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

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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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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

Click here to view original article

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House-sitting, caretaking or ‘workamping’ can be a huge budget boost. Just think: No monthly housing costs.

 

If you had no rent or mortgage payment, what would that mean to your bottom line? Free accommodations are available if you’re willing to watch someone else’s property.

House-sitting tends to be a quick-hit job, but two other gigs — caretaking and “workamping” — can last for months or years at a time. Best-case scenario: You fall into a sweet spot such as spending 51 weeks a year at a multimillionaire’s Colorado ski retreat or secluded Hawaiian getaway.

Where do you look for a job like that? (Post continues after video.)

An obvious way is through word of mouth. I’ve gotten house-sitting jobs in Los Angeles, Seattle and Anchorage just by letting friends know I’m available. For me, it’s a cheap way to travel. Sometimes I get paid, and sometimes I do it in exchange for a free flop.

The most comprehensive sources I’ve seen, though, are The Caretaker Gazette, Workers on Wheels and Workamper News.

House-sitting websites exist, too. Keep in mind that these companies, like any other Internet site, may vanish without warning — taking with them your subscription. By contrast, the three sources listed above have been publishing for 18 to 30 years and all three supplement their regular publications with daily or weekly job updates.

What you need to know

“Workamping” assumes you’ll be working — part or full time, paid or volunteer — while living in an RV. Usually, that means free hookup and rent in a campground, but sometimes RVers are hired to care for private property.

“Caretaking” can mean full-time responsibility for a landscape and/or animals. It can also be as simple as living in a foreclosure or unsold property to keep away squatters and vandals.

“We are getting a lot more real-estate investors who are stuck with (homes) they can’t sell,” says Caretaker Gazette Publisher Gary Dunn. 

You’ll need references, of course. Would you hand someone the keys to your place just because he sounded nice on the phone? Some options: a current or former employer, a clergy member or even your family physician are good bets.

Or how about a previous house-sitting client? Put out the word among friends and acquaintances, get written references and parlay those experiences into other gigs.

Get it in writing
Ask for a written contract so there are no misunderstandings about what is and isn’t expected. For example, will you be paying a share of the utilities? Are you supposed to mow the lawn?

Keep your side of the bargain. If it says “no parties,” don’t invite your friends over to check out the hot tub.

A few more tips:

Get renters insurance. The homeowners insurance doesn’t cover nonresidents.

Prepare to couch-surf. If you plan to do this full time, you need places to land in case of gaps between jobs.

Organize your finances. Is there a branch of your bank in that town? Can you pay your bills online? Oh, and bring more cash than you think you need — you can always put it back.


Have an exit strategy.
Suppose the homeowner forgot to mention his six cats — and you’re allergic? Make sure you have bus fare or gas money back home.

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

Original Article by: Donna_Freedman

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The beleaguered retailer posts yet another dismal quarterly earnings report.

 

J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson continues to offer investors more spin than a dreidel at Hanukkah instead of actual results. His job is now clearly in jeopardy.

The iconic Plano, Tex., retailer Friday posted quarterly results that were even more dismal than Wall Street had feared. Its net loss narrowed to $123 million, or 56 cents a share, versus $143 million, or 67 cents, a year earlier. Total sales plunged an eye-popping 26.6% to $2.93 billion. Excluding one-time items, the loss was 93 cents a share. Wall Street had forecast a loss of 7 cents on revenue of $3.27 billion, according to Dow Jones. As earnings misses go, this one’s huge.

Not surprisingly, shares of J.C. Penney are plunging in early trading. They have fallen more than 38% since the start of the year. Johnson’s magic touch that served him well at Apple (AAPL +1.73%) has eluded him at J.C. Penney. Sensing that he may be on borrowed time, Johnson is pleading for investors to be patient. His hubris is remarkable.

“Today, JCP is really a tale of two companies,” he said in a press release. “By far the largest part of our store is the old J.C. Penney, which continues to struggle and experience significant challenges as evidenced by our third quarter results. However, the new JCP, centered around the shop concept, is gaining traction with customers every day and is surpassing our own expectations in terms of sales productivity which continues to give us confidence in our long-term business model.”

