Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Can You See the Savings?

LED 200.jpgIf you’ve considered changing your light bulbs to energy-saving LED bulbs but decided not to make the investment because the prices were too high, you might want to investigate again.  The prices have come down considerably.

An initial investment now will generate immediate returns through energy costs and because they last longer, you won’t need to replace them for years.

The life of LED bulbs is projected to be from 35,000 to 50,000 hours compared to an incandescent bulb at 750 to 2,000 hours.  For normal home use, a LED bulb could last more than 20 years.

80-90% of the energy used by fluorescent and incandescent bulbs is wasted by the heat generated.  In contrast, cool LED bulbs converts 80% of the electrical energy to light energy.

• The color of LED lights is bright white, more like daylight, instead of the warm yellow of incandescent or the greenish tint of fluorescent bulbs.

• LEDs light up instantly instead of building to their intensity like some of the fluorescent bulbs.

• LEDs are more durable because they don’t have filaments or thin-glass bulbs like incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.

Shop around to find the best price on LEDs. If the LED only lasted 20,000 hours, you might have to purchase 20 incandescent bulbs during that same period of time.  Using the chart below, you can see that the LED uses about 10% of the wattage without compromising on the brightness.

Watt comparison.png

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas with the Stars

The shining lights and sparkly bulbs are always a bit mesmerizing, but Hollywood sure does know how to take it up a notch.   This week, we took a peek (thanks to HGTV's Holiday Home Makeovers) at some celebrity Christmas trees that are definitely unique, but sure to put you in the holiday spirit.

To see the full slide show and others like it click HERE

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Perfect Last Minute Gift

seasons greetings.pngIt’s part of holiday tradition to celebrate with family and friends and to share gifts with our loved ones.  There’s no measuring how much is spent on the combined effort and money to find the perfect gift. 

The challenge is to identify the right gift in the right color and size; something they really want and need; and something that won’t break the budget. 

“Eight Gifts That Do Not Cost a Cent” are suggestions that have been offered on numerous Internet sites attributed to an anonymous writer.  They may be just what you need to find the perfect gift. 

• THE GIFT OF LISTENING...but you must really listen. No interrupting; no daydreaming; no planning your response; just listening.

• THE GIFT OF AFFECTION...be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, pats on the back and handholds.  Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family and friends.

• THE GIFT OF LAUGHTER...clip cartoons and share articles and funny stories.  Your gift will say “I love to laugh with you."

• THE GIFT OF A WRITTEN NOTE...it can be a simple "thanks for the help" note or a full letter.  A brief, handwritten note may be remembered for a lifetime and may even change a life.

• THE GIFT OF A COMPLIMENT...a simple and sincere, "you look great in red" or "you did a super job" or "that was a wonderful meal" can make someone's day.

• THE GIFT OF A FAVOR... go out of your way every day to do something kind.

• THE GIFT OF SOLITUDE...there are times when a person wants nothing more than to be left alone.  Be sensitive to those times and give the gift of solitude to others.

• THE GIFT OF A CHEERFUL DISPOSITION...the easiest way to feel good is to extend a kind word to someone.  It’s really not that hard to say, Hello or Thank You. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Trend Alert

'Tis the season for projections and predictions regarding the coming year's trends. As always we urge you to use caution when considering decor and design trends as most are sure to come and go in the blink of an eye- you may recall our Trend With Caution blog...
We've done some research and come up with the top "trends" that we think are most likely to catch on in a long-term way:

The return of warmth: For a while now industrial materials and stark minimalism have left homes feeling a bit cold and harsh. Not any more. Hammered and dulled brass is gaining popularity along with a comfortable mix of wood, tile, and metallic finishes. Clean lines and a lack of clutter aren't going anywhere, but they're likely to be surrounded by a bit more warmth.
Photo credit: Neil Kelly Co.

Don't do it yourself:  As the recession seems to be waning people are a bit more at ease hiring someone to do their home projects. The DIY theme of the past decade is giving way to the expertise of local professionals ready and willing to help you.

Technology comes home: From electrical sockets with USB ports to motion sensing faucets, technology is making its way into the house. And not only are home appliances and devices getting smarter, but they can now link to your smart phone in some instances. Control your home's temperature and set the security system from across town?  Why not!

Nature and nurture: Interior Designs incorporating raw finishes and natural materials are on the rise. This extends to eco-friendly materials that are kind to the environment and welcome calming nature indoors. Energy efficient appliances and "green" amenities are becoming an expectation rather than a perk.

We'll keep you posted on how these themes for the year progress is our local market. Keep an eye out!

