bell bottoms

Editorial Note:  This blog post was first published in 2009 at a time when the real estate industry was facing the worst market that most current practioners had ever witnessed.  Looking back at the sentiments expressed in this blog post brings to mind some of the important lessons that period of challenge created.


I remember the early 70’s when bell bottom pants were all the rage.  The bigger the flare the better.   Everything was just a tad ‘puffed’ up and that included ‘big hair’ like the Afro. Sometimes, it was difficult to have a sense of how tall a person really was.  Several young men I knew used the cover of bell bottoms to add several inches of height with platform shoes!

Bell bottom pants were also handy for ‘sweeping streets’ clean.  Many kids wore their bell bottoms so long, that the bottoms actually frayed from dragging across the street. But this was deemed better than revealing that you had spindly legs and a short torso. But really…who were you fooling?

Today, that excess almost seems nostalgic.  In fact, bell bottoms are considered vintage wear in some circles. And as for the mile high Afro…well, that was OK until it rained.  If you were unlucky enough to not have a head covering, your Afro disappeared like a poof of smoke!  Now, come to think of it, both bell bottoms and the Afro relied on the cover of ‘fair weather’ conditions.

But like all things in life, change happens.  In the late 70’s and early 80’s, the shift to skin tight stove pipe jeans created unforgiving revelations for everyone apart from those who had almost perfect figures.  It was as though, we had entered into fashions’ version of a period of reckoning.

You see, fair weather has a way of making many things seem alright. Over the past decade, the real estate industry has enjoyed a good deal of it. During the fair weather period, just about anyone was able to get a license and sell at least a couple homes a year… During the fair weather period, real estate brokers and associations welcomed everyone in with open arms; it didn’t matter if you could sell as long as you paid your fees on time. During the fair weather period, just about anyone with breath could get a loan…

But like all things which depend on the unpredictability of fair weather, the day of reckoning has arrived. Short Sales have now replaced the Sure Sale.  A lack of training has revealed an industry that is significantly short on training and follow-through at a time when the market is dictating increased scrutiny and consumers want to look to see what’s underneath your bell bottoms in a manner of speaking.  

And in truth, Bell Bottoms never really covered anything. It was all just temporary.  In the end when you took off your pants and platform shoes, you returned to the real you. Even if that was just at bedtime.

This is the sort of re-adjustment which I think is taking place in the real estate industry today.  We’re being forced to look at ourselves and take stock of our strengths and weaknesses. Stormy conditions are forcing us to take a good hard look at who we’re connected to. Have you found yourself surrounded by fair weather friends? Folks who are all too happy to enjoy the good times with you but are unwilling to buckle down to support the load?  

Or, has your experience been more about the bell bottom covering up stuff that really needs to be dealt with? Things like the fact that you’re not meeting your goals and don’t have a plan in place to make them happen.  This is an opportunity to take stock of what’s really going on professionally and to assess what skills we need to become competent to meet today’s challenges.  Without this sort of honest assessment, all the marketing in the world is doomed for eventual failure in this new era of transparency.

You know, times of challenge are kinda like stove pipe pants that have a way of revealing things that were less noticeable during a more forgiving period.  It’s up to each of us to get in shape!

Real Estate Logic CaptureHave you ever been in a class where the instructor asked the real estate agents to name what the public thinks of real estate agents?  Inevitably, someone will raise their hands and say…they think we’re like used car salespersons?  The tone & subsequent commentary indicate that this is NOT a good thing…

In a recent class setting, the instructor went further and asked everyone to raise their hands IF they LIKED salespeople.  Only a few brave souls dared to raise their hands.  We all felt it…it was not cool to ‘like’ salepersons.  One brave soul actually said he enjoyed a purchase when it was assisted by a good salesperson.  Which got me to thinking…so do I! Although these examples reference real estate professionals in particular, I think the conversation is actually a broader one.

Even though I often enter a store and respond to an initial inquiry for assistance with the proverbial, ‘No thanks, I’m just looking,’ when I want to make my selection, I’m always grateful when a salesperson shows up, particularly when they are a GOOD Salesperson.

So what’s the difference between a good Salesperson and a lousy one?  Well, one could write a book about that and since this is a short blog post, I’ll just highlight a few key points which make a huge difference for me.

