Borrower Beware: Soon It Will Be Tough to Unload College Loans

(TNS)—Here’s a good reason to think twice about taking out piles of student loans after watching a catchy TV ad for a for-profit college.

The U.S. Department of Education is on a path to make it far tougher to get federal college loans forgiven using the argument that the school cheated you out of a good education by misleading you about job prospects or engaging in fraud.

The new rule—now under a public comment period—would apply to students seeking loans after July 1, 2019.

Consumer watchdogs, of course, charge that bad actors are getting a pass here. It would be up to students to prove that the school knowingly made false statements. What’s most troubling is that we’re often talking about low-income students, minority students or military veterans who have taken out loans to attend for-profit schools as they seek to build a better life and get training for a good-paying job.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said the proposal lays out clear rules schools must follow, while protecting students from fraud. The administration maintains that the current rules had been too broadly interpreted, leaving taxpayers on the hook and opening the door for frivolous claims.

Yet many borrowers could be burned here. We’re looking at yet another reminder of why it’s savvy to be skeptical when costly for-profit colleges aggressively recruit you and make breathless promises about grants and financing.

All graduates don’t get good jobs.
Some schools do go out of business unexpectedly; others provide misleading claims and don’t provide a degree that employers really value.

Two years ago, for example, ITT Tech shut its doors following sanctions by the U.S. Department of Education. The sudden shutdown meant that students were able to seek a discharge of federal student loans—but not private student loans—from the federal government. For-profit Corinthian College closed its campuses in 2015, leaving students unable to complete their programs.

Often consumers find the pitch surrounding some for-profit programs very appealing. They’re looking to get on the fast path to a new, more promising career. Yet many students borrow heavily—too heavily—to chase those dreams.

Robin Howarth, senior researcher for the Center for Responsible Lending, says there’s growing concern that students attending for-profit schools can end up owing a great deal of money but only have limited potential for obtaining a job with a substantial paycheck in return.

The consumer watchdog group released a report in June that indicated, for example, that students face very high tuition and fees at for-profit colleges in order to receive training for healthcare support jobs. Many students borrow most of the money, but the jobs they find don’t pay enough to cover their living expenses and all that debt.

“Students need to pay very close attention to what kind of earnings are achieved,” Howarth says.

It’s important to look beyond average salaries in the medical field and look at the kinds of jobs obtained by students who attended that program.

Many times, Howarth says, earnings for similar programs are less when the student has attended a for-profit school than if the student studied a similar program at a public or private nonprofit college.

Often, Howarth says students may be better off obtaining training at a community college at a far lower cost.

Proving fraud isn’t easy for student borrowers.
Kurt O’Keefe, a Grosse Pointe Woods attorney who has a blog called “Discharge Student Loans,” says student borrowers would still face significant challenges under the new rules, if they want to try to get loans forgiven if they claim they were defrauded by the schools.

“Failing to deliver requisite skills and knowledge is a tough one to litigate,” O’Keefe says. “The schools will say the student just failed to learn.”

In addition, he noted that many who find themselves in such circumstances are from lower-income families and cannot afford to take legal action.

“A right that costs money to exercise, legal fees for your lawyer, does not help much when you are talking about people who cannot pay their loans to begin with,” O’Keefe says.

O’Keefe says the real problem is one that he refers to as “the triangle.”

“The schools get the money whether the student gets value or not, the government (usually) lends the money and chases the borrower for repayment. The schools have no skin in the game,” he says.

Part of the draft rules would allow the Department of Education to seek reimbursement for forgiven student loans from the institutions and that is good, he says.

“It would hurt scam schools and schools with scam programs, and could be used against any institution, public or private,” O’Keefe says.

Under a current regulation, borrowers with federal student loans might be able to get debt relief when they claim they were misled about the cost and quality of the education. It’s called the “Borrower Defense to Repayment” rule.

The Education Department notes students may be eligible for borrower defense regardless of whether your school closed or you are otherwise eligible for loan forgiveness under other laws.

Consumers with questions or pending claims regarding borrower defense may call the Department of Education’s hotline at 855-279-6207 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. As of January, the Department of Education has received 138,989 claims—and 23 percent had been processed. The bulk of the claims processed were associated with Corinthian and ITT.

