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Real Estate

Abandoned Structure

michigannotice2Whether you are building a new home, renovationing a lender foreclosure, or working on a lakefront cottage, or a cabin in the northern Michigan woods, you may encounter the local building inspection department.

These men and women are not your enemy. They simply enforce a building code that was put into place to maintain safety, health and structural code regulations. After all, you do not want to be next door to the guy who does it his own way. Trust me, that can be a nightmare.

Anyway, recently we recently completed a job in a community that has a regulation that, as the president might say, is stupid. In this particular community, abandoned structures are required to be registered as vacant and posted as such.

The problem is that everyone notices these posted stickers. They are on the entrance doors and windows, and are clearly visible from the street. They are also subject to a $500.00 penalty for removing without first obtaining an occupancy permit.

Not only do the honest folks notice these notices, but also the dishonest. In a residential area, even if it does not have a high crime rate, these postings are like invitations that say “How about this one for your consideration?” Perhaps a smaller and less oblivious posting would be more appropriate, maybe located on the side or rear doors.

One last pointer to check out. Most communities also have, coupled with this type of posting, a monitoring fee attached to the notice. In this case, the community has a monthly $50.00 assessment to monitor your property to make sure the lawn is cut and the property is secure.

When buying Michigan real estate in these communities, check to make sure these fees are paid by the lender before they become your inherited responsibility.

Written by Dave.

Michigan Lakefront Property

mlptitleOn this site I try not to promote our business in a very overpowering way. But I have been asked many times about a new site we have launched a few months ago, so I thought I would make a few comments about it. As an introduction, it is entitled: Michigan Lakefront Property.com.

I know the name is not real original. Perhaps I should have chosen something like “Dave’s List”, but I believe people appreciate a website whose name accurately portrays it’s purpose. And the purpose of this site is to connect people who want to buy or rent Michigan lakefront property with those who have Michigan lakefront property to sell or rent. It is as simple as that.

It is a site where anyone can place listings to buy, sell or rent Michigan Lakefront Property. The site is basically free and anyone can list their property.

The site is doing very well. There are close to two hundred listings at this point in time and that number is growing. We have an increasing number of hits and page views every day. And, best of all, there have been sales from the site.

If you have any type of Michigan waterfront to sell or lease, it is free. You do not have to be a realtor, anyone can use the site, and many are. All you have to do is send me an email and I will send you a free promotional code.

We have some interesting changes on the way for the site. It is a work in process. As for changes, look for this site to get an update soon.

Written by Dave.

Fifteen Minutes

michiganstopwatchOver the years I have developed some business practices that I adhere to religiously.

One of those is my 15 Minute Rule. If I am to meet a client or potential client to look at an apartment, view a home or inspect some dirt, I will wait for fifteen minutes and then I am gone. Fifteen minutes is not a long time, but it seems that way because it is my practice to be early.

My policy always is that the potential client must have driven by the property and viewed it from the street prior to setting up an appointment. A no show is a waste of my time, the seller’s time and the time of the current occupant. Since implementing that strategy, my percentage of “show ups” has increased sharply.

In today’s culture it is easy to make the appointment, not write it down and forget. Or just plain not show up. That’s rude.

Over the years, I think I can count on the fingers on one of my hands the times someone has called and said they were late and could I possibly come back. I will if the schedule allows.

Written by Dave.


michiganaddI had a call the other day from a buyer looking for a home. He had the address of the property from the ad I had placed in the local newspaper. I was impressed that he had done some of his homework on the property and was asking intelligent questions.

He was also viewing the property from a Google aerial map. He was asking questions regarding things he noticed. With his questions and his reactions to my answers, it became clear he was not looking at the right property. He was not even on the right block.

He thought it was the smallest building, when actually it was the largest. The image displayed no garage, when in reality it had a two stall garage. The image showed a string of homes on the block, when in reality it was on a double lot.

Obviously, he did not enter the correct address as the pictures displayed were all wrong. But, even if the imaging is correct, it would not reflect the overall current condition of the property, let alone the interior of the property with all the updates.

What I am saying is, even with all of our technology, you still have to go and look for yourself. There is no substitute for that. That has become one of our real estate rules.

Written by Dave.

