Redemption Protection Services

Occupants buy the tax foreclosed home you live in before the auction for $500 down

A new PILOT program in Detroit will allow Detroiters who now occupy a home that have been foreclosed to acquire the house for just $500 down and a note, usually for the balance of the taxes. That’s right, should I repeat this? If you live in a home that has been foreclosed, regardless if you are a tenant or homeowner, you can now buy  the house for just $500 down provided you act this week.

All applicants will be able to buy the home only if you currently reside in it. This program  allows tenants to buy homes regardless if there is a mortgage on it or not. all mortgages are wiped out as a result of foreclosure. Applicants will also be required to take a 4-hour course, no credit is needed just $500 down!

Herb Strather

Herb Strather is a Detroit advocate and the CEO of Strather Academy

Please visit to contact us regarding the RPS program. 

Structure Your Seller Financing Deal to Take tax Free Cash Upon Refinancing

If you are purchasing your home using seller financing, consider structuring it with a discount for early payoff; this will enhance community values and get you tax free cash back when you refinance. Let’s discuss a good way to do this practically, legally and successfully. Get yourself a great cup of coffee or tea and lets’ get started. 

The models we are going to use are the Temporary Land Contract and the Temporary Purchase Money Mortgage (PPM). Both of these options are Seller financing, however appraisers do not give as much weight to a Land Contract for the purpose of an appraisal because they believe private individuals can create all sorts of deals and hidden values. Guess what? They are right. A PPM is also seller financing but could be harder to detect if the seller agrees to form a financial sounding entity name to hold the PPM, like ABC Financial, LLC or ABC Lenders, LLC. So far the appraisers have not objected. 

Lets’ say you found a deal that was not listed and the Seller wanted $70,000, but you think the property is worth about $125,000. Additionally, you have some cash to put down on a seller financed transaction.  The deal could be structured as follows:

Sales Price: $125,000 

Down Payment:  $20,000

Land Contract or PPM: $105,000, with a 60-month balloon and a discount of $45,000 if the debt is refinanced and paid off early without defaulting.  Early is defined as more than 6 months after closing but 2-3 years before the due date.  

The payoff needs to be after a 6 month seasoning period because many lenders may consider short-term Seller financing as a purchase and not a refinance – be sure to find out the lenders criteria. Remember that a built-in cash back at closing is generally NOT ALLOWED on a purchase but can be more easily completed on a refinance. 

The discount terms should not be written on the recorded mortgage document (or Land Contract) itself. However, the discount terms can be on the PPM Note or in the original purchase agreement with the language, “this provision shall survive the closing.” This is important because purchase agreement terms last only until the closing, unless specified that they shall survive the closing. 

This type of structure not only gets you cash back when you refinance, but it helps the community as well by providing a higher price to help stabilize market values - which also creates a comp for your refi. This structure also gives the Seller a sense of comfort that you are incentivized to be on time and not default; thus, we have a win, win, win situation-- yourself, the community and the Seller. 

As stated earlier, the cash back is tax free because you don’t pay taxes on borrowed money!

Your Coach

Herb Strather 


Form a Family Limited Liability Company

Form a Family Limited Liability Company

Lower your taxes and create more wealth for your family

Under the new tax bill just passed by Congress, Pass-through Entities offer a generous tax break for service providers and entrepreneurs.  Are you an independent worker getting a 1099 instead of a W-2? Do you get paid individually or do you have a LLC or Sole Proprietorship that gets the checks? If the former is true, then you have been taking advantage of tax breaks that could accrue to you. The new tax bill offers even greater incentives for owners of pass through entities. The new tax law offers a 20% deduction from all Qualified Business Income if you make less than $15,500 for an individual and $31,500 for a married couple. In order to take advantage of this, you have to form an entity and get paid through the entity. This makes sense anyway for balance sheet building and tax deductions with or without the new tax break. 

