Katy, Texas: How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways!

January 31, 2011

I am fortunate to live and work in the sprawling western Houston suburb known as Katy, TX, recently recognized as the top community for growth in the Nation by the Gadberry Group. Click link to read more…

There are obvious reasons for my statement and a few that are not-so-obvious:

1. Location, Location, Location: Close proximity to the Energy Corridor, a major area for our top employers. 

2. Terrific Schools: Just search www.katyisd.org to see what our school district and individual campuses have to offer to our residents and their children. (As the mother of a National Merit Finalist and a Semi-Finalist, I can personally attest to the effectiveness of the administrators and their staff.) Thank you Katy ISD!

3. Cost of Living: We still have lots of available land for building and labor is fairly inexpensive so housing is affordable. However, our property taxes tend to be a high but keep in mind Texas does not have a State Income Tax so our property taxes are used to fund our great schools.

4. (Relatively) Easy Commute: Traffic, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and it depends on what you consider an easy commute. Face it, Houston loves its vehicles so the traffic will always be with us. However, with the completion of the I-10 expansion and the Westpark Tollway completion, there are several avenues for timely travel into Houston and beyond. I know some people do not want a commute and are willing to pay higher homes prices to live closer in and perhaps sacrifice a bit on the schools but our many residents feel that the trade-off is worth it.

5. Great Communities: There are so many different neighborhoods available to a home buyer in our area. I tend to call them “communities”  because some of them are larger than many small towns. In fact, Cinco Ranch is currently the number one new home selling community in entire country and has recently acquired 500 additional acres to continue its growth. Katy offers many other terrific choices such as: Grand Lakes, Firethorne, Cross Creek Ranch, Seven Meadows, Kelliwood, Grayson Lakes and more. Our developers have thoughtfully designed and completed their communities with the homeowner in mind. With careful presentation of commercial/retail, beautifully landscaped common areas, abundant resort-style amenities (golf, pools, tennis, hike/bike trails, lakes, etc.), our residents can feel secure that they have made a wise choice with regard to their families’ enjoyment and potential resale value.

6. Quality of Life: Katy offers a true, small town experience with big city features. We have great dining, shopping, and entertainment opportunities for everyone of all ages. We are thrilled to be the lucky recipient of abundant medical care, including but not limited to the new Medical Center’s West Campus: Texas Children’s Hospital, Methodist Hospital, Hermann Memorial Hospital, Christus St. Catherine Hospital and the MD Anderson Radiology Center.

7. Diverse and Interesting: Our area is truly representative of the world’s population. As the destination of choice for most expatriates moving here with their energy sector jobs, you will love our multi-cultural make-up. Our kids grow up with friends from all over the world and so many international buyers (drawn here because of our schools), develop strong ties to our community. I know on my street alone we have residents representing: US, Canada, Africa, India, Russia… and this is one street.

8. Family: Katy is family centric and is a place where you can finally stop, unwind and relax with the ones you love. This is a place where people gather to enjoy everything that a true “community” can offer.  

9. Spirituality:  At one time, this area was known as the “City of Churches” and offers a place of worship for everyone, regardless of your faith.

10. Friendly Residents: I have lived all over US and abroad and can attest that I am living in one of the friendliest places on Earth. This could be one of the reasons so many people keep moving back to Katy, TX. When a family moves away, chances are … they will be back.

Why not drop by and check us out. You just might love it and never want to  leave. For more information, please visit my website www.ChristiBorden.com .

See you in Katy!

Advertisements

What if I Build a Blog and Nobody Comes?

January 27, 2011

Does this go through the mind of anyone thinking of beginning a blog? It goes through my mind, still…

I have developed a newfound passion and respect for blogging and bloggers, brought about by a longtime, secret desire to write, the knowledge that it might actually be good for my business and a challenge by blog creator, WordPress.com. Who knew a silly online challenge would unleash the writer within?

I am now a true believer and crusader for the power of the blog. I also make every effort to follow other writers to learn more about this exciting craft and have discovered there is a lot more to it than simply throwing words on a wall and hoping they stick.

If there are so many great reasons to do it, why don’t more people try it. And for those of us who do, why aren’t we doing a better job? While getting started seems to be the hardest part, in reality, it is consistency or rather the lack of consistency that trips us up.

So you want to start a blog? Great. Welcome aboard. First, you come up with a title, pick out a theme … now what? Some will plow ahead unhindered by fear or hesitancy, while others will end up staring at a daunting online dashboard, paralyzed with indecision and frozen from elbows to finger tips, unable to render a single word. Sound familiar?

