Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Thought for the Day

Your talent is God's gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.

Update on Mansion Dispute

Remember that fight in Washington Township over the mansion being built too close to the property line?  How it has dragged on for a decade now?

Well, the two parties have agreed to some undisclosed settlement.  Since we don't know the terms, there's not much to say about them.  However, I will observe that these kind of things rarely end in a neat and tidy manner.  Don't be shocked when there are court proceedings going on a year from now over whether the terms of the settlement were complied with.

Neighbors who battled in court for nearly nine years over the setback of a 9,000-square-foot mansion in Washington Township reached an agreement Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thought for the Day

Wanting to be someone you're not is a waste of the person you are

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mansion Monday: Versace Death Site for Sale

That might not have been the most tasteful of headlines....

The South Beach mansion where designer Versace was gunned down has had an uneven history since that event ten years ago.  After being sold, it was for a time a boutique hotel.  After a failed listing for $100 million dollars (I picture Dr. Evil saying that phrase in my mind),  it is now being auctioned with an opening bid of $25 million.

Now $25 million is not an insignificant amount of money.  If any of you have that kind of money laying around and have an interest gaudy property, don't forget to bring proof of funds with you as you head down to Miami or they won't let you look at the property.|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p

Thought for the Day

The person who works harder when the boss isn’t around is headed straight for a better job.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hopeful Sign for Detroit Revivial

The newly renovated Crowne Plaza hotel, scheduled to open in June, hopes to host visitors to downtown Detroit and travelers from around the world attending conferences and events at Cobo Center.The hotel business is picking up in Detroit, and that is good news.  Three new convention hotels recently opened, the old Ponch is re-opening, and a couple more projects are in the works.

This is good news for a city that needs good news.  These companies are investing in hotels here because they think the market will grow and they can make money, not because of some largess.  Wanting Detroit to do better is not the same as thinking it will, and people can vote with their wallets in this case.

Occupancy rates have jumped from 49% to 61%, which is the difference between failing and profitable.

The Freep has more.

Thought for the Day

Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Flipping Out Over This House


If you are a fan of Jeff Lewis of Flipping Out, then you know that he was obsessed with Gramercy after he flipped it, so much so that he bought it again.  Well, the compulsive obsessive reality tv guy apparently has a price on his obsession, and it is $3.2 million.  That is double what he paid for it after it went into foreclosure, but don't forget that he dumped a lot of money into even more updates and upgrades.  Plus, can you put a price on the contractors who were driven crazy trying to make the guy happy?  No you can't.

It's back on the market.  Here is the listing.

Here is a great little article on it with a ton of pictures.

Thought for the Day

Give more than is asked. Serve more than appears necessary. Help more than is expected. And Love more than is the norm.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Good Neighbors Make Good Neighborhoods

I was looking at a house for sale last night, and one of it's most attractive qualities was the people around it.

Next to the house was a very nice lady who was out planting her flowers.  She told us (my agent and I) all about the property's history.  Her house looked wonderful, with colorful flowers busting out all over.  She also told us that she watches over the vacant house next to hers and calls the police if there is anything suspicious.

Another neighbor came over.  He had cut the grass and, mistaking us for new owners, asked if we wanted him to keep doing it.

Even though this was a low-income area, this house had not been broken into, stripped, etc.  This neighborhood had people that looked out for it, and that made all of the difference.

Thought for the Day

Don't let the silly little dramas of each day get you down. For you are here to do great things.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thought for the Day

When you walk up to opportunities door, don't knock... Kick it in, smile and introduce yourself.

Numbers Don't Add Up for Detroit Riverfront Development

McCormack Baron Salazar would build 300 low-rise apartment buildings along Atwater and Franklin streets between Dequindre Trail Greenway and Riopelle Street in the first phase of the project.
Any city would love to have a neighborhood that looked like this.  Notice that there are bikes and roller blades, but not a car in sight.

The local Detroit papers are abuzz with a development project announced yesterday, but a closer look at the numbers makes me wonder if it is not doomed from the start.

300 low-rise apartments are planned for the riverfront area just east of downtown, just south of Jefferson and near the popular Riverwalk and Dequinder Cut recreation projects recently completed.  Another 200 units are slated for Phase Two of the project.  A St. Louis development company (McCormack Baron Salazar) rolled out the $55 million  project yesterday, with federal and city incentives.  Units are expected to rent for between $850 and $1700 per month.

Taking $1300/month as the average rental, those 500 units could be expected to return about 6% on the investment, assuming everything goes perfect and no above-average costs.  But we know that insurance will be more than average and that there will be costs for extra security, lighting, etc. above and beyond the norm.  Even that optimal 6% is lower than operators usually would want to see.  I know there is supposed to also be some detail, but the drawings did not seem to have much retail projected, so I am not counting that for much.

So, unless the city and state are picking up at least a third of the cost, I can't see how the numbers work here.  Maybe I am missing something, and I know the details are still very preliminary, but I am a little dubious about this project actually getting completed as announced.

You can check out the Detroit News for more about this.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Flip That House is Coming Back!

Remember all of those house flipping shows on cable tv five years ago.  It seemed like any idiot could buy a house, change the paint, screw up some stuff, and still make tons of money.  That part was unrealistic, but the shows were popular because prices were going up and idiots could make money, if not tons.

Well, the housing market in the US tanked and most of those shows died.  Armando went bankrupt, the guys in New Haven moved to CA, and complete newbies stopped getting $500k houses hoping they could sell for $700k.

But now prices are rising again, and those tv shows might go into production again.  At least their real-life counterparts are back in business and there are profits to be make.  The Financial Times has a great discussion on this:

Detroit and Downriver are not yet in that top 10 locations for flipping, but ultra-low prices here could work in our favor in the long run.  I wouldn't suggest flipping normally around here, but maybe if you could pick up one of those tax auction sales that was not completely gutted you could make some money on the deal.

Thought for the Day

Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Mid-Job Refinishing Hardwood Floors

There are those who think that refinishing hardwood floors on your rental units should be hired out to those who know how to do it.

There are those who think it is comparatively simple and that you should do it yourself and save money.

In the middle of the job, I think the second group of people have never actually refinished hardwood floors.  I am sore all over right now.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thought for the Day

The turning point in the lives of those who succeed usually comes at the moment of some crisis, through which they are introduced to their “other selves.” 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Details About Detroit's Bankruptcy Emerge

Perusing the official filing by Kevyn Orr, I noticed a couple of things of note about what is the largest municipal bankruptcy ever.  First and most significant, the request to Governor Snyder to approve a bankruptcy filing was made two days ago, on July 16.

Second, there is a list of dangerous properties requiring demolition which is obviously not comprehensive.  Less than 100 properties on the list, which we all know is not all of them.

Finally, no elected official or anyone from city government signature is anywhere in the filing.  No Dave Bing.  No council.  No sign-off by their Corporation Counsel.  Just Kevyn Orr, Jones Day, and a local law firm.

How will this affect downriver?  There is speculation that municipal bond rates will cause rates for other local governments will shoot up.  Since I'm of the opinion that this process was going to happen eventually, it is better to get this over with sooner rather than later.  Speaking frankly, it's worth noting that Ecorse has had an EM several times, River Rouge and Allen Park currently have one, and other cities might well be on the way.  So it's not like they are markedly different, except in size.

How this will all play out remains to be seen.

Detroit Files for Bankruptcy

So there's that.  We'll have some details and analysis later.

KISS Kid Getting A House

Gene Simmons, he of huge tongue and fire breath from KISS, is shopping for a home suitable for his two children, who are growing up on TV before our lives.  Apparently he is looking for one big place for the both of them.  And by big, we mean big in size even though it is in California where housing prices are big no matter what.