It’s hard to see what he means. Same-store sales, a key retail metric, plunged 26.1% during the quarter, indicating that Johnson’s store-in-a-store strategy, isn’t gaining traction. His gimmicks, such as free kid’s haircuts and family photographs, while interesting are not enough to convince these people to actually buy J.C. Penney merchandise.

Johnson has got plenty of self-confidence. Recently, he told Fortune, “We’re going to create an entirely new retail model that’s built for the next 100 years.” Some in the retail world are still convinced that Johnson is a genius who needs more time to realize his vision.

“Call me crazy, but this man has a reputation for vision and a track record that prompted members of the J.C. Penney board to hire him in the first place,” wrote David Selby, a former Sears (SHLD +1.08%,) executive, in Ad Age. “They wanted disruption, and they got it — but disruption is very, very messy and takes time.”

While Selby has a point, his call for patience doesn’t carry the same weight as Bill Ackman’s. The head of Pershing Square Capital, which owns about an 18% stake in J.C. Penney — far the retailer’s largest shareholder — earlier this year had argued that the retailer’s future under Johnson was bright. Whether he still feels that way is not clear.

If Johnson fails to produce decent results during the holiday season — and the odds are against him — the board will be forced throw in the towel and fire him. J.C. Penney would then be forced to sell itself at a fire sale.

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

Original Article by: Jonathan Berr

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Every waking hour, consumers are bombarded with deals. Online and on TV, in magazines and on the sides of buses, ads show us objects we can’t possibly live without.

Except that we usually can. How do you suppose people managed before greeting card companies made birthday cards “from the cat” or “from me and the dog”? Before applesauce came in tubes? Before we started thinking our blankets needed sleeves?

This list of 16 things you don’t need is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a start.

Disposable income = disposable items

1. Bottled water.
 “It’s more expensive than gasoline . . . $6.40 per gallon for a liquid I can get for free at home,” writes Karla Bowsher at Money Talks News. If you live where the water tastes weird (howdy, Phoenix!), get yourself a filter.

2. Paper plates. For a picnic in the park, maybe. But why not get a set of unbreakable dishes for picnics, barbecues and visits from the grandbabies? That’s certainly greener and ultimately cheaper if you shop thrift stores and yard sales.

3. Paper napkins. Notice a pattern here? Reusable beats disposable any time. I got six cloth napkins for a quarter at a rummage sale; check post-holiday clearance sales, too. Or buy a fabric remnant and sew your own.

4. Paper cups in the bathroom. If you’re that concerned about germs, carry the cup to the kitchen each morning and toss it in the dishwasher. Note: Some people “cup” their palms and bring water to their mouths. Just sayin’.

5. Disposable hand towels. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw these advertised. Neither could Mrs. Money of the Ultimate Money Blog: “The last thing we need is another disposable product, especially one that is pretty much useless and replaces something that has worked well for so many years.” What she said.

Use and toss
6. Disposable flossers. Bathrooms sure are full of, um, waste. Rolls of floss go on sale all the time.

7. Name-brand OTC meds. Compare ingredient labels for any over-the-counter medications you need; when in doubt, talk to the pharmacist. Tip: Know what things cost since name-brand pills might be cheaper with a sale plus coupon and/or rebate.

8. Sandwich bags. No need to buy and toss, buy and toss. Put your PBJs in a reusable container.

9. Lunch bags. They’re still for sale, but I don’t know why. Get yourself a reusable lunchbox or lunch bag. (I found mine in the free box at a yard sale.)

10. Ringtones. Your phone came with a ringer installed. Use it.

11. Diaper Genie.
 A mechanized trashcan just for nappies? Throw them in the household garbage just as people did back in the dark ages.

Dogs don’t celebrate Halloween
12. DVDs.
 Be honest: How many of your DVDs have been watched more than once? Now: Add up what you’ve spent on them. When your headache goes away, remember you can probably get DVDs free from the public library.

13. Books.
 Libraries have books, too. Unless you plan to read a title numerous times (see “DVDs,” above) why are you dropping $30 per hardback? Those best-sellers show up pretty quickly in used-book shops, yard sales and thrift stores.

14. Magazine subscriptions. Are you reading the ones you have? Then why keep subscribing? Your favorites may be available for free at the library. (What swell places libraries are.)

15. Pet costumes. Do I really have to explain?

16. Snuggies. First, put your bathrobe on backward. Next, congratulate yourself on all the money you just saved.

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

Original Article by: Donna Freedman

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Moving day is a giant logistical hassle, but a missed detail can make it much worse.

