Wednesday, December 17, 2008

UnReal Deals

I keep coming across great deals in our marketplace, and have been sharing them with friends on Twitter and Facebook. I'm going to start posting them here as well, where I can tell a bit more about them.

Prices for homes have taken a hit, and with current mortgage rates in the 5% range, the values are outstanding. Unfortunately for me, I can't buy them all, so I'll share the information. The listings I'll talk about will not be limited to my own inventory. If I see a great deal that is someone else's listing, I'll tell you about it.

I'll start off with a home I just listed for a bank. It's a 3 bedroom, 2 bath 1970's manufactured home on 5 very nice wooded and rolling acres. It has a full basement and a large deck, and is very close to the new Douglas Valley Organic Vineyard Community, where lots alone are offered starting at $129,000.

It's also close to Little River Casino, the Manistee River, Lake Michigan, Portage Lake and Onekama.

This house sold in 2004 for over $100k. It's now available for just $34,900. Here's a link to more information.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Watch for falling mortgage rates

Fannie Mae's intraday MBS yield is falling sharply, which means that mortgage rates will likely follow. The drop is significant, and likely is in part tied to the new Treasury plan to buy Mortgage Backed Securities.

If you've been thinking of buying, you would be wise to talk with your lender for a rate quote. A drop in rates increases your purchasing power, and with the incredible values that are on the market right now, you may find you can get a whole lot more for your dollar than you would have just a few months ago.

Homeowners who may have been considering a refi should also consider taking action now.

In other words, real estate is on sale, and mortgage money is going on sale too! That's something for which we can be thankful!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Greetings from your rogue agent

From: Steve

Sent: Thursday, November 13, 2008 11:20 AM


Subject: greetings from your rogue agent

Hi Matt,

I'm first writing to apologize for my lack of participation and communication with the office. I have been in contact with Kathy for some extensions but that's about it. I will make an effort to get to some meetings and be more involved.

It's been a disappointing year to say the least. I had such high hopes that we would get some real buyer activity down here, but it didn't happen. I had showings,(not as many as I would have expected), but offers were slow to come. I was also hopeful that the new development nearby would bring traffic, but it hasn't yet. I'm optimistic going forward because Frankfort and Benzie County is still poised for growth, I just know it's going to take time. I'm not recommending major price reductions to my sellers because I don't sense that is the reason we're not getting traffic. (A couple listings are down 10%+ and still no offers). If I had some desperate sellers, it would be a different story but I don't. I think we're fairly priced here compared to the market...we just need more buyers.

The tourism trade has been strong and I expect it will continue, despite the economy. We just need some help from the overall economy and downstate home sales to help stimulate 2nd home purchases up here. It will happen...hopefully sooner than later.

Thanks and I'll talk to you soon.


Hi Steve,

Rogue agent... I like it. Nice hearing from you. I don't know that I'll concede that if you don't have any desperate sellers they don't need to reduce their prices. We've seen median sale prices drop 9.7% in Benzie County YTD, and a total of 13% since 2006. If that trend continues, the gap between your sellers prices and the market will widen. You and they need to be aware of that risk.

Total sales are down 21% YTD in Benzie County, so you're right that we need more buyers. Their return is dependant on a lot of things: increased confidence, increased liquidity in MBS, availability of credit, the stock market and how TARP and housing stimulus are implemented all will play a factor. We're building pent up demand, but need some significant triggers to release that demand.

On the positive side of things, we're seeing early indicators of a recovery in our industry, especially here in NW Michigan. It appears that supply is beginning to tighten, with the number of new residential listings down 19.3%year to date in the TAAR MLS, and building starts way down as well.

Another leading indicator of a turn around is a recovery in number of transactions. Last Friday at the NAR Convention in Orlando, Chief Economist Lawrence Yun noted that housing sales show signs of turning in Michigan, driven by affordability. The rebound of sales units will precede the rebound in prices or sales volume, and I believe it will precede it by at least 12-18 months.

The good news is that while home sales (for the MLS as a whole) are down 11.4% year to date, when we look at October 08 vs October 07 we're only down 1.3%. That means that October was a huge improvement vs. the year overall. In fact, Benzie County actually posted an 8% gain in October!

It's been a heck of a bumpy year, and the economy and stock markets have scared a lot of buyers out of the water. While the words "we're from the government and we're here to help" strike fear in my heart, I know that NAR is actively advocating for prudent stimulus and relief that will aid homeowners and home buyers. I'm very pleased that they have attacked the deficiencies which I felt were inhibiting the use of the current home buyer stimulus package.

