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Grand Rapids Real Estate with Mark Brace

Mark Brace


Displaying blog entries 111-120 of 126

What Your Real Estate Agent Knows That You Don't

by Mark Brace

When you make the decision to sell your home, you are under no obligation to hire a real estate agent or broker to help you with the sale. Nonetheless, most people prefer to hire a real estate agent in order to better protect themselves. And, it also puts them in a better position to successfully sell the home in a short amount of time.

When you hire a real estate agent, you gain access to a wealth of knowledge that can help keep you out of trouble and will help provide for a smooth transaction. Here are just a few things your real estate agent knows that you probably do not.

The Federal Fair Housing Act

According to the Federal Fair Housing Act, you cannot discriminate against someone when selling a home. The act defines seven different classes of people who are protected against discrimination. These include:

  • race
  • color
  • national origin
  • sex
  • religion
  • handicap
  • familial status

If you do not enlist in the help of a real estate agent, you put yourself at risk of violating this act if you refuse to sell your home to an interested buyer who may be in a protected class. In addition, you might even accidentally violate these laws without realizing it. For example, there are certain words that cannot be included in your advertisements for your home because they are in violation of the Fair Housing Laws. Some of these words include:

  • bachelor apartment
  • children welcome
  • couples
  • gentleman's farm
  • golden agers
  • handicapped
  • integrated
  • married
  • mature
  • mother-in-law quarters
  • professional
  • seniors
  • singles only
  • sports-minded

As you can see, some of these terms seem perfectly innocent. Therefore, it is a good idea to get the help of a real estate agent so you can tap into his or her knowledge and experience in order to stay out of trouble.

State Real Estate Laws

Although there are similarities in real estate laws from one state to the next, each state has its own set of rules that must be followed. If you do not understand these laws, or are unaware of these laws, you can inadvertently break the law when selling your home. In addition, by not being fully aware of your seller's rights, you might actually lose out on money during the transaction.

Taking Advantage of Connections

Aside from legal matters, a real estate agent simply has a vast number of connections making it possible to sell a home more quickly and for a higher asking price. Similarly, because people come to real estate agents when searching for homes, you are able to tap into a much larger market of interested buyers when you get the help of a real estate agent.

Because a real estate agent has experience with selling homes, he or she can also provide you with tips to help increase the market value of your home and to make the process go by more quickly. For example, small things such as painting a room a different color can go a long way when it comes to increasing the appeal of the home. By taking advantage of the agent's expertise, you just might have a much more profitable selling experience.

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)

As the Public may not be aware yet, but the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors (GRAR) is switching technology used to run its MLS system. For the past 14 years GRAR has programmed and operated it’s own RE/Source (in-house MLS), This MLS has proved to costly and difficult to keep-up in today’s highly connected society to maintain and program. On February 1, 2007 GRAR elected to convert its in-house MLS system to an outside Provider, and Solid Earth’s “LIST-IT MLS” system was selected. The anticipated conversion date is December 6, 2007, and then all GRAR Realtors will be using a Forced over to the new MLS system.


For me I’m very excited about all of the extremely powerful tools that are now going to be available to the realtors that we could only dream of a for the last several years. It’s about time we as Realtor s caught up to the emerging technology to provide high quality detailed information to our Clients. I feel fortunate to have a strong computer background, and know that all Realtors are going to be on a learning curve for the next 6 months to a year. After previewing the new Solid Earth system today, I think most realtors won’t even be able to utilize all the power tools and features available, and they will continue operate the way they have been doing without embracing the technology change. Realtors will now have such comprehensive local area information that if you were buying and selling a home, you would absolutely want to consult with a Realtor, the database and statistical features will be seen as a must have to be able to accurately position a property to draw an offer, and or value a property to determine a proper and most likely offer price for any property for buyers.

For Sale By Owner people are going to be left in the dust, because they won’t be able to compete with the tools and information available to the professionals that buy and sell everyday. Again I’m so very excited we are moving to this incredibly powerful new MLS system. Looking forawrd to amazing my clients in the future.


Grand Rapids' newest hotel, the luxury brand JW Marriott, opened September 21 with some 250 new employees. That number could rise to 300 over the next couple of years. So far, the hotel has hired 198 people, and is hiring more as we speak.


