11 Reasons Why People Who Don’t Live in Grand Rapids, Michigan Should Wish They Did!

1. Small Town Comforts with a Big City Vibe…

Location, Location, Location…Grand Rapids, MI is a city where you can bask on a pristine sandy white beach, kayak down a lazy river, take a horse-drawn carriage through a thriving down town area and tour a historic neighborhood all within one day.  In fact, all of this within 30 – 45 minutes of driving time without the hassles of big city traffic.  Grand Rapids, MI is a place where people still smile and say ‘Hi’ and will often open the door for you to walk through first, especially if you’re carrying an arm full.

Architecture of Grand Rapids

2.  Art Prize & Beer City US

Yep!  Very few cities can lay claim to both.  But in Grand Rapids, MI citizens enjoy the flair and drama created by hundreds of artists from around the country and world lending their creative muse to public spaces throughout the community.  Art Prize is the world’s largest community art contest in which the citizens choose the winning entry by electronic vote.  Truly a democratic affair! As for the beer thing, Grand Rapids has won the nationwide vote for the best crafted beer two years running…2012 & 2013.


3.  Maker’s Spaces & Cool Funky Creative Vibes

If you love to build stuff, create new things, innovate and invent – there are few cities of its size which offer what Grand Rapids MI does to the entrepreneurially inclined.  There’s a vibe that you can instinctively feel about Grand Rapids.  It’s citizens are curious souls.  Hardworking too.  There are several communities specifically geared towards working together to collaborate and invent.  These include:  Start Garden, The Factory and the Geek Group to name a few.

think outside the box in vintage wood type

4.  Gorgeous Green Space & Eclectic Art Sculptures

Green space abounds in Grand Rapids MI. The urban landscape is frequently punctuated with park benches to stop & rest awhile.  The city overseas over  1,200 acres in 71 city owned parks.  There’s also a lovely quirkiness about how Grand Rapidians decorate their outdoor spaces.  It’s not unusual to see gardens with numerous lawn ornaments, including dutch shoes.  In the heart of downtown, Rosa Parks Circle designed by famous renowned artist Maya Lin features ice skating in the winter and line dancing in the summer.


5.  The Downtown Market

Opened a year ago in 2013, the Downtown Market is an eclectic spot where you can browse through fresh offerings from local farmers during three days of the week or shop throughout the week in the indoor market which features an array of different kinds of shops.  Where else can you find an all natural juice bar, a European Bakery, a Crepe Shop, Fish Market, Meat Market, Spicery, Coffee Bar, Wine Bar and take classes in yoga and gourmet cooking all under one roof? Oh and yes…there’s also a roof top garden where you can enjoy a view of the city and several restaurants to boot!


6.  Awesome Eats & Sweets

Grand Rapids MI has truly become a ‘foodies’ town.  The Farm to Table concept has grown roots into the community and today, several great restaurants feature items sourced from local farms.  One of the most interesting cluster of restaurants to open in the area centers around the East Town Community just east of the downtown core.  Some of our favorites include: The Grove, Green Well, Marie Catrib’s, and Terra.  Downtown we recommend: Reserve, Osteria Rossa, Ruth Chris Steakhouse, Rockwell Republic and Six One Six. For lovers of international cuisine, there are a number of Indian restaurants, Mexican Restaurants and one of our favorites, a Persian themed restaurant Shiraz Grill which features live entertainment as well as excellent food.  Each year, the city showcases restaurants during Restaurant Week, a great opportunity to try out something new at a reasonable cost.


