Buying a HomeWhen news of Uber’s foray into the complex world of real estate hit the wires this past week, many industry watchers took note.  The premises for Haus, the new start-up by the Cofounder of Uber, Garrett Camp is to bring transparency into the bidding process between home buyers, sellers and their agents.

How Haus works:

The online platform will allow buyers, sellers and their agents to see (in real time)  when offers and changes to offers are made during the bidding process AND respond accordingly.  The platform promises to deliver an experience which creates side by side comparisons so that home owners and potential buyers can make fully informed decisions about the home they are bidding on.  At the heart of the issue is the concept of ‘real time’.

Super-heated real estate:

Most of the country is experiencing a super heated real estate market.  In West Michigan, it is not uncommon for some homes to receive multiple offers within a 24 hour period.  Anxious buyers wring their hands as they are informed that offers will not be presented UNTIL a particular time or that they should consider re-submitting their ‘highest and best’ offer due to multiple offers coming in on the same property.  Although the majority of real estate agents are honest, there is no way of actually verifying IF additional offers are being presented and so, home buyers are left wondering just how much more they will have to bid to secure the right to purchase the home of their dreams.

Pride and prejudice:

Another largely unspoken aspect of the process is the fact that purchasing a home is not necessarily based on price.  Prejudice and preference can sometimes play critical roles. Many homeowners have their own ideas about whom they would prefer to purchase their homes.  This may be based on personal preferences, or their concerns about the welfare of their neighbors.  Latent within these normal human emotions and desires lies the potential for discrimination, an issue which is a matter of Federal law when applied to the real estate transaction.

Loving a home can infatuate the mind.  It can make a home buyer willing to do just about anything to gain an edge or advantage.  One of the more commonly used vehicles is a ‘Dear Homeowner’ letter where the potential buyer details why they love the home and why the home owner should in essence ‘pick me!’  Buyers have been known to research the owners place or worship, likes and dislikes and fashion their offers to tug at the home owners emotions.  Sometimes, this has included providing pictures of themselves so the homeowner can see who they are.

When secrecy becomes illegal:

The problem with this is a little thing called the law – which prohibits discrimination when it comes the buying, selling or renting of housing based on some very specific criteria.  The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 prohibit discrimination on the basis of: race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, handicap, sex, gender and often local ordinances (State and community) have additional qualifiers.

So, to some extent the secrecy which has shrouded the real estate process has served as a cloak for some of these illegal behaviors.  For the same reason that booking a table reservation by Open Table is a preferred vehicle by many when they consider the convenience and the simplicity of not dealing with host/hostess reservations, the idea of being able to view, counter and negotiate a transaction in an open forum might be appealing to a significant segment of the population.

Will we purchase houses like we book online reservations?

Haus does not claim to be a brokerage, financial adviser or tax expert, but the platform may become a tool which serves to bring the bottom line into a transaction negotiation in a very direct way.  That being said, buying a house is not like purchasing a car.  And, for a homeowner, the process is not just a financial investment, but also a relational and emotional one.  It will be interesting to see how or if this catches on as a preferred method of negotiations during a real estate transaction and more importantly to the bottom line, if this results in higher bids for home owners.


Additional Articles about additional industry new comers:

Roofstock’s better way to buy and sell homes

Yopa: Online property agent


This is an UPDATE to a previous FAQ post.

As the year 2016 reaches the half way point, another issue is emerging as a challenge for homeowners and home-buyers coordinating move out/in dates.  After many years of closings being largely an efficient process (especially when experienced REALTORS and Lenders worked together), the implications of the new TRID guidelines aka RESPA/TILLA seem to be kicking in as more REALTORS and their clients are complaining about unforeseen closing delays.

The delay may be just a few days or sometimes stretch into weeks.  This is really a problem if you’re planning on buying another house, have immediate plans for the use of the money from the proceeds of your home, or have ordered moving vans, utilities and time off work.  The issue is complicated by the fact that you may not know about the delay until  a few days or a week before the closing was scheduled to occur.  Here are a few simple tips to help ease the transition process.

