Private schools in Austin

Right now I’m developing this list of private schools in Austin – be sure to check back often or subscribe to get automatic updates when I finish my review.

St Stephen’s Grades 6-12  Enrollment = 650

Trinity Grades K-8  Enrollment = 400

St Andrew’s Grades 1-12 Enrollment = 830

St Francis Grades Pre-K – 8 Enrollment = 370

Magellan Grades Pre-Primary – 5

Ace Pre K – 12

I just got my Real Estate License

June 3rd, the Day before Independence day is now one of the most important days in my life.  It ranks up there with the birth of my son, my wedding anniversary, and the birthdays of all my family and friends.

You see, when I woke up that Tuesday morning, I followed my usual routine – let the dogs out, start the coffee, and start up the computer to check my emails overnight.

My inbox doesn’t stop at night, it just slows down a little.  Most nights I get a couple of dozen messages – a few personal notes from my friends across the country, and around the world, some advertisements from my favorite companies, a little bit of spam, and some messages from my clients who stay up way too late at night.

But that morning was different.  There was a message from TREC  – the Texas Real Estate Commission.  As soon as I saw that one, I immediately clicked into it, and began to read:

Attached is important information from the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC)

or Texas Appraiser Licensing & Certification Board (TALCB).

Please read this information carefully.  Failure to maintain or renew

your license could result in additional fees, penalties, or expiration of your

license.

And then, attached as a PDF was the information I had been waiting so long to hear.

I was now officially licensed as a Real Estate Agent in the State of Texas.

The journey had been a long one – you can read about here – so I won’t recount it all.  In fact, this post will be my last one in the Real Estate School series for a while.  I know I’ll have to take some continuing education, but for now I get to jump in, and start to help people like you!

For most new agents the next step is to pick out a Brokerage.  You see, in Texas, you can’t just be a lone Agent.  You need to be sponsored by an established brokerage, and for the last several months I’ve been interviewing different companies.  Some were small boutique agencies, others were groups that specialized in modern homes.  I even looked into some of the really big, national Real Estate Agencies.

In the end I found the perfect fit – JB Goodwin.   But that’s another story for another day – stay tuned, and come back tomorrow to read all about it!

 

The Texas Real Estate Test

After many months of preparation, weeks of arranging paperwork and waiting for the day to arrive, it finally did.  I sat for the Texas Real Estate exam.  I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous.  I’ve put a lot of time and preparation into this, and it’s all come down to 2 1/2 hours on a monday morning.  Spoiler alert – I passed.  It’s hard to think that all the work I’ve been doing for the last 6 months has led up to this moment.  But it has, and it’s all been worthwhile.

If you found this post you were probably searching the web for info about the Texas Real Estate Exam.  I’m going to describe my experience, as best I can, so you can be as prepared as possible.  If you find this page helpful, please like my Facebook Real Estate page as a thank you.  Karma baby!

There aren’t a whole lot of photos in this post, mostly because I couldn’t take any pics at the testing center.  But there are a lot of words, so grab a coffee, and sit down for a long read.

Registering to take the test was a little tricky, because the instructions from TREC aren’t super clear, and are sort of hard to find on the web.  Here’s how it worked for me.

As soon as I finished my final class at the Champion School of Real Estate, I jumped on the TREC website, and filled out the Texas Real Estate salesperson paperwork, digitally.  I’ve heard from a couple of people around town that doing it digitally was faster than printing out the forms and sending them in.  Since I wanted my license as fast as possible, this was my obvious route.

But, I did have one small problem when I submitted my supporting school documents (transcripts).  TREC requires not ust the basic Real Estate classes, but also that you have some other college coursework.  Naturally I keep copies of my college transcripts around (both official ones that are unopened, as well as an open copy for my use).  So  I scanned them in as PDFs and emailed them in as the instructions said to do.  But the file was too large for their system to handle, and it bounced back to me.  Of course it took a week for me to find this out, delaying my application in the process.  GRRRR!  Note to TREC – if you are going to accept PDFs why not use an email system that can handle large attachments.  It’s not like Real Estate contracts aren’t 20 pages, they are sometimes.

