In this newsletter…
1. Another trip to Mexico
2. Watch out for this common scam and save money
3. The Market: Sorry buyers, prices aren’t actually dropping
4. Launch by Jeff Walker… And can I use this to make multiple offer situations happen on purpose?
5. Speaking event on December 12th. If you like workflows, come hear about using Trello for your business.
6. Listings and recent closings
The week before Thanksgiving, we took a trip to Isla Mujeres, our favorite destination, with my cousin Joy and her boyfriend Afshin. We had a fantastic time lounging around, drinking margaritas and dodging witty tchotchke salesmen.
I also read a lot. I brought Gary Keller’s Millionaire Real Estate Agent with me, but just couldn’t quite make myself read it. I guess I needed a break from real estate. So I stole Joy’s book instead, Everybody, Always. A hilarious book written by my new favorite person, Bob Goff, about how to love everybody, always. Even the crazy ones, the creepy ones, and the stabby ones.
Upon finishing that, I stole another of Joy and Afshin’s books called Who Moved the Stone?, an apologetic about the resurrection. It was a kind of who-done-it, detective-style look at the end of the life of Christ.
Upon finishing those two, I was out of things to read and started journaling like crazy, writing about 2,000 words of my recently-conceived auto-biographical self-help book about taking control of your financial life as a woman.
Clearly, I am not particularly good at just sitting still.
Luckily, neither is my husband, or Joy, or Afshin, because we agreed to take a last minute day trip to see the ruins in Tulum.Click here to keep reading this story about Mexico...
This involved getting on an early ferry back to Cancun, grabbing a rental car and driving two hours south. Then, we would hit our favorite unsanitary roadside taco joint, Don Beto’s, then the ruins and a cenote. Dry off in time for drinks at Kin Toh, dinner at Hartwood, and then drive 2 hours back north again to return the car at 9:28 and sprint for the 9:30 ferry.
It would be perfect, as long as everything went perfectly according to plan. For all our time spent in Mexico, we still haven’t learned to abandon this absurd expectation.
Trouble began when we arrived in Cancun and discovered that the rental car agency through whom we had booked a car actually didn’t exist. We spent 30 minutes on the phone trying to locate another one, oblivious to the fact that we were standing in front of a rental car agency. A kindly taxi driver pointed this fact out to us, as Chris was having a conversation with one iPhone pressed to each ear, looking about as American and ridiculous as possible.
Our only concern was where the cars were. Were we going to be waiting there for hours for a car, or did they have them on site? They did, in fact, have them on site. They opened a nearby garage to reveal a VW Jetta, and displayed it proudly.
Fantastic, that would work.
As we went into the office to complete paperwork, we watched the VW pull out and speed away. Going to get gas, we concluded.
But NO, 45 minutes later, finally done with the paperwork, we were still waiting for a car. When we started asking questions, we were told that the car was coming from the airport, 45 minutes away. We were getting a different Jetta.
It turns out, they were just showing us that first car as an example. Another was coming. I debated between going all Jersey and losing it, and finding a margarita. I opted for the margarita. And two hours later than we originally planned, we were leaving Cancun, headed for Don Beto’s 75 cent roadside tacos.
We had an awesome, fun-filled day, ending with dinner at Hartwood. Around 7, I started to get antsy. We still needed to make it out of Tulum, back to Cancun and onto the ferry, a solid 2 hour drive, and we hadn’t paid our check yet. With our luck, I thought, the rental car agency would close down early, despite our very clear conversations that we were returning this tonight, and then what? And what if they tried to take forever on the return paperwork? We’d miss the ferry, and be stuck waiting for the 10:30 ferry. The antsier I got, the more I drove everyone crazy, until finally, we were on the road back to Cancun, my GPS quoting an arrival time of 9:36.
I had already resigned myself to missing the ferry, and at this point was just praying the rental car guy would still be at his post. And then, we realized we were low on gas. We found a gas station in Playa, pulled in, and asked the attendant to fill us up. Then he began meticulously and cheerfully cleaning all of our windows, a well intentioned action that added an extra 5 minutes to our arrival time and sent my blood pressure a few ticks higher.
By the time we pulled into Cancun, the tension in the car was palpable. Somehow, we had made up a few minutes, and GPS now quotes us a 9:29 arrival time. This renewed Chris’ conviction that, by God, we would make that ferry. So we sprung into action, Chris swerving through the side streets of Cancun, dodging dogs and bicycles, demanding “where’s my next turn!?” while Joy warned Afshin in the back seat that he better start packing up his stuff and be ready to tuck and roll.
A mortal sin on an Affinito vacation is being slow while moving from one destination to another.
I once saw a dad in a train station in Italy, carrying a toddler and running, his two other children sprinting their little legs off beside him, earnestly holding their backpack straps, as the dad cheerfully hollered “Cmon, kids! We’re making this train!”
I thought, that is my future.
So anyway, to make a VERY long story short, we pulled up to the rental car place at 9:29 to see the light still on. We threw the guy the key and exclaimed “Gracias, adios!” and ran for the ferry. We settled on the top in the open air, breathless, laughing hysterically and high-fiving each other.
And then I remembered why we always do this, even though it drives me crazy. Because it’s fun.
Homestead request forms-Don’t get ripped off
Several clients have contacted me recently with questions about forms that look like this:
It looks kind of official, but don’t be fooled. It’s a scam and you can ignore it.
Note the text along the bottom that says “This document is an advertisement of services. It is not an official document of the State of Texas.” Generally all sneaky scams have some disclaimer of this type, so that’s one red flag.
Homestead Exemption is a tax exemption that you declare if you own your home and live in it as your primary residence. If you purchased in 2018, you will declare homestead between January 1st, 2019 and April 30th, 2019.
