Thursday, November 14, 2013

A MUST READ!! Becoming Successful in Houston...

This article below pretty much SUMS IT UP! I couldn't have said it better!

'I Wanted to Be Successful, and I Could Do That in Houston'

'I Wanted to Be Successful, and I Could Do That in Houston'
Aaron Cassara
Dena Washington isn’t the sort of Millennial we tend to read about in scary trend pieces about a “doomed” generation. She’s 28 and married, with a son in elementary school. She’s college-educated and has a good job servicing business accounts at Reliant, one of the largest energy companies in the Houston area. She’s been working there for the past seven years, has excellent benefits and a 401k. Two and a half years ago, she and her husband bought a house in Spring, a suburb that’s technically inside Houston’s city limits.
In other words, she’s living the American Dream—or at least the retro dream many of us still clung to before the recession hit.
Fast-growing Houston is now the fourth largest city in the country. It rakes in money from its energy and medical industries, which in turn trickles down to the arts and restaurant scenes. While many of the cities in this series are still slowly bouncing back from the downturn with the help of enthusiastic young people, Houston was barely ever dinged.

Dena Washington. (Photo by Aaron Cassara)
"There’s always another job here," says Washington, who grew up in the Third Ward, a working-class—but gentrifying—African-American neighborhood (from which BeyoncĂ© also hails). “Before I even graduated, I was doing work in the energy field and working in tech support and picking up all these side gigs. There’s tons of money here."
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A city flush with cash and professional opportunity is attractive to people like Washington, who don’t particularly want to rehab a warehouse or dive headfirst into a risky startup, but instead seek what their parents had: a stable nuclear family with a steady income. “Having a family was very important to me, but I also wanted to be successful," she says. "I could do that in Houston, so I stayed."
Washington is a member of HYPE, one of Houston’s many groups for young professionals. “There’s a big networking culture here,” she says. Larry Ting, 27, who grew up in Houston and now works for the Anti-Defamation League, says the city “definitely has a professional atmosphere” and that “so many businesses are looking for smart, innovative college-educated people.” Ting, who’s a first-generation American from a Chinese immigrant family, has contemplated moving to other big cities like Los Angeles or Chicago, but remained after graduating from the University of Houston because it seemed like a good place to become upwardly mobile.
"I know in the past [young people] may not have asked themselves, ‘What’s the best city that can really provide for me financially?’ You really just want to explore.” Nowadays, though, that question is relevant for risk-averse twentysomethings. For Ting, Houston still promises “the idea of ‘if you work hard, you’ll reap the benefits.'"

Larry Ting. (Photo by Aaron Cassara)
Like Washington, Ting lives in a part of town with a suburban vibe: a diverse, middle-class neighborhood called Spring Branch. He pays $450 for his own room and bathroom in a house with two other people. Because of its sheer size and lack of zoning laws—huge office buildings can be built next to quaint townhouses—it’s difficult to discern where the city starts and the suburbs begin.
That’s not to say Houston’s buttoned-up culture doesn’t have its funkier pockets. The Montrose neighborhood boasts the Museum of Fine Arts and the Houston Center of Photography, as well as several cool bars, restaurants, and coffee shops. Young people have also been flocking to Mid Main, a two-building corridor on the border of Montrose and Midtown—one person I met there called it “the rockabilly oasis”—with a barber shop, vintage record stores, and a cafĂ© by day, craft cocktail bar by night called Double Trouble. The area is a hub for visual artists, and not necessarily the starving kind. Nancy Douthey, 24, moved to Houston from east Texas not only because it has a “wonderful community of artists” but because “there are people who actually buy art and support the art organizations.” She lives in a combination house-gallery space called SKYDIVE, which also provides residencies for artists. She pays $250 a month for her modest room upstairs. (Though that’s cheap for Montrose: Douthey says some of her friends are finding more affordable places in the downtown warehouse area and Houston’s east side.)
Houston is also in the middle of a restaurant renaissance. A collection of fine dining establishments like The Pass, Hugo's, and Oxheart have recently received James Beard nominations and made their way onto national “Best of” lists. Yet, the scene is small enough that if you’re employed at one of these establishments, you can easily move up the ranks rather than languish for years behind the bar.

Justin Vann stocks shelves at D & Q Beer Station. (Photo by Aaron Cassara)
Two years ago, Justin Vann, 28, had just accepted a cushy job as the wine director at a Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco, when his friend Justin Yu called him and said he’d found a location for his new venture (which later became Oxheart). “I said, ‘you’re out of your mind, you’re too late! I’m going to start a new life on the West Coast,’” Vann recalls. But eventually he decided to stay and contribute to Houston’s growing food culture rather than “become a part of someone else’s program. Here, you can try to be the driving force of what’s happening.”
Vann eventually broke off from Oxheart and started his own business, a wine consulting company called PSA Wines. He’s been working with mom-and-pop restaurants around the city to help beef up their lists. When I visited Houston, he was stocking the shelves of D & Q Beer Station, a low-key mini-mart for “beer nerds,” with his curated list of interesting and not-very-cheap wines. Even though Houston is financially stable, there are still opportunities for entrepreneurs who want to take risks, he says, for a simple reason: everything costs much less here than in other cities of similar size. Vann, for instance, splits $850 in rent with his roommate in Montrose.
Yet it’s still a cautious, sensible entrepreneur who opens a business in Houston, since it offers a reliably large professional class. Ting is working toward his MBA and eventually wants to start a restaurant or small business like his immigrant parents. He seriously thought about moving to Austin, given its young population, but to him, “the city just feels like a college town.” Next to Austin’s revelry, Houston is the mature, moneyed older brother: “It has the resources and the population I’m going after.”
Nona Willis Aronowitz is a New York-based writer, editor, and author of Girldrive: Criss-crossing America, Redefining Feminism