An LLC has additional advantages over a proprietorship - consider these additional benefits;

  1. An LLC can shield you from liability in the event of a lawsuit
  2. An LLC offers you the opportunity to deduct business expenses such as automobile costs, office space in your house, lunches, seminars, clothing, etc.
  3. Profits in an LLC gives you the opportunity to value your business rather than just earn a large compensation as a 1099 service provider. To clarify, suppose you earn $120,000 a year providing computer services to a major company. The $120,000 compensation does nothing for your balance other than savings if any. Now suppose you form an LLC and let the LLC offer the services and you draw out $70,000 a year and allow the LLC to make a profit of $50,000 per year. The LLC market value at a 20% cap rate is $250,000. If you accept the funds as an individual you would only get a $50,000 balance sheet credit which is not capitalized. Why not empower your LLC so it can buy cars and real estate AND take classes with Strather Academy… haha.
  4. A LLC can shield you from being sued and having your assets confiscated. Your children can own all or the huge majority of the membership interest and you can have a Participating Promissory Note and take a % of the cash flow.
  5. The LLC offers you flexibility when selling the business or asset. You can sell the membership interest OR the asset.

Now, consider the added benefits of making it a family owned LLC.

  1. Suppose you have 3 children ages 4, 15 and 17 and they help you in the business. Your 4-year-old appears in commercials promoting your business and your teenagers helps with social media marketing, packaging and delivering the goods. Suppose you own 40% of the Family LLC and they own 20% each. A $50,000 profit would be allocated $10,000 to each of them and $20,000 to you. You will save taxes because they are in a much lower tax bracket than you.
  2. If your children own some of the LLC membership interest, they can pay for their own College education, Christmas toys, clothes and Car. Why send your kids to college with your after-tax dollars, let them accumulate the money in a lower tax bracket that is tax deductible for you.

By Herbert J. Strather CEO Strather Academy

For more info go to our website at: 

Or get our new real estate App at:

Where are the Detroit Developers?

Believe it or not, Detroit is one of the hottest cities in the world, abundant with opportunities. Investors all over the world are asking which way is Detroit? And yet, Detroit developers seem asleep at the wheel… sleeping through the greatest recession of our lifetime. Where are the Detroit developers?

By Detroit developers I mean people like you and I that will find, fund, fix-up and flip properties for a good return and community pride. This is our city and we need to participate in it’s revival.

Think about this: In just a few years, Detroit will be debt-free with a tremendous amount of cleared land ready for redevelopment. It should have new, smart street lighting (with security features) and a revamped police department. The economic picture looks even better. Look around you, most of the cars are older which means years of pent up demand for automobiles. The auto industry will be hiring engineers and computer wizards for a long time. As a matter of fact, SE Michigan now hires more computer and engineer geeks than any area outside of Silicon Valley.

We also have 25 percent of the fresh water in the world. Sooner or later, industries will move here or come seeking water to survive. Just look at the Pepsi Co. bottling plant on Russell and Mack. It bottles and ships our water around the world, to the tune of $4.6 billion last year. Yet, no one has thought about doing a joint venture with DWSD to accomplish the same thing. After all, it is our water.

Wake up, Detroiters! Others are eating our lunch at our own kitchen table.

I intend to do something about this. Those persons interested in helping to redevelop the city and become developers/investors in Detroit are encouraged to contact institutions offering developers courses such as Lawrence Technological University; Taubman School of Architectural and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan and Strather Academy which intends to create the next generation of urban developers.

If you decide to help Detroit restore its proper place in the world, first seek knowledge from experts to maximize your chances of success.

10 reasons why Detroit will succeed

Here are 10 reasons why I think Detroit will succeed:

