So, how do you say ‘Hello’? The Peculiarities of Goodwill to all Men

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

Audu Real Estate Nominated for Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce EPIC AWARDS 2016!

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

When Moving Out is a Hassle! How Long Can I Stay in a Home AFTER the Sale?

Question:  How Long Can I Stay in a Home After the Sale? UPDATED 5/16

Answer:  It depends.  The length of your stay in a home after a home closing is usually determined by the terms of the Purchase Agreement contract that was signed.  Today, it is not unusual for the contract to dictate that you vacate the premises when you receive your check.  The buyers often want to get into their new home as quickly as possible and since they are now paying for the home, would like to have immediate access.

And then there’s the issue of liability.  Your Home Owner’s Insurance typically terminates when the home changes hands and the new owner’s insurance kicks into effect.  If an incident occurs during the period of time a previous home owner continues to occupy the property, there could be a question about whose insurance takes care of any unforseen issues.

However, it is still not unusual in West Michigan for home owners to remain in the residence after the sale for a period of time.  This can range from days and weeks to longer.  In West Michigan, most contracts will require some sort of rental provision for this time to be paid to the new home owner.  The rent is often negotiated at close and can be demanded in advance.  In the event that a previous home owner elects to stay inside the home AFTER the rental period, the Purchase Agreement may exact penalties.  At this point, it becomes a more serious issue, because in effect, the previous owner in essence becomes a squatter and may require legal eviction.  This is a situation that requires counsel and it would be prudent to consider legal assistance.

Also see:  What to do when your home closing is delayed.

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.

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.

How to Avoid Landmines When Negotiating Multiple Offers During a Home Sale!

Multiple offers in Home NegotiationIn West Michigan, the transition from a sluggish market to a market on fire has been fast and furious over the past 18 months.  At first, many were hesitant to believe that a transition was actually happening.  While serving as the President of the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS in 2011, we had begun to track an interesting trend which indicated that housing prices were stabilizing.

This was in spite of national indicators that predicted that our recovery would be delayed until approximately 2023, there were encouraging indicators that this dire prediction might not prove true.  Of course, there was a lot of caution.  After all, our area had witnessed some of the most grueling aspects of the economic recession as short sales and foreclosures at one time constituted more than 2/3 of all transactions in the market place.

Fast forward to 2013.  Times have changed!  Today, housing inventory in the West Michigan market is less than three months.  It is not unusual to field multiple offers for a home listing.  I recently attended a national real estate conference.  When asked, almost 100 percent of the attendees at one of the seminars indicated that in their markets, multiple offers and housing shortages were also becoming the norm.  Especially, when the homes were priced appropriately and also showed well.  (This is an important caveat)

So, what should you know about a multiple offer situation?  Are there some do’s and don’ts which can help you to secure the best price while protecting your most important investment?  Absolutely!  In fact, the National Association of REALTORS has published an informative article to assist you in determining how best to navigate a multiple offer scenario.  Some questions you might have which are answered are:

1.  Does a homeowner have to accept the first offer tendered?

2.  Is it possible to ask all parties to present their best offer and how is this done?

3.  Who makes the decision about how multiple offers will be presented?

4.  Is it possible to determine how to deal with multiple offers BEFORE the situation arises?

While this guide will serve as a handy reference, its important to understand that local customs, traditions, rules and to some extent law can also impact the way in which transactions are negotiated.  It is important to work with a knowledgeable REALTOR to determine the best course of action.  My experience in negotiating multiple offers is that the Golden Rule is one of the best principles to follow.

We strive to treat our clients and the parties presenting offers with the dignity and honesty which we would like rendered to us.  If you have any questions about Listing your home or would like to talk more about the current state of the housing market in the Grand Rapids, Mi ~ West Michigan marketplace, please contact our office.

Curve Ball #2 – You are told, You Paid More than the Home is Worth.

You may have read the title and thought…Huh?  This is especially perplexing if you were in a multiple bid situation in which several potential ‘would be home buyers’ were vying for the same piece of property.  Surely, you, your REALTOR, the other agents and their clients couldn’t all have been totally off base?

You’re probably asking…Doesn’t the market dictate what a home is worth?

ANSWER:  Well, yes and no.  Depends on which market you’re referencing and who you’re talking to. The issue of market value is a little more nuanced than the negotiated number that a Seller and Buyer may choose to agree upon as the price for the home.

Here’s why.

If you are obtaining a mortgage for your home, the lender will order an appraisal on your behalf to ensure that the money they are loaning you is fully supported by the price you are paying for the home.  In a time in which the industry is under tremendous scrutiny due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis that nearly plunged all of us into a financial abyss, this process is taken very seriously.

An appraiser will use comparable properties which successfully retailed/closed in the recent past to determine what your home is likely worth on the current open market.  Under most circumstances, this process arrives at an accurate value.  However, there are situations where the evaluation may be compromised.  Here are a few to be aware of.

1. Transitioning Market.

You happen to be in a ‘Transitioning Market’; one in which values have recently increased significantly and/or rapidly.  However the past data does not support this trend yet.  In West Michigan, this is currently a challenge.  Many neighborhoods are seeing steady gains in prices but there have not been enough sales to fully document the trend.  Eventually, the stats will catch up, but in the meantime, you may also want to double check the opinion of the appraiser by reading reason #2.

2.  The appraiser may not be familiar with the area.

This does not necessarily mean they are incompetent.  It may simply mean that a nuance in the local environment may be obscured to an appraiser who does not routinely conduct appraisals in the vicinity.  In situations like this, your REALTOR may be able to provide the lender with additional comparable properties for consideration or you can ask for an Appraisal Review in which the original appraisal is double checked to ensure its accuracy.

If you find that you are told that you paid more for the home, you can use the appraisal, if it is correct to make an argument for negotiating a lower sales price based on what the lender will support in the loan value.  If a Seller is unwilling to lower the price of the home, you will have to fork up the difference in the sales price and what the lender is willing to loan if you determine that  you would like to move forward with the purchase.

Having an accurate assessment of value is critically important.  Paying more than a home is worth eats up your equity.  But, under-paying can also have an unintended consequence of artificially lowering the value of the community in which you are now vested.

Recommended Reading: Passing the Baton…Why a Home Closing Can Be a Beautiful Thing

Curve Ball #2 – When You’re told you paid More than your home is worth

*This is a series.  Check back for future updates.

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.