Cash for Keys

keymichiganWith the large amount of foreclosures and load defaults today, many lenders have taken very aggressive action. One of the more innovative methods some lenders are using is known as “Cash for Keys”.

The lender often faces a lengthy process to recover possession of the property. In attempt to expedite the process, the lender may offer a cash amount as incentive for the occupant to vacate the premises before the deadline. Many homeowners or tenants see this as a way to help with moving expenses and to help in getting established in their new residence.

By having the occupant move and leave the property in a “broom clean” condition, puts the lender in a better position to begin the marketing process quicker.

The dollar amount can vary greatly.  We have heard instances of a few  hundred dollars to nearly two thousand dollars. Some lending institutions also use a sliding scale, with a larger dollar amount offered for earlier evacuation of the property. Not every lender will make such an offer, as lenders vary greatly on how they handle this.

Not only has this offer reduced the lenders amount of time to obtain the procession of the property, but it has also reduced their costs of maintenance or repairs of the property. Former occupants have been known to do damage to the property out of spite. If a cash incentive is offered, they will think twice about doing damage.

Often, vacant properties are a target of vandals looking for salvage building materials for resale or for copper, air conditioners, furnaces and anything else that can be easily removed and sold. By using a Cash for Keys incentive, the lender has better management of when the property is vacated and can secure the property promptly.

Written by Dave.

More on Foreclosures

theifmichiganlakesI have often written about different aspects of foreclosures,  but as with the subject, there always seems to be a new quirk.

As with intuitional sellers, during the offer/counter offer process, they will have an addendum to the buy/sell agreement that will consist of many pages of verbiage that will slant in favor of  the seller.

One of the typical requirements will be that you accept their title company as the closing agent. Well, why not you may ask? Are not all title companies the same? Are there fees and services very similar? No!

Recently an offer was accepted by the former lender. They required the buyer to use their title insurance agency as the closing company, which happened to be an out of state company. As the custom, the date and location was determined and copies of all the paperwork were to follow.

The closing documents were received. Upon our review, the closing fees charged by the escrow company were shockingly high. In fact outrageous! Highway robbery! And, that’s putting it mildly.

After getting my blood pressure back in check, I decided to confront the thieving escrow company.  They quickly, and without any hesitation, cut them the fees in half. Thanks should be in order? No way, they are still twice as high as typical charges. From now on, a call to unknown closing companies for their fee schedule will on our list of things to do.

Written by Dave.

House Numbers

HOUSENUMBERSmichiganlakesWhen doing a major renovation on a home, cottage or even a commercial building, it is easy to overlook the small details. That was recently the case for us. We had just completed a large project, with everything from a new roof to new foundation walls and just about everything in between. But, we forgot to replace the house numbers after the painters were completed.

House numbers are important for several reasons. First and foremost, in case of emergencies, the police, firemen or other rescue people need to know the address and clearly spot it if called into action.

Secondly, when a property is for sale it is important that prospective buyers and real estate sales people can find and identify which property is for sale. In this market environment you do not want to have people looking for your property for sale and mistakenly going to another property for sale.

Another suggestion, make sure the porch light works and the numbers are in plain view during the evening hours. Even after many years in the business, I am still amazed at how many homes for sale are not lit up at night. This makes it nearly impossible for prospective buyers to locate the property.

Third, in many cities, communities and villages house numbers are required by ordinance.   I was reminded of this fact recently by a violation letter sent by the city where this property was located. Talk about government paperwork and waste; I counted at least seven pages of paperwork they sent to inform me of the violation.  They could have told me what wanted to say in two sentences.

Written by Dave.


surveymichiganlakesDo you really want to spend hard earned money on a survey?

No, but you must.

Recently a customer purchased a rural home and pole barn on some acreage. The price was attractive and the buildings were in relatively good condition.  There were very few improvements required.

The home was cleaned, painted in and out and new carpet was installed. Everything was completed to get it ready to sell. Since the purchaser was an experienced investor, a survey was not ordered at the time of their purchase.

To maximize the investment, a decision was made to split the property. The survey was ordered, a necessary document for obtaining the approval of a split.