New rules would save the government billions.
The proposed change in regulations would significantly limit the situations under which borrowers could qualify for financial relief, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of Research for Savingforcollege.com.

“The changes appear intended to primarily reduce costs to the federal government,” Kantrowitz says. “While the previous regulations may have been too permissive—allowing cancellation of debt based on just accusation of wrongdoing—the new regulations go too far in the opposite direction. As the lender, the federal government should have some responsibility to the borrower.”

It’s estimated that the new proposal could save the federal government nearly $13 billion over the next decade.

It’s a substantial savings, given that the Education Department had put a $14.9 billion price tag over the next decade for the program under the more-broadly defined regulations.

The new regulations would permit the U.S. Department of Education to provide partial relief instead of cancelling all of the borrower’s loans, depending on the level of harm suffered, he says.

Under the new rules, borrowers would need to prove that the college intended to defraud—a very difficult standard.

Also significant: Only borrowers already in default could apply for relief under the proposed rules. As a result, a borrower who was actively repaying the loans wouldn’t get help.

“This might lead some borrowers to intentionally default on their federal student loans,” Kantrowitz says.

Defaulting can seriously harm your credit score, and drive up borrowing costs when you want to take out a car loan, home mortgage or open up a credit card. A default will be reported to credit bureaus.

Most often, you do not want to go into default. If you default on student loans, you will be subject to collection charges and wage garnishment, and the government can seize your income tax refund, too.

©2018 Detroit Free Press
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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$204,900 :: 3705 OAKMONTE BLVD, Rochester MI, 48306-4792

Property Photo

2 beds, 2 baths
Home size: 1,344 sq ft
Lot Size: 0 sq ft
Added: 08/11/18, Last Updated: 08/11/18
Property Type: Condo/Townhouse/Co-Op
MLS Number: 21490845
Community: Oakland Twp (63101)
Tract: OAKMONTE AT SILVERCREEK CONDO
Status: Active

Check out this Serene Condo in Rochester! Freshly Painted and Move-in-Ready! Laminate in Great Room and Master Bedroom! Home faces South AWAY from street and faces Beautiful Nature Preserve!AFFORDABLE Living & Award Winning Rochester Schools!Home is in Great Shape and READY to be decorated to your liking!First Floor Unit means NO STAIRS to climb! Oakmonte @ Silvercreek offers RESORT style living such as an outdoor pool, clubhouse, fitness room, tennis court, basketball court, skating arena in Winter, and more!Association fee covers snow removal, lawn maintenance, exterior painting and much more!

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$204,900 :: 3705 OAKMONTE BLVD, Rochester MI, 48306-4792

Property Photo

2 beds, 2 baths
Home size: 1,344 sq ft
Lot Size: 0 sq ft
Added: 08/11/18, Last Updated: 08/11/18
Property Type: Condo/Townhouse/Co-Op
MLS Number: 21490845
Community: Oakland Twp (63101)
Tract: OAKMONTE AT SILVERCREEK CONDO
Status: Active

Check out this Serene Condo in Rochester! Freshly Painted and Move-in-Ready! Laminate in Great Room and Master Bedroom! Home faces South AWAY from street and faces Beautiful Nature Preserve!AFFORDABLE Living & Award Winning Rochester Schools!Home is in Great Shape and READY to be decorated to your liking!First Floor Unit means NO STAIRS to climb! Oakmonte @ Silvercreek offers RESORT style living such as an outdoor pool, clubhouse, fitness room, tennis court, basketball court, skating arena in Winter, and more!Association fee covers snow removal, lawn maintenance, exterior painting and much more!

Listed with Keller Williams Home


Brought to you by Janet Hull and Thomas Bush, Real Estate One, Inc.. Call me today at 1-855-Janet-Tom, or visit my website at www.JanetandThomas.com!


