Transform a Yard Into an Outdoor Sanctuary

Adding life to outdoor spaces will help sell the lifestyle of a home. Here are staging tips to help buyers imagine fun gathering spaces, tranquil hideaways, or sleek entertainment coves that are possible with your listing.
Fold up the lawn chairs, roll away the rusty grill, and hide the tiki torches. Inviting, sophisticated outdoor rooms are in high demand among home buyers, and they serve as a way to extend your listing’s living space.

“Outdoor living spaces have become the new ‘great room’ in terms of must-have items for home owners,” American Institute of Architects Chief Economist Kermit Baker noted in a survey on the growing popularity of these spaces. Renters say it’s even a reason to leap into home ownership. Sixty-three percent of young adult renters aged 18 to 34 say outdoor living spaces and decks are “extremely” or “very important” in deciding which home to buy, according to the PulteGroup Home Index Survey.

Have you stretched your curb appeal beyond well-manicured yards to create outdoor spaces, using your front porch, deck, or even the lawn?

“You can blow the competition out of the water by creating outdoor spaces with a fabulous garden dining area, lounge seating areas with a fire pit, and if you have it, a relaxing hot tub scene,” says stager Lena A. Pereira with Westside Staging Solutions. “Way too often backyards are boring and not brought to their full potential. You can make a home stand out by showing buyers all the potential your property has to offer inside and out.”

Washtenaw One of Healthiest Counties in Michigan

Washtenaw County ranks first among Michigan counties in “health factors” according to the 2013 County Health Rankings released Wednesday. This is the fourth consecutive year that Washtenaw County has received the top ranking for health factors, according to a press release from Washtenaw County Public Health.

The County Health Rankings are published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

The rankings are based on the idea no single thing makes us healthy or unhealthy – rather it is a variety of factors such as physical activity, access to healthy food, education and family and community support combined. There are two rankings for each county, one for health factors and one for health outcomes. Health factors include our health behaviors, access to clinical care, social and environmental factors and our physical environments. Health outcomes include how long people live (mortality) and to what degree they report feeling healthy (morbidity). Washtenaw ranks fifth among Michigan counties for health outcomes.

“These results are testament to some of the excellent work happening in our community – thanks to our community partners and our staff,” says Richard Fleece, health officer for Washtenaw County Public Health, in a statment.

Fleece added that there is still room for improvement.

“We know there are areas within our community where it’s much harder to live a healthy life. We can’t rely solely on our health care systems and providers to support our health – it takes all of us,” he said.

Washtenaw’s overall high rankings provide information about how Washtenaw County is doing locally compared to other counties and states. Within the county, there are significant health differences when looking at outcomes according to where people live, how much money they earn, their level of formal education or their race/ethnicity.

For example, Washtenaw County has a higher number of dentists relative to its population than other areas in Michigan. Yet, an estimated 40,000 Washtenaw residents have no dental insurance and an additional 35,000 residents with Medicaid are unable to access services because so few providers accept it.

Washtenaw’s own source of county health data called the Health Improvement Plan (HIP) helps shed some light on some of these county disparities in health. For example, how long you live may depend on where exactly you live within the county: The average age of death in Sylvan, York and Ypsilanti Townships starts at 64 years. In contrast, it is more than 76 years in Bridgewater Township, Saline and Ann Arbor.

Michigan’s top four healthiest counties in order are Leelanau, Ottawa, Clinton and Livingston.

You can view the details of Washtenaw’s health behaviors at

Related Topics: Washtenaw County

ELECTION PREVIEW: Land preservation millage up for renewal in Scio Township

By Amy Bell
Twitter: @amybell9

Residents of Scio Township will vote Nov. 6 on a proposal designed to preserve the area’s rural atmosphere.
The 10-year renewal is for .4942 mills, or $.4942 per every $1,000 of taxable value, from 2014 to 2023. Due to state law, a portion of the revenue will be distributed to the Scio Township Downtown Development Authority and the Village of Dexter Downtown Development Authority.

The millage is for the continued funding of the voluntary purchase of land or interests in land throughout the township. It also enables the township to take advantage of matching funds from the City of Ann Arbor and other sources to preserve farmland, open space, wildlife habitat, scenic views, protect drinking water sources and the water quality of rivers and streams, and provide new parks, recreational opportunities and trails.

The millage is projected to generate approximately $631,000 in the 2014 calendar year.To date, the township’s Land Preservation Program has preserved 706 acres on 11 properties. The farms and properties are protected from development.

