2014 Resolutions

Every year on this day I post my 10 goals for 2014.  Of course, most of them are real estate related (because that’s what I live breathe, and eat everyday), and once again this year I want to share them with the world.

There are all kinds of stats about successful people, and one of the biggest ones is that make measurable, attainable, and realistic goals for themselves.

As I look back at my 2013 goals, I had some lofty ones. Some I achieved, others I fell short on.  There’s  a quick review on how each of the 10 ended up on the original post.

 

So What are my 2014 New Year’s Resolutions?  As usual, I’m publicly posting mine.  These are mostly real estate resolutions, but I think the last one is the best.

 

  1. Hold 40 Open Houses – For me, Open Houses are one of the best way to meet people.  Not only do I get to show off some pretty cool homes, but I also get to learn about the neighborhood from people who have been there a long time.
  2. Get a $1M residential listing – last year I had a lot of listings, but none of them were 7-figures.  This year I just want one.
  3. Get a new MacBook Air – This isn’t a hard one.  Of course I’m a huge Mac Fanboy, and my Macbook pro is great, but is starting to show it’s age.
  4. Have 1000 Likes on my EricEstate Facebook Page – As of today I’m at 550, and growing every day.
  5. Complete the Austin 1/2 Triathalon.  My brother dared me to do it, so here I go!
  6. Take Ari to a baseball game.  It’s time, especially if he is going to own a team as I predict!
  7. Paint all the interior doors in my house.  This may sound silly to you, but I want all the doors to match with the same hardware and white paint.   Right now they don’t.  Gotta change that.
  8. Start Pearl.  This seems to be on my list every year
  9. Landscape the front yard.  Last year I didn’t water the front lawn once, and it didn’t die.  But I want a little bit better and more water efficient curb appeal, so I want something a bit different.
  10. Blog 200 times.  Daily blogging is so hard!

What are your goals for 2014?  Share a link to them in the comments below!

When a house finds an owner

Up until I saw this, I didn’t like to hear people talking during a real estate video.

This changes my mind.

Take a look, and let me know what you think:

 

Brendan McDermott, and his wife Christina are developers in Hollywood, California, and they did a great job telling the story of this beautiful updated Spanish style house.

Relaxed StorytellingI love how they describe the house, as well as talking about all the updates they did.  I feel like I really get to know the place, even though I’ve never been inside it.  They are relaxed, as they tell us the story of the home.  Like we were talking to them during a cocktail party, or other casual event.  As they tell us about the house, the video cuts away from them speaking, to actually show us the different rooms, style, and characteristics of the place, using a simple voice over technique that keeps me engaged.

Their decorating style is incredible

As they describe the beautiful home, they first talk about the basics of the remodeling and renovation of the house.  They discuss their philosophies, describe their credentials, and all of this is done in a low-key conversational tone.  Very professional.

Then they talk about the way the house is situated on the lot, and how the light, air and views are all a part of their design process.

Casual bedroomThey talk about the things they did to the home, the updates, the way they modernized it, but stayed true to the original style of the home.

“The elements of this home needed to be extremely profound”  They selected materials, paint, and fixtures that compliment the original architecture.

Continuing through the house they discuss the kitchen, the backyard, with pool and grassy area.

And then they talk about the street and expand it to the neighborhood – all the cool features about living in old Hollywood.

Three things I love about this video.

One of my favorite cuts on this video is at the 1:24 mark, when they do a quick time lapse shot off one of the porches.  There is a beautiful view through the trees of downtown LA, and the shot shows the view you would get over time as the sun sets, and all the lights of the city come up.  Very nice.

Vintage glass door knobAnother cool trick they use is to jump from two different perspectives of a room.  First they talk about the overall feel and flow of a room, and show you a great overview shot of the space.  Then, as they get into more detail about the specifics of the different materials, the camera shows shots of the different tiles, light fixtures, and fabrics used.  The effect is very subtle, but not unnoticed.  For instance, as Christina talks about the different architectural details, the camera pans across a beautiful vintage door handle, and we get to see the patina on the old metal, and even a few scratches showing this item had a previous life, but was saved for this home.

