Blacks and the Economy: Detroit Mother of 6 Trades House for Minivan

“I lost a friend over this. She felt my decision made me look bad.” –LaWanda Flake

Detroit homeowner LaWanda Flake posted an ad on Craigslist offering to trade her four-bedroom, three-bath house in one of the city’s nicer neighborhoods — she was looking for transportation.

Flake, 36, a disabled mother of six who said her family could no longer trust the city’s troubled bus service, said offers flooded in from across the nation.

She settled on a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander with 85,000 miles on it, but says the van was not the most lucrative deal she was offered for the house in Russell Woods, where Diana Ross and the Supremes once lived. Flake says she 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,” she 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.”

An East Detroit family of five swapped their van’s title for the deed on Flake’s home the day before Thanksgiving. Kelley Blue Book values the vehicle at between $5,000 and $8,500. The city valued the house at $96,000, but Flake acquired it last year at a foreclosure sale for $3,600.

Flake and her family won’t be living in the van, however. The savvy mom moved her family into another Detroit real estate bargain she found nearby — a 3-bedroom house she acquired with a $4,000 land contract. –kathleen cross

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