Friday, February 29, 2008

Random Thought on Leap Year

If your client closes on a new home today, February 29th, you won't have to send them a Home Anniversary card but every 4 years. Badum, bump!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Hate Paying Taxes!

Sure, take 30% from each and every one of your closings and put that amount into a savings account. Then on April 15th each year use that account to pay your taxes. Sounds easy, right? Hello! This is America. We love us some credit cards and love to spend beyond our means. There's a reason people escrow their property taxes and roll it into their mortgage payment. Because we're inherently fiscally irresponsible. I can't tell you how many agents I know that owe the gubment tens of thousands of dollars because they haven't been paying their taxes as I described above. (I have to admit I haven't been as responsible as I should be but I'm certainly able to pay my taxes on time...painfully.)

This is the reality of the real estate industry. But it doesn't have to be that way. Ever since I got into real estate I have heard from the old timers and NAR that we want to keep taxes out of our commission checks. Um, I don't! Have at it! I say this at the risk of getting hate mail from my fellow Realtors. But I'm sorry, if I don't have to stay up till 4:30am for 3 days straight running through my Quickbooks trying find tax deductions then I say, "PUH-LEEZ TELL ME WHERE TO SIGN UP!"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

$2 Million Dollar Price Reduction

This home was listed on 9/26/06. Yes, as in 2006. It's been on the market for 520 days and recently reduced again. This is how the pricing history breaks down.

9/06: $11,995,000

9/07: $10,999,000

2/08: $9,999,000

I've seen this house and it's fabulous. You'd be hard pressed to find a better location in all of Texas. But did they really miss the mark by $2,000,000? Is this a prime example of how overpricing will kill a listing and cause it to end up selling below it's true market value?

I realize many of you are saying, "Jeff. Don't be silly. Pricing rules are completely different when it comes to ultra high end real estate." And I would say you are somewhat correct. But if this home had come on the market at $10.5 million in the beginning, would it have stayed on the market for 520 days? As it is now, they probably stand to end up taking far less than what they could have had they been priced competitvely in the beginning. Pricing strategies work for high and low end real estate regardless of what market Steve Brown thinks we're in.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Last Thoughts on Whole Foods: Part Deux

I'm confused. I've always been told Whole Foods' decision not to build a new structure was due to the difficulties they've had with Dallas' lovely planning and zoning folks. Scott Simons of Whole Foods sent me an email that included this explanation.
"...this decision was a business decision that came down to timing. After we had “sat” on that building for an entire year (much longer than we had hoped) to get our game-plan together and navigate the unique landlord situation and zoning, we simply cannot afford to sit on it for six more months to a year to gain the zoning amendment for the new construction."
Understandable and exactly what we all though. Then comes news by way of Angela Hunt's blog that says,
"I spoke with Whole Foods' Seth Stutzman two days before they publicly announced their decision, and he explained that after they got into the zoning case, they did a cost comparison of building a new store versus redoing the old Minyards store. They were shocked to see that the redo would cost $4.5M less than a new store. It would also allow for a more environmentally-friendly store."
So which is it? Someone isn't telling the complete truth. Mrs. Hunt goes on to say,
"I just want to make sure our inclusive zoning process is not blamed for a business decision."
To which I ask, if your "inclusive zoning process wasn't as onerous as you say it is then what happened to the Andres brothers and the development at Lovers and Amesbury? But the Wachovia Bank on Abrams popped up within a year's time. So what's really going on? Let's face it. We'll never know.

Monday, February 25, 2008

How Successful is Your Realtor?

I'm a huge advocate of buyer and sellers making sure they are working with a successful and professional Realtor. Many buyers and sellers use a family member or a friend. Or even worse, a friend of a friend. The sad part is that those buyers and sellers never know if they are actually working with someone who knows what the hell they are doing. This blog post from a Realtor in Western New York addresses this issue and does a great job of explaining why it's important to ask your Realtor, "How many transactions did you close last year?"

If your Realtor closes 2 or 3 deals a year do you really think they know how to negotiate on your behalf to get you the best deal possible? Do you think they know and understand their market and sales statistics? Real estate contracts and amendments change all the time and if someone isn't constantly utilizing these legally binding documents do you really want to put your transaction in their hands? Or would you rather work with someone who closes 30 or 40 deals a year?

