Thanksgiving at the Salvation Army

It has been our tradition at JB Goodwin Realtors for the last 22 years to volunteer serving Thanksgiving lunch at the Salvation Army, and this year for the first time I was honored to take part in it as a server.

Some of the JB Goodwin volunteers, with Major Kelley (center), head of the local Salvation Army

The  Salvation Army’s Downtown Austin shelter feeds and houses hundreds of folks in need every day.  In addition to that, at Thanksgiving they offer a sit-down holiday meal to their residents and to the homeless community at large, serving up some excellent home cooking from Chef Lynda Jones and her awesome kitchen staff.

Placemats were made by some of the residents

Seating was family-style at large round tables, which were dressed for the occasion with fall centerpieces and colorful placemats made by some of the shelter’s young residents.  Instead of standing in line for a plate, guests were waited on by a crew of volunteers, giving them a chance to take a load off and visit a little while enjoying some turkey, gravy, cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes (grown in a local community garden, these potatoes were the biggest I’ve ever seen — quite literally the size of a baby’s head!), roles and butter, cranberry sauce, and a wide variety of pies and cakes for dessert, plus all the sweet tea or punch a body could handle.

I think we served in excess of 600 meals and everyone was grateful for the feast.  I heard numerous compliments to the chef, and I have to say it all looked and smelled delicious!  I don’t think anybody went away hungry.

Chef Jones and helper with some of their amazing cooking

I truly enjoyed getting to serve and meet folks.  There were a few souls who didn’t seem up for a lot of conversation, which I can absolutely understand and respect, but most folks seemed to welcome a little chitchat along with their grub.  I was talking with one gal in particular who was sharing her concerns about her grown son, who has gotten into some trouble with the law but now seems to be on a good path.  Listening to her speak I had a few of those “there but for the grace of God” moments; I realized anew how blessed I am and how much I have to be thankful for in this life, but also how easily things can turn in the wrong direction.

This holiday season (or any time of year), if you’re looking for a place where your charitable donations will have the greatest impact, I’d like to make a plea for the Salvation Army.  You can donate your time, money or all kinds of stuff from their list of items they are in need of  and know that approximately 83% of the money they take in goes directly to benefit the  individuals and families they serve in Travis and Williamson counties, plus 100% of every dollar donated for disaster relief goes to help survivors and first responders.

Wishing y’all a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

A Death in the Family

Last week we lost a beloved member of the JB Goodwin family; Chris Sachs died unexpectedly in a boating accident on Thursday. He was a much loved and respected agent, trainer, sales manager and all-around bright spot in the day at our office for the past 13+ years.  He was charming and funny, with a near constant smile and positive outlook.   He was usually the first person agents would turn to for help or advice (personal or professional), use as a listening post, or just grab a drink with and bask in his good humor.  He would chat up anyone he met, in any setting.  He had a huge didactic streak, and would carry on lively conversation on any number of topics.  He would organize happy hours on the drop of a hat, just because.  He was old fashioned enough to open doors for any women who rode in the car with him, and he absolutely didn’t mind that someone might think him old-fashioned for doing what he considered just good manners. He was a truly devoted husband and father, and always spoke of his family in glowing terms.

His absence is will be keenly felt by all those who knew and loved him for quite some time to come.  It still hardly feels real that he is gone.  His memorial service is today in Austin; I’m out of the country as I write this and can’t be there as I want to be to commiserate with everyone else feeling this loss (and this lost), so I decided to write my own short tribute to a dear friend and colleague I thought the world of and already miss terribly.

Rest in peace, Chris.

Race for the Cure

Our team, the Goodwin Gladiators made a great showing at the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k run today.  There were about 5,000 runners and walkers, and we won an award for having the second largest team (I think we ended up with something like 82 team members).  The weather was mostly cooperative, with really high humidity but good cloud cover and a gentle breeze to cool things off.  Energy was high and everyone seemed to be in a celebratory mood!  We had an absolute blast, and were able to do some good for a seriously good cause: raising awareness about breast cancer and getting the dollars to fight it.  Plus there was a live band, music, dancing, and more than one pink doggie!

Some of our team members
The starting line, and a little of the leftover morning fog
I ran (almost all of it) with my soul sister and our team captain, Indu
Dancing in the streets
Who doesn’t love a pink pug?
This seems like a weird spot for group photos, but at least SOMEBODY was into it!

It really was a joyous and fun event, and I look forward to doing this again next year!

Goodwin Gladiators

It’s Bats, Man!

Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na…

This has been an incredible last few days for witnessing awe-inspiring natural phenomena for your friendly neighborhood Realtor here.  Although Monday’s solar eclipse was both far bigger and way more rare an occurrence, Tuesday night I finally got to experience firsthand one of our local marvels — the emergence of Austin’s bat colony for their evening feeding!

Bats emerging from under the South Congress Bridge – August 22, 2017

For those unaware, Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America.  While we actually have several colonies around the Austin area, the most famous is the one living under the South Congress Bridge, and the best views are to be had on a bat cruise, which is how I got to experience it. (Shout outs to Premier Nationwide Lending and Capital Cruises for providing us a wonderful evening of tasty eats, adult beverages and amazing bat watching!)

Click here if you’d like to read a little more about our local bats and where and when to best see them; otherwise, I’ll just let the video below speak for itself.  (Note, you don’t really need sound for the video.  You’ll mostly hear a lot of Realtors and lenders exclaiming in awe — surprisingly, the bats themselves are pretty much silent!)

Amazing, no?  If you’re looking for a cool experience to share with visitors, or if you’re a local like me who has never done it before (WHY did I wait SO LONG?!) I can’t recommend an Austin bat boat tour highly enough!  It really is incredible.

 

Mid-Century Modern in Austin

A rare gem designed by Austin architect and builder, A.D. Stenger

On a property tour this week I had the uncommon opportunity check out an absolutely stunning, mid-century modern home designed by famed local architect and builder, A.D. Stenger.  Although each one of the 100 or so homes built by Stenger from the 1940s to 1990s was unique, they share a few common characteristics in addition to their simple, modern lines, such as low pitch gable roofs, the use of clerestory windows and expansive stonework both inside and out.

2302 Rundell Place

Stenger homes are mainly found in the Austin neighborhoods of Rollingwood, Zilker and Barton Hills.  Because they were built in some of the most prized (and expensive) areas for Austin real estate, many have been torn down over the years by folks looking to build larger, more contemporary and/or functional homes, though this has led to conflicts with the city’s Historic Landmark Commission.  (Not to mention earning the ire of Stenger enthusiasts; Stenger homes enjoy an almost cult-like following among Austin architecture buffs, and with good reason!)

With only a few dozen or so of them left standing, these homes don’t often come on the market — so when they do it tends to make kind of a splash.  The one I toured this week was just listed by one of our top agents and sales manager, Dorothy Palmore.  It has been thoroughly and thoughtfully renovated very much in keeping with its mid-century modern aesthetic, but with contemporary conveniences and design touches added.  It’s listed at a cool $1.5 million, and to my eye worth every penny — it’s out-and-out gorgeous!

Although I only had my iPhone camera with me and my limited photography skills, I think this home’s unique beauty and style still shines through:

Stenger home hallmarks: fireplace and rock wall, with clerestory windows
Bringing outside in — notice how the rock wall continues from exterior to interior?

Although not original to the home, I love the dining room light fixture and the cool pattern it casts on the ceiling:

Another stylish lighting fixture in the bright and airy kitchen, and more clerestory windows:

High ceilings and clean lines, and awesome marble counters with waterfall edge

In the center of the home is a private zen-like atrium, open to the live oak trees above.

Tranquility abounds

Or if you’re feeling more like entertaining than meditating, the home features a wet bar nestled in between the kitchen and living room:

This property really is sublime.  If you’d like more information about it or to schedule a showing, please contact Dorothy Palmore at 512-925-0045.

To Inspect or Not to Inspect

Why is this even a question?

I’ve always thought buyer’s inspections were kind of a no-brainer when it comes to purchasing a home.  If I’m dropping a quarter of a million dollars (or much, much more) on something, you better believe I’m gonna want to have someone who knows what to look for give it a good going-over before I commit to paying for it for the next 30 years!  I mean, it’s not like you can just browse through Amazon Reviews to get the lowdown on your potential new house — only a trained professional can provide a comprehensive picture of the home’s overall condition.

So I was quite surprised to find, when reading the comments section of a recent online real estate magazine article on this very topic, that so many Realtors seem to disagree, or are at least on the fence about whether or not to encourage buyers to get an inspection.  As I’m reading the negative comments I’m shaking my head and thinking, are you nuts!?

First of all, yes I know: if you want to keep your faith in humankind NEVER READ THE COMMENTS!  Having already broken that golden rule, however, my curiosity was piqued.  I decided I should conduct my own small, informal survey of other real estate agents to get their thoughts on the subject.

Now let me backtrack a moment, for anyone unfamiliar with the home buying/home inspection process:

When we write an offer to purchase a home, it’s common practice to include an option period (generally 5 – 10 days) for which a buyer will pay a nominal fee (like $100, say) and which gives them the unrestricted right to terminate the contract for any reason without losing their earnest money deposit (which will probably be several thousand dollars, depending on the price of the home).  And this option period is used, in most cases, to hire an inspector to come out and go over the house very carefully, making sure buyers know exactly what they’re getting before buying.

The inspector will check out the the electrical and plumbing systems, the HVAC and any appliances that will convey with the home, like the stove and the dishwasher.  They will look at the water heater, check out the condition of the roof, measure attic insulation levels, look for any evidence of foundation troubles or wood-destroying insect activity.  They will make sure windows and doors latch properly and check all the home’s safety features like smoke detectors and stair rails. Outside, the inspector will check out how sprinkler systems and garage doors are functioning, as well as make note of any tree limbs brushing the roof (which can lead to damage/displacement of shingles) or vegetation growing too close to the foundation (which can trap moisture and lead to erosion).

While sellers are legally required to disclose to buyers any of the home’s known defects or anything which might negatively impact its value, oftentimes they are unaware of their home’s flaws.  For instance, I can’t say I have EVER crawled out on my roof to make sure all the shingles are intact; I just assume they are.  Or if a seller listed their home for sale during our scorching central Texas summer, would they know their heating system was malfunctioning, or would that fact only be discovered by the new buyers the following January?

You can see why having this information is key, especially if this is the buyer’s first home where they might not necessarily know what kinds of things to look for themselves, or in an older home which is prone to age-related defects like we all are.

So why would a real estate agent, especially one representing the buyers, not encourage them to get an inspection?

What I gathered from my little survey was that it really comes down to the quality of the inspector themselves, and to what they uncover.  While some agents complained that inspectors overlooked obvious defects in the home which then caused big problems when they were later discovered, a far more common complaint was the reverse: the inspector uncovered too many little, inconsequential flaws (their words, not mine) which then jeopardized the sale by scaring off the buyers, or inciting them to present a massive list of demands for seller repairs or giving them apparent grounds to renegotiate the sales price.

And this is where Realtors can help by setting proper expectations up front with buyers with regard to what they can and should be looking for in a home inspection.  Yes, inspectors will (and should) disclose even minor defects, like interior doors that stick or bathroom faucets in need of re-caulking, but agents need to work with buyers in understanding that just because a small flaw exists doesn’t mean it needs to be addressed prior to the sale.

I encourage my buyers to focus on big ticket items or safety risks and not to get bogged down with minor defects.  I remind them that the purpose of the inspection is to make sure the home they are considering is solid and safe to live in.  I try to convey that the things to ask a seller to repair need to be reasonable.  Or if a seller has indicated they don’t wish to make any repairs, that they be reasonable in making a financial allowance to the buyers so that they may have it repaired after the sale.  I try to appeal to everybody’s sense of decency and fairness, and remind them (if need be) that we are all working toward the same goal, which is the sale of a particular home!  The inspector just provides the information needed so we can all work together to accomplish this.

Don’t shoot the messenger, you know? 🙂