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It’s no secret that Michigan is in a recession. But the silver lining for those who find themselves house shopping is that the buyer’s market the state’s economic downturn has produced puts them in them in a prime position to do so. Here, two recent homeowners share their stories and their advice on how to make the right buy.
For Atiba Seitu, it was the much-touted rebirth of the Motor City that caused him to make the shift from renting to home ownership.
“There was all this buzz in Detroit, like the city was coming back and all this stuff was going to happen,” he explained.”My fear was that I was going to miss the boat. I used to work in the Cass Corridor and I saw two buildings that were shooting galleries turned into $167,000 condos. I wanted to be part of the boom. I wasn’t going to be left out of it.”
So Seitu set out on a mission to find the perfect home.
“I probably looked for a year, if not more,” Seitu said. “I looked at everything.”
Finally, he settled on Corktown, a historic area of Detroit undergoing major redevelopment.
“I never knew anything about Corktown,” he said. “I had friends who lived here. They had moved from Birmingham. They had a really nice house in Birmingham and they gave it up for a cottage in Corktown.”
Seitu was intrigued and inspired to give the area a good look.
“What really sold me is that I was looking for a community,” said Seitu. “I wasn’t looking just for a street to live on, I was looking for a community to live in, a place where I could get to know my neighbors and ride my bike. My neighborhood is very diverse. There are black folks, white, Hispanic, young couples and single parents. We have it all.”
Today, Seitu is settled into his 1,300 square foot cottage-inspired ranch-style home, and offers the following advice to prospective buyers seeking to find the perfect home.
– Take your time and look at everything. See yourself in the places you look at.
-Get your credit together. I worked on mine before I even started and then I was able to call the shots. Everywhere I went, the banks were ready to give me twice as much money as I needed.
-Find someone who really knows the housing market. A friend told me, drive down the street and see how many flowers are out. If you only see shrubs, you donit want to live there. It means people are not into beautifying their neighborhood.
-Ask yourself, what do you want? Find out what works for you. Don’t buy more house than you can afford to upkeep.
Gary Williams had owned a home before – a grand home.
“I lived with my ex in the University District,” he said. “It was too big, 4,000 square feet. It wasn’t even practical for two people, much less for one. The thing I learned is that I don’t need that much space. It’s too much work.”
For the past eight years, Williams has lived in an apartment in Southfield. But the current buyer’s market convinced him it was time to own once again, and he recently purchased a townhouse condominium not far from his apartment.
“It’s close to work,” Williams, who is a property manager with Consumer’s Energy, said. “The eight years that I’ve been in Southfield I got used to it. It’s close to all the freeways. It’s close to everything.”
When he set about looking, Williams did so with a firm list of requirements.
“I needed a place to relax, a library sort of spot,” he said. “This one has a family room with a fireplace. I also needed two bathrooms and a nice kitchen.”
Williams had enough to experience to know that no new purchase was going to be perfect, though.
“This one has some odd quirks,” he said. “The person who lived here before me loved mirrors. They are everywhere, on the walls, the closet doors, even the backsplash in the kitchen. My brother came to visit and said, ‘Oh, I couldn’t live with all these mirrors.'”
But save for a little mirror removal, the work that Williams is doing to make his new 1,600 square foot home move-in ready is minimal.
“It’s mainly cosmetic type of things,” he said. “It’s been really good to have a boyfriend who works for TVI Interiors in Royal Oak. So I’ve got carpeting coming next week and I’m going to have beautiful granite floor in the laundry room. There are some things I am going to change, like hardware in the kitchen, and I needed new appliances.”
For Williams, the move represents simultaneously downsizing and upgrading, and there are loads of plusses. There’s no yard maintenance, for example, but his condo still boasts a charming courtyard.
“I’ll be able to have a garden,” Williams said. “I’ll be able to have plants and flowers and a place to sit. But I won’t have to cut the grass.”
Williams is still busy painting – all the rooms will get new colors before he settles in – but he did have time to share a few house-hunting tips.
-Find a good realtor, one who listens to your needs and makes sure that the properties you’re seeing are the ones that meet your needs and not just their listings, or the ones on which they stand to make the most profit on.
-Be very cautious about the mortgages you take out. Because you want it, you tend to think, “I can afford it,” and that’s not always true.