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You’ll encounter special joys and hurdles when you’re alone in the deal. These 8 strategies will smooth your path to buying.

If you’re single and thinking of buying a home, you’re in great company. Solo buyers made a quarter of all U.S. real-estate purchases last year, according to the National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2012. Twice as many single women bought homes as did single men. 

Buying a home as a single person is much like buying with a partner. You shop, select and finance a piece of property, as all buyers do.

But there are distinct differences when you’re alone in the deal. All the joys and burdens are yours alone. The research, the shopping, the financing and, eventually, the bills and upkeep – yep, all yours. While that probably sounds obvious, there are implications you may not have considered.

Master of his domain
Carl Toll, a single, 36-year-old network technician, bought his 1,600-square-foot Denver home in 2007, after a bad roommate experience soured him on the rental life.

“This isn’t working out,” he decided after the housemate moved out without telling him. “I want to be the master of my own domain.”

Shopping and purchasing were pretty easy, he says. He thought through each aspect of his purchase carefully. He wanted a low-maintenance home: “I didn’t want to have to replace water heaters and furnaces right off the bat.” So he looked for something built recently.

He’s not a parent, but he shopped only in highly rated school districts to help ensure the resale value of his purchase. He has enjoyed the house, the neighborhood and the sense of independence that owning his own home gives him, he says.

Getting a mortgage alone
Toll’s experience was smooth, but many solo buyers face challenges. The recession has been one of the biggest. In the early recession years, single homebuyers enjoyed a boost from federal first-time-homebuyer tax credits in 2009 and 2010.

Stacy Erickson, a 29-year-old professional organizer, bought her 700-square-foot co-op apartment on Seattle’s Capitol Hill in 2009. “That was a really good year for people like me,” she says. “I was able to borrow some money for a down payment and then pay it all back with the tax credit.”

But by 2011, the recession hit solo buyers hard. “Single-income households are more reluctant to make big-ticket purchases in times of economic uncertainty,” according to the NAR’s Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Home purchases by singles fell an “unprecedented” 7% between 2010 and 2012.

The biggest hurdle for singles is qualifying for a mortgage. “In most cases that I see, it is more difficult for a single buyer to purchase than a two-person household,” says Craig Tashjian, vice president at Fairway Independent Mortgage in Needham, Mass.

One bonus: Singles aren’t dragged down by a partner’s credit score, loans or credit card debt. Tashjian says couples often get stuck with a higher interest rate because of one member’s low credit score.

Couples, though, usually have an advantage, says Marcus McCue, executive vice president at Guardian Mortgage Co., which operates in Texas and Michigan. Not only do they have two incomes but also, when sharing overhead, “one plus one usually equals more than two, as many expenses are joint and not duplicated.”

Difficulties in qualifying sometimes lead buyers, especially younger ones, to ask parents or other relatives for financial help.

“I have seen people choose to continue renting as a result of not wanting to involve any other parties in a purchase and pay more rent than they would if they purchased,” New York real-estate agent Brad Malow says.

Shopping solo — the triumphs
Single shoppers are alone with all the decisions required to buy a home. That can be harrowing. But there’s also a special sense of accomplishment to buying a home alone.

“I was the one who had to come up with all of the financing without support from a spouse or partner,” Erickson says. “However, I was also the one who got the choices and all of the decisions. I didn’t have to worry about someone else and what they liked or didn’t like.”

Homebuying is a means of self-expression, particularly for singles, says Jennifer De Vivo, an Orlando, Fla., real-estate agent. “It’s a way for singles to express their lifestyles and values. They are able to focus on the exact communities, home styles and features that cater to their individuality with much less compromise.”

Despite the exhilaration, buying solo can be nerve-wracking without a confidant and sounding board. To compensate, singles often work more closely with their agents. In the best cases, they form a tight bond.

“I find that I become more involved, like a friend,” says Jerry Grodesky, managing broker at Farm and Lake Houses Real Estate Inc. in Loda, Ill.

Watching the satisfaction that single buyers get from tackling one of life’s major milestones on their own is rewarding for an agent, Malow says. “I have to say that the closings with these buyers just thrill me.”

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original article by: Marilyn Lewis of MSN Real Estate

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Where smoke and swagger meet urban ethnic style with a twang.

Star Tastemaker
Tyson Cole of Uchi and Uchiko, who shook the scene with his landlocked sushi mecca andhas launched talent such as Top Chef contestant Paul Qui, whose first                                    solo venture, qui, opens in Austin this month.

Best Bites
Brisket ($10/plate) with espresso BBQ sauce at Franklin Barbecue; Hill Country Board (pain au levain, sausage, venison pâté infused with Real Ale Brewing Company’s Sisyphus barley-wine ale, pickled vegetables, and house mustard; $15) from Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden; Laura Sawicki’s Miso-White Chocolate Semifreddo ($9) with crispy rice, coconut sticky rice, and mango sorbet at Sway.

Nightcap
A Joe Buck (corn whiskey, Dijon syrup, lemon juice, and ginger beer; $12) at Midnight Cowboy.

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Story by Paula Disbrowe

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As the stumbling retailer tries to rebuild ties to shoppers, it has a massive employee morale problem to deal with as well.

Under ousted chief executive Ron Johnson, J.C. Penney (JCP -1.47%) had a massive housecleaning, sweeping away thousands of  jobs as it eliminated popular clothing lines like St. John’s Bay.