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$399,000 :: 1900 INDEPENDENCE Court, Rochester Hills MI, 48306

3 beds, 1.2 baths
Home size: 2,992 sq ft
Lot Size: 13,939 sq ft
Added: 08/10/18, Last Updated: 08/10/18
Property Type: Single Family
MLS Number: 218077368
Community: Rochester Hills
Tract: HAWTHORN HILLS NO 4
Status: Active

Desirable Hawthorn Hills Subdivision – First -floor master suite with large closets, jetted tub and separate shower. Open floor plan with lots of windows & daylight. Large eat in Kitchen with new stainless steel appliances, freshly refinished hardwood floors & cabinets. Great room with gas fireplace & wet bar. Also included are a formal dining room, library/den, and large 1st-floor laundry. Award-winning Musson Elementary, Van Hoosen Junior High and Adams High School.

Listed with Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel-Roch


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6 Financial Goals to Achieve Before You Die

(TNS)—At the end of life, your final thoughts won’t be on bad financial decisions—but before you approach the hereafter, you’ll likely have more than a few regrets about poor money management.

Fiscal distress often results from a lack of long-term planning. Failing to save enough for retirement—a decades-long endeavor—is the biggest financial regret among American adults, according to a Bankrate survey, followed closely by not having an adequately-funded emergency savings account.

Much like your physical well-being, financial health requires both good habits and a bit of luck. By setting up financial goals and working hard to accomplish them, you can focus your energy on the more meaningful parts of your life.

1. Maintain a top-notch FICO score.
You’re going to need to borrow a large sum of money at some point in your life. Want to buy a house? A car? Chances are you’re going to need to go to the bank first. The more creditworthy you appear to a financial institution, the less interest you’ll end up paying.

Guarding a super prime score, generally around 740, should be an important financial goal. Most Americans fall short. The average FICO score hit an all-time high last year, reaching 700. You should aim higher—although don’t stress over trying to get a perfect mark of 850. Life’s too short.

How do you improve? Pay off all your credit card bills in full every month, on time. Use no more than 20 percent of your available credit and keep your oldest accounts going even if you don’t need them.

2. Have a six-month emergency fund.
Amassing six months’ worth of spending in a high-yield savings account is really hard. Depending on where you live and how much you earn, you’re looking at a stash of somewhere between $20,000 and $50,000. Only 39 percent of Americans would be able to pay for a $1,000 emergency with cash, according to a Bankrate survey. Wages have mostly stagnated since the Great Recession, and low interest rates are a headache for savers.

An emergency fund is a hedge against disaster. If you were laid off, it would let you take your time picking your next role. If you got sick or the roof caved in, you wouldn’t have to go into debt. If you’re starting from scratch, place any windfall you receive into a savings account. You can even name the account “break in case of emergency.”

3. Become a 401(k) millionaire.
How much you need in retirement savings depends on your current standard of living, but you may face some adjustments after calling it quits. Half of all households are at risk of spending their golden years with less spending power than they are used to, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

The old rule of thumb suggests you need eight times your final income in retirement savings (there are more detailed measures you can use, or you can hire a financial planner). Still, retirement saving is relatively straightforward. Save 10 to 15 percent of your income, including a company match in your 401(k), and invest in low-cost diversified funds. One quick and easy way is to pick a target date fund that gets more conservative (i.e., more bonds) as you age.

4. Pay off your mortgage.
Even if you have a low mortgage rate—mortgage rates have been muted by historical standards since the onset of the housing crisis—owning your home outright is one of the most financially liberating steps you can take, and a sure way to save money.

Let’s say you put 10 percent down on a $262,500 home with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.88 percent. You’ll end up paying $164,000 in interest alone. Taking out a 15-year loan, instead, would save around $90,000.

Even if you stick with the average loan length, consider contributing extra to your monthly payment whenever possible, and join the 36 percent of mortgage-free homeowners.

5. Make a major purchase with cash.
Despite an improving jobs picture and stock markets ascending to new heights, Americans are struggling with savings and debt. The personal savings rate has dropped dramatically over the past few years, while the percentage of families with credit card debt jumped by nearly six percentage points to 43.9 from 2013 to 2016, according to the Federal Reserve. The average indebted household owes $5,700. With the Fed poised to raise interest rates multiple times in 2018, taking on debt is an ever more expensive proposition.

