Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Mushroom Hunting Time in Michigan!

Let the mushroom hunting begin!


It's official, morels have been spotted in West Michigan.

Don't bother asking where, as a good spot is worth more than gold to the avid mushroom hunter. I will tell you that Oceana County is a good place to start. Western and Northern Michigan is a great place to find these delicious little critters, and we take our mushroom hunting seriously.

A friend of mine here in the office was kind enough to rub it in my face this morning that she found some yesterday.

It's a bit early, but I suspect the big ones will be showing up soon.

You can get more information about morels at http://www.morelmushroom.info/index.html

In the spirit of mushroom hunting season, here's a recipe for the tasty little buggers I found at The Great Morel.

Sautéed Morels with Cream

This is a classic French preparation my husband learned years ago from working in a European cuisine restaurant. He is an Executive Chef trained in many styles of cooking. The ingredients are easy to find except for veal stock which must be made by roasting veal bones for hours, perhaps a good chicken stock could be used instead. Enjoy!

  • 15-20 fresh morels or reconstituted dried, cut in half if large
  • 1 large shallot chopped fine
  • 1 large clove garlic chopped fine
  • 2 TBS butter (best with unsalted)
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Put olive oil in heated pan over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots, stir and sauté until softened but not brown. Add butter until melted then add morels. Stir and cook until mushrooms start to brown, about 4 min. Add chicken stock and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add cream and cook on low until reduced and thickened. Classically served on toast, but the best on grilled New York Strip steaks.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Veteran's Viewpoint on the Torture Debate

OIF VeteranI am a Marine who served in Iraq. I led a Marine company level intelligence cell in western Fallujah. I have seen firsthand the attitudes displayed by insurgents when threatened with the prospect of being interrogated by Coalition Forces. The most common response was laughter.

The insurgents know all too well how limited we are in what we can and cannot do to them, and they use it against us regularly. I remember one particular insurgent that we detained in Al Saqliwiyah.I knew he had information regarding a high value target I had been pursuing. He refused to cooperate, however, and practically begged us to send him to the CF detention facility. He told me that life in American prison was better than life in Al Anbar. He would get more sleep, more food, and better medical care. I would have had better luck using the prison threat as a bribe.

Now let me tell you why I wanted the information this guy had. I had been tracking his nephew for several months. The nephew specialized in recruiting adolescent males as suicide bombers. That January and February, three children detonated themselves outside of Iraqi Police checkpoints in our AO (area of operations). I received a tip that the nephew was back in the area, and the uncle (my detainee) knew where he was. Had I been able to use even some of the techniques Iraqi Police used, I most likely would have got the information. Instead, I was forced to release the detainee, and the nephew left the area shortly thereafter.

About a month later, three more young boys died when they detonated themselves following an attack on a local sheik. The sheik was friendly with coalition forces, and was killed in the attack also.

I've seen a lot of discussion about the latest witch hunt being conducted by liberals in Washington in blogs and on the news. I wonder, though, how much research anyone has really done on the subject. I researched the subject prior deployment, received training in it as we deployed, and learned a lot on the fly as we were pursuing terrorists across Iraq. I think a lot of people are confused as to what is really happening in the world.

ACLUThe ACLU has issued a call to "Demand Accountability for Torture!" and has published the "torture memos" on their website. They seem to feel that by not pursuing and prosecuting the senior government officials that were in place at the time the memos were published, we (the American people) are in danger of losing our civil liberties.

Read the memos, please. I am certain that you will find the idea of prosecuting the authors as ridiculous as I do. The fact that law enforcement personnel have to request permission, IN WRITING, to slap a detainee is ridiculous. How can you expect our military and intelligence agencies to protect you if you handicap them at every turn?

I do not condone the use of torture. At least not in the sense that most sane people would define torture. Beating people with sticks, burning them with branding irons, breaking their fingers; these are all torture in my mind. I might add being forced to listen to Britney Spears albums to that list.

Anyone in the intelligence field will tell you that physical torture will only lead to bad information, as the subject will say anything to make it stop. But the techniques referenced in the memos are an entirely different matter. These techniques are routinely used on military members undergoing SERE training. Read this excerpt from one of the memos:

"These same techniques, with the exception of the insect in the cramped confined space, have been used and continue to be used on some members of our military personnel during their SERE training. Because of the use of these procedures in training our own military personnel to resist interrogations, you have consulted with various individuals who have extensive experience in the use of these techniques. You have done so in order to ensure that no prolonged mental harm would result from the use of these proposed procedures."