 

Now, returning CEO Myron Ullman has a knotty problem on his hands: how to revive those brands with a company suffering from deep morale problems and an employee base that has shrunk by 23%, reports The Wall Street Journal.

 

When Johnson completed his first full fiscal year on the job, Penney employed only 116,000 people, down from its recent historic level of 150,000, according to the report.

 

While the ex-CEO argued that the job cuts were needed to boost Penney’s financial performance, the opposite resulted: Loyal customers fled, with many angered at his decision to dump St. John’s Bay. Sales plunged 25% last year.

 

St. John’s Bay may have been a linchpin leading to Johnson’s failure. MSN moneyNOW readers often cited the disappearance of the casual-wear clothing line as the reason they abandoned Penney stores.

 

“If JC Penney brings back the brands that they ditched, St. John’s Bay women’s jeans for instance, I will think about shopping there again……but not until then,” one reader wrote on Thursday.

 

And it turns out that Penney is planning on bringing back the clothing line, which had brought in annual sales of a billion dollars, The Journal notes.

 

Why would Johnson single-handedly get rid of a brand that racked up such huge sales? The former Apple executive wanted to “de-frump” the stores and instead brought in edgier designers such as Cynthia Rowley. The problem, though, was that Penney customers had been happy with those comfortable clothing lines. Feeling alienated, many of them swore off shopping at the retailer.

 

Johnson misunderstood the store’s customer base, which tends to be older than 55. One-third of its customers earn less than $35,000 a year, according to BloombergBusinesswee​k. Getting rid of coupons also alienated his price-conscious customers.

 

Penney plans to return coupon advertising to newspapers, activist investor William Ackman said on Thursday, according to Bloomberg. The company needs to “calm the vendors,” he added.

 

But what to do about those morale problems? According to The Journal, the layoffs weren’t pretty. Because Penney didn’t have enough staff to cut people in face-to-face meetings, groups of employees were ushered into Penney’s auditorium to hear the news. Sometimes more than 100 people were fired at once, the story notes.

 

With Ullman’s plan to bring back St. John’s Bay, he might be taking one step toward dealing with his alienated customer base. And getting rid of Johnson was likely a big boost to internal morale. According to the New York Post, clapping and laughing erupted last Monday at an employee meeting when word of his ouster was announced.

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Aimee Picchi

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The IRS will grant an automatic extension to anyone who asks. But you still have to estimate what you owe and send the money.

For taxpayers who can’t manage the April 15 deadline, the Internal Revenue Service offers an automatic six-month filing extension. This year the due date is Oct. 15, and taxpayers qualify by filing Form 4868.

 

Getting an extension is preferable to filing a return with mistakes, says Melissa Labant, a tax specialist with the American Institute of CPAs. “If you have already filed, then you will need to amend the return, which is often more trouble,” she says.

 

Remember that an extension to file isn’t an extension to pay. Uncle Sam wants 100% of the total tax by the April due date, or interest and perhaps a late-payment penalty will be due.

 

Here are common reasons to seek an extension.

 

Incomplete records, especially for investments or a closely held business. A sore point with many tax preparers is that brokers sometimes issue multiple Form 1099s reporting investment tax information.

Lack of a letter confirming a charitable contribution. The law is clear: Taxpayers must have proper notification from a charity before deducting a donation. “Get that letter before you file,” Labant says.

 

Roth IRA reversal. Taxpayers who converted all or part of a regular IRA to a Roth account have until the October due date the following year to undo the conversion, which is taxable. That might be a good idea if assets in the Roth account have fallen in value since the conversion.

 

Roth IRA owners who file in April can amend their returns before Oct. 15 to undo last year’s conversion, but filing for an extension is often the easier route.

 

You are traveling, or it is your busy season. Harried tax preparers often file extensions for their own returns.

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: MSN Money partner

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These homes still watch programs but mostly on laptops, tablets and phones.

There are 5 million “zero-TV” households in the U.S., more than double from 2 million in 2007. It’s a small but growing trend that has the media establishment plenty worried.

These people, who make up fewer than 5% of U.S. households, haven’t stopped watching television shows. They just do it on their own terms over laptops, tablets and cellphones.

As Nielsen notes, about 75% of these homes still have TVs, but people use them mostly to play video games and watch DVDs.

This creates a huge problem for the industry, one that will likely be a key topic at this week’s National Association of Broadcasters’ annual trade show. Content creators and broadcast networks make money from these viewers through arrangements with streaming sites such as Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu and through advertising on their websites and apps, according to The Associated Press. Television stations, however, get shut out.

“Unless broadcasters can adapt to modern platforms, their revenue from zero-TV viewers will be zero,” the AP says.

The New York Times on Monday noted the trend of people sharing passwords for video-streaming sites such as HBO Go, which is owned by Time Warner (TWX +0.74%), making it even easier for cable users to cut the cord.

Though more than 130 TV stations in the U.S. broadcast live signals to mobile devices, most users don’t have the tools to receive them. The dongles that catch those signals are just starting to be sold, according to the AP.

A handful of video-streaming sites have become hot properties. Hulu, for example, has reportedly received a $500 million bid from former News Corp. (NWS +2.20%) president Peter Chernin. The site is jointly controlled by News Corp. and Walt Disney (DIS +1.86%).

Luckily for broadcasters, most people are still transfixed by the boob tube. According to Nielsen, Americans spend an average of nearly 41 hours a week, or about 5.5 hours a day, watching content across all screens. People spend more than 34 of those hours in front of a TV.