This particular home in Sherman Oaks is priced at just a little bit over $2 million.  It has a pool, great location, big kitchen, etc.  Great for entertaining.  3,800 square feet, which is apparently a problem.  You see, that is not big enough for the dogs the kids have.  At least that what Gene said when he backed out of an agreement to purchase it.

Thought for the Day

Treasure the love you receive above all. It will survive long after your gold and good health have vanished.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thought for the Day

If you have never made a mistake then it means you have never tried something new.

Signs of an Unhappy House Plant

When I was in college, I was given a plant, a plant I affectionately named "Pothole."  I worked on the school newspaper and Pothole sat on my desk.  He stayed with me for a long time.

It turns out the friend who gave me the plant, a biochem major, picked it especially for it's resilient qualities.  Smart woman.  I have another Golden Pathos plant now, and it is in my office.  It is just as resilient as its predecessor.

Still, because I am not at work every day, I see signs of distress.  Looking into it online, I came across this article which I think might be helpful to others, too.

11 Signs of an Unhappy Houseplant (and How You Can Help)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Childhood Home of Jim Morrison For Sale

Contrary to what you might guess, Doors singer Morrison lived a rather mundane, middle class life growing up.  For example, he lived in this home in Alexandria, Virginia for awhile with his father, a Navy Admiral, and the rest of the family.

The home itself is in a quiet cul-de-sac.  Recently, an extra bedroom and space has been added on.  4 bedrooms, 3 baths, 2,364 square feet.  Asking $949,900.

With his dad in the Navy, Morrison did move around a bit.  This was the home he was living in when he graduated from high school.  Then he went out to UCLA to study film, met Ray Manzarek on Venice Beach, hummed a few bars of "Moonlight Drive" to him, and the rest is rock and roll legend.

Here is the listing on Zillow:

Thought for the Day

Offer results, not alibis.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Russians are Coming! (Again)

Reviewing the traffic statistics for this blog, I see that there is still significant traffic from Russia.  Clicking on what is the identified source sends me to a spam site.  Therefore, I can only conclude that the Kremlin is gathering information about the United States and their real estate trends and using this blog as a source.

Therefore, since these apparent bots are going over my blog, allow me to supply some information to the Russian government:

1.  If you own any real estate Downriver, like in Taylor, Flat Rock, or Lincoln Park, you should sell it to me for $1 as soon as possible.  Just trust me on this one.

2.  The kid who picked on me when I was ten is now a key strategist for the CIA.  Word has it he specializes in assassinations of Russian agents.  I will forward his current residential address in a future blog.

3.  The write-in campaign for Mike Duggan for Mayor of Detroit is a secret covert operation which will transfer assets to Uzbekistan for deployment in Chechnya.   It is coordinated through a data file in their campaign headquarters computer labeled "voter contact."  Destroy or corrupt this file and you compromise the entire operation.

4.  Ed Snowden is a double agent.  Do not believe him.

5.  You should send all of your premium vodka to Brownstown, Michigan.  Address will be posted in secret heading of next blog post.

6.  It is in your country's interest to arrange for Oksana Baiul to vist me.  I heard she is really hot after she grew up.  Do not send that pouty blonde gymnast from the last Olympics.  If Oksana is not available, Olga Korbut might be a good substitute, but I would want to see a recent picture.

Thought for the Day

Change your thoughts & you change your world.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hard Day's Work

Hard day working on one of the rental properties today.  Thank goodness for my brother Peter.  One thing for sure, after what we did and what needs done, I value good tenants more than ever.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

How to Wire a Thermostat

Once again, my posting today is prompted by something I needed.  In this case, I took the old thermostat off without writing down which wire went where.  Bad idea.  Here is an explanation of which wires should go to which, when you have central air.  Needless to say, this is simpler if there is only heating and no A/C.

If you're not comfortable with this project, get someone who is.  You can seriously damage your furnace if you do it wrong.