SERE stands for Survival Evasion Resistance Escape. It is training that selected military personnel undergo to learn to resist interrogation efforts. Our government is not condoning any activity or behavior in intelligence gathering that anyone with a military background finds dishonorable.

At the end of the day, THAT's what matters. When the ACLU straps on a flak jacket, goes condition one, and steps out to patrol in a combat zone, then, and ONLY then, will I lend any credence to their opinion of what is right and wrong in warfare.

Dear Mother Nature

Dear Mother Nature,

Thunder CloudI am writing this letter to you to express my unhappiness with your selection of weather today. I gave two weeks notice that I was planning open houses this weekend for some highly valued clients. You have apparently either missed the notice, or you received the notice, and chose to quite literally rain on my parade anyway.

This is not cool. As I was driving to Grand Rapids this morning, the rain had stopped, and I began to think that maybe, just maybe, you had softened your heart. As I pulled into Avalon Pointe, there was still no precipitation. You seemed to have decided to be kind, and perhaps would allow some favorable weather.

Then, just as I exited my car, and was putting out my sign, you felt the need to release a downpour of rather cold water from the sky. I am now soaked, and will remain so for the duration of this open house. Gee, thanks.

In case you haven't been watching Fox News, "Mother", the real estate market is already plenty full of challenges. There are lots of homes for sale in Grand Rapids, and the prices are low. As a Realtor, I am working harder than ever, and overcoming these challenges one at a time. I do not need you placing additional obstacles in the way of my success.

For future reference, kindly save your inclement weather fits for Wednesdays. That day works for me, and I have no problem with you throwing a meteorological fit on that day. In addition, because I am thoughtful and generous, I would have no objection to you throwing a thunderstorm tantrum between the hours of 9pm and 5am Eastern Standard Time.

Please take this message to heart, and rethink your actions. Should you not, I shall have no further recourse but to begin buying Styrofoam dinnerware, stop recycling plastic, go back to buying AquaNet hairspray loaded with CVC's (despite my rapid hair loss), and attempt to annoy you in general.

Get your act together, and behave accordingly.


Tim White - Realtor, Coldwell Banker Woodland Schmidt, Hart, Michigan

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bank Owned Properties Mean Opportunity for First Time Home Buyers

Bank OwnedFirst time home buyer activity is on the rise in Oceana County. A significant reason for this is the number of bank owned properties currently for sale in the Hart, Shelby, New Era, and Pentwater areas. Bank owned properties, often referred to as foreclosures, are often sold well below market value, and create unique opportunities for first time home buyers.

I recently had the pleasure of writing an accepted offer for a young engaged couple from Hart, MI. They are getting married this summer, and wanted to start looking for a home now. They have decent credit, but relatively low income, and the majority of what they could afford consisted of manufactured housing, which they hoped to avoid if at all possible.

I sent them to one of my preferred lenders, and had them prequalified. Prequalification is vital when attempting to purchase a bank owned home. Once the lender had them preapproved and through underwriting, and we had established a monthly payment that was affordable and comfortable for them, I began my search in earnest.

I was looking for a home that would meet their needs, and their budget of about $60,000. I ran searches daily, as I knew that when the right one came up, it wouldn't last wrong. I searched for about three weeks, in which time we looked at a handful of bank owned properties. The majority of these properties were going to require too much work to make them livable, so I continued to search.

Last week, I found a listing that was just unbelievable. It was a bank owned property in New Era, listed for $60,000. I was familiar with the home, and the location was perfect for what my buyers were looking for. I made a phone call, and told my clients that we needed to act fast, and see the home that night.

My buyers rearranged their schedules, and we went to see the home. The curb appeal was great. The home was less than ten years old, and was in great shape. The yard was just over an acre, and even had privacy fence built along the neighbor’s property line. This was a three bedroom home with a two car attached garage, and 1300 square feet of clean, well kept living space.

Coldwell Banker Sold SignMy buyers were instantly excited, and quite frankly, so was I. This was exactly what we had been praying to find, and we immediately submitted a full price offer. Since I already had them preapproved and through underwriting, our offer was solid and attractive. As it turned out, there was another offer made the same day, so we submitted an addendum offering to bump our price by $1100.

