Feel Like You Belong – Features Real Estate Broker, Lola Audu ‘A New Way to Sell Real Estate’

Lola Audu is used to creating firsts in her adopted U.S. home. As an international student in college, she had to teach white administrators about unintended racism. As a real estate professional, she became the first black president in the 117-year history of the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors. As a graduate of the Cultural Intelligence Center, she is now bringing cultural intelligence (CQ) to the real estate industry. Join Alan as he interviews the Nigerian native who has become a West Michigan force to be reckoned with.

Will Uber’s Foray into Real Estate Change Your Next Home Sale?

Buying a HomeWhen news of Uber’s foray into the complex world of real estate hit the wires this past week, many industry watchers took note.  The premises for Haus, the new start-up by the Cofounder of Uber, Garrett Camp is to bring transparency into the bidding process between home buyers, sellers and their agents.

How Haus works:

The online platform will allow buyers, sellers and their agents to see (in real time)  when offers and changes to offers are made during the bidding process AND respond accordingly.  The platform promises to deliver an experience which creates side by side comparisons so that home owners and potential buyers can make fully informed decisions about the home they are bidding on.  At the heart of the issue is the concept of ‘real time’.

Super-heated real estate:

Most of the country is experiencing a super heated real estate market.  In West Michigan, it is not uncommon for some homes to receive multiple offers within a 24 hour period.  Anxious buyers wring their hands as they are informed that offers will not be presented UNTIL a particular time or that they should consider re-submitting their ‘highest and best’ offer due to multiple offers coming in on the same property.  Although the majority of real estate agents are honest, there is no way of actually verifying IF additional offers are being presented and so, home buyers are left wondering just how much more they will have to bid to secure the right to purchase the home of their dreams.

Pride and prejudice:

Another largely unspoken aspect of the process is the fact that purchasing a home is not necessarily based on price.  Prejudice and preference can sometimes play critical roles. Many homeowners have their own ideas about whom they would prefer to purchase their homes.  This may be based on personal preferences, or their concerns about the welfare of their neighbors.  Latent within these normal human emotions and desires lies the potential for discrimination, an issue which is a matter of Federal law when applied to the real estate transaction.

Loving a home can infatuate the mind.  It can make a home buyer willing to do just about anything to gain an edge or advantage.  One of the more commonly used vehicles is a ‘Dear Homeowner’ letter where the potential buyer details why they love the home and why the home owner should in essence ‘pick me!’  Buyers have been known to research the owners place or worship, likes and dislikes and fashion their offers to tug at the home owners emotions.  Sometimes, this has included providing pictures of themselves so the homeowner can see who they are.

When secrecy becomes illegal:

The problem with this is a little thing called the law – which prohibits discrimination when it comes the buying, selling or renting of housing based on some very specific criteria.  The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 prohibit discrimination on the basis of: race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, handicap, sex, gender and often local ordinances (State and community) have additional qualifiers.

So, to some extent the secrecy which has shrouded the real estate process has served as a cloak for some of these illegal behaviors.  For the same reason that booking a table reservation by Open Table is a preferred vehicle by many when they consider the convenience and the simplicity of not dealing with host/hostess reservations, the idea of being able to view, counter and negotiate a transaction in an open forum might be appealing to a significant segment of the population.

Will we purchase houses like we book online reservations?

Haus does not claim to be a brokerage, financial adviser or tax expert, but the platform may become a tool which serves to bring the bottom line into a transaction negotiation in a very direct way.  That being said, buying a house is not like purchasing a car.  And, for a homeowner, the process is not just a financial investment, but also a relational and emotional one.  It will be interesting to see how or if this catches on as a preferred method of negotiations during a real estate transaction and more importantly to the bottom line, if this results in higher bids for home owners.


Additional Articles about additional industry new comers:

Roofstock’s better way to buy and sell homes

Yopa: Online property agent


3740 Bantam Dr. Hudsonville Mi 49426 is Ready to Be Your New Home! $174,900

Living Room

Now under contract – May 2014.  We think you’ll love this home!  Click here to watch a pre-view tour of the interior of 3740 Bantam Dr. Hudsonville MI 49426. Handsome brickwork coupled with graceful pillars framing the entrance give this classic looking 3 bedroom 2.5 bath ranch style home a hint of southern colonial charm. Inside, soothing earth tone walls warm up a soaring expanse of cathedral ceilings. Wide open spaces and windows which splash light throughout the main floor create a cheerful ambiance.

