Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

The January Rochester Market Report

Here is the January Rochester Market Report, brought to you by



Holiday Break!

Just a quick post during the Christmas season to remind everyone to put down their fun new presents and spend some time with family while you’re on break! Here are some great ideas…

Enjoy your holiday; I’ll catch you after the break!



Feeling Thankful

Just a quick note to say how thankful we are for all of our great friends, family, and wonderful clients. Happy Thanksgiving!daubs-thanksgiving


It’s Cider Mill Season!

Nothing says Michigan Fall like fresh apple cider, warm cinnamon donuts, pumpkin picking, and hay rides!

dsc_1695Check out these cider mills in the Rochester area:

Yates Cider Mill
1990 E Avon Rd, Rochester Hills

Paint Creek Cider Mill
4480 Orion Rd, Oakland Township

Rochester Cider Mill
5125 Rochester Rd, Rochester

Goodison Cider Mill
4295 Orion Rd, Rochester

Verellen Orchards
63260 Van Dyke, Washington Township


But My Zillow Zestimate Said…

Zillow. I love them. I hate them. Even so, I am happy to pay them a lot of money each month to advertise my listings. Nobody in Rochester has a larger share of advertising in your Zillow zip code than I do, but here’s the thing….apple-ridge

That darn Zillow “Zestimate” makes me crazy, and I wish they didn’t provide it. Let me show you why:

I sold the house on the right 17 months ago. At the time of the sale, the Zestimate was $513,000.

Because I know my market, I actually sold this home for $548,000. That’s a $34,000 margin, or roughly 6.5%. SIX AND A HALF PERCENT. 17 months later, the current Zestimate on this same property is still only $544,367. Lower than what I sold it for 17 months ago.

But sometimes it goes the other way, and the Zestimate is considerably higher than the market will bear, leading to some serious discussion with my clients about the market and examination of legitimate comparables. It can be disappointing.

Let’s understand exactly what the Zestimate is and what it is not. In Zillow’s own words:

“[The Zestimate] is a computer-generated estimate of the worth of a house today, given the available data. Our data sources may be incomplete or incorrect; also, we have not physically inspected a specific home. Remember, the Zestimate is a starting point and does not consider all the market intricacies that can determine the actual price a house will sell for.” (Emphasis mine.)

According to Zillow’s most current published statistics of Oakland County:

  • Nearly 65% of Zestimates in Oakland County are more than 5% different than the actual sale price of the home.
  • 18% of Oakland County Zestimates are more than 20% different than the sale price.
  • Zestimates in Oakland County have a 7.5% median error, and that’s in either direction!


The Bottom Line: Zillow is not a site operated by real estate agents. Zillow is an advertising company. It is a fabulous avenue for:

  • Advertising my listings to buyers outside of my Multiple Listing Service
  • Connecting with buyers and sellers who are looking for an agent
  • Searching for a home – their platform is almost as good as mine
  • Reliable reviews for real estate agents

As for the market value of your home – not so much.

A software algorithm will never physically evaluate, forecast the market, nor accurately price your home based on upgrades and improvements in which you have invested.

The Zestimate is a “guesstimate”…a tool, a simple starting point. Your decision to sell or purchase a home is too important to be based on a software algorithm.


Orion Schools Sinking Fund – Wise Decision

Sinking FundWe have a crucial Sinking Fund proposal on the ballot Tuesday, August 2, 2016. The proposal is smart, responsible and affects your property value.

I don’t have school-age children, so I don’t personally utilize our school district, but 30 years selling real estate has proven to me that the quality of the schools in the district in which I live is foundational to maintaining the value of my home.

Why am I in favor?

A Sinking Fund is a very smart, affordable and financially responsible method of paying for capital repairs and improvements in which the state will not contribute. It’s like a savings account that the district accesses to pay for repairs and maintenance. By using the funds from this account, we avoid unnecessary costs of interest and fees associated with bonds and loans saving residents money in the long run!

There is strict accountability. The state has strict rules regarding how districts may use a sinking fund. For example, it cannot be used for operating costs including salaries. There are harsh penalties for abusing a sinking fund making it a wise decision for taxpayers.

It is affordable. The cost would be about $200 per year for a home with a value of $200,000. While the terms of sinking funds vary, they must be clear on the proposal. This particular proposal is 2 mils, and it ends in 10 years; it isn’t permanent.

The WHY. Orion residents failed the last two millage proposals; this is long overdue. I think of Orion as a young, vibrant community and was surprised to learn that of the 15 buildings utilized by the Orion school district, eight buildings are more than 40 years old, and four are 60 years or more. Even with the superior care taken by our district in maintaining our buildings, fixtures have a life span.

The need is real. Our community needs this sinking fund.

