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.