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EXISTING HOME SALES REBOUND in Grand Rapids

by Mark Brace
The Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS reports that sales of existing homes, including single-family homes, vacation homes, and condominiums, rose to record levels in January of 2008. The Association reported 996 sales in January of 2008 - an 18.9 percent increase over the same period last year, and its strongest January sales report since 2002. This comes on the heels of the Association's report that sales of existing homes in each month of the fourth quarter of 2007 also rose to record levels when compared to 2006. Jim Fase, President of the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS, said that this notable rise in home sales means we will likely see a faster and more meaningful recovery of the local housing industry, which will help to stimulate overall economic activity. "The average price of an existing single-family home in January was $129,500, a reduction that was anticipated in light of the increased number of sales of homes in January that were at or near foreclosure. Subprime loans and other risky mortgage products have virtually disappeared from the marketplace which means that current sales are more stable and will lead to higher home values later in the year," he said. The adjustment in the average price will also enable more first time homebuyers to purchase a home. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) reports that Grand Rapids ranks as the fifth most affordable major housing market in the U.S. This is based on a measurement of the percentage of homes sold in the Grand Rapids area that are affordable to families earning this area's median income. "The steady increase in the number of home sales in this area gives us confidence that we may have turned the corner," Fase concludes.

Outside investors sink $150M in West Michigan properties

by Mark Brace

It's a record year in western Michigan for out-of-state investment, which likely surpassed $150 million, estimated Colin Kraay, investment adviser at Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce in Grand Rapids.

In the last days of 2007, the firm negotiated the sale of 17 industrial buildings for $35 million to $40 million to California-based Core Realty Holdings - a return buyer in the region. Core in 2005 purchased several industrial buildings in Kent County and the lakeshore.

This purchase, of an undisclosed price, totaled 572,000 square feet and included 90 tenants, Kraay said. Principals of First Cos. Inc. in Grand Rapids, which managed all, built many, and owned some of the properties, organized the sale and will continue to manage the buildings.

"It was a sale we have thought about for quite some time," First Cos. President Jeff Baker said. "It's one of the biggest ones we've done."

"West Michigan doesn't often see a lot of these large portfolio sales," Kraay said, noting that the buyer sought multiple buildings in one transaction. "Core looks for stable properties with solid income potential and income growth. They saw those in these properties."

Kraay, along with brokers Chad Barton, John Kuiper and Duke Suwyn, represented buyer and seller. The firm handled a record $115 million in 2007 out-of-state investment into western Michigan, Kraay said, estimating the entire region brought in about $150 million.

"We'll probably see a little bit of a slowdown" in 2008, he predicted. "One hundred fifteen million dollars is a big number. 2007 was really an enormous year."

Investment broker Patrick Mohney of NAI West Michigan in Grand Rapids expects even larger figures in 2008, however.

"I wouldn't be surprised if in the next year, it wasn't three times that," Mohney said. "Investment's at least half the (real estate) activity going on in the area. Sometimes I'm even getting calls from people with no connection here whatsoever."

Daily calls from investors, most often in San Francisco and Chicago, continue unabated, he said. A continued weak dollar might even prompt foreign investment, he added.

"About 70 percent of our buyers for Michigan real estate come from out of state, lured by the relatively high cap rates and relatively low prices," noted Michael Cagen, associate broker at Marcus & Millichap's Grand Rapids office.
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When Selling Your Home, Using Scents Makes Sense!

by Mark Brace

Even though now doesn't seem to be the ideal time to sell your home, you can take heart in knowing that small actions may make a difference in getting your home sold.

"Scentmosphere" isn't exactly new but it is rapidly becoming a way to attempt to attract buyers.

"When [buyers] walk into a house before they actually see anything in that house, because they breathe, they are smelling. So they are actually getting an impression, whether it's conscious or subconscious, of your home -- just by the way it smells," says Rick Ruffolo, senior vice president of brand, marketing, and innovation for Yankee Candle Company.