To solve the problem I could have created a bunch of PDFs that were smaller in size, but I didn’t want to risk this also not working, so I jumped in the car, headed to downtown Austin, and submitted my transcripts in person at the TREC office.  Low tech solution to the problem.  When I was there I asked a couple of questions, and found out that the next step was for someone in the office to review my paperwork, and if everything was OK, I’d get an email with more instructions.

As they said, after a few days, I got an email from TREC stating that all my documents were in order and that I was approved to take the Texas real estate exam.   The email also instructed me to visit the PSI website and download the candidate information brochure (C.I.B.).  Alternatively I could call a number or visit the TREC website for more info.

But when I visited the PSI website, there was no C.I.B. to be found.

As a side note, one thing I’ve found with technology is making things super easy for everyone to use.  When sending out an email, even though you have spent hours crafting the perfect words, to express exactly what needs to be said, make sure that what you are saying actually gets some kind of action.  Sure, as the writer of a note, you may be super familiar with what needs to be done, but the reader might not be.  Make it easy for them using photos, hyperlinks, or bulleted instructions.  That’s the beauty of the web – you can easily format things to make what you need to get done, DONE!

After poking around the PSI website for a while, It turns out, I needed to create an account, wait for it to be approved, and then log in before I could get the  C.I.B with the much needed instructions.  I needed my TREC number (the one that starts with 9999), and once I discovered that, everything worked well.  Of course I didn’t figure that out on my own, I had to call PSI and talk with someone who carefully explained it to me.  It would have been much easier if the original email from TREC just said “Crate an account on the PSI website using this link, to be able to register for the test”.  Instead, I had to spend over an hour trying to figure it out on my own.

The Candidate Information brochure has a TON of information in it:  Sample test questions, what kind of things you can bring in to the test center (pretty much nothing), what kinds of ID are accepted, how to use the computer at the testing center, and more.  But what it doesn’t have is how to register for the test.  That’s done on the PSI website.  It would be helpful to add a paragraph there, too, just in case someone was looking (like me).

Real Estate Exam Prep Book
Click the book to see it on Amazon.com

So I went through the different menus and signed up for the Salesperson exam at one of the two Austin PSI testing centers.   I had to wait 2 weeks for the next available appointment.  There was nothing I could do about that,  So I waited and waited (and spent some time studying from this book), and finally the day arrived.

One thing the C.I.B. says to do is arrive 30 minutes early to the test.  Even with Austin traffic, I was able to manage to arrive early.  I wasn’t the first one there, as a bunch of others were waiting outside the door of PSI, which was of course locked.  It’s no fun to wait outside in Texas during the summer, so I found a nearby tree, and hung out for 10 minutes playing on my iPhone, until the door was unlocked.  After a short while, the door opened, and I stashed my phone in the car and headed inside.

Once inside the PSI testing center, it wasn’t very exciting.  There was a table a bunch of chairs lined up against the wall, a door to a bathroom, and not much else.  One by one, the proctor called us up to the front desk where we handed over our ID, had our photo taken, and then were asked what test we were taking.  Very official.  After the short check in, I was told to go through the door, and enter the testing area  a room with a bunch of old cubicles against the wall.  Each one with a computer.

How hard is the texas real estate exam?

There isn’t much you need to take the test.  Just yourself and 2 forms of identification.  I used my Driver’s license, and my passport.  They supply scratch paper, pencils and even a simple calculator (anything more is forbidden).  Obviously no phones are allowed, nor notes, or anything else that could be used for cheating.  Ladies are asked to leave their purses in the car.  You can’t even bring in a Starbucks, so if you can’t go for more than 90 minutes without a latte, start preparing now.

I was instructed to sit at station #5, where there was an older PC, a keyboard with some funny keys on it, and a mouse.  There was also a set of disposable earplugs if I wanted to use them.  There are lots of cameras inside the testing room, watching for funnybusiness, too.  So don’t try anything ’cause you will get caught.

