Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Arriving in Michigan, the Future of the Internet

Arriving in Michigan, the Future of the Internet: I’ve seen the future of the Internet. In fact, I’ve been in it. And it’s coming to Michigan. I’m talking about Switch’s SUPERNAP data centers in Las Vegas — the highest-rated data centers in the…

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Who would ever guess that Michigan be would be where all the following can be found: The Number One place to Raise a Family, One of the Happiest Cities in the U.S., The Most Beautiful Spot in America, and Best Weekend Getaway in the U.S?!
All of these nationally ranked cities can be found on Michigan's West Coast, quickly becoming known as America's Third Coast. Here, along The Third Coast, cities like Grand Rapids can be found. Home to the world's largest Art Prize competition and voted by Forbes Magazine as the "Number one place to raise a family, " Grand Rapids has it all! Their number one status was awarded based proximity and frequency nationally ranked schools and access to a strong, growing economy.

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Closer to the lake shore, one of the nation's happiest cities can be found: Holland! A college town perched along the shores of Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan, Holland hosts, "the best small town festival in America," the Tulip Time Festival. Besides having the happiest locals you'll ever meet, Holland's thriving downtown has something for everyone- even those looking to buy or sell! Our own Andrea Crossman Group office is located in the heart of the downtown Holland, amid the ever growing craft-beer breweries, fine restaurants, unique shops and major retailers.
Just north of Holland, still along the lake shore is the quaint town of Grand Haven. With miles of walking trails that end at the lighthouse, Grand Haven is as picturesque as it fun! Art fairs, Coast Guard Festival, and a thriving downtown make Grand Haven a destination for boaters and land lovers alike. Continuing north from Grand Haven brings you to, "the most beautiful spot in America," the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Here, the legend of its origin can only be out done by the phenomenal views of pristine dunes and sparkling Lake Michigan. Surround the Dune National Park are numerous resort towns steep in history and charm alike.
Southwest Michigan, near Holland, also has an award winning town to visit! Saugatuck was voted Best Weekend Getaway in the United States. This art-rich, cottage-filled town is a unique experience for all of the senses. Delightful dining of award winning meals set in venues overlooking the channel makes Saugatuck a place to return to, often. The art community and galleries rival any of these on the East coast. But, with people as friendly as Mayberry, Saugatuck quickly sets itself apart as a weekend getaway worth getting away to more than once a year.
In all, West Michigan deserves a visit! From the southern shores of Saugatuck, through the happiest city of Hollander's, to the gifts of Grand Rapids to the serenity of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, the WEST coast of Michigan has a city for each of us. Whether we be poet, artist, voyeur, beach-lover, parent, educator, tourist or wanderer, we look forward to seeing you, soon, along wonderful West Michigan's coast!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Movin' On Up Timing is Everything...But Not in the Way You Think

It's a question every homebuyer faces: When's the best time to purchase a home?

To answer that question, you need to consider not only seasonal trends, but also where you're at in your life. The information below breaks down the benefits and drawbacks of different seasons—and offers a better way to frame the question.

Spring and Summer

Benefits: Spring and summer are popular seasons for home shopping. In fact, the National Association of Realtors reports that most home sales take place between April and July. That's not much of a surprise, since many buyers are reluctant to uproot children during the school year or to deal with moving during a chilly month. Since spring and summer are so popular for home sales, more sellers also put their homes on the market during those seasons—which means more inventory for you to choose from.

Drawbacks: The increased activity in spring means you'll be competing with more buyers. So the best houses may move off the market faster than you're expecting. In addition, spring typically sees property prices at their peak. Another cost that may be higher in the spring and summer months is the cost to move—that is, to rent moving equipment or hire a mover, since those services are more in demand.

Fall and Winter

Benefits: Did you know that the holiday season can be a great time to make an offer on a home? That's because home prices can dip thousands of dollars in fall, and hit rock bottom during the dead of winter. In addition, fewer buyers are actively looking in the colder months, so sellers may be more flexible with their fixed price, since another offer may not come along any time soon.

Drawbacks: Winter also sees a drop in the number of homes available. In fact, home inventory usually falls about 15 percent in the winter, according to the National Association of Realtors. That means you'll have fewer options to compare and consider. So if you're determined to move in the fall or winter, you may not find your dream house on the market.

Reframe the Question

Remember, the only numbers that really matter are the ones you find in the neighborhood you want to join. So don't get too caught up in national home prices or sales numbers. Keep the focus local. And don't just think about saving money on a purchase price. You should also factor in tax credits or lending programs that could be to your benefit.

