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.

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. 

Jan. 27, 2016

3 Things A Buyer Can Negotiate

1.    PRICE

  • Know Your Market:  Let's face it, in order to get the very best deal possible, you need to know what market value is.  There are a number of ways to gain information, but the savvy buyer knows that an experienced professional agent is going to provide the best market expertise.  They will be able to identify what market value is and then negotiate to beat the market.
  • Present Your Knowledge To The Seller:  Negotiating begins with a nice clean presentation of an offer.  Putting in an offer without any kind of "set-up" is going to leave you with limited leverage in the negotiation, and might create the perception that you are a shark trying to take advantage of a seller.  A powerful offer presentation will tell your story and humanize you to the seller, which may allow them to be more flexible for you, but not your competition. 
  • Let Them Know You Love The Home...but:  In order to negotiate the best price, you have to bring the seller back to reality.   The seller already knows you like the property, because you put an offer in.  Its imperative to find a way to remind them of the property's shortcomings or limitations, but make it known that you are willing to overlook them as long as the value makes sense.  The seller should recognize that you are buying a property that you like, but that it has to make financial sense. 


  • It Starts With The Presentation:   When you set up the offer with a powerful presentation, you laid the groundwork for the seller to make some concessions on things that may need to be updated, upgraded, repaired, or replaced.  In the hot West Michigan market of 2015-15, "elective" updates may not be considered by a seller, but repairs often are, as the seller realizes the next buyer to come along may require the same repair. 
  • Changes vs Cash Back:  Once you are close to where you want to be financially in the deal, you can refer back to those items.  Most sellers know there are things that not every buyer is going to like about the home.  Sellers that stop negotiating on price may be willing to move more on repairs, etc, that they know could come up with the next buyer if you move on. 


  • The Surefire Price Reduction:  Sellers are often not surprised when a buyer asks for closing costs, though in our recent hot market, they can be hard to secure.  Similar to concessions for repairs, closing costs offer a good avenue for a savvy buyer to negotiate a better price, by minimizing the cash they need to bring to closing. 
  • Know the Guidelines and Limits:   It's important to know lending rules.  There are limits to the amounts of concessions you can receive based on your loan type.  If your agent can't educate you on these limits, a good loan officer will be able to.
  • The Biggest Closing Cost Mistake:  When presenting a cash offer, avoid asking for closing costs.  Some would argue that it creates a perception for the seller of receiving a higher price, but, the seller is really just concerned with how much they are going to net.

A great negotiator can assist you in buying under market value in many cases.   A poor negotiator can cost you thousands!

Jan. 19, 2016

Buyer Closing Cost Estimates

There are a few different types of expenses for buyers to prepare for, in addition to the down payment.  If you offer $100,000 with a 20% down conventional loan, there's more to the story than showing up at the closing with a check for $20,000.

In a cash deal, closing costs for a buyer are cheap and minimal.  The real costs come with getting a mortgage.   When working with a lender, the loan officer is required to provide a good faith estimate of all these costs, around the time that the loan application is completed.

A lender's lawyers would not likely allow them to publish a projection of costs like this, but here we are just discussing the costs that I have seen as typical over my real estate career.   Costs vary significantly, but can be broken down in to these categories:

  1. Mortgage costs:  Origination Fee, Processing Fee, Appraisal Fee, Discount Points, etc
  2. Closing/Title costs: Lender's policy, title search and abstract, closing fee
  3. Other Costs of buying property:  Home Inspection, Homeowners insurance, pro-rated property taxes, prorated HOA fees & start up fees, Survey, Termite inspection

At the time that you contact the Mortgage Loan Officer for a prequalification letter, ask for a rough idea of the closings costs that you need to anticipate.   Often, you can negotiate the seller to contribute a concession towards your closing costs.   This strategy will minimize your cash used up front, and can preserve your cash for things like movers, furniture, and reserves.

Jan. 19, 2016

Getting the Right Deal on a Property

Negotiating the best possible price in a real estate purchase is the best method for gaining the elusive 'instant equity' in your property.  'Buying Right' is the key to starting off this major investment.   What are some ways we can get a seller to take less than they might otherwise?

  1. NEGOTIATE from a position of power.  Often, the art of negotiation in a real estate transaction diminishes to a game of back and forth counteroffers until you end up meeting in the middle.  Instead, identify the actual value of the perfect property, and illustrate some ways that the target property falls short of that.  These imperfections are the justification for an offer that is perceived as less than market value.   In a tight, competitive market like we saw in 2015, this can be tricky, so be sure that you're willing to walk away.
  2. DISCOUNT - Allow a seller to discount the property for you.  Sellers are often very proud of their properties.  Leading with the 'lowball' offer may make the seller less apt to sell even at market value, much less beneath it.  Allowing a seller to feel good about having you as the buyer gives them permission to lower the price a bit for you.
  3. KEEP IT CLEAN - Sellers are typically provided an estimate of their costs of sale when considering an offer on the property.  Instead of coming in with your price and asking for concessions, home warranties, surveys, etc, be willing to cover those items on your own, and simply work that in to your price.  Or consider putting one of these items in to your offer simply to be able to give it up in a negotiation, working towards your end goal of owning that property.  Spending a little more upfront on your own costs pays off if you get the property for $5,000 less.   Make the offer as easy as possible for the seller to say Yes to it. 
  4. DO WHAT YOU SAY you are going to do.   While this is a good guideline for life in general, live up to it in your offers on real estate.   If you say "this is my final offer" be prepared for that, and be ready to walk away.  Coming back after that point shifts the negotiating leverage to the seller.   Walking away, and coming back later with your original offer just might get it done for you. 

