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Archive for December, 2007

The last 20 years have witnessed a dramatic transformation of the downtown area of Grand Rapids, Mi.  Downtown Grand Rapids is one of Michigan’s best kept secrets!  An article in the Grand Rapids Magazine highlighted some of Grand Rapids, Michigan’s best kept secrets which included the following facts:

  • You Can Live Tax Free in Grand Rapid’s Renaissance Zone!

The First Green Museum in the Whole World (The New Grand Rapids Arts Museum) is currently under construction in Grand Rapids, Michigan! 

The Greater Downtown Grand Rapids area has 10 Public parks!

When I’ve taken family members, visiting from out of state downtown, they are always surprised by how vibrant & sophisticated the downtown area has become.  In addition to a varied and eclectic collection of restaurant options, the downtown area also has a good variety of museums, parks and entertainment venues such as the Van Andel Arena and the recently renovated and expanded DeVos Hall.

Going downtown in Grand Rapids for dinner or lunch can be a special treat! Here are some of my favorite downtown restaurants.  If you enjoy fine food, you will find that downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan rivals many world class locations!

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel:  A premier, first rate hotel, the Amway features several excellent restaurants which range from upscale to casual.  The Cygnus 27 restaurant high atop the top floor of the hotel, offers stunning views of the city vista as well as a sophisticated decor & creative menu entrees.  The 1913 Room is a perennial favorite for special occasion dining & features a first class menu. I also recently enjoyed a wonderful Birthday Celebration at Bentham’s, a more casual eatery on the main floor level. (616-774-2000)  Located at 187 Monroe NW, Grand Rapids, MI. 

A new entry into the Amway family of hotels is the JW Marriott’s Six.One.Six Restaurant.  This contemporary eatery features a demonstration kitchen where guests can observe some of the prep work and an intimate setting for more a more casual approach to an upscale menu. 

San Chez…A Tapas Bistro: Located at 38 W. Fulton, just a stone throw from the heart of city’s business district, this Spanish Tapas style restaurant features authentic dishes  with a Cuban, Mediterranean and Spanish flair.  The concept  of a tapas was initially foreign to me…a meal of appetizers???  It’s a very interesting dining experience.  The inventive preparations from the extensive menu are enjoyed on small appetizer sized plates. The entrees are tasted and shared by all.  It’s a social experience as well as a cultural one.  It’s surprisingly filling so…make sure you leave room for dessert!  (616-774-8272)dining

Leo’sIf you’re a seafood lover, you will want to make sure you visit Leo’s restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Nominated by readers of the Grand Rapids magazine in 2006 for the Restaurant of the Year Award, Leo’s delivers excellent service and a great selection of menu options.  Fresh seafood is the signature trademark, but meat lovers will also enjoy the wide variety of steak and pasta creations.  Located at 60 Ottawa Ave, NW.  (616-454-6700)

Heritage RestaurantThis is definitely one of Grand Rapids, Michigan’s best kept secrets!  It’s a fine dining restaurant which is run by students and the faculty of the Grand Rapids Community College.  The Heritage is located in the middle of the downtown campus and the restaurant  is only open for portions of the year to accommodate the availability of the college students.  But if you call ahead to make sure they are open and to make a reservation (616-234-3700), it promises to be a great value with good service, and an interesting array of menu selections plus… perhaps a chance to meet a future famous chef!

Copyright 2007 Audu Real Estate  All Rights Reserved

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beesCourtesy of a link on gigaom  I read a fascinating article today by People Aggregators creator Marc Canter who runs a social networking company called Broadband Mechanics. 

This particular article is answering a question posed by a Paul Montgomery, a gentleman in Tanzania (correction) Geelong, Victoria, Australia regarding why Open ID should be adopted by blogging networks. 

The discussion addresses the implications of moving beyond transparency in communication to a more intimate involvement by users of blogging platforms.  This would be facilitated by a site’s clients utilizing source coding behind the scenes to control access and movement of their individual content.

Yes, it’s very technical, cutting edge stuff about interconnected social networks. In a nutshell the thrust is to enable networking platforms which will allow users to integrate ALL their Web 2.0 activities through one or more sites.  If you’re interested in understanding where this whole Web 2.0 wheel is trending towards next, it is well worth reading.  

However, I found the issues with reference to ownership of content and subsequent monetization particularly interesting in light of recent events on Active Rain regarding the proposed buyout and subsequent lawsuit against Move.com. 

