Archive for the ‘Homeowner Help’ Category

We all know the saying:  “A picture is worth a thousand words…”  That holds true in real estate also.

In one of my multiple listing systems I only have room for around 100 words to describe a home so I especially need that adage to be true!  However, I firmly believe with regard to real estate photos, there needs to be one more word in that saying:  QUALITY.  “A quality photo is worth 1,000 words!”

There are many technical reasons why a quality photograph goes a long way – one of the most important ones being search engine optimization (SEO).  When I tell you I will market your home for a successful sale – I will do so taking all the internet sources, resources and criteria in mind.  The quality, pixels and number of photos is one way to maximize the exposure of your home on the internet.

But even still, when your home comes up in a potential buyers search, I have about 1 second to capture their attention.  In order to do that – the photos of your home have to “Wow!” them immediately!  How do I accomplish that?  By employing two tactics:  1) Professional photography and 2) Staging.

Below I will show you the difference between photos taken with a phone camera (which astoundingly is done a lot these days) and those taken by my professional photographer.  But before I get there, I’ll say a few words about Staging.

The beautiful thing about professional photography is that they have the proper equipment and expertise regarding light saturation, etc. to show every detail in a room, right down to seeing the trees outside the window. That same “beautiful thing” can also become a homes’ undoing if there are too items in a room. Many small items on horizontal surfaces become magnified.  In the television industry they used to say that the camera “adds 10 pounds” onto the actors.  In room photos, a bunch of small items sitting around have that same effect.  You may be surprised at the items I ask you to move, hide or remove for your photo shoot.  I ask for these things because I have learned over the years that our eyes catch things that our brain registers and gets distracted by – even without being conscious of it.

Remember, my goal is to absolutely capture a potential buyer’s attention.  Which one of the following photos catch your eye?

photo I took with my phone...

photo I took with my phone…

Photo by my professional photographer:

photo courtesy of Gaffan Digital

photo courtesy of Gaffan Digital

My phone:

As shot with my phone...

As shot with my phone…


photo courtesy of Gaffan Digital

photo courtesy of Gaffan Digital

My photo:

2013-05-31 16.15.34


photo courtesy of Gaffan Digital

photo courtesy of Gaffan Digital

Every home size and style benefits from quality photographs:

2013-01-15 13.29.10


photo by Gaffan Digital

photo by Gaffan Digital


2013-01-15 13.32.16


photo by Gaffan Digital

photo by Gaffan Digital


I do not believe in just “listing” a home and snapping photos – I  believe in showcasing a home in such a way that it takes advantage of that very first moment a buyer sees your home on the internet.

– Laura




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I am a “checklist” person.  I have developed them for myself to make sure I don’t miss steps in showcasing homes on the market (I improve – and add – postings to many additional sites rather than to simply allow a “data transfer” from one site to the next) and to make sure I do not miss details in working through a Purchase Agreement for my buyers.

I also like to have all the contact information for all the parties involved in one place.  With that in mind, I provide my clients with the following document which serves as both a Contact Information sheet and a Worksheet for whom to contact in the final days before closing to arrange for home services.



Hopefully you will find this information useful!

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photo courtesy of reknowledgebase.com

photo courtesy of reknowledgebase.com

In the State of Michigan, when you purchase a home and it becomes your primary residence, you are then eligible to apply for the Principal Residence Exemption on your property taxes.

This is a tax break from the school operating fund costs in your annual taxes, up to 18 mills.  It significantly reduces your annual taxes.

In order to take advantage of this Exemption, you must complete a Principal Residence Exemption (PRE) Affidavit and have it in the hands of the Township Treasurer where the home is located.  This form must be filed on or before June 1 or on or before November 1.  Eligibility details, including the definition of “primary residence”, and any other requirements are all found in the Guidelines for the Michigan Principal Residence Exemption Program.

In a typical closing, the title company has prepared the required documents for the Buyers to apply for this Exemption and for the Sellers to rescind their right to the Exemption.  It is then in the best interest of the Buyers to hand deliver this form to the local Township and to retain a copy that has been date stamped by the Township as being “received”.

Once the Affidavit is filed, the Exemption remains in force for that property owner until it is rescinded.


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Good news for those still hoping to successfully complete a short sale – we have another year!

According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) as part of the fiscal cliff deal, Congress has extended the cancellation of mortgage debt relief provision for 1 year, through the end of 2013. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law shortly.

Per NAR, the law – which was set to expire at the end of 2012 – is crucial to foreclosure mitigation efforts such as principal forgiveness and short sales. Normally, U.S. law decrees that when a lender forgives all or a portion of a borrower’s debt, the forgiven amount is considered taxable income for the borrower. This is known as Cancellation of Debt (COD) Income and must be included in a taxpayer’s gross income. This Act, however, created an exception to this rule under the U.S. Tax Code. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act allows homeowners who received principal reductions or other forms of debt forgiveness to not pay taxes on the amount forgiven. The amount extends up to $2 million of debt forgiven on the homeowner’s principal residence. For homeowner’s to qualify, their debt must have been used to “buy, build, or substantially improve” their principal residence and be secured by that residence. The law, which was passed in 2007 with a 5 year sunset provision, will now be in effect until January 1, 2014.


