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Archive for February, 2012

Traditionally, when many folks in West Michigan think about furniture, it’s likely that one of places that they will be visiting in the search for the perfect dinette, bedroom set or sofa is an Art Van Store.  This is because, Art Van, a Michigan based company head quartered in Warren, MI has 34 store locations throughout the state and employs approximately 2,500 associates.

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit the Art Van corporate headquarters as a part of a task force for the Michigan Association of REALTORS®.  While there, we toured the store and met members of the executive team and marketing staff.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a brand new initiative being launched in 2012 between Art Van and the Michigan Association of REALTORS®. The new program is the Home Rewards Program.

An integral aspect of the program is a gift of $150 towards home purchases through Art Van for any individual who uses a REALTOR® to purchase a home.  With home sales once again beginning to climb, in West Michigan, this is a wonderful way to help individuals and families who are moving to purchase additional items of decor for their new living spaces.  The offer is not just limited to furniture, but includes assistance with custom decor and design, flooring and even office furniture.

Art Van has dedicated sales specialists in each of its stores to provide premium service and additional information for customers who qualify for this program.  During our tour, I also learned that in addition to the traditional furniture retail items and accessories, Art Van’s specialists are available to  host special fund raising events for local charities right within the store.

I thoroughly enjoyed working with REALTORS® from different parts of the State and the Art Van Marketing Team who were extremely responsive to our thoughts and suggestions. Towards the end of our meeting, we were pleasantly surprised by a brief visit from Mr. Art Van himself (Mr Art Van Eslander)…the Founder and Chairman of the company. This program is open to ANYONE who has bought a home recently with a REALTOR in the State of Michigan.  I’m looking forward to contacting our clients and letting them know about this new benefit!

Click this link to learn more about the history of Art Van, a Michigan Based Company.

Click here to learn more about the Home Rewards Program

Click this link to learn more about the Michigan Association of REALTORS®

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After a long spell of unseasonably warm weather, Winter has once again reasserted her dominance in West Michigan.  Over the weekend, the ground was recovered with a thick blanket of snow and temperatures have plunged into the single digits.  Thus leaving the promise of an early spring hanging like an old fall leaf dangling by a thin stem.  So, it seems fitting that in a cursory search of my picture archives, I came across this print which I had fun editing.  Remembering warm weather and the brilliant colors of a time just past…

Purple Dreams

To view more pictures, please visit me on Flickr @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/auduhomes

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There just don’t seem to be enough homes to rent!    Over the past year, our company  Audu Real Estate, have observed an escalation in the number of requests for homes to rent.  The reasons are varied:

1.  Potential renters don’t want to become potential buyers because they are scared of loosing home equity.

2.  The potential renter may have lost a home or has credit issues and is ineligible to obtain a mortgage.

3.  The potential renter thinks their job may require them to move, so they don’t want to be ‘stuck’.

4.  The potential renter doesn’t want to live in an apartment & would prefer a home setting.

As a result, we’ve seen rental rates increase.  I’ve heard predictions which indicate that there will be a 3-6 percent increase in rental rates during the next year.  This news has not escaped the attention of some major deal makers across America.  In fact, a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article entitled ‘Your Next Landlord Might Wear Pinstripes‘ highlights a significant rise of interest from institutional investors who are looking to beef up their portfolios by purchasing homes and turning them into rentals.

Last year in the fall, the Administration asked for public comment about the idea of renting out a growing inventory of foreclosed homes.  Earlier this month, Fannie Mae, the government controlled mortgage agency initiated a program to allow qualified investors to bid in bulk for foreclosed homes as long as they maintained them as rental for a period of time.

So why are investors interested in a housing market that has seen some dark days?  Well, it’s all about opportunity.  Today the US home ownership rates is about 66%.  While that is one of the highest rates in the world, it is still below the peak of 69.2 percent recorded in June of 2004.  Many Americans remain skittish about the prospects of home ownership even as the facts seem to indicate that this may be exactly the time to buy a home.

For starters, interest rates are insanely low.  I’m hearing rates below 3.4% on 15 year mortgages. The inventory in West Michigan is actually pretty good.  We’re showing homes which would have retailed for 50-60% more just a few short years ago which have been totally re-vamped and are in move-in condition.  I’m talking about homes priced in the $40,000 – $75,000 range that could easily have retailed for 3-4X that amount in the past.  With today’s interest rates, the mortgage amount would be significantly below the rental rate for a similar home.

Investors are interested in these homes because of the cash flow potential.  Single family home rentals tend to fetch premium rates and can retail for 3-5% higher than apartment rentals.  And, this is not about a quick turn around.  Most investors expect to hold on to these homes for five years or more.

Think about that!  I just attended a forum on commercial real estate that indicated that the residential market in West Michigan could be poised for a surprising rebound within the next 3-4 years due to several factors including an uptick in manufacturing, more hiring for jobs and a work-force that is fairly well trained and prepared to meet the demands of today’s emerging economy.

If this proves to be correct, homeowners who have had a few years of dreadful travail may find themselves once again smiling on the way to the bank.  The question is…who will be the homeowner.  You…or a corporation?

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