  1.  Don’t stress!  Shouting, harrasing or abusing your REALTOR, Lender, Appraiser etc only increases the tension in an already tense situation.  You want people to keep working to make your deal happen.  Anger adds more potential pitfalls and slow downs.
  2. Do follow-through and be persistent.  Especially as your transaction nears the finish line and even more so if the date of the closing draws near with no clear directive about when the clear to close will be available.  Knowing that you are going to be calling everyday or even twice a day to get an update keeps your case top of mind.  You can also e-mail for status updates.  Be clear about the fact that you simply want to be informed and stay in the loop.  You’re also going to be more likely to detect potential issues or miscues if you are integrally involved.
  3. Keep communication lines open.  This includes lines of communication with any parties who may be impacted by a slow down on your end including agents negotiating the transaction on the other side, movers, insurance representatives, your workplace etc.  It’s easier to reschedule a planned vacation with your boss if there has been regular communication regarding how you are proceeding with your home purchase or sale.  It’s also better to know potential ramifications about a delay with a mover with regards to costs etc. This may be an additional avenue for negotiation to compensate for the inconvenience and help to sweeten a transaction that would otherwise turn sour.
  4. Know that this too shall pass.  The vast majority of home sale transactions will close sooner or later.  In the long view, a few days or weeks delay is not as significant as the pleasure and joy you anticipate experiencing when you move into your new home or the relief that comes from a successful sale of your previous one.

More FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) here

About the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions Series)

This series is designed to answer questions that we hear clients asking over and over again.  Perhaps, you’ve wondered about some of these questions yourself.  While this is not intended to be an exhaustive explanation on the subject being discussed, it is our hope that these short blogs will provide helpful insights and may encourage you to explore further.  Please feel free to contact us by phone or e-mail with any questions.

Grand Rapids Real Estate Musings...


Social media has become a common way to advertise and market homes for sale.  And when the sale is about to close or finally clears the rites of passage necessary to clear escrow, new home owners and former ones do the ‘Happy Dance’ and often social media is the instinctive first stop in the celebration.

It’s so easy, with one click, to let the world know the address, price and the individuals involved in the home sale.  And while all these pieces of information eventually become a part of the public record, the issue at hand is WHEN this happens.  By the time the Registrar of Deeds records the information pertinent to a sale for county records, it is often weeks after the home has sold and closed.  The new homeowners have moved in and usually changed the locks.

The fact that information about home sales on social media is usually…

View original post 564 more words

Certified International Property SpecialistGrand Rapids, Michigan is welcoming the world home as REALTORS expand their awareness about the world and global markets. The local association is currently hosting a national designation offered by the National Association of REALTORS to train local real estate agents about the benefits of becoming globally proficient and connected. Approximately 20 students are currently enrolled in the designation course which involves classroom time, a certain amount of practical experience with international transactions and some other requirements.

It’s especially good for me to participate in this class as it represents the fruit of seed from efforts in 2011 when the association created the International Committee. Today, this committee is active in enhancing awareness about the impact of globalization on the economy of West Michigan.

We have had the opportunity to serve people from all over the world. It is always an interesting and enlightening experience. It requires attention to detail and an awareness of some of the unique challenges that people from different parts of the world face. As an immigrant and New American, I have a real appreciation for the benefits of homeownership in America.

One of the challenges of the classroom experience is the danger of stereotyping as we seek to learn more about people whose experience differs. For instance, we’re having discussions about high context vs low context cultures. What’s emerging in the discussion is the fact that you cannot take generalizations too far. At the end of day, it’s about the individual and their culture – you can’t divorce one from the other. It’s a packaged deal.

30619761_sAnyone who was in the real estate market in 2015 knows this already.  2015 was an incredible year to sell real estate!  Not only did homeowners in West Michigan recover pretty much all the losses of the economic crisis, home prices and home equity enjoyed substantial gains!