The current offering calls for the $7500 to be paid back over 15 years, and it is restricted to first time home buyers only. I feel that to be effective the $7500 credit should not be required to be paid back, but more importantly that the credit should apply to all buyers of a primary residence, regardless of whether or not they currently or recently owned a home.

In the mean time we're building pent up demand. I spoke with one of our regions largest home builders tonight, and he's sold about 43 units this year. He stated that he fully expects that when our market breaks free, he'll do 200 units the first year. A normal good year for him is around 100 units.

I'm always here if you want to talk strategy.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honoring our Veterans

A lot of what I learned about honor, I learned from my parents. Today I'm thinking about a lesson I learned from my dad, and it's about honoring our Veterans.

Dad didn't actually teach me this lesson himself. I learned this lesson from my dad via his very good friend, Theo. Theo is much like a second dad (or sometimes an older brother) to me. Theo served in Vietnam, and carries the toll that the war took on him to this day as he fights the early onset of Parkinson's disease.

In College, I took a course on the history of the Vietnam war one fall semester, and as luck would have it, Theo and I spent time together that fall traveling to hunting camp. Just he and I in a dark truck on a cold night, going somewhere we loved to go. We talked about his experiences and what I'd learned. About wild times in his past and about love and friendship.

And then Theo told me that when he returned from Vietnam my father showed up at his door to thank him for his service. And that my dad was the only one that made it a point to thank him for many many years.

Every year on Veterans Day, I make it a point to thank whomever I know who has served our country in time of war. I'll start making phone calls as soon as I collect myself after writing this, as I could not make it through this post without tears welling up in my eyes and my nose starting to run.

I was touched by comments the Joe Theismann made yesterday when he spoke at a conference I attended. I happened to be videotaping at the time, and have posted that video on YouTube.

I'm extremely fortunate not to have lost a loved one in a war. But I'm even more fortunate to live freely, happily and safely in this wonderful experiment in democracy known as America.

Have you thanked a veteran lately?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Would you like my autograph?

I got a nice little plug on the 11:00 news last night. TV 7&4 (NBC) contacted me yesterday afternoon about buyer activity and the market. The reporter, Courtney Rehmer, was looking for a local tie in to the NAR figures for September. I spent a solid half hour with her at one of my listings in Beulah.

I'm very proud to have bumped politics and Barack Obama's infomercial Blitz from the top billing, as I was the lead story!

They didn't use everything that Courtney shot, but I think it turned out quite well. Some of the information that was left "on the cutting room floor" included:

That while closed units were down 11% Year to Date in the region, September was off just 4% over last year, indicating we're closing the gap.

That inventory levels are shrinking, and the ratio of listings taken to listings sold has improved dramatically.

That we're at or near the bottom price wise.

After the interview I got to thinking, and emailed Courtney that "There is one more thing that occurred to me, and that is that we do not need more foreclosed homes on the market, or more people displaced from their homes by foreclosure. Please encourage viewers to take action if they are having trouble making their payments. For the most part, banks do not want to take their homes and should be willing to work with them. There are resources available, especially if they act quickly. If they're having troubles with their lender they can contact the TAAR office or ask a REALTOR for guidance."

While it was trimmed off of the end of the video posted online, I was glad that this was included in the news report. In fact they used it as a segue to some extent, and followed up with advice from financial advisers that they've had answering viewer calls this week.

Good deals are out there, as well as some great ones. For buyers who are making a sound financial decision, and are buying for the long term (5 years as opposed to 1) it is a great time to buy.

It was fun having the opportunity to do the interview, and I've gotten quite a few comments on Facebook and via text from friends and colleagues.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I submitted a correction to The Traverse City Business News recently, as I noted an error in a story on the real estate market. Gayle Neu was quick to respond with apologies and a promise that they'd address it. Whether it's stories on new businesses, the real estate market, or being included in their annual 40 under 40 feature, I really enjoy working with Gayle and the crew at TCBN, and know that the error was innocent and not an attempt to spin the news to the negative.

At any rate, the information is worth sharing here.

To the Traverse City Business News,
I noticed the article titled "Traverse City real estate: alive and (relatively) well" by Bill Wheadon in your October 2008 issue. I wish to point out an error in the labeling of the data, as well as provide some additional information that may clarify the figures reported. While I will address my home market of Benzie County specifically, I believe the error to be the same for all areas, though how that changes the assumptions which were made will vary.

