On New Year’s Resolutions


When picking New Year’s goals, we often choose something we’ve failed at before.


New Years Resolution
Goal setting is a skill that can improve year over year.

That’s just the nature of it. Why would we choose something we’ve already had success with?

But because of this, it can be hard each year to tell ourselves “This time, I will. No, really!” and actually believe it.

I have been thinking about how I will keep my promises to myself. About how I can make this year different, and better, than before.

Written goals

Writing down resolutions commits you to them. There will be pain if you decide to give up, which makes giving up less appealing than if it were just an idea you had briefly after watching the ball drop and toasting to the new year.

Each goal has smaller components, which if expanded in writing start to form a concrete plan. The focus narrows to what you will do, rather than what outcome you hope to achieve.

Example: The goal “lose weight” probably involves sub-goals like “exercise regularly”, which might break down further into “get up earlier (and therefore go to bed earlier)”, “learn how to do a Sun Salutation”, and “go cross-country skiing every chance you get”.


Continually recommit yourself to your goals

Experience has taught me goals are easily forgotten over time, so it is important in keeping them to have some sort of memory jogger.

Part of the way I am recommitting myself to my goals each day is to keep a journal. By taking a self-assessment each day I can see how I’m measuring up, but I also remind myself of what I’m trying to achieve and why.

Another avenue of refreshing your motivation this way is by talking about your goals. You may even choose to enlist an accountability partner — someone with similar aspirations who you can check in with. I’ve found such a person who I am planning to touch base with once a week, hopefully to both of our benefit.

Whatever the method of doing this, having some way to recommit yourself to your goals is going to be critical. Without that, priorities will inevitably rearrange themselves over time.


When you lose focus, analyze where you went wrong and try to change what led up to that

We’re creatures of habit. And changing ourselves, breaking our habits, is inevitably a process of learning.

Therefore, when I fail this year I hope to learn a way not to make the same mistake again. I will diagnose the situation that got me there, and see how I can change that situation so the next time works out in my favor.

My journaling will enter into the plan here as well, as I note stumbling points and try to diagnose what the issue was that led up to it.

Through this process I’ve noticed that, being a bit of a news junkie, I tend to check the news when I don’t feel like focusing. (When I’m writing a blog post and I’m not sure how the next sentence should be worded, for example.) Since this is so automatic for me, I’m trying out blocking some of my go-to sites via a browser extension. My hope is this habit interrupter can help me break out of an old pattern and improve my focus while at work. So far, the results have been good.


A reason this year will be different

Most of us can acknowledge some unique difficulties in the year 2020. It would be nice if these problems went away on their own.

But failing that, we can at least count on ourselves to change for the better if we try. And in doing so, guarantee that this year will be better than the last.

Best of luck to you on your own New Year’s goals!


Happy Halloween!

Ah, Halloween. The best holiday.

Will there be trick-or-treaters this year? Are folks going to wear a mask over their mask? Underneath?

Whatever the evening holds, I hope everyone reading has a great time.




I built a chicken coop!

I was feeling a bit cooped up during this lockdown. So I hatched a plan to keep myself occupied.

This has given me a much greater appreciation for construction.

After a brooding over it a bit I drew up plans for a new chicken coop that I would build from scratch. One that wouldn’t run a-fowl of the permit rules or raise the neighbors’ hackles.

This one has space to accommodate a few more hens, a better roost so the hens will be comfortable, ventilation that I can close in the winter, and removable flooring to make cleaning easier.

This was a big project for me. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the difficulties of designing and building something. And this is basically just a box with no electricity or plumbing.

Like every project (at least that I’ve done), you reach a point where you hit a wall and get frustrated. But I kept going anyway and learned in the process. It helped that my wife, Katie, kept egging me on. (The garage can’t be a construction site forever, apparently).

And after a few weekends of working on it in the summer heat, the chickens have finally come home to roost.

Hopefully I haven’t ruffled any feathers with the puns.

You might think the jokes about chicken coops are bad, but keep this in mind: they’ve got layers!

