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Traverse City Real Estate – Prices Up – Sales Down

Prices Up, Sales Down: The Inventory Effect On Real Estate

By Ross Boissoneau | Aug. 6, 2018

The real estate market is hot, with average sale prices continuing to climb. The real estate market is down, as the number of home sales continues to drop, both locally and nationally. Area realtors say there are several factors, but demand outstripping supply is the single biggest reason for both trends — and the National Association of Realtors agrees. “The lack of inventory – I think that’s the main factor,” says Mike Annelin, a realtor with Century 21 Northland.

Often those homes that are available are garnering multiple offers, pushing prices higher. “Most realtors have lots of buyers looking,” says Beccy Janis, of Coldwell Banker Schmidt.

While those looking to sell can get a good price, they may choose not to if they can’t then buy what they want where they want it. “Those who might like to sell…what are they going to buy?” says Annelin. “It’s kind of a stalemate.”

The demand pushed June’s sales prices to a new all-time high nationally, according to the National Association of Realtors. The median existing-home price for all housing types was $276,900, surpassing the previous high-water mark set in May. That was up 5.2 percent from June 2017. June’s price increase marks the 76th straight month of year-over-year gains.

This region shows similar results: The median price in the five-county area was $236,000 in June, compared with $224,000 for June 2017; in Grand Traverse County it was $240,000, and a year ago it was $229,350.

But there were 281 home sales in the five-county region in June, compared with 329 last June, a 15 percent decline. In Grand Traverse County, the numbers show a steeper decline of 17 percent.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says closings fell on an annual basis for the fourth straight month. “The root cause is without a doubt the severe housing shortage,” he says. “What is for sale in most areas is going under contract very fast. This dynamic is keeping home price growth elevated, pricing out would-be buyers and ultimately slowing sales.”

There may be more trouble on the horizon, as natural disasters continue to destroy homes. The wildfires in California have already destroyed more than 1,000 homes, while we are still recovering from the hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas, destroying thousands of houses. “The shortage is being exacerbated by events no one anticipated. People better look at the supply chain,” warns Kim Pontius, executive vice president of the Traverse Area Association of Realtors, noting that all those homes will have to be rebuilt.

Pontius says the shortage of those in the building trades is also playing into the downturn; builders can’t keep up with demand. “We’re not adding to the quantity of new inventory,” he says.

The price of materials is also going up. “Construction costs are crazy,” says Annelin.

Exacerbating the problem is the fact that builders can make more money on higher-end homes than starter homes, that’s typically what they will choose to do. “The cost to build affordable homes is so high and they can’t make money doing it,” Janis says.

And the recession that drove people out of the state and/or the construction industry brought building to a complete halt for nearly a decade. That means there is a lack of homes from five to ten years old, further aggravating the problem.

Another factor: the cost of borrowing is going up. Janis notes while interest rates are still relatively low, the fact they are increasing is causing the market to slow.

Annelin agrees. “Banks are willing to lend,” he says. “But rates have gone up. When it goes up a point, that’s a substantial amount of money.”

Home Shoppers Get ‘Extra Time to Find the Right Home’

July 20, 2018
Mortgage rates for 30, 15, ARM. Full information at https://www.freddiemac.com/pmms/

© REALTOR® Magazine

Mortgage rates dropped slightly this week, but overall, they were mostly flat, offering some temporary relief to borrowers.

Mixed economic data this week prompted mortgage rates to remain in mostly a holding pattern, says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Manufacturing output and consumer spending showed improvements, but construction activity was a disappointment,” Khater says. “This meant there was no driving force to move mortgage rates in any meaningful way, which has been the theme in the last two months. That’s good news for price-sensitive home shoppers, given that this stability in borrowing costs allows them a little extra time to find the right home.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending July 19:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.52 percent this week, with an average 0.5 point, dropping slightly from last week’s 4.53 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.96 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4 percent this week, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 4.02 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.23 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.87 percent, with an average 0.3 point, rising from last week’s 3.86 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.21 percent.