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Manziel, IT'S GOING TO BE OK!

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Manziel,

I want to share with you some thoughts as a mother and a new Aggie fan. As a mother of two, I do understand having a rule breaking kid. Any mother with two or more kids understands this. Forrest Gump’s mom said the same thing. “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”  God gives you one child that is such a rule follower that you hold your head up high. Parenting is great; I can do this. You think you should wear a t-shirt that says “for parenting advice call me at 713-Greatmom”. 

Then you have another one.

This is the kid that when the school sends home the Emergency Contact information card at the beginning of the year, you debate whether or not to give them your real cell phone number. This is the kid that get the “needs improving”, “likes to entertain the others” and “can’t sit still in class” notes beginning on his first report card. This is the one who forgot his school supplies and homework. This is the one making you dread the parent-teacher conference, again. It’s the one that makes you laugh most often. It’s the one who is unafraid to explore and maybe gets into something that he isn’t quite prepared for. This is the one who looks at you with that gleeful, grin making it difficult to discipline him. It’s the one who, having zest for all things, has his first coach spot something special.
This is my son.

So knowing my son was like this, we knew A&M would be a better fit or I should say, safer fit. If my son had gone to UT, he would have been home after the first semester.  Sixth Street would have become his forwarding address. (You have to be a Texan to understand the 6th Street scene in Austin) A&M, as difficult as it may seem to be there at times, is exactly where you want your son to be, trust me.

I attended the A& M/Alabama  game last week. As I looked out into the stands during the 4rd quarter, and the stadium was still full.  It was 96 degrees and the sun was beating down.  It was Texas hot. Those are true fans.  

I didn’t know much about football when I went to my first A&M game. I constantly annoyed my husband by asking questions with every play. Questions like why your son had so much free time to throw the football. He told me how the A&M offensive line is the best and they guard and protect your son so he can do his job. Sounds good. Teamwork was something that my son’s first coach instilled in those little guys.  Sometimes, I noticed that Johnny just ran around his line; I didn’t understand that either. My husband explained the concept of “dual-threat/read-option.”  He was right because I confirmed it on Wikipedia, right there on the Johnny Manziel page.

As far as A&M using him being a promotional tool for a new stadium, I want to thank him for helping.  The women’s bathrooms are disgusting!  The toilets overflow by half-time and the handicap facilities are non-existent.  Football stadiums are not just for high paying alumni but also for the little guy, and the girls.  A&M would be considered stupid if they did not immediately hold a fundraiser for a new stadium while A&M has a great team and your son is on ESPN daily. Besides, we have $100 oil, making individuals/companies much more willing to donate to their alma mater; it is just the right time.

Sharpie has gotten million of dollars of free press. I propose another fundraiser. Since Johnny can’t be paid, we ask Sharpie to donate school supplies to schools in Texas were kids can’t afford school supplies. Why not? Sharpie has their own website, complete with blog and fun art projects.  I guarantee, the mom of some 1st grader is already getting calls from her son’s teacher just like you and I did.
Besides, that is what we do in Texas we band together for causes. No kid left behind without a Sharpie.

I want to make this clear, I do not even begin to minimalize what you as a family deal with. ESPN has made your son out to be wild renegade. They say he’s been used as a tool for the university and commercial endeavors. Isn’t that is what makes him a great player? Isn’t that ZEST for life and sport what his very first coach loved?  

In order to understand Johnny you really need to be a Texan.  In Texas, taking a risk is a resume builder.  For example, in Texas if you started a business and had to declare bankruptcy, it is a bullet point on your resume. In Texas, the difference between the winners and losers is the winners tried a few more times. In Texas, we like to be unique and entertained. In Texas, football is king.

Someone once told me that when there is pain, you always want someone to blame. As a parent, that is a very natural instinct.  You want to protect you child.  I read that Mr. Manziel was upset with the A&M coach. I get it. You’ve spent your child’s life guarding him from name callers, people who say mean things, people who steal his school supplies, people who say he’s cheated, and people still saying that he “needs improving”, “likes to entertain the others” and “can’t sit still in class”  

I think it is time we all                    LET JOHNNY BE JOHNNY

and have some fun with it.  You’ve done what you can as parents. He’s going to be just fine!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Successfully Selling Your Home and Maximizing the Value

Over 1000 Kindle Downloads Last Week

Over the past few years, I have seen a dramatic gap in the knowledge between home sellers and buyers. Buyers are now very educated, using websites like HAR and Zillow to house hunt from the comfort of their own space. HGTV, to which I will admit my own addiction, has buyers searching for their dream homes online between meals! While this is great publicity for the real estate industry, it does not translate into easy sales. I remember the days when potential homebuyers were limited to the handful of options for information. Now, they can virtually tour millions of houses with a few simple clicks! With the immense amount of time buyers spend online, they are basically earning real estate PhDs. This means sellers have to step up their game. Buyers are extremely educated. Let me repeat that statement-BUYERS ARE EXTREMELY EDUCATED!

Now that the real estate industry caters to buyers, sellers need to match that level of education to maximize the value of their home. A lack of education on behalf of sellers usually costs them 4-5% of their home’s value.  Its big bucks!

Successfully Selling Your Home is like the SparkNotes for home sellers, so they can get educated fast on what today’s buyers are thinking.  By understanding the changes in the real estate market, a seller can learn to use them to their benefit, regaining a lost advantage. Nearly every one of us, sometime in our life, will have to go through the home selling process. Many of us will opt to rely on the know-how of a professional agent. I have learned over 28 years of real estate experience that it is simply not enough to turn over your house keys to an agent and expect a check one week later well above your asking price. Even is today's market where inventory is low, it is not reality. As the real estate industry evolves, so do the techniques for selling a home. Knowledge is Power.

I wrote this book to give sellers a quick education on what is happening in today’s real estate market, so they can maximize their value and work efficiently and effectively with an agent.  It is a partnership that, if treated as such, can add value to any home.

PS - In July 2012, the Texas legislature exempted real estate agents from the deceptive trade act. Because of this, the end result of any misrepresentation made by the real estate agent is now the responsibility of the seller.  Sellers must educate themselves because the price of ignorance just went up!

My book is available on Amazon. Just click below and it will take you to Amazon.

Friday, January 18, 2013


It’s not because I’ve never been offered a job.

I’ve been in the business for over 29 years, which means that I’ve experienced two recessions and two bubbles. Throughout everything, I have been a one-woman operation, just a helping hand for friends (that’s what my clients become) that want to buy and sell their homes. I don’t like to waste peoples’ time; not my clients’ nor my own. I believe in getting things done in a timely and cost effective way. Consider it a mantra.

Although I’ve been on my own for most of this time, I’ve stayed in touch with my industry. After all, I started out at a big firm, and even then I quickly saw that I couldn’t deal with the inefficiency. I felt like the real estate agents were creating busy work for themselves so they could justify their beloved high commissions. Firms are known for their flamboyant culture, and agents want to keep driving their BMWs and Mercedes convertibles to society-page benefits.
You want to know something? Most of the heads of these big firms haven’t sold a home since the Internet was invented. When it’s time for these big wigs to solve a problem they pour superfluous amounts of money into a system that is not currently out-of-date. That is like putting more and more quarters into a pay phone when you’ve got a working smart phone in your pocket.

Several people at the big firms told me I would fail working on my own, and when I succeeded, they said it was a fluke. I don’t believe in three decade flukes! Now many firms are trying to negotiate their way out of their leases because they can’t compete with the fact that people can do their work in front of their laptop at Starbucks now. I can only laugh when I think about how they told me I was unprofessional for saving my clients money by refusing to operate out of a fancy “store front” office! I have never had a client complain about meeting in a warm home as opposed to a sterile office space. They also rarely complain when I save them thousands of dollars.

This whole time, big firm owners have made it clear to me that if I ever wanted to come on board with them, I could. They’d give me 2 assistants and a higher commission split. I could live a luxury life! I could be in the society pages! I am not interested and have never been interested. I don’t want to spend wildly. I want to do my job.

My husband is a tech guy, and he’s astonished at the way that real estate firms maintain entire departments for something that could be handled by a few people working on contract from home. Real estate firms still have teams of people making newspaper ads; they have sales meetings, appointment desks, and tons of unused office space. That would all be fine if the customer weren’t forced to pay for it. I believe competition is for the competent and it is time for some real competition.


When I answer “just me,” often I get, “that’s nice”.  It is meant to be polite but not a as a compliment. Why is that?  Why do we think bigger is better?  Because that is what we are taught! The 80’s taught us about big business, big homes, big cars, and big hair (of course, the “big” philosophy is also a product of Texas living). Well, I can flaunt a few things that are bigger than the mega firms. I have an 80% referral rate when the industry average is 20%.  That is a big statistic that means more to me than the size of my office. Why is it we perceive the firm with the most overhead or employees as the most successful?  One thing is for sure, once you get your overhead up, it’s hard to cut it. I have never understood this “bigger is better” thinking.  Let’s be honest. It’s all about the egos.


While there is plenty to love and loath about the current market, I love that a person with a desk and a laptop can do anything. Sustainability and profitability is success to me.