1.  Good Salespersons LISTEN with two ears & TALK with one mouth

While, this may seem to be the nature of creation, I’m often amazed by how much talking a poor Salesperson does.  I guess it’s called ‘Selling’ me a product.  Problem is, I don’t need to be SOLD something, I’m already indicating I’d like to buy.  I simply need assistance in making the right selection.  To help me with that, you’ve got to listen more and talk less.

2.  Good Salespersons NOTICE stuff.

A couple of years ago I bought a new car.  I really wanted to purchase a particular brand of car, but when I walked into the showroom and started to look around, no one noticed.  That’s not to say, there were not sales agents there.  They seemed occupied, talking to each other, walking around…in fact doing anything other than noticing that there was a NEW customer in the showroom who might be interested in buying a car.  Well, after about 10 – 15 minutes, I walked out.  Fortunately, the competing dealer down the street had Salespersons who noticed.  Needless to say, I’ve been happy with my purchase.

3.  Good Salespersons don’t tell LIES

Sometimes, the truth can be a tricky thing.  So what do you say when someone asks you if they look good in something and you really think they look awful? Not an easy situation, I know.  Yet, integrity in sales is the cornerstone foundation of good business in my opinion.  When people trust you, they feel comfortable with the fact that you are making a recommendation for their good, not simply to line your pockets.  Sometimes the truth is hard to swallow.  Like, ‘Mr & Mrs Seller, your home has lost 30% of its value OR, you are not in the position to purchase a home right now.  But, it’s better to tell the truth, albeit with politeness, than to lead someone down a false trail.

We’re ALL in Sales…

Yes, we are.  Everyday, all of us are selling something.  Many of us are not aware of this fact and consequently do a very poor job at it.  If you’re a parent, you’re in the daily business of training a child to do the right thing and in a sense convincing them that doing so will be beneficial.  We sell when we present ourselves to the world every morning.

We’re selling even when we don’t think people are watching.  We’re selling every time we convince or ask someone to do something.  When selling is done from good intentions and motivations, it has the capacity to influence lives in a very compelling way.  People want to know what is best and how to make quality decisions.  They want to have the knowledge required to prevent mistakes.  They want to know that you care about THEM, not just the product you’re selling.  When I meet a salesperson like that, irregardless of whether they’re a REALTOR®,teacher or a clerk in a retail store, I for one, appreciate the service!

The big news for the summer of 2014 according to statistics compiled and released by the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS is Housing Inventory…or rather the lack of it as the community prepares to enter what is traditionally the most active segment of the selling season.  According to the report, (which tracks data into May 2014) the amount of housing inventory available for sale in West Michigan has dropped to under 3 months of supply.  (2.4 months to be exact based on Pending Sales)  To give you perspective, a balanced market would have the housing supply at 6-7 months during this time of the year as many homeowners normally take advantage of the warmer weather and school closings to market their homes.

Trends Graphic for Housing Inventory in West MI 2013-2014

Trends Graphic for Housing Inventory in West MI 2013-2014

The issue of low inventory has dogged the market throughout most of 2014.  New listings arriving on the West Michigan market have been about 12% lower than the pace of last year.  (2014 – 6,592  new listings YTD vs 2013 – 7541 new listings).  But in spite of the Inventory shortage, the Sales Volume for 2014 is on an upward trend!  In fact, 2014  Sales Volumes for the real estate Board shows an increase of 4.1%  for 2014 over last year and in May alone of this year, a 14.6 percent increase based on actual Closed Sales.

So what does this mean for the West Michigan Home Seller?  Well, Average home prices have increased over 9% during the past month.  Last year, the Average Home sold for $157,814 during the month of May.  Today, the average price is $174,001.  When ALL Sales including vacant land and multi-family units are added into the mix, the numbers drop a little, but irregardless, the average price of $167,728 is the highest price we’ve witnessed for almost a decade.

If you’re in the market for a home purchase, be prepared to aggressively pursue your goal.  This is not a market for the faint-hearted when it comes to the prospect of bidding wars and making quick decisions.  But, a quick decision does not mean you should make a rash decision when in comes to purchasing a home.  Afterall, this is the biggest investment that most Americans will make.  To be effective in a successful negotiation in this market, be prepared to do your research and know what’s for sale in the areas which interest you.  As REALTORS, our company sets up client portals which provide instant notification when new listings which match the criteria for a home which might be a match shows up on the Multiple Listing Service.  In addition, have all financing in order as a well qualified buyer wins hands down in this type of market.