Traverse City Delays Decision on Short Term Rentals

City Delays Decision On Short-Term Rentals

By Beth Milligan | June 19, 2018

Homeowners seeking more flexibility to rent out rooms on their properties on a short-term basis face another delay after Traverse City commissioners pushed back a decision on amending the city’s rental rules Monday. The tourist home discussion topped a busy agenda for commissioners, who also received an update on bacterial outbreaks at the city’s wastewater treatment plant and took the next step toward bonding a citywide sidewalk project and completion of the Boardman Lake Trail.

Short-Term Rentals
Eighteen months of discussion about amending the city’s tourist home policy will continue for at least several more weeks after city commissioners Monday declined to approve proposed changes to the city’s ordinance and delayed further discussion until a July 9 study session.

Commissioners were asked to consider changing the rules for homeowners in single-family residences who want to rent bedrooms on their property out to visitors through sites such as Airbnb and VRBO. The city’s current tourist home ordinance allows homeowners to obtain a license to rent out no more than three rooms in their homes for up to seven days at a time. The entire residence can’t be rented out, and residents must meet several requirements to obtain the licenses, including living on-site. Tourist homes also have to be more than 1,000 feet apart, limiting the number that can operate in the city.

Under the proposed new rules, the city would create two categories of tourist homes: high-intensity, in which up to three rooms could be rented by two people per room for a maximum two-week stay (totaling 85 or more guest nights per year), and low-intensity, in which up to two rooms could be rented by two people per room for a maximum two-week stay (totaling 84 or fewer guest nights per year). While high-intensity homes would still be required to be 1,000 feet apart, there would be no distance requirement for low-intensity homes. The rule changes also include a new application, complaint, and license revocation process; a move to require inspections every three years instead of annually; and changes such as allowing no basement rooms, employee stays, or receptions/private parties.

Though they spent several months hammering out the latest iteration of the rules before forwarding the proposal to city commissioners, planning commissioners were divided about the changes and acknowledged the new draft ordinance was unlikely to please everyone. A group of city residents had advocated for allowing homeowners to have unhosted rentals – something not permitted under the proposed new policy – and also voiced concerns the new rule changes were too complicated. Several city commissioners agreed with that assessment Monday and said the policy needed further review.

“I can’t support this ordinance as it is in this format,” said Commissioner Richard Lewis. “I think we’ve made it harder rather than simpler, and I don’t think it’s going to make the (short-term rental) issue go away.” Agreed Commissioner Amy Shamroe: “This isn’t meeting the needs for me right now to say let’s run with it. There are a lot of gaps and questions (with the draft changes).”

Commissioners agreed to discuss the proposal further at a July 9 study session and said they could form an ad hoc committee after that meeting to study the proposed changes in more depth.

Traverse City New Businesses

Marshes To Open New Restaurant

By Beth Milligan | May 29, 2018

Dan and Pam Marsh, owners of Red Ginger, have purchased the Garfield Center retail strip center, and plan to open a restaurant there this fall. The eatery will open on the south end of the center where the Thimbleberry Kids resale shop is now located. Garfield Center (pictured) is on S. Garfield Avenue between Carver and Parsons. Other Garfield Center tenants include HoneyBaked Ham, The UPS Store, Nails Tek, and others. The entire center is 17,140 square feet and is fully leased.

Pam Marsh tells The Ticker the restaurant will be “healthy fast/casual,” serving breakfast and lunch, with dining in and takeout. The couple will also explore options for delivery. The restaurant — as yet unnamed — will be open from 7:30am-4:00pm (closed for dinner).

“It’s a concept we’ve been working on for a couple years,” Marsh says, “and we’ve been looking for just the right space. We’ll feature healthy, organic, sustainable foods. I’d call it ‘healthy comfort food.'”

