Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland and Livingston County Real Estate News

April 16, 2019

Are Open Floor Plans Just Too Open??

The open floor plan has been a highly sought after layout among today’s home buyers, but homeowners who already live in open-concept homes say they’re starting to miss the walls. With an open floor plan, a kitchen, living room, and dining room are often one large open space.

 

“Buyers are moving away from uninterrupted views,” Loren Larsen, a real estate professional with Compass in Boston, told The Boston Globe about what she is frequently hearing from clients. Her clients, she says, no longer want their kitchen, along with its dirty dishes, on display.

Life can also be too loud in open concept living, says Bob Ernst, president of FBN Construction in the Boston area. The family togetherness that open concepts bred may ultimately be too much togetherness to some homeowners now. Parents find it difficult to watch adult TV programs if their school-age children are not in their rooms, or to conduct a work call in private.

However, some homeowners may be struggling to voice their dislike of the open concept. “The message [of open concept living] is so powerful that to admit you don’t want to live in a house as open as a soccer field is to reveal something shameful,” The Boston Globe reports.

After all, the open floor plan was partially driven by the desire of parents to always be around their children, even when they’re in the kitchen. Also, some may be concerned that admitting they don’t like it is really a confession that they may not be relaxed enough to chat with guests while they prepare a fancy meal or neat enough to keep all of their open rooms clutter-free at all times.

But the remorse is prompting some homeowners to reportedly consider adding new walls or sliding doors to bring in some privacy. Read: Double-Pocket Doors That Make a Statement and Add Privacy 

Nevertheless, current home shoppers still show a high desire for open floor plans. “Whether [buyers] entertain or not, when they’re looking for a new home, they picture themselves entertaining,” says Kathy McSweeney with Collins & Demac Real Estate in Shrewbury, Mass. “They want that big open space.”

 
April 16, 2019

How to Handle Social Security Benefits When a Senior Dies?

When a person dies, there are countless arrangements to make and people and organizations to notify. Ensuring everything is handled properly and in a timely manner is challenging to begin with, but things are complicated even further by all the difficult emotions surrounding a loved one’s passing.

 

When a person dies, there are countless arrangements to make and people and organizations to notify. Ensuring everything is handled properly and in a timely manner is challenging to begin with, but things are complicated even further by all the difficult emotions surrounding a loved one’s passing.

One aspect of managing a loved one’s final affairs and estate that most people aren’t familiar with is the handling of their last Social Security benefits check. Surviving family members often incorrectly assume that the estate is entitled to keep the beneficiary’s final payment or that it can be spent on things like funeral expenses. The truth is that a senior’s last check usually must be returned to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Understanding the Timing of Social Security Payments

Social Security retirement benefits are paid in the month following the month for which they are due. For example, a senior’s January benefit is received in February, February’s benefit is direct-deposited in March and so on. It’s important to understand that the SSA only pays benefits for a specific month if the senior was alive for the entirety of that month.

For example, if your mom received her SS payment on April 10 and she passes away on April 29, then her estate is allowed to keep that check because it is actually payment for the month of March. However, if her next check is automatically direct-deposited in May, it will need to be returned. This is because the check is for the month of April, and the SSA does not pay benefits for the month of death.


Notifying the Social Security Administration of a Beneficiary’s Death

The SSA should be notified immediately upon the passing of a beneficiary. Most funeral homes will take care of this on behalf of the surviving family if they provide the late beneficiary’s Social Security number. A death can also be reported by calling the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 AM and 7 PM Monday through Friday or by visiting a local Social Security office. While the SSA has made many features and services available on their website, it is not currently possible to report a death online.

Returning Final SS Payments

Prompt notification allows the SSA to cease paying benefits as soon as possible, minimizing the likelihood of confusion over whether a check must be returned or not. If the SSA does happen to make a payment for the month of a beneficiary’s death, it is crucial that it not be spent. If a deceased loved one received their benefits in check form, do not cash any checks for the month of their death or later.

If a late beneficiary had arranged for their payments to be directly deposited into a bank account, this can speed up the returns process significantly. Countless surviving family members have unknowingly spent these final payments and been caught off guard when the amount of the payment is automatically withdrawn from the direct deposit account and returned to the SSA by the financial institution. Keep in mind that the SSA does not prorate the beneficiary’s payment for the month of their death either.

Survivors Benefits

Reporting the death of a beneficiary is also an important step in determining if any surviving family members are entitled to benefits based on the beneficiary’s work history. In some cases, survivors benefits are not paid retroactively and a person must gather information and documents to apply, so don’t delay. For more information on survivors benefits, visit the SSA website.