Marc Canters’ take on ownership of a database (of names) when it comes to a Web 2.0 portal is that you don’t…indeed can’t. In fact he seems to dismiss the issue as ultimately irrelevant in the larger scheme of things.

“But dude – look. NO ONE is gonna wanna hang out in YOUR network. Its as simple as that. Trust humans – they migrate to where they’re wanted, to where they’re welcome, to where they feel comfortable. So if someone finds your network comfortable – then it’s the right place for them – right? How do you determine who’s welcome or not in your network? Their proximity to Tanzania? Golfing? Chocolate lover? Gay? Hispanic? By what criteria do you welcome people into your network?”

The issue is not about owning bloggers or owning their content as Canter rightly points out.  It’s about creating a portal which people want to come back to as your guestIt’s also about Attraction and the fine line between being Open & Engaging while repulsing unwanted intruders.  Blocking attempts to Undermine the “sanctity” of an on line environment may prove to be the most pressing and critical issue all networking platforms face in the future.  That is if they want to be profitable. More Cantor in his own words…

“So please stop thinking like you own a database of people. That list of people is there so they can come back and re-log-in. Period” 

In a related post, Marc Canter predicts that: “So 2008 will see a growth in the ability of end-users to freely move between networks – taking their social graphs with them”

With that settled, there are going to be plenty of ways to make money…a lot of money through this medium. It’s going to be a playground for creative thinkers…fortunately, there’s not shortage of them.  Some ideas mentioned on People Aggregators which I appreciated include: (my personal thoughts follow the Bold print)

Sponsorship Deals: Definitely used effectively by Active Rain and other platforms.  But, I think this will be an avenue that individual bloggers explore more extensively in 2008.

Premium Pricing:  Different levels of usage and support on a tiered pricing structure.  For a blogger, this could mean offering readers additional access to certain articles or groups.

Setting Up A Marketplace:  Once again, the Active Rain platform is well ahead of the curve by providing the Referral Network option.  Of course, the monitoring of entries is crucial to ensure that this continues to provide benefit to potential users.  But, this is also an avenue which can be explored by an individual blogger with users who access their niche.  It creates Value and more importantly repeat business.

I can definitely appreciate the huge potential benefits to Open ID.  As more people engage in the blogosphere there will be increased differentiation and specialization…not less.  We can witness this happening with the explosion of groups on the Active Rain platform.  I think it’s only a matter of time before the burden of remembering who you are on which network with any one of a dozen passwords becomes more tedium than the average consumer will consent to suffer.

Copyright 2007 Audu Real Estate  All Rights Reserved

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DaisyStaging a home for sale has become one of the big buzz words in real estate during this past year.  In a market which has witnessed a 100% increase in the competition of home on the market, this is understandable.

For home owners in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area, selling a home successfully has involved enhancing the Value Perception to potential buyers who are distracted with news of the housing crisis and sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer volume of homes available.

It is important to understand that an agent who shows up at your door for a scheduled showing is probably showing 5-10 properties in single day to their buyer.  After about 5 homes, all of them begin to look the same and it can become difficult to remember what you saw or liked.

A well organized agent will remind their buyer to bring a digital camera or may even furnish one for them.  This is very helpful but in the event that you are not fortunate enough to have an agent with this type of foresight ring your doorbell, there are some things that you can do as a Homeowner to make your home showing a memorable experience for potential buyers and for the real estate agent who may have other buyers for whom your home is just perfect!

For starters…pick up all clutter.  Your home should be neat and clean.  This includes doing the dishes (not having the dishwasher running while buyers are touring your home); emptying trash cans, clearing all counters including those located in the kitchen and bathrooms, and in winter having a good mat at the front door unless you want ice and snow tracked through your clean house.

In addition, I always recommend putting on all lights.  The reason for this is that dark corners are never inviting.  Light encourages us to explore the unfamiliar…remember this is what your home is  to potential buyers right now.  Bathrooms and kitchens are inspected with the nose and eyes.  By this I mean that they should smell clean and look clean!  This is where the most intimate moments are spent; potential buyers are repelled by evidence or essence left over by previous inhabitants.  I recommend rubbing down counter-tops with a paper towel in the kitchen and bathroom areas soaked in Lysol Fresh Scent prior to leaving your home for a showing.

All beds should be made and clothing items picked up from the floor in the bedroom.  You do not want a potential buyer to make the unwanted discovery of dirty socks or lingerie in an unexpected way.  These are not the kinds of memories you want to remain with a buyer after they leave your house.

