Mortgage & Appraisers

5×5 Night in Grand Rapids

5 ideas, 5 minutes each, 5 slides each, 5 judges, 5,000 dollars

5×5 Night is a monthly event in Grand Rapids that allows 5 people to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges who decide how to award $5,000 on the last Tuesday night of every month. The third 5×5 happens tomorrow night at the Grand Rapids Ballet with an afterglow at Founders Brewery. Tomorrow night’s presenters and topics sound pretty interesting:

  • Bruce Burgess – Mull-it-Over
  • Mick Hanna – Easy Crutch
  • Phil Lund – The Mars Plan
  • William Stewart – Compression Beehive Frame
  • Charlie Wollborg – Face-to-Face > Pixel-to-Pixel

Michigan Radio has a cool interview with Rick DeVos and Bill Holsinger Robinson of Pomegranate Studios about 5×5 Night. Learn more at and Pomegranate Studios.

Last month AJ Paschka got all five votes and $5000 for his very cool Weather Collage idea, but we’ll feature Landon Bartley’s more locally focused call for a Grand Rapids Sister City Window Webcam Project. You can check out all the pitches on the 5×5 channel.

Photo: Prepping for the first 5×5 Night at the GRAM by

Real Estate Gold Amidst Detroit’s Downturn

Slows by farlane
Slows by farlane

A few weeks ago NPR had an interesting feature titled Despite Tough Times, Some See Opportunity In Detroit that looked at how Detroit’s dramatic downturn has created some amazing opportunities for starting businesses.

Phil Cooley says the city is wide open for new ventures and is tolerant of his mistakes and successes. “It’s lovely to be able to afford to do that here, one, because the community is so forgiving. And two, because it’s less expensive than other places. So it’s affordable,” he says.

Music producer Chris Koltay was drawn to Detroit from Cincinnati by the vibrant music scene and the cheap real estate. He says he knew he could afford a whole building. He found one across the street from Slows for just $38,000. The recording studio is packed with guitars, keyboards and microphones.

Koltay has made a loft in the back of the building and for a year lived there without hot water. “It was gnarly, but whatever. Now I’m golden. And it’s so wide open, and I think that’s beautiful. I’ve never seen a city that has this kind of opportunity for growth, and I think that’s beautiful,” he says.

Check out some Detroit commercial real estate listings from Loopnet, follow the Detroit rebirth via Model D and get links from Absolute Michigan’s Real Estate & Development section for Southeast Michigan.

Investors find real estate gold in Detroit from CNN explores a similar phenomenon in the Detroit housing market.

Five things you need to know for Thursday, March 27, 2008

Five Things You Need to Know About MichiganWelcome to a special Michigan Homes & Real Estate edition of Five Things you need to know about Michigan. Before I dive in I wanted to say a little something about our month themes. We got the word that a) you like them but b) you would like them to be not so loud so c) we’re listening and turning it down a little while d) continuing to develop this kind of thing. There should probably be an “e” in there to keep the Number 2 pencils sharp, so I’ll add e) keep the comments coming!

 Detroit Riverwalk at Sunset #2 by epeoples
Detroit Riverwalk at Sunset #2 by epeoples

The Sweet 16 of Detroit’s Development Scene

Model D got into the March Madness Mood with 16 Sweet Developments in Detroit. The feature lists some great projects like RiverWalk, Hatch HQ, Dequindre Cut and the Tiger Stadium redevelopment and also general trends like better food, a facelift for the arts and Open City, an informal networking group in which business ownders share tips about real estate, start-up financing, marketing and other thorny issues with folks starting businesses. One thing is clear – there’s an energy in the D that can’t help but benefit the city and the rest of the state.

Mortgage Crisis Hits Hard in Michigan…

It’s probably a surprise to nobody that Michigan is near the top (#6, see Freep article) in real estate foreclosures. While 75% of foreclosed homes are located in southeast Michigan (according to WZZM, Grand Rapids), the effects of the mortgage crisis are dropping home values statewide (Gaylord Herald Times, WOOD-TV Grand Rapids), making it difficult to sell even “dream homes” up north (Detroit News) and even tightening commercial credit (mLive).

