Inventory Shortage ~ Availability, Pricing and Access to the 2014 West MI Housing Market!

The big news for the summer of 2014 according to statistics compiled and released by the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS is Housing Inventory…or rather the lack of it as the community prepares to enter what is traditionally the most active segment of the selling season.  According to the report, (which tracks data into May 2014) the amount of housing inventory available for sale in West Michigan has dropped to under 3 months of supply.  (2.4 months to be exact based on Pending Sales)  To give you perspective, a balanced market would have the housing supply at 6-7 months during this time of the year as many homeowners normally take advantage of the warmer weather and school closings to market their homes.

Trends Graphic for Housing Inventory in West MI 2013-2014

Trends Graphic for Housing Inventory in West MI 2013-2014

The issue of low inventory has dogged the market throughout most of 2014.  New listings arriving on the West Michigan market have been about 12% lower than the pace of last year.  (2014 – 6,592  new listings YTD vs 2013 – 7541 new listings).  But in spite of the Inventory shortage, the Sales Volume for 2014 is on an upward trend!  In fact, 2014  Sales Volumes for the real estate Board shows an increase of 4.1%  for 2014 over last year and in May alone of this year, a 14.6 percent increase based on actual Closed Sales.

So what does this mean for the West Michigan Home Seller?  Well, Average home prices have increased over 9% during the past month.  Last year, the Average Home sold for $157,814 during the month of May.  Today, the average price is $174,001.  When ALL Sales including vacant land and multi-family units are added into the mix, the numbers drop a little, but irregardless, the average price of $167,728 is the highest price we’ve witnessed for almost a decade.

If you’re in the market for a home purchase, be prepared to aggressively pursue your goal.  This is not a market for the faint-hearted when it comes to the prospect of bidding wars and making quick decisions.  But, a quick decision does not mean you should make a rash decision when in comes to purchasing a home.  Afterall, this is the biggest investment that most Americans will make.  To be effective in a successful negotiation in this market, be prepared to do your research and know what’s for sale in the areas which interest you.  As REALTORS, our company sets up client portals which provide instant notification when new listings which match the criteria for a home which might be a match shows up on the Multiple Listing Service.  In addition, have all financing in order as a well qualified buyer wins hands down in this type of market.

If you’ve been considering placing your home on the market, your timing is impeccable!  However, be forewarned that this market requires attention to detail in which market savvy buyers are not simply looking for a home, but for a well priced and well presented home.  They’ll fight for that!  On the flip side, homes which do not show well, continue to be penalized and sell for less even in a market as active as this one.  If you’d like to know what you need to do to make sure your home attracts the best type of attention and price, give us a call for a free consultation at 616-791-0511.

*Trends Graphics provided courtesy of the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS

Spring 2014 Real Estate Market Update for West Michigan

Welcome to Spring 2 PicMonkey Collage

So, what does the Spring Market look like in West Michigan – Grand Rapids? Well, in a nutshell…it’s interesting! My go to word when things are unexpected, don’t quite fit into the routine and operate outside of established or expected norms.

Interesting, this Spring means unexpectedly low inventory levels. Normally, there’s a significant uptick in homes for sale, this year inventory levels continue to run well below the average, with March 2014 listings being 26.5% less than last year and overall home listing totals throughout 2014 so far running 27.4% lower than the volume of 2013 in the first quarter.  In fact, inventory levels are recorded as the lowest since 2002 according to data available from the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors monthly marketing update.

What has that meant for housing values? Well, the squeeze on inventory has increased the value of West Michigan real estate. It’s a basic supply/demand thing. Overall, housing prices are approximately 14% higher than they were this time last year.  That being said, mortgage rates are still cooperating for the most part, so in many cases, it’s still actually cheaper to BUY a home than it is to rent a similar dwelling.

Add to that, the recent MI incentive to encourage home ownership with up to $7,500 in MSHDA grant money to qualified home buyers, well…this could present the unlikely paradox of ‘the best of both worlds’ for potential homeowners and purchasers in West Michigan. Are you noticing more For Sale & Sold signs in your neighborhoods yet?

If you’re interested in looking at the hard numbers available through our local real estate association, click this link.

Yikes…We’re Running Out of Homes to Sell! Real Estate Inventory Levels Reach Record Lows in West Michigan.

A few short years ago, very few real estate agents could envision a time in which the over-riding trend would be a LACK of housing inventory in the the Greater Grand Rapids, MI area.  In January of 2009, distress sales peaked at over 60% of the volume of sales in the area and inventory was very high.  In fact, some buyers were simply tossing out low ball offers to see which one would stick on a home which the seller was desperate to sell.

That was then.  This is now.  Today, recently released sales statistics from the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS indicate that inventory levels based on Pending Home Sales is down to 3.7 months supply.  Less than 4 months of housing inventory available for sale.  We are definitely in a Seller’s Market.  This is how the landscape looks to local real estate agents.

Rental Market:

If you’re trying to rent a home in West Michigan right now, you may have found out that its challenging.  In fact, just to get a list of home to RENT, you may be asked to pay a FEE of up to $20 to see what’s available.  A situation which few of us could have imagined in the recent past.  The local MLS set up a RENTAL MLS last year which provides listings for sale through local REALTORS.  Listings for Rent tend to cycle through very quickly, however the good news is that if you’re working with a REALTOR, you are not likely to be charged simply to get a list of what’s available for rent.  Feel free to contact us at 616-791-0511 if you need assistance in this area.

Average number of homes available for rent during the month of April on local MLS:  Range between 5-14 homes and condos.

