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Grand Rapids Real Estate Content has moved!!

Steve Volkers Group

 

Thank you for visiting Grand Rapids Real Estate Resource! For current information about the Grand Rapids Real Estate market, check out  www.stevevolkersgroup.com. There you can find properties for sale and for rent as well as information on new construction homes and what’s going on in West Michigan. See you there!


New Listing 1013 Aberdeen St.



36th Ave Open House

Join me this Sunday, October 26th, for an open house!

5822 – 36th Ave, Hudsonville

1p – 3p

4 bed, 2 bath, 2300 sq. feet

Don’t miss your opportunity to view this stunning 4 bed – 2 bath Hudsonville home. The home sits on a beautifully landscaped yard with a three season porch overlooking rolling fields in the back. The home itself features a remodeled kitchen with custom cherry cabinets, granite countertops, a center island, a Viking cook top, and hardwood flooring. The house also has hardwood floors throughout, a formal dining area with a built in china cabinet, a finished basement, and tons of storage. You’ll also love having two fireplaces, and Andersen Renewal windows to keep the interior nice and cozy this winter.


Home Staging Room by Room: The Bathroom

Home Staging bathrooms is where applying the three C’s of home staging is essential.  When preparing a home for the Grand Rapids real estate market, bathrooms should be clean, clutter-free, and the wall color should be light and neutral.

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CLEAN 

Get out your cleaning supplies and start cleaning!  In my years of home staging, I have encountered many dirty tubs hidden behind shower curtains.  Please don’t make this mistake.  Instead, impress buyers with a squeaky clean bathroom.  Pay attention to every surface, nook and cranny, even inside the cabinets.  Address any mildew or rust spots.  There is a multitude of cleaning products on the market to tackle these common problems.  For in-between cleanings I advise my clients to keep bathroom and glass wipes handy and to give their bathrooms a quick touchup each morning.  You’ll be surprised at what a difference this makes and you may even start a habit! 

Another thing to consider when it comes to clean is the bathroom towels.  The bathroom may be squeaky clean but dirty, old, or mismatched towels can give the opposite impression.  If this sounds like your towels it would be worth investing in a new set.  Some people even go to the effort of having a set of towels that are for show purposes only. 

CLUTTER-FREE 

No one likes this “C” even when it comes to home staging such a small room as the bathroom.  Clutter can be found on your countertops, inside your shower, and in your cabinets.  The first thing to de-clutter is your cabinets.  Just like the kitchen, take everything out and only put back what is absolutely necessary.  Box up the rest and you’ve started the packing process!  Secondly, clear your countertops of all items.  Find a spot in your almost-empty cabinets for only the necessities.  Thirdly, tackle the shower.  Keep out only what is used daily and stow any other necessities in the cabinets.  For the finishing touch, place one aesthetically pleasing item on the countertop to help depersonalize such a personal space.  Now, be proud of yourself and take a mental picture of your de-cluttered bathroom.  Work hard to keep it that way and remind yourself that you’ll be on your way to your dream home soon.

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COLOR 

Color choice is an important factor in small spaces such as bathrooms.  Bold, dark, or bright colors tend to bring the walls in and make a space feel cramped.  In order to achieve a roomier impression it is best to paint walls in a warm, neutral color.  The exception to this is a powder room where a more formal setting is desired.

 A great way to add color and interest to a bland bathroom is through temporary items such as towels and artwork.  Shower curtains, towels, and artwork should flow with the color and overall tone of the bathroom.   Neutral colored shower curtains are best.  Keep in mind that temporary items should never be the main focal point in a house for sale.  I had a client wanting to use white towels in every single bathroom.  This is fine for some bathrooms but in a refined master bathroom with dark cabinetry and darker tones, a white towel would stick out like a sore thumb.  

These three C’s of home staging can be applied to any room.  Hopefully with this bit of advice, you will create a spa-like, relaxing, and depersonalized bathroom that is sure to impress potential buyers. 