The test taking experience wasn’t anything spectacular.  First there is a little tutorial on how to take the test using the keyboard or mouse.  You can mark questions for review, go back and forward through the questions, and even change your answers.  Then there are 10 or so “practice questions” based on common US trivia (what do the stars on the flag represent).  Then the test starts.  It’s super quiet in there.  But every now and then I heard a cricket chirping.

Is the Texas Real Estate License Exam difficult?

The test itself is broken into two parts – The National Section, and the Texas specific section.  Really,  you have two separate tests at one time.  This wasn’t really explained during any of my prep classes or even in the C.I.B.  You have to take one immediately after the other, and once you finish the first, there is no going back to change or correct any answers.  For me, I was given the Texas portion first.

In the Texas specific section of the real estate exam, I didn’t have any math questions.  I did have a lot of ethics questions, and a ton of contracts questions, especially questions about amendments to the standard TREC forms.  Lots of questions about short sales, and foreclosure stuff, and even some stuff on water and sewer lines on unimproved property.

There were also a lot of questions about Agency.  Specifically are the differences in powers between an agent and a broker, and what happens during some dual agency type agreements.  There was also a few questions about real estate assistants, and what they can and can’t legally do.

The national part was much longer.  This section had a lot of questions that I expected, but it was still pretty hard.  I had spent a lot of time taking sample questions I found online, as well as going back and reviewing all the real estate questions at the end of the chapters of all my textbooks.  I think that really helped.

On the national exam, there are a lot more questions about the agency relationship between salespeople and clients, Principals, fiduciary agreements, and stuff.  Plus there are some questions about national regulations like 1978 lead based paint (say it out loud, it sort of rhymes).  Also in this test, there were some math questions   a few about calculating finances stuff, and a few regarding land area (so be sure to know those calculations).  I’m really good at math, so I know I got those answers right.

I didn’t need all the time required to finish both parts.  So I went back, carefully checked each answer, and clicked the finish button.  Actually I had to confirm 3 times that I wanted to end the test, just in case I did it accidentally, I guess.

Before I got my instant results, there was a short, mandatory survey about my experience.  They asked a bunch of questions about how easy it was to take the test, how nice the testing center was, and how helpful the staff is.  I answered them honestly, and hope someone from PSI finds this post for more details.

Finally, after completing the post test survey, I got my results.

I passed!

I was super excited!  And couldn’t rush out of there fast enough.  I collected my ID, and a couple of printouts confirming my success!  Then I got back to my car and grabbed my phone so I could call my wife.

As for the next steps, the page I got from the PSI testing center in Austin says that TREC will notify me within 10 days, and since I’ve had my fingerprints done, passed all my classes and had them approved, paid my fees, and completed all my paperwork, I don’t expect there to be anything else preventing me from beginning to buy and sell houses in Austin.

If you are about to take the test, or already did, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

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Getting a Texas Real Estate License

I’m 90% of the way done with getting my license to practice Real Estate in Texas.

Sometimes the process feels exceptionally slow, but other times it seems to go really fast.  Doing the classes was the fast part, even the ones I wrote about at ACC which took so long compared to waiting for my time slot to take the TREC Real Estate Exam.

I’ve jumped through all the hoops except for one – the final test.  I’m not worried about it.  I’ve read all the required textbooks, studied hard, and have been reviewing sample questions for an hour a day for the last week.  I still have a couple more days to prepare, too.

This time has also allowed me to finalize my application with TREC.  For those of you who don’t know, TREC stands for the Texas Real Estate Commission, and they oversee the licensing process in Texas.  I’ve done everything needed on the Texas Real Estate website to get a Salesperson license:

  • Taken the classes
  • Completed the application on-line
  • Gotten fingerprinted
  • Obtained Sponsorships – more on this coming soon
  • And I’ve even begun training at my new brokerage.

