Archive Monthly Archives: May 2009

Why I Never Do Move-out Walk-throughs with Departing Tenants

I recently had a tenant express frustration over the fact that I wouldn’t come meet him to conduct a final move-out walk-through at the rental property. I’ve been moving tenants in and out of Austin rental homes since 1990, and I’ve learned a few lessons in doing so. One is that there is no upside for a landlord in conducting a final walk-through with a tenant. Only bad outcomes can occur.

Namely, the tenant is going to want you to affirm or state that everything looks “ok” and that they’ll get all of their deposit back. Nowhere in Texas Property Code is this sort of “instant accounting” required. You’d be a fool to agree to say something like that, because a lot of possible damage is not discernible on a cursory walk-through.

Just a few examples off the top of my head are fleas that haven’t hatched yet, carpet stains that were scrubbed invisible that morning but will re-appear tomorrow, the dirty A/C filter your HVAC guy could find sucked up into air intake cavity (as I encountered last month), pet odors that are masked at walk-through but which return in a couple of days, the cat hair blanketing the refrigerator coil, and a long list of other possibilities.

Therefore, even if I wanted to, even if the place appeared to be in great condition with no visible problems, there is nothing I could or would say to a tenant with regard to whether the home “passes” inspection or not. The reason the tenant wants the walk-through – to receive assurances – simply can’t and won’t be provided.

And then, as I learned in the old days when I thought it made sense to do a move-out walk through, an argument ensues. So I just don’t go there anymore.

To better and more fully see my position, there are a few things one must understand.
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Posted by Steve
7 years ago

Shameless Plea for Votes for Crossland Team Blog

The Texas A&M University Real Estate Center wants to know about favorite Real Estate Blogs in Texas. Here is their request in today’s email newsletter, the RECON (Real Estate Center Online).

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BLOG?
COLLEGE STATION (Real Estate Center) – A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors shows that a growing number of real estate professionals are incorporating online social networking tools into their daily business operations (see story in this issue).

That includes blogging.

The Real Estate Center would like you to send us the names and web addresses of blogs you find most useful. Please limit these to blogs covering primarily Texas real estate markets.

Send your recommendations to Associate Editor Bryan Pope. We’ll compile the responses and post the results in an upcoming issue of RECON.

Though admittedly self serving, if the Crossland Blog is in fact your favorite Texas real estate blog, and you find it useful, this is a chance for you to help me and Sylvia. If we get enough votes, hopefully we’ll be featured in a future issue of RECON, which will drive more traffic to our website, and aid in our continued success.

At present, we have 1,124 feed subscribers to our feedburner feed and receive over 10,000 unique visitors per month to the blog. I put a lot of time and effort into the Austin Real Estate Blog, especially the monthly Austin Real Estate stats updates. I’ve been publishing this drivel since July 2005 – almost 4 years now and over 500 blog articles.

So, (final shameless plea), if you can honestly say that the Crossland Real Estate Blog is your favorite Texas Real Estate Blog, I would most humbly appreciate your assistance in making that known.

Vote by emailing TAMU Real Estate Center Online Associate Editor Bryan Pope at bpope at mays dot tamu dot edu (or click here) and telling him you vote for the Crossland Team Blog at www.CrosslandTeam.com/blog.

Thanks!
Steve

Posted by Steve
7 years ago

Zillow Home Prices Remain a Joke for Austin TX

I just received this news flash via email from Zillow:

Home values in Austin increased 8.7%
According to the latest Zillow Real Estate Market Reports, home values in Austin increased 8.7% in the first quarter of 2009, compared to the first quarter of 2008. Nationally, home values decreased 14.2% during this same period.

Uh, sorry Zillow, but that ain’t right. The algorithms or data is being used to produce that conclusion need to be re-examined. Let’s look at some stats for Austin and surrounding areas.

Q1 2008 vs. Q1 2009
City of Austin Sales
Zillow says: Sales prices are up 8.7%
Austin MLS says: Sales prices are down 0.65%

City of Cedar Park
Zillow says: Sales prices are up 2.5%
Austin MLS says: Sales prices are down 3.9%

City of Pflugerville
Zillow says: Sales prices are up 11.5%
Austin MLS says: Sales prices are down 3.76%

You can see where this is heading. Never has it been easier for so many real estate consumers to be so misinformed about the real estate market. Don’t believe news headlines quoting any of these internet sites about values.

Shame on Zillow and these other valuation websites for getting it so wrong. What’s even sadder is that I saw in a listing the other day a Realtor comment “priced $20K below Zillow value”. Huh?
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Posted by Steve
7 years ago

What if Owning a Home was Like Owning Quicken Software?

I opened up my Quicken 2006 Software today to catch up on reconciling some bank statements, and downloading credit card charges and stock account info. I was greeted with this message:

After April 30, you will no longer be able to access the following through Quicken 2006:
– Downloads of your bank, credit card, credit union, or investment account transactions.
– Online bill pay activity, stock quotations, news headlines and technical support.

How you can stay connected:
To continue using online services, you need to upgrade to Quicken 2009….Click the “Buy Now” button and follow the online prompts.

In other words, the Quicken software I purchased and own has expired. I must either decide to make due with a crippled version with which I must now hand enter all my transactions, or succumb to the extortion known in the software industry as the “forced upgrade”.

What if our future homes work this way? In 20 years everything will be computerized in new homes. What if one day, on the third anniversary of purchasing your new home, you pull into the driveway, activate your garage door remote, and a sweet female voice comes on through your on-board auto/home information system informing you.

After April 30, you will no longer be able to access the following features and functionality of your home:
– Garage door remote operation.
– Automatic sprinkler system.
– Central air and Heat system.
– Commode in the guest bath.
– Hot water.

How you can continue using the features and functionality of your home:
To continue using your home comfort features, you need to upgrade to Home Convenience Package 2030.1.b. Press the $ button on your control panel and an operator will be happy to take your credit card information and reinstate the desired features of your home.

I can imagine the screaming in the house from upstairs: “Dad, there’s no hot water and the toilet won’t flush”. And Dad will turn to wife, “For crying out loud Marge, I thought you were going to call and upgrade to the Premium Plumbing 8.0 Hot and Happy service package!”.

Then of course, with that new package you’ll be forced to get rid of your 3 year old water heater and purchase a new, more efficient model, even though the old one still works just fine.
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Posted by Steve
7 years ago

Austin Real Estate Market Update – April 2009 Sales

The median sold price for houses in Austin was up 0.56% for April compared to April 2008. The average sold price was down 3.56%. Number of sales is down 21% from a year earlier for single family homes. In short, Austin remains a stubborn real estate market for those who were expecting some sort of major decline. I would characterize it still as a soft market, with pockets and price ranges that remain strong. This is the 4th month of the past 6 that average sold prices have remained below $240K, and it’s the first time that avg sold price has stayed below $240K two months in a row.

See the chart below for the past 14 months average and median sales by month. Monthly and YTD charts are further below.

Austin Sales Market History

The month of April compared to a year ago breaks down as follows:
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Posted by Steve
7 years ago

City of Austin Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure (ECAD) Program

The new Austin Energy Audit ordinance is in play now, and we’re already starting to see it affect some deals. The official start date of the ordinance is June 1, 2009, but that means any home subject to the ordinance that is closing on or after June 1 will have to comply.

Covered homes must be 1) ten years old or older, 2) located in the city of Austin city limits, and 3) be a utility customer of Austin Energy for water and/or electricty service. If your 10+ year old home is located in Austin but you get your electricity from PEC and don’t get water from Austin Energy, your home is not subject to the ordinance. If your home is located in the Austin ETJ, is is not included. Condos are not subject to the ordinance at all, but townhouses are. Homes that have received over $500 in Austin Energy green energy rebates, or completed any 3 improvements under the rebate program, are exempt for 10 years and not required to have an audit.

There are a lot of additional details we could cover, and the links to the Austin Energy website are below if you’d like to know more, but what I want to write about now is how ordinance this will affect actual real estate transactions. Sylvia and I currently have homes under contract and listed that are subject to this new ordinance.

Example #1. Our buyer wrote an offer on a house covered by the ordinance. Prior to the offer being executed and signed, I asked Sylvia if we had received an Energy Audit along with the Seller’s disclosure. She said no, we hadn’t. After discussing it, we decided not to ask for it until the contract was signed by the seller, as we didn’t want to introduce a new variable into the negotiations. Once we had the signed deal, we requested the other agent provide us with the Energy Audit prior to the end of the option period.
Read more …

Posted by Steve
7 years ago