In the chart provided, sales information is reported as being thru July. The data is actually for the month of July alone, NOT year-to-date through July. Thus, this is a one month sample of what is occurring in the market. Small samples are inherently less accurate for deriving a mean (or average) than a large sample, a fact which I believe is illustrated in the % change indicated.

A search of YTD sold data for all property types (Residential, Vacant, Commercial and MultiFamily) in the Traverse Area Association of REALTORS MLS shows that through September 30th, the number of sales in Benzie County decreased by 33%, while the median price fell from $122,000 to $115,000, a drop of 5.7%.

As much of the focus is on what is happening in the Housing Market, I have been tracking Residential Sold data separately. Year to date in Benzie County through September 30th, I find that the number of residential sales has fallen from 179 to 134 (-25.1%) and median prices have fallen from $155,000 to $132,500 (-14.5%)

While our region is seeing a decline in home prices, we continue to outperform most if not all of the state. The availability of mortgages at low interest rates (yes, mortgages are still available, and with favorable terms,) increased affordability of homes, the forecast growth expected for our region, the desirability of the area including quality of life, and the impact of the baby boom generation will continue to make the Grand Traverse region one of the best areas in Michigan to purchase real estate. Buyers who act now are making exceptionally good deals, and we are seeing some owners choosing to take advantage of the market to move up into a larger home. Inventory is beginning to tighten, with less new inventory coming onto the market and the ratio of Listings Taken to Listings Sold for September at 3.06/1, a much healthier ratio, and vast improvement from its peak of 5.78/1 in January of 2007.

Attached is the data from which the statistics on sales were drawn. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Sincerely yours,

Matt Case
Associate Broker, Director of Support Services
Coldwell Banker Schmidt REALTORS
President, Traverse Area Association of REALTORS

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Air Time

I went "on air" to talk about the Grand Vision last Friday, when I was a panelist of sorts on Interlochen Public Radio's Points North. Jim Maitland from the Grand Traverse Road Commission, Jim Lively from the Michigan Land Use Institute and I had a discussion with Peter Payette. Here's a link to the interview.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Where do we go from here?

I spent Sunday afternoon with my wife and kids, along with my sister, enjoying fall in Northern Michigan. First we went in search of a cider mill and fresh donuts, and found our way to The Covered Wagon near Lake Leelanau. I say found the way, because we worked from memory as opposed to maps in making our way through the Leelanau Peninsula.

Next we visited Jacobs Corn Maze, just a bit west of Traverse City on M-72. I've wanted to do a corn maze for a while, and was excited to hear that one was open in our area. Mike and Laverna Witkop and Steve and Lisa Fouch created a great recreational asset for our community, and we had a blast. Garrison and Jared (8 and 6) ran 90 percent of the time in the maze which means they put on several miles at a trot. Nathan at 2 1/2 tried to keep up, but also delighted in riding on grown up shoulders- "go fast! Go fast!"

Using the map provided and being able to read it was critical in getting through in a timely fashion. It would have easily taken us twice as long (if not more) had we not used the map. We quickly settled into a pattern. Kids run ahead with instructions to stop at any intersection. "Which way do we go?" and off they run again. Great fun.

Now I sit here wondering where we go from here once again, as the Economic Stabilization Act was defeated, the Dow plummeted, and debate (and finger pointing) rages on. I've been having mixed feelings on the defeat- I'm a fiscal conservative, but understand that the risk of doing nothing is significant. I had only the broadcast news interpretation of the Act, which provided little substance, and having heard enough spin on it, I decided to try to learn more.

After brushing through several news sites, I decided to turn to my professional association, and visited the National Association of REALTORs website at There I found a summary of the act written from the REALTOR point of view, speaking to the REALTOR community. This summary gave me a deeper understanding of facets of the bill. Here's a look at that document:

Whether this act was the best possible solution will never be answered to everyones satisfaction. I firmly believe, however, that dramatic action is needed to address the credit crisis, and it is needed soon. Political infighting and rhetoric will serve no one, nor will placing blame for how we got here. May our Representatives and Senators be blessed with open minds, clear insight, and the strength to unite in action.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Understanding the Impact

It's a challenge to get a grasp on what's going on between Washington and New York, and how it is affecting our markets. Still more difficult is the task of predicting and tracking what works. I came across three articles on Inman News today that made it to my list (see sidebar) because they improved my understanding of the current situation.

