Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holiday slowdown?

As the temperature has hit the freezing mark and the holidays are upon us, now seems to be the time when real estate activity usually cools down as well.  This year seems to be a bit different.  Every member of our group is actively listing and selling properties, even as we speak, along the West Michigan coast, so it's no surprise that our office at CBWS has eclipsed the $500,000,000 mark this year for the first time in its history, and no slow down seems to be in sight.  Of course, we will take time to be with our families during thanksgiving day, and will reflect on all we have to be thankful for, but we at the Andrea Crossman Group will not be shopping on Black Friday for ourselves, but instead finding deals in the real estate market for our customers.

Have a happy Thanksgiving with your families, and here's to a great start to a happy healthy holiday season.

Monday, November 25, 2013

How To Save On Your Annual Energy Bill

How To Save $1,000 Off Your Annual Energy Bill
Rising electricity costs can be hard on your bank account, but by combining several cost-savings strategies you can save $1,000* on your home energy bill each year. For the biggest savings consider these ways to reduce heating and cooling costs without sacrificing comfort:

  • Add new insulation to your attic. It’s especially smart if your house is more than 25 years old. Sometimes the state will subsidize professionally installed insulation and other energy-efficiency improvements. Check with your gas and electric companies to see what subsidies are available and how to qualify.
    COST: About $750 for an 800 square-foot attic to do it yourself, or $1,500 if you hire a professional
    SAVINGS: $600 per year

  • Seal air leaks around the house. Weather strip your windows and doors by filling gaps and cracks with caulking, and use plastic window-insulation kits on older windows. Also, seal gaps from plumbing lines, recessed lighting, and crawl spaces.
    COST: Tube of caulk is $3 to $6 (save by buying multi-packs), and a window-insulation kit is $10 to $20
    SAVINGS: $350 per year

  • Upgrade to a programmable thermostat, which automatically adjusts your home’s temperature settings. You can buy a Wi-Fi model ($100 to $200) with more features that lets you remotely control it by using an app.
    COST: $25 to $50 (Check for rebates with your utility provider)
    SAVINGS: $180 per year

  • Wash clothes in cold water. Heating water is the single largest expense to run a load of laundry. Also, hot water shrinks and fades your clothes and should be used only when there are major stains.
    COST: Free
    SAVINGS: $130 to $300 per year on water heating costs, depending on the size of your family.

  • Unplug electronics when not in use. Energy “vampires” include TVs, computers, video game consoles, phone chargers (basically anything that “glows”) and account for 5 to 10 percent of household electricity costs even when they’re turned off. Save money by unplugging them, shutting them down, or attaching them to a single power strip than can be turned off.
    COST: Free or $10 to $40 for a power strip/surge protector
    SAVINGS: $100 per year

  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). While they cost a bit more, CFLs use 75 percent less energy and last at least 6 times longer than standard incandescent light bulbs.
    COST: $5 to $15 each (save by buying multi-packs)
    SAVINGS: $75 per year in electricity by replacing your five most frequently used bulbs. Savings potential increases since the average home has 30 light fixtures.
* All products are available at a home improvement store or online. Savings vary depending on home size, climate, electricity rates, etc. and are based on an average annual energy bill of $2,200.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Where the Next Huge Real Estate Bubble May Be Building Read more: Where the Next Huge Real Estate Bubble May Be Building

The 2000s real estate bubble—which burst in 2007 and precipitated a once-in-a-century financial crisis and recession—is not something most folks are excited to see a sequel of. But five years of declining or stagnating housing prices, the market turned around big time in 2012, making some analysts worry that we’re seeing the beginnings of Housing Bubble 2.0.
Case-Shiller Home Price Index: Composite 20 Chart
As you can see, home prices in most of the country are far from the bubble levels of mid-2000s, but if you drill down deeper to look at individual markets, one sees a different picture. Jed Kolko, housing economist with the real estate site Trulia, has been tracking home prices across the country to see which markets are over and undervalued. In a forthcoming “Bubble Watch” report, he finds that while most of the U.S. real estate market remains significantly undervalued, there are certain markets that are straying into bubble territory.
(MORE: The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired)
According to Kolko’s analysis, which looks at several factors like price-to-income ratio, the price-to-rent ratio, and prices relative to their long-term trend, markets in Orange County California and Los Angeles are more than 10% overvalued. Kolko also pegs the Austin, Texas market at 10% overvalued, while 7 other markets range from 4% to 7% overvalued. Those include:
  • San Antonio, TX;
  • Honolulu, HI;
  • San Francisco, CA;
  • Houston, TX;
  • Riverside-San Bernandino, CA; and
  • Oakland, CA
Unsurprisingly, these markets — concentrated in Texas and California, have also seen double digit home appreciation over the past year, with Orange County real estate appreciating a whopping 23.4% since October of 2012.
So are we in danger of another housing bubble like we experienced last decade? Not quite yet, at least nationally.  According to Kolko, the market remains roughly 4% undervalued overall. And in some markets, like Cleveland, Ohio and Palm Bay-Melborne-Titusville, Florida, home prices are still 20% below their fundamental value. Furthermore, even the most frothy markets are less overvalued than the national market was in 2004, when home prices were 24% overvalued nationally.
(MORE: 5 Things You Should Absolutely Never Put on a Resume
That being said, these numbers are evidence that policies like the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program, which have driven mortgage rates to historical lows, are encouraging buyers to snap up homes aggressively in certain markets. And some real estate analysts like housing market veteran Mark Hanson think that analyses like Kolko’s are too optimistic. Writes Hanson:
When comparing house prices and affordability today vs the bubble years people make a critical error.  That’s, they don’t “normalize” the bubble years metrics to account for the fact that the incremental buyer/refinancer used “other than” 30-year fixed mortgages.  In other words, they forgot about the popularity of “exotic loans” and assume everybody always used market-rate 30-year fixed rate financing.
In other words, the world has changed. Young folks can’t afford to leave their parents houses. Even the ones who can aren’t getting mortgages because credit is much tighter than it was in the pre-bubble years, and recent price increases have been fueled by over-enthusiastic investors rather than true economy-wide demand for housing. Every real estate analyst is forced to used assumptions when forecasting the future prices of homes, and given the fact that home price appreciation in California has slowed in recent months, Hanson may be going to far in arguing that markets like California are a full-blown bubble.
But a California-centered bubble is certainly a possibility, and even Kolko’s more nuanced analysis argues for buyers in some of the more frothy markets to approach with caution. One of the enduring lessons of the last real estate bubble is that while there are many reasons to buy a house — like the tax-deductibility of mortgage debt, the forced savings mechanism of paying a mortgage, and the pride of homeownership — expecting significant appreciation in your home’s value shouldn’t be one of them.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

