are much more optimistic today than they were at this time last year.”

This Builder Confidence Index report is just one indication of just how fragile our current “housing recovery” really is. Builders are facing issues of tight building supplies and manpower that were cause by suppliers pulling back or going out of business during the “Great Recession” and workers in the trades that support building looking elsewhere for work. In addition the banks continue to make things hard on builders as they are also doing with home buyers. Business credit is harder than ever to get, just like mortgages, even though the rates are relatively low.

The market is full of stories about houses going on the market for resale and selling within days; however, the untold stories are about the people who tried to bid on the same place and weren’t successful. There is increasing frustration in the market due to the tight inventory and the propensity of sellers to go for cash offers at the lower end, rather than wait to see if buyers who need a mortgage can get one. Even in the “normal” market of move-up buyers, the challenges that underwriters are throwing into the process can be very frustrating. The “it’s not worth the hassle” factor is definitely rising.

This will all work itself out eventually; but, in the meantime, an extra effort on the part of Realtors® to educate and prepare would-be buyers for the travails ahead is required. While executing a “normal” buy isn’t quite as trying to do as is a short-sale buy, they aren’t as far apart as they used to be. Patience and perseverance are still the by-words of this recovery.

Real Estate Index Shows Rise of .3% in January

March 17, 2013

The latest FNC Residential Price Index® (RPI) indicates that U.S. property values continued to recover through January—the 11th consecutive month of rising prices. Despite the uneven pace of price gains across different geographical markets, there are clear signs that the housing recovery is increasingly widespread. (Editor’s Note: these national statistics always trail the market by about 2 months, but they do point to trends that likely have continued.)

A limited housing supply and declining foreclosure sales are contributing to the recovery of underlying property values. The average list-to-sale price ratio increased to 93.5 in January, compared to 90.3 during the same period a year ago; in other words, the average asking price discount dropped to 6.5% from 9.7%. Foreclosures, as a percentage of total home sales, were 20.2% in January, down from 26.9% a year ago.

Based on recorded sales of non-distressed properties (existing and new homes) in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, the FNC 100-MSA composite index shows that January home prices rose 0.3% from the previous month and were up 5.7% on a year-over-year basis from the same period in 2012.1 The 30-MSA and 10-MSA composite indices show similar trends of rising prices, with the 10-MSA composite accelerating more rapidly at 0.8% month-over-month and 7.2% year-over-year.

FNC’s RPI is the mortgage industry’s first hedonic price index built on a comprehensive database that blends public records of residential sales prices with real-time appraisals of property and neighborhood attributes.2 As a gauge of underlying home values, the RPI excludes sales of foreclosed homes, which are frequently sold with large price discounts, reflecting poor property conditions.

What about our local market? I’ve certainly seen the rise in home sale prices and the impact of the lack of inventory locally. It’s really frustrating that I’ve got buyers who are ready, willing and able to buy a new home and we can’t find anything for them. As for would-be sellers who have been sitting on the sidelines awaiting a recovery – HELLO! The recovery has occurred and you should take a look at what you house is worth today.

Sure we haven’t made back the entire 30-40% that home values lost from their 2006-7 peaks values; but unless you bought or refinanced at that peak, you are probably OK in terms of what you can get for your house. At least find out. Ask me to do a Comparative Market Analysis for you. The analysis free and may free you up to get on with your life plans by making the move that you’ve been delaying.