The Three Bears of Real Estate Brokerages

I’ve just made one of the biggest decisions as a new real estate agent.

It was a whole lot easier than I thought it would be.  But I still took my time and interviewed several brokerages before making my decision.

You see, looking for a job isn’t just about a company hiring you to do work for them.  As an employee, you should also spend some time researching the company, coming up with a list of questions to ask, and actually evaluating the people you talk with to see if you like them

So often we are so desperate to just get a job and a paycheck we don’t really focus on if it is a good job or not.  If it is something that we actually want to do, with people we want to work with, and in a place that will be fun.

No, instead we take the first job we are offered, and then we feel stuck, in a place that isn’t quite right.

I learned this lesson a long time ago.  It’s one of the reasons I’m now now in Real Estate, and not doing something else.

So for me, it was super important to find a Real Estate Brokerage in Austin that had not only the resources I need as a new agent, but is a great, fun, and interesting place to work.

Its sort of like the children’s story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but instead of being scared off and running away at the end, I have found a new home!

I’m sure you remember the story – but just in case:  Goldilocks comes upon a house in the woods.  Seeing it empty she walks in to find some porridge on the table.

 

She samples the first and says this one is too hot

She trys the 2nd and syas this one is too cold

When she tries the third one she says this is just right

 

Then she moves over to the beds and sits in the first one – This one is too hard

Upon trying the second, this is too soft

And the third is just right, of course.

 

So she falls asleep.  Soon the bears come home and see her.  She wakes up, and runs away.

 

It was the same with me.

I also tried three brokerages, and my story is very similar.

 

The first one, was just a little too modern for me.  They had a different business model than I was used to.  The interview process was a little too different – and some red flags went up for me during the process so I politely bowed out.

I’m sure they are a great agency.  I see them all over the web, and in the industry news, but for me, it wasn’t a good fit.

The second brokerage I interviewed was just a little too small.  I know I would have gotten a lot of great work through them, but I wasn’t convinced that I would get the help and resources I need as a new agent.  Perhaps when I am a little more experienced, and have a couple of dozen transactions under my belt, I’ll return to them.

Finally I settled upon JB Goodwin.  They are an agency that’s been around a very long time in Austin.  I really wanted to work with an established agency with a proven track record.

  • I want the ability to work areas that I choose
  • I need the flexibility to do marketing my way, but still be able to man the phones and volunteer to hold open houses when I want.
  • I want a nice office to take clients to, without having to pay expensive desk fees.
  • I want great training, from experienced agents who don’t seem put out when I ask a question.

JB Goodwin offers all these things and so much more.

I’m super excited to have my sponsoring broker in place, as I finish up my classes and take the TREC real estate exam.

I encourage you to subscribe to my blog, and follow me as I take this new journey.

My Champion School of Real Estate experience

If you are one of my regular readers, you know I’ve been taking two on-line Real Estate classes at Austin City College.

While that has been a great educational experience, for me, it has been taking just a little too long to get the pre-requisites completed for my Real Estate license.  Yes there are some significant requirements to be an agent in Texas, and rightfully so, but I’ve learned the process can go much faster, and cost less if you do a little bit of research.

I’m really glad I took the two classes at ACC – the 120 hour Real Estate Principles class, and the Law of Agency class.  I’m especially glad that I did it on-line.  I’ve never had an online class before, and this was a great way to learn how to learn without being in a classroom.

One thing about distance learning classes, the kind where you stay at home and use your computer to take classes on the internet.  You need to be really motivated, and have a lot of internal drive to set aside the time to read, study, and do the assignments.  It’s not for everybody.  I’m a self-starter, and like to see things through to the end, so for me, it was a natural fit.  But I can see that it isn’t for everybody.

Those first two classes took a full semester – almost 3 1/2 months to complete.  That’s great if you have lots of other projects going on and need to fit studying into your calendar.  But there is a faster and more efficient way.

For me, I want to get my license NOW!

I’ve written about the different Real Estate Schools in Austin, and after doing a bit of research decided to take my last two classes at the Champion School of Real Estate.

I’ve just finished my fist class – the potentially boring Law of Contracts requirement, and it was super easy, super fast, and fun.

