Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A New Site for The Northern Angler

Stepping it up in time for The Holidays!

Our good friends at The Northern Angler Fly Shop in Traverse City just launched their new site and are looking forward to moving into their new location on West Front Street in Traverse City just after the first of the year. If you're looking to buy something for the angler in your life or want to give the spouse some good gift ideas, stop in at The Northern Angler Online and check out their complete selection of gifts, gear, books and other fly fishing goodies. Tell Kirk, the owner, that Homewaters sent you and receive $10 off a purchase of $100 or more!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tolerance during the holidays

In recent years, and during the holidays in particular, there tends to be a little more tolerance among groups of individuals that may otherwise not see eye to eye. I just wanted to take this opportunity to offer holiday cheer to those who may think we, in Northern Michigan, would rather not have to deal with those from out of the area.

That's right, we actually love not only "fudgies", but "trunk slammers" (especially late Friday evenings when you wake us up) and "flat landers" (not too many hills downstate)! They are absolutely an integral part of life up north. While there are "townies" (those born and raised in small Northern Michigan towns) who would rather have the ski hills and groomed snowmobile trails to themselves, most "trolls" (those that live just below The Mackinaw Bridge) are more than happy to share the area with the "hourlies" (union factory workers) and even "248's" (area code for Ann Arbor and surroundings) and "586's" (one of the suburban Detroit area codes).

We completely understand your envy for us. It's the same way we feel about "yoopers" (people who live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula). They get to enjoy such a laid back lifestyle and some spectacular scenery just not available below the bridge. If we work hard enough, save a few pennies and have the courage to make that next step, we can aspire to become "troopers" (people who were "townies" but moved to the U.P.) and culminate the progression of life in Michigan! The lure of pastys alone is enough to make me envious!

So as you're out and about over the holidays, try very hard to appreciate what you have and not to look down on those who may not be as fortunate. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, eh?!

"The best thing that could happen to the U.P. would be for someone to bomb the bridge".---John Voelker, former Michigan Supreme Court Justice and the author of Anatomy of a Murder and Yooper resident---

"In winter we shovel snow and in summer we swat mosquitoes. During the spring and fall we rest up for swatting and shoveling".---Peter Oikarinen's reply to the often-asked question of Yoopers, "What do you people do up there?" 1987---

Friday, December 5, 2008

Winter Wonderland

What a great day at "The Office"!
On Wednesday, Lance Weyeneth and I had the opportunity to view two great new parcels that will be coming up for sale on The AuSable. One is a 27 acres parcel that is truly spectacular. All the fresh snow made the forest seem almost surreal. If we were more than 20' away from each other we'd lose track of where the other was. Even sound would not carry for more than 40' or so through the heavy snow and pines. It was such a great day to really appreciate the beauty of the areas we get to service. There is no more beautiful time on the river than during the winter months. You'll rarely see another person, the wildlife gathers along the river corridor for warmth and the magnitude of the silence is something rarely experienced. Enjoy the holiday season and try to get up north if you get a chance. The early snow has really made for some breathtaking scenery!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Winter Fun Properties!

With a huge blast of fresh snow, it looks like we're on our way to a terrific year for the winter sports enthusiast. It would be a great time to pick up that property in the heart of Northern Michigan's snowmobiling country or near one of the wonderful ski resorts up North. We can help find the best property for your needs and budget! Here are a couple of suggestions from our inventory of fine properties;

This large home on Kalkaska County's Bear Lake, is right around the corner from The Blue Bear snowmobile trail which offers some of the best snow in Northern Lower Michigan and regularly groomed trails. The house has a three car attached garage and overlooks terrific sandy frontage on the lake. Ice fish trout out front for just $399,900! Click the photo for more details or e-mail mary@homewaters.net for more information.

A little farther east in Grayling is this classic Northern Michigan Log Cabin. A glass front wood stove adds character and heat on those cold winter nights. The AuSable River in this area is open to year round fly fishing! With National Forest across the street, snowmobiling and cross country skiing are within easy reach! A barn provides a place to work on the sleds. Only $166,000!!! Click the photo for more info or e-mail chad@homewaters.net

Just down the road from The Lovell's Tavern is this great cottage with shared access to KP Lake. Once again, it has a large garage for all the toys and is in a terrific area for lots of snow and great trails. Tons of State and National Forest in the area provides wonderful winter recreation opportunities. It's also within easy reach of Gaylord for skiing and Garland Resort for wonderful cross country trails. Priced at just $110,000, it's a great way to get up north on a budget. e-mail bear@homewaters.net for more details.

If you're looking for something a little farther south, this wonderful cottage overlooks The Little Manistee River and is not far from Crystal Mountain Resort for downhill and cross country skiing. A great snowmobiling area, this property has a large garage and natural wood burning fireplace making it a great winter time spot for only $159,500. e-mail brian@homewaters.net for more information.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


I hope you and your family enjoyed a terrific Thanksgiving this week. I had the pleasure of taking part in the tradition of going to Ford Field to watch The Lions get beat on Thanksgiving Day! We had a wonderful time with all of our family, eventhough our favorite team (by default) couldn't come close to pulling out a win.

There's plenty of early snow in Northern Michigan already, with more on the way, so you may want to plan an earlier trip this year to enjoy some skiing, snowmobiling or sledding! The ice is starting to form on many area lakes as well, so it looks like we may have a nice long season in the shanty! Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mortgage Rates Drop!

Mortgage rates fell dramatically to 5.75% for a 30 year fixed rate with no points down! That makes buying much easier for those who were running tight monthly payments. Although the media has been saying there is no money available, that simply isn't true. If you don't have a job, a decent credit score or any down payment money, you'll be looking at an uphill climb. If, however, you've managed to put away a few bucks, have maintained a good credit score and have a good work history, now is a terrific time to take advantage of not only the good rates, but low home selling prices. If you've been sitting on the sidelines on the assumption that you can't get into a home right now, it may be worth a phone call to one of our agents who can put you in touch with some lenders and see what can be done to get you into a home by the new year. Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday!!! Go Lions!!! (I'm the eternal optimist as you can see!!!)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Inflation Tame

As the stock market fell to five-year lows during the week, investors moved to less risky investments. Treasury markets were the primary beneficiary of the flight to safety, and Treasury yields reached the lowest levels in decades. Mortgage rates fell during the week as well, but to a much lesser extent.
The news during the week on inflation pointed to lower future levels. The October Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation report showed a large monthly decline in the overall index due to lower oil prices. The core rate, which excludes food and energy, saw its first monthly decline in over 25 years, and the annual rate fell to 2.2% from 2.5% in September. Oil prices have continued to move even lower this month, which will be reflected in the November data. Lower expected inflation is almost always a good thing for mortgage rates. In the housing sector, October Housing Starts fell to a record low, and Building Permits, a leading indicator, fell 12%. These were weak numbers, but a decline in new home building will reduce the number of unsold homes on the market, which should help to stabilize home prices sooner. The recent decline in home prices has one bright spot. Combined with relatively low mortgage rates, homes have reached their highest level of affordability in four years, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The NAHB index compares the cost of paying for a home, based on average home prices and mortgage rates, to the median household income. Increased affordability allows more people to participate in the housing market and should boost demand. For more information or for free mortgage advice please email me at corey@frontstreetmtg.com.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rescue Plan Changes Direction

For mortgage markets, the biggest news of the week came from Treasury Secretary Paulson during an update on the $700 billion TARP rescue plan. Paulson surprised investors with the news that the Treasury has scrapped the original plan to purchase troubled assets from banks and will use the funds in other ways to support the still "fragile" financial system. Lawmakers and investors were provided few details about the anticipated future use of the funds, and this abrupt shift in plans added to the uncertainty confronting investors in recent weeks. While mortgage rates ended the week nearly unchanged from the prior week, daily volatility remained high. During October and November, movements in mortgage rates have been much larger than usual, primarily due to the high degree of uncertainty facing investors. Will there be a second major government stimulus package and what form will it take? What will be the impact of the extra debt issued to fund the government programs? Will other countries such as China have less money available to invest in US bonds, including mortgage backed securities, while they stimulate their own economies? Finally, how will the Treasury use the remaining funds from the $700 TARP rescue plan (discussed above)? Once investors have answers to these and other questions, we should see less volatility in mortgage rates. For more information or for free mortgage advice email me today at corey@frontstreetmtg.com.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Business is once again booming!