Happy Staging! 


FHA Loan Limits increased in Michigan!

I have great news to share. The FHA loan limits have just been increased.  We did see a major increase in the new loan limits which was not expected at least here in Michigan.  The new loan limit for most county’s in our area is $271,050.  That is up from $200,050.  FHA is going to be one of the absolute best mortgage solutions for people this year and potentially years to come.The program is not regulated by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac so even if the property is labeled as being in a “DECLINING MARKET” it does not change the loan structure of FHA loans.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac make lenders reduce the LTV by 5% for all properties in a declining market.  FHA does not require us to reduce LTV’s by 5%.

There are many mortgage brokers and banks in our area that have not been doing FHA’s because they didn’t believe it was a worthwhile program.  It is an absolute must in the market today.  I’m proud to say that we’ve been advising a lot of our clients in this direction over the past 6 months because of it’s flexibility on LTV, allows for 100% financing in DECLINING MARKETS, has reduced monthly PMI, allows for non-owner occupant borrowers to co-sign, and often times has lower interest rates than a Conventional 30 yr. Fixed program.

If you’d like more information on how this could benefit you or anyone you know do not hesitate to contact me.  I am extremely pleased to see the government taking action and making a positive impact on our industry.  This will truly be a saving grace for many people today.

I look forward to the opportunity to help


What do the Fed rate cuts mean to me?

The Fed has continued to lower the Fed funds rate through the first quarter of 2008.  How does this affect the interest rate on my mortgage?  Should I wait to purchase my new home until the Fed is done with its rate cuts?  I’ve been thinking of refinancing, but should I hold off on this until the Fed has stopped cutting rates?The statement and questions I wrote above are on the top of everyone’s mind today especially if you are a home owner hoping to refinance or a potential home buyer.

I have attached an article here that will help dispel the myth that when the Fed lowers the Fed funds rate that it actually reduces mortgage rates by the same amount.  The article is authored by market expert, Barry Habib.  I have been a member of Barry’s online service called “Mortgage market Guide” since 2003.  Barry’s service is a must for mortgage professionals that want to know exactly what is happening in the bond market and when the best time to lock or float interest rates for their customers.

Interest rates for mortgages such as the 30 yr. fixed loan, 15 yr. fixed loan, FHA, MSHDA, etc… are all based on the value of mortgage backed securities in the bond market.  The Fed can only control the Discount rate which is what banks can borrower money at and the Fed funds rate.  The Fed has no direct control over the bond market or how the 30 yr. fixed interest rates change on a day to day basis.

As bond prices go up, interest rates on mortgages go down.  As bond prices go down, there is less demand for bonds and then interest rates go up.  If you watch how the NASDAQ is trading throughout the day you should be able to see the bond market working in the opposite direction.  When the stock market is doing well, there is less money going into the bond market.  When there is less money going into the bond market, mortgage rates will drift higher due to less demand.  When the stock market is having a couple negative days in a row, it’s likely that the investment dollars are flowing into the bond market instead, therefore helping lower mortgage rates.

The Fed reducing the Fed funds rates helps individuals and businesses that have shorter term loans that are tied to the prime lending rate.  The reduction of the Fed funds rate often creates higher interest rates for long term mortgages that most Americans are concerned about.  Keep this in mind the next time the Fed lowers the Fed funds rate which will be on March 18. It does not necessarily mean lower interest rates on your mortgage.


Our New Grand Rapids Home: Getting Prepared

My wife and I are going through the process of buying a new home! Over the next couple of months, I will walk you through the process as my wife Amy and I purchase our new house.We know that it is a buyer’s market right now, so we thought it would be a great time for us to buy a new house. We realized that we may loose on the current home that we are in, but that ultimately we will gain on the new house what we lost on the old.

