Welcome to Grand Rapids Homes for Sale! We're excited to be a resource to you to help you achieve your Grand Rapids real estate goals! 

My name is Mike VanderWoude, and I would like to personally extend an invitation to you to browse our website in search of answers to any questions you might have. I consider it my job to be a real estate consultant, providing you with the best possible advice that you would need to reach your own real estate goals.  

The mission of Grandrapidshomesforsale.com: 

In real estate, I have two primary goals. One is to shape this site, GrandRapidsHomesforSale.com into the finest real estate resource available to consumers in West Michigan.

I won't have the pleasure of meeting every person who comes to this website. For those people, I hope you return time and time again to find more valuable information and share it with your friends and family. If you find this site useful, please tell others and feel free to share it through whatever means necessary.

For the people I do have the privilege to meet, my goal is to leave you with an industry-best experience in pursuing your real estate goals. For many clients, buying or selling a home will be the single largest investment of their lives, and I take that very seriously.

It starts here. Help me help you make this website a valuable resource to yourself and others.

Dec. 7, 2018

Buying a House on a Tight Budget


Tight Budget


How We Bought Our First Home (On a Tight Budget)

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Leanne Potts
Published: August 30, 2018


First-time home-buyer advice: Ask a lot of questions.



Names: Anthony Tucker, 32, and Sammy Kallay, 31


City: Richardson, Texas, a suburb of Dallas


Year of home purchase: 2018


Sale price: $252,000


Home style: 46-year old ranch


Professions: He's an IT business consultant; she's a nurse.


When Anthony Tucker, and his wife, Sammy Kallay, had their first child, they knew it was time to buy their first house. Like so many new parents, they wanted the works for their son, Okiyan -- safe neighborhood, good schools, nice yard. But their budget wasn't limitless, and their knowledge of real estate was zilch.

Names: Anthony Tucker, 32, and Sammy Kallay, 31


City: Richardson, Texas, a suburb of Dallas


Year of home purchase: 2018


Sale price: $252,000


Home style: 46-year old ranch


Professions: He's an IT business consultant; she's a nurse.


When Anthony Tucker, and his wife, Sammy Kallay, had their first child, they knew it was time to buy their first house. Like so many new parents, they wanted the works for their son, Okiyan -- safe neighborhood, good schools, nice yard. But their budget wasn't limitless, and their knowledge of real estate was zilch.


They weren't about to buy their first home without advice. So the Dallas-area couple started by finding the resources they needed for a crash course in home buying.


What's the first thing you did once you decided it was time to be a homeowner?


Anthony: We didn't know how much we needed to save. We didn't understand the market. We didn't understand the [real estate] terms. We needed some guidance. We talked to a friend, and they told us we should call the REALTOR?, Eloise Martin, who had helped them buy their first house.


What did your agent do to help you get on the path?


Anthony: She sent us to a lender who told us how much we needed to save and how much we would need to put down. He ran our credit scores and told me I needed to pay the balance on my Discover card to make my credit rating better. He explained escrow, points, and PMI.


How long did it take you to save enough for a down payment, and how did you do it?


Anthony: Three or four months. We had some money in the bank, but we needed more. It took a couple of months to get enough. We didn't eat out. We didn't buy so many things. I got a new job that paid more, so that helped.


OK, the money's in the bank. You're ready to shop. What was that like?


Anthony: I told [our agent] our budget and the neighborhoods we wanted to be in. She got us into a search that sent us notifications every time there was a house that had what we wanted. She would go with us to see the house and point out things to look for.


She would tell us if we needed contractors to check out plumbing or electrical things, and she had a network of contractors who could come to the house. That paid off when we were making the final decision.


How so?


Anthony: The house we ended up buying, [the sellers] had made an extension that made a problem with the foundation. We paid a structural engineer to look at it first, before we made an offer. He said in the long run, we might need to put up a supporting wall. What that did was give us leverage to come back to the seller and ask, "Can you lower the price?"


Did they lower the price?


Anthony: Yes. The price was $267,000. We negotiated with them. We paid $252,000. It was a worthy reduction because, according to the engineer, it will only cost us $3,000 to build that foundation wall.


How many houses did you look at before buying?


Sammy: Three. We bought the third house we looked at.


Good grief! That's lightning fast. How long did you look?


Sammy: One weekend.


