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Better to Rent or Own? It’s a question a get a lot. Again the answer isn’t a ‘one-size-fit-all’ type thing because it depends where you live and how expensive it is to purchase vs. rent. However, Trulia has a great...


Selling in 2011? 5 things you MUST know. If you are considering selling your house in 2011 here are my top 5 things you need to know as a seller. This is one of my few longer posts, just so you’re prepared! Of course my standard disclaimer...


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Selling in 2011? 5 things you MUST know.

Posted on : 30-12-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Sellers


If you are considering selling your house in 2011 here are my top 5 things you need to know as a seller. This is one of my few longer posts, just so you’re prepared! Of course my standard disclaimer applies;

  • Every region is different: What may work well in Austin, won’t necessarily work well in San Fran, or Chicago. What may have worked for your buddy in another subdivision, even in the same CITY, may not be what works best for your home. You get my point.
  • Every ‘time’ is different: What is going to work in Q1 2011, is probably not what worked in the summer of 2006. (Back in 2006, all you probably had to do was open your door and whisper out into the world that you wanted to sell your house, and you would have had 5 offers in 5 minutes)
  • Every house is different.The way to sell a fixer-upper home in East Austin, is going to be different than a house out in Westlake. Even within the same subdivision, the strategy your agent may employ to sell your home vs. your neighbors home can vary.

So onto the meat of the post:

  1. Price your home well

    – I can’t stress this highly enough. Price it to SELL, not to sit on the market for 6 months. How do you know if it’s priced well, the National Association of Realtors rule of thumb is: 2 weeks without a showing (priced too high), or 10 viewings and no offers (priced too high). So let’s break that down further; If we look at the fact that you haven’t had a single blindfold-modshowing in 2 weeks, you are priced so high, that agents are not willing to bring their clients to even see your home. As in, they don’t even want to LOOK. You definitely don’t want to be in this position. If we look at the second reason, some agents did think your home was worth showing, but not enough to make an offer. Your agent should be following up with each and every one of these people to see what you could do to get an offer. There might be things you can’t change (location, floorplan etc), but there may be somethings you are overlooking (staging, cleaning).

  2. Stage your home to SELL!

    clutter-modAlongside price, staging is one of the quickest ways you can lose or make money on your home. I can’t overstate how important this is. There is a reason that model homes look the way they do. The number one tip when staging: declutter.

  3. Online Marketing

    – I’m not just talking about the MLS, I’m talking, craigslist, trulia, googlehomes, etc. It really isn’t enough for your agent to put your home on the MLS and leave it there. Is your agent talking about the property on their facebook and twitter feeds? Do you feel like other agents are hearing about your home?

  4. Hyperlocal Marketing

    So we have the other end of the spectrum. Do your neighbors know you’re selling your house? Have they been through it at an open house?  Most people move within 7 miles of where they currently live. Is your agent marketing to those homes? ‘Just Listed’ postcards and inviting the neighbors to an open house is a great way to gain exposure. Many times neighbors have friends and family members who say ‘I love this neighborhood! If a 4 bedroom, one story home comes up, let us know!’. So make sure the neighbors know.

  5. Know your competition

    You do know you’re entering a competition right? If you live in the burbs where there are about 17suburbs-mod houses with your exact floorplan, and 4 of them happen to be for sale right now, you better know that! How are you going to compete with those homes? Does your home show better? (hint: it better!) Is it priced better? If another home gets an offer and your home didn’t why do you think you lost out? If you really can’t answer those questions, you’re in trouble.

  6. One bonus tip: Think like a buyer.

    Go visit the competition. Go visit open homes. Then come back to your home while keeping your buyer’s hat on, and look at your home through the eyes of a buyer. Dust on the fan blades? Bet you didn’t notice that. Scuffed up baseboards? Better touch those up. These seemingly little things make a buyer think that if you didn’t care enough to clean up your house and maintain it well before putting it up for sale, then what else might you have skimped out on? Too many family pictures? Too much clutter? There is a reason that model homes are decorated the way that they are. The builder wants you to see the home for what it is, not the clutter or the weird doll collection in the china cabinet, or spending time admiring the cute baby pictures.