First this article on the Fannie-Freddie Rescue. Debate it all you'd like, this action was essential.

Next, an analysis of the debate surrounding the proposed Treasury buy up of bad loans, including some speculation of what it could be, and how the program and the properties might be managed.

Third, Federal actions lead to housing hesitation takes a look a what impact all of this is having on buyers right now.

It seems for a long time, we've had every bit of good news stifled by a share of bad news or drama, supporting an atmosphere of uncertainty that has kept some buyers on the fence. I am hopeful that these bold moves will help to break up this hesitancy and move us out of deadlock. There are incredible values available in our markets, and likely in many others as well.

The buyers I'm working with are making great deals, and I believe will be some of the biggest winners when the market regains its footing... WHICH IT WILL DO! Those that act soon will take advantage as well. Those who wait until the market rebounds will pay higher prices, but still do well. So long as buyers are making wise financial decisions, based on need, and recognize they are making a long term investment, this is a good time to buy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

MAR Convention

I'm currently at the Michigan Association of REALTORS Convention and Expo in Detroit.

Meetings opened last night with the REALTOR of the Year announcement. Congratulations to Joe Bayai! We were also proud of the nominee from the Traverse Area Association of REALTORS nominee, Peter Read.

I missed part of the Keynote speach to handle some business (good news!) and then visited the trade show before going to dinner.

This morning started with the RPAC breakfast and an address from Senator Mike Bishop. The Senator thanked us and encouraged us to stay involved, including contacting our senators and representative.

Then on to classes...I'm focusing on tech this morning, and thinking that podcasts might be a valuable means of communication with our mrmbers.

I've also gotten a glimpse of the behind the scenes power held in Google. Almost too much information, and I'm ready for a break and lunch.

Very cool that this event will be coming to Traverse City next year!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Second Season

It appears the second season is upon us. I spent 30 minutes in Backcast Fly Shop yesterday. It wasn't my intention to spend that long, nor was I planning a leisurely browse of the store. I actually was hurrying, but wanted to buy this years hunting licenses.
What I found when I walked inside was a lengthy line at the register and more people lookinh through the wares.
There were three fly fishermen lamenting over the latest version of their favorite reel, which it seems isn't as durable as the model it replaced. One was having his reel replaced and re-wound with fresh line.
Another young man was looking for patching material for his waders, and I offered a suggestion based on my own battles with leaky boots. He later asked me where he might buy new waders locally. Others were selecting various bits of tackle.
All this at 4:30 pm on a Tuesday in September! This is a great indication that our heathy fisheries are of great value to our region.
I was pleased to see that folks were still travelling to our area to take advantage of our resources, and contributing to our economy while they were here!

Posted while mobile

Friday, August 22, 2008

Local Business featured on The Food Network

I just received an email from the Benzie County Chamber of Commerce announcing that Graceland Fruit will be featured in the television series “How’d That Get On My Plate?” on The Food Network. The Episode is scheduled to air this coming Monday August 25th at 8:30 p.m.

It's not the first time The Food Network has turned their focus to our area. They've featured foods from Northern Michigan in Food Finds, and our cherries are mentioned in several recipes.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pearl Lake

I’ve been thinking about one of my listings, a lot on Pearl Lake. Pearl Lake is unique in a number of ways. First off, it’s located just south of the Benzie-Leelanau County line, with thousands of acres of state land in the Pere Marquette State Forest wrapping around its western and southern sides. There’s not a major road that takes you close enough to get a good look at the lake, and actually there’s only one paved road that will get you anywhere close to it, that being Pearl Lake Road. Yet it’s a big lake- 800+ acres, with a bunch of arms stretching in different directions.

The isolation and size are a couple of things that make it rare. I think it’s fair to say it’s the largest “natural” type lake in Benzie County- one of the ten biggest, I’d say, and the undiscovered for the most part. There are homes and lots along the north edge, but not much else. You can find whole arms of the lake that are untouched by human progress. Taking a look at the Topo Map or Aerial Photo from Terraserver gives you an idea of the interesting layout.

I first discovered Pearl Lake about 14 years ago, thanks to a friend from High School. We'd been camping nearby at Lime Lake, and he suggested we go fishing on Pearl Lake. He was somewhat astonished that I didn't know where it was, and I was a bit embarrassed when he explained it was less than a half mile away. The hills and forests that surround the lake do a heck of a job at hiding it until you're right upon it. Anyhow, we fished for bass and pike, and I enjoyed it so much that I went out with another freind and his girlfriend the next day. As I recall, she outfished the guys, but by then I was more interested in exploring all the coves and bays than fishing anyhow.