A weekend? Wow. Was it stressful to buy in a super-fast market like Dallas?


Sammy: I know! I was expecting it to be really stressful. But it went really great. [Our agent] sent us houses that fit what we wanted, so we didn't look at houses that were not what we were looking for.


Anthony: We wanted to put in a bid on another house, but because there were so many bids on that house, we thought it better not to. We only made an offer on the one where we had a reason to ask for a lower price.


How did you know that third house was The One?


Sammy: As soon as I saw the picture, I said, "Oooh, this is a really nice house." As soon as we came in and saw it, that was it. We knew that was the house. It would work with a family. It had a really nice flow.


What's your favorite thing about your house?


Sammy: For me, it's about my son. It's open and has enough space for him to crawl around. I can see him wherever he is.


Anthony: It's secure. I like being able to drive into the garage and close the door and go straight into the house. I like the fence around the yard. It's a safe place for our son.


What's your advice for first-time home buyers?


Anthony: Find a good agent. [Ours] was critical. Don't be shy about asking questions.

Sammy: If you don't know anything about the home-buying process, you need somebody who knows what they're doing. [Our agent] made the process really, really easy. I don't think we would have been able to do it ourselves.





Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®Copyright 2018.  All rights reserved.

Posted in Articles
Dec. 6, 2018

Negotiating Fails





6 Ways to Lose at Negotiating a House Price

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Leanne Potts
Published: July 12, 2018


Real estate negotiation tips so you can buy your dream home -- and not overpay.



You've looked at enough houses to fill an entire season of House Hunters and finally picked one to buy. Now you're ready to make an offer.


Your agent can help guide you through this nail-biting phase of negotiating a house price, but ultimately, you call the shots. Here's how to negotiate like a boss.


Fail #1: Thinking House Price is All That Matters


That house with a price point $15k below your budget? It may seem like a deal -- until you add on the costs of maintenance and replacing the aging appliances.


Planning on repainting, remodeling, or landscaping, too? Suddenly the price looks a whole lot higher.


When developing your offer, calculate in the costs that will go above and beyond a mortgage payment. Then you can negotiate with an eye on the total cost of owning the house, not just the sticker price.


On the flip side, the price may not be all that matters to the seller, either.


She may have to start a job on the other side of the country in a month and value a quick closing. Or she may be looking to rent from you for a bit after the sale until her next home is ready. Sometimes being accommodating is negotiation gold.


Fail #2: Refusing to Back Down on Small Repairs


Before you draw a line in the negotiation sand over, say, a deck with some rotten boards, ask yourself if it's worth losing the house over a repair that would cost less than a thousand dollars.


Say the house price is $250,000, which makes that deck repair less than half of one percent of the cost of the house. There's a lot of emotional energy at this point in the process, so give yourself a break rather than dickering over it.


A house negotiation is not about winning for the sake of winning. It's about getting the house you want at a fair price on good terms.


Fail #3: Waiving Formalities Because You're So in Love With the House


Don't be so blinded by house love that you do something silly like skip some of the formalities of home buying, such as the home inspection or the appraisal, in an effort to close the deal.


Those steps, and others like a termite or septic inspection, are known as contingencies. They're there to protect you from ending up with a six-figure money pit.


Imagine how quickly the house-honeymoon would end if you found a termite colony or that the identical house across the street sold for much less?


Besides, if you're taking out a mortgage, your lender won't let you skip an appraisal because they don't want to loan money on a house that isn't worth the loan amount. So even if you want to make it easy for the seller, your lender may stop you.


There are other ways to sweeten your offer and get that house:


    Pay some of the seller's closing costs.
    Offer a fast close.

If this is your first house, speed is an ace up your sleeve because you can move faster than someone who can't buy a new house until they sell the old one (another type of contingency).


And remember, while there's a lot of emotion tied up in choosing a house, it's still a business deal.


Fail #4: Getting Hung Up On a Few Grand


You offered $198,000. The seller won't budge from $200,000.


Before you walk away, consider this: Two grand is a lot of money, but in the house-buying world it's not so much. At an interest rate of 4%, with 20% down on a 30-year mortgage, that additional $2,000 will add just $8 a month to your payment.


If you can swing it -- maybe you can cut a small thing out of your budget each month -- it could be worth it.