The next time you need to make a big purchase, like a family vacation or a new car, try to make it completely with cash; you’ll not only enjoy the thing you just bought, but you won’t face the anxiety that accompanies new debt. To ramp up your savings rate, automatically siphon a small percentage of your biweekly paycheck into an earmarked savings account. Saving automatically is the quickest way to build up your cache.

6. Pay off student loans.
Student loans afflict people of all ages. Nearly one in six Americans have student debt, with a median amount of $17,000. If you took on loans for post-grad studies, you owe $45,000. Meanwhile senior debt has quadrupled over the past 10 years, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

If you’re already putting enough away for retirement—generally 10 percent of your pay, including any employer match—and have a fully-funded emergency fund, start working overtime to pay off your student debt. Put any raises, or your tax refund, to chip away at the mountain of debt.

©2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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$439,900 :: 2973 LEYTON CRT, Rochester Hills MI, 48306-3048

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4 beds, 4 baths
Home size: 2,846 sq ft
Lot Size: 27,878 sq ft
Added: 08/07/18, Last Updated: 08/08/18
Property Type: Single Family
MLS Number: 21489140
Community: Rochester Hills (63151)
Tract: HAWTHORN SUB NO 1
Status: Active

The one you’ve been waiting for! Move-in-ready family home with custom remodels that fit for a design showroom! Located on a large cul-de-sac lot in desirable Hawthorne sub, which features walking trails, common areas, and a pond. Stunning one of a kind interior designed and finished by custom design company, Form & Void. Solid maple hardwood floors throughout the entire home, tall baseboard molding, neutral colors and room to sprawl. Stunning and spacious master suite with large walk-in closet and a gorgeous master bathroom. Three additional generously spaced bedrooms also feature walk-in closets. Formal dining, formal living room with fireplace, eat-in kitchen and family room with fireplace. Private office is set off the kitchen Hallway with views of the backyard. Custom finished basement gives you a speak-easy feel and features a custom finished bar and sitting area. First-floor laundry and oversized 2.5 car garage. Rochester Schools. Hurry! This one won’t last long!

Listed with KW Domain


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Is a State With No Income Tax Better or Worse?

(TNS)—Is it better to live in a state with no income tax?

It’s a great question to ask, especially when considering how much of our paycheck is already set aside for Uncle Sam. Seven U.S. states forgo individual income taxes as of 2018: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Residents of New Hampshire and Tennessee are also spared from handing over an extra chunk of their paycheck, though they do pay tax on dividends and income from investments.

The main benefit of eliminating the individual income tax, proponents say, is that states with no income tax on residents become beacons for growth. They’re better at creating jobs and keeping a core of young, educated workers from moving to other states.

The American Legislative Exchange Council [conservative, generally] reports that over the past decade, the nine states without a personal income tax have consistently outperformed the nine states with the highest taxes on personal income in job creation, population growth and even tax revenues. Others, however, are skeptical about those findings.

“There is no compelling evidence that states without income taxes are outperforming states that have them or even have relatively high rates,” says Michael Mazerov, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities [generally progressive].

“The research shows that the overwhelming driver of where people choose to live and where people choose to move is job opportunities and family reasons, and state and local taxes are pretty negligible for most households,” Mazerov says.

The issue is undoubtedly controversial. Public opinion usually swings with the size of one’s paycheck and the role people think governments should play in shaping society.

Before taking a side, however, consider these factors.

The New Tax Bill Reduced the Deduction for State Income Taxes
Officials in states with higher individual income tax rates—think California and New York—are less than thrilled about a provision in the new tax code that caps the state and local tax (SALT) deductions that residents can claim at $10,000.

The old tax code allowed taxpayers who opted to itemize instead of take the standard deductions—formerly $6,350 for single filers and $12,700 for couples filing jointly—to deduct all of the property taxes they paid to state and local government agencies, as well as their tally from either sales taxes or individual income taxes.

Since most people rack up more individual income taxes, that is the category they choose to deduct. The changes leave some likely owing more going forward, economists say.

It’s more business as usual for people living in a state without individual income taxes, because those residents were by default either taking the standard deduction or subtracting the amount they paid in sales and property taxes from their federal tax bills. Without making some big purchases or holding a substantial real estate portfolio, it will likely be harder to hit the new $10,000 cap.