7.  Affordable Housing & Unique Neighborhoods

Forbes magazine recently ranked Grand Rapids MI as the 2nd Best Place to Raise a Family in the United States.  The ranking was based in part  on Housing Affordability, Home Ownership Rates and Safety.  The median house price for Grand Rapids is $167, 000 according to recent data available from the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS.  Lonely Planet dubbed Grand Rapids MI as its ‘TOP DESTINATION’ for 2014.  If you’ve been thinking about a vacation to an exotic locale with gorgeous sandy beaches, West Michigan with it’s pristine shoreline, wineries and orchards might be exactly what you need.  Living in an area where your mortgage note doesn’t require scrimping on your life style and in communities which take pride in their homes is a wonderful bonus. Housing stock covers a wide range including: downtown condos, apartments, suburban homes, historic homes, pastoral estates, row houses and gated communities.


8.  World Class Entertainment & Fun Festivals

There’s always stuff to do in Grand Rapids MI.  In fact, the variety is surprising for a city of its size.  You can enjoy the opera, ballet or symphony or attend a concert or show at the Van Andel Arena or DeVos Hall.    The city features several Festivals which include: Laughfest, Festival of the Arts, Hispanic Festival,  Soul of the City, Oktoberfest and Art Prize.  For sports enthusiasts, there are dozens of golf courses within a 30 minute drive.  Sports teams include the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team and the West Michigan White Caps, an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.  If you’re into biking, you’ll love the fact that the city has many miles of dedicated bike trails including dedicated lanes on the roadways.  In 2009, the League of American Cyclist named the city as one of the Top Bicycle Friendly Communities within the United States.

1994-08-033 002

9.  Top of the Line Healthcare

Even some Grand Rapidians might be surprised to know that two of the areas top employers are associated with the healthcare industry.  Spectrum Health along with Mercy Health St. Mary comprise a significant portion of job offerings in the West Michigan area.  It’s never a good thing to get sick, but if you need excellent care or specialized services, Grand Rapids MI rivals the nation’s best when it comes to wellness and disease treatment.   In addition, the Van Andel Institute is recognized as a world leader in biomedical research and science education.  The campus of the MSU College of Medicine (Secchia Center) is located along the Medical Mile.

doctor working on computer

10.  Great Place to Find a Job & School

Due to a diverse economic base, Grand Rapids MI has thrived economically despite the recession which has plagued much of the country and the State.  The area is home to more than 90 International companies and four of the largest private companies featured on the Forbes List.  Blessed with a hardworking and diverse workforce, Grand Rapids has attracted investment from a variety of industry sectors.  Average earning are just under $50,000 according to data from the Right Place and the average work force age ranges from the 20’s to 50’s. Data sourced from The Right Place.

The Grand Rapids area features a number of choices for residents when it comes to elementary, highschool, college and post graduate study.  These include public and private schools as well as charter schools.


11.  Gorgeous Weather – (well, most of the time)

Yes, winter can be brutal in Michigan, but you have to live here to understand why folks are willing to put up with a little excess from Mother Nature during that season.  Summer in West Michigan is wonderful.  Enhanced by the fact that you’re never more than six miles away from a body of water and approximately 30 minutes from Lake Michigan, Grand Rapidians revel in summer.  We also enjoy fall, when the trees break into glorious splendour and put on a show that’s absolutely exquisite.  We like the change of the seasons – watching the pristine beauty of winter give way to the promise of spring.  One thing about Grand Rapids MI weather that’s for certain is that it’s never boring.






Anatomy of a Smart City – Featuring the city of Grand Rapids, MI!

PROMO for Smart Cities CaptureI am looking forward to speaking the Grand Rapids Area Professionals for Excellence on Wednesday, January 22nd at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation (185 Oakes St. SW, Grand Rapids MI 49503) on the topic of ‘Anatomy of a Smart City – Moving from ‘Cool’ to ‘Cohesive Collaboration.’

Many still remember 2004 when then Governor Jennifer Granholm named Grand Rapids, MI one of Michigans’ ‘cool cities.’  Indeed, the 21st century is likely to emerge as the era of city states as the impact of migration, technology and demographic shifts make cities everywhere major intersections  for life and commerce.  By 2050, it is anticipated that 70% of the world’s population will live in and around cities.

