I recently hopped aboard a Lonestar Riverboat Cruise to check out the bats and found the price very reasonable at $10 for adults and $7 for kids. Before the big event we floated between the two bridges - Congress St. and First Street while our ship's captain regaled us with amusing facts about Austin's expanding skyline.
If you're planning to take the bat cruise I highly recommend bringing along a hat as the bats are numerous and not particularly well potty-trained, if you know what I mean. But it's a fun way to spend an evening with nature, if you're into that sort of thing.
Want more info on the bats? Call the hotline - 512/327-9721.
Seen the bats? Share your experience in the comments below.
Catherine Werth suggested the Hays-Caldwell Women's Center. Here's what she wrote in support of this wonderful organization:
"Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center supports woman and families who are victims of abuse. The center has many services for both in-house and provides counseling for current and past situations. They are located in San Marcos, but this past year served over 70 cases of abuse in Dripping Springs alone. They have a special center for working with children and help with transitions providing on-site housing, clothing and essentials for those who must leave their domestic situation. They provide support to their clients in the hospital or in the legal system. The director, Mara, has been the core of the organization for over 20 years. They receive strong support from McCoy's. I have toured the center and been awed by all they do. When we think our life is challenging we do not need to look far to realize how blessed we are."
And musician Carey Colvin introduced me to Gina For Missing Persons.
"GINA was founded by California musician Jannel Rap, whose sister, Gina Bos (also a musician) vanished after an open mic night in Lincoln, Nebraska on October 17, 2000. Jannel tried, naturally, to find her sister but no one was interested in covering her story, so Jannel started asking her friends to profile Gina and other missing persons at their shows. That evolved into GINA Concerts and the annual Squeaky Wheel(TM) Tour.
Jannel never has found her sister, but she keeps going and in her search for Gina she has become a voice for all missing. GINA Foundation is fortunate enough to be able to say that many people have been found through GINA's combined efforts with law enforcement, the musical community, and the families of the missing.
Jannel is tiring as her search lengthens, so any support she receives is like manna from heaven for her."
Both of these organizations will be receiving a $100 donation in honor of Catherine and Carey.
For a complete list of non-profits our friends and colleagues support, click here!
One of a real estate agent’s primary roles is to negotiate a deal for their client so both parties, buyer and seller, walk away feeling good about the transaction. I’ve read books on negotiation and recently took classes to be certified as a RENE, (Real Estate Negotiation Expert). After several years in this career, the books and the classes, I thought I had seen it all – or at least most of it - when it came to negotiating techniques. But nothing prepared me for the unique and heartwarming mediation style of my clients, Jenni and Alfred.
Jenni and Alfred are a young couple with a new baby. Jenni was pregnant with their first child when we met and she was interested in buying a home for her growing family. First I helped them navigate the process of qualifying for a loan so we knew how much of a budget they had. Then I put them on an MLS auto search so they could see new listings that met their specific criteria in neighborhoods they were interested in. Finally the day came when they were ready to go out and shop for a home.
We saw a few resale houses in their price range and visited several production builders in the area as well. Within a week, Alfred and Jenni decided to purchase a brand new home that had not yet begun construction.
The sales agent brought us to an empty section to see the lots where they were about to start a new phase. Jenni liked the lot in the middle of the street while Alfred preferred the one a few doors down. After a brief discussion on the merits of each parcel, they faced each other with arms outstretched and a serious expression on their faces. In unison they said: “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” That was all it took. Jenni won and her lot became their lot.
Inside the showroom, Alfred and Jenni had other choices to make – carpet color, exterior brick, paint, tile and fixtures. I held the baby as they negotiated each option the same way: “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Done. A few times they went two out of three but Jenni emerged victorious nearly every time. I’m not exactly sure how that worked out but trust me, it was probably for the best!
Since that day I often wonder how many of our world and personal problems could be solved with a simple round of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Of course, this technique won’t work every time - after all, some decisions are more complex than others. But it could be an effective way of negotiating more often than you might think. Hey, if a coin toss can determine who goes first in football, maybe Alfred and Jenni are on to something. We might be better off letting the trio of Ro, Sham and Bo handle the negotiating for us.
In a few short weeks Jenni and Alfred will close on their new home. The baby will celebrate her first birthday and the house will welcome its excited new occupants. Life will change as life usually does. But I will never forgot – or cease to be inspired by – the way this very sweet couple got through every impasse with Rock, Paper, Scissors. What a wonderful world it would be if we all employed this negotiation technique a bit more often.