Earlier this week, I found out that that little bump sealed the deal. Our offer was accepted, and this previously bank owned home will soon be owned by two wonderful people. When they return from their honeymoon, they'll be coming home to a home that they own. I couldn't be happier for them.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Google Profiles Drive More Traffic

Have you made a Google Profile page yet? If not, stop what you're doing, and go do it now.


When pushing for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), it is common wisdom that you want to please Google. What better way to please them than by using their products?

What's more, if you fill in your profile information completely, you can be eligible for featured status, and will get first page Google results. I have been working hard to bump my Google search results for the last month or so. Once I completed my profile last night, I was instantly front page.

Google has added their own profile spot to the bottom of the first page, and whoever has the most information updated on the profile gets that spot. Once I completed my profile last night, I was instantly front page.

The profile also makes it easy to link to all your other sites as well.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Aftermath of Tea Parties in West Michigan

Obama Bomb

I was driving east on Ocean Dr. in Hart, Michigan today when I saw this little gem sitting alongside the road. I had my camera with me, like any good realtor should, and I just couldn't resist blogging about it.

Michigan is widely held to be a left leaning, liberal state. So much so, in fact, that Senator McCain's campaign withdrew from the state early during the election runoffs of 2008. John, I think you gave up on us too quickly.

You see, there are strong pockets of conservatism in West Michigan. The recent Tea Parties have sounded a clarion call to the formerly "Silent Majority", and I wouldn't be surprised to see more of these types of displays.

Even if you're a liberal, you have to admit this is pretty clever.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Headlines Belie Good News in Housing Start Reports

"March Housing Construction Drops 10.8 Percent"

By now you've probably seen headlines like this one. It's dramatic, it sounds like the world is ending for real estate, and it is just the kind of dramatic overstatement that makes me gag when I read the news. But have you actually READ the article? I've linked it to the headline.

Believe it or not, there's actually a lot of good news in there. The article explains that the percentage is based largely on the fact that multi-family home starts (apartments) are down, but in fact, single family home starts have stabilized. Here are two excerpts from the article which belie the headline:

"The much larger single-family sector actually stabilized in March at an annual rate of 358,000 units, the same level as February when single-family starts managed a small 0.6 percent rise."

"The bad news is that home construction is still in the tank. The good news is that single-family activity may finally be stabilizing," - Joel Naroff, an economist at Naroff Economic Advisers

question mark

So why the mixed message? No, wait, scratch that. Why the completely misleading, borderline outright lie of a headline? The answer is simple: bad news sells.

The media has adopted an attitude that no one wants good news. I am a fan of Fox News, which is where this article comes from. However, they are often just as prone to adopting this attitude as anyone else.

As a Realtor, I find it encouraging that apartment starts are down. This means that people are buying homes, and are less interested in renting. With low interest rates and low prices, the consumer is realizing that renting is not their only option.

Now, more than ever, it is extremely important that we perform as real estate educators, and not just salespersons. We have to counter this type of negativity, and make people aware that the sky is truly not falling.

Somebody get on the phone and tell Chicken Little he can come out, we're going to be OK. All we need is a healthy dose of reality. We've seen an increase in home sales in West Michigan real estate, and I'm doing my part to make sure the word gets out. You can help by reblogging and linking this blog to everyone you know.



Sunday, April 19, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness Still Happen in Grand Rapids, MI

StarbucksMy family and I spent the weekend with friends in Lansing. As we were making our drive home today, my wife and I decided to grab a little pick-me-up. We turned the Jeep onto the ramp and exited on 28th St. in Grand Rapids. There's a Starbucks there that I have been to several times. As we were eagerly awaiting a venti mocha for me, and a caramel machiatto for her, the kids were watching a movie in the backseat.

It's chilly and rainy today, and apparently we weren't the only ones craving some warm, caffeine loaded goodness. There were several cars in line, and a black Chevy Avalanche directly in front of us. The baristas were cranking out the java joy as fast as they were able.

As we pulled up to the window to pay for our order, the clerk informed us that the people in the Avalanche had already paid for our drinks. My wife took a couple seconds for that to sink in, incredulous that some random stranger would do such a thing. We were both pleasantly surprised.

smileI have done this a time or two myself, but never expected to be on the receiving end. It was a great feeling, and so easy to pass it on. The $7 or $8 those folks spent on our drinks bought a bright smile to a couple of road weary travelers, and gave is something pleasant to talk about for the next part of our drive.

