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Buyers Score Big When Buying in Winter

by Michele Safford

Spring and summer are traditionally thought of as the best time to buy and sell a home. More houses tend to be on the market, and all of them are looking their best with fresh spring blooms or green summer lawns. Although winter may be thought of as the “off season” for buying homes, there can be many advantages of buying a home in the winter. 

  • Rethink curb appeal. Diminished curb appeal can make some sellers feel less confident about their listings. Blooming flowers and green trees generally make a place look warm and inviting; however, take a look at the winter appeal of the home. Soft snow and glistening ice may be beautiful, and the changing landscape may go nicely with the crackling fireplace in the living room.
  • A Different Point of View. The polished and scrubbed homes ready for open houses and multiple visitors during spring may be more lived-in and real if you're buying a home in the winter. You'll also have the opportunity to see how the heating system is holding up and if there are any drafty or damp spots.
  • Fewer Choices May Help. Rather than feeling compelled to look at every home that meets your criteria, the reduced selection means you won't have several homes with minute differences to agonize over. Buying a home in the winter means you'll be free to focus on simply choosing the best available home that suits your needs.
  • Timing May Still Be Right. Many families with kids prefer to move during the summer vacation to avoid school disruptions. However, Maryanne Walker brings up a good point in her Life123 article--moving over winter break is second best. Most schools will begin a new semester after the beginning of the year, and this can be a good time to make a clean move.
  • Better Prices. According to an article on CBS News Money Watch, buying  a home in the winter can save buyers as much as 3 percent over buyers who purchase when demand is higher. You may also be more likely to get concessions made such as the chandelier in the entry way or dining room set that perfectly fits the room.
  • More Attention. An article on the Quicken Loans website points out that Realtors won't be trying to meet the need of several clients at once during the winter so they will be able to focus on your needs. Buying a home in the winter also means lenders will be more accessible, some may even waive fees as a way to gain more business from the limited number of borrowers.

Buying a home in the winter might not be the best time for everyone, but for those that can take advantage of the lower prices and decreased demand, a great deal can usually be found. Start your search or contact us for more information.

Make Your Home Safer This Christmas

by Michele Safford

The holidays are meant to be full of joy, but Christmas also brings with it many safety hazards.  There are steps you can take to ensure your home is ready for the holiday season and that your family is safe.  Following these home safety and cautionary tips for Christmas can add a level of safety to the season and mitigate potential hazards that exist.

Start with the tree

Many Americans purchase artificial Christmas trees, and one of the biggest home safety tips for Christmas is to buy a fire resistant tree.  Artificial trees that carry this label will resist burning in hazardous conditions.  They are also easier to put out in the event they catch fire.

If you do purchase a real tree, you want to be sure it is fresh.  A fresh Christmas tree will last longer and will remain moist.  This decreases the chance of the tree catching fire or dropping needles. 

You want to place your tree away from anything that could cause a fire.  This means placing it away from fireplaces, radiators, and other heat elements.  Having a tree that is in the direct path of a forced hot air vent is not safe.

Safer decorations

Decorations should have rounded edges--nothing sharp or breakable if you have young kids.  If you have trimmings, keep them high enough that your children cannot reach them.  Decorations with small pieces should also be avoided as these could be swallowed by kids or pets.

One other home safety tip for Christmas pertains to lights.  If you buy indoor or outdoor lights, check the safety standards.  Be sure the lights are safe and tested.  Do not attach more than three sets of lights to a single extension cord.  Outdoor lights also need to be secured so they do not blow or break.

Play in the snow


Playing in the snow can be dangerous.  Make sure your kids have gloves and proper boots--the goal is to keep children as dry as possible.  If they get soaked, be sure to change them into something dry.  Sledding should be done away from streets to ensure safety.  If your kids are skating, safety equipment can also help prevent injury.

Toys for the little ones

One of the best parts of Christmas is the toys.  The home safety tips for Christmas include buying toys that are appropriate for their age.  Kids who are a few years old should not be playing with toys meant for a teenager.  Kids under the age of ten should also not be given a toy that requires an electrical outlet.  Toys with very small parts should also be avoided for the toddlers.  They can put small pieces in their mouths and swallow them or even choke on them.


