Monday, May 22, 2006

Tough Times for Northern Michigan Golf Industry

The combination of a saturated market and a stagnant economy has meant tough times for the Northern Michigan Golf Industry. In Emmet County alone, eight new courses have opened since 1990--144 new holes of golf. Unfortunately, the number of people playing golf locally hasn't kept pace with the pace of golf course development, resulting in some lean years recently.

The silver lining in this dark cloud is the fact that you will find it much easier to get great tee times even on the busiest golfing days of the summer. With ample supply and a dearth of buyers currently, there are also some good values to be had on golf property.

In saturated market, local clubs struggle [Record Eagle]

Friday, May 19, 2006

Don't Be a Dual Agency Dupe

Marketwatch columnist Lew Sichelman says that an agent who plays both sides of the housing fence compromises your position. This is from his Realty Q&A column on Marketwatch:
Realty Q&A - Don't let agent force dual agency on you
May 18, 2006

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Question: I'm about to make an offer on a three-unit property, but before I do anything the sales agent wants me to sign a dual-agency disclosure. I informed her that I'm not comfortable with that and I'd like exclusive loyalty. She then said that if we go through with the deal or offer, I'd have to sign it anyway. Is that true? Why would I have to sign that anyway if I'm not comfy with it? I would rather do a designated agency. Clayton

Answer: There's no reason -- or law -- requiring you to sign anything you don't want to. And you are absolutely correct, you have the right to exclusive loyalty, or in the case of real estate, single agency.

Sellers aren't the only ones who need exclusive representation. So do buyers. Otherwise, the agent who is working with you could divulge critical information to the seller or seller's agent. It may happen inadvertently, but intentional or not, if certain information gets back to the seller -- the fact that you are willing to offer a higher price if need be, for example -- it could have a damaging effect on your side of the equation.

Sales people who want to be dual agents try to walk the line between buyer and seller, and they often successfully do so without a mishap. However, without a signed statement saying they disclosed the fact that they are working on behalf of both parties -- or sometimes, in the case of a transaction facilitator, neither one -- they are walking that tightrope without a safety net. The disclosure protects them because by signing it you are agreeing to work with someone who speaks for both buyer and seller and therefore, in my opinion, speaks for no one.

The problem here is that the agent in question has already shown you the property and expects a commission if you go through with the sale. If you refuse to sign and buy the property anyway through another broker, your original agent will probably fight you tooth and nail to get her money. But to my way of thinking, she should have had you sign a dual-agency disclosure form before she showed you a single property.

So at this point, you probably have two choices -- go through with deal or seek legal help to find out what, if any, recourse the agent has if you drop her and find someone else.

If you decide to go ahead, make sure you tell the agent nothing that will hurt you in your negotiations. If you find another agent, don't be bullied or intimated by the first one. And when picking a new agent, make sure you opt for someone who is an exclusive buyer broker (agent) as opposed to someone who works for one or the other but not both.

Most exclusive buyer brokers are trained in how to represent buyers alone, whereas those who bat from both sides of the plate, depending on who's pitching, are usually not. They think they can do both, but the jobs require different mind-sets. And without proper training, a seller's agent has a hard time changing hats.

For what it's worth, the National Association of Realtors' code of ethics requires members -- not all agents belong to the 1.2 million-member NAR -- to disclose in writing whom they represent, the buyer, seller or both. In addition, most states have laws requiring such disclosure, and most risk-management experts recommend obtaining a signed statement even when state law doesn't call for one.

But in the most recent NAR research, one in five buyers and sellers said they never signed a disclosure statement and another 20% said they don't remember whether they signed one or not. Among first-time buyers -- those who would tend to find the question of agency most confusing, if only because they have never gone through the buying process before -- more than one in four said they hadn't signed a disclosure statement.

Realty Q&A [Marketwatch]

Thursday, May 18, 2006

AvoID Theft - Deter, Detect, Defend

The National Association of Realtors is teaming up with the Federal Trade Commission to help educate consumers about the growing problem of identify theft. The Federal Trade Commission currently estimates that there may be as many as 10 million victims of identity theft each year! Studies estimate the annual cost to consumers to undo the harm caused by identity theft to be $5 billion, while it is estimated that identify theft costs businesses nearly $50 billion in lost revenue annually. These are clearly alarming numbers!

The FTC has received thousands of real estate related identity theft complaints. Oftentimes consumers first learn they are victims of identity theft when attempting to buy a home, shattering dreams of home ownership and forcing victims to rebuild their good name and destroyed credit.

The Federal Trade Commission has come up with a number of helpful suggestions to help combat identity theft, revolving around three themes--deter, detect and defend. These suggestions are outlined in a helpful brochure for consumers. This brochure is must reading and may help you avoid becoming victimized by the growing menace of identity theft.

AvoID Theft - Deter, Detect, Defend

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Petoskey Ranked 2nd in Midwest for Golf

Golf Digest has ranked the Petoskey/Traverse City area as one of the top golf-home markets in the Midwest. The Petoskey area received the highest golf score (34.7) of any community in the Midwest. The Golf Digest golf score reflects the number and quality of courses, golf days per year and course congestion.