Join me in voting YES on Aug. 2, 2016. It benefits everyone for this proposal to pass.

There is some great information in the ballot proposal link below:

Orion Sinking Fund FAQ



Selling While Spring is Still Groggy

Let’s be honest. The early spring landscape here in Rochester and beyond is not flattering to any home. Our once emerald lawn is the color of straw and our carefully designed landscape is nothing more than well-manicured sticks poking up from miniatures of Stonehenge.

01 - WinterI just listed two beautiful homes, one in Plum Creek and one in the Hills of Oakland. Both of my clients voiced the same concern: “But, you can’t see how pretty it is yet, the landscape looks awful.”

So, should you wait until spring is in full bloom and the landscape is pretty? Not at all. My busy spring market begins in early February when nothing in the landscape is visible except evergreens.

However, the exterior of your home comes under much closer scrutiny in the early spring, since it is the focal point, so some extra attention is needed.

While potential buyers are standing on your entry waiting for me to open the lockbox, there is nothing for them to do but look at the entry details. Pay special attention here:

  • Replace porch lamps, if yours are tired
  • A fresh new doormat
  • Hang a beautiful door wreathmls__10A1397_11386 Covered Bridge Ln_picmonkeyed
  • A planter of Pansies brings spring to life in Marc
  • Have the windows cleaned inside and out allowing a sunnier interior
  • Sweep the webs from lamps and entryways
  • Groom the beds and grounds of the remaining fall leaves

Paying attention to these details sends a statement that your home is important to you, and the promise that it will only get better when things bloom.

One other thing that no one is willing to tell you, so allow me? Scoop the winter poop. It’s dangerous out there. Trust me on this one.


Shredding Paper and Starting Fires

It seems ridiculous to me that Roger and I have to commit a whole day to shredding paper, but we do. After a couple of decades of two people in real estate, to say that we have collected some paperwork in our home office is an understatement. I would never let you in that room. Please tell me you can relate.

Nevermind the Reverse Order

Nevermind the Reverse Order

A couple of days ago, I opened the doors of my beautiful walnut cabinet to see what was in there (because I couldn’t remember). Franklin Planners dating back to 1993. Burgundy hard cases all in rows from 1993-2009. Those were the years when paper planners meant I was organized and savvy. I have no excuse for the canceled checks from 2000 or my old Blackberry manual. (I loved that keyboard…sigh.)

I’ve been wanting to shred all of this stuff for some time, but nobody ever seems to get to SOCRA. And shredded paper EXPANDS. What was I going to do with it? So I went on an internet safari for things to do with the shredded paper and I found this fabulous website on 14 things to do with shredded paper.

Rabbit trail…We talk about the pressure the frenetic pace of life, and believe me, ours is beyond hectic, too, but I’m convinced part of the pressure we feel comes from our accumulation of unnecessary paper, pictures, magazines, awards and manuals and mementos we collect. It’s all too much. I see it all the time with my clients when they want to move. It’s overwhelming, the stuff we make ourselves manage. I’m on a quest to decrease that pressure.

Why do I need to keep 20+ years of Continuing Education certificates? I’m going to blame my mother. Because she saved all of my school awards from elementary to high school, in a box until I married Roger. Then she gave the box to me and now I have all of my school awards in the same box in the basement. I mean, how could I get rid of it? I also still have my size 2 wedding gown down there, but that subject is probably best suited for therapy.

Back to shredding…I’m over it. All of it. I’m going on a paper-shredding binge. But, what to do with it? Get this:

I have been saving a box of bad letterhead envelopes for over ten years (back to my mother). The printer put the wrong RE/MAX address on them. I am so glad I saved those (see, this is why we save stuff; just in case).

Step 1 of Firestarter

Step 1 

Step 2 of Firestarter


This fantastic article suggests using the shredded paper to stuff an envelope, seal it, and use it as a kindling firestarter in your fireplace or outdoor fire pit! This is perfect for our place up north! This is one I made and it is fantastic!

I’m super excited to stuff and seal envelopes today. Somehow, Roger has magically scheduled a whole day of showings, I’m  not sure how that happened.

I am committed to wrangling this paper down to a two-drawer filing cabinet, so help me. Stuffing those envelopes for fire starters will be my penance for collecting it in the first place.

After that, I might deal with my size 2 wedding dress. No promises.

p.s.  Anyone need a Dell computer manual?



Snow Day Superheroes Wanted! There’s someone on your street or down the block who can’t shovel this snow. You’ve probably never even spoken to them. They need you. There are no coincidences. If you’re reading this, you’re the ONE.

Go outside and look around. Maybe they’re elderly, have some health challenges, or maybe you’ve seen the handiStock_000019409619_Smallicap plate on their car or maybe you’ve seen the lady down the street who walks with a cane. You can help them.