In addition, home loan rates change regularly for a variety of reasons. A mortgage professional can help you understand where rates are, how they've been moving, and what you qualify for. And that information may be more important than saving a little on the home price.

The Bottom Line

Timing the market doesn't matter as much as making sure the timing works for your unique situation. So focus less on the trends and more on yourself. Consider what stage of life you're in, why you want to move, and how your broader financial picture may impact—or be impacted by—a purchase.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Snow, Ice And More Snow In Michigan Weather History For Holland, MI

Past Monthly Weather Data for Holland, MI [Michigan] ("Holland Wjbl") : JANUARY, 1905 - 2014

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Grand Rapids likely to crack Top 5 snowiest winters this week

Forecasters have recorded 103.2 inches of snow for the season as of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, making it the sixth snowiest season on record.

Here's a list of the Top 10 snowiest seasons in Grand Rapids, according to the National Weather Service:
No. 1 — 132.2 inches, 1951-52
No. 2 — 107.1 inches, 2007-08
No. 3 — 105.4 inches, 2001-02
No. 4 — 104.9 inches, 2008-09
No. 5 — 104.8 inches, 1958-59
No. 6 — 103.2 inches, 2013-14 — as of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25
No. 7 — 101.5 inches, 1964-65
No. 8 — 101.3 inches, 1970-71
No. 9 — 98.5 inches, 1996-97
No. 10 — 98.3 inches, 2000-01

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Lake Michigan ice cover vanishes in last few days; See the difference

The image on the left is from February 19, 2014 when ice cover on Lake Michigan was rated at 60 percent. The image of the right is from February 22, 2014. Ice cover then was rated at 38 percent.
The recent storm churned the waters of Lake Michigan and helped cut Lake Michigan's ice cover almost in half in the past three days.
Ice cover on Lake Michigan on February 19, 2014 was pegged at 60 percent. Then the powerful storm hit the Great Lakes. The storm brought warm temperatures ahead of the storm, and strong winds as the storm center passed through. The combination of these two factors took a lot of ice away from the surface of Lake Michigan.
The image above shows Lake Michigan on February 19, 2014 on the left, and February 22, 2014 on the right. You can see the dramatic difference in ice cover.
peak-ice-graph.jpg View full sizeThis graphic shows this years ice cover on all the Great Lakes with the blue bars and the average ice cover since 1980 with the green line. Notice the peak ice cover has average March 5-12 since 1980. 
Have we seen peak ice already?
The question now is will the ice have time to redevelop before another warm-up occurs. I think I can say with good confidence that the next warm-up will mark the end of ice expansion on the Great Lakes. But the next warm-up isn't until March 7 at the soonest.
The second graphic comes from the Canadian Ice Service- Environment Canada. It shows this year's ice with the blue bars. But what I find interesting is looking at the green line. That is the average ice cover since 1980. We notice that the overall ice cover usually peaks between March 5 and March 12.
It will be interesting to watch the ice redevelop this week. Can it rebuild to a higher percentage than 82 percent on February 13 of this year? The polar vortex is coming back and is certainly going to help the ice build.
I'll keep posting articles about the ice cover in the winter that we will remember for sometime to come.

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Storm recap: Rainfall totals, maximum wind gusts, and snowfall amount
Who had the most snowfall?
The snowfall was heaviest in the far northwest Lower Michigan, and the western half of the Upper Peninsula.
The snowfall graphic shows the snowfall in the Lower Peninsula.
Indian River in Cheboygan county had 13.8 inches of snow. East Jordan, near Charlevoix, had 12 inches of snow.
Ironwood had 14 inches of snow, and the Keweenaw Peninsula had between nine and 12 inches of snow.


Michigan's snowfall so far this winter: One Lower Peninsula city nearing 20 feet of snow

Here is a rundown of seasonal snowfall across Michigan:

Delaware - 275.1"
Mohawk - 271.5"
Maple City - 223.3"
Houghton - 198.7"
Manistee County average - 191"
Ontanogon - 158.9"
Gaylord - 157"
Petoskey - 149"
Munising - 136.3"
East Jordan - 131.3"
Kalkaska - 126.9"
Holland - 125.5"
Traverse City - 123"
Muskegon - 121.7"
Charlevoix - 107"
Kalamazoo - 104.5"
Sault Saint Marie - 103"
Grand Rapids - 102.9"
Cadillac - 90.7"

Ann Arbor - 80.8"
Detroit - 78.5"
Flint - 71.8"
Jackson - 67.3"
Harbor Beach - 62.2"
Milford - 60.2"
West Branch - 59.6"
Owosso - 58.5"
Lansing - 56.7"
Tawas City - 55.7"
Alpena - 53.5"
Saginaw - 52"
Bad Axe - 50.5"
Houghton Lake - 50.5"
Bay City - 50"
Port Huron - 48.3"
Midland - 45"
Sandusky - 42.3"
Caro - 41.4"

The large area of open water on Lake Michigan, combined with arctic air coming at the end of the week, means another round of lake effect snow for Michigan. So the snow amounts will keep mounting up. No warm-up is in sight through March 11, 2014 at earliest.

