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Competition for the opportunity to buy a home in West Michigan has escalated dramatically within the past 24 months.  Bidding wars are now the new normal.  Potential home buyers may find themselves engaging what may feel like a Reality Show competition when they enter into the ring to bid on a fresh or particularly enticing entry into the housing market place.46500589 - model of cardboard house with key and dollar bills. house building, loan, real estate, cost of housing or buying a new home concept.

In the current real estate arena, knowledge, street smarts and a good team makes a big difference!  Here are some tips to up your ‘winning game’.  Study these details gleaned from over two decades of front line service by an experienced real estate broker to give yourself the edge as you mount your strategy in obtaining the home of your dreams!

1. Be Market Ready. Get Your Financing up to Snuff!

The current (January – February 2017) housing inventory in West Michigan according to the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS is 1.4 months of supply.  To put that in days – roughly 42 days of housing stock and the market depletes.  IF your’re a seller on the other hand, this means it will take roughly 75 days to list, market, and close your home sale provided you’re within the general norms of the area with regards to price and presentation.

Given these stats, REALTORS have taken to pleading for listings on social media as there are too many buyers looking for a limited supply of homes.  If you’re serious about getting a home, get Pre-approved now.  Submit to the often grueling process of having all your financial details examined by an experienced loan officer which include verification of your credit, employment history, assets and liabilities.  Get your money together too!  The more cash you have (which must be verifiable aka being in the bank long enough to verify that you obtained it legally) the better prepared you will be to win in the days ahead.

 2. Choose  Your REALTOR carefully.

Experience matters when choosing a professional REALTOR to represent you.  But so does temperament and the ability to persevere.  There is so much strangeness in today’s marketplace.  People are bidding for homes as though they are on the gaming floor in Vegas!  And when the high disperses, many are re-thinking what they just paid for a home!  It can become a vicious cycle, which is best avoided rather than trying to detangle.  A good REALTOR by your side will advise and fight for you. In fact, the reputation of a good REALTOR can be powerful edge when a Seller is trying to determine which offer is ‘real’ and which one may be likely to fake out after a month or less leaving them devoid of a truly viable offer to purchase their home.

3.  Circle the Market like a Hawk!

At Audu Real Estate, we provide Homebuyers with a private shopping portal that shoots out instant notifications when new listings pop up on the market.  This gives you an edge over your competition.  But understand that seeing the home before the herd stomps through is itself NOT enough to guarantee you will get the home just because you’re the first offer.  Read on to the next tip to understand WHY strategy is important.

4.   Strategize Like a Pro!

Negotiations are a critical component of the drive towards winning in the real estate multiple bidding arena. There are many components to a successful negotiation and this blog would be way to long to list all of them here.  But, for starters here are some important components for consideration in a winning negotiation:

*Price

*Financing

*Marketplace Knowledge & Comparison

*Terms & Conditions

*Timing

*Flexibility

*Method & Manner of Presentation

*Closing Date

No one wants to win a negotiation only to discover later that you purchased a lousy deal!  Believe me, many who suffered through the recent past recession within which many lost homes through foreclosure will tell you – Buyer Beware.  All that glitters is NOT gold. Which leads us right into our final tip…

5.  Be Sane!  Stay Flexible

Emerging from this process with your new home and sanity in place is the real win!  Buying a new home requires a certain solid internal confidence that in the end, you will prevail.  A belief that if a home is for YOU, it will be yours no matter what storms and obstacles present themselves.  Resolve internally that YOU WILL OVERCOME!  It will not necessarily be easy, but remember that this too shall pass.  Even if the process takes six months, at some point it will be over.  And you will have the enjoyment of your new home for hopefully many years.

Keeping this in mind, it is good to be mindful of the health and sanity of the real estate professionals who you will need to assist you along this journey.  Be kind.  Appreciate their efforts.  You are likely NOT their only client.  So when you are able to reach your ‘help’ after normal business hours and they spend an hour with you on the phone, say THANK YOU.  A good REALTOR or Lender will be going more than the extra mile to help you.

Often, the activity behind the scenes will pale in comparison to the effort you are privy to.  In fact, after you decide on a home, the REALTOR’s job has just begun.  And in a multiple bidding war is likely to include late nights, frustration, dealing with all sorts of issues – some of which are real and some of which are as fake as the ‘fake news’ cycle.  Think about this – treating them with dignity and respect increases the chances that they will be willing and available when you or your friends and family need help the next time housing becomes a priority in your life!

photo credit 123.rf

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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.