Are there trends that you're curious about or would like to see us write about? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Up to $500 for Doing Home "Work"

energy home.pngThe energy-efficient home upgrades tax credit is scheduled to expire on December 31st this year.  If you need to make improvements to your home, this could be an incentive to do it before the end of the year.  If you have already made qualifying improvements without realizing the tax credit is available, it may seem like a holiday gift you weren't expecting.
The equipment must be installed to qualify for the credit which can put you under a time crunch.  Heating and cooling systems, insulation, windows, doors, skylights, water heaters and home weatherization may qualify.
The Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit has been available for purchases since January 1, 2011.  The tax credit is 10% of up to $5,000 of qualifying improvements which would make a maximum of $500 tax credit.
The cumulative maximum amount of tax credit that can be claimed by a taxpayer in the different years this law has been in effect is $500.  If it has been claimed in previous years, the taxpayer is not eligible for this credit for additional new purchases.
For more information, see energy.gov or talk to your tax professional.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Holiday Happenings: Midland in December

Dow Gardens Poinsettia Tree
December is inevitably a busy month, but why not take an afternoon or evening to break from the craziness and enjoy the holiday season?  Midland, Michigan offers a wide array of events, entertainment, and opportunities during the holidays and we don't want you to miss out on any of them!  Here's our short-list:

The Dow Gardens Christmas Walk
December 12th-14th, 20th & 21st  5pm-7pm  Cost: FREE
  Looking for a winter wonderland to stroll though? Look no further! Paths lined with luminaries, beautiful music throughout the gardens, and picturesque scenery- Dow Gardens has it all!  Santa's Reindeer will even be there the 12th and 13th for your children to meet! Click HERE for a schedule of the musicians and choirs featured this year.

Holly Jolly Days
December 14th & 15th   Noon-4pm  Cost: FREE
Carriage Rides at Holly Jolly Days
  Downtown Midland is a great place to do a little holiday shopping and during Holly Jolly Days you can enjoy special discounts and all sorts of holiday festivities.  Free horse-drawn carriage rides, free hot cocoa in several stores, a special coupon offering $5 off your purchases of $25 at numerous shops, and of course the Santa House! Click HERE for your special Holly Jolly Days Coupon!

Santa House
December 3-27th  Schedule Varies  Cost: FREE
The Midland Santa House
   You may have seen Santa arrive in town during the Santa Parade last month.  Since then, He's been hanging out at his Midland residence on Main Street! The Santa House is about as picturesque and festive as it gets and it is sure to delight any child.  Stop by to take a picture with Santa, chat with an elf or two, and maybe even see the reindeer.  Note that the Santa House is closed on the 24th & 25th and although it reopens for the 26th & 27th Santa will not be there.

Midland Mall Holiday Arts & Crafts Show
December 13th-15th  Mall Hours  Cost: FREE
   A great place to find your holiday, the Midland Mall is open Friday and Saturday from 9am-10pm and Sunday from 11am-8pm.  The craft show is a great place to find unique gifts for those special people on your list.  Vendors and gifts for purchase include artists, antiques, collectibles, sports items, and more!

Midland on Main
December 31st  Main Event: 8pm-12:30am  Cost: $15; $100 VIP Pass
   Michigan's largest new years eve ball drop happens in our very own downtown! There's something for the whole family at this Time-Square style ball drop.  A kid's concert will happen from 5:30-6:30pm, teen activites will follow from 7:00pm till midnight.  This year's entertainers include TV celebrity Dennis Haskins (Mr. Belding to those of us that grew up in the 90's), Dani Vitany & Ten Hands Tall, and "Chicagoland's premiere cover band" 28 Days! 4 warming tents, 8 full-service bars, additional entertainment, and a fireworks show ensures that this year's party will be a night to remember!  Get your tickets HERE.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter Maintenance

home maintenance 250.jpgWith a 2,000+ mile long winter storm affecting much of the country, there are plenty of home owners who wish they were better prepared.  Even when you live in warm climates, some of these things are important to check periodically.
Preparing for the change of seasons can make your home more comfortable and protect your investment.  Regular maintenance extends the various components of a home and can generate savings in operating costs while avoiding expensive replacements.
  • Weather strips around doors and windows should be checked for possible air leaks.
  • Caulking around windows and doors should seal out moisture and air leaks.
  • HVAC should be inspected and serviced by a professional annually.
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested regularly.
  • Ductwork and supply lines from water heaters should be insulated.
  • Fireplace chimneys should be cleaned regularly and fireplaces should be inspected for cracks in mortar and to see if the damper closes properly.
  • Gutters should be free of leaves and debris to prevent rainwater build-up.
  • Tree branches touching or hanging over your roof should be trimmed.
Please contact us if you need a service provider recommendation or visit our website- we have an entire page devoted to our trusted local business partners!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Spotlight Listing: Park Place Rentals

In addition to being one of the top Real Estate agencies in town, Park Place Homes is also a full service property management company. Our property manager, Brad Vander Vliet, can help you find a home to rent or find a tenant for your rental home. He is also able write lease agreements and handle all your property management needs throughout the duration of a lease.

As your property manager, you can count on our comprehensive knowledge of the real estate market. This means that your rental will be fairly priced, showings of the home will be coordinated for you, and your rental will be visible to other real estate brokers resulting in increased exposure for your property. Valuable advertising of the property will be done through newspaper, newsletters, numerous internet sites, and our existing client base.

All Park Place rentals undergo required inspections for rental certification and their condition is reviewed prior to occupancy and at lease termination. Periodic property reviews, credit and background checks of prospective clients, and a comprehensive lease agreement protects the property, the owner, and the tenant.

Interested in learning more about Park Place Homes Property Management?  You can email brad, brad@parkplacehomesonline, or call him at our office: 989-698-1100.

If you're in the market for a rental, browse our current listings and click on them for more information!


You can always check our website for updated information on rental homes and property management.  Click on the "Renters" tab to see available listings at any time!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Motivated Sellers, Better Prices and Less Competition

winter house 250.jpgThe Winter Home Buyer Report conducted in the second week of November by REALTOR.com® revealed the sentiments of current home buyers expecting to buy a house during the winter months.  It appears that there is pent-up demand with buyers who were unable to purchase a home recently.

Most cited as an impediment to purchase was the challenge of low inventory.  Strong demand coupled with short supply explains why home prices have been increasing.

"This summer and spring home buying season was particularly challenging for buyers, especially first-time home buyers trying to compete with all-cash offers and bidding wars because of reduced inventory.  In fact, a quarter of the winter home buyers revealed they are in the market now because they were unable to find a home during this last home buying season," said Alison Schwartz, vice president of corporate communications at REALTOR.com®.  "While buyers are still experiencing challenges with inventory and approximately one in five buyers plan to put down all cash, there are advantages to looking for a home in the winter. Motivated sellers, better prices and less competition between buyers are some of the top reasons winter home buyers are interested in purchasing a home during the colder months of the year."

Some interesting statistics taken from the report are:

Biggest challenges when searching for a home during winter:

34 percent shared that there is not enough inventory on the market
• 29 percent believe that winter weather makes house hunting unpleasant

Traditionally, the industry has found that the fourth quarter of the year has a lower sales volume and is generally attributed to distractions from the holidays and not wanting to make a move during consistently inclement weather.  Even in areas that are not affected by extreme winter weather, there seems to be a mindset about moving in the winter.

Indications are that it may be advantageous for sellers to put their home on the market now rather than wait until after the first of the year.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving is Always in Season

Thanksgiving250.jpgMost school children would probably say that Thanksgiving dates back to the Pilgrims at Plymouth as early as 1621. By the late 1660’s, it had become traditional to hold a harvest festival in New England.
President George Washington declared the first nation-wide thanksgiving in 1789 “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”
One hundred fifty years ago during the Civil War, in October, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the first national day of Thanksgiving.
William Seward, Lincoln’s secretary of state, drafted the proclamation: “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God…they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”
Even though the country was in the middle of the costly Civil War, the people of America started an enduring tradition to give thanks. In 1941, Congress determined that Thanksgiving will be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Do's and Don'ts: Selling Your Home During the Holidays

The holidays can be a highly rewarding time to have your home on the market, but it isn't always easy. We understand that keeping the house show-ready while surviving the countless parties and pageants may be a stretch. On the very bright side, the people who continue to house hunt during this time of year are likely serious buyers! To help you get the most from your showings this season we have a short of list of Do's and Don'ts for your holiday decor:

Traditional Living Room
Don't: Clutter-up what you de-cluttered when prepping to sell.
Do: Pare down decorations. Keep it simple and clean.
This might not be the year to display your 62-piece Santa Bear collection. But don't worry! You can use it next year in your new home. This tasteful example (on left) doesn't distract from the home's natural beauty.

Madame Butterfly Designs
Don't: Cover up selling features with decorations.
Do: Use decorations to highlight selling features.
Consider moving the tree into a corner where it won't block architectural features, or perhaps near a lovely stairwell where it will enhance a feature. The picture on the right depicts a tree blocking a window and a doorway- a poor choice for someone trying sell.

Michelle Edwards

Don't: Assault potential buyers' noses.
Do: Create a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Flameless candles allow you to create a cozy feel in your home without the fire hazard or seasonal smells. You may like that scent, but buyers could be sensitive to it or simply be bothered. Arranging flameless candles in your fireplace is another nice way to accent a great selling feature with your holiday decor!

Don't: Try to out-decorate your neighbors.
Do: Remember that curb appeal is important, especially in the colder months!
Keep paths clear of snow and leaves and safe for visitors. Decorate your home so that buyers' feel welcomed in from the cold. 
Remember that less is more...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Refinance to Remove a Person

refinance 250.jpgMost people are familiar with the various reasons a homeowner refinances their home which generally result in two major benefits: saving interest and building equity. 

There is however another reason to refinance which may not be as common which is to remove a person from the loan. In the case of a divorce, when one party wants to keep the home and the other party wants their equity out of the home, it is possible for the remaining party to refinance the home. If the equity is sufficient to justify it and the remaining owner can qualify for the new loan, the refinance can provide the proceeds to buy out the other spouse.

Refinancing to remove a person from the loan could also involve a situation where two or more heirs jointly own a property and have differing opinions on when to sell. The same situation could apply to a rental property with multiple owners and the refinance would provide a way to buy out a partner.

Sometimes, it’s not about taking cash out of the home to buy out the other party. If a person’s name is on the mortgage, they’re responsible if it goes to default. One party may be willing to deed the home to the other party but it doesn’t necessarily relieve them of the liability of the mortgage they originated.

