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What you get for your real estate dollars

by Mark Brace

Real estate guru Barbara Corcoran compares the country’s housing prices

The wavering housing market sure is a hot topic these days, as it affects those looking to buy and sell across the country. And while there are deals to be had out there, what you get for your money still fluctuates a great deal — depending on where you live and what your community offers. Are you an urbanite or a suburban dweller?  Do you need a good school system or are cultural amenities top on your list?  It will make a big difference in the price of your home.

Real estate expert Barbara Corcoran highlights homes across the country to find the difference in dollars:

The best deals are obviously in the Midwest and the South ($173,000 and $186,000) and the worst deals are on the West Coast ($349,000) followed by the Northeast ($290,000). The properties listed below, which are all a value for the money, offer a good example of the wide range in property to dollar ratio across the country.

Under $300,000
1. Studio apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y., $292,000: It's tiny, only 400 square feet, but it's on a beautiful tree-lined block, steps from a city park with playgrounds, tennis courts and more. It's a great value for an up-and-coming neighborhood, surrounded by a stretch of great restaurants and a short train ride from Manhattan and all that it has to offer.

2. 4BR, 2 bath in East Grand Rapids, Mich., $279,000: Here's a classic colonial home in a wonderful private community. The school system is one of the best in the state and kids can ride their bikes to get ice cream without any worry. It's newly renovated, with 2600 square feet. That includes a wine cellar, exercise room, big kitchen, brick patio and more.


$500,000 - $550,000 range
3. 2BR, 2½ bath in Tucson, Ariz., $499,000: This Southwestern-style townhome is brand-spankin' new in a gated community surrounded by country clubs, golf courses and endless sunshine.

4. 4BR, 3 bath on 11½ acres in Decatur, Ala., $539,000: You get a lot of land and a lot of house — 3800 square feet. The property comes with its own pond and a screened-in pool and patio. It also has a huge kitchen with two big pantries. And even with all that property, it's just minutes from town.

What you get for a million dollars
5. 1BR, 1 bath in Malibu, Calif., $979,000: Here you're buying location — and it's a good one. This home sits on a third of an acre on top of a mountain with beautiful California views. The school system is excellent, with some of the highest SAT scores in the country.

6. 5BR, 5½ bath in Raleigh, N.C., $1,170,000: This is a real Forrest Gump-style big Georgian mansion. It has a rambling 6000 square feet on five wooded acres. There's the 3-level deck, a 2-story great room, and a gourmet kitchen that would make any cook proud. It's also in a very temperate climate with one of the most neighbor-friendly communities in the U.S.

Figure out what you really want and whether or not you're getting good value:
1. Make a short list of the three things most important to you: Is it the school system? Is it the space? Or is it the commute?

2. You need to understand that you can't get everything you want, but you can always get the three things that are most important to you. If you want a shorter commute you'll get a smaller house. But if you buy a smaller house, you'll pay lower taxes. If a great neighborhood is your top priority, you'll automatically get a great school system and that's great if you have kids.

3. Values are always personal, and it's no different with house buying. It's all out there. You've got to be clear about what's most important to you.

Home sales up 6.5 percent, but prices down

by Mark Brace

Christmas in July?

After seeing the monthly home sales numbers, some real estate agents may think so.

More than 1,000 houses were sold in the Grand Rapids area last month, 6.5 percent more than in July 2006. That is only the third time in the past 23 months that monthly sales figures were up from the previous year. Before that it rose in January and in December 2006.

"We may, in fact, be starting to turn the corner," said Jamie Starner, president of the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors. "We're starting to turn the wheel."

The hike in sales is not the only number making people smile. The number of homes being listed also slowed.

The average sale price dropped 6.9 percent to $151,266. While the drop may mean less profit for the seller, many real-estate agents say it is key to making a sale at all.

"We really haven't seen average sale prices like this since 2004," Starner said. "So it's essentially a price rollback.

"Sellers are beginning to get the message that if they are going to sell, they are going to have to reduce their price."

Re/Max agent Amy Miller said she will recognize the bottom of the market when she sees fewer "Price Reduced" signs on houses.

She orders an appraisal up front so her clients are faced with the realities of the market and price their home correctly from the start. Miller said she turned down three listings last week because the clients would not lower their asking price.

