Real Estate Information Archive


Displaying blog entries 11-15 of 15


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.

Myths of Credit Scoring

by Mark Brace
Myths of Credit Scoring

There is a tremendous amount of misinformation spun into the marketplace regarding consumers' credit rights. Here are a few examples of the most prevalent myths.

Myth #1- When I pay off an account, it will no longer be reported or be considered negative…Wrong!

Myth #2- If a negative item is deleted, it will just come right back on my report…Wrong!
Myth #3- Certain items such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, and tax liens are impossible to remove from a credit report... Wrong!
Myth #4- Disputing a credit report is easy and any consumer can do it for themselves… Wrong!
Myth #5- Creditors will read my 100-word statement and take my side of the story into account... Wrong!
Myth #6- Credit Bureaus are infallible, a branch of the government, or otherwise beyond reproach... Wrong!
Myth #7- I can get a new credit file by getting a federal ID number... VERY, BIG MISTAKE!
Myth #8-If I build enough good credit; it will offset my bad credit... Wrong!
Myth #9-A Credit Counseling Service can help me restore my credit rating... Wrong!
Myth #10-The law requires that an item remains on a credit report for 7 years... Simply not so.
Myth #11- I can’t have too much good credit... Wrong!
Myth #12 Multiple mortgage inquiries will NOT hurt your credit as long as they are pulled within x number of days. If you are telling your clients this, you are doing them a disservice. Invest a few minutes to find out the truth. (Your clients deserve it)

$ Credit Bureau Mistakes Cost You $
Results of a research study conducted by (PIRG), Public Information Research Group-Washington, DC.
• 29% of credit reports contained serious errors, false delinquencies, or accounts that do not belong to the consumer.
• 41% contained demographic information that was misspelled, outdated or incorrect.
• 20% were missing major credit, loan, mortgage or other information to demonstrate the positive credit worthiness of the consumer.
• 26% contained closed accounts that were closed by the consumer but listed as open.
•70% of the reports contained mistakes.

Please everyone check your credit every once and a while.

Bargain Smartly to Get the Best Deal

by Mark Brace

Bargaining is an art, particularly when the buyer wants to make a rock-bottom bid without insulting the seller.

"The offer has to be palatable and show you've done your homework," says Deb Greene, president of the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS®.

Sheri Fine, an associate with Edina Realty in Minneapolis, agrees. "Sometimes an unreasonably lowball offer can make a seller so angry they won't make a counter offer or deal with a buyer."

Here are their suggestions for coming up with a number that is competitive and compelling.
  • That an offer that is more than 10 percent off the list price isn’t customary and is likely to be rejected.
  • Realizes that there are other attractive homes on the market and won’t be shattered if the sellers reject their lowball offer.
  • Recognize the home’s strengths as well as its weakness.
  • Make a list of reasons to share with the seller for offering less than list price.
  • Instead of asking for the price to be lowered, negotiate other tangibles such as repairs, closing dates, and closing costs.
  • And lastly be respectful whenever you are around the seller.

Source: Star-Tribune, Lynn Underwood (11/17/07)

The Top Ten Reasons It's a Great Time To Buy Real Estate!

by Mark Brace
  1. Selection, selection, selection. There are about 57,000 resale homes on the market in Maricopa county(Phoenix). Regardless of the price range a buyer desires, there are plenty of houses from which to choose. Just a few years ago the resale inventory dropped below 5,000 units. A buyer was forced to make compromises if they were going to locate the home of their dreams. There is a great selection of attached homes, condos, and townhouses. You can find large lots, small lots, and a lot that will accommodate your boat or RV. There are lots of options in this market.

  2. No Bidding Wars. In 2005 we had one client that made an offer on ten homes. They lost the first nine to the 'feeding frenzy' that existed. Other buyers bid the properties up substantially from the original listing price. There were escalation clauses where buyers authorized their agents to outbid other offers by thousands of dollars. There is no competitive bidding in this buyer's market.

  3. You can make an offer. A few years ago when you made an offer, the only question was how high above the list price could the buyer reach in hopes of being the best offer on the table. Today the sell price list vs. price ration is about 96%. A seller will not be insulted if you 'make them an offer they can't refuse'.

  4. Patience is tolerated. In the hot seller's market that existed everything was rushed. Find a house before other buyers did. Hurry up and make the offer.  Today a buyer can take their time. Look at several homes and think about your decision for a few hours.

  5. Due diligence is welcomed. In this market a buyer is encouraged to obtain a home inspection, termite inspection, and appraisal. In 2005 many buyers waived these contingencies in order gain an advantage with multiple offers.

  6. There are plenty of specs. In the not too distant past buyer had to 'play games' if they wanted a new home. There were lotteries and waiting lists in order to obtain new construction. Some buyers slept in their cars in order to get to the head of the lines. R.L. Brown estimates that builders have thousands of specs ready for immediate occupancy.

  7. Repair requests are welcomed. After a buyer completes a home inspection, they are allowed to submit a repair request to the seller. In the past a seller might insist the home was sold 'as is'. Many times, there were back-up buyers waiting for a primary buyer to upset the seller whose home was increasing in value almost daily.

  8. Few, if any investors. It is estimated that one third of all sales in 2005 were to investors. These non-owner occupied buyer caused the market to inflate and affordability to decline. Mortgage fraud became commonplace. It's a great time to buy without having to compete with hundreds of prospective landlords.