Many times, once a person has made their mind to move on, they’ll take the fastest and easiest way out. Removing a person from the deed or a mortgage is a reason to consider obtaining legal advice to protect your interests. Refinance Analysis calculator.

Reasons to Refinance

1. Lower the rate
2. Shorten the term
3. Take cash out of the equity
4. Combine loans
5. Remove a person from a loan

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Spotlight Listing: 1604 Winchester

1604 Winchester is the kind of listing that doesn't come around very often.  This gorgeous home sits on a large corner lot in one of the most desired neighborhoods in Midland.  Its wrap around porch, wood floors, fire place, finished basement, and formal dining room set this house apart from the rest.  What else sets it apart? The fact that this incredible home is listed for just $250,000. A beautiful balance of style, function, and location this home is perfect for the family that likes to entertain and is on the move.

The main entry welcomes guests with tile floors and immediate access to formal living room, kitchen, and the second story. As mentioned before, the formal dining room is the perfect space for family dinners or dinner parties! The open layout between kitchen and family room creates a functional space that you'll use for everything from a quick breakfast, to homework parties, to cozy movie nights.  And we would be remiss if we didn't mention that the kitchen comes complete with cherry cabinets, quartz counters, and stainless appliances.

Upstairs you'll find all four bedrooms, each with ample natural light and space for beds, dressers, and even desks. The master bedroom features large windows and an en-suite bath complete with walk-in closet, double vanity, separate shower and tub. If you're still concerned about living space you'll be glad to hear that the basement is finished with built in storage, closets, and a half bath. The main-floor laundry room- with plenty of space for sorting, folding and hanging- is right off the large three-car garage. This space has more than enough room for your lawn tools and a few extra toys.

It's hard to put a price on convenience, style, and functionality; but there is no doubt that those traits, when combined with the endless amenities 1604 Winchester offers, make this home an absolute steal at $250,000.

Watch the Virtual Tour for more photos of this beautiful home; and call Shelley Park Cluff today for your own private showing!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Who's Paying Your Mortgage?

who is paying your mortgageAs a homeowner, you obviously pay for your mortgage but as an investor, your tenant does.  Equity build-up is a significant benefit of mortgaged rental property.  As the investor collects rent and pays expenses, the principal amount of the loan is reduced which increases the equity in the property.  Over time, the tenant pays for the property to the benefit of the investor.

Equity build-up occurs with normal amortization as the loan is paid down.  It can be accelerated by making additional contributions to the principal each month along with the normal payment.  Some investors consider this a good use of the cash flows because interest rates on savings accounts and certificates of deposits are much lower than their mortgage rate.

In the example below, is a hypothetical rental with a purchase price of $125,000 with 80% loan-to-value mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years compared to a 3.5% for 15 years.  The acquisition costs were estimated at $3,000, the monthly rent is estimated at $1,250 and $4,800 for operating expenses. 

11-11-2013 7-42-16 AM.png

Notice that both properties have a positive cash flow before tax.  The cash on cash return is the revenue less expenses including debt service divided by the initial investment to acquire the property.  The 15 year mortgage will obviously have a smaller cash flow and lower cash on cash but the equity build-up is significantly higher.

If the goal of the investor is to pay off the property to provide the highest possible cash flow at a later date, a shorter term mortgage with a lower interest rate will help them achieve that.  A simple definition of an investment is to put away today so you’ll have more tomorrow.  Sacrificing cash flow now, during an investor’s earning years, is a reasonable expectation to provide more cash flow in the future when it might be needed more.

Contact me if you’d like to explore rental property opportunities.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How To: Choose the Right Counter Tops

A kitchen counter top- it doesn't sound very complicated or even that important, but picking the right one for your house is a very big choice.  Granite, Soapstone, Laminate, Wood, Glass, Stainless, Tile, the choices are seemingly endless.  Sow how do you know which is right for your house?

The first thing for you to consider is, of course, budget. Determine the square feet of counter top you'll need and then decide what you can spend to cover that area.  Laminates could cost between $15 and $30 a square foot, while a high-end granite might cost up to $90 per square foot.

After you know your budget, consider the style of your home and look for a counter top that will enhance the overall feel. You don't want to choose something that looks nice in the store but will be out of place once it's installed.

Now you have to pick from your narrowed pool of choices. But which option will meet your needs?
Here's a quick breakdown of some of the most popular counter top options:

Natural Stone: generally durable, heat resistant, and considered a classic choice. Different levels of durability depending on type of stone- softer stones like marble and limestone may be more susceptible to chipping or cracking. Can require regular maintenance including resealing. Generally the most expensive option.

Manufactured stone: not as natural looking as real stone, but offers heat, stain, and scratch resistance without the regular maintenance. Nearly as expensive as natural stone but has a very long life.

Wood: will not dull knives or utensils when preparing meals. Will wear with use- a look that some find warm and charming. Highly susceptible to damage from heat, moisture, corrosives, and excessive dryness. Requires regular food-friendly sealing.

Metal: stainless steel is the most common metal option and nicely compliments a wide array of home styles. A potentially costly option, but very durable and easy to clean.

