Thursday, June 28, 2007

History of Harbor Country/Southwest Michigan

Harbor Country is situated in the Southwest corner of Berrien County in the Southwest corner of the state of Michigan. This geographic region is limited to the following eight lakeshore communities and villages: Michiana, Grand Beach, New Buffalo, Union Pier, Lakeside, Harbert, Sawyer, and the inland community of Three Oaks. This trademarked region begins at the Michigan state line and stretches approximately 15 miles North along lake Michigan as well as 6 miles inland to the East.

In The Beginning
The Miami Indians were this area's first residents and were challenged for territory by the Iroquois of New York. These territorial struggles were short-lived as the Iroquois soon lost interest in the area and began returning to their native homeland. The Pottawatomi Indians migrated Southeast from Wisconsin by the early 1700's and assumed land from the area that is now Chicago to as far North as Grand Rapids. This area was infiltrated, over time, by French fur traders as their territories became diminished through treaties. Finally, in 1838 the Pottawatomis gathered their families and worldly possessions and migrated to a new home in the Kansas plains.

Growth In The Region
The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 brought an increase in travel and soon thereafter stage coach routes were carved out of the densely wooded forests. These new routes linked the larger cities of Detroit and Chicago which spurred growth and recognition along this new trade route. Many business investors from the East Coast realized the potential that the vast, dense forests offered and saw mills began to spring up in Harbor Country. Large ships were being constructed on the shores along the beaches and numerous piers (Union Pier) were built to service the demand created by the upstart local logging industry. The City of Chicago provided a proximal destination for the lumber as it continued to grow and flourish and even moreover as it recovered from The Great Chicago Fire. Eventually the forests were depleted and as the logging waned, the open spaces that remained became fertile farm fields which gave rise to fill a new demand for produce markets.

A Rebirth, as it Were
Harbor Country has experienced a veritable renaissance over the past decade as this tantalizing get-away has grown in both population and culture. While there are many new development and housing projects on the landscape the enduring charm of this lakefront community has and continues to be preserved. The shops, restaurants, and galleries, but most importantly the residents, create the sense of belonging and longing to be here as the sunsets over beautiful lake Michigan. Only ninety minutes from Chicago but a world away, Harbor Country offers the best of all worlds to both our full time residents and our welcomed visitors.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Log Homes

Not all log homes are created equal.

In fact, there are a variety of methods and materials utilized to create the look and feel of log construction which either use manufactured or milled logs, half or split log, log panel, or a combination of these various elements.

Manufactured or milled logs are complete log components throughout which require chinking ( a type of caulk ) to seal the surface joint where the logs rest on one another. Since they are machined, this method usually requires a hidden spline detail as well as an additional means of adjoining the two components.

Half log or split log is essentially a facade treatment which affixes half log components to a conventionally stick framed structure as is the method of log panel type construction.

The highest level of craftsmanship can be found in the method of handscribing where each log component is handscribed and then hand-peeled using a draw knife. The result is a tight fit that requires no chinking. This is acheived by the handscribing and wedge notch corner detail.

Improvements in technology and engineering have brought innovations to the industry which have allowed for improved standards of quality such as the use of through- bolting which secures the vertical walls through the sill plate and into the foundation or footing walls. This allows for periodic adjustments and take up as the logs continue the process of drying and the structure settles which maintains a tight fitting, straight settling wall.

The look and feel of a true log home is quite incredible. They engage all of the senses as there is an almost surreal aura about them. As you walk through you experience the wonderful aroma of the wood, the vastness of the open truss construction, the visual beauty of large scale natural building materials, and an overwhelming sense of tranquility and belonging.

It has long been noted that earth tones are calming and there is probably no better illustration of this notion than an organically constructed home.

The written word does not capture the essence and beauty of such a home. It must be experienced first hand.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Buy New or Buy Vacant Land to Build New?

There has always been a certain romanticism about finding a pristine piece of tera firma that is intact and as nature intended with lush vegetation, babbling brooks, and rolling features.
Essentially to tame that which is wild.

While this notion inspires an almost primal instinct it usually clashes with the cerebral reality of how daunting this task must really be. It is usually fear of the unknown that inhibits the average buyer from bringing their "vision" to fruition.

The reality is that one does not need to be an expert to accomplish this goal, however one must place their faith in a competent professional who is well versed in the language of zoning and land use controls.

Heterogeneity is a term that means "uniqueness" and one which has real pertinence when considering an investment in real estate, particularly here in Southwest Michigan.

The large and open tracts of land which have historically been agricultural or "buffers" are highly coveted and may be regulated by such agencies as the D.E.Q., FEMA, Conservation Reserve Programs, and Right to Farm Acts or restricted by Public Acts such as 116.

Finding an architect and a builder is only a small part of the task at hand as is finding the lender to secure a construction loan. The ability to succeed in these endeavors requires a working knowledge of the aforementioned land use controls and what requirements need to be met in each scenario. This is precisely where the concept of heterogeneity arises.

It is not necessary to understand each of the vast types of restrictions and requirements but rather to know that they exist.

Insist that your chosen representative possess the knowledge to provide you with the answers to make an informed decision on whether to buy, buy new, or build it from the ground up.

Knowledge is power!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Is This A Buyer's Market?

Let's see... rising interest rates, the sub-prime market has imploded, there are a record number of foreclosures nationwide, and we seem to be on the precipice of an inflationary period.

Plenty, if not too much, inventory for new, used, and yet to exist ( vacant land ) and the tense and tentative nature of the marketplace....

Yes, this is a Buyer's Market.

Historically speaking, we are still enjoying great rates but since we are a nation built on revolving credit (debt) and since we are still diging out from those dreaded ARM's which were so enticing there exists an unspoken tension.

He who hesitates is lost!

The reality ( of realty ) is that these are cleansing effects and they will reset the market value and the true floor in the marketplace.

This will create greater opportunities now for the Buyer and stabilize the market in the long run!

Fear not!

Robert Kaufman

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Attention All Buyers...Things are looking up!

In spite of the current trend of increasing underwriter scrutiny there exists an excellent opportunity for buyers and investors of residential real estate.

The recent tightening of the lending market is felt not only in the rise in interest rates but also in the increased requirements placed on borrowers. While some would view this as adding further obstacles to the purchasing process, what must also be considered is that this is creating a cleansing effect on the market.

Greater inventory as well as a correction in the true market value of residential real estate has created a fortuitous climate for the savvy investor. The point to remember is that all markets will ebb and flow and while the rules change so too will the resultant opportunities for those in a position to capitalize.

It is a Buyer's Market.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

A Beautiful Weekend in Southwest Michigan

What a great weekend to visit the beautiful beaches and vineyards of Southwest Michigan. Located ninety miles from Chicago, Harbor Country awaits.

Hop in the car and come and say hi!

Last one in is a.........

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Change in Lenders Guidelines

The practices of mortgage underwriting have undergone increased levels of scrutiny over the past year due to the record number of foreclosures that the banking industry is holding in their inventory.

The sub-prime market has taken the largest hit and as such, buyers with limited resources are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain financing.

The term creative financing has taken on a whole new meaning.

Ultimately, the requirements will relax and the bi-product will be a cleansing of the market but in the interim the effects are felt industry wide.

No buyer is created equal in that each transaction is unique. Whether it is vacant land, multi-family, single family, or commercial the average consumer must carry more than just a laymen's understanding of todays marketplace.

Choose your Realtor wisely, insist on a profound depth of real estate and financing.

A Personal Thanks

I want to offer a warm hearted thank you to Sabrina for all of her hard work on the new site. We are most pleased.