Marsh says the location is ideal because it is still within Traverse City limits, far enough away to not compete directly with downtown restaurants, yet still in a high traffic corridor.

Thimbleberry will be moving out in July, when initial construction on the space will begin. Marsh says the hope is to open by November 1. The restaurant will seat approximately 60.

Other openings, closings, and moves…
Traverse City Whiskey Company
is preparing for its next major phase of growth with the purchase of the former Cherry Growers fruit processing facility at 9440 South Center Highway.

The 34-acre property is the planned future site of a new distillery, rick houses, and a visitor center with a tasting room. The distillery will include end-to-end production – including mashing, fermentation, and distillation – and will eventually increase the company’s capacity from 400 to up to 4,000 barrels per year. “We learned early on that unlike distilleries that focus on clear spirits, because of our aging process we need a lot of room for barrel storage,” says owner Chris Fredrickson. “We realized this building could be a great home for us and would position us well for future growth.”

Fredrickson says the company will continue to maintain its Fourteenth Street location as a tasting room and experimental distilling site, with the majority of the company’s production relocating to the new facility. The company is working with Elmwood Township on zoning approvals to accommodate the tasting room on the new property – allowing for educational tours and product sampling – and plans to take a phased approach over the next two years to renovating the building, installing new equipment, and doubling the production staff.

In other beverage-related news, video game arcade The Coin Slot has opened a corner bar called The Keg Stand inside its East Front Street location. The bar offers six craft brews on tap from The Workshop Brewing Company, allowing customers to have a beer while playing games. The company will celebrate the addition with a grand opening party on June 12. On Randolph Street, Tilley’s Party Store and Disc Golf has installed a new craft brew tap system allowing customers to buy growlers of beer. The store is the first packaged liquor distributor in Traverse City to offer the service and plans to host tasting events with local breweries focusing “on unique beers and beer that is not available in bottles,” says partner Eric Piedmonte.

Glen Arbor clothing and accessory store Coastal opened in a new location this weekend in the heart of the Crystal River Outfitters Recreational District on M22. The company will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday from 4-6:30pm to celebrate the move. Next door to the new store, M22 Glen Arbor has launched a new outdoor wine bar patio offering 16 custom-blended wines from Black Star Farms, cider, and non-alcoholic drinks. The patio will be open afternoons and evenings through October and will host live music on Thursday nights in July and August.

Discount retail store Merchandise Outlet is opening a new Traverse City location. The company is currently renovating the former Family Dollar space at 1127 South Garfield Avenue and is in the process of hiring cashiers, associates, and receivers. The Michigan chain specializes in a wide variety of inventory offered at “a fraction of major retail prices,” according to the company. In Traverse City’s Warehouse District, Maindeck Supply Co. – a new apparel line and retail store – held a grand opening celebration this weekend at 229 Garland Street. The company offers hand-printed and Michigan-made apparel and headwear.

Also in downtown Traverse City, Crepes & Co. has opened its doors within the State Street Marketplace on State Street. French chef Vanessa Grasset offers both savory and sweet crepes featuring Michigan products including Cooper Family’s jams, Sleeping Bear Dunes honey, Moomers ice cream, and Great River Organic Milling buckwheat, among other products.

Finally, Inspire Art Gallery is closing its doors within Leelanau Studios on Cherry Bend Road. “We are sorry to announce Inspire Art Gallery will be closing May 31…due to unforeseen circumstances,” the store posted on its Facebook page. “We are exploring the possibility of an online gallery. Stay tuned!” The gallery is offering a closing sale featuring discounts up to 30 percent on many of its pieces.

City Commissioners Commit To Fix Eighth Street In 2019

City Commissioners Commit To Fix Eighth Street In 2019

By Beth Milligan | May 8, 2018

Traverse City commissioners Monday committed to reconstructing Eighth Street in 2019 – a verbal promise that sets a firm timeline goal for the city and was cited by several commissioners as justification for not temporarily repaving the corridor this year.