There Are Other Ways to Get You
State governments use taxpayer dollars to fund road maintenance, law enforcement agencies and other public services. The funding for those services typically comes from three key areas: property taxes, sales taxes and income taxes, says Stephen Miller, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“You might say it’s like the three legs of stool, so when you take one leg away, the funding stability is reduced,” Miller says. “If you want government services, then the payment of that has to come from somewhere else.”

States without a personal income tax might ask residents and visitors to pay more sales tax on groceries, clothes and other goods, as is the case in Nevada—or, like in New Hampshire, homeowners end up paying more on their property tax bills compared with those in neighboring states.

Tennessee, for example, has the highest sales tax in the country. The Volunteer State, which reviles income taxes so much that voters changed the Tennessee Constitution in 2014 to forbid these taxes for good, charges a 7 percent sales tax statewide. When combined with local sales taxes, the combined rate increases to an average of 9.46 percent, according to estimates from the Tax Foundation. That’s more than double the combined rate in super-touristy Hawaii.

In New Hampshire, homeowners pay some of the highest effective property taxes in the nation, according to an analysis by ATTOM Data Solutions. The Granite State also continually ranks poorly for contributing funds to higher education, and holds some of the most expensive two-year and four-year colleges in the nation when looking at average tuition and fee prices, according to the College Board.

In Washington, pump prices are routinely among the highest in the country, in part because of a sky-high gasoline tax. As of 2018, Washington charges 49.5 cents per gallon in gas taxes, the second-highest in the country, according to The Energy Information Administration.

Elsewhere, Texas and Nevada have above-average sales taxes, and Texas also has higher-than-average effective property tax rates. Florida relies on sales taxes, and its property taxes are above the national average. Wyoming and Alaska make up for the lost income tax revenue through their natural resources. Both states enjoy hefty tax revenues from coal mining and oil drilling operations.

All of those extra taxes contribute to higher-than-average living expenses in some of those states. Florida, South Dakota, Washington and New Hampshire all have higher than the median cost of living, according to data compiled by the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness. Alaska is among the most expensive places to live, but a big part of that is because it’s so remote.

More Pressure on the Poor
While the jury’s still out on the benefits of living in a state with no income tax, experts agree that there is one clear result for those states that do levy an income tax: It helps the poor.

An income tax is a classic tool for redistributing wealth. It’s usually “progressive” in nature, meaning that it taxes higher earners at a greater rate than lower earners. Other taxes typically don’t have that characteristic.

Sales taxes, for example, are considered “regressive.” They don’t change depending on the income level of the consumer. They treat everyone the same. So do levies on food, gasoline and other key consumable items.

These taxes place an unfair burden on the poor, according to research from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) [a nonpartisan nonprofit]. The reason is the lowest earners in the state devote the lion’s share of their take-home pay to buying things that are subject to sales taxes. The wealthy, who can save a chunk of their income in their 401(k)s and other investments, have a much smaller exposure to the sales tax.

Don’t Expect an Economic Benefit
Advocates for abandoning personal income taxes are driven by the same line of thinking: Cutting the income tax will boost take-home pay for everyone. It’ll make the state more attractive than its neighbors, drawing new businesses, creating jobs and sparking an influx of talented workers.

But does this really happen? A variety of economic policy groups have pushed back over the past few years, raising questions about whether any of those claims are true.

“If taxes where everything, California would be empty and Wyoming would be bursting at the seams,” says Robert Godby, director of the Energy Economics & Public Policies Center at the University of Wyoming.

When you put the top nine states with the highest individual tax rates against the nine states that don’t go after a piece of workers’ paychecks, data shows team no-tax had a higher average population growth rate from 2006 to 2016—11.9 percent compared to 5.6 percent, according to the ITEP.

However, the ITEP points out “the more significant finding is that the no-tax states have struggled to add jobs at a rate sufficient to keep pace with their growing populations. Employment growth trailed population growth by roughly 41 percent in the no-tax states, compared to 19 percent in the states with the highest top tax rates.”

