Saturday, August 27, 2016

New Home Construction: How Much Can You Trust Your Builder?

One of the great enigma's in the real estate world are new home builders. When times are challenging, builders ask the Realtor community to jump in and help them understand why sales are not as strong as they believe they should be. When times are good, the attitude is very often one of "Stand back, boys. Watch and learn how this is done." I tell my clients: "There are two kinds of builder sales people. The ones that I know and trust and the ones that I have recommended to their VP's that they be fired." The construction superintendents tend to be at one extreme or the other as well. Either well versed in the craft and very humble about it or unapoligitically arrogant--and undeserving of their self confidence that they wear on their sleeve. It is as inconsistent and varied as Realtors. Some who know what is right and wrong and try to always act in the clients' best interest and create the best possible product. Some who either don't know what good product and good customer service is or maybe they simply don't care. I have seen it all.

Mr. & Mrs Builder--I don't know where you and your team fall on this spectrum. I am sure you would tell me and my client that you do it better than any builder in the city. Yes, I hear that pitch given to my buyers a lot. But rather than hearing those words, I would like to experience it when there is an issue. Don't tell me how great you are--show me.

Every builder claims greatness. Very few live greatness. There are only a few things that a builder can do to earn favor among customers and Realtors:
  • Take care of the customer and treat them fairly. 
  • Build a truly robust product. 
  • Take responsibility for things that did not happen right the first time--by making it right.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Top 10 Tools You Should Consider for Use at Home

Power tools are a man's best friend (and many women, too! In fact, one of the best and smartest DIY people that I know is my friend Allison Hepworth, HouseofHepworths.com; what Allison does is amazing!). Power tools are one of life's great luxuries, and they are so incredibly useful for getting things done around the house when you have a project to tackle.

Here are some of the tools that I put at the top of my list for anyone just getting started to consider for their tool collection:

Cordless Drill. With assorted bits and extenders. This is probably the most used tool I own. In fact, I own more than one cordless drill and I often use two different drills at the same time. Like when I am both pre-drilling holes and installing screws at the same time. A good cordless drill with back-up batteries is a huge time saver and some jobs would not get done at all without a cordless drill. 

Stud finder. If you are hanging anything on your walls that weights more than a few pounds, you probably need to know where the studs are in the walls as well as where the electrical lines are running. A stud finder can help locate where to drill and where not to drill. These are not expensive devices, but they do require some practice in using them.

Collection of nails and screws. I have organizers full of various sizes of screws and nails and fasteners. When I finish any project, every bit and left over piece is collected and saved for future projects. All of these items will come in handy one day. I also keep boxes full of various length dry wall screws. These always come in handy. I use them all the time for various projects around the house.

Pliers, Wrenches, Needle Nose Pliers. You can't have too many sizes and types of pliers. Every job needs something different. Needle Nose for small jobs and Big honking Vise Grips for something that requires more power. I even have a plumbers "Monkey Wrench" for hard-to-open iron gas lines behind the dryer (Be careful: just because you can open a gas line, does not mean you should open a gas line! Always know what you are doing when you take on a home project and if you are not sure and want some help--call a professional and watch the pro do it first, then maybe consider doing it yourself the next time).

Big honking, Hardcore Utility knife. Knives. Always keep a sharp knife with you all the time. There are no shortages of things that can be done with a good knife. I own several knives. But be careful with your new knife. Use with caution.


Hammers. And a Tape Measure. Over the years I have collected a number of good hammers. Small hammers for hanging pictures. Hammers for driving and pulling nails. And a big hand-held sledge hammer for whacking the big stuff--because sometimes bigger is better. If you have to start with just one hammer, I would recommend a medium sized all purpose one that has a comfortable weight and feel in your hand. Don't start with one that is too big. 

Electrical testers. Please don't ever attempt anything electrical without first taking all the recommended precautions. Really, this is a good rule with the use of any power tool or tools in general. But with electrical work, like power tools, the difference between working on a project and being critically injured by a power tool can only take a couple of seconds--one mistake or one small distraction. Whenever I work on electrical outlets, I always test everything twice. I turn off the breakers. Turn off the switch. Test the line for power. Test the leads and switches for power. Then I start the work when I know for sure that everything is off. Working with power and power tools should be done with caution.