If you’ve been considering placing your home on the market, your timing is impeccable!  However, be forewarned that this market requires attention to detail in which market savvy buyers are not simply looking for a home, but for a well priced and well presented home.  They’ll fight for that!  On the flip side, homes which do not show well, continue to be penalized and sell for less even in a market as active as this one.  If you’d like to know what you need to do to make sure your home attracts the best type of attention and price, give us a call for a free consultation at 616-791-0511.

*Trends Graphics provided courtesy of the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS

Living Room

Now under contract – May 2014.  We think you’ll love this home!  Click here to watch a pre-view tour of the interior of 3740 Bantam Dr. Hudsonville MI 49426. Handsome brickwork coupled with graceful pillars framing the entrance give this classic looking 3 bedroom 2.5 bath ranch style home a hint of southern colonial charm. Inside, soothing earth tone walls warm up a soaring expanse of cathedral ceilings. Wide open spaces and windows which splash light throughout the main floor create a cheerful ambiance.

Another great feature is the rich vinyl plank style flooring in the main living areas which looks sharp and contemporary, but is a breeze to keep clean. Add to this, almost brand new stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, a deck that opens up to a fenced in backyard which includes playground equipment, central air conditioning and underground sprinkling…well, what’s not to love! Located near the end of a cul de sac, this delightful home is a great space to make your new home base. $174,900. Contact Donna 616-881-6889 to schedule a preview.

House Exterior

Dining Room to kitchen view good

Recently Reduced to:  $124,900.  Located on a large lot which expands beyond the fenced in backyard, this 3 bedroom, 2 bath, offers a good value to home buyers. The home features 2 wood burning fireplaces (upstairs and down) and a wide open floor plan which seems to expand with light coming in through a substantial expanse of windows.

The 3 stall garage provides ample room for 3 cars or to store recreational vehicles in the off-season. In fact, storage is something this house has a lot of, including a sewing/craft room downstairs with shelving and an additional exercise area.

The 3rd bedroom upstairs can also be used as a den or study as it opens up to an expansive double tiered deck in the backyard. The owner is willing to part with 2 window air conditioning units which effectively keep the upstairs cool and comfortable during the summer. Don’t miss the opportunity to see and view this home today! Click link for MLS Data:http://www.grar.com/property/mls/14018646

To View a real estate show for 1670 Langley St. SE Grand Rapids MI, just click here or on the picture below.  Make this your new home today! Contact us here: 616-791-0511.


Welcome to Spring 2 PicMonkey Collage

So, what does the Spring Market look like in West Michigan – Grand Rapids? Well, in a nutshell…it’s interesting! My go to word when things are unexpected, don’t quite fit into the routine and operate outside of established or expected norms.

Interesting, this Spring means unexpectedly low inventory levels. Normally, there’s a significant uptick in homes for sale, this year inventory levels continue to run well below the average, with March 2014 listings being 26.5% less than last year and overall home listing totals throughout 2014 so far running 27.4% lower than the volume of 2013 in the first quarter.  In fact, inventory levels are recorded as the lowest since 2002 according to data available from the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors monthly marketing update.

What has that meant for housing values? Well, the squeeze on inventory has increased the value of West Michigan real estate. It’s a basic supply/demand thing. Overall, housing prices are approximately 14% higher than they were this time last year.  That being said, mortgage rates are still cooperating for the most part, so in many cases, it’s still actually cheaper to BUY a home than it is to rent a similar dwelling.

Add to that, the recent MI incentive to encourage home ownership with up to $7,500 in MSHDA grant money to qualified home buyers, well…this could present the unlikely paradox of ‘the best of both worlds’ for potential homeowners and purchasers in West Michigan. Are you noticing more For Sale & Sold signs in your neighborhoods yet?

If you’re interested in looking at the hard numbers available through our local real estate association, click this link.

House and Keys in Female HandsPurchasing a new home is one of the most exciting experiences an individual or family can have.  If you’ve been out of the real estate market for some time, you may be unaware of some dramatic changes in the real estate market landscape. In today’s market, there are some unique situations which home buyers should be aware of as they prepare to consider the purchase of a new home.


Almost five years ago, one of my blogs featured the quote below:

However, home buyers looking for a home to purchase will also quickly become aware of a notation which currently accompanies almost 65% of the homes listed for sale in November 2008 through the Grand Rapids Multiple Listing Service.  This notation which is accessible to the real estate agent on the listing card, will contain an advisory warning indicating that interested parties should be aware of the fact that the sale of the listed home will necessiate a ‘Short Sale’.