Fail #5: Folding Because the Inspection Turned Up Issues


A good home inspection is going to turn up something. Usually several somethings. That's good. It means the inspector is doing their job. It's a rare day when a home passes inspection with no problem at all.


Plus, many things that turn up on an inspection are easily handled. You can ask the seller to do the repairs or knock some off the price so you can pay for repairs.


And while some problems may seem scary at first, like a roof leak or plumbing problem, they're almost always fixable and negotiable.


Fail #6: Offering Less Because the Decor is Hideous


The faux-Tiffany swag lamp and trippy orange-and-brown wallpaper make your eyes itch. So you're planning on offering less -- way less.


Before you do that, know the market. If it's a seller's market, your offer may be seen as an insult especially if the home's in good shape. And just like that, you've lost your dream home.


When you're ready to make that offer, look past the little stuff that you can easily change, and focus your negotiations on what matters, like the location and the bones of the house.




Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®Copyright 2018.  All rights reserved.

Posted in Articles
Dec. 5, 2018

House Hunting Tips to Avoid


House-Hunting Tips to Avoid #Facepalm Moments

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Kelley Walters
Published: July 12, 2018


What to look for when buying a house -- and what not to do.



The only thing more exciting than shopping for your first house is the day you move into it. And in your eagerness to get to that day, there are a bunch of opportunities to botch the shopping.

The only thing more exciting than shopping for your first house is the day you move into it. And in your eagerness to get to that day, there are a bunch of opportunities to botch the shopping.


Here are some #facepalm moments and the house-hunting tips you'll need to avoid them.


"I Saw the House Online. It's Perfect -- Let's Make an Offer Before It's Gone!"


Buying a house sight unseen?!? Whoa. Online photos are a fun sneak peek -- and that's all.


Before you plan marriage after the house equivalent of swiping right, consider this:


    It's the photos that aren't in the gallery you should worry about. You won't see the hastily patched cracks in the home's foundation. Or the mold in the attic.
    Your other senses need to evaluate the place. There could be traffic rumbling by or a stinky recycling facility downwind.
    Three words: Wide angle lens. (They make small spaces look deceptively big.)

So before you make an offer, tour the place. And the yard. And the neighborhood. It's worth it.


"I Want to Buy This House. And Look, There's an Agent Right Here!"


While that might seem mighty convenient, it's not in your best interests. The real estate agent at an open house most likely represents the seller.


That means they're obligated to work in that person's best interest. If you start blabbing about how you're pre-approved for $285,000, but you'd rather offer $260,000, you'll compromise your negotiating position.


As a buyer, you should contract with a buyer's agent who works on your behalf. They'll understand your wants and needs, counsel you based on your budget and priorities, and advise you through the negotiating process.


"I'll Rely On an Online Home-Value Estimator."


Google "home-value estimator" and you'll get pages of tools that promise you a free estimate of home value. Plug the address into the tool, some algorithms do their thing, and in seconds you know what a house is worth.


But unless that algorithm's been poking around the basement with a flashlight, it's a ballpark figure at best.


Home valuation is both art and science. There are nuances within house and market that an online estimator just can't see. What if the seller made major renovations last year? Or what if houses rarely turn over in the neighborhood, so there's not enough data to work with online?


Your agent knows current market conditions and the inventory of homes in the market -- all of which help you make a nuanced offer.


Use these fun tools as a guide, but don't take them to the bank.


"I Don't Have Kids, So I Don't Have to Worry About School Districts."


Yeah . . . nope. School district matters regardless of your parenting status. Whether or not you have kids, a future buyer might. And neighborhoods with good school districts tend to maintain value and appreciate faster than those in other areas. People want to live near good schools, which leads to rising home values and better neighborhood amenities.


"If a House Doesn't Have Everything On My List, I'm Not Looking At It."


Definitely make your list. Your list is important. But use it as a starting point to help you prioritize. Because buyers who can prioritize have the most success.


They turn that list into must-haves and nice-to-haves -- and they also consider which of their must-haves could turn into will-dos.


For example, you can switch laminate for quartz, but you can't move a country home next door to your city office. Skip the listings that are in the wrong location, but why not check out the ones with the wrong countertops? Maybe the one thing you'd enjoy more than quartz counters are quartz counters you picked out yourself.


Not sure what should go on your list? This worksheet can help you get your priorities straight: The Ultimate "I Wanna Buy a House" Checklist.


