Winter Stopped by For A Reminder Today!

WinterThe weather is rarely boring in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Some of us had begun to imagine that Spring might be just around the corner.  That conclusion was sorely cast aside today when we got several inches of the wet, white stuff….Winter hasn’t finished with us yet. 

She dropped by to remind us that she is still very much in command.  Her parting shot with this latest punch seemed to say…”Not just yet…I’ll let you know when I’m done!”

Engaged Marketing…Transforming the “Tired” Open House

A different kind of settingI don’t know about you, but most Open Houses that I’ve been to in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area recently are NOT standing room only events!  So, you can imagine my surprise when I drove up to a model home this past week and couldn’t find a place to park.   

The event was organized by Redstone Group, a company which is building several unique communities around the Greater Grand Rapids area.  My agents received an invitation while attending a mortgage seminar and persuaded me to attend.  I’m glad I did.  I always appreciate the opportunity to watch inspired vision in action.

The Redstone Group held a Networking Open House.  Instead of waiting for clients to hopefully find them, this company decided to concentrate it’s focus on connecting with the Networkers…you know the people who know other people; thereby enhancing the chance that they might know someone wanting to purchase a home.

The elegant catered lunch featured a Seasoned Breast of Chicken, Cesar Salad, Mashed Potatoes, Garlic Bread and Scrumptious Chocolate Chip Cookies.  The venue was their beautifully staged model home.  Guests were invited to tour the home and given an extensive packet of the various communities and distinctive options available in Redstone Homes. Talk about a cool way to create buzz…

Redstone Group designs Green Built, Energy Star* certified homes that are constructed in a manner that honors the natural habitat and seeks to preserve as much of the native terrain as possible.  They build homes in Grand Haven, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo and Holland in addition to several communities throughout the Grand Rapids area.

The invitees were an eclectic mix.  The event was billed as a Opportunity to Connect and you were encouraged to bring your business card and mix with other professionals to enhance your business.   I met all sorts of individuals.  Of course there were real estate agents and brokers, but in addition, a Business Network International Group was there which included a wide swath of different companies…there were mortgage brokers, at least one attorney, title reps, and we even met a former Sherrif.  

I’m left wondering why so many Builder Spec Home remain in isolated splendor when they could be teaming with life and opportunities to Create A Sale through events like this?  Redstone Group told us they had their best year ever in 2007.  I can see why! 

photo courtesy of: Wolfgang Staudt’s photostream

Copyright 2008  Audu Real Estate  All Rights Reserved

How My Winter Coat Became A Bad Habit…

what's inside the ice?It was one of those gorgeous winter days in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I mean really nice…not just the blue sky with nary a cloud to mar the brilliant sunshine, but the weather was actually WARM…which for the Midwest in winter equates to above 50 degrees!  It was a day in which winter seemed to be loosing it’s grip although anyone who has lived in Grand Rapids long enough knows that she still has a couple more punches to throw.

As I prepared to go outside, I put IT on without even thinking.  IT, was my winter coat.  I climbed into my car in my semi-heated garage and drove out while enjoying the sunshine.  It did not occur to me to roll down the windows.  I just presumed it was too cold.  It wasn’t until I got to the bank that I noticed a smiling lady about to get into her car and was jolted to realise she wasn’t wearing a coat!  And…she seemed happy. 

In disbelief, I got out of my car and realised I didn’t need a coat!  I had just presumed that I did simply out of habit.  I gladly deposited my coat in the backseat and walked free of several extra pounds that I’ve been carrying around for the past several months.

It occurred to me that to a remarkable degree, my automatic pilot response to putting on my winter coat is how we handle a lot about life in general.  It’s easy to go through life with programed responses to all sorts of different situations.  Take the real estate market for instance.  For the past couple of years, everyone has been talking about how terrible things are and how homes are not selling.

Yesterday, I was asked if I had sold anything for the past 6 months.  I was shocked!  Of course we have; in fact in January 2008, the tally of homes SOLD by real estate agents with the Grand Rapids Board of Realtors was 18.9% higher than January of previous year…in fact it was the best showing of home sales for January since 2004.  Imagine that!

