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Archive for April, 2012

The classic novel by Charles Dickens begins with the following quote:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”

This could be a descriptive of the real estate marketplace in many quarters across the nation today.   The economic crisis which was predicated by unsound lending and investment practices has swung the pendulum almost 180 degrees in the reverse direction with tighter lending standards and much more over-sight to the process.  Sometimes, with unintended consequences with regard to programs that sometimes created more confusion than the problems they were designed to solve.

So, today in the West Michigan housing market, we are observing a unique situation in which  inventory levels are at the lowest level in a decade yet, home prices are rising at very modest levels after a free-fall in which we saw the average home price decrease 30-35% within the past five years.  So, when homeowners hear that the market is in recovery, the natural reaction is to assume that recovery means that home prices will return to the level they were in 2005 – 2007, the boom years.

The truth is:  they will not.  And this is why.  The increase in housing prices was artificial.  Grossly artificial.  Bolstered by poor economic policy and disastrous political mandates and pure greed and avarice, millions of Americans were put into the wrong mortgages or given access to mortgages before they had demonstrated the prerequisite financial acumen to sustain the rigors of home ownership.  To add to the inferno, liar loans simply created stories about who a borrower was.

So, prices for homes rose as demand for homes rose.  And since the process was largely based on unreality and unsound policies, the result was an artificial increase in what homes sold for which is demonstrated in this graph.  Of course, this was an unsustainable situation.  And in time, the bubble burst…hence the housing crisis.

The key thing to understand is that the market will NOT recover to those highs, nor should we wish that it would.  Why would we want to re-create the hell we’re trying desperately to climb out of?

So what is realistic?  Well, it we follow the healthy trajectory of steady, modest gains that an investment in housing has historically yielded, we are probably looking at prices which are in the range of what homes sold for between 2003 – 2004.  If you gasped and said…’Wow, a decade of equity was wiped out” you are right.  But, was the past decade truly reflective of healthy gains in equity…in my opinion, the answer is NO.

Housing is still a good investment.  The massive course correction has been painful, but it was necessary.  So, while you will not get an unrealistic price for your home, you can expect a fair return on your investment if you have owned your home for more than a decade or if you do not have a lien against your property.  If you’d like to know more about how your specific neighborhood has fared, please contact us for a free analysis.

Relevant Related Reading:

Updating the Case Shiller Housing Price Chart.

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Well, it worked so well for the past two years, that for the 3rd year in a row, the National Association of REALTORS in conjunction with Associations across the country will be holding Open thousands of homes across the nation.

West Michigan is no exception.  Audu Real Estate is pleased to present 3 lovely homes during the weekend for your viewing pleasure.  Visit our website:  www.auduhomes to view Open House Info and details for the following homes on 1400 Manton, 1505 Diamond and 2556 Evernia.  To view ALL homes which will be open this weekend, click here.

Also, feel free to contact us to view any home you find online.  We’re available to help you.

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Pain demands a response.  An urgent messenger who will not be denied the access of a hearing.  Even if the witnessing acknowledger is merely an audience of one.  The message is always delivered.  But, not always heeded or understood.

As the keynote speaker got up to speak during the West Michigan Center for Fair Housing luncheon this week, a projection of a public lynching emerged on the screen. A jarring image in any setting.  One designed to provoke a  visceral response.  I wondered where he was going with this…

My gaze was drawn to the two figures who were hanging by nooses from the tree.  But the speaker drew the attention of the audience to the crowd underneath the tree.  A large group of well dressed citizens, some of them  with smiles on their faces.  Two young teenagers hanging dead from a tree was a community social event!

This gruesome chapter in American history is one many of us would prefer no to re-read.  But beyond the imagery preserved in historic photographs, prints and yes…even postcards, there is an on-going issue of pain and its consequences both for the perpetrator and the victim.

The Art of RE-Membering How to Be HumanWhile the American story of opportunity and promise is a shining beacon of hope to many around the world, the underbelly of this story has a dark side.  One in which people struggled to get ahead, stay alive and manipulated power to their advantage at the expense of other human beings.  History reveals that  fear, rage and the desire to increase or maintain power were often the driving forces behind the most heinous acts of racial injustice.

Pain is something we prefer to avoid. We fight it, medicate it, sometimes ignore it, and often strike out and wound again because of it. However, the pain of the past has the capacity to serve as more than a stark reminder of our failings as individuals within community.  The fact that we recoil and want to move on indicates that we know that all is not yet well.  Pain is not sent to stay, it’s purpose is to deliver an injunction to initiate healing.

