Open House at 730 Milford Glen

October 21, 2017

I’m holding 730 Milford Glen open this Sunday, Oct 22, from 1 – 4 PM.

Come out and see this wonderful 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath Cape Cod in the heart of the Village of Milford. This home features a very hard to find (in the Village) first floor master suite, with huge walk-in closet and a master bath that has separate shower and jetted tub, plus dual vanity sinks. The open floor plan entry level has a great room with gas fireplace and an office/den, in addition to the kitchen, a powder room and the laundry.

It’s an easy walk to the shops and restaurants of Milford from this little development and there is no thru-traffic in the development.

I’ll have a dish of fresh cookies for your, so come on out and see the house and have a cookie.

730 Milford Glen flyer

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Is your house fire smart?

May 30, 2017

In support of my real estate business, I get a daily news feed from Realty Times and there is always something interesting to read in those short articles. Recently I got an article about what the author with the intriguing headline – Why Some Homes Survive Wildfires – And Others Don’t. The article written by Jim Adair for a Canadian audience was about so-called called FireSmart house design – the things that one can do to make one’s home more likely to survive a wildfire incident. To read Jim’s article on the  Realty Times web site click here – http://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice/item/1002636-20170530-why-some-homes-survive-wildfires-and-others-dont?

Admittedly here in my little Village in Southeastern Michigan we don’t get many wildfires; however, I have plenty of neighbors with “cabins up North”, whose get-away homes are nestled in the middle of woods that could be susceptible to an occasional wildfire. Certainly we have seen wildfires out west and down south over the past year. I also see from time to time local news stories of fires that start in one house and quickly spread to others nearby. The design principals that are discussed in the article would help prevent that, too.

The article referenced a booklet that was created to illustrate the design features that either help or hurt your house in the face or a wildfire. You can download that booklet for here –  https://www.firesmartcanada.ca/images/uploads/resources/FSCanada_HomeDevBooklet_5.5×8.5-V6-Mar20.pdf

Much of the advice in the article is what might be thought of as common sense; however, like other things in life we oft forget to apply common sense to our daily lives until someone points it out. Some of the advice is about home design features that can aid or thwart a fire trying to find a way to ignite the combustible materials in your home. Some of these pieces of advice are “Why didn’t I think of that” little gems and some are “I knew that, but I didn’t do it” items.

wildfireWhen the conflagration occurs, you don’t want to be standing there with a pathetic little garden house trying to save your house from a neighborhood fire when you could have done things to help it protect itself. In the case of a real wild fire, I don’t recommend the garden hose strategy anyway. So, whether your home is sitting in the middle of a forest or in the middle of an urban neighborhood, read the article and think about the things that you might be able to do with your home to make it FireSmart.


Don’t DIY if you don’t KWYD…

July 27, 2015

I promise that I’ll get back to my more inspirational posts starting with the next one. I just had to get this out of my system.

The popularity of many of the HGTV home fix-up shows has spawned a host of amateur DIYers and led to a host of DIY disasters. As a Realtor I end up showing a fair number of these failed projects, many of them in foreclosure. The problem is that the would-be fixer –uppers were people who didn’t KWYD (know what you’re doing).

It all looks so easy on TV, especially the demo parts where the TV personalities seem to be having fun knocking down walls to “open up rooms”. On a few of these “reality TV” shows they at least show the unexpected that can be discovered during the demo phase – the pipes that were running behind the walls or the shoddy wiring that is really a fire hazard or maybe they “discover” that the wall was load bearing after all and needs a major engineered beam to hold the second floor up. Many DIYers often hit those problems and more, plus they discover that demolition work is not fun – it’s sweaty, dirty, hard work and disposing of the resulting waste materials can be expensive, especially  in older (or historic)  homes that may still contain hazardous materials that were in common use years ago. In Michigan, for instance, there is only one dump left open that will accept asbestos waste and it is expensive if you have asbestos waste.  If you’re planning to “open up the floor plan” as part of your renovation; in order to avoid having your house cave in upon itself, get the advice of a good structural engineer before you start knocking walls down.

Once they get to the actual renovation work, many DIYers discover that they don’t have the proper tools. In some cases those tools might be rented, but in many cases they have to be bought, which is just another unplanned expense. Learning how to properly use those special tools can be frustrating, time consuming and perhaps even dangerous. Big wood or tile saws are serious tools that can bite the user. Before you even start a DIY project you should inventory the tools that you have and compare that to those that will be needed. You can get an idea about the needed tools by reading remodeling books. You might be able to get a good handle on the cost and skill needed to properly use those tools by attending one of the demonstration programs at your local Home Depot or Lowes store. Some even have some hands on training time.