But unfortunately, so many people continue to walk around unaware of what’s going on around them.  Somewhat like I was with my winter coat today.  Bad News has become like a Bad Habit which we pull on without thinking…just like our winter coats in spring weather.  Many of us have become accustomed to Bad News and in some ways addicted to.  We rush out to buy the latest rag about someones downfall or stay glued to the TV while the media chronicles the same awful story over and over.

Meanwhile, the sun has come out, the birds are starting to sing, the air is ripe with warm anticipation of spring, and…we’re in danger of missing it…walking around with our old winter coats of negativity and dour statistics. 

Copyright 2008  Audu Real Estate  All Rights Reserved

photo courtesty of audreyjm529’s photostream

9 Great Reasons to Smile If You Own A Home in Grand Rapids, Michigan!

Homeowners in Grand Rapids, Michigan got several pieces of good news during the past 60 days!  Here they are in a nutshell:

  1. There was a sustained & steady increased in the number of homes Sold for October 2007 to January 2008.
  2. January 2008 Sales were the highest number recorded since 2004!
  3. In February, Fewer homes were placed on the market…a definite boost for an over-saturated market
  4.  A tax stimulus package was approved by the Federal Government giving home owners an additional 600-$1200.
  5. FHA Lending Limits were raised from $200,050 to $271,050 for the Grand Rapids, Michigan area!
  6. This enables over 1,100 More Currently Listed Homes to Be Eligible for FHA Financing!
  7. Down Payment Assistance Programs are still available to Qualified Home Buyers
  8. FHA has streamlined it’s processing of loans for greater efficiency
  9. The Sun is coming out more frequently & staying out longer…more time for buyers to look at homes!

If you have been wondering about the real estate market this spring, this is a good time to learn more about the specifics in your neighborhood.  If you’d like to discuss putting in place an effective strategy to Sell Your Grand Rapids, Michigan home, you may contact us at 616-791-0511.

With over 85% of home buyers looking online when it comes time to consider their home purchasing experience, you will want to talk with Audu Real Estate, a company that is on the forefront of marketing homes using the best new technologies such as blogs and online forums to enhance and maximize the exposure of your home listing.  We’re not interesting in simply placing a sign in your yard…we work to get your home Sold!

Copyright 2008 Audu Real Estate All Right Reserved

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Grand Rapids, MI ~ Imagine Being Scammed by Mr. Santa Claus!

 Mr. Santa Claus?I was in my office some time back when a call came in.  The caller was frantic!  As the words tumbled out, I slowly began to decipher what was being said. The voice on the other end was panicked as they described a most bizarre situation. 

These were my dear clients. We had successfully helped them to purchase this lovely home several months prior.  They had happily settled down in their new home…and now this!

The drama had started with a knock on the front door.  When they opened the door, a grandfatherly looking man dressed in a nice suit introduced himself.  He indicated that he had just seen a notification that their house had just been foreclosed. He was wondering if they aware of this?  He indicated he had dropped by to let them know about some options for folks in their situation.  Talk about jaw dropping surprise!

The story from this gentleman was eerie.  For one thing, he knew that they had recently closed on the home and that there had been some liens on the home.  In this particular situation, there had been a divorce which had left some loose ends hanging which had to be cleared prior to closing. 

As the buyers agent, we had ordered and checked the title-work to make sure that everything was clear prior to closing.  However, there were enough significant details conveyed to me in the conversation with my distraught clients, that I too began to wonder if I had missed something.

Fortunately, he had left his card. I immediately alerted the listing agent and then initiated an urgent call into the title company.  The title company verified that there were no outstanding liens at the time of closing.  My next contact was to the county clerks office and they also had no indication of any foreclosure filing.  You know who my final call was to…Mr. Santa Claus himself.  You can rest assured that I was NOT to wish him a Merry Christmas!