It is a welcoming site to come into a neat cheerful kitchen and to see the snack bar or kitchen table set with an inviting table setting.  Remember the kitchen table is where most of us make important decisions.  A plate of cookies strategically placed on the table or counter encourages potential buyers to linger and consider your home as an option.  That is what you want. 

Lastly, don’t forget the music!  Music helps us to relax and can release stress if its the right type.  At Audu Real Estate we offer detailed Staging appointments which will help you with the proper arrangement and/or purchase of furniture items and accessories to make your home look its best.  Studies indicate that a properly staged home can increase the market value of a property up to 10% above one which is not well presented.  To Book a Staging appointment, please contact our office at  616-791-0511 or e-mail us at info@auduhomes.com.  In a challenging real estate market, no advantage should be unexplored!

©2006 Audu Real Estate All rights reserved

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Another great reason to call Michigan home!  Enjoy

http://www.youtube.com/v/9MUrQiMWVvk&rel=1

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*Originally posted in December of last year (2006) this was one of my first attempts at blogging.  I came across it recently.  Although, there are some spelling mistakes, I think the message still resonates this year.  Hope you enjoy! 

The frenzy of activity that marks the month of December is unmatched.  End of year parties and activities, gift buying, and holiday shopping can rapidly merge into an experience which is taxing and depleting emotionally, physically and financially. In our desire to give materially, we are unaware of the toll that we unconsciously exact on our spirits and our bodies.  The truth is that wholesome giving cannot be primarily defined as a material activity although it may manifiest in a physical material form such as money or gifts.  In its highest context, giving is a spiritual activity which can manifest in any number of forms for the intended recepient.

To explore this concept further, let’s take a more intimate look at different levels of giving.  The most basic form of giving is simply giving something material.  Although this is valuable, if thought and intention particularly loving intention is not added to the material, such giving can be incidental and lack warmth or in some situations be detrimental or dsyfunctional.

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Some examples of purely materialistic giving include parents who don’t want to invest time in relationship with their children and opt to give them things instead.  Another example is giving aid to corrupt and broken systems, organizations or governments without oversight or concern that the intended recipients are afforded the opportunities promised.  In both of these situations, the outcome is depleting. 

Incidentally, the results of this type of materialistic giving may deplete at a number of different levels.  The least obvious but most devastating being the depletion of the soul and spirit.  Recipients of this type of giving are not uplifted by the spirit of intentional generosity, but rather are objectified.  The results of giving at this level are limited in the power to effect lasting change. 

For a child this  lack of intention and attention can be profoundly harmful emotionally and psychologically, for giving of this nature slams a huge wrecking ball into the basis of self-esteem, one of the major pillars of what it means to accepted as fully human and appreciated for who you are.  Donors of this type of gift are usually unaware of this type of impact or may simply be lazy or so deflated by guilt t and exhaustion themselves that they are incapable of giving in any other way.  For both the donor and the recipient, wholeness is needed.box

A higher level of giving is demonstrated by being intentional and paradoxially grateful.  Gratitude is a characteristic which we often associate soley with the recipient of a gift and not with the donor.  But, I would suggest that intentional giving starts not simply with being thankful, but being humbly grateful.  Focusing on the privilege of being able to give changes the platform. 

To give is to be truly blessed.  To truly give to anothers need or bliss requires that I focus my attention and intention on being grateful for the opportunity to bless another, to essentially empower another.  It also requires a humble gratitude for the gift of their presence in my life.  Thereby changing the equation for the “potential giver” from an elevated position to a recipient of grace.

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Giving of this quality transforms the nature of what is given.  All material forms have a predecessor in the unseen realm.  The Celebration of the Birth of Jesus at this time of year was a gift that was prophesised centuries before he arrived as a minute embryonic cell in Mary’s womb and eventually manifested as a baby born to rule, but lying in the extremely modest environment of the manger. 

The intention of this gift was clearly the love of God for humankind.  The transformation afforded through the gift of Jesus Christ literally redeems life and provides reconnection to God through acceptance of His gift of life. 

Now that is radical, the Giver of life being so full of humility and love that He would humble himself to take on a physical body with all its weakness to ensure that through His death, we could live.  This is the spiritual nature and meaning of Christmas.

How can understanding this transform our giving?  Firstly, the focus is not on what you give.  The “what” objectifies giving.  Some of life’s most profound gifts come through the giving of in service to another, sympathy, friendship, love, and a listening ear. I am reminded of the fact that at this time American soldiers throughout the world, but particularly in the Middle East are giving the most precious gift of all, their lives in service to our country.  This is truly a gift for which all Americans should be deeply grateful and support with their prayers for safety and protection for these brave individuals.

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Giving of ones self is the highest form of giving particularly when it is done to enable the highest good of another.  The grace of this type of giving transforms a simple cup of cold water to the least amongst us to a gift which resounds in the heavens and impacts life far beyond the limited dimension of what we can readily see, measure or understand.  It is this type of giving which Mother Teresa employed through her work in the slums of Calcutta, India where the most forgotten, destitute and dying in society were blessed with dignity and comfort. 

This year, I encourage you to transform your giving by exploring the art of intentional loving awareness and gratitude as you buy and give presents.  But in addition, be mindful of the wealth of opportunities for giving which explode the boundaries of the material and provide truly rich opportunities to litterally create goodwill and peace here on earth.

©2006 Audu Real Estate All rights reserved

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Redfin CEOThis past weekend, the Today Show spotlighted an interesting segment titled “The Science of Selling Real Estate.”  As science was a part of my “past life,” prior to real estate state, this title held particular fascination.  The focus was an interview with the Redfin CEO, Glenn Kelman who shared several “scientific” insights about Selling Real Estate. According to the segment’s introduction, …Seller’s should forget EVERYTHING their real estate agent had ever told them. Kelman who was being interviewed by Meredith Vieira clarifies at the beginning of the segment that Redfin (presumably the Redfin programmers) are computer scientists NOT sales people.  The segment’s stated aim was to separate the Sales Voodoo from the True Real Estate Data. So, without further ado, we now compare the “Science” according to Redfin and the LOCAL Real Estate Facts in Grand Rapids, Michigan according to Grand Rapids, Michigan Real Estate Broker, Lola Audu.

1.  Don’t Over-Price the home.  This will create a longer marketing time and result in price reductions of up to 88% vs only a 97% reduction if the home is priced right. Kelman went on to say that real estate agents try to get home owners to sell as HIGH as possible. Huh??? 

Grand Rapids, Michigan Real Estate Facts:  The penalty for over-pricing in Grand Rapids starts at about 25%  and can go as high as almost 35% or more. Pricing the home is so critically important that the battle is getting home owners to be realistic in ACCEPTING the market price NOT Pricing a home above the market!  Homes that were priced correctly did get about 96% ~ 97% of the List Price in Grand Rapids as well.

2.  Be Web Saavy About Pricing Your Home.  Kelman indicates that the web is where all the buyers are.  Pricing Thresholds online  increase in bracket of about $25,000 ~$50,000. Price ranges above the threshold can prevent your home from being seen by potential home buyers who won’t look $1 more.  According to Redfin, you can loose 7% of your audience. 

Grand Rapids, Michigan Real Estate Facts: In Grand Rapids, Michigan…the thresholds are much smaller.  Our thresholds are between $5,000 ~ $10,000 price adjustments.

3.  Debut Your Home on Friday.  According to Redfin, their scientific study indicates that you should always debut your home on the market on Friday.  The worst days according to Redfin is Thursday or Monday. 

Grand Rapids, Michigan Real Estate Facts:  If you debut your home on Friday and you are priced incorrectly, You WON’T SELL IT or have Tons of people looking at it. On the other hand, well-priced homes can’t be kept a Secret on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday either.

4.  Look For Foreclosures in Your Neighborhood:  According to Redfin, foreclosures can be a real problem in the market. According to Glenn Kelman,  Real estate agents don’t include them in their market analysis.  

Grand Rapids, Michigan Real Estate Facts:  Once again I’m mystified by the source of this “science.”  I just did a listing presentation today where I explained to the seller the implications of a real estate foreclosure in his neighborhood from a pricing standpoint.  Good real estate brokers utilize all appropriate pieces of data when advising clients about pricing in their particular market.)

5.  List Your Home on Craigslist: Your Real Estate Agent Wont’ Do This! 

Grand Rapids Real Estate Facts:  Once again, I’m surprised by the science of this study.  A quick perusal will quickly show that many real estate agents list homes on Craigslist, Trulia and Zillow.com. Web savvy agents like those associated with Audu Real Estate create real estate shows which are shipped to Google and other web portals.  Home seller’s don’t have to do this or rely on questionable science…they can simply hire a good Real Estate Agent!