Even so, given the technological changes in the works, the television industry 10 years from now may not look much like it does today.

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Jonathan Berr

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When we were building our new construction home, the driveway almost seemed like an afterthought. With everything else so close to being finished, we walked around with a can of orange spray paint imagining the ideal path from the street to our garage doors.

So, if not in our experience, then generally speaking, the driveway occupies an important place in overall home and property design. When planning your driveway, there are several things to consider:

Budget
Sometimes money plays a big role in decision-making on materials. As you are thinking about budget, be sure to factor in the varying long-term costs associated with different types of driveways. While a paver driveway carries relatively high upfront costs, maintaining one isn’t expensive. Gravel, on the other hand, is perhaps the least expensive to install but requires the sort of regular maintenance that doesn’t come cheap. Before deciding on a material, make sure you understand what the driveway’s total cost will be over its anticipated lifetime.

Curb appeal
As viewed from the street, your driveway can make a big impression on the look of your house. And certain materials complement certain architectural styles more than others. A gravel driveway would make a nice visual accompaniment to a farmhouse cottage, whereas a herringbone-pattern brick driveway would better suit a colonial-style residence. In short, think about what your choice of driveway will add to, or take away from, curb appeal.

Climate
Some driveway materials may not be appropriate for the climate where you live. For instance, asphalt endures freeze-thaw cycles better than concrete. And heavy rainfalls can negatively affect driveway surfaces that are more prone to erosion, such as gravel and pea stone. Snow, humidity, rainfall and temperature changes are all factors that ought to influence your final decision. Do your homework.

Maintenance
Each material has its own maintenance requirements. For instance, asphalt requires resealing every three to five years. If you live in a place where plowing snow is necessary, a gravel drive will require replacement of moved material each spring. Is the maintenance required of a given material such that you can do it yourself, or will you need to contract someone to handle the work? A smart driveway design will take these questions into account.

Durability
What kind of traffic will your driveway be getting? Will there be lots of heavy trucks on it, or just passenger cars? Some materials are durable, others more finicky. And what’s the grade like? Gravel and pea-stone drives with a pitch are prone to erosion. Also, how long will the driveway be expected to last — 20 years? 40 years? And what kind of maintenance is required to maximize lifespan?

Whatever material you decide to use for your driveway, make sure you take time to lay it out right. If you’ll need space for guests to park, make sure to allow for that.

Once the rough grading is done, take a test drive into the garage from the street (and back the other way) to make sure it tracks comfortably for your biggest vehicle. You don’t want to swipe off your side-view mirror!

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.468.5753

Original Article By: Jennifer Noonan of BobVila.com

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Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

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If you’re justifying home renovations thinking that you’ll recover the costs when you sell, you may want to recalculate.

Homeowners who want to remodel will find both joy and sorrow in the 2013 Cost vs. Value Report, recently published by Remodeling Magazine.

The joy comes from the report’s finding that remodeling projects overall could be expected to return a higher percentage of their cost at resale in 2013, reversing a six-year decline in the recovered value of such investments. Every project on the national list posted a higher return in 2012 than it did in the prior year. The sorrow is that while returns are higher than they were, they’re still far short of 100%.

The complete list included 22 midrange projects, ranging from a $1,137 steel entry door replacement to a $152,470 second-story addition, and 13 upscale projects, ranging from a $2,720 garage door replacement to a $220,086 master suite addition.

Best return

In the mid-range category, the least costly project — that steel entry door replacement — posted the highest return at 85.6%  of the cost.

Other midrange projects that returned 70% or better were an attic bedroom, basement remodel, wood deck addition, garage door replacement, minor kitchen remodel, vinyl siding replacement and vinyl window replacement. The lowest-returning mid-range project was a home office remodel, which recouped just 43.6%.

In the upscale category, the highest-returning project was a fiber-cement siding replacement, which recaptured 79.3%. Other upscale projects that returned 60% or better were a garage door replacement, foam-backed vinyl siding replacement and vinyl window replacement. The lowest-returning upscale project was the master suite addition, which recouped just 52.1%.

Money-losers

And in those figures also lies the sorrow. That steel entry door replacement was the only project in the midrange or upscale category that achieved at least an 80% cost recovery, nationally. The home-improvement projects returned only a 60.6% national average. That’s not much of an incentive, financially speaking, for home improvements.

Replacement projects generally were a better investment than remodeling or room additions. Cost-and-value-recapture percentages varied widely on a regional basis.

Contractors agree with the positive outlook

Remodeling contractors have high expectations for 2013, according to a fourth-quarter 2012 survey by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry in Des Plaines, Ill.

The survey found remodelers reported better business conditions, more inquires, more requests for bids, more conversions of bids into jobs and a higher value of total jobs compared with the prior quarter.

Tom O’Grady, chairman of the NARI strategic planning committee and president of O’Grady Builders, a remodeling company, in Drexel Hill, Pa., said in a statement that remodelers were anticipating major growth in their businesses.

“Many (remodelers are) saying that their clients are feeling more stable in their financial future and their employment situations; therefore, they are spending more freely on remodeling needs,” O’Grady said.

The 2013 Cost vs. Value Report is a snapshot of generic projects and shouldn’t be applied to individual homes. Instead, homeowners should get estimates from local remodelers and discuss home values with a local real estate professional.

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Marcie Geffner, HSH.com

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Solo women are the second-largest group of home purchasers. Their wants and needs are helping to shape the real-estate market.