Commissioners made the commitment while voting to approve funding for several other upcoming paving projects, including $300,000 to reconstruct the north alley of Eighth Street between Boardman and Railroad avenues. According to city staff, that project is a key precursor to the reconstruction of the entire corridor, as it will help maintain access to businesses and residences while Eighth Street is closed for reconstruction.

During discussion of the alley project and a separate proposed $167,640 contract with Elmer’s Crane and Dozer to lay down a temporary skim coat on Eighth Street this year as a Band-Aid fix for the road’s deteriorating pavement, several commissioners expressed their desire to set a firm timeline for the entire reconstruction of the corridor.

“Our credibility is starting to get shot, because we have put it off and put it off,” said Commissioner Richard Lewis, saying he wanted the city to implement the “complete plan” for the corridor created through a 2016 public charrette process. After other commissioners echoed Lewis’ remarks, City Manager Marty Colburn said the estimated $7 million Eighth Street project could start next year if city commissioners were willing to commit to funding it.

“We do have the ability to get Eighth Street done…assuming that the city commission gives me the resources to do so,” Colburn said.

Colburn said city staff had been waiting to hear from the state of Michigan on whether $1 million in funding would be available to help with the Eighth Street project. But he said it now appears “that is not going to occur,” leaving the city on its own to fund the project. That could require tough decisions by city commissioners on how to pay for the reconstruction, such as delaying other projects, making cuts, or bonding the project.

“We can fund this, (but) it may be painful, we may not like it,” said Commissioner Brian McGillivary. “But we have repeatedly told people we’re going to do this…that road needs to be fixed, and we just need to accelerate it and get it done.”

Colburn told commissioners he would bring funding options to them for the project by this summer. Commissioners then voted 6-1 to reject the temporary overlay project for Eighth Street this year, with several saying their ‘no’ vote was directly tied to their commitment to start Eighth Street’s reconstruction by next fall. Both McGillivary and Commissioner Tim Werner reversed course on their previous support of investing in a skim coat for the corridor – support initially expressed when the reconstruction timeline appeared to be several years out. McGillivary compared the spending of $167,640 to temporarily smoothen a road that will be torn up next year to pouring money into repairing a house roof that’s “structurally unsound and would have to be replaced.”

Lewis agreed. “I’m not a fan of putting a top coat on if I’m given assurance and the public is given assurance and we have the nerve (to commit to the reconstruction),” he said. “We are doing it next year. That’s the only way we’ve got to think here, or else do this (temporary repaving project).” Commissioner Amy Shamroe reiterated the commission’s commitment to the reconstruction. “This board has decided we are doing it next year…I am confident that we will get this accomplished,” she said.

Commissioner Michele Howard was the sole ‘yes’ vote in favor of funding the temporary repaving project. She said the current condition of Eighth Street is “not good for anybody” and rebutted McGillivary’s roof analogy by saying if her roof was leaking water into her home, she would immediately repair it. Howard was also one of the two dissenting votes – along with McGillivary – to reconstructing the north Eighth Street alley, citing concerns it would “drive more traffic down that alley” where Boardman Neighborhood residents live.

Commissioner Brian Haas, however, noted the alley is not just a residential but also a commercial alley, and said the project is “one of those check boxes we’ve got to get through to reach that ultimate objective (of reconstruction). I think if we continue to put this off, it’s one more thing to add to the list next year.” City Engineer Tim Lodge also stressed that the alley repaving was an “essential element” of the Eighth Street reconstruction project. He noted that when reconstruction begins, Eighth Street will be completely barricaded off, with no traffic lanes maintained through the corridor.

“I will tell you that one of the biggest things that we can do is to assure businesses along the corridor and other property owners access to their properties during construction,” Lodge said. “This street will be entirely shut down…this project on Eighth Street is going to be tremendously impactful.”