Another great feature is the rich vinyl plank style flooring in the main living areas which looks sharp and contemporary, but is a breeze to keep clean. Add to this, almost brand new stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, a deck that opens up to a fenced in backyard which includes playground equipment, central air conditioning and underground sprinkling…well, what’s not to love! Located near the end of a cul de sac, this delightful home is a great space to make your new home base. $174,900. Contact Donna 616-881-6889 to schedule a preview.

House Exterior

Looking for a Home, Condo or Duplex to Rent in Grand Rapids, MI…

Rental Homes, Condos and Duplexes in West Michigan…

A decade ago, most area REALTORS were not receiving many inquires about homes to rent in Grand Rapids and the West Michigan area.  In fact, less than 48 months ago, there was no way for real estate agents to reliably search or list on the local Multiple Listing Service for Rental homes.  So much has changed.  Today, the options for clients who need to rent a home, duplex or condo can now be serviced through the Rental Multiple Listing Service, a data exchange between area REALTORS which promotes properties available for rent in the West Michigan area.

There has been a significant increase in the number of people who are seeking rental housing across all price points in the real estate market place.  This rise in demand has also prompted a rise in rental rates with some estimates being an anticipated 6-10% increase in rental rates over the next year.  There are many reasons for this shift…

1.  Distress & Foreclosure Sales

The past five years have been tumultuous in the real estate industry as prices plummeted and many home owners found themselves owing more on their homes than they could be sold for in the open market.  As a result, many homes were sold at a loss through Short Sales and Foreclosure Sales.  At one point, almost 60% of the sales activity in West Michigan was related to a distress sale.  This pushed up the demand for rental properties.

2.  House Purchase Anxiety

Directly related to #1 in many ways due to the fact that some consumers were spooked by the decline in home prices and did not want to be in situation in which they lost money or had difficulty in retailing a home.  Many potential home buyers have hedged their bets although in reality, the decline in home prices offered some of the best investment opportunities ever.  Due to fear, some potential home owners have determined to pursue term rentals which has also fueled demand in the rental housing market in West Michigan.

3.  Increased Mobility – Professionally & Personally

According to this report by the Department of Labor & Statistics, the average person in the United States held 11 jobs between the ages of 18 – 44. With increased mobility professionally and personally,  consumers are more open to renting rather than putting their roots down to deeply in a community which they may need to exit from due to a job change.

4.  Jobs, Jobs, Jobs…

And of course, the issue of ‘jobs’ remains front and center in terms of simply having one.  Unemployment continues to be a factor in the wider labor market and this impacts the amount of money people can spend.  Steady employment also impacts issue #5…Financing.

5.  Difficulties with Financing

Mortgage financing has tightened significantly over the past two years, partly in reaction to the mortgage lending crisis.  As a result, many consumers who would have had no problems obtaining a loan 3-4 years ago, find themselves unable to obtain financing for a home.  A sizable number of self-employed individuals who have good incomes but may show business losses find themselves in this difficult position.

All of these factors are playing a role in the increased demand for rental housing in Grand Rapids, MI.  We are finding that homes are renting quite quickly and some home sellers who have tried to sell their homes without success have found the home rental market to be a viable financial alternative.

If you have a home that you would like or need to rent, please contact us.  We can provide you with a detailed analysis of your options with regards to pricing and marketing.

If you need to find a home, condo or duplex to rent in Grand Rapids, MI, here’s an Updated Link of Rental Homes available Today.

Call 616-791-0511 to arrange an appointment.

