Friday, June 28, 2013

Wine Parties with Pearland Sam

Who wants to come?

I have found that I love to host wine tasting parties . . . and I just received a case of Italian reds by UPS delivery, so I'm stoked.  Last night, I hosted my first here at home.  Casual and intimate, there were only four of us so it was great conversation and I'd made some great appetizers -- cheese, crackers, fresh tortilla chips, three salsas, and some chopped smoked chicken.

Notice that I'm a little late writing this blog this morning, as I slept like a baby and just woke up and started with my Dunkin Donuts coffee -- my latest addiction.  (It costs a lot more than my usual Folgers, but it is doggone good!)

So, I've decided this is a great way to entertain!  I have a great pool, so we have to make it a swim party, too, to cool down from the red wine.

So here's an open invitation . . . and I'd love to hear from whomever would be interested in some warm camaraderie.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The 4th of July in Pearland . . . yes, it's nearly here . . .

Do you have vacation plans?

No matter how hot it gets, I love the summers in Pearland.  With a projection that the temperature will get to 100 degrees F today, I am glad I live in this robust city-outside-the-city!  After returning from New York and having an absolutely splendid time, I realize that Dorothy was right -- there's no place like home.

And so summer is the time to take a vacation . . . and it's also time for the 4th of July, our celebration of America's independence.  So what are your plans?

Nothing says "4th of July" like a good, old-fashioned Texas Barbecue.  Family and friends gather in the back yard to eat brisket, sausage, chicken, and the like.  And, of course, every Texan believes that his/her barbecue is much better than everybody else's.  And since I bought a Traeger electric smoker, I now claim that, too!  That little smoker is a real treat . . . just turn it on and fill it with wood pellets and voila!  Perfection every time!  I even bought a portable one for my RV.

And speaking of the RV . . . I'm planning on spending my 4th of July in Galveston where I have the
RV parked, but I'm going to bring it home.  I am currently purchasing a beautiful acre of land with several rental units over in Brookside, about half-way between my house and my office -- a perfect place to store this gem of a trailer!

But before I move it, I plan on smoking some fresh gulf seafood -- with my now-famous macaroni salad -- to stuff myself with on the 4th of July.  Someone asked me my favorite food for this holiday . . . and so I wrote this blog to address it.  Probably my favorite food is anything that comes out of the Gulf of Mexico -- red snapper, gulf shrimp, oysters -- all are my favorites.  And they'll be great on the Traeger.  Not to mention a little time at the beach, soaking up some Vitamin D.

Oh, and I won't forget my sparklers.  Ever since I was a kid, I've loved sparklers.  And yes, I have some ready for the 4th!  Because these fireworks at the 4th spark the beginning of the peak summer real estate market.  It always begins about the 4th of July with a bang!  Ready to buy or sell?  Don't forget me!

What are your plans?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Debt Relief = Income

Mortgage Relief.pngMany times a homeowner might feel relieved being out from under the obligation of a mortgage they can’t afford even though the property was lost due to foreclosure or short sale. If a lender cancels or forgives debt, a taxpayer must include the cancelled amount in their income for tax purposes depending on the circumstances. The tax significance could be serious.

Congress enacted the Mortgage Relief Act specifically to help homeowners who might be affected in the housing crisis that started approximately in 2007. The Act expired on 12/31/12 but was temporarily extended by Congress until December 31, 2013.

This relief only applies to a taxpayers’ principal residence which does not include second homes and investment property. The maximum amount is limited to $2 million of mortgage debt forgiveness or $1 million if filing separately.

Another provision is that the debt relief is limited to acquisition indebtedness used to buy, build or improve the property. It excludes cash equity loans whether made separately or in a refinance of the original mortgage.

Due to the serious consequences involved in short sales and foreclosures, it is advised that homeowners faced with this possibility should seek expert advice from their legal and tax professionals.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Simple Things can Sometimes be The Best . . .

. . . like Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cones!

Houston has never had (in my memory) a Dolce & Gabbana designer store, although you can find some D&G fashions at Lord & Taylor and a few other "department" stores.  So why do we have Farragamo, Versace, Armani, and Louis Vuitton, amongst others, but no Dolce & Gabbana?
I need a new swimsuit . . . will I look like this?

Maybe because they might have to pay income taxes?  (Yesterday, the fashion designing pair, Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce were convicted of tax evasion in Italy, and were given large fines and suspended prison sentences!)  All this just two days before their Milan runway show to introduce their newest designs!

But I often digress . . . the point of the story was how I'm going to get to watch the live runway show from Milan on my computer!  It will be streamed on a live feed, similar to the way I hold my training classes at RE/MAX Top Realty.  Wow, how technology has progressed . . . and yet it's so simple to do.  But I'm off to New York, and a sure visit to one of my favorite designers, even though I've resorted to JC Penney as my clothier.  Yes, I've become a simple Pearlander. 