 

"It's like a declining stock market," she said. "You can't sell a stock above the market when the market is going down, no matter how much your neighbor's house sold for two years ago."

Rich Conklin, one of Miller's clients, sold his East Grand Rapids home on Robinson Road SE in one day for more than the asking price.

He attributed it to extensive staging and appropriate pricing.

"Amy said, 'Do you want to sell the house? Don't screw around,' " Conklin said.

Cormac and Lisa Smith also listed with Miller, after several months of trying to sell their East Grand Rapids home on their own.

Miller priced it about $20,000 lower than their asking price, although they had expected it to drop during negotiations.

It sold in three days.

"We were surprised," he said. "Even though Amy really wasn't, we were."

A large majority of the sales last month -- 88 percent -- fell below $200,000. Last July showed the same breakdown.

Starner said that points to first-time buyers.

"I was hoping that it was more evenly distributed across the spectrum," he said. "But that's where the market starts.

"You need to topple the first domino to keep people moving."

David Sova, vice president of Heglund-Sova Realty, said only time will tell if the market is on the rise.

"One month isn't a tell-all,

other than you have to start somewhere," he said.

"If in another three months we're holding our own or having small increases, that would be encouraging."

Grand Rapids better than Boston??

by Mark Brace

Why can’t we be more like Grand Rapids?

By JOANN FITZPATRICK

It’s such a big country, America. I don’t know it well, haven’t traveled from sea to shining sea, except by airplane from East to West several times. Last weekend I was in Michigan, not quite the heartland but close enough.

The combined effect of television programs, chain stores and restaurants and electronic gadgets is that we think we’ve been homogenized.

But it’s not so, thank goodness.

I know that when I visited New Orleans, before and after Hurricane Katrina, this is a place very different from Boston or anywhere else in America.

Texas, too. But what of the vast Midwest? Is it really different from New England or California?

Darned right, it is. I was in Grand Rapids, Mich., for a wedding. What I knew about Grand Rapids before going there was that it was the hometown of President Gerald Ford and site of his presidential library and museum. And also the home of Amway, though I and other out-of-town guests had only a vague idea of what Amway sells.

The small talk that predominates at events like this was punctuated repeatedly by wedding guests proclaiming to one another, ‘‘What a nice town, what a surprise!’’ Many if not most of the guests flew in from both coasts and interesting places in between, such as Santa Fe. There was elitism to spare but at the same time a willingness to be charmed by a place that truly seems to represent good old-fashioned American values.

If there are surreptitious litter police, they keep themselves well hidden, but the streets of Grand Rapids are as gleaming as the refurbished buildings throughout the downtown. Community pride is everywhere. I couldn’t help but compare what I saw to cities and towns back home.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Boston and New England, from the coastline to the old mill towns like the one where I grew up, Manchester, N.H. But there’s no disputing that the quality of life in this area continues to deteriorate. We blame government for not investing more in parks and beaches, but who’s dropping the garbage? It’s not the government; it’s us. The mounds of Dunkin’ Donuts cups scarring off-ramps on our highways is disgusting. Local streets are no better and because we seem not to care, the habit just grows.

In Grand Rapids, Midwestern friendliness and helpfulness were everywhere. I left my camera in a cab and within minutes of calling the hotel, staff was on the case. They called back 15 minutes later, not having located it yet but to let me know I had not been forgotten. I nearly fainted from the shock of random kindness. (Yes, I got it back.) When was the last time someone actually cared that you lost an item in their store, or even that you were shopping there?

Downtown Grand Rapids, a city of about 200,000, is a laboratory of urban renewal. Formerly a manufacturing city - home of Kelvinator, for example - it faces a huge challenge in reshaping its economy. The state of Michigan is no help, since its automobile-reliant economy has been in the hopper for years, with more bad news sure to come.

So what is Grand Rapids turning to? Health care. And here is where it could be interesting to Massachusetts. Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids’ biggest employer, is creating a cancer center and also expanding its medical research, including a new center for molecular medicine. Michigan State University is moving its medical school to the city. You may say, ‘‘So what?’’ But think about all those Boston-area college graduates, our biggest source of human capital, and the cost of living in Massachusetts, and then compare it to Grand Rapids. There you can buy a five-bedroom house in the historic district for $400,000. Yup, $400,000, and you could walk to work, breathe clean air and not worry about litter blowing in your face. And your children could attend a neighborhood school. The historic district, a microcosm of American architectural styles, was rehabilitated decades ago solely because of the efforts of public-spirited citizens.

