The Great Lakes State Fair Is Coming

The Great Lakes State Fair is this Labor Day weekend in neighboring Novi, after the closing of the Michigan State Fair in 2009. An authentically Michigan event, the fair is host to foods, products and handmade gifts all made and grown in Michigan, as well as Detroit’s Shrine Circus and Traverse City’s Arnold Amusements.

Ferris wheel spinning at night.

This year, there will be sixteen opportunities for locals to win prizes and obtain glory doing everything from dropping carrots to calling your husband or wife. There will also be livestock shows, a carnival midway, Michigan beer garden, vendor booths, and a Michigan pavilion showcasing goods grown and manufactured in Michigan. There will be more than enough to keep fair goers of all ages engaged.

The return of this classic Michigan event is welcomed by many, though at its close in 2009 it was known as the Michigan State Fair and had been held at the Michigan State Fairgrounds for many years. For many Michigan families, the Fair has been a summer tradition for generations. The Great Lakes State Fair isn’t as big in area or in reach as the old state fair, but its Michigan spirit is the same and we welcome it back during a time when the state is getting back to its feet after economic challenges.

If you’re interested in taking part, head down to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi from August 31 to September 3. You can check out the fair’s website or Patch.com for more details on ticketing and times.

First Time Home Buyers: Wading Through A Sea of Listings

It’s a vast ocean out there. With a veritable sea of real estate listings at your fingertips, starting your home search can be overwhelming. As a home buyer searching online home listings for the first time, the task of navigating listing after listing can seem daunting. It needn’t be so. There are ways to make the process quick and efficient, floating relevant listings to the surface for perusal and leaving the rest for other buyers.

The first step to an effective search is fishing in the right place. It’s key to go to the most comprehensive and up-to-date site. Before the days of the World Wide Web, Realtors would perform a Multiple Listings Service or MLS search to help find potential homes for clients. The MLS is a database comprised of Realtor listings nationwide. It’s a lot of information in one place.

It's a sea of real estate information out there.

The next step is searching wise. Trawling for listings by entering broad search parameters can be time consuming and frustrating. Grab a pen and paper, and write down exactly what you are looking for in a home. It’s okay to be specific—you can always modify your searches if you need to.

Start with a specific location, and assign a preferred radius in miles. What other towns does that cover? Satellite-enabled online mapping tools, such as the maps feature at Google.com, can be a great resource throughout your search. Keeping the site open in a separate tab while you are perusing listings allows you to toggle between the sites quickly if you need to map a location. You can also create and save maps if you want to view multiple locations at once (to gauge the distance between a property and a school, for example.)

Now, write down your desired price range. Then, your absolute max price range if you found “the one”. Speaking of which, jot down the approximate square footage, bedroom and bath count in your perfect home. This list will be helpful when you are searching listings.

Upon entering a Realtor’s site, there will likely be a broad-spectrum search, such as by state, readily available. Avoid this, and look for the link to the Advanced Search tool. Here is where the sea becomes manageable, and Moby Dick becomes a lot less elusive.

Enter your desired information first. Everything you wrote down you’d like to see in a home. If this yields no bites, then start adjusting in increments. Move your location radius out five miles. Move your desired price up by five thousand. Not too absolute on size? Omit the square footage, bed and bath count. This method of incremental searching keeps the net holes small. You have eliminated wading through pages of irrelevant listings, which can take most of the time, and leave the searcher frustrated before even viewing a listing.

Before long, there’s a few good potential listings in the net. A few good photos inside and out are a good sign. The more information the better: Age of the home, lot size, systems description, history. Some listings even include neighborhood information, such as school ratings and proximity to shopping, which can be very helpful to those who are searching from outside the area. Utilizing Google.com to locate a town’s public web site can help give even more statistical and recreation info about the area.

Zillow.com and Trulia.com are handy tools once a few good listings have been located, and many Realtors are also present on these sites. They are databases that keep information such as sales/rental history, taxes, assessment value, and neighborhood trends on individual homes. Simply enter the address, and whatever info they have will be brought up in an easy to peruse format. Sometimes they even yield an extra photo or two.

The last step is the most important. Always seek the guidance of a Realtor as a Buyer’s Agent. A Realtor is privy to more information, has the right experience, and can ultimately get you the most home for your money. They may also know about newly-available properties that haven’t even been advertised yet.

Performing an online MLS search is extremely helpful because it gives you an idea of the market, produces leads, and gives your Realtor an idea of what you are looking for. With the information you provide, they can captain the ship for you, expertly navigate the squalls and shoals of real estate listings and lead you to the best possible home for you and your family.