"I'll Figure out This HOA Thing After Closing."


Homeowners associations (HOAs) might just seem like a cute little neighborhood organization, but some have the power to limit your pets, restrict your parking, and pick your paint colors.


Since how you live is likely as important to you as where you live, read and fully understand the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) before you buy. Restrictions that don't fit your lifestyle could be as much of a deal breaker as a crumbling foundation.


That's not to say HOAs are bad. Oh no -- they can be great at preserving neighborhoods, keeping home values high, and some give you access to amenities. But the benefits and drawbacks of each one vary, so take a close look.



Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®Copyright 2018.  All rights reserved.

Posted in Articles
Dec. 4, 2018

Common Repairs Before Selling

painting with dog


7 Important Repairs to Make Before Selling A House

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Jamie Wiebe
Published: November 30, 2018


The most critical things to do to increase your home's value before putting it on the market.



As a smart seller, you'll want your home in tip-top shape -- but you don't want to eat into your profits by overspending on home improvements. You won't be around to enjoy them anyway. The key is to focus on the most important repairs to make before selling a house to ensure every dollar you spend supports a higher asking price.

As a smart seller, you'll want your home in tip-top shape -- but you don't want to eat into your profits by overspending on home improvements. You won't be around to enjoy them anyway. The key is to focus on the most important repairs to make before selling a house to ensure every dollar you spend supports a higher asking price.


"Smaller and less expensive updates in combination with good staging will have a great return," says Colorado Springs agent Susanna Haynie. But how do you know what things to do before putting your house on the market? Prioritize these updates -- and consider letting the rest go.


#1 The Most Important Repair to Make Before Selling: Fix Damaged Flooring


Scratched-up wood flooring; ratty, outdated carpeting; and tired linoleum make your home feel sad. Buyers might take one step inside and scratch the property from their list. Want to know how to increase the value of your home? Install new flooring.


"Replace what's worn out," says Haynie. "Buyers don't want to deal with replacing carpet, and giving an allowance is generally not attractive enough. Spring for new, neutral carpeting or flooring."


If your home already has  start_tip 125 hardwood floors, end_tip  refinishing does the job. Expect to spend about $3,000 on the project -- and recoup 100% of the cost, according to the "National Association of REALTORS? Remodeling Impact Report."


Consider swapping any old flooring for new hardwood. This project costs more at around $5,500, but you could recoup more than 90% of that at resale. If that's not in the budget, any flooring update makes an enormous difference.


#2 Fix Water Stains


You've learned to live with the results of a long-fixed plumbing snafu, but for buyers, a water stain suggests there could be a dozen pesky problems hidden beneath the surface. That's why this is one of the things to do before putting your house on the market.


"No buyer wants to buy a money pit," says Haynie.


First, make sure the problem is fixed: Bring in a plumber to look for leaky piping or poor yard drainage if your basement is damp. Diverting rainwater from your foundation may cost as little as $800, and repairing a leaking pipe costs approximately $300.


As for the repair work, replacing a water-stained ceiling runs about $670, and drywall costs around $1.50 per square foot.


All are cheaper than a lost sale.


#3 Repair Torn Window Screens


So super inexpensive -- and even DIY-able. You can purchase a window screen frame repair kit from a home improvement store for $10 to $15.


Considering the simplicity of this repair, making the fix is always worth it -- and so are other small but highly visible issues. When you're debating how to increase the value of your home, nix any small problems, snags, or ugly spots that might make buyers scrunch up their brows.


#4 Update Grout


Is your grout yellowing or cracked? Buyers will notice. New grout, on the other hand, can make old floors look like they came straight from the showroom.


"The best return-on-investment projects before selling a home involve making a home look like new," says Malibu, Calif.-based agent Shelton Wilder. She recently sold a home above asking price after a complete re-grout.


This is another small fix with a big impact: Simple bathroom re-grouting may cost just $1 to $2 per square foot, increasing to $10 per square foot for more complicated jobs. And if you're handy, you can save even more DIY-ing it.


#5 Resuscitate a Dying Lawn


Nothing says, "This one's gonna take some work" like a brown, patchy, weedy lawn.


Fixing the problem doesn't cost a ton of money -- and you'll get it all back (and then some!) once you sell. Hiring a lawn care service to apply fertilizer and weed control will cost about $375. Once you sell the home, that comparatively cheap fix could recoup $1,000. That's an unbeatable 267% return on investment.