The fund also helped preserve the Fox Science Preserve and the Scio Church Woods Nature Preserve and provided permanent public access to two other properties.

During the summer, the township was able to purchase a conservation easement on a property in Streiter Road. The easement will allow for agricultural use and protection of its natural resources while prohibiting residential development.

The project was financed through $355,400 worth of U.S Department of Agriculture Farm and Ranchlands Protection program grants and a $504,600 contribution from the millage.

E. Spaulding Clark, Scio Township supervisor, said the original purpose of the proposal was to protect open space farmland. However, it’s now a bit wider in scope because it also includes public parks but is not necessarily aimed at active recreation.

Clark said the proposal has been very well-received by the community.“This renewal would seem to suggest it’s a desirable thing, and I think most of the community agrees,” said Clark.

Michigan’s Oldest Continuously Operating Cider Mill Opens for 126th Year in Dexter

Cider mills across Michigan will be churning out gallons of the autumn beverage this fall, but it likely will taste a little different and cost more.

The blame is largely the state’s devastated apple crop. Farmers lost more than 90 percent of this year’s crop because of the extreme spring weather, so cider mills are scavenging for local fruit and tapping Upper Peninsula and out-of-state orchards.

The Dexter Cider Mill, Michigan’s oldest continuously operating cider mill is no different.

Located on the banks of the Huron River, the mill lost all its 500 trees this season, leaving owner Richard Koziski of Chelsea and his daughter Nancy Steinhauer to ponder life without cider in Dexter.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this, at least not to the degree we saw this year,” Koziski said.

Determined to keep the mill open, Koziski, a retired Ford Motor Company employee who purchased the mill 26 years ago, reached out to a distributor in western Michigan to supply apples to the farm.

“Right now we’re pressing McIntosh, gala, and golden delicious; the cider is becoming quiet sweet because of the properties in the apples,” he said.

The limited local supply means higher cider costs for consumers, with Dexter raising prices as much as 15 percent a gallon.

“Being a small family operation, we can absorb some of the cost of paying for the apples, but not all of it,” Steinhauer said. “I think our customers understand.”

Apples: A fall favorite in Michigan

On any given year, Koziski said the mill attracts upward of 120 visitors a day during the fall season.

“Right now the traffic is quiet, but as the leaves start turning and there is a crispness in the air, we’ll see the crowds coming for cider and doughnuts. I expect business will increase in the next week or two,” he said.

The mill’s popularity has been aided by a barrage of media coverage during the last several years. Most recently it was featured on the cover of American Profile magazine and was also spotlighted in an episode of Will Work for Food on the Food Network.

“We’ve brought a lot of national exposure to Dexter, which in turn has translated into business not only for us, but for local merchants as well,” Koziski said.

For that reason, staying open — especially in a year of adversity — is more important than ever Steinhauer said, noting a trip to the cider mill is a rite of fall for many.

“It’s a tradition for thousands of families,” she said.

There’s also an educational component to the mill as well. The mill was founded in 1886 by a Civil War veteran and has only changed hands three times in its 126-year history.

“All of the equipment is pretty much like it was 100 years ago,” Steinhauer said. “A big part of what we do here is educate people. During the regular season, we open the mill up for tours and you can actually see the apple press. Our cider is unpasteurized; we don’t want kids thinking that cider comes from the grocery store.”

Koziski said it typically takes 1 bushel of apples (150 apples) to produce three gallons of cider.

In addition to cider, Steinhauer, her husband Marty, her children, and her parents spend 15 weeks out of the year preparing delectable apple-based products including apple jelly, apple butter, pies, turnovers, bread, and pasteries. This year the family is debuting its own “Vin & Vigor” apple cider vinegar.

“Our pies and doughnuts are probably two of the biggest sellers next to the cider,” she said.

While the mill has had its fair share of setbacks this year, including flood damage from the March 15 tornado that ripped the roof off of the building, Steinhauer said she expects a healthy season.

“We’re taking it one day at a time,” she said. “The biggest thing is that we’re here and we’re open.”

The Dexter Cider Mill is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit

Home prices post strongest growth in 6 years

A home price index based on multiple listing service data showed national home prices were up 3.8 percent from a year ago in July, the biggest annual increase since August 2006.

Home prices were down from a year ago in 23 of the 100 largest markets tracked by data aggregator CoreLogic’s home price index, but that’s four fewer than in June.