Which, at last, brings me to my subheading topic of ice cream.  And although designer shops exist, I buy most of my newest fashions at Penney's.  And although gourmet ice cream shops exist like Marble Slab and Baskin Robbins, I still prefer the simple cones at Dairy Queen.  Perhaps it's because it's my earliest recollection of ice cream when my sister landed her first job at Dairy Queen.  Or perhaps it's because in our early years of marriage, Rachel and I drove across country many times, sampling every Dairy Queen along the way.  (We did get "picky," however, choosing only "full Brashiers" as our DQ options!  But that's another story . . . .)

I won't look like that if I eat more of these!
Ah, the unmistakable, simple and uncopied flavor of a DQ cone.  Or sometimes, a DQ "dipped" cone where they take a fresh-loaded cone and turn it upside-down into warm chocolate which then freezes into a nice chocolate crust over the ice cream.  Or a DQ sandwich with two chocolate cookies loaded with their unique vanilla ice cream.  (They used to make these to order; now, however, they're already made and frozen in the case.  Not the same.) 

And, alas, the simple has become complex with the introduction of the Blizzards and other concoctions of cream and treats.  Yes, for me, give me simplicity.  Give me a plain small cone, please.  And a sale at Penney's.

OK, OK . . . and an occasional Blizzard.  And a trip to 5th Avenue for a shopping trip to Dolce & Gabbana.  I wonder if I have to pay tax there?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ah, Southwest Airlines, My Most Memorable Experience

OK, I was "challenged" to write about this!

In the summer of 2001, flying was a lot less stressful than it is today.  Perhaps it is the post-911 regulations or the mere fact that I'm getting older, but flying is a hassle.  Oh well, it does allow you to get there quicker than driving!  So it was about the summer of 2001 when Katie was off to fitness camp in La Jolla, California, a gorgeous city near San Diego.

Katie was pretty young then to be off to California by herself, so when "parent visitation" weekend approached, Rachel, Arthur, Camilo and I bought tickets on Southwest to go see her (and take a little vacation to La Jolla).  So off we went.

Now I will also tell you that this was during the pre-gastric-bypass years, and I tipped the scales at about 400 pounds.  So, I always carried an "extension" with me when I flew because the seat belts in the airplane would not go around me without an extender.  And, Arthur was in the same boat.  But since we had Rachel and Camilo with us, we placed them in the adjacent seats to us and lifted the fold-down arm between us so that we would "fit."

We arrived in San Diego and drove to La Jolla, had a wonderful visit with Katie, the scenery, the camp owners, and just had a marvelous time!  Katie was in great shape, as they put them through a rigorous workout and diet routine.  So we enjoyed the weekend, but it ended quickly, and we were homeward bound.

When we were getting our boarding passes at the Southwest ticket counter, the agent was a little (very-California-looking) snippy blonde girl who said to me, "Sir, you two will have to buy an extra seat each."

"Why?  What are you talking about?  I have purchased seats."

"Sir, anyone can look at you and tell that you will not fit into an eighteen inch airline seat."  (I remember those words to this day, how they rolled so gently off her tongue and pierced my fat little heart.)

Anyone can look at me and tell that I won't fit into an eighteen inch airline seat???  Really???

What happened then was rich!  My eyes began to pitch!  I caller her a name that rhymes with "witch," which which which which which which caused her little gayboy counterpart at the counter to chime in and say, "look, she's not disrespecting you so don't disrespect her!"  Are you kidding me?  I thought it was the rudest thing anyone ever said to me.  I still believe that to this day.  

By the time the four of us were done with them, we received two extra tickets for free, along with priority boarding (so we got on first and got to choose our seats).  We even asked other fat people if they had been asked to purchase extra tickets, but could find no one.  It was just our lucky day.

I wrote a long letter to the President of Southwest Airlines which was never acknowledged.  And for years, I didn't fly Southwest, choosing Continental (now United) instead, even if it meant paying more money.

I am flying to New York later this week, and yes, I bought tickets on United even though they cost more and I have to drive to Bush Airport (rather than Hobby which is very near to my home).  I have, however, flown Southwest for short flights, but I will never forget the treatment I received from them as long as I live, even though I now fit easily into their seats.

And so when Sandra announced our new "blog contest," and the topic was "my most memorable Southwest experience," I warned her that Arthur and I will win with this story.  The challenge is on.  Bring on your most memorable Southwest experience.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pearland Realtor Admits, "I was a law school dropout"

Thanks to a Drunken Night at Whatley's Bar and Grill in Jacinto City

I was amused by a large postcard I received the other day from a newbie Realtor at a local office of King Willy Realtors whose ad headline screamed, "Attorney by Training, Real Estate Broker by Choice."  It took me back to about 1983 when myself and three other friends got drunk and decided to apply to South Texas law school.