Chuck Cady, a resident of Midtown neighborhood along Eighth Street, said he and other property owners had been waiting at least a decade for repairs to be made to the corridor and encouraged commissioners in their prioritization of the project. He said that “people who are along Eighth Street have been anxious to see their property values enhanced,” adding those values have been declining for years.

“We feel strongly that (the reconstruction) will add to the quality of life for blocks around in all directions…it’s owed to the community, it’s owed to the taxpayers,” he said.

FEMA Changes Encourage Private Flood Insurance



In the absence of legislative reform by Congress, there’s only so much the Federal Emergency Management Agency can do to encourage the growth of private flood insurance. But FEMA, which oversees federal flood insurance, has come up with a few small but meaningful program changes that will make it easier for households to switch to private insurance if they can get a better deal that way.

First, the agency has lifted the requirement that households retain their federal coverage if they switch to private insurance before their coverage term is up. Prior to this change, households had to maintain their federal coverage even after switching to private coverage, which meant they had to pay two sets of premiums if they made the switch.

And second, insurance companies that offer federal coverage can now also offer private coverage as well, either their own or another company’s. Prior to this change, if a company offered the federal option, it was prohibited from providing a private alternative.

The agency has also made two other small changes to make life easier for homeowners who appear to be in a flood zone.

First, if a homeowner’s state uses what’s known as LiDAR technology to collect elevation data, owners can now use that data to demonstrate they don’t need flood insurance. That can save them as much as $2,000 on the cost of a separate elevation certificate. The downside here is many states are not yet using the new technology to collect elevation data, though Minnesota and North Carolina are two examples of those that do.

And second, FEMA’s procedures for newly mapped flood areas will be extended to apply to more properties. That means more owners will be able to start their premiums at a lower rate and only gradually reach responsibility for full premiums.

—Rob Freedman, REALTOR® Magazine

Preparing your home for Sale

5 effective and inexpensive ways to stage your home

Home stagingIt might seem extravagant for sellers to spend thousands of dollars staging their homes, yet properly staging a home is one of the most important steps in the selling process. The reason is that buyers need to see firsthand just how livable a house can be. A well-staged home lets them experience a home’s full potential.

Some sellers worry about the costs involved with having a professional staging company come in and stage their home. If you want to take a low-budget route, here are five cost-effective ways to make your home look its best.

Up your curb appeal — Never underestimate the power of first impressions. Along with cleaning up your yard, trimming the landscaping and adding a couple pots of flowers at the entryway, try painting your door. A bold red can get great results.

Pack up your personal belongings — Nothing makes a potential homeowner feel so intrusive and, thus, less at home, than seeing pictures of someone else’s family.

Get rid of all strange smells — Even if the smell is just a touch off, it can turn a potential buyer away. Use plug-in deodorizers, lightly scented candles and bowls of baking soda to absorb all offending smells.

Add more light — Install brighter light bulbs and keep the blinds open for showings. The more light, the better!

Ask for a second opinion — If you know someone who classifies themselves as a neat freak, ask them to come over and let loose. The smudges, dings and old stains that don’t bother you could easily affect someone else’s overall perception of the property.


Kingsley, Kalkaska Emerge As (Cheaper) Alternatives

Kingsley, Kalkaska Emerge As (Cheaper) Alternatives

By Ross Boissoneau | Jan. 24, 2018

The median sales price for a single-family home in Traverse City rose to $256,000 last year, a figure prompting many would-be homeowners to look to adjacent towns to the north or south.  In nearby Kingsley, the median sales price was $161,500, and just up M-72 North in Kalkaska, it was $109,050 – less than half of Traverse City.

Kingsley resident and Keller Williams realtor Stacy Allman says leaving Traverse City in the rearview mirror for Kalkaska or Kingsley means you can find a three or four bedroom and one and a half bath home between $150,000 and $200,000. In Traverse City, such a home would be well over $200,000 – if you can find one at all.

Max Anderson — whose job ironically is to promote all things Traverse City — knows that firsthand. The executive director of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and his wife searched for a home in TC to no avail. “We wanted to be in downtown Traverse City, as it was close to work. We put offers in (on houses) and they got bought out from under us,” he says.