And while the index showed national home prices are still off 27.2 percent from their April 2006 peak, CoreLogic’s pending home price index predicts home prices will post month-over-month appreciation of 1.3 percent in August, as they did in July. An increase like that in August would amount to 6 percent year-over-year growth.

The pace of price appreciation is moderating as markets transition to the off-season for homebuying, CoreLogic noted. But CoreLogic Chief Economist Mark Fleming predicted prices will post gains for the full year.

The five states with the highest annual price appreciation were Arizona (16.6 percent), Idaho (10 percent), Utah (9.3 percent), South Dakota (8.3 percent) and Colorado (7.3 percent).

Home prices in Arizona were still 42.8 percent below their 2006 peak. Only Nevada (-56 percent) and Florida (-44.2 percent) have fallen further. Other states with the largest peak-to-current price drops included California (-38 percent) and Michigan (-37.4 percent).

Washtenaw County Home Values On The Rise

Information provided by the Ann Arbor Board of Realtors which includes data pulled from the Realtor MLS ( or multiple listing service ) is showing a positive swing for Washtenaw County homeowners.

The busy spring market has continued through the summer, with July sales of all property types up 14 percent, compared to last year.  Sales of residential properties are up 6.6 percent over last year with 353 units sold.  98 condos were sold in July, an increase of 46 percent over July 2011.

Year-to-date sales of all property types are up almost 7 percent compared to last year, posting 2.535 sales, compared to 2,374 last year.  The average residential sales price is $237,796 for July, an increase of 12 percent over the average sales price of $212,663 in July 2011.  The average year-to-date residential sales price is $208,785, an increase of 9.1 percent over last year at this time.


Inventory for all property types of declined by 10 percent; from 664 in July 2011 to 596 in July 2012.  Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors chief economist, noted that “inventory nationwide continues to shrink and that is limiting buying opportunities.  This, in turn, is pushing up home prices in many markets,” he said.  “The price improvement also results from fewer distressed homes in the sales mix.”

The chart below compares last years homes listed for sale to this years homes listed for the month of July for the following areas: Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, Whitmore Lake, Saline, Lincoln consolidated, Milan, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.


I have been stressing this to potential clients for many months now, buyers need more homes to choose from.  With my experience and knowledge Contact me to discuss marketing, updating and listing your home.

If you are a buyer please use this link to search for you new home.


Dexter Wellness Center Will Break Ground on Aug. 24

The Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation and A.R. Brouwer Company will break ground on the new Dexter Wellness Center on Aug. 24.

The public ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. at the construction site, 2810 Baker Road.

“We are very pleased to be constructing the Dexter Wellness Center for the Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation. The CWF’s mission to improve the health and wellness of residents in the five local communities they serve is something that A.R. Brouwer Company strongly supports,” CEO Steve Brouwer said. “We are excited to see the positive impact on the Dexter community.”

In June, the CWF signed a lease to operate the new building. According to Jeff Hardcastle, chairman of the CWF Board of Directors, the new Dexter Wellness Center will be built southeast of the Dexter Pharmacy. The 46,000 square foot facility will include a pool, saunas, gymnasium, strength and aerobic equipment, classroom space and other amenities. In addition to the center, Michigan Rehabilitation Specialists will occupy 2,000 square feet in the same building.

“The groundbreaking is an exciting step towards the launch of the Dexter Wellness Center. The interest level in the center is reflective of the commitment of the Dexter community, the Dexter Wellness Coalition and the CWF’s commitment to life-long wellness,” Hardcastle said.

The Dexter Wellness Center is expected to open in summer 2013. Pre-opening membership will be available and will be announced in the coming weeks.

Architectural plans for the building are available on

The Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation serves the populations included in the school districts of Chelsea, Dexter, Grass Lake, Manchester and Stockbridge. CWF will grant funds for projects dedicated to creating a culture of wellness and sustainable improvements in health.

Mill Creek Park Opens in Downtown Dexter

Four years of planning and patience paid off for the Village of Dexter on Saturday.

Mill Creek Park, a 1.4-acre public park located in the heart of the downtown business district, officially opened to the public during a ribbon cutting ceremony at Dexter Daze.

“This has been a shared vision that started more than four years ago,” village president Shawn Keough said. “The community really came together to create this beautiful park. I want to thank our Parks Commission, the Planning Commission, our tree board, our Arts, Culture & Heritage Committee, village council, and the village staff that has helped implement this project.

“It has been a fun partnership when you think back to all the entities that have gotten involved.”