Late season deals drive the market forward

The failure of some of the nation's largest banks and a very volatile stock market had most of our once active buyers sitting on the sidelines for the month of September and a lot of October. As the election has neared however, many of those once active buyers have returned to the market with a host of new buyers to take advantage of end of the season deals on great Northern Michigan Properties. We just closed a very nice log home sale on The AuSable River and have four other offers in play on waterfront properties as I write this entry!!! Gas prices have fallen dramatically, the Dow is approaching 10,000 again and the election results should be in late tonight. That all adds up to more stability and more people having confidence to make long term financial decisions. If you've been considering the purchase of property up north, now is a terrific time to buy. It's also important to note that financing is readily available for anyone with solid credit and some down payment funds. I'm not sure where all the media reports have come from that, "no one will be able to get a loan," but we're just not seeing that to be accurate.

Indian Summer!

Quiet at the Sandbar?

It's not often that we get to enjoy 74 degrees on election day in Northern Michigan. As mentioned in a previous post, we're shooting some photos for some upcoming advertising and we had the chance to get out on The Torch Lake sandbar on a spectacular day to take the image to the right. Because everyone else' boat was either under shrink wrap or in a garage for the season, we were able to enjoy a rare quiet moment on the sometimes infamous spot. On hot summer days it's not uncommon to have 100 - 200 or more boats enjoying the hard sand and crystal clear cool waters of one of The Nations most spectacular bodies of water. It definitely has a different peaceful feel this time of year. If you haven't yet gone to the polls to vote, enjoy the weather and do your part to put your favorite candidates in office in 2009!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mortgage Rates Improve

While the headlines were focused on the poor performance of the stock market, mortgage rates improved moderately during a volatile week. Mortgage rates were helped by a couple of factors. Seeking to reduce risk, investors sold stocks and moved the funds into relatively safer Treasury bonds and government guaranteed mortgage backed securities. In addition, slower economic growth and lower energy prices reduced expectations for future inflation. More good news for the housing market came from the September Existing Home Sales report, which rose 5.5% from August to the highest annual rate since August 2007.
Another important development was a decline in Libor rates during the week. Libor rates are viewed as a primary indicator of credit market conditions. They are also an important benchmark for setting the rates on many consumer loans, including adjustable-rate mortgages. Libor rates shot higher during the credit crisis when financial institutions became reluctant to lend money to each other. The broad series of recent government actions brought Libor rates down closer to more normal levels. A series of government officials made statements during the week, including Fed Chief Bernanke, former Fed Chief Greenspan, Treasury Secretary Paulson, and FDIC Chairman Bair. The common theme is that the government is ready to take further actions as needed to support the economy and financial markets. Broad support was seen for a second fiscal stimulus package. The decline in the housing market was a key factor in causing the credit crisis, and many proposals are under consideration to help stabilize the housing market and prevent foreclosures. The bottom line, though, is that it will take some time for economic conditions to improve. For more information or for free mortgage advice please email me at corey@frontstreetmtg.com.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Welcome to Our Office

As part of a new advertising campaign we've been doing some photo shoots to show the location of our "offices". A very important aspect of our business model is to get rid of the costs and headaches that come along with a standard bricks and mortar office. This allows us to more closely focus on marketing and introducing new technologies to our clients that will actually help them to buy and sell waterfront property. We wholeheartedly believe that we can be of better service to our clients by spending more time in the field making ourselves aware of available properties and touring properties with our buyers to make sure they find the perfect match for their needs. We are just coming off the peak of our color change up here in Northern Michigan, but it is still spectacular out there. It got down into the 20's last night, so you may want to have a neighbor turn on the heat at your cabin up here if you haven't found time to get up north soon.
One of the greatest things I realized today as we were driving around and setting up shots was how quiet the lakes and rivers of Northern Michigan are this time of year. We were very surprised to see a fly angler fishing The AuSable in front of our cabin when we arrived this morning. It worked out great for the photos! He was equally as surprised having spent the entire morning with the river to himself. If you can make the time to get up this fall it will be well worth the trip. With less traffic and fewer people, you'll get to see a side of Northern Michigan often missed by the summer crowds. The wildlife tends to be more active and the fishing and hunting can be spectacular if you enjoy those past times. We hope to see you soon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Investor Confidence Slowly Rises

On Monday, the government announced that it will use up to $250 billion of the $700 billion rescue fund to make equity investments in a wide range of financial institutions. Their purpose is to inject capital into the banking system and encourage lending. Many other countries have taken a similar step. This, along with the other government actions, seems to have increased investor confidence in the banking system, and conditions in the credit markets showed signs of improvement during the week. Equity markets were extremely volatile this week, and the stock market ended with moderate gains. Mortgage rates moved in a very wide range during the week as well, but they finished the week nearly unchanged.
In a speech Wednesday, Fed Chief Bernanke suggested that the key tools to "confront and solve" market problems are now in place. He emphasized, though, that financial markets and the economy may take months to recover. Many investors had expected that the rescue plan and other government actions would have a larger immediate impact. Now the general outlook is for economic growth to remain weaker than normal until at least the middle of 2009. Bernanke added that he expects the inflation rate to decline due to a slowing economy and lower energy prices, which would be good news for future mortgage rates. The inflation data released during the week supported the view that inflation rates are slowing. The September Consumer Price Index (CPI) remained flat from August, and the core rate, which excludes food and energy, rose only 0.1% for the month. The Producer Price Index (PPI) reflected an even greater impact from lower energy prices with a substantial decline. For more information or for free mortgage advice please email me at corey@frontstreetmtg.com.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit

This is an excerpt from a recently received newsletter from the National Association of Realtors.

WASHINGTON — First-time homebuyers should begin planning now to take advantage of a new tax credit included in the recently enacted Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.
Available for a limited time only, the credit:
Applies to home purchases after April 8, 2008, and before July 1, 2009.
Reduces a taxpayer’s tax bill or increases his or her refund, dollar for dollar.
Is fully refundable, meaning that the credit will be paid out to eligible taxpayers, even if they owe no tax or the credit is more than the tax that they owe.

However, the credit operates much like an interest-free loan, because it must be repaid over a 15-year period. So, for example, an eligible taxpayer who buys a home today and properly claims the maximum available credit of $7,500 on his or her 2008 federal income tax return must begin repaying the credit by including one-fifteenth of this amount, or $500, as an additional tax on his or her 2010 return.

Eligible taxpayers will claim the credit on new IRS Form 5405. This form, along with further instructions on claiming the first-time homebuyer credit, will be included in 2008 tax forms and instructions and be available later this year on IRS.gov, the IRS Web site.