Now it’s just a matter of showing up for the test, taking it, and doing my best.  I know there are 110 questions on the TREC Salesperson test, and that I have 150 minutes to complete them all.  Of these 110 questions, they are divided into two sections.  A national section with 80 questions, and a Texas section with 30 questions.  I have to get 70% correct to pass.

In addition, I’ve learned that the test is divided into sub-sections, each focusing on the different principles and practices:

  • Property Ownership
  • Land Use Controls and Regulations
  • Valuation and Market Analysis
  • Financing
  • Laws of Agency
  • Mandated Disclosures
  • Contracts
  • Transfer of Property
  • Practices of Real Estate
  • Real Estate Calculations
  • Specialty Areas (Property Management, Commercial Property, Subdivisions)
  • Commission Duties and Powers
  • Licensing
  • Standards of Conduct
  • Agency/Brokerage
  • Contracts
  • Special Topics (Homestead, Seller Disclosure, Foreclosures, etc…

But getting back to the topic of getting a license, there are a lot of steps to follow, and they have to be done in a specific order.  Why?  Because buying a house is a big deal.  I’ve had tons of training to guide you through the process.  And soon I’ll be recognized by the state of Texas to act on your behalf to buy and sell property.  I’ve passed a background check, submitted my coursework and had it approved by the governing body, paid my fees and dues, and demonstrated competency in all aspects of every possible transaction.

I personally think there it is important to have a current education.  The government is always creating new laws and rules to protect both buyers and sellers, and it’s hard to keep up with all the requirements.  I’ve been using the most up to date textbooks, and taken classes from professors who actively practice real estate in Austin.  I’ve learned all the laws, and will make sure every transaction goes smoothly, and legally.  Plus, unlike many agents in the Austin area who were licensed before the internet era, I know how to also use technology to get the job done.

If you can’t tell, I’m super excited to be your agent.  If you have a house to sell, please give me a call, and let’s schedule a time for me to come over to chat.  I’ll even show you my new license (as soon as I get it).

 

 

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

 

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.

A busy week full of assignments

I’m just a little bit past the midway part of my first semester of Real Estate School.  This last week was a big week for assignments in my two classes.  For those of you that aren’t regular readers of my blog, here’s a quick recap:

I’m returning to school to take classes to get my real estate license.

Currently I’m enrolled at ACC (Austin City College) Real Estate School taking two classes:  Law of Agency, and Real Estate Principles.  Last week I had an assignment due, and yesterday was a two test friday.

It’s very strange going back to school after a long absence.  I’m one of those going back to school after turning 40.  I’ve had a couple of careers, working for a research think tank that was the sender of the first message on the internet, and then starting and running my own business for the last 6 years.

But since I don’t see myself as a 60 year old wedding photographer, I decided it was time to change course again, and here I am taking two tests on a Friday.

Before I wax poetic on taking two tests, I had to turn in an assignment for my Law of Agency class.

At first, my Law of Agency class was pretty tough.  I don’t think like a lawyer very often.  I lean more toward the creative, with a big scientific component.  There are a lot of legal terms that govern agents, and lawyer speak that regulates the real estate industry.  As you can imagine this is important stuff, so I had to spend some extra time reading and learning all the new language.

I’m learning all the ins and outs of what can and can’t be done legally when buying a house, so you don’t have to.

While you aren’t required to hire an agent to buy or sell a house, there are a lot of laws that regulate the industry so people don’t get taken with such a big purchase.  When you hire a real estate agent to help you buy or sell a house, we are all bound by fiduciary duty.  I am required to use my knowledge of the laws and regulations to represent you, so you can make the best possible decisions.

You trust us to represent you in the best possible way, and my assignment last week was a sample agreement that you sign, acknowledging this.  It’s called a Buyer Representation, and can basically states that I will represent you, and work hard, honestly, and legally.  In turn, you agree to use me, and only me as your agent.

Anyway, I worked hard, and got an A on the assignment.

Boy, it feels great to go back to school after 20 years and still get good grades.

As I mentioned I also took two tests, and you can read about that experience here.