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

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? 🙂

 

Bragging Rights

“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” — Muhammad Ali

I know I’ve mentioned more than once how much I love the company I work for — JB Goodwin Realtors — and just how AWESOME we are.

And I also do recall learning, from about kindergarten on, that it’s not good manners to brag.  Which is technically true, but in the immortal words of Muhammad Ali:  “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up!”

While the Austin real estate market has slowed down a little recently, industry-wide we are still up 4% year-to-date in units sold from this time last year.  Which is not bad at all… until you learn that JB Goodwin agents are actually up 9%!

Whaaaat?!

Yep, it’s true.  We have increased more than twice what our counterparts have done so far in 2017.  Which makes us WINNERS.  Winner winner chicken dinner even! (Because I’m actually 8 years old.) 🙂  JB Goodwin agents are out there KILLING IT on a daily basis!

Another notable bragging point for JB Goodwin Realtors: the Austin Business Journal has released their 2017 list of nominees for Austin’s Best Places to Work — which we WON last year, because of our AWESOMENESS!! — and we are AGAIN in the running for the top spot!  (The winners will be announced June 23rd, so expect me to circle back around on this.)

Also, check out our Google Reviews.  Not for nothing, but we’ve got a 4.9 star rating — out of 5!  So much awesome.

Alright, lest Mrs. Godfrey be tempted to return from the grave and smack my knuckles with her lightning-fast ruler for my boastful nature (as she was wont to do during my second grade year) I’ll button that up now and close with my second favorite Muhammad Ali quote:

“If you even DREAM of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize!”

That has NOTHING to do with this post, I am just really tickled by that quote.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂

Why I Love Working With First-Time Home Buyers

Almost as exciting for me as it is for them

I love working with first time home buyers!

I love guiding them carefully through what can be a daunting and confusing process… and then slowly begin burying them under a silent avalanche of paperwork to read, contracts to sign, listings to pour over.

I like watching them struggle to memorize a whole array of terms they’ve never had use for before: appraised value, restrictive covenants, earnest money, warranty deed.

I love getting to know their likes and dislikes as we tour properties, gently reminding that that hideous sofa isn’t actually staying with the house, or that garden gnomes are not immovable fixtures.

I love trapping them in my car to tour just one more property before we call it a day.  Because this one might be THE ONE.

I love seeing their eyes light up when they finally find the right house, like a little kid on Christmas morning spotting a new bike under the tree.  Then, of course, watching that light flicker and dim while we await the seller’s response to our offer.

I love learning new vocabulary words from them in reference to dawdling and obstinate sellers.

I love their sigh of relief when the offer is accepted, and again when the house finally appraises at the right value.  (When I can then much more easily blame any further delays on the mortgage company.)

And I love closing day, when their excitement can’t even be crushed by the titanic mound of papers facing them, each one requiring their signature, culminating in a handover of keys into their eager hands, at least one of which now features acute, tendonitis-like pain.

And finally, because once it’s all done they let you pose them with silly props…

closed-jt
Oh the thrill of new home ownership and balloons

Even upside down props! (Which you are laughing too hard to even notice the fact that it’s upside down…)

closed-al
The key to happiness, or to my room at the loony bin

All kidding aside, it truly does tickle me to work with first time buyers.  Even in our age of HGTV-educated consumers, a lot of folks are still almost completely unfamiliar with the whole process; getting to walk with them through what will likely be one of the biggest –if not THE biggest — purchases of their life is almost as exciting for me as it is for them.

Bless their hearts. 🙂

 

Nose Reacquainted With Grindstone / Happy New Year!

Where DID all the time go?

Was it just me, or did everybody’s 2016 year end come racing into 2017 like its feet were on fire and its pants were catching?!  All of of sudden, here it is the middle of January — what?!  Where did all the time go?

We had a wonderful if a bit frantic holiday here in Austin.  We had family in from Seattle and France for lengthy stays, and seemingly some sort of social event every other night!  It was fun and chaotic, with lots of friends and family around, great food, plenty of wine, Christmas lights, cookies galore, presents, curiously-stuffed stockings, and best of all, lots of laughter.

Oh, and my pretty tree!  We spent a few happy hours drinking eggnog and listening to French rap while decorating the tree.  Because, you know, nothing says Christmas like MC Solaar.

christmas-tree-16

But now that the holidays have passed, the tree is down and all the Christmas lights, associated decor and Christmas baking accouterments have been put away — and my husband’s and my own early-January birthdays have gone likewise by — it’s finally time to get back to work!  I’ve been particularly slow this year to ramp back up to full speed, but my grind is now firmly planted on the old nose-stone and it’s off to the races!

Happy New Year, y’all!

Giving Back/Small Kindnesses

A lovely reminder that kindness is not lost

This past weekend I had the privilege of volunteering at the Austin Junior League’s Coats for Kids drive, which is an annual event designed to get warm coats to kids in need of them whose families can’t necessarily afford to buy them.  Traditionally, we don’t have a lot of cold weather here in Central Texas, but for the 6 weeks or so that we do, we really do!  We are all about weather extremes in our neck of the woods!

For years JB Goodwin Realtors (where I happily work) has been a big participant in this charity event, donating coats, time, and money.  And although I’ve donated coats in the past, this was the first year that I’ve also been part of the on-site crew helping families “shop” for coats.

It was a rewarding experience, as you might imagine.  It can be a lot of work: the coats are for ages 0 – 18, so there is an endless variety of sizes and styles to sort through.  But everybody is grateful: the parents are thrilled and the kids are so excited to be getting a new coat.  And it’s wonderful for the volunteers too.  It is honestly humbling to be part of an event where you can really connect with people, even for a short time.  I’ve been very blessed; it was a great feeling to be able to give back to those in the community less fortunate, as cliché as that might sound.

Of all the lovely, human moments throughout the day there was one in particular that stood out for me.  I had a Muslim family I was paired with to help search the racks for coats for their three boys.  The boys — aged 10, 11 and 13 — were very friendly and polite, but the oldest boy, Muhammad by name, I was especially taken with.  His manner was quite sweet, and he was outgoing and chatty.  He found a coat he liked in short order, then turned his attention to his brothers.  He was great with the two younger boys, offering fashion advice as well prompting them to search for sizes they wouldn’t grow out of too soon.  He was very mature for his age (though he did at one point put the middle brother in a playful headlock when the boy suggested he had stinky armpits, demonstrating he still also knew how to just be a 13-year old boy).

While the boys were trying on various coats, their mother happened to see a very nice long coat that looked to be her size.  She just sort of idly tried it on and it actually fit her beautifully.  She seemed almost surprised by how nice it looked on her.  She asked me if there was any way she could get the coat for herself and I unfortunately had to tell her no, as we could only give them the 3 coats they were allotted.  She was gracious and said of course she understood, but I couldn’t help but see that she was a bit disappointed.

Muhammad noticed as well.  So when he thought his mother was out of earshot he came up to me and asked if he could give back his coat so that she could keep the one she had tried on.  Before I could even answer — I was honestly gobsmacked for a moment — his mother, employing her preternaturally keen mom ears, immediately rushed over and said, “No, baby.  I won’t let you do that.  But thank you.”  In that moment her look said everything about how touched she was, and how proud of her boy.

Like his mother, I was also touched by the kind and selfless gesture of this young man.  It was a small thing, I guess, but also huge.  And for me it was a lovely reminder that kindness is not lost, and that the desire to give back and to make someone else’s day a little brighter (or a little warmer, in this case) isn’t just limited to those with the apparent means to do so.

 

 

Sign of the Times

That 250-count check order is way more than a lifetime supply now

Here’s something kinda startling I’ve recently noticed about younger buyers (the dread Millennials!): they don’t have checks for their checking accounts.

Like, none.  As in they never ordered them from the get-go.

I have to believe I’m not alone in my wonderment here, that for folks from my generation it just seems weird to NOT have checks for your checking account.  Even as we’ve switched to paying all our bills online and using our debit cards for virtually everything else.

While the need for checks has dwindled and all but died away, I still always have checks in my desk drawer for the 1-2 of them I might write a year.  (It’s funny how that 250-count check order — the minimum — is way more than a lifetime supply now!)  I keep those checks because…well, by God, it’s a CHECKING ACCOUNT!

But Millennials don’t, or at least the ones I’ve been in contact with recently don’t.  (Discovery made upon requesting earnest money from a couple of different Millennial buyers.)

My interior voice:  Wait — you have to get a money order?!  You don’t have any checks?! *Slaps interior forehead*

Truth be told, this does actually make sense to me.  Why waste money and trees for something you will literally never use.  So I get it, even if it does make me feel a wee bit antiquated.  But this does also beg the question: do Millenials know how to write out a check, or is that a skill which has died out like cursive handwriting and punctuation?  They’d probably struggle with a rotary phone too.  I’m mildly curious (and perhaps a wee bit nostalgic).

Ah, the times they are a changin’…