Often, your original offer is a set up.   The seller may understand that.  Be gracious, and reasonable, introduce yourself and your family, and you will separate yourself from the pack.  

Jan. 18, 2016

Buying Quality Properties at a Discount

As a buyer, it is important to recognize the difference between getting a great price and buying a quality property at a discount.  Price is only part of the evaluation of a property.  You do not have to look further than some of the bank owned foreclosures or short sales in West Michigan to see the difference.  There is a trap that many buyers fall into at some point, and that is leaning toward the best price vs the best value

Imagine that you are buying an investment property, and that you plan to hold it for a minimum of 5 years.  There are two hypothetical properties for you to choose from, and they are the same size, number of bedrooms, etc.  One property is priced $10,000 below the other.  Which one do you purchase?   If you said the lower priced one, you would not be alone.   Many inexperienced buyers and investors would say the same, but might be making a mistake.   They are prioritizing price over the other factors that affect value.

Here are some things to consider about a property in an effort to Buy Quality Properties at a Discount:

  1. Correctly Priced:  Quality properties will be on the market for a shorter time and sell closer to their asking price.   Please feel free to consult with me and get my opinion on the price of a property.
  2. Good Condition:  Less out of pocket costs up front means more capital and higher profits earlier in your investment.  This adds to better overall performance and quicker turn time as you don't have to recoup extra cash invested in unexpected repairs and improvements.
  3. Rent Sooner/Faster with more Stability:  Better properties will rent more quickly and have less vacancy over the long term. 
  4. First to Sell: Quality properties will sell more quickly when you reach the point of exiting the investment.  They will also be the first part of the market to begin the cycle of appreciation. 
  5. Higher Upside:  Quality properties have a higher upside.  In an appreciating market, the value of everything is rising.  "A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats".  In markets like that of 2015-2016, values rise simply because of lack of inventory.  When the B & C grade properties are appreciating, buyers will pay a real premium for the highest quality, or A properties.

You can see that VALUE is more than just price.  A savvy buyer is looking for a great value and you do this buying considering these tested methods for Buying Quality Properties at a Discount. 

Any time you are considering a new real estate investment and want professional advice, please contact me or a team member. 

March 26, 2015

Great Places in West Michigan | Caledonia

The tiny village of Caledonia has a history dating back around 170 years, and sits along the roads that were the primary routes between Grand Rapids and Battle Creek.   Today, in a discussion of real estate, Caledonia typically refers to the township of the same name, an area southeast of Grand Rapids with a number of fine options for suburban living, and an excellent school district.   One of the fastest growing areas in West Michigan, Caledonia prides itself on the ability to maintain its rural, small-town feel through sensible development.

homes for sale in caledonia mi

Caledonia Community Schools actually pulls from parts of four other townships, over 100 square miles, and three counties.  This diverse school community draws farm families, blue-collar, and white-collar households.   Students are enriched by rural and suburban experiences, and are blessed with proximity to the many offerings of the metropolitan Grand Rapids area.

If this sounds like the community for you, contact me to discuss making Caledonia your next home.  Call Mike VanderWoude at 616-439-1190 or mike@svgfirm.com.

March 25, 2015

Great Places in West Michigan | Heritage Hill Historic District

Heritage Hill is the oldest residential district in all of Grand Rapids, and is one of the largest historic designation neighborhoods in the United States.  Created as a resistance to the urban renewal projects of the late 1960’s, the Hill includes thousands of properties from a number of architectural styles, dating back as far as the 1840’s.   For its many diverse residents that rent or own their properties, Heritage Hill offers a rare combination of historic character and prime location.

Heritage Hill Historic Homes in Grand Rapids

Situated primarily on the southeast side of Grand Rapids, several of the neighborhoods surrounding Heritage Hill have experienced their own resurgence, such as Eastown and Cherry Hill.   The residential and commercial options in these areas only strengthen the value and quality of life in Heritage Hill.  In addition, the Hill’s proximity to downtown makes it one of the most unique and desirable neighborhoods in all of West Michigan. 

Contact me to discuss making Heritage Hill your next home.  Reach me at 616-439-1190 or mike@svgfirm.com.