I started with no plan at all. I was meandering from thought to thought and this approach helped me get into the habit of writing. I could continue along this path but I realize to obtain relevancy and longevity, my blog and my thoughts require focus. To help develop your own, draw a wagon wheel on a sheet of paper or on the first page of your blog journal. If you do not have a blog journal, get one. This a great way to capture the white-hot streaks of ideas that race across your consciousness and eventually become seeds for your posts.

Now, write down the focus or main theme of your blog in the center, and add related subjects or topics at the end of the spokes, throwing in a few that may not relate to the central story you are trying to tell but reflect who you really are. Your overall theme may anchor the blog but only by adding a bit of “you” will it be interesting.

How many of us have had blogs for a while but have not posted in months… years even? That is not really a blog, but a dull and static example of how we have missed the most important recipe for blogging success… consistency. A good way to develop the habit of routinely updating or contributing to a blog is to create a daily or weekly schedule for your topics.  An example could be Top Ten Tuesday, Wild Wednesday, Free Thought Friday, etc. This puts a routine to your writing and helps your reader anticipate what to expect from your blog. This is a great way to build your viewership and that goal of all goals, the subscriber.

Finally, let’s talk about syndication, which is important to getting actual eyeballs on your site. Luckily, WordPress will send your posts directly to Facebook and Twitter. I would also suggest advertising the name of your blog along with your static website. There are many people who feel that the blog has taken center stage and basically replaced the need for a separate site. I still cling to mine but have made a link to my blog a central part of my site and have started sharing my blog URL as I would my address or cell phone number.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that if you build it, they will come. But I can guarantee if you don’t, they will go somewhere else.

What are you waiting for? Like me, you may find that you not only like it… you love it.

Happy Blogging, Y’all!


Hard to be Permenant in a Disposable World

January 26, 2011

Just yesterday I wrote about my love of gadgets and today, I received my timely comeuppance.

My college-age kids called me to tell me their phones were malfunctioning and needed to be replaced. How is it that both phones have run amuck at exactly same time?

And the wireless Gods were not smiling upon me because the blessed upgrade from our carrier is not until March. But Mom, they pleaded in their most pitiful voices, we (meaning me) could buy two refurbished phones to get them through the long wait (one month) until the upgrade was within their grasp… and only for measly $ 50 a pop. The phone is regularly $ 300 so this is a deal, right? I am being asked to dole out $100 for what will amount to two disposable phones. I ask you, does that seem logical? It seemed perfectly fine to them and they are now questioning my ability to reason let alone my ability to function without assistance.

When a $ 300 phone or anything for that matter is viewed as “temporary” and we count the days until they can be discarded, where do we draw the line on what is considered valuable enough to keep?

Computers: Laptop technology changes so rapidly that they are pretty much rendered obsolete in 3 to 4 years. I am on my third laptop since beginning my real estate business just 7 years ago.

Cameras: Do you remember how long you kept your first camera? I still have my fully manual Pentax K1000 (remember film, gasp), from high school which has still created some of the best shots I have taken to date. How long do you plan to hang onto your current camera? Or, are you already looking at the newer models and wishing you had them or worse, planning your future purchase?

Cars: I for one like to buy a really nice vehicle (usually one or two years old versus new) and will keep it for a very long time before moving on. While others may own 4 or 5 vehicles during the same time I have kept one. No judgement rendered; just observation.

Has advancing technology created an itch than cannot be scratched, a hunger than cannot be fed, a thirst that cannot be quenched?

 Are we doomed to enjoy temporary satisfaction only to be left wanting more?

What say you?


Cool Tools for Today’s Realtor!

January 25, 2011

Okay, so I am a gadget junkie and an intervention is certainly in my near future, but there are certain tools that help me through my day as a busy and successful Realtor in Katy, TX  – a sprawling suburb located about 20 miles west of Houston and near the center of the Energy Corridor.

My list has nothing to do with being able to perform the business of real estate but haseverything” to do with my being able to perform it well.

1. Tablet PC – I love being able to run my business as paperless as possible. I have an HP Tablet Elite that allows me to take notes, bring up all manner of paperwork, fill in the contracts and have clients sign on site. This is a powerful machine and impresses clients that I have the equipment of a professional.

2. Real Estate Dashboard software by www.Gopaperless.com. I use this software to keep my documents organized on my computer and it has an e-sign feature that compares to Docusign as well as an upload feature similar to Dropbox.  (I use Dropbox for my iPad, too).

3. Docusign – Even though I have a redundant system on my computer, with so many other Realtors using Docusign, I am an avid subscriber as well. It is easy to use and clients LOVE it. No more driving across town to secure signatures. Experienced relocation clients, especially those out-of-town, now expect this level of service. Check it out… your business will prosper because of it.