#6 Erase Pet Damage


Did your (sort of) darling kitten scratch your bedroom door? Fix the damage before listing your home. Otherwise, buyers may consider the scuffs a canary in the coal mine.


"If you have pet damage, buyers will [then] look for pet stains on the floor," says Haynie.


Refinishing a door costs between $100 and $215 (or less, if you're willing to DIY). Replacing pet-damaged carpeting or hardwood may be a bigger job than buffing out some scuffs -- but it's worth the cash.


#7 Revive an Outdated Kitchen


A full kitchen renovation is rarely worth it when it comes time to sell -- even though buyers love a fresh look. "Kitchens are still one of the most important features for buyers," says Haynie.


The problem is, this $65,000 upgrade isn't something that buyers will pay you back for. Sellers recoup about 62% of a full-on kitchen renovation. If you're updating the space just for your sale, focus on low-cost, high-impact projects instead.


"Updating the kitchen doesn't need to be expensive," says Wilder. "Painting wood cabinets, updating hardware, or installing new countertops or appliances could be enough."


Setting up your home for selling success doesn't have to be expensive. Focus on the most important repairs to make before selling a house by picking projects that do more than look pretty. Choose updates that get your home in selling shape and justify a higher asking price.




Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®Copyright 2018.  All rights reserved.

Posted in Articles
Nov. 28, 2018

Arkansas Cave House


Posted in Articles
Nov. 26, 2018

DIY Kitchen Remodeling on a Budget: 5 Money-Saving Steps


Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Gretchen Roberts
Published: January 19, 2012


Can't afford an entire kitchen remodel in one fell swoop? You can complete the work in 5 budget-saving stages (and still cook dinner during the down time).



Major kitchen remodels are among the most popular home improvements, but a revamped cooking and gathering space can set you back a pretty penny. According to the "Remodeling Impact Report" from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS?, a complete renovation of a 210-square-foot kitchen has a national median cost of $65,000, and you'll recover 62% of that cost come selling time.

Major kitchen remodels are among the most popular home improvements, but a revamped cooking and gathering space can set you back a pretty penny. According to the "Remodeling Impact Report" from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS?, a complete renovation of a 210-square-foot kitchen has a national median cost of $65,000, and you'll recover 62% of that cost come selling time.


Despite the big price tag, you'll be glad you upgraded. In fact, homeowners polled for the "Report" gave their kitchen redo a Joy Score of 10 -- a rating based on those who said they were happy or satisfied with their remodeling, with 10 being the highest rating and 1 the lowest.

If you can't afford the entire remodel all at once, complete the work in these five budget-saving stages.


Stage One: Start with a Complete Design Plan


Your plan should be comprehensive and detailed -- everything from the location of the refrigerator to which direction the cabinet doors will open to whether you need a spice drawer.

To save time (and money) during tear-out and construction, plan on using your existing walls and kitchen configuration. That'll keep plumbing and electrical systems mostly intact, and you won't have the added expense -- and mess -- of tearing out walls.

Joseph Feinberg, vice president of Allied Kitchen and Bath in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recommends hiring a professional designer, such as an architect or a certified kitchen designer, who can make sure the details of your plans are complete. You'll pay about 10% of the total project for a pro designer, but you'll save a whole bunch of headaches that would likely cost as much -- or more -- to fix. Plus, a pro is likely to offer smart solutions you hadn't thought of.

For a nominal fee, you also can get design help from a major home improvement store. However, you'll be expected to purchase some of your cabinets and appliances from that store.


Cost: professional designer: $5,800 (10% of total)
Key strategies: Once your plans are set, you can hold onto them until you're ready to remodel.
Time frame: 3 to 6 months

Stage Two: Order the Cabinets, Appliances, and Lighting Fixtures


Cabinets and appliances are the biggest investments in your kitchen remodeling project. If you're remodeling in stages, you can order them any time after the plans are complete and store them in a garage (away from moisture) or in a spare room until you're ready to pull the trigger on the installation.


Remember that it may take four to six weeks from the day you order them for your cabinets to be delivered.

Related: How to Choose Stock Cabinets for Your Kitchen

If you can't afford all new appliances, keep your old ones for now -- but plan to buy either the same sizes, or choose larger sizes and design your cabinets around those larger measurements. You can replace appliances as budget permits later on.

