Category Archives: Austin Homes

Caviar or Coffee??

I finally have had some free time to sit down and post something on my poor out dated blog.  Is it really the week before Thanksgiving?  I want to know who fast forwarded my calendar!  Sadly this has become a very familiar feeling.  I am fairly certain I was feeling this exact same way around this time last year.  How do the holidays manage to sneak up on me like this every year!  This weekend will be a time of insanity in our household, much to my husbands chagrin.  It’s a time of de-cluttering for the holidays.  Hopefully the dog and any small children will make it through the weekend unscathed and not end up at the Goodwill drop off by mistake.

But I wanted to take this opportunity to write about something that often gnaws at me.  I work for a great independent broker whose main emphasis personally is investment properties.  He has allowed me the freedom to pursue whatever types of clients I so choose.  Although my specialty is also investment properties, I am also well seasoned with individuals looking to buy their dream home or sell their personal residence.  Sadly, as of late, I’ve had more than a few short sale opportunities to work on.  But I’ve often lost out on listings or clients because I don’t work for one of the “name brand” agencies.

So often the question arises, “Should I go with a big-box real estate agency or with the mom-and-pop-husband-wife team to buy or sell a property?”  Or “Should I go with the agent from the  fancy schmancy office where they serve me caviar when I arrive or the independent that meets me at Starbucks and has to wipe baby cereal off of her card before she hands it to me?” Well let me ask you this; Will caviar help you sell your house??  Is the agent better because their office smells like new leather, Dolce & Gabbana, and shoe polish?  Will hiring an agent that looks like he just stepped out of a Banana Republic store and embodies the term “metro sexual” negotiate the deal any better for you then the guy who mows his own lawn on the weekend?  Sorry, but no!!  Now I realize everyone has their own style, their own niche market and that’s great.  Unfortunately however, the real estate agent field is home to some fierce competition.  Tony Romo would choke out in the first quarter of this game and spend the rest of it crying on the sidelines!   Oh wait!  He does that normally!

I am sure that some agent reading this will be offended but the fact of the matter is this; Does the agent have the knowledge and experience behind him or her?  Do you as a client connect with them on a personal level?  Do you trust them?  If the answer is yes to these questions, it probably doesn’t matter if your agent drives a minivan (yes I do) or a Mercedes (that would be fun though).  There will be those that say, “Well if an agent is making that much money they are closing some deals!”  Maybe…. or maybe they are heavily in debt!  Let me leave you with some hard facts that no one can dispute.  Meanwhile I am going to go read up on the 101 things to do with left over turkey!

~ Between 87% and 95% of homes sell through the MLS – No need to find a caviar eating agent.  Find a Realtor who is a member of your local board and is MLS proficient.  You will save yourself the stomach ache.

~ 90% of home buyers are looking on the web – Is your agent hip on the technology end or is he more concerned with the shape of his eyebrows?

~ “Open houses are a great way to attract buyers” <So they say> … who are probably not interested in your property but it’s a great tool for your agent to solicit said buyers as clients!  Now having said that, I believe they can work to attract an urgency to the property IF and only IF the house is priced well and shows well.

~ Those sexy looking and feeling flyers that the agent gave you from the office where you almost slid off the new leather couch?  Great way to attract a new client (hey it almost got you right?) But the savvy agent knows the internet is the place to promote.

Now let me just say I know some fabulous agents who work for some of these offices that probably wouldn’t let me in the door with my Payless shoes.  I am in awe of their knowledge and ethics and their Coach purses.  I guess my point is pick the agent that’s right for you, not because their shoes cost more than your kids education.

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Where’s My Buyer?

Do  you have a house on the market for sale right now that is not selling?  It’s been sitting for 30, 60, 90 or more days without so much as a low ball offer?  It pretty much stinks doesn’t it?  Ah yes, the first two weeks of impressive numbers of showings.  Your agent sending you glowing reports and feed back about how well the house has shown and how many people just love it.  And then ……NOTHING!  You’ve gone from raving about your agent to mumbling curses upon his or her family and pets when you call for the 12th time that day for an update only to get the voicemail.  Chances are, whether or not you like to admit it, they probably are doing and have done everything possible to sell your house.  How do I know this?  Because I have 2 listings myself that are just sitting!!!!  One of them happens to be one for our family investment business so yes, I know personally what this is like. 

Believe me, I’ve done everything.  Open houses, flyers, follow ups from showings.  I have not tried tap dancing in the driveway yet but that idea is sounding better and better.  I can hear you now saying, “but I did EVERYTHING that pushy agent told me to do!  I took great-aunt what’s her name’s picture down off the wall, I painted over the rose wall paper, I took down my collection of Barry Manilow LP’s that were hanging from the ceiling….” yes, yes…I am sure you did.  But sometimes, depending on your area you may just have to play the waiting game.  I know how much you did not want to hear that.  But it’s the truth. 