Kishia S. Ward wasn’t looking for the home of her dreams when she bought her two-bedroom, 2½-bath townhouse. The 25-year-old student and former business analyst wanted a place “not so much to live in forever but as an investment property, something temporary that, later on when I get married and have a family, I can rent out.”

Single female homebuyers such as Ward are a powerhouse group in the real-estate market. In 2011, when Ward bought her home, three of her female friends, also singles in their 20s, also purchased homes. Single women — a group that includes the divorced, never married and widowed — make roughly one in five home purchases annually, according to the National Association of Realtors, second only to married couples, who are about two-thirds of the market.

It wasn’t always this way. In the 1970s, “it was very difficult for a single woman to get a credit card, much less a mortgage,” says Walter Molony, spokesman for the NAR.

In 1981, when the NAR started watching, single women and single men each made about 10% of home purchases. Purchases by single men have stayed steady. Single women, however, pulled ahead in the late ’80s, when women grew as a presence in the workforce and social change put pressure on lenders.

Single women’s market share reached 20% in 1985 and hovered there until recession and tight credit pulled it down to 16% in 2012. Unmarried couples make 8% of purchases.

Finally, recognition
Although single women are getting more recognition in the real-estate market, some experts say that many bankers, mortgage brokers, builders and real-estate agents fail to understand their distinct needs and shopping habits.

Jeanie Douthitt, a real-estate agent in Plano, Texas, specializes in helping single women buy and sell homes. Her experiences and her friends’ stories showed her that solo women often weren’t served well in the market. “We all, at the end of the day, had the same experience, and it was not good,” says Douthitt, owner of Smart Women Buy Homes. Her team includes a title agent and mortgage broker, and they all focus on educating clients.

Douthitt tells how one friend, a mother and capable 20-year IBM executive, struggled when she tried buying a home in 2004 after inheriting money. The woman visited a property for sale and encountered the homeowner, who asked, “Honey, do you think you can afford this?”

“He assumed that because I was a single woman I couldn’t afford it,” the friend told Douthitt. “If it was the last house on earth I wouldn’t have bought it.”

Douthitt says many women, accomplished in other realms, feel slightly intimidated by real estate and mortgages. She felt much the same in 1988, when, as a single mother, she bought her first home. She didn’t know how to find out what she could afford to spend. “Do I find the house first?” she wondered. “Or do I have to get a mortgage first?” Now she helps clients get qualified for a mortgage first, so they know what price home they’re qualified to buy.

What women want
While researching her book, “Own It! The Ups and Downs of Homebuying for Women Who Go It Alone,” Jennifer Musselman met many single female homebuyers and owners who confessed that they felt overwhelmed by shopping alone for a home and mortgage. “Women, generally speaking, always thought that home purchasing would be something we would do with someone else, as part of a relationship,” Musselman says.

This emphasis on relationships shapes many women’s approach to homebuying, Douthitt says. Often, for example, they need to develop a relationship with an agent before they feel comfortable asking questions.

“Women want a relationship,” Douthitt says. “They want that trust and respect on both sides. Men are more transactional. They just want to go get it.”

Her female buyers often need more time than men do to make a decision. They do lots of research. Agents who don’t understand this get frustrated and mistake women’s penchant for collaboration for indecisiveness, she says.

Before Ward engaged a real-estate agent, she did lots of research online to learn which neighborhoods fit her requirements, but her agent wouldn’t listen. She didn’t seem to take her seriously. “I don’t know if it was because I was a woman or because I was young,” she says. She moved on to another agent who was more attentive.

Single buyers — women in particular — like to recruit friends and family to help them decide. “Single women don’t have a spouse to bounce the decision around with,” Douthitt points out. One buyer wanted Douthitt to meet her mom, her dad, her pastor and her brother from California before she could commit to a purchase.

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Marilyn Lewis of MSN Real Estate

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Texas is the best place on Earth, and real humble about it to boot. Here are 50 of the 10,000 things that make it special.

Every Texan knows that the U.S. looks like this…

Every Texan knows that the U.S. looks like this...

BECAUSE…

1. The stars at night are big and bright.

The stars at night are big and bright.

The sky at the University of Texas’s McDonald Observatory in west Texas.

Source: 500px.com

2. Clear eyes, full hearts.

Clear eyes, full hearts.

Can’t lose. Friday Night Lights was based on a true Texas story, and the brilliant show was filmed in Austin, where Landry’s band still plays around town.

3. Beyoncé

Beyoncé

On Sept. 4, 1981, Houston, Texas gave the entire world the gift of Beyoncé Knowles.

“Check On It,” Beyoncé feat. Slim Thug

Source: instagram.com

4. Breakfast tacos

Breakfast tacos

An essential part of every Texan’s diet. The New York Times once ran an entire story titled “Tacos In The Morning?” about how Austin loves breakfast tacos and we were all like, “YES, TACOS IN THE MORNING. Tacos all the time.” Get with the program.

Source: bouchonfor2

5. Barton Springs

Barton Springs

Barton Springs, the natural spring-fed pool in the middle of Austin, is where Robert Redford learned to swim when he was 5 years old. It’s also where Texas authors J. Frank Dobie, Roy Bedichek, and Walter Prescott Webb met every afternoon in the ’40s and ’50s for what was known as the Salon of the West — nowadays, there’s a statue of the three of them gracing the entrance of the pool. The sprawling pool remains a chill 68 degrees no matter the weather, and it is a home away from home for families, hippies, and hipsters alike.

