Monday, November 12, 2012

The Burnt Orange Family Learns how to Blend in at Texas A&M

Having our first Aggie, there were some things we have learned.  This advice you will not find on Pinterest! For you parents on the hunt for Christmas gifts, you can read some of this list as an Aggie Holiday Shopping Guide.

1.       The Yeti Cooler- This is the iPhone 5 of coolers. 
If you whip out a yeti cooler, you are noticed.  Its like pulling out your new iPhone and everyone asking,  “is that an iPhone 5?” They are blowing up wedding registries all over College Station and will probably sell out this Christmas. Ladies, if you want to hold on to your man, show him some love and buy him a cooler he won’t be embarrassed to prop his boots on.

2.       Wranglers and Levis - these are real jeans. 
Do not show up in College Station with a pair of 7 Jeans.  You might as well show up wearing a Tutu.
3.       PFG - the Prada of A&M.
A PFG (Performance Fishing Gear) shirt is like the blankie or stuffed animal you had as a kid and could not live without.  Your PFG shirt goes with you on all your adventures and stays with you throughout life.  You wear it, and it reminds you of every hunting trip, fishing experience, or adventure you have had in it. It is like wearing your very own, grown-up security blanket. It also happens to look good on every Aggie from 18 to 85. Also, if a girl on campus is wearing one, it means she is taken.

4.    If your truck is not a 4x4, you are a “poser.”
At A&M your truck must have 4-wheel drive or you might as well be driving a smart car. But make sure your truck will fit in your dorm’s parking garage. At some dorms, several students have to park down the street because the garage can’t handle a muddy 4x4. They must have been designed at UT.
5.       A pair of cowboy boots- ladies these boots are not allowed to come from Nordstrom’s or Macy’s shoe department and Frye is not an acceptable brand.  They must come from a real cowboy store (which isn’t too hard to find in College Station).
6.       Chilifest - College Station’s own ACL Festival. Help charities, eat chili. Sounds like my kind of party.
7.       No ordering late night pizza, you order Pizza Rolls. 
From what I hear, Gumby’s serves the best. You choose it – BBQ Sauce, Ranch, Garlic Butter, Bleu Cheese, or Buffalo Sauce. You can worry about the quadruple bypass tomorrow. 
8.       Every Social Media post will end up being turned into a football conversation. 
My 20-year old daughter went to visit her brother at A&M. She wanted to take him out to dinner since he has been eating at the dorm or from a vending machine. I went on the Internet to find a place for Italian food. I avoid YELP because the reviews are canned, so I look for independent sources.  Every College Station restaurant review had one thing in common; it starts out as about food but ends up about the SEC!  After the Alabama game, the only topic worth discussing online is football. But really, what else is there?
9.       Bow ties – is Dr. Loftin setting a new trend at A&M?
I had not seen one in years until I went to an event at College Station and saw a few young men wearing them.  Bow ties are like good manners; you always appear to be smart if you have either. I don’t know what it is, but I just feel more comfortable with my daughter dating a man who can tie his own bow tie.

10.   Vending machines are a source of nourishment.  
I took a peek at my son’s bank statement a few weeks ago and thought his debit card had been stolen. And then I figured it out. At A&M, the vending machines take ATM cards and many a student uses this has their main source of food.

Please feel free to add any advice that you have.  This is meant to be light-hearted and fun.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Beach House You Didn't Know You Were Paying For

I have first hand knowledge of what John Englander is writing about in his book High Tide on Main Street.  As a real estate broker and property owner in Galveston, Texas for the past 20 years, I have seen homes 2 blocks away from the ocean become beachfront property. The joke in many beach towns is “buy 3 blocks from the ocean because within 10 years you will be beachfront.” The same thing is happening in Florida and all other states that have a coastline.  What John Englander is talking about in his book is not a description of a possible future in a far away land; he is talking about here and now.

Where a homeowner once had a prime piece of beachfront property, they now own the land the waves crash over. It is real estate litigation at its worst: the government against the homeowner determining who now owns the land.