RENTED! Grandville Schools. 2157 Palm Dale Dr. Southwest, Wyoming, MI 49519

Attention to detail is the standard in this former Builder’s home! Warm earth tones accented with crown molding provide an inviting ambiance. What a great place to call home in the Grandville school district. The interior of the home features 3 bedrooms and 3 baths. The home has a 3 stall garage. The yard is beautifully landscaped and the main level features an open floor plan with deck access through double sliders. The rental rate of $2,000 per month includes all appliances.  CLICK ON THE PICTURE OR THE LINK TO ENJOY A REAL ESTATE PRE-VIEW SHOW.

When Your Landlord Wears a Suit…Exploring the Rise of Corporate Investment in the Rental Home Market

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?

How Do I find a Grand Rapids MI Home to Purchase with a Land Contract?

Audu Real Estate Logo ~ West Michigan Real Estate*This post was a response to a question posted on Trulia.  It has been one of the most frequently visited responses since we began assisting folks with answers to real estate questions on that site.  So we thought it would be helpful to share with visitors to Grand Rapids Real Estate Musings who may also have similar concerns.  We’ve also added more detailed information here to help our readers.   Here’s what we posted in response to the question:



We have assisted clients who are in situations similar to the one you described. The good news is that there are more options available today than there have been in recent history.  There are also some particular pitfalls which you should be aware of so you can avoid some regrettable results.

The Grand Rapids Association of Realtors  MLS system allows real estate agents to search for land contracts and other terms which may indicate a willingness on the part of the current home owner to rent or lease with an option to buy.

In addition, we search beyond the borders of the local MLS to assist clients with locating suitable homes on sites such as Craigslist.  However, it is  extremely important to negotiate these type of transactions correctly.

There should be close coordination with a reputable lender as well as a written lease and purchase contract which protects your interests and provides options for you in the future. When this is not done properly, you can easily loose a lot of potential hard earned equity.  You should also consider the possibility of doing some additional research to determine if the home is currently in default.  Some buyers have moved into homes only to find that the home was being foreclosed on due to the non-payment of the mortgage.

We’d be happy to sit down with you or talk over the phone about the specifics concerning your situation. There is no obligation. When we understand what you are looking for, we can research and forward listings which you can review in the comfort and convenience of your home.

You may also visit our website or blog to read about the experiences of clients we have helped recently.


Lola Audu

Confessions of a Reluctant Landlord…

Grand Rapids, MI

FOR Rent signOK, I’ll admit it. I’ve been a Landlord 3 times.  This is not my chosen occupation.  You see, I’m not really constitutionally set up to be a good landlord.  I don’t enjoy being mean, nor do I like making reminder calls for over due rent.

I entered the land-lording business because I had bought a house.  My first home came with a tenant.  The tenant was actually a model tenant….neat, orderly, considerate and on time with the rent payments.  If this was my sole experience, I’d be enthused about owning homes which other people live in.  But it wasn’t.  I became a landlord two more times and those experiences were markedly different from my first entree into the industry.

The second time, not unlike many home owners, I had bought another home and had been unable to sell my current home.  Since, I had one good tenant, I thought that having two tenants would be great.  It was certainly better than having two house payments!

My prospective tenants told me that they had lived in military housing and had their home checked out all the time.  The inference being they were very neat people…or so I thought.  I’ll never forget the day I walked into the kitchen to check on my home.  There was a narrow pathway barely visible through the piles of junk, paper and garbage on the floor.  These tenants also didn’t like to pay for trash pick up, so they used my one stall garage as a trash dump.  There were literally pizza boxes up to the ceiling. I ended up paying the tenant to leave the home.

Over the past 24 months in Grand Rapids, MI many homeowners are becoming reluctant landlords.  When you’ve moved or bought another house prior to your home selling, this may be the only option to deal with the looming possibility of 2 huge payments every month.  Unfortunately, this solution sometimes creates unforeseen difficulties.

I’ve learned some lessons through these experiences which I can now pass on the clients who are investors or need to rent their homes like I did. Taking these steps can reduce the risk of moving from the frying pan of a difficult financial situation to the hot fire of a home with renters who are ruining it AND not paying you!

1.  Check our references.

  • In my eagerness to collect rent, I didn’t ask for or check out rental references.  This is a big mistake.  You can learn a lot from a call.  Even if no negative information is shared, the reluctance to say anything about a renter may be cause for further investigation.