6. The most authentic country and folk music.

The most authentic country and folk music.

Screw that buttoned-up Nashville stuff. Texas country is the real deal. This perfect man pictured above was born in Poteet, Texas, and christened George Harvey Strait. All his exes live in Texas. He is perhaps the finest living cowboy — evidence below.

“Amarillo By Morning,” George Strait

Willie Nelson, who was born in Abbot, Texas, wrote his first song at age 7 and joined his first band at age 10. Ever since, he’s been the face of righteous outlaws everywhere, smokin’ dope and reppin’ Texas right.

“Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain,” Willie Nelson

Don Williams, the gentle giant of country, was born in Floydada, Texas, and his voice has been crooning Texas girls to sleep and serving as a surrogate dad-whenever-you-need-one for over 50 years. A friend of mine who spent time in Ghana, West Africa, told me that they love Don Williams there too. Texas country = universal feels.

“I Believe In You,” Don Williams

Robert Earl Keen was born in Houston and has worked as a musician in central Texas since the early ’80s. He’s part of a wonderful scene of musicians such as Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, Jerry Jeff Walker, Steve Earle, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Guy Clark, who have achieved success but manage to keep it real, constantly playing shows for the Texas music fans in Houston, Dallas, and Austin.

Source: flagpole.com

“Feelin’ Good Again,” Robert Earl Keen

Townes Van Zandt was a genius singer-songwriter, born in Fort Worth, who never got the respect or fame he rightly earned while he was alive…except in Texas, where he is and always has been revered as the singular talent and poet that he was. TVZ also once gave the perfect answer to someone who asked him why all his songs are sad. “I have a few that aren’t sad. They’re just hopeless, they’re totally hopeless. And the rest aren’t sad, they’re just the way it goes. You don’t think life’s sad?”

Source: wrongprophet

“For The Sake Of The Song,” Townes Van Zandt

7. Basketball

Basketball

The Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Houston Rockets could just play one another every day and it would make for a pretty great basketball league. See the evidence below as Houston’s Olajuwon completely decimates one of the greatest basketball defenders of all time, the Spurs’ David Robinson.

Source: youtube.com

8. Kolaches

Kolaches

The semisweet pastry comes from central Europe, but it has gained a curiously widespread popularity all over Texas. Kolaches haven’t caught on in the rest of the country, which is completely insane, because kolaches > doughnuts. Here‘s an entire long-form article from America’s Test Kitchen about trying kolaches throughout Texas.

9. Marfa

Marfa

The coolest small town named after The Brothers Karamazov in the world. Pop art exhibit “Prada Marfa,” pictured above and located outside of town, is just one of the examples of culture that permeate the small-town-meets-art-town. Acclaimed minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa from NYC in 1971, and ever since, Marfa has been a small but bustling home for modern art despite housing only around 2,000 permanent residents. There’s also the mysterious lights in the sky on some nights, which clearly prove that aliens and/or ghosts exist.

Marfa artisan boot makers, Cobra Rock Boot Company.

Source: cobrarock.com

10. Dr Pepper

Dr Pepper

The lifeblood of discerning soda drinkers even has a museum dedicated to it in Waco, where it was invented back in the 1800s.

11. Whataburger

Whataburger

The best French fries, the best milkshakes, the best taquitos available at 3 a.m. Essential.

Source: fuckyeahtx

12. Austin City Limits

A PBS program featuring intimate, beautifully filmed concerts from a variety of musicians, ranging from Willie Nelson to Radiohead. Above, legendary Texas group The Flatlanders perform on the show.

Source: youtube.com

13. The State Fair of Texas

The State Fair of Texas

The State Fair of Texas, held in Dallas, which features a full-blown auto show, a “Birds of the World” show, several rides, dog and pig races, and a bike show. Big Tex, the fair’s lovely mascot of sorts, pictured above, burned down last year but will live in our hearts forever. Most importantly, the fair is the site of countless innovations in deep-frying, featuring deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried Twinkies, deep-fried s’mores, deep-fried PB&J sandwiches, deep-fried Coca-Cola, deep-fried ribs, deep-fried cheesecake, deep-fried Girl Scout cookies, deep-fried sundaes, and DEEP-FRIED BUTTER. That’s called “doing it right,” y’all.

Source: ryot.org

14. These uniforms

These uniforms

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you these vintage Houston Astros uniforms are tacky. They are objectively wrong. These uniforms were a rainbow’d gift from Texas to baseball lovers everywhere, and they are the greatest sports uniforms of all time.

Source: cbssports

15. The Texas Ruby Red grapefruit

The Texas Ruby Red grapefruit

When it mutated in the ’20s, it earned the first-ever patent delivered to a grapefruit. Texas: officially inventing grapefruit since 1929. It is also the juiciest and most delicious fruit ever.

16. Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Texas Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes are pictured above, but there are dozens of gorgeous wildflowers native to Texas, scattered in fields and on the side of the highway all over Texas, painting the landscape with color.

17. Rock ‘n’ roll, then and now.

Rock 'n' roll, then and now.

Born in Lubbock, Texas, on Sept. 7, 1936, Buddy Holly went on to become “the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll” (according to critic Bruce Eder) before his untimely death in a plane accident on Feb. 3, 1959.

“Rave On,” Buddy Holly

The most infectiously catchy rock ‘n’ roll music of the aughts was made in Austin, Texas, by Spoon.

“Me and the Bean,” Spoon.