From a low of $99,000 in the dark days where foreclosures and short sales climbed to almost two thirds of the listings advertised on the local MLS, today’s average home price of $162,000 plus is almost double the selling averages of the worst of the recession. (Data from the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS)

Smart would be home sellers would do well to jump onto this fast moving band wagon in the early days of 2016.  Traditionally, winter is a period of time when home sales dip.  It’s also a period when your home will be in less competition.  Why is this especially pertinent today?  Read on…

1.  Less Competition in the Most Competitive Market

2015 was a banner year for competition.  Especially if you were trying to buy a home.  Multiple Offer situations became so common place, that some REALTORS were taking classes to learn how to manage scenarios where up to ten potential buyers were vying for one home!  Today, there are still more potential home buyers than homes to be sold.  Inventory in the Multiple Listing Service for the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS has hovered below 3.5 months for most of the past 18 months.  This type of sustained low inventory is very unusual.  Putting your home on the market early this spring puts you ahead of the spring rush.

2.  Price to Compete

This may initially seem counter-intuitive.  Why price low when so many people want to buy?  Well, for a couple of good reasons.  Number one is that people want to buy, BUT they’re not stupid!  Today, there are many ways to research what your home should sell for online.  While, they are not always accurate, potential buyers can use these online portals and get a professional Market Analysis from a local REALTOR to substantiate their instincts.  Second, pricing high helps you to sell the other guys house.  Buyers rarely look at just one home before they purchase.  As they compare what you’re offering to what’s available elsewhere, if you’re over-priced, they’re not likely to purposely over-pay when better deals are around the corner.  So, it’s best to be competitive in your pricing so you don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of the bidding process.

3.  Consider an Auction

Auctions are emerging as a viable type of sale in the West Michigan marketplace.  While in the past, they have mostly be constrained to the arena of short sale bids and HUD foreclosures, more home sellers are willing to explore this type of sale as an option.  For one thing, it’s nice to know when your home will be sold – the auction date.  You can also create a reserve bid which will ensure that your home will not be sold below a certain price.  Also, auctions tend to generate purchasing activity.

4.  Hold an Open House Sale

Instead of cleaning your home multiple times a week for assorted showings, you might want to consider a technique which combines the efficiency of an Open House and provide home buyers and your nosy neighbors one stop shopping to preview a home with a wider range of showing hours and the benefits of refreshments.  There are many creative ways to put this type of an Open House together.  It also provides an excellent way to drum up excitement for a potential bidding war when you will be available to consider all potential offers.  Kind of like creating your own mini auction.

5.  Get Rid of Half Your Stuff!

Hold a garage sale BEFORE you put your home on the market.  While many people wait until they’ve sold their home to do this, it really is an intelligent option to consider prior to putting a home on the market.  For starters, we Americans tend to have too much stuff!  It’s harder for potential home buyers to figure out where there stuff may find a new home when so much of yours is still in the way.  Clutter tends to make homes feel and look smaller which translates into lower offers.  Getting rid of clutter and things that you don’t want to keep will make packing easier and give you an incentive to do some much needed cleaning.

We hope you’ve found lots of value in these tips.  If you’d like to talk with one of our client specialists further about selling your home in January 2016, please contact us.


The CQ Advantage! Cultural Intelligence for REALTORS

Audu Real Estate is pleased to present a brand new CE Marketplace certified course:  The CQ Advantage!  Cultural Intelligence for REALTORS.  Please contact Lola Audu at lola@audurealestate.com for information about booking this course for your company or organization.  The course is certified for 2 Hours of Continuing Education Credit for Michigan real estate agents. (1 Hour Elective, 1 Hour Legal)

Instructor:  Lola Audu

Course Descriptive:  C000482  – available through the CE Marketplace

Certified for 2 Hours of Continuing Education Credit for real estate professionals in the State of Michigan

*Material is also available in two one hour classes certified for 1 credit each.  Course number C000609 and C000610 if you prefer a shorter version of the material.

Click to view/download mini-PDF version of course: Cultural Intelligence Mini Preview

We live in a global village, a multi-contextual mixing bowl of cultures and counter-cultures.  Cultural Intelligence has emerged as a critical form of knowledge, insight and engagement necessary to be competitive across a broad spectrum of client interactions.  Perhaps few professions deal with differences in culture and perspective as frequently as members of the real estate community who are tasked with helping people of every race, tribe, creed and tongue find that unique spot to call home.