What a difference a day makes

With nearly a 1,000 point gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Monday, the largest single day gain in its history, the market showed a real sense of confidence that the moves made by The United States and other governments around the world will have a positive impact on the current economic situation. While it is a good sign, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone to see a lot of ups and downs for a little while as investors try to take advantage of the erratic swings in the market. There's one thing for certain, property values will not fall 10% in a single day only to recover almost as much a few days later. For the faint of heart who don't enjoy daily swings like these, real estate offers a place to put your money that reliably increases over the long term, is never worth zero, and can right now be had at a bargain in many market segments!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stocks Fall Further

This week the stock market fell to the lowest level since 2003. Normally mortgage markets improve during a stock market decline, since Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae mortgage backed securities (the vehicles through which most mortgages made today are sold) are considered a relatively safe haven. This week, however, the prices paid for these securities moved lower as well. One reason is that some investment funds have been forced to reduce their leverage and sell nearly every asset class in their portfolios. Another factor is investor concern that the supply of debt will increase significantly as the government funds its rescue actions. Mortgage rates ended the week moderately higher. Investors viewed the $700 billion rescue plan passed last week as a necessary first step, but not an immediate solution to the credit crisis. Governments around the world took a variety of additional steps during the week to support the banking system. A historic coordinated interest rate cut from many central banks took place on Wednesday. The Federal Reserve lowered the Fed Funds rate by one half point to 1.50%, citing reduced inflationary pressures due to an economic slowdown and falling energy prices. The Fed Funds rate heavily influences short-term interest rates, but its impact on long-term mortgage rates varies based on inflation expectations. In this case, the Fed rate cut most likely helped move mortgage rates a little lower, but the factors described above had more influence. The decline in home prices was a major cause of the credit crisis, and stabilization in the housing market will be important to resolve the problems. Little noticed this week, August Pending Home Sales jumped 7% from July, far above the consensus for a small decline. They were 9% higher than one year ago and were at the highest level since June 2007. Pending Home Sales are a leading indicator for the housing market, meaning that the next Existing and New Home Sales reports may show increases. Investors will be closely watching future housing market data to see if the trend continues. For more information or for free mortgage advice please email me at corey@frontstreetmtg.com.

The Greatest Time of Year

Some may prefer the warmth of summer or the explosion of colors in the spring or the brilliance of a heavy winter snowfall, but for me there is no better time of year than right now. The crispness of the air, the spectacular colors, tremendous hunting and fishing opportunities and so much more. I had the opportunity to head over to our family hunting camp this past weekend with my wife and daughters and really get into the season. Wood needed to be cut for the upcoming deer season and my old blind was finally taken over by mother nature and had to be removed. I'll be hoping for dry weather during this hunting season as I hunt from my portable climbing stand. The girls, at ages 7 and 4, really loved helping to stack the wood and Autumn had her first opportunity to drive the Gator! She stayed on the trail most of the time! Taking a few days away and just getting outdoors is a great way to pull your mind away from the daily grind and recharge those batteries. If you haven't taken the opportunity to spend some quality time with your family recently, get out there while the weather is good and remind yourself why you work so hard in the first place.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Sky is Falling!!???

The sky is falling!!!! The sky is falling!!!! If I have to read any more of this stuff, I may lose it! Talk of a depression and a global failure are very frightening indeed, but is there really a chance of that occuring? As in any other presidential campaign year, a lot of media attention is driven towards the dire state of the economy which often times erodes investor and consumer confidence making things even worse. There are some very real problems out there right now that will take some time and effort to correct. Most people forget that just one year ago, to the day in fact, the Dow hit an all time high!!! You would think we've been in a downward spiral that began 7 years and 10 months ago the way it's portrayed in the media. I try my best to seek out good information from unbiased sources that will allow me to form my own oppinions. I found this to be a great article on the state of the economy http://news-press.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080930/BUSINESS/809300379/1001/archives. Sure, we've got our problems and it's going to take a while for people to settle down and get on with their lives. I personally, along with a lot of people we're working with right now, have chosen to continue working hard and work within the market we're given. We aren't given enough months in our lifetime to think doom and gloom for too long a period. It's spectacular out there right now, so get out away from the news and the computer and enjoy this terrific fall season.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Congress Passes Rescue Bill

All eyes were on Congress last week as they debated the financial rescue plan. Fed Chief Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson proposed the $700 billion plan to purchase troubled mortgage assets from financial institutions, providing the institutions with much needed capital. The expectation is that the institutions will use the freed up capital to make credit more readily available. On Monday, the House unexpectedly voted against the plan, and the stock market plunged. A revised plan, which retained the core of the original plan, passed by a wide margin in the Senate on Wednesday and passed in the House on Friday. Despite the historic events this week, mortgage rates ended the week nearly unchanged.
In the shadow of the debate over the rescue plan, the economic data released during the week continued to highlight the weakness in the economy. The monthly Employment report showed that the economy lost -159K jobs in September, worse than the consensus forecast of -105K. The economy has lost jobs for nine straight months, which is the worst performance since the period following 9/11. The Unemployment Rate remained at 6.1%, which was up from 4.7% one year ago. Exports have been a source of strength this year, but economic weakness around the world has hurt in this area as well. It is hoped that the rescue plan will be a strong first step in boosting the economy, and other actions are also expected to help. Falling oil prices and low wage inflation have eased inflationary pressures. This will allow the Fed more flexibility to cut rates and stimulate the economy. Investors have priced in a half-point cut in the Fed Funds rate by the end of the year. For more information or for a free mortgage consultation please email me at corey@frontstreetmtg.com.

Monday, October 6, 2008

All real estate is not created equal

Is premium property on The Ausable River the strongest real estate market in the country? I haven't taken the opportunity to look as close at every national market, but based on the general statistics, I can definitely make the argument. In the history of The AuSable River, there have been 16 sales of $400,000 or more. 7 of those 16 properties have sold since February of 2007! In 2007 and 2008, Homewaters, L.L.C. had the pleasure of representing 6 properties of $400,000 or more and we sold every one of them except for one, which is currently listed for $1,395,000. In fact, we sold every residential property we had listed on The AuSable River's mainstream except for that one property and one that we have an accepted offer on right now.

Perhaps more impressive is the fact that we sold 4 of the 6 most expensive properties on the river to date during 2007 and 2008 including sales of $750,000, $640,000, $624,000 and $600,000. When other markets are tumbling, there is a strong demand for prime riverfront property. For those looking for a stable place to put their investment dollars, The Ausable and other prime Northern Michigan rivers should definitely be at the top of the list for consideration. Get in touch if you'd like more detailed informaition on market statistics for AuSable River Real Estate or any other segment of the market in Northern Michigan.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Homewaters is Growing!

Most people find it hard to believe, but Homewaters, L.L.C. has had a terrific sales year and increased our sales over a very strong 2007 by quite a bit. We've had two years now to dial in our business model and have really gone a long way toward figuring out this new world of real estate created by the internet. By constantly analyzing our website and the exposure our properties receive, we've managed to build a strong brand loyalty through the internet and it's lead to a great year in the face of most other brokerages suffering a large downturn. Thank you very much to all of you who helped make 2008 such a huge year for our company!

Because of our success, we've been receiving calls from property owners all over Northern Michigan who would like us to represent their properties. One of the keys to our success has been the fact that each agent or broker within our company services a specific geographic area. We carefully selected each agent because of their knowledge base in those areas. Thank you to all of those potential buyers who contacted us this year in search of property in areas that we do not currently service. I'm sorry we had to refer you to other firms, but hopefully in 2009 we'll be able to put you in contact with one of our own agents who can provide the level of service that we pride ourselves on.