1983.....there it was.  My good friends Gloria and Steve were running Gloria's father's bar on Market Street in Jacinto City, "Whatley's."  It was quite a place!  Steve was working as a high school Latin teacher by day, barkeep by night.  It just so happened that a party broke out on this particular night, and a large group of my college alumni were there.  Bubba and Bear, famous singing duo, (Bubba works on my team and poor Bear passed away a few years ago . . . she was a little oversized and loved pills).  My other friends Garlen (a/k/a "Doonie") and Dena were there . . . Rachel and I were there, amongst many others.  The more we drank, the smarter we became!  (NOT!)

Bubba and Greg Singing Duo
So after several of Gloria's concoctions, Steve, Dena, Doonie, and I -- all recent graduates of HBU -- decided we needed to take the LSAT (law school admission test) and become lawyers.  I, of course, had been selling houses since I was 17 and paid my way through HBU with my house selling.  Nonetheless, we all signed up and took the LSAT and applied to South Texas.  Only Steve and myself were admitted.

After one semester of "torts" and "criminal law," I was overwhelmed with the work, I had opened an ERA franchise, had a new wife, and life was crazy.  I hated the "paper chase."  And I dropped out.  Steve went on to finish and became a successful maritime lawyer.  He and Gloria now live semi-retired in San Marcos and have a beautiful home and daughter, Alaine, who is a RE/MAX agent!

Bubba with Long-time friend Mark Lowry
Doonie is currently working on his PhD in some science field, and works for the MD Anderson Research facility near Smithville, where he has a ranch.  Dena received her MBA from University of St. Thomas and lives on a gorgeous custom build property housing herself and several stars of stage and screen, and hostesses the most fabulous party on that huge spread!

I even found this old photo of Bubba with long-time friend, Mark Lowry.  It was Mark who taught me video podcasting when that was new . . . and helped to restore my faith in God.  Mark is a very Godly man, and travels the country bringing people closer to Him with his style of music and comedy.  Which reminds me of the other thing I didn't do -- go to seminary.  But that's a whole 'nother story!

And me?  Well, Rachel, Katie (my daughter) and myself continue in this real estate business by choice,
by training, and by necessity.  We were prepositioned for a life of real estate, and it's what we do.  Maybe tomorrow I'll write the "real" story of what motivated me the most to drop out of law school . . . but you'll read about more rats.  Sheesh, there are rats everywhere.  Some even venture into real estate from other fields . . . yes, field rats.  Law school dropout.......that's me.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Type article title here

Serious Buyer2.pngInventory is dramatically shrinking and it is commonplace in many markets to have multiple offers on a home. While the sellers would prefer to be able to choose the best offer for them, it can be incredibly frustrating for the buyers who might consider the following tips to get their offer accepted. 

1. Remove the uncertainty that you may not be approved for a mortgage by having a pre-approval letter from your mortgage company.

2. Show your sincerity by increasing the normal amount of earnest money customary for the area and price of the home. The earnest money will be applied toward your down payment and closing costs. Consider placing even more money in escrow when the contingencies have been met.

3. Specify a closing date in the contract but acknowledge that you can be flexible to accommodate the sellers moving date. If it becomes an issue, it still must be mutually agreed upon.

4. Make the contingency periods shorter if possible to make the seller feel that they’ll know sooner that the offer is solid.

5. If the contingency really isn’t important to you, leave it out of the offer. The more contingencies included in a contract, the more the seller will feel might happen to keep it from actually closing.

6. Write a personal note to the seller explaining why you like and want their home. Consider including a picture of your family and pets.

7. Physically sign the offer with a felt tip pen of contrasting color. You’d be surprised how this adds a personal touch to the offer.

Offer a fair price for the property in your initial purchase agreement. It shows sincerity and good faith that you’re actually trying to purchase the home and not trying to take advantage of the seller. The old adage that you can always go up later may never happen if there are multiple offers on the property in the beginning.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Do you remember the first house you bought? Or sold? Or brokered?

One of our Agents had Her First Closing Yesterday . . . caused me to look back!

Heather, one of our newest licensees at RE/MAX Top Realty, is working on her third listing now, and yesterday, she closed the very first one!  What a fun time for her and her young family.  It made me think back to 1975 when I sold my very first house.

I was working with my mother at Peden Real Estate at 6477 South Park Blvd. before they renamed the street to Martin Luther King Blvd. after the death of Dr. King.  That was a long time ago so I don't remember all the details; but what I do remember is that I made $800 and for a 17-year-old boy, that was a LOT of money in 1975!  I was a senior at Conroe High School.  My "Aunt Jean" and "Uncle CV" had a Chevrolet dealership in Coldspring, Texas, and I'd just bought a new Caprice Classic from them and it was shiny!