The same goes for your lighting fixtures: If you can live with your old ones for now, you'll save money by reusing them.

You'll have to decide about flooring, too -- one of the trickier decisions to make because it also affects how and when you install cabinets.

You'll need to know if your old flooring runs underneath your cabinets, or if the flooring butts up against the cabinet sides and toe kicks. If the flooring runs underneath, you'll have some leeway for new cabinet configurations -- just be sure the old flooring will cover any newly exposed floor areas. Here are points to remember:


Keep old flooring for cost savings. This works if your new cabinets match your old layout, so that the new cabinets fit exactly into the old flooring configuration. If the existing flooring runs underneath your cabinets and covers all flooring area, then any new cabinet configuration will be fine.
Keep your old flooring for now and cover it or replace it later. Again, this works if your cabinet configuration is identical to the old layout.

However, if you plan to cover your old flooring or tear it out and replace it at some point in the future, remember that your new flooring might raise the height of your floor, effectively lowering your cabinet height.

For thin new floor coverings, such as vinyl and linoleum, the change is imperceptible. For thicker floorings, such as wood and tile, you might want to take into account the change in floor height by installing your new cabinets on shims.


Cost: cabinets: $16,000 (27% of total); appliances and lighting fixtures: $8,500 (15% of total); vinyl flooring: $1,000 (2% of total)
Key strategy: Keep old appliances, lighting fixtures, and flooring and use them until you can afford new ones.
Time frame: 2 to 3 weeks

Stage Three: Gut the Kitchen and Do the Electrical and Plumbing Work


Here's where the remodel gets messy. Old cabinetry and appliances are removed, and walls may have to be opened up for new electrical circuits. Keep in close contact with your contractor during this stage so you can answer questions and clear up any problems quickly. A major kitchen remodel can take six to 10 weeks, depending on how extensive the project is.


During this stage, haul your refrigerator, microwave, and toaster oven to another room -- near the laundry or the garage, for example -- so you've got the means to cook meals. Feinberg suggests tackling this stage in the summer, when you can easily grill and eat outside. That'll reduce the temptation to eat at restaurants, and will help keep your day-to-day costs under control.


Cost: $14,500 for tear-out and installation of new plumbing and electrical (25% of total)
Key strategies: Encourage your contractor to expedite the tear-out and installation of new systems. Plan a makeshift kitchen while the work is progressing. Schedule this work for summer when you can grill and eat outside.
Time frame: 6 to 10 weeks

Stage Four: Install Cabinets, Countertops,

Appliances, Flooring, and Fixtures


If you've done your homework and bought key components in advance, you should roll through this phase. You've now got a (mostly) finished kitchen.


A high-end countertop and backsplash can be a sizable sum of money. If you can't quite swing it, put down a temporary top, such as painted marine plywood or inexpensive laminate. Later, you can upgrade to granite, tile, solid surface, or marble.


Cost: $12,000 (21% of total)
Key strategy: Install an inexpensive countertop; upgrade when you're able.
Time frame: 1 to 2 weeks

Final Phases: Upgrade if Necessary


Replace the inexpensive countertop, pull up the laminate flooring, and put in tile or hardwood, or buy that new refrigerator you wanted but couldn't afford during the remodel. (Just make sure it fits in the space!)


Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®Copyright 2018.  All rights reserved.

Posted in Articles
March 23, 2017

Healthy equity

It's no secret that the residential real estate market, particularly in West Michigan, is in a crazy condition (as of today, March 23, 2017). I have heard people express concern that greater availability of lower down payment loans and lower credit score mortgages would create a situation like the crash pre-recession that started going down about 10 years ago.

Generally, I disagree with that sentiment, citing my belief that the loan products out there are nowhere near as crazy as the "fog a mirror" products of the mid-2000s.   I’m not a lender, but I do see the type of loan and terms that comes across on every purchase our brokerage is involved in, and I am just not seeing much behavior that I would define as risky.  I’m sticking with an opinion I posted late last summer about why I believe we aren’t in any kind of dangerous “bubble” condition.   Click here to revisit.

Another positive sign of the health of our real estate market came across in a daily email thread that I follow, which addresses general economics.   I’ll share below, but what it says to me is basically that homeowners are keeping equity in their homes versus electing the option to drain it.   Smart, right?