College took me away for a while, and it was at least 5 years before I got back to Pearl. This time I was in search of Canada Geese during the fall hunting season. It must have been early in the season, as I recall it was warm. I also recall that my hunting mate forgot his paddle, and we made it to out hunting grounds using a flattish stick and an old board. I don't however, recall the geese cooperating that day.

While there isn't much out there regarding the lake, there are some photos on Flickr, and I've read an article from the Traverse City Record Eagle about the lake. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to track that article down in their online archives, but will post that when I do. The writer, Mike Terrell, recounts an evening of kayaking on the lake, and notes seeing loons, eagles, Canada geese, sand hill cranes, deer, and many songbirds. I do have a rather poor scan of the article in pdf format, which I'll be happy to email to anyone interested.

One thing I love about this job is the reflections and memories that properties bring forth. I got started on Pearl Lake because of the lot I have listed- a beautifully wooded lot, on a cove off of one of the arms. The site is perfect for a walkout basement, and the south facing slope means you get to make the most of the suns rays in winter, while being protected from the north winds. It's in Pearl Lake Estates, which provides an association beach in addition to the 126 feet of private lake frontage. The other homes in Pearl Lake Estates are very attractive and nicely done, and there are about 60 acres of common area and an area to have a pole barn for storage. We've just priced this lot at $175,000, which is a real value in my book. It's $124K lower than the next available lot in Pearl Lake Estates, and is $60k cheaper than another that's available nearby in Pearl Lake Land Division. The most recent tax assesment indicates it's worth over $218k! I'm really enthused about this listing, and with luck I'll find time in my schedule to use it as an excuse to explore the lake further...with my fishing pole in hand, of course.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Fourth in the North

There’s no place in the world that I’d rather celebrate Independence Day than in Northern Michigan.  From the crowds present this past week, I’d venture to say many others feel the same way.


The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays, and one that’s rich with tradition.  For nearly every one of my 35 years, the holiday has begun with a family breakfast with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents at our family homestead known as “The Pines” located just outside of Benzonia, overlooking the site of the old Case Mill Pond on Cold Creek.


What’s so great about Independence Day up north?  From morning to night:


Cold dew on your toes

Strong coffee in chipped mugs

Cooking bacon and eggs over a campfire

A cinnamon roll from the Cherry Hut

Taping signs to an old convertible

Decorating a bike or wagon in red white and blue

Driving or riding in the Beulah Parade, trying not to miss anyone you know, or

Watching friends and neighbors from the curb as they roll by, shouting their names when they throw candy.

A dip in Crystal Lake after the parade

Dripping dry in the sun

Pop-its tossed on the sidewalk

Lunch from a cooler, on a boat, at the sandbar

Football in the water

Little ones snoozing with a beach towel for a blanket

Burgers, brats and hot dogs on the grill

Cold beer for the grownups, lemonade for the kids

Lighting the campfire early

Tubing and waterskiing after dinner


Daylight lasts forever

Lighting sparklers while you wait for the fireworks

Watching boats come down the lake to see the show

Singing God Bless America to yourself or out loud

Bright reflections on smooth dark water

Snuggling together with your eyes to the sky

Cheering for the grand finale

Finding out it wasn’t the finale after all

Horns tooting their appreciation

Motors starting, green and red lights on the water as the boats make their way home

Kids sleeping on parents laps

Finding the big dipper

Catching fireflies

Seeing a shooting star

Going to bed sandy, smoky and sunburned, proud to be an American and thankful for all that you have.

Friday, June 27, 2008

USA Today features Benzie County

The national spotlight shines on the smallest county in Michigan. Got to love it!

Link to USA Today story

That's it for now. Greatest opportunity to buy in this area in a very long time... right now, but it won't last forever.

Monday, June 23, 2008

101st Congressional Candidate Forum

Michigan's 101st Congressional District is takes up a big stretch of Lake Michigan Coastline. Stretching from the Mason County line at Bass Lake well south of Ludington through Manistee and Benzie Counties and on to Leelanau County, it's an impressive chunk of Michigan's Gold Coast. In addition to coastline and lakefront towns, cities and villages, the 101st also makes up a large portion of Michigan's prime orchard and vineyard lands.

This year, the 101st district is up for grabs, as Rep. Dave Palsrok of Manistee is term limited. In the running are four Republicans and one Democrat. All the candidates recently met in Manistee for a forum that was aired on and recorded by Interlochen Public Radio and sponsored by the Manistee League of Women Voters.

While I've been as engaged in this race than any other race in the past, I'm still undecided. A good blogger would take a stance here, but I just can't, and not because I'm scared to stick my neck out. I'm just not moved to jump on board with any of them. Am I becoming jaded?

It was interesting to hear a candidate mention a REALTORs specifically in one of his answers, and reassuring to know our message is being heard, and in this case repeated. It's that kind of issues based politics that I can get behind. Supporting causes and policies is so much more interesting that arguing ideology to me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

US Real Estate and the Global Economy

Fast Company's Big Idea for June 9, 2008 was:

“The American housing bust has become responsible for a substantial portion of the world's problems. ” - Inspired by Mark Landler, New York Times.

My response:

"Housing is one factor that has us flirting with a bitter cycle of economic erosion. Is Housing the cause? I think more likely it's a symptom of the rampant consumerism and lack of thrift among Americans in general (including this American in particular) over the past decade(s). I think the quote stopped at least one step short of identifying anything that can be considered a cause.
Remember that real estate is a local phenomenon. We're a long, long way from global collapse of real estate markets. If folks were buying homes in the late 70's/early 80's when gas was scarce and mortgage rates were 18%, I think we can find our way through the current mess, where gas is still available, however expensive, and rates are hovering around 6%.
The silver lining here is that houses are becoming more affordable, not less, and pressure will continue to make our housing more efficient."

I'll note that I should have said our choices in housing more efficient, meaning that where and how we live will be affected, and what we view as necessities will be pared down.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Two old dudes and a magazine.

What do a hip, techy business magazine like Fast Company and a 100 year old bastion of the real estate industry like Coldwell Banker have in common? Innovation, a bit of cheeky humor, and my attention.

I began recieving Fast Company this past fall as part of a gift package for being selected to the 40 under 40 by Traverse Business News. Since then I've found myself looking forward to each issue. I don't know if the other winners enjoy it as much as I do, but it's my new favorite mag, and gets read from cover to cover (something I can't say for Rolling Stone.) If I can ever find the time, I'll be delving deeper into their website.

Why Coldwell Banker? Well, of course I work for Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors, one of their larger brokers. But what has my attention is their new "Founders" marketing campaign. The ads are entertaining while driving their message to the customer, but the best part is not the ads. It's the website. At the dedicated site you can challenge a smack talking Colbert Coldwell (well, his portait anyhow) to a game of Pong, have a staring contest with Arthur Banker, and follow the portraits on their road trip. Yes, the portraits actually have been out traveling the country, including visits to the Boston Marathon and the Liberty Bell, and they are blogging about it.

What's this got to do with real estate? Nothing and everything. Sure, you can learn the history of Coldwell Banker on the site, and link through to search listings, but what it's all about is relationships. This campaign makes a big national company personal and approachable, and drives our name recognition. Did I mention that the portraits of Colbert Coldwell and Arthur Banker are on facebook? It's a great example of using technology not to get more work done or to advertise a product, but to focus on the basics of this business. And that is that real estate is about building relationships.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Grand Vision reflections

The Grand Vision workshop was yesterday evening, and was really exceptional. It's great to see a large (200+/-) diverse group working together and thinking about the future. There was a lot of energy, enthusiasm and creativity in the room.

Some of the greatest values in way The Grand Vision is set up are that it requires you to plan based on the growth that has been projected, and that in looking forward, you learn so much. In attending a couple of these sessions, I've seen people have "ah-ha" moments when a concept really became clear to them. Sometimes that concept is one that they couldn't grasp, or thought that they were opposed to.

Once all the data is aggregated, different scenarios will be presented for selection. This will occur this fall, and continues the power of this process. The end result will be used in planning decisions, grant writing, and future research. In the mean time, participants have greater understanding, and hopefully have become advocates for the process.

It's an honor to have been selected as a Champion for The Grand Vision process, and was really rewarding to see such great turn out for the Benzie workshop.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Have your say- Regional Planning via The Grand Vision

I won't reinvent the wheel here, but rather quote the email reminder I recieved today from Jim Dulzo of the Michigan Land Use Institute regarding the Grand Vision regional planning workshop to be held tomorrow at Crystal Mountain Resort.