2.  Obtain a Credit Check

  • This is very important.  Prior payment history will reflect what is likely to happen to you.  If a tenant did not pay a previous landlord, there is a high likelihood that eventually they will stop paying you.  Sometimes, a situation occurs which has a valid explanation  and an exception may be made.  But this should be done only after taking into consideration the entire picture including previous rental history.

3.  Take A Drive in the Neighborhood.

  • If you’re renting out a home which is your primary residence and you intend to sell it, it may be wise to ask to drive by or ask to see the home that the person who wants to rent your home is currently living in.  Their upkeep there will mirror what you may anticipate in your home.  While this should not be the only criteria, it can be helpful.  If they refuse to clean up now where they are…well they’re unlikely to start when they move.

4.  Join the Rental Property Association.

  • In Grand Rapids, Michigan, this association is worth every cent of the $200 or so yearly fee.  This organization gives landlords access to legal advice, excellent lease forms, seminars and teachings and the opportunity to network with other landlords.  You can learn a lot from other people’s experiences and avoid a lot of heartache.

5.  Be Very Clear and Concise in the Terms of Your Lease Agreement.

  • A clearly and concisely written lease can save you a lot of grief.  Be clear about when a late fee kicks in and for how much.  Be clear about how many tenants can live in the home and how many cars can be parked on the premises.  Be clear about whether you will allow pets and what the fee will be if you have to repair damage.  Be clear about the reasons why a security deposit will be forfeited.

6.  Collect a Security Deposit.

  • This should cover at least one months rent.

7.  Detail the Current State of Your Home WHEN the new tenant takes possession.

  • Make sure you fill out a detailed checklist of every room in your home and have your tenant fill out any issues which they observe as well.  This written document will substantiate the state of the home.  In addition, you may want to take pictures for posterity.

This list of 7 items provides steps which can significantly reduce the risk of having a bad experience…especially ifyou find yourself in the role of a reluctant landlord.  If you’re considering offering your home for rent, you may want to contact us.  We can assist you in evaluating if this option makes sense for your specific situation.  We can also place your home for lease on the local Multiple Listing System and increase the potential of getting a good tenant.

Photo courtesy of extremeezine on flickr.com

Copyright 2007 Audu Real Estate All Rights Reserved

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Preventing Foreclosures in West Michigan

chairs-on-the-beachThis past week, I attended a Foreclosure seminar which was part of the Fair Housing annual educational and awards presentation held in Grand Rapids, MI.

The event was well attended and included individuals representing a number of different areas of government, business and the non-profit sector. The foreclosure session was led by Kym Spring, the coordinator for Foreclosure Response, and featured several presenters as well as discussion and questions from the audience.

I learned a lot about the profound impact that foreclosures are having in the West Michigan area including the unsettling statistic that 10% of the housing stock in our area is in some part of the foreclosure process.

In Kent County, we’re loosing about 10 homes a day, 7 days a week! One of the most arresting comments came from a member of the audience. (which included several local experts)

A gentleman associated with Home Repair services, an organization dedicated to helping home owners STAY in their homes shared this:

‘While much is being done and invested to address the crisis through programs to help the banks and re-build communities, we should remember that it costs approximately $1,000 to help a family STAY in their homes. And organizations which do this are struggling with their budgets.’

That comment for me highlighted the challenge of dealing with this crisis. Sometimes, complexity gets in the way of common sense.

While there is not going to be one single silver bullet to end this crisis, we risk loosing sight of obvious steps which can be taken to alleviate human suffering and stabilize hard hit communities. After all, if our neighbors loose their homes, we’re all going to suffer.

This is NOT an individual problem…it’s a collective problem!

One key theme which emerged from the seminar was this: ‘it’s going to take a coordinated effort of EDUCATION, COORDINATION, INTERVENTION & STABILIZATION.

From my perspective, it’s also going to take TIME; a commodity which is truly in short supply as the crisis claims an increasing number of victims.

At a time when the numbers being tossed around to deal with this crisis are so staggering that we need graphs and pictures to help folks understand the size of the mountain of dollars, it was really refreshing and eye opening to hear about practical solutions which would cost far less and can be implemented at the local level.