To give you an idea of the quality of courses in Northern Michigan, the Petoskey/Traverse City area's golf score ranked 11th nationally, behind only Scottsdale, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Maui, Myrtle Beach, Wilmington (NC), Pinehurst (NC), Hilton Head, Hawaii (Big Island), and North of Tampa. The Petoskey/Traverse City area's golf score of 34.7 compares favorably to Hilton Head (34.8), Hawaii-Big Island (34.8) and North of Tampa (34.8). Pretty good company, wouldn't you say?

According to the National Association of Realtors, Americans bought more than 1 million vacation homes in 2005, and golf was a deciding factor in nearly a third of these purchases. The Golf Digest rankings were prepared to help golfers in their search for a golf-home getaway.

Midwest Golf Rankings [Golf Digest]

Monday, May 15, 2006

Petoskey Pointe Project Delayed

The Petoskey Pointe Project slated to be built in downtown Petoskey has apparently been delayed once again. Demolition to make way for the proposed $60 million, 160 unit condominium-hotel has now been pushed back to at least June, as the Developer has not yet acquired title to all of the parcels of land upon which the proposed development is to be built. In addition, the Developer has not yet selected a general contractor for the project.

No builder, no start date for condo project in city [Record Eagle]

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Petoskey Featured in "Where to Retire"

Petoskey is profiled in the May/June 2006 issue of Where to Retire, a magazine claiming to be America's foremost authority on retirement relocation, with over half a million in readership.

According to Where to Retire, "One of the appealing features drawing retirees to this recreational center in Northwest Michigan is its location in the wooded hills and along the Lake Michigan Shoreline. Petoskey offers skiiing in the winter, world-class golfing in the summer, fishing and boating on area lakes and hiking and biking in nearby state parks."

"Petoskey is also home to cultural amenities like the Little Traverse History Museum, which highlights the areas connection to Ernest Hemingway. Resident retirees also enjoy annual concerts and festivals, as well as the Crooked Tree Arts Center, which offers a variety of classes year-round."

Petoskey was also featured as a retirement destination by the magazine in a 1992 article, made the 2001 list of 100 top places to retire, and was profiled as one of eight desirable retirement areas with cooler climates in 2004.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mamie & Barbie

Sorry for the diversion, but is my little princess cute or what? Here she is at her 4th Birthday (Barbie) Party along with the cake my wife Kim made. Can you believe this cake? My wife is so talented. She is amazing. They both are.

As for the party, if you are a Mattel stockholder, sleep well tonight, my friend. With my daughter's party and all of the associated Barbie purchases, you will fare well this quarter.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Top 15 Real Estate Trends - 2006/2007

When the nice folks at asked me to review the 2006 Swanepoel Trends Report from RISMedia, how could I refuse? Anything written by someone whose first name is Stefan is worth reading, right? All kidding aside, I have followed Stefan Swanepoel for a number of years now, and have always been interested in what he has to say.

The Swanepoel Trends Report begins by providing an overview of events which have impacted the real estate industry over the past ten years (1995-2005), and then gives us a glimpse into the future based upon the author's identification of what he sees as the top fifteen trends shaping the industry.

The author's stated goal is to introduce real estate professionals to emerging trends at an early stage, enabling them to prepare for many possible future scenarios. From Application Software Providers (ASPs) to Zillow, if it may have a role in shaping the future of real estate, it is almost surely contained in Swanepoel's report.

I found the report to be very comprehensive in its breadth of coverage, and an essential reference for anyone wanting to stay on top of the latest industry trends. However, there are a couple of emerging trends, mainly involving competition and regulatory matters, which I felt were largely ignored.

One big wild card as I see it is the current anti-trust suit which the U.S. Department of Justice has filed against the National Ass'n of Realtors, litigation which could obviously impact NAR's proposed new ILD policy and the way in which MLS data is shared and disseminated. In my opinion, the decision as to whether a MLS should be treated as a public utility, as opposed to a proprietary tool primarily for the benefit of MLS members, will impact the future of the industry for years to come. Another subject given little attention in the report is the minimum service standard and anti-rebate legislation being pushed by a number of state Realtor associations, legislation which is also being seriously challenged by the Department of Justice and which has raised the ire of a number of consumer advocacy groups.

The joint workshop on competition in the real estate industry put on last fall by the Dept. of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission highlighted for me the fact that attempts by the traditional Realtor establishment to stifle innovative new business models will be met with stiff regulatory and/or legislative resistance. The current federal legislative/regulatory environment will not favor historical industry business practices, and may be an impetus for sweeping changes in the industry, which may include allowing federally chartered banks into the real estate business.

I also happen to believe that the "For Sale By Owner" movement is gaining traction as websites which aggregate FSBO "listings" gain critical mass in certain markets, most notably Madison, Wisconsin. Increasing numbers of "unrepresented sellers" may be a challenge the traditional industry will need to face, especially if major internet players enter the FSBO fray.

Also on the radar screen for me as an exclusive buyer agent is the continuing shift toward non-agency relationships, such as transaction brokerage, in a number of states, as well as the wholesale lack of meaningful agency disclosure as documented by NAR's most recent survey of Buyers and Sellers. I believe that groups such as the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents, of which I am a member, will continue to have a role to play in shaping the future of the way real estate is practiced.

Stefan Swanepoel's 2006 Trends Report will most certainly enable its readers to better plan for the future by highlighting those trends which will most likely affect the future of the real estate industry. My only suggestion would be that the the author place more emphasis on the current legal and regulatory issues facing the industry, as they may greatly impact the future of real estate as we know it.