This seems like a no brainer to me but yet there are many buyers and sellers out there right now who are working with a subpar Realtor. And I don't blame the Realtor as much as I blame the people who chose them.

Is Your Crystal Ball Accurate?

This is a great article about how timing the real estate market doesn't work. The following statement holds a lot of truth to it.
"If you're a buyer waiting for mortgage interest rates to stay low, you bet on the wrong horse. According to Realty Times' own David Reed, mortgage interest rates shot up this past week at the fastest pace in 20 years taking homebuyers and refinancing homeowners by surprise."
I tell my buyer clients that if they are in the market to buy a home to live in then they have nothing to worry about because buying a home is a long term investment that has never lost it's value over 1o years. But this line says it a little better.
"...there are only a few things that matter when you're buying a home: getting the home you want, at the price you want, at an affordable monthly payment. If you get all three, you've made a good deal."
And finally,
"The housing crunch won't last forever, and when it turns, think about where you want to be -- with first choice or the leftovers?"
I basically said the same thing back in October of 2007. Which means I think I'm kind of a big deal.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Last Thoughts on the Whole Foods Debaucle

Robert Wilonksi over at Unfair Park posted a great piece about how East Dallas continues to screw itself over by listening to just a few neighborhood voices and scraps yet another great development - in addition to Whole Foods - before the area residents even had a clue about what was going on. And that's the way those anti-development yahoo's want to keep it.

I was at my neighborhood meeting a month or so ago where I went to learn about the Whole Foods plan and how it was progressing. There was a man and a woman who were very clearly against WF building a new structure. I found this a little odd and the man even made a few tacky comments to the WF execs. Most of us there were obviously not as informed as this man and this woman and they sounded like they knew what they were talking about so WF must be doing something wrong, right? I mean these people are residents of our neighborhood, right? They know what's best for us.

Turns out the man's was Neil Emmons, city planning commissioner for parts of East Dallas including the area WF wants to build on. The lady was Virginia McAlester who I hear is a neighborhood busybody who gives a hard time to every developer in East Dallas. As it turns out, neither person is a resident of Abrams-Brookside neighborhood for which the meeting was meant for. So why were they there and why were they allowed to speak out so vehemently against WF? I mean, Mr. Emmons cut off the WF execs multiple times and actually got up out of his chair and stood in the center of the room! This doesn't allow the residents to make up their own minds and I have a problem with that.

So East Dallas has denied Whole Foods and the Andres brothers' mixed use development on Henderson and Neil Emmons claims the residents have spoken. I take issue with this. The DMN article a few days ago stated,
"...'All's well that ends well,' said Anita Childress, spokeswoman for the eight surrounding neighborhood associations."
As one of those residents I would like to say I've never met this lady and she certainly does NOT speak for me - and never will.

By allowing people like Neil Emmons and Virginia McAlester to attend neighborhood meetings in which they do not reside, the WF project was dead before it even left the ground. What other purpose would Mrs. McAlester (who lives on Swiss Ave.) have to attend MY neighborhood meeting other than to try and sway innocent and uneducated residents?

And where was Angela Hunt and Sheffie Kadane in all this? What was their stance on the issue? Why should someone like Neil Emmons have so much say in the WF plans? He said his job is to convey the area's message back to the City Council which is obviously a lie. Does he have a degree in architecture, building and development?

You can probably feel my frustration but I'm happy to know I'm not the only one. Check out the comments on this blog post on Frontburner. I especially like this one that sums it up quite nicely.
"We’ve lost a once in a generation opportunity, because of a few individuals inability to think outside the box."
People like Neil Emmons and Virginia McAlester and those who support them should be ashamed of themselves. Furthermore, I challenge Angela Hunt and Sheffie Kadane to step in and acknowledge that the resident's voices are not being heard.

One Hyde Park in London: Not For Poor People

I really don't even know what to say about this ultra-ridiculous and mind-bendingly priced residential development in London overlooking 350-acre Hyde Park. Let's put it this way, if you're looking to drop $10 million on a home, you need more than 3 times that amount just to make an offer on one of these apartments. Yes, I just said apartments.

One buyer reportedly has an apartment under contract for a head popping $192,000,000. Crazy you say? But he's getting around 20,000 of penthouse space. That's worth it, right?

Anywhoo, the developer is boasting that they have 80% of the residences under contract at an average sales price of just over $39,000,000. I feel insignificant just typing that number.

