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WELCOME, WELCOME, WELCOME

Hello there, you!

You’ve landed at my blog, either by intent or accident — and I’m happy to have you!

I started this blog as sort of a catch-all spot to post all kinds of random stuff I’d like to pass along, most of it pertaining to Austin real estate (my own business in particular or market info in general) or interesting/funny tidbits about Austin … or gardening tips, home decor/design ideas, places you should check out, coming events, notes about the weather, or pictures from in and around Austin I happen to like.

Like this one, which I took outside the Palmer Events Center on a sunny fall day a few weeks ago:

emma-long-ctr

Or this one, of the Beautiful Brandeen (my son’s dog) playing at Bull Creek Park (Austin being a very pet-friendly city):

brandy-at-bull-creek

If you’re interested in browsing listings available for purchase or lease, please click on the SEARCH AUSTIN AREA HOMES FOR SALE link here or on the sidebar.

If you’d like to talk about purchasing a home (for your primary residence or as an investment property), new home construction, listing your home for sale or just finding out what your home is worth, I’d be delighted to chat with you.  Or if you’re interested in getting intermittent email updates from me (no spamming, I promise), please click on the SIGN UP FOR EMAIL UPDATES link.

I always post the latest Austin real estate market stats on my About Real Estate page if you just want to have a quick look.

You can also check out my Facebook page by clicking that link in the sidebar (and don’t be shy about hitting that LIKE button once you get there — it makes me feel good)!

And finally, following my blog by clicking on the link labeled Follow Adventures in Austin Real Estate is always encouraged.  That way you never have to worry about any missing any morsel of wit or wisdom I might drop.

Sunshine & Graffiti
Austin: Keeping it real, keeping it weird at the Hope Outdoor Gallery

Please feel free to leave me your comments or questions or, even better, reach out to me if you’d like to chat about real estate.  My contact info is ALL OVER this site!

In the mean time, like the unknown artist at Austin’s graffiti wall says above, “Just keep swimming. One day you’ll be in your ocean.” 

I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I’m sure it’s profound.

Brushes With Fame, HGTV Style

Showcasing Austin one flip at a time

If you watch much HGTV at all (true confession: I do, LOADS) you may have noticed that Austin is not an infrequent locale used for shooting.  I’m guessing it’s partly because we have decent weather most of the year, (making it easier to shoot), our real estate prices are still largely reasonable (at least compared to other currently hot real estate markets, so we have a lot more folks flipping houses here), and because Austin is just an incredibly telegenic city with lots of exciting stuff happening — we are kinda the belle of the ball at the moment!

With all that, you can imagine how excited we were at JB Goodwin when when of our own agents, the amazing Erin Jones, was tapped to do a pilot for HGTV along with her husband Paul. It’s called “Texas Turnaround” and the episode centered on a local condo they flipped over the winter.  As with all their flips, they did an absolutely outstanding job on this renovation; we got to tour it in person before the episode aired on June 10th and it was every bit as gorgeous in person as it was on TV!

We don’t know yet if Texas Turnaround will be picked up by HGTV as a series or not, but we are keeping our fingers crossed.  Meanwhile, hats off to Erin and Paul and their amazing flips!

Memorial Day 2018

Honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice

Taking a moment today to pay tribute to our fallen heroes and acknowledge our indebtedness for their bravery and sacrifice, a debt which can never truly be repaid.

May their souls rest in peace, and may their loved ones find some small comfort in their remembrances.

The Memorial Wall

“The brave die never, though they sleep in dust, their courage nerves a thousand living men.”  Minot J. Savage

Worst Thing in the World: The Dread Popcorn Ceiling

Only slightly more beloved than Hitler

In the real estate business you come across all manner of things that can be a turn-off to buyers — things like pet stains, garden gnomes, and shag carpet — but I’ve found nothing is so universally despised and scorned as the ubiquitous popcorn ceiling.  How this EVER became a such a hot home-building trend I’ll never understand!  When I walk into a home and look up to see that mottled, cottage-cheesy looking surface staring down at me… well, a tiny part of my soul up and dies on the spot.  I can see the enthusiasm of my buyers, previously so buoyed up by the home’s great curb appeal, turn to dismay and disillusionment as they reflect upon the looming expanse of ceiling covered in a texture not dissimilar to curdled milk.