ZZ Top, the greatest beards in rock history, formed in Houston.

“Legs,” ZZ Top

Explosions in the Sky: creating the most beautiful “post-rock” instrumental music on the planet since growing up in Midland, Texas, and forming in Austin.

“Remember Me As A Time Of Day,” Explosions In The Sky

Janis Lyn Joplin was born in January of 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas. She went on to rock the pants off of life and music for 27 years, becoming rightfully known as “The Queen of Rock and Roll” along the way.

Source: luxe-immo.com

“Piece Of My Heart,” Janis Joplin

18. Impressively bearded dudes are never in short supply.

Impressively bearded dudes are never in short supply.

The Austin Facial Hair Club are the stars of the IFC Channel’s Whisker Wars reality series for a reason. The men of Texas take their beard and mustache grooming very, very seriously, and the world is obviously a better place for it.

19. Bats!

Bats!

More species of bats live in Texas than anywhere else in the U.S., and one of the largest bat colonies in North America resides right in the middle of downtown Austin underneath the Congress Bridge. During peak bat-viewing season, 1.5 million bats live there, making it the largest urban bat colony in North America. Watching them pour from under the bridge for their nightly feed is one of the most intense natural experiences one can have in the middle of a city.

20. The Bush gals

The Bush gals

Barbara, Laura, and Jenna: the Texas women who turned up the Southern charm at the White House during the GWB’s term. This photo was apparently taken to accompany that ZZ Top jam above.

21. Schlitterbahn

Schlitterbahn

The best water park in the world is in New Braunfels, Texas. Featuring, like, a half-dozen water roller coasters, a spectacular array of bad tattoos, and the freedom to bring your own cooler packed with sandwiches and, uh, “juice.”

Image by Joe Holzheimer

22. The prettiest ladies.

The prettiest ladies.

Farrah Fawcett, born in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Image by Sotheby’s New York

Eva Longoria, born in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Source: porhomme.com

Anna Nicole Smith, born near Houston, Texas.

Source: soft-vl.ru

Sharon Tate, born in Dallas, Texas.

Jerry Hall, born in Gonzales, Texas.

23. The handsomest dudes.

The handsomest dudes.

Dennis Quaid, born in Houston, Texas.

Matthew McConaughey, born in Uvalde, Texas.

Steve Martin, born in Waco, Texas.

Tom Ford, born in Austin, Texas

Ethan Hawke, born in Austin, Texas.

Source: listal.com

24. Buc-ee’s

Buc-ee's

Calling Buc-ee’s what it technically is — a gas station and convenience store — doesn’t feel like doing it justice. The road stop sells its own jerky and beautifully packaged nuts, dried fruit, and candy. It also has the cleanest restroom in America, as voted in a nationwide poll. On any one of the long road trips that Texans find themselves on to get from point A to B, stopping at a Buc-ee’s is a heavenly respite.

25. The beauty of the desert.

The beauty of the desert.

Pictured above is Big Bend National Park, which is the largest protected area of Chihuahuan desert topography in the United States. People who think the desert is desolate and lifeless should know that it includes more than 1,200 species of plants and almost 600 species of animals. Also, it’s ludicrously beautiful (see above).

Source: xaxor.com

26. Paul Qui

Paul Qui

The champion of Top Chef Season 9 was already well-known to Texans who love food (aka Texans). He was the executive chef at Uchiko, and is operator of a series of delicious food trucks parked behind popular bars. At the East Side Kings trucks, you can order super-fancy bar food, like fried Brussel sprouts and beet home fries (pictured below). He’s opening his own flagship restaurant, QUI, this spring.

Source: austin360.com

27. The Menil Collection

The Menil Collection

Houston houses one of the greatest personal collections of art in the world, and it’s completely open to the public. The main building houses the art collection of John de Menil and Dominique de Menil, and includes work by René Magritte, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, and Pablo Picasso, among others. The campus also includes a Cy Twombly Gallery (pictured above), a Dan Flavin Installation gallery, the Byzantine Fresco Chapel, and the [Mark] Rothko Chapel (pictured below). It’s a beautiful place full of beautiful art, and it costs zero dollars to explore.

Source: archdaily.com

28. Sweetened iced tea

Sweetened iced tea

Why on earth anyone drinks unflavored and unsweetened iced tea is beyond us. The sweet stuff is the nectar of the gods.

29. Athletes who inspire

Athletes who inspire

This is Johnny Football [Manziel], born in Tyler, Texas, who attended Texas A&M University in College Station, and in 2012 became the first freshman to win the Heisman trophy.

Image by Patric Schneider / AP

Sheryl Denise Swoopes was born in Brownfield, Texas, and won an NCAA championship with the Texas Tech Lady Raiders. She was the first player signed with the WNBA when it was first created. For good measure, she’s also won three Olympic gold medals.

Earl Campbell has Texas running through his veins: He was born in Texas, went to school at the University of Texas (where he won the Heisman trophy), and was drafted first overall by the Houston Oilers. He’s a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Nolan Ryan was born in Refugio, Texas; played many years of his record-breaking professional baseball career with the Houston Astros and, later, the Texas Rangers; and is currently the principal owner, president, and CEO of the Rangers. He also threw over 100 mph on a regular basis, even when he was in his forties, and his 5,714 strikeouts are a record that seems unlikely to ever be broken. He threw an unthinkable seven no-hitters. The year he retired at age 46, he beat the shit out of 26-year-old Robin Ventura.