Concrete: an extremely heavy option that requires regular sealing but offers a very wide array of color and texture options. Also durable, heat-resistant, and surprisingly versatile when used to compliment other materials.

Tile: very budget friendly and heat, moisture, and stain resistant.  Tiles may break or chip and grout is susceptible to staining and mildew but regular cleaning can protect against that issue.

Laminate: available in nearly every color under the sun, and the most cost effective option. It can be scorched or scratched by very hot pans and sharp knives.

Statistics say that when you sell in the future you may not recoup 100% of your investment in new counter tops; but a well designed and well dressed kitchen could catch a buyer's eye and help sell your home. Find a material that suits your home's style, is neutral enough to appeal future buyers, and meets your current needs. Do your research and make sure you pick the counter top that is right for your home!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Top 9 Indoor Autumn Maintenance Tasks

Round numbers are overrated when it comes to home maintenance chores that need to be done.  Really, who wants to do the Top 10 Tasks, when 9 will get to job done?  We want to help make prepping your home for winter, as easy as possible!

Ready?   Here we go...

1) Check your attic. Make sure that vents are clear and there are no signs of leaks or unwelcome guests (the furry or feathered kind).

2) Clean your vents and ducts. This includes dryer vents, cold-air returns, and baseboard heaters.

3) Test your detectors. Both the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should get new batteries twice a year and be tested monthly. The whole unit should be replaced if it is more than ten years old.

4) Mind your flue. Make sure the fireplace is clean and that the damper opens and closes properly.

5) Sweep behind your refrigerator. Vacuuming behind and under your fridge can improve efficiency. Make sure you clean the vent located either on the top or bottom of the appliance, too.

6) Clean your humidifier. Make sure to check the manufacturer's instructions and thoroughly prep the unit before using it for the first time this season.

7) Change your filter. Switching out your furnace filter assures that you're not recirculating dust and allergens throughout your home; and it will help your furnace run efficiently.

8) Test your pump. Make sure your sump pump is ready for the autumn rain and winter.. precipitation (this is mid-Michigan, you never know what you're going to get). Double check your back-up system as well.

9) Inspect your seals. Check the weatherstripping around all your doors and windows and make necessary repairs.

Pretty simple and straight forward, right? Remember that properly maintaining your home now can save on costly repairs in the future and have a huge impact on the resale value of your home. Don't skip it!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Real Estate 411

411.pngWhen you’re buying or selling, the obvious source to get your real estate question answered is your agent but where do you go the rest of the time?  As a homeowner for many years to come, you’ll need reliable help and solid suggestions.

Our business goal is to have a select group of our friends and past customers who consider us their lifelong real estate professional. We want to earn that trusted position so they’ll enthusiastically refer their friends to us.  Our plan to achieve this is simply to help these people with all of their real estate needs not just when they buy or sell but for all the years in between.

Throughout the year, we offer reminders and suggestions by email and social media that benefit your homeowner experience.  When we find good articles to help you be a better homeowner, we’ll pass them along.  You’ll discover new ways to maintain your property, minimize expenses and manage debt and risk.

We want to be your “Go-To” person for everything to do with real estate.  If we don’t have the answer you need, we’ll point you in the right direction to find it.

We’re here for you and your friends…now and in the future.  Please let us know how we can help you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Park Place Perks: We Are Your Community Experts

Midland was recently named the number one Michigan city by Real Estate blog Movolo. Of course we were not surprised, but we appreciate the title anyway. Movolo ranked cities based on amenities, cost of living, crime rate, education, employment, and home value- categories in which Midland scored very well. But we pose the question- what good is a great community if its residents don't realize all the assets at their fingertips?

From fun family activities to quality local businesses, Midland is a gold-mine of opportunity and resources. As REALTORS we pride ourselves on being community experts. Many of our REALTORS grew up in the tri-city area or have lived in the region for years. They are active in a variety of local clubs, groups, organizations, and teams. We also have a vast knowledge of local professionals. Do you have a question about making improvements to your home? We can help you decide what needs to be done and refer you to a trusted business person who can get the job done. From carpet cleaners to roofers, septic professionals to interior decorators we can point you in the right direction.

Our mission at Park Place Homes is to make your home ownership dream a reality; and we know that extends far beyond helping you buy or sell a house. As your REALTORS we are here to help with any of housing needs and community questions. You can give us a call any time or check out the "Links" tab our website. There is a page for local entertainment, activities, city information, and even restaurants. You can also visit our Business Partners page for a list of local professionals we recommend.

We are at your disposal, so please don't hesitate to put our expertise to work!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why Borrowers Pay Different Rates

interest.pngLenders, like any business, have to make a profit.  The cost of acquiring the funds, the operating costs to service and the expected profit margin are easily identified.  The variable in pricing is the type of mortgage and the credit worthiness of the borrower. 

A loan with a 3.5% down payment is riskier than a loan with 20% down payment.  If the lender has to take the property back to recover their expense, the margin is greater between what is owed and what the property is worth on an 80% mortgage. 

Credit scoring is a risk-based pricing method that allows a lender to be competitive in the market for the best loans from different borrower groups.  Individual lenders set their own levels for what they consider “A” credit which is reserved for the best rates.  If good credit is approximately 710 to 740, scores below that are considered higher risk and will have higher rates.

