Thursday, February 23, 2006

What Not To Say When Looking at Homes

Real Estate author Mark Nash has some great money saving tips and advice for homebuyers when they run into home sellers or their agents at house showings. Don't even think about blabbing out any of the following exclamations:

"I love it.
It's perfect for us (me).
We (I) just fell in love with the house.
I (we) just found my next home.
It's our dream home.
We've loved it for years.
We love it. We want it.
It's the perfect house for us (me).
We love this house. Dearly."

Who would be so foolish, you ask? While this advice may just seem like common sense, do you really have any idea what type of information you are communicating to the listing agent (seller's agent) when looking for a home? Because of the high probability that your interest in a home can be communicated non-verbally, the most important advice from the author is to have your own agent. If you are represented by a buyer's agent, you may never even run into a seller or listing agent at a showing (they usually will not attend if a buyer's agent is present).

If you do happen to run into a listing agent or seller at a showing, here are some practical tips: (1) adopt a poker face; (2) keep away from listing agents or sellers when you're viewing a home; (3) don't stay too long; (4) moderate picture taking; (5) delay giving any feedback; and (6) ask only factual questions.

If you do find what you think is your "dream home", the author has some more good advice: (1) sleep on your decision, don't be impulsive; (2) go back for an additional showing; (3) review recent comparable sales; and (4) do not allow your emotions to get the best of you and waive basic contingencies such as home inspection, financing and attorney review.

Your Homebuyers Shouldn't Say "Love" or They'll Pay Dearly [Mark Nash, Broker Agent News]

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Public Right to Walk on Great Lakes' Beaches Upheld

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of the Michigan Supreme Court's recent decision declaring that the public has the right to walk the dry sand beaches of Michigan's Great Lakes shores.

In Glass v Goeckel, 473 Mich 667 (2005), the Michigan Supreme Court held that regardless of title, under the common law "public trust doctrine" applicable to the Great Lakes, the public has the right to walk the Great Lakes shorelands up to the ordinary high water mark ("OHWM"). For those who are curious, the OHWM is defined as follows: "the point on the bank or shore up to which the presence and action of the water is so continuous as to leave a distinct mark either by erosion, destruction of terrestrial vegetation, or other easily recognized characteristic."

In reaching its decision, the Michigan Supreme Court noted that historically, the state has served as "the trustee of public rights in the Great Lakes for fishing, hunting, and boating for commerce or pleasure." The Court added walking on the beach to this list, concluding that "because walking along the lakeshore is inherent in the exercise of traditionally protected public rights of fishing, hunting, and navigation, our public trust doctrine permits pedestrian use of our Great Lakes, up to and including the land below the ordinary high water mark."

Supreme Court Stays Out of Michigan Beach Walking Debate [Detroit News]

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Time to Re-Finance Your ARM?

While short term interest rates have been steadily rising recently, long term rates have not risen significantly. This has resulted in what is called an "inverted yield curve", where short-term interest rates approach or exceed long term rates. If you financed your home with an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) at a low rate within the last few years, you may be in for a nasty surprise when your rate adjusts.

For instance, I refinanced my home almost three years ago with a 3/1 ARM at 3.5%. The interest rate on my ARM is scheduled to adjust in July. There is a 2.0 cap on my initial adjustment and because short term rates have risen considerably, my rate will likely increase the full two percentage points. If rates continue to rise in the future, my rate could max out at 9.5%, which is the maximum rate cap contained in my mortgage note.

Instead of sticking with the ARM, I could refinance with a 30 year fixed at about 6.25%, locking in that rate for the life of the loan. This would protect me from the risk of further rises in interest rates.

Whether or not you should refinance depends upon your own individual circumstances. Refinancing may make sense if you plan on keeping your home for long enough to recoup the additional costs. With the recent rise in short term rates, refinancing your ARM is definitely worth discussing with your mortgage banker or financial advisor at this time.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages Are A Smart Move for Some, But Not All []

Monday, February 13, 2006

Construction of New Petoskey Casino Set to Begin

Construction of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians' new casino in Petoskey will be getting underway shortly, according to tribal chairman Frank Ettawageshik, with concrete work to begin within the next few days. The new casino will include 1500 slot machines, 30 table games, six poker tables and a theater with a capacity of up to 1,000. Also planned are a buffet restaurant and fine dining establishment.

The new casino will be located in Resort Township, just West of the existing Wal-Mart shopping center in Bear Creek Township. Lears road will be extended West to provide access to the property from U.S. 131. The new casino, which will include a high-rise hotel, will be joined in the area by a Lowe's Home Improvement center, which is planned for the property just south of the Wal-Mart shopping center.

The new casino, which is scheduled to open in June of 2007, is being built by Clark Construction Company.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Zillow - It's Alive!

Yes, It's Alive! And after previewing Beta Version 1.0, I have discovered that much like Dr. Frankenstein and his little science project, the Zillow crew definitely has their work cut out for them.

Zillow has gone online as of today with the stated goal of trying to place a value (called a “Zestimate” in Zillowspeak) on every house in the country, and making that valuation information freely and openly available to consumers without any registration requirements. Zillow's business model will be advertising based, generating its revenues from ads on the site.

Zillow claims to have found data and information on 60 million homes around the country, with enough data and information to enable its statisticians and engineers to algorithmically make a Zestimate on 40 million of those homes, with a reported margin of error of 7.2%.

I found the available data for Michigan to be spotty at best. The first property I looked at was in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, which according to Zillow is located in Washtenaw, rather than Wayne County. Oh well, I guess the two counties are pretty close to each other. When looking at the Zestimate, comparable sales were pulled from Southfield, Michigan, which for anyone unfamiliar with Metro Detroit is like comparing Beverly Hills with El Segundo.

The Zillow crew has definitely undertaken an ambitious project, and openly acknowledges that with a database exceeding 2 terabytes in size, there will undoubtedly be errors. The major challenge for Zillow will be obtaining accurate tax assessment and property sale information to populate their database. It sounds like Zillow may be joining local MLSs to try and obtain property and property sale information datafeeds. Zillow will undoubtedly have an awesome commodity on their hands once their nationwide property information database has been compiled. Hopefully we will all still be alive by the time that database is complete enough to actually provide us with reliable property valuations nationwide.

We’re Live!, the Beta, Launches! [Zillow Blog]