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New Trends in Home Building

by Michele Safford

Every year we see a new wave of trends come to life in home construction. Some are driven by advances in technology and others are focused on how we live and interact in our homes. Whether you’re looking at a new home or remodeling your existing home, the following ideas can give your home a modern feel and if you’re thinking of selling, stay competitive in today’s market.

  • Quartz countertops- Surpassing granite in popularity, quartz countertops offer added depth and durability, with improved resistance to staining. They and other high levels of cabinetry and flooring finishes are a sought after choice among buyers. 
  • Natural living spaces- Sunrooms and screened porches, which bring in a lot of natural light, are in high-demand. As are outdoor living areas, which have gained popularity due to their prevalence on TV. 
  • Flex space- Highly functional, small, dedicated nooks in your home, often referred to as pocket offices, are ideal for storing and utilizing laptops, tablets, and wireless equipment. In addition, dedicated charging stations, featuring USB outlets and more, offer a far safer resting spot than the typical knotted up mass of wires tossed on the ground by an overused outlet. 
  • Mudrooms- Mudrooms are becoming a must-have with today’s open floor plans as surefire clutter busters, giving families safe, out of the way storage for coats, shoes, and other daily-use items.
  • Luxury showers and fixtures- Forget your run-of-the-mill tub. Luxury showers and fixtures such as wet rooms, rain showers, and full body, multi-directional showerheads are all the rage.
  • Tank-less water heaters- Highly efficient, tank-less water heaters can really take a chunk out of utility bills as heating water amounts for the second largest expense in your home. Space efficient and longer lasting, these systems save up to 25 percent annually on water heating costs. 
  • Cultured stone- Banish the boring brick. Opt for a cultured stone to update the exterior of your home. 
  • Outdoor storage- Basements are falling in popularity in favor of outdoor storage areas, which are cheaper than renting storage units and far easier to access than attic space. 
  • In-law suites- More popular than ever before, in-law suites make life far more comfortable for multi-generational residences. 
  • Geothermal- Dig a little deeper for energy savings with geothermal heating and cooling technology. Using thermal energy created and stored in the ground, harnessing geothermal energy offers a far greener alternative to conventional HVAC systems. Bonus: They also offer a tax credit (not a deduction).

If you’re looking for a new home that boasts some of these hot new home features, contact the Michele Safford Group today or start searching for your next home here.

Truths and Myths of Credit Scores

by Michele Safford

You are probably aware of the importance of your credit score. Having a good credit score is essential if you hope to qualify for any large loans in the future. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about what affects your credit score and how you can improve it. The following are ten common credit score myths that you should be aware of:

  1. Paying off your debts will make your score perfect – While paying off your debts will certainly help your score, you have to remember that your credit rating isn’t a snapshot of where you are financially at the moment – it’s an overall history of your financial credibility and responsibility.
  2. Canceling credit cards will boost your score – A mistake many cardholders make is to close cards once they pay them off. However, this actually hurts your score because it lowers your debt utilization ratio.
  3. If you pay your bills on time, then there’s no reason to check your credit report – Credit reports can actually contain mistakes. If you check your report, you can catch these mistakes and report them in order to have them removed.
  4. Checking your own credit report harms your standing – When a company checks your report in order to issue a line of credit, it can hurt your credit. However, checking your own credit rating will not.
  5. Your credit scores will be the same with all three credit bureaus – The credit bureaus are three separate companies and their update records aren’t always the same, which means the scores are usually different – although not by a large margin.
  6. Your credit report is always accurate – Always check over your credit report carefully. Mistakes do happen, and you can report these mistakes in order to improve your credit score.
  7. Paying cash for everything can help a credit rating – Paying in cash has nothing to do with your credit, other than that you are avoiding using it. The key to building good credit is using your credit wisely.
  8. You can pay someone to fix your credit – There are companies that can help fix errors made on your report by sending dispute letters to the credit report agencies. However, if the creditors can verify the entry, then they will stay on your report. Your credit history will remain intact – it won’t just go away.
  9. The more money you have, the better your score will be – Again, your credit score reflects how you handle your credit line, not the amount of money you have. You could have millions in bank – if you don’t pay your bills on time and maintain a high balance, you can still have poor credit.
  10. The more credit cards you have, the better your score will be – More cards can be beneficial, because it can lower your overall credit utilization. Applying for too many loans or cards can negatively impact your score. Every time you apply for a new line of credit a hard inquiry is added to your report.