Many segments of our market have maintained their value even in the face of the current economic conditions. In other areas, prices have come down to make it very attractive for well qualified buyers to be able to get into a waterfront property that just a few years ago was out of reach. There are some terrific opportunities to buy in Northern Michigan Real Estate and we'll do our best to ensure we can service any interested buyer. Thanks again for all the support and kind comments we've received over the past year. We look forward to a strong finish to 2008 and to expand our dominance into other waterfront markets throughout Northern Michigan in 2009.

New Technology for Mason, Oceana, Manistee Counties

The Mason Oceana, Manistee Board of Realtors (MOM Board) announced last week that they will be joining into a data sharing agreement with The Southwestern Michigan Regional Information Center (SWMRIC). This is a group of 7 real estate boards extending from an area North of Grand Rapids all the way along The Lake Michigan shoreline to the Indiana border. This is an important step forward for property owners and potential buyers in Mason Oceana and Manistee Counties. The current system used by the MOM Board is quite outdated and does not provide very broad distribution of information on properties in that area.

Homewaters, L.L.C. is one of only a handful of companies that receives a data feed into our website from The MOM Board which allows our website users to view all the available properties for sale in Mason Oceana and Manistee Counties. The new feed coming from SWMRIC will provide listing information for every property in Southwestern Michigan from participating brokers. This means much more information available on our site and an expansion of our service area! For our sellers, it means every Realtor in any one of the other 7 boards of real estate will now receive the data about their property for sale when conducting searches for potential buyers. This should go a long way to driving more buyers to that area and increasing demand. The change is to take place on or around February 1, 2009, so check in early next year if you've been looking for property near The Lake Michigan shoreline in Central and Southern Michigan.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Big Bounce on Wall Street

After suffering one of the largest single day point losses in history, the stock market made a strong bounce back today and quickly gained back 484 of the 777 points lost the previous day. Speeches by President George Bush, Senator John McCain, Senator Barack Obama and other U.S. governmental leaders provided a solid sense of confidence that a recovery bill would in fact be coming out of congress in the very near future. Many investors jumped back into the market to take advantage of some of the bargains created during yesterdays sell off. Many more investors have decided to wait and see what would happen.

As is often the case, the real estate market often follows the stock market. In recent weeks, we've had a solid number of buyers looking to take advantage of good end of the season buying opportunities. With the news over the past week, however, most of those buyers have decided to wait and see how the stock market reacts to the legislation that eventually comes out of congress. Almost without exception, most analysts feel that the forced debate over the scope and structure of the recovery legislation will help to ensure it's something that will actually help the american tax payer and have longer lasting positive impacts. Like most of you, we're going to watch the news to make sure our elected officials do what they were sent to Washington to do and put together legislation that actually addresses a real problem. Once everyone is confident that has been accomplished, we'll likely see those same tentative buyers get back in the game and make a move to acquire a late season deal in beautiful Northern Michigan.

Once we have an opportunity to review the legislation that actually gets voted into law, we'll be sure to provide analysis to you from leaders in the real estate industry to help make sure you can make the most well informed decision possible. It's been quite a news cycle with all the economic headlines as well as the very important upcoming presidential election. We'll do our best to help you determine how all of this news may affect the world of real estate.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Economy and Northern Michigan Real Estate

I've had the opportunity to attend a number of meetings recently with various real estate boards across Northern Michigan and, not surprisingly, not many people are overly excited about their fortunes in 2008. Those that I know well as hard working agents who understand how the modern real estate industry works are doing very well. There is not doubt that there is a bit of a pause right now as everyone waits to see how Wall Street will react to the legislation coming out of Washington in the coming days, but we are still very busy and in there is solid interest in the market. Those who have not overextended themselves and have access to money are taking advantage of one of the greatest buyer's markets we've seen in an awful lot of years.

There are also indicators that things are beginning to show signs of turning as well. Fewer homes are being built, which means there will be less inventory and many of the homes that have been on the market for a long while will be able to sell. Other sellers have decided to just hold on to their properties and be happy with what they have which will also help to reduce inventory. It's all supply and demand. We haven't lost too much on the demand side, but the supply side was making it difficult. As the supply drops, prices are likely to come back up. If I'm a seller right now that doesn't have to sell, it might make sense to wait until after the election and until we have a better gauge on the impact of the "rescue" legislation to decide whether to sell or not. If I'm a buyer, I see a combination of circumstances that makes it pretty tough for me not to take advantage and buy at the bottom!

Either way, the colors are rapidly starting to change and it's getting awfully pretty here in Northern Michigan. Take a drive along the lakeshore, a walk through the woods or paddle any number of spectacular rivers, but get out and enjoy the spectacular fall season. Let us know if we can help while you're in town.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

We work for free

In today's world of immediately available information and each individual's ability to do their own research, the profession of real estate has changed drastically. We feel excited about the direction our business is heading because we've had the opportunity to build our company from the ground up to cater to today's more internet savvy buyers and sellers. Our site, as I'm sure you would agree, is very easy to use, provides a tremendous amount of information and allows users to get all the information they need in one location.

We've also seen a very interesting trend with all this available information and self education of buyers. They are much less likely to seek out a solid agent to represent them in the process. Even though it is possible to find detailed accurate information on listings and do your research on geographic location and characteristics of the neighborhood, it is impossible to replace the knowledge of a professional Realtor. Don't get me wrong, not all Realtors are created equal. Many either don't have the knowledge base or character to truly represent their client's interests over their own. This is the biggest way we separate ourselves from the competition. We're a small firm for a very specific reason. Each and every professional involved with our firm treats our business as a profession and not just a sales job. We recognize that the single largest financial decision most people will make in their lives is the real estate they choose to purchase and we take our role in that transaction very seriously.

Best of all, we work for free for buyers. It costs absolutely nothing to contact us and tap into our extensive experience in the market. We can help make sense out of the puzzle of why one property may be worth more than another when on paper, the opposite seams true. We have already weeded through the lenders to determine those that are most likely to get you the best terms and conditions. We work daily with the title companies to insure the property is free and clear of any liens and have built relationships with those companies who go to great lengths to make our customers happy. Perhaps most importantly, we understand the legalities surrounding the purchase of real estate and all the other issues that go along with that such as easements, deed restrictions, zoning ordinances, D.E.Q. concerns and other information that the average buyer couldn't possibly be expected to know. This is our profession and we do it better than anyone else. All of these services come at no charge to you, the buyer, so next time a question pops into your mind as you're looking online, drop us an e-mail or pick up the phone and give us a call. We look forward to helping you sort out all the information you've gathered and help to make sure the decision you make is right for you.

Friday, August 15, 2008

What is the MLS?

MLS stands for Multiple Listing Service. It is a database of what is available for sale at any given moment on the market. Information you find on the web is compiled from local and regional MLS systems. That is why real estate agents developed the MLS; to easily and quickly find inventory and information related to the property for sale.

Prior to the age of computers and the internet this information was complied into printed books and distributed weekly to the members who were signed up with a MLS. Starting in 1996, some property information from the MLS was placed on the web. The MLS continued to expand and improve. The printed books gave way to the internet age.

The reason why the MLS works for home sellers is that being placed in the MLS expands a home seller's sales force; numerous real estate agents diligently comb the MLS to find properties for their clients who want to buy. Any one of them could sell your house to their buyers. In essence, all those agents are working for you exposes the property to a larger pool of prospective home buyers, and creates more demand for the property. The higher the demand, the more pricing power to the homeowner and potentially a home will sell quicker.

The reason why the MLS works for homebuyers is that it is convenient considering that most people have computers and access to the internet. Additionally, it does not cost a penny to buyers. And if the buyers don't find a property on any given visit on the internet, the agent will continue to look on the MLS for more homes to show them next time.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

10 Things to do Before Buying a Home

Here’s ten steps that you’ll want to take before buying a home. No need to tell you that this may be the one of the largest purchases you’ll be making in your life time. It is critical that you prepare and do some initial research. The more you work on these preliminary steps the easier and smoother the home buying process will go.