The post-Sandy reality for many families will not be a question of when and where to rebuild but be a no-rebuilding-allowed option.. The physical displacement of the coast and the homes that once stood there is heart wrenching, but they make up only one side to this story.
There is the obvious economic side of rising waters and natural disasters, and this is the side of the equation that gets touchy. If you don’t live in one of these areas, you have to ask why anyone would take the financial risk of building in an area that could flood.  The answer? The government encourages it with your tax dollars. You and fellow taxpayers are the ones paying the bill. You see, taxpayers are subsidizing a stranger’s luxury of having a home on beach or that lake front view. These homes are insured by the Federal Government through National flood insurance programs, and in some states like Texas, they are further insured with state taxpayer subsidized plans called Wind Insurance policies. Both are available at a hugely discounted rate. Why is the government in the insurance business?  Because Insurance companies would never take such a high risks because they know there is no question as to if they would have to pay. They are just watching the weather channel, waiting for the next big storm, and are glad they don’t have to pay pick up the tab.
So why have the values of these properties that are prone to hurricanes and flooding not gone down?  Well, the answer is: it depends.  If you are in an area that is subject to flooding and requires the federal government to insure your property, values are typically less.  The exception to the rule is beachfront property.  After each natural disaster, the supply of these lots diminishes, and when you are wealthy and the federal government is subsidizing your insurance, you are in a no lose position.

Why should the taxpayer, a group made up of all income levels and property owners, continue to subsidize insurance for extremely high-risk real estate, commonly owned by the wealthy? ABC News Commentator, John Stossel, compared the Federal subsidizing of coastal properties with subsidizing car insurance for drunk drivers. Not only do the government’s policies seem to reward hazardous living, but have consequently encouraged it to the tune of $645 billion in federally insured and guaranteed property. If you, as a taxpayer, have ever dreamed of investing in high-end property along the beach, your dream is now a horrifying reality. You have been paying to insure millions dollar properties for years. The federal guarantee of insurance does more than simply foster the increase of coastal living and home building among the elite, it is an economical boomerang that will inevitable come back to hit the government where it hurts…your pocketbooks!, The problem is the government’s National  Flood Insurance Program is broke, and their credit line is almost all used up. Because of this, premiums are set to double over the next 5 years.  Those that have this insurance complain about the cost, but it is a bargain compared to its cost on the open market

As these premiums go up, the effect will be felt in the non high-end properties, making there values decrease. A $1000 premium increase in insurance does not affect the $2 million dollar home but does effect the $250,000 home. And if the Federal government ever decides to get out of the insurance business, these properties will instantly drop in value. It will be the equivalent of owning property with toxic waste.

As John Englander has pointed out in his book, High Tide on Main Street, we are seeing more flooding with less severe storms.  A category 1 storm now floods an area like category 4 hurricanes did in the past. Why? Because higher storm surges go along with even the tamest weather. If Hurricane Katrina, Ivan, and Ike aren’t sufficient proof of the power of storm surges, Sandy is the poster child. Storm surges will only get worse as sea levels will continue to rise. We are seeing properties that had never flooded now suffering every 2-3 years. The values of these properties will continue to decline, and more and more areas will be zoned in the flood plain. And once they are in the flood plain, they never come out!  Properties in flood areas have two huge issues going against them:
  •       Higher insurance premiums
  •       More prone to flooding

II was curios why cities and states don’t do something to prevent or try and minimize the flooding.  They can’t control the sea level so why not try and reduce the damage. Most municipalities after a storm like Sandy are so concerned with getting life back to normal that any future planning for prevention is put on the back burner. After storms and floods, infrastructures are repaired in the fastest possible time table with little thought to the future.

After Hurricane Ike, Galveston, Texas realized they had to do something.   They spent over $250,000 studying prevention plans and for a city of 50,000 that is a huge expense. These studies developed in a proposal to build the “Ike Dike” to reduce storm surge impact on the island. After Sandy, Galveston no longer believes it will be a recipient of any protection from future storm surges because the federal government will protect more ‘valuable’ cities. Why should local govt. invest in research that the fed will use to protect other cities?  They can’t afford it.