"Dear friend,
Well, tomorrow night’s a big one for Benzie. It’s our turn for
The Grand Vision—a big, communitywide collaboration on how we want our county and the region to grow over the coming decades.
The county workshops have been marvelously successfully—so far, they’ve attracted about 2,000 participants—a truly amazing turnout.
The workshops are free, fun, freewheeling, powered by complimentary light foods and beverages, and very neighborly.
Groups of people gather around big tables with county maps and figure out together how they want their community to grow, what they want to protect, and how they see roads and other transportation services evolving. All of that opinionating leads to quite a thing in September: the Grand Vision Decision—a big public rollout of three or four different "future scenarios," all well illustrated and explained, for folks to inspect and select.
So it’s last call for you and your friends to register; just click
here and sign up for tomorrow night’s 6:30 p.m. workshop at Crystal Mountain. Or call 866-441-5214. Registration is not strictly required, but it helps The Grand Vision team make sure there are enough tables, maps, and refreshments. Two hundred people showed up each evening in Leelanau and Kalkaska, so be prepared to bump into friends!
If you want to save a few dollars on gas, Benzie Bus is offering pre-registered service from many town centers. It’s just four bucks roundtrip from Lake Ann, Honor, Benzonia, Frankfort/Elberta, and Thompsonville, but reservations are necessary, at 231-325-3000.
Please forward this to your friends and encourage them to go, too. And if you are not on the Michigan Land Use Institute’s Benzie blast list and would like to be, just send an email to with the word "subscribe" w/o the quotes in the subject line, and we'll add you to our mailings. Thanks for clicking in on us, and we hope to see you tomorrow night!
Jim Dulzo

Managing Editor
Michigan Land Use Institute

Glenn Puit’s enjoyable video about the March regional transportation workshop will give you a real feel for tomorrow night. It’s right here if you’d like to check it out!"

This is a great initiative to look at the future of our region and think about how we're going to handle growth effectively.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Customers and friends

I closed yesterday on the sale of a house. I represented the buyers, a young couple who are friends of mine. The wonderful thing about this business is... I didn't even know them six months ago. We got to know each other as they planned their relocation to the area and we looked at homes together. I'm really pleased to have them as part of our community, and expect we'll continue to see a lot of each other. I'd gotten used to showing them properties quite regularly, to researching answers to their questions, and to Michaels "right on" when I explained something in a way that made sense to him, so it seemed strange when we went over a week without seeing each other.

As we sat down for closing, their twin daughters and toddler son took to coloring on the floor. Before we wrapped up, I had drawings from both girls, which I made sure were autographed. Both of them included a lake and me in the photos, so obviously they knew where my mind was headed with Memorial Day weekend coming, and with it the start of summer.

What's the real point here? Only that this job has rewards far beyond the commission. If it didn't, it wouldn't be worth doing for me. Sometimes it's helping someone realize a dream. Sometimes it's helping the local economy by finding a site for a new business. Sometimes it's helping someone out of a tough spot.

Sometimes it's just the memories, the stories, the lessons, the laughs. The best times though are when customers become friends.

Here are Jocelyn and Jaiden's pictures they drew for me. Thanks girls!

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Tasty Topic

Another great thing about this area is...We've got great ice cream.  Moomers Ice Cream (Long Lake Township, between Lake Ann and Traverse City) has been selected as a finalist in Good Morning America's "Best Scoops in America" contest.  Moomers is a wonderful part of our community, and in addition to making great ice cream they host school field trips that allow kids to gain an understanding of how milk becomes ice cream.  Since they have dairy cattle on site, they truly start from the source!  My oldest son talked more about the cows being milked than he did about the ice cream!
Here's a link to the video story:
And here's one to vote for Moomers:
And a link to Moomers website!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Heading home

The last sessions of the day wrapped up, I'm headed home. I shared ideas over lunch with EVPs from the second largest board in the state and one of the smaller boards. This afternoon I attended a couple of leadership seminars (one of which I'll reflect on later) and finished up with the Michigan-Ohio regional Caucus from 4-5 before heading to the airport for my 8:00 flight. I'll make it into Traverse City by 11:40 which should get me home by 12:30 am. I've got a showing on one of my listings tomorrow morning and closings to work on for next week, so it's right back to work.

