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Friday, December 30, 2011

Buy a Townhouse with $50

Buy a 3 year old $158,900 townhouse in Berea with $50! It's true! Ask me for details if you are interested.

Michelle Stanifer
Russell Real Estate Services
(440) 391-1304

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

As the holidays approach, many home sellers make the decision to take their home off the market. For the few who don't, they enjoy less competition than at any other time of the year, which can result in a higher sales price.

Friday, November 11, 2011

My poor dog has allergies and can't stop scratching, licking and biting at herself. Help!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Make a Wish Foundation Golf Outing

Russell Real Estate Services is holding its 16th annual Golf Outing, Dinner and Fundraiser to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation on Friday, August 19, 2011.  There are still 100% tax deductible sponsorship opportunities available.

Breakfast starts at 8:00 am, shortgun start at 10:00 am for golfers. 

Also consider donating a gift basket for door prizes and raffles. 

If you are interested in donating or sponsoring, please contact Ron Chervenak at (440) 572-3100.  All checks are made out directly to Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rentals Needed in Cuyahoga County

Having trouble selling your property? 

Do you owe more than you can sell it for? 

Are you frustrated with paying for ads and holding open houses with no results? 

We are flooded with calls for rental properties and there just aren't enough good ones to go around.  If renting your property sounds like the best option to you, please give me a call.  For a small fee, I can handle the marketing and help you find tenants for your property. 

 Michelle Stanifer, Realtor
        (440) 391-1304




Friday, July 15, 2011

Open Sunday, July 17th 2:00-5:00 - 8407 Barton Dr, Strongsville, OH 44149

MLS Listing #3243943

Beautifully appointed, bright and airy split on meticulously manicured lot features private spaces for family to spread out. 

Kitchen boasts luxurious upgrades such as cherry cabinets, granite countertops and ceramic floors.

Dining walks out to a covered patio with views of a landscaped courtyard and generous privacy fenced yard. 

Relax and entertain friends and family in front of the gorgeous living room fireplace, or snuggle in for movies and popcorn in the sunken family room. 

Master bedroom features TRIPLE closets and a sitting area. 

Other features include an attached 2+ car garage, newer roof and windows, utility shed, a kitchen pantry, first floor half bathroom, and a first floor utility room to make laundry day a breeze.  

For more information, visit my website at

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fax the Offer? Are You Afraid of Me?

I am frustrated recently with the way many agents are doing business. I don't want to fax my offer over. I represent the buyer and I have a story to tell. I am representing real live people, families. I want to be able to paint a picture about my client, how their children are dying to climb that big tree in the back yard and about how the wife is a home economics teacher and can't wait to create beautiful things in the wonderful kitchen with the built-in double convection oven you are selling.

People want to know that someone who loves the house as much as they did will be living in their home after they go. So much of selling homes is emotional.
I find that it really helps when the seller has lived there many years, raised a family there, watched children come and then go off and begin their own lives, and are emotionally attached to the home where they provided and made good lives for those they love to imagine that they are handing off the torch to a new young family so that they may do the same.

Don't you and your seller have questions about my buyers or the offer? How are they going to get the answers if I fax the offer?

I am paid well in the transaction for my expertise in building relationships, evaluating the market and NEGOTIATING skills. How can I negotiate with a fax machine? Agency laws
changed specifically to provide for buyers to have their own representation, if they so choose. I think this was an excellent idea. After all, they are paying for our services every bit as much as the sellers. Isn't it they who take out the loan to cover the costs buying the home? Doesn't the loan cover the commission as well? Why have agency laws that allow the buyer to have representation and then not allow their representative to show up to present the offer on their behalf?

Why do you want me to fax the offer? Please tell me you aren't too lazy to get in the car and meet with me and the seller. Are you planning to just read the offer to him over the phone or email it to him? Are you unsure of your own ability to negotiate an offer or afraid that I am better prepared than you and don't want to look foolish? Do you not enjoy what we do as I do?

Don't be afraid of me. I can help. You know that overpriced listing you took because you were unable to negotiate a reasonable listing price with the seller? I show these properties. I know it's overpriced and my buyer can afford it. I am confident in my ability to bring common sense and reason to the table when we negotiate the offer and help your seller see that you were right when you told him that the comps in the neighborhood indicated what a likely buyer would be willing to pay. I am not there to hurt the seller or insult and rip them off. I amthere to present the truth as tactfully as possible, protect my buyer from overpaying in a shaky market, help you sell the house and be a hero to your seller, and EARN my paycheck. Any trained monkey can fax. I am a skilled negotiator. Let me do my job.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Help Berea Animal Rescue Win A Million Dollars

Gain Laundry Detergent is having a video contest on Facebook.  Berea Animal Rescue, a no kill shelter, has an entry and the winner with the most full views will recieve $1,000,000.