Popcorn ceiling: Oh, the humanity!

Ugh.  Hit the dislike button!

In its earlier iterations, just to add injury to insult, asbestos fibers were commonly used as part of the textured ceiling mix — because nothing says “Welcome home!” like toxic, whitish-gray curdles attached to the ceiling you sleep and eat under.  Even after the Clean Air Act of 1978 banned asbestos use for textured ceilings in residential dwellings, legacy stores containing it were still in use in a lot construction well into the 1980s.

So, what do you do when you encounter the ghastly stuff?  To start with, if your home was built anywhere before or around that mid-80s time frame, it’s a good idea to have it tested for asbestos before thinking about getting rid of it (you can buy testing kits online for less than $50).

If it does test positive, do have it professionally remediated.  It costs a bit, but better to be safe than sorry and leave it to the professionals.  And honestly, even if there is no sign of asbestos after testing, I think I’d personally still recommend paying to have it removed rather than trying to take care of it myself — popcorn ceiling scraping is NOBODY’S idea of a good time!  (But if I haven’t dissuaded you, I’ll let the fine folks at This Old House walk you through the removal process.)

Now, about that garden gnome removal… 😉

 

 

 

The Seller’s Leaseback

The More You Know

A not at all uncommon transaction in real estate is the seller’s leaseback (or sometimes called just a leaseback). It takes place when, after the closing of the sale of their home, the sellers continue to occupy the property for a set period of time, for agreed upon consideration.

Frequently it is used because the sellers need the funds from the sale of their current home in order to close on their new home, or their new home isn’t quite ready for them to move in.  Sometimes it’s possible for the escrow company to coordinate both closings the same day, but usually there is at least somewhat of a lag.  So when the timing doesn’t quite work out a leaseback can be a great option that can save the sellers from having to move their things twice — provided the buyers (who have just become the new owners) are willing, and have some flexibility on when they need to take possession of their new home, of course.

In the state of Texas leasebacks can be easily handled by use of the Seller’s Temporary Residential Lease form, as long as they are under 90 days in duration.  Before closing, the parties will reach an agreement on how long the leaseback is needed, the daily rental amount, utility costs and deposit amount required.

The rental fee is entirely up to the new owner’s discretion, though I usually recommend a simple formula to my clients who are looking for direction on this: divide the buyers/new owner’s mortgage payment by 30 days to get a daily rental fee.  And note, there does not have to be any fee charged at all; sometimes it can be an enticing part of the original offer (when it is known upfront that the sellers will require a leaseback after closing) to let them know they can do it at no charge.

The deposit is also discretionary.  While it’s not an absolute necessity, it’s usually good insurance to have just in case, especially if any enmity developed between the parties during the transaction (for instance, now that they are tenants rather than the home’s owners, it’s not inconceivable that less care might be taken not to damage the walls, say, when moving their things out).  Or even in a perfectly amicable transaction, things can still get damaged or left dirty, especially if there are pets or children in the house — moving is rough!  So I think it’s a good idea to ask for, generally. Make it an amount you’re comfortable with to cover potential damage, but isn’t unreasonable.

The leaseback will be handled at closing, either with the funds coming directly out of the seller’s proceeds, or in the form of a check from the sellers to the buyers.  As newly minted landlords, the buyers should get a set of keys, with the sellers (now tenants) also retaining a set until their move out date.  Return of deposits or a refund for a shorter than anticipated stay should be handled directly between the two parties within 30 days after the sellers have vacated the home.

So, there you have it: the seller’s leaseback, in a nutshell.

Knowledge bomb, dropped. 🙂

 

 

March Madness

It ain’t just about basketball

As a seller you love them, as a buyer you dread them: the multiple offer situation.  And in March, when the (somewhat) somnolent winter real estate market starts revving back up into high gear with the onset of spring, multiple offers become a more frequent occurrence.

Let the delight or dismay ensue!