While the current news about Sandy is all about meeting the basic needs of East Coast residents, in a few months, a new issue will be making headlines. It is an issue that most southern coastal states have had to deal with because of the hurricanes in the past years: the rising tide.  The tide rising is not something in the far distant future; it is here.  The infrastructure and prevention side needs to be addressed because the affects on homeowners are already being felt.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Burnt Orange Family Becomes Texas A&M's Biggest Fan

We have been a longhorn family forever! My husband and I attended UT, as did my dad, and my brother and sister-in-law owned the famous BEVO bus that made the cover of USA TODAY.  My godson, William Harvey, played football for UT and if we did not go to the UT game, life stopped at our house so we could watch it, until the Longhorn Network came along and we you can't even watch the game! We bled orange...
... then our youngest son decides on Texas A&M.  Mark and I were a bit surprised, but it was Nick’s decision and we were happy for him.  Mark had never even been to College Station (which is surprising and not-so-much all at the same time)!  What we have learned about Texas A&M has been the greatest surprise of all.  My friend, Liz Decker, has a daughter Katie (a great jewelry designer who just graduated from A&M) who said it best: “people are just nice there.”

When I called Texas A&M, I actually got a human being that knew the answer to my question (and spoke English!).  It was like the good ol' days when you got a person and not a recorded message.  When I sent an email asking a question, I go a well thought out 4-paragraph response.  I was shocked and thought Comcast should get this group to run their customer service.

Then we had a misunderstanding at Callaway house and instead of being defensive, the sweet girl said, "lets find a happy solution."  Meanwhile I am still trying to beat my $600 deposit out of the Towers at UT.   I have emailed the same document 4 times there, and they seem to conveniently never get them.

When we went to visit A&M and buy 6 shirts at the bookstore, a charming young lady said "you must be big A&M fans!"  The truth was, we had nothing in our house that had burgundy in it...oops.  Did I say burgundy? I meant maroon. People still have to correct me.  I was driving away in my Sequoia and instead of feeling bad about the poor gas mileage, I noticed trucks towering over my SUV, their wheels level with my windows.  In College Station, my SUV is practically a Prius. 

My son Nick moved in 3 weeks ago and I was once again surprised at how nice everyone was.  What is in the water in College Station, and can we get some added to Houston’s?  We booked a hotel for the night and we were shocked that it was under $100.  Our other child is at TCU and Marriot has a monopoly on the town, so even the 2 star hotels are $200 per night.  Even going to the movies is only  $4.50 in this town.  When I read the Hilton had donated rooms to Barbara Holdworth's friends and family, I was not the bit surprised. By the way, there is a fun run to help the victims of this tragedy (here is the link if you would like make a small donation). That is the spirit of this school and this town.
Mark told Nick that college is not just going to 13th grade, and he needed to branch out and meet new people.  So on a night when he had nothing to do, he went to a fraternity party where he did not know a single person.  When he called to report to Mark that he had branched out, he once again said, "everyone was so nice." He said he met the nicest guy from Bolivia.  Nick had worked in an orphanage in Bolivia this summer and fell in love with the country.  The guys at this fraternity told him he was always welcome to come by. Dang-what a good group of men.

Now comes the big game day and my son sends us pictures from the game where he is sitting on the 50-yard line.  We had joked with him the day before that his student seat would be so high up, he would be able to wave to the Southwest Airline passengers as the plane flew by.

We texted back and asked him how he got a seat on the 50 yard line. He texted back and said "People are so nice, they asked if we wanted them to scoot in tight and sit with them."  I asked if they were students and he said, "No. Just nice parents/alumni." Once again: "people are just nice."  Then we got an even bigger shock, he called to tell us he had never been happier in his life-"he loved this place."

I suspected we were becoming an Aggie family when my husband just had to watch the game and yelled for the Aggies just like he had for the Longhorns for so many years.  But then I knew we had converted him when he took me out to dinner last night instead of watching the UT game.

This morning I checked my Facebook only to see a picture of Nick at the game.  I think when kids get to college it becomes uncool to post pictures on Facebook. Either that or my kids have chosen some filter that only lets me see a few.  That would not surprise me, as I have been unfriended twice by my kids for posting comments on their pages.  But what they don’t understand is a picture on Facebook of them is like the rare letter you get from camp.  It makes your day.