As always if you have questions about selling your home, contact your best, most trusted real estate professional. After all, this is what we do for a living. Notice that I used the word ‘professional’. In the current market, you want a full-time, committed individual who is going to understand what is is going to take to sell YOUR home. A professional.

How to stop receiving the big yellow book

Posted on : 23-12-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Austin, Productivity


Drop the weight!

For most of use who are on the internet 24/7, when we come home one day and find that stack of yellow and white pages left on our doorstep, are left wonder who really uses these anymore (Other than maybe a door stop)? And maybe you think to yourself, ‘I wish I could just not get these anymore’. Well you can unsubscribe!

Here’s how to do it in Austin:

  • You can call this number to opt out of the ATT book: 1-866-329-7118. Some people have reported that it only took 5 minutes, while someone else said it took them 15 minutes. 
  • Call 1-800-929-3556 to opt out of the Yellow Book.
  • You can now recycle the books in the big blue single-stream recycling bins as well

Another handy resource is Earth911.com which can provide info on where to recycle lots of things. Yay!

Go forth, recycle, and be good to the earth. :)

No Foreclosures Over the Holidays

Posted on : 15-12-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Sellers


While Bank of America may be looking to resume foreclosures again, at least for the holidays (Dec 20-Jan 3), no one is going to get kicked out of their home. That’s good news coming from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and several of the larger banks. Of course, if you are risk of foreclosure, check with your bank to see what their process are going to be during the holiday season, not all banks are going to be participating in the foreclosure freeze. 

One more point: If Gingerbread houseyou are behind on your payments (or have friends/family members that are), and think you might be at risk of losing your home, please contact your bank! A large number of homeowners NEVER contact their bank about being behind on payments.

I know it’s hard to swallow your pride and admit you can’t make your payments, and that you may not be able to for a few more months, but the banks are in a position to help you and, although you may be struggling, know that people all over the country are facing a very similar situation. The banks are generally well equipped (at least better than a 12-18 months ago) to deal with homeowners in distress and there are TONS of resources to help you, but you’ve gotta ask.

DO NOT sell your home without consulting your bank. There are many, many scams out there, and like you’ve probably heard a thousand times, if it sounds too good to be true, there’s probably a reason why. And when you feel desperate, and lost, you are easy prey for some of these scams to seem plausible and feel like they are going to ‘save’ you from the situation  you are in.

If you do decide that selling is the best option for you, contact an agent you trust who can guide you through the process. We are prepared to guide you through the complicated process and work with the bank to get the most favorable terms for you.

Consider this advice my holiday gift to you. :)

Austin Ranked Best in the US for Economic Recovery – In the World

Posted on : 08-12-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Austin, Education


The World. Yes, you heard right. An article in the Austin Business Journal today shows Austin as the leader, in the US, in 27th place, in a ranking for the highest-rated recovery.

Again, it looks like GREAT news for the Austin market, and I’m happy to be imagein an area which has worked hard for the past several decades creating policies and economies for a  stable market which we are now getting the opportunity to experience. It’s a rare thing folks. Enjoy it while you can.

What city way number 1 on the list, Istanbul, Turkey, but alas, I’m not selling real estate there.

For more detailed info about Austin in particular, just click the image above or this link.

Do you trust Realtors?

Posted on : 03-12-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Education


During an interview at the recent National Association of Realtors (NAR) convention, the FHA commissioner David Stephens had this to say about consumers trust in the real estate industry.

But Stevens cautioned that lending isn’t the only challenge today. The real estate industry also must close a "trust deficit" with Americans, especially with echo-boomers in their early 20s to early 30s who represent the future of real estate demand…."We’ve got to weed out the bad players," Stevens said to loud applause.“Shed the light on anyone who’s just out to make a buck. We need to have very accountable and responsible behavior.