Along with tools there is technique. Many aspects of a renovation job involved mastering specific techniques of working with the materials involved, especially if plaster repairs are involved. It’s not that you can’t slap a bunch of plaster up on the ceiling or wall and smooth it out; it’s that it will look like you slapped a bunch of plaster up on the ceiling or wall and tried to smooth it out.  It takes years of experience for professionals to master some of the techniques involved in their trades. Even painting is an area in which the differences in results between the average DIY person and a pro will be noticeable. You can put up all of the blue painter’s tape you want and still not get a job that looks as good as a painter who cuts his edges in with a brush and no tape at all.

Before you jump into any major remodeling project also make sure that you understand the local building codes and regulations about permits and inspections. Most projects that involve major changes to the plumbing system or the electrical system and any structural changes will require both permits and inspections by the building official for your area. I’ve seen finished projects in which the walls had to be opened up again because the DIYer forgot to pull the necessary permits or didn’t get the work inspected before the drywall went up. That can be a very expensive mistake. I’ve seen building officials make the DIYer tear down the newly installed drywall so they can inspect the plumbing or electrical work. And don’t think that because you’re working inside and you don’t think that anybody will notice that you’re making changes that you won’t have to pull a permit or get the job inspected. Many times a neighbor will report the work or just rumors on the street (or in your Facebook posts) may alert the officials.  It could also come back to haunt you when you try to sell the place. There is a question on the Seller’s Disclosure form for Michigan that specifically asks if you’ve made any structural changes to the house without permits.

The bottom line is that if you don’t know what you’re doing don’t DIY. You probably won’t end up saving the money that you thought you would and you may end up decreasing the value of your home or hurting yourself in the process.  You probably already have everything that you need for even the most demanding projects. It’s called a checkbook and the only skill needed to use it is the ability to fill out the checks. DIY using that tool and get the job done right by professionals.


What the new TILA-RESPA rules mean for the buyers or sellers

July 26, 2015

Every now and then I post something here that concerns my real estate business. This is one of those posts and it concerns the upcoming changes to the mortgage process and the closing process that will have impact on all buyers and sellers. In any profession, there are usually lots of acronyms used by the practitioners of that profession both as a form of shorthand for long, unwieldy terms and sometimes as a way to sound more important and knowledgeable in front of “lay people”. The upcoming TILA-RESPA changes are an example of that and an example of how changes usually cause concerns whether they are warranted or not.

man under papersWhen any major changes occur within industries that impact their current systems there is always a bit of “the sky is falling” reaction to them. The changes to the disclosure and closing documentation requirements for real estate transactions are no different. You have likely already seem newspaper stories about the coming TILA-RESPA changes. You may hear your Realtor® talking about it, but it primarily impacts the mortgage lenders and the title companies. Your Realtor should be able to explain things to you as well, but the primary source for information about how this might impact you should be your mortgage agent.

Here’s the gist of these rule and documentation changes.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created under the Frank-Dodd legislation that was aimed at cleaning up the financial industry mess after the housing industry collapse that brought on the Great Recession. One of the actions that the CFPB took on was to clear up the confusion caused in real estate transactions by the differences in the Good Faith Estimate that the buyer got from their mortgage rep at the front end of a real estate transaction and the closing documents, including the Buyers’ and Sellers’ Closing Statements and the HUD-1 document, that the buyers and sellers got at the closing table.

Buyers often noticed differences in what they expected their costs to be and the actual costs at closing. In addition, sad looking manthe mortgage industry fell into a practice of not getting the closing information to the buyers in a timely fashion before closing (many times buyers saw the closing docs for the first time at closing). It was sometimes very difficult for the buyer to even determine how much he should bring to closing, since he did not have the final documents.  There was a need identified to standardize the information that was presented to the buyer at the front end and what they eventually see at the closing table, as well as controlling the changes that might be allowed between those two times. There was also a need to get the final closing information to the buyer well in advance of the closing date, so that they could react to any changes and know how much to bring to closing.

Based upon those needs the CFPB produced the new, consolidated TILA-RESPA documents. TILA stands for Truth in Lending Act, which was the original law that set up the requirement for the Good Faith Estimate at the front end of the deal. RESPA stands for Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which defines the rules and documentation requirement for the closing of the sale. The CFPB decided to create new rules and documents for both ends of the sale and initially stated that they would impose those rules in August of 2015. The new document that the lender will give you at the front end is called the Loan Estimate. The new closing document packet is called the Closing Disclosure and clearly presents all of the information that used to be on the Closing Statements and the HUD-1. Best of all the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure use all of the same terms and data fields (although the Closing Disclosure has some data fields concerning the cost of the sale and tax rebates on it that the loan officer would not have known at the front end) and they look very much the same. It is possible to lay them side by side and see what, if anything changed from the front to the back ends of the sale.