Interestingly, "Aunt" Jean was not my real aunt, but was one of my mother's best friends.  She was, however, Christy Buck's "real" Aunt, as Christy's grandmother, "Aunt Sybil" or "MoMo" to Christy, was another of mother's best friends.  So, Christy and I are "like" cousins!  Actually, her Aunt Nelle and I were grown before we realized we weren't really cousins!  But, again I digress with these "side" stories.  (Another unreal relationship was "Aunt Mae" Peden, the broker for Peden Real Estate.)  I miss ALL of these ladies, as MoMo was the last one to go.  RIP, girls.  I am certain that Christy will agree that God "threw away the mold" when these gals died!

Oh well, I had this young couple who were both janitors at hospitals in the medical center.  Probably neither had finished junior high school.  But they were sweet and appreciated working with someone young who was nonjudgmental and treated them with respect.  His name was Willie.  What I remember most was giving them directions to get to the office around Loop 610.  I told them to take the "Calais/South Park" exit off 610 . . . stay on the feeder, then turn right onto South Park.  The office was 2 blocks down on the left.

I was sweating bullets waiting for them to come in and sign and pay for their assumption in cash . . . and they were late.  The phone rang and I hastily answered it, "Peden Real Estate!"  I knew through the mumbling voice on the other end, speaking low and slow into the phone, "can I speak to Mr. Calous South Park?"  Yes, he was asking for me by the exit's name!  I knew by his voice who it was.  "Willie?  I asked?"  "Yessir."  "It's me, Mr. Sam (I didn't use Ferreri in those days because no one could spell or pronounce it . . . they still struggle to this day!)  "Are you coming?"  "Yessir, I just needed directions to your place."

Sheesh, Willie . . . ok, here we go again.  Take Loop 610, exit "Calais/South Park . . . ."  He made it, paid his money, signed his papers, got his keys, and moved into his house.  I never heard from them again, except that he sent his mother to buy a house from me.  And her other son.  And my life as a Realtor began.

That was 38 years ago this summer, and my business continues to grow the same way.  And now, Heather's will grow, too.  In the real estate business, once you "get it," you've "got it."  And so it goes.

Now my baby girl and my baby mama work with me as the torch is passed to the next generation.  I was struck by the Wendy's Hamburger commercial on TV last night where the daughter/heiress of the chain, actually named "Wendy," promises 50 cents toward homes for foster children from every Frosty sold over the coming Father's Day Weekend as a tribute to her dad who founded the organization and named it after her.  The beat goes on . . . . . . . .

Do you remember your first closing as a Realtor, buyer, or seller?  How did it go?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Do Realtors ever retire?

Beth Oliver did!  Do you know her?

You may remember that I was a large . . . hmmm . . . really fat man most of my earlier life.  In December 2002, I realized just how uncomfortable it is to be 400 pounds while on vacation in Rio de Janeiro.  I didn't fit in their taxis, I looked like a whale on Ipanema Beach, and walking up and down the coast was miserable.  So, I came home and in January 2003, I had a gastric bypass and lost over 200 pounds.

There's a reason for me telling that weight-loss story.  When I first joined RE/MAX in 1996, I was tipping the scales at 400.  But nonetheless, my RE/MAX friends encouraged me to go to the State Convention in Austin with them.  So I went.

As you can imagine, it was a giant networking event, with lots of classes, vendors, and everything that makes up a convention.  Being 400 pounds, I was intimidated by this crowd of over-achievers and tended to stay quiet and to myself.  (I was new to RE/MAX and was still recovering from financial ruin.)

Whilst sitting in the corner alone, eating worms, [emphasis added, lol], along came this very nice lady who sat and introduced herself to me.  Her name was Beth Oliver, and she was a top-producing Realtor in Austin.  She gave me one of her business cards, and she'd punched a hole in it and tied a red ribbon to the card.  She told me how important referrals were to her business, and that she came to these events for the sole purpose of generating referrals.

Beth Oliver
Beth took the time to get to know me a little, and she was extremely charming.  I took her ribboned card home with me and vowed to send her a referral if I could.  Well, over the next many years, I've sent Beth countless referrals of clients moving to Austin . . . and she's handled each one professionally with the care that she showed me that day at the Convention.  As I've become a RE/MAX top producer and office owner, I've referred her to more agents who also enjoy sending referrals to Beth.

A couple of years ago, I ran into Beth at another RE/MAX convention, and I told her how we'd first met because I'm sure she didn't remember that . . . not like I did!  We'd become great colleagues over the years, and I must say that she's a wonderful person as well as Realtor.

I just learned that she has officially retired, and has visited the south of France with her husband to study French!  I can't stop remembering how she made me feel, just by being friendly to me when I was in an awkward place.

I took her lead, and I try to be nice and friendly to everyone at conventions, too . . . especially those who don't seem to "fit in."

Beth, the real estate community (especially me!) will miss you . . . but you have earned your retirement!  Enjoy!