It’s nice to see that even those who are higher up are seeing the lack of trust that the average consumer has in the average real estate agent.  As an industry, we’ve done a pretty crummy job in the past several years creating a lack of trust with the American public. And for those of us who are going to stick around in this career, it’s our job to clean it up.

expertAs a consumer, what would make you think that an agent actually cared about YOU; cared about your home, your transaction, and would be there to answer questions for you after the deal was done?

As the future of the real estate industry changes, I think the trust level that the consumer is going to expect and SHOULD expect from a real estate professional, yes, professional, is really going to change how the real estate market operates. And I, for one, say bring it on.

What’s Austin REALLY like?

Posted on : 02-12-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Austin


As much as I love this city, and can go on endlessly about my love of Austin, it’s always great to get outside reassurance that I’m not in my own little world about what makes Austin great. So I thought I’d give you a taste from a ‘newbie’ to Austin.


One of my friends, Jon Levine, wrote this post about his first three years in Austin, and was nice enough to let me feature it on my blog! Thanks Jon!

First Three Years in Austin

As you can see from the post, they’ve definitely been making the most of their time in Austin.

If you’ve been considering a move to Austin, and want more info about what life here is ‘really’ like, I plan on featuring other posts from (not me) about life here.

And, if you’re lucky enough to live here already, let me know what your favorite places and things to do in Austin are… who knows, maybe you’ll be a guest contributor soon!

Why work doesn’t work

Posted on : 23-11-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Productivity


This is  TED talk from from Jason Fried about why one of the least productive places to get actual work done… is well, at work. Huh.

So what does this have to do with real estate? Well, really it has to do with productivity (and, for those that know me, I am a HUGE productivity junkie!). And of course in order to service my clients well, keep business flowing in a positive direction, and not go totally crazy, it’s good to know what kind of environment I am the most productive in.

So go listen to the talk, (it’s all of  15 minutes) and think about where you are most productive and what conditions you have to be in/around to actually get work done.

Many of my clients and friends work in a corporate environment, and it’s interesting to hear them talk about their days. It seems like most corporate environments are heavy with the M&M’s distractions (if you don’t know what the M&M’s are, you haven’t listened to the talk yet!).

Being self-employed, with no timelines, no real bosses and no one to really answer to, the concept of where and how I, and other self-employed folks, get real work done is an interesting question.

I especially like the concept that work is like sleep; you have to go through stages to get the optimal level of sleep, and if you’re interrupted 18 times a night, well, suffice to say, you’re probably not getting optimal sleep.  The idea that when we work, we go through stages before we are working at our optimal level is intriguing. Although I’d like to see actual studies based around this idea, I’ll buy into the theory for now. Plus, it gives me allowance to act like the unfriendly curmudgeon that I like to be. :)

Where do you work best? Do you actually get work done at work?  Do you think having a manager or boss is a benefit?

What comes first, buying or selling?

Posted on : 23-11-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Education


A question I get fairly often from clients is,  ‘When looking to sell a home and buy another one, what is the process?’ Buy first, then sell the old house? Put the current home on the market? Find a home I like then put my house on the market?  HELP!

Well really, there are only a few options, and much of that will be determined by what your financial position is. confusing sign - mod

  1. Sell your home, rent for a few months, and then buy a home
  2. Sell your home and while it is for sale, find your next home and move
  3. Buy a home, move, and then put your now (old) home on the market. This is not an option for everyone because of the Very Important Question below.
  • Can you afford to buy a home without selling your current home? In other words, are you financial secure enough to manage dual  home payments? Even if YOU think you are, will a lender or bank?

It’s important that you talk to a lender to get a good idea of what you can afford and that will help dictate what the process is going to be. So let’s go with the assumption that you WILL need to sell your current home in order to purchase. Here’s what I would suggest:

  1. Put your current home on the market. Talk to your lender about the expected selling price and how much home you can afford.
  2. Start casually looking at homes in the area you think you’ll want to live in. Casually meaning, on the web, open houses, etc. This is not an all out fall-in-love-with-a-house-you-can’t-buy type of looking.
  3. Once you get a contract on your current house, then, and ONLY then, we can move forward with getting a contract on a new house. Things can get tricky with timelines, and often you’ll be selling your house and buying a new house in the same day. You can also do a lease back for a few days if needed, but not all sellers are okay with those for a variety of reasons.