We will be discussing the implications of 10 areas of core attraction and logistics which are vital to creating spaces that attract and sustain people.  As a real estate broker involved in the daily movement of people in West Michigan, this topic is vitally important to our industry and to our city, region and nation.  You’re invited to join in the conversation!  More information and registration details can be accessed here:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lola-audu-on-anatomy-of-a-smart-city-the-art-of-moving-from-cool-to-cohesive-competence-tickets-9719753043

About Lola…

Lola is a former President of the Women’s Council of Realtors-West Michigan Chapter, a District Director for the Michigan Association of Realtors, former President of the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors, and Owner of Audu Real Estate. She currently serves on the Board of Real Estate Brokers & Salesperson for the State of Michigan. She is also a highly prolific blogger and a professional speaker.

What Will It Cost Me to Sell My Home if I Live in Grand Rapids, Michigan?

Percentage of Homes underwater-image courtesy of Steve Harney and Keeping Current MattersGlad you asked!  This is a Valid Question.  Sometimes, the real estate process can feel as though the Costs are not readily discernible or understandable.  Because a real estate transaction coordinates the services of different specialties such as title work, required inspections, real estate services and state and local sales tax, this can be a little intimidating.

PLEASE NOTE:  This post was originally written in 2007.  It has been revised and updated to reflect some additional information about a home selling with a Short Sale.  It remains one of the most visited posts on this blog.  We understand.  We don’t like surprises either, so it helps to know WHAT to anticipate when selling your home.  Always remember you can always contact AUDU REAL ESTATE for a FREE HOME SALE ANALYSIS

 by calling 616-791-0511 or e-mailing us.

To simply the process, I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of costs that may be a part of a real estate transaction.  Your home is unique however, so to get a detailed analysis which relates to your specific situation you should contact a qualified real estate specialist. I find it helpful to think about the Costs of Selling Your Grand Rapids, Mi home in 3 categories.  They are as follows:


Home Warranty:  If you choose to purchase one will run approximately $350 ~ $375 for the average single family residence.  If your home has additional amenities which you would like covered by the program or has been vacant for some time, you will want to get a certified quote from the company you choose.

Home Staging:  An appointment will typically run between $100 ~ $150 for an initial consultation.  If further work is ordered, this is usually quoted on an hourly basis plus costs for materials.  Home Staging can significantly enhance the Value of a Home and may actually increase your Net profits by thousands of dollars.

Home Inspections/Appraisals:  These are usually paid for by BUYERS.  However, some home owners prefer to know about issues before their homes go on the market, so these items are not a detraction to potential buyers. An appraisal ordered prior to placing you home on the market can be a powerful support to a Certified Market Analysis performed by a Real Estate Broker.  These 2 items will range between $195.00 ~ $375 for an appraisal and $300 ~ $450 for a typical set of complete inspections.

Home Repairs:  To facilitate your home sale, you may have to do some minor or major repairs.  If a new roof is required, this may cost several thousand dollars.  On the other hand, a little painting and sprucing up may be a much smaller investment.  Like staging, home repairs more than pay for themselves in faster and better offers for your home.

Sales Related Costs:

Title Insurance:  The cost of obtaining Title Insurance on your home will vary depending on the sales price of your home.  Most title companies will also provide a credit back to you if you have refinanced within the past 3-5 years.  Your buyer will also be required to purchase a smaller policy to protect the interest of the mortgage note holder.  Since these costs are revised from time to time, you should contact your real estate agent or title company to get the exact figure.  At Audu Real Estate, our clients are provided with this number when they sign a listing contract and/or sell a home.

Sidewalk Inspection:  The city of Grand Rapids mandates that all home owners in the city has this inspection done at the Point of Sale.  The cost is $45.  If the inspection indicates that repairs have to be done to the sidewalks, then the home owner must take care of these repairs in order to sell the home.  The city will provide estimate and a list of approved contractors.  The work must be done according to very explicit specifications.  This cost can become a lien on a home if the work is not completed satisfactorily prior to the home in question being sold.