MORAL OF THIS STORY:  Treat everyone with respect, dignity and courtesy . . . the person who is going to change your life the most is not in your life yet.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Renters Want to Buy

FNMA NHS.pngFannie Mae, in a recently released study, states that consumer attitudes continue to be favorable about homeownership, particularly with the younger generations, ages 18 to 34. Slightly over half of them think that owning makes more sense than renting when comparing the financial and lifestyle benefits.

90% of aspiring owners expect to purchase a home someday and slightly over half think they’ll do it within five years. The primary challenges are having sufficient savings and the difficulty of getting a mortgage today. Younger renters see renting as a temporary stepping stone toward homeownership.

Homeowners are far more likely than renters to be “very positive” about their housing experience. Some of the benefits identified are:

• Having control over what you do with your living space
• Having a sense of privacy and security
• Having a good place for your family or to raise your children
• Having the best investment plan
• Living in a nicer home
• Building up wealth
• Saving for retirement
• Living in a place where you and your family feel safe
• Feeling engaged in your community

To satisfy a buyer’s doubts about qualifying for a mortgage, make an appointment with a trusted mortgage professional. If you’d like a recommendation at no cost or obligation, please contact me at  Check out this Rent vs. Own to see the real cost of owning a home.

For more information about the Fannie Mae survey in presentation form, Click Here.


Pearland Realtor laments, "I'm stuck with ducks!"

(Or, "Grumpy Old Man -- LIVE")

Was it a sign from heaven?  I'm sitting at my computer just now in my newly-created "man-cave," staring blankly at the screen with momentary writer's block.  I hadn't yet opened my blinds to the beautiful view out my front window of the two lakes with a little waterfall in between, each with a fountain.  (It is a nice setting!)  Then, I was startled by a strange ruffling sound coming from underneath my window (fortunately on the outside) and I realized it was those blankety-blank ducks.

When this area was being developed in the late 1990's, I was fortunate to have been here selling new homes for my favorite builder, Beazer.  I didn't work for Beazer, but rather was their top-selling Realtor-partner at the time and I (of course) worked for RE/MAX.  So when Beazer decided to develop this little area surrounded by Silverlake, they called it "The Lakes at Edgewater Estates" and built these engineered detention ponds and built them like lakes, complete with fountains, waterfall, pretty lights . . . and ducks.  Lots of ducks.

I understand how cute these ducks are . . . at first.  People come from miles around to bring their children to feed the ducks and take pictures, just like my parents used to take me to Forest Lawn Cemetery when I was a boy to do the same thing.  Cute.  Unless you live across the street from them.

First of all, they're nasty.  You think that they waddle slowly across the street and block traffic because their fat little bodies restrict their movement.  But just let a drake get behind one of the hens.  You've never seen them both move so fast.  The drakes, being faster and more powerful, capture the hens wherever they can and rut them constantly.  Which produces more and more ducks.

Second of all, they're nasty!  All the ducks -- drakes, hens, and ducklings -- wander around close-by (and I'm right across the street) and poop all over the yards and sidewalks.  My front yard and sidewalk are a river of duck feces that is a constant cleaning requirement.

And lastly, there are so many of them -- and they multiply so quickly -- that the homeowners association has to have them thinned out quarterly.  When they first announced that they were going to do that, it created quite a ruckus in the neighborhood.  Those who don't live near the lakes were "up in arms" about animal cruelty . . . and that they loved the ducks.  Hmpf.  They should have to live with them.

So . . . am I just being a grumpy old man?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

RE/MAX Top Realty Begins All-New Agent Development System Next Week!

And there's room for you!

Real estate is a simple or basic business, but it is by no means "easy!"  While it is very easy to get into real estate, that is, getting a license, actually few Realtors really succeed at a top level.  So while you see literally thousands of real estate agents everywhere, it's important to know that most don't really make very much money at it.

There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, there is a giant misconception about what the real estate business really is.  Most people get into the business because they "love houses" and are "people persons."  Well, those may be good beginnings, but those traits generally don't last.  The successful Realtors of the world are very "task oriented" because real estate is really a task business.

So agents who can set daily tasks for themselves that are geared toward generating business or leads, and consistently perform those tasks, are the ones who succeed.  But the problem at most real estate companies is that their trainers or coaches have never succeeded at the business themselves and become trainers instead!  There's an old adage, "those who can -- do; those who can't -- teach."

This is why the Agent Development System at RE/MAX Top Realty is so different from the norm.  First of all, it has been built by one of Texas' top team leaders and one of the industry's top producing Realtors.  That's right, me!  (lol)  I've been a Realtor since I was 17 years old, and learned to take the RE/MAX system to the top level.

And now, my goal is to share that information with like-minded Realtors who want to take their business to The Top!  So, the 11-point Agent Development System that we began in January, has been revamped to today's needs.  And it starts Tuesday and runs each and every week.  It is a never-ending quest toward knowledge and implementation.