30. Space exploration

Space exploration

The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston is the NASA’s center for human spaceflight training, research, and flight control. AKA, all the cool stuff.

31. Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez

Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez

Yes, the two former teen superstars are both from Texas and met when they were little kids. They both appeared on Barney & Friends and then went on to a career of Disney-Channel-turned-X Factor-and-Bieber–fueled (respectively) stardom. All accomplished with a robust amount of Southern-girl charm.

32. King of the Hill

King of the Hill

Mike Judge based the character on King of the Hill — which was quietly the most consistently funny (and moving!) animated show on television from 1997–2010 — on people he knew while living in Texas, where he currently resides. The small-town Texas portrayed on the series is perhaps exaggerated at times, but lots of it is also hilariously familiar to anyone who’s lived in the greatest state. The show also explained the meaning of life for once and for all, through the words of the great philosopher Boomhauer.

Source: youtube.com

33. Blues in Deep Ellum and beyond.

Blues in Deep Ellum and beyond.

The blues spread to Texas from the Delta in the beginning of the 20th century and eventually morphed into its own style, known fittingly as “Texas blues.” Many early jazz and blues artists spent much of their careers at clubs in Deep Ellum, Dallas. A columnist is 1936 described Deep Ellum as the “one spot in the city that needs no daylight saving time because there is no bedtime … [It is] the only place recorded on earth where business, religion, hoodooism, gambling and stealing goes on at the same time without friction … Last Saturday a prophet held the best audience in this ‘Madison Square Garden’ in announcing that Jesus Christ would come to Dallas in person in 1939. At the same time a pickpocket was lifting a week’s wages from another guy’s pocket, who stood with open mouth to hear the prophecy.” Blind Lemon Jefferson (pictured above), was one of the first to make Dallas blues famous, is known as the Father of the Texas Blues, and was a huge influence on blues music for the rest o’ time. Whew.

“Black Snake Moan,” Blind Lemon Jefferson

Born in Brenham, Texas, and died 48 years later in Beaumont, Texas. In between, Blind Willie Johnson lost his sight, reportedly from his stepmother throwing lye in his face, and sang Texas blues blended with spiritual music in his instantly recognizable haunting bass tone.

“Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground,” Blind Willie Johnson

Although she wasn’t born in Texas, the legendary Big Mama Thornton made her career in Houston. She was the first singer to record “Hound Dog,” later made more famous (although not as good) by Elvis Presley. She is a total soulful bluesy badass, forever and ever, amen.

“Sometimes I Have Heartache,” Big Mama Thornton

34. SWAYZE

SWAYZE

Where else did you expect this perfect angel among men to have been born? Obviously it was Texas. Houston, to be specific. RIP Swayze — let’s hope heaven is as good as Texas.

35. The best grocery store in the world x 3.

The best grocery store in the world x 3.

The Texas (+ Mexico) supermarket chain H.E.B. is named for one of its founders, Howard Edward Butt, a source of great amusement for all Texas schoolchildren. Their “Central Market” offshoot provides a wealth of local and organic produce and specialty food items alongside normal grocery store stuff, and they are Texas’ best-kept secret — the most beautifully arranged grocery stores in the country.

Pictured: the OG Whole Foods Market in Austin, 1981. Yes, Whole Foods Market, the favorite grocery store of wealthy hippies nationwide, was founded in Austin. The flagship store downtown is basically a gigantic grocery store crossed with a really fancy food court serving everything delicious imaginable crossed with a food-themed amusement park. They have a chocolate fountain!

Fiesta Mart Supermarkets cater specifically to the Hispanic customer base, which is a huge market in Texas. That means they have piñatas next to their veggies, coconut popsicles, and a million different flavors of fruit soda in glass bottles. In other words, they are perfect.

Source: tofuttibreak

36. The Texas Renaissance Festival

The Texas Renaissance Festival

The nation’s largest Renaissance Festival is a place deep in the heart of Texas for super nerds and people curious about super nerds alike to gather and eat giant drumsticks and watch really good jugglers. What more could you possibly ask for?

Source: texrenfest.com  /  via: facebook.com

37. Amazing movies made in Texas by Texas filmmakers.

Amazing movies made in Texas by Texas filmmakers.

Dazed & Confused, directed by Richard Linklater, 1993.

Source: twylah.com

Machete, directed by Robert Rodriguez, 2010.

Source: collider.com

Houston-born director Wes Anderson roomed with Owen Wilson at the University of Texas, and they proceeded to write Anderson’s first feature film, Bottle Rocket, together. The film, made in Texas, was one of Martin Scorcese’s favorite movies of the ’90s and might remain the funniest film he’s made. It also launched the career of Owen and his brother Luke, who were both born in Dallas.

38. Selena lives forever in Texas.

Selena lives forever in Texas.

The top Latin artist of the ’90s and the queen of Tejano music forever and always. She was murdered at the age of 23, but jams like “Dreaming of You” go on living, ringing forever and ever in the ears of every girl who was ever a tween with a crush in Texas.

“Dreaming Of You,” Selena

39. Pecan pralines.

Pecan pralines.

The official tree of Texas is the pecan tree, and pecans are plentiful in the Lone Star State. But Texans know that they can always take something good and make it great, and so pecan pralines were born. It’s pretty much just buttermilk and sugar mixed with pecans and equaling chewy sticky deliciousness.

Source: ruflove.com

40. The Houston hip-hop scene.

The Houston hip-hop scene.