Based upon an outcry of the real estate industry that they didn’t want to try to implement these new things during the height o the busy real estate season, the implementation was delayed until Oct 3, 2015. All mortgage loan officers are being trained, as are all title company people and most Realtors. Your first line of questioning should probably be your mortgage rep; however,  the CFPB has also created a new Home Loan Toolkit for buyers, so that they have a clear reference guide to the new documents and the new process.  In the Toolkit are examples of the new documents as well as helpful forms to help you choose the right mortgage product and to compare mortgages if you choose to shop at more than one mortgage company.

changesOne of the other areas to pay attention to in the Toolkit and with your lender is the changes that are allowed between the initial Loan Estimate and the final Closing Disclosure. Those changes can and do occur because of changes in things like rates or closing dates or other factors; however, they are limited by the new TILA-RESPA rules and can cause the whole process to be re-set to zero if they are too large. Another new rule concerns the timing requirements on the lenders and title companies to get the Closing Disclosure documents to you. The new rules require that you have them in-hand three days prior to closing. That not only gives you time to get the necessary funds ready, but also to review and challenge any changes that you see that you don’t understand of maybe don’t agree with your lender about. Keep in mind, however, that any changes that may be made during that three day period may reset the clock and push back the closing. There are exceptions which define acceptable last minute changes, but they are few and relatively minor, compared to some of the “closing table surprises” that used to take place under the old system.

So, the sky is not falling. From the perspective of the buyer or seller, these rules and document changes are a good thing and hopefully will make life easier. The mortgage and title company people will adapt, even while grumbling about all of the extra work and time involved (it will likely add about a week to the process). I recommend that you go download the CFPB Toolkit if you will be in the market for a house this fall. Read through it so that you will be an informed consumer who knows what his/her rights are and what to expect in the process.


Is walkability important to you?

February 26, 2015

How walkable is the area that you live in? Is walkability important to you in your choice of a new home? How do you find out how walkable a location is? I can’t answer the middle question, but I can help you find the answer to the first and last questions. There is a great site called walkscore.com that rates neighborhoods all across the country. If you go there you can put in an address – either where you live now or where you are thinking about moving to – and find out its Walkscore.

walking manThe Walkscore web site gives grades on a scale of 1 to 100 for the walkability of the area surrounding the address that you provide. The site looks at a lot of different factors, but it all boils down to evaluating what you can walk to within a reasonable distance. Things that the site looks for are stores, restaurants, libraries or other cultural venues within walking distance and what that walk might involve. The Walkscore will be higher is there are sidewalks and a good layout, such as the grid structure that is found in most large cities vs. the lack of sidewalks and  winding streets with lots of cul de sacs that are found in  most modern subdivisions. You can go to the Walkscore site for a more complete explanation of the factors that they evaluate to come up with a Walkscore for any given area.

In the past (through the 1950’s at east) most cities and towns were laid out in grid patterns and had sidewalks. The advent of the suburban subdivision in the 1950’s changed all of that.  Many of the early subs still had sidewalks, but those eventually went away, too. People moved further out and became much more dependent upon getting into their cars and riving to get to anything. Subdivisions quickly evolved from any sibilance of a grid structure into free flowing curves and cul de sacs. The term “bedroom communities” was coined to refer to these developments where the only thing that one could do there was sleep; anything else meant getting into the car.

There are still great walkable cities like New York, Boston or Chicago available; wherecity street with people living quarters are interspersed with businesses, stores and amenities and where one can still walk to a great many things. Newer cities tended to be built mainly for business and seem to empty out at night, leaving little to walk to for those who might live there. It’s actually kind of eerie at night or on weekend in many of those cities – like being in a ghost town.

So, why is all of this of any importance? I suppose one could start by pointing out the obvious health benefits of getting out and walking to things; but there is also an environmental benefit – you’re not driving and creating pollution or using up fuel. There is also usually a social a side benefit. When you are out walking you will likely encounter others in the neighborhood doing the same and, because you are walking, it is easier to stop and say “hi” to them and maybe even have a conversation. Try that while driving your car.

You may be much more likely to make use of local libraries, museums or other cultural amenities if it’s a short walk, rather than a drive, to get to them. Walkable areas usually also have lots of neat little restaurants and locally owned shops. You may find that you don’t have to jump in the car and drive to the mall to get what you need. A side benefit is mostly psychological –  you don’t feel trapped in walkable areas, because you know that, even if you’re without a car, you can just walk to most things if you want to.