Christmas is one of the greatest times of the year.  Ensuring safety with the tree, decorations, and playing can make for a more relaxed holiday season.  Following these home safety tips for Christmas will help you make sure your holiday season is full of smiles.  It is the season to be merry--enjoy it in your safe and happy home.

Preparing Your Home for Holiday Travel

by Michele Safford

The holiday season is a time for a variety of activities from decorating and tree-trimming to shopping and attending local celebrations.  You might be among the many people who also visit family and friends for the holidays, and this means that another activity on your "to do" list would be focusing on preparing your home for travel.  If you will only be out of town for a couple of days, preparing your home for travel may not be high on your priority list, but if you'll be gone for a week or more, it's something you definitely want to prepare for and take care of properly.

To keep your home safe from potential intruders or burglars and protect it from the elements, here are several ways you can make preparations for your absence:

  1. If your home security system allows you to program lights to activate at certain times, set a schedule that turns different lights on at different times during the night to give the appearance that someone is home.
  2. Arrange with the post office to hold your mail until you return, or have a trusted neighbor or local friend pick it up every day for you.  Stop delivery of your newspaper, too, if you have one delivered to your house.
  3. If you will not be taking your pets with you, make arrangements with a friend, neighbor, or pet boarding facility to take care of your four-legged friends until you return.
  4. Notify your security monitoring company that you will be out of town and provide them with contact information for where you will be staying.
  5. If the weather will be especially cold during your absence, leave a small trickle of water running in the kitchen or bathroom sink to keep the pipes from freezing.
  6. Before departure, thoroughly check all doors and windows (including your garage door and those on any exterior buildings) to make sure they are securely locked.
  7. Unplug all small kitchen appliances like your coffee maker, toaster, microwave, blender, and others.
  8. Unplug all your electronics (television, stereo, computer, alarm clock, etc.) and chargers for electrical devices.
  9. If you do not have a home security system, arrange with a trusted neighbor or friend to stop by your home at least every other day during your absence.  Ask them to turn on a light that is visible through the curtains, and turn it off during their next visit.  As part of their security check, as them to also check all doors and windows to make sure they remain secure.
  10. Close all blinds and curtains to prevent potential intruders from detecting whether or not anyone is truly at home.
  11. Leave a television or radio tuned to a station that offers mostly conversational programming.  The sound will dissuade burglars by giving the appearance that there is actual conversation taking place in the house.

These tips will help you with preparing your home for travel and provide you with a more stress-free holiday by giving you the peace of mind of knowing that your home should remain safe and secure while you are away.

Interest Rates on the Rise – Time to Buy?

by Michele Safford

Interest rates are on the rise – is it time to buy? Many real estate investors and homeowners are asking this very question. Economists say that the time to buy is now more than ever with interest rates that are only expected to keep climbing. They are urging those in the market for a new home and are currently able to buy a home to act as quickly as they can.

If you were in the market for a new home over the past few months and decided to wait for a better deal, you could have potentially cost yourself hundreds to thousands of dollars per month in mortgage payments! Buying a home in today's market can save you a ton of money and secure you a lower interest rate that makes home ownership much more affordable.

Since May of 2013 interest rates have already increased by more than 1 percent. Economists don't expect this trend to end any time soon. Rather, they predict that rates will continue to rise through the rest of the year and into 2014. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, interest rates for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.59 percent all the way back in May!

Increasing interest rates that occur over a substantial time period, combined with steadily increasing home prices are all red flags for economists and real estate investors. Despite rising interest rates, current rates are still low historically and the increases that we are seeing every month are not minimal--they rise at an average of between 1 and 2 percent EACH month. This means that every month, every day you wait to buy your dream home, you are literally flushing money down the toilet.

Believe it or not, it's actually more affordable for people to buy a home today than it has been in decades. Not only that, but the National Association of Realtors reported recently that home ownership is more affordable now than it has been since 1970--the year the NAR began tracking the information!