1. Study the home buying process.
Do some homework and learn the home buying process in advance. Home buying lingo may be new to you, so be sure to read through a few home-buying glossaries, especially the mortgage terms.

2. Obtain your credit report.
Mortgage lenders will review your credit, you should do the same. Get a copy of your credit report and review it for errors. Check everything from the administrative information to the credit history. You can get copies from all three credit bureaus at once by visiting www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

3. Fix credit errors.
If you find an error on your credit report, go to the company's website where the report came from. It can take time to clean up an erroneous credit report, so get started as soon as you see an error.

4. Check your debt-to-income ratio.
Check your debt-to-income ratio. Mortgage lenders prefer your overall debt to be no more than 20% of your net monthly income. If your debt is more, pay it down as quickly as possible before applying for a mortgage loan. If you do, you'll have an easier qualification process and will likely qualify for a better rate.

5. Determine your budget.
Use an online mortgage calculator to get an idea how various mortgage amounts translate into monthly payments. This will give you a budget to work from, and eliminate the homes that are beyond your means.

6. Start saving cash.
This is one of the best things you can do before starting the home buying process, for a couple of reasons. Mortgage lenders like to see that you have some cash reserves on hand, and you'll need some dollars if unexpected fees or costs that might arise.

7. Get pre-approved for a loan.
Pre-qualification is an informal review of your finances by a mortgage lender. During pre-approval, a mortgage lender will review your credit, finances, debt and conditionally determine a certain amount of mortgage. Sellers will take you more seriously if you have a pre-approval letter, and the process also helps identify any problems with your credit or other qualifying factors.

8. Avoid new lines of credit.
Avoid new lines of credit. Don't sign up for new credit cards or make any large credit purchases while you're "under review" by a mortgage lender. Try to keep your financial situation as stable and favorable as possible. It's a good idea to pay down some debt and to save up some cash.

9. Validate the price.
It's called an "asking price" for a good reason. In real estate there's room to negotiate. So don't accept an asking price as being reasonable until you validate it through careful research. Compare it to recent sales in the area. Your agent should be expert at this.

10. Get a home inspection.
A house is a sizable investment, and the last thing you want is to discover problems after you've taken ownership. Home inspections are very affordable, and well worth the nominal fee.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The most fun investment!

In recent months, a major portion of our time has been spent talking with potential buyers about whether or not now is the best time to buy. That answer is dependent on a lot of factors for each individual, but the one thing that I think is interesting is that many people are not basing their decision to purchase or not purchase on anything other than perceptions and media driven panic. While many segments of the market are in real trouble and even the strongest area slow, that is all terrific news for buyers. I can't tell you how often we hear stories of, "I had a chance to buy this great property 5 years ago, but...". Like any other investment, there are going to be ups and downs and the goal is to buy at the bottom, but the greatest thing about real estate as an investment is that you get to enjoy the property and build memories for your family and friends along the way. Many people are out there looking at their stocks right now and wishing they were something they could physically hurt! Many others are sitting on the dock in front of their lake house watching the kids catch bluegills. If you're in a position to afford a vacation property and have a long term outlook on your investments, it's a great time to start building those memories!!! We look forward to seeing you up north soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The House Hunt Virtual and Real

Looking at homes on the internet is initially fun and then it gets time consuming and a little frustrating. On the upside you now have a general idea of which community or area you want to be in and you have an idea of pricing. But this is just the beginning of a true search. Think of your internet information as a treasure map. Now it’s onto the "real" home hunt.

Who do you take with you on your hunt? First off, I would suggest your experienced and professional real estate agent. They have previewed many of the homes that you have only seen on the net and they are a wealth of information not just about homes, real estate issues, local lenders, but about the community as well.

If you’re married, you take your spouse. You might find something perfect and you will want your spouse in on the discussion from the start. If you’re a couple, then take your partner.

If you’re single and buying on your own house using your own money, you can take a friend for company, but someone who is supportive. The decisions are ultimately yours.

You may want to think twice about widening the circle of people you want to take on the house hunt. Lots of people in your entourage will mean lots of opinions. Could be confusing. The worst thing that could happen is that you miss out on the house of your dreams because someone else didn’t like it for one reason or another. Keep in mind who’s going to live in it; the answer is you.

First impressions, I talked about that before: do you like the house or don’t you? If you don’t like it, move on. If you like the exterior of the home it’s worth a look around inside. Go from room to room and try to imagine yourself living there. Does it have the features you want? Overlook d├ęcor that can be easily changed out like carpeting, paint color, window treatments.

Walk the property. Is it what you had in mind? This is especially important when looking at river or lake properties. Is a good view critical or is it unimportant to you? Also you may want to check out the existing landscape and the immediate adjacent properties.

A bit of good advice: tell your agent why you didn’t like a property. Otherwise, in the future the agent may continue to show you houses that you aren’t interested in. Your agent wants to know specifically what you like and don’t like.

How many houses should you look at? Obviously that’s up to you. But if you gave your real estate agent good guidelines there will be a limited number of homes that will fit your needs and wants. Plan on looking at several houses per appointment. Here “Up North", properties can be far apart. Do not expect to see 20 plus on a given day, it can be done but I assure you that it will be exhausting and you won’t remember specific details about any of them.

If the first preview went well and you like a specific house, you may want to go back and take a second look. Do you still think this is the house for you? Use your checklist, make notes, and take photos. Feel free to ask more questions.

This is it. The ideal house for you! Make an offer… the adventure is just beginning.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Your Property Wish List

You're ready to take the plunge; you want to move your primary home location or finally get that weekend get-away you always talked about. As you hunt down your dream home or ideal cottage, it’s good to keep in mind that the more specific you are in detailing what you want before setting out to look at what is available, the more likely your real estate professional will be able to show you properties that match your expectations. Coming up with a “shopping list” is a good idea, be sure to share it with your real estate agent. Your agent will use the criteria that you set as a guide for searching out and winnowing down selections for your consideration.

What type of property do you prefer?
Waterfront: River or Lake (all sports or no wake)
Acreage: how much and preferred location

How close must the home be to these amenities:
Recreational Activities (for example: golfing, fishing, skiing, etc…)
Neighborhood shopping

Home Style
What architectural style(s) of homes do you prefer?
Would you like a one-story or two-story home?
How many bedrooms must your new home have?
How many bathrooms must your new home have?

Home Condition
Do you prefer a new home or an existing home?
If you’re looking for an existing home, how old of a home would you consider?
How much repair or renovation would you be willing to do?
Do you have special needs that your home must meet?

Home Features
Back yard
Garage (____ cars)
Family room
Laundry room
Finished basement
Spa in bath
Wood Floors
Great view
Other notes:

Monday, June 30, 2008

Welcome to the season!!

As is typical with our selling trends, we're coming out of one of the "lulls" of our season. As the kids are finishing up school, people are attending spring weddings and open houses and most of the area lakes are not yet warm enough to swim, there just are not many people up north until around the 4th of July. As many of you crawl along the interstate toward your eventual arrival in Northern Michigan it should be obvious that, with all these people heading North, there will be much more competition for the available Northern Michigan Real Estate. Many realtors use the first months of the year to build up their inventory of listings for the season and try to use the first handful of showings they may have to determine whether their client's properties are priced correctly and in the best possible shape to sell during the busy summer months of July, August and September. The great thing for buyers is that, by this time of year, many of these properties have made price adjustments and most of the properties that will be for sale this year will be on the market and available to show. After a tremendously strong late winter with a lot of closed transactions, we're ready to go and really jump into the fire for the busiest time of our year. Have a great time while you're in Northern Michigan and we look forward to helping you find the Northern Michigan Property that best suits your needs.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What a REALTOR® Can Do for You

The REALTOR® you work with could be one of your most valuable resources. Unlike many real estate agents who are simply licensed by their state to do business, REALTORS® have taken additional steps to become members of the local board of REALTORS® and have agreed to act under and adhere to a strict Code of Ethics. Plus...