Thanks to Your Mama, as usual, for this dee-licious information and make sure to go to One Hyde Park's website and let me know if you get approved to see some of their floor plans. They probably won't even call you back unless you got half a billion smackers in the bank.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Don't Buy a Home in the Burbs

The New York Times does a pretty good job of explaining why using Lavon, TX as an example. Unfortunately Lavon is not alone. Rowlett, Murphy, Wylie, Lucas, parts of Frisco, McKinney, Allen and Little Elm are all feeling the pinch from a combination of rising foreclosures, rising resale inventory, buyer paralysis and building cutbacks. Places like Anna and Van Alstyne were only small Dairy Queen towns where I would get speeding tickets driving home from Austin College (in Sherman) during the Holidays. But now you can buy new homes there for less than $100,000.

What makes North Texas real estate stable is also our suburbs worst nightmare. New development never stops because we are not geographically bound by water or mountains like California and Florida. We will simply keep building until we hit the Red River to the North and Louisiana to the East which keeps land and home prices down. This puts home owners trying to sell their home in a tough situation. Even if they have lived in the home for 8 or 9 years there will still be new developments going up right around the corner. And why would someone buy your 9 year old home when they can buy new? And don't kid yourself if you think the newer homes are going to be substantially more expensive than your preowned home because they won't be. And therein lies the curse of buying in the burbs but is also the saving grace of North Texas real estate.

What's a Mediterrantula?

One day my good friend and Realtor extraordinaire, Brady Moore, and I were talking about the surplus of new construction on the market these days. We were just jawing about the lackluster thought that obviously goes into designing these new and very large "custom homes" when Brady said he was getting tired of all the "mediterrantulas" being built in Lakewood and Preston Hollow - he is certainly not alone in thinking this.

Even hearing the word mediterrantula for the first time immediately gives you visuals of oversized mediterranean homes on small lots with way too many arches and cast stone balustrades protruding out of the home. Kinda like a tarantula, right? Check out these mediterrantulas.

If you don't agree please send Brady your hate mail by going here. Just kidding. Send your hate to me and I'll send it to him.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No Love For This Home on Strait Lane

This home has been on the market since November of 2007 and I blogged about it back in January when it fell out of contract. The day before Valentine's Day the home went under contract again (V-Day gift for someone special?) and I quietly cheered this "little" house on thinking, "Good for you! You deserve someone special to fix and repair all 16,000 of your square feet." But the relationship was not long for this world and as of today the home has fallen out of contract yet again. I'm guessing the buyer's fear of commitment has a little something to do with it. I'm still rooting for this house to find it's soulmate though!

Newsflash. People Like Buying Newer Homes

To that I say, "DUH!" But what I didn't know was this, (thanks to Realty Times)

"Eighty percent of homes for sale were built before 1980. The median home sold in 2007 was 12 years old. Nearly half of all buyers in 2007 purchased homes less than 10 years old, according to the National Association of Realtors."
So put your thinking caps on and let's have a little math lesson using this information. Here's what we know.

-5 out of every 10 buyers purchased a home that was less than 10 years old (Built after 1997)
-That leaves the other 5 buyers purchasing even older homes.
-Let's reasonably assume another 2 or 3 buyers bought homes that were 10 to 20 years old (Built after 1987).
-This leaves us with 2 or 3 buyers left purchasing even older homes - or built before 1987.
-Of all the homes currently for sale across the nation, 80% were built before 1980.

Given the points stated above and my assumptions which I think are very reasonable, here is what I find very scary - Only 20% to 30% of buyers bought from the 80% pool of homes for sale that were built before 1980.

Reasons why I think this is happening:

-People associate newer homes with being perfect. Translation, "I don't have to spend any money updating my home."
-Newer homes typically have more square footage, larger closets, game rooms, etc.
-Older homes require ongoing maintenance. Unfortunately buyers don't realize new homes require ongoing maintenance as well.
-Older homes need cosmetic updating and today's buyers don't have the money, resources, time or willingness to do the necessary updates required of older homes.

Real estate always has a generational style of home that falls in and out of fashion. Here's my take on today's current available fashions.

-20's, 30's Tudors, Crafstmen, Prairie Style - Tough to cosmetically update due to functionally obsolete floor plans, small kitchens and closet space. Typically require adding on square footage but can pay off when done right.