  9. Location, location, location. Today's buyers can find homes closer to work. In the past buyers flocked to Maricopa and Queen Creek in order to find affordable homes. In this market, reasonably priced homes are within biking or walking distance to schools, rapid transit lines, and relatives.

  10. Real Financing is available. The 'wink, wink' zero down, no doc, adjustable, sub-prime loans are gone. Fixed rates are back. FHA financing, first time homeowner bond programs, special loans for teachers, and police officers are back in business. It's a great time to buy real estate!

Run the Numbers Before Buying an Investment Property

by Mark Brace
People talk about running the numbers before buying an investment property, but what are the numbers and how do you get accurate numbers? Running the wrong numbers can make the difference of making $500 or losing $1000 per month. In this article, we will go through the costs and factors to consider making your investments successful.


Rental income is not as straightforward as it seems. Sometimes properties are under-rented and sometimes properties are over-rented, so be sure to find out the market rents when you consider a property. When we bought our first fourplex, we looked at comparable leases and realized our rents were too high, so instead of assuming we would continue to receive $3600 of rental income, we had to be realistic and assume it was more like $3200.


A huge cost is mortgage interest. You should definitely sort out the details of your loan options and get an idea of current rates before running the numbers. It could make or break a deal. If you are getting a duplex or a house, the loans are generally similar to other home loan programs. Triplexes and fourplexes tend to have higher rates, and commercial is a whole other ballgame. One thing to consider is to put more down because the more you put down, the less your loan will be, which means less monthly interest to pay. Another consideration is the type of loan. We usually recommend people to get a fixed rate mortgage these days because the current ARM (adjustable rate mortgage) rates are not all that much lower than fixed rates.

Just get educated about the loan options and run the numbers with them. Oh, and do not just take advice from one mortgage person. The best way to get educated is to talk to a variety of mortgage brokers and banks to find your best solution; not all loan places have the same programs.


People frequently use the taxes from the year when they purchased the property, assuming the taxes will stay the same. Taxes change every year. Taxes can go up drastically after a purchase. For example, an owner occupied property usually has tax breaks, so unless you intend to owner occupy too, your taxes will go up.

In addition, the county appraisal that your taxes are based on could go up after your purchase. For example, if you buy a property for 100,000 but the tax appraisal last year was for 50,000, don't count on it remaining at 50,000. In fact, I have seen cases where a year after a property was purchased the tax assessor increased the appraisal value to the purchase price. The safest approach is to look at the tax rate and the purchase price to determine your future taxes.


For some reason people tend to forget to take into account vacancy rate. Even when looking to invest in a desirable rental area, it's best to always take into account at least an 8-10% vacancy rate. Do some investigation, look at your market and find statistics on the average vacancy rate.


We have personally found the biggest surprise to be the expense of tenant turnover. This includes advertising for a new tenant, cleaning, repainting, replacing carpet, etc. If you expect to have high tenant turnover, like next to a college campus, anticipate this to be a significant cost.


Insurance on investment properties are typically higher than owner occupied, single family properties. So get an insurance quote on the property instead of basing your expected insurance off of the insurance bill for your house. You also should purchase liability insurance, which can be expensive.


This is by far the most difficult number to estimate. It depends on the property, whether you fix some of the problems yourself or hire outside help, and random luck. So we can't give you a hard and fast number but we can look into different factors to take into account.

**Property Type - When you evaluate different properties remember to take into account the type of property. If it's brick you won't have to paint or worry about wood root. Decks need constant maintenance. A property with wood or concrete floors will be easier to clean and will not have to be replaced when a tenant moves out. Just think about the aspects of the property and their maintenance costs.

**Property Size - A smaller property is easier to maintain than a larger property. For instance, say there are two properties for sale for 200,000 and each have a combined rent of 2000. A property with 2 units and a total of 1000 square feet will be cheaper to maintain than a property with 6 units and 3000 square feet. The larger property will be more expensive to maintain when you are replacing the larger roof, painting the interior walls etc. More units mean more money spent on advertising, make-readies, and more appliances to repair.

**Property Location - Consider your proximity to the property. If you buy a property 30 miles away, over the course of a year you can spend a decent amount of gas money driving back and forth.

**Your personal management style - How often will you do maintenance work yourself vs. hiring help? For instance, when a unit needs painting will you paint the rooms or hire a painter? Hiring professionals is definitely more expensive, but you have to be realistic about how much you will personally do, especially if you are looking at many units.


Be sure to check what the tenants pay for and what the owner pays for. This includes all the utilities and lawn maintenance. In addition, there may be owner expenses like parking lot lights and trash bin service.


If you are going to hire a property management company, definitely get their rates. We personally choose properties that we can manage ourselves.


We wrote a investment property calculator which is located here Investment real estate calculator. Once you add all the numbers up, you often find the property has 0 cash flow or even negative cash flow. This doesn't necessarily mean you should not purchase the property. There are positive tax benefits to rental properties and depending on your situation, a property with technically 0 cash flow could still put more money in your pocket due to tax benefits. If you think the property is going to appreciate in the future, a zero or negative cash flow property could still be appealing.

The point here is that if you are buying a property with zero or negative cash flow, it's best to know beforehand instead of after the property has been purchased.

Displaying blog entries 11-15 of 15

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.