Relationships Matter…Connectivity via the Blogosphere

Less than Six Degrees of Separation




















They say that we are all separated by just six degrees from every single person in the entire world.  This theory about the Human Web is a powerful reminder of the fact that we’re all connected…and that connections and relationships matter!

A couple of months ago, I was in Ann Arbor, MI to teach a series of two Real Estate Continuing Education Classes, Blogging Basics for Real Estate Professionals (K1061) and Blogging Basics for Real Estate Professionals K(1062).

Prior to my experiences on the blogosphere, I would have walked into a room of complete strangers.  But, the blogosphere has a way of making strangers into friends.

Karen Moorhead was the first person I met, or should I say hugged. I had never met Karen or Marian Gregor who introduced herself next, but meeting both of these ladies felt like greeting a friend.

When Missy Caulk walked in, it was great to see her again after our first meeting in Grand Rapids last year. There were several agents from Missy’s Keller Williams office and I had the opportunity to meet Chet Hill, the Broker and office manager.

One of the benefits of having fellow bloggers in the class was in the way in which their presence expanded the discussion.  Missy, Karen & Marian were generous in sharing their insights with the class in a way in which really enriched the experience for everyone. 

This is one of the most impressive contributions of the blogosphere to our profession; the sharing of ideas and the power of the synergy which this generates. 

The picture above illustrates in a way, one of the ways this has impacted my learning curve.  Everyone in the flower circle is a person who I’ve talked with because of my blogging…an individual who I might never have met or learned from apart from this remarkable medium.

I’d have missed getting to know Jeff & Racquel Turner who are extraordinary people in so many ways, nor would I have known about Real Estate Shows, a service which has generated thousands of hits to my listings and website.  

Talking with Jeff Dowler and the subsequent introduction to Amber Riviere would never have happened.  Jeff Dowler is also a trainer at heart and Amber, an innovative writer and entrepreneur.  And then last but, not least…I wouldn’t have been embraced by a warm circle while visiting another city for a presentation.

 This experience has given me the privilege of a less than six degree connection through which I’ve talked with or met the Broker & the Lovely Wife from Florida, Midori Miller my friend and fellow trainer, Sally Cheesman in Hawaii, Jesse Clinton in Alaska, Colleen Kulikowski in upstate New York, Sara Bonert andCraig Schiller in Chicago, Lydia & Matt Heaton from Washington, Maureen Francis, Kris Wales, Russ Ravery, Sonya Loose & Gary Smith from Michigan, Carol Smith in Ohio or Steve Volkers and Michelle Gordon in Grand Rapids, MI amongst others. 

Has your world been shrinking since you started blogging?  Mine has…and I think that’s a wonderful thing!

Related Articles:

Blogging Wiz, If Ever a Wiz There was! by Marian Gregor

Real Estate Blog – The BEST con-ed class I’ve ever attended and it … by Kris Wales

Making the Change We Need Happen…Active Rain’s Michigan Agents Lead the Way! by Lola Audu

Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors hosts Lola Audu for Blogging Con Ed by Missy Caulk

Blogging Class Taught By the Wonderful Missy Caulk by Lisa Bender * Coming up in March!

 real estate shows: The Smartest $10.42 Investment I’ve Ever Made! by Lola Audu

Grand Rapids, MI Cityscapes…The New Suburbia?

Downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan condo projectAre we on the verge of a transition in thinking about what qualifies as a good home location? For decades, the dream of American homeownership has often envisioned a home with a white picket fence out in the suburbs.

The article “The Tipping Point…When Poverty Moves to the Suburbs.” explored the increasing trend in foreclosures and short sales which has led to many home owners who were once thought to be enjoying the “good life” loosing their homes and enduring great hardship due to devastating economic situations. For many folks, hard times have turned the dream of “living in the burbs” into a nightmare.

Recently, Jonathan Miller of the Matrix blog wrote a thought provoking post entitled “Suburbs are the Next Slums.” In this quote from Arthur Nelson the Director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, he pinpoints a situation which is being observed in neighborhoods across the country…over-building resulting in high levels of homes without inhabitants!

“Arthur C. Nelson, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, has looked carefully at trends in American demographics, construction, house prices, and consumer preferences. In 2006, using recent consumer research, housing supply data, and population growth rates, he modeled future demand for various types of housing. “

“The results were bracing: Nelson forecasts a likely surplus of 22 million large-lot homes (houses built on a sixth of an acre or more) by 2025-that’s roughly 40 percent of the large-lot homes in existence today.”

The US population has increased moderately over the last couple of decades. Yet, builders have built more and more homes with tons more space on increasingly larger lots all over the country. When I drive past many suburban communities, I see subdivisions half finished, with homes which are clearly unoccupied.

This is a major shift from most of the past decade in which homes were being built, sold and occupied as soon as the occupancy permit could be obtained.

Today, the new home market in Grand Rapids, Michigan is markedly subdued. New home starts have fallen dramatically. Many builders have had to leave the trade. New homes are now a part of the short sale and foreclosure list which has increased to almost 50% of the sales activity in the area.

As a home buyer, it is important to be aware of this trend, particularly if you are involved in purchasing a Re-Sale Home. Most buyers who are considering a older home in a community may not think that they need to be aware of what is happening to the new construction in their neighborhood. But they should be. Apart from the fact that they may be missing out on a good deal, a drastic drop in the price of new homes will also devalue older homes as well. These factors should be considered when making an intelligent offer.

There are other trends which may impact gentrification of downtown areas and precipitate on-going decline in suburban communities. These include: the increasing cost of gasoline making it more expensive to drive long distances to work, the increase in the cost of food, the rising costs for healthcare and the challenge of job losses in many sectors of the economy. Suburbs are usually bedroom communities…not places where people go to work. Consequently, inhabitants of outlying communities may be more susceptible to a combination of these types of economic issues.

