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Monday, July 29, 2013

Off-the-Beaten Path Michigan Vacation Destinations Worth Checking Out

Michiganders know about the natural beauty of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, the beaches of Grand Haven and the throwback charm of Mackinac Island, but there are several lesser-known vacation towns and destinations throughout Michigan that make for incredible getaways.

From enjoying quaint beachfront towns to sprawling nature preserves, many people have favorite spots they like to visit year after year.  But there’s nothing like discovering new areas for an exciting vacation adventure. Community Financial Novi Branch Manager Nancy Pieske is a big fan of camping in Mackinac City, but her family has been known to frequent other less-known spots as well.

The Lake Michigan towns of Petoskey and Ludington are among her favorites because of their scenic views and access to Lake Michigan. Port Huron and Port Austin also rank high on her list for their Lake Huron splendor. She's also taken the family to St. Ignace, which is just across from the Mackinac Bridge.

Pieske's family enjoying time at the beach in St. Ignace.
Each of these towns feature the type of laid-back, small town family atmosphere that makes them perfect for either a quick weekend getaway or an extended stay.

Hillman Branch Assistant Manager James Timrick is also a fan of Petoskey, and the whole northwest Lower Peninsula area with its scenic Lake Michigan landscapes that make for a good drive.

“We like to go north up through Harbor Springs. There’s a real small road that goes up called the Tunnel of Trees,” Timrick said. “It’s a really tight winding road along the side of Lake Michigan that goes all the way to Charlevoix; that whole lakeshore is built up on bluffs.”

Timrick enjoys stopping in Charlevoix for watersports such as boat and wave runner rentals as well.

He’s also is a fan of golf getaways in Gaylord, home to another Community Financial Branch. One of his favorite spots is The Natural, a course rife with wildlife and natural terrain.

Among Lake Huron spots, Timrick enjoys the small northeastern Lower Peninsula town of Alpena, which features snorkeling and glass bottom boat tours of shipwrecks.

“The water is so clear and you can look right through the bottom of the boat and see all of the wrecks in their natural state and the bottom of the lake,” he said.

Other lesser-known but exciting spots in the Great Lakes State include Munising in the Upper Peninsula  home to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and several nearby waterfalls, Isle Royale National Park in the upper UP, and many more.

What’s your favorite Michigan vacation destination? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Adding the Most Value to Your Home with Improvements

 It’s a booming sellers’ market in Michigan, and many homeowners are looking to take advantage by making their homes more attractive to prospective buyers. Others are making home improvements they can enjoy now, with the hope of increasing the value of their home to sell in the future.

On average, 33 percent of home shoppers are more likely to buy a home that has been recently renovated, according to HGTV. 

Even if you’re not ready to sell, you might want to consider developing a home improvement strategy that will help you get the most value out of your home in the future. Here are some ways to fix up your home to add value:

Bathroom- If you’re looking for a guaranteed way to get a high return on your investment, consider remodeling or even adding a new bathroom to your home. A bathroom project costing $13,000 can add $11,000 to a home’s asking price, which ends up giving you an 85 percent return on your investment (ROI).

A new kitchen can add a 100% return
on investment if done right.

Photo: This Old House
New Deck- It’s every homeowner’s dream to have a comfortable, inviting deck space for entertaining, especially in the summer. New decks are not only great for the homeowner in the short-term, they’re also good for adding long-term value. According to, a new deck costing $15,000 can add about $11,000 to your home’s asking price, an ROI of 73 percent.

Exterior Facelift- Whether you choose to spend on landscaping, paving your driveway or even adding smaller items like shutters to your home, fixing up the exterior can pay big dividends both for adding appeal to prospective buyers and your personal mood when arriving home each day.

According to, a good first impression can add 5 to 10 percent to the value of your home.

Kitchen- Quite possibly the most popular home addition, a kitchen can add a 100 percent return rate if done right according to It’s important to stick with a central theme, color pattern and style when remodeling a kitchen to make it an inviting place. Adding a window over the sink or an island counter space are also great ideas that yield returns.

For more information on how to obtain a home equity loan from Community Financial to make the improvements you’ve always wanted, please stop by any of our eight branches or visit this link.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Home Equity Loans Making a Comeback

Home improvement season is here, and many people are taking advantage of a tried and true way to get more financial flexibility and to turn current homes into dream homes.

Home equity lines of credit are making a comeback as home owners tap into the rising value of their homes for the purpose of making much needed, or always-wanted improvements.

Whether remodeling their kitchen or making an addition on their house, Community Financial members are actively utilizing loans these days according to Call Center Branch Manager, Jean Coulter.

“Lots of people are getting loans for home improvements, and additions are popular, especially in the Plymouth area,” she said. “I had one member who did an addition, he was actually copying the neighbors, somebody across the street.”

