Browsing through real estate listing photos I’ve come across plenty that leave me scratching my head.  Why is there a green_poolpicture of only an exercise bike?  Why is the photo upside down?  Was there not a clean corner of the room to snap a photo?

I am not the only one to be amused by bad listing photos.  There are websites dedicated to photos that are funny, puzzling, and just plain awful.  If you want to waste some time online enjoying bad listing photos, here’s a fun site Terrible Real Estate Agent Photographs.





Home buyers are often surprised to find out that they can use their own real estate agent when buying a bnewhomerand-new home,
and that doing so is even to their benefit. “Why do we need an agent?” they often ask. “Don’t you just go to the sales center and have the associate there show you floor plans and options?” While yes, the floor associate showing you the model home will be more than happy to help you, it is good to remember that the associate is working for the home builder. Their job is to sell you as many upgrades as possible. While they should treat home buyers fairly, they are acting as a salesman for the seller and not the buyer. Having your own agent will ensure there is someone who is solely repres
enting your best interests in this big purchase.

Bringing your own real estate agent along when new home shopping benefits you in several ways. One big one is that your agent can help you stay focused on the budget you have to work with. A trick new home builders love to use is to advertise home models at a certain price (“From $199,000!”) but the model home you look at is filled with upgrades. That home you fell in love with and think is in the $199,000 range is probably closer to $250,000 after you factor in the extra bedroom, upgraded counters, cabinets, flooring, square footage, and accessories. When you see what you can actually get for the $199,000 price it looks much less impressive in comparison. Your agent knows to anticipate this and can help point out upgrades in model homes and help you figure out realistic pricing on models. They can also steer you towards new home builders that are more within your budget.

Your agent can also help you decide what upgrades to buy now and what can wait for later. Some features might seem nice to you but will not increase resale value down the road (or could even hurt it). If your budget is approaching its limit, your agent can recommend what features to leave out and what to splurge on now. For example, flooring is something that can be upgraded or replaced easily at any time by any good contractor. No need to spend extra money on it upfront if it stretches your budget. Other features though might be worthwhile, such as adding on the breakfast nook. Your agent can tell you what features other buyers will expect to see in a comparable home when it comes time to sell.

One final important note, if you find yourself visiting model homes without your agent and are asked to register your information, be sure to mark down that you have your own agent and provide their name. Home builders pay your agent’s commission, however if you have not registered them on your first visit many builders will refuse to pay the commission and you might find it coming out of your own pocket. You can avoid this by securing your own agent to work with before you go home shopping and letting the builder know you are working with them.   Ideally your agent accompanies you but at very least let the home builder know you have your own representation.

Bad Real Estate Listing Photos

I recently had a real estate agent friend send me a link to a website that specializes in displaying bad real estate listing photos.  It was a collection of photos from actual real estate listings, that were published and advertised online.  I will admit that the site was hilarious, and it is hard to believe that agents found some of the images acceptable to post.

Examples of bad photos included blurry images, poor lighting conditions, or off-centered shots.  Others were amusing because the content of the photo was bad, such as photos of rooms filled with trash, pets in the background, or the homeowners appearing in the background of the shot (in their underwear in some cases).  Still other photos showed unflattering views, whether it was a corner shot that showed nothing but the wall of the room, or a pile of laundry was front and center.

To me, if you post these types of photos online you are doing your client a disservice.  You are not presenting their home in a good light and are not going to be attracting buyers with poor or unflattering photos.  You do not want to misrepresent a house, and if there are glaring defects in a property it is ok to note them.  This is especially true in distressed homes or fixer-uppers, where the buyer needs to get an understanding of if a property will require significant repairs.  Otherwise, poor photos show that an agent is not doing a good job selling your house.  Even in properties with difficult homeowners it is still possible to take passable photos.  Keep this in mind when looking for an agent to sell your house.  If their other listing photos are bad, odds are they will not take good ones for you either.