Finally, they use one other clever trick in during the 4 minute long video that I didn’t notice until I had watched in almost a dozen times (that’s how much I like it).  At the beginning of the video, it’s morning, and we get to see the beautiful light in the home.  As the video progresses, by the end it is completely dark outside, and we get to experience the way the lighting fixtures illuminate the spaces.  Nice touch.

I know I’ll be using a lot of these techniques in my 2014 real estate videos.  Will you?

The best Austin allergy forecast

Austin is constantly rated as a number one city.  There really isn’t much about living here that isn’t cool.  Unless you get cedar fever.  Not everyone gets it, and if you do, symptoms can range from very mild to very uncomfortable.

Here is a short video of a Juniper Ash tree (cedar tree) releasing the allergenic pollen.

 

 

Cedar Fever

My nose might be the best cedar pollen detector in the entire state of Texas.

Every year, about a week before the news stations begin to announce the beginnings of cedar season, I can feel the symptoms starting.  At first it feels like a cold, but I never get a fever, and it never really progresses into anything more sever.  Thankfully I don’t get it too bad, but I have some friends who aren’t as fortunate.

Like I said, for me, it feels like I’ve got a cold coming on.  I get a runny nose, and a little lethargy.  My nose is like a faucet that won’t turn off, and I’m always tired.  Some people get itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and even skin conditions.  I’ve tried the homeopathic remedies, but the best solution for me is Sudafed by day, and Benadryl by night. If I don’t manage the runny nose it can progress to a bronchitis or nasal infection, but so far I’ve been pretty lucky.

Sadly, it lasts for 4-6 weeks.  But then, one day it’s gone, I feel better, and life goes on.

Since you can’t use me as your barometer for when cedar is going to hit you, so here are some other resources I find helpful:

Cedar Fever AreasWhat is Cedar Fever?

Sometime near the end of the year usually in December, but sometimes as early as November the Juniperus ashei trees. There’s even a Wikipedia entry for Cedar Fever.  Some compare it to Hay Fever or Ragweed, but I know people that get all three, and they tell me that Cedar is the worst of them.

Juniperus asheiThe cedar trees that prevent erosion, all over central Texas are the main culprit.  Of course, they aren’t really cedars, but Junipers, and in the late fall or early winter (November & December) they begin to produce pollen.  Microscopic in size, the pollen comes off the trees when the wind blows, and can float for miles.  It can hitch a ride on your car, or dog, or stick to your clothing and hair.  Then you breathe it in.  That’s when it all starts.

I could get all scientific on you about how the pollen elicits an IgG immune response, talk about histamines, white cells, and all that good stuff (I used to be a biochemist), but it really doesn’t matter.  If you get it, you know it, and you feel lousy to miserable.

Thankfully it only lasts 4 or so weeks right around the beginnings of winter, and once the pollen is gone, so are the symptoms.

How do you do a pollen count?

Cedar Pollen under a microscopeFor all you nerds out there, here’s how cedar pollen is measured.  A silicone covered rod is simply placed outside.  The silicon is sticky and the pollen attaches to it as the wind blows.  Generally the rod is left outside for 24 hours.  Then a tech brings it into the lab, carefully collects the pollen that is stuck to it, and begins to count it under a microscope.

You need to have some good training to count properly.  Different kinds of pollen look , so the technician needs to be careful and accurate.  The count is reported as grains per cubic meter of air, but most people just give it a number.  Low counts are under 100, medium is 100-1000, and high is over 1000.  My symptoms start usually in the 2-3 grains per m3 area.

On  dry, windy days the allergy counts are higher, as you would expect, and lower on rainy days of course.

Where is the best allergy forecast in Austin?

Most TV stations report the pollen count during their evening newscasts during the weather segment.  Of course I’m never sitting in front of a TV for that long, so I just turn to the internet.  Best websites for pollen counts in Austin are:

I prefer these because they always give a number associated with the pollen count.

 What parts of Austin have the highest pollen count?

Different parts of town have different levels of course.  If you are renting an apartment in the Domain, or have a condo downtown, you can expect to have lower pollen counts affecting you that if you live out in the country.

A few years ago the meterologists at KVUE did some testing around Austin, and here are the top three areas with the highest cedar pollen counts

 

  1. Cedar Park
  2. North Austin along loop 360
  3. the “Y” at Oak Hill

 

How to treat Cedar Fever

Your first line of defense is a little bit of prevention.