Berea Animal Rescue Flooded by Heavy Rains

The shelter has plans to relocate and expand.  It is currently located at 390 Barrett Rd, Berea, OH  44017.  The shelter is situated in a low lying area of the MetroParks and, as the pictures show, has had problems with flooding from heavy rains.  Please vist their website to learn more about them or how you can help in other ways.  

Here is the link to the video contest.  You must watch the FULL video in order that they get credit for the view.  If you don't "do" Facebook but you still want to help, please go to their Donate page and give generously to the cause.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Open house Sunday, July 10 from 2-5 at 8545 Metropolitan Blvd, Olmsted Falls, OH 44138

Front view of 8545 Metropolitan Blvd in Olmsted Falls

Gorgeous 4 bedroom 3 1/2 bath brick ranch with spectacular views of the river from the back deck. Home features walk-out basement with nanny’s suite, tennis/basket ball courts and above ground pool.

This updated home features many luxurious amenities.  Picture waking up each morning to spectacular views of the MetroParks and the soothing sounds of a river flowing along the back of the property.  Home sits on nearly an acre and a half, situated near the end of a quiet cul-de-sac street. 

Window seat in owner's suite
View from window seat

Master bedroom features walk-in closet, private bath and built-in window seats overlooking the MetroParks and river.

A River Runs Through It
Entertain guests and enjoy incredible views from the back deck and swim in the generously sized above ground pool.  Avoid high club & court fees.  Play tennis (or basketball) on your own private court. 

Kitchen includes stainless and granite.

Built-in writing desk w/locking cabinets

Eat-in kitchen w/birch cabinets and floors

Bring out your inner chef in this kitchen which features birch floors and cabinets stained a rich honey brown, granite countertops, stainless appliances including a professional line convection oven and built in microwave, and an abundance of cabinet space plus a pantry.

Kitchen also features a built in writing desk with locking cabinets, perfect for organizing recipes, paying bills, or doing homework.

Additionally, this home boasts a lower level that walks out to the stone patio on the back of the property.  An extra bedroom and full bath on this level make it a perfect Nanny’s quarters, guest bedroom, or in-law suite.  Both the upstairs living room and lower level family rooms spotlight beautiful wood burning fireplaces. 

Hardwood floors grace the main floor office.  The walk in closet in the owner’s suite would please any fashion collector.  The open layout on the main floor including the screened sunroom lends itself perfectly to entertaining.  This home is completely updated throughout.  Bring your landscaping ideas and enjoy park living at its finest.  

Saturday, June 11, 2011

How Changes in the Market Have Affected Home Values in Berea, OH

This will be fun for those number crunching types!

According to Zillow, the median sale price for a single family home in Berea, OH is $120, 000.  Median, being the middle value, meaning half the homes sold above and half sold below this number, seems a safe way to show what is happening in an area.  

First I confess that I am not really sure where Zillow gets its figures.  As I look at the chart, the period of greatest decline in the median sales price is listed from December 1, 2008 to July 1, 2009.  Just prior to that we saw a robust increase in median sales price from October 1, 2008 to December 1, 2008.  Zillow shows this jump going from $134,000 on October 1st to $159,000 on December 1st.   

I searched out all closed sales in the MLS from October 1, 2008 – December 1, 2008.  During this period, 31 home sales had closed in Berea, ranging from $30,000 to $250,000.  The average sales price was $101,261 and the median sales price was $98,900. 

Now I realize that this number does not represent all closed sales, as there are some that closed without the MLS, but since this number represents approximately 98% of all closed sales for that period, I am fairly confident that the additional 2% that closed outside the MLS would not skew the numbers enough to matter.  I have concluded that Zillow must be working with some sort of rolling average that I don't have the patience to calculate.  ;)

So, instead, I worked up my own little hybrid study.  I went back to 2005 to find a period of growth or stability and tracked what has happened in Berea from that point as well as the changes, year over year.  Not really a fancy rolling average kind of thing, but good info, if you ask me.  So here are the MLS stats for all single family residential properties (excluding condos) sold:

May 2005 Snapshot-Cuyahoga County:
12,357 Active/Pending Homes on the market
              1,365 Closed Sales
Berea Statistics from June 11, 2004-2005:  Y/Y Change               
Properties sold: 186                                          -3%
Average Sales Price: $138,342                         +3%
Median Sales Price: $130,000                          +2%
Low: $62,500
High: $745,000