I’ll be sending out an email to clients at the beginning of 2019 reminding you to declare homestead if you haven’t already.
For more info on taxes, check out this link to my tax resources.
Under “useful links” there is more information on homestead exemption.
One of my clients recently mentioned to me that she had read some news about Austin’s home prices dropping, and asked me to weigh in.
There are several articles floating around claiming that Austin is “slowing down” is “tipping to a buyer’s market” that there are lots of price reductions, and that buyers have more negotiating power. I’m not going to bother to link to them because I think it’s sub-par reporting and you can find a sampling with a quick google search.
To be fair, I have noticed that multiple offer situations are a bit less common, and that buyers have a bit more leverage in negotiations recently. But Austin’s prices are definitely not dropping. They have continued to rise throughout 2018.
The only way to really argue that Austin’s prices are dropping is by creatively cherry picking the data in a way that is, well, deceptive.
Every year, we have a pretty similar price arc. Generally, prices start a bit lower in January, they often peak somewhere in the summer, and then drop a bit again toward the holidays. There are also some years when prices peak in November or December, inexplicably. But generally, a gentle bell curve shape is common.
Which means that if you were to measure prices from, say, June of 2018 to October of 2018, then you could argue prices are dropping. But that would be misleading. The overall trend is still up.
Numbers are boring and give me a headache, so for those of you who feel the same, I’ve included a quick chart to illustrate what I mean. These numbers come from the Texas A&M Real Estate Center, and I pulled them for Travis County.
There is only one month, May of 2018, that was lower than the previous year. All other months in 2018 have been up year over year.
Call me a cynic, but here’s what I think…
We all quit opening articles about how great the Austin real estate market is, because it’s old news. So they decided to publish some about how the Austin real estate market is actually dropping, even though that’s patently untrue, just so we’d open their articles again.
Can I Make Multiple Offer Situations Happen On Purpose?
I’ve always LOVED multiple offer situations on my listings. I know from experience that multiple offers, handled correctly, get sellers more money in their pockets, and way more negotiating leverage.
They’re fun, fast paced, and I happen to be really good at squeezing those high-pressure situations for every dollar they’re worth for my clients.
I sometimes talk to other real estate agents who claim they “don’t do” multiple offer situations because they think they’re “too stressful” and “unfair” to buyers. By which they mean they don’t ask buyers to resubmit their highest and best offers. They just pick one, leaving thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of dollars on the table.
My reaction to this is to go slack-jawed in disbelief.
I love multiple offers and hope they happen for my sellers as often as possible. They’re simply the best way for a seller to maximize their return.Keep reading...
The conversation goes like this:
Jane Agent: Well my clients like it, but you know, that fence… it needs to be replaced, and that’s probably going to be about 10 grand, so that will be reflected in our offer.
Me: Sounds like a lot for a fence…
Jane Agent: And also, that carpet could stand to be replaced, so of course we’ll need to reflect that as well…
Me: Okay, where do you think your clients will be coming in?
Jane Agent: Oh, probably around $20,000 below asking. You know, considering.
Me: Okay, that’s no problem. Just so you know, we do have other offers that I’ll be reviewing with my clients tomorrow.
Jane Agent: WHAT?! You have multiple offers. Okay, hold on. Let me call my client. Where do we need to be to win this? They really want this house. Asking price? Above asking price?
You get the picture. The whole tone and tenor of the negotiation shifts dramatically in the seller’s favor when there are multiple offers.
I’ve always loved them. Now I’ve started to wonder if I can consistently make them happen on purpose.
On the flight home from Mexico last week, I downloaded “Launch: An Internet Millionaire’s Secret Formula To Sell Almost Anything Online, Build A Business You Love, And Live The Life Of Your Dreams” by Jeff Walker.
A mouthful of a title, and a big dose of titilating marketing inspiration.
The basic idea is this:
1. Pick a product to market online
2. Use a simple formula to build anticipation and excitement for this product among your audience
3. Put a clear start and end time on when people can buy it, using time scarcity to your advantage
4. Launch the product
5. Close the sales window
I struggled for a bit with what product I could possibly do this with. Some kind of info-product? Like a book? Some kind of service, like coaching other agents? Some product completely unrelated to real estate?
And it finally occurred to me. The most obvious product in real estate. REAL ESTATE. Listings. Homes for sale.
Now my only issue is finding a seller who is game to try this with me.
Speaking Event in Austin: Trello for Small Business Owners
On December 12th I’ll be speaking in Downtown Austin at a Trello user event. The topic is using Trello to automate your small business, particularly focused on how I use it for real estate. If you run any kind of small business where you interact with clients on a project basis, I’d love for you to join! Think lawyers, accountants, business coaches, marketing folks…
I’ll be focusing on how I’ve used Trello to cut down on repetitive busy work, keep my clients better informed about what’s going on, and work more efficiently with my team. You can RSVP at this link.
I’m pleased to announce that both of my listings that hit the market in November are under contract! Who says the holidays are a bad time to sell? Both of these listings received strong offers during Thanksgiving week.
So I’m hunting for some new ones. If anyone is interested in testing out the Launch formula with me, mentioned above, give me a shout, and we can brainstorm together.
November was a great month for closings! Again, ignore anyone who says the holidays are bad for real estate.
My new friends Brad and Zhi closed on a condo in Allendale. If you’re looking for a small place in Central Austin under $200K, follow their lead and check out these condos.
And my client, Karley, just closed on a home down the street from us on Matagorda in 78741. Karley originally reached out to me about 3 years ago about homes in Austin. And when he reconnected with me this summer, he said it was because he had gotten my newsletter for years! So for anyone who reads and enjoys this, you have Karley to thank, in part, for keeping me going.
Want to chat about real estate? Book a call with me here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.