My Blog

What's Up With The Market?


Numbers for the first month of 2017 are in and it continues to be one of the nation’s hottest markets. Prices continue to increase and the average time on market continues to be shorter and shorter with the low number of houses for sale.

-The median has increased by 9.33%!

-The year-over-year mean average has increased by 7.95%!

Since 2012 the mean average has gone from $132,329 to $191,514 or a rise of 44.73%. Over the same period the median has gone from $112,500 to $164,000 representing a 45.78% increase in values.

-The overall “Anticipated Average Market Time” is just 21 days! For the middle of the market ($150,000 - $200,000) it is only 12.75 days.


Although January 2017 was a little shy of January 2016 in regards to the number of closed sales (going from 752 to 725, a 3.6% decrease), we still increased total sales dollar amounts going from $128.9 millions to $136.8 millions, a 6.1% increase. This further explains that the decrease in homes sold is not due to lack of interest, but lack of inventory.

You may be surprised what your home is worth in this market!


The graphs show that in January there were fewer transactions than last year but with a higher yield than any of the last four years.


Take a look at your school district information below to check out just how LIMITED the Inventory is, and how long you can anticipate a house to be on the market at the different price points.

Request to stop paying PMI!


If you live in the GR area and bought your home over a year and a half ago... it's entirely possible you no longer need to be paying PMI...

As you may know PMI (Property Mortgage Insurance) is an additional amount you pay on your monthly mortgage payment when you are unable to put 20% down on your home loan. On conventional loans, the lender will continue to charge you until you have paid down your loan balance to 78%. (IE, you when you owe under $78,000 on a home you bought for $100,000)
However, you can request to have PMI removed early, when your loan balance is at 80%. You may be thinking, ok, 80% I can request it, but 78% the bank removes it automatically, is it really that big of a difference??
Yes! For 2 reasons.
  1. It will take you 1 full year of payments to go from 80% to 78%. So that's 1 extra year of paying PMI on your payments if your home value never changes during those years. However, we are in an upward trending economy, which leads me to the more important reason...
  2. The lender will automatically remove PMI when your loan balance reaches 78% of the your home's purchase price. But you can request PMI be removed when your loan balance is 80% of your home's current value. And that is a HUGE difference. 
To compare, let's say you bought a $100,000 house in January of 2015 and put 10% down on 30 year mortgage.
  • Your lender will automatically remove your PMI at 78% (or 78,000 remaining on your loan) which would be likely some time in the summer of 2021 if you make all your normal payments on time.
  • However, if your house is in the Grand Rapids area (or other strong growth city), your 2015, $100,000 home could now be your 2016, $110,000 home (GR averaged 8.5% increase in 2015). Which means it is already possible the amount you owe on your loan is under 80% of the homes current value needed to request PMI to be removed.
You may need to request and pay for an appraisal, (not always) but it's usually still well worth it. Your specific lender/bank can give you the full details on their process for requesting PMI removed.
So, if you've owned your home for more than 2 years (possibly less) and you're still paying PMI, talk to your Realtor for a quick appraisal to see if you should be requesting to have your PMI removed!

State Transfer Tax Reimbursement - Do you Qualify?


Exciting news!

A new bill passed December 16th that could bring you a pretty hefty tax refund!

For reference, whenever you sell your home, you have to pay the “State Real Estate Transfer Tax” (SRETT) which is .75% of the sale price. While this is still true, the passing of this bill added a new reason to qualify for an exemption from paying this tax (exemption "U"). It explains you are exempt from paying this tax if your home's SEV (state equalized value) was lower when you sold your home than it was when you purchased your home. (Basically if the SEV value went down.)

The changes allow for past  sale transactions to also qualify for this exemption. Which means, if you qualify, you can file now to be reimbursed for those taxes you paid when you sold your home all the way to June 14th 2011. 

Below are example tax reimbursement amounts based on the home sales price if you qualify.


So yes, free money sounds good.. Great actually! But, how do you qualify? It's actually pretty simple:

  • You sold you primary home (located in Michigan) after June 14th 2011. (Rental properties or secondary homes do not qualify - must be 100% homestead)
  • When you sold the home, the SEV value was equal to or less than when you purchased it. (a decrease in SEV value)

Below is a chart that gives a general guide to how likely your home sale will be to qualify based on year purchased (years in the column down the left side) and year sold (years indicated in the row across the top). Do note, this chart is based on the average SEV values for all of Kent county, so be sure to check your property's actual values to see your home SEV values qualify. 