I enjoy the “Brief Blog” published 5 days per week by Dr. Elliot Eisenberg.   Late last night, this one came across my email:

Despite a prolonged rise in house prices, bringing them back to where they were prior to the Great Recession, mortgage equity withdrawal (MEW) is a pittance compared to a decade ago. Between 2003 and 2007, MEW averaged 7% of disposable personal income. From 2012 through 2015 it averaged negative 1% and in 2016 it averaged 1%. Tighter lending standards, older, and more credit-worthy borrowers have held it back.”


It's truly tough out there for buyers.   There are many, many stories of multiple offer scenarios, and sales happening well above asking prices.   As always, it pays to have a strategy.  On the other side, I believe most homeowners, who might have an interest in becoming home sellers, still have no idea of the price they could potentially achieve.   For a discussion of the value of your home or to put together a plan to sell, reach out to me at mike@616places.com or (616) 914-1556.

Aug. 11, 2016


Hardly a day goes by when, in my work as a Realtor, I don’t get asked this question:  “Are we looking at another real estate bubble?”.    I’m mostly a residential Realtor, and have decent experience as a commercial agent.   I’m definitely not an economist, though I do enjoy reading the work of some economists, and I don’t work in a real estate finance job dealing with interest rates and other complex lending information.


These last 4 years, specifically, I’ve been in a “boots on the ground” role, nearly 7 days a week, helping individuals and families make very real decisions on their housing needs.  I get to watch human behavior, not all the charts.   I supply accurate market data from the very recent past on very specific markets, but myself and the client are left to project the future into their decisions.


The many hours I spend helping people make these decisions leave me with some strong opinions on ‘the bubble question’.   Timely to this conversation is a very recent piece published in Real Trends, summarizing recent comments from Dr Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors.  I have enjoyed seeing Dr Yun speak locally, and will take a minute here to add my own comments to his opinions.   Dr Yun does not see a bubble on the near horizon.  


#1  “ A shortage of supply in both new and resale housing. Bubbles are usually the result of oversupply”.    It doesn’t take an economist, a PhD, or an expert of any type to observe this.  We are in a state of historically low supply.   You have heard this before, you’ll hear it again, and it’s real.   This is great for sellers.  (See below for some options on getting an idea of your current home’s value)


#2  “Interest rates are lower now than in the bubble years of the mid-2000s resulting in better affordability”.   I’m blown away by the low rates at which buyers are locking in long term mortgages.  My own mortgage rate is very, very comfortable for the long haul, whether I decide to stay put for 2 years or 20 years.   That “move up house” might look really really affordable if you’re willing to make a call to some of the loan officers I recommend.

Those two aspects seem somewhat elementary to me.   I was thrilled to read Dr Yun then close with the following comment, because it mirrors and validates what I have been observing for quite some time. This brings me to:  

#3  “There is no sub-prime lending causing people who are unqualified to buy housing and then default.” THIS!!!!   Those who know me best know I have some rough-around-the-edges tendencies, and I’ve been known to say that I’m very encouraged about the fact that “there aren’t a bunch of sh!$%*ty loans out there”.   I attend closings with nearly every buyer, and typically become aware of the solid, conservative loan products being presented by highly capable local lenders, and I’m glad to see the smart choices most buyers make in accepting those mortgages at very low interest rates.  This aspect of things gives me optimism for West Michigan’s near future in its housing markets, above any other available information.  


There are other comments in the Real Trends piece that deserve further exploration, such as “ real estate markets are local and cyclical - A local market can experience a bubble while the national market is cruising along just fine”.    I tend towards optimism, but also believe to my core that West Michigan specifically is in a bit of renaissance stage.  We have great housing fundamentals (from the Real Trends article:  employment, appreciation, affordability, and supply and demand ratios) and there is a real interest from newcomers interested in settling down in Grand Rapids or its near suburbs or the lakeshore.  Nationwide real estate markets could go into a period of adjustment or correction that just might not impact us here.


I was born here in Grand Rapids in the mid-70s, left in the mid-90s, and got observe firsthand the housing market in Chicago, both as an owner and a residential and commercial Realtor.   I have seen bubbles, and 2007 basically wiped me out.   In 2008, I made my way home to Grand Rapids, and it’s likely I’ll never leave in any permanent way.  


