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.


Heartland Builders Grand Rapids MIFor the past few days, we’ve been hearing birds singing in the morning.  They can’t be wrong about Spring can they?  It must be around the corner even though these mountains of snow seem to be taking forever to melt!  Another ritual of Spring for the real estate community is the prospect of building a new home.  Over the past year as inventory levels for existing housing has remained consistently low, more people are looking into the possibility of designing and building their own home.

Today, Cheryl Johnston- Audu Real Estate New Home Specialist and I had the pleasure of meeting with Rich Kogelschatz, the Owner and Principle Builder of Heartland Builders LLC.  Heartland Builders was established in the mid 1980′s and has specialized in some unique ways.  One of which is Universal Design,  which acknowledges that for many people some form of physical limitation will touch our lives through someone we know or in a personal way.  As we mature, the prospect of accessibility and barrier free living are conversations which may become necessary for a variety of reasons.  Heartland Builders believes that our homes should age as gracefully as we do and implements this thought into the design and building process.

According to Rich, ‘thoughtful people’ want to build with confidence.  We loved the unique APP designed to manage the building and communication process from start to finish.  Unexpected surprises are minimized when you can ‘tap’ into your building process for a seamless update on what is going on.  Heartland Builders also has a very detailed process map which highlights the entire construction process including client/contractor meetings and inspections from start to Closing.

One of the most daunting aspects of building a brand new home from scratch is figuring out what product selections look best and fit within your budget.  Heartland Builders provides interior design services and computerized modeling to help you select your product and even see how changes to the architectural design will look before you make a final decision.

We both learned a lot from talking to Rich and were impressed with the attention to detail and the processes Heartland Builders has put into place to create a great client experience!

Related Content: http://fox17online.com/2014/02/26/deep-frost-and-cold-temps-delay-new-home-construction/#axzz2uT9AKyGL

Honoring Life's Moments bench

Spring Showers...

Spring Showers…

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Focus.  And the way our focus impacts our lives.  Focus is a magnifier.  It enlarges whatever it is directed towards.  Focus also is an attractor.  It brings to us whatever we pay attention to.

Focus is not just a mental activity.  It incorporates just about every dimension of our being.  And, it’s not optional.  We are all focusing on something.  It’s just a matter of WHERE we are choosing to place our focus at any given time and to what extent.  Even folks who have a hard time at focusing are actually doing so.  The difference is that they are simply jumping more rapidly from one thing; in other words a type of mis-directed focus.

Concentrated focus is incredibly powerful.  When we concentrate our attention on anything, we have the capacity to tap into an enormous reservoir of energy and opportunity. Over the years, I’ve talked with many real estate agents.  I’ve also had the opportunity to coach and train agents.  One of the most interesting elements of training has been exploring where agents place their focus during the work day and how this correlates to the results they’re achieving.

I was somewhat shocked to find that the average agent was spending less than 3 hours in any given day on real estate related activities which actually produced an income.  Yes, they may have been at a desk and even in front of a computer.  But what were they focused on?  More often than not, the focus was NOT on the things that generate income for agents such as: Prospecting, Lead Generation, Follow-up, Listing Appointments and Buyer Appointments.  It does not require genius to understand that three hours or less on any work related activity is not likely to bring in an living wage. Unfortunately, the advent of many online activities has made the issue of a lack of focus even more acute.

Focusing requires the discipline to take a step back and in some cases to step away from other activities.  It is about prioritizing and re-evaluating the direction in which you need to go.  Focus allows you to concentrate on things which need to be changed and to address issues which require urgent attention.

Lastly, focus requires balance.  Anything taken to an extreme is not advantageous.  In the past, I’ve focused so much concentration on my business that sometimes placed other important areas of my life on a back burner.

Balanced focus means that taking care of business does not come at the expense of family life, spiritual life, emotional health, financial well-being or spiritual vitality.  For it is in balance that focus brings it’s greatest gift.  Living a focused life means that we are fully present in whatever we do and when that’s over, we release and move on without regrets.  These are some of my lessons.  What does focus mean to you?

(Republished from 2012 – Copyright Audu Real Estate)

Market TemperatureThis week, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority aka MSHDA announced that it was expanding its Down Payment Assistance program in a strategic move to bolster the economy and the housing market.  The agency announcement and press release can be reviewed in total here.