So that’s my suggested route. Of course my disclaimer is that every area is different, every market is different, and every time is different (this is not the same market as 5 years ago) as is every situation. So talk to your preferred agent or lender. What may have worked for you best buddy 2 years ago may not work the same for you.

7 Future Housing Trends – Outhouses and Sheds?

Posted on : 21-11-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Education


Realtor.com recently reported the 7 future housing trends coming our way in 2011. You can read the full article on their site, but there was one that I was taking a closer look at. Specifically #3 – Sheds are the next evolution.  Hmmm.

As builders seem to be moving away from the huge McMansions, I wonder how viable of an alternative sheds would be, especially in our area. With 100+ degree summer days, cooling and efficiency would be top-of-mind with these types of units. Some of the protocols do look pretty interesting, and I’d be curious to see how they’d hold up in a Texas summer, both with cooling and costs.  Not only that, but how the aesthetics would appeal to the Texas population. The most of what we see right now to increase flex-space are converted garages (often very badly done).

But imagine that you live in Hyde Park, or in the ‘burbs. Would you really imageput one of these in your backyard?  Personally, I’m a fan of modern design, but if I had an historic, turn-of-the century home with limited space, I doubt my neighbors would appreciate this in the neighborhood.

Interestingly, this article from ProSalesMagazine says that a recent survey found that 17.2 million American’s work from home, close to a 40% increase from 2006. So is this a trend that’s going to stick? Whether that’s because more people are doing contract work, or more workers have the ability to work from home, I definitely think it’s trending toward more home-based workers and more flex-space is going to be in demand from home builders.

If you own an older home, are limited in space, and would consider something like this, here is my take-away:

  • Please consider the aesthetics of your  home and neighborhood before putting something like this in. Find something that ‘fits’.
  • Also know that you probably aren’t going to get anywhere near the price you paid for this when you go to sell. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but at least for a while, it’s not going to happen.
  • Make sure you are dealing with a reputable company who can make you aware of hidden costs you may not have considered (plumbing, electricity, permits, HOA, etc)

Top 5 local business’ – Holiday Edition!

Posted on : 20-11-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Austin


If you are a subscriber to my blog, or know me at all, you know I love local. Local produce, local business, local people, local crafts, local, local, local. And it’s not just Austin, but I love the uniqueness that local vendors bring to a community.

The holiday’s pose an interesting dilemma; do you go to one place (mall, big-box store) to get all your shopping done, or head to the local vendors? What are the local shops that are sure to have cool, unique gifts? Well, I thought putting together an informal non-big-box list of places that I like would help out my new-to-town, or big-box-dependent readers.

Of course, being Ms. Organization, I always try to push the clutter-free gift ideas, and focus more on experience related gifts rather than more ‘stuff’. But that’s for another post.

Enjoy, and if I’ve missed your favorite local shop, feel free to add it to the comments!


  • Emeralds is definitely one of my favorite boutique shops in Central Austin. It’s not ridiculously overpriced for being a boutique, and their sales are AWESOME. Perfect for the stylish fashionista on your gift list.
  • Blue Genie Art Bazaar is also a great venue to see tons of local vendors displaying their wares. The Bazaar runs for a few weeks and there is typically no entry fee and drinks are available for purchase. What more could you ask for?
  • Austin Gift Company – a great place when you have to send some Austin ‘stuff’ to people who came here for ACL, SXSW (fill in your favorite music festival here) and miss Austin. They have some cool non-cheesy tourist stuff and your basic Austin tees’.
  • imageAustin Homebrew Supply – Although I am not a beer drinker (yet), I have many friend who are and love this place. If you have a boss that loves beer, a gift from this place is sure to win you some brownie points.
  • Cherrywood Art Fair – this Fair only runs for two days (Dec 11, 12 this year) and is not to be missed. Free entry, totally local stuff, and of course it’s in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Austin… Cherrywood!

So there you go. Now you got my top 5 places for the holidays. So be cool and buy local!