I am not writing this to encourage young people to leave Massachusetts. I think it’s important to recognize, though, that we don’t necessarily have it all here. We have first-class hospitals and colleges with costs to match and housing prices that make building a future here ever more difficult. We also have a shortage of the kind of community spirit I saw in Grand Rapids.

There, the Amway Corp. and its founders put their names all over downtown, investing in public buildings they hope will rejuvenate the city.

Here, corporations hand out a few dollars to local charities, but there is less to donate as they are bought up by national companies more interested in naming rights on arenas than in philanthropy or rebuilding communities.

Look around your town: Can it be improved? Probably. I am tired of dirty streets and blaring car horns, bad manners and shoddy service. We’re better than that, aren’t we?

JoAnn Fitzpatrick, former editorial page editor

Copyright 2007 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Saturday, June 16, 2007

Getting the Price Right On Home Value Sites

by Mark Brace
Getting the Price Right On Home Value Sites

Anyone can research the potential resale value or sales history of their home -- or their neighbor's -- by plugging in the address on Internet sites like Cyberhomes.com, RealEstateABC.com and Zillow.com.

However, while all three allow house hunters to price or compare properties they may be interested in, and potential sellers to get guidance in setting an asking price, the sites aren't always 100% accurate.

Zillow's calculation of a home's value  -- a "Zestimate" -- should be a "starting point," says Amy Bohutinsky, Zillow's director of communications.

All these sites utilize at least some public information, so in regions where housing data is not complete or up to date, these sites' calculations may fall short.

"In some places, we don't have enough information to complete a Zestimate," Ms. Bohutinsky says. According to Zillow, of the 70 million homes in their database, the site has Zestimates for 52 million of them, or approximately 74%.

Likewise, Cyberhomes has data on more than 100 million property records across the U.S., and RealEstateABC has property information for more than 60 million U.S. homes.

To counter these issues, Cyberhomes, RealEstateABC and Zillow invite consumers to update property data. On Zillow, anyone can view changes to a home's profile, so the site may be useful to sellers who want to market their properties. Zillow has several measures in place to restrict non-homeowners from editing other people's property profiles. "Any user can flag content for review by Zillow's customer service team," Ms. Bohutinsky says.

Any consumer can adjust a home's details on Cyberhomes and RealEstateABC, but the revised profiles are available only to the person who made the changes. As a result, these sites can be used by anyone who wants to factor in how multiple variables may affect the price a particular property may get on the market.

To get the most out of these sites, use these steps to update home profiles and price estimates:

Cyberhomes.com

Type your home's address to get to the property's highlights page. To adjust the home's estimated worth, click "Refine Value" and add the number of bedrooms/bathrooms, square feet, etc.

To factor fixes or remodels into a property's estimated value, click on the plus sign to the left of "Home Improvements." Select a project from the pull-down menu, type in the date it was completed and its total cost. Hit "Add" to factor in the changes. Repeat for additional home improvements and click "Apply changes & continue."

To further refine the site's estimate of a property's value, select similar nearby homes. To do so, hit "Choose Comparable Home Sales." Click on the properties most like the home in question and hit "Apply changes & continue."

Choose "Adjust Market/Home Conditions" to rate the property's lot size, view, privacy and other features on a scale ranging from "Worse" to "Same" to "Better," and to describe the local real-estate market as "Slow," "Average" or "Hot."

Click "Update" for a new calculation of the home's worth.

The information you supply will be used to create a new estimation of the property's value, which will be listed under "Your Changes" on the search results page, and isn't made public. "It is a clipboard just for you to use," explains Marty Frame, senior vice president and chief information officer of Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions. While homeowners may want an updated measure of their residence's worth, not all want that estimation to be public, say to a neighbor or tax assessor, he explains. "There is a real reluctance of people to come online and give up their private information," he says.

RealEstateABC.com

If RealEstateABC has calculated an "ABC Value" for your home, you can adjust it by clicking on the "Adjust Value" tab in the table to the left of the map. (If there is no ABC Value for your property, your changes will have no effect.) Rate the residence's interior, exterior, lot size, view and privacy/noise on a scale from "worst in group," to "average" to "best in group." For example, if you think the house is under par for a certain quality -- say, perhaps it's on a busy street -- slide the slider to the left.