We knew we were willing to do a lot of work to a house if it needed it. We wanted to look at some foreclosures and as with all foreclosures, we had to make sure that we would be ready and prepared to make a clean offer to the bank. The bank just wants to get the property sold in the quickest amount of time with the least amount of hassle.

So what did we do to prepare?

  1. We were keeping an eye on the market and researched what type of house we were looking for.
  2. We went online and filled out an application online to start the process of figuring out what loan options we have and what we could afford.
  3. We kept an eye out on houses in the price range and areas that we were interest in. For us this included the North side by Riverside Park and Alger Heights. We went to go look at a couple of different houses. Some of them were more work than what we wanted and others we knew would be out of our price range by the time we made the repairs that we would want.

These steps allowed us to be ready to make an offer right away when we found the right home.

Contributed to GrandRapidsResource.com by:

Steve Volkers at Keller Williams Realty

 


The Seven Most Costly Misconceptions About Home Inspections – Misconception #6

Misconception #6:  FHA or VA has inspected the house and/or the appraisal will cover me.

“Absolutely not.  While having FHA or VA do an inspection on your home is useful and they likely call out a number of concerns, this is far from a complete inspection.  In fact, the bottom line is that these inspectors are working to protect FHA or VA and not you.

“On top of that, these inspections are only about 30 minutes to an hour long at best – and 30 minutes is pushing it.  A real inspection that has your best interest at heart is going to take significantly longer.  It is unusual for an inspection to take less than 2 hours on smaller homes and many inspections have been known to take longer, depending on the size of the home. 

“The thought of the appraisal taking the place of the inspection scares the appraiser as much as it should scare you.  The appraisal is designed to determine the value of the home for the mortgage company.  The mortgage company simply wants to know if what they are loaning on the house is reasonable.  It is not designed at all to pick up the condition of the house, even though some times, if there is a major concern, the appraiser will bring it to everyone’s attention.  However, this is hardly an inspection, and every appraiser will be glad to tell you so.  Unfortunately, you rarely see the appraiser and you are lucky if you receive his report until you go to closing.


First time Home Buyer NAR Video.


Home Staging Room by Room: The Kitchen

Home Staging the kitchen is crucial when it comes to selling your home. The kitchen includes much more than just walls, floor, and ceiling.  With so many components in the kitchen, many buyers evaluate the condition of the entire home based upon this one room.  A sparkling, well maintained and organized kitchen speaks volumes to buyers that you have attended to every detail in maintaining your home.

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The first step in staging a kitchen is to eliminate any unneeded “stuff”.  Grand Rapids home buyers look for kitchens that are functional and spacious therefore the goal is to maximize all counter and cabinet space.  Countertops should be clear of all items except for a few decorative pieces displayed in the corners.  Leaving appliances on your countertops gives buyers the impression that your kitchen has limited cabinet space.  Also, eliminate any items inside the cabinets that you will not need for the short-term.  I recommend taking everything out of each kitchen cabinet and drawer and putting back only those things you absolutely can’t live without.  While you are at it you may as well have some cleaning supplies handy and wipe out the cabinets.  When putting items back in the cabinetry be sure to arrange them neatly and orderly.  Remember that you want the kitchen to look as organized as possible.

Next, depersonalize the kitchen spaces.  The biggie here is to totally clear off the front of your refrigerator.  Sorry, but no more photos, kid’s drawings, notes, or magnets while your home is on the market.  We all need a calendar handy so I suggest hanging it on the inside of a kitchen cabinet door.  In addition, the telephone station should be free of any papers, mail, pens, etc.  You have already cleared out the cabinets so you should have plenty of space to put these items in a cabinet or drawer near the phone.

Now it’s time to address any repairs needed in the kitchen.  Inspect the entire kitchen including the lighting, faucet, sink, appliances, floors, walls, cabinets, and countertops.  Look carefully at the caulk along the countertop and backsplash.  In many cases it is wise to freshly caulk in order to achieve the goal of an immaculate kitchen. 