If you're thinking about buying a new home and want to secure an interest rate that is manageable, the time to act is now! Contact us today or start searching for your next Novi home.

Tips for Selling Your Northville or Novi Home This Winter

by Michele Safford

While it certainly is not ideal to be selling your home in the winter, if you cannot hold off until spring or summer, it may be your only course of action. Although you will have fewer interested buyers, you will also have less competition and the people who are looking to buy will probably be in urgent need of a property.

Make up for the dreary weather and lower levels of natural light by following these tips for selling your home in the winter.

1. Price your home accurately

Buyers expect discount prices during the winter because they know sellers are often in desperate need to find a new owner for their property. Market your home at a realistic price straight away rather than beginning slightly higher to leave room for negotiation, recommends Brad Knapp, a regional vice president at the National Association of Realtors.

2. Keep the exterior snow-free

Advertise with pictures of your home free of snow either by arranging the photograph visits before the snow begins to fall or by taking pictures during a thaw. You should also to keep your home as snow-free as possible by clearing the sidewalk, driveway, and front steps of snow to allow buyers to enter the property without difficulty. If you cannot maintain the snow yourself, hire a service to salt and shovel these areas.

3. Build your curb appeal

Ways to improve your curb appeal include keeping the ground clear of fallen leaves and branches, and you should also trim any branches that could be knocked down in the wind. Keep your yard free of clutter, such as toys, bicycles, and mail, and place a welcoming doormat in the entrance. During the holiday season, you can hang a wreath on the door and turn on a few fairy lights, but keep such decorations to a minimum as they become less attractive during daylight hours.

4. Keep your home warm and inviting

Adjust the thermostat to a slightly higher temperature just before buyers arrive to ensure your home is comfortably warm. You can also increase the sense of comfort by turning on a gas fireplace or by lighting a wood-burning fire if you will be remaining in the house.

5. Lighting

During the day, take advantage of natural light by opening curtains and blinds wide. For showings after dark, turn on plenty of lights and ensure light bulbs are clean and bright.

6. Work on interior staging

Complete the atmosphere by engaging all of your buyers' senses. Bake some cookies just before the viewers arrive to offer them some freshly cooked treats. Also play soft background music such as a classical radio station. The soothing effect can help entice buyers to stay longer.

 

Making your home appealing during the colder months can be challenging, but by using the above tips for selling your home in the winter, you should be able to attract buyers and receive a good price for your property. If you’re ready to sell your Novi or Northville home, contact Michele Safford today, or review our resources for home sellers.

Keep Your Home Safe During Thanksgiving Celebrations

by Michele Safford

Thanksgiving is one of the happiest holidays in the US. One of the ways you can ensure that you gather joyous memories from this Thanksgiving is to keep your home safe.

Fires

Food forms the center of the Thanksgiving celebration, and kitchens are busy places during this time. The American Red Cross and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offer a number of Thanksgiving home safety tips to keep you and your loved ones safe:

  • Test your smoke alarms before Thanksgiving to make sure they are in working order.
  • Monitor pots of food cooking on the stove top, particularly if you are frying or boiling. The same goes for grilling, as food tends to heat quickly when cooked by this method.
  • Don't leave your turkey baking in the oven unattended. Even if you're only intending to pop out for a few minutes, you may be delayed. Turn off the oven.
  • Use oven or cell phone timers to remind yourself to check the food. It's easy to get chatting with your guests and forget about the kitchen!
  • Choose your Thanksgiving outfit with care, avoiding loose fitting and flowing sleeves that may sweep hot items to the floor.
  • Clear all the clutter off your countertops before you start cooking, and make sure that there are no fire hazards such as trailing curtains or towels.
  • Check your home after the festivities are over to ensure that all candles are extinguished, stoves tops and ovens turned off, and any illuminated decorations are deactivated.