May 2006 Snapshot-Cuyahoga County:
12,389 Active/Pending Homes on the market
              1,307 Closed Sales
Berea Statistics from June 11, 2005-2006:  Y/Y Change          2005/2006
Properties sold: 225                                          +21%                          +21% 
Average Sales Price: $137,582                         -1%                             -1%
Median Sales Price: $132,500                          +2%                            +2%
Low: $55,000
High: $310,800
May 2007 Snapshot-Cuyahoga County:
12,158 Active/Pending Homes on the market
              1,230 Closed Sales
Berea Statistics from June 11, 2006-2007:  Y/Y Change          2005/2007
Properties sold: 203                                          -10%                           +9%
Average Sales Price: $132,904                         -3%                             -4%
Median Sales Price: $131,500                          -1%                             +2%
Low: $45,100
High: $357,833

May 2008 Snapshot-Cuyahoga County:
12,133 Active/Pending Homes on the market
              1,102 Closed Sales
Berea Statistics from June 11, 2007-2008:  Y/Y Change          2005/2008
Properties sold: 176                                          -13%                           -5%
Average Sales Price: $122,813                         -8%                             -11%
Median Sales Price: $125,000                          -5%                             -4%
Low: $8,500
High: $660,000

May 2009 Snapshot-Cuyahoga County:
12,268 Active/Pending Homes on the market
                 996 Closed Sales
Berea Statistics from June 11, 2008-2009:  Y/Y Change          2005/2009
Properties sold: 155                                          -12%                           -17%
Average Sales Price: $104,967                         -15%                           -24%
Median Sales Price: $100,000                          -20%                           -23%
Low: $30,000
High: $250,000

May 2010 Snapshot-Cuyahoga County:
12,576 Active/Pending Homes on the market
              1,066 Closed Sales
Berea Statistics from June 11, 2009-2010:  Y/Y Change          2005/2010
Properties sold: 203                                          +31%                          +9%
Average Sales Price: $114,559                         +9%                            -17%
Median Sales Price: $115,000                          +15%                          -12%
Low: $9,500
High: $290,000

May 2011 Snapshot-Cuyahoga County:
11,821 Active/Pending Homes on the market
                 871 Closed Sales
Berea Statistics from June 11, 2010-2011:  Y/Y Change          2005/2011
Properties sold: 143                                          -30%                           -23%
Average Sales Price: $104,480                         -9%                             -24%
Median Sales Price: $109,000                          -5%                             -16%
Low: $5,000
High: $275,000

Once again, according to Zillow, our current median sales price is $120,000.  While I like that figure better than the one the MLS provides, I am skeptical, based on the information available.  Moreover, I am a bit disappointed, at this moment, in this last 12 month period.  Until recently, Berea has enjoyed a relatively low negative impact, considering the market, on its home values.  We saw some nice gains from 2009-2010 that were almost completely wiped out from 2010-2011. 

On a positive note, however, I am confident, based on having seen much recent activity in the market, that we will see another rebound in the 2011-2012 numbers.  As I write this there are 29 homes in Berea under contract and waiting to close.  The asking prices range between $45,000 and $197,990.  Even if 10% of the deals die and another 10% don’t close within the next 30 days, we are still looking at 24 homes sold in this upcoming month.  Only 179 more to go (16 +/- per month) to match 2010, which is totally do-able.  Go Berea!!

While tools like those found on Zillow and other real estate sites can provide some general information about a market area, consider contacting your Realtor® for an up-to-date evaluation of how the current market has affected your home’s value.  Most don’t charge for this service and we are happy to keep our customers, friends and family informed about the value of their investment. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Flynns for the Cure

Yesterday evening, I attended a benefit at Stamper's Grill Pub to help raise money for some friends who will be walking in the Susan G Koman 3-day for the Cure.  In case you were unaware, the foundation is focused on breast cancer and has a far reaching global impact that ranges from research to education to financial assistance.

What a good time!  They held several raffles and prizes ranged from 18 holes of golf to wine to $150 gift certificates for local shopping.  The donations to the cause were generous, including a guest performance by The New Barleycorn.  The food was crazy good, too!  I have to say, the Flynns always know how to throw a party.

My friends are walking as a team, Flynns for the Cure.  One team member is a BC survivor and has inspired us all with her determination and spirit.  Each walker has committed to raise $2,300.  Please click the link and donate to the team.  Any size donation is appreciated.