If you’re in the West Michigan area and need help because of the threat of Foreclosure, here are some reputable organizations which can be of assistance.

Legal Aid of West Michigan:  If you’re a renter, being unfairly evicted due to foreclosure, call: 616-774-0672

Foreclosure Response:  Homeowners, renters and neighborhood communities can access services, self-help tools and action steps to help prevent foreclosures. Call 616-401-0680 or e-mail ForeclosureResponse@gmail.com

Home Repair Services:   These housing specialists provide FREE assistance to help homeowners work out positive outcomes with their lender. They also serve as a referral to other services which can be of assistance to people facing this challenge. Call 616-241-2601

Copyright 2009 Audu Real Estate  All Rights Reserved

5 Tips to Ease Relocation Stress When You’re Moving to a New Community.

View of Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids, MI

View of Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids, MI

SEARCH WEST MICHIGAN HOMES FOR SALE – Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate Statistics

For over a decade, I’ve worked with individuals and families who were moving to the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.   The stress of relocating is  one of the most daunting aspects of the relocation process because it involves not only financial strain but also the emotional pain of leaving established relationships and seeking to form new friendships.

I’ll never forget one encounter at a local grocery store with a lady who was pushing a cart with three toddlers.  She stopped me and asked if I could recommend a local church.  They had just moved and she didn’t know anyone.  We invited them to our church and they became good friends.

While it’s not easy to move, I’ve discovered as I’ve worked with individuals who are relocating to the West Michigan area  that there are some things which can you can do to help reduce the stress…often from the comfort of your current home.

Explore your community via the Blogosphere…

Researching a new locality can be daunting especially when your search results continue to land on commercial sites which are designed more to get your pay per click advertising dollars than to deliver helpful lifestyle information.

One way to get a taste of the local fare is to specifically search blogs.  Reading blogs will give you insight into what is important to the locals and will often provide pictures of different aspects of the community as well as reviews.

Simply input the geographic location followed by “blogs” in the google search bar and browse.  If you want to be more specific, you might try searching for a specific type of blog such as a local real estate blog.

Research Hotels & Restaurants…

Finding places to eat and a good hotel can make all the difference in the world in setting a good tenor for your stay.  A couple of years ago I was introduced to an excellent site called Yelp.  It has proved an invaluable user guide when travelling to strange locations.  I also like Trip Advisor.  Often times,  you’ll find that the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ has true value in steering you aright.

Plan a Trip to See the Area…

This can be really beneficial.  It’s important to get a feel for what a city feels like apart from the limited perspective you might get during an interview session.  This can be accomplished by staying an extra  few days after your interview to simply sight-see, check out local restaurants, schools and points of interest.

Connect with a Good Real Estate Agent…

Not every agent is experienced in dealing with the unique challenges of a relocation.  It is not uncommon to find a wide range of service options and customer service levels.  One of the best ways to ease the stress of relocation is to interview the agent yourself and ask the questions which are important to you.  This can be especially important if you are assigned an agent through a relocation company.

Here are some questions which you might want to pose:

How many relocation clients have you assisted?

What fee do you charge for your services?

What type of community research will you provide?

Can you provide video tours or pictorial guides?

Will the home listings you provide be supported by pictures?

How often will I be updated?

Are you able to provide short term rental assistance if needed?

Can you provide a list of references?

What is your plan to make sure my time is used efficiently?

Be Kind to Yourself…

And to your partner and family.  The stress of a relocation move can bring out the worst tendencies in all of us.  Sometimes in surprising ways.  Living in the cramped space of a hotel room and dealing with the uncertainties of an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar faces can be emotionally draining.

Make an effort to be polite to those who matter most…your family.  Don’t rush into making a hurried decision if this is not necessary.  Talking about the pros and cons together will usually result in an outcome which is better than a position reach through division and strife.

If you’d like to discuss your move or relocation to the Grand Rapids, Michigan area, please contact us at 616-791-0511.  We’re here to listen and to help.

Here’s a link to a great site for relocation information.

Here’s a link for other articles about Relocation by Audu Real Estate

Click here to view an extensive list of homes for sale or rent