Questions about real estate? Call or text me at 512/363-2226 or email me – firstname.lastname@example.org
A prospective buyer probably won't appreciate the pipe held up by a can and wrapped in gauze. A jerry-rigged fix shows the next potential owner that you failed to take proper care of your home. Worst of all, it raises questions aboutwhat else might be a problem with the house. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish.
I often suggest a pre-listing inspection so a homeowner can see the property objectively. Yes, you must legally disclose anything you find but a pre-listing inspection can also give you peace of mind and the opportunity to fix whatever comes up before you go on the market.
If you are thinking about buying or selling in the Texas Hill Country give me a call and we can discuss your needs. In the end, you'll benefit when you leave it to a pro.
A savvy real estate agent will guide you through the negotiations process and make sure everything stays on track.
Also, your agent will make suggestions such as before you move in, your home gets inspected by someone of your choosing rather than the builder's. And while REALTORs cannot offer legal advice, they can look over the contract to see if there is something in there the buyer may want to consult an attorney about.
Best of all, a buyer does not pay any commission to have an experienced agent help them sort through the process.
A new home is one of life's biggest purchases. Working with someone who represents your interests to make sure everything runs smoothly is a very smart choice.
Have you ever shown a home with one feature that was so odd, you can't seem to get it out of your mind?
My very first client was a buyer. We'd been searching for awhile and he really wanted to see one particular house near downtown Austin that had come up on the MLS.
It was the size and price range he was interested in and two lots up from a major intersection. We could see that the neighborhood was a bit run down but that was OK. Cosmetics can be fixed.
When we got to the house, a cleaning crew was hard at work, taking care of what looked like a disaster had hit the place. There was dirt everywhere. The carpets were stained, the linoleum chipped, the appliances grimey and the overall smell, not exactly what one might call inviting. This house was, in a word, trashed. That is not unusual in real estate, right? We come across distressed properties all the time. But I was unprepared for what I saw next.
"Have you gone outside yet?" my client asked.
"No. Is the yard OK?" I responded.
"You've got to see this," he said. "It cannot be described."
Before I could run away, my eyes landed on a horrible sight. Leaning against the side of the house was a 5x8 foot board with approximately a dozen squirrel skins nailed on to it, curing in the hot sun.
"I hope this is not part of the sale," the client said.
With that, we high tailed it (!!) out of there as soon as we could, both creeped out by what we had just seen, but bonding over it for weeks afterwards.
Austin is not a backwater town by any means. In fact, it's very sophisticated with lots of culture. But here in the country where I live and work, about a half hour away, it is very common to see critter's heads mounted on a wall, the bounty of a hunter's hobby. Coming to Texas from Seattle this used to startle me, all those eyes following me around a home, imploring me to bring them an offer. While I admittedly don't love seeing dead animal heads, I am used to it now. It's part of the culture. Got it.
But I cannot figure why anyone would have something like this, let alone leave it for potential buyers to see. Was it road kill? Was someone making a cheap version of Daniel Boone hats to sell on eBay? Wouldn't the kids miss their dead pet squirrels? I often ponder this rhetorically, but don't really want an answer.
I have been a real estate agent just over two years now. I completed all my apprenticeship hours and my first renewal is paid. Whew! I am here to stay.
While still taking classes for my license, I found a brokerage that fit like a glove. As soon as I got my license I bought a house to familiarize myself with the process. Then a friend gave me the listing for her home - I got two sales from her neighbors - and another friend referred me to her friends and family. Two of my neighbors had leases that were up and I found them homes. "Gee, this is EASY," I said to myself.
Not so fast, sister!
In year two, I've been spinning my wheels. A lot. Buyers are in multiple offer situations and not winning. (Despite my advice, they still think they can still low-ball in this hot, hot, hot Austin, Texas market). Sellers have decided to wait another year to list their homes. I am trying to walk that very fine line between "staying top of mind" and being served a restraining order.
So here are ten things I wish I'd known before I so blindly thought I had arrived on Easy Street with my SOLD! sign in the yard.