Scams within the context of real estate transactions are increasingly common.  Last year, the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors added a link on its website to allow anyone to report suspicions of mortgage fraud.  It was a very necessary response to try to combat the increase in loan fraud.  But the assault against customers has not been limited to just loan fraud.  In the Grand Rapids area, we have had a number of reported cases in which individuals have been promised assistance with saving their homes from an imminent foreclosure, only to find out that they had been scammed hundreds or thousand of dollars and eventually lost their homes.

Yesterday, I received a call from a gentleman in another state who had found my blog post/series on short sales and foreclosures on line.  He indicated that he wanted to know if I had heard about a certain company.  Apparently, they had missed a payment or two and his wife in her acute distress, had contacted a company which promised that they would save their home from foreclosure.  As long as they paid them $1,200 of which $600 was due that night!  Whoa!

This gentleman had a nagging sense that something was not quite right.  That gut level intuition is one of the most powerful sources of protection when dealing with a scam artist in real estate or any other area.  Many scam artists are able to prey on people when they are most vulnerable because there is a tendency to grasp for any shred of hope in a desperate situation. It is most critical during these times to put the brakes on ALL hasty decisions. 

The reality is this…It is not a Quick, Easy or Simple Process to Loose Your HomeAND…there are a number of options and solutions which you can explore in a reasonable manner so you can make an informed decision about what makes the most sense and is best for you. 

Here are a few suggestions that might find helpful:

1.  Avoid making hasty decisions when in a crisis.  Recognize that your judgement might be impaired.

2.  If something feels not quite right…Wait, Ask more questions, Verify

3.  Report suspicious activities or proposals to the appropriate authorities

4.  If someone offers to save you from a foreclosure and asks you for money to do it…DON’T  instead..

5.  Contact a Licensed Professional with knowledge about the process of foreclosures and short sales and requests a FREE Consultation to help you determine the best route for you to pursue.

And now to finish the story about Mr. Santa Claus.  When I confronted him about his duplicity, he instantly retreated.  He indicated that he must have made a mistake and got the wrong address.  He was so sorry to have caused any distress & asked me to apologize to my clients.  He had been given this list and was just trying to do his job.  I told him that the only thing he was sorry about was that he had been caught and that he would be reported to the authorities.  The line went dead…The only information on the card was a company name and an out of state telephone number.

Copyright 2008  Audu Real Estate  All Rights Reserved

Smart Grand Rapids, MI Neighborhood Programs Provide Funds For Local Home Buyers!

Neighborhood programsRecently, I sat down for lunch with an engaging, young mortgage professional, Hillary Kooy, to talk about her involvement with the Garfield Park Development Corporation. The Garfield Park Neighborhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan is  roughly bounded by Cottage Grove Street to the north, 28th Street to the south, Division and Century Streets to the west, and Eastern Avenue to the east.

Garfield Park is an eclectic and diversified neighborhood which is anchored by the historic neighborhood park by the same name.  It’s a neighborhood which also supports a number of ethnic and minority communities and businesses.  The Garfield Neighborhood Association is one of Grand Rapids best known and established community organizations. In 1992, concerned residents within the Garfield Park neighborhood formed an adjunct which is known as the Garfield Development Corporation.

The Garfield Development Corporation was founded to open up home ownership to people who had been shut out of the process for a variety of reasons. Through the Homebuyer Purchase & Renovate Program (HPR) a grant funded by the State of Michigan, the Garfield Development Corporation has been able to help homeowners with limited funds purchase affordable homes. 

As Hillary explained the opportunities to me, I was astounded!  The HPR Program enables Buyers to qualify for grants up to $10,000for Down Payment Assistance to purchase a home of their choice as long as the home falls within the prescribed boundaries.

But wait… it gets better!  If a home has lead based paint and requires lead based paint abatement, the borrower can get an additional $10,000 grant to execute this renovation.  And that’s not all.  Based on a home inspection and approval,  AND provided the funding is available, home buyers can qualify for up to $20,000 for energy efficient home improvements that can include items such as: a new roof, furnace, replacement windows or new appliances.

The Best Part of the program is that the Grant is forgiven after 50 years. While it’s true that most people will not be staying in a home for that long, a unique aspect of the program enables qualified buyers to take advantage of these resources and be liable for only the portion of the improvements which make up the current market value as verified by a current appraisal.