The Integrity Team at RE/MAX Defined is putting up $500 in Pay-It-Forward Rewards!!

Use your Snow Day to shovel someone’s driveway, email us a picture at, and we’ll send you a $25 reward card of your choice and enter you into a $250 Pay-It-Forward drawing!

Come ON Kids! Grab a shovel and change the world for somebody today!

Contest ends Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 9:00 pm!

Do it!


Inman Real Estate Conference, Zen and a Shoebox

I just returned from Inman Connect in New York City, known as ICNY to conference goers. It is one of the best real estate conferences in the country that are geared specifically for real estate agents and the industries that support us. It was a phenomenal conference with something for everyone. If you go with intentions wide open for growth and change, you never know who or what is going to impact you.

Disclaimer: This post is a brain dump. One of several, actually. Please join me if you have absolutely nothing else in the world worth doing.

I am ideation, a thinker. This conference made my head ping all over the place, kind of like this post is about to. I apologize in advance, but you might have to work to follow along. Even I have to work to follow along.

Heather Ostrom Nikki Beauchamp Gwen Daubenmeyer

The Tour: While at INCY, my friend and super knowledgeable real estate agent, Nikki Beauchamp, set up a new construction tour of one of the most well-known and historic buildings in the area, the Woolworth Tower. You should read about it. This building is woolworth-towerrich in history, and to see the artistic workmanship up close up close was a gift.

(Evidently, I do not do covert very well. I received a polite scolding for attempting to take pictures of the construction so you could see the details for yourself. I completely ripped off Heather Brown Ostrom’s photos for this blog since she is much better at covert than I.)

Architecture is sometimes emotional: Remember Woolworth’s? I think of Woolworth’s like the original Target. They sold everything, including tiny turtles in the pet department that came with a little plastic habitat complete with a plastic, green palm tree. (As if turtles live in chlorinated water under plastic palm trees.) I. Am. Sorry. That’s all I can say about those little turtles.

Woolworth’s also had what my mother called, the “lunch counter.” She used to take me there for lunch sometimes when I was a little girl. They served fantastic beef barbecue sandwiches. We would sit at that lunch counter on the red Naugahyde, swivel stools that were so high she had to lift me up to sit me on it. Today, you’d have to put a helmet on your kid to sit on those stools, but that’s another post.

Incidentally, Woolworth’s is also where I first saw someone arrested. When I was about eleven or twelve, my mom allowed me to walk there with a girlfriend for the first time. We were looking around, checking out the fringe purses, hamsters and our future bras and make-up when we witnessed the police take a teenage girl out of the store, handcuffed and all, for stealing some Maybelline Great Lash Mascara. To this day, I have never worn it.

Anyway, I hope you are connecting these dots back to Inman Connect and the tour of the Woolworth building in New York.

Inside the would-be lobby of the Woolworth Tower, it was cold, incredibly loud and construction messy. I felt legit in my blue hard hat perched atop all my fixer-upper knowledge. A screeching metal against concrete cacophWoolworth Tower Construction Entranceony came from somewhere in the building. It was probably more echoes than progress as the building is empty and cavernous at this point.

I’ll be the first to admit that seeing ancient steel beams, chunks of fallen rock and exposed brick in a building that size and age was a little unnerving. I am seriously rethinking the architectural dig on my bucket list; especially if it involves either heights or depths.

There are no elevators in the building yet; there is, however, a “construction hoist”. For those of you wwwhoistith no hard hat experience either, a construction hoist is what you call an elevator when the walls are wood and chain link fence. Know what else I know?

The Hoist should be a B movie. It was dark, it swayed and jerked and was so loud you couldn’t hear each other talk. My friend and fellow agent, Heather Brown Ostrom, said it reminded her of an urban Blair Witch Project. I couldn’t disagree. Knowing how that ended, she took the opportunity to  say goodbye to her children, you know, just in case our hard hats didn’t work.

open elevator shaftAs for me, I was caught up in a more action-adventure role as our hoist sped past floor after floor of the open elevator shaft. I was repeating in my best Russian accent: “My name is Bond. Jane Bond.” Why Russian you ask? Because Russian accents were on my mind after ICNY. It’s true, I have a very healthy imagination, but it was surreal to know that open shaft was whizzing by right outside that chain link fence.

Once we landed, the hoist opened up on the 38th floor, about 450 feet up. I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t this.

The listing agent was fantastic. She knew her building and the building’s history. She began explaining the gutted space we were now standing in was once occupied by the corporate-level executives of the Woolworth empire. (I saw Mad Men flashbacks just then, did you?)