To everyone’s surprise, the survey showed two homes with two pole barns on the property. In the very opposite corner of the irregular shaped property, the neighbor some fifteen years ago actually built a home and a pole barn on the wrong property. As he saw surveyor stakes surrounding his property, he wished he had spent some of his hard earned money on a survey and thus prevented the mess he is currently in.

Written by Dave.


michiganinterestratePreviously I wrote about Land Contracts and later I wrote Don’t be confused by Interest. In those articles I should have mentioned a term called “usury”. Usury means excessive interest, charging more than the law allows. When it comes to land, the laws that are followed are those of the state in which the land is located.

In Michigan, the criminal usury rate is 25%. The maximum interest rate allowed on seller financing (such as a land contract) is 11%. There are some exceptions. For example, if the buyer is a business, the rate can be up to 24.99%.

Remember that interest rates on seller financing are negotiated between buyer and seller. Interest rates charged by lenders vary from lender to lender. Shop for the best rate possible.

Written by Dave.

incredible buy

incrediblebuyOver the years I have worked with many buyers and sellers. Buyers always are looking for an incredible buy, the buy of a lifetime. Who doesn’t want that?

I remember many years ago attending an open house of a property that was being offered for sale by a lender. The property was held open only for a period of two hours and for only one particular day. There were cars parked along the street for several blocks with both the curious and the serious. At the asking price, this was an incredible deal.

I have no idea why there was such a limited inspection window of time and why the low asking price. But then, I have no idea why lenders do what they do when trying to sell property. Lenders make terrible sellers.

The next day, at 12 noon, was the deadline for all offers to be presented for the lender’s consideration. Needless to say, there were multiple offers, over three dozen. The highest offer was accepted and this house was sold.

When we were writing up our offer, I remember overhearing a prospective buyer telling his real estate agent. “If you come across a good deal, give me a call.” I could not help wonder if they had looked at the same property.

Whether you are buying Michigan real estate as an investment, or you are making an offer on your first home, do your homework on the market. Become an expert yourself. Then and only then you will recognize an incredible buy when you see it.

P.S. I saw this sign and was grateful to have my camera with me. I used Photoshop to remove the phone numbers.

Written by Lakeman Jones.

New Shoes

newshoesI have had a favorite pair of shoes for a few years. They are comfortable, look good and don’t go out of style.  Unfortunately, they had another attribute that I was not aware of. They tasted good, so my dog chewed them up.

So, I went out in pursuit of a pair exactly like the ones I had. When I got to the store, I found they didn’t have what I wanted, but I found a good sale on another pair. They were nothing like what I was looking for, but I couldn’t pass up the great deal.

Now that I have the shoes, I really don’t like them. I haven’t worn them, and probably never will.

Not such a good deal after all! I should have waited, looked around a little more and bought the shoes I wanted.

Too many people make the same mistake in buying lake front or water front property. Most prospective buyers start their search knowing exactly what they are looking for; some want the quiet privacy of a fishing lake, others are looking for the action of an all sports lake. Some want their piece of paradise far from civilization, others want to be close to the action.

And then they go out shopping…. and they find a GREAT deal. No, it is not what they are looking for, but the price is right. So, they make the offer and settle in. And they are disappointed. They wanted quiet and seclusion and all they hear is speed boats and laughter. Or, they wanted to hear speed boats and laughter and all they hear is birds singing.

So, my advice to you is, take your time and look for the perfect piece of property for you. It may take longer and it may cost a bit more, but it will be well worth it in the long run. You and your family will be glad you did.

Written by Lakeman Jones.

Well Records

wellheadWhen buying a piece of Michigan real estate, a question that often arises is, “What about the well”? Or, “ What are the depths of the wells in the area?”

The State of Michigan has well records on line. Close to one million are listed and are available to search at no charge. The site is easy to use. You will be asked for the county, then the township and finally the section number.

In my due diligence, I have used the site many times and found the site to be very beneficial in uncovering lots of information. For an existing well, it tells of the depth of the well, the diameter of the well, the age of the well, the static water level, the installer and other technical information.

I have also used these reports to tell me about soil conditions in the area. The well driller, when drilling a new well, records the types of soil he encounters and at what depth he finds them. This information can be very useful when locating proper soil conditions needed for a septic system.

State of Michigan Well Records Listed by County

Written by Lakeman Jones.