The project cost $1.24 million and includes an amphitheater, boardwalk, two boat launches, two observation and fishing decks and benches.

To create the park, the dam in Mill Creek was removed. Some restoration was done to the creek and rock control structures were installed. Most of the money for the project came from grant funding. The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund provided $450,000, the Waterways Infrastructure Program gave $50,000, Washtenaw County assisted with $200,000 in funding, and DTE provided $4,000.

Allison Bishop, community development director, said a second phase of the park’s construction will probably begin within the next five years.

“I’m excited to see this vision from the last four years come to fruition,” Bishop said. “I feel very proud to be a part of the project. I have no idea what the economic impact the park will have on the community, but I imagine it will be pretty large.”

Courtney Nicholls, assistant village manager, said a path is under construction to connect Hudson Mills Metropark to Mill Creek Park.

1st to Know – Sign up to receive current homes for sale

You can get information on new or existing listings faster, smarter and more personalized by receiving info on only what you ask for and accessing it wherever you are with any of our 1st to Know tools: email, text, phone, mobile web, & iPhone.

1st to Know email is a service that searches properties from any company in all our MLSs each day and provides you with e-mail updates if there are any new listings, open houses, or price reductions meeting your search criteria…making you the 1st to Know. 1st to Know puts you at an advantage in this competitive buyer’s market. This information is the most current, complete and accurate since it’s never more than 24 hours old and it’s letting you know via email right away of any new opportunities. If you are new to 1st to Know email service, CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Track Market Activity: Monitor up to five (5) desired areas for new listings, price changes, open houses, sales and current list prices. 1st to Know allows you to customize areas of interest and view your market, market changes and statistics instantly.

Save Searches: Save custom searches and receive email alerts when new properties match your search criteria, including new listings, price changes and sales. 1st to Know’s home page allows you to view your searches and results at your convenience.

Save and Rate Your Favorite Properties: Save and rate your favorite properties, including the opportunity to share comments on your favorites and more.

Set Target Prices for Properties: Set target prices for active listings of interest and receive immediate email alerts when the price of the listing reaches or drops below your target price.

Receive Recommendations: If you work with a Real Estate One Agent or request one, you may receive property recommendations direct to your 1st to Know account.

NEW! 1st to Know tools to use when on the road to search and view properties on your MOBILE phone:

1st to Know phone:
Listen to details about any home and receive text messages and pictures on your phone: Dial 800-840-5555 — Press 1 — Enter the HOUSE NUMBER (even if listed by another company)

1st to Know text:
Text the word MYINFO to 59559 and get the details on any home of interest sent directly to your phone.

1st to Know mobile web:
Access any of our Web sites from your phone’s internet browser where you’ll be directed to our mobile friendly site: You can view property details from the text messages sent from the 1st to Know: text & phone programs by just clicking the link provided in text message.

1st to Know iPhone: To use our property search app designed for your iPhone: Go to iTunes Apps and search for “Real Estate One” to download our app or click here.

1st to Know Android: To use our property search app designed for your Android device: Go to the Android Market and search for “Real Estate One” to download our app or click here.

If you are already using 1st to Know email and working with one our agents, you can register for 1st to Know text & phone after logging into your account. Registering allows your agent to help you when you have questions about any property you are viewing.

Get Pre-Approved or Pre-Qualifed for a Mortgage

 Getting pre-qualified helps you determine how much home you can afford, based on specific financial information you share with your lender. The lender does not verify this information, and consequently there is no guarantee you will qualify for the loan amount. Getting pre-approved requires that the lender verify your financial information, and does serve as a commitment to lend a specified amount based on that verified information. This gives you significant buying power with a seller who recognizes you will be approved for a loan.

What’s pre-qualification?

Pre-qualification is an informal discussion between borrower and lender. The lender estimates the amount that you can borrow based solely on what you tell them about your income and assets. The lender does no verification and is not bound to make the loan when you’re ready to buy. On the other hand, loan pre-approval is based on documented and verified information regarding your employment, your income, your liabilities, your assets and the cash you have available to close on a home purchase.

To get pre-qualified, click here.

How is pre-approval better?

To a seller, a lender’s pre-approval letter is considerably stronger than a pre-qualification letter. If a seller knows your financing is secure, your offer is stronger. Pre-approval also gives you peace of mind as you shop for a home, knowing that you will qualify for the proper mortgage amount.

To get pre-approved for that home of your dreams in Michigan, click here.

My Link Favorites