Commissions:  Real Estate commissions will vary based on a number of factors in the transaction.  In the Grand Rapids area, there are companies that offer Flat Fee Services in which your home is simply placed on the MLS for several hundred  dollars.  As a full service real estate company, we understand that the competition for homes is fierce.  We provide a full menu of services which include: multi-media marketing on traditional and emerging web portals, a comprehensive strategic pricing analysis, automated response feedback, regular market updates, Open House services, Staging, Negotiation and Transaction Management Services.  We also offer rebates to clients who utilize our services for more than one transaction.  You many contact us for a detailed breakdown of our costs.

Sales Transfer Tax:  These costs are similar to a tax on the sale of your home.  These fees are charged by the State of Michigan and the local government area when a home is sold in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The fees are assessed per $500.  However, a simple way to quickly calculate how much you will owe based on the price for which your home sells is to assess approximately $8.60 per $1,000.

Processing Fees/Concessions:

Closing Fees:  When your home closes, you will typically utilize the services of a Title Company to handle all the escrows, facilitate signing of the documents and disburse funds. The fee for this service is split between the buyer and the seller.  The seller’s fee has averaged between about  $175 ~ $200 in most closing offices in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.

Overnight Fees:  When you close your Loan, the Title Company will overnight your loan documents to your bank.  The fee typically charged for this service is $25 ~ $30.

Administrative Fees:  Many real estate companies will charge a Fee to process a transaction.  This typically ranges between $195 ~ $295.

Buyer Concessions:  These are fees which are typically only asked for WHEN you actually have a ready, willing and able buyer who wants to purchase YOUR home.  The amount requested may vary.  Typically they are 3-6% of the Sales Price.  This money can be utilized by the buyer to assist with down-payment or mortgage costs.  They may also be tax deductible to you as a seller…you should consult with your tax adviser about this.  This fee enables a buyer who may not otherwise have been able to purchase your home to do so.

Short Sale Fees:

Over the past several years, Short Sales have increased as home owners struggle with a loss of equity as they try to retail their homes.  A Short Sale is simply defined as a housing sale transaction in which the borrower owes MORE than the house can retail for after selling costs are calculated.  Audu Real Estate has been processing Short Sales since 2005.  While we do not charge a fee, it is not unusual for a Short Sale to be negotiated by a Third Party which will charge a Fee.  A Short Sale is arguably one of the most challenging negotiations in the real estate industry today and can often take months to gain a resolution which facilitates a successful sale.  We have seen fees all across the map, but the good news is that we often see these charges absorbed by the Lender when facilitating the sale.  That being said, our local MLS now has has listings which clearly indicate that the buyer will be charged fees in the the range of $1,000 – $2,000 for the processing of the Short Sale transaction.   So, the lesson is…if you’re purchasing or selling through a Short Sale, ask questions!

**Over-Pricing FEE:

Yes, there is a Fee for over-pricing your home!  Last year, home owners who over-priced their property in Grand Rapids, Michigan paid a penalty of approximately 15 ~ 25% of their home’s initial asking price in order to sell.  It’s expensive to over-price your home.  Over-pricing helps to sell other home’s in the neighborhood which are more in line with market values.  Over-pricing costs also include additional mortgage payments and home maintenance costs.

To Avoid this penalty, please feel free to contact Audu Real Estate for a comprehensive written assessment of the costs of Selling AND a Comprehensive 15-20 page strategic Pricing Analysis.

Related Reading:

How to Save Money When Selling Your West Michigan Home

Housing Recovery Underway in West Michigan 2013

photo is courtesty of Steve Harney’s KCM blog Keeping Current Matters

Copyright 2007 Audu Real Estate  All Rights Reserved

Closing on Your New Home…What to Expect in West Michigan

The anticipation of actually getting the keys as an owner of a new home is an exhilerating experience.  Finally, the months of looking for homes, finding a REALTOR,  attending Open Houses, locating the right property, inspecting the home, negotiating  the transaction, and qualifying for the mortgage have culminated in your arrival at a Closing Table.