Real Estate School ReviewsThe instructor has tons of experience, is very knowledgeable on the subject, and has a great sense of humor.

The best thing was the cost – It was actually less than taking the same classes at ACC – especially when you consider parking, and books and supplies (all of which are given to you at Champion school).

There was only one weird thing – As you know I’m pretty tech saavy.  I don’t really use a notebook or pens much anymore.  Instead I like to keep my office paper free, and note-take on a laptop.  For years I’ve used the iWork suite of products – Pages, Numbers, Keynote,&  iPhoto because they work seamlessly with my clients and across the web, and they allow me, somebody who is designed challenged to make good looking graphs, flyers, and pictures.

I have tons of notes in Pages, organized into folders, cross-referenced, and linked to presentations, and spreadsheets.  I can do it from my Macbook Pro, my iMac Desktop, and even my iPad, and iPhone.  And all the docs sync and update whenever I make a change.  I always have access to whatever I need for research, and marketing.

Plus I had just finished taking TWO on-line classes, where EVERYTHING was done using a computer.

So I was a bit confused when I walked in with my trusty Macbook Pro, and they wouldn’t let me take notes on my computer!

They said something about it being a TREC regulation that no recording devices could be used in the classroom.

No recording devices?  It’s not like I’m bringing in a video camera, tape recorder or  attempting to take photos.  I just want to type up my notes as I go.  Every school these days allows laptops.  From kids in 3rd grade to medical school at Stanford.  They are commonplace, and everywhere.

Apparently not at the Champion School of Real Estate.

Thankfully I had some of my favorite Papermate Medium Blue Pens and some Post-it Flag Highlighter Pen in my satchel, and I was able to take notes directly in the textbook given to me as part of the class.

I highly recommend the Champion school of Real Estate – they have schools all over Texas.  I never took classes at the other campuses, but the North Austin one is really great.

Champions school of Real Estate
Champions school of Real Estate

 

Do you need to stage your house?

Have you ever noticed some houses sell really fast, while others, that look great sit on the market, even after several price reductions?  It happens all the time.

I always recommend to stage your home.  Home staging in Austin is important – we are seen as a fun and quirky city, and lots of people want to move here from all over the country.  Whenever somebody moves, they want to enhance their lifestyle, even if just a little, and their new house needs to look the part.

Most people think that staging only needs to happen to vacant homes, ones that have any furniture in them.  But that’s not true.  While adding furniture to an empty house helps homebuyers visualize where things will go, it is helpful to stage houses that are currently being occupied, too.

Of course, you can hire a home staging company, or you can do it yourself

One thing I’ve learned is staging a house, is beneficial, regardless of how it looks when you live there.

You could be Jeff Lewis, and your home might be perfectly decorated and featured in magazines, but home buyers.  But buyers are different than residents, and look for different things when previewing homes to buy.

I’ve walked into so many homes that look absolutely perfect when we begin the selling process.  The floors are great, the colors on the wall are just so, and the place is very well decorated.

However, as we live in a home, we personalize it, and make it our own.  We put up framed photos of our family on the walls, stacks of our favorite moves collect near the TV, and our bathroom counter is covered in personal products that we use everyday.

All these little items, and many more turn off buyers.

Let me put it a different way.

Home stagingI love staying in hotels.  Especially well decorated places like the W.  I’ll bet you do too.

Next time you stay at a hotel, either a fancy one, or something else, take a look around as soon as you enter the room.  Not only will you notice that there isn’t anything extra in the room, but you will also notice that there are places for you to “unload” all your stuff.  The table tops are free of any items, leaving you room to put down your suitcase.  The nightstand is empty, so you can put down your watch, and water bottle.  The bathroom has lots of space for you to use.

Your house, when you are selling it needs to be like a vacant hotel room.  Nothing valuable in it, and lots of space for people to imagine their things going.

This is Home Staging while you still live in the home.

Current conditions in Austin’s housing market

Right now, in Austin, we are in our 22nd month of declining inventory.  Yep, that’s right.   There aren’t enough houses to go around. (as of September 2013)

Usually, in a regular market there is about a six month supply of houses for sale.  That means at the average rate of selling a house, and if no new houses are added to the market, there are enough to last 6 and a half months or so.