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Now that your kitchen is clutter- and repair-free, you are ready to tackle the most important “C” of home staging CLEAN!  A kitchen can never be too clean so clean like you’ve never cleaned before.  Here’s a list to get you started cleaning your kitchen:

  • Sink, including the disposal (freshen with a fresh lemon)
  • Countertops
  • Backsplash, including grout
  • Cabinets – inside and out – don’t forget under the sink too
  • Floors and baseboards
  • Stove top – use a good degreaser
  • Oven – inside and out
  • Exhaust fan and hood – degrease and change filter
  • Microwave – inside and out
  • Refrigerator – inside and out

When home staging your kitchen, please don’t ignore any of these items.  I have clients ask, “Do they really look in the cabinets and the oven?”  My answer is a definitive, “YES!”  A buyer will inspect any and everything they are considering buying.  A little elbow grease and organization will have your pristine home screaming, “BUY ME!”

Contributed to GrandRapidsResource.com by:


Heidi Herbruck at Simply Staged


Grand Rapids Real Estate Market Watch: January

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Home buyers are beginning their Grand Rapids Home Search and the Spring Real Estate Real Estate will be here before you know it.Over the past week there has been an up swing in activity in my office. One listing has sold and many showings. It has been slow all through December as people enjoyed the holidays. But all signs point to the spring real estate market, which will be upon us soon.

I have noticed internet research starting and coming on very strong over the past week. Over the last week Grand Rapids Resource Blog had 100 hits per day and my featured listing on Trulia.com had 300 viewings during listing week.

I believe it will be a strong spring real estate market. Price will be down but buyers will be out buying. If your home has being on the market for a long time or if it has expired in the past month this information should encourage you to get back on the market soon.

If you would like a second opinion on your current listing or would like me to take a look at what you could sell your home for in the coming spring market feel free to call. We can sit down together, with a cup of coffee, and decide best how to sell you home in 2008.


Do Open Houses Sell Homes?

 Do Open Houses Sell Homes?

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This weekend, I was sitting in an open house at one of my listing in Hudsonville, MI. I often get asked by both Realtor’s and my clients if open houses are worth doing. Realtor’s say they are a waste of time and sellers wonder what the point is when only a couple people come through anyway.

So my response to that is this:

Over the course of a listing, the home maybe marketed for over 3 some times 6 months and in the Greater Grand Rapids Market there are some home being marketed for over a year.  If your Realtor is not having an open house how is your Realtor marketing that home?

An above average agent will place the home on the MLS ( GRAR), place a yard sign and list it on a couple of websites. We can all do that! I go a step future with my internet marketing and I would place against any other agent in Grand Rapids. But once all of the beginning marketing has been done what is your agent doing if he/she is not having open houses?

Every time I have an open house, which is once a month, I get to tell people again about your home. I get to place it in front of people that are looking for open houses, place another add on Craigs List and so much more.

So do open houses sell the home? Most of the time no, but they do allow for marketing to happen! It’s one more opportunity for someone to see it every month.

Contributed to GrandRapidsResource.com by:
Steve Volkers at Keller Williams Realty


Home Staging the Family Room or Great Room

Home Staging the family room is one of the most difficult tasks when it comes to preparing a home for the Real Estate market.  While at home, we spend most of our time in the family room therefore through the years we have formed an imprint of who we are in this room.  Effective home eliminates that imprint and creates a space in which buyers can visualize their unique imprint in the room.   

According the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary , a “family room” is “a large room designed as a recreation center and informal gathering place for members of a family.  Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at home staging the family room.

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First of all, the definition tells us that the family room is “a large room”.  When home staging, we want to make sure the family room shows off its true spaciousness.  Too much furniture, ineffective furniture placement, and heavy draperies tend to make the space look smaller.  For a more detailed explanation, visit my previous blog: Home Staging the Living Room. 