I have talked to many an individual that just wants to “check” and make sure their agent really is doing a good job.  Usually they are.  Believe it or not, no matter how fabulous they are, they can not manifest a buyer for you.  And if your agent can do that I need their number!  Be patient.  Listen to their advice.  It may be time for that dreaded price reduction.  <gasp!> If they really are a good agent and they’ve done their job your buyer may be right around the corner!

Now, go repent of all the mean thoughts you had about their hair falling out prematurely and send them a text to set up a meeting to see what the next step should be.  Before you know it your property will be sold and you’ll be moving on with your Barry Manilow collection!  I’ll be tap dancing in a driveway somewhere.  Be sure to honk when you drive by.


To Rehab or Not….that is the question…

I for one am glad that the first 2 weeks of May are gone.  Most importantly, I didn’t miss the rapture of 2011 and for that I am thankful!  But between my oldest daughters birthday, my anniversary, Mother’s Day, and Dear Hubby’s birthday 7 days later….well, let’s just say if I don’t see another cake or sweet treat for the next two months I’ll be happy!  We obviously didn’t plan out the major events in our lives very well!

But with all the festivities, our house was turned into Grand Central Station for two weeks straight.  What does that mean you say?  Well it simply means that I spent hours with a rag in my hand cleaning anything that would stand still and griping at the kids to, “Pick That Up!”  Our silly dog spent much time under the bed barking every time the vacuum would come near.  My husband was locked out in the back yard mowing, edging, and blowing until he couldn’t hear anymore….oh wait, I think he had hearing issues before that…Whatever!

Through all of the sprucing up though I started looking at our house and all the pet “projects” we’ve got going on.  I put on my “Realtor” glasses and started thinking about what if we put our house on the market.  Once I got past the initial tremors of dread at the thought I was struck with the realization that I think I am just fine in this house until the rapture really does come!

But really, what does it take to get the most out of your investment?  Should you rip out and remodel the kitchen?  Change out the shag green carpet?  How about the avocado carpet in the bath?  Remodeling your home can turn into a time and money pit from which there is no return.  There are some good tips to follow though if you are dead set on doing away with the pink rose wall paper in the kitchen.

Speaking of kitchens, this is typically a very smart place to put your money.  Studies show you’ll get about .80-.90 back for every dollar you put in.  Remember, that’s probably better than what your stock portfolio’s look like right now!  Now I’m not talking about an over-the-top upscale remodel.  I am talking about counter-tops, fixtures, cabinets either repainted or doors replaced, moderate priced stove, and some updated tile or flooring.

Bathrooms are another great place to spend money.  Keep it simple though.  Paint, fixtures, flooring.  Put in a water saver toilet.  Green is in!  Remember, you do not need to run out and trick out your bath just to ask top dollar for your property.

But the number one area to take care of actually is siding!  Wow!  Who knew?  With all the cool, swanky, fancy stuff you can do to your kitchen and bath you’re going to get more bang for the buck putting the money into your dilapidated siding.  Or a new roof, windows, or HVAC.  No one’s going to buy your house no matter how tricked out it is if the roof leaks like a sieve and every time the A/C comes on you have to hold your pictures on the wall to keep them from rattling off.

Before you climb up on that ladder to start scraping your ceiling, call a Realtor!  A good one can tell you what trends are “in” right now and what’s best for your individual property for resale.


Agents from different boxes…

So today was interesting.  I spent the morning riding around in a 15 passenger van with other agents on a property tour.  You couldn’t have found 6 more different people than if you would have been at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day!  How it works is like this; usually a business, or in this case 3 businesses, sponsor or put together a little tour of the actives in a certain area.  It’s pretty unique because it gives agents some much-needed feedback for properties that are just sitting and also lets them see other properties in their area.  On the flip side it’s good advertising for the individual(s) that put the property tour together.  They rub elbows with some agents and get to plug their business.  It’s pretty much a win-win deal.

I’d never done one of these tours so I decided that today was the day!  I sent in my email and got on the schedule.  Scheduled the assistant, AKA dear hubby to handle kid duty, and off I went this morning.  I drove by my property first thing this morning to be sure that everything was in order…I was a little nervous about it all.  I wanted to be sure I put my best foot forward with my peers and be able to get some good feedback to give to my sellers.  So I drive up to my property which is supposed to be vacant and see my owners car in the driveway and all the blinds pulled….Not good!  I immediately panic.  It’s 8 in the morning….far too earlier to be banging on the door and ordering people about and out of their beds and houses so I can bring 6 strangers through their house.  I get out of my car and start trying to look through the windows, which of course doesn’t work because all the blinds are shut tight.  Now I’m wondering if the police are going to show up because the neighborhood watch group thinks I’m casing the place.  I start thinking, “Maybe I should just cancel my property from the tour today.” After all a cranky home owner and client is never a good thing.  Plus starting my day being fingerprinted and my mug shot taken isn’t sounding good.  Then I get a brilliant idea to call her son and daughter in law that I know are up and working.  Her son answers the phone and I launch into my tirade about how the house was supposed to be vacant and how I have 6 people planning on showing up in about 45 minutes, he pauses for a moment…..and say’s, “You mean the car that’s been in the driveway for the past month??”  What?? I am seriously loosing my mind! Oh yes, it had been there the whole time.  He had closed the blinds the last time he came by but yes, the car had always been there.  Nice impression to leave with your clients.