That led them to consider other towns nearby, eventually opting for Kingsley. “It’s close enough to Traverse City to have everything you want, yet I can walk on the back deck and there’s no light pollution,” Anderson says.

Gabe Snider and her husband Shannon are similarly pleased, though their story is a bit different. The two were looking for a specific type of property, and found what they wanted in Kalkaska. “It’s an old farmhouse with a barn and carriage house, two lean-tos and a chicken coop, on almost 20 acres,” she tells The Ticker. “In Traverse City it probably would be more than $400,000.” In Kalkaska? $135,000 with 11 acres, and the owner added another seven acres for $1.

The numbers bear out the two towns’ burgeoning popularity, where housing prices have steadily increased each year. In Kingsley, the median sale price 2014 was $119,950; last year it grew to $161,500. In Kalkaska, the median 2014 price was $92,000, compared to $109,050 in 2017. Solid growth, but nothing compared to  Traverse City, where in 2014 the median price was already $194,700, growing to $256,000 last year — and pricing some out of the market.

And homes in Kingsley and Kalkaska are not staying on the market as long, either. Kingsley homes were for sale, on average, 105 days in 2014, dropping to 63 three years later. The story’s the same in Kalkaska, where the median days on market fell from 117 in 2014 to 89 last year.

And it’s not only home prices where buyers find savings. “Just south of Kingsley is still a good shot to Traverse City, but Wexford County taxes are lower,” says Allman.

She’s also a cheerleader for her hometown. “I serve on the DDA in Kingsley, and we’re bringing business in. It’s a top-ranked school, and enrollment is increasing. And it’s a tight-knit community.”

Lifelong Kalkaska resident and realtor Sue Vowels of Coldwell Banker Schmidt, who sold the Sniders their home, is similarly enthusiastic about her town. “There are activities like the Trout Festival, and horse, RV and snowmobile trails. You don’t go more than three miles without running into water, including two blue-ribbon trout streams.” She goes on to tout Kalkaska Schools and the fact the town has both a small airport and a hospital.

Kalkaska’s proximity to other northern Michigan towns was also appealing to the Sniders; Gabe splits her work time between Pellston and Harbor Springs, while her husband’s work is moving from nearby Williamsburg to Leelanau County. “We looked in Traverse City and Williamsburg – it was half the land for twice the price. Now we have land, a farmhouse, no neighbors. It’s quiet and only six miles to the grocery store, with lakes all around us,” Snider says.

Protect your Home’s pipes from Freezing

Protect a Home’s Pipes From the Cold



Cold weather can put your home’s pipes at risk of exploding. Worst case scenario: Pipes can fill up with so much ice that eventually they burst and then flood a home.

But there’s plenty you can do to keep your pipes safe in the winter, as a homeowner or landlord. Precautions should be ideally taken in the fall, but if you forgot, better to take steps now than none at all.

HouseLogic offers the following tips for protecting your pipes from bursting, including:

Turn on your faucets.

When temperatures have dropped into freezing, turn on your faucets both indoors and out to keep the water moving through your system. HouseLogic recommends aiming for about five drips per minute.

Open cabinet doors. 

Open any cabinet door covering the plumbing in the kitchen and bathroom. The home’s warm air can help prevent pipes from freezing.

Wrap the pipes. 

If the pipes are already near freezing, wrap them in warm towels to help loosen the ice inside. Cover them with towels and then pour boiling water on top.

Shut off the water. 

If your pipes are already frozen, turn off the main water line to the home immediately. Shut off any external water sources, such as garden hose hookups, HouseLogic recommends.This also helps after the ice inside your pipes thaws because you don’t want the water to flood your system.

Read more tips at HouseLogic.

Source: “5 Tricks to Keep Your Pipes From Exploding This Winter,” HouseLogic (December 2017)