Risk must be assessed for both the borrower and the property that collateralizes the loan.  The borrower’s credit history and income stability are strongly evaluated by the lender but if a default should occur, the property must secure the loan to avoid a loss to the lender. 

Mortgage pricing.png

The challenge for some buyers is they are unaware of what their credit score is and how it will affect the interest rate offered by the lender.  It is to the buyer’s advantage to be pre-approved by a reputable lender prior to starting the process of looking for a home.  In some cases, the lender can actually improve the borrower’s credit score to help them qualify for a lower interest rate.

Contact me for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional - Sold@ShelleyPark.com

Friday, October 18, 2013

Spotlight Listings: 3855 N Alamando

  Rarely do you find a custom built home with over 3,000 square feet of living space (not including a finished basement) on over an acre of property at a price like this- just $227,900 $215,000! Expansive ceiling heights, custom cabinetry, beautiful trim work, and an open floor plan are just a few of the eye-catching features that you will find inside 3855 N Alamando.

  The front entry brings you into a spacious living area. Open to the dining area and kitchen, this living space is filled with natural light and is as perfect for entertaining numbers of guests as it is for daily life. The gas fireplace is surrounded in beautiful tile and makes for a warm focal point in the large room.
  Fabulous tile work continues in the kitchen where both floors and backsplash are done in a beautiful neutral-colored porcelain tile. Details such as built-in appliances and electronically operated blinds are further evidence of the quality custom-design.
  In addition to the main floor's open living area, a family room is located on the upper level just off the dining area.  This large space offers beautiful views of the lower level as well as views of the large backyard- accessible through the french doors you see in the picture below.  Also through the french doors is a back deck with even more room for lounging and entertaining.  And a little extra treat- there's a tunnel slide from the deck to the yard.

  The main floor master suite boast 9ft ceilings, a generous walk-in closet and gorgeous en-suite master bath. This space will make you feel as if you've stepped into your own private spa complete with tile-surround garden tub.

  The high-end amenities continue throughout this amazing home.  Main-floor laundry, finished basement, home office, extremely spacious bedrooms, 2.5 car garage, security system, and a top of the line heating and cooling system- everything you've looked for in your dream home is waiting for you at 3855 N Alamando.  Call Angela Mira at Park Place Homes today to schedule your own private showing.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lower Anxieties/Improve Marketability

Home inspection.jpgOne of the anxiety highpoints during the sale of a home is waiting for the buyer’s home inspection report.  Most sellers willingly disclose what they know about their home to any potential buyers.  The concern stems from the inspector finding something that they’re totally unaware of and that it will either cost them a lot of money to correct or the buyer will simply use it to void the contract.
If the inspection does reveal some unknown problem with the home, it’s probably as big a surprise to the buyer who is not as emotionally or financially invested as the seller.  It is human nature to fear what you don’t understand and when a report identifies defects, they may simply opt-out of the home.
The solution to the situation may be for the seller to have the home inspected prior to putting it on the market.  There is still a risk of becoming surprised by an unknown defect which at that point, would have to be disclosed to potential buyers or repaired by the seller.  The advantage is that it creates a baseline to compare discrepancies that may arise when a future buyer has the home inspected.
If the seller’s inspection report is made available during the marketing process, it could give buyers a sense of confidence about the home even though they may still choose to have the home checked by their own inspector.
The cost of the inspection, possibly $500, keeps some sellers from taking this initiative when selling their home.  In an effort to minimize their expenses, they forego getting valuable, disinterested 3rd party advice that could help sell their home.  On a $175,000 home, the fee for the inspection will probably be less than 3/10 of one percent of the sales price.
Another option to the seller to increase marketability of the property and bolster buyer confidence in the home would be to offer a home protection plan.  Generally, the seller doesn’t incur cost for this coverage until the home is sold and there may even be some coverage for the seller during the listing period.  The benefit to the buyer is avoiding unanticipated expenses for specific items that are covered during their first year of ownership.
Contact Park Place Homes for recommendations of home inspectors or home protection plans.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Protect Your House and Home!

Did you know that there were over 364,000 residential structure fires in 2011 resulting in over 6 billion dollars in damages?  Three out of five home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms or without functioning smoke alarms.  Taking simple steps toward fire prevention can save both your home and your family.

With the help of the American Red Cross we've compiled a very basic fire safety checklist:

  • Turn portable heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.
  • Once a month check whether each alarm in the home is working by pushing the test button.
  • Change smoke alarm batteries at least once a year. Changing them when you change your clocks for daylight-savings is a great way to remember.
  • Replace all smoke alarms every 10 years as they may become unreliable or ineffective after that time.
  • Never disable smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Ensure that all household member know two ways to escape from every room of your home.
  • Make sure everyone knows where to meet outside in case of fire.
  • Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year and at different times of the day.
  • Remember to GET OUT, STAY OUT, and CALL 9-1-1.
  • Never open doors that are warm to the touch, use your second way out.
  • If smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed. If possible, place a wet towel under the door and call 9-1-1. Open a window and wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help.
Make an escape route, practice it, talk about what would happen if there were to be a fire in your house, and be prepared!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rating Your Best Friend

dog.jpgMan’s best friend enjoys many of the benefits of his master’s home besides food and shelter and a comfortable place to live and play.  In return, dog owners expect companionship and possibly, protection; after all, even a small dog can bark to signal intruders.