 

Moving day is a giant logistical hassle before you get to the minutiae. A missed detail just makes it that much worse.

Renting a truck, hiring movers and getting stuff packed up and out of the house are the relatively easy portions of the move. Only when you get second notices forwarded to your new address or the lights cut off as you’re packing up the old place do you realize how much the little things add up.

In the interest of saving readers some hassle while they plan to ship out, we contacted the American Moving and Storage Association and asked about common oversights that people made while planning long or involved moves. The following 10 items are usually the easiest to overlook and the toughest to just shove into a garbage bag with the contents of the junk drawer at the last minute.

1. Your local government
If you don’t have a driveway for a moving truck to pull into or a storage container to be dropped in, chances are you need to put it on the street. If that’s the case, in some places you’re going to need a permit. To get that permit, you’re going to need some sort of proof that the company you’re working with is insured or bonded with the local government. That’s the case in Massachusetts, Florida and elsewhere. It can really put a crimp in your moving plans if you don’t check first and your belongings end up in the impound lot.

2. Your hidden belongings
It seems pretty obvious, but taking another few sweeps around the house can help you avoid leaving grandma’s china to the new tenants or going without holiday decorations for a season or so. AMSA spokesman John Bisey says the easiest items to forget are those tucked away in crawl spaces, attics and built-in cabinets. If there’s a spot in your house or apartment that’s out of sight, chances are that’s where your last box full of stuff is coming from.

3. Your items on loan
Wondering where your reciprocating saw or popcorn maker got off to? Check in with the neighbors. The AMSA says items lent to neighbors, family or friends tend to cause customers the greatest headaches once they realize they’re gone. Take a quick inventory and make some rounds at the going-away party.

4. Your sleeping arrangements
So you’ve packed up the truck or container and are ready to take off in the morning. That’s great, but where are you going to sleep tonight? The first night at the new destination isn’t that big of a problem, as you’ll get to your bed eventually, but the last night after the big load-up can be tough if you don’t pack the bed last or plan to stay with someone else.

5. Your records
It’s a lot easier to do things electronically these days, but that’s not always the case with medical, dental or school records. Sometimes it’s just easier to keep these things on hand, so try to get copies from everyone as soon as you’re ready to pack them up. Once you have them, keep them all in the same place so they’re easy to refer to once you’re setting up your new home.

6. Your heat and lights
If you don’t turn the electricity, gas or oil heat on, nobody’s going to do it for you. The AMSA advises turning off all utilities two to three days after you load out and turning them on at the new place two to three days before you move in. It’s not great to get a bill for lights that someone else is using forwarded to the address you’re already being charged for. Speaking of forwarding …

7. Your mail
Oh yeah, you’re going to want to check in with the Postal Service and make sure it knows you’re leaving. It will forward mail to your new address only if you check with it in advance, and even then it’s not permanent. Forwarding basically gives you a couple of months to change your mailing address with various institutions. At some point, that yellow forwarding label will stop appearing.

8. Your insurance
“Be careful when referring to ‘insurance,'” Bisey says. “Very few movers offer true insurance, which is regulated by the states and is offered by an insurance agent.”

The best you can get from the movers themselves is valuation protection, which covers only a percentage of what your goods are worth. In May, a federal regulation took effect requiring interstate movers to include the cost of full-value protection in their initial written estimate. This should give consumers some second thoughts about choosing the minimal valuation option, which is only 60 cents per pound.

9. Your paid labor
If you tip someone for carrying a tray of food to you, you may want to consider tipping the people who just lugged a dresser to your fourth-floor walk-up. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about this, but if you’re not at least offering some water afterward, you have no sense of empathy whatsoever.

10. Your mess
Whether there are a few nail holes left in the walls where your family photos once hung or a huge paint spot in the closet from when you knocked over a gallon of Periwinkle Blue, it’s usually in your best interest to take care of it immediately. Your security deposit or even a sale could hang in the balance.

“I think the last-minute repairs and/or fix-ups are legit,” Bisey says, “especially when, for example, a large piece of furniture is moved away, revealing a problem with the floor or wall it was hiding.”

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

Original Article by: Jason Notte of TheStreet

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