Children

Thanksgiving is an exciting time for kids! They love to be involved in the preparations and find the family traditions involved in the holiday fascinating. These Thanksgiving home safety tips will help protect youngsters:

  • Give children activities that will keep them out of the kitchen. This could include puzzles, books, making table decorations, or helping you to prepare food the day before.
  • Have a rule that no toys or other tripping hazards are allowed in the kitchen during cooking times, and no running through the room.
  • Place candles or open flame decorations up high as they are extremely alluring to inquisitive minds.

However, it is sometimes almost impossible to keep the kids out of the kitchen, so:

  • Keep all electrical appliances and cords, knives, and matches out of reach of little hands.
  • Turn pot handles inwards so that they cannot be jogged by heads as kids walk past.

Pets

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Animal League America both offer advice about keeping pets safe during Thanksgiving, including:

  • Keep to your pets' regular routines as much as possible. Feed them at their usual times, and fit a short stroll with your dog into your day if you can.
  • Avoid feeding your pets rich foods, and remember that foods like chocolate or raisins are poisonous to pets. Feed normal pet food, with a tiny bit of well-cooked, boneless, non-greasy meat.

Following these Thanksgiving home safety tips will make it a happy holiday for all!

Novi Company Named One of Detroit’s Best to Work For

by Michele Safford

Novi recently had the honor of one of its more prominent business community members being named one of Metro Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For. Tognum America, Inc. made the 2013 list, joining other elite organizations such as The Taubman Company, Digitas and Henry Ford Health System. This marks the fifth time they’ve received this recognition.

The local company is the headquarters of the North American subsidiary of Tognum AG, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of diesel engines and drive and propulsion systems. Formerly known as MTU Detroit Diesel, they moved into their brand-new $5.4 million, 68,000 square-foot facilities at 39525 Mackenzie Drive in 2012. Approximately 250 people are employed at this location which generates $58.6 million in annual sales.

Tognum America has made a commitment to sustainability by devoting its efforts toward more responsible consumption of energy and resources. To that end they installed a new MTU Onsite Energy Combined Heat and Power (CHP) power plant in their Novi headquarters. This “green” system, activated in September 2013, is expected to save $30,000 over the winter through use of natural gas. While the company has several in Europe, this is the first of their systems to be installed in the United States.

Patrick Kapusta, director of human resources, elaborated on Tognum America’s status as a desirable workplace. “We take great pride in the culture of mutual respect and trust that we’ve created for our employees.” Maintaining an optimum work-life balance is a major component of their corporate philosophy. They also offer a comprehensive internship program to help develop future generations of talented and successful candidates. Tognum America President Thomas Koenig summed up the company's attitude: "Our employees are our greatest resource."

The 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For competition recognizes organizations throughout the Metro Detroit area that make excellence in human resource practices a priority. To receive this designation, nominees are evaluated by an independent research firm in 12 categories such as compensation, benefits and employee solutions, and diversity. All recipients were recognized at a luncheon on Wednesday, October 30 at the Henry Hotel in Dearborn.

Food Truck Rally Drives Northville Residents to Eat

by Michele Safford

When you're looking for a unique and convenient meal around Northville, you should consider the area's food trucks, which have been gaining popularity -- for good reason. Food truck meal options around Northville are diverse and delicious, and those who assume that food made in a restaurant on wheels is lower in quality are usually pleasantly surprised after their first food truck experience. Dining on food truck food is a trend that is not only becoming more prominent in Northville, but across the country as well. For a quick breakfast, workday lunch, or late night snack, food trucks in Northville provide fast and delightful meals at locations all over the community. 

An upcoming area event in Northville will highlight the growing popularity of food trucks and will give them the opportunity to demonstrate their culinary prowess to Northville residents. The Northville Food Truck Rally will take place on August 24 starting at noon. The event will include musical performances and a beer garden in addition to featuring a variety of different food trucks. The Northville Food Truck Rally will take place along West Candy Street, with the area behind City Hall being used to host the beer garden. Among the food trucks that event attendees might see this August are the Green Zebra Food Truck and Jacques' Tacos.