Consequently the agents at RE/MAX Top Realty are some of the most productive agents in town.  Hence, our ranking in the Houston Business Journal as one of the top residential brokerages in Houston!

Want to learn more?  Visit or give me a call at 832-200-5656 to schedule a no-obligation visit . . . I promise that you'll come away with some good information.  Why not give a call today?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Houston Realtor Remembers being a brand new agent

(And it wasn't pretty)

Does anyone remember the first contract you ever wrote as a real estate agent?  Well mine was in 1975, and the Texas Real Estate Commission did not promulgate forms back in those days.  Instead, we got "tablets" of forms from the title companies and used carbon paper to make copies.  The one-page contracts were very basic, and had a big "blank" space in the middle to fill in the terms.  Of course, the title company was pre-printed into the fine print toward the bottom of those babies . . . who remembers them?

(Yes, 1975.  I was recently in a meeting of RE/MAX broker/owners and mentioned that I started my first real estate company in 1978.  My friend, and owner of RE/MAX Cityview, Eric Gage, turned around with a shocked look on his face and said, "1978?  Omygod, that's the year I was born!"  (Really, Gage?)

Anyway . . . I digress.  So that first offer I wrote up the best I could and delivered it to the listing agent (no fax, no email in those days) who was Shirley Brakefield (a man, by the way) broker of Century 21 Brakefield and Associates over on Telephone Road, across from Hobby Airport.

Later that afternoon, my broker and dear friend, Mae Peden, approached me and said "let me see the contract you wrote."  She and my mother had a big laugh over my attempted verbiage, then showed me the "correct" language clauses for the form.  Apparently, Shirley had called her and they all had a big laugh over my humble beginnings.  But I learned.

And now as coach and mentor, I have two brand new agents I'm working with who've had similar experiences over night.  One is a listing agent and the other a buyer agent.  So, helping them both through their first transactions reminded me of mine.  They'll learn as I did.  (Need to learn too?  Join us for excellent coaching and mentoring! 

And I think about the words of one of my recent coaches:  "the real estate business is basic."  Maybe so, but it sho' ain't easy!  How did your first contract go???

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pearland Realtor cringes at, "Did you receive our offer? I just sent it!"

"And do you have a response yet?  Do ya? Do ya? Do ya? Huh?"

OK, agents, time to chill out a little bit.  The crazy market brings out the "crazy" in every buyer agent.  And, it's easy to understand.  You shop and shop with a buyer, a new listing hits the market, and BAM . . . . offers and offers start to pour in.  But only one buyer will be the lucky winner . . . and every buyer agent wants to make sure that lucky buyer is his/hers.

So the answer is to pester the listing agent?  It may be!  Although a good listing agent will diligently present ALL offers to the seller until one is completely signed up (but still continue to present any others).  Also, a good listing agent will change status in the MLS to "pending" the minute an offer is fully accepted in writing to slow the influx of additional offers, and to notify the non-winners.

But not every listing agent plays by those established, fiduciary rules.  Instead, they'll rush an offer to the seller for quick acceptance.  So a listing that goes on the market one day and is accepted and pended the same day . . . hmmm . . . did that represent the seller's best interests???  I mean, we all know that multiple offers are imminent and help the seller get top dollar . . . so if you push a seller to accept one too quickly, have you done your job correctly as a listing agent?  The answer is maybe, but probably not.

So buyer agents just have to get used to being in "bidding wars" on the best listings . . . it seems to be the foreseeable future for us. Which is going to make more work for all of us -- buyer agents AND listing agents.  But oh well, what a good problem!  The buyer market has turned to a sellers' market.  It is during the rise of a sellers' market that everyone -- including the buyers who act -- will make money.
So get ready for a wild ride in Houston and Pearland real estate.

Are you a local Realtor who wants to ride the upward tide with a progressive real estate firm?  Consider joining RE/MAX Top Realty . . . home of advanced agent development systems and high-level coaching and accountability.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I'm going to New York . . . right after the Tony's!

And I've got tickets to 3 shows (so far!)

Now that I'm taking a sabbatical from LeadStreet classes (and its ensuing rigorous schedule), I am going to take some time for myself.  After all, I have to be 24-hours away from one of the hospitals, in case I get "the kidney call" at some strange hour . . . but ok.  So, I'm not supposed to "travel."

But this New York trip isn't traveling . . . it's "theatre-mongering!"  Yes, in case you didn't know, I am a HUGE fan of live theatre.  In Houston, I have season tickets to our local musical production company, "Theatre Under the Stars" or TUTS as it's known.  I've been a patron so long that my season tickets are fifth row, center orchestra . . . the seats that others envy and wait for you to die so that they can get them!

In the Broadway Across America touring series, I have seats on the fifth row, but the aisle of left orchestra . . . not bad, but not TUTS-longevity!  And for the Alley Theatre, I have front row, center seats (right by the actor's access tunnel in center stage).  Sometimes those are great, but for the recent Sherlock Holmes show, they designed the stage in my lap and obstructed part of my view, so I moved back.