Secondly the family room is a “recreation center”.  Today’s recreation in the family room can vary from TV viewing, media usage, video game playing, computer usage, board game playing, book and magazine reading, and if you have small kids, toy playing.  That’s a lot of recreation!  Does everyone like all these forms of recreation?  Probably not, so stage the family room to appeal to the broadest range of buyers by making the space as generic as possible.

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The last part of the definition states that the family room is an “informal gathering place for members of a family”.  Successful home staging creates a comfortable family room in which buyers can envision themselves enjoying lots of time together as a family.  The result should be a room that is inviting, cozy, relaxing, and informal.  Eliminate any distractions or restlessness by de-cluttering the space as much as possible, Start by hiding as much of the media equipment as possible.  Make sure any cords are coiled up nicely and hidden from view.  Put all dvd’s or cds in a cabinet or decorative box with a lid.  Also, move any toys to another location while your house is on the market.  As you home stage, keep reminding yourself that the way you live in your house and the way you market it for sale are two different things.  By staging, these inconveniences should be short-lived since you will soon be moving to your dream home.

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Many homes in the Grand Rapids area have what is called a “great room”.  Merriam-Webster states that a “great room” is “a large room in a residence usually serving several functions (as of a dining room, living room, and family room)”.  The key thing I want to touch upon here is that the great room usually serves several functions.  When staging a great room, it is important to allow the buyer to visualize the function of each space.  Therefore, make sure each area is defined to portray its specific use.  This is usually achieved through the strategic placement of furniture and rugs. 

Home staging the family room may be a difficult task but it will pay off in the end.  Look at the room through “buyer’s eyes” and you will create a room that buyers can’t resist.  Happy staging!
 

Contributed to GrandRapidsResource.com by:

Heidi Herbruck at Simply Staged


The Seven Most Costly Misconceptions About Home Inspections – Misconception #4

Misconception #4: The company that offers the lowest price is the company you should hire. “Maybe – but not always.  Here are two important points to consider. 

Point #1: The company that offers the cheapest price is generally showing you a couple of things.  One that they are new and or that they don’t really know what their cost is, meaning they are likely not to be in business for long.  If you are only concerned about one of two items you can probably have a specialist come out and look at it for less than the inspection, or you can even have a friend or relative look at it and give you their expert advice. “On the other hand, if you want a through inspection that gives you a computerized report right on sight with a straight forward summary page – if you want to know the status of all the major systems in the home – then you need to hire a company that has been doing it for years and understands that they are working for you and no one else.  You are their main concern and making sure that you understand the condition of the house is their first priority.   “Because hiring someone to do a home inspection for you is something that most homebuyers only do once every 3-5 years you are likely not even going to realize if you received a poor inspection until it is too late.  So remember that the price you pay may not give you the information that you are hoping for with many inspectors. 

Point #2: A one-man operation can charge less because he has less overhead. “This may be true, but many homeowners have learned that the low price they pay for a one-man operation also means there is less standing behind the man. “And if you have hired a one-man operation, you too may have experienced the problem of getting back in touch with him when and if there was a problem or is you needed a re-inspect and he was too busy to get you taken care of in a timely manner.  Also many one-man operations will not have the ability to take care of all the inspections that you may wish or need and you end up having to call someone eels to do the termite inspection, radon tests, or other extras that your home may have. “As in all businesses and professions, the home inspection industry has its share of bad apples.  I take no pleasure in telling you this, but some are unethical – and, sadly, a few are dishonest.  By their deep concern for others besides you, they may leave you hanging and missing vital information that you should have to make a complete and informed decision.  This is another reason you want to make sure you walk away from the home the day of the inspection with a full report, with photos, and an easy to read summary page.  This gives other people less opportunity to influence the inspector’s report. “Then you’ll find other home inspection companies – professionals like me who work hard to earn your trust and respect. 

“As a way of improving our profession, I’ve dedicated my business to educating the public.  The only way you can make an intelligent decision is to have all the facts you need.