Bruce Webb is a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) and has an extensive network of Senior related referrals.

Posted in News, Senior News
April 16, 2019

Man Caves and She Shacks: Your Personal Retreat?

Regardless of how much you love your partner, there are times in your week when you need some time alone. Click through to find out more about creating a solo retreat in your own home.

For a long time, the "man cave" held a singular position in the creation of private space in the home. It was erroneously believed that men were the only members of the family who needed a fortress of solitude. Things have changed, and today both men and women are looking for places to retreat in their own homes. While man caves are still common, "she shacks" are becoming more popular. Let's take a quick look at what you can use these spaces for in your home.

In popular culture, male retreats revolve around such pastimes as sports, while any space for women is presumably dedicated to a quiet space to do something like knit. But don't limit yourself! The following activities are suitable for both man caves and she shacks:

  • Sports: Design the room around your favorite sports team, and if your partner isn't also a fan, you can watch the games uninterrupted.
  • Crafting:Scrapbooking, knitting, sewing or art are all contemplative tasks that are sometimes better with solitude. Plus, you'll have a place out of the way to store your supplies.
  • Reading: Sometimes you just want to be by yourself and curl up with a good book. A nice backyard retreat could be a perfect spot for this.  
  • Game room: Maybe you enjoy having your friends over for a fun poker game and a few beers. This way you don't disturb the rest of the household.
  • Workshop: Maybe you do woodworking, metalworking or other equipment-heavy hobbies in your house. This can keep the mess out of the main living space and give you plenty of room to work.
  • Yoga or dance: Of course, a wide-open space with great lighting, mirrors and mats is perfect to keep yourself active and engaged with a regular yoga or workout routine.

What would you do if you had your own household retreat?

April 13, 2019

You Want to Save for a House??

Make the conscious effort to start saving for a down payment and you'll be surprised at how focused you become in achieving your goal.  Click through to learn how to get started.

Purchasing a home is a big financial responsibility, but the rewards of homeownership are many. Particularly for first-time homebuyers, coming up with the down payment needed to see your dream to fruition can often seem overwhelming. There are many strategies, however, that can help you save for your down payment.

It should also be noted that various loan programs exist that would allow you to drastically reduce the amount of money needed for a down payment. For example, VA loans often require 0% down, while FHA loans see down payment options ranging from 3-6%.

When you're ready to start saving for your down payment, consider these smart solutions: 

#1: Cut Back

When you realize that cutting back on certain things can help you reach your goals, it will change your perspective. Think of it as an investment rather than a loss. Here are some areas where you can potentially cut back:

  • Morning coffee and stops in the car for water, drinks and snacks ... carry your own
  • Cable and expensive internet … use some of the cheaper options such as Netflix
  • Eating out ... cook at home and use leftovers for quick meals and lunches

#2: Do it Yourself

You can save on a number of the services you pay for each month by doing it yourself. While there is a time and place for professional assistance, consider these alternatives:

  • Personal grooming ... paint your own nails, give yourself a facial, use coupons for haircuts
  • House maintenance ... mow your own yard, trim the trees, clean the interior, repair what you can
  • Make presents for family and friends instead of buying, especially cards and gift wrap

#3: Let Your Goals Be Known

You'd be surprised how much support you will receive from your circle of friends and family. They may opt for a game night-in instead of an expensive concert or dinner. They will also be more understanding if you can't chip in for a trip or group present. What's more, when you make your goals known to your friends and family, you're more likely to stick to them!

#4: Take on Extra Work

This may sound obvious, but it's more than just overtime or a sales commission. Try to turn your hobbies and extra time into money. Look on community boards for services wanted such as tutoring, cleaning, dog walking, errand running and even elderly companionship and driving.

#5: Save on Purchases

Take the time to research costs and shop during sales. It may take a couple extra minutes each week while grocery shopping or clothes shopping, but the end results will be worth the effort. Become a bargain hunter and you'll quickly see the savings stack up.

Make Your Homeownership Dreams Come True

Making the conscious decision to save will be the best start to achieving your down payment goals. Create a monthly alert on your phone or computer that lets you know when you've reached the monthly amount. Once you've reached the desired down payment amount, talk to a real estate professional to start looking at homes that could be yours.

 

Meanwhile, give us a call and we can help you locate a lender who can help you improve your credit score, you might be surprised how little you need to purchase a home.

Posted in Buyer News, News
April 13, 2019

Discover Which Architectural Style Fits Your Personality?

Have you considered lots of different home styles but are unsure which option is best for you? We've broken down the characteristics of various architectural styles. Click through to learn which style fits your personality.

