Monday, June 30, 2014

Thought for the Day

One sound idea is all that one needs to achieve success. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Wilford Brimley Sows Oats in Town, Instead

I bet he'll miss this part.

Wilford Brimley, who is turning 80, has decided he is at the time of his life when he downsizes.  As a result, he is selling his 275-acre ranch and has moved his oatmeal eating, diabetic self into town, instead.  Here he is blacksmithing at his place.

Thought for the Day

Count your blessings, not your problems.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Downriver Auction Properties Need Diligence Before Bidding

It may be listed as a four-bedroom on zillow, but got torn down last week.

Scott Held from the News-Herald takes a look at some of the recent Downriver listings in the recent Tax Foreclosure Auction from the Wayne County Treasurer.

Apparently, many of them are vacant lots and houses about to fall on themselves.  No big surprise there.  If the property has substantial value, then odds are the owner keeps the taxes up.

My experience with the auction is that there were bargains to be had, but you needed to drive the properties in order to see if they were in the ballpark.  The second round, starting at $500, is easier, but the sensational values are gone by then.

Buyer beware.  Go to the actual place you plan to bid on and find out as much as you can first.


Thought for the Day

You can be comfortable or courageous, but you cannot be both.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thought for the Day

Those who are quick to see their limitations generally are slow in seeing their opportunities.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Charter Schools Have Clout in Lansing, Part One

Lobbyists really do sometimes hang out in the lobby while a legislative group is in session.

We continue to follow the excellent series in the Detroit Free Press focusing on charter schools in Michigan.  What first drew our attention for this blog was the article focusing on Summit Academy schools Downriver.  Having started there, we can't help but follow up.

Today's focus is on the clout the lobbyists for charter schools have in Lansing, particularly among Republicans.  Their lobbyists can bring an impressive amount of money for a legislative supporter, or against one who votes against them.

Part Two will be a video commentary.  Look for it.


Thought for the Day

Failure is a blessing when it pushes us out of a cushioned seat of self-satisfaction and forces us to do something useful.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Thought for the Day

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation.

More on Charter School Issues

Yesterday's news about Summit Academy has been followed today by a broader examination of the role of school board members at a charter school.  It is well worth the time to read.

Essentially, board members are responsible, but can be removed if they cause too much of a fuss.  The real power belongs to the management company and the chartering university or school system, both of which can profit handsomely at the expense of the kids they are supposed to educate.

Pictured above are Michigan Board of Education members John Austin and Casandra Ulbrich.  They are quoted int he article from the Free Press as opposed to this type of practice.

Stories of charter school board members being denied basic financial information and being forced off of the board when they persist bode ill for this system.  Board members should have some stability in their post, and should be provided with relevant information about the school they are responsible for.  And if a majority of them want to insist on using vinegar-based cleaning products for some reason, then so be it.  (Read the story for context on that.)

Our children deserve better than this.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Thought for the Day

The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.

Charters Investigation Spotlights Two Downriver Schools

Foreboding signs coming from Summit Academy
Two Summit Academy schools are the focus of an article in the Detroit Free Press focusing on the problems and financial issues surrounding charter schools in Michigan. 

I will spare you many of the bloody details, but the two founders of Summit Academy also owned companies providing services to the schools, such as construction of buildings.  One woman had a consulting contract with the management company who operated the school, which she was the superindentent of.  In other words, she was being paid to advise herself.

It may be not as directly related to the normal focus of this blog, but the students there are coming from Downriver and they are a part of our community.  I will leave the details up to the Freep.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Five Trends in Real Estate Right Now

This is not one of those cheapo blog posts telling you to go with soapstone counter tops.  No, these trends are about home buying and home selling trends in the United States.  Consumer Reports has the list, so we're inclined to believe it.

We won't spoil it for you by copying their list.  You can read it for yourself.

Be aware, green design is in fact one of these trends.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tax Auction Properties Revoked for Taxes

Wayne County Treasurer Ray Wojtowicz has filed suit to get back about 80% of the properties sold in the 2011 Tax Auction...because their new owners haven't paid their taxes.  It would be funny ironic if it wasn't sad.  Let me explain.

As the Detroit News talks about, part of the issue is buyers who buy up large amounts of properties and don't pay any taxes on them (or probably put any other money into the properties) before they flip them to some other buyer.  Some of these sales are on a land contract, so the deed (and taxes) would still be in the name of the auction buyer even if they sold their $500 purchase for $3,000.

This gaming of the system has been known for some time.  We discussed it on this blog last fall, in the middle of the last tax auction, here and here.  Bulk buyers are not in it for the long term.  These buyers might not even know where these properties are and might not have ever seen them in person.

