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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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How do you say hello

How do you say hello

Maybe it’s the sunshine, but foreign visitors to the West African coast often remark about how ‘friendly’ the people are.  The term ‘friendly’ can mean a lot of things depending on the viewpoint and experience of the giver and/or receiver.

One day, I asked a friend from America why Nigerians were frequently referred to with this descriptive?  The response to my question was suprising to me.  In essence, the answer was this:  ‘You people seem to be happy.  You smile a lot and you greet people with enthusiasm.  I was perplexed.  Wasn’t that simply the basics of good manners? Of course, you didn’t just say ‘Hi’.  It was rude to greet someone early in the day and not inquire about basic things such as their well being and the well being of the family members. Saying ‘Good Morning’ was simply the opener to polite conversation.

Years later, I found myself in America. I would quickly come to understand that the phrase ‘Let’s do lunch’ was not necessarily a serious invitation to meet for a meal.  And, unless there was a specific follow-up, this seemingly direct and straight-forward request was merely a nicety.  One which carried little sense of obligation for either party.  At least that became my perspective as I waited for phone calls which never came in those early years.

Not only do societal norms and manners matter, they can be the oil which greases the wheels of progress and prosperity or the quick sand which sinkholes the unsuspecting novice.  In many cultures, so called ‘niceties’ may be more crucial to a successful negotiation than the written terms of a contract.  Having some level of clarity and intuitive knowledge can be critical to avoiding costly disasters – situations where the goodwill seems to evaporate without explanation, rhyme or reason.

Take for instance the simply politeness of saying ‘Good Morning’.  My experience in my native country was such that if I forgot to say ‘Good Morning’ to anyone, I was reprimanded…in public…in front of the party I offended.  And, then instructed to start out on the right foot by greeting people properly.  Most individuals don’t need more than one or two public shamings of this sort to know that saying ‘Good Morning’ is a pre-requisite for polite company in southern Nigerian culture.

So, you can imagine my suprise when in the early years of my real estate career, I greeted a colleague with a cheerful ‘Good Morning’, only to be ignored.  I was so surprised, I asked one of the secretarial staff if I had inadvertently offended the individual.  I found the answer even more surprising when she responded with ‘O don’t let that worry you, that’s just how he is.’  So, a show stopper in one culture may be viewed completely differently in another one.

Cultural Intelligence enables us to adjust and adapt across cultures in ways that allow us to interact and to utilize the wisdom from keen observations to make good decisions.  Being effective in different situations does not require mimicry in the traditional sense, but it does help to have enough sensitivity and personal insight to adapt in a way that shows goodwill towards people and situations that differ from our own.

photocredit: 123rf.com

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One of the most important tools today for business and in many respects life in general, is the ability to be able to be flexible in adjusting to rapid change, much of which is difficult to predict.  Earlier in November, I had the opportunity to broaden the conversation within the real estate industry through a presentation at the national conference for the real estate industry held in Orlando, Florida.  Here are a few snippets from an onsite interview.

 

 

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From the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce announcement of the finalists nominated  for the 2016 EPIC AWARDS:

The EPIC Awards celebrates those businesses and people who are doing great things in the business community by being Entrepreneurial, Progressive, Innovative and Collaborative.

Seven categories of awards recognize businesses and individuals supporting the community, demonstrating growth, finding ways to innovate, and are working with others as mentors and collaborators.

Anticipation builds for the annual EPIC Awards celebration as the field of nominees is narrowed—keeping finalists and attendees on the edge of their seats as the envelops are opened and award recipients are finally announced from the podium during an Oscar-styled reveal at this premier Chamber event.

Audu Real Estate is thankful to be recognized by our peers in the fields of business and industry as an innovator in the arenas of entrepreneurship and excellence in service.  The company was one of three nominees within the Minority Business Category.  Our goal and mission in service for the past 20+ years has been to build relationships through the process of serving the community through the practice of real estate.

Over the years we have had the privilege of helping hundreds of individuals and families locate spaces which they now call home.  The best reward is the celebration we experience with our clients when they find a community they can embrace and which loves them back.  It’s a sacred honor to be a small part of that process.

epic-awards-chamber-of-commerce-capture

Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Epic Awards photo credit

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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

 

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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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Grand Rapids Real Estate Musings...

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Social media has become a common way to advertise and market homes for sale.  And when the sale is about to close or finally clears the rites of passage necessary to clear escrow, new home owners and former ones do the ‘Happy Dance’ and often social media is the instinctive first stop in the celebration.

It’s so easy, with one click, to let the world know the address, price and the individuals involved in the home sale.  And while all these pieces of information eventually become a part of the public record, the issue at hand is WHEN this happens.  By the time the Registrar of Deeds records the information pertinent to a sale for county records, it is often weeks after the home has sold and closed.  The new homeowners have moved in and usually changed the locks.

The fact that information about home sales on social media is usually…

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