Open for a Cause

openforacauseOpen for a Cause 

Sunday, January 18th
2:00PM – 4:00PM

6010 Beufort Way, Spring, TX 77389
Everyone Welcome


Open for a Cause is an open house event benefitting the Montgomery County Animal Shelter.  For each family unit that shows up to the open house and signs the guest register, I will be donating $20 to the shelter.  There are no strings attached – I simply want you come out and enjoy viewing this beautiful house while helping to make a difference to a worthy cause.  I will be donating up to a maximum of $1000, so hope to see a huge turnout!

You will enjoy seeing this beautiful house that is full of features.  It is in the desirable Northampton neighborhood, centrally located near The Woodlands and the Spring/Tomball area.  Downtown Houston is a quick drive down I-45, and the completion of the Grand Parkway will make commuting even faster.  The house itself boasts extra large bedrooms, two private upstairs balconies, two downstairs covered porch areas, a downstairs bedroom suite with dual-head shower, and a large kitchen with a center island and gas stove.  Outside the home sits on a private cul-de-sac street.  The lot is huge and has an oversized two-car garage along with a bonus golf cart garage that could double as extra storage space.  The backyard has extra parking room, a basketball area, dog run / garden area, and still plenty of room leftover for a pool.  You will love this house once you see it!

Price: $360,000
Sq Ft: 3658
Bedrooms: 5
Bathrooms: 3.5

MLS Link:


*$20.00 for each family unit who comes to the open house and signs the guest register will be donated to the Montgomery County Animal Shelter with a $1000 maximum donation.  This event benefits, but is not sponsored by, the Montgomery County Animal Shelter.

What To Do Before You Move

Before you move into a new home, there are a few things you can do that will make your move much more pleasant.  New homeowners tend to overlook some of these simple steps in the excitement of buying a new home and packing everything up from their old home.  These are things to do before you start bring your first boxes over to the new place. 6518753_orig

  • Have all utilities turned on ahead of time.  This includes electricity, water and gas.  You will want internet and cable too if you plan on staying in the new place right away.
  • Go to the new home and turn on the air conditioning (or heater if it is winter) ahead of time.  You will thank yourself later if you are moving into a place that is nice and cool already.
  • Pack a box that has toilet paper, paper towels, bottled water and snacks.  Take this box on your very first trip to the new place.  These are items you will not want to find yourself suddenly needing but not having.
  • Have the phone number to a local delivery place (think pizza or Chinese food).  You will not feel like cooking after a long day of moving.
  • Forward your mail to your new address.  You can do this online or through your local post office.  This is especially important if you are no longer living at your old address.
  • Write down your new address and give it to important people – your parents/siblings/children, employer, friends, etc.  It is a good idea to put your new address in your phone or somewhere easily accessible.  You might draw a blank when asked for your new address and want to be able to provide it quickly (such as when ordering delivery food or giving someone the address for directions).

Doing these simple things will help make life easier for you as you move.




Smoke Detector Problems – Fun Friday (ok Monday) Stories

smoke detectorI started on my annual rounds of inspecting the smoke detectors in my rental properties the other day.    I have learned that I must check them myself, as I cannot depend on tenants to accurately report back to me if there is a problem.  Smoke detectors are one of those little maintenance items that you don’t want to ignore, as they can prevent a much larger problem in the unfortunate event of a fire.

During my inspections I found several smoke detectors that had the batteries missing.  When questioned, the tenants of course had no idea how they went missing.  Smoke detector batteries are something that are checked before move-in, so I know they were working when the tenants moved in.

This means that the tenants removed the batteries themselves.  Either the batteries went bad and the smoke detector chirping was annoying so the batteries got pulled, or they needed the batteries for something else and conveniently used the detector batteries.  Either way, I see this as a dumb move.  Needing a battery or being annoyed by a chirping sound is nowhere near as inconvenient as burning to death in your sleep because you were not alerted to a fire in the house.  What’s even worse is that one of the houses with non-working smoke alarms had several small children living there.  It’s one thing to be careless with your own life, but when you have other people you are responsible for, don’t take those kind of chances.