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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

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think outside the box in vintage wood type

When it comes to selling a home, many have difficulty letting go of the emotional attachment. As a result, this may overshadow our ability to make critical decisions regarding what needs to be done to sell a home successfully.

A home, like a well-loved, but worn out T-shirt can become an item which is so familiar that we fail to see what is readily apparent to an average onlooker.

Avoiding some of the most costly mistakes can ease the pain of moving by:

  1. Saving you time and hassle
  2. Bringing in more offers with a higher quality of Buyer
  3. Putting more money into your pocket so you can purchase your next perfect home!

7 Mistakes to avoid include:

Neglecting Curb Appeal.  Today curb appeal is not limited to how your home looks when a potential buyer drives by.  The average home is pre-viewed online before people jump into cars.  So, if your home listing photos are unprofessional and your home appears cluttered and dated, people won’t click into or drive by your home which means you may lose a potential sale.

Over-pricing your home.  Today’s market in West Michigan is hot!  If your home has been on the market for 30 days without any serious interest, you are over-priced.  Listen!  The market speaks.  Over-pricing a home is the single most common way that homeowners lose money when trying to sell their home.  The average over-pricing penalty in the West Michigan area ranges from 20 – 25%.  So for a $100,000 home that sits on the market, this can mean a retail price of $75,000 – $80,000 nine months later.  Whereas, if it had been priced at $89,900 from the beginning, the likelihood of a sale within 30 days would have been excellent!  Invest in a well prepared Comparative Market Analysis or appraisal.

Not tidying up.  This is huge.  Sight and smell are how buyers buy homes and definitely impacts how much they are willing to pay.  For top dollar, go beyond moving your dirt around.  De-clutter: throw stuff out, spiff it up, sparkle, trim, clean, buff, scrub…

Not Sharing things you need to share.  Selling a home in West Michigan requires you to disclose what you know about the home.  No, you can’t just surprise people by covering up over issues you’ve been managing for years like a leaking roof, broken pipes or an oven that doesn’t work.  In fact, REALTORS require our clients to sign a Seller’s Disclosure which is a very detailed accounting of what you know about YOUR home.  This doesn’t absolve the buyer of the responsibility of getting their own home inspection, but it does protect you from being accused of lying about a known problem.

Dragging your feet.  Selling a home is not for the faint of heart.  It requires preparation, persistence and patience.  Selling a home is hard work.  Not just for you, but for the entire team of professionals (some estimates indicate that up to 50 individuals will have touched your file prior to closing).  Don’t do this until you’re ready and willing to do what will be required.  A great way to lose money is to discourage those who are trying to help you.  Remember, this is their livelihood and the higher their motivation, the more likely they are to do a better job.

Being unwilling to reward Success.  This is a surprisingly common mistake, yet is it one which can be remedied with relatively little downside for the homeowner.  Bargain hunting is a great pastime, but it may not be the most intelligent way to go about getting the most money for your home.

Consider going against the grain.  Offer a Bonus to the Agent who successfully sells your home.  It can be as little as 1-2% of your Sales Price.  This will increase interest in your home listing and will influence the exposure and potential offers your are likely to receive.  Think of it as leveraging your asset base.  Depending on your sales price, where else can a $1,000 investment potentially garner you a $5,000 – $10,000 increase in the amount of your rate of return within less than 6 months? To maximize the effectiveness of this technique, you may want to put a time limit on this…ex. home must be sold within 30 days to qualify for the bonus.

Choosing the wrong REALTOR.  Just because a friend or relative is in the real estate business does not mean that this individual is the best choice for the sale of your home.  Read this blog post to learn more about how to select the agent that’s right for you.

Related Content:  How Many REALTOR Interviews Should I have BEFORE Selecting an Agent?

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Question:  How Many REALTORS should I interview BEFORE I make a Selection?

Answer:  Well, we’d like to suggest that might be the wrong approach to the Question.  A better question might be:  What should I be asking, considering or thinking about when selecting the right REALTOR for me?

Selecting the right REALTOR is more nuanced than simply selecting the Agent who does the most advertising or someone who is related to you.  The process of successfully selling a home requires several key elements be in place to guarantee success.  These are:

  1.  The right price
  2. The best presentation of your home (Staging & Marketing)
  3. The right Exposure
  4. The right REALTOR

Missing any one of the above items can successfully derail the process.  The best REALTOR will not be able to correct an over-pricing error if you insist on ignoring sound pricing counsel.  Nor will the best staging presentation be able to overcome a home that is poorly photographed and underexposed in the places where people go to look for homes online.

