Winter Costs Are Adding Up and Delaying Some Homeowners’ Closing Dates

Posted at 5:34 PM, Mar 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-10 19:07:26-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (March 10, 2014) – Homeowners know the cost of this record-breaking winter is adding up. If Mike Vanheest didn’t shovel the snow for his mother’s home, he worries about what it would cost her to hire help.

“Every once in a while you’ll get someone walking up and down the streets saying ‘I’ll shovel your sidewalks for 10 bucks,’ I don’t have anything against that but when you’re on a limited income, every 10 bucks counts,” said Vanheest.

Even Grand Rapids realtors are saying the housing market is taking a hit.

“I think some of the closings are being held up. I know there are agents out there who have hired and gotten blow torches to torch these sidewalks,” said Pat Vredevoogd Combs, vice president with Coldwell Banker AJS Schmidt.

To sell your home in Grand Rapids, homeowners must pass a sidewalk inspection that costs $95. In order to pass the inspection, the City ordinance says, “the public sidewalk, service walk, and/or driveway approach (to include 4ft. of curb on each side of approach and 2ft in front of approach) must be cleared of snow/ice, (grass edge to grass edge) the length of the property down to bare pavement, and salted.” 

Vredevoogd said one of the homes she was helping sell failed its inspection after the homeowners used 200 pounds of salt and hired a front-end loader to scoop out the snow and ice from the driveway. The homeowners were charged another $95 for a second inspection, which will most likely push back their closing date scheduled for Wednesday.

“If you can see 75 percent of the sidewalk and it’s alright and clear, you should be able to give it a pass. My opinion, but I think that we’ve given a pass to the City for this winter and haven’t really climbed all over them because we understand that it’s a crazy, crazy winter, I think that they should be looking at giving us a pass,” said Vredevoogd. 

However, John Hayes, assistant project manager with the City of Grand Rapids, said holding up a closing is the last thing they want to do. Hayes explained if a homeowner is elderly or cannot clear the snow, then the city estimates the cost to replace the entire sidewalk and driveway approach, and homeowners can put the funds in escrow.

Meanwhile, many are waiting for the Spring thaw while realtors say the housing demand is high.

“We are in our spring market and I know it doesn’t look like spring out, but we’ve got a huge pent-up demand for housing,” said Vredevoogd.

For more information on sidewalk inspections for the City of Grand Rapids, see the regulations.

A proposal on the ballot May 6, 2014 addresses the issue of sidewalk repair and ownership. If passed, this proposal would relieve property owners from repairing, reconstructing or improving sidewalks, so long as City income tax rates remain the same.