Even better, our kids were with us, and they got to witness that random people still do nice things for each other. I have long taught my children the value of doing for others, and it was nice for them to see someone else putting it into action. Thank you, whoever you are, for setting a shining example for others to follow.

Next time your in a drive-thru, and the lines are long, or the weather's crummy, or for whatever reason, think about spreading some good cheer and commit a random act of kindness like this. I know I will.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Outrage at Tea Party Coverage, DHS, and More

OK, I usually stick to real estate and business topics here, but I'm riled up and looking to vent, so please sit back and enjoy the ride. I've got some steam to burn off, so here we go.

Subject Number One: Susan Roesgen Deserves a Sound Flogging

BiasIf you don't know who Susan Roesgen is, just google her. I'm sure she's eating up all the publicity she is getting today. Susan is a "reporter" (and I use that term very, very loosely) for CNN who was assigned the task of reporting on one of the Tea Party events held yesterday across the nation. However, instead of being unbiased and reporting the news as it occurred, she decided to incite attendees, twist the story, and even yell at one of the men she "interviewed." It was all quite disgusting, and you can watch the video here.

Subject Number Two: The Left Wing Media is Still Serving Their Own Agenda

The way mainstream networks and CNN treated the Tea Party events yesterday is despicable. They either minimized the event, ignored it all together, or twisted the meaning and intent of the rallies to something sinister. What ever happened to just reporting the news? Would they have treated this the same way if it had been any other type of rally? Of course not.


Remember Cindy Sheehan? You couldn't turn on your TV or radio, or open a newspaper without reading about her or some other Anti-War Protest. They weren't blasted as "extremist" or "terrorists" in the newspapers. How about when a bunch of New Yorkers painted themselves red and laid in the streets of New York in protest of the war? Media coverage galore. I'm sick of it. Check out what Laura Ingraham and Bill O'Reilly had to say about it here.

Subject Number Three: DHS Secretary Napolitano, Shame on You

The Department of Homeland Security conducted an assessment that stated veterans returning from Iraq are highly susceptible to being recruited by "Right-Wing Extremist Groups" and should be watched. For those of you that haven't read my profile, I am a Marine, and just returned from Iraq last fall. I spent a year of my life FIGHTING terrorism. My family went without their father and husband so I could defend freedom and liberty.

Now, this administration, comprised of people who KNOW NOTHING about the military OR intelligence, wants to label ME a potential threat? It's enough to make me remember a bunch of those four letter words I try so hard to forget. It's apalling and offensive. At least their is public outrage about it as evidenced by Fox News and The American Legion.

In fact the outrage was enough to provoke an apology from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. A very lame, carefully worded apology that left me with the distinct impression that she wasn't really sorry at all. I'm not alone in thinking this.

"It wasn't an apology in my view," said Pete Hegseth, chairman of Vets for Freedom. "It was one of those non-apology apologies. She was sorry that veterans were offended. She should either apologize for the content of the report as it stands or they should rewrite the report and reissue it."

The Secretary further went on to reference the Oklahoma City Bombing, and how Timothy McVeigh was prior military. Great, one nut in the tree means we must all be psycopaths, right? Irresponsible, ungrateful, and deplorable are a few of the nicer words that come to mind.

shame on you

In Closing

As I said in my intro, I am not prone to ranting on about current events. However, today's news managed to pull Sgt. White's string, and I couldn't stay silent any longer. I think it's a sad state of affairs when people with a valid and legitimate message are denied the opportunity to air it, and instead have aspersions cast upon them.

I furthermore think it is utterly unacceptable to demean or tarnish the sacrifices that my fellow service members have made for this country by making people think we are potential terrorists. No one values our country more than those willing to bleed for it.

Phew! Yes, I feel better. I'll feel even better when this gets read a lot and passed around. Does anyone know if Janet Napolitano is a RainMaker? J/K Thanks for reading, and Semper Fidelis.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Just Listed! 6471 Avalon Dr SE Caledonia, MI


This amazing 4 bedroom home for sale is only 2 years old, and features lots of extras. With over 2500 sqft of finished living space, it’s a true value at just $83 per sqft. The main floor has an open floor plan with lots of room.