It may surprise you to know that a successful Closing,  in which final documents are signed to transfer and secure your ownership rights for your new home,  begins long before you arrive at the Closing appointment in the escrow office.  In fact, I believe successful Closings start at the initial client appointment.

When clients who are purchasing homes or thinking about selling homes contact me for an appointment, the first order of duty is an appointment to discuss the entire real estate process from start to finish.  This discussion entails more than just the details of what the client desires to purchase.  It includes exploring differing needs and expectations about their dreams and goals as well as a discussion about service expectations.

This investment of time at the beginning of the process has proved invaluable in helping clients understand what they can do to assist in completing the transaction.  It also gives insight into some of the hurdles which are sometimes a part of the real estate transaction…especially valuable to clients who anticipate buying or selling a distressed property.

The Closing process commences after the home has been inspected, appraised and cleared through the Underwriting Department of the Lender.  In some ways, it is similar to running a relay with the baton passing to different departments as the home loan goes through the process.  The final runner is the Closing Department which is drafted with the responsibility of getting your loan acceptance documents successfully across the finish line.

An accounting of the proceeds for the home purchase (HUD 1 Statement)  is one of the most important documents that you will review during as you head into the Closing Escrow Office.  Ideally, you should receive this document a few days prior to the Closing to review it.  You may also want to have your legal counsel check the numbers.  A good REALTOR will also review the documents to ensure that the terms of the purchase agreements have been followed and monies credited or debited appropriately.   You may find this article about how to read a HUD-1 Statement helpful.  Our clients are always accompanied to the Escrow table by an Agent and/or Broker of Audu Real Estate.

You will likely be contacted by your Lender or the Escrow Officer to ensure that you know the amount required for your Certified Check or Money Order and have Proof of Insurance for your new home.  It will also be necessary to verify your identity, so make sure you bring a copy of your Driver’s License or other official form of identification such as a Passport or State ID.

Depending on which side of the transaction you are on (Seller or Buyer) the documents you will be required to sign during the Closing appointment can be lengthy or relatively short.  Some loans also require more documentation during the Closing process than others.  Plan on arriving at the Closing a little early.  This will help in relaxing any frayed or anxious feelings.  Many Closing Offices offer beverage service and/or snacks to clients waiting to commence their Closings.

In the Grand Rapids, MI area, it is not uncommon for Closings to occur between both parties to the transaction in the same room or at least in the same location.  If you are doing a Split Closing with two different Closing companies, it is unlikely you will meet the other party during the signing of your Escrow docuemnts.  However, if the Closing is in the same location, it is often customary for both parties to meet, greet and sometimes exchange keys( if this is called for in the Purchase Agreement) after the documents for the Closing have been signed.

At Audu Real Estate, it is our goal to facilitate stress free Closings for our clients and all parties involved in the real estate transaction.  This requires attention to details, good communication and meticulous follow-up and follow-through.  If you are thinking of buying or selling a home in the West Michigan area, please consider giving us a call.  616-791-0511.

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)

Understanding the Difference Between Balanced, Buyers’ & Sellers’ Markets in Real Estate Lingo…

Spring has arrived early in West Michigan in more ways than one.  The Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS® released its’ February 2012 Statistical Report which indicates that based on PENDING SALES, there is only 4.5 months of Housing Inventory available.  That’s incredibly good news if you’ve been thinking about selling a home.  Have you wondered how to judge the status of the current real estate market?

Well, here’s a Short Primer about Inventory Levels which can be used as a Rule of Thumb to determine what’s happening in the Real Estate Market and provide some guidelines to assist in determining when to sell and what to ask your real estate agent.