4. Mi-fi – I have a wi-fi by Sprint (the Overdrive) that I carry with me always. For a mere $ 50 a month, I am able to access the internet at every opportunity on at least 5 machines: iPad, laptop, etc. I always give my listing appointments LIVE so that future clients can see exactly what is happening in their market in real-time as well I can demonstrate my marketing in action. For my buyers, we can drive around and use the new www.HAR.com app or the www.Realtor.com app to view homes on the fly. I am one of those people who are “always” connected and I like it that way. However, my family does not always agree with me. Use with discretion…

5. iPad – Yes, I know I have a computer but it is not always convenient to bring it along plus my iPad is so much fun! I love the instant access to all of  my Social Media Sites plus my husband steals it from me to play “Words with Friends”. I know that my opponents may notice at times I am a tad brighter than usual… it is all Danny. Sorry but he loves the game and can really crush it at Scrabble. How can I deny him this one joy?

6. Kodak HD Video camera – the best $ 139.00 you will spend, and make sure to get the sport version which is water proof down to 3 meters and can be dropped from 5 feet (not that I have ever dropped a camera anywhere near water…ahem). And it will be perfect to take on my next vacation. Bahamas, here I come…

7. Laser Tape measure – How can any Realtor live without this device? In fact, I have about three because I tend to leave them around or lose them. They are fantastic and sellers are very impressed when you whip them out to measure their home.

8. Digital SLR Camera with a tripod – While I usually hire a professional photographer for my main photos, I tend to supplement with area community shots and they have to be great. I have several point and shoot cameras (the Kodak Video camera has a built-in 5 MP) but nothing really takes the place of a good SLR camera. There is no comparison between the two and having a great range of lenses (wide-angle for indoor shots and long-range for outdoors) helps me truly present the best features a property has to offer. I am a Nikon gal but any of the big guys will do. Shooting with a tripod completely eliminates any motion or shake allowing you to take the clearest of photos. Try a tripod, you will never go back to handheld photography again.

9. Laminating machine – I know this is a weird tool but many times I need to present a great copy of a survey, pool rendering, bullet list of features, newsletter, community update, etc. and a laminated copy always takes my marketing up a notch. The fact that it came from Sam’s and cost $ 99 is beside the point. No one else is using one and my listings stand out because of it.

10. Showing Beacon – This is a terrific box that connects to the phone of the seller and lets them know when a showing is complete by the simple touch of a button. The agent showing the home signals the seller to return home upon leaving the property and the beacon actually calls the seller’s cell phone with the message. Pretty cool, huh? My sellers love it because they are not left waiting hours for an agent that arrives late or does not show at all.

Now that I have gotten started, I could probably list at least 10 more.

What tools would you add to this list and how do you use them?


Top #10 Steps to Sell Your Home!

January 23, 2011

 

Thinking about selling your home?

Would you like a little sage advice that could save you time, money, anguish and probably a bit of all three?

1. Understand your real estate market – The old adage “Location, Location, Location” not only applies to your home but to your market as well. What you hear on the national news may not have any bearing on your individual area so learning local conditions is a must to determine the best strategy to find a ready, willing and able buyer.  You can learn a lot by following updates from the local association of Realtors in your area as well as contacting active Realtors who make it their business to understand and decipher the current market conditions.

2. Hire a Terrific Realtor – Okay, I had to say it. If you plan to try to sell yourself, then certainly skip to the next step. However, I am a proud Texas Realtor and always think that we are your best shot at getting sold. That said, all Realtors are not the same so making sure you hire the best is crucial. Ask your friends, do research online,  and pay attention to see who seems to list and more importantly “sell” homes in your community. (Just because an agent lists a lot of homes does not mean they actually sell them.)  The Houston Association of Realtors, HAR, has a fabulous rating system online for those agents who participate. This is a great indicator of performance and appears to be helpful to the consumer. For an example, you can see my ratings here. I know Zillow is attempting this as are other sites so you may have access to agent ratings or rankings in your area, too.

3. Check your calendar – Time of year is very important when determining how to position your property in the market place. Seasonal markets will ebb and flow like the seas and your Realtor will be able to help you determine the best time to list. Homes sell throughout the year but there are times when demand will be at its peak and therefore, sales prices will be highest. If possible, take advantage of these peak selling periods. If not, adjust your price and days on market expectations accordingly.