Forget about East Coast vs. West Coast and embrace the dirtiest, crunkest, screwiest rap music to ever grace your ears. Lil’ Flip, pictured above, claims to have been on over 1,000 mixtapes and somehow I don’t doubt it.

Source: xlyrics.de

“This Is The Way We Ball,” Lil’ Flip

Another very important “Lil'” is Lil’ Troy, whose single “Wanna Be a Baller” is one of the very catchiest rap songs of the ’90s – the ultimate decade of catchy rap songs.

“Wanna Be A Baller,” Lil’ Troy

UGK (short for Underground Kingz) was the duo of the late Pimp C and Bun B, two rappers straight outta P.A.T. (Port Arthur, Texas). In addition to creating their own brand of explicit but weirdly accessible rap songs, the pair were famously featured on Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin’.”

“One Day,” UGK

Chamillionaire, who was born Hakeem Serikir, is a self-made multi-millionaire who, in addition to rapping, is an entrepreneur, actor, and record producer. He grew up in religious househould where secular music was highly opposed, and decided as a kid alongside fellow rapper Paul Wall that he would make music his career. We can declare that whole thing a success based solely on the perfection of “Ridin’ Dirty,” among other golden jams.

Source: nopeaceamaru

“Ridin Dirty,” Chamillionaire

The Houston-based DJ Screw – aka The Originator – pioneered what is known as the “chopped and screwed” DJ method. It’s basically a technique of repurposing a song to make it SOUND exactly what being really messed up on drugs and alcohol and maybe a little dehydrated to boot FEELS like. DJ Screw jams are artfully wobbly and woozy and disorienting. He died in 2000 of an overdose of codeine, but his jams live on forever in the hearts of everyone who’s ever been really messed up in Texas.

“How Deep Is Your Love,” Keith Sweat chopped and screwed by DJ Screw

41. Homecoming mums

Homecoming mums

Frankly, it was news to Texans that the rest of the country doesn’t celebrate Homecoming with giant ribboned mums. WHY WOULDN’T YOU? They are the best part of high school, obvs.

42. Ann Richards

Ann Richards

Ann Richards, elected governor of Texas in 1990, was a hero to Texas girls who saw in her that they could do anything. Before being elected governor, she had a long political career including a notorious speech at the Democratic National Convention that included such zingers as “I’m delighted to be here with you this evening, because after listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like.” Later, she “retired” in Austin but campaigned ceaselessly for Democratic candidates throughout the U.S. She also appeared in this “no talking” advertisement for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin:

43. Topo Chico

Topo Chico

The cure for hangovers, the natural partner of tacos, inexplicably much better and more refreshing than whatever mineral water that other parts of the country pass off as acceptable.

44. The Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico

Yo, California: Texas has beaches too, and they are pretttttttty gorgeous.

45. Gilley’s

Gilley's

Gilley’s was a nightclub located in Pasadena, Texas, from 1970 to 1990. It was the primary filming location for Urban Cowboy and the best place to ride a fake bull and pick up a cowboy or cowgirl.

46. A music festival for anyone.

A music festival for anyone.

In Texas, where music is obviously a pretty big deal, it only makes sense to gather a whole ton of people together to listen to music for days on end. This can happen in a lot of different ways, depending on who you are. For families, the best bet is Austin City Limits Festival, a three-day outdoor fest in Austin where the headliners are mainstream, Texas acts are celebrated on some of the smaller stages, and a kid’s stage entertains the little ones. Above, Wayne Coyne floats above the ACL crowd.

If you are legitimately cool, Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin is probably where you’ll end up. Above, Ryan Gosling hangs out with New Orleans “sissybounce” musician Big Freedia. Does anything else really need to be said?

Source: twitpic.com

Wait, you’re too cool for Fun Fun Fun? Amazingly, there’s a festival for you: The Chaos in Tejas fest that’s spread among Austin venues is the best weekend of the year for the scruffiest punks, metalheads, and hardcore kids the world over.

For those seeking authenticity, “welcome home” to the Kerrville Folk Festival, which includes over two weeks of country, folk, and bluegrass music, hippies camping and playing around the fire, and other warm and fuzzy things that are right at home in Texas.

Are you a band trying to get signed to a label, a filmmaker seeking distribution, a start-up looking to network with others in the tech industry, or an actual Texan looking to find a bunch of parties with free booze, food, and music?? SXSW is two weeks of insanity here for your needs.

47. Blue Bell Ice Cream

Blue Bell Ice Cream

Even though it’s sold only in 20 southern states, Blue Bell, made in Brenham, Texas, is the third best-selling ice cream in the U.S. overall. Why? Because it’s better than any other ice cream. Trust.

48. Luckenbach, Texas

Luckenbach, Texas

Population: 3.
Motto: ” Everybody’s somebody in Luckenbach.”

49. ARMADILLOS

ARMADILLOS

LOOK CLOSELY AT THESE LITTLE SCALEY MAMMALS AND TELL ME TEXAS ISN’T EDEN ITSELF.

50. Tex-Mex

Tex-Mex

Mexico meets Southern comfort food, resulting in the most idyllic marriage of all time. Tex-Mex is basically Mexican flavors with a boatload of cheese and beans, a focus on fajita-style grilled meats, and the all-important invention of chimichangas and queso cheese dip. How do people live without it?

Source: spinadelic

In conclusion…

In conclusion...

Thanks for stoppin’ by, y’all!

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Source: society6.com

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