 (*2011 only qualifies if sold after June 14th 2011)


How to File

  • Complete This Refund Form 
    • The second page of this form (Reason “U”) is the legal verbiage
  • Include Proof of SRETT paid to Register of Deeds
  • Proof of Date of purchase and SEV for that year
  • Proof of Date of sale and SEV for that year
  • Proof of Sales Price of Property
  • Mail all documents to:
    • Michigan Department of Treasury Special Taxes Division
    • Miscellaneous Taxes and Fees/SRETT
    • PO Box 30781
    • Lansing MI 48909-8281

Most of this proof needed can come from HUD statements from your title company when you closed on the purchase and sale of your home, and SEV documents can be retrieved by county records. If you have questions, the Treasury’s Special Taxes Division, Miscellaneous Taxes & Fees Unit at 517-636-0515 can help.

Or of course, when in doubt, reach out to your Realtor!

Hope your new year starts out with a nice little kick back! 


Why it's Time to Invest in Grand Rapids Real Estate!


I am passionate about real estate, but also passionate about using real estate to build equity, and Grand Rapids is an amazing city to be living in to do just that. Grand Rapids has been growing hand over fist with opportunities exploding everywhere. If you’ve been considering buying or diversifying your portfolio into rentals, but dragging your feet, let me give a few reasons why Now is the time to invest in GR.

  • GR has the Lowest Vacancy rate in the Country. Zillow posted an article in March of this year with vacancy rates for rentals. Grand Rapids is #1 with the lowest vacancy rate at 1.6%. National average is 7% and GR is under 2%. There's just not enough rentals to go around! If you know anyone renting, they are probably complaining about how hard it is to find a place and how much more they have to pay... because it’s true! There’s not much out there, it goes quick, and it costs more. And if the property manager/owner is aware of this, they continue to increase prices, because they can! It's economics kids – Low supply with High Demand = higher prices.
  • GR is Number 2 for expected property value growth (second only to San Francisco) – In a separate article, Zillow recently released that the market values in Grand Rapids are expected to increase more than any other part of the country other than San Francisco. For reference, last year property values in San Francisco increased over 14% and Grand Rapids increased 8%.
  • Interest Rates – Most people already know this, but it’s still a valid point! They’re low, historically low, not-going-to-be-this-low-forever low. If you look at the trends of the past 40 years ( for a 30 year loan, in the 70’s 9%, in the 80’s 13%, 90’s 8%, with 2012-2015 averaging around 3.9%. Financing has never been more affordable, and with lower interest rates, you can generate a higher Return on Investment. Here come some numbers: If you buy a $120,000 rental, put 25% down, 30 year loan, and rent it for 1100 a month, you're making around 5,000 a year after monthly expenses, which is over 16% ROI, and that's not even factoring in the equity you're building in payments or the increase in market value that Grand Rapids has been pulling (which was about 8% last year) 


  • Word is getting out - Grand Rapids is Awesome – The nation used to have a tendency to group all of Michigan together, especially during the recession while the east side of the state dictated a lot of those numbers and while Grand Rapids actually bounced back faster than most. However, people are starting to take notice of GR; it’s no longer just our little secret. We are recognized as a growing city and desired place to live. From becoming a destination location for Beer City USA brewery tours to the growth of the medical mile, several large business coming in with employment opportunities, not to mention new restaurants and breweries opening every time you turn around. We’ve really become an awesome place to live and the nation is catching on.
  • Low Cost of Living - Grand Rapids is actually a very inexpensive city to live in (currently). On a cost of living comparison, ( the numbers below show if you currently made $50,000 in GR, how much you’d need to make if you moved to different cities for a comparable lifestyle. In the examples below for instance, you'd need to make 17% more income to move to Chicago. However, what is more interesting to me is the percentage more I am using towards housing - 60%.  So not only is it less to live in GR, but the portion of your income going towards housing is Lower.
    • Chicago IL – $58,418 so cost of living is 17% higher - housing is 60% more expensive
    • Fort Lauderdale, FL - $61,853 - cost of living is 23% higher - housing is 79% more
    • Denver - $58,890 - cost of living is 18% higher - housing is 59% more
    • Phoenix - $51,563 - cost of living is 3% higher - housing is 17% more
    • Ashville, NC (Former Beer City USA) $53,448 - cost of living is 7% higher - housing is 23% more
    • DC - $78,610 – cost of living is 57% higher - housing is 205% more

Grand Rapids is one of the most affordable places to purchase a home where you can still get a lot of house for your money. But, as our growth continues, the market prices will continue to rise. So if you've been considering investing in Grand Rapids, now could be the right time! 


It's Restaurant Week



It's Restaurant Week!!!!!

(And I'm pretty excited about it if you couldn't tell by the excessive use of exclamation points). It's from August 12th-23rd and most restaurants will offer 3 course meal options for $28 (per person), although some do offer 2 people (3 course meals) for $28.

So I looked into the 65 or so options, picked out some of the menus that really stood out to me, some of my favorites, and also consolidated the 2 for $28 restaurants (because sometimes you just want a bargain!) Here are my favorites!


The Grove - East Hills

If you haven't been here before and will be checking out restaurant week,  EAT HERE! While typically The Grove has a little higher price point, the restaurant has won many awards since it opened in 2011 along with being rated GR's top restaurant and holding strong on trip advisor as #1, so it's worth it. What's especially for restaurant week is their expansive list of course options. While most give 2 or 3 options, they have 12 first courses to choose from, 9 second, and 5 third, so you can really customize your dinner to get the most out of your Grove experience.

And if 3 courses aren't enough, they have 4th course add on options, and 5th course wine pairing options (at an additional charge)


Bulls Head - Downtown

The menu on this one just sounded too tasty not to mention. Bull's Head is across from The Amway and they have 3 options for each course, but these are what stood out to me.

Course 1- Brie and Prosciutto skewers or butternut squash soup

Course 2- Blackened Walleye or - Pork Tenderloin Medallions Stuffed with Basil Pesto & Goat Cheese then Wrapped in Bacon, & Oven Roasted. Accompanied with Sautéed Parsnips Topped with a Pecan Gremolata.

(I'm not even sure what a Gremolata is, but my mouth is watering and it's not even 9am yet...)

(Ok just looked up Gremolata, and WIKI tells me it's "a chopped herb condiment classically made of lemon zest, garlic and parsley." so yeah... Mouth is still watering)

Course 3 - cookies and creme blondie or the raspberry cheesecake bar.



Amore - Comstock park

Amore is a gem hidden just a little off the beaten path being in Comstock park, but SO worth venturing outside of the downtown area. If you like Italian, you will NOT be disappointed. Everything is true, authentic, melt-in-your-mouth homemade. Some of my favorites, are the Arancino (Risotto fritter stuffed with Fontina cheese and topped with spinach aioli), Caprese (Heirloom tomato slices with fresh mozzarella, basil and sea salt) and the Lasagna Bianca (White lasagna layered with S&S lamb, Farm Country truffle cheese and porcini mushrooms). Added bonus, this restaurant actually includes FIVE courses in their $28 per person ending with either Tartufo (Hand rolled chocolate truffle with toffee, Pop Rocks and cayenne pepper) or Cannoli di Zucca (Pumpkin caramel cannoli). You can also add on their Italian Wine or Italian/Michigan Beer pairings for $15/person.


In case you are looking for more of a deal, I listed out all of the Two for $28 restaurants below, but for a full list of all the great options and to find out more about restaurant week in GR, feel free to check out the experience GR website here!

Happy Eating!!  :)

Two for $28

Bobarinos - DT (Downtown)

Branns - Northwest

Buffalo Wild Wings - DT

The cottage bar and restaurant - DT

Fajita Republic** - East Belt Line

Grand Woods Lounge - DT

HopCat - DT

Kitchen 67 - East Belt Line

Linc Up Soul Food Cafe - South GR

Lindo Mexican - 28th St

McFaddens - DT

Pearl Street Grill - DT

Peppinos - DT

Ramona's Table - Rockford

Stella's - DT

Taqueria El Rincon Mexicano - 28th

Mitten Brewing Co. - Northwest

Z's - DT


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