I feel A&M is teaching something so lacking in today’s world... that men should be men.  I am all for womens' equal pay and equal rights, but I am old fashioned in that I want my door opened for me, the trash taken out, and a man to be a man.

Gig Em Aggies.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hiring an Agent in 2012 - Part 2

See earlier post for Part 1.

Number four: look at a few of your agent’s brochures and evaluate the descriptions of the homes for sale. Words make a huge difference. Freakonomics revealed a dirty little real estate secret about marketing code words: that sometimes, real estate agents use generic words as a sort of subconscious shorthand indicating that the house is worth less than its asking price. Specifically, “fantastic,” “spacious,” “charming,” and “great neighborhood” all appear to be glowing descriptions of the homes they describe. However, authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner found that these adjectives actually correlated with significantly lowered sales prices. They’re generic and nondescript, and whether you (or the real estate agent) know it or not, they signify to buyers that the house lacks unique qualities—or worse, that there’s something to hide.
The words that Freakonomics found to correlate with high sales prices were specific and visual: “granite,” “maple,” “gourmet,” “state-of-the-art.” Use this as a lesson. Be specific with your words, not general.  Marketing is about feeling good.
The same goes for your real estate agent’s photos. We like to think we don’t judge a book by its cover but, of course, we all do—particularly when it comes to real estate. Buyers will be paying attention. They start their search on the Internet and finish on the ground. 

Number five: it’s not good if your agent tries to get you to cover up problems about your home. This is common in real estate, and it trickles down from the top. The real estate lobby is notoriously secretive, and in states like Texas, real estate agents are exempt from the Deceptive Trade Act. But on a person-to-person level, secrets don’t work. Buyers need honesty, and if they find out you’ve hidden something, you can really get into a bad situation.

Number six: your agent should care more about marketing your home than marketing their name. Check out the yard sign. Does it say anything specific about your home, or does it just have the name of your real estate agent or their firm splashed all over a generic sign?
A custom sign for your home is an inexpensive and much better option, and if your agent has told you the truth about the value of your home, they should have no problem spending the money on a custom sign. The sign should also have the asking price: this is the first thing all buyers want to know and it immediately establishes trust and honesty. I started doing this and people have driven by, called and thanked me for having the information.

            Number seven: your agent should post listings on all major real estate websites, including Zillow, Trulia and Yahoo! Real Estate. The Multiple Listing Service is becoming a dinosaur, and a lot of buyers come from these national sites not just your local MLS. And if your real estate agent tells you what a great company they are because they still advertise in the Sunday paper, run.  No explanation necessary.
Yes, there are a lot of sellers who are being underserved by their agents. But if you ask these questions and watch for these red flags, you can find out what level of service your agent provides. You’re spending enough money to hire one—you might as well make sure your agent is worth it.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Hiring a Real Estate Agent in 2012 - Part 1

It’s hard to say which has changed the world of real estate more—the state of the economy, or the Internet revolution. With more power and knowledge going to the buyer than ever, the old rules no longer apply. Before you hire a real estate agent in this new climate, here are some things you need to know.

Number one: just because your cousin, friend or cousin’s friend just got her real estate license and joined a firm does not mean they know what they are doing.  Unfortunately, real estate school is about learning to pass a government exam, which includes a puzzling section on ethics. If I need to study up so that I can prove that I don’t discriminate based on race, sex or handicap, then I sure as heck shouldn’t be trusted with anyone’s home!
This is all to say that real estate courses teach you nothing about solid deals and good business, which are what really matters in real estate. An agent fresh out of school is like a hairdresser who has just learned all about the history of hairdos.  And here’s something to think about—your hairdresser has almost certainly spent much longer in professional training than your real estate agent. 
Number two: the amount of listings your real estate agent has doesn’t matter. Anyone can list a house—the real issue is selling it.
I have a friend who has over 40 listings. She must be a top producer, right? Wrong. I run with her a few days a week and every time, as we’re running, she gets calls from angry sellers who feel neglected. She signs the listing up, then the seller never sees her again. You want someone who will care about getting your house sold, not getting listed on the firm website as part of the Top Producer Club.