To summarize, first time home buyers who meet income and credit eligibility requirements will be able to apply for a MSHDA grant up to $7,500 to assist with down payment and closing costs for a new home.   Potential buyers should be prepared to provide 1% of their own funds towards the purchase.  MSHDA’s  interest rates have proved to be quite competitive in recent years and the program enables buyers who are struggling with cash reserves to purchase with this assistance.  Income limits have also been relaxed to enable more potential homeowners to take advantage of this opportunity

Perhaps the biggest and most surprising news to come out of this week’s announcement was the MSHDA NEXT program which opens up grant money (again up to $7,500) to current home owners who want or need to move to another home!  Again, recipients must meet income and credit qualifications but this program is fairly generous and should provide many homeowners to move forward if they’ve been considering a change in location.

Last, but not least…the Mortgage Credit Certificate can ALSO be used in conjuction with the above programs.  This little gem of a program is one that we’ve recommended to a number of clients who qualified when funds were available.  It allows you to get back up to 20% of your  TOTAL interest paid yearly EVERY year that you own the home.  A nifty way to save money or to extend your purchasing power.  Either way, we can’t stress enough the importance of utilizing a lending professional who knows their way around when it comes to executing the loan effectively.  Spring is around the corner…we hope!  Happy Home Shopping!

It’s important to contact a qualified lender to assist with this process.  If you or someone you know could benefit from this program,  feel free to contact us for a referral to one of our lending partners.


1-Price Reduced dollar days house huntingOne of the best kept secrets in real estate is the ability to get ‘instant’ notification when homes for sale around Grand Rapids MI have a price reduction.  Obtaining real time updates on homes that you have your eye on can save you thousands of dollars!  Price reductions for homes can occur for a number of reasons, including but not limited to…

1.  Increased urgency to sell the home due to changing circumstances

2.  The threat of default on mortgage note

3.  Over-pricing – reduction to bring the home price into conformity with current market conditions

4.  Feedback from agent showings about the fact that a home is over-priced

When a price reduction for a home for sale in Grand Rapids, Mi occurs, it is important to act quickly if this is a home you have some interest in.  When a price reduction occurs for a home, it increases the likelihood that the home will sell.  Home sale price reductions occur everyday!   In fact, 19 homes in the greater Grand Rapids MI area had a price reduction within the past 24 hours.  Of these homes, two were priced above $500,000 and eight were priced below $100,000.  The point being, home price reductions occur in EVERY price range, so being an informed buyer can sometimes make you a lucky buyer!

If you’d like to be e-mailed a list of homes which fit your particular criteria on a daily basis AND be notified when a home selling in the Grand Rapids MI area has a price reduction, contact us or call:  616-791-0511.  There is no obligation for this service.  You will not be contacted unless you specifically request additional assistance or help.  Enjoy the ability to keep informed and updated right from the comfort and privacy of your own home computer.  Contact us for a FREE list of homes reduced for sale today!

PROMO for Smart Cities CaptureI am looking forward to speaking the Grand Rapids Area Professionals for Excellence on Wednesday, January 22nd at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation (185 Oakes St. SW, Grand Rapids MI 49503) on the topic of ‘Anatomy of a Smart City – Moving from ‘Cool’ to ‘Cohesive Collaboration.’

Many still remember 2004 when then Governor Jennifer Granholm named Grand Rapids, MI one of Michigans’ ‘cool cities.’  Indeed, the 21st century is likely to emerge as the era of city states as the impact of migration, technology and demographic shifts make cities everywhere major intersections  for life and commerce.  By 2050, it is anticipated that 70% of the world’s population will live in and around cities.

We will be discussing the implications of 10 areas of core attraction and logistics which are vital to creating spaces that attract and sustain people.  As a real estate broker involved in the daily movement of people in West Michigan, this topic is vitally important to our industry and to our city, region and nation.  You’re invited to join in the conversation!  More information and registration details can be accessed here:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lola-audu-on-anatomy-of-a-smart-city-the-art-of-moving-from-cool-to-cohesive-competence-tickets-9719753043

About Lola…

Lola is a former President of the Women’s Council of Realtors-West Michigan Chapter, a District Director for the Michigan Association of Realtors, former President of the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors, and Owner of Audu Real Estate. She currently serves on the Board of Real Estate Brokers & Salesperson for the State of Michigan. She is also a highly prolific blogger and a professional speaker.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: