Certified International Property Specialist – West Michigan welcomes the world home!

Certified International Property SpecialistGrand Rapids, Michigan is welcoming the world home as REALTORS expand their awareness about the world and global markets. The local association is currently hosting a national designation offered by the National Association of REALTORS to train local real estate agents about the benefits of becoming globally proficient and connected. Approximately 20 students are currently enrolled in the designation course which involves classroom time, a certain amount of practical experience with international transactions and some other requirements.

It’s especially good for me to participate in this class as it represents the fruit of seed from efforts in 2011 when the association created the International Committee. Today, this committee is active in enhancing awareness about the impact of globalization on the economy of West Michigan.

We have had the opportunity to serve people from all over the world. It is always an interesting and enlightening experience. It requires attention to detail and an awareness of some of the unique challenges that people from different parts of the world face. As an immigrant and New American, I have a real appreciation for the benefits of homeownership in America.

One of the challenges of the classroom experience is the danger of stereotyping as we seek to learn more about people whose experience differs. For instance, we’re having discussions about high context vs low context cultures. What’s emerging in the discussion is the fact that you cannot take generalizations too far. At the end of day, it’s about the individual and their culture – you can’t divorce one from the other. It’s a packaged deal.

Gripe Alert! MY REALTOR Didn’t Even Find my House and so…

Inforum 3You can fill in the blank with any one of a number of statements and even gripes.  In today’s fast paced, information doused climate, the reality is that for many would be home buyers, the REALTOR may NOT be the one who locates your home for sale online or even in real life.  And, if that was all that was required to purchase a home successfully, it would be a huge missing link.

But anyone who has bought a home within the past decade at least knows that finding the home is only the first step.  And with new regulations coming fast and furious through the pipeline for financing and other related industries, finding the home may be the first SMALL step.

The fact is this, locating a suitable home does not mean that you will be able or qualified to purchase it.  Nor does it guarantee that even if you qualify for the financing of the home, unexpected issues in the condition of the home or unreasonable demands/needs from the current home owners will not short circuit a successful closing.

There are also all sorts of ancillary side notes such as:  the home failing to appraise for the value proposed in the purchase agreement, survey issues, title issues, insurance challenges, government regulation which may cause delays or a host of other things which fall under the general category of ‘Murphy’s Law.’

Buying a home has been said to be the largest financial transaction that most Americans will ever undertake.  It is also one of the most complex.

Here are some other things your REALTOR is doing beyond simply finding you a home that you like on the Internet.

  1.  Your REALTOR is educating you about the real estate process.  What you don’t know can hurt you big time in the purchase of a home.  It’s not easy to recover from a financial ‘mistake’ of this magnitude.
  2. Your REALTOR is constantly helping everyone in the transaction to navigate some pretty complicated situations which are exacerbated by frayed nerves, confusion in the process and issues that can cost somebody big money.
  3. Your REALTOR is often the Translator who helps you make sense of the unfamiliar lingo used by Lenders and others so you are informed and aware of what you need to do to create a successful outcome.
  4. Your REALTOR examines all the paperwork to ensure that the transaction is legally binding and enforceable.  Failure to properly negotiate something as simple as a possession date can land you in the street if your landlord has already rented out your apartment.
  5. Your REALTOR helps you to find all sorts of people/companies who can be of assistance to you through this process.  They can help you find information about the neighborhood, provide you with lists of contractors for various services, assist with arranging necessary repairs, refer you to competent specialists…

This is a very, very short list of what REALTORS do beyond finding a home on the Internet.  Every deal has its own particular nuance of challenge and your transaction is probably not going to be an exception.  It’s wise to choose your next REALTOR based on a number of factors and determine if simply finding a home on the Internet is really or even the most important thing you want a REALTOR to do for you.


This blog post was inspired by an interesting conversation I had with a local lender, Jonathan Izenbart about his perspective on the value of a REALTOR to the real estate transaction and how this was important in light of the myriad of regulatory changes impacting the real estate transaction. It is also included in our poopular FAQ Series

Caution! Oversharing on Social Media Sites during the Sale or Closing of your Home Can be Dangerous.