Even if your score is not ideal now, you can still repair it. By being wise with credit usage, paying off debt on time and minimizing the new debt. It takes time and effort, but the freedom it gives you is worth it. If you are considering buying a new home and want to discuss the right type of home for your budget, contact the Michele Safford Group today.

Simple Ways to Improve Your Home's Curb Appeal

by Michele Safford

Many sellers will make up their mind about your home before they even step foot through the door. Improving curb appeal not only makes your house look great, but also improves buyers’ attitudes about it.  The following tips can help improve the curb appeal of your home and make selling a snap:

  1. Banish the grime with a pressure wash- Dirt, scum and mildew that has built up over the winter, and possibly the years, brightens up your home and creates a low-maintenance feel.
  2. Remove gutter gunk and clean your roof- If your gutters are sprouting more plant life than your gardens beds, its time they received some much-deserved attention. Drag out the ladder and clean them out to avoid deterring potential buyers. Bonus: Clean gutters prevent roof rot.
  3. Clean out those weedy flower beds- Trim dormant plants to the ground, clean out leaves and sticks, and make beds clean and tidy - even if they’re flower-free.
  4. Trim and prune shrubs and trees- Remove branches that block the view of your home to give buyers a clear look when they drive by. Trim and shape flowering and non-flowering bushes and shrubs for a buttoned-up look and more buds next year.
  5. 5.       Add container plants for a blast of color- Even when it’s too cold for annuals, colorful containers can add life and cheer. Place colorful pots and vibrant flower on your porch, front steps, and even in flower beds.
  6. Keep the weeds at bay and tidy-up with mulch- Mulch gets dull with time, particularly following this season’s brutal winter. Topping off old mulch with a new layer, or adding mulch to beds that are lacking, will both improve curb appeal and tame weed growth.
  7. Paint the front door- A bright, colorful front door that pops can really bring cheer and attention to your home.
  8. Replace porch lights and house numbers- Don't live in the dead zone. If you house is difficult to locate, it will be difficult to sell. Swapping out or adding house numbers can make a huge impact. Replacing porch lights can help illuminate these new additions, as well as add an air of ambiance and safety.

Get more than the average real estate speculator drive-by with the help of these simple tips. Stand out by improving the curb appeal of your home and selling is sure to be a breeze. Contact the Michele Safford Group if you’re ready to sell your home or are interested in learning more about buying or selling.

5 Home Improvements with the Best Returns

by Michele Safford

Unless your home is brand new, you may find yourself considering the value of remodeling. Remodels can be a tricky balance of personal taste and increasing the resale value of your home. To maximize both resale value and comfort and enjoyment, consider the following 5 home improvements:

Minor Bathroom Remodel- For about 102 percent return on investment at resale, update your bath by replacing the tub, worn out shower doors, surrounding tile, toilet, sink and fixtures, vanity, and flooring. Using a spray-on texture to hide imperfections, add a fresh coat of paint after removing dated colors or wallpaper. Tub too large for removal? Simply re-glaze it.

Minor Kitchen Remodel- If your kitchen needs facelift rather than a major overhaul, a minor remodel offers about a 98.5 percent return. Purchase re-facing or sand and repaint cabinets, replace worn countertops, purchase a new oven/cook top, sink and fixtures, and install resilient flooring. Go for a bold new look, but avoid overspending on trendy stone or glass countertops unless your home is over $500,000. Changing window treatments is also an inexpensive way to add a decorative touch.