How To Find A Foreclosure Bargain In Michigan

The dream of living in beautiful Michigan can be attained, and at a bargain, if one can find the Holy Grail of real estate buys: the foreclosure. An Internet search yields many sites, some for a fee, some free, that offer foreclosed homes listings.

They appear in numbers, some with few or no photos, most with very little information. This is as close to shopping blind as it comes, and when the item is as major a purchase as a house, it can cost dearly if a purchase is made by a buyer without the assistance of a knowledgeable Realtor. Purchasing Michigan foreclosed homes the right way, on the other hand, can pay in spades with a lovely home and great investment for the future.

If there are so many Michigan foreclosed homes to be perused at one’s fingertips, then why is a Realtor even needed? The difference between the internet and a Realtor is, to state the obvious, a brain. Specifically, interpretation, as stated by author Crissie Cudd in her online article, “I Have the Internet – Why Do I Need a Realtor When I Buy a Home?”.

“The internet can offer data but it can not interpret it. That’s the big advantage of working with a Realtor. Realtors not only know the market but they know how to interpret it.”, she writes. “A Realtor doesn’t just spend time working with buyers and sellers. Realtors study market trends.”

Realtors have lived and worked, some for many years, in the area a buyer is looking to move to. An internet listing cannot tell you about the neighborhood schools, or zero in on historical neighborhood market trends down to the street level.

Things aren’t always as they seem, and taking something at face value is never a good idea when navigating Michigan foreclosed home listings online, without a Realtor. It’s amazing how a pleasant-looking photo can omit vital details, like extensive property damage or a ramshackle neighborhood.

People around the nation are discovering Michigan, and putting down roots. The easygoing lifestyle, affordable living and natural beauty through and through make Michigan an ideal place to live. Michigan’s real estate market is on the rebound, in fact, and this growing trend is subject of the CBS Detroit article by Sandra McNeill entitled, “Report: Thousands Moving to Michigan”.

“Thousands are doing it. They’ve (sic) moving to Michigan.” She writes, “The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments reports that over 63,000 people moved into the tri-county area in 2009, the last year statistics were available.”

There are plenty of great foreclosed homes listings yet to be had, but with increasing competition as more buyers enter the market, a knowledgeable Realtor is the secret weapon a smart buyer cannot afford to be without. A Realtor is an advocate for the buyer’s best interests, and has the inside information the buyer needs to make a home purchase with confidence.

Foreclosures Lose Their Stigma

The last few years have brought difficult economic times for the nation, indiscriminate of wealth, income or education. As a result, America’s spending paradigms have adapted reflexively and we’ve learned to change our behaviors and become more resourceful.

We’ve become a nation where seeking out a bargain – once the calling card of decidedly uncool penny-pinchers – is the new norm. Soccer moms dumpster-dive for Sunday coupons, teenagers construct prom dresses and tuxedos from duct tape, and “upcycled” has become synonymous with “chic”.

This shift in thinking has also taken place in the real estate world, where the flood of recent foreclosures has facilitated a buyer’s market, changing the path to home ownership as we know it. The average home buyer can now purchase a home drastically lower than its value in a good market and more house for the money, these days, is quite an appealing notion.

Foreclosure itself has historically carried a certain taboo among Americans. As Shari B. Olfsen recently wrote in her article for Forbes, “Foreclosure Loses Its Stigma”:

“As with other cultural trends, foreclosure becomes more socially acceptable as our familiarity with it increases. We observe foreclosures around us, see people we know who have allowed their properties to be foreclosed upon and we become more comfortable with the idea ourselves.”

Losing a home to foreclosure has become so commonplace (as many as 10 million Americans are predicted to be affected by foreclosure, according to Ms. Olfsen), that the perceptions Americans have had toward foreclosed homes have relaxed somewhat.

As more home owners go the foreclosure route and create a boon on bargain homes, the buyer’s perspective has also changed. The perception of foreclosure has softened, and so has the perception of quality of the typical foreclosures for sale.

Back up a decade or so and ask the average American to picture a foreclosure home and describe it, and likely unflattering descriptors would include junky, ramshackle, fixer-upper, uninhabitable, or unattractive. In all, not a great prospect for a young family’s first home, or a senior couple looking to relocate.

What are today’s foreclosed homes like? Though there are certainly “handyman specials” still out there, many foreclosures are voluntarily forfeited, recently inhabited, and include high-end homes in desirable neighborhoods. Everyone has been affected by the downturn in the economy, therefore foreclosed homes from across the affluence spectrum can be found on the market.