Commercial Real Estate Hit too … by the Legislature

When residential markets collapse, commercial buyers often move in and soften the impact by buying foreclosed properties. The Kalamazoo Gazette’s business writer Alex Nixon has an informative (though depressing) look at how Michigan’s new business tax is imposing 200% or greater tax increases on commercial real estate. While it makes some sense due to the fact that the old SBT was payroll based, it is proving challenging to many in the industry. (thanks to Real Estate Bloggers for the tip)

So Where’s the Silver Lining?

One of the things that we always try to do is find the good in the news. While the whole homes & real estate picture is pretty gloomy, here’s a couple of thoughts. One is that while the drop in real estate value is bad for home owners, those who are seeking to buy are – when they can get credit – finding good value in Michigan. Many of those are young families, something that might help stem our population loss over the long haul. A second is that the difficulties are forcing Michigan to take the lead in confronting the foreclosure tide that is rising all across the nation. Whether our political leaders and institutions can rise to the challenge is an open question, but it seems to me that items like this bill aimed at providing transition loans for ARM holders through the Michigan Housing Development Authority are a step in the right direction.

Detroit Riverwalk at Sunset

Detroit Riverwalk at Sunset #2 by epeoples is one of a number found in a search for riverwalk in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr. Many are from the Detroit Riverwalk, and all show something that is another amazing thing about making Michigan your home: the magic of our water.

March is Home Month on Absolute Michigan

Homes along East Ferry Avenue – Detroit MI by pinehurst19475

For the month of March, Absolute Michigan will be featuring Homes with stories about historic Michigan houses, home & home design blogs, green building and other new trends in construction and redevelopment, and some of the great neighborhoods across the state for buying and renting. We’ll also take a look at Michigan’s real estate market and seek some answers for home buyers and sellers in how to get through this difficult time. Where we can, we’ll feature some Michigan businesses who can help you make your home better through home improvements and enhancing your decor and furnishings.

As always, we recognize that there’s so much to know and talk about and we really hope you’ll help us with comments and emailed tips for stories!

Regarding the photo, pinehurst19475 says that the East Ferry Historic District began as an exclusive residential area in the late 1880s, after serving as an experimental seed farm for the Ferry Seed Company. Building continued through the 1920s, and today the area is a mix of well maintained structures used for residential, commercial and institutional purposes. The district is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It’s part of a great Residential Detroit set of photos.

Home is where…

well red by suesue2

For the whole month of March, we’ll be featuring Homes on Absolute Michigan with features about historic Michigan homes, green building and other new trends in construction and some great neighborhoods across the state. Because you can’t tune in any media without hearing how terrible the housing market is, we’ll also talk to some people about the whys, wherefores and how that can be overcome.

Our Homes & Real Estate section can probably give you some other hints about topics we’ll feature including home improvement and interior decorating. However, if you’re hot to get in the garden, you’ll have to wait for April when we feature gardening & Michigan flora!

Have ideas for topics? All you have to do is post a comment or send an email!

Five things you need to know for Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Five Things You Need to Know About MichiganThey said it: Dana Johnson, chief economist for used-to-be-Detroit-based Comerica Bank in forecasting modest 1-2% growth for Michigan’s economy in 2008. We’ll finally have the sense, after four years of a downturn, we’re on a rise again. Roy Williams, on the I don’t want it, you take it NFC playoff race: Yeah, we’re in this playoff hunt now. We’re looking at teams, wondering what they’re doing … If we can win three, I think we’re in. The Traverse City Record-Eagle responding to the Michigan Supreme Court ruling that only political parties could get lists of who voted in which primary: At least we know where we stand vis-a-vis the Supreme Court: in second place.

Tayshaun by radiospike

If you can’t afford a hybrid, go PB&J

Via Michigan-based blog Scientific Ink, I learned that A PB&J will slow global warming, reducing your carbon footprint by saving the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets. That’s about 40% of what you’d save driving around for the day in a hybrid instead of a standard sedan and it also saves water, land and the fats in PB&J aren’t as bad as you might think!

Prince Kicks Down

Sports Illustrated reports in A prince among men that last week Pistons’ star Tayshaun Prince and his wife Farah purchased and redecorated a luxury suite at the Palace to donate to Kids Kicking Cancer, a Detroit-based charity that uses martial arts techniques to empower hundreds of children and help them cope with their illness. Great article about a great guy and a program that really looks special (be sure to check out that link – they have an excellent video on their site from TV-4 as well).