Many people are tapping into home equity loans in order to upgrade their homes.
Community Financial offers two types of home equity loans: a line of credit loan and a fixed-term loan. The line of credit loan is signed for a 10-year-period during which the home owner borrows against it and makes interest-only payments each month.  At the end of that period, the owner has a 20-year payback period. These loans are currently the most popular, especially with Community Financial’s current loan rates, which are as low as 2.50% APR.

The fixed-term loan allows borrowers to pay the loan back within 20 years in set payments.
Coulter noted that people are using the loans for other expenses as well. Some people are using them for landscaping projects and pools, while others have an eye on their children’s futures.

“A lot of people are using them for college expenses for their kids, they’ll open them up and then use them to pay for that,” Coulter said.

Home equity loans can also be useful for paying outstanding credit card balances and consolidating debt, she noted, because of the current low interest rates.

While a home equity loan affords homeowners the opportunity and flexibility to make important upgrades and meet other needs, Coulter stressed that it’s important for people to realize that they won’t necessarily get equal value back when it’s time to sell, so invest wisely.

For more information on home equity lines of credit from Community Financial, including a rate disclosure, visit this link

Monday, July 8, 2013

Inexpensive Summer Events

It’s vacation time but if you’re trying to keep up with the Jones’, be prepared to dish out the dough this year. In a summer travel survey conducted by American Express last year, respondents revealed that they expected to spend around $1,180 per person for their summer vacation trip.  If this year is on par with 2012, that’s almost $5,000 for a family of four.

The good news is you don’t have to break your budget to enjoy the summer with your family. There are many affordable “staycation” opportunities in Michigan.

Here are some ways to vacation locally this summer:

Tremendous Tuesdays in Novi: Fuerst Park is hosting a number of free kid entertainment events throughout July.  Events happen weekly at 10:30 a.m. Visit the City of Novi website for a schedule and more information.

Maybury Farm in Northville:  Maybury Farm makes for a fun, educational excursion which includes viewing the new baby animals, walking hiking trails, playing on a farm-themed playground. General admission is $2.50.

Penn Theatre Summer Cinema Matinee Series:  
See the classics at this $3 summer movie series sponsored by Community Financial.  The Muppet Movie, ET, and The Sound of Music are among the timeless movies that can be seen on Thursdays at 1p.m. & 7 p.m.  For a complete list of movies and show times, visit the Penn Theatre website.

Gaylord Alpenfest: The rides cost a little extra, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had at the 49th incarnation of the popular northern Michigan festival. Among the offerings are free concerts and events for kids, free food, and free entertainment and family-style fun. See for details.

If you’re an outdoorsman, try fishing at Huron Metro Parks or on one of the many small lakes in the Gaylord area.  Biking is a great way to get out of the house and burn some calories. There are quite a few major bike trails in Michigan.  

Enjoy summer in Michigan this year but don’t give up on your dream vacation altogether.  Open a Goal Setter Savings account and start saving for your fabulous getaway today.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Getting the Most Out of Your Credit Union

More and more people are joining credit unions and the reasons are clear. Credit union members avoid excessive fees and other big bank hassles, and Community Financial members also enjoy many additional perks.

For example, our members enjoy a wide variety of special services catered to their needs.  These range from convenient online banking options to rewards programs and the ability to speak to our local, friendly representatives – not outsourced call center agents on the other side of the world.

Surcharge-free ATM access is one of our biggest perks.  Our members have the benefit of using any Alliance One or CO-OP Network ATM around the world without incurring fees. Members simply look for the Alliance One or Co-Op Network logos for access to thousands of surcharge-free ATMs.  You can read more about our network of surcharge-free ATMs here.

Many of our members also enjoy using the Visa Check Card, which is offered as a free option to members and includes no monthly or per transaction fees.

Perhaps the most exciting feature is our member rewards program, which qualifies our members for special, valuable discounts like free checking and savings accounts as well as deposit rate bonuses and loan incentives. It’s all based on deposit amounts and total balances, and regardless of how much you have in your account, we’ve got a rewards club for you. Visit our website for more information on our current club levels and rewards.

Students also have their own club at Community Financial, where they can learn more about financial literacy and savings while earning rewards. All members age 13 to 23 are automatically enrolled in the club. Details of the perks include: free student checking with a Visa debit card, free basic savings with an ATM card and the opportunity to earn monetary rewards and other prizes with savings deposit transactions.

It’s never too late for adults to start learning about finances, especially in today’s economic climate. That’s why we offer the Financial Resource Center for members seeking information about important financial topics.

And if you need help investing or assistance with your mortgage, we have professionals on hand to guide you in those areas as well.

Community Financial is passionate about providing excellent service which includes making things convenient for our members. Whether you chat with one of our friendly member service representatives in person or through our online chat center, we take pride in being Right Here, Right for You.

Finally, we listened to our members and significantly upgraded our mobile and online banking options this year. Our free online app, Community Financial Mobile (which can be found in Google Play and iTunes) puts plenty of banking options right at your fingertips, and it’s accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Text banking also allows members to check balances, view recent transactions and much more.  Information about all of these options can be found at