Collage 1

The living room has a gas fireplace, and abuts the formal dining room. There is a flex space currently being used as an office, but could make a great sunroom or breakfast nook. The kitchen has an island with snack bar, and includes all stainless steel appliances. The appliances are GE, and include a smooth top electric range, a built in microwave, dishwasher, and side-by-side refrigerator with water and ice dispenser. There is a powder room and convenient storage closet located off the garage entry.

Collage 2

Upstairs are four huge bedrooms, all with large spacious closets. The master bedroom is over 17’x17’, has its own full bath, and an enormous walk-in closet that is 9x10. All closets feature space saving organizers. A second full bath is located upstairs, and the 2nd floor laundry means no more carrying laundry baskets up and down the stairs.

The home sits on a full walk out basement. The west side of the basement has an egress window in place, and is sized perfectly for a bedroom. There is over 1000 sq ft of finishable living space down stairs, giving this home the potential to be over 3500 sq ft with 5 bedrooms. Plumbing for a future bath was installed under the concrete, and is ready to hook up.

Avalon Pointe homeowners enjoy an association pool and clubhouse. The membership fees are very reasonable at $280 a year. That's less than $24 per month! The association is made up of homeowners in the neighborhood, and organizes neighborhood events throughout the year.

Blue RibbonThere is a fenced sidewalk connecting Avalon Pointe to Explorer Elementary, a Blue Ribbon Award winning school. There are daycare facilities located with walking distance of Avalon Pointe. M-6 is just a couple miles away, so you can easily access all of Grand Rapids. Gaines Township residents pay some of the lowest taxes in Kent County, so you can put more of your monthly payment towards building equity in your home.

This home is a great value, and can be yours today. First time homeowners may be eligible for $8,000 in federal tax credits. Interest rates are lower than ever, and this home can be purchased with as little as 3.5% down. Call or email Tim White today to schedule your personal tour!


Thursday, April 2, 2009

How To Maximize Your Social Media Time

Crazy GuyYou want to do it.

You need to do it.

You KNOW you need to do it!

But where do you find the time to squeeze in building your web presence? How do balance dealing with current business, while at the same time build for new business?? You already have to much to do! It's too much! ARGHHHHHHH!!!

Stop. Breathe. Relax. Wusaahhhh...

Perhaps my favorite and most often used quote is, "Work smarter, not harder." So how can we apply this to Social Media? I'm going to share a few techniques with you that I use. Try them, see if they work for you.

Step 1: Commit!

Set aside an hour a day to post a blog, add some friends, read some blogs, something SM related. I tend to do a lot of my blogging at night, after the kids are in bed. I plan on an hour, but I usually get swept up in it, and am up til crazy hours. I get swept up in it because I...

Fun FaceStep 2: HAVE FUN WITH IT!

You can meet some truly fascinating people on sites like Twitter, FaceBook, and here at ActiveRain. Don't focus ALL your posting on listings and market analysis. There's a time and a place for this, and it's not everywhere and all the time.

Build your network by sharing a funny joke or story. Comment back and engage in conversation. You'll be amazed at what you can learn. I know I have been. I have to work really hard to convince my wife I am "working" when I'm giggling my fool head at off at someone's Twitter post.

Step 3: Multi-Task your multi-tasking!

Many sites allow you to broadcast your blog to several different sites. For instance, when I post this blog, it will go to:

Then I will go to FaceBook, where I will share the link on my personal profile, AND on my business page. That's SEVEN different URL hits, all from one blog. Oh, and all of those have links leading back to my main page.

Know what's really cool? My friends on Twitter will "ReTweet" the link, and my FB friends will share the links, and so on and so on. My words of wisdom (hahahaha) will spread like a virus through cyberland.

Step 4: KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

You don't have to write a book! In fact, longer posts can be a turnoff for some. Try to summarize your idea, and hit the highlights. If people want to know more, they'll ask! That's why this one is so long! You don't need to be Robert Frost or Ernest Hemingway, but good creative writing that sparks interest will generate more hits. I learn a lot about this by reading other people's blogs, and learning from them. Try it!

RecycleStep 5: Reciprocate!

You love it when people recommend your stuff, right? Well, so do they! Build yourself up by building others. Over half of my Twitter posts (Tweets) are ReTweets and or replies that promote the work of others.

Call it "karma", call it "spreading the love", whatever. I call it common sense. The more you help others, the more others are going to help you.

For my next blog, I'm going to attempt to explain Twitter, and how it can help you grow. If you haven't subscribed to my blog yet, WHY NOT??? It's a click away, and you'll make me smile :)