As this post goes to my Life in Berea theme, I have to mention that the walk will begin on Friday, July 29, 2011 near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Downtown Cleveland at the Port Authority Lot, 237 Erieside Ave, Cleveland, OH  44114 on July 29, 2011.

The closing ceremony will take place on Sunday, July 31, 2011 at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, 164 Eastland Rd, Berea, OH 44017.

Come and support the walkers.  Cheering stations will be set up along the route which will be posted on the site about 2 weeks prior to the walk.

Friday, June 3, 2011

First Time Home Buyers, Students and Heroes, Oh My! Loan Programs That Help

First time home buyers are either persons who have never owned a home before or persons who have not owned a home for three or more years.  For many first time home buyers, mortgages, down-payments and closing costs are a mystery.  Often, people don't know what is available or whether they qualify.  Your REALTOR® is always a good place to begin.   Many of us are familiar with conventional and federal programs as well as some local ones that can offer additional assistance in certain areas.

Where do you start?
A good first place to start, if you haven't already, is to get a look at your credit reports from the three agencies to which creditors report.  They are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.  The fastest, easiest way to get them is to log on to  Here, you can order a copy of each of the three reports once per year for free.  In order to see your credit scores, which I recommend that you do, they will charge a small fee.  If you are serious about buying a home, it is a wise investment.

Upon receiving your reports and scores, you want to look for anything that looks unusual.  For instance, credit reporting is not perfect and sometimes things appear on your credit report that are not actually yours.  If you find something unfamiliar on your report, you have the ability to challenge the item and have it removed.  The instructions for doing so for each agency is listed on the site.

You also want to look at each of your accounts to verify that none have reported delinquent or in collections.  All is not lost if you find some of these; however, the lender you eventually work with will likely ask you to explain or pay these to qualify.

The advantage of reviewing your own credit prior to beginning your home search is that you can find problems before you begin and correct them before they become an issue at loan application time and cause you to lose out on your dream home by either zapping your savings to clear up bad debt or delaying the closing beyond the contract dates.

Getting help.
If you are having trouble understanding your credit report, your REALTOR® can usually assist.  Most REALTORS® are also pretty adept at pre-qualifying in order to help you understand your price range based on income, debt, and current interest rates, and others work directly with several preferred lenders that will do the job.  Either way, it is important to make an honest list of all debt prior to sitting down together.  Don't forget things like child support and alimony payments, other loans, credit cards, loans for which you have co-signed, etc.

How much can you afford?
A good rule of thumb is that your prospective mortgage payment should be less than one-third of your monthly gross income.  However, other debt may play a role in the maximum payment for which you will qualify.

Other criteria to consider is that you should be able to show two years of steady employment with consistent or increasing pay.  Over-time and second jobs will not count unless they are consistent and ongoing long term (often 1-2 years).  Bankruptcies must have been discharged, in many cases, at least two years ago and foreclosures often must have been finalized at least three years ago.

How much cash will you need?
Most programs have established a minimum down-payment.  Closing costs are an additional cost representing approximately 3% of the loan amount.  However, there are programs available that will provide down-payment assistance and your REALTOR® should, in most cases, be able to get the seller to contribute to your closing costs.  Gift money from relatives may also be an option.  Additionally, qualifying Veterans have the ability to use the VA $0 down-payment program.  Therefore, in many cases it is possible to buy a home with very little money.

So what assistance is available?
In addition to low down payment loans, there are grants to help with down-payment assistance in Cleveland or East Cleveland, as well as some suburban neighborhoods, grants for first-time home buyers and recent college graduates with at least a two-year degree purchasing their first home.  Coupled with the previously mentioned assistance, Ohio also rewards its heroes with special financing rate reductions on certain loans.  Ask your REALTOR® for more details.

Think you are ready or would like to find out if you are ready?  Give me a call and I will be happy to help you begin the process.  The keys to your new home may be just within reach.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cornerstone Brewing Company

As we frequently do, my husband and I walked to CornerStone Brewing Company for dinner last night.  Located at the Berea Triangle, Berea's version of downtown, it was about a 10 minute walk from home.  Their sidewalk patio is one of our favorite hangouts in the summertime.  It seems the entire town will walk by as you enjoy your meal, and it isn't uncommon to be joined for a beer or two by a neighbor. 