A six month supply means there is probably the perfect house out there for you to choose from.  One in the neighborhood you want to live, in the style you want and of course the proper size for your lifestyle and family.

But this year, 2012, Austin is at half that – a 3 month supply of houses for sale, and it’s decreasing.

Why?  Because everybody wants to move here.  There are tons of great jobs, opportunities, and things to do.  Austin is all over the news, in the best possible way.

On a recent trip, a realtor friend of mine went to Vegas for a short vacation to get away from work, and wherever he went, once people from all over the country found out he was an agent in Austin, all they wanted to do was talk about houses.  So much for a relaxing vacation for him.

So, back to my original topic.  Why don’t you need to stage your house to sell it?

Should I stage my house?

Staging a roomBecause the Austin market is a sellers market right now.  There are more buyers than sellers.

Remember the basics of supply and demand?  Yep, it’s that simple.  Less houses on the market mean they will sell for more, and we’ve been seeing housing prices creep up and up.

But not because they are priced higher from the start.

Studies have shown that when a house is overpriced from the beginning it sits for much longer on the market.  MUCH longer.  It’s better to price it accurately and in line with the other homes in the area.

I’m really good at determining how much your house should sell for.  I know all the houses in your area that are for sale.  I’ve been in most of them.  I know which ones have hardwood floors, or updated kitchens, or views of the lake or downtown.  If you want to contact me, I can tell you more.

The same studies show that when a house is priced correctly from the beginning, and you are in a seller’s market, multiple offers are common and even bidding wars can happen.  Trust me, you want me on your side when this happens.  I’m a great negotiator, and I have connections with realtors all over town.

Instead of staging, I encourage you to talk with me about evaluating the price of your home, and pricing it to sell quickly.  I’ll work with you and provide you with realistic numbers that will get your house sold – FAST!  Give me a call, and let me tell you more.

Do you wish your pregnant wife a happy mother's day?

Absolutely!

At first I wasn’t sure I should.  I mean, technically, she isn’t a mom – yet.  It’s really only a matter of weeks, even days, until out little bundle of joy arrives.

But this is a once in a lifetime event. My wife will only be pregnant once, with our first child, and there will only be one mother’s day during that time.  Plus, I’m not that guy who makes excuses for not being sappy because I’m a dude.

Now I’m not going overboard, just a little bouquet of flowers, maybe a special lunch, and a little special treatment all day.

Our real celebration for mother’s day happened last weekend when we had our co-ed baby shower at the  at a catering company in Westlake.  Jenn’s family was there, and my folks drove in from Tuscon for the weekend.  Some of my friends came, some of Jenn’s friends, and we all had a great time.

The Harvest Room
The Harvest Room

The Harvest room is a new facility that was built by my friends who own a catering company. It’s a perfect place for a shower, an informal get together, or just a great meal. The chef, Dan, is an incredible cook, and takes care of everything. Although he specializes in meat, he knows I’m a vegetarian, and makes special one of a kind dishes just for me. Of course, he also has a little fun with it, and although there isn’t any meat in my food, he always seems to shape my dinner like a pig, or some other farm animal.  It’s a running joke between us, but always in good fun.

Native Austin Grasses
Native Austin Grasses in a pot outside the entrance

I just liked the decoration outside the door. It was a simple pot with some native grasses planted in it, and set the theme for the rest of the room. Inside the decorations were rustic, but not dated. There was some great furniture, and custom pieces gathered from around town, and the internet, and it all pulled together quite nicely.   We had about 30 or so friends there, and we filled the room perfectly, and kept the bartender busy making mimosas for us all morning long.  My mother in law got there early and did some great decorating, hanging a banner, putting out favors, and a few other nice touches for my wife and I.