The Green Zebra Food Truck offers sandwiches and salads to Northville diners, and diners can order Green Zebra dishes online in addition to being able to purchase food at the truck. A calendar on the Green Zebra website provides information regarding the food truck's location on any given day. The Green Zebra also caters private events and offers custom designed menus for birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, and more. Consider Green Zebra for great sandwiches on the go. Green Zebra is located at the Eastern Market every Tuesday and at Birmingham Bites on Thursdays.

Mexican food lovers should try out Jacques' Tacos. In 2011, Jacques' Tacos was voted "Best Food Truck" by both Metrotimes and Real Detroit Magazine. The menu at Jacques' Tacos was created by Chef Wes Holton and combines a variety of Mexican flavors to create memorable dishes such as "Lands End" Tacos and Chimichangas. The Jacques' Tacos food truck can be found at a variety of different locations around the area throughout the month.  Jacques' Tacos also caters corporate events and special parties. 

Attend the Northville Food Truck Rally this August and you just might be convinced to make food truck cuisine a regular part of your dining experience.

Northville's Property Values on the Rise

by Michele Safford

While many of the country’s local housing markets are still contending with dismal home prices, there is light at the end of the tunnel for both Northville and Northville Township. According to the Equalization Office of Wayne County, average residential assessments have risen to impressive numbers. Northville’s values reached 3.26, and Northville Township’s looked even better, peaking at 4.89. These numbers are significant, since property values serve as reliable bellwethers for the overall economic health of the community.

Indeed, Mayor Chris Johnson stated, “For me, it's the first solid, tangible sign that the economy is improving.”

The numbers themselves are excellent news, but perhaps even more impressive is what this turn of events says about Northville’s longevity as a community.

Both Mayor Johnson and Northville Township Supervisor Mark Abbo commended the efforts of the community in making Northville attractive, thus encouraging businesses, such as SoulBrain, to set up shop here, which in turn, attracts new homebuyers. Abbo also credited Northville’s strong schools, clear community goals, and long-term planning for this upward trend in property values. Northville City Manager Patrick Sullivan echoed Abbo’s sentiments and added that Northville’s lower home prices and reputation as a safe place to live and raise children also played a significant role in the recovery.

Thus, the recovery is a reflection of what Northville has done right so far and what it will continue to do.

“We want to be top of the top in everything, and I think that drives the vision for the future,” Abbo said. “People like to see that.”

After considering four options for converting the old Northville Psychiatric Hospital property into a park, the Northville Township at last came up with a master plan, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees in late January. This $82.6 million master plan marks the first step in the long-awaited redevelopment of the Seven Mile Property.

The 431 acres of the property were originally slated to be redeveloped for commercial use, but as pollution-removal costs mounted, developers ended up keeping only 82 acres. The first big break came when REIS of Bloomfield Hills announced a deal with the University of Michigan to build a 100,000-square-foot ambulatory center on the 82 acres, giving development on the Seven Mile property a much-needed kick-start.

Northville Township is now following the crucial ambulatory center deal with a project that will benefit everyone in the community. The master plan unveiled is admittedly ambitious and will take time.

Says Supervisor Mark Abbo of the plan: “You probably won’t see much progress on the park land in the next year, or even possibly five years. We’re going to do what we can when we can afford it, and after each item has been through further approvals at all levels.”

Abbo asked residents to be patient, as the project still has many hurtles ahead of it. Still, the mood of the meeting was overwhelmingly positive.

The master plan for the park basically includes a wish list of possible amenities. Included in the proposal is a community center, a paved trail, a sledding hill, an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a water park, courts for basketball and tennis, woodlands with hiking trails, a large lawn with a band shell for outdoor concerts, a pond, and an energy park that could potentially be used to educate visitors about wind turbines and energy conversion.

While each of these amenities must go through further review, the major take-away from the meeting was the unanimous support by the board of trustees to move ahead with the project. In addition to nearly all of the residents who came to the meeting, the park proposal has garnered support from a variety of groups, including the Michigan Mountain Bike Association and SoulBrain Michigan.

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