Again, only if the home has an ABC Value assigned to it, you can fix or add property characteristics (e.g., number of bedrooms or bathrooms) by clicking on the edit button for that feature and entering the correct information.

To further refine the site's calculation of the property's worth, select homes that are a close match in value from the provided list of addresses. After making your choices, click "Done" to save.

The new ABC Value is available only to you and is not permanently kept on the site. RealEstateABC doesn't make these new calculations publicly available because of the "subjectivity" involved in estimating a home's value, says Michael Dodge, general manager of the home and real-estate division of Internet Brands. "What is valuable to one seller or buyer isn't valuable to another," he explains. Homeowners can use ABC values to set a selling price, while house hunters can utilize them to compare various properties they may be interested in, he says. "A buyer can go out and look at a few different homes and adjust [the scales] according to what they observed in a particular house," he says.

Zillow.com

Homeowners can "claim" their house or property on Zillow.com and update information for Zillow's users (and potential buyers) to see about their property, such as the number of bedrooms and square footage, and note recent remodels or important details about the home. "It is something we recommend any seller to do," says Ms. Bohutinsky, Zillow's director of communications. Homeowners can advertise their home for free on Zillow or suggest a "Make Me Move" price (a dollar amount that might convince a homeowner who isn't selling to move), so updating one's home facts on Zillow is potentially important for those reasons. At least 600,000 U.S. homeowners have claimed and edited the profiles on their properties, Ms. Bohutinsky says. For homes for which Zillow has a "Zestimate" (an estimation of the residence's market value, based on public data) adding additional details about a home will create an "owner's estimate," or a new calculation of that property's worth. Such estimates run side-by-side with Zestimates, but later this year, the site will incorporate homeowner-added information into the Zestimates, Ms. Bohutinsky says.

To claim a home and create a new estimate, enter in an address, click "Claim Your Home" and register with the site by choosing the legal name of the property's owner from a list of randomly generated ones and agree to a virtual affidavit.

To proceed, go to your home's details page, click on the address and hit "Edit Facts." Adding information to a property's profile is as simple as typing in the new data and saving.

By Lauren Baier Kim :Ms. Kim is a senior editor at  www.RealEstateJournal.com.

Most Affordable Suburbs in Midwest. There are still spots in the Midwest where home prices are not out of reach yet and the quality of life is high. It's great to see a suburb of Grand Rapids, MI Highlighted in this article.

In its ongoing series, BusinessWeek Online is taking a look at the most affordable suburbs in the Midwestern states. Using data compiled by Sperling’s Best Places, it lists the most attractive suburbs alphabetically, taking into account cost of living, violent crime, school test scores, and median home prices.

The following are the top 25 Midwest suburbs that made BusinessWeek Online's list, along with their proximity to big cities and their median home prices. Locales are listed alphabetically.

Most Affordable Midwest Cities

  1. Appleton-Oshkosh-Neenah, Wis. (89.3 miles to Milwaukee): $119,500
  2. Columbia, Mo. (145.5 miles to St. Louis): $269,000
  3. Coralville, Iowa (4 miles to Iowa City): $239,800
  4. DeForest, Wis. (12.3 miles to Madison): $274,900
  5. Elkhorn, Neb. (15.6 miles to Omaha): $298,000
  6. Evendale, Ohio (9.2 miles to Cincinnati): $259,900
  7. Fargo, N.D. (276.7 miles to Minneapolis): $199,000
  8. Green Bay, Wis. (101.1 miles to Milwaukee): $229,900
  9. Hilliard, Ohio (10.8 miles to Columbus): $195,000
  10. Hudsonville, Mich. (16.5 miles to Grand Rapids): $214,900
  11. Lake Zurich, Ill. (37.2 miles to Chicago): $659,900
  12. Lakeville, Minn. (18.9 miles to Minneapolis): $402,300
  13. Lawrence, Kan. (48.6 miles to Kansas City): $284,900
  14. Maumee, Ohio (8.5 miles to Toledo): $234,700
  15. Noblesville, Ind. (19.9 miles to Indianapolis): $185,000
  16. Rapid City, S.D.: $239,500
  17. Rochester, Minn. (77.9 miles to St. Paul): $373,000
  18. Shawnee, Kan. (15.1 miles to Kansas City): $300,000
  19. Sheboygan, Wis. (50.8 miles to Milwaukee): $329,000
  20. St. Charles, Mo. (21.6 miles to St. Louis): $249,800
  21. Waukesha, Wis. (19.6 miles to Milwaukee): $209,500
  22. Wausau, Wis. (131.5 miles to Madison): $149,900
  23. West Des Moines, Iowa (9 miles to Des Moines): $349,000
  24. West Lafayette, Ind. (69.2 miles to Indianapolis): $195,000
  25. Wichita, Kan.: $127,900