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Monday, February 24, 2014® Report: 2014 Home Buying Starts Strong

The polar vortex is proving to be no sweat for home buyers, according to the latest National Housing Trend Report from®.

Despite severe winter weather conditions across the nation, the 2014 home buying season got off to a good start with a year-over-year increase in inventory and sustained growth in home prices.

The median list price for January rose 8.3 percent compared to the same time last year, according to the® data. The number of properties for sale was up 3.1 percent. And the median age of inventory was essentially unchanged, indicating a transition to a “less frenzied market” than in January 2013.

The solid start “is an encouraging sign of sellers’ interest, particularly given the adverse conditions brought on by the polar vortex,” said Errol Samuelson, president of®. “We saw the tight-supply market of last fall carry all the way into November — later than is typically expected — and this early rise in inventory is a welcome trend.”

Looking ahead, the national median existing home price is projected to rise about 5 percent to 6 percent in 2014, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, which cites job growth and large, pent-up demand as drivers of the market in light of rising mortgage rates.

The California, Detroit and Nevada markets continue to top the list of areas with the largest year-over-year increases in median list prices, boasting increases of 20 percent or more.

But the polar vortex took a toll in some parts of the nation. Strong markets hit hard by winter weather — such as Boston, Chicago and Detroit — saw up to 10 percent month-over-month declines in inventory. Once winter weather subsides, however, these markets may experience a strong recovery,® analysts said.

National Key Market Indicators for January 2014

January 2014 Year-over-Year Percentage Change Month-over-Month Percentage Change
Number of Listings 1,672,799 3.1 percent -3.3 percent
Median Age of Inventory 115 days 0.0 percent  2.7 percent
Median List Price $195,000 8.3 percent  0.1 percent

National Perspective
  • Inventory increasing: At the national level, for-sale inventories are now 3.1 percent higher than they were a year ago, and the rise in inventory is spreading to more markets across the country.  In January 2013, just eight markets out of the 146 registered increases in inventory. This January, 83 of the 143 markets tracked by (58 percent) showed increases in inventory, year over year. While the next few months will be critical to watch, these trends suggest a more balanced housing market going into the 2014 home buying season.
  • Price increases more widespread: Median list price rose a healthy 8.3 percent in January 2014 compared to the same time last year.  In January 2014, 44 markets saw year-over-year list price increases of 10 percent or more, compared to January 2013, when 24 markets registered double-digit increases in median list price.  The number of declining markets in terms of median list price dropped from 58 in January 2013 to just 13 in January 2014.
  • Days on market stabilizing: Median age of inventory remained steady in January 2014 compared to the same time last year, at 115 days. However, the number of markets showing year-over-year declines in inventory has dropped significantly, from 133 markets in January 2013 to 78 markets in January 2014. Meanwhile, 56 markets showed year-over-year increases in inventory in January 2014, compared to just nine markets in January 2013.
Local Market Highlights
  • California, Detroit and Nevada markets continue to dominate the list of areas experiencing the largest year-over-year increases in median list prices, with increases of 20 percent or more.
  • Entering into the spring months, it is important to watch for markets with a possible resurgence, such as Denver, Boulder, Chicago and Corpus Christi, TX, where depressed inventories have been accompanied with large year-over-year gains in median list prices. Sustained low inventories in these markets could to lead to demand-driven housing price increases that characterized California and most of the sand states in 2013.
  • Strong markets particularly worth noting as those worst hit by climate-driven troubles include Boston with a 10.9 percent month-over-month inventory decline, Chicago with a 6.1 percent inventory drop, Denver with a striking 13.5 percent inventory decline, Detroit with a 6.8 percent reduction, New York with a 9.5 percent decline, and Philadelphia with an 8.2 percent decline.  These markets may experience notable inventory recovery after prohibitive weather conditions subside.
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Friday, February 21, 2014

100 Best Midwest Small-Town Getaways Votes Saugatuck, Michigan

Saugatuck/Douglas, Michigan

Exploring Saugatuck, Michigan ...and editors of Midwest Living Magazine ranked Saugatuck/Douglas fifth among the top 100 vacation destinations in the Midwest.