-Post WWII cottages - Think SW of Inwood & Lovers Ln. Same problems as above but without the striking curb appeal. These are usually good tear down candidates.

-50's & 60's Ranches - Easier to add on to and adjust floor plan to your needs than older Tudors. Curb appeal can be boosted dramatically with exterior paint, plantation shutters, gas lamps and "beefy" landscaping.

-70's & 80's one stories - Not sure how to describe the exterior but picture all of the faux oak (fauk?) paneling in the living areas, dark wood cabinetry in kitchen with semi-ornate moldings, terrazo entry, cultured marble bath counters and it's usually a good bet there is a wet bar with a mirror backsplash hiding behind a cabinet in the maing living room. Think South Plano and areas of Lake Highlands. These homes are becoming more popular to renovate.

-90's & early '00 boxes - Dark red brick around first story with cream siding around the second. White washed cabinets and stair rails, white ceramic tile backsplash with red or green tiles used for accent, forest green marble everywhere, 2 story patio entries. Brass, brass and more brass. Even when updated it's hard to make these homes feel warm and cozy. I'd be scared of those electric bills too. Think Plano, Rockwall, Rowlett, Murphy, Allen, McKinney, Frisco, Carrollton. Many early 90's neighborhoods have gone downhill because no one has the money to update these homes.

-2000's "custom" boxes - Replace 90's formica or ceramic tile counters with granite or Corian; ceramic backsplash with tumbled marble; white or black appliances with stainless steel; brass with "brushed nickel". Pergraniteel. They still look relatively "fresh" and make buyers feel as though they won't have to do any work to it while they live there. False sense of security if you as me.

Did I miss any? I'm sure someone out there wants to put in their 2 cents.


I just saw this word on Irvine Housing Blog, a blog dedicated to the real estate woes of Irvine, CA, and I couldn't resist sharing it. The picture above came from a recent post and I just got a kick out of it.

Pergraniteel™: Pergo fake wood floors, granite countertops, and steel appliances. It is an amalgamation of flipper’s most popular home improvements when improvements were made at all.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Most Important Improvements You Can Make to Your Home

Many of my clients and friends ask me what things they can do to their home before putting in on the market that will bring in the most bucks. Here's a list of improvements I've compiled based on my experience and reading great articles like this one from Realty Times.

1. Landscaping - This is #1 most underrated improvement that most people ignore but can net you big bucks on your sales price. Curb appeal in both front and back yards can sometimes make buyers over look your somewhat dated interior.

2. Interior and/or exterior paint - A professional paint job makes homes feel freshly updated even though your old furniture looks the same.

3. Put ceramic tile/marble in "wet" areas - Replace that dingy carpet in the bathrooms with ceramic tile or tumbled marble. Use whatever materials are common in your neighborhood.

4. Repair deferred maintenance issues - Replace broken down gutters, replace broken windows and window seals, patch holes in sheetrock, patch roof shingles, fix plumbing leaks, repair AC, water heater, etc. It's tough spending money on these items because they don't impress like brand new floors would, but these are items that will allow you to get closer to your asking price. Pay for these now or pay after the buyer inspects your home.

5. Update your home to "average" - If other homes have stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops and your counters are formica, don't expect to get your money back for that improvement because you didn't "improve" your home. You just brought it up to "average". If other homes have wood floors and you don't, don't expect to get dollar for dollar back for installing wood floors before you list your home.

Remember that there is a difference between a "repair" and an "improvement". Buyers typically want sellers to pay for certain "repairs" in a transaction. Sellers typically want to pay for "improvements" such as tiling the baths but are unwilling to pay for "repairs" before listing. Many buyers are willing to put in a new backsplash in the kitchen but would gladly walk away from a deal over cracks in your sheetrock and 2 broken windows. Add all three of those things together and you can plan on being on the market for a very long time.

If you're thinking about making improvements to your home whether you plan to see or not, you still need to consult a real estate professional (ME!). And yes, that purple wall paper in your kitchen needs to GO!

Another East Dallas Development Bites the Dust

The picture above was the proposed mixed retail development set to replace a currently empty Carnival grocery store site on Henderson Ave. in East Dallas. Read the January '08 story on Unfair Park here. These are the types of developments areas should embrace and be grateful someone is willing to come in and better the community by sprucing it up visually, bringing tax revenue, bringing in new residents, you get the idea. But boy does East Dallas have a way of making sure these developments never leave the ground. The Observer's Unfair Park again has the follow up story about how the developers have pulled out of the project after receiving negative feedback from area neighborhoods and city plan commissioners.