I made sure everyone had working detectors with fresh batteries.  Those with missing batteries got a lecture about keeping them working.  Let’s hope the message sticks and the tenants will realize the importance of having a working smoke detector.

Hidden Treasures – Fun Friday Stories

Hidden StaircaseToday’s Fun Friday Story is about a hidden treasure in one of our rental properties.  The particular property in this case is a two-story duplex.  When we bought it, the only entrance to the upstairs unit was a staircase that was on the exterior of the building, leading to an exterior door.  This set-up seemed perfectly logical.

The upstairs tenants moved out and we went in to see what improvements and repairs needed to be made.  We noticed that part of the wall in the living room seemed like it was moved in closer than necessary.  I guess we didn’t notice it before when the tenants were living there with all their furniture in the room.  We thought that they just had an extra long closet, but when we went to look in the closet the room was really small.  That did not make sense, as it left a good ten feet of what looked like covered in wall space.

When you knocked on the closet wall, it sounded hollow on the other side.  There was definitely something behind the wall.  Curiosity got the best of us so we got a saw and cut a hole in the closet wall.  It turned out there was a full staircase to the lower unit that had been closed in.  This was exciting to find.  Ok, maybe it is not all that exciting, but it is not everyday you stumble upon a hidden staircase.

There was not much more to the staircase besides a non-working light fixture and some old food wrappers.  It was still a fun find.  I think I will try to find a way to turn it into storage space for maintenance supplies.  Bonus storage space is a treasure find if you ask me.

More Applicant Rejections – Fun Friday Stories

Jail Bars and CuffsPart of the application process for our rental homes is a criminal background check.  Sometimes when I am pre-screening someone over the phone and mention that we do a criminal background check, there will be the “pause”.  This pause tells me that yes, there is something of note in their criminal history, and that the phone conversation will get more interesting.

Having a blip in your criminal history does not automatically disqualify an applicant, as the overall picture of what type of crime was committed, how long ago it was done, and the circumstances will all factor in to the rental decision.  A lot of times it is how the tenant discloses any problems that influences the decision.

Some applicants will straight up lie and say they have a clean history.  They are hoping that we do not actually run a background check and that they will be clear.  If it is found out you are lying on the application you will get denied, even if the problem was a minor infraction over a decade ago.  If you lie about the background check, it is assumed you are also lying about your rental history, income, or other relevant factor.

Other applications will try to downplay their background problems.  I once had an applicant, when told a criminal background check would be run, tell me that he did have a record but that it was for a small fight when he was 18 and young and stupid.  That didn’t sound completely unreasonable, so we proceeded to run his application.  It turned out that he had a felony assault charge and it was less than three years ago.  Not as good.

It would save everyone time if applicants were honest and straightforward at the beginning.  A criminal background check will reveal past issues, so being dishonest about your history or downplaying the situation will almost always get your application rejected.

Home Buying Mistakes

Buying a new home is a fun and exciting process.  You are choosing a place where you will spend the next several years (or maybe even decades) of your life.  A home is also a major purchase, and is the largest purchase most people will make.  This means you want to be smart when buying and avoid making costly mistakes.  Below is a lit of common mistakes that buyers make when shopping for a new home. buyhome

1. Focusing on the color – Buyers tend to get caught up on superficial details such as room color.  Color is easy to change – you just need to do some painting.  Look past the color of rooms and imagine your favorite colors on the walls instead.  Painting is relatively cheap and easy to change.  Don’t overlook a house over something as trivial as paint.

2. Not doing the research – Don’t buy a home on an impulse.  Do your research before putting in an offer, and certainly during your option period.  Research things such as the school districts, number of foreclosures in the area, flood zones, future construction projects, crime statistics, taxes and insurance.  Talking to neighbors is a great way to get inside information on a neighborhood.

3. Making a list of likes and dislikes – An extensive list can cause a buyer to eliminate great properties and never see the potential of others.  It is fine to have a list of one or two things you absolutely must have and one or two that you cannot have.  Other than that be flexible.  It is difficult to find the perfect house that fits all of your wants exactly.  Keep an open mind and think about how you can make a house perfect for you instead.