When I was in college, the study of Science was carefully defined. The word science comes from the Latin “scientia,” meaning knowledge. How do we define science? According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, the definition of science is “knowledge attained through study or practice,” or “knowledge covering general truths of the operation of general laws, esp. as obtained and tested through scientific method [and] concerned with the physical world.”

The basis of the Redfin’s “Scientific”  hypothesis was totally inaccurate! The presumption being that listeners were being given information they would NOT be given by a real estate professionals.  Not only was this misleading…it was patently FALSE!  As real estate agents, the items on the list are the beginning basis for our presentation.  Our listing appointments go into much greater detail and depth.  Perhaps, one old adage still remains true…You get what you pay for…or it could be stated…You charge What You’re Worth!

This interview demonstrates why it is vitally important for home owners and prospective home purchasers to rely on the services of qualified professionals.  There is a good reason why computer scientist should stick to selling the software that sorts out data and let real estate professionals interpret the data intelligently.

Photo courtesy of White African’s photo stream on flickr.  Glenn Kelman is seated front and center.

Copyright 2007 Audu Real Estate  All Rights Reserved

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Christmas EarthOne of the underlying challenges that lenders are having in the Grand Rapids, Michigan real estate market is that appraisals are coming in for less than the agreed upon purchase price between buyers and sellers

So, are there steps that homeowners can take to maintain the Values in their neighborhood and decrease the impact that declining sales and increased foreclosures are having in their community?  The answer is YES!

The lending industry is understandably cautious about declining values. It’s an issue which has risen in prominence due to the increase in foreclosures in our market.  Did you know that a property which is in foreclosure in your neighborhood on the average lops off about  $7,000 worth of Value off the Top?  However, this presents some unique opportunities.  With interest rates at all time lows and talk of decreases in the Prime Lending Rate in the near future, being proactive about promoting your community is important.

Every element of the real estate market is in a period of adjustment right now. As a result, Buyers and Sellers have to make sure that the decisions they are making about their real estate concerns allow them to focus on getting a positive result and avoiding holding the proverbial bucket of stupid.

Here are some Tips which are helpful to consider when Marketing a Home During A foreclosure crisis.

1. Help Out Your Neighbors!

Yes, for by helping them, you are helping yourself.  Become nosey.  Find out what your neighbors are selling their homes for.  Don’t be afraid to ask about the details of their home.  Visit their Open House and talk with the real estate agent.  They’ll probably even offer you coffee and a snack. Ask the agent HOW they arrived at the price for the home and if there have been any price reductions.  Inquire about the real estate market in your area.  Offer to take some extra flyers.  And then distribute them!  Let everyone you can know that there is a great home or homes for Sale in your neighborhood.

2. Focus on The Benefits!

Talk to people you know about the homes For Sale In Your Community. Focus on the fact that there is a GREAT SELECTION of homes in your neighborhood currently for Sale.  Now, armed with the knowledge of these home…become a salesperson.  Describe the homes in your neighborhood that are for sale and ENCOURAGE people to tell others whom they know.  I know that if you’ve read this far…you’re thinking Huh???  Well, let’s put it this way…this is not really about your neighbors…its about YOU!  Every Successful Home Sale ultimately benefits YOU!

Every-time a home Sells in Your community for a good price…YOU BENEFIT!  Every-time, you have someone in a home rather than a home boarded up and vacant…YOU BENEFIT!  Every-time, a good neighbor moves into your community whom you recommended…YOU BENEFIT!  Every-time you avoid a Foreclosure near you…YOU BENEFIT.

3. Become a Home Selling Advocate!

So, I encourage you to become a HOME SELLING ADVOCATE!  Advocate for Homes for Sale in Your community.  Advocate for Values to remain stable by taking care of your home and helping your neighbors who may be struggling.  Advocate to encourage departing home owners to maintain the exterior of their properties.  If you have a home nearby where the lawn is not being mowed…consider mowing it.  It’s about your property values. Advocate for positive outcomes for others…for as you put this type of energy into motion…it has a way of swirling in bountiful returns back to you. 

If you intend to Sell You Home within the Next Year in Grand Rapids, Michigan…you will need to think in a completely different way! No buyer wants to be told by the appraiser that they paid more for a home than it was worth.  Do your part to promote and enhance the Value of homes in your neighborhood. This will take new and innovative thinking.  If you’d like to talk about how we have successfully assisted homeowners through the changing norms of selling homes today, please feel free to call our office at 616-791-0511.

Copyright 2007 Audu Real Estate  All Rights Reserved

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