Thought for the Day

Birthdays are a chance to reflect on the past year and ask what have we done to be a better person, parent, child, or leader.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Crowding House Needs to Move

A Macomb Circuit judge Mark Switalski ruled on Monday Simon and Saca Palushaj will have to tear down all or part of their 9,000-square-foot home because it sits too close to a neighbor's property.
Actual house, but not actual size

So what if you are living in Washington Township, which is up in the north end of Macomb County, and you notice that the house the neighbor is building is WAY too close to your shared property line.  You tell them, right?

Well, if you are the prospective homeowner, you ask the builder what the heck is going on and you have him move the foundation (presumably at his expense since he should know better) over in the lot before you put the house up.  Maybe you and the builder did not know that this particular neighborhood had restrictions on file that were different than the normal county or township requirements.  You should know that those restrictions are enforceable.  The sensible thing is to conform.  You've got space in your property to solve this; why provoke a fight?

Then again, if you are a sensible homeowner, maybe you don't build a house that is 9,000 square feet.  This is the house in the picture.  It looks big, but personally I think the design could have been a little bit more dramatic.  And what's with what looks like a two-car garage?

Well, in 2004, the neighbors and the homeowners association told Simon and Saca Palushaj that their house was too close, right when the foundation started going in.  They kept going with it anyway, with a court fight ever since.  After ten years, with two stops in the Michigan Court of Appeals and one in the Michigan Supreme Court, I can only surmise that they thought if they kept the lawyers going long enough, the neighbors and the homeowners association would give up.  They didn't, and the fight is still raging on.

In December the owners were ordered to move the house away from the property line by July 1.  That did not happen.  Now the Palushajs are back in court asking for a time extension.

Knocking the house down is probably too drastic, but the only other remedy I can see is either a fine for contempt of court or some type of punitive damages until the house is moved over.  Maybe some of my real estate lawyer readers can chime in here.  All I can tell you is interesting court cases like this are usually a result of too much emotion with too much money to waste fighting about it.

Here is a Detroit News article on the court fight.

Thought for the Day

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

LED Light Bulbs Cost-Effective and More Practical for Home

Years ago, buying LED light bulbs was making a statement: I care a lot about the environment and am willing to spend more for it.  These days, the statement you make is: I want to save money over the long run.

The technology of LED lights is improving by leaps and bounds every year.  That means that we no longer have to be forced into curly string designs when we might want a more normal shape for a light bulb.  They can go on immediately instead of warming up gradually.  They can generate a more normal light, not the pseudo-florescent glow that was off-putting.

Glenn Haege has the scoop on LED bulbs here.

Thought for the Day

Never give up on the things that make you smile.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Thought for the Day

Just because you were born talented doesnt mean you are the best, there will be someone working harder than you, that person will succeed.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Thought for the Day

Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't. -Jerry Rice

Floating Homes

Some days, you don't want weighty discussion of the issues of the day.  You don't want news about gasoline prices or Kayne West and his baby North West.  Some days you're happy looking at pictures of homes that float.  I hope this is one of those days.  Click the link below for all 11 of them:

11 Floating Homes That Really Deliver On Best Water Views

Monday, July 8, 2013

Houses to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

jamesburg earth stationWhen the zombies come, you obviously need to be prepared.  You can try fighting them off from your house in the subdivision, but that is kind of hopeless.  You can buy Nigella Lawson's old place (see our recent post on this) and hole up in the basement, but then you have to fight zombies and neighbors.

Here are some places that might work:

Yes, our missile silo house is here.

Thought for the Day

Dependability is the first foundation stone of good character.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

How to Use a Caulk Gun

Caulking is more important than people realize.  A poor caulking job either looks incredibly sloppy or results in holes that water get in, which defeats the purpose of caulking in the first place.

Take your time, do a good job.

Just like this guy.

Thought for the Day

Make sure your worst enemy doesn't live between your own two ears

Friday, July 5, 2013

Jodie Foster Lists One of Her Homes

Jodie Foster burst into American Culture in a Coppertone ad at age three, was known for her role as the youthful object of wrongful desire in Taxi Driver, and then was the inspiration for John Hinkley shooting John Lennon.  In between and since, she has been an outstanding actress who has tried to keep her life very private while living the Hollywood dream.  Here's a glimpse at part of that dream.