4. Getting emotionally attached – Sometimes buyers will find a house and fall in love with it.  This makes you become attached, which can be a bad thing.  Being attached to a house means you are more likely to overlook problems that the rational part of your brain would object to.  Being emotional about a property can make you pay too much and can make you more likely to overlook or justify defects.  Try and stay objective, and be prepared to walk away from the house if the deal becomes bad.

5. Making an offer based off list price and not home value – In a perfect world every house would be listed for sale at fair market value prices.   Most are, however there are many out there that are listed at too high of a price.  The seller might think the house is worth more than it is, or may owe more money than the house is currently worth, thus pricing the house higher that it should be.  Unless the house is truly unique and there are no comparables to it, do a market analysis first and make sure the asking price is in line with what other similar homes are selling for.

6. Not budgeting for extra house needs – Buyers tend to think that their monthly house costs will consist of the mortgage payment, insurance and taxes.  There are always extra costs that you don’t think of, particularly when moving in to a new place for the first time.  These hidden costs might be minor, but they will add up, so you need to be sure to have extra space in your budget for extra expenses.  Some extra expenses include light bulbs, shelf paper, lawn equipment, curtains or blinds, paint, door locks, and furniture.

7. Thinking a personal home is an investment – A house is an investment, but most people have to live in their home for a long time before they see the value increase to over the purchase price and expenses, if ever (depending on current market conditions).  If your sole reason in buying a house is hope of profit one day, you are doing it wrong.  Buy a home wisely so that you will not lose a massive amount of money quickly, but also buy it for the comfort and convenience it will offer you.  Also, negotiate a good deal, but don’t torpedo your dream house over a few thousand dollars just to try to “win” the negotiation.  That amount won’t matter much over the long term anyway.

8. Not planning to stay for 5 years – If there is a good chance you will need to move in under five years, buying might not be the right option for you at this time.  You will incur a lot of fees when selling your house, and unless you bought it way under-value, you will likely lose quite a bit of money selling it within a few years of purchase.

9. Skipping the important inspections – Always get an inspection done on a home before you buy it.  An inspector can help identify problems with the house that are not quickly visible to the untrained eye.  Since a house is a large purchase, don’t skimp out on other inspections either such as a termite inspection or a pool inspection.

10. Buying based on your old market-area prices, not the new market-area prices– House prices vary wildly – from state to state, city to city, and even neighborhood to neighborhood.  If you are moving to a new area, spend some time researching house prices in the new area first.  You want to be sure your expectations are in line with what houses in your new area will cost.

Favorite Way Rent Has Been Paid – Fun Friday Stories

Today’s Fun Friday Story is about my favorite way rent has been paid.  Ten dollar bills

I had a tenant that had gotten behind on rent payments.  I had already given notice to vacate and filed for eviction.  By the time the court date was due, the tenant was behind several months of rent.  At the 11th hour though, they came through and managed to come up with all the back rent that was due, including late fees.  This was a relatively large amount.

The tenant asked if they could pay in cash, which I said was of course fine.  We made arrangements to meet in person so that I could be sure to get it (never trust the mail with cash).  We met up in the local mall parking lot.  When the tenant came out to meet me, they were looking around the area nervously.  They then said that they had a big stack of cash and hoped it was ok.  Cash is cash, so I said it was fine.  The tenant then brought out a huge bag filled with the thousands of dollars of rent owed – all in 10 dollar bills.

The tenant apologized and said that was all the bank had available.  The stack of money was huge.   The tenant was understandably nervous because if any shady person saw us with that money we would immediately be a target for robbery.  They handed the money off to me underhand style.  It felt like I was conducting some illegal deal in a parking lot.  It was actually hilarious.  Even though it was all tens, it was fun to have a stack of money that big in my possession for a while.  It is of course not the recommended way to pay rent, but was kind of awesome.