Few people doubt that most dog owners love their pets and treat them well.  The costs associated with having a dog can include medical and dental that rivals human expenses, premium food, toys, grooming and license fees.  However, one of the expenses not anticipated by pet owners is a higher homeowner’s insurance premium.

There are almost five million dog bites a year with children being the main victims.

“Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2012, which amounted to more than $489 million,” said Peter Robertson, representing the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, testifying against the bill at a hearing of the Committee on Financial Services.  He said, “The total cost of dog bite claims increased by more than 51 percent between 2003 and 2012.”  It is now estimated that dog bites cause losses of over one billion dollars a year.

Some insurance underwriters have denied or canceled coverage or increased the premium of the owner’s liability insurance based on the homeowners’ specific breed of dog such as Pit Bulls, Dobermans, Akitas, Mastiffs, Malamutes and even German Shepherds.  The aggressive nature of certain types of dogs combined with specific training or lack of training, abuse or neglect are identified by insurer’s refusal to provide liability coverage.

If you are considering what insurers identify as a high-risk pet, you might want to visit with your insurance agent prior to acquiring your new best friend to see if it affects your rates.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Four Fall Activities for the Family!

   Autumn is a breathtaking time of year in the Great Lakes Bay region- especially Midland. It’s the perfect time to get out of the house and enjoy our community before we get snowed-in once again. To help you make the most of this fall we've compiled a list of a few family-friendly activities that will allow you to take in the season’s beauty!
   Of course we have to start with the Fall Parade of Homes. The Home Builders Association of Midland is hosting the free of charge event October 5,6,12, and 13. Homes will be held open from 1pm till 5pm. Click here for a parade map.
   Happening on the same days as the Parade of Homes is the Autumn Color Tour River Sail on the Appledore IV. The two hour sails leave from Wenona Park in Bay City and takes passengers on a sail up the Saginaw River. You can enjoy hot cider, chili and cornbread while enjoy the colorful view. For details and sail times visit Bay Sail
   Also on October 5th is the Fall Harvest Festival at Chippewa Nature Center. This one day event offers programs featuring the traditions of 19th century Americans including cider making, woodworking, and more! Crafts, games, and fun activities like candle dripping are available all day long for the kids. The event starts at 10am and runs till 4pm and concessions will be available.
   On October 17th Grandma’s Pumpkin Patch and Downtown Midland will host the 2013 Pumpkin Festival. Get the whole family dressed up- including your pets- and head on down for pumpkin rolling, donut eating contests, pumpkin decorating, hayrides, Trick or Treating, and free Popcorn & Cotton Candy. Lou E. Loon will be there along with professional Bike Jumpers. The event starts at 6pm and ends at 7:30pm so don’t be late for this evening full of Fall activities. More information about the night can be found on Downtown Midland’s website. 
   Finally, we want to remind you of some of the beautiful ways to enjoy a simple day or evening. Why not head over to Baynes Apple Farm for one of the best caramel apple’s you can find. Or you could wander through Dow Gardens and admire the gorgeous autumn leaves. And remember that the Midland Farmer’s Market closes down for the season on October 30th; so make sure you snatch up your local goodies before then!
Enjoy the leaves!

Don't Do It!

iStock_000004411494XSmall(er).jpgYou’ve seen lists telling buyers what to do to find the right home but knowing what not to do can be just as important.  After finding the right home, negotiating a contract, making a loan application and inspections, buyers, understandably, start making plans to move and put their personal touches on the home.

In today’s tenuous lending environment, little things can derail the process which isn’t over until the papers are signed at settlement and funds distributed to the seller. Verifications are made by a lender at the beginning of the loan process to determine if the buyer qualifies for the mortgage. The verifications are usually done again just prior to the closing to determine if there have been any material changes to the borrower’s credit or income that might disqualify them.

Simply stated:

1. Don’t make any new major purchases that could affect your debt-to-income ratio
2. Don’t apply, co-sign or add any new credit
3. Don’t quit your job or change jobs
4. Don’t change banks
5. Don’t open new credit accounts
6. Don’t close or consolidate credit card accounts without advice from your lender
7. Don’t buy things for your new home until after you close
8. Don’t talk to the seller without your agent

Your real estate professional and lender are working together to get you into your new home. It’s understandable to be excited about one of the biggest decisions you’ll make and that you feel you need to be getting ready for the move.

Planning is smart but don’t do anything that would affect your credit or income while you’re waiting to sign the final papers at settlement.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Autumn Maintenance Checklist

'Tis the season for a little outdoor maintenance! You could put it off or pretend it isn't important, but that might come back to bite you. So, since it shouldn't be avoided, we're hoping to make your life a little easier with a quick list of the must-do tasks. We've covered outdoor chores this week, but check back again soon for a short list of important indoor jobs as well!