East Dallas beat down Whole Foods until they gave in and are now renovating the terribly outdated and extremely unattractive facade of the old Minyard building instead of constructing a gorgeous brand new building with all the bells and whistles. I'm honestly surprised East Dallas didn't run them off completely. I certainly wouldn't have blamed WF if they did run for the hills.

I've also heard rumors that a proposed development near Central Market on Lovers Ln. is being voted down by city plan commissioners as well. This development would replace old and run down apartment/condo buildings and in its place will be mixed retail and living space.

And now this recent (un)development that would have substantially enhanced an area of Henderson that greatly needs it. How and why does this keep happening in East Dallas and why are people content to sit by and allow the city plan commissioners and a few local (and very loud) muckrakers to speak for the general population? Maybe I'm just frustrated because I personally think developments like this significantly boost an area's desirability. When people want to shop and visit a particular area they also tend to want to live there which in turn can increase property values. Look at the West Village, McKinney Ave., Victory Park.

Am I missing something here? I've yet to hear a solid argument as to why it's a bad idea to knock down an old existing building to build a brand new state of the art building. And I don't think nostalgic feelings or outdated zoning ordinances are a good argument. Zoning laws change daily in Dallas so that's a load of BS in my opinion. Anyone?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lakewood Whole Foods Caves to Handful of Naysayers

While the majority of residents remain clueless and will never know what was to be. Read other blogs posts about the matter here and here. Whole Foods had designed a gorgeous building that would have been attractive from all corners of Richmond, Gaston and Abrams. But as of 2/14/08 they have decided to renovate the old Minyard building whose backside has been a disgrace to the neighborhood for many years. But I guess the crotchety Lakewood residents who killed this deal before it ever left the ground know better than the reknowned architects WF chose to design this wonderful building. To put it plainly, this was Lakewood's one and only shot at having a true crown jewel. And I live within walking distance of the site so I certainly have a strong opinion on the matter.

One day I hope to get permission to reveal the actual plans they drew up for the space. They are simply stunning and would have spruced up Lakewood exponentially. Now I know why people scoot over to the Park Cities or Preston Hollow once they can afford it.

This reminds me of when I was in graduate school at UNT in 2001. This was the year the football team went 0-5 then turned the season around and ended up in a bowl game for the first time in 45 years (or something like that). During the 0-5 time the student body voted AGAINST raising tuition to support a new football stadium. I taught some Kinesiology classes and asked the students what they thought of this. UNT is known for their musical prowess so many weren't surprised, but one student spoke out against the raise in tuition and our conversation went something like this.

Me: "Aren't you on a full music scholarship?"

Her: "Yes"

Me: "So then what do you care about a tuition raise to benefit a new football stadium if you're not technically paying for it?"

Her: "????????"

So what's my point? Stupidity wins over logic and practicality more often than not. And Lakewood has a few stupid residents like my former student and is a loser because of this stupidity.

"Golden Hour" or "Honeymoon Period"

I really like what this article has to say to sellers about pricing their homes in today's market. Instead of using my term, "The Golden Hour", which represents the first 14 days of the listing period, this person uses "Honeymoon Period" or "New Kid on the Block" which represents the first 21 days of the listing period.

It doesn't matter to me which one you agree with more but the lesson is still the same. If you don't price your home correctly in the beginning you end up losing money when all is said and done.

Sorry for my absense. I was buying a car.

Thanks to those who have sent emails and comments wondering as to my recent whereabouts. I wish I could say I was on vacation or been kidnapped (this is an Alabaster Abthernabther reference but since he has gone "private" with his blog - not unlike the red velvet rope clubs we all love to hate - I cannot link to it anymore) but, alas, I was not. I was simply negotiating a car purchase which was a far worse experience than any mutli-million dollar real estate deal I have ever been involved in. And no, that's not an exaggeration.