Landscaping- Landscaping your yard not only adds curb appeal, but offers 100 percent return on investment. Check into free design services at your local garden center, or consult a neighbor with a green thumb. Add a splash of color at the front of your home, focusing on a single hue and varying plant height. Trim or replace overgrown shrubbery with flowering foundation plants of varying height. Adding a focal point like a walkway or fountain packs a visual punch, adding major value.

Exterior Improvements- Exterior improvements offer a 95.5 percent return, and significantly raise curb appeal. Jazz up your home by replacing worn vinyl siding or paint and removing old awnings from windows and doors to update the look. Swap rusted wrought-iron for wood, and consider adding a pergola and columns to your front entryway porch for a richer look.

Attic Bedroom Conversion- If your existing HVAC can handle the load of another room, an attic conversion adds usable square footage to your house, and with the help of added insulation, lowers utility bills. Recoup ranges 93.5 percent on average. Don’t forget the foil vapor barrier to prevent moisture from seeping up, and to check the U.S. Department of Energy regarding the right level of insulation for your area.

These are just a few ideas for how you can expand the utility and enjoyment of your home without breaking the bank. If you’re thinking it’s time to sell your home or find your next one, contact the Michele Safford Group today!

What to Expect with Home Ownership

by Michele Safford

First time homeowners encounter a few "surprises" after all of the papers are signed and they move into the home. Whether the home may be new construction or an older home, there are a number of important items to consider when deciding to purchase a home. These include:

Taxes and Insurance

Taxes and insurance are of primary importance. Your mortgage company can roll the annual taxes and some insurance into your mortgage payment. Know what your approximate property taxes and insurance costs will be before deciding to buy. 

Tax and insurance rates can change. Shop around for the most reliable insurance company before you buy. This includes fire, flood, tornado, hurricane and earthquake insurance where applicable. Natural disaster insurance may be more expensive but it's worth it to protect your investment.

Appearance and Maintenance

Homes should look good and be maintained to increase their value. You may buy a home in a development with codes, covenants and restrictions (CC&R's) that require you to maintain your property at a certain level. You may be required to join a homeowner association with annual dues. 

Have a budget set aside for maintenance to comply with CC&R requirements. You may be responsible for all landscaping with a new construction home.

Estimate how much time you have to mow the lawn and the cost of garden supplies. Decide which jobs you want to do yourself. You may enjoy gardening but you do not want to paint your house.

There are some jobs that require professional services such as roof repairs. Be prepared for the unexpected if a repair person finds an additional problem with your plumbing or wiring in an older home.

Have a pest control inspection and pay a professional exterminator to eliminate termites and rodents if necessary.

HVAC and Appliances

Inspect the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in the home before you buy. Call an HVAC technician and pay for a separate inspection of the older home's system so you know what to expect if you live there. Many HVAC services offer annual maintenance contracts that include fixing plumbing problems. Always check the condition of plumbing, including the water heater, in the house you want to buy.

Familiarize yourself with the newer, energy-saving HVAC systems, windows, weather stripping and appliances that will help you save money. Know what is available in the home you want to buy and the cost of changing or upgrading appliances.

A new home may come with energy-saving appliances. New appliances should have warranties with new construction.

Utilities

Know what utilities are in the area, including cable television and wireless internet access, water, power, gas and even telephone. You want your cell phone service to work in the new house.

Your real estate professional will provide information and answer questions on CC&R's, approximate utility costs, taxes, insurance, energy-saving appliances and warranties.

If you’re considering purchasing a home in the Northville or Novi, Michigan area, start your search here. If you want to discuss the ‘real’ cost of ownership, contact the Michele Safford Group to talk about your next home.

Top 10 DIY Mistakes Homeowners Make

by Michele Safford

Remodeling your home is a big project. Adding a room or turning an attic into a dormer is not a simple procedure. Nevertheless, many people embark on do-it-yourself projects from painting to room additions.

Here are a few items DIY homeowners should consider before starting a project.

  1. Do not forget to obtain a permit if you are adding or expanding a room. The city or county requires a permit and inspections are probably necessary for the finished product. The wiring and plumbing are important and should probably be professionally installed.
  2. Your job site should be properly prepared. This means moving furniture out, covering carpet with drop cloths and having all of your tools and supplies nearby. Too many people think they will paint one wall and then move furniture around as they paint the other walls.
  3. Use the right tools. Have the screwdrivers, paintbrushes and rollers, hammers, wrenches, saws and other tools you need lined up before you start. Too many people start a job and then run out to buy more tools, sandpaper and other items.
  4. Use the correct paint. Flat paints are best left for ceilings only. Bathroom and kitchen walls generally take enamel paint like satin or eggshell. Make sure you have enough for the entire project, especially if it's a special color mixture. Actual coverage tends to be less than the estimate on the can.
  5. Prepare walls for papering, painting or installing paneling with the correct priming materials. Patch holes before you paint.
  6. Too many DIY homeowners take the wrong measurements for materials. The old adage is important, measure twice, cut once. You can always trim a little more off a long piece, but it’s hard to add more material. Double check all measurements.
  7. Don't skimp on materials. Have enough paneling for the study or wood for the fence. Make sure you have enough tiles for the kitchen or bathroom. When you have your measurements, it’s wise to buy an extra 10-15% of materials to account for any defects or damage. This is not the time to run out of paint thinner, glue or other items. Having overage is better than not having enough.
  8. Know your limitations. Don't try to do something you are not prepared for such as installing carpeting or hard surface flooring. Professional installers have years of experience and special tools for these jobs.
  9. Safety first. The ladder should be sturdy. The electricity should be turned off if you are working on the wiring. Wear eye and hearing protection.
  10. Budget for everything including things you didn't think you would need. You must be able to buy all of the supplies and tools if you are adding a room or fence yourself. You don't want to run out of money or time midway through the project.

DIY projects can be a fun and rewarding way to enhance and personalize your home, but they will take time, money, and knowhow. Be sure that you have enough of each to get the results you are looking for. Sometimes, it’s also best to know when to step aside and hire an expert.

Northville, MI Luxury Homes

by Michele Safford

Northville is a lovely Detroit suburb, perfect for raising a family. The community of just under 6,000 residents features newer luxury homes and beautiful restored historic Victorian style mansions. Notable neighborhoods in the community include Northville Hills situated on the Arnold Palmer-designed Northville Hills Golf Course and Stonewater, a waterfront development on a group of six lakes.

The city's downtown area offers residents a look into the past, with historic storefronts and a small town feel. The area is easy to walk around and includes a variety of shopping dining and entertainment options. The town has restaurants, theaters and old-fashioned street lamps for the historic look. The Twelve Oaks in neighboring Novi and Laurel Park Place in Livonia offer additional shopping.

The Northville Art House features monthly displays of local artists from the greater Detroit metro area and offers classes to adults and children. This community organization also has a store selling arts and crafts from local and Midwestern artisans. The town sponsors the Art in the Sun program in June.

A farmer's market provides fresh produce and flowers to area residents from May until October. The town also offers seniors a community center with a pool and fitness facilities.

If you are interested in learning more about luxury homes for sale in Northville, MI, Contact the Michele Safford Group or begin your search for Northville luxury homes today!

National Real Estate Sales Trends

by Michele Safford

As of this March, existing-home sales have remained relatively flat while home prices have seen a slight increase according to a recent report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Existing-homes sales include single family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops. Sales dipped 0.2 percent from February and a more substantial 7.5 percent sales pace of March 2013. As sales have dropped, the median existing-home price has increased to $185,500, up 7.9 percent from March 2013.

NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, has indicated that sales at the national level have underperformed compared to historical standards. “There really should be stronger levels of home sales given our population growth,” he said. “In contrast, price growth is rising faster than historical norms because of inventory shortages.” There is speculation that as the job market improves and home buying picks up after an unusually cold winter, that existing-home sales will increase as well.

Another factor that affects the price and availability of existing-homes is an increase in new-home buyers. As buyer confidence improves, many families will move out of starter homes, increasing the level of lower cost inventory.

