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Denise Moody at Gracy Title always keeps me informed on what is fun happening around Austin.  Here’s a link for all the fun fireworks displays around town…at which one will you celebrate? Link here as well

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My dear friend, Maggie Moore, in Fort Worth posted this blog (credit to Greg Nino out of Houston) and I laughed until I cried.  SO SO TRUE!  Take a minute to read this “Open Letter to Anyone Wanting to Get Their Real Estate License” and humor me a bit.  xo 

CLICK HERE TO READ or see info below: 

This post by Greg Nino, real estate agent at Re/Max Compass in Houston, was originally published on ActiveRain.

Several times a year I am approached by people who want to become a Realtor. Many of them think it’s a great way to supplement their income while they keep their day job. A lot of others are interested in a career change. I decided to type this blog post to save myself time. Each time I’m asked I’ll simply send the inquiring person a link back to this post. So, with that said, grab your favorite beverage and read below, because you’re about to get a heavy dosage of what it’s like to start a real estate career.

1. Passing the exam is easy. Creating a business with real income is a different story.

2. Now that you have your license, be prepared to lose friends and get your feelings hurt. Most, if not all, of your friends and family will avoid using you the first year or two that you’re licensed. Simply put, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. Earn your battle scars. Even after you’ve gained experience, you’ll have friends and family who will not work with you because you’re a friend or because you are family. It happens every day to Realtors across the country.

3. If you don’t spend money, you won’t make money. You need to spend THOUSANDS of dollars to create a business. Most of what you are thinking is a cute and new idea has already been tried a thousand times. You will do what every new agent does: Spend money (A LOT OF IT) on the wrong things. Over and over again. There’s a famous saying in this business: “If you want to get rich in real estate, sell stuff to Realtors.”

4. You and your smartphone will become inseparable. You will have to get up from eating, watching a movie and sleeping to take calls, return emails and respond to text messages. Of course, you don’t have to do this, but you also don’t have to make any real money in this business. You’ll get out of it what you put into it. Ignoring a call could be a $20,000 mistake. Or more.

 5. Be prepared to be second-guessed, doubted, questioned, accused and lied to repeatedly. Buyers and sellers have the propensity to lie just like you and the guy next to you at the grocery store. People have perceptions about lawyers, mechanics and police officers. They have them about us, too. Even after years of experience there will be clients who will second-guess your every move. This will never go away.

6. You will show thousands of houses. Showing a house isn’t just about unlocking a door. Sometimes you get rained on while showing. Sometimes the house says active on the market when it’s already under contract with another buyer. Sometimes you are late to the appointment because of traffic. Maybe your buyer will be late. The number of things that can go wrong are practically endless.

7. Almost nobody will respect your time. Almost everyone thinks you are overpaid.

8. Expect people to ask for kickbacks both legally and illegally. Buyers and sellers will often want to haggle with your commission.

9. You will pay taxes. A lot of taxes. Expect to pay for the gizmo you use to unlock doors. You will pay for this yearly along with dues to three different associations. You’ll pay for signs, lockboxes, tools, equipment, cameras, advertising for both you and your listings, leads, websites, and on and on and on.

10. You will pay for your own health and life insurance. There is no 401(k) matching in real estate. You are an independent contractor. In fact, YOU will pay to be at your local real estate office! The broker will take money from you. You will also pay for an office if you want one. Your phone is your cost. Your Internet is also your cost. So are your paper, pens and everything else imaginable. You’re running a small business. It’s ALL your costs. You’ll also pay for errors and omissions insurance. The list is really long. Yay!

11. You will get screwed in this business. It’s not for the naive, lighthearted, ignorant or thin-skinned. You will work your rear end off and sometimes not make a dime.

