Getting a Divorce and selling a house

When I was getting started in Real Estate, I really didn’t have any clients.  I had moved to Austin 7 years before with my wife, but it was in a different field, and I didn’t have the largest circle of friends.  I didn’t know anyone in Real Estate, except for the Realtor that sold us our first house.  I was convinced that I wanted to be successful, and I knew that I could, but I didn’t really know where to begin. (more…)

On the back

It’s not easy being creative on demand.

Even less so when the pressure is on.

You see, there are all these great real estate agents around me.  Successful ones who have been in business for years, driving fancy cars, and getting all the cool listings.  They are so successful, and seem to have it all together.  Everything they do just seems to work.  When they get a listing, their marketing is so dialed in the houses just seem to sell immediately.

They know how to react to every situation, how to handle every negotiation, and of course have the best marketing materials seemingly appear overnight for their new listings.

If you are like me you struggle with your marketing materials.

Especially the printed kind.

In the bottom drawer of my desk, I have an embarrassingly high stack of flyers that I’ve collected from other agents.  I gather them from around the mailboxes at the office.  I pick them up every time I drive past a sign box on the street.  I save the ones that are sent to me by other agents.  I use them as inspiration when I am designing my marketing collateral in Pages (Apple’s word processing program  – check out the video on the Apple website, it’s super helpful).  Because I have so many different flyers collected, making the front part is easy.

Back of FlyerBut once I’ve designed the front, I’m only half way done.  Every piece of paper has 2 sides, and I like to fill both sides with helpful information.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Not many Realtors do this.  How do I know?  Because of all the flyers I’ve collected!  Only a small percentage actually are printed on both sides.

So what do I put on the back of a real estate flyer?  Lots of different things:

  • More photos of the property – people love photos!  Make them big, and bright!
  • A little personal letter with my biography and link to my website.
  • An example of a “Gateway” email – the automatic ones your MLS prepares and sends out to your clients.  This tells buyers that there are other options, and they have to contact YOU to get them.
  • Mortgage rates, prepared specific to your listing by your favorite mortgage broker
  • A letter for prospective sellers about your services and what YOU can do to get their property sold fast.
  • School Data Elementary, Middle and High Schools
  • Neighborhood data – Parks, Restaurants (both take out and sit down), Grocery Stores, Pharmacies, Dry Cleaners, Auto Repair, etc.

I know these are just a few examples of what to put on the back of a real estate flyer. What creative ideas have you seen used?  Share them in the comments below, and I’ll add the best ones to this article.

September 2012 Austin Real Estate

What a market we are in. For the last 18 months we have experienced increases in the number of homes sold.

Usually, the winter months show a decline in houses being sold, but not in Austin.  We sold 23% more homes in November of 2012 than we did last year.  Houses get listed, and quickly sold.

What does this mean?  Depending on your situation, you will experience different things.  Tere are no if’s and’s or but’s about it, we are in a very strong Seller’s market, and I don’t see signs of this changing any time soon.  Interest rates are extremely low, and will remain that way through at the very least the spring of 2013, and probably longer.  Lenders are beginning to loosen requirements a little bit, although appraisers are reluctant to overvalue homes in Austin based on what the rest of the country is experiencing.  Inventory of places to live in Austin are extremely low.  New home builders can’t pour slabs fast enough, and apartments are 98% rented.

Why?  Because everyone is Moving to Austin.  It’s all over the news.  There are so many TV shows about us.  And we are on all of the top 10 lists, too.  Austin is one of the best the best city for vegetarians.  Austin is one of the healthiest cities in the nation.  Austin is a great city to meet singles.  The lists go on and on.

For home sellers:

Now is the time to sell.  Whatever your price range you are bound to get some activity.  If you are at the lower end of the market be prepared to receive multiple offers, and if you are at the upper end of the luxury market, I wouldn’t be surprised if you experienced more activity, and a shorter time on the market overall.

