There are plenty of factors to consider when purchasing a home. Are you getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to the house? Is the neighborhood safe? How are the schools? The list goes on.
Families want their children to attend great schools, grow up with kids from different backgrounds, be able play at their local parks and have access to other recreational activities. Some families may want a home on a couple of acres of land while still being close to the action.
These are some of the reasons Julie Kern, a realtor for Real Estate One in Shelby Township, has never moved out of Macomb County. Kern was raised in Shelby Township, and today she lives in Washington Township with her husband and two daughters.
“I personally love the great public schools,” Kern says.
With 21 public school districts, 235 career tech programs for high school students, access to 15 public colleges through Macomb Community College, Head Start and special education services, people of all ages and needs have access to high-quality education in Macomb County.
“We have everything — tons of restaurants, shopping, parks,” Kern says.
Macomb County boasts 3,800 acres of municipal parks, has 32 miles of freshwater shoreline, 70 active marinas and 180 miles of regional trails. This gives families chances to bike, birdwatch, kayak, canoe and take the boat out during warmer months.
If you prefer to live on some acreage, Kern says you can purchase 1-2 acres of land for space and privacy, but still be close to a downtown area — like she and her family are to downtown Romeo, which gives them the best of both worlds.
A great time to buy
Buying a home over the last year or so has been difficult with so much competition and home prices soaring. Today, though, Kern says things have calmed down.
“It is a great time for buyers to get in the market. They are not competing in as many offers as we saw a year ago and the houses aren’t going as fast so you have time to prepare,” she says.
Macomb County offers many affordable housing options. In fact, the cost of living index in Macomb County is 95.9 and the average home value is $238,993 — both of which are below the national average. Taxes are lower than neighboring areas, too, Kern adds.
According to Kern, some of the hottest housing markets in Macomb County are Macomb Township, Chesterfield, New Baltimore and Sterling Heights.
“To me, Sterling Heights has a ton of benefits,” she says. “They are constantly putting money into their community to better the lives of their residents. They are bringing a ton of opportunity with what they are doing with Lakeside Mall and they have an ice rink now, they have tons of parks. They just have a great community feel.”
If you want multiple acres, there are affordable options in all of the eleven communities north of 26 Mile Road. Here there are plenty of empty lots for purchase if you’re interested in building a home, she notes.
Becoming a homeowner
Purchasing a home can be overwhelming — with so much to consider — but there’s help.
“My advice is to pair with a great lender and real estate agent who will help educate you on the market, the right time, the benefits that first-time homeowners get,” Kern says. “There are programs out there. There are classes you can take that will lower your closing costs.”
That’s where the MSU Extension comes in. Through its financial and homeownership education class, future homeowners can learn everything there is to know about the purchasing process — and get assistance on their down payment.
“MISHDA, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, offers down payment assistance to first-time homebuyers,” says Nancy Latham, HUD Certified Housing Counselor with MSU Extension. “The definition of a first-time homebuyer is someone who has not owned a home in 3 years. Maybe they owned a home with a spouse, they went through a divorce (and) they don’t own a home anymore, 3 years later they would be considered a first-time homebuyer.”
To receive this assistance, buyers have to complete the 4-hour financial and homeownership education class and receive a certificate of completion.
“It is a loan (to help with the downpayment) so it’s a second lean on the property. But it doesn’t get paid until you either sell the house or no longer occupy the home as your primary residence,” Latham says.
Classes, which are offered online and will be offered in person again soon, happen at least 3-4 times per month.
“They are going to learn the home buying process from thinking about buying a home to the closing,” she says. From finding a lender and realtor, to finding the right home, to appraisals and closing documents — they’ll learn it all.
Latham says buyers will also be given insight and advice on what to do after they move in, including getting new door locks, creating a fire plan and any roadblocks they may encounter.
“We talk about, OK if you’re going to miss a payment, what step do you take? We talk about the whole foreclosure process. It’s really a very involved class,” she says.
Those interested in registering for the financial and homeownership education class can register online at mimoneyhealth.org. It is $25 to participate but scholarships are available, Latham says.
For more information about living in Macomb County, visit the Make Macomb Your Home website.