This article was taking from Daily Real Estate News  |  June 2, 2007

For Sale By Owner -- Is It Worth It?

by Mark Brace

Sell Your Home Yourself And…You Can Save The Commission! Many homeowners believe that to maximize their profit on a home sale, they should sell it themselves. At first glance, they feel selling a home is simple and why should they pay a broker fees for something they could do themselves? In fact, close to 25% of all the homes sold last year were sold For Sale By Owner (FSBO). However, close to half of the FSBOs said that they would hire a professional next time they sold. Thirty percent said they were unhappy with the results they achieved by choosing FSBO. Why? Many FSBOs told us that the time, paperwork and everyday responsibilities involved were not worth the amount of money they saved in commissions. For others, the financial savings were even more disappointing. By the time they figured the amount of fees paid to outside consultants, inspectors, appraisers, title lawyers, escrow and loan officers, marketing, advertising...they would have been better off having paid the broker’s fee (which would have included many of these charges up front). Selling a home requires an intimate understanding of the real estate market. If the property is priced too high, it will sit and develop a reputation for being a problem property. If the property is priced too low, you will cost yourself serious money. Some FSBOs discovered that the lost money as a result of poor decisions outweighed the commission. Before you decide to sell FSBO, consider these questions and weigh the answers of assuming the responsibility versus employing a professional. A little time spent investigating up front will pay off tenfold in the end.

Questions To Consider:

  1. Do I have the time, energy, know-how and ability to devote a full-forced effort to sell my home? One of the keys to selling your home efficiently and profitably is complete accessibility. Many homes have sat on the market much longer than necessary because the owner was unwilling or unavailable to show the property. Realize that a certain amount of hours each day is necessary to sell your home.
  2. Am I prepared to deal with an onslaught of buyers who perceive FSBOs as targets for low-balling? One of the challenges of selling a home is screening unqualified prospects and dealing with low-ballers. It often goes unnoticed...how much time, effort and expertise it requires to spot these people quickly. Settling for a low-ball bid is usually worse than paying broker commissions.
  3. Am I offering financing options to the buyer? Am I prepared to answer questions about financing? One of the keys to selling, whether it’s a home, a car...anything, is to have all the necessary information the prospective buyer needs readily available and to offer them options. Think about the last time you purchased something of value: did you make a decision before you had all your ducks in a row? By offering financing options, you give the home buyer the ability to work on their terms and you open up the possibilities of selling your home quickly and more profitably. A professional real estate agent will have a complete team, from lenders to title reps, for you to utilize...they’ll all be at your disposal.
  4. Do I fully understand the legal ramifications and necessary steps required in selling a home? Many home sales have been lost due to incomplete paperwork, lack of inspections or not meeting your state's disclosure laws. Are you completely informed of all the steps necessary to sell real estate? If not, a professional would be a wise choice.
  5. Do I have the capability of handling the legal contracts, agreements and any disputes with buyers before or after the offer is presented? Ask yourself if you are well-versed in legalese and if you are prepared to handle disputes with buyers. To avoid disputes, it is wise to put all negotiations and agreements in writing. Many home sales have been lost due to misinterpretation of what was negotiated.
  6. Have I contacted the necessary professionals... title, inspector (home and pest), attorney and escrow company? Are you familiar with the top inspectors and escrow companies? Don’t randomly select inspectors, attorneys and title reps. Like any profession, there are inadequate individuals who will slow, delay and possibly even cost you the transaction.

If these questions raise some concerns, you may want to speak with a professional. We sincerely hope these tips and ideas are of value to you. If there is any way we can be of service, please contact our office. We would consider it a privilege to serve you! Best regards, Mark Brace

Displaying blog entries 121-126 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.