By the way: if you’re interested in backyard chickens, I would be glad to share what I know with you. On the real estate side of things, it’s helpful to be aware of the rules in your local area. But I’m also happy to just talk about what’s it’s like to keep them generally. Just call or text.

Real Estate Update: Grand Rapids Mid-Year 2020

We’re halfway through the year! I’d like to share what’s happening in Grand Rapids’ real estate market and how it affects buyers and sellers.

The Market In General

This year has seen fewer new listings than last year in the same time frame (Jan 1 — July 21).

In the Grand Rapids area (pictured above), we’ve seen 7,660 single family homes listed this year compared to 8,960 in the same time frame last year — a 14% drop.

This is significant to me not only because of the amount of difference, but also because this time frame encompasses a key period of our seasonal home sale cycle.

The spring months see many homebuyers and sellers eager to put new year’s plans to action. In summer, families plan to move in between the school years.

Granted, you couldn’t really blame sellers for not taking the plunge in April this year, since effectively during that month buyers had to write offers on houses site unseen.

At the time I had suggested that real estate activity might possibly rebound in such a way that would make up for lost time.

During April 2020 new listings in Grand Rapids area dropped sharply. Source: FlexMLS.

We can clearly see a rebound in new listings in May and June (pictured above). But in the grand scheme of things, we haven’t had as many new listings as we’d need to keep even with last year.

And while new listings have decreased by 14% over last year, the number of listings under contract (those that secured a buyer), only dropped by 4%.

Practically, this means homes for sale are relatively scarcer now than they were last year.

I think this is probably one of the most defining elements in understanding our current market and the outcomes it will generate.


The silver lining of this market is that mortgage interest rates have stayed low. This translates to lower monthly payments.

The challenge continues to be the relative scarcity of homes for sale. However, it’s worth saying that this has been the challenge for all of recent memory — and it’s certainly not insurmountable.

I will toot my own and Clarity Realty’s horn here and say that having a good agent who can advise you well and present your offers well will go a long way toward improving your experience in these circumstances.

We have been immersed in the “low inventory” real estate market and know what to do.

What’s more, the late summer months tend to see longer market times and less buyer competition, so if you were thinking about doing something now is an excellent time to give me a call and get things started.


Overall, sellers are going to have a good time selling their homes given the current market conditions.

A relative scarcity of listings means buyers will generally be competing for them. This tends to drive prices upward and result in more favorable selling terms.

However, in the larger context of making a move to a new home, sellers who are planning to purchase a home must also consider the real estate market conditions they will face as buyers.

As noted above, there are advantages in terms of financing opportunities, but also familiar challenges in terms of the relative scarcity of homes for sale and the competition that generates among purchasers. There are several options for structuring a move in this type of market which I am happy to walk you through over a call.

Closing Statements

Thanks for reading along this far. This was a longer article than I intended from the outset, but once I started writing it I felt that some nuance was important.

I am looking forward to writing about some lighter topics, like my summer projects and my fondness for the Margarita.

I encourage you to like my Facebook page where I post updates and consider subscribing to email updates (on the sidebar to the right) so you never miss a post.

Classic Country is a relief in challenging times

I’m finally working up to admitting to myself how psychologically challenging the last few months have been. And it seems that the difficulties are far from over.

It’s more than just living with restrictions. There is a sense of fear and uncertainty. We are forced to question whether we are essential (!) and are repeatedly told there will be a “new normal” that is sterile and isolating. The news reports are brimming with ill omens and awful news, reinforcing the dysfunction they claim to oppose.

Sometimes it’s nice to remember the good times.

Country music, especially classic country, embodies and glorifies a vision of America that is friendly, moral (most of the time), hardworking and honest.

Sometimes the songs are quite funny and hit close to home, like when the whole family comes over for dinner but everyone has to leave when it’s time to do the dishes.

Still, we want them to come back again soon.

Or sometimes we find solace in the blues, knowing we are not alone.

And then occasionally you find an old tune that shows you how timeless some things are.