Skippy and Sadie for calendarI moved from one of those “bedroom communities” in the suburbs that had a Walkscore of 15 into Milford, Michigan, a small village where I’m just 2 blocks from downtown; and I see a Walkscore of 62 when I check it. I can literally walk to most that I need, with a few exceptions where I would have to get in the car and go to a mall or superstore. It’s great and we love it. Plugging in downtown addresses in neighborhoods in Boston, New York or Chicago might turn up Walkscores that are
Front of Palatemuch higher than that. Try it and see what the Walkscore is for your current home’s location.

So, if you’re in the market for a new home, how important is the walkability of an area to you? If you have 3-4 areas that you are considering for a new home location, plug them in to the Walkscore.com site and see what their Walkscores come out to be. You don’t necessarily have to move back into an urban setting to get into a walkable, but it is more likely that small towns offer more walkable environments than most suburban subdivisions. If you happen to be looking in Southeastern Michigan, call me and I’ll help you find a great walkable area to live in.

 


Why Milford for Generation “Y”?

February 20, 2014

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the tastes and preferences of the so-call Gen “Y”, Aka the Millennials. Many articles contain the same characteristics of what they are looking for when they are looking for a new home:

  1. Something smaller and less pretentious – Gen “Y-ers” are not your typical McMansion buyer.
  2. Green, energy efficient homes, whether through design or updates.
  3. Homes with some character – older, small homes, like bungalows
  4. Homes in walkable areas – they would prefer to be able to  walk to the restaurant or store
  5. Areas that are culturally diverse and/or which offer a rich cultural environment
  6. Areas with things going on – availability of both indoor and outdoor activities
  7. Areas with a friendly and welcoming sense of neighborhood
  8. Areas with strong local commitment to giving back

As I thought about it, it became clear that the Village of Milford meets most of those needs. We certainly have our share of McMansions, although most are around the periphery of the Village and most are not really on small lots. While many of the available houses in the Village were built years ago, most have been updated with newer windows and insulation. Most of the smaller and much more affordable homes in the Village were built in the 50’s and 60’s. The small homes built in the 50’s and 60’s almost all have hardwood floors and there are plaster walls and coved ceilings in the 50’s built houses. Most of these homes are in the 900 – 1,100 Sq Ft range, with three bedrooms. Some have finished basements and many, but not all have detached garages. It’s also nice that, if you live within the Village; you will be on city water and septic, both owned and operated by the Village

The Village of Milford is one of the most walkable towns in the area. You can check that out at www.walkability.com. Milford has some of the best area restaurants and a downtown that still has stores where you can buy things that you really need and not just antiques or knick-knacks. The sidewalk system in the Village encourages walking and for many events, especially those held downtown or in Central Park, most people actually walk to them. There are three major parades a year that Villagers can walk downtown to see, as well as several minor parades( the little leagues parade of teams and the homecoming parade to name two)and events that close off Main Street – the biggie is our Milford Memories Street Fair in August every year.

The Village is more culturally diverse than most people realize and offers art, music and other cultural programs through groups like the Township Parks and Rec board, the Huron Valley Council for the Arts, the Village Fine Arts Association and the Milford Historical Society. There are concert series and artists showing going on every month. In the summer there are concerts in Central Park and 2-3 movies in the park, too, for the kids. We even have a great little movie house, right here in the Village.

Indoor and outdoor activities are abundant with organizations like Kensington Metro Park, The Carl’s Family YMCA, the Milford Library and Huron Valley Adult Education and Recreation offering activities throughout the year. Go to my web site www.movetiomilford.com for a complete rundown on all of the activities and events in the area.

There are parks to visit (one with a huge play structure) and waterfalls to see. There’s a historic Powerhouse to see and visit that was designed by Albert Khan and a home in the Village that was owned and lived in by a Hollywood and TV actress (Mary Jackson, one of the Baldwin sisters on the Walton’s Mountain TV show). There’s a river that runs through it with active canoe and kayaking groups and bike trails that run all the way out to Kensington Metropark. There are mountain biking trails nearby and an active mountain bike club. There’s even an annual Crit held in Milford for those into bicycle racing.

Finally there’s the sense of neighborhood that is unavoidable in the Village. People identify with their own sub or neighborhood, but everybody in the Village identifies with being a Milfordite. Milford is a place that people are proud to invite their friends and family to visit. Every year in September the Historical Society conducts the Milford Home Tour so that 4-5 Milford homeowners can share their homes with the world.

