Tag Archives forbuying

Forgetting the MLS Key Really Stinks

Photo of MLS ActiveKey Austin

No doubt every Austin Realtor has forgotten – or almost forgotten the electronic MLS key when showing a property. That really stinks when it happens. Me and Sylvia are still old school and carry around these horrible devices. The alternative would be to use an iPhone app that requires a small infrared stick that plugs into the bottom of the iPhone. The problem with that is if you lose your iPhone, or the battery goes low, you’ve also lost your MLS key.  I’d rather spread the risk to separate devices. I also don’t want to have the tiny plugin stick to keep track of or junking up my key ring.

Anyway, I drove way up northwest by the lake today, past Lakeway, to show some buyers who had driven up from Corpus Christi to meet me at a house. This was a 45 minute drive from my house. About 15 minutes away I realized I left my MLS key laying on my desk, where it had been charging.

I quickly assessed the options in my head while not panicking, but almost panicking. I checked the listing agent on the MLS printout and noticed it was a KW agent in Lakeway. I just happened to be on 620 not far from the KW office.

I called the agent and got ahold of the assistant. “I’m on my way to show your listing on {Street name} and left my MLS key at home. Is there a combo box on the property or is the MLS box the only way in?”, I asked cheerfully, keeping my optimism high. “No”, the well informed assistant told me, “there is no combo box”.

“OK”, I said. “Do you have a spare key in the office that I could come by and pick up? I’m not far from you” . There was no spare key either.

I was now about 12 minutes away. I could either:

a) Turn around and know for sure that although I’d be terribly late arriving (like, 75 minutes late), I could call and ask the client to go get lunch and show up later for the appointment.

b) Show up on time and deal with it, knowing I might not be able to get in.

c) Call a Realtor friend close by and beg them to meet me there.

I’ve always been lucky. I decide to give myself a chance to get lucky and proceeded to the appointment to face the music. I’d just have to figure out a way to get inside.

Read more …

Posted by Steve
4 years ago

Want to Avoid an HOA Neighborhood in Austin? Be Careful

HOA Rules Austin TX Real EstateIn early 2007 I got fed up with the deed restriction violations in my SW Austin neighborhood. This was a neighborhood with no Home Owner’s Association, and thus, no formal enforcement mechanism to keep bonehead neighbors in line.

This all came to a head when one neighbor decided to install a mobile home on their newly purchased 2 acre property. They did install the MH and they moved in. The plan was to live in the mobile home temporarily, for a year or two, while they built a new custom home, then remove the MH. The neighbors were outraged at the mobile home, which was a clear violation of deed restrictions. Tempers flew, rude signs were placed at the property, the email list caught fire with discussions, and a neighborhood meeting was called.

“Good!”, I thought. Under the umbrella of addressing the mobile home being placed on the property, we could also discuss the fact that nearly every other home in the neighborhood was also in violation of the deed restrictions, though in smaller ways.

In my neighborhood of 2+ acre homes, fences were in disrepair and/or too high, or made of wood, mailboxes broken and never fixed, driveways crumbling, yards never mowed, out-buildings that didn’t match the main home in appearance, remodel and construction projects that were started, abandoned and left as eye-sores, and several large commercial metal buildings had been built in back of properties.

The neighborhood was going down hill and becoming shoddy. Remember, without an HOA, and outside city limits, there is nobody to whom these violations can be “reported”. The County does not enforce deed restrictions. You have to actually hire an attorney and sue your neighbor in order to address violations. My home, which we had built in 2003, was the newest home in the neighborhood and I felt its value was threatened by the lack of upkeep in the neighborhood. This neighborhood meeting would therefore be a perfect opportunity to see if that could be turned around.

At the meeting, a succession of neighbors got up and railed against the mobile home. When I got up to speak, I spoke not against the mobile home or its owners (who attended the meeting and took all the heat), but instead asked the simple question “do we want to enforce deed restrictions or not? We can’t say that we want to ignore all deed restrictions except this particular one restricting mobile homes”.

And then I rattled off the aforementioned list of actual, current deed restriction violations on various neighborhood properties and wanted to know if anyone cared about those. To me, we needed to have this discussion of the underlying issue and then discuss the mobile home and other violations in the context of a shared understanding of whether or not the deed restrictions should be observed equally by all home owners.

I nearly got booed out of the meeting. “That’s different”, someone said. “This isn’t Circle C”, another blurted, to which I responded, “yes, that’s obvious to anyone who drives through and sees how shoddy the neighborhood looks”. Another neighbor shouted at me “we all moved out to a neighborhood like this because we want to be left the f**k alone and not be hassled by Yard Nazis”. To that I responded, “but you’re not leaving this family alone, now are you? You’re hassling them. You’re all saying that you don’t care about following the rules, but you want this one family alone to follow the deed rules – the same deed restriction rules that most of you are breaking yourselves – because you think their particular deed violation is a whopper, but that your own lesser violations are ok. You can’t have it both ways”. This perfectly logical and fair reasoning fell on deaf ears.

Finally someone said if I didn’t like it I could move. I already knew that. I went home that night and told Sylvia we were moving. I didn’t want to live around these rednecks and their declining neighborhood anymore.
Read more …

Posted by Steve
6 years ago

Austin Real Estate Market Update – May 2009 Stats

The Austin real estate market continues to chug along in a manner that would be considered unimpressive if not for the fact that it was expected to be doing so much worse by so many. Average sold prices are down about 3.5% and the Median is down about 2.25%. We’ll take take that. I’m not complaining.

Austin Real Estate Sales Market Update May 2009
Houses only (condos, duplexes, etc. not included) compiled from Austin MLS data

Apr 2009 May 2009 May 2008 Yr % Change
# Sold 1522 1610 2060 -21.84%
Avg List $245,130 $268,001 $274,380 -2.32%
Med List $198,170 $199,970 $203,037 -1.51%
Avg Sold $234,444 $256,603 $265,878 -3.49%
Med Sold $190,000 $195,250 $199,788 -2.27%
Sold/List % 95.64% 95.75% 96.90% -1.19%
Avg SQFT 2136 2208 2154 2.51%
Med SQFT 1950 1989 1945 2.26%
Avg $ SQFT $109.76 $116.22 $123.43 -5.85%
Avg DOM 74 75 61 22.95%
Median DOM 44 43 36 19.44%
# Expired 391 383 516 -25.78%
# Withdrawn 648 590 598 -1.34%
Not Sold 1039 973 1114 -12.66%
Not Sold % 40.57% 37.67% 35.10% 7.33%



One interesting thing to note is that the “Not Solds” have dipped down to 38%, barely higher than the 35% for the same month last year. This is the first time the Pending/Withdrawn listings (not solds) have been less than 40% of the total departing Austin MLS listings since June 2008, when they represented 37% of the departing listings. We hit 61% in Jan 2009 and 62% in Nov 2008, which meant a lot of sales efforts were ending in failure last fall and winter, but things have improved a lot since then.

Personally, Sylvia and I have 6 closings this month and we are really, really busy. It’s starting to feel like 2006/2007, but the numbers don’t look like 2006/2007. We’re running really fast on our hamster wheel, but putting together transactions that stick is as hard as ever.

Below is the Year to Date (YTD) chart for Austin, followed by several other charts and graphs that will bring you up to date on current conditions in the Austin real estate market.

Read more …

Posted by Steve
7 years ago

Should Buyers be required to guarantee a timely close?

Buyer Closing Guaranty

One of the most frustrating events that can happen in a real estate transaction is a delayed closing. Frequently, there is a domino effect that is launched when a closing is delayed. Though each party is responsible for their own contingency plans in the event of a delayed or busted deal, I’ve seen delayed closings impact a chain of subsequent transactions and moving plans. I once even reimbursed a seller for a one-night hotel stay and U-haul rental in order to smooth over a bad situation, even though the delay wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t my seller.

The undeniable law of moving says that when you move, for some period of time, you will either have two places to live, or nowhere to live. Period. This cannot be avoided, though many try to limit the overlap to one day.

A common scenario is that you are a Seller in the morning and a Buyer that afternoon, taking the proceeds of the morning sale and using those funds as a down payment on the afternoon purchase. Meanwhile, your U-Haul sits loaded in the parking lot and you eat lunch technically as a homeless person.

Now, imagine if the Seller (of your new purchase) that afternoon is also a buyer the next morning, and you can see how any disruption in a chain of unrelated but dependent closings can cause one or more people up the line a problem.

Delayed closings are almost always the fault of the lender. Sylvia and I don’t tolerate lenders who can’t close on time. It’s one strike and you’re out. Sorry. No excuse is acceptable. We simply don’t tolerate it, at all, and we don’t care what the reasons are or who is to blame. If you’re a lender who can’t get your paperwork to the Title Company on time and fund the deal on time, you are 100% useless to us and our buyers. That’s the bottom line. There is no other way to hold a lender accountable other than promising never to use them again if they let us down.

This attitude is a result of having to deal with the chaos and frustration of delayed closings a number of times in the past. To say it’s a hassle is an understatement. An amendment to the contract is required, which means chasing down signatures at the last minute. Rescheduling of movers. The parties have often scheduled time off from work on the closing date, so work life is impacted. The prorated amounts have to be adjusted on the settlement statement. If the closing overlaps past the end of a month, it can trigger another full month of interest payment on the payoff for the seller (if the seller has an FHA loan). 

Then there are the afformentioned domino deals that create phone calls about “what’s going on with the closing?” from the deal next in line. Plus any number of other unfortunate outcomes or new problems that can also result. In other words, all sorts of trouble and work results from a delayed closing, which is why we view it as an intolerable and unforgivable failure by the lender.

This leads me to the real topic of this blog article. On a recent deal last year, the listing agent, having recently suffered through an unfortunate string of delayed closings caused by incompetent lenders, attempted to insert “buyer guaranty” language into the deal on an addendum.
Read more …

Posted by Steve
7 years ago

Responding to Unsolicited Offers to Buy Your Home

I received a call recently from an Austin homeowner looking for a place to rent. After further questioning I learned of her situation. The neighbors have offered to buy her home, and she is willing to consider selling it. The neighbors have outgrown their smaller home and would love to move up to her larger home while remaining on the same street. The homeowner is now exploring rental options in case she were to sell.

“Have they indicated a price they’re willing to pay?”, I asked? No.
“Have they provided a pre-approval letter indicating their financial ability to buy?”, I asked. No.

“Well”, I said, “you’re out looking for a place to rent but you haven’t first established that your prospective buyers are legitimately interested. How do you know you’re not wasting your time? Do you really want to spend time looking for a home to rent before knowing that your neighbors aren’t just daydreaming about your house, and that they might turn out to be flakes?”

“No”, she said. “I guess not. What should I do?”

When you, as a home owner, are approached about selling your home, and your home is not on the market for sale, there are a couple of up front requirements you should request before you spend even 3 seconds thinking about it. Assuming you are open to the possibility of selling and you wouldn’t simply say “no thanks” immediately, you would tell the prospective buyer the following:
Read more …

Posted by Steve
8 years ago