4. Hire a Stager – Staging has become a huge business and has been proven to assist sellers in presenting their homes in the best light possible to potential buyers. This equates to more money in your pocket when the home is sold. Some of us have taken staging courses and either handle it ourselves or hire independent stagers to work with our clients. If you are in the Houston Area, I love and recommend Linda Burnett with Envisions Designs. Regardless of who is doing the work, take the time and effort to follow the instructions of a good stager and it will pay off in the end.

5. Do what the Stager tells you to do – This is the part where some folks get hung up. The stager is a professional who looks at your home dispassionately and is really working for you to try to help you sell your home. The more you can complete of the stager’s honey-do list, the better. I realize there may be unexpected expense here but if it is major, then trust me… it may very well cost you more in the end to ignore rather than fix. Flooring, paint, landscaping… these are all items that can be a major turn-off to buyers if not in great shape.

6. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise – Make sure you have as much exposure as possible. Today’s buyer is really beginning online for their home search so you need to be there, too. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it. A little sign in the yard without an online presence will only net you the few people who happen to drive by. It is a brave new world out there and your home listing needs to be in it. Another must is you need multiple high quality photos and a virtual tour, if possible, to accompany your online advertising, as well as a good description of your home.

7. Offer a Buyer Agent Commission – If you are listing with a Realtor who will place you on the MLS, then there will be a published offer of compensation. However, if you try to go it alone, you really need to consider offering to pay an agent that might bring your buyer. Trust me, agents know more potential buyers than all your friends, co-workers, neighbors combined so it is important to utilize this great resource. In the US, usually the buyer’s representative is compensated out of the listing agent’s commission. But if not, please be mindful that there are wonderful Realtors out there who may have a client that would be perfect for your home but they need to be paid. If compensation is not offered by the seller, then the buyer would have to pay it and they will simply take it off the offer price. This may also cause a bit of confusion for the buyer who does not understand why their agent is not getting paid by the seller. Ask several Realtors in your area what would be a fair amount and then advertise it on your sign saying,” Realtors Welcome”. Besides, you do not work for free, why should they?

8. Consider Public and Agent-Only Open Houses – Public Open Houses are a good way for the public to view your home. Of course, attendance can be affected by time, date, weather, location, accessibility, signage, etc. If you see several Realtors holding open houses in your area, call them and ask if you could hold yours open at the same time. This brings in more traffic and a home that does not work for one buyer may work for another. Also, high attendance elevates buyer excitement.

9. Open Title – Whether your state requires you use attorneys or title companies, it is always best to make sure you have a good, clean title to be able to close. So many issues can run interference with a smooth transaction: probate issues, divorce, tax liens. It is best to get a clean bill of health with regard to your title up front so you are not stalled at the closing table. Another thing to do is find out your payoff amount on your mortgage, if any, to make sure you do not have to bring money to the table to close. If you discover you have to sell but do not have the funds necessary to close, in other words, you are “upside down” , you may want to contact an agent who specializes in what is known as a short sale.

10. Know Rules on Pre-Inspection and Disclosure Requirements – In some cases, it is a good idea or is even required to get your home inspected prior to going on the market. This will help you discover issues that may require repair as well as help narrow down the repair list for the future buyer. More real estate transactions fall apart due to failure to properly disclose items or fear of items that show up on inspection reports. Nip them in the bud and you will have a happier buyer and better transaction. And if you remember nothing from this post, always Disclose, Disclose, Disclose. If it is something that you as a buyer would want to know about a property, then you must disclose it.

As an experienced Realtor with Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors, a top listing firm in the great City of Houston, we do know a thing or two about the marketing of residential real estate. In fact, we have been honored twice now by J. D. Powers and Associates for “Highest Seller Satisfaction”. I welcome your comments or additions to this list. If you would like a market analysis for your Houston Area Home (and absolutely no pressure to list), just let me know. I am happy to help and only hope you will consider me should you decide  you wish to hire a Realtor. I can be reached at www.christiborden.com or via cell 832-372-7478.

Happy Selling and Good Luck!


Liar, Lair, Pants on Fire!

January 21, 2011

Do you remember as children using this little string of words to describe someone who told a fib (defined as an insignificant or childish lie)?

What would you do today if someone were to call you a Liar? Would you be indigant at the statement or would you pause to think about it a moment?

Aren’t we all just a little bit guilty of telling a lie? Ask yourself if you have you ever:

  • Told a little white lie?
  • Played a bit with the numbers on your taxes?
  • Wiggled your way out of a speeding ticket? 
  • Wiggled out of anything you just did not want to do?
  • Bragged on the fish that got away?
  • Embellished a story for a laugh?
  • Made a conscious addition, deletion or revision of what you know to be “the truth”?