Table saw and Crosscut/Miter Saw. Well, this may not be the first thing you want to add to your tool collection, but once you start cutting boards for shelving, or other larger wood projects, having the right kinds of saws can make a big, big difference. Getting a straight cut with a hand saw is next to impossible--In fact, I almost never use my hand-held power saw any more. And like the other precautions here, power saws are great tools, but what they can do to wood, they can do to your hands or eyes in a flash! Use with great respect and caution. Know how to use power tools and always keep them unplugged, locked down and out of reach of children when not in use.

I believe you can never own too many tools. Proper tools, used correctly can make any job faster, easier and more professional. Just remember to be safe and learn how to use tools correctly and safely. And always store your tools in a way that children can not get access to them and turn them on.

Good luck with your home projects!  tT

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How Fast Are Homes Selling in Greater Austin?

In times of low inventory, homes tend to move fast, fast, fast. Duh. Just a few years ago in our Austin real estate market, you could count the "Days on Market" in weeks or a couple of months. Two months. 8 weeks. 60 days. That was a pretty fair benchmark estimate for a typical selling time (read "Days on Market"). However, today if a home is priced right and shows well and it is located in a popular area and affordable price point for the area--the days on market can sometimes be measured in hours or days. A few days! Not 60 days. So, what does that look like for your area?

Here are some numbers from the Q2-2016 that will indicate just how fast single family homes are moving in your area--expressed as the AVERAGE DAYS ON MARKET and the MEDIAN DAYS ON MARKET during the second quarter of 2016:

  • Williamson County: Avg. 39 days / Med: 10 days
  • Travis County: Avg. 39 days / Med: 10 days
  • Cedar Park: Avg. 25 days / Med: 6 days
  • Round Rock: Avg. 30 days / Med: 7 days 
  • Leander: Avg. 52 days / Med: 14 days
  • Austin: Avg. 34 days / Med: 8 days
Steiner Ranch: Avg. 37 days / Med: 18 days
Avery Ranch: Avg. 24 days / Med: 13 days
Ranch at Brushy Creek: Avg. 19 days / Med: 5 days
Milwood: Avg. 9 days / Med: 4 days
Buttercup Creek: Avg. 19 days / Med: 5 days
Circle C: Avg. 9 days / Med: 4 days
Canyon Creek: Avg. 26 days / Med: 4 days
Allandale: Avg. 21 days / Med: 5 days
Travis Heights: Avg. 25 days / Med: 20 days
Oak Forest: Avg. 22 days / Med: 4 days
Forest Oaks: Avg. 10 days / Med: 6 days
Windsor Park: Avg. 13 days / Med: 6 days
Forest Creek: Avg. 45 days / Med: 6 days
Teravista: Avg. 56 days / Med: 24 days
Cold Springs: Avg. 56 days / Med: 30 days
Crestview: Avg. 21 days / Med: 10 days
Scofield Farms: Avg. 32 days / Med: 9 days
River Place: Avg. 42 days / Med: 36 days
Lake Point: Avg. 16 days / Med: 4 days
Lost Creek: Avg. 21 days / Med: 3 days
Davis Spring: Avg. 7 days / Med: 5 days

Q: So, why do I post both average and median days on market?
A: Glad you asked! The average number is a general benchmark for how the community is doing and how popular it may be, but the median days on market separates the top 50% of sellers and listing agents who know how to sell a house and those who think that they can beat the market by listing a house way above market value and expecting to find a buyer who can't read or a buyer's agent who can't read comps.

Also keep in mind, a fast moving market does not mean that sellers get desperate when a home has been on the market for more than a couple of weeks, but it does mean that buyers need to move with speed and make decisions quickly--if they intend to be successful in this current market place. Waiting can be the difference between contracting on the house that you love, and a missed opportunity--when a home is priced right and shows well.

Good luck buyers! Good luck sellers! The world is an oyster. Pearls for the taking.

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