With so many types of homes to choose from, how do you know where to start? The answer: Start here. We've broken down some of the key characteristics of various architectural styles to help you learn which one is best for you.

Ranch

Ranch homes became popular in the 1950s. This type of home features simplicity at its core and uses the design feature of free-flowing space. They are mostly one story, though modern interpretations sometimes feature a basement. Another characteristic of this type of architecture is its connection to nature. Easy access to the outdoors is essential, which is why many ranch homes sit on many acres of land.

Is it right for me? Ranch homes are a good fit for people who enjoy open spaces with a minimalist flair. You will like a ranch home if you value nature and taking in the landscape. 

Colonial

Colonial architecture originated in the U.S. in the 1600s. It has variations such as Dutch colonial and Georgian colonial. This style features shutters, chimneys and attention to geometry. What we think of today as colonial are two-story homes with about four rooms on each floor, mostly seen on the Eastern Seaboard. 

Is it right for me? If you love tradition, a colonial-style home is a good place to start. If you're looking for a sturdy home that features classic elements and European influences, this is definitely the architectural style for you.

Modern

Modern architecture became popular following World War II. It was an alternative to more classic homes that had been the preferred choice during the first half of the 20th century. Modern homes rely heavily on geometry and clean lines. They can sometimes be described as boxy and tend toward an all-white color palette. 

Is it right for me? Do you love clean and spacious rooms without elaborate detailing? Are you drawn to materials such as steel, glass and concrete? If so, modern is the architectural style for you. 

Cape Cod 

Cape Cod homes are found in New England for the most part, as that is where they originated. They were once an adaptation of small English-style homes and evolved to withstand the harsh Northeast climate. These homes tend to be smaller in size with pitched roofs, often featuring gables. They are often one story but sometimes include a smaller second floor. 

Is it right for me? Do you prefer a cozy home that reminds you of the ocean? Do you have a smaller family? Since Cape Cods usually have just one story, they are great for a couple or small family. 

Craftsman

This type of home started in California in about 1905. It is characterized by simplicity and function over the more ornate styles during this time period. Staples of craftsman homes are front porches, colorful exteriors and overhanging eaves. Inside, you will find exposed beams and rafters. 

Is it right for me? You will enjoy this style of home if you value flow between inside and outside spaces, as craftsman homes are known for porches and terraces. If you love built-in shelves and attention to detail, this architectural style will lend itself nicely to your personal aesthetic. 

 

Looking for more advice on the right type of home for you? Give us a call today! We would be happy to answer all of your questions.

April 13, 2019

How to Put Your Housing Cost to Work for You?

There has been a lot written about the benefits of homeownership. One benefit that continues to rise to the top is the added wealth homeowners gain simply by paying their mortgage while their home increases in value over time.

How to Put Your Housing Cost to Work for You

 

How to Put Your Housing Cost to Work for You | MyKCM

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently broke down the equity gained from price appreciation and principal payments in their Economists Outlook Blog. Homeowners who purchased their homes five years ago have already gained almost $80,000 in equity over that time with 80% of the gains coming from price appreciation.

For a homeowner who purchased their home 30 years ago, they have gained nearly $250,000 in equity with 70% coming from price increases. The full results can be seen in the chart below.

How to Put Your Housing Cost to Work for You | MyKCM

According to the Home Price Expectation Survey, a family who purchased a median priced home this January can expect to gain more than $42,000 over the next five years simply from price appreciation alone.

Bottom Line

Your home is one of the only investments you can live inside as you pay it off over time. If you are ready to use your housing costs to build wealth, let’s get together to discuss how to make your dream a reality.

Posted in News, Seller News
April 7, 2019

Is Your House Priced To Sell Immediately (PTSI)??

In today’s real estate market, with more houses coming to market every day and eager buyers searching for their dream home, setting the right price for your house is one of the most important things you can do.

Is Your House Priced To Sell Immediately (PTSI)? | MyKCM

In today’s real estate market, with more houses coming to market every day and eager buyers searching for their dream home, setting the right price for your house is one of the most important things you can do.

According to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Indexhome values have risen at over 6% a year over the past two years, but have started to slow to 4.4% over the last 12 months. By this time next year, CoreLogicpredicts that home values will be 4.6% higher.

With prices slowing from their previous pace, homeowners must realize that pricing their homes a little OVER market value to leave room for negotiation will actually dramatically decrease the number of buyers who will see their listing! (see the chart below)Is Your House Priced To Sell Immediately (PTSI)? | MyKCMInstead of the seller trying to ‘win’ the negotiation with one buyer, they should price their house so that demand for the home is maximized. By doing so, the seller will not be negotiating with a buyer over the price, but will instead have multiple buyers competing with each other over the house.