  1. Detroit now has excellent, cooperative political leadership with the mayor and City Council president working together for the first time in memory. Mayor Mike Duggan has certified turnaround skills that have already begun to show fruit. He garnered a $53,000,000 demolition grant in addition to a transportation grant to repair buses.
  2. Detroit has a super clean future balance sheet. Post-bankruptcy promises to be a booming time for the D.
  3. Detroit has great entrepreneurs such as Dan Gilbert, who has bought more than 50 buildings downtown. Dan and others like him are fully committed to turning downtown Detroit into a super vibrant place to work, shop and play.
  4. Detroit’s philanthropic community’s response to the bankruptcy is unheard of. Members demonstrated the depth of their commitment by pledging an unprecedented $366 million to help out the pensioners and keep Detroit’s artwork out of creditors’ hands.
  5. Detroit has 25 percent of the world’s fresh water a product that is in short supply and, sooner or later, people will have to come to where the water is. Just ask the Pepsi Co. bottling plant, which last year sold more than $4 billion of Detroit’s water to the rest of the world.  
  6. The automotive industry is back on top of its game with a pent-up demand for new cars and a demand for new engineers and computer experts that rival Silicon Valley. 
  7. Enter a new generation of optimists: Young, energetic intellectuals who are occupying office space, living in lofts and cramming into bars. The change is happening before our eyes, and it is almost unbelievable.
  8. Detroit has the best real estate values in the country and probably the world. Where else can you get a cap rate of 15 percent or better? Real estate is still selling for a mere fraction of its value against a pent-up demand for quality housing. The availability of move-in ready real estate is now becoming an issue. Evidence surfaced when Detroit Land Bank Authority auctioned off five houses last week starting at $1,000 each. The houses, which needed repairs, sold between $30,000 and $42,000.
  9. Bordering Canada, Detroit is a major international city and expanding transportation hub.
  10. Detroit has a great international airport with connections all over the world, and with plans to include a new airport rail system, additional runways and terminal expansions

I believe Detroit is headed for a future brighter than anyone could have imagined. These are exciting times, and it is just the beginning.

8 things Duggan and Snyder can do to help fix Detroit

Detroit's biggest problems can be resolved with community control, technology, public/private programs and partnerships; crowd-funding and a little help from Gov. Rick Snyder. Here are my ideas:

1. Reduce crime by using technology. Crime is considered by many people as the No. 1 problem in Detroit. However, if communities establish Business Improvement Districts and Special Assessment District within the new City Council districts, the communities can control or reduce crime by 90 percent or eliminate it completely by using a Community Information System. CIS uses an intranet system that the entire block or community is logged into which has cameras on houses and light poles to track movement in the community. Deterrent face recognition technology can be used, provided a warning sign that says "Legal notice: Face recognition and license plate search cameras are operable." A CIS can also be used for social entrepreneurship (i.e. babysitting, grass cutting, etc.) and community information (lost pets, announcements, etc.). We need a grant to institute face recognition technology.

2. Syndicate street lighting and include in Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Detroit cannot use depreciation and tax credits but investors can. As part of a CIS, smart light poles can be installed and leased to the city at a reduced cost. For starters, solar panels can eliminate high utility costs and the infrastructure can in many cases be fully paid for using MSHDA Low Income Housing Tax Credits on scattered site developments along with federal energy credits. This can also be done through affordable syndication using crowd-funding. We should also look into solar panel farms on vacant blocks (with security cameras and electronic charged fences); the communities or SADs can fully pay for the lights and actually make a profit thereafter selling the surplus electricity to the city. The big issue here is whether or not we have enough sunlight in the Midwest for surplus sales and whether or not the governor would restore Detroit set aside for LIHTC's.

3. Create market driven education alternatives.

  • First, since parents want either private schools, or a suburban school system or a charter school as an alternative to Detroit Public Schools, DPS should consider a 100 percent charter system as a brand even if the charter schools are owned and controlled by DPS in the short term. DPS could spend their time aligning corporate sponsorships with the schools, i.e General Motors, Compuware, Chase, Quicken Loans, Pulte and others could adopt schools and offer their programs. In other words give the corporations a vehicle to help with – roll out the red carpet of opportunity and they will respond.
  • Second, instead of requiring the students to conform to the normal school environment, DPS should offer alternative learning environments using technology. Give children who have dropped out of school a place to go and do their daily homework required to earn them a GED or a diploma. There are plenty of vacant school buildings, but most of them may not be attractive. Try mixing socializing along with retail, and a recording studio after homework as an incentive and we will have a winner. A place like Tower Center or the Mammoth building on Grand River and Greenfield would be ideal. I'm sure there are also other attractive places.