1. YOU GOTTA SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. As agents, one of our jobs is to set expectations for our clients. But what about setting expectations for ourselves? We recently had a motivational speaker at our office and he asked the room "How many of you are on track in meeting your goals this year?" Only a couple of hands went up. The easiest way to sabotage your career is to decide you need to make a gazillion dollars in your first year. Don't set yourself up for failure!
2. YOUR LICENSE WON'T HELP YOU GET ACTUAL CLIENTS. While learning about Riperian Rights, easements and the numerous ways to get sued is vital, the licensing curriculum fails to address sales and negotiating skills. That's a whole other conversation and if you are not comfortable with that, you will need to take some classes to build your confidence.
3. WE'RE NOT ON HGTV. When I got my license my mom actually thought I only had to show three houses and then they would have to make a decision - like on House Hunters. If only it were that simple to get a deal done in an hour - including commercials! I didn't realize how many houses it takes sometimes - between low inventory and buyer wants - to find the right fit. And sometimes clients decide to stay put. Which brings me to ...
4. IT'S NOT CLOSED UNTIL IT'S CLOSED. A friend (not a client) was self-employed and did not have all of her taxes done so her loan did not get final approval and she was denied on the day of closing. It happens! Don't book that Tahitian vacation until the check has cleared.
5. SOME CLIENTS ARE REALLY NICE. You'll be amazed how quickly great clients can become extended family. They appreciate your hard work and cheerful demeanor. They respect your time and energy. In a word, they are awesome.
6. SOME CLIENTS ARE JERKS. They won't respect your other commitments, won't get back to you when you have questions, expect you to find them a "unicorn" in a tough market and resent your commission. Occasionally, agents on the other side of the transaction can be jerks, too. Don't be a jerk.
7. THE BEST WAY TO MAKE MONEY IN REAL ESTATE IS TO SELL STUFF TO REALTORS. Between MLS dues, start-up costs and car expenses, the first few years require a bigger investment than you may prepared to spend. While there are many tools for agents out there, don't pony up for every lead generator you get a spam e-mail for. In fact, it pays to be frugal.
8. YOU GOTTA GET OUT THERE. Online is great, but to gain traction you really need to meet people face to face. Be a people person. Or an animal person. Just don't be a couch potato person.
9. TAKE IT ALL WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. I am so tough on myself when a client is disappointed - by not getting the house they love, a less than stellar inspection report, buyer's or seller's remorse, a number of things that are not always under my control. Keep the tough stuff in perspective and soldier on.
10. IT'S FUN. That Christmas morning look on a client's face when they fall in love with a house and it really becomes theirs is worth the bumps in getting there. A happy client is a friend for life. And real estate is a great way to enjoy that Christmas feeling all year long!
I just renewed my real estate license for the first time. This means it’s been two years since I passed the real estate exam. Happy anniversary to me!
While the terror of the test is now far behind me, I wasn’t confident I would pass on my first try. I had heard all the horror stories from really successful agents that took three or more tries to get their license. It was like when you are pregnant and someone tells you about the time they spent a hundred hours in labor – not really what you want to hear!
I had already decided on Stanberry & Associates as my brokerage and they had allowed me to take a few classes at their office so the thought of flunking and having to tell my new boss was humiliating.
I took a preparation class before taking the exam and did well on the National portion but not so great on the State part. So I canceled the test I had planned to take the next week and instead spent the next month poring over scintillating topics like Riparian Rights and what hours the Texas Real Estate Commission is open.
Finally I had the confidence to take the test – and to my surprise I did well! In fact, the administrator said I had achieved an unusually high score.
So imagine my surprise when I went to have my fingerprints taken, a mandatory part of becoming an agent, and flunked!
Maybe it was because many years of playing bass and guitar created callouses that covered the prints. Maybe too much typing erased them. At any rate, after many attempts to get prints on one hand, contorting my fingers into positions I didn’t know they could achieve, I was sent home and told to come back another time.
Who else would pass the real estate exam but flunk the fingerprint test!
A few days later I went back to try again, this time with no issues at all. I’ll never know what the problem was. Were my fingers sweatier the first time? Did low blood sugar before lunch contribute? I’m still not sure what that was about. But I am very glad to be starting real estate year number three without the fear that my fingerprints will prevent me from being the kickass agent I aspire to be.
And surprise - Austin is not on the list. The coasts have it worst. See below what a the median cost is for a one-bedroom apartment. I have lived in several of those cities - most recently Seattle - and yikes. Just yikes!