The hotel received over 4,000 applications from all over the world, and has conducted 2,500 interviews thus far -- 1,200 of those were in just one week.


So far, about 10 percent of the new hires are former Grand Rapids residents who are taking on new jobs so they can return home.


"There's so much written about the exodus of college students from the state," says George Aquino, general manager. "To me the most rewarding part of the whole job piece is realizing that people from West Michigan eventually come back. Our executive chef moved back from Orlando and he's been gone for about 20 years. Our director of finance moved back from Denver, another person from Scottsdale, and several from San Diego and Newport Beach."


There's also a trend of people who want to move here from Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Detroit, Aquino says. The reason they've given is that the economy is better here.


To-date the hotel has filled all of its management positions, and is looking to fill openings in accounting, human resources, hotel operations, food and beverage restaurant management, housekeeping, and banquet and event staff. Wages start at $8.50 an hour for administrative personnel and $10 an hour for banquet servers.

Just how friendly toward entrepreneurs are the policies Michigan's elected officials implemented in 2006? According to the Small Business Survival Index 2007 released this month, those policies were the sixth friendliest in the nation. That's an improvement over last year when the state's policies affecting small businesses ranked tenth.


The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council conducted the twelfth annual study, which ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia according to 31 major government-imposed or government-related costs that affect small businesses. Those costs include personal income tax, capital gains tax rates, health insurance mandates, electricity costs, and workers compensation benefits.


Among the Index's findings was the rate of job growth across the country. From August 2003 to August 2007 job growth in the top 25 states in the Index was 8 percent, compared to 4.7 percent job growth in the bottom 25 states and D.C.


That means that during that four years, the top 25 states created jobs 70 percent faster that the bottom 26 of the Index. The study did not indicate how many jobs Michigan entrepreneurs established.


To-date, Michigan's 21st Century Jobs Fund has issued $135 million in grants and loans to 67 companies, non-profits, and research firms in the industries of life sciences, alternative energy, homeland security/defense, and automotive/advanced manufacturing.


Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation

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!

Grand Rapids area home prices keep falling

by Mark Brace

It's the mantra of the real estate industry, posted on yard signs everywhere: It's a great time to buy.

If you are in a financial position to do so, statistics continue to show the mantra is true.

The average home price in the Grand Rapids area last month was $147,148, a drop of 6.5 percent from September 2006. The average price year to date -- $152,742 -- represents a 4.4 percent drop from this time last year.

Part of that reduction is attributed to the laws of supply and demand.

While there are 8.5 percent more listings than this time last year, residential sales last month were down 6.7 percent from September 2006.

Jamie Starner, president of the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors, said he would like to see more sales, but a drop in the number of listings joining the market was promising.

Nearly 11,700 residential properties were on the market last month. Based on overall sales figures, that equates to more than a year's supply of homes for sale.

But the number of listings entering the market in September was more than 10 percent lower than last September.

"We've got to burn off some of that inventory that we have," Starner said. "We've got to get back to a balanced market."

Pat Vredevoogd, a real estate agent and president of the National Association of Realtors, believes the market is turning.

"I see this in a number of marketplaces, where that number of new listings is stagnating a little bit now, and the number of homes being put on the market is quieting down," she said. "We're also seeing quite a few more people out in the marketplace."

The market is taking its toll on real estate agents.

Membership in the association is down 9 percent from a year ago. And agents say they are working harder for the same or less money.

The decrease in the sale price means a decrease in my paycheck, because it's all based on commission," said Ethan , an agent with A local Realty Company. "I sold about six more units last year than I did in '05 and made the same amount of money."

But as a real estate investor, Ethan also is reaping the benefits of the lower prices. He bought four homes this year to add to his stock of rental houses. They included a property next door to one he already owned.

"I paid less for a neighboring house than my wife and I paid five years ago for the house next door," he said.

The average sale price also is affected by the prices of homes being sold. Sixty percent of homes sold last month were priced for less than $140,000. Last September, it was 54 percent.

Twenty-two percent of homes sold were priced between $140,000 and $200,000, and 18 percent were more than that, including three priced at more than $1 million.

By Cami Reister
The Grand Rapids Press

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.