Selecting the right REALTOR requires someone who you

  1.  Trust
  2. Know is a proven hard worker and will keep you informed of developments (Good Communication)
  3. Has a proven history of successfully closed transactions
  4. Know has a system and plan to successfully execute the marketing, negotiation and closing of your home
  5. Understands the marketplace and is informed and knowledgeable about your market and the trends in real estate

There are many exceptional agents.  But, not every agent is necessarily the right one for you.  If you are something of a worrier or perfectionist, an agent who delivers scant communication or whom you cannot get a hold of quickly or easily may not be the best choice for you.  Even if they claim to have the most sales in a particular demographic.  On the other hand, if you perfer a more aggressive approach, finding an agent who has a highly energized and more combative approach to selling may be just what the doctor ordered!

Related Content:  27 Questions to Ask Your Home Builder

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.

More FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) here

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Question:  Do I really need to spend money on a home inspection?

Answer:  In short the answer is Yes.  Even for a home that looks perfect and is beautifully presented.  And, Yes – even for a home that is brand spanking new.

Why?  Well, because a house should be through of as a unique set of systems and parts.  It’s more than the ‘personality’ you fell in love with.  It’s more like a spouse, you’re committing to live with. As with matters of the heart, the first blush will fade over time.  When the inevitable reveal occurs (worts and all), housing matters can be extremely expensive to correct.

Home Inspectors are trained to inspect major systems such as heating and air conditioning as well as the condition of the structure, roof, plumbing and electrical system.  If you have a chimney, they will peer into it and inspect it or advise you to contract with a specialist.  They’re also trained to look for evidence of infestation of all sorts of creepy crawlers, ants and mice.  Some types of mortgages will require a pest inspection for termites, which by the way are surprisingly common in West Michigan.

Then there’s the gas thing – Radon testing has become increasingly common in West Michigan.  Radon is an odorless gas that can kill – yes, Kill YOU if it is undetected.  So can carbon monoxide coming from an improperly functioning furnace.

Mold is another issue which can be dangerous if it is of a certain variety, and it’s always important to determine the source of the water penetration and correct that!

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.  I highly recommend investing in the services of a qualified home inspector.  Preferably someone who is impartial and not related to you – parents and friends may mean well, but they rarely have the experience necessary to provide an unbiased opinion on an investment which is likely to be the biggest one you’ll make at any one time in this lifetime.

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.

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chair setSome important changes will be put into effect with regards to the process of completing a real estate transaction on October 3, 2015. The changes are part of the Dodd-Frank Bill and in the industry are referred to by what may seem like a curious set of initials to the average person – RESPA/TILLA.  The government agency responsible for implementing and overseeing the enforcement of these new changes to the law is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which you will also see referenced by the initials CFPB.

While, the requirements will largely impact new processes for the Lending and Title industry with regards to actual changes in forms and procedures, we do anticipate that there will be some adjustments necessary for the real estate transaction as conducted by REALTORS as well. For our clients (Buyers & Sellers), the adjustments will largely be (though not necessarily completely)reflected in the following ways:

1. New Timelines requiring additional time to complete a fairly standard real estate transaction
2. Ability to understand the re-disclosure period and how it can impact the timeline of getting your home or your money.
3. Coordination of  ‘stacked’ closings and why closing and purchasing in the same day may no longer be possible
4. A couple of new forms for the Lending & Escrow process

As REALTORS, coordinating the process in a way that minimizes stress for our clients is our primary concern. To this end, we are taking courses to ensure we understand how to advise our clients to ensure that your investment in a home occurs as smoothly as possible during this period of significant transition.

If you have been thinking about buying or selling a home and would like to have a more in depth conversation about the best way to navigate through this changing landscape, we encourage you to contact us well BEFORE October 3, 2015 when these changes are scheduled to take effect. *(Implementation was delayed from August 1, (today) to address concerns about preparedness by the industry and consumers. Our Number: 616-791-0511.

Lastly, if you are currently in the processing of retailing your home on your own or are considering this option in the future, we would be willing to talk with you about how to avoid potential pitfalls particularly during this time of transition.  In the days ahead, knowledge and understanding will be critical in ensuring the your transaction does not become an unintended casualty of the law of ‘Unintended Consequences’.  Our office is prepared and ready to assist with all your real estate needs and concerns.  Call us to talk.  It’s Free!

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