Living in Austin is great.  We have very mild winters, and it’s not uncommon for me to open my doors and windows during the winter to let fresh air in.  Temps can be in the 70’s which is absolutely beautiful.  But during Cedar season, I keep my house sealed up tight.  No open windows.  Keep the french doors closed.  I even change the air filter on the HVAC a little bit more often.  You may want to dust and clean inside more often too.  And avoid yard work if at all possible.

If you have pets the pollen can collect on their fur, and while they won’t be affected, they can bring those spores into your house and spread it around, so puppy may need to get a bath more often.

If I’ve been outside for any long period of time, whenever I get home I change out of my clothes and take a nice hot shower, as the pollen can stick to fabrics and hair.

If you are afflicted there are many remedies.  Like I mentioned earlier I turn to Sudafed and Benadryl.  Others use a  Netty Pot or saline nose spray.  Claratin or Zyrtec is an OTC medicine that can help.   Others get a prescription for Flonase or other drugs.  In severe cases you may want to consult an allergist.

Homeopathic remedies include eating local honey, and local pharmacies sell other remedies, but I’ve never tried them.

Even with the threat that you might get cedar fever, don’t let that stop you from moving here.  we all get through it.

Main Cedar tree image courtesy of Blue Image Photo.

This is how a real estate video should be done

Over the next few days, I’m going to showcase some of my favorite Real Estate Videos from 2013.

Here’s the first, take a look and let me know what you think:

I love this video – it’s like a little movie.  There is even a plot twist.  Nicely done, by Sage Real Estate, and Property Films CA.

 

We have all seen them, they are all over the internet, and I just cringe whenever I see them. I know in the first few seconds if the video is going to be any good or not. I’m specifically talking about real estate videos.

We all have video cameras on us all the time. This is a relatively new concept. Most of us over 40 aren’t used to walking around with a camera on us all the time, but the younger generation is all about documenting their lives through photos and video.

As a real estate agent having a video camera on us can be a powerful tool to help us market a home by creating a listing video, or to establish that we are neighborhood experts.

 

But, just because you have the ability to make a video doesn’t mean you should.

But the listing video above is a fantastic example of real estate video done the right way.  The marketing is superb, and if you are like me, you can see yourself moving right into that home, and picking up the relaxed lifestyle of the current owner.

What makes this property video so different?

There are a lot  of elements to this video that separate it from one of the usual real estate videos.

The video starts with a car coming up the street.

The subject is nicely dressed, and drives a nice car.  He is successful.  Not cocky or pushy.  He is a nice guy, smart, and has worked hard to get ahead in life, but also knows how to enjoy his life, and appreciates some of the finer things in it.

As he walks up to the front door he gets a text, asking him to come meet some friends nearby.  That sets the stage for showing the house.

Water in kitchenHe will use the different parts of the house to get himself ready to go out.  As he enters, he is greeted by his dog, and then heads over to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water from the fridge.  This showcases the kitchen, quickly, but effectively.  He then heads up the stairs, followed by his little dog, and into the master bedroom, and enters the bath.  As the camera follows him through the house, we get to see how clean the place is, how the furniture is arranged, and how light and airy the place feels.
Bath getting readyAfter spending some time in the bath, he goes to the closet, and hangs up his jacket, showing there is plenty of storage in the home.  He’s now ready to head out, and  goes downstairs, still followed by his puppy, and just before he exits the house, he does a quick check to see if the place is ready in case he brings guests over later in the evening.

The camera shows the living room, the dining area, the kitchen, all from the subject’s perspective, and not using any special effects.   You get a great overview of the house at this point.

Then, the plot takes a small twist.  The dog is lonely, and doesn’t want his owner to go out.  The sad puppy dog eyes, convince him to stay home.  The next shot is of the owner sitting on this back porch, playing with the dog, and enjoying his backyard.

The last shots are of the agent’s contact info, as well as the company that made the video.  The whole thing took less than 2 minutes.  And it conveyed everything you need to know in a minute and 54 seconds.

Sad dog

 

What this video doesn’t have

There is no voice over, except at the very end – nobody is telling you about the house.  Nobody is spoon feeding you information. You get to discover it on your own.

There aren’t any text overlays or fancy special effects to distract you from the property.