Resale Market:

It’s no surprise given the low inventory levels that housing prices continue to rise.  Over the past 6 months, there has been an increase of 7.1% in home prices from $115,640 in 2011 to an average sales price of $123,849.  The price range with the most activity right now is the middle of the market defined as $100,000 – $160,000.  This is a marked change from the past few years when we saw a huge volume of sales activity in the price brackets below $50,000.  This is an indication that the move up market is coming back.  If you’ve been thinking about putting your home on the market, now may be a good time.

Total Number of Homes for Sale as of date of publication: 6,023

Inventory Level Based on Pending Sales Activity for April:  3.7 Months

Days of the Market

I can remember a time in the not so distant past where some agents were compiling listing agreements with a 2 year listing period.  That’s almost 10X longer than the marriage of one well know Kardashian.  In 2008 and 2009,  the average listing was taking almost a year to sell.  Today, the Average Days on the Market (DOM) is down to 78 days for Residential Properties and 50 days for Multi-family (1-4 unit) properties.  In the month of April alone, there has been an increase of over 20% in sales activity.

Wondering what this might mean for you?

If you’ve been toying with the idea of placing your home on the market, you may want to look at your options again.  To determine what your price point should be, contact us for a free market trends analysis for your area.  This article about setting the right price from the beginning of your home listing is also worth reading.

Photo Credit courtesy of cc license by erix on flickr.

Review raw data on April Housing Stats from the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS

2012 West Michigan Home Foreclosure and Housing Activity Analysis

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)

Art Van Furniture Home Rewards Program Provides Benefits for Michigan Home Buyers!

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®

Leading from the Heart…With An Ear to the Ground! Grand Rapids Association of Realtors® Names New President.

It is said that music is the language of the soul.  A universal tongue, spoken in countless variations of dialect.  Every instrument has it’s own particular rhythm of communication.  As a young girl, growing up in West Africa, the drum was a central component of the musical dialog in a literal and figurative sense.

The ‘Talking Drum’ is a unique element within African cultural heritage.  Drumming is a highly developed skill in native cultures as a means of communication, not just an instrument for social enjoyment. Historically, the talking drum was used to introduce new arrivals, announce departures and transmit information that was important to the society.

This past year, I’ve served in the position of President-Elect of the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors®. Throughout the year, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with brokers, agents as individuals and in groups…listening to their concerns and gaining insights into the dynamics of our industry.

As I’ve listened to the groundswell, the process has reminded me of how the message is carried by the the beat of the talking drum.  Each beat carries it’s own unique message and when added to the whole creates a message.  In the same way, the different voices in my real estate community have provided insight about ways in which we can all work together to re-invent our industry in a way that works to the benefit of our community and members.

Leading with an ear to the ground has also involved touching base with individuals through social media portals such as Facebook and Twitter as well as blogging. Drumming is a social activity, one in which the message of the beat enhances the contributions of the other instruments as well as the vocals.  One thing which has emerged very clearly for me is the fact that although our industry is comprised of many different segments often with competing interests, we can align ourselves in sync with the rhythmic interests we all share and combine our best efforts to deal with the economic challenges facing our communities today.

I was recently interviewed for an article in the Grand Rapids Press, our local paper.  As the article notes, my election is in many ways historic as the first person of color to occupy the position of President in the Associations 117 history.  It’s also remarkable to reflect on the fact that this election was not primarily about the color of my skin, but rather members of my professional community were also acknowledging the contributions that they have witnessed over the past 15 years.

My goal this year is to continue to ‘lead with an ear to the ground’. I appreciate the rich diversity that is a part of our community and know that we need all hands on deck to deal with the challenges ahead.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview with Cami Reister, the reporter from the Grand Rapids Press which can be read in it’s entirety online:

On Audu’s leadership style…

“Over the past year I’ve been reaching out to brokers,” she said, seeking a sense of what is needed and important. “I lead with my ear to the ground.”

From that research she is launching her tenure with four priorities:

• Supporting brokers through education and professional development.

• Ensuring the financial health of the association by seeking efficiencies and strategic alliances.

• Developing a leadership track for young members and staying current with the changing market.

• Giving back to the community through “50,000 Points of Light.”

Audu is challenging members to avoid focusing on the negative aspects of the business and instead dedicate 60 hours of service each over the next year.

“We can either wallow in self pity, or we can take up arms and go out and gift our community service,” she said. “If I get 50 percent who give 60 hours, five hours a month, we can do this. We can do more than this.

Leadership is not just about making money, it’s about serving people.”





‘Seize the Day’…Message to Real Estate Leaders at NAR Summit in Chicago!

The message to Realtors®  Leaders in Chicago this past week was clear…It’s time to Seize the Day!  Times have been tough for just about everyone connected to the real estate community.  Homeowners have watched the value of their homes drop precipitously and the much heralded tax credit has weakened sales at a time which is traditionally the most active selling period of the year.

But real estate leaders in Chicago were not moaning and groaning.  Yes, there was a realistic evaluation of the challenges facing the industry as well as a sober assessment from Lawrence Yun, NAR’s  Chief Economist about the fact the the economic outlook remains unusually uncertain.  A number of key issues on the national agenda were identified as potential flash points in the year ahead.  These included: FHA Reform, the potential for restructuring of the Home Owner Tax Deduction,  the future of Flood Insurance and general government policies regarding Home Ownership.

The conference featured mainly President-Elects from across the country and their respective CEO’s along with leaders from the National Association of Realtors® and key staff members.  It was a great opportunity to touch base with leaders from across the country and compare notes.

I also appreciated listening to the current President, Vickie Cox Golder and Ron Phipps – 2011 President who delivered inspiring thoughts about the difficulties they have overcome and the importance of moving forward in a way which incorporates the best energy and insights of the leadership team within an association.  It was well worth the time and I’m thankful that this opportunity was provided to me as I prepare to lead the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors in 2011 by God’s grace.