In some cases, affluent neighborhoods seem to be trending higher with foreclosures, according to Phillip Reese and Robert Lewis in their recent article for the Sacramento Bee entitled, “Foreclosures Also Hit High End of Sacramento Market”.

“Sacramento’s wealthiest residents are defaulting on their recent home loans at least as often as everyone else,” they write. “And in some posh enclaves, more, according to a Bee analysis of federal mortgage data and figures from Foreclosures.com.”

This is exciting news for prospective buyers looking for a lovely home with a monthly mortgage potentially less than the cost to rent. A quick internet search will show no shortage of foreclosures for sale in all corners of America.

Foreclosures are not just for the “handy man” (or woman) or property “flipper” any more. In today’s market, they provide a real opportunity to achieve the American dream of home ownership. Exploring the foreclosure market could potentially yield a wonderfully affordable home that could also result in a fine investment and future financial security.

Up and Down: The Price of Buying Real Estate in Michigan

Michigan, particularly southeast Michigan, has a cyclical economy and a cyclical real estate market. Metro Detroit, perhaps more than any other urban area its size in America, is a single industry town. It is dominated by the automotive industry and by the parts suppliers and financial institutions that serve the car companies. When the big three are doing well, southeastern Michigan flourishes and home values soar. When the economy is down and nobody is buying new cars, then Metro Detroit real estate values drop.

Real estate in Detroit has had dramatic upturns after World War II, in the late 1970s, in the late 1980s, and in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Home prices took a dive during the most recent economic downturn. Now, they’re on their way up again. It’s a good time to grab a deal before prices soar. Of course, the key is choosing the right house in the right community. The properties in some Michigan neighborhoods will always hold most of their value.

The key is to think ahead. With energy and gas becoming more expensive, the older neighborhoods with the smaller homes may be more and more in demand. They tend to be closer to work, and it’s not necessary to take the car everywhere. On the other hand, newer houses tend to be more energy efficient and may be cheaper to heat and cool per square foot.

The Detroit area is full of beautiful homes and vibrant communities. There’s something for everyone. There are traditional, walkable neighborhoods and shiny new subdivisions; charming town centers and huge and exciting big-box retail malls. Stable and attractive communities like Northville will always be good places to invest in property. The inner ring suburbs and the city, with their charming homes and cozy neighborhoods, are full of potential. Commuter towns offer small town charm with increasingly luxurious housing options.

Greater economic diversity is coming to our area. The favorable tax climate, large population of well educated workers, affordable land and buildings, and low cost of living make it an attractive place for existing businesses to locate and for new businesses to set up shop. Detroit has the physical and cultural infrastructure it needs to grow and prosper.

What’s Going On With Foreclosures In Michigan?

Foreclosures in Michigan are still affecting the statewide housing market according to recent reports by real estate analytic firms. Michigan is the eighth state in the Union in terms of foreclosure filings, with about one out of every 500 homes currently in some stage of the non-judicial foreclosure process. The situation, however, has improved when compared to May of last year.

"One out of every 500 homes currently in some stage of the non-judicial foreclosure process."According to a recent RealtyTrac report, from April to May of 2012, foreclosures in Michigan declined by 6.3 percent. From May 2011 until May of this year, the number of foreclosure filings decreased by 40.3 percent. While these figures are encouraging, it is important to note that over the last twelve months the number of new foreclosure filings has increased by 24 percent. This can be attributed to the moratorium on foreclosure activity that the five major mortgage lenders in the United States undertook while the state attorney generals filed suit against them. Now that a settlement agreement has been executed, new foreclosures are once again being initiated.

Foreclosures in Michigan are mostly concentrated on the southeastern counties. In Macomb County, for example, there are 851 properties pending foreclosure, which means that one in every 419 homes could be repossessed by the lenders in the next few months. In Oakland County, there are 1,071 foreclosures pending. The highest concentration in the state can be found in populous Wayne County, where 2,578 homes are awaiting their destiny. The Upper Peninsula counties, in contrast, have very low rates of foreclosure.

The Outlook for Michigan and the United States

Soon after the settlement agreement between the nation’s five major lenders was executed earlier this year, real estate analysts predicted that a new avalanche of foreclosures could undo the slight progress experienced by the American housing market in some regions. While such an avalanche has largely failed to materialize, the number of fresh filings is certainly troubling. The number of new foreclosures filed across the United States in May exceeded the 205,000 mark, a three-month record.

The number of distressed home sales, however, indicates that banks are now more willing to allow short sales to take place. Real estate investors are hungry for special deals in distressed properties and short sales, and should this hunger continue, the number of foreclosures could diminish. This situation is likely to play out in Michigan as well, particularly in the larger metropolitan areas where rental properties are in high demand.