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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 shared DURING the transaction process presents some unique challenges and to some extent risks for parties involved in the transaction.  Over the past year, there has been more than one instance in West Michigan in which funds secured for a closing were requested to be transferred fraudulently.

The scam involved an ‘official looking’ e-mail with data pertaining to the date of the closing, the names of the parties involved in the transaction and the sale price of the home.  The instructions requested a change in the wire transfer to a new account as a follow-up to a previous transmission.  In at least one instance, funds were inadvertently transferred to the wrong party.

How can social media be dangerous?  Well, when we share a status update on Facebook or other forms of social media, it is difficult to determine with absolute certainty the individuals who are reading a post and their intended purpose in potentially using the information for nefarious purposes.  Giving a crook your name, address, when you will be moving/closing and the price for which you sold your home is like giving them a key to your front door!

There have been numerous instances in West Michigan where Craigslist posts have scammed individuals hoping to rent a home by posting false advertisements for rentals which utilized listing data.  Unsuspecting home owners were sometimes surprised to find potential house renters peering into their windows or walking the property which they though was listed for rent – even with a real estate sign outside.

Every REALTOR knows that when we hold an Open House, we must take precautions to secure the property and ensure that we do our utmost to protect the owners most valuable asset, their home.  This is even more important when dealing with online media where in essence the home is left ‘OPEN’ online for much longer periods of time.  While, there is no 100 % guarantee against exposure to risk, there are some things which we can do to protect homes and secure funds during the process of the home sale transaction.  These are:

  •  Limit the sharing!  While sharing with friends and family is understandable, it may be prudent to wait until the home has closed and you have moved to share the details of the transaction with the world.  And…does everyone really need to know that the home secured a full price offer and what that exact amount was?
  • Know where your data is going!  There are many portals online for disseminating real estate information.  They are not all equal.  Some portals are not diligent about updating information accurately or in a timely way.  Keeping tabs on data sharing is a conversation which should occur at the beginning and during the transaction process.
  • Listen to your gut!  If something does not feel right, investigate further.  A recent incident was thwarted when a suspicious e-mail caused an alert escrow officer and agent to do some further research.  Report suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities.
  • Consider encryption!  When sending sensitive financial data, lending institutions encrypt the communication to ensure security.  Today, we must become more aware and sensitive to these types of concerns especially as more data is transmitted through online portals including cloud computing.

While this list is not exhaustive, it provides a few tips which can help you prevent your happy moment from becoming an invitation for thieves.

RESPA/TILLA – What Regular Folks Need to Know About the Changes Affecting Selling and Buying Real Estate

chair setSome important changes will be put into effect with regards to the process of completing a real estate transaction on October 3, 2015. The changes are part of the Dodd-Frank Bill and in the industry are referred to by what may seem like a curious set of initials to the average person – RESPA/TILLA.  The government agency responsible for implementing and overseeing the enforcement of these new changes to the law is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which you will also see referenced by the initials CFPB.

While, the requirements will largely impact new processes for the Lending and Title industry with regards to actual changes in forms and procedures, we do anticipate that there will be some adjustments necessary for the real estate transaction as conducted by REALTORS as well. For our clients (Buyers & Sellers), the adjustments will largely be (though not necessarily completely)reflected in the following ways:

1. New Timelines requiring additional time to complete a fairly standard real estate transaction
2. Ability to understand the re-disclosure period and how it can impact the timeline of getting your home or your money.
3. Coordination of  ‘stacked’ closings and why closing and purchasing in the same day may no longer be possible
4. A couple of new forms for the Lending & Escrow process

As REALTORS, coordinating the process in a way that minimizes stress for our clients is our primary concern. To this end, we are taking courses to ensure we understand how to advise our clients to ensure that your investment in a home occurs as smoothly as possible during this period of significant transition.

If you have been thinking about buying or selling a home and would like to have a more in depth conversation about the best way to navigate through this changing landscape, we encourage you to contact us well BEFORE October 3, 2015 when these changes are scheduled to take effect. *(Implementation was delayed from August 1, (today) to address concerns about preparedness by the industry and consumers. Our Number: 616-791-0511.