A REALTOR® can help you determine how much home you can afford. Often a REALTOR® can suggest ways to accrue the down payment and explain alternative financing methods.

A REALTOR®, in addition to knowing the local money market, also can tell you what personal and financial data to bring with you when you apply for a loan.

A REALTOR® is already familiar with current real estate values, taxes, utility costs, municipal services and facilities, and may be aware of local zoning changes that could affect your decision to buy.

A REALTOR® can usually research your housing needs in advance through a Multiple Listing Service--even if you are relocating from another city.

A REALTOR® can show you only those homes best suited to your needs--size, style, features, location, accessibility to schools, transportation, shopping and other personal preferences.

A REALTOR® often can suggest simple, imaginative changes that make a home more suitable for you and improve its utility and value.

A REALTOR® is sensitive to the importance you place on this major commitment you are about to make. Look for a real estate professional to facilitate negotiation of a win-win agreement that will satisfy both you and the seller.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Unique Property = Unique Factors

We consider ourselves very fortunate to have created a niche that allows us to represent some of the most unique and impressive properties in all of Northern Michigan. Very often we are working with buyers who are looking for a truly exceptional property that is really one of a kind. It's important for potential buyers to realize that a truly unique property can create some interesting situations that they should be aware of. Due, in part, to drastic changes in the lending industry over recent years, it can be quite difficult to find "conventional" financing for some properties. Typically with conventional financing, the lender will order an appraisal to ensure the property's value before lending the money. Recent changes in the industry have tightened the requirements on appraisals to a point that it can be nearly impossible to conduct an accurate appraisal in some segments of the market. Some lenders require appraisers to provide at least 3 comparable properties wtihin a 10 mile radius that have sold within the past 6 months. When you're looking at unique river and lakefront property, this is virtually impossible. This problem has been especially evident when purchasers choose to use lenders that are either out of the area or are national internet based lenders. Most of these lenders just do not understand that we don't sell "subdivision" homes that are a dime a dozen. It's not as if you can just pull up the other 12 homes that sold within the development in the past year and determine a fair value. When we're talking about a 4,000 square foot log lodge on 13 acres, they aren't exactly all over the place. A piece of acreage on an all sports lake with a lot of frontage only comes up every few years in some cases.

There are other avenues of financing, including "portfolio" products that look closely at a purchaser's credit history and income to debt ratios rather than the value of the property itself. Typically rates are a little higher and the term is a little shorter, but it's often the best bet. The other option is just to go with conventional financing and be prepared to pick up the difference if the appraisal does not come in at purchase price. It's not necessarily that the value isn't there, it's just that there is not enough information available to come up with an accurate number. Either way, I would definitely recommend tying in with a local lender who understands the area and the type of property sold there. They will be better able to ensure that the appraisal is conducted by someone with a good base of knowledge in the area and can coordinate with the title company and other services that they work with on a day to day basis. It's a terrific thing to find that "special" one of a kind property, but it is important to be informed about the unique circumstance that can arise at the time of purchase. Good luck in the hunt. Hopefully we can help not only find that perfect property, but assist throughout the process to make it an exciting and smooth process.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Good News For Home Buyers

30-Year Mortgage Rates Drop
After four weeks in an upward trajectory, Freddie Mac reports that long-term mortgage rates are falling again (Source: Chicago Sun-Times (05/23/08).

The average interest on a 30-year fixed loan settled at 5.98 percent this week, down 0.03 percent from the prior week. Rates on 15-year fixed mortgages, meanwhile, slipped 0.5 percent for the week to an average of 5.55 percent.

Borrowing costs drifted slightly higher, however, on adjustable-rate products. Five-year ARMs bumped up 0.04 percent to 5.61 percent, while one-year ARMs moved up 0.06 percent to 5.24 percent.

Banks Still Want Buyers
Some would-be buyers in today’s market might think that mortgages just aren’t available to them in today’s tighter lending climate, but buyers who are reasonable credit risks have more financing options than they might think.

For starters, Federal Housing Administration loans are back. According to NAR (National Association of Realtors) data, FHA loan originations saw nearly a 60 percent increase in 2007, and in 2008, the program’s loan limits have been increased.

In addition, tax law changes have made private mortgage insurance more attractive. PMI premiums have been deductible on federal taxes since 2006, and last year, Congress enacted a three-year extension on PMI deductibility. This helps buyers who would otherwise be financing with piggyback loans, which are harder to get in today’s market.

All of this is good news for the person who is seeking real estate opportunities in Northern Michigan. At Home Waters, we understand that your dream of owning the ideal “Up North” property is much more than real estate. You’re pursuing a lifestyle that you and your family will enjoy for generations to come. Let us help you realize that dream. With selection at its peak, great financing and our expertise; the time is right to make that dream come true.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Stylish Outdoor Living

You may be getting the itch to start on an outdoor project now that the weather is heading towards summer. A trip to your local home improvement center will confirm that yes indeed, families everywhere are planning on living outdoors this summer. You’ll see everything from the latest building materials to incredible furniture and BBQ’s that rival your indoor range. The Holiday weekend is coming up, three whole days to get going with that outdoor “room” you always dreamed of. Decks and patios give a home and yard an attractive, functional outdoor space. Home owners’ increased interest in enjoying nature and gardening is reflected in patios and decks. These outdoor spaces reflect a greater array of designs, materials, sizes, and price points than constructed in years past.

They’re getting bigger and bigger and sometimes extend off the back and wrap around one side. Many also are designed as a transition between the indoors and a landscaped yard. Decks and patios also are getting up-scaled, the equivalent of outdoor rooms with sophisticated furnishings and all the bells and whistles.

Here’s how to get these outdoor spaces the attention they deserve:

Boost Curb Appeal
Outdoor spaces have become a bigger part of the curb appeal that attracts buyers and can even increase a selling price. More than one-third of buyers want a patio or terrace (a space level with the ground) while 21 percent desire a deck (constructed above the ground), according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’

Choose Features Wisely
To get the greatest enjoyment and best return on dollars invested, home owners should study examples in design publications, drive through favorite neighborhoods to see possibilities, and ask themselves pertinent questions, such as how the desk will be used, when, and what activities will take place there.

Here are other factors to consider:
Style. Most designers recommend a style compatible with the home’s architecture. “The greatest opportunity for a successful look is for the space to be seamlessly integrated with the house rather than resemble an afterthought,” says Bob Hursthouse, a landscape architect. The style also should blend into the landscape.

Materials. More buyers seek materials that require little or no maintenance and can withstand inclement weather. In addition to perennial favorites such as brick, bluestone, and Western red cedar, materials that are gaining popularity today are recycled plastic composites; dense renewable tropical hardwoods such as vinyls that have the look and feeling of wood; and Trex, made from reclaimed wood and plastic.

Color can make a difference. Lighter materials reflect more sunlight and can be hotter. Stains can change the color and protect wood from moisture, mold, and algae growth.

Size. While shape and size should be proportional to the home, the deck or patio also needs to be large enough to accommodate all uses and users comfortably. Outdoor furniture is one-third larger than comparable indoor pieces. To accommodate multiple uses and add visual interest, more decks are built on several levels.

Placement. Where the deck or patio is situated should depend on views available.

Safety. Any deck or patio needs to meet local safety codes with the correct height of railings and spacing between and correct number of steps.

The extras. Among today’s favorites for decks and patios are fireplaces and pits, gourmet kitchens, sound systems, water features, high-end furnishings, storage, gazebos, colorful awnings, space heaters, and decorative and energy-efficient lighting.

Don’t Forget the Landscaping. An outdoor room is best accessorized with plants either permanent plantings or in seasonal containers.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Get Out There!

While it's pretty broadly known that most of the agents and brokers within Homewaters are passionate fly anglers, it's very difficult for us to find time on the stream. We spend so much time in the office and in the field with clients that fishing gets pushed aside more aften than we would like. Last week, however, I set aside work (sorry to those who received delayed responses to your inquiries!) and took some time on the river to recharge my batteries. It reminded me that, regardless of how much work is stacking up, you need to just get out there and take some time for yourself.
Among the experiences I would have missed out on are; A 6' 6" client stepping out of his AuSable Boat into a 6' 10" hole in the river and completely submerging himself in 55 degree river water. An Osprey flying right over our heads at tree level. A small brown trout with a chestnut eel attached to its flank. A couple of mink, a beaver, and a lot of changes in the river since last year due to the ice this winter. The first Sulphur of the season. A 20" + brown trout that has taken up residence right in the middle of the river in front of my cabin. He stays right in the open and taunts me with his ever present knowledge that an angler is attached to the other end of the the line that has just been cast in front of him. Most importantly, I spent some great time with my wife and kids along the river doing nothing but getting dirty and looking around for bugs.

I'll apologize in advance because I have a feeling that, for the rest of the season, I'll be taking one day each week to get out of work mode. If you get my voice mail, please do leave a message because I will be checking it and will get in touch if it's some immediate need. I suggest that anyone reading this think back to the last time you completely got away from the day to day grind. It's the best way I know to remind myself of what's truly important in the big scheme. Enjoy the rest of the spring. We hope to see you up north soon.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Home Inspections

Before you make your final buying or selling decision, you should have the home inspected by a professional. An inspection can alert you to potential problems with a property and allow you to make an informed decision.

What a Home Inspection Should Cover
Home inspections will vary depending on the type of property you are purchasing. A large historic home, for example, will require a more specialized inspection than a small condominium. However, the following are the basic elements that a home inspector will check. You can also use this list to help you evaluate properties you might purchase..

Structure: A home’s skeleton impacts how the property stands up to weather, gravity, and the earth. Structural components, including the foundation and the framing, should be inspected.

Exterior: The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home’s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection.

Roofing: A well-maintained roof protects you from rain, snow, and other forces of nature. Take note of the roof’s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys.

Plumbing: Thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate problems.

Electrical: Safe electrical wiring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room.

Heating: The home’s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.

Air Conditioning: Your inspector should describe your home cooling system, its energy source, and inspect the central and through-wall cooling equipment. Consider the age and energy rating of the system.

Interiors: An inspection of the inside of the home can reveal plumbing leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and other issues. An inspector should take a close look at walls, ceilings and floors, steps, stairways, and railings.

Ventilation/insulation: To prevent energy loss, check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces. Also look for proper, secured insulation in walls. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate. Excess moisture in the home can lead to mold and water damage.

Fireplaces: They’re charming, but they could be dangerous if not properly installed. Inspectors should examine the system, including the vent and flue, and describe solid fuel burning appliances.

10 Questions to Ask Home Inspectors
Ask these questions to prospective home inspectors:
1. Will your inspection meet recognized standards? Ask whether the inspection and the inspection report will meet all state requirements and comply with a well-recognized standard of practice and code of ethics.

2. Do you belong to a professional home inspector association? Insist on members of reputable, nonprofit trade organizations; request to see a membership ID.

3. How experienced are you? Ask how long inspectors have been in the profession and how many inspections they’ve completed. They should provide customer referrals on request.

4. How do you keep your expertise up to date? Inspectors’ commitment to continuing education is a good measure of their professionalism and service. Advanced knowledge is especially important in cases in which a home is older or includes unique elements requiring additional or updated training.

5. Do you focus on residential inspection? Make sure the inspector has training and experience in the unique discipline of home inspection, which is very different from inspecting commercial buildings or a construction site.

6. Will you offer to do repairs or improvements? Some state laws and trade associations allow the inspector to provide repair work on problems uncovered during the inspection. However, other states and associations forbid it as a conflict of interest.

7. How long will the inspection take? On average, an inspector working alone inspects a typical single-family house in two to three hours; anything significantly less may not be thorough.

8. What’s the cost? Costs can vary dramatically, depending on your region, the size and age of the house, and the scope of services. The national average for single-family homes is about $320, but customers with large homes can expect to pay more.

9. What type of inspection report do you provide? Ask to see samples to determine whether you will understand the inspector's reporting style. Also, most inspectors provide their full report within 24 hours of the inspection.

10. Will I be able to attend the inspection? The answer should be yes. A home inspection is a valuable educational opportunity for the buyer. An inspector's refusal to let the buyer attend should raise a red flag.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Weekend Getaway, your Second Home

Just the word “weekend” is wonderful. It conjures up a whole list of possibilities other than work. Sleeping in for some, others rise early getting into their favorite hobby at the crack of dawn. Staying up late with friends and family. Kicking back. Add “Get Away” and it gets even better. Owning the place for your weekend getaway is sweet. Now is a great time to consider getting a place "up north".

Second-Home Sales Accounted For One-Third of Transactions in 2007. One out of every three homes in the United States today was bought as a second home. We're in the midst of a second-home ownership boom, fueled by such factors as the shrinking American family, older and wealthier households, and new technologies for working from home.

And now you're thinking about taking the plunge. Maybe you're looking for an alternative to other investments and will rent or resell the house. Or maybe a cabin by your favorite lake or river is calling to you. And if you're thinking ahead toward retirement, you may want to find a manageable, well-located home now.

The combined total of vacation- and investment-home sales declined with the overall market in 2007, but still accounted for 33 percent of all existing- and new-home sales, which is close to historic norms, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the findings suggest different cycles for each of the sectors over the past two years. “Investment-home sales declined sharply in 2006 as speculators disappeared, leaving the market to serious buyers, with the pattern continuing in 2007,” he said. “Vacation-home sales rose to a new record in 2006 because there was a pent-up demand from buyers who couldn’t find a property as a result of tight supplies in preceding years.”

Yun said lifestyle factors and strong demographics remain positive for the vacation home market. “Investment considerations are secondary for vacation-home buyers, so there is some dormant underlying demand,” he said. “A peak of population is moving through the prime years for buying recreational property. It is welcoming to see investment sales returning to pre-boom sales activity.”

Curious About Your Fellow Second-Home Buyers? NAR’s 2007 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey revealed the following information:

The median price of a vacation home was $195,000 in 2007, down 2.5 percent from $200,000 in 2006.

Fifty-nine percent of vacation homes purchased in 2007 were detached single-family homes, 29 percent condos, 7 percent townhouses or rowhouses, and 5 percent other.

Sixty-five percent of vacation home buyers and 71 percent of investment home buyers purchased existing homes, while the remainder purchased new homes.

The typical vacation-home buyer in 2007 was 46 years old, had a median household income of $99,100, and purchased a property that was a median of 287 miles from their primary residence.

Most second-home owners are married couples; 83% of vacation-home owners, and 75% of investment-home owners.