Long dining room tables
Long dining room tables had simple decorations.
Paper banner
My mother in law did all the decorations, including the paper triangle banner

Everybody got a little party favor of a blue tin with some candy.  Debi, even hand cut each of the little flowers, and wrote a thank you note for everyone.  I’m not much of a crafty person, but these are pretty cool.

baby shower favors
The baby shower favors were little blue tins filled with candy
Oh the places you'll go cake
The cake was Mexican vanilla, and decorated with the saying from the Dr. Seuss Book, Oh the places you'll go cake

The cake was incredible! Heather, one of my wife’s best friends knew someone who makes cakes on the side, and this was better than most wedding cakes I’ve had.  If you don’t know, I’m a little bit of a wedding cake connoisseur, as I have photographed over 400 weddings in a previous career, and sampled each and every one.  This cake was more than enough for everybody, not too dry, and not too sweet.  Thankfully there was a little left at the end of the day, and we got to snack on it for a couple of more nights.

handmade paper flowers
There was only one game at the baby shower, and it involved paper flowers, and a secret word

There was a funny baby shower game that everyone played.  I didn’t think anyone would win, but in the end, I have to say that it was because of me that someone got the prize (a Visa Gift Card).

As soon as everyone came in, they got this cool little paper flower that they wore on their lapel.  I think I said that Debi make them all by hand. There was also a word you weren’t supposed to say – Baby – if you said that word, and someone caught you, you had to give ALL your flowers to the person who caught you.

Of course some people lost theirs right away.  I mean, really, how hard is it to not say baby at a baby shower.  Most people lost theirs right away.  But two people were hard core, and found all kinds of ways to chat around the word.  It went on for a couple of hours between these two. I didn’t think anyone was going to break.

But in the end, I decided I had to think of something to get one of them to say baby.  Here’s what I did.  I started going around the room, taking pics of all the people.  Before I took their picture I’d say something like “On 3 say cheese”, and then then I’d go 1-2-3 Cheese, and take the pic.  Pretty standard stuff.

But for the two that had ALL the flowers between them, I had to do something different.  So with everyone watching I lined them up and quickly said “OK on 3 say BABY 1-2-3 BABY!”  And guess what!  Heather didn’t even think and shouted it out!  She couldn’t believe it, and neither could we.  Here’s the picture with her saying Baby!

Annie & Heather
The baby game came down to the final two players. This photo was taken moments before the winner won.

Then lunch came.  It started with a fantastic cheese plate from Antonelli’s cheese shop.  I had to put my camera down, and focus on the good food!

Antonelli's Cheese plate
Antonelli's Cheese plate

The rest of the day was so much fun, with lots of presents (people are so generous), lots more mimosas, and tons of great friends and family.  It was the best shower you could possibly think of, and the perfect way to celebrate together.

 

Real Estate Schools in Austin

I can’t wait any longer.

I just want to get my license and begin to help you sell your house.

It’s probably because I’m so used to instant everything in today’s modern technological age.  I can get information on just about anything immediately using the web.  As my regular readers (subscribe to my blog here) know I’m working on getting my license by taking classes at Austin City College.  I’ve just finished my first sememster, and still have 2 more classes to take.

The state of Texas requires 120 classroom hours of instruction before I can even apply for a license.  I’ve done 60, so I’m half way there.  But those first 60 hours took almost 4 months.  There has to be a better, more efficient way.

I’ve already signed up for my other two classes at ACC, but at the same time I’m researching different options, including dedicated Real Estate Schools in Austin.  Here are four schools in Austin that I found that can help me get licensed more quickly.

Austin Institute of Real Estate

Champion school of Real Estate

Texas Tech Education Station

School Estate (clever name, and no affiliation with me)

I’ve reached out to each of them, and am waiting to hear back.  Some of my questions included how long does it take, how much does it cost, and can I transfer in credits from another school to help things along.

I keep reading about the Austin Housing market, seeing how now is a great time to be a seller, and that things are turning around for the better.  I’ve got so many great ideas that I want to implement and share, but can’t until I’m licensed.  So let’s get this ball rolling, and finish classes.

 

Best High Schools in Austin

US News and World Report just published their 2012 annual review of the best high schools and Austin has 3 in the top 20.  You can see all the Texas schools ranked here.  Almost 22,000 schools were measured on a variety of criteria including how well they prepare students for college, and how well they meet state standards.  What is interesting is that they don’t just focus on college bound students, but focus on the education all students receive.

I’m a long way away from having to choose a high school.  In fact, up until right now, I’ve never mentioned on my blog that we are expecting.  You heard that right.  Mrs. Eric Estate is at home on bed rest with 6 weeks to go.  It’s sort of wierd to think that I’ll be a dad in the near future, and I’ll save thoughts for another day.