But that is not always the case.  We shared with you the story of an intrepid guy who bought one of these $500 auction houses because it was what he could afford to buy.  He struggled with his finances, his lack of rehab skills, and issues in the neighborhood, but he emerged with a livable house he could call his own.

If bulk buyers are letting properties go again, then it means that the properties were not worth keeping.  Since these are 2012 taxes we are talking about, this means that decision was made almost immediately upon purchase and did not change.

More than anything, these reversions are evidence that our tax auctions need revision.  If 80% are failures, then the system is not working for our community.

Wayne County has had a staggering number of tax foreclosures in the wake of the 2008 downturn, and Detroit has been hit particularly hard.  The tax auction may be the best response to an unworkable situation, but some tweaking (as has been done since 2011) is needed.


Treasurer sues auction buyers for unpaid taxes:

Tax houses owe taxes:

Tax houses owe taxes (part two):

A $500 buyers story:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Thought for the Day

Failure is a blessing when it pushes us out of a cushioned seat of self-satisfaction and forces us to do something useful.

Tudor Estate is Worth a Look

This fine country estate on Walnut Lake, built in 1929, has the rambling Tudor architecture of a Cotswold cottage. That includes the steep slate roof, the tall stone chimneys, the arched windows and an entry turret.

Imagine coming home from a long day at the office to this.  Kinda makes it all worth it, huh?  Could it be more perfect?

Actually, it could.  It is also on Walnut Lake in West Bloomfield.

And it has...a...lighthouse.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Update on Lake Jumping House--It Burned Down (w/video)

In a sad update to a previous post, the owner of the house falling into Lake Whitney in Texas has had to burn it down.  Apparently the dubious nature of the cliff it was perched on precluded using the usual heavy equipment to demolish it and waiting for it to fall into the lake below on its own was too dangerous.  Our own Fox 2 news has the story, which includes video, of course.

What could be an amusing tale is tainted by reports that the owner of this $800,000 house sank all of his retirement money into it and the home is not insured for this kind of hazard.  On top of that, he will have to pay out of pocket to remove the demolished home from the site.

Previous post:
Fox 2 News story:

Thought for the Day

You can’t control others’ acts, but you can control your reaction to their acts, and that is what counts most to you.

Suburban Farming Heats Up

Interested in playing chicken?

At my in-law's house in suburban Cleveland, a neighbor had some chickens.  It was not a big deal to them.  Apparently it is to some people.

Suburban farms are being scrutinized.  Not all neighbors are apparently as tolerant of the egg producers.  People who want to keep a couple of chickens or sheep or whatever in their backyard instead of a trampoline are getting tickets for creating a nuisance.

Arguments that the Michigan Right to Farm Act allows these activities are not completely true, at least according to the Agriculture Department.  In fact, their reading of the Right to Farm is that it only applies to commercial enterprises.  Selling a few eggs would get around that part, but they would still need to operate within the practices defined by the state, which may be dicier.

Although the Detroit News uses examples from Oakland County, there is no reason to think these kind of disputes could not happen Downriver.  This will become more and more of an issue as urban farming gains popularity in this area and spills over into the suburbs.  Readers are cautioned to think carefully before putting that henhouse out back.


Michigan Right to Farm Act:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Landlord Monday: Calculating Cash Flow

Hey, fellow landlord, what's the point of investing if you're not making money?  It's kind of a big deal.

Since we can't count on property values going up, you have to be able to make money every month.  That means cash flow.  Simply put, rent minus expenses.

But some of those expenses need to be accounted for each month, even if you don't spend the same every month (like property taxes).  So it is a bit more complicated than you might think.

Fortunately, calculating cash flow is still math, just with a little more thought.  Like this.

All I can say is that this is a needed exercise you need to do BEFORE you buy the property.  And you need to do it right, like the guy in the linked article does.  Things like property taxes, a new roof, vacancies, and the like have to be completely considered.  It takes time and effort.  It's worth it.


Thought for the Day

So. Monday. We meet again. We will never be friends—but maybe we can move past our mutual enmity toward a more-positive partnership.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thought for the Day

When you have talked yourself into what you want, stop talking and begin saying it with your actions.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lakeside House Follows Request to Go Jump in Lake (w/Video)

South of Fort Worth, Texas, an $800,000 home is falling into a lake.  Piece by piece.

Apparently, the hillside house is losing its hill, as part of the cliff it was built on crumbled away.  Underneath is Lake Whitney. The family noticed problems in February and moved out and the home is now empty with signs posted to keep people away.

 Somebody miscalculated here and no doubt the lawsuits will be flying.  The home was built in 2007.