But now, it's time for a long weekend on Broadway!!!  And I've got fourth row seats to see "Kinky Boots," nominated for 13 Tony's and my bet for "Best Musical!"  I love the music, and cannot wait to see this on Friday night!  For Saturday night, I have tickets to see Nathan Lane in "The Nance," which isn't "packing the house," but Nathan Lane???  I'm IN!!!  And finally, on Sunday, tickets to "Spiderman," billed as the most technical show of all times.  I love the music to Spiderman, so I'm sure the show will be great, but I could only get balcony seats.  Oh well, I think they fly around enough to make balcony seats quite good.

And of course, my favorite hotel in all of NYC is The Milford Plaza, right in the heart of the theatre district, and one block from everything!  It's an historic hotel, lovingly known by theatre fans and actors for nearly a century as "the lullaby of broadway," because it's where every theatre star slept while visiting New York to be in a show.  Fortunately, I was able to book one of the renovated rooms . . . because it was really showing its age.  But it didn't matter.  The location is the best in New York, and the hotel is still (to this day) one of the largest hotels in Manhattan.

So now you know.  I've always said that the reason I get up every day and work my fingers to the bone is to support my theatre habit.  Broadway tickets are expensive . . . those three shows have cost me about $1250 (not including airfare and hotel).  And, not to mention, the Milford Plaza is one block from "restaurant row."  I'll be in hog heaven!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

LeadStreetSam Webinars Coming to an End . . .

. . . at least for now . . . and in their present form!

For several years now, I've traveled the country -- including the State of Texas -- and helped RE/MAX agents everywhere reap the benefits of using the World-Class LeadStreet System.  And, I've held regular weekly webinars for many agents across the country, designed to keep them on task with developing strategies to grow their businesses using this marvelous system.

But after a completely rude encounter with a crazy woman in Michigan, I've decided to end these webinars for a while.  (Actually, it's not "just" because of her, but she pushed me to make a decision that was long-coming.)

LeadStreet -- while amazingly beneficial -- is not easy to learn or use; consequently,  many agents simply don't do it.  Those who do use it, however, have seen their businesses grow exponentially . . . just ask Jennifer King in Reading, PA!  Or Rod Castaneda or Dani Decker, both with RE/MAX Top Realty . . . or Carl Bishop in San Antonio . . .  and the many, many others who "get it."

I have been promising and spewing about a really high-level system that I use (which I dubbed "LeadStreet Elite") for some time now, but have never introduced it.  Maybe in the future I'll share these strategies with some advanced users???

Meanwhile, if you want LeadStreet training, it is still offered by RE/MAX of Texas and by RE/MAX LLC on Mainstreet.  This week -- Wednesday and Thursday -- will be the last two sessions of "SEO Page Building Boot Camp" and "Online Lead Conversion Strategies."  Sadly, all good things must come to an end.

For those at RE/MAX Top Realty, our DAMB Program has been revamped, and will be introduced next week which will include some basic and advanced training on LeadStreet strategies by myself, Sandra, and Jose, in addition to what you can get from RE/MAX.  (By the way, DAMB is an acronym for our World-class Agent Development System --  Develop + Act + Measure = BOOM!)

For the rest of you . . . best wishes in your chosen career and on your LeadStreet journey!  I've appreciated the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people!

Monday, June 3, 2013

What's It Worth?

Question button.pngHow much is a one carat diamond worth? Anyone who has shopped for one knows that the price could have a significantly wide range of value. It's been said that purchasers  should consider the color, cut, clarity and carat size to compare stones but when it gets down to decision time, buyers still want to know “how much is it worth?”

Real estate valuation can be equally as confusing to the public. There are three commonly used tools that today’s home buyers rely on to make decisions but they vary significantly in the methods used to make the determination as well as the possible final consideration.

Appraisals are an opinion or estimate of value based on specific guidelines made by individuals who are licensed and possibly certified. Buyers and sellers may be reluctant to engage an appraiser because there is a fee of several hundred dollars that must be paid in advance even if no sale is ever consummated.

A Broker’s Price Opinion (BPO) as defined by the National Association of REALTORS® is an “estimate of the probable selling price of a property.” The Dodd-Frank Act describes a BPO as “an estimate…that details the probably selling price of a particular piece of real estate property and provides a varying level of detail about the property’s condition, market, and neighborhood, and information on comparable sales, but does not include an automated valuation model.”

A Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) is a commonly used tool of salespeople to provide information to buyers and sellers to facilitate a sale. In most cases, it would be difficult to distinguish a CMA from a BPO because the steps considered are essentially the same and practitioners commonly use the terms interchangeably.