Milford also has many very active local groups and clubs dedicating themselves to giving back to the community and to the area at large. The Milford Chamber of Commerce is one of the strongest and most active in this part of Michigan and is a key player, along with the Milford Rotary Club, in the push to build an amphitheater in Central Park as a new venue for concerts and other activities. The HVCC is also the presenter of Milford Memories and the annual Christmas Parade (one of the three big parades). The Downtown Merchants Association sponsors several shopping oriented events during the year, including two “Ladies Night Out” events.

The Carl’s Family YMCA has programs for all ages and runs summer outdoor activities for children, too. The Huron Valley School District has the Adult Education and Recreation program which runs year around programs for the whole family. The local VFW post is quite active and is the presenter of the annual Memorial Day Parade (another of the three big parades). The Milford Historical Society runs the Milford Historical Museum on Commerce Rd (just a block from downtown) and is the presenter of the final of the big three parades – the 4th of July Parade. There’s also a strong Optimist Club in the area, as well as a KofC club, a Zonta chapter and the Milford Garden Club. Finally, there’s a strong base of churches in the community, with 6 right in the Village and more just outside. There are always church-sponsored events going on or events by other groups being held at the churches.

One of the primary local charities – Community Sharing – offers unique services and food help to area residents who are in need and well as running the states only pet food pantry to provide for the pets of family who may not be able to afford to feed them right now. People in the Village of Milford also strongly support Meals On Wheels and the Special Olympics (Milford has its own team that competes in SO events).

When I sum all of that up, I can honestly ask – why would you not want to live in such a great community?


Divorce and real estate – it takes a team

January 30, 2014
Divorce

Divorce

When things go south in a marriage and divorce seems to be the only way out, the people involved may think of calling their priest or pastor and they may call friend s to commiserate; they may even have already called a lawyer; but, they seldom think of calling a Realtor® and they should.

Divorce is an extremely emotional process, filled with remorse, doubts, regrets and sometime (maybe too often) distrust and hate. It is a time of great vulnerability for all parties involved and a time when there are many decisions to be made, none of which should be made in haste or in hate and without professional advice.

While it may not be top of mind at the time, making good decisions about the single largest asset that most married couple have – their home – is critical for the future of both parties. Make bad or hasty and ill-advised decisions and they might haunt you for years, as you try to rebuild your life.

There is so much complexity surrounding the real estate (and other assets) that may be involved in a divorce that you really need to assemble a team to help you and your Realtor can be the person who does that for you. On the team, you’ll need a good divorce lawyer, your Realtor, your insurance agent,  a tax/financial adviser, an appraiser and a mortgage adviser. Your Realtor can probably make recommendations or assemble the rest of this team.

Why all of those folks? Well, each one will either be providing you with advice about products that you already have (insurance, for instance) or products that you will need to get (a new mortgage) in order to move on with life. You need to understand your current homeowners policy – who’s listed as the policy owner (s) and who as the beneficiaries? What happens to that insurance when the divorce is final? Who needs to be listed then and who will be paying for it? As for the tax adviser or financial adviser (it probably will take two people for this), you need to understand the tax consequences of the divorce and make sure that you can file for your fair share of things after the final decree. You may need a good value appraisal if the family home is to be sold as part of the decree. You also need to understand the consequences on any long-term financial plans or policies or shared assets that you had in place. And, when the dust settles, you may need to get a new mortgage, in order to move on with life. How will this divorce leave you in terms of qualifying on your own for a mortgage? Can you do anything until your name is off the old mortgage or that mortgage has been discharged? Where will you go may be an easier question to answer than how will I afford it?

So, why I’m I writing about this? Because I care, for one, and because I have the team members already in mind to be able to help, from one of best family and divorce lawyers that I know, to a great insurance person, to a very thorough financial adviser and a great tax accountant and a mortgage rep that can make it possible for you to move on in life. These are people that I’ve worked with and trust to advise you on the aspects that go beyond my real estate capabilities. More importantly they are people that I trust with your fragile emotional state during this very trying time. I can introduce you to a team of professionals that will work with you through this process in a caring, respectful and empathetic way that will lift a lot of burdens from your shoulders and let you start the healing process.

So let’s start off by agreeing that divorce sucks and try to go forward from there the best way that we can, with a caring professional team of people on your side who can make sure that you make the right decisions during the process to come out whole on the other side. Call me and put my team to work for you. If you already have some people for some of these roles, great; let’s just add them to the team. If you don’t even know where to start; call me quickly so that you don’t spend another day by yourself in this process.