If you’re a brand new home buyer or recently re-entering the market, this notation may prove perplexing and you may wonder…What is a Short Sale?Well, in short (pun intended)…A Short Sale notation on a listing card is an indication that the home is priced below the mortgage balance owed on the home. (after costs associated with the home sale are paid) What may not be readily apparent to you is the fact that the term ‘SHORT Sale’ does NOT necessarily provide an accurate reflection of the duration of this particular type of transaction.


Well, it depends.

On the most basic level, this means that in order to become the new owner of this home, you will have to complete a successful negotiation with the owner (s) of the mortgage note to purchase the home to allow the ownership to be transferred to you for less than the current owner owes.  This adds several  additional steps and required signatures to the offer acceptance process which will now include:  the home owner who signed the listing agreement, the lender (s) and in some cases third party investors.


But for starters, it means that you should be prepared to be very patient and persistent if you truly want this home.  Short Sales are arguably among the most difficult negotiations to complete.  It is not unusual for real estate agents to negotiate for months to bring these transactions to closure.  As housing inventory levels have declined significantly within the past couple of years, some banks have become even more recalcitrant about negotiating a Short Sale in good faith.  Sometimes doing so at the cost of eventually losing the home to a Foreclosure and racking up significant costs in repairing the property, not to mention the fact that payments on the home may not have been made for a long time.

Being prepared for the long haul will save you the angst of increased blood pressure, stress and unnecessary temper tantrums. It will also be deeply appreciated by your hard working real estate agent who will probably accrue more stress than a commission will adequately compensate for.


Buying a home which requires the negotiation of a Short Sale will also add some additional steps to the home purchasing process.  Be prepared to wait while the bank (s) review the home owners paperwork to determine if they qualify for a Short Sale.  You can also anticipate that a Broker Price Opinion aka Appraisal may be ordered to determine if the bank wants to entertain your offer as one reflective of the current market conditions.  The primary Lender is now required to respond to your initial inquiry within 30 days which should technically shorten the process, but sometimes does not.

Offer submissions for Short Sales may languish on an Asset Managers desk while they sift through hundreds of files which have landed there before yours or wait to see if a better competing offer comes through.  Be persistent.  If you’ve done your homework and received some professional consultation from your real estate expert, you should be aware of the Value of your purchase.  A Short Sale negotiation done correctly can earn you your dream home with a significant amount of equity attached…no small feat in today’s market.


Now, this may seem absurd but you must understand one very important thing; just because the owner of the mortgage may choose to create a long drawn out process does NOT mean that you as a potential buyer will be afforded the same luxury.  In fact, it is not unusual to wait for months for a Short Sale Negotiation to be resolved only to be informed that you have three weeks to close the transaction.

So be prepared!  Make sure that you have a valid pre-approval in place even if this means updating the document while you await a resolution to your negotiation.  During this period of waiting, refrain from the temptation to buy any major purchases for your intended home (or any large purchases of any sort) so the terms of your pre-approval remain valid.  While waiting, take the opportunity to line up services that you may need to contract for the home purchase such as Inspectors, Handymen etc.


One of the best investments you will make is to hire a Professional REALTOR who has experience with Short Sales.  The National Association of REALTORS does offer a certification for REALTORS (SFR).  Audu Real Estate has two individuals with this Designation.  In addition, we have successfully negotiated Short Sales since 2005.  We work with as a team which includes a title company that not only assists with the paperwork but has legal counsel available to review situations as warranted.

Lastly be flexible.  At times, you will be tempted to throw in the towel.  Dates may be changed, demands made which seem unreasonable.  You may have ordered your moving truck only to be told that the closing cannot happen as planned.  Being flexible will help preserve your dignity, your mind and the pleasure of enjoying a victory of a hard won battle.


Although Short Sales and Forclosures can provide significant cost savings, there are times when you cannot afford the investment of time and/or money which may be required to purchase a property which is being sold in this way.  For instance, if you have just sold another property and need to move into another home within less than 30 days, it is probably not prudent to try to buy a home through a Short Sale unless you have alternate arrangements for lodging if the transaction cannot be completed within your time constraints. There are many homes being retailed today which will not require a Short Sale transaction.  If you would like to purchase a home, let us help you determine which route may be best for you.  We can also provide you with a FREE list of available homes in the areas and price range you desire.



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