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photo courtesy of Real Estate One

photo courtesy of Real Estate One

Home buyers and sellers need to be aware that, in spite of our diligent efforts in helping you properly price your home by way of a Comparative Market Analysis, we are faced with huge challenges with home appraisals these days.  Although our the lack of available homes for sale (inventory) on the market is causing the “law of supply and demand” to kick in, enticing sellers to ask a higher price for their homes, it is still very hard to accomplish that goal because appraisals are coming in lower than the Purchase Price offered.

This article from Fox Business News entitled:  Problems Persist, but Appraisals are Improving is very good at explaining the current situation.  However, on a local level – and in my experience – there are a couple of points that I would correct:

One, the percentage of problems is more along the 50% range than the national average of 34%.   We struggle greatly with the Appraisal Management Companies assigning out-of-town appraisers unfamiliar with the areas that are so vastly different in Livingston and Washtenaw counties.  In Washtenaw County one neighborhood’s value can vary greatly from another.  Same with Livingston County – especially around the lakes.

The new federal guidelines strictly forbid any influence of the appraisers by lenders or REALTORs, however, I do interview the appraiser to find out where they are based and I verify them as a member of the multiple listing system that is local to the property.  If they are not a member, they are unable to pull accurate and applicable comparable SOLD homes.  This is not a fool-proof prevention of an appraisal value difference, but it helps.

My second correction – or challenge, if you may – are the comments that “Appraisers look at the condition of a property,…”.  This has not been the case in the appraisals that have come in off the Purchase Price.  We are not seeing any adjustments for condition, amenities, or features a home has.  If you have granite counters and updated fixtures, that is great – and it will likely get you sold much faster – but there will not be an adjustment for those items against the home next door that does not.

The trend I am seeing is that the buyer that can come up with the cash to cover the difference between the Appraised Value and the Purchase Price, is the one who wins.  These types of sales are unfortunate for the buyer, initially, in that they will be in a negative equity situation, but, that will ultimately work itself out.  Those properties will become the SOLD comparables which will be used for the next appraisals, thereby causing the appraised values catch up with the sale prices.  Once those two values equal out – which I suspect will take about 6 months – then the equity situation for the buyers who took the initial cash-hit will also come in line.


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The June 2012 stats are in and we are seeing changes that are very specific to each individual market.  You need to be very careful in pricing your home to sell, or buying a home, depending on which area you are in.


Ann Arbor has flipped to a Sellers Market – the lack of inventory for the number of buyers is inciting bidding wars and homes flying off the market in a matter of hours, at times!  The number of homes sold in June was 154 (over May’s 114) with the average sold price soaring from $269,000 to $297,000.  The number of days on market decreased from 67 down to 49.


Dexter is one of the areas that significantly changed. It is definitely a strong Sellers Market. Inventory is fought over. The number of homes sold in Dexter increased from 15 in May to 27 in June with the average sale price soaring from $219,900 to $275,000.


Chelsea is experiencing a Sellers Market, but only to the extent that you CAN sell right now. We do have double the homes on the market since May, with the number of Days on Market decreasing to half the amount of time (57 days), HOWEVER, the average sale price dropped from $224,000 down to $193,000.


Grass Lake is basically a neutral market. Although there was a slight increase in the number of homes sold, there was a slight decrease in the average sale price from $213,000 down to $202,000.  The extreme change was in the number of days on market which increased from 27 to 103.


Manchester is also experiencing a Sellers’ Market. Although the number of homes sold in May vs. June did not change, the Days on Market reduced from an average of 415 days to 42 days. The average sale price did decrease from $185,000 in May down to $169,000.


Pinckney experienced a dramatic change in market conditions.  Not only did the number of homes sold go from 40 in May to 60 in June, the average sale price jumped from $169,000 to $185,000.  The average Days on Market followed suit from 100 down to 71.


Saline’s market is still gaining speed.  The number of homes sold nearly doubled from 23 in May to 42 in June.  The Days on Market dropped from 88 to 64, but the average sale price did decrease from $314,000 to $287,500. Condo and vacant land info is also available.


Although Whitmore Lake’s market statistics show a decrease in number of homes sold, the increase in the average sale price doubled from $109,500 to $222,500.  The Days on Market increased slightly from 56 days up from 40 days.

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photo courtesy of nonworkers.com

What happened???!!

You need to know that we are suddenly experiencing a crazy market condition.

After having been flooded with foreclosed homes for so long, our market is now very short on what we call “inventory” – also known as homes available for sale!

What this means to you, as a buyer, is that when a home comes on the market – you must act fast.  We need to be connected!  My last listing was under contract within 72 hours of being on the Multiple Listing Systems that I use – before it even hit the internet websites such as REALTOR.com, Zillow or Trulia.

For home sellers – it might be a good time to attempt to sell – but a word of CAUTION to you – the values are not jumping up with the activity.   Lenders are not considering any significant increase in home values – nor are Buyers.  We are not truly experiencing any rise in values….yet….

Call me today with your home “wish list” so I may start watching.  I receive notice of a new listing on the market anywhere from 10 minutes of it being entered into the system, to 12 hours (depending on which multiple listing system was used).  Be prepared in two ways:  1) for my phone call that says – “Let’s go look at this one!” and 2) with a pre-approval letter from your lender so we are ready to write an offer!

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