It's kind of amusing that while I was in DC, one of my customers from DC was in Beulah closing on the purchase of their new home.

Just chatted with a few of the other attendees on my flight and they seem to be just as fired up about the value of this event as I am.

I can't wait to see my family!
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Round Table Discussions

Sitting in the NAR Midyear meetings Pres/Pres elect round tables at Omni Shoreham, DC.

Talked about blogging, social networking, etc.

Next was best methods of communication. It sounds like many if not most associations are experiencing a lot of the same things we are.

This conference has been full of opportunities to share ideas and get information. I'm jazzed!

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Market forecast and more

Today started with a presentation by NAR chief Economist Lawrence Yun. He provided some exceptional insight and analysis on the direction and future of the maket. There is a great deal of evidence that making a purchase now is a wise decision, including indications that inventory isbeginning to contract, and that the peak of the subprime crisis is past.

Now I'm sitting in a seminar about NAR's Surround Sound campaign, which will assist us in providing locally relevant information in our local markets.

There is a dynamic, positive attitude among participants- we've got a magnificent group of members and staff who believe strongly in what they do and are willing to tackle tough issues.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Metting with Representatives

Since my last post I've met and had discussion with Pete Hoekstra (101st) and Dave Camp (104th) and right now I'm waiting to meet with Bart Stupak of the 1st district.

I've found the Congressmen to be receptive to our messages, and interested in hearing about what we're experiencing in our market.

Report from Washington DC

I'm in DC for NAR's Midyear Legislative meetings. I'm writing this from the Boardroom of the REALTOR building. It's a beautiful building that features a lot of green and sustainable elements- a great representation of our association.

Shortly I'll be headed to the first of four visits with Congressional Representatives and Senators to discuss REALTOR issues.

While it hurts to leave my business and family for a week, the information exchange here is unparalleled.

More later...

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

HGTV's 25 Real Estate Blunders

I was doing a little channel surfing the other night, and "25 Real Estate Blunders" caught my eye. When I clicked over to HGTV to watch it, I was impressed. HGTV did a nice job of being constructive. Among my favorites:

#24- Not providing easy access for showings- This is way frustrating for an agent. Especially if showings are scarce to start with.

#19- Treating real estate like the stock market: Boy, we all should have learned this lesson by now... but some haven't. Real estate is, by nature, a long term investment.

#14 Choosing the wrong agent: This really is a relationship, and we're going to be working together on something that I think is really important to you. You want to be comfortable with your agent, and build mutual trust and respect. Besides, do you want to ride around in a car and tour houses with someone you don't like?

#13- What, you're suprised?

#11- Not setting a realistic budget. Bingo. Don't spend it all! Save is a four letter word, but it's OK to do it... Really!

Here's a link to 25 Real Estate Blunders on HGTV's website. I'd like to hear which ones are your favorites.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Property Tax relief for Michigan Homeowners

Governor Signs Important REALTOR® Legislation
Public Act 96 Provides Significant Tax Relief for Sellers

Governor Granholm signed 3 significant pieces of REALTOR® supported legislation. First, legislation enabling home sellers to retain 2 principal resident exemptions for property still on the market after the seller has moved elsewhere in the state. The signing of this legislation is a huge step in aiding struggling sellers who have had homes on the market for over a year and have lost their principal residence status on that property.

House Bill 4215, now Public Act 96 of 2008 sponsored by Representative Ed Gaffney (R-Grosse Pointe Farms) enacts that the seller can retain an additional exemption for up to three years on property previously exempt as the owner’s principal residence if the following circumstances are met:
the property is not occupied,
the property is for sale
the property is not leased or available for lease
the property is not used for any business or commercial purpose
The Michigan Association of REALTORS® (MAR) was active in pointing out to lawmakers that the struggling economy in Michigan has forced several home sellers to relocate to other areas of the state, in some instances continuing to market a home that they have not lived in for over a year. As a result, the home was no longer treated as a principle residence and the homeowner lost the principal residence exemption. Retention of an existing homestead credit for an unoccupied home that is currently for sale would offer relief to sellers who have had to relocate for whatever reason. The MAR is grateful to Representative Gaffney for being receptive and following through on this very important piece of property tax relief.

Source: Michigan Association of Realtors

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Blogging here

I've run a blog on wordpress, but I can't remember why I chose that site. I started another blog using Blogger and it seems much less confusing. Hmm. The danger of dabbling, I suppose. If you're interested in what I had to say on my other blog, here's a link.