Misconceptions You Might Have Missed:

 Misconception #1:  You should wait as long as possible before getting your home inspection.

Misconception #2:  You don’t need a home inspection if you are getting a home warranty. 

Misconception #3: One inspection is as good as another inspection.  One inspector is as good as another inspector.  One inspection company is as good as another inspection company.

Contributed to GrandRapidsResource.com by: 

Dawn Wilder  at Ace Home Inspections


First Time Home Buyer Road Map in Greater Grand Rapids

I truly enjoy working with first time home buyers. First time home buyers have so many options available them and so many different things to learn along the way. Over the coming weeks we will help you, the first time home buyer, understand the process of buying your first home in Greater Grand Rapids and why it works the way it does.

The questions we will try to answer are:

How do I get my loan figured out?

  •             MSHDA Loan?
  •             Costing Cost?
  •             How Much do we need Down?

Agency?

  •             Who is representing me?

Where do you want to live?

  •             City of Grand Rapids?
  •             Or a suburb?

What kind of home are you looking for?

  •             Two story or ranch
  •             How many bedrooms and bathrooms?
  •             Condo or single family?

Are you willing to do some work?

  •             How about a foreclosure?

How do we make an offer?

  •          Do we bid low and see what happens?

When the offer is accepted then what?

  •             Title Work?
  •             Inspections?
  •             Appraisal?

What happens at the closing?

  •             Do I need to bring my ID?
  •             What is a HUD Statement?

When do I get the keys to move in?

  •             Do I get to move in the same day as close?
  •            What does 30 days after close mean?
  •            Do I get paid for the people living in the home?

Over the next few weeks, the Grand Rapids Resource Team will try to help you understand this process better. So when you’re ready to buy your first home you will know whom to call, when it will be their turn to help you and we hope that this will make the process of buying your first home easier and less stressful.

If you are currently looking at homes now and can’t wait for the following articles please feel free to call or email me today. I would be honored to help you through this process.

Contributed to GrandRapidsResource.com by:

Steve Volkers at Keller Williams Realty


Home Staging Room by Room: The Living Room

Home Staging a living room need not be a daunting task.  Keep in mind that the function of a formal living room is plain and simple, a cozy room to invite friends to sit to have a conversation.  If you are fortunate enough to have a formal living room, it is wise to market the “formal” in the room.  This means no televisions, exercise equipment, or toys.

When determining how to stage the living room, stand in the doorway at which buyers will first be entering, usually the foyer.  Ask yourself, “Does the room invite me to want to come in and sit? Is there a clear path to maneuver around the room without having to swerve around the furniture?”  If not, the furniture needs rearranging and if your home is like most, it may have too much furniture for marketing the house for sale.  Furniture should also fit the scale of the room.  Oversized couches and chairs make a room look smaller.

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In Grand Rapids, fireplaces are a sought after feature so if your living room has a fireplace it should be played up as the focal point of the room.  This is accomplished through the placement of furniture and decor.  Personal items and collections should be packed away so they do not distract buyers and little hands don’t disturb them.  When selecting décor, keep in mind that Grand Rapids is generally a conservative community.  Simple décor is what we are looking to achieve so remove any excess books or knick-knacks and replace them with a few larger, tastefully selected items.  Remember, a buyer is looking to purchase your house, not your stuff – effective home staging places the emphasis on the product for sale, the house.

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 Ample lighting, especially in the winter months, also helps to reveal the appeal of your living room.  Make sure you have enough lamps to light the entire room sufficiently.  All drapes and blinds should be open to let in as much natural light as possible.  This may unveil some flaws that you haven’t noticed so carefully inspect the carpet, trim, and walls.  Freshly cleaned carpet, painted walls (in a warm, neutral color), and sparkling windows will impress buyers that you have taken care of the home.

Contributed to GrandRapidsResource.com by:
Heidi Herbruck at Simply Staged

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