Balanced Real Estate Market (aka as a Transitional Market) refers to a market which has approximately 5-7 months of home inventory supply available.  You will often hear agents reference 6 months as the mid-point of a Balanced Market.  This level of economic activity reflects a time in which neither the Home Seller or Home Buyer is adversely impacted by supply and demand issues and the playing field can be considered somewhat level.  The reference to the transitional nature of this type of market is that the situation is more like a see-saw, which will eventually tip in favor of one side or the other. (Buyer vs Seller’s Market)


Should the see-saw mentioned previously flip to the right, Inventory levels would begin to rise precipitously above the 6-7 month level.  The rise in the supply of homes available means more competition on the market for Home Sellers who eventually will need to lower their prices or give more concessions to secure a sale.  In 2008, Inventory levels in West Michigan rose to approximately 14 months of supply overall in West Michigan due to the Housing Crisis and the increase in Distress Sales.  Buyers in the market place at the time sometimes secured homes at far less than 50% of their value in a Balanced Market.


When housing Inventory levels dip below 5 months Supply as they have in February 2012, the Market has clearly transitioned into a Sellers’ Market.  Based on Pending Sales, we would run out of homes to sell in less than 5 months!  Amazing, especially when you consider how long we’ve heard all sorts of harsh statistics about the demise of the housing industry.


In closing, here is another number which you should know  to respond or react to today’s real estate market.

The average Pending Sale is approximately 15% HIGHER than this time last year at just under $126,000.

Picture courtesy of Joseph Turk Reit on flickr via Creative Commons license

Positive Home Equity For Many Homeowners…Is It Time to Sell Your West Michigan Home?

Realtors® servicing many segments of the greater Grand Rapids metropolis are reporting an interesting trend…not enough  housing inventory for the buyers they are taking out to purchase homes.  In fact, many listing agents are finding that they are entertaining MULTIPLE offers on some homes.  Earlier this year, one of our listings in Grand Rapids sold within two weeks and had several offers.

A recent report by Corelogic,  one of the nations leading real estate trends and research organizations reveals that at the end of the last quarter of 2011, over 77% of the homes in the United States were in a positive equity position.  The report also indicated that  11.1 Million homes (or 22.8 percent of mortgages) in the United States were in negative equity and an additional 2.5 Million borrowers had less than 5% equity in their homes (which is defined as near negative equity) thus bringing the total of mortgages with a deficit equity or near deficit equity position to approximately 27.8 %…a slight increase from the 27.1% in the previous quarter.

This means that the majority of homeowners in the United States have a positive equity in their homes.  For home sellers who have been pummeled with a continuous barrage of negative news, there is some hope on the horizon.  In West Michigan, we have had almost 12 months of improvement in the average housing price.  Inventory levels are currently below 5.2 months supply which is indicative of the beginnings of a Seller Market.  (Balanced market is defined as 6 months of inventory)  The chart above highlights the trend until the end of 2011.

Folks, the spring real estate market is here!  If you’ve been wanting to sell your Grand Rapids, Mi home, but didn’t think you could, it’s time to get a second opinion.  If you’re a part of the 30% of homeowners in the United States who don’t have ANY mortgage on their home, that fact alone may equate to some value when buyers are faced with the prospect of long drawn out negotiations with banks through the short sale deficiency process.

To determine if you may be time to Sell Your Grand Rapids, Mi home, consider the following:

1.  Do you own your home Free & Clear of any mortgage debt?

2.  Have you lived in your home for more than 10 years?

3.  Is your home free from any 2nd or 3rd party liens?

4.  Would you like to move into another home?

If you answered YES to one or more of these questions and you have been thinking about selling your West Michigan home but didn’t think you could afford to do so, please contact us for a confidential assessment of your home value in the current market.  In fact, we may even have buyers who are already working with Audu Real Estate for which YOUR home would be the perfect fit.  Don’t delay…Call us at 616-791-0511 today.