Number three: more time on the market will get you less money. If your agent asks for a 12 month listing, run!
I’ve seen my fair share of real estate firms teach their agents to take listings at a high price and walk the client down later, once they’re locked in. So don’t let an agent’s high number give you an unrealistic idea about value. Even if they list your house at an incredibly high price, they’ll often accept a low offer for you and tell you it’s the smartest move you could make. It’s fun to dream sometimes, but this market is not the time for dreaming. If your house is overpriced, all you're doing is helping your neighbors sell their more realistically priced home. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Target Marketing at its Best

Marketing is one of my favorite things. When I watch TV, flip through a magazine or visit a good webpage, I praise good marketing...especially target marketing. I have learned over the years that it never hurts to play to an audience when you are trying to sell something. I found myself in stitches and, dare I say, impressed when I saw this charming for-sale-by-owner sign being covered by the news.

If this isn't target marketing, then I don't know what is! After I picked myself up off the floor, I couldn't help but think this woman, though somewhat bitter, is a genius! Her sign not only appeals to a slew of potential buyers, but got her on every major news source in the US! I found a few other signs I liked that I hope you can get a kick out of also.

Though my tastes are refined, I can drink a beer with the best of 'em! This sign makes me want to call up the sellers and take them out for a cold one.
Believe me, if you have something to sell, you have something to market. Find your audience and sell to them. No need to please the masses...they are not going to buy your house.

Monday, June 11, 2012

10 Deal Breakers ... Revisited: Part 2

6. Lender changing the deal: This is a tough one to avoid, since this falls in the buyer’s court. Still, you can emphasize to your buyer the importance of working with a reputable and reliable mortgage broker, not someone’s cousin or a friend of a friend.

7. Spooked buyers: It’s very common for buyers today to get spooked by cocktail party talk. Jealous friends and relatives (who typically bought real estate at the peak of the boom and are suffering) tell buyers what a terrible time it is to buy a house, and they start to worry. Never forget that in real estate the best advice to follow is, “When the news is the best, sell it, and when the news is the worst, buy it.”

8. Lender dragging the buyer over the coals: Today’s lending environment is very different from the environment even a year ago. Chances are good that your buyer will get scared by the everything-but-the-rectal-exam approach that lenders are taking these days. Many buyers take the lender’s tactics as a sign that they shouldn’t be buying a home. They fear they will not get approved and do not want to go through the humiliation. Reassure them that it’s normal these days, and they just have to get through it.

9. Lenders will close on the 30th: The 30th of which month? Always make sure you know the lenders closing date. Double and triple check it. 

10. Waiting too long to respond: Always get back to your buyer within 24 hours. Procrastination is a deal killer.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

10 Deal Breakers ... Revisited: Part 1

As you may remember, in September of last year I wrote about the "9 Big Deal Breakers in Real Estate." With a new year comes a new deal breaker. But before I get ahead of myself, I find that the remaining nine are more important than ever! Let's quickly review numbers 1 through 5, shall we?

1. EXCLUSIONS: As a seller, you need to make it clear which furnishings and fixtures come with your house and which don't. You should disclose these items when you show your house, or remove them beforehand. These days, wall-mounted TVs seem to be causing an overabundance of disputes. Don't let the deal fall apart over a TV or a chandelier!

2. FAILURE TO DISCLOSE: In relation to deal breaker number one when in doubt, DISCLOSE IT, and the earlier the better. A problem will seem much bigger to a buyer when they have discovered it on their own or are already under contract.

3. APPRAISAL: The days when a home always appraised for the contract price are gone. Sometimes the appraisal comes in "short," and this can be a deal breaker.

4. SURVEY: As you approach closing, you might get your survey back only to find out that your fence stretches 5 feet into your neighbor's property, marking your lot short of the 7,000 square-feet your buyer desired. Know your boundary lines! Many contracts call for a survey 3 days prior to closing, but you should have the buyer order the survey when they order the appraisal. Don't wait! If you take care of this in advance, you'll have time to work out a solution.

5. INSPECTIONS: Most inspectors call it like it is. Sometimes your buyer will want you to fix every single potential problem that your inspector sees. You don't have to do this! You both have choices.
Your buyer has four basic choices after the  inspector report. The buyer can:
  • Ask you to make their requested repairs
  • Ask you to reduce the sales price in lieu of repairs
  • Request no repairs at all
  • Decline to buy the property
They can't force you to make repairs, but they do hold the ultimate power of walking away from the sale if they can't live with the decision of your repairs.
As the seller, you have three choices. You can:
  • Agree to the buyer's request and make all of the repairs
  • Agree to part of the request and make some of the repairs, or create an allowance for the repairs and stipulate in the contract, "the house is being sold 'as is'"
  • Agree to make no repairs or credits at all

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Secret Crush on John Edwards

All About Thin-Slicing, Accents and Handsome Sleazeballs

I know this has nothing to do with real estate—but who likes talking about their job all day, anyway?   

This post is about John Edwards, the incredibly handsome dirtbag who was so charming and successful that he almost won the Presidential nomination.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, he discusses a concept called “thin-slicing”—or the automatic psychological process that allows us to make up our minds about a situation in under 2 seconds. Plenty of times, we’re right. But we can be wrong in huge ways too.

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John Edwards fooled us all, and he wasn’t the first one. Gladwell cites the example of Warren Harding, a womanizing party boy who served two years as President before dying of a stroke. Historians agree that he was one of the worst presidents in American history, but he rode to success on the back of his charm and notable good looks.

Here’s the first way we thin-sliced Edwards. Generally, we perceive tall people as powerful and intelligent. A majority of heads of big companies are over 6 feet tall, but the average American man is only 5’9. John Edwards is 6’2.

The second way: we also innately perceive good-looking people as more honest, more competent, and harder-working—a fact that has been proven time and again by data that correlates attractiveness with more promotions and higher pay. And let’s not pretend that John Edwards isn’t decent eye candy.

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The third way may apply only to me, but I don’t think so—it’s his accent. Edwards’ accent reminds me of that movie French Kiss, when someone asks Meg Ryan what Kevin Kline is saying (in French) and she replies, “I don’t know, but it sounds beautiful.”

Put all these things together, and you get a major WOW factor. But then you find out that he not only had an extramarital affair with a staffer and fathered her child, but that he also carried on all of this while his wife had breast cancer and used campaign contributions to cover up his affair. Would he have been able to deceive everyone for so long if he had been 5’4 and ugly, with a thick Brooklyn accent? Not to insult short men or ugly New Yorkers—but the answer is probably no.

Now he’s on trial, and I hope the jury is given a copy of Blink, so that there’s no chance of them falling for the well-worn shortcut of “tall, dark and handsome.”  As my mom once said, “No matter how much mayonnaise you add, you can’t turn chicken sh** into chicken salad.”  

Friday, April 13, 2012

I love Rick Perry...

Although he did not look too smart when running for President-- He did the best informercial for Texas since Gunthy Ricker’s Proactiv

Rick Perry was the greatest thing to happen to the state of Texas when he ran for president.  I know he took a lot of grief and has been re-named Ricky Bobby (from the hilarious Will Ferell movie, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
But you could not pay for the great infomercial advertising he gave to the state of Texas. Even Guthy Ricker and their Pro Activ infomercials can not top what Rick Perry did.  Although he made Texans look closed-minded and unintelligent, he did enlighten the rest of the country to one little fact: There are states that do not have a state income tax!  And the cost of living is low. Shocker!

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Because of this and $100 oil, we are in the only state you would want to ride out this recession in.  I met a waiter several month ago at America’s and he explained that he had had 7 job offers since arriving in Texas. Pretty nice after being unemployed in North Carolina for months.

Thank you Rick Perry. Despite your seemingly homophobic-attitude you did a great service for Texas by pointing out some of our good qualities!

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

What kind of idiot would buy a house right now?

The answer: a really smart one. The kind of idiot that’s bold enough to analyze the local economic trends and capitalize on a serious opportunity. The kind of idiot that, ten years from now, will host a beautiful dinner party in a home that’s already paid for, and shrug graciously when people ask, “How did you get this place for that price?” 