But I do think about education for my little one.  I’m not signing him (yes, it’s a boy) up for any pre-schools just yet.  For now, we have decided to follow a more traditional route, and stick with public schools.  But I am doing my research, and of course sharing it with you.

So without further fanfare, here are the best high schools in Austin.  Let’s see how they rank in 14 years, when my little one will be attending (unless of course he is a Sheldon Cooper and graduates High school at 10 years old).

Coming in at #7 is the Liberal Arts & Science Academy (#54 Nationwide)

Ranking 17th is Westlake High School (#155 Nationwide)

and placing 19th up in Round Rock is Westwood High School (#170 Nationwide)

As an aside, the TOP ranked high school in the nation is in Dallas, and is the Dallas School for the Talented and Gifted.

The end of my first semester.

I’m officially half-way to becoming a real estate agent.  Today I took two final exams, back to back.  I’ve written about taking two tests back to back before, and since it wasn’t so hard the first time, I did it again.

Today wasn’t much different, except that it is finals week at ACC and the testing center was super busy.

I also had to risk getting a parking ticket because my usual secret parking spots were all taken.

You see, I never ever pay for a parking permit at ACC when I’m not actually sitting in a classroom.  I see it as a waste of money (but I have no problem paying a valet the same amount of money at the Four Seasons to park my car).  Instead, there is a visitor’s lot near the Admissions & Records building, and I usually park there.  The signs indicate that I’m supposed to sign in at the campus police station, but since I’m such a rebel, I just walk right past, and head directly to the testing center.

Sometimes it’s weird to be one of the oldest guys there.  I’m usually dressed in a suit, or at least slacks and a button down shirt, and don’t really fit the “Austin” college look.  99% of the time I have a tie on.

I fill out the little form to request my test with my Cross Sterling Silver pencil, get a key for a locker to store my iPhone, sunglasses, and car keys.
All I am allowed to take into the testing center is my oh so very sleek idea calculator (click on the image to see it on Amazon.com), and whatever scantron forms the testing center folks give me.

I then try to find a seat all by myself, but since this was finals week the testing center was jam packed.  The only open place was between some girl who was trying way too hard to look good, and another guy who was more interested in checking her out than taking his test.  He kept looking up, and over my back to try to see if she would look up at him.  I’ve never seen somebody try to pick up a person during an exam.

I took my two tests, and got out of there fast.  Back home, and, and just in time to have dinner with my wife.

Austin School Guide

We all want the best for our kids.  I’ve complied some great tools to help you in Finding the Best Austin schools.

To get things started, there are a several of different school districts in and around Austin.  For me, finding a great school is a three step process:

  1. Find the school associated with your Austin neighborhood
  2. Look up the school ranking
  3. Read reviews written by parents
There are three big school districts around Austin:

AISDAustin Independent School District – The majority of schools in and around Austin.

EISDEanes Independent School District – These schools are mostly west.

RRISDRound Rock Independent School District – These are north of Austin.

Step 1

There are several great tools to help you determine what school your child will attend, and how that school ranks.

To figure out what schools are associated with what houses, all you have to do is enter where you live (or where the house you are moving to is located.   I’d start with the Austin school finder link, and if that doesn’t work, try one of the others, as they are based on the overall school district.

Austin School Finder (AISD)

Westlake School Finder (EISD)

Round Rock School Finder (RRISD)

Pflugerville School Finder

Step 2

Then, once you figure out what school is associated with your neighborhood, you can easily look up the different rankings for each.

This is where the websites begin to get a little hard to use and understand.

The Texas Accountability Rating is based on the STAAR Tests and previously TAKs tests.  These are standardized tests that every student takes every year.

Step 3

Finally take a look at what parents are saying about specific schools using the GreatSchools.org website.  There is a separate school ranking system, and a few of the features require registration, but you can still get a fantastic overview by just using the free features.

Another great website is  finder is SchoolDigger.com

Also, you might want to check to see if the school you are interested in has a school webstie.  Lots of schools do, and they can be a great source of additional info about sports programs, activities, events, and other related activities.

 

Of course, I encourage you to share your experiences with your Austin School Search, feel free to leave a comment below.