The plan is to turn the old corporate offices into condos from the 32nd floor up. There are one or two condos per floor, depending on the floorplan. The walls dividing the old offices were gone, but walking around, it was easy to imagine. As we toured the unit, the builder had placed large, scripted text on the bare cement floor indicating what the intended area would be: Living Room, Master Bedroom, Kitchen, etc. It helped in imagining the space. All builders should do this in new construction.

One of my favorite parts was the determination and collaborative efforts of the developers and designers to woolworth-ceiling-architecturemaintain the look of the era. Much of the old, ornate architectural artifacts, particularly from the ceilings, and especially from Mr. Woolworth’s office, were harvested and in the process of restoration to be used in the newly reconfigured space. It was an incredible opportunity to step back in time.

Aside from the exquisite architecture, the most impactful thing to me was the lifestyle. In comparison to the homes we sell here in Rochester, Michigan and beyond, many units are smaller. One floorplan offered is one bedroom, 1290 square feet, listed for $4,575,000 and go up to four bedrooms, 6000 square feet, listed at $26,400,000. (Anyone?)

Touring the smaller unit emphasized the magic that elevated ceilings bring to a small space. To me, taller ceilings seem airier, it feels like they manufacture sunlight and oxygen all on their own.

Maybe it’s because we have very few tall residential real estate buildings around Rochester, but I instantly found myself pulled to the closest window, completely taken over by the view. I’m sure it’s not even the best view in NYC, but it was captivating to me.

It’s odd: I find tall, cityscape lifestyle both personal and anonymous. It’s weird, in an appealing kind of way. Through the large window on one wall of this unit, I could wave to the guy who was standing at the window of his office in the World Trade Center. I was thinking if I lived there, I’d probably get to know his coming and going habits and he would know mine, yet we would never know each other’s names. As I’m typing this, it occurs to me that it isn’t any different in the suburbs. Our backdoor neighbor is 50 feet away, and we still don’t know their names. Instead of personal yet anonymous, it’s personal yet detached. We have built an arm’s-length community, myself included. But, that’s another post.

The Zen: Through the windows on the other wall, I watched mesmerized bworld-trade-centery the city in constant motion. Without the sounds of the city: horns, traffic, construction, engines, etc., something happened to the bustle below me. The steady stream of cars and yellow cabs on the bridge, careening from one lane to another seemed logical and orderly from this elevation. The water view was stunning, city lights, green parks, skyscrapers and people walking, over each other, New York style. The Zen effect of observing this silent bustle was an oxymoron in motion. It was as if New York City has somehow relegated chaos to the street level. It became serene. For a two-story, green space girl, I was shocked at how undone I was by the elevated cityscape view. I loved it.

After the tour: I thought about how complicated simplicity can be.

I had heard about the small apartments and condos in New York City, but touring this luxury space made it real. One floorplan offered in this building is 1290 square feet. 1290 Square Feet. It made me wonder where people in NYC pWoolworth Tower Floorplanut their stuff? Then, it made me wonder why I have so much stuff. And that’s when it became personal.

The Guy and I live in a pretty simple home. As real estate agents, we have seen many gorgeous homes occupied by unhappy people. We know from experience that a beautiful house does not create a happy life; rather, it’s a happy life that creates a beautiful house. Size does not matter to happy, folks.

We are thinking about making a move or maybe building a little something. This 1290 square foot unit has my mind pinging all over the place now about space. How much space do I truly need? And then, how much space do I want to need? Have you ever thought about it?

It makes me think exactly like my clients have to. Compared to many, I have Much, I know; but have had a lot More. Bigger, newer, grander, etc. I found More to be too overwhelming to manage. I am tired of the responsibility of it all. Now I’m thinking about simplifying further. If I go smaller, my house might qualify as a shoebox to some. Maybe I want to live in a shoebox. Are real estate agents allowed to live in shoebox houses? It’s a complex decision. We real estate agents don’t get any short cuts in the decision department. We have to sort it all out like everybody else.

My shoebox would look something like this:
I’d like a great kitchen that is easy to clean and roomy enough for a couple of lazy chefs.
I need an intimate gathering space for great conversation and no big screens. It’s ok if we are knee to knee.
A restful bedroom with a well-organized closet.
A nicely appointed bathroom with a big shower, no tub; I don’t care what real estate agents say.
A place for our weary traveler friends to lay their heads.
A green space to walk my pups.
There. I’d be happy.

I’m thinking about a smaller space and how liberating that might be. After that tour, I think I’m ready.

Thank you, Inman Connect and New York City, for creating an environment to think and grow in many different ways. You were a fantastic host. I got some good business tips out of it, too. Special thanks to Nikki Beauchamp for putting this amazing tour together.

Real estate conferences aren’t personal–until they are.

The Integrity Team