And if so, doesn’t that make us by definintion – Liars? What is the truth and is it always best to tell it?

Professionally, honesty is always the best policy. In fact, in my business (real estate) the laws surrounding disclosure and truth are hardfast and unwavering, as is the punishment for failing to do so.

But do we always look our clients in the eyes and tell them exactly what they need to know as opposed to what they want to hear? Do we present our products and services in the harsh, full light of day or do we filter them through what we think they ought to be?

Are there shades actually of the truth and who gets to decide what they are?

On a personal level, I think there are some truths that can be hurtful. We can think them to ourselves but if the damage done by sharing them outweights the benefit of the truth being known, what is the point? Who benefits? Are we a hero for speaking the truth or the villain for the hurt it has caused? I know people who feel it is their duty to say everything that is on their mind. While they may mean well, what they really need is an internal regulator to signal the need for silence.

Example, recently I attended a party and was asked by a friend on more than one occasion that evening if I was “tired”. I did not feel tired when I left home. I did not feel tired as I entered the room. I thought I had applied my make-up and fixed my hair with my usual flair. What was it that prompted the question? Was it concern for my well-being? Was it a gentle reminder that I needed to visit my nearest plastic surgeon? Was it that there was nothing else to say?

Who knows but I can tell you how I felt as a result of her inquiry …..”Tired”.


If am so Happy … How Can I Feel Blue?

January 21, 2011

or “What the Funk?”

I recently enjoyed an evening out with “the gals” and our conversations led us many strange and wonderful places… as it often does. We finally landed on the fact that we were all experiencing an unusual emotional “Funk”, which became our momentary mantra and the subtitle of this post. We are truly an upbeat and rosy bunch (rowdy, even) so it was interesting that we should notice the same subtle “Blah-ness” since the beginning of the new year and this week, in particular.

In case you missed it, this past Monday was declared the most depressing day of the year. You can read more in an article published on January 19th by the JAMA. However, I refuse to feel less than wonderful just because some scientific study says it is so.

But what’s a gal to do when not really depressed… just a bit blue?

We decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns and delve into what was casting a haze over our normally chipper and sunny selves and to take immediate action. No wallowing in self-doubt or pity for this group. So, after hours of deep thought, three glasses of delicious wine and a steaming bowl of Gumbo, we finally hit on the following steps to get ourselves back in high gear. You may find that “expertise enhanced by wine” is more profound in the making, but I will share our thoughts, nevertheless.

Weather: We have had overcast, drizzly days for weeks now with only intermittent sunshine and this truly can keep you from performing at your best. We need sunshine and we need it now. Today, the forecast is sunny and cold for Houston but more clouds are expected to roll in by the weekend.  The weather is beyond our control but we can be mindful of the negative effect it has and how it plays with our moods. Check out SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) to find out ways to counter this issue.

Check-Up: You might want to make an appointment with your doctor to confirm there is not an actual physical reason for the doldrums. This could be anything from an oncoming cold, hormone or thyroid imbalance or pre-mental pause… yes, that is how I look at it now that I am fast approaching that fun and wonderful time in my life.

Volunteer: Get out there and do something positive for someone else. Volunteer for a charity, mentor a child, take in a stray pet… whatever floats your boat but get out there and do it. It is very hard to be down when you are busy giving, whether of your time, expertise or knowledge. This can be one of the most satisfying experiences life has to offer and will lift the spirits of both you and the lucky recipient(s) of your generosity.

Pick Up a Book and Read: Yes, it is that simple. You can delve into a wonderful book and be swept far away from today’s troubles all the while improving your vocabulary and usually learning something new in the process. A word of caution: Be very careful what you read. Taking in other people’s deeply disturbing problems can be detrimental to an already delicate psyche so chose something powerful and uplifting. You can always go back to the darker subjects later when you are on better footing. Just because a book is on Oprah’s list does not mean it is a good book to read when feeling blue.

Create: Do something you love that is creative. For me, writing is my catharsis. For you, it could be painting, photography, cooking, sewing, knitting, et cetera. Whatever you enjoy, just get out there and create something new and wonderful. Want to feel even better? Give your creation to someone that needs a little sunshine, too.

Exercise: Nothing gets the body in better spirits than giving it what it needs. Whether you choose yoga, running, walking or a simple stretching exercise, this will do wonders for your disposition. If you do it in the presence of others, you get to socialize as well.

Socialize: Finally, gather around your pals and figure out how to have fun. Warning here… make sure you hang out with the right friends. If this turns into a pity party, you end up worse than before. Look for the most positive people you know to socialize with for they will be your strength when you need it.

I am feeling better already. How about you?