 These side-by-side Lake Michigan shore villages are so artsy, residents take for granted having their portraits painted. Their likenesses hang in one of the 40 galleries that liberally mingle with an appealing collection of boutiques. Visitors not only fine original art adorning studio windows, but also they get accustomed to encountering sculptures on almost every corner of Saugatuck and Douglas.

Artists set up easels among the swimmers and sunbathers enjoying the crescent of white sand to capture Oval Beach (considered one of the county's best) on canvas. Summer also brings an acclaimed film festival and jazz- and chamber-music series.
Saugatuck--One of Yahoo! Travel's Great American Beachtowns!  Michigan's featured Beachtowns, Saugatuck and Douglas are known as "The Art Coast of Michigan". Artists, smitten by the natural beauty of the area’s rolling grassy dunes and white sand beaches (among the top 25 in the world according to Condé Nast International Travel Magazine)

The Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area last week ranked among the top 50 vote-getters out of 350 places nominated in the Virtual Tourist website contest for “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

The 173 acres of Lake Michigan dunes and beach north of Oval Beach, both owned and run by the City of Saugatuck, is holding its own in voters’ eyes with the likes of Niagara Falls, Stonehenge, Mt. Rushmore, the Matterhorn, Big Sur, Galapagos Islands, Yellowstone National Park and more, said Saugatuck-Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director Felicia Fairchild.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Few Essential Rules Before Purchasing Real Estate

Spring signals the start of two hallowed seasons: homebuying and baseball.
Like the national pastime, purchasing a home supposedly comes with its own set of “unwritten rules.” Conventional wisdom and considered opinion have long led consumers to believe you never make an offer on the first home you tour, or you always close at the month’s end.
The reality is the only rules you have to follow relate to mortgage fraud (one might regard them more as federal statutes than rules). Home buyers and real estate agents routinely flout common “Never this or that” industry truisms when the need arises.
But make no mistake. While there aren’t hard-core “rules” to follow, there are absolutely best practices and proven precepts that you should carefully consider. Here’s a look at five big ones.
1. Don’t make an offer without pre-approval
Getting pre-approved means a lender has vetted your credit and financials and is so far willing to continue the mortgage dance. Pre-approval letters detail your purchasing power and provide sellers and real estate agents a degree of confidence they won’t get anywhere else.
“I don’t accept an offer without a pre-approval letter,” said Bill Gassett, a realtor in Franklin, Mass., with Re/Max Executive Realty. “People are more cognizant of how important it is to have a qualified buyer. Without an actual pre-approval, you’re really gambling.”
The chicken-or-egg debate will rage on regarding whether to talk first with a real-estate agent or lender . Either way, you may not want to start touring homes or making offers without a pre-approval letter in hand.
2. Use a real-estate agent
For many consumers, buying a home is the single biggest purchase they’ll ever make. It’s something you’ll do maybe a handful of times. It can pay to have an expert in your corner.
Real-estate agents show homes, negotiate contracts and close deals every month. They can help identify red flags and potential problems, all the while working to best match up properties to your unique needs.
The Internet has certainly helped demystify and democratize the homebuying process. But consumers may still want an industry professional on their side. Nearly 90% of home buyers use a real-estate agent or a broker, according to the National Association of Realtors.
3. Put down earnest money
It’s customary, if not legally required, to provide a deposit when you make an offer on a home. Known as earnest money, this deposit is typically 1- 2 % of the purchase price, although the amount can vary by location and other factors.
Consult with your real-estate agent regarding the right amount, and quibble if you dare. Earnest money follows in line with loan preapproval—it’s another way to show a seller you’re a serious, legitimate home buyer.
Be sure your agent includes contingencies in the sales contract that allow you to recoup the deposit in case the deal falls apart. Common reasons include a bad appraisal, inspection issues or your inability to sell your current home. 
4. Tour homes in person
Mobile video technologies like Google Glass are ushering in a new era for home tours. Cool tech and new apps can be a huge help for consumers moving to new states or service members purchasing homes during a deployment.
These tools will continue to supplement the shopping experience. But nothing quite compares to the in-person experience, Gassett said.
“People will use them to enhance what they’re already doing,” he said. “There’s never going to be anything that will completely replace the touch and feel of going to a house.”
[Editor’s note: Before you start shopping for a home, it’s a good idea to know what shape your credit is in. Check your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies—which you can do for free once a year—for errors or other problems with your credit that could hurt your chances of getting a mortgage. You can also check your credit scores for free using a tool like’s Credit Report Card, to see whether you need to do work to build your credit before you apply for a mortgage.]

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