The Lawn:
- Trim trees & bushes
- Fertilize the lawn
- Clean & store yard equipment
Make sure you trim branches back so they don't pose as a risk to power lines during winter storms.  If you're worried about trimming large branches check with the city or local government. It may actually be their responsibility to do major trimming in some situations. Also, take a little time and rip out the dead annuals from your flower beds and you'll save yourself the hassle next spring.

The House:
- Clean & repair gutters
- Inspect your roof
- Clean the chimney & fireplace
- Inspect & clean outdoor lights
- Check for peeling paint
- Seal cracks & gaps with caulk or weather stripping
Cracked or falling siding, a leaky roof, or full gutters are a recipe for disaster when mixed with harsh winter conditions. Take your time checking windows, doors, and your foundation for gaps. These few tasks may help to prevent serious (and costly) problems that can have a long term impact on your house.

- Store things like paint, caulk, and adhesives somewhere they won't freeze
- Seal driveway
- Clean & cover your air conditioning unit
- Prep your deck & store outdoor furniture
- Unhook hoses and prep pipes for freezing weather
These final few tasks may not apply to every house, but shouldn't be overlooked if they're relevant to you. Continual freezing and thawing, which we can say with complete certainty will happen (this is Michigan after all), can wreak havoc on a cracked driveway, your wooden deck, and liquids left out in the cold. Stop and consider how your outdoor assets will hold up in the weather.

Finally, take a moment to jump in a leaf pile and enjoy another gorgeous Michigan Autumn!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Equity Dynamics

Equity small.pngEquity is the difference in what your home is worth and what you owe. Ideally, as the value goes up and the unpaid balance goes down with each amortized payment made, the equity grows from two directions.

This dynamic leads to increasing a person’s net worth much faster than many other investments.

A homeowner has minimal control over value. It is necessary to maintain the property to avoid depreciation and make good decisions on capital improvements. After that, appreciation is generally controlled by supply and demand and the economy.

Mortgage management is something that the homeowner does have control. Making the decision to select a shorter term mortgage at a lower interest rate can have an impact on equity build-up. Lower interest rates amortize faster than higher interest rates which will also affect equity growth. Currently, it is possible to get a 1% lower rate on a 15 year mortgage than a 30 year mortgage.

Compare two alternatives of a 30-year and a 15-year mortgage. The payments will definitely be higher on the shorter term because it pays off quicker. However, if a person can afford the higher payments of $362.53 more per month in this example, the equity will be greater. Even after you take into consideration the higher payments, the increased equity is $17,236 at the end of the seven year holding period.

Equity dynamics.png

Another decision that can affect equity build-up is making additional principal contributions along with the regular payments. Whether you’re making an occasional lump sum payment toward principal or regular monthly contributions, it will save interest, build equity and shorten the term on a fixed rate mortgage. Estimate your personal savings with this Equity Accelerator.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Spotlight Listing: 2560 W. Saginaw Road

Today's Spotlight Listing is a little bit of paradise. Nestled on eight acres following the Salt River, this beautifully maintained and updated home is the perfect oasis from busy life.  Between the Rail Trail, fishing, hunting, and canoeing, you’ll never be bored with this retreat- although you may find yourself very relaxed.  Let us walk you through 2560 W. Saginaw Road.

A covered front porch runs the full length of the house and provides the perfect place to relax on a warm afternoon.  The front door opens to the spacious living room with beautiful hardwood flooring and coved ceilings.  This inviting space connects to a dining area with Andersen French doors which open to a second covered porch.  This area could easily be converted into a screened in porch or four-season room.  Why not take advantage of the picturesque landscape year-round?

Off the dining area is a kitchen that you won’t soon forget.  It has been updated to perfection and is befit for a culinary master.  Stainless steel appliances include a professional five-burner range, dishwasher, and refrigerator with drawer-style freezer.  The newer maple cabinets and ceramic tile floors perfect the space.  The side door to the home opens into the kitchen where there is also access to the partially-finished full basement.

Back through the living room a short hall leads to a full bath and all three bedrooms.  The highlight of this side of the house is certainly the addition built in 2003 which houses the master suite.  This expansive room is over 20 feet long, allowing for a cozy sitting area right in the bedroom.  Also within the suite is a private master bath and walk in closet.  More Andersen French doors lead to the covered porch along the back of the house.

If our little tour has left you wanting to find a comfy chair and a good book in this relaxing retreat, we understand- and there’s good news! The home is filled with low-maintenance and high-efficiency amenities, ensuring that you’ll have time for that comfy chair and good book.  Steel siding, a new roof, and garage doors were installed in 2012. There are also newer windows and doors and a new septic and drain field as of 2003. The whole house has been insulted with fiberglass and Styrofoam, and there is a high efficiency furnace ensuring you won’t spend all your money heating and cooling this fabulous home.

2560 W. Saginaw Rd. is listed with Carol Park, one of Midland's most experienced agents. Give Park Place Homes a call today to arrange for your own private showing of this tranquil retreat! 989.698.1100.  To see more photos of the home, head over to our website to view the full listing.