From a buyer’s perspective, the obvious issue is that you don’t know what you might be up against when you hear the dread “submit your your best and final offer” phrase.  If you don’t know what the other offers are, how are you supposed to know how to beat them?  The listing agent can only disclose that there are other offers, but not what’s in those offers (unless specifically directed to do so by the seller — which is rare, but does happen).  You have to know how to structure an offer which will be the most appealing.

Obviously, upping your offer amount is the first thing to look at.  Offering more than the asking price is very common, especially in our crazy hot Austin real estate market, and something I alert my buyers to the possibility of when I’m certain we are going to be in a multiple offer situation.  I have often chosen to go in initially over asking price, as long as I feel that price will be supported by the appraisal.

But one thing to know about multiple offers is that sellers don’t necessarily always go with the highest dollar amount; oftentimes there are other factors which can be more enticing to them.  For instance, it can be a quick closing date that wins the day.  If a buyer can close in 2 weeks instead of 45 days that can be very appealing to a seller who needs to move in a hurry.  Conversely, it can be a buyer who doesn’t need to take possession right away but can allow the seller a leaseback for a certain period after closing while the sellers wait to close on their new home.

When offers received are very similar in price and time needed to close, other things which can tip the scales in your favor are a shorter option period (note: I would never advise NO option period) and/or a higher option fee, a larger earnest money deposit and a greater down payment.  These are things which speak to the seriousness of the buyer and to their financial stability, so there appears less risk that the deal will fall apart from financing issues.  I would also include in that same category (if it’s feasible) for little to no ask for seller contribution to closing costs, which translates to a higher net for them — because for some sellers it is ONLY about the Benjamins!

Another contributing factor in some seller’s decision-making process is a bit more nebulous: the sentimentality factor.  While for some folks it’s just a piece of real estate and doesn’t mean anything to them on a personal level, for many sellers their home carries a lot of emotional weight and they want to know it is going to someone who will love the home and care for it as they did.  Many sellers like knowing that, after having raised their own family in a home, the new buyers will be doing the same.  They made many fond memories in their home and they want to see that continue with a new family.  They want their old home to be appreciated, its history respected.

Knowing this, one of the things I like to include in my offers is the “love letter”, which is just a short paragraph or two about the buyers and their hopes and plans for their life in the new house, what they love about the home and/or the neighborhood — them, their kids and the family pets all get starring roles in the love letter!  Nothing schmaltzy, mind you, just something to pluck the heartstrings a bit, or stir up fond memories for the sellers of when they themselves first bought the home.  I have seen sellers turn down a higher dollar offer on their home by investors who were planning to flip it and instead sell it to a family for a little less based on their love letter.  Never underestimate how much of a role sentimentality can play for some sellers.

My final thought on submitting an offer that stands out and hopefully wins the day is make it clean, fill everything out completely, attach all pertinent documentation (financing agreement, lender’s pre-approval letter or proof of funds letter from bank, and any other addenda needed) and summarize the offer in a cover letter with bullet points showing the specifics so they can quickly get a complete picture of your offer without having to read a dozen pages.  And then keep your fingers crossed! 🙂

 

To Stage or Not to Stage

Is this even a question?

I’ve taken around enough buyers to know: it can be really difficult to show a home which is messy or overly cluttered, or even one that is just decorated poorly.  It becomes distracting, and not in a good way.  (I guess that’s not news; I think we’ve all watched enough HGTV to know that!)  In those instances I find myself needing to remind buyers not to focus on the home’s furnishings, but rather on the bones of the home itself.

Now that’s not to say that I’m totally above making the occasional snarky comment on certain decorating choices — I’ll admit it!  Sometimes you just have to!  Things like what in the name of all that is holy were they thinking with this rug?! or I guess they were aiming for ‘mausoleum chic’ with this living room set!  have been known to fall from my lips from time to time.  But honestly, unless it’s nailed to the floor, focusing on furniture which will be gone after the deal closes is pretty pointless.

That said, empty spaces don’t necessarily fare that well either.  Even without the distractions of ugly or uninspiring décor, sometimes it’s difficult for buyers to imagine themselves and their furnishings in a totally blank space, especially if it’s a small or oddly-shaped room.  I often hear buyers say, “But what would you do with this room?” or “I can’t even see how my furniture would fit in this space!”

And all of this is where staging comes in!

When deciding on improvements to make to a home prior to putting it on the market (after decluttering), new paint and lighting fixtures are two of the least expensive and most effective changes that sellers can make to bump up their home’s appeal.  But if you’re dealing with empty spaces, sometimes you need a little extra oomph, you know?  A case in point: I sold a really lovely home where the sellers had already made some excellent improvements with new paint, flooring, and removal of some outdated window coverings, but to really show off the home’s full potential we needed some staging to bring it fully to life.

I’ll let the pictures tell the story:

At first the living room was an almost TOO blank, blank slate…
Now with some staging (and the lights on) it becomes an inviting space where people can imagine hanging out!
The front room right off the foyer was confusing to folks …what was it supposed to be for?
Staging gives the room a purpose in buyers’ minds — in this case it became a cozy sitting room.
The boring hallway bath appeared small and was totally uninspiring…
With some simple staging it looked bright and interesting; even while still small, its size became less of a focus for buyers!
The master bath got the same type of simple makeover, just a few tweaks to make it look less drab…
The result is a master bath that looks like a room you would enjoy using!
An empty dining area and kitchen didn’t really inspire thoughts of lavish dinner parties…
But a dressed up dining table and some simple kitchen staging can inspire Martha Stewart-like entertaining visions!

The purpose of staging is to show your home at its best and to help people imagine themselves living in that space.  Too much stuff (or too much ugly) makes it hard for them to do that, as does too little — plus, big empty spaces draw the eye to every little flaw, which is not what you want your buyers to be focusing on. You want them to be picturing their new life in your home, imagining all its possibilities!

I like to think of staging like I think of dressing up for a first date with someone: you want to look your best so potential mates are impressed and want to stick around and find out more about you…and hopefully fall in love with the whole package!

Your house just wants that too… 😉

Mea Culpa

Oops!

Like Fiona Apple sang in the 90s: I’ve been a bad, bad girl.

Well, okay, not THAT bad!  Not felonious or anything — not in a drown a basket of puppies kind of way — just in the “Oh wow, it’s mid-February and I haven’t posted on my blog since Thanksgiving!” kind of way.

Oops.

The end of the year kind of got away from me starting with a long weekend trip to Mexico for our friends’ wedding, followed shortly thereafter by a month long trip to France…which then led into me spending the rest of the month of January and into February playing catch up!  My News Year’s resolution to post on my blog weekly flew to the curb faster than the one to slow down on my dairy and bread intake.  (It’s FRANCE, y’all — how am I supposed to NOT eat fabulous baguette and excellent brie?  Seriously!)

So lemme post some pictures to assuage my guilt and follow it with a promise to do better from here on out.  That okay?

To start off, these are the Mayan ruins we visited at Tulum, Mexico.

Breathtaking, no?  And here is the beach:

We made friends with some of the locals…

And enjoyed this wonderful cenote just down the road at Xel-Ha, which we had completely to ourselves:

You can see why I was too preoccupied to spend much time in front of my computer, right?  And France proved to be no less distracting, though in a completely different way.  For instance, this is the absolutely charming city of Annecy:

Beautiful, isn’t it?  And then the lovely, untouched snow in the mountains at Chamrousse:

We encountered more snow and skiers at Correncon en Vercors:

We spent New Year’s Eve in Paris where I took this very sparkly shot of the Eiffel Tower with a full moon directly above it!

And finally, here is me with my husband posing along the Seine River in Paris with Notre Dame behind us:

Okay, enough travel porn for now, I guess.  But you can see why my focus was not really on my blog, can’t you — and forgive my neglect?  For I’m back at it now and ready to start knocking your socks off with some new and exciting material!  Or something like that.  So let me get caught up and just say happy President’s Day today to y’all…and a very belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…and a happy MLK Day…and a Happy Ground Hog’s Day…and a Happy Chinese New Year…and an only slightly belated Happy Valentines Day

Oy, I was gone a long time… 😉