“I done seen better days but I’m puttin’ up with these.” Sounds about right.

Country on the radio

I’d like to give a shoutout to 94.9 Jethro FM — a great classic country station that’s local to Grand Rapids (1530 on the AM dial, 94.9 FM in Grand Rapids, 99.5 in Lowell, or listen online).

I am proud to be one of the many local advertisers supporting the station. You can listen for my ad, but there is a lot more on the station to enjoy.

They play a huge variety and are a great way to find new (old) country music you like.

I’d highly recommend checking them out.

There are some real gems out there.

Rebounding from Stay-At-Home? May Market Update

Last month we took a look at the market activity for April, which was the first full month in which the stay-at-home order restricted real estate sales.

In May, the stay-at-home order continued, but some restrictions were lifted. Most notably, homebuyers were allowed to schedule showings (albeit with some restrictions). I predicted a possible catch-up period in new listings that were put on hold while restrictions in place.

But did that happen? Were the buyers still interested? Let’s find out.

May Market Data

As before, we will look at this data in the month-to-month context, but also compare with the same month from 2019 as a baseline.

May and April’s new listings numbers give us a good overall picture of what’s going on.

New listings by month. Greater Grand Rapids Area. Source: MichRIC.

In April, when showings were restricted, new listings dropped off significantly (a 61% reduction compared to April 2019). I’m assuming this is largely due to concerns that fewer buyers would be willing to make offers on houses without taking a tour first.

But in May, new listings rebounded (1,466 new listings in May vs 572 in April). However, comparing new listings this May to May of the previous year, there was a 17% drop in new listings.

This defied my expectation that there might be a catching-up period in May, where sellers would attempt to make up for time lost in April. However, it seems the market has at least resumed activity.

But did anyone make offers to purchase these new listings? It appears so!

Pended listings by month. Greater Grand Rapids Area. Source: MichRIC.

Pended listings — those on which an offer to purchase was accepted — followed a similar trend. Compared to May 2019, May 2020 saw 4% fewer pended listings.

While it’s a reduction over the previous year, the difference is pretty marginal.

For those curious, April 2020 saw a 58% drop in pended listings over the previous year.

Have prices changed? Will prices change?

The average residential sale price in the greater Grand Rapids area in May 2020 was $256,005. Compared to a May 2019 average of $262,899, this accounts for a negligible 2% drop in average prices.

This by itself doesn’t give you the whole picture, because it doesn’t tell you what types of homes were listed or where the listings were. But as a blanket average of a large market, it gives you a general sense of where things stand.

As for what’s to come in real estate prices, it’s hard to say at this point.

Bottom line

Using May 2019 as our baseline, we saw less new listings this May, only slightly less pending listings, and only a slight drop in prices.

While there were not enough new listings and pending sales to make up for the sharp declines in April, market activity has resumed in some capacity.

Happy to receive feedback

I will probably do at least one more market analysis at the end of July, just to see how recovery from the lockdown progresses as businesses are allowed to reopen.

Are these market updates and analysis something you’d like to see more of? Are there any specific real estate questions you have?

You can email me to let me know. Or drop by my Facebook page, where I post my blog links, and leave a comment there. While you’re there, be sure to hit ‘like’ so you will see updates from me on your feed!

A New Life

A couple weeks ago, my wife, Katie, and I welcomed our daughter into the world. She was born a little early at 6 pounds, 10 ounces, with a big mop of brown hair.

This is our first. We are so happy and a little tired, but are starting to get a handle on the new routines. Raising a family has been a long-time goal of mine and it’s fulfilling to see this come to fruition. I have a collection of Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales and am enjoying flipping through that and reading to her.

I’m trying to be conscientious about keeping a low profile on the net on her behalf, so I won’t be posting too many updates or much information on this blog, but naturally this is the biggest thing going on in my life at the moment and I couldn’t resist sharing.

Of course, if you call me on my cell I am happy to fill you in on the details personally.

Ian Ross

Ian Ross



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