West Michigan jobs forecast upbeat

by Mark Brace
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
By Julia Bauer
The Grand Rapids Press

Employers in the Holland and Grand Rapids regions are among the most upbeat in the state, based on hiring forecasts by Manpower Inc.

While 7 percent of those surveyed in Holland forecast layoffs this fall, 38 percent expect to hire.

Around Grand Rapids, no employers forecast layoffs, and 23 percent said they expect to add jobs.

One busy spot in Grand Rapids is Pridgeon & Clay Inc., a longtime manufacturer of stamped metal parts for the auto industry. With 19 jobs listed in the help wanted ads, the company still is looking for more help.

"We're having a difficult time finding enough good workers," said Kevin Hutchings, a company spokesman.

The company employs more than 700 at its plant at 50 Cottage Grove St. SW. The firm is moving from a five-day work schedule to two mini-weeks, with two shifts running Monday through Thursday and two more Friday through Sunday.

"We have not slowed down," Hutchings said. "We've put on close to 200 people already."

The fourth-quarter forecast reflects better employer confidence, Manpower spokesman Joe Ross said. The previous quarter showed 17 percent of Grand Rapids area employers adding jobs and 3 percent cutting them.

A year ago, 20 percent of companies said they would add jobs, and 7 percent planned cutbacks.

The best prospects this fall are jobs in nondurable goods manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, finance and insurance, and other services. Manpower forecasts no change in hiring for construction, durable goods, transportation and education.

While Manpower looks ahead, analysts at the W.E. Upjohn Institute in Kalamazoo review the past. It has been a quiet summer on the employment front, according to George Erickcek, senior regional analyst for Upjohn.

With West Michigan unemployment ranging around 6 percent, other parameters measured by Upjohn worsened in the latest quarter. That portends a no-growth forecast for jobs.

The Grand Rapids region, including Kent, Allegan, Barry and Ionia counties, posted just a 0.2 percent job growth last quarter. Manufacturing was up a mite, by 0.1 percent, while construction was down slightly in a soft real estate market.

Other indicators were mixed. Help wanted ads were down 16 percent, and new home construction starts fell 27.6 percent. But new jobless claims fell, by 0.8 percent.

Ottawa County lost 900 jobs this summer, pushing overall employment down by 0.8 percent. Losses were in the service sector and construction. Manufacturing jobs edged up by 0.1 percent, but that meager growth was offset by 2.6 percent jobs lost in construction. The county's housing starts were off more than 43 percent in the past year.

On other fronts, Ottawa County's outlook also is trending toward glum, Upjohn said. Service jobs were off 1.8 percent, with 270 jobs lost in the leisure and hospitality sector. Retailers cut 2.5 percent of their work forces last quarter. The county's unemployment rate stands at 5.5 percent.

More condos coming downtown

by Mark Brace

GRAND RAPIDS -- Another eight condominiums are being planned for Monroe Center.

Virgin Soil Development is planning to build eight condos on the long-vacant second and third floors of 56 Monroe Center NW, which also houses XO Asian Cuisine.

With prices ranging from $139,900 to $159,000, The Brickway Residences will be among the lowest-cost condos downtown.

Brice Bossardet, owner of Virgin Soil, said there is a fertile market on the lower end of the condo market.

Less than one block away along Monroe Center, another developer is offering 16 units in the former Fox's Jewelers building, now dubbed Fox Lofts, for $139,900 to $189,900.

"I think if I had 50 of these, I could sell them," Bossardet said. "It's not really tremendously affordable, but when things are going for $250 per square foot, it makes it a lot more reasonable."

Bossardet, who lives in a condo on Monroe Center NW, is developing and selling higher-end condos across the street at the former Central Bank building, 65 Monroe Center, and on the upper floors of a series of buildings known as Front Row Condominiums.

Two of the 800-square-foot units planned already are reserved, he said. An addition to the weathered rear of the building expanded the second and third floors, while also rerouting XO's cooking exhaust above the building.

Bossardet plans a rooftop deck for residents. Some units facing the rear could get balconies, he said. A new elevator will be installed, along with energy-efficient wood windows.

Bossardet said he likely will seek a grant from the Downtown Development Authority's Building Reuse Incentive Program to help offset some costs for updating the building, which is more than 100 years old.

Displaying blog entries 111-120 of 126

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.