Americans have had a long love affair with the idea of wide open spaces, where neighbors are greeted with a wave across large stretches of land…if seen at all. This lifestyle may be seriously challenged in the days ahead. Will, the suburbs become the Next Slums? Personally, I don’t think so. However, in Grand Rapids, Michigan…some of the most exciting developments taking place in the real estate arena these days involve the downtown area which is being rapidly transformed into a world class cityscape. Just curious…are you observing any of these trends in other areas of the country?

Copyright 2008 Audu Real Estate All Rights Reserved

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The Genesis of Change…

The winter of our discontent...

The winter of our discontent...

I’m wondering if we have ever really captured the beginning of when things begin to change? 

Are we truly aware of the moment when momentum shifts?  I think we often think we have, but on reflection, I doubt we ever really do.

This is because, the Genesis of change is the essential core element of the process of evolution.  It’s always happening and often occurs in minutely disparate fashion that lacks cohesion or coherence. 

How often have we been surprised by an outcome which was a polar opposite than our expectation?  Was this not precisely because we failed to truly comprehend when change happened and to understand the variety of influences which were at work ‘under cover’. 

Change is a far larger dynamic than what we often perceive when we begin to discern the final result.

I’m thinking…

Right now, we’re focused on the resultant chaos of change as our nation reels from the economic impact of the housing crisis and various domestic and international crises.  But, this didn’t happen in a vacuum?  When did we begin to change?

House Lust…A Peculiar American Love Affair

harbor-springs-homeWe talk about them, ogle them, reminisce about memories we have of them and worry about their welfare. In many ways, the American love affair with our homes is typical of the patterns in a troubled romantic obsession.  Our rapt attention as we watch the object of our affection on numerous TV shows is indicative of how deeply we are in love with the “idyllic vision” of our homes.

Earlier this year, Newsweek Magazine profiled a new book by Daniel McGuinn called “House Lust:  America’s Obsession With Our Homes.”  According to McGinn ” The existence of the real-estate gossip columnist is just one more bizarre indicator of our fascination with homes, which continues even as housing values have fallen.”

We not only want to know where celebrities live, we want to see exactly what their private spaces look like and what they have in their refrigerators…witness the popularity of Cribs. Even the prospect of diminishing house values has not dimmed our ardor.

But that’s the thing with lust…it’s desire can never be adequately satisfied.  There is always a grinding need for more and more.  It’s an addiction which enslaves and distorts.  While most Americans are well aware of the crisis that has beset the housing and mortgage industry, many still can’t believe that they will be negatively affected. The fall-out of this refusal to accept this harsh market reality is evident in price reductions for homes in the tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars at times.

In fact, McGinn indicates that a survey by Boston Consulting Group showed that 55 percent of Americans still think their homes are GAINING IN VALUE despite all evidence to the contrary. If you factor in the percentage who believe that housing prices are simply at a stalemate, I daresay the number would be closer to 75%. This is an astonishingly high Delusion Rate!

And as a testament to this belief, it is expected that Americans will spend 170 Billion dollars this year remodelling and renovating their homes.  Many will do so in the expectation of increasing their home value in a rapidly declining market. And belief is a powerful thing.  More than once in the past, American optimism has created lemonade out of lemons.

Remember the tech bubble?  It preceded the current real estate crisis. Those were the days in which anything that ended with .com seemed to garner froth-like admiration and the sky is the limit financing options.  When the boom turned to bust, thousands of programmers and entrepreneurs found themselves without jobs and the ardor for all things techie cooled substantially. 

Well, there may be good that comes about as a result of this re-evaluation of our obsession with real estate too.  Just like a good, stable relationship can’t be sustained solely on the basis of giddiness, the sobering reality of declining prices, foreclosures and short sales may force us to take a good long hard look at what means to live in community.

For many Americans, the home became the piggy bank. A source of funding for all sorts of projects, whims, passions and fantasies through the vehicle of the home equity loan.  This spending spree banked on one precariously ridiculous notion. This was that home prices would continue their dramatic ascension forever.  The correction of reality grounded by gravitational forces which bring all things that go up back down…eventually may in the end prove to be an important grounding principle which steadies our economy and allows us to reassess where we place our value.

Our homes are the solid building blocks which anchor what America stands for.  They are where families are raised, dreams are born and life is lived and relished in all it’s various expressions.  Although its’ been fun to flirt and make houses bigger and flashier, trade and obsess about them, nip and tuck to stage them for success, ultimately it’s not about what we do to our homes, but what our homes do for us.  Perhaps we will discover that our somewhat maniacal obsessing will never match the rewards that arise out of of the commitment, nurture and creation of solid human relationships. That’s not a Lust thing…it’s a Love Thing!

Click this link to look for homes for sale in Grand Rapids, MI

*First published by Audu Real Estate in January of 2008.

Copyright 2008 Audu Real Estate  All Rights Reserved

Hey, We’re One!

Celebrating a Special One Year Anniversary…The Grand Rapids Real Estate Musings Blog turns One!  A brief summary of the years blog posts.

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Tommorow We’ll be One!

Celebrating One Year!

Celebrating One Year!

On November 9, 2008 I’m celebrating the one year anniversary of the Grand Rapids Real Estate Musings Blog!  It’s been fun to highlight not just local real estate happenings, but life in and around Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I also want to Thank all my readers who have stopped by to read and/or leave a comment.

What I’ve enjoyed most about this blog is that the local flair has allowed me to explore all sorts of interesting places in Grand Rapids, and share my favorites with you.  On this B-Day, One Year Anniversary, I thought it might be interesting to just highlight what we’ve talked about this year…

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Thanks again to all our readers.  Always remember that we’re here to help you with all your real estate related needs in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.