We’re pleased to present a unique class which explores the role that Cultural Intelligence can play in helping REALTORS understand how to serve the needs of their clients.  Culture is an entity that morphs and changes.  Simply learning a few ‘so called ‘rules of engagement’ is not adequate preparation for the numerous ways in which culture impacts response patterns, thinking and interactions.  A lack of cultural intelligence can create angst, irritation and loss of otherwise promising business opportunities.

The class draws from Lola Audu’s personal experience of growing up in a cross cultural context within the African continent that included an educational experience where students represented 60 different nationalities.  A term which is sometimes used to describe individuals who regularly navigate the world of multiple cultures is ‘third culture’ kids.  A simple question such as ‘Where is home?’ may be answered in surprisingly nuanced ways.  The Millennial generation is the most diverse generation in America’s history.  It is also the most diverse generation culturally in the entire world.  You may enjoy reading the this article and watching the video below.

While most Americans will not have this level of cultural dissonance or experience, the reality is that in today’s world, a REALTOR’s clients will increasingly have some elements which differ from the traditional norm of the dominant culture.  Are you prepared to serve effectively?

In addition, the course will cover issues of cultural ethnocentrism as well as discussing Fair Housing issues related to the impact of the institution of dominant cultural norms and discrimination in the United Sates.

For booking information:  Lola Audu  – 616-791-0511 or lola@audurealestate.com

To preview other courses visit: http://audurealestate.com/workshops-seminars/

Inforum 3You can fill in the blank with any one of a number of statements and even gripes.  In today’s fast paced, information doused climate, the reality is that for many would be home buyers, the REALTOR may NOT be the one who locates your home for sale online or even in real life.  And, if that was all that was required to purchase a home successfully, it would be a huge missing link.

But anyone who has bought a home within the past decade at least knows that finding the home is only the first step.  And with new regulations coming fast and furious through the pipeline for financing and other related industries, finding the home may be the first SMALL step.

The fact is this, locating a suitable home does not mean that you will be able or qualified to purchase it.  Nor does it guarantee that even if you qualify for the financing of the home, unexpected issues in the condition of the home or unreasonable demands/needs from the current home owners will not short circuit a successful closing.

There are also all sorts of ancillary side notes such as:  the home failing to appraise for the value proposed in the purchase agreement, survey issues, title issues, insurance challenges, government regulation which may cause delays or a host of other things which fall under the general category of ‘Murphy’s Law.’

Buying a home has been said to be the largest financial transaction that most Americans will ever undertake.  It is also one of the most complex.

Here are some other things your REALTOR is doing beyond simply finding you a home that you like on the Internet.

  1.  Your REALTOR is educating you about the real estate process.  What you don’t know can hurt you big time in the purchase of a home.  It’s not easy to recover from a financial ‘mistake’ of this magnitude.
  2. Your REALTOR is constantly helping everyone in the transaction to navigate some pretty complicated situations which are exacerbated by frayed nerves, confusion in the process and issues that can cost somebody big money.
  3. Your REALTOR is often the Translator who helps you make sense of the unfamiliar lingo used by Lenders and others so you are informed and aware of what you need to do to create a successful outcome.
  4. Your REALTOR examines all the paperwork to ensure that the transaction is legally binding and enforceable.  Failure to properly negotiate something as simple as a possession date can land you in the street if your landlord has already rented out your apartment.
  5. Your REALTOR helps you to find all sorts of people/companies who can be of assistance to you through this process.  They can help you find information about the neighborhood, provide you with lists of contractors for various services, assist with arranging necessary repairs, refer you to competent specialists…

This is a very, very short list of what REALTORS do beyond finding a home on the Internet.  Every deal has its own particular nuance of challenge and your transaction is probably not going to be an exception.  It’s wise to choose your next REALTOR based on a number of factors and determine if simply finding a home on the Internet is really or even the most important thing you want a REALTOR to do for you.

This blog post was inspired by an interesting conversation I had with a local lender, Jonathan Izenbart about his perspective on the value of a REALTOR to the real estate transaction and how this was important in light of the myriad of regulatory changes impacting the real estate transaction. It is also included in our poopular FAQ Series

%d bloggers like this: