Monday, December 05, 2011

Detroit: Buses are So Dangerous and Unreliable That Disabled Mom of 6 Traded Her House for a Minivan


LaWanda Flake


Last updated December 3, 2011 1:00 a.m.
Detroit mother of 6 trades house for minivan
Ad drew responses across nation; one swap was a Bentley
Doug Guthrie
The Detroit News

Detroit— A disabled mother of six who said her family could no longer trust the city's troubled bus service has traded her four-bedroom, three-bath, brick, Tudor house in one of the city's nicer neighborhoods for a six-year-old minivan.

LaWanda Flake, 36, said responses to her Nov. 7 Craigslist offer flooded in from across the nation. The silver-colored 2006 Chevrolet Uplander with 85,000 miles wasn't the most lucrative deal she was offered for the house in Russell Woods, where luminaries like Diana Ross and the rest of the Supremes once lived. But Flake made her decision with her heart.

"I had a lot of good offers, some from out of state. It turned out I took one of the first offers I got because I felt like it helped us both," Flake said.

"They needed the house more than anyone I spoke with. They kept telling me it was a blessing to them. I really feel like I made a good decision."

The east-side family of five swapped title for deed the day before Thanksgiving. Kelley Blue Book values the vehicle at between $5,000 and $8,500. The city had valued the house at $96,000. Flake picked it up last year at a foreclosure sale for $3,600.

She declined to identify the family, and they didn't respond to a request for an interview Flake said she passed along to them.

Flake said the new owners are excited about wading into the many repairs that Flake couldn't afford, including a new furnace and water heater.

After her hopes for the Russell Woods home fizzled, Flake moved her family into another Detroit real estate bargain — a three-bedroom house nearby she picked up on a $4,000 land contract.

The calls for trades flooded in. A couple in Montana offered her the choice of one of their four vehicles. A man who recently moved back to Detroit from Las Vegas offered his 1996 Bentley Brooklands luxury sedan, worth about $20,000.

Another trade offer was a 1996 Chevrolet Corvette.

"I said, Oh wow! What am I going to do with a Corvette? I can't do anything practical with a Corvette," Flake said.

Flake said the experience proved there is great kindness in the world. It also revealed some unexpected things, she said. A friend told her the trade offer made her look foolish.

"A lot of people felt like I was begging," Flake said. "I wasn't. … I lost a friend over this. She felt my decision made me look bad."
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N.S.: For what it's worth, I don't think the lady was foolish. If she makes a habit of such trades using sympathy she might, but she had bought a "handyman's special," and lacked the skills, money, or even physical health to fix the place. (Which makes you wonder what possesed her to buy it, in the first place.) What was she going to do with it? And who was going to pay her $96,000 for the place? She made a barter, something we're going to see more and more of, in the years to come.

[Thanks to reader-researcher RC for this.]

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