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I’ve been in real estate for over 28 years—that means I’ve seen two recessions and two bubbles. I thought I’d seen all of the buying conditions that could ever exist. But I’ve never seen anything like the market we have now in Texas. The stars are shining bright!

And before I start sounding like the queen of these aforementioned idiots, let’s just go into specifics. What are these stars I’m talking about, exactly? 

  1. Price: Everything about the market has stayed steady. There have been no huge appreciation jumps like we had in 2002-2007.
  2. Interest rates: This is a no-brainer. 3.7% is an unprecedented low.
  3. In-migration: People are moving into Texas, not leaving. 40% of all US jobs created are located in this one state.
  4. $100 oil: Whether you are for or against it, it’s becoming reality. This price spike means big things for oil companies.
  5. Minimal building: Getting a loan for new construction is still tough—you’re guilty until proven innocent—so building start-ups are staying extremely low.
  6. New normal: People are coming to understand that the economy has changed permanently. They’re taking stock of things and making moves.
  7. No equity lines of credit: Easy money always ends up being bad money. Because Texans were not able to access our home equity with an ATM card, foreclosures have stayed down and our real estate market has been relatively stable.
  8. Tax credit: Now, I do not believe that my tax dollars should supplement anyone’s home purchase. But this tax credit served as a sort of infomercial for young homebuyers who otherwise would not have entered the market.
  9. Rick Perry running for president: It was a free infomercial for the State of Texas not having a state income tax. Many people in other states did not know there were states that did not have a state income tax.
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Buying right now, in this market, may turn some heads—but in reality, it’s the smartest move you can make.  In two years you will paying a lot more.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cote de Texas

One of my all time favorite blogs COTE DE TEXAS posted about some houses that portray the "Houston Look" and my stunning listing on Green Tree was included.
Go to Joni's blog to read more and see more Houstonian "eye-candy."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What will sell your house in 2012?

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Looking Back at 2011

We had a great year at Lappin Properties.  Every home that we listed, sold. We worked very hard the week between Christmas and New Years!

The question is: why is this happening during what is widely considered to be one of the toughest real estate markets in recent history? Many real estate agents have quit the business.  Some statistics say the number of real estate agents has dropped approximately 30% in the last 4 years. Despite the statistics, our business has been great.

I spend a lot of time analyzing this. I like to think we have great customer service, but realistically, it is a lot more than that. I’ve identified two main reasons.

FIRST: we market our listings with an individual marketing plan, not a mass marketing plan.  Our marketing brochures have our name and contact information featured in small print, so that our name is not the dominating feature of the brochure.  We feel if we do a good job marketing your home, people will notice and use us. We don’t use our clients’ homes to help us advertise. We respect and honor our clients’ decision to hire us.

As a result, we have an 80% referral rate when the industry has a 20%.

SECOND: we know that people want the truth and we work accordingly. For real estate agents, the changes in our industry do not always work in our favor.  Buyers are extremely educated.  I joke that they are on the Internet more than I am looking for homes. When they come to me, they already know the market.   

Some real estate firms teach their agents to take listings at a high price and walk the client down later, once they’re locked in. So don’t let an agent’s high number give you an unrealistic idea about value. Even if they list your house at an incredibly high price, they’ll often accept a low offer for you and tell you it’s the smartest move you could make. It’s fun to dream sometimes, but this market is not the time for dreaming. If your house is overpriced, all you're doing is providing a marketing tool to help your neighbors sell their more realistically priced home.

True story: a doctor once called me to list his home.  I told him $1.6 and the other real estate agent came in and told him that was way too low and it needed to be listed for $1.9.  So guess who he went with? But 16 months later his home sold for $1.55.  If your real estate agent is requiring a 12 month listing agreement, I would question the price they have put on your home.

MLS data shows it time and again. Homes priced on the market sell within 4% of their asking price.  Overpriced homes come down to the market price and sell within 9% of the price.  Overpricing costs you big!

2 things sell houses: individualized marketing and a realistic pricing. These two worked for selling in 2011 and I'm guessing it will work in 2012.