In listing the reasons for purchasing a vacation home, 84 percent of buyers wanted to use the home for vacation or as a family retreat; 30 percent to use as a primary residence in the future; 26 percent to diversify investments; 25 percent to rent to others; 16 percent for the tax benefits; 14 percent for use by a family member, friend or relative; and 6 percent because they had extra money to spend.

Vacation-home buyers plan to keep their property for a median of 10 years; 38 percent plan to keep their vacation home for 11 years or more. Investment buyers plan to hold their property for a median of four years, with 29 percent planning to keep for six years or more. However, 10 percent of investment buyers plan to sell in one year or less.

Buyers must be enjoying the second-home experience. 21% of vacation-home owners go on to buy one or more additional vacation homes, and 34% of investment-home owners go on to buy additional investment properties.

Eight in 10 second-home buyers consider it a good time to invest in real estate, compared with 59 percent of primary residence buyers. Forty-four percent of vacation-home buyers and 57 percent of investment buyers said they were likely to purchase another property within two years.

NAR’s 2007 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, conducted in March 2008, includes answers from 1,965 usable responses. The survey controlled for age and income, based on information from the larger 2007 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, to limit any biases in the characteristics of respondents.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Home and Cabin

Home or Cabin? How about both?
With an ever increasing number of our buyers hoping to find a seasonal home or full time residence vs. a weekend cottage, the need for well insulated dwellings with finer finishes is increasing. Many of the individuals looking to retire to our area do not want to give up all the creature comforts they may enjoy in their current home, and would also like to embrace the classic up north lodge "feel". There are some great properties out there that fill both needs! Here are three great examples.

Classic AuSable Log Home
This 1920's era log home was moved to it's current location in 1993 and place on a brand new walk-out foundation. Since that time, all of the major mechanical systems have been upgraded to modern code, including all electrical, plumbing, hot water heating and insulation making this a wonderful year round vacation home or full time residence. The hand carved logs end in remarkably tight dove tailed corners. The property includes a 3-car full log garage, 230' of frontage on The Flies Only section of The AuSable River's Mainstream near Grayling and over 5 acres of heavily wooded land. The current list price is $475,000. Click the image for a virtual tour of the property or go to it's location on our site for more details. E-mail Chad Brown for additional information or for answers to your questions about this property.

Log Sided North Branch Beauty
This terrific home began as a charming little cabin, but the current owners did a wonderful job with a major addition and renovation and created an fantastic year round residence. Stainless steel appliances, modern electrical and heating systems and a sweeping view over The North Branch of The AuSable River all make this a terrific blend of modern amenities and up north charm. Currently listed at $389,000. Click the photo for more detailed information. E-mail Mark Bear with questions on this listing.

Little Manistee Full Log
Built in 2006, this very charming full log cabin offers a full walk-out basement, main floor master bedroom, wonderful wrap around deck and stunning river views over The Little Manistee River. A very private wooded setting within easy reach of the amenities of Manistee. A seperate full log guest cottage provides great space for visiting family and guests. A brand new listing at $338,000. Click the image for more detailed information or e-mail Brian Pitser with any questions.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Consider Vacant Land

Get ahead of the equity game with vacant

For those looking for an opportunity to not just get up north on a fine trout stream, but are hoping to get ahead of the game from an investment standpoint, consider vacant land. If there is a segment of the market in the riverfront game that has been flat in recent years, it's definitely been in vacant parcels. This is most likely due to the fact that so many more buyers are now coming from out of state and they do not feel confident that they'll be able to supervise a construction project from that great a distance. There are, however, some very good local contractors who routinely work with clients from a great distance away and can make the process very smooth. There are some terrific parcels of land right now on great rivers that can be had for extremely attractive prices. Stand up the cabin you've got in your mind and you'll most likely have invested much less money than the property will be worth! It can be difficult to find any cabin worth having on some of the better sections of river for under $200,000. There are a number of very nice vacant parcels out there listed below $100,000. Spend $100,000 building a brand new cabin and you're way ahead of the game. Here are a few good examples of parcels to consider;

This parcel is located on the lower North Branch of The AuSable and offers 350' of outstanding trout water with a nice mix of deep pools and sweeping gravel riffles. Just $99,900. E-mail Mark Bear with quesitons or click on the photo to view more details.

This is the screened river house that is part of a 5 acre preserve with over 700' of "Holy Water" frontage and a private trout pond on The AuSable River's mainstream. Purchase a terrific 3 acre wooded parcel and receive ownership in the preserve with just 6 other owners. E-mail Chad Brown with questions or click on the image for more details.

This nice dry parcel is located on The AuSable River's "Holy Water" as well and features 150' of excellent fly fishing frontage. The owner is in the process of installing a new dock over the river! Only $98,500. E-mail Chad Brown with questions or click on the image for more details.

Ever been to The Platte River? This charming stream is within easy reach of the amenities of Traverse City and offers some great fishing for not only trout, but seasonal runs of salmon and steelhead. 3.5 acres with 366' on the river for only $87,500. E-mail Chad Brown with questions or click on the image for more details.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Some bare ground!

While the calendar says it's officially spring, there is still an awful lot of snow on the ground and it's cold enough at night to make ice. This is a great time of year to look back on the winter and make sure you were able to do all the activities you hoped to. This photo was taken while ice fishing with my daughters out on Long Lake in Grand Traverse County earlier this year. While I got out a bit this winter, I'm going to make sure to get out this week for one last go at those finicky Walleyes. Get up north while you can and do that last bit of downhill skiing, ice fishing, or snowmobiling because the bulbs will be sprouting and the trees will be budding very soon. While you're up, give us a call and we'll take you to see those properties you've been dreaming off all winter. Once the snow is gone and buyers are thinking spring, competition for available Northern Michigan Waterfront Properties increases and the process becomes a bit more intense. See you soon up north!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Market Conditions

Have property values in Northern Michigan held, even with the slump in Southern Michigan? We've posted this to answer a question that we know is on the mind of many of our web visitors and as an example of the types of questions we'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Trout Opener Looms

While a huge majority of our users are here just to search for properties, a fairly large number of our "people" are avid fly anglers and so are most of the agents and brokers within our firm. On that note, I'm having a heck of a time not thinking of putting my boots in the stream and casting to rising trout next month. For those of you who do not recognize the holiday, the traditional openeing day of trout season in Michigan is the last Saturday in April. For those who know, and understand the significance, it's Christmas for big kids!!! We just attended the Midwest Fly Fishing Exposition in Warren, MI this past weekend and there was a nearly audible buzz of anticipation in the air with the upcoming season just around the corner. I thought it might be a good starter conversation to have here on The Homewaters Blog to talk about opening day traditions that everyone enjoys here in Northern Michigan. Personally, I'll be hunkering down at my cabin on The AuSable and running my old Jeep from cabin to cabin and catching up with old friends. A favorite stop will be on Friday night to Tom Smith's cabin where there will be a great mulit generational crowd that knows how to do it right. Plenty fine food, a surplus of cocktails, a large fire in the classic stone fireplace and a terrific screend porch overlooking The AuSable. This camp has been going strong for generations and they are kind enough to let me crash their party each year and spend a few hours at the card table. Enjoy what's left of the winter everyone.

Welcome to The Homewaters Blog

Hello, and welcome to the newest resource from Homewaters, L.L.C. We realized that many of our web users may have questions, but would be more comfortable learning without making direct contact to one of our agents or brokers. This is an exciting way for those users to gain information while allowing other users to benefit as well. We'll also be using the blog to keep visitors informed of trends in the market we service as well as provide informaiton about conditions that will affect the industry. Our goal is to create a light hearted exchange that is not only informative, but enjoyable to read. We look forward to hearing from you soon!