For a buyer contemplating buying a home in what is now referred to as a “Declining Market” this is heaven sent relief!  Here’s how it works. (1) You go out & find your home within the boundaries served by the program (2) You buy a home with Assistance from the Down-payment Assistance Fund. (2) It needs some repairs which you qualify for & get done by a licensed approved contractor.  (3) Then…another appraisal is done to determine current value WITH the repairs. The final loan you are assessed on a Silent Second Mortgage is only the Difference between what you Bought the home for and what the home is now worth on the Current Market based on the new appraisal!

It’s an extraordinary opportunity!  If you’re thinking about purchasing or selling your home in the Grand Rapids area and would like to explore this further, this is a program that merits your attention. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

*This home is an example of the quality of construction and type of home which buyers can purchase.  Or home buyers can purchase a home  & fix it up.  This year, Garfield Development Corporation hopes to build at least 2 brand new homes and offer them for Sale.  You can choose to work with your favorite loan officer & real estate agent & buy one of these homes. They will work with any qualified real estate agent who brings a qualified client.  This is a terrific Win Win for all concerned.  Make sure to check this out!

Copyright 2008 Audu Real Estate All Rights Reserved

Grand Rapids Cityscape…A Fascinating View

If you like interesting buildings and architecture, Grand Rapids, Michigan is a city you will enjoy visiting.  It’s a city rich with cultural tradition in it’s historic buildings, many which have been graciously restored and refurbished.  However, this appreciation and attention to the details required to preserve the past have not kept the community from adding visionary, forward thinking projects to the cityscape such as the First Leed Certified Arts Museum in the nation. 

The new & the old coexist in Grand Rapids, Michigan in a peculiarly, engaging way.  Perhaps, that’s why this video flyover of the area is so intriguing.  It allows you to view the juxtaposition of the historic culture framed against modern highway systems and new high-rise buildings.

Remarkable Home Sales Increase in Grand Rapids, MI ~ January 2008

Castle HouseIn a press release dated February 29, 2008, the Grand Rapids Board of Realtors announced that sales of existing homes including single family homes, condominiums, and vacation homes rose to record levels in January of 2008.  A total of 996 homes were Sold in January which was an 18.9% increase over the corresponding period of time in 2007 and represented the highest  number of homes sold in the month of January since 2002!More good news for Grand Rapids was released in the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index report which noted that Grand Rapids is one of the 5 most Affordable Cities to live in the United States!  If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve noted that there are many exciting developments taking place within the city metropolis. These have included a number of new commercial entities, new medical facilities and the JW Marriott hotel.

Jim Fase, the President of the Association noted that these number represent promising progress in the housing market and other related sectors of the economy.  It is notable that these numbers have been achieved during a period which has witnessed a tremendous tightening in the credit markets which has squeezed many potential buyers out of the market temporarily. 

West Michigan in some ways has been a remarkable example of how a community can weather the onslaught of numerous economic challenges and re-invent itself…a transformation which is still being forged slowly and not without significant challenge.  While the rest of the nation enjoyed an economic boom, the state of Michigan was beset with a faltering manufacturing sector and automobile industry.  Hundreds of thousands of jobs and people left.

But those who stayed in Grand Rapids, Michigan are doing what it takes to make things work!  Many have gone back to school to learn new skills. It was noted that 1 out of 5 workers in the Grand Rapids area are illiterate.  Bonnie Westbrook wrote a recent post about a major project to increase literacy has thousands of volunteers signing up to help their fellow citizens learn how to read. 

The average housing price has gone down in the past couple of years. The average home price for homes in Grand Rapids and the surrounding areas is now just under $130,000. This does reflect the scourge of rising foreclosures and short sales.  Yet, we remain hopeful that the investment in our community through new industries like the emerging bio-medical field and the resurgence of energy efficient green built buildings and homes will herald a new horizon and future for our great state.


Copyright 2008 Audu Real Estate  All Rights Reserved

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