In 2008, I would have described West Michigan as an extraordinarily cheap place to live.   Housing was cheap.  There weren’t the choices there are now, but there were still choices.   Since then, we have seen this city grow, and become rich with amenities and opportunities, some of which qualify as world class (Medical Mile, ArtPrize, etc).  In 2011 we started seeing a run up in values of residential property which continues to this day.   But 5 years later, interest rates make it possible to afford a property that may be selling more than ever before.


I’ll leave you with my two cents on Grand Rapids and West Michigan:  we have transitioned from a “cheap place to live” in to a regional center of culture and commerce with costs of living much more in line with a city that has more to offer than the GR of 10-15 years ago.  It’s a wonderful time to be in Grand Rapids, and the nature of markets and cycles has left us with a number of good options that we can afford.  



For an idea of the value of your current home, email me at mike@grar.com, or click HERE for our automated value estimate.

To start a search for your next home, go HERE.

March 23, 2016

New Listings in East Grand Rapids

East Grand Rapids has been a hot real estate market lately.    Here are a few of the newest homes that have hit the market in the last week:  


If you want to get an idea of the value of your current home, go here:



 New Listings in East Grand Rapids

Jan. 28, 2016

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying in Today's Market

Buying mistakes

Negotiating a deal for a property to the best possible price is one way to build instant equity into your property.  Remember that buying the property right is the key to your real estate investments.    So, how do you get a seller to take less than they might otherwise?

  1. No Market Expert - Without the most relevant information regarding property values, market trends, upcoming development, etc, buyers can't be fully informed.  Knowing the ins and outs of the local market is the only way you can make the best decision.   A professional agent, like me and the agents that work with me, is working in the market every day and has a knowledge base that extends beyond the actual properties as well as the potential pitfalls that could surround a property that looks good on the surface, but may cost the the new buyer thousands in the future.
  2. Plan for Purchase - Not having a plan for their purchase:  buying without a business plan for your property is like getting in the car and driving with no particular direction and wondering why you didn't get where you were wanting to go.  Many buyers make decisions without considering their plan for the property.  In order to make the best purchase, your plan should answer such questions as:  "how long will I own the property?", "what is important about the property if I resell it sooner than I thought?", and "what type of financial performance do I expect from the property in terms of future appreciation, income potential, etc?"
  3. Keep with Your Plan - Not sticking with the plan they made:   Many buyers will have a plan for their purchase up until the point that they start looking at actual properties.   Because there are always choices to make when buying, you can be tempted to abandon the plan.   Instead, a property is found and the plan is adjusted to fit that property.   Rarely will a property's performance change if it didn't already fit what you were trying to accomplish. 
  4. Setting A Limit - It's human nature to become emotionally attached to a property you like, especially if it is a place where you will spend considerable time.  It is important to establish your top line before you start negotiating.   That top line will be based on logic.  If, during the negotiation, you determine that you want to abandon the logic and spend more, at least you made a conscious decision.  If you got caught up and overpaid without some prior analysis, you may find out in the end that you overpaid by $10,000 or more.  Depending on our market's appreciation down the road, and the current value of the property, that could mean an additional several years to make up the difference.
  5. Over Improving - for a short term hold:  Whether you are flipping or only planning to stay in the property for a couple years, its important to make improvements you will enjoy, but being aware of things that will be costly but won't positively impact future resale value.   Consulting with a professional agent that sells a lot of real estate before making improvements can help you get the necessary information you need to make the right investments.  You may still choose to make some costly upgrades, but at least it will be an informed decision.
  6. Not Understanding How Agency Works - A major financial mistake that buyers can make is not understanding who is representing who in a real estate transaction.  Unless you are a market expert with some experience negotiating on properties, its a good idea that you have a professional agent representing you in the transaction.  Buyers often find out too late that they were underrepresented or not represented at all due to some conflict that they were not made aware of.  An agent is required by law to disclose the relationships in a transaction, and you can also prepare yourself to ask.
  7. Trying to Time the Market - NOBODY can predict what the market will do with perfect reliability.   We are typically learning from hindsight.  Waiting is what buyers do when they don't have a plan.   If the purchase makes sense according to the plan at that time, pull the trigger.  Don't wait for the market to make decisions for you. 

These 7 mistakes can be very costly, but also can be easily avoided.  Knowing what to avoid is the first step in creating a good plan.   Contact me to discuss your circumstances and to map out your plan.