For home buyers:

Don’t delay!  Work closely with your realtor and trust them.  I’ve always said that if you see a house that you like, don’t dilly-dally.  Make an offer.  If you don’t, it is very likely that someone else will.  Among my buyers half believe me, and they get the home of their dreams, but the other half think they know better, and see a house, wait a week, and then go back to look at it and it’s sold.

Remember, I do this day in, and day out, every day of the year.  I know the Austin Real estate market.

Absorption Rate in Real Estate

One of the most common questions I get from people interested in selling their home is:

“How long will it take for my house to sell?”

I like to use a simple formula called the Absorption Rate to give a realistic estimate to sellers.  Its a great tool that relates supply and demand in the housing market, and can be used for individual neighborhoods, specific price points, or even to evaluate a specific agent’s marketing efforts.

In order to calculate the Real Estate Absorption rate, only three paramaters are needed:

  1. The total number of active listings
  2. The number of homes that has sold
  3. The time period that the number of homes has sold over.

Here’s the formula:

First calculate the average number of sales per month:

Number of sales per month = (Number of Homes sold over specific) / (time period)

Then calculate the absorption rate

Absorption rate =  (Total number of active listings) / (Number of sales per month)

Here’s an example using made up numbers:

Number of Sold Homes = 33,163
Number of Active Homes = 14,156
10 months
So using  the above numbers and formula you get:
33,163/10 = 3316.3

Absorption rate  = 4.27 months to sell all the houses currently in the inventory in this made up market.

Remember, the Absorbtion (incorrect spelling on purpose for SEO) rate does not account for new houses being listed on the market, nor does it take into account Withdrawn or Expired listings either.


August 2012 Austin Real Estate Statistics


Fifteen straight months that Austin has seen an increase in sales volume.  Central Texas is Growing, and looks to continue to grow as more than 100 people move to our area every day.


Houses are selling 29% faster this month than they did at this same time last year.

Leonard Guerro (A JB Goodwin Agent, and president of the Austin Board of Realtors) said:

Strong demand for homes continued in August while the inventory of available homes continued to shrink. That contributed to the increase in price. In fact, this was the highest median price we’ve seen in the month of August in the last decade in Austin

Here’s the monthly real estate stats, in an easy to read infographic form.  What do you think of the Austin Market? Leave us a comment.

July 2012 Austin Real Estate Statistics

Every month the Austin Board of Realtors puts out some statistics for the Real Estate market in Austin. I’ll be honest. Sometimes they are hard to understand. And I used to be a biochemist who worked in a bioanalytical lab.

What does that mean, exactly? It means I would look at pages and pages of data. Time points from experiments. Drug levels, and kinetics. Rates of absorption and chemical formulas. My job was to look at all those numbers and pull out something of significance. To use all my training and find a result in pages and pages of numbers.

This is exactly like what I do now. I take the data presented by ABoR, and find the neighborhoods that are appreciating the fastest. I look for areas where homes sell the fastest, and for the most money. I find great values in properties that are undervalued for first time home buyers.

So I present my infographic of the Austin Area Real Estate Statistics. Over the last few days I’ve been paying with these infographics, and I think they are a great way to present real estate data.

Some of the charts are interactive, so use your mouse to roll over slices in the pie chart, or click on the different series of data to get more detailed info.

Of course, if you want an even more detailed analysis of a specific neighborhood, or even your home, give me a call, or send me an email, and let’s chat.


“July Austin Real Estate Stats” Click to Tweet

10 most common Realtor MLS Mistakes

The photo to the left is what Real Estate Agents call the Agent Full Residential Listing Sheet.  This is the first thing Realtors see when they search for a property for a buyer.  This is your house’s resume, or rap sheet, depending on how it is filled out.
Every day I look at any number of these sheets  sometimes is is 10-12 other days it is close to 1000.
I follow a pattern when I look at them – I know from my search results that all the properties I’m about to review are in a specific geographic area, are in the budget range of my client, and have the required number of bedrooms and bathrooms.  Then I begin to look at the details.  The first thing I scan are the photos., and then I read the description.  If the pictures look good, and the description is interesting, I read more, including some more of the pertinent details.
Unfortunately not all agents take the time to learn enough about a property to completely and accurately fill out an MLS sheet.  The only person this hurts is you, the home seller.