12. You will deal with a certain number of psychopaths each year.

13. You will meet criminals, convicts and felons, especially if you work in the leasing industry.

14. Strange men and women will ask you to meet them at houses RIGHT NOW.

15. You might get a gun pointed at you while showing a house or two. Sometimes rabid pit bulls will chase you down.

16. Expect to get towed at least once.

17. Eventually you’ll get in a wreck while showing. You better hope your clients aren’t with you. Is your auto insurance updated correctly?

18. There is no disability insurance. So, if you break a leg while playing softball, you’re screwed. It’s going to hurt your business.

19. You might get sued even when you aren’t at fault.

20. When you become successful, your competitors might file complaints on you because they are jealous. You won’t like this.

21. As you show houses you’ll be in questionable neighborhoods from time to time. You need to learn self-defense, and carry a gun or a can of mace. Everyone should be concerned about their safety.

22. Be prepared to leave a social event early to run and show a house or to get yelled at by one of your clients for something you did not do. It doesn’t matter, you are the chew toy sometimes.

23. It’s likely you’ll get audited by the IRS. You have too many write-offs and, once again, you make too much money.

24. Lawyers are annoyed by Realtors.

25. Expect to list homes and never sell them. No agent sells every home they list. You will waste time, money, energy and resources.

26. Your signs will be stolen, spray-painted and eventually played with by the local kids.

27. Your flier box will always be empty because kids, passersby and neighbors will take too many. Sometimes they’ll take all of them in one day. Then you’ll be chastised for not having fliers in the flier box.

28. Did I mention you’ll deal with at least two crazy people each year?

29. EACH real estate transaction you work means you are likely dealing with at least eight different people. You’re responsible for 15-20 things. Right now I am trying to close 11 contracts. I am a little stressed. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about my paperwork, my clients and my business.

30. You will become an unlicensed therapist, divorced lawyer and counselor. You aren’t allowed to give legal advice, and you shouldn’t. You aren’t a doctor, but everyone will unload their personal lives with you. You will sometimes live their life.

31. Your spouse will at times hate what you do for a living.

32. Your wife or husband will despise the fact that you are always on your phone.

33. When you’re sick, you still work. There’s no floating holidays.

34. While on vacation, you still work. You can get an agent to cover your business, but NOBODY will care for your business the way you do.

35. Sometimes when you make mistakes it costs people money. You can’t just apologize.

36. You have to have a nice car. You must wear nice clothes.

37. When you first get started everyone will know you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s a fact. This sucks. But if you stick it out, you’ll be OK. Seventy-five percent of the new agents don’t make it.

38. You get to work with agents! Not all of them are put together correctly. A lot of your problems in this business will be because of the other agent. You will get upset, angry, pissed and offended. Egos are here, too.

39. Wait for it:  Friends, neighbors and family will ask you for real estate advice while they are involved in a real estate transaction YOU aren’t.

40. Other Realtors will give your client advice when they aren’t supposed to. Every buyer and every seller knows an agent somewhere.

41. Each market is different. Very different sometimes, but that won’t stop friends and family from influencing your client. Your client will become confused at times.

42. You have a better chance of meeting E.T. than you do working real estate part time and being successful. It takes time, effort and money to be a part-time Realtor. In fact, being a part-time agent can be even more difficult.

So why do agents do this?

You’ll have the amazing opportunity to reap what you sow. You can work when you want. No matter how bad your boss (client) is, you are working for them for only a certain period of time. You get new bosses all the time. You can make a real difference in a lot of people’s lives. You literally help shape dreams. YOU can be the difference in someone’s life as they look to sell and buy a home. And not all clients, buyers and sellers are bad. Most of them get it. It’s awesome when everything works out.

And sometimes the money is really good.

 

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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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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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Here’s just how seriously you should take the radiation emanating from your granite counters, among other potential home hazards.

Every now and then a news report gets people worked up about hidden dangers lurking in their homes. Should you be afraid that the radiation coming from your granite countertop or the flame retardants in your furniture are trying to kill you?