CornerStone Brewery, as the name suggests, is more than a restaurant.  They are a microbrewery as well, brewing their own independent beers.  There are staples on tap with such locality inspired names as Grindstone Gold and Sandstone Lager, as well as some interesting originals.  One of my favorites, the Angry Gorilla, has a hint of banana and spice.  The varieties change by season and are always a surprising delight.  The hardest part is choosing one, but don't worry.  You can always order a sampler, a wheel of all seven current varieties, in 2 oz glasses to help you decide.  For the not-yet-of-age, they also brew a fabulous rootbeer.  

For those who like to see how it's done, you can wander to the side of the building and watch through the windows as the brew-mastersErik Rothschiller and Jay Cox, make magic happen. Or ask one of the most friendly of servers to be found anywhere to take you back for a mini tour.  The scents of hops and spice are heavenly.

The menu is perfectly suited to beer drinking with such items as handmade hot pretzels, Reubens, beer battered fish, smoky salmon, Buffalo chicken wraps, and another absolute must-try, the Bavarian Pretzel Chicken.  They also serve phenomenal burgers and several unique varieties of pizza.  But no matter what else you decide to eat, make it a point to order some fried pickles!  They are addictive and are the one item that keeps luring us back, again and again.  

The atmosphere can best be described, on most days as bustling.  The space is long and narrow with high exposed ceilings,  creaky wood floors and an abundance of windows.  The open kitchen and generous bar area add an airy feel and contributes to the activity.  If you haven't been there, trust me, CornerStone Brewing will become a favorite hang out after just one visit.  

Life in Berea, Ohio

I have lived in Berea since 1994.  I first bought my HUD fixer-upper thinking I would spend a couple years here, fix it up and re-sell it.  After all, I was a Lake Erie girl, not a valley girl.  Sure, we loved the MetroParks.  My kids loved to hike and climb and play there, but it was a place to which we went, not where we lived.

Attribution: Chris Light at en.wikipedia
In Lakewood, we lived within walking distance of the lake and had front row seats to all the great storms that rolled in from the north.  We swam whenever we felt like it.  We had great tans and pretty cool sea glass collections.  As a kid, I grew up with boats and didn't think I ever wanted to live where I couldn't get to the lake in a matter of minutes.

What I didn't realize is that the charm of Berea hooks you.  The first thing I learned when I began meeting my neighbors was that they had all either lived in Berea all their lives or they had grown up here, moved away, and then came back.  Apparently, once a person spends any amount of time here, Berea will imprint on your soul.  I suppose you could leave it, but it will call you back.

Another thing I realized, 20 minutes drive to Lake Erie is not that far and it is especially nice if you take the parkway all the way there.

So I thought, every now and then, I would share something of life in Berea on my real estate blog, to perhaps lure those who have not already been cast in its spell.

Caution: This blog may cause a sudden change in geographic location.  Should symptoms occur, do not discontinue use of this blog, as sudden withdrawal can cause permanent and irreversible damage.  Residents of other neighborhoods should promptly contact their Realtor if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms during or immediately after reading this blog: wanderlust, extreme desire to re-locate, uncontrollable urge to drive to Wallace Lake, the unexplained need to feel sandstone, cravings for the fresh smell of park breezes, or what can otherwise only be described as "the itch."

 For detailed information about Berea, OH visit City-Data:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lost Equity? Maybe not.

The most frequent thing I hear from people who want to move is that they are afraid if they sell their home before the market returns they will lose money.  They want to wait until their equity position returns to what it once was.  Let me explain how this is a false view.

While it is true, we have all lost in home values over recent years, recovery doesn't necessarily need to take place in the home in which you are currently residing.  If you have enough equity in your home to sell and at least break even, now is a great time to take advantage of the buyer's market we are in to purchase a bigger or nicer home than you currently own, which is often more than what the previous market would allow you to afford, and wait for the market to recover there.

As an example, my husband and I just bought a house.  We sold our old house for about $6,000 to $10,000 less than what it would have gone for before the market turned.  While we did have to bring about $2,000 to the closing table, we really didn't feel too badly about it.  We had refinanced some debt into the second mortgage and, for several years, were writing off interest on debt we otherwise would not have been able to write off.  I looked at it as having to pay off a credit card to qualify for a new home.  No big deal if you can afford it.

We bought the new house for about $20,000 less than what we would have paid for it six years ago.  When the market recovers, we will see an increase in the new property value just the same as we would have if we would have waited for the market to return at the old house.  But because we bought now, we were able to purchase a home that we would not have been otherwise able to afford, moved to a better neighborhood, improved the quality of our lives and are no longer tripping over our dogs.

Yes, property values are lower than they have ever been.  Take advantage of this and improve your living circumstances.  Waiting for the market to return just may put your dream home out of reach.