What does this mean for you? Although the market has been somewhat flat, its likely sales will pick up through the spring and summer, limiting the available housing inventory and possibly driving prices higher. If you are interested in buying a new home, it is worth starting your search now.  For more information on homes for sale in Northville and Novi, contact the Michele Safford Group or begin your search today!

Novi, MI Luxury Homes

by Michele Safford

As one of the fastest-growing cities in Michigan, Novi has plenty to offer in the way of cultural attractions, economic opportunities and scenic beauty. Those who want to take advantage of everything this city has to offer can delight in one of the many luxury homes available here.

CNN/Money Magazine listed Novi number 48 on its “Best Places to Live” list in 2008. Novi was chosen for this list based upon its cultural diversity, abundant green spaces, and quality of education. Some of the more luxurious neighborhoods in Novi include Tuscany Reserve, Maybury Park Estates, Autumn Park and Meadowbrook View Estates. Homes for sale include expansive estate-style homes with elegant architectural features, sweeping lawns and features such as gourmet kitchens, fireplaces and in ground swimming pools.

One of the biggest shopping attractions in Novi is Twelve Oaks Mall, which boasts over 200 distinct stores such as Lord and Taylor and Nordstrom's. Fine dining options also abound, with some of the most popular restaurants being Novi Chophouse, which has an award-winning wines list, and Bonefish Grill, an establishment specializing in seafood and lobster dishes.

Residents of Novi have access to a number of parks and recreational facilities that are maintained by the city. These facilities include an ice rink, civic center and several picnic shelters. In addition, there is a cooperative agreement between the towns of Novi and Northville that allows residents to use either of the two dog parks located in that town.

If you are interested in learning more about luxury homes for sale in Novi, MI, contact the Michele Safford Group or begin your search for Novi luxury homes today!

Understanding Different Types of Mortgages

by Michele Safford

Anyone considering buying a home should familiarize themselves with the different mortgage options available to them. Although some loans such as adjustable rate loans were vilified after the financial collapse of 2007, each type of loan can still be a useful tool based on your objectives.

Fixed-Rate

The most popular type of mortgage, accounting for nearly 75% of loans extended is the fixed-rate mortgage. Typically offered at 15 or 30 year terms, fixed-rate loans provide borrows with a consistent payment over the life of the loan. Down payments on fixed-rate loans are typically about 20%. Fixed-rate mortgages can also be refinanced if interest rates improve.

Federal Housing Authority (FHA) Loan

The FHA 203(b) is a federally insured fixed-rate loan. Similar to a traditional fixed-rate, FHA loans are available for 15-30 years and provide stable payments. Where the loans differ is that FHA loans require as little as 3% down payment, making home buying much more affordable for many buyers. The maximum loan amount under FHA is $625,000. Buyers should also be aware that FHA loans require paying a Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) that helps secure the loan.

Veteran Affairs (VA) Loan

The VA loan is another form of fixed-rate loan guaranteed by the United States Department of Veteran Affairs. The loans are extended to eligible veterans, active duty personnel and surviving spouses. Interest rates are competitive and unlike other fixed rate loans, require little or no down payment.

Adjustable Rate

Often called ARMs, adjustable rate mortgages typically have lower initial interest rates than traditional fixed-rate loans. The rate will reset annually on the loans anniversary, which means the rate, and payment, could increase if interest rates have increased. This type of loan is popular when borrowing more money than a traditional loan will allow.

Balloon Mortgage

Similar to a fixed-rate loan in that it provides a consistent payment, balloon mortgages allow buyers to lock in a lower payment for several years, often only covering the interest, followed by a single payment of the remaining loan balance. Balloon mortgages are typically used when the buyer intends to sell before the end of the loan.

Interest-Only

Simply put, interest-only loans allow you to pay only the interest due, for a set period of time. After the initial interest only period, the loans are recast over the remaining period. Attractive due to the lower initial payments, many people choose to refinance after the initial period.

If you are interested in buying a new home and would like to learn more about how much home you can afford and what type of loan may work best for you, contact the Michele Safford Group today or start searching for your next home!

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