Lastly, if you are currently in the processing of retailing your home on your own or are considering this option in the future, we would be willing to talk with you about how to avoid potential pitfalls particularly during this time of transition.  In the days ahead, knowledge and understanding will be critical in ensuring the your transaction does not become an unintended casualty of the law of ‘Unintended Consequences’.  Our office is prepared and ready to assist with all your real estate needs and concerns.  Call us to talk.  It’s Free!

Lola Audu awarded the Performance Management Designation (PMN)

For Immediate Release

Contact:           Women’s Council Education Dept.

800-245-8512

Performance Management Network Designation Awarded to Local REALTOR®

Lola Audu ~ 2011 President of the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors®(Chicago, IL—August 4, 2014) Lola Audu, a Audu Real Estate REALTOR®, has been awarded the Performance Management Network Designation by the Women’s Council of REALTORS. The Performance Management Network is a next-generation REALTOR® designation designed from the ground up to deliver the real-world skills, know-how and tools to keep an agent’s business out front and on top of an evolving real estate market.

PMN curriculum is driven by the following topics: negotiating strategies and tactics, networking and referrals, business planning and systems, personal performance management and cultural differences in buying and selling.

About WCR

Women’s Council of REALTORS® is a nationwide community of more than 10,000 real estate professionals who include many of the best and brightest in the business. Women’s Council is an affiliate of the National Association of REALTORS® and is headquartered in Chicago, IL. For more information on Women’s Council, please visit WCR.org.

Mission

We are a network of successful REALTORS®, advancing women as professionals and leaders in business, the industry and the communities we serve.

Grand Rapids, Michigan Rated a ‘Best Buy” Real Estate Investment for 2015

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The housing market has stabilized in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Gone are the days when investor traffic flooded the market and houses were being plucked up at rock bottom prices.  Although exceptionally low inventory throughout much of the past 18 months has been a challenge, home buyers are once again entering the market in a serious way.  There is ample reason to indicate that a foray into the real estate market in Grand Rapids, Michigan today is a prudent financial move.

According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine, Grand Rapids Mi is now ranked as one of the nation’s Top 20 Housing Investments.  The list was based on key indicators such as: employments opportunities, annual job growth, population and the calculation of an area’s Equilibrium Home Price or Income Price.   This Equilibrium Home Price is used as a tool to measure what the average home price in any given area would be absent distortions such as the housing crash of recent years.  A good score on this index provides investors with confidence that their investments are likely to garner a good return.

Another measure of the strength of the real estate investment sector in Grand Rapids, Michigan is the affordability index. According to statistics cited in the Forbes article, Grand Rapids, Michigan is currently under-priced by 23% when compared to similar areas across the country.  One of the advantages the West Michigan area has had is the fact that the market was never seriously overheated.  For the most part, appreciation rates were stable even during the wild upward swings that overtook many cities prior to the housing crash.  Although Grand Rapids was affected significantly by the crisis, housing has regained its losses and home owners are seeing steady gains in their home equity.

Additional factors which bode well for Grand Rapids, Michigan in terms of real estate investment include a strong rental market. Vacancy rates in the Grand Rapids area are very low. The growth of area colleges (in particular Grand Valley) and the influx of population moving into the area for jobs has created the perfect storm as it collided with people who had lost their homes during the housing crisis competing for dwellings as well.  Buyers in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area are finding that with low interest rates, it is often much cheaper to buy a house than it is to rent one.

Related Content:  11 Reasons Why People Who Don’t Live in Grand Rapids, MI Should Wish They Did!

Metro Grand Rapids, Michigan Quick Stats:

MSA: Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI

Pop.: 1,016,603

Avg. Home Price: $149,123

Pop Growth (’10-’13): 2.8%

Jobs Growth (annual): 3.7%

Unemployment: 4.7%

Annual price growth: 8%

Over (+) or under (-) priced by: -23%

Home Price/Rent Ratio: 14

Click on the picture below for the slide show featuring all the “Top Best Buy’ cities to invest in real estate within the United States.  Contact Audu Real Estate by calling 616-791-0511 or e-mail:  info@audurealestate.com for more information.