I visited multiple car dealerships in different areas seeing if they would quote me different prices on the same vehicle. Which they did. So then I got "preapproved" through said dealerships and the numbers changed again. It's half-way through Wednesday at this point and 2 dealerships are eager to get my business while others have not contacted me since I stepped foot on their car lot. (Sewell Lexus & Crest Infiniti) So then I go to my ace-in-the-hole. Or so I thought. I called a D & M Leasing agent I had been referred to (much like referring a Realtor) and to put it nicely, she was a bitch. Did she get the deal done? Yes. But she was terrible to deal with. I was on the phone negotiating terms with her for TWO-AND-A-HALF-HOURS! And finally at 7:30pm Wednesday night we had struck a deal. She said I could pick up the car Thursday afternoon. Great! Yea! Hoorah!

At 12:30pm Thursday afternoon I was meeting some real estate professional friends for lunch and I had yet to hear from her! So I call her and she tells me the monthly payment has increased by $25 a month! Wait. What? She said the numbers she was working with the night before were "preliminary". Long story short, I picked up my new car Friday on the terms I wanted but LORD AND BABY JESUS IT WAS A BEATING!

Don't go thinking there isn't a real estate reference in here because there is. Buying a home without using a Realtor is like buying car. There is a reason car salesman have a terrible reputation. Their job is simple -screw you to the wall. These people had no incentive to be honest with me or explain to me their process. They wanted me to agree to the highest sales price at the highest interest rate and since I don't know the first thing about car financing or what prices other people are buying my same car for there wasn't a thing I could do about it. Fortunately for me I did a lot of research and feel pretty good about my purchase. But I'd be lying if I wasn't wondering if there are other people who got a better deal than me. If there was such a thing as a Buyer's Agent for cars I'd feel a lot better. But there isn't.

Considering a home purchase is typically much more expensive than buying a car shouldn't you be using a Realtor? If you don't agree, let me know how your next car purchase goes.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Welcome to my Soap Box

When people are in deep legal trouble do they price shop attorneys or want the best of the best to represent them? Moreover, do you want someone who wins more cases than loses them? Of course you do. If a loved one has cancer are you going to send them to a cancer specialist or a dermatologist? Or maybe go with the doctor just out of medical school to give him a chance to "get his feet wet". If you won the lottery would you hand your money over to the kid who just got his MBA or the experienced financial planner with a proven track record?

These are pretty rhetorical questions and may seem ridiculous in comparison to selling homes but it's not. Selling and buying a home involves what is most people's largest financial asset and comes along with plenty of legally binding contracts. So why would a buyer or seller not want to work with the most highly qualified agent? Some might say, "If you are a licensed Realtor shouldn't you all be qualified to represent your clients equally?" Are all attorneys and doctors equally qualified just because they made it through medical or law school? No. This same logic applies to almost all professional fields including real estate. But yet I keep running into people who use a "friend" or an "aunt" to help them with their home purchase while all the time telling me I am much more professional and successful. My friend and colleague Lydia Player says it quite nicely,
"The only problem is, most folks hire someone they know or someone who is recommended to them - regardless of ability."
I couldn't have said it any better myself. Is there a solution? I don't know. When emotion gets mixed up with what should be a business decision, I've learned that all bets are off.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

FSBO Takes Me to Task on Pricing Strategy

Seems I caused quite a stir over at Park Cities People blog Overheard. I may have been a little cheeky with my thoughts on the pricing strategy of a home on Beverly Dr. in Highland Park but I certainly didn't expect this type of reaction from one of the homeowners and their friends. You see, they had their home for sale by owner for 2 months at $2.25 million and recently listed with a Realtor for $2.495 million to cover their closing costs and commissions. Am I stupid for thinking a buyer will see right through this?

Check out the post. But more specifically, pay attention to the comments section. Did I really need to respond to their ranting? No. But you should know by now I can't resist a good argument.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Woodrow Wilson Hosts Realtor Open House and I'm Not Invited

Tomorrow, Thursday from 10am to 12pm. But I wasn't invited.

The Lakewood Advocate is touting the event as "...a good idea, because some Realtors aren't familiar enough with Woodrow and the entire neighborhood public school cluster to speak intelligently about the pluses and minuses of our schools." It goes on to accurately state, "When prospective homeowners new to the neighborhood are thinking about moving here, the first and most authoritative person they'll probably talk with at first is a neighborhood Realtor."

I happen to live 100 yards or so up the street from Woodrow Wilson and I don't get an invite? WTF?

Uh, HELLO! (weeping)

Leona Helmsley's $125 Million Weekend Home For Sale

What kind of coin does a (dead) person have to make to buy this $125 million estate? This 23,000 sf estate on 40 acres is also known as Dunnellen Hall. Of course Your Mama got hold of this news and describes the real estate billionare as the " 'Queen of Mean' who epitomized 1980s consumerist greed, but the lurid lipped and bug eyed bee-hawtcha sure knew how to choose, buy and hang on to a prime piece of real estate." So eloquent is Your Mama.

You think there's anyone in Dallas with this kind of cash? If you think of someone and know how to reach them, call me.

Real Estalker Revealed

Candy Evans over at Dallas Dirt has made it clear she doesn't care much for the Real Estalker, aka Your Mama, as the mystery writer affectionately calls herself. But I certainly dig her sassiness. The California real estate gossip/voyeur entertains her blog readers with her soul food eatin' southern belle attitude. She keeps us coming back for more with her colorful verbiage. When she describes rooms as "dee-luxe and delishusly dee-vine" and uses terms like "ak-tur" and "ak-tress" when talking about celebrities its hard not to giggle a little. She "lurvs" some homes and crticizes others. Right Phil Romano? But no one seemed to know who she was.

Embarassing as it is, Your Mama revealed herself back in August of 2007 on VH1's "The Fabulous Life Presents". My we're quick aren't we? I should have asked the Google and the Internet who she was. Or maybe I secretly wanted to keep her identity a secret...from myself. Wait. What? Anyway, here is a picture of Your Mama.

If you are surprised as to Your Mama's appearance you are not alone. Here is the link to "her" post when she made she announcement of her "coming out", so to speak. If you read the comments, many people were surprised. I, however, was not. And no I'm not just saying that to sound cool. I knew from the start Your Mama was a gay white man. Wanna know how?

Ever heard of Shirley Q. Liquor? Some of the funniest stuff I have ever heard in my life! (Be careful as some of the videos and audio can be a little raunchy) My all time (clean) favorites are "Ebonics Airways" and "Who is my baby daddy?". And this is pretty good stuff too right here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

January Sales Stats

Coming soon...stay tuned!


Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts' temporary campus while they await their new digs in the Arts District just South of Woodall Rodgers and adjacent to One Arts Plaza. (Apparently they are scheduled to move in right after Spring Break in March!) To say I was impressed with what I saw, not just in the students but in the teachers there, would be a terrible understatement. Three lovely young dance seniors gave us a tour of the school and showed us the vast array of classes they take from jewelry making to stage lighting, art, dance and one class where all the lights were off and the students were all laying down. We asked what they were doing and our tour guides said, "They're 'taking a journey' and it's ok to fall asleep." Loved it.

Some students were painting on a canvas in the middle of the hallway with their shoes off. Others were practicing dances while their classmates were huddled in a corner doing other things. What impressed me was that on the surface it seemed as though there was very little structure yet the teachers were present and the kids weren't "out of control". They don't really have a dress code and it's obvious from the start. Each person has their own style and seemed to respect each other's right to express themselves. It was truly amazing and reminded me of college and nothing like high school. These are kids that need structure but too much structure would hinder their creativity and these teachers understand this 100%. And the students clearly respect their teachers and you don't get the sense they try to abuse this privelege.

Norah Jones, Erykah Badu, Edie Brickell (of the New Bohemians) all graduated from this wonderful place and it's easy to see why alumni of this school have collectively won 24 Grammy's and numerous artistic awards and have alumni peppered all over the TV screen with one alum currently on LOST. The teachers and students have created a culture that is meant for growth, development of skills and - ultimately - success.

Enough gushing. If you have kids that have artistic skill in the arts or music you need to check this place out ASAP. And guess what? It's within DISD. And if you've never looked into this school because of it's association with DISD then you're not the one who is missing out. Your child is. I grew up in Dallas and have associated with peers from JJ Pearce to Highland Park to Duncanville to Southlake and St. Marks and I can honestly say no school comes even close to what this school has going for it. Teaching individuality coupled with respect for their fellow classmates is something all schools can learn from BTWHSPVA.

Buyer's Agent = Secret Agent

A person once asked me, "Why are getting listings and putting a sign in my yard so important to you Realtors?"

It's a great question and I do have an answer for this one. It has to do with marketing and visibility. When a Realtor gets a new listing it is basically a mini-billboard for that agent. If one Realtor has 7 out of 10 listings in your neighborhood who do the neighbors think is the market expert? Who gets all the sign calls and then turns them into buyers? When Realtors begin to acquire listings in a particular area it creates credibility and visibility which builds success.

Now picture a house in your neighborhood that was for sale and recently sold. Got it? Now tell me the name of the Realtor who represented the person that bought the home. What? You can't? Now you understand why Realtors aspire to get listings and not just represent buyers. Buyer's agents are basically secret agents.

And now you know. And knowing is half the...whatever. (Couldn't resist)

Listing Agent vs. Buyer's Agent

Now that Pandora's Box has been opened we might as well explore it.

Listing Agent - represents seller's best interests, pricing the property correctly for quick sale while negotiating the highest sales price for the seller.

Buyer's Agent - represents buyer's best interests, finding the right home for the buyer and helping them negotiate the lowest price for the home.

After reading these descriptions, which agent do you think the seller should ask to reduce their commission? Since the buyer is working against the seller's best interests you would think the seller would be more likely to reduce their commission but yet this is not the case. (This is why I love bringing buyers to FSBO's. They have no idea we are taking them to the cleaners. I am representing my buyers yet the sellers are so happy I brought a buyer they start yakking and spill all the beans and they pay me just as any other seller would but without the professional representation. I win, my client wins, seller loses but has no idea.) But I digress.

So who works harder in your opinion? If one or the other doesn't deserve a full commission how much are they worth? Bring it. I can handle it.

Monday, February 4, 2008

RE: How do Realtors Get Paid?

I received the following comment from a reading posing a tough real estate question regarding Realtor commissions.
Selling a $250,000 house and selling a $500,000 house aren't all that different, but the commission is double on the $500K house. That makes no sense to me. What's the rationale behind it?
I wish I had a solid answer for you, dear readers, but unfortunately I don't. My only rationale behind comes from our friend Einstein's theory of relativity. This same argument applies to many professions and not just real estate. There are many people out there today with the same job description and responsibilities but are being paid unequal salaries across different companies and professions. Usually, the larger the company, the higher the salary. CEO's of Fortune 100 companies are getting $50 million dollars for simply resigning which doesn't make sense to the average person. This same disgust for overpaying someone unfortunatley applies to real estate for many people.

So what do I do differently for a $250,000 home versus a $500,000 home? Nothing. I work just as hard on the $250,000 home as I would on a $100,000. But why should the person selling a $100,000 home pay more than a person selling a $50,000 condo? This same logic can apply across the board. ($1 million dollars and up is a different story and the marketing level and dollars spent increase.)

There are many real estate business models out there offering discounts to the seller. They'll list your house for a flat fee, etc. But almost always, they will offer the agent that brings the buyer 3%. This is what doesn't make sense to me. Someone is willing to pay an agent 3% to bring a buyer whose job it is to help that buyer negotiate the LOWEST price for that home. Meanwhile the sellers want to give less than 3% - and sometimes nothing - to the representative that is there to help them negotiate the HIGHEST price for their home.

It is also important to note that many high end properties $1 million and up almost always utilize the assistance of a well known area Realtor. You rarely see these properties try to sell For Sale By Owner or hire a small real estate firm. (You will NEVER see a $3 million dollar FSBO or using a discount brokerage) Common sense would tell us someone who lives in a million dollar property is probably smart and more than likely business savvy and yet they choose to use a a Realtor to help sell their home. Even if they ask their agent to reduce their commission they are still being paid more than a $500,000 home.

So what's the answer? Is a new real estate business model needed? The current discount brokerages are not prevalent in Highland Park or Preston Hollow and are seen more in East Dallas in new construction homes. So this tells me the average consumer feels a good listing agent is worth what they are being paid regardless of sales price and percentage.

I should have an articulate and impressive answer but I simply don't. But I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Friday, February 1, 2008

I No Bloggy Cuz' I Be Learnin'

I apologize for not posting anything yesterday (It's past 1am Friday morning as I'm writing this) and I promise to "bring it" tomorrow but you will have to wait until late afternoon. I will be attending Leadership MetroTex's Education Day all day tomorrow where we are going to explore the academic bowels of SMU's fancy schmancy digs and then we are going to get the skinny on what Booker T. Washington students have been up to ever since they were kicked out of their old school in the Arts District to make way for their new state of the art academic palace.

Get ready because I have a few things I need to get off my chest and I need your help with. So I'll be interested to hear what you to have to say about it.

So sleepy. Good night!