Ok so after looking like an idiot, check that off the to-do list, I head to the agreed upon meeting place for the tour.  After all the agents get there they feed us breakfast (nice!) and we hop in the van.  It’s at this point that I have cooled my embarrassment enough to look around at the people I am with.  Serious melting pot of people.  You have the mini van mom with three kids who has a perchance for sarcastic humor, the high-profile agent I must say I was most intimated by but who was incredibly kind. Next came the Asian ex-military-turned agent (go figure!) who oozed sweetness and the little Hispanic woman who looked like someones tia.  You could just picture in a kitchen somewhere surrounded by kids making homemade sopapillas or Empanadas or whatever!  Then came the salesman/agent from a condo community that I half expected the words, “but wait!  That’s not all!  If you buy now…”  to come out of his mouth.  And finally the career agent who was so smooth and polished I believe she could sell a quanset hut to an Eskimo! It was an interesting mix to say the least but what a great group of individuals!  They were all so positive and helpful and you just knew their desire was to truly help their clients.

And it really hit me then as I drove off into the sunset (or late morning light) with this group that agents are not cookie cutters.  Thankfully!  We are as diverse as the clients we serve.  So I guess I say all of that to say it is so important to find the right agent for YOU!  We are not all the same and it truly is about building a relationship.  Buying or selling a home is probably the largest purchase you will ever make.  It is without a doubt the most important decision you will make, outside of choosing a spouse.  You should have complete confidence in that person who is leading and guiding you through the process.  And whether you are the type that needs the ultra confident personality or just want to discuss your investment over a good cup of coffee and homemade pastry, you’ll find it!  Interview them until you find the right one for you.  There are some great agents out there…don’t try to put all agents in the same box!

Now….who wants some coffee??


What Recession??

Free Real Estate Directory
People are funny about money and never so much as during a depression…er I meant recession!  Times are a little unsettling, I will admit it.  I find myself tightening up my purse strings more now than ever before.  Turning on the news or logging on to Yahoo does nothing to ease my confidence as I am blasted with bad news from everywhere!  But…there is good news for us folks in real estate here in central Texas.  Ask just about any Realtor, economist, or Austin politician and they’ll tell you that Austin survived the crisis that many other communities around our nation were subject to.  We’ve been in a cozy little bubble here and thankfully according to new stats released by ABOR it looks like we will survive the slide.

So homeowners, cheer up! I know depending on where your house is located your property value might have dropped faster than a Tiger Woods sponsor…Hang in there.  These stats are encouraging for all.  Chairman of the Austin Board of REALTORS®, Judith Bundschuh is quoted as saying, “”Though some aspects of the real estate market have fluctuated in the last few years, one thing has remained steady for Austin and that’s price appreciation.”  Great news for those of you regarding your long-term investment right now as nothing more than an albatross around your neck!  Before you start pondering the amount of your homeowners insurance policy, take heart.  Chairman Bundschuh goes on to say, “”This degree of price stability, despite fluctuations in sales volume, indicates long-term strength in Austin’s real estate market.”

If you are one of those who found themselves outside of the bubble and without job security, there is hope for you as well.  There are many hungry investors out there who might just be able to get you what you need financially and keep you out of foreclosure.  Do your homework though!  Ask questions and get everything in writing!  Do not let anyone pressure you or use high pressure sales tactics.  Honest and ethical investors will be open with you as to what they hope to get on their return for your investment.  Our family business has done well because we’ve tried to ensure that both parties of the transaction comes away with the best possible outcome.  Be wary, there are many snake  oil salesmen (and women)  in the real estate investment business!

Protect your investment and hang in there!  I will leave you with some other interesting stats that should encourage us. Although at first look we may think otherwise, the Austin market has been able to hold its own.  Even better is that April is looking even stronger!

Blessings!

Katherine

March 2011 Statistics

    • $396,389,773 – Total dollar volume of single–family properties sold, five percent less than March 2010.
    • $185,260 – Median price for single–family homes, two percent more than March 2010.
    • 1,597 – Single–family homes sold, 10 percent less than March 2010.
    • 96 – Days on market, 32 percent longer than March 2010.
    • 3,480– New single–family home listings on the market, 17 percent less than March 2010.
    • 9,156 – Active single–family home listings on the market, 11 percent less than March 2010.
    • 2,012 – Pending sales for single–family homes, 17 percent less than March 2010.

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