Another method called Automated Value Model (AVM) use software to search available data on the Internet to arrive at an approximation of value. Zestimates found on the Zillow site use this method. AVM’s may not consider all the market activity such as MLS sales and active listings. They can’t make adjustments based on human experience and market knowledge.

For what it’s worth, a buyer or seller might want to acquire as much current and factual information as possible from a trusted real estate professional familiar with the market before making a decision on the largest single asset most people acquire.

My vacation last week was in San Antonio and San Marcos . . .

. . . but not for what you think!

I have written a blog or two about needing a vacation, so most everyone knows that I was gone last Wednesday through Friday to San Antonio.  During the "busy" season -- and it truly is right now -- it is very hard for me to take time off as I always put the needs of others ahead of my own.  Isn't that what a good Realtor does?  Hmmmm . . .

Nonetheless, it's no secret that I need a kidney transplant, as I've been "on the list" for a year-and-a-half at St. Luke's in Houston.  (See my "old" kidney blog, for the past details.) But the old blog needs an update.  I've been dealing with some recent developments that have made me question what to do.

First of all, I've had over 25 live donors apply to donate a kidney at St. Luke's -- all of whom have been turned down, one-by-one, for various reasons.  My dear friend Sandy Eckels has been trying to convince me to leave St. Luke's and go to the Texas Transplant Institute in San Antonio.  Here is her story on YouTube:

But I'm a Houstonian and thought I would "stick it out," despite sensing that "something was wrong" at St. Luke's.

To complicate matters, my nephrologist -- the only person I trust in this difficult period -- is a dear friend and has kept my old kidneys running without a machine far longer than expected (now over 25 years).  Her name is Sarah Shearer, and she is a wonderful person.  (She is also Sandy's nephrologist and continues to be to this day, even after Sandy's transplant in San Antonio.)

It has always seemed to me that St. Luke's really does not want to do "live donor" transplants.  And, the average wait time for a deceased donor in Houston is 2-3 years; in San Antonio, it's 4-6 years.  So, it makes sense to be in the Medical Center of the world, right?

Here's the rub:  about a month ago, while at lunch in midtown and a wonderful Asian restaurant with Rachel, Arthur and Jose, some "random" girl called my office for me 3 times and spoke with my buyer agent, Kassandra.  She told her that since she was my friend, to please get a message to me (paraphrased as this is from Kassandra, not directly to me):  "get away from St. Luke's -- change hospitals -- people are dying on the operating table -- the head surgeon has 70% complications including one patient who required over 70 units of blood -- don't speak to Dr. Shearer about this because she'll only back up the other doctor as they all back each other up."  So to quote a line from the movie "Speed," "whaddya do, Jack, whaddya do?"

Really?  Are you kidding me?  It just so happened that I was going to see Dr. Shearer the next day, so of course I spoke to her about this disturbing call.  We both realized it was crazy, but had some fact in it, as there indeed was a patient at St. Luke's who'd been on too many blood thinners, and had to have 70 units of blood.  And, this woman had access to my medical records and telephone numbers (though not my cell number).  Disgruntled employee?  I learned that St. Luke's had run off a doctor, and that there'd been ugly drama associated with it.  But to accuse the head surgeon (who is also head of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine) of "killing people" is, quite frankly, absurd.  Kidney transplant units are so regulated by government/Medicare that it would have been shut down if this were all true.

Nonetheless, it prompted me to seek another hospital -- #1 in live donor transplants in the country -- in San Antonio.  They are now beginning the process of re-evaluating my live donors.  Sheesh!  Here we go again.

But I did get to visit the Ripley's "Believe it or Not" attractions across from the Alamo.  And I ate dinner at a wonderful Honduran restaurant in San Antonio.  And I got to visit with my dear friends Steve and Gloria Goodson (and their daughter Alaine who is now a RE/MAX agent) in San Marcos.  We've been friends since we were in our early 20's, though I met Gloria when she was 17 in Las Vegas!  We had a marvelous visit.

So . . . there was some vacationing . . . and some medical torture.  But ok, now I've got my wait time at St. Luke's AND the live donor possibility.  To get information about becoming a live donor, call the Live Donor Hotline at 210-575-4483 Monday-Friday, 8-4:30 central time.  It does not matter where you live, as they'll send you for evaluation in your town . . . just be sure to mention my name as the recipient!!!

I'll also mention that aside from some late renal failure symptoms and 2,034,734 pills per day, I live a fairly normal live and am not yet on dialysis -- my worst fear.  I have no interest in living on a machine; however, I have built out a room in my house -- my study -- for home dialysis, just in case.  But I'm sure within a few years, I'll have a new kidney and be like Sandy -- hard-to-keep-up-with!

Maybe that weird phone call is what I needed to motivate me to push this along a little more.  I really don't know.  Everyone at Dr. Shearer's office and in San Antonio who've heard that story has dropped their jaw.  "Whaddya do, Jack, whaddya do?"