There isn’t any overt marketing of the real estate brokerage or video company, except at the very end, when you are ready to get more information, and take action.

 

How did they make the video?

As I look at this video, and try to reverse engineer how they made it, it is really very simple.  It was shot mid-day, in full sunlight.  There isn’t excessive depth of field shots, and that tells me that the lenses used may have been expensive, but most likely they weren’t all that fancy.

There is a little bit of motion to the camera in most shots.  I don’t they used a lot of tripods, or slider / rail systems.  Probably just a small handheld steady cam rig that can be bought for less than $100.

The angles shift back and forth between the dog’s view, and ankle level, the owner’s view, and regular property views.

Throughout the story, there is soft gentle, guitar music with a female singer, that enhances the story, and doesn’t detract from it.

 

I wish more agents would spend just a little more time and creativity to come up with ideas like this.  Don’t you?

 

 

November 2013 Austin Real Estate Statistics

Home sales increase 14% – that’s a 7 year high!  Austin is experiencing the 30th straight month of sales volume increases.  This is the most homes sales in November since 2006.  The Austin real estate market is HOT, and if you are seller, you are in control (within reason).

 
November 2013 Austin Real Estate Infographic

Click to Tweet this  – Austin Real Estate Stats and Infographic for November 2013

 

Austin Real Estate Stats

According to the Austin Board of Realtors

  • Home sales are up 14% year-to-date when compared with the November of 2012.
  • The median price of a house in the Austin area is also UP 10%.
  • Homes took an average of 51 days on the market to sell, a decrease of 16 days from last year, even in this usually slow holiday period.
  • There are only 2.3 months of inventory, (a balanced market has a 6 month supply). this means there isn’t a huge selection of homes to view if you are looking.

Normally, during the holiday period, starting around Halloween, and continuing through Thanksgiving and into the beginning of the year, we see a slow down in sales, however because of Austin’s popularity, strong job market, and healthy economy, housing sales are continuing at a record setting pace.

While homes don’t typically sell quite as quickly in the winter months as they do in the spring, houses are selling 16 days faster than they did at this exact same time last year, and there are fewer homes available, too,

Selling your house in Austin

If you are thinking about selling your house in austin, either to move to a new neighborhood, downsize, or cash out, I can provide you with data that can help you make your decision, including the actual prices homes like yours have sold for in the last 30 days.

Buying a house in Austin

There are still tons of great opportunities to purchase in Austin, contact me today to learn which neighborhoods are appreciating the fastest.

October 2013 Austin Real Estate Statistics

The Austin real estate continues to be an extreme seller’s market.

According to the Austin Board of Realtors:

  • Home sales are up 9% year-to-date when compared with the October of 2012.
  • The median price of a house in the Austin area is also UP 9%.
  • Homes took an average of 48 days on the market to sell, a decrease of 20 days from last year.
  • There are only 2.5 months of inventory, (a balanced market has a 6 month supply).

 

With numbers like these, some may wonder if we are going to experience a housing bubble in Austin.  I personally believe, as do many industry experts that this isn’t the case.  In recent weeks I’ve experienced several instances of appraisals coming in low for some of my sales.  However, buyers are willing to bring cash to the table to purchase the home, as there is such a short supply of appropriate homes for them to consider.  Granted, the extra amount isn’t much, usually 1-2% of the total price (or less), but they are paying.

Why is there such a demand in Austin?  Lots of reasons.  Mostly because 150 people or so are moving here a day!  Forbes continually ranks Austin as the top economy in the country.  We have lots of jobs for new grads, as well as established workers.

In addition to all the great job opportunities, we are a fun place, with such international events as SXSW, F1, and ACL.  And those are just the big events.  It seems like every weekend there is something to do in this amazing city, I call home.

 

If Nick Saban moves to Austin where would he live?

Is Nick Saban Moving to Texas?What kind of house would Nick and Terry Saban Buy if (ahem When) they move to Austin?  The rumor mill is buzzing with all kinds of news about a new head coach at UT.  And if you ask me, it’s about time.   So who is this Nick Saban anyway, and why should I care?

Well, Football is pretty big here in Texas.  OK not pretty big.  It’s HUGE.  I moved here many years ago from northern California.  I grew up watching the Montana-Rice dynasty in the 80’s and followed the long time Stanford-Cal game rivalry.  I thought I knew football.

