(WZZM) - There are two good things going on in the housing market that benefit buyers: low interest rates and low costs to buy an existing or build a new home.
The down side to this market is if you have to sell your home, chances are you won't get as much back as you had hoped. It's not uncommon to sell for less than you paid for that very home or, worse yet, try to unload a house that is worth less than you still owe. That's called being upside down in your mortgage.
According to the latest Zillow statistics, that's fairly common in West Michigan. Three years ago the Grand Rapids market was listed as one of the country's Top 10 underwater housing markets. It's not much better today. In Kent County, 32% of all mortgages are underwater. In the Muskegon-Norton Shores market, 36% of all mortgages are underwater, and in Allegan County 28% are underwater. Ottawa County is slightly better with 21% of mortgages underwater.
So what do you do if you really need a different home? Well a company based in Livonia, Michigan thinks it has the answer.
Marketplace Homes, in business since 2002, guarantees to rent out your old home for up to six years if you purchase a new home from one of its builder partners. Even if Marketplace doesn't find a renter, it will pay you the price you agree upon.
This program has proven successful in other markets but just began in West Michigan within the past year. Marketplace works with only one builder in West Michigan, Allen Edwin Homes, the biggest builder in our real estate market.
Sound too good to be true? We wondered the same, so we looked into it.
We sat downwith the CEO of Marketplace Homes, Mike Kalis. He says while this program has been around for ten years, it really hit its stride nearly six years ago.
"This program started to take legs in 2007 which is when the real estate market started to turn (negatively). From that time, we grew it from one single market to all across the country. This program is currently available in more than twenty states. We cover the maintenance, cut the grass, shovel the snow, collect the rent and we pay you, even if you even if there is no tenant in the property."
In order to take advantage of this program, there are four different caveats:
#1. You have to have a home that is considered rent-worthy, meaning it needs to be something that renters would like, and at a price that you and Marketplace agree upon for rent.
#2. The amount of rent Marketplace pays you is on a year-to-year basis, meaning they could lower the guaranteed amount in any year with proper notice.
#3. Before you buy a second home, you must qualify for a second mortgage.
#4. You have to buy through one of Marketplace's partners. In West Michigan, it's Allen Edwin.
While you're in the program, Marketplace is marketing your home for sale. When you begin the program, you tell Marketplace the price you would like to get for that home in a sale. If it sells below that price, you don't pay Marketplace any fees. You keep all of the money involved in the sale. Anything above your asking price and Marketplace keeps the difference.
If you fit that critieria, this program may work for you. As the company's CEO says, why sell if you don't have to?
"We've reached the bottom (of the real estate market). You've stuck it out for five years while everything fell, why not stick it out for a couple more years while things are rising? With the interest rates and prices being as good as they are, it makes all the sense in the world to buy and not to sell. There were 119 economists surveyed on Zillow. The most pessimistic think homes are going to go up over 12% in the next five years. The most optimistic are projecting a 40% increase."