When we ignore the message, pain can do a number of things, the most insidious being to re-format itself in a way that can serve to spread the infection covertly.  This is sometimes referred to as Secondary Pain Syndrome.  A condition in which the initial onset of the pain has now been transferred to another part of the body.

This is the challenge we face as a country today.  The pain of racism has taken on camouflage.  It has spread in ways that are covert and harder to quantify or identify.  The refusal or inability to deal with the constraints which tempt us to devalue and deny the dignity of another human being now threaten to undermine our capacity to live as fully human. And to recognize the divine spark that exists in every ‘other’ who exists alongside us.

Because pain can do this to you.  It can make you forget who you are.  Pain can cause you act irrationally and to strike out with incredible viciousness and in the process create shame and guilt.  It can kill, literally depleting the life blood of hope and inspiration which sustains the body, soul and spirit.

The reason why we must examine issues of Fairness in Housing  and our explicit or implicit participation is that ultimately we cannot afford not to.  The key is Awareness.  We cannot afford to ignore the gift and extinguish the hope of others simply because they are not like us.  For in doing so, we are denying the basis of our own humanity. We hijack the promise which lies dormant within the potential of every human being.

Awareness is our hope.  It is awareness that brings understanding and compels action. Awareness  is what allows us to question WHY we respond the way we do, make certain types of assumptions and fail to react to the violation & denigration of human beings.  It is through awareness that we slowly begin to discover who we are and to see ourselves in the likeness of ‘the other’.  We re-awaken to the fact that we ARE the other.

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Over 17 years ago, I obtained my real estate Salesperson‘s license. So much has changed! I can still remember buying my first laptop computer. Back in those days, I couldn’t access the Internet and the dial up connection to the real estate MLS system was at best a hit or miss proposition when I connected via a land line. The leading real estate companies all advertised in the paper. Hardly anyone had a website. No one had heard about a blog.

But in spite of the dramatic shifts in the business, I think there are are things that will not change regardless of how drastically technological advancements redefine the real estate business.

Proper Priorities…

Knowing what your priorities should be is the biggest single factor which determines success or failure for many agents. There are only a few things that actually make money for a successful agent. These are: listing or selling a home, prospecting for new business, following up on leads and asking for the appointments necessary build relationships and build our business. Everything else that we do, including attending closings, is a result of the above activities. When we loose sight of this and spend little time on these basic activities, our business is bound to suffer.

Perseverance…

Persevering involves keeping on, in spite of, not because of. The old saying ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’ is true. Many agents give up far too quickly. This is where it can be helpful to talk to other successful people or read their books. One will quickly discover that everyone has struggled in one fashion or another. It’s a fact of life. Persevering is a pre-requisite for success because it proves that you are willing to do what it takes to get the prize…your goal of a successful career.

Patience…

Patience develops character. I’m often amused to hear the term ‘overnight’ success. To the individual who supposedly achieves this feat, it most often feels like a very long, long, night! We tend to refer to the achievement as an overnight success because we are unfamiliar with the journey that enabled someone to gain the status that they now enjoy. Upon closer examination, it is often revealed to have been a far longer more involved process than a cursory glance would suggest.

A wise man was once quoted as noting that ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’ Knowing HOW to do something is as important as having a clear understanding of WHAT one should actually be doing. Success follows from following through and being consistent in the effort required to achieve true competence.

So, regardless of how quickly technology shifts our business, the solid foundations of a business built on Right Priorities, Perseverance and Patience are the tools that a determined professional will need to cultivate in order to thrive and succeed

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Housing Foreclosure Numbers by State

The chart above details the level of foreclosure activity in various states across the country.  Michigan has moved out of the ‘Red Hot’ zone as conditions continue to stabilize and improve in the State.  But, to obtain a true picture of what is happening in West Michigan, you need to drill down into the numbers.

Statistics just released from the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS today indicate some significant and encouraging trends emerging in the local market.  Housing is on the beginning of a rebound.  Are you ready to take advantage of this?

Here are some key points highlighted in the report from the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS.

*The Average Home Sale Price jumped up 7.8% from $116,565 in March 2011 to $125,658 (March 2012)

*For an Year to Year comparison, the increase was more impressive – 9% increase from $112,453 in 2011 to $122,543 in 2012

*Distress Sales in West Michigan continue to trend downwards.  From a high of 62% several years ago, the number are now between 40-44%

*Inventory Available (based on Pending Sales) is 3.9 months.  (Refer to my blog post on the Meaning of this number for Home Sellers)

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