Radiospike, Courtside

If you live in Detroit, you might know Spike aka radiospike from Mojo in the Morning. I’m not sure if these awesome courtside seats at the were a perk from that or just from living right, but he sure got some great shots in his Pistons 11-23-07 set like this one of Tayshaun Prince and this one of Chauncey Billups. The cheerleaders seem to have gotten in his way in a lot of the other photos, but I guess that’s a hazard of being courtside.

Foreclosure Madness and the Motor City

Easy money, risky loans drive area home losses in the Detroit News is an excellent, in-depth feature probing the causes for the sky-high foreclosure rates of Michigan (particularly Metro Detroit) has as much to do with the mortgage industry as the auto industry in that money remained “incredibly easy to borrow.” The result was a very high percentage of subprime loans – 55% in the region and 2 out of 3 in Wayne County. According to the article, the root of the problem (if indeed there is one) is the fact that loans became a Wall Street commodity, and it didn’t matter if some loans went bad when the yield was that high. But as Bill Matthews, senior vice president of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors notes: “What the hedge fund manager is missing, is it’s destroying communities.”

Video from YOUR Town

The Absolute Michigan group on YouTubeThere’s no way that I’m going to feature any Michigan city or town after that story. Instead, I’ll call out our new Absolute Michigan group on YouTube. We’d like you to share your videos about all aspects of the Great Lakes State – your hometown, history, fun things to do, good eats, great businesses and places to visit. We’ll feature videos from the group here on Absolute Michigan!

Blogs We Dig: Our Michigan

For Sale by John Baird

Celeste Whiting’s Our Michigan is a blog that takes a probing look at hard to comprehend mega-issues like the global financial upheaval, simplifies them, and then explores how they relate to life right here in Michigan. Celeste takes that same skill of simplification and applies it to Michigan’s political blogosphere.

Speaking of politics, she recently wrote that Gov. Milliken is her new favorite Republican:

William Milliken is my new favorite republican. Once upon a time, long ago and right here, a republican governor signed revolutionary environmental protection legislation–fitting in a state with a motto boasting its natural resources. Passed in 1970, Michigan’s Environmental Protection Act set an ambitious standard recognizing the right of anyone to sue over damage to the water, air or land. It was recognition of the commons–the resources we share as citizens–and our rights and responsibility to protect them.

House Dems propose real estate package

Yellow House by anikarenina

The Detroit News reports (Buying a home? Tax freeze may be on way) that Michigan’s House Democrats have proposed a package of bills calling for a state-backed second mortgage to provide six months of foreclosure protection to people who have lost their jobs and also for an 18-month moratorium on increases in the taxable value of a residence for homes bought and sold between March 1 and Sept. 1, 2008. While Realtors and even Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop have expressed interest in the legislation (provided it moves quickly so as not to depress the already despondent market further):

Michigan Suburbs Alliance Executive Director Conan Smith said the tax-increase moratorium would “undermine our cities” by preventing them from collecting the full property taxes on homes sold during the next 18 months. Smith said 70 Michigan cities “sit on the brink of insolvency and cannot afford to take the hit promised by the proposal.”

Vol I, No. 1: Introduce Your Michigan Business or Organization!

This is a page where we asked folks to say hello. Lots of them did!

The current version of Introduce Your Michigan Business or Organization is right there.

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Michigan Second Mortgages Increasing Faster than Home Values

Looking up by Geoffrey George

also see Looking Up (set)

The Detroit Free Press reports that census data shows that 556,000 Michigan homes (19% of all owner-occupied homes in the state – 2% over the national average) have some kind of second loan on them. At the same time, the median value of homes has increased 19% in the last five years (much less than the national average of 32%).

Dana Johnson, chief economist for Comerica said “There’s a widespread trend for people to tap into their equity nationally. Obviously, here there’s less equity to tap as elsewhere … It puts borrowers in a more precarious position.”

And from the “Had just enough to do with the topic to be found in a search” Department, here’s a passage out of Henry Schoolcraft’s memoir:

The plethora of success which has animated every department of life and business, puffing them up like gas in a balloon, since about ’35 has departed and left the fiscal system perfectly flaccid and lifeless. The rage for speculation in real estate has absorbed all loose cash, and the country is now groaning for its fast-locked circulating medium. A friend at Detroit writes: “With fifty thousand dollars of productive real estate in the city, and as much more in stocks and mortgages, I am absolutely in want of small sums to pay my current expenses, and to rid myself of the mortification produced by this feeling I am prepared to make, almost any sacrifice.”