So, right now take a deep breath. What kind of "smellment" is your home making?

Choosing to proactively make a statement in the way your home smells is just another step in helping to sell your home faster. It's the next step after curb appeal. Ruffolo says curb appeal gets buyers in the door but then they see and smell your home and begin to decide if this is the home for them.

"If it's a vacant home it can be musty. But if it's an active home it also could have [odors of] whatever activities that are going on in that house," says Ruffolo.

Are buyers going to smell the over-sized dog that traipses around the house after rolling in the newly-cut grass? Are they going to smell your son's gym bag filled with dirty socks that has been buried deep in his closet for the last five weeks? While we certainly don't all have the same preferences for scents, most would agree neither of those two things pose a welcoming aroma.

"It's not rocket science, but it is candle science," says Ruffolo.

He suggests candle fragrances such as the smell of freshly-baked cookies. "Not everybody likes to eat cookies but everybody enjoys the smell of cookies, and when I say everybody, there may be the exception here or there, but the vast majority would enjoy the baking smell. So we're always fond of fragrances that are in the vanilla family," says Ruffolo.

Fragrances such as French vanilla, butter cream, and créme brûleé that mimic baking scents are welcoming and inviting for buyers. Scents register in our brain and frequently remind us of our past experiences. Creating pleasant aromas in your newly-listed house can help the buyer to experience an emotional connection with the home.

Ruffolo says when it comes to bathrooms, great rooms, or even basements it's a good idea to try different fragrances.

"You may want to think of what we refer to as clean or fresh fragrances and those could be based in various fruits, so the citrus family is a really good one," says Ruffolo.

He says, however, there are some fragrances that you should avoid as they don't tend to appeal to the masses or they have too strong an odor.

Ruffolo instead encourages sellers to use fragrances that will instantly be winners such as vanilla, kitchen spice fragrances, citrus, and the smell of freshly cleaned laundry.

"Scent impacts the atmosphere," says Ruffolo. He says that candles are the best way to get the fragrant aroma in the air, but if you don't have time to let them burn before showing your home there are other methods that work to get the right "scentmosphere."

The company has electrical plug-in products that have oil them so they provide continuous fragrance. "If you're away from the house for a period of time, you don't have to worry about the candle being lit," says Ruffolo.

Reed diffusers are both decorative and powerful for giving off fragrance. The diffusers contain oil and the reeds help to draw the oil up and out into the room. "They don't fill a large room but they fill a nice small space very well," says Ruffolo.

But if you give every room a fragrance, is there a point of over-saturation? Ruffolo says that's not likely to happen.

"It's not like the person who put on too much perfume. A home is a very large place and it absorbs a lot of the fragrance so it would be pretty hard to overpower a house with too much fragrance," explains Ruffolo.

Ruffolo says with all the tips out there about selling a home, the scent factor is often the most forgotten.

"If you don't have a scent that you want in there, buyers are going to smell whatever is going on in that room. So if it's been closed up or doesn't have a lot of air flow [there will] be more of a musty, damp, or a less desirable scent," explains Ruffolo.

It just makes sense that if you want to create an appealing environment for buyers, pleasing scents should be part of the selling plan.

 

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Contact Information

Mark Brace, Realtor, ABR, GRI, CRS, SRES, e-PRO, A
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate
3000 East Beltline NE
Grand Rapids MI 49525
Direct: (616) 447-7025
Cell: (616) 540-7705
Fax: (616) 447-7025

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Michigan Real Estate is a full service, locally operated real estate brokerage company backed by the strength of a solid national and global brand. Our full service businesses include Residential, Commercial, Relocation, Mortgage, Insurance, Home Services and New Homes & Land. Our core values, service philosophy, cutting edge technology, and most importantly our people are what make us the leading real estate company in Michigan. We are committed to providing the highest quality real estate services possible and making each customer's experience one that surpasses their expectations.