No way.  Not even close.  I knew nothing.  And it was made evident to me when I was invited to my first Longhorn tailgate party when I first arrived to town.  I asked what I could bring, and when I should show up on Saturday, and they answered – don’t worry – we have a professional caterer coming from Thursday morning until game time, so just stop by when you can.  They were BBQing for 3 days straight in a parking lot near the stadium.  That’s hardcore.

He is the highest paid College football coach, earning 5.4 Million per year.  And he deserves it.  Especially after leading Alabama to 3 titles in just a few short years.  Sort of like the kind of thing the Longhorns are in need of right now.  There are a few reasons he might leave ‘bama for Texas.  One is that in the last few seasons The Crimson Tide has had a hard time filling all the seats in their stadium.   Granted, it’s tough to fill 101,821 seats at Bryant-Denny, but DKR in Austin has only 1702 fewer seats (100,119), and is sold out even with the horrible record under Mac Brown every weekend.  Also because of recruiting, UT seems to have a leg up on Alabama.  Plus, we are Austin.  Need I say more.

So now that it is a given that he is going to move to Texas and Coach UT football (at least in my mind), what kind of house is he going to buy?

Nick & Terry Saban from The tuscaloosanewsLet’s start, as I always do with their lifestyle.

  • They have 2 older kids
  • He loves Golf
  • He is a devout Roman Catholic
  • And he loves music

And since he is a college football coach, he doesn’t have a whole heck of a lot of time for anything else.  But they do need a large house to host all the guests, VIPS, players, and friends who come in and out of their home on a weekly basis.

This is Austin, and people who move to Austin don’t need much more, because we bring live music, lake parties, ACL, SXSW, F1, amazing food, and a whole bunch of other great things to the table when it comes to creating a lifestyle.

As for his style in homes, we all know that is usually left up to the wife, and in his case, Terry is a licensed agent in Alabama.

What? Terry Saban is a Realtor? What brokerage would she join when she moves to Austin?  I digress.

A quick search of agents and brokers with current active licenses does not currently show Terry Saban, and she has gone on the record as they “are not going anywhere” (As reported in the Wall Street Journal).  At one point before October she stated they were interested in purchasing a vacation home in Austin, and at other times Austin’s most successful residential broker has joked on Facebook that her husband has shown up at some of his open houses.

Nick Saban Vacation houseBack to the topic at hand- what kind of house would they buy.  Perhaps it would be something on the lake similar to his recently auctioned off 6 bedroom, 9 bathroom vacation house.  He had this home as well as another on Lake Burton, but this one sold at Auction early last summer for an undisclosed price.  Asking was $10.95 Million.

Anyway here are possible Austin houses for The Sabans:

Here’s a nice 8-bedroom 9-bathroom 9700 square foot place on the water listed for $12.5M.  (but I have it on good information that they will seriously evaluate offers in the low 10’s).  Offered by Cord Shiflet of Moreland Properties. 215 Bella Riva

 

 

If that’s too rich for his blood (even with an estimated $10M yearly contract with UT), perhaps this 7-bedroom, 9-bath French Chateau inspired lakehouse listed at $4,900 less than $10 million is more up their alley.  Offered by Margaret Parma of Capital City Sotheby’s

 

My personal favorite is the most affordable option is this Italian style villa offered by Amy Mills of Realty Austin.  With 6 bedrooms and 13 baths it has a great price of only $9,500,000.

12821 Hughes Park RD

Which one of these is your favorite?

Austin Christmas Lights

I’m a sucker for great Christmas decorations on houses.  This time of year, one of my favorite fun things to do in Austin is look at Christmas lights on houses. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.  Every year, I drive around looking for the best displays and this year I’ve compiled the best neighborhoods in Austin to view Christmas lights. (more…)

Highland Homes in Crystal Falls

I’ve written about Crystal Falls before.  It’s one of my favorite new communities in Northwest Austin.  With over 5,000 acres, there’s something for everyone here.  Hiking trails.  Swimming Pools.  Golf Courses.  And of course lots of beautiful, new homes.

There are lots of new builders in Crystal Falls, but today I’m going to specifically talk about Highland Homes. (more…)