The key to selling your house in 2019 is making sure your house is Priced To Sell Immediately (PTSI)! That way, your home will be seen by the most buyers and will sell at a great price before more competition comes to market!

Bottom Line

If you are debating listing your house for sale, let’s get together to discuss how to price your home appropriately for our area and maximize your exposure this Spring Market!

Posted in News, Seller News
April 7, 2019

Crucial Steps to Planning a Successful Remodel?

Whether this is your first remodel or your fifth, knowing the right steps to the process can ensure that your project is done on time and on budget. Click through to learn the key steps for a remodel you can be proud of. 

Choose a design professional


Start by hiring an architect or interior designer, or maybe even both. This will help you formulate an idea of how you want your project to turn out in the end. Usually, you will sit down with the professional for an informal meeting, at which time they will begin to discuss your goals and aspirations with you and decide how they can facilitate making that happen.

Create a plan
Next, you will make a schematic design of the changes that you envision for your home. Usually this involves a rough layout of the floor plan and some simple views of the exterior of the home, if there is to be an addition. It takes time for the design professional to work on these, and then usually another week or so for the homeowners to consider them and make decisions. The initial design phase can take several months, but it is integrally important to the success of the project.

Interview contractors
Find the right person to do the job. Bring a final schematic of the plan with you to discuss with various contractors during the initial interview. Ask them pointed and specific questions, and be sure to ask them their best price for the job. Additionally, ensure that they are a reputable contractor in your area or else you could end up with a half-finished project.

Go shopping
While the contractors begin their preliminary work on the project, make use of your time and go shopping for essential fixtures or items that they will be installing throughout the project. Depending on how large the remodel is, this shopping phase can take months, so be proactive and get going today!

Get permits
Depending on the scope of your project and where it's located, permitting can take a day, months or even years. Be sure to be proactive and plan ahead to ensure that you will have the permits you need. Permit fees can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on where you live and what your city and county require.

Begin the project
Now you have all the tools you need. So get out there and begin your home's transformation!

 

March 30, 2019

April - Senior Information Night in Livonia!

Posted in News, Senior News
March 30, 2019

7 Home Maintenance Tasks All Homeowners Should Master

Keeping your landscaping and appliances clean and well-maintained can prevent costly maintenance down the road. Click through to learn how to become more of a DIY homeowner.

Whether you're a first-time homeowner or a seasoned veteran in homeownership, there are a few home maintenance tasks that all homeowners should master in order to keep their home in tip-top shape. Use these seven tasks as a general guide: 
 
Clean the garbage disposal in your kitchen sink. It is widely agreed upon that the best way to keep your garbage disposal blades clean and sharp is to run vinegar ice cubes through it. This easy task can eliminate odors as well as maintain your garbage disposal unit, keeping your kitchen clean and functional.
 
Check fire safety equipment. Test the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors every six months. If you ever need either one, you'll be glad you kept them both well-maintained. At the same time, you should check to make sure that your fire extinguisher is easily accessible and not nearing its expiration date.
 
Inspect/replace HVAC filters. Your furnace and air conditioner units play a vital role in keeping your home comfortable during all seasons. Keeping the filters clean and free of pet hair, dust and debris can go a long way toward prolonging the life of your HVAC units. This simple task can mean the difference between a quick fix and a costly repair down the road.
 
Vacuum the dust-collecting parts of your major appliances. Vacuuming your dryer's exhaust duct each year can prolong the life of your dryer. Same for the coils underneath your refrigerator. Trapped dust can result in trapped heat, leading to energy inefficiency and decreased life expectancy.
 
Test your garage door sensors. If you have a garage door, it is important to make sure the auto-reverse feature is in working order. This feature can keep your garage door from being damaged — or damaging any of your personal property, family members or pets.
 
Clean the gutters around your home. If your home has gutters, it is important to keep them clean and free of debris, especially during the rainy season. Standing water can create all kinds of problems. It can damage your home as well as provide a breeding ground for insects. Keeping your gutters clean will ensure that they are draining properly at all times.
 
Keep up with landscaping. In addition to improving your home's curb appeal, clearing away dead plants or shrubs on a regular basis can help you notice any issues early on. Also, make sure to check for any dead or dying limbs that overhang power lines, parking spots or your roof. Clearing away dead limbs before they become a problem can minimize stress down the road.
 
Keeping up with a few simple tasks can mean the difference between a routine repair and a costly replacement. Taking these steps can maintain the value of your home.