Grand Rapids MI Where to Invest Capture

 

My Home is Sold! Now What?

33341293_sIt’s finally happened!  You Sold your home!  YES!!!   The moment you’ve been waiting for after all the cleaning, making the home available for impromptu showings and enduring nerve-racking anticipation and hope that a purchasing decision will be made in favor of your home.

But even before the ink starts to dry on the fully executed purchase agreement, you’re wondering what does this mean?  Is the home really sold if Inspections need to be cleared and title issues examined?  What about the financing…is the Lender absolutely 100% behind the guarantee for the loan commitment?  When should you order the moving van?

Signing a purchase agreement to sell your home to a prospective buyer starts a detailed and often complex process in which many aspects of the sale need to be coordinated to conclude in a successfully closed real estate transaction.  At Audu Real Estate, our goal is to assist our clients with these details and to relieve the strain and stress of the negotiation process.  Here’s what you can expect from our company.

Coordination:

There are many details to coordinate.  By some estimates, up to 10 different companies with their various employees will be involved in closing your transaction.  These include: the mortgage company, the title company, the other real estate company, the inspection company, the survey company, the home warranty company, the insurance company, the well & septic inspection company, the appraisal company & etc.  As you can see, the list can be extensive and this does NOT include additional companies which are involved in REO or Distress sales.  Coordination with ALL of these different entities and their representatives is a large part of what keeps us busy AFTER you sign the deal to sell your home!

Inspections:

Inspections are a vital part of the real estate process and often one of the most challenging areas to navigate.  So much emotion tends to be involved.  As a homeowner, you want the buyer to love your home and although you know it’s not perfect, there is a vested connection which might make you a little sensitive.  On the other hand, a prospective buyer may have some anxiety about the true value of their purchase.  No one wants to make a poor buying decision.  Navigating this ‘sticky’ territory is what we do best.  It’s our job to help all parties come to a resolution about the results of the inspection and how to move forward.

Follow-up:

Follow-up and Follow-through is where many transactions fall apart.  The details matter when it comes to real estate.  A missed signature can make a transaction which was a ‘sure thing’ become murky in a hurry.  Many aspects of a real estate transaction which is in the ‘Pending’ category are under strict time constraints.  For instance, certain inspections have to be conducted within a particular time frame.  When follow-through is poorly executed, even a solid transaction can go awry.  Our job as REALTORS is to ensure that your transaction stays on schedule.

Communication:

Staying on schedule requires excellent communication skills.  Today, communication flows through multiple channels.  We ask our clients how they prefer to communicate.  We’ll do whatever it takes to stay in touch.  This includes:  calls, e-mails, texts and even social media.  Not only are we keeping you informed about what is going on with your transaction, communication also involves keeping those other 10 companies we referenced earlier in the loop as well.  Good communication is the lubricant that helps to keep the friction down to a minimum.

Negotiation:

Negotiations are an ongoing part of the transaction.  They can involve all sorts of things.  Perhaps, there are some items or belongings which you would like to get rid of, or some repair issues crop up which need to be addressed.  Even the closing place and location sometimes become a part of a negotiated solution.  At Audu Real Estate, our goal is to create successful outcomes for our clients in the real estate negotiation.

Closing Facilitation:

An average transaction can take between 30-45 days to come to a conclusion.  The days leading up the closing are often filled with a flurry of activity as various parts of the transaction are completed.  Because there are so many moving parts, it’s important to have someone who is the Captain of the Ship.  Our job is to navigate your boat into a safe harbor.  We review the closing documents for accuracy in terms of reflecting the terms of the purchase agreement.  There is coordination with all parties regarding move in/move out dates as well as the transfer of utilities.  Well executed closings are like the passing of a baton in a relay race.  They are seemless and enable the next party to successfully execute the next stage of the race.

We hope that this has been a helpful article.  If you’d like to learn more about what we can do to help you sell your West Michigan home, please give us a call at:  616-791-0511.