Here are Ten of the most common MLS mistakes I see:

  1. No Photos.  The Austin area MLS can have up to 25.  A decent photographer can take at least 25 shots of even the smallest 1 bedroom apartment.
  2. Bad Photos – In a previous career I was a professional photographer.  I know a good from bad photo, but I also know when they have been doctored.  It’s not supposed to happen, but it does.  Also, if the property is a Luxury home, the agent should spring for some pro pics.
  3. No Agent Remarks – You have hired an agent to SELL your property.  So many just type in the bare minimum.  Make it fun to read, and people will come see the house
  4. Wrong General Information – this is where things like number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and other property descriptors get entered.  Oftentimes they are left blank, and that doesn’t help me very much because I skip to the next one.
  5. inaccurate link to a virtual tour, slideshow or custom website.  When a Realtor has taken the time and spent the money for additional marketing, make sure the link works.
  6. Bad grammar or Type-Os.  If you call yourself a professional, spell like one.
  7. Not advertising popular features today’s homebuyers want – is it a modern or green house? is there a shop in the garage?  Was one of the bedrooms converted to a super closet?  Buyers want to know these things.
  8. No seller’s disclosure attached.  This is actually huge.  The seller’s disclosure is required shortly after listing a home for sale, and I’ve never had a buyer who didn’t want to see it.
  9. Using cliche’s – motivated seller – gorgeous (check your spelling), shows well.  Boooorrriiiinnnnggggg.  Let’s be creatively descriptive and accurate.
  10. No HOA information.  HOA fees can be significant, and some buyers turn away from that.



Successfully selling your home is more than just sticking a sign in the front yard, and entering some data into the MLS. I’ve learned that getting the best price means attracting as many possible people to view your home as possible, and I use every possible method to accomplish that goal.

Once your home has been properly prepared, I’ll schedule a professional photographer who has experience in photographing homes to take incredible photos which will be used in all the print and web marketing materials. When required, I’ll also pay for a professional film crew to come in and prepare a video of the property to supplement the full color photography.

Once the photos have been edited, a graphic designer will prepare high-end, full color flyers, postcards, and print advertisements showcasing your home, and describing all the best features to buyers.

Studies have shown that approximately 90% (source) of all people searching for a new home begin their search on the internet. Lots of realtors provide a custom website, however without the proper traffic, that never gets seen. I have the most popular Real Estate Blog in Austin, and will feature your property on the front page until it sells.  I’ll use social media and share the listing with my Facebook friends, and Twitter followers.  All this is included in addition to the regular MLS and syndication that gets your listing to appear on all the popular real estate websites, and searches.

In addition to all the web based marketing, I also use traditional print advertisements like newspapers and high-end magazines to showcase your property, to reach the other 10%.  Even though print advertising is dying a slow death, your property will still be featured in a full page ad in the Austin American Statesman, as well as other publications like Tribeza & Austin Monthly, as needed because I want to reach 100% of the people.

Real Estate PostcardsPlus, I  mail out custom postcards to my network of other Realtors, Investors, previous clients, and even neighbors informing them of a new listing, and encouraging them to tell their friends that a new house is coming up for sale in the neighborhood.

Finally, I hold your house open as much as possible using highly visible directional signs to guide drivers to see the house.  Since we have prepared the house to look fantastic from the street, more people will stop in, and take the next steps, ultimately ending in an acceptable offer.

The goal isn’t just to reach people who are actively looking for a home to buy, but also their friends and family, to help spread the word.

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.