$6.4 million, Hollywood Hills, 4 bedrooms with all of the things you'd expect.  She is apparently trading up to a $12 million house nearby.

Thought for the Day

The secret of success is to be ready when your opportunity comes

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Flip That House is Coming Back!

Remember all of those house flipping shows on cable tv five years ago?  Although unrealistic, they were popular because people thought they could make money flipping houses in a rising market.  Then the housing market in the U.S. tanked, and none of those shows got renewed.  You can still see the reruns, though.

Well, maybe they should go back into production, because the flipping business is picking up.  Maybe not so much around Detroit and Downriver, but there are hot spots for flipping.  I would submit that the ultra-low prices mean that it will not take much for housing to skyrocket around here, but we are not in a top ten market yet.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

Do we need to add to that?  Enjoy your holiday and we will see you back here on July 5th.

Paris Hilton at Home

Paris Hilton gave us (and by us, I mean Esquire magazine, not the Downriver Homes and Real Estate Blog) a tour of her Beverly Hills home.  This is the one that those idiots kept breaking into (like seven times!) and Paris has so much stuff that she never noticed they were taking anything and then they made a movie about it now.

Anyways, the home itself is decorated tastefully, which came as a surprise to me.  She is apparently very proud of her home and the fact that she is not just living off of a trust fund.  Like her, I am not just living off of a trust fund, either.

Paris Hilton was someone who got too much publicity for doing too little, but at least she was shrewd enough to make more money out of it than most other people could have.  She has a talent for getting people interested in her.

Maybe the secret of her success lies in her interest in herself.  She has pictures of herself up all over the place.  Pillows with her likeness on it.  A pink Bentley, like that is not going to draw tons of attention.  Pink bikes, scooters, etc. 

Plus there are pictures of her in the article.  For Paris Hilton fans, that's probably all they need.

Thought for the Day

Adversity cause some men to break; others to break records.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bob Vila and his Sandpaper

Bob Vila is still one of my favorite home improvement hosts, and not just because he used to appear on Home Improvement, the Tim Allen show.  He also has a way of explaining things simply without a lot of pretense or fakery.

So here he is with sandpaper.  This is a pretty good suggestion, actually.

Storing Sandpaper - Folders

Thought for the Day

When you walk up to opportunities door, don't knock... Kick it in, smile and introduce yourself. -Dwayne Johnson

Monday, July 1, 2013

Home Ownership Makes People Happier

Owning a home is good for you.  It gives you more financial and emotional stablity and is good for your health.  Although only 66 per cent of Americans own their own home, that is up from 46 per cent in 1900. 

There are always going to be people who, for good reasons, do not own a home.  In some parts of the country (not Downriver), owning a home or condo can be prohibitively expensive.  Recently, we have seen people who were upside down on their house,  foreclosed on, and now have to get back on their feet before they can buy again.  So they rent for now.

As a National Association of Realtors study concluded:  "In addition to tangible financial benefits, homeownership brings substantial social benefits for families, communities, and the country as a whole."

Research into the benefits of home ownership in this country is extensive, and there is also reason to think the same things apply to Canadians.  See the below references, but you can do your own Google search, also.

$3 Million Co-Op In New York City

Thanks to one of our favorite web sites, Above the Law, we are able to see what an apartment selling for $3 million dollars in New York City looks like.  Now, keep in mind that this is in the Upper West Side, which must be the expensive part of town.  This was on the market for less than a week and sold for listing price.

Here's the building it is in:

Apparently two lawyers owned the place, which is how it ended up being featured in a legal-related blog.  Two bedrooms and a small bedroom that was built for the maid, but maids don't usually live in your place any more.

Thought for the Day

Never hold your head down, never say you can't, never limit yourself, and never stop believing.