We have a link to the story on Fox 2, which has video from the Fox affiliate in Texas, but we also found this video on YouTube, without commentary, which is a more detailed view of how things look.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Thought for the Day

 Friendship freely given and gratefully received is one of life’s greatest gifts. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Landlord Monday (on Tuesday): Breaking Up is Hard

So you got a tenant in your property and they are not what you think?  Let me tell you, been there done that.  I had one bad experience with a professional tenant, and collection efforts are still ongoing.

Anyways, BiggerPockets has some great tips on how to avoid a complete debacle.  The best advice is to screen thoroughly before tenants can get in your door.


Thought for the Day

A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Steeple Stands Tall

St. Josaphat, the Damaged Era

When last we spoke of the steeple at St. Josaphat in Detroit, the one that had been damaged by winds last November and was in danger of collapsing, it danger of collapsing.  There was no real money to fix it and the outlook was bleak.  Best case plans seemed to be cutting off the steeple to save the church underneath it.

Almost three months later, things are looking up.  About $90,00 has been raised to fix the steeple, iconic along I-75 at Canfield (you can't drive the stretch of freeway without once again noticing it.).  That has funded structural work that has left it stronger than when it was first built.  At least the steeple won't fall off onto the street now.

The church steeple was in danger of collapse after a windstorm in November.
Looks like they straightened up the place.

Alas, the money raised so far is not the $500,000 or so needed to completely repair the damage and get the church off the the City of Detroit condemned building list.  So it's still not at all clear what will eventually happen.  For now, though, let us savor this partial victory.

For more information on the Save Our Steeple campaign, or to contribute, you can follow this link.


Deroit Free Press article (

Save Our Steeple

Thought for the Day

Many “overnight successes” labored in obscurity for many years before they were finally recognized for their achievements. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Post Civil War Farmhouse in Northville

This oldest part is next to the street and has its own pillared front porch.

This house, 134 years old, is located in a great location five blocks from downtown Northville.  As the Detroit Free Press observes, that means a lot of great events you can walk to.  Since we did not get a Featured Listing Friday post up recently and this is for sale, after all, we have decided to have Featured Listing Friday on Sunday, instead, this week.

Fortunately, the Free Press has A LOT of pictures, so we are able to give you a good flavor for how the place looks.

The music room with wood burning fireplace.

Thought for the Day

Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Indian Village Stunner

Yes, I know Indian Village in Detroit has nothing much to do with Downriver, but you have got to see this house.

I am a sucker for craftsmanship and rich materials, and this place has it in abundance.  Original owner Charles Butler did this Iroquois street home right.  Having Albert Kahn design it didn't hurt, either.

Here's some more pictures, courtesy of the Detroit News.


Thought for the Day

No matter how long you have traveled in the wrong direction, you can always turn around.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Thought for the Day

The strongest people aren't always the people who win, but the people who don't give up when they lose

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Brady-Budchen Brentwood Abode Acquired

Dr. Dre Buys Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen's Moated Mansion for $40 Million

We gave you a look at Tom-and-Gisle's mansion in Brentwood, CA back in November, but now we're going to have to go back in the archives and change the story, because it is no longer theirs.

Fresh off selling his business selling over-priced headphones to hipsters (or maybe hiphopsters?), Dr. Dre has taken part of his money and put it into the moated palace that was once owned by the celebrity couple.  About $40 million or so of his money.

The house, which you might recall was big enough for their family to live in for extended visits, but billed as environmentally friendly (salvaged tile and solar panels), was expendable because the couple are apparently focusing more on New York as the place to live their dream life.  They will be downsizing to a penthouse in the $10-million range.

Although there are multiple stories on this, we will reference the sports news website Bleacher Report for our information here.  Plus they are the source of the Dr. Dre picture above which we just HAD to use.

So no more pictures of Gisele in her garden.  Reminisce with us here:

Gisele Bundchen


Thought for the Day

What lies behind us & what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Thought for the Day

Be sure about what you want from life and doubly sure of what you have to give in return.

Detroit Area Still Affordable

You have seen the rise in home prices, but metro Detroit is still one great place to afford your own home.  Granted, Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati might be a shade below, but you can afford an average home in Detroit if you make a shade of $30,000 a year, which is pretty good.  The Freep has the scoop:


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Update: Ferris Bueller House Sells

'Ferris Bueller' mansion goes under contract

We told you some long time ago that the house where Cameron lived in the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", complete with glass garage, was for sale in the suburban Chicago area.  Well, it recently sold for $1.06 million.

It had been on the market for about five years and the owners clearly were holding out for more, a lot more.  It just may be that the Ferrari that went out the back of the garage was worth more than the house, after all is said and done.


A New Country Checks In-Bahrain

It has not happened in a while, but we had a new country show up on our visitor's list last week, checking out our humble blog.  We wish a hearty welcome to those from Bahrain who choose to read us.