4. Create revenue growth with citizens. No matter what happens with crime and education, Detroit needs new dynamic revenue growth. We can find that growth among our citizens by using the DNA we Detroiters were born with: entrepreneurship. The city can provide an entrepreneur fund, municipal partnerships and incentive grants. We should also look at privatization using newly formed public companies. Add crowd-funding to allow people that want to help, and we have a formula for success. Examples are:

  • A bottling plant in a joint venture with the water board. A Pepsi bottling plant on Mack produces bottle water that is sold around the world; last year sales were over $4 billion from water produced at the facility. A joint venture with the water board can produce affordable financing and market-driven sales.
  • DEGC is issuing seven $50,000 grants for national full service sit-down restaurants serving spirits. Target one in each council district. Note: Detroit has only two (Hard Rock downtown and Chili's on Southfield and Ford Road). We are the only major American city in this predicament. Why? Because of shrinkage and service. In order to overcome this we can work with churches to hire qualified, honest workers. An RFP with a startup grant will produce results.
  • A housing plant as part of a joint venture with a major manufacturing home builder and DPS. Detroit could energize our home-building efforts by creating a housing plant to produce quality homes off the assembly line and teach trades. There are two issues – unions and sales tax. There are 20 major home manufacturers along the border of Indiana and Michigan; they feed off the Michigan market but do not want to come across state line because they do not want their operations in other states unionized. Also, Michigan charges a sales tax on the completed house, and Indiana does not. Perhaps the unions would consider backing off and training their future members and perhaps the governor would back legislation to eliminate sales taxes on manufactured housing in conjunction with schools.
  • A newly formed public company between an experienced contractor and employees bidding on a public service jobs like garbage pickup, street cleaning, water services and demolition. The profits would be capitalized and instead of getting a profit sharing check for say $5,000 the price of the shares would increase by $100,000 -$200,000 depending if there was a growth component for good services. This could empower thousands of Detroiters. Perhaps our emergency manager would consider this model and add points to RFPs that include Detroit citizens' joint ventures with major companies.

5. Ask for Hope VI or HUD funds for Blight and Community Development: Other than federal demolition grants, the city should ask for more Hope VI funds and ask the governor to restore Detroit allocation of MSHDA set-asides, which he personally took away and has the sole power to restore. Detroit needs affordable houses to shrink its size. People, especially seniors, cannot afford to move off their street and Detroit cannot afford to properly service them.

6. Peacefully settle with banks. Create banks community development fund in lieu of lawsuit. Use funds to foster community improvement competition and create CIS's. The great real estate fraud hit Detroiters harder than any other American city and banks are responsible – let's settle!

7. Clear the way for Special Assessment Districts and Business Improvement Districts.

8. Insurance. SADs and BIDs can buy blanket policies to reduce costs. Real simple.

Wayne County property tax auction: Large, complex, opportunity, risk

It's almost fall, and in Southeast Michigan that means the country's biggest property tax auction is underway.

The Wayne County property tax auction takes place online, at, and there are actually two of them. The first round, which went live Sept. 5, with closings beginning Sept. 23, sets properties at a starting bid equal to the amount owed in taxes. The second, held in October, sets properties that didn't sell in September at a starting bid of $500.

More than 18,000 properties are on the block. Last year, the county treasurer's office offered 21,350 properties and sold 12,333 for a total of $46 million. The person in charge of the auctions, Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski, said he's never heard of another auction that comes close to being as large.

The 18,000 figure comes from a total 42,000 properties on which the treasurer's office initiated foreclosure proceedings. "We could have pursued twice as many, but our office couldn't handle the volume," Szymanski said.

Cuyahoga County, which encompasses Cleveland, is the county with the next highest figures, as far as Szymanski knew. Cuyahoga initiated foreclosure proceedings on 801 delinquent properties from January through end of July this year, and expects the number to hit 2,600 by year's end, according to its county prosecutor's office.

Cuyahoga has a total of about 48,000 delinquent properties built up over several years. Wayne County's comparable figure is 199,000. Szymanski doesn't expect Wayne County's number to begin falling for another two years.

One of the many issues that arise from managing the volume of properties is that people don't do their homework and end up with properties that are rubble. They might only have looked at Google Maps and saw an image of a nice home, not realizing it no longer exists.

The treasurer's office this year considered bundling dilapidated properties into one auction item that no one would touch, and then put them on a path toward demolition. The idea was dropped, however, because of a lack of time, with the exception of a few failed subdivision and condo developments.

The auction attracts buyers of all sorts, from gougers and speculators to renovators and do-gooders, say businesses, nonprofits and real estate professionals familiar with it. Herb Strather, chairman of Strather Academy and former chairman of MotorCity Casino, has been urging metro Detroiters to participate in the auction and become homeowners.

"How is the city going to look 10 years from now if it's predominantly owned by outsiders?" he said.

Strather holds an auction course for adults that lasts through the October auction and takes the students through a real buying and selling process, with students going into the field to check on properties of interest, earning fees for research they do on properties the class ends up buying, and, for students who choose to invest in the pool of funds used to buy properties, earning returns.

Citibank is working with the class to provide 30-year mortgages for as low as $10,000 at 4.6 percent to potential buyers, Strather said.

He said many occupants don't realize they can participate in the auctions, or that they can buy their homes at auction even after losing their homes in a mortgage foreclosure. That's because lenders, too, sometimes don't pay their taxes.

"Yes, banks do walk away from properties," Szymanski said, roughly estimating this year's collection of tax-foreclosed properties includes 1,700 parcels belonging to financial institutions.

That's one of the widespread beliefs about the auction that happens to be true. Another belief is that most of the buyers are foreign.

The numbers say otherwise. According to a spreadsheet provided to Crain's by the treasurer's office, of the 12,250 parcels sold at last year's auction, 263 — or about 2 percent of the total — were from "non-USA" buyers. Buyers in the U.S. outside of Michigan accounted for about 13 percent of the total, with 1,600 parcels purchased. Michigan buyers bought the other 10,300.

Those figures are in line with information gathered at Loveland Technologies LLC, the Detroit business behind, which tracks the auctions and statuses of Detroit properties.

"I would expect it to be less than 10 percent," said Alex Alsup, Loveland business officer and partner.

Some foreign buyers probably partner with locals, so the office cross-referenced bank accounts looking for foreign sources and came up with similar numbers. Szymanski said even if some transactions are masked by local accounts, the total would still not be that high, and noted that foreign buyers have no reason to hide their purchases since they aren't illegal.

"In my mind, where a person lives is not as important as how they treat the property," he said.

Loveland held two classes on the auction this summer, and about 150 people showed up to each, suggesting heightened interest.

"I expect it to be more active than last year's auction. It's a combination of the attention on Detroit going through bankruptcy and more stories about cheap property," Alsup said.

The Real Estate Super Bowl is coming here soon


Investors worldwide are whispering about Detroit, the city where you can buy real estate for less than the price of a used car. Wayne County holds the largest annual real estate auction in the world and is becoming the "Super Bowl" of all real estate auctions. This September's auction will have more than 20,000 parcels available exceeding $250,000,000 in value. Detroit area property owners and investors had better be prepared to compete with investors from all 7 continents interested in acquiring their piece of Detroit's modern day gold rush.

In the last two auctions alone my students and investors purchased real estate worth more than $1,750,000 for less than $122,500. It's these types of eye-popping opportunities that have made this the "Super Bowl" of real estate auctions. And I can't help but wonder how this massive property sell off will affect Detroit's landscape over the next 5, 10, 20 or 50 years. Whether we're choosing our leaders or we're choosing how we invest our money, the decisions we make today will fundamentally change our trajectory forever.

My goal is to motivate Detroiters to participate. Some of you live on great streets with 1-2 vacant houses. I wonder……... would you agree to redevelop the houses on your own street to enhance your own house value? Some of you are retired with resources such as cash, self-directed retirement accounts, credit, skills and time yet you have not gotten involved to help your city turnaround... Why? I fear that most Detroiters' don't understand the urgency of this situation. This money coming from overseas is purely speculative; these investors are not here to develop our communities, so let's not kid ourselves.

The facts of the matter is that Detroit has become one of the most attractive investment cities in the world. Our real estate is dirt cheap but our rent is normal. Obviously something doesn't add up here. Combine this with a city government that's about to be debt free with thousands of young energetic people wanting to move here and we're ready to rock and roll.

I hope and pray that we have good strong support from any and all local investors. Whether you live in the suburbs or you were born and raised in Detroit, the Wayne County Auction is an opportunity for southeast Michigan to come together in support of our great city. Do not sleep through the Real Estate Super Bowl where great wealth will be created and millionaires will be made. These opportunities belong to the people who are a part of the community first. Please, let us not allow others to eat our family's lunch, inside our house at our own kitchen table.

If you are interested in developing your community while at the same time accumulating wealth for yourself and your offspring (even those not yet born), then wake up and let's do it!

Registration for the Wayne County September auction closes Friday; bidding closes for each batch of parcels Sept. 23-26.

Getting Rich is Easy


"I'm never going to move!" Slowly but defiantly a 12-year-old boy's tongue struggled to bring forth the words, as peers looked on in bafflement and mocked his speech impediment.

Out of ridicule and poverty came an uncontrollable desire to not only bring financial prosperity to the family of a boy who once stuttered but would also transform Detroit, one house at a time.

"Growing up dirt poor, I was motivated to make money," explained Herbert Strather, president and CEO of Strather Associates. "I made a commitment at 12 that I was never going to move out of the city. I promised myself that as soon as I graduated from Western High School, I would buy my mother a house."

What started as a childhood fantasy began to take fruition.

At 17, Strather made good on his promise and purchased a home on Cherrylawn on Detroit's northwest side, marking the start of a one man crusade to rebuild a city that was still recovering from riots and economic depression.

Strather's turning point came shortly afterward with the purchase of a two-family flat on Euclid and Dexter.

"He wanted $1,000, and I would assume the mortgage. I went to the bank and took out a $2,500 second mortgage on the house, but I couldn't fund it. I had to wait three days," said Strather. "I gave him (the seller) a $1,000 check and told him to hold it for three days. He trusted me with his deed, and I gave it to the bank. Once the bank gives a second mortgage, there's a rescission period for three days. You have three days to cancel it. I borrowed $2,500, gave him $1,000, made $1,500 and bought a house. From that point on I would always find a way to buy property and take cash out of it."

The formula Strather used to acquire property without investing money is outlined in the soon to be released book, "Getting Rich Is Easy." In it, he tells how he massed millions in real estate deals.

"I hope readers will gain financial independence," says Strather. "That's my primary interest. The first edition will be released in Detroit. Later, I may release a second edition nationwide."

While Strather's commitment to revitalizing the city is told in "Getting Rich Is Easy," it can especially be seen on Detroit's northwest side with the construction of strip malls built on three corners of Grand River and Greenfield, an apartment complex on Meyers off McNichols, dozens of homes and other projects that have expanded to other urban areas in Highland Park, Ecorse, and St. Louis, Missouri.

"Most of my real estate is in northwest Detroit. You should buy and invest in real estate where you live, work, play, and go to church," advises Strather. "If you're a west sider, why would you want to buy on the east side? You'll find out how important it is when you've got to meet somebody and you're pressed for time. If I go to my mother's house or to Hartford Church, I can ride by it (my property) and check it out. I don't walk inside, but I make sure it's still there. I can do that because it's in the path where I live, work, and play."

"Over the years, I've had a lot of projects. In 1978, we did 13 deals that totaled $25 million worth of property and never invested any money. We owned anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the property."

Daily reflecting on his childhood proclamation, Strather actively seeks to help area youth and others to fulfill their dreams.

Over 1,300 students have attended the HJS Real Estate Academy since its founding five years ago, banking on Strather's wisdom.

"I tell my students you've got to learn math real good. You've got to learn it quick. If not, somebody will cheat you out of your money. That's rule number one. My goal is to share my knowledge with young people and make entrepreneurs."

Despite being busy with acquiring new deals and lecturing at prestigious Ivy League universities across the country, Strather still makes time to assist those that he values the most, fellow Detroiters. He is a loyal supporter of the Optimist Youth Foundation and started the Strather Foundation to further his interests.

On February 15, he will share his insight at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History during a special symposium taking place from 7 P.M. to 9 P.M. "Getting Rich Is Easy" will also be unveiled during the free public event.

Honoring a commitment he once struggled to utter at 12, Strather occasionally revisits his old neighborhood. Longtime residents marvel at the change has not only made financially but to the city.

"I won't move," he boldly exclaims, this time with no pausing between the words. "I have a great love for the City of Detroit. I believe a person should be committed to something. What keeps me here is the commitment I made when I was 12 years old that I wasn't ever going to leave. And, I'm going to keep that commitment come sunshine or come storm.

Crain's Detroit Business - Eternal Optimist


A yen for a Cadillac convertible as a teenager launched Herb Strather into a real estate career.

That was 35 years and $1 billion in projects ago. Along the way, Strather has also become a community volunteer, a philanthropist, a founder of clubs for Optimist International and is credited - and blamed - for bringing casinos to Detroit.

He's also been a boy with a stutter who entered oratory contests until he won as a teenager who knew that desires don't change lives, but plans to achieve them do.

Now Strather, 53, says he looks to a future in which he wants to empower a new generation of developers and investors willing to help improve urban areas. "My goal is to see a thriving, comeback Detroit before I die; then I can say that I fought a good fight."

The Cadillac in question was a brand-spanking new 1970 model, gold with a white top, that belonged to developer Bernie Glieberman, president of Crosswinds Communities, Inc. Strather was an 18-year-old car waxer in 1969 when he first saw it and thought: "That's what I'm going to drive!"

And he's driven them for 20 years, sometimes getting Cadillac Eldorados converted into ragtops when they weren't available otherwise.

Strather had purchased his first house in 1968 with his mother as a co-signer, but he was still without a concrete career plan.

But the Cadillac - and the fact that it was a developer who drove it - helped Strather make the decision that ultimately led to starting his own brokerage and appraisal firm, Strather & Associates, Inc., in 1975.

But that's not the beginning of Strather's Story. The beginning came in middle school when, as Strather puts it, "The Optimists saved my life."

Strather had spent a peripatetic childhood on Detroit's southwest side during which he moved with his family five times between the ages of 4 and 16.

"We were poor and on welfare. I stuttered real bad and was an insecure kid," Strather said. He was, however, determined to improve his life.

He began selling spices and tonics door-to-door for Watkins Products, at age 12, as much to overcome his fear of talking to people as to make money.

About the same time, he entered an Optmist International Club oratory contest at his school.

"It was embarrassing for me at first. I got the John F. Kennedy saying, "Ask not what your country can do..." backward, and the audience laughed and laughed while I stuttered, "I mean I mean..." trying to get it right."

But Strather entered the contest every year until he won.

After that, enthralled with public speaking, he decided to run for class president at Western High School and won - but not before bringing up his grades at the insistence of the principal.

Students Invest in Detroit


Detroit - armed with paint buckets, garden trowels and vacuum cleaners, 15 graduates of a real estate course at Wayne County Community College recently helped a fellow student update her 17-unit apartment building on LaSalle.

Together they washed graffiti off the gold brick walls, planted flowers, painted kitches and hauled out trash. Neighbors from all sides came to watch the transformation and ask how they could become part of the action.

"We're taking the class to the streets, demonstrating how to beautify a neighborhood and make money doing so," said Herb Strather, the multimillion owner of Strather and Associates, a Detroit firm that owns or manages 3.5 million square feet of real estate in Detroit. Strather has taught more than 200 students the basic Real Estate Investing 101 class where students buy actual property after learning assessment and financial leverage tools. The real estate mogul expects to double that number this coming school year.

Selialue Porter, a former student who now coordinates the WCCC course for Strather and Associates, bought a decrepit apartment building on LaSalle for $65,000. The class taught her how to seek contractors and monitor quality and how to prioritize a $25,000 remodeling effort. Her fellow students helped restore it to grandeur.

"This building was so ugly no one would rent there," says Porter who bought the building in 2003. Now she charges rent of $485 for a one bedroom apartment and $585 for two bedroom and has 70 percent occupancy.

On a recent Saturday she invited class members to practice their renovation skills by placing signs all around the building to show where extra attention was needed.

"Our class really bonded," said Vinnie Petre of Southgate. "We will take turns helping one another beautify their properties. Eventually we could resurrect whole neighborhoods."

Students learn the Strather method of surveying property. They check titles to learn who owns the property, assess the operating cost of utilities, the potential rent the surrounding neighborhood would pay and the amount of cash needed to restore the unit. Class members hare names and phone numbers of reliable plumbers, roofers, painters, and landscapers.

Some real estate deals can be managed with little or no money down, according to Strather. One student, Piper Simmons of Detroit, expects to gain 95 percent financing on a $80,000 multiple unit building. She will finish negotiations this month, with the help of Strather's contracts.

"Assessing the property was the key to acquiring it," Simmons said.

Strather has taken a visible role in Detroit's redevelopment. His firm coordinated the renewal of the former Brewster Projects land on Detroit's near east side, creating the $110 million Woodbridge Estates.