Wyoming, home to a great deal of the nation’s coal and oil and gas activity, saw one of the larger gaps between job creation and population growth, according to the 2017 report. The Cowboy State traditionally shifts more of the tax burden onto the energy industry. While that might work during boom times, bust times create funding challenges. Other governments that shift the onus away from income earners might also find themselves more susceptible to budget blows, Godby says.

“The problem is when you live in a state without an income tax, it’s really hard to implement one. It’s harder than raising an existing tax because it’s kind of like crossing the Rubicon,” he says. “For a lot of people in Wyoming, not having an income tax is something they feel special about or something that makes Wyoming special.”

©2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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$437,500 :: 3644 Charlwood Drive, Rochester Hills MI, 48306

Property Photo

4 beds, 2.1 baths
Home size: 3,412 sq ft
Lot Size: 11,325 sq ft
Added: 08/06/18, Last Updated: 08/06/18
Property Type: Single Family
MLS Number: 218074353
Community: Rochester Hills
Tract: THORNRIDGE SUB NO 3
Status: Active

All the space and storage you desire can be found in this home!! Feel the Sun Shining into this Sprawling 4 bed home in the Highly Desired Thornridge Sub! Private 1st Floor Master Suite has w/i closet, dual vanity & sep tub & shower! Lg office features gorgeous built in bookcases, desk & tons of storage! Lg Eat-in Kitchen hosts SS appliances, incl new Energy Star double oven and Energy Star microwave, granite countertops. The perfect, oversized canvas is waiting for you to create the Laundry/Mud room of your Pinterest dreams! So many living spaces, including a Loft Area! Fin base w/gaming, crafting, workout & storage spaces! This stunning home has been meticulously maintained & is full of updates! Withinpast 2-3 years this home has received a new deck, landscaping, sprinkling system, invisible fence, 6 panel wood interior doors, furnace, hwh, expanded electrical panel and insulation installed, as well as, the exterior painted, new carpeting throughout. Award Winning Rochester Schools!

Virtual Tour: https://www.propertypanorama.com/instaview/nocbor/218074353

Listed with Real Living John Burt Realty


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$1,249,900 :: 5423 ORION ROAD, OAKLAND Township MI, 48306

Property Photo

4 beds, 3.2 baths
Home size: 4,316 sq ft
Lot Size: 90,604 sq ft
Added: 08/05/18, Last Updated: 08/05/18
Property Type: Single Family
MLS Number: 58031356111
Community: Oakland Twp
Tract: METES & BOUNDS (LENGTHY LE
Status: Active

outstanding views from this beautiful colonial with finished walkout sitting high on a hill overlooking 2 well manicured acres, all high end finishes thru out, gourmet kitchen with built in commercial grade appliances, extensive woodwork and trim,650 sf outdoor enclosed hot tub room with huge natural fireplace rustic timbers and spectacular views, extensive landscaping with 3 story waterfall and multi level trex decking across back of home and huge covered patio off lower level walkout, finished lower level has 2nd gourmet kitchen 3rd fireplace-theatre area-entertainers dream bar area-full bath-additional bedroom,3.5 car heated garage, on of a kind home on fantastic hilltop setting offering great views!

Virtual Tour: http://tours.realvisionstudio.com/idx/745628

Listed with Realty Executives Midwest


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$679,000 :: 724 PANORAMA, ROCHESTER HILLS MI, 48306

4 beds, 3.2 baths
Home size: 4,460 sq ft
Lot Size: 15,681 sq ft
Added: 08/04/18, Last Updated: 08/04/18
Property Type: Single Family
MLS Number: 58031356047
Community: Rochester Hills
Tract: CLEAR CREEKNO 1
Status: Active

This Rochester Home is move in ready and perfect for any family. The home is a 4460 sq foot gorgeous colonial, built on an oversized lot in the pristine area of Rochester Hills Michigan. It is loaded with upgrades and in perfect condition. Featuring 4 bedrooms, an office, a den, a beautiful 2 story great room and a kitchen for any size family. The home has a large 3 car garage with direct basement access, extended basement celling, along with exquisite finishing touches throughout the home. The backyard is perfect for anyone looking for more space. With a built on covered patio, it makes enjoying the outside very enjoyable and comfortable.

Listed with Select Real Estate Professionals


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