Granite countertops
A beautiful granite countertop can make any kitchen pop. Yet every once in a while people go into panic mode, freaking out about the fact that granite is a rock that can have some radioactive elements and could potentially give off radon, which can be harmful in high concentrations. But while the very mention of the word radiation is enough to stoke fears, you don’t really need to worry about this one. The EPA says that radon is more likely to come into your house from the soil than from your kitchen counters (and granite isn’t a very porous stone to begin with, meaning it doesn’t give out as much radiation as others).

Furthermore, any buildup of radon in the kitchen or bathroom is unlikely, as those rooms tend to have good ventilation systems. “It is extremely unlikely that granite countertops in homes could increase the radiation dose above the normal, natural background dose that comes from soil and rocks,” the EPA says.
Fear rating: Extremely low
Precautions: Be more worried about legitimate dangers in the kitchen, such as food safety and keeping sharp objects and cleaning solutions away from kids.

Particleboard and formaldehyde

Particleboard-based furniture may be great for furnishing your place on a budget. But pressed wood products such as particleboard tend to contain formaldehyde resins in the adhesives that hold the wood particles together. Formaldehyde is a surprisingly common volatile chemical, but it’s definitely not good for you. Luckily, good ventilation and keeping heat and humidity to a minimum can reduce the amount of formaldehyde released from furniture.

Fear Rating: Low
Precautions: Check what kind of adhesives furniture manufacturers used to make your products. Since the 1980s, when the EPA restricted the maximum allowable formaldehyde emissions from this kind of furniture, many companies have made efforts to substantially reduce the amount of the chemical in their production.

Flame retardants

A recent study found that 85% of couches tested in California contained flame retardants that have not been evaluated for human safety.

Couches in California are required to have flame-retardant properties, but some scientists worry that the chemicals used to prevent flaming sofas might be linked to hormone disruption, cancer and neurological issues — not to mention that these flame retardants aren’t necessarily present at levels in which they are effective at fire prevention.

No decisive link to health problems has been proved. The problem is that the replacements for pentabromodiphenyl ether, which the EPA banned from new products after 2005, haven’t been fully tested, according to study author Heather Stapleton of Duke University. Stapleton says that she and her colleagues are pursuing long-term health studies. The presence of these chemicals in the air outside the couch is worrying — especially as the same kinds of foam are currently used in baby mattresses and supplies.

Look for a label that mentions Technical Bulletin 117 — if it’s there then your couch probably has flame retardants. If it’s not, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t flame retardants, it just means that you don’t know for certain.
Fear rating: Medium
Precautions: Stapleton says that people worried about the dust should wash their hands frequently, especially before eating, to reduce chances of ingesting any toxic chemicals. Removing dust by cleaning regularly can help, too, but Stapleton cautions that vacuuming and dusting can cause some particles to become airborne.

 

Microwaves

Microwaves have been in our homes long enough to inspire lots of fear mongering, worries and urban legends. Rumors that microwaving plastic will poison your food, or that the radiation will disrupt pacemakers, have been around for years. According to the FDA, most of this is nonsense. No, you shouldn’t use some plastics in the microwave — because they could melt —but you can solve that problem by checking the bottom of the package to see what’s allowed; if the item is microwave-safe, there is sometimes a symbol (a box with wavy lines inside it) that indicates it is safe for microwave use. Pacemakers used to be affected by microwaves, but are now shielded. And you’re not going to get radiation injuries from a microwave; it just isn’t powerful enough to do any damage.

Interestingly, the FDA does warn about erupting hot water. Apparently, heating water in a clean cup for a long time can cause the water to get superheated. It reaches temperatures above the boiling point without the distinctive bubbling of a rolling boil. When anything is added to the water, or it is shaken, then it can erupt, causing burns.
Fear Rating: Medium
Precautions: Check labels, and don’t heat that cup of water for tea for too long.

 

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

Original Article by: Mary Beth Griggs of Popular Mechanics

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