Weekend Festivities In Northville

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, then Northville is the place to be. This weekend will be packed with activities, including the Arts and Acts event (which I blogged about in a previous post) and the summer carnival, which is returning this year for the first time in more than five years.

The Summer Carnival actually began last night, but if you missed it you can see a slideshow of photos from the carnival’s first day at Patch.com. The carnival, made possible by Arnold Amusements of Traverse City, will be in town until 8pm on Sunday at Northville Downs.

There’s obviously no shortage of amusements this weekend, but you can add the Solstice Run to the list. Race day festivities include runs of different lengths, awards, and an expo and entertainment to round off the night (tomorrow). The event will benefit two charities, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and the Northville Educational Foundation.

Though Sunday may be stormy, tomorrow looks like it will be warm and mostly sunny. Northville is often considered to be a quiet, placid town, but it will be bustling with activity this weekend. Between an arts festival, running event, and a carnival, there should be something for everyone.

Who’s Buying Foreclosures?

An AOL Real Estate article published yesterday paints the purchase of foreclosed homes as ‘sexy’, citing a recent Realtor.com survey that found that home buyers are three times as likely to buy a foreclosed home than they would have been 2 ½ years ago. The article suggests that this shows a change in how the public views foreclosures, which traditionally have been seen as old, run-down, neglected properties.

Home For SaleWhile sex appeal is something we don’t often see associated with foreclosures, the change in buyer sentiment certainly makes sense if we look at recent data. Earlier this month, RisMedia reported that 92.1 percent of foreclosure buyers live in those properties, indicating a shift in perception: foreclosed properties are no longer stigmatized as unlivable or only for investors. And as Reuters points out, more foreclosed homes (which can run the spectrum from decrepit to sparkling) being purchased means a higher number of homeowners working on home improvement projects. Citing the National Association of Home Builders, the article points out that money spent on home renovations is forecasted to “grow 12 percent to $120 billion.”

Though the numbers of foreclosures in Metro Detroit remain high, they are falling, most likely due to fewer repossessions. As mentioned in the Detroit News article, the short sale option helps minimize the loss to the homeowner while preventing banks’ inventories of repossessed homes from swelling up. The willingness to buy foreclosures we’re seeing from buyers may not be ‘sexy’, but it is a sign that the market is changing–for the better.

Northville’s Mill Race Village Reopens This Weekend

Northville residents and tourists alike will welcome the reopening of one of Northville’s most important historical treasures, Mill Race Village. On June 10th, the village will hold a dedication ceremony and ribbon-cutting at 12:30pm, and after that the museum and grounds will be open for public exploration until 4:00pm. This year’s opening will signal 40 years of operation for the village, as well as the beginning of Sundays At Mill Race Village, which runs all summer until mid-October. More information on these events can be found here.

Mill Race Village has something for everyone, and has been one of Northville’s most prized attractions for quite a while. Many people consider the village to be the town’s cultural and historical center, providing as it does both an escape from and and a context for modern life. Luckily, we have many resources for exploring the lives of Northville’s early residents, including an impressive array of historical records at the Northville District Library, the work of the Northville Historical Society, the Northville Genealogical Society, the Northville Community Foundation, and many more.

What is your favorite historical attraction in Northville? Will you be attending the event on Monday?

Coming Up This Summer: Northville’s Arts and Acts

As summer rolls around, so does a busy season of activities and tourism in Northville, which keeps locals and tourists occupied. Northville being a town that appreciates the arts and celebrates them regularly, many of these events are centered around art, theater, literature and film.

This month, the 24th annual Arts and Acts event starting on Friday, June 22nd will feature the work of over 85 artists, films, food, music, literature and drama downtown. The Art House has Arts and Acts every year. Art in the Sun is one component of the event, where artists line the streets of downtown Northville to sell their work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This event is free and open to the public.

The second annual Reel Michigan film festival will also be a part of Arts and Acts, featuring several films made by Michigan writers and producers at the Tipping Point Theatre. Michigan has seen a lot of film involvement in the last few years, so it only makes sense to celebrate this bright spot of creativity at an arts festival. Afterwards there will be a party with food, wine, and music.

Also at the Tipping Point will be the Short On Words Literature contest and the Sandbox Play Festival, rounding out the drama and literature aspects of the celebration. All in all, it’s a creative tradition that Northville has loved for many years, but continued to improve upon and expand as years go by. For the community, it serves as a community-building opportunity where talent on both the state and local levels can be appreciated. Stay tuned for more on Northville’s upcoming summer happenings.

To see photos from last year’s event, click here.