DEQ proposes new rules for fracking in Michigan

Companies using a procedure called hydraulic fracturing to pull oil and natural gas from deep underground in Michigan would have to take extra steps to protect ground and surface waters under regulations outlined Tuesday.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said it’s proposing new rules for the operation commonly known as “fracking” and expects to implement them next year. DEQ Director Dan Wyant said the agency developed the ideas during more than 200 public meetings over the past two years.
“We heard loud and clear that there is a growing concern about fracturing,” he said. “We feel we have the strongest regulatory program in the country. This is just making it stronger.”
Fracking involves pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into deep wells to crack open rock formations and release trapped gas. Opponents say it could pollute groundwater and do other environmental damage. Some are gathering petition signatures seeking a statewide referendum on banning it.
The oil and gas industry and the DEQ say the procedure has been used on more than 12,000 Michigan wells since 1952 with no groundwater contamination.
Developers recently have targeted deeper rock formations up to 12,000 feet below the surface. A Canadian company has said it eventually could drill up to 500 wells in Michigan. Nineteen “high-volume” wells, using more than 100,000 gallons of water and chemicals, have been completed statewide.
Wyant said the DEQ will take public comments on the new rules and could put them in place within six to nine months.
They would require companies doing high-volume fracking to use a state computer tool to assess whether the volume of groundwater they’d use would damage rivers or streams. Drillers would have to sample water from wells within a quarter-mile of their operations before starting and monitor them afterward for signs of pollution.
Other requirements would include filing separate applications for high-volume fracking permits, notifying the DEQ at least 48 hours before a fracking operation starts, monitoring fluid pressures and injection volumes and halting the process if something goes wrong.
Additionally, operators would have to disclose which chemical additives they use in an online registry. For those with trade secret protection, the chemical family and trade name could be provided.
The proposed regulations “look workable and we’d be glad to work with the DEQ to get through the rulemaking process,” said John Griffin, executive director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Michigan.
The Michigan Environmental Council wants more details but likes the requirements for increased disclosure of chemicals and baseline water sampling, policy director James Clift said.
Nic Clark, Michigan director of Clean Water Action, said the proposed rules are “a drop in the bucket when you think about the potential risks associated with fracking.”
His group favors bills pending in the Legislature that would, among other things, require locating fracking wells at least 1,000 feet from houses, schools and other public buildings and allow local governments to regulate fracking operations.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lake Macatawa Real Estate Statistics

For the first 10 months of the year home sales along the waterfront of Lake Macatawa in 2013 there were 13 single family homes sold at an average of $741,615 compared to 18 homes sold in 2012 at an average of $662,772, representing a 12% increase in average sales price year over, however a 28% drop in number of sales.  Currently there are 24 homes actively for sale along Lake Macatawa with an average listing price of $946,975 representing a current average sale average price to listing price gap of  $205,360.  Average days on the market in 2012 along Lake Macatawa was 231 while in 2013 that number has increased to 368. 
The bottom line here is, it is nice to see average sale price increase, but it looks like the gap between the average sale price vs the average listing price is hurting the total number of sales in this market.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Best Cities in Michigan

Looking to make a move to the Wolverine State? These are the Michigan cities and townships that rank highest in several important factors.

We’ve been ranking cities across the country, and even those within single states, in a lot of different ways for a while now on the Movoto Real Estate Blog: nerdiest; worst dressed; most… cowboy. Now we’re going state-by-state answering the question of which city within their borders is actually the best based on the data. Congratulations, Michigan, you’re up first.

Michigan’s Metro Supreme

What makes a great city? The same thing that makes a great athlete: fundamentals. In the case of ranking cities in terms of overall best-itude, we settled on the following six criteria to measure:
  • Amenities (shopping, dining, entertainment, etc.)
  • Cost of living (percent above or below state average)
  • Crime (percent above or below state average)
  • Education (student to teacher ratio compared to state average)
  • Employment (income and unemployment compared to state average)
  • Home value (percent above or below state average)
We started with a list of the 50 most populous cities and townships in Michigan, then gave each city a rank from one to 50 in the individual criteria above based on the data, with one being the best possible score. Then, we averaged the criteria together for each city and gave it an overall Big Deal Score. The lower this number was, the higher the city ranked.

The 10 Best Cities in Michigan

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