Public Open House Etiquette by a Realtor!

June 24, 2011

by Christi Borden, Realtor

Who doesn’t love to visit an Open House? Come on, you know you do. Go ahead … admit it. You love to see the decorations, to peek inside your neighbor’s home (who never invited you over the entire time they lived there), to learn more about what homes are going for in your area, or to check it out before giving your Realtor a call.

Either way, there are a few bits of advice I can give while visiting a Public Open House.

1. Follow House Rules: Seller may wish for you to remove shoes prior to entering. This may be due to nasty weather, new flooring or a cultural preference. Just ask the Realtor or Host on duty if removing shoes is expected.

2. Monitor Your Kids: Homeowners really expect parents to stay with their children at all times and to make sure nothing is touched or damaged. I have seen many visitors arrive and while the parents are involved with viewing the home, their kids are all over the place – totally unsupervised. The Realtor or Host cannot be expected to babysit or to monitor visiting kids. Please, please keep them with you as the home could experience damage that you quite possibly could be held liable for.

3. Go Before You Arrive: I am often amazed at visitors asking to use the Seller’s bathroom. The Seller’s home is a private residence and as such, unless vacant and only with permission from the Realtor or Host on duty, should you assume that it is okay to use the facilities. Seller’s have prepared the home for viewing… not using.

4. Have a Realtor? Tell Us: You will be asked by the Realtor or Host on duty for your contact information. Sometimes our clients request this information, as they want to know who has visited their home. And many times, the Realtor on Duty would like to contact you to send you more information and to try to develop a future relationship with you. This is not a bad thing and can be very helpful for visitors that are not currently under a written representation agreement with another Realtor. But if you already have such a relationship with a Realtor, simply let us know who it is. We are happy to send them more information about the property you have visited. We all want to honor your relationship with your Realtor but cannot do so if we do not know about it. This is actually a Code of Ethics issue with the National Association of Realtors, which all Realtors must follow.

5. Tell Us What You Think: Don’t be shy… Are we priced right? Do we show well? Are you considering this home? If not, is there anything that our Sellers can do to make your short list? By providing such valuable feedback, you are helping us help our Seller know exactly what the public thinks about the home. And feel free to ask us questions. If we do not know the answer, we will do our best to find it. If answering your questions will help sell the property, we are more than happy to help.

As a Realtor, we love having you visit our Open Houses. In fact, that is why we give up our valuable family time on weekends… just for you. Help us make it pleasant for you and for our Sellers. Happy house hunting and support your local hardworking Realtor by visiting an Open House today!!!


Home Seller: Your “To Do” List Prior to a Home Inspection.

February 22, 2011

by christiborden

Home Inspection Approaches

So you finally have a contract on your home. Congratulations! Now, your buyer has ordered an independent inspection. Believe me, this is a good thing. When so many real estate transactions end in court due to disclosure items, inspections are a wonderful way for both parties to be aware of the condition of the property and hopefully resolve any such issues up front. You should applaud a buyer that thinks enough of his investment to hire an inspector. I am always worried about buyers who don’t. In fact, I would rather not represent a buyer that declines to inspect, even new construction.

Even though it is probably too late to make major repairs prior to the inspection, there are some things a seller can do to help the inspection go well for both parties and most of these items are simply the little nagging, honey-do type of things that we, as homeowners, tend to get used to and ignore.

  • Let there be light: Check all light bulbs and replace those not working. An inspector is not going to test the fixture itself but may call it as a deficiency and recommend that it be examined by a licensed electrician. Quite a costly repair for a blown bulb.
  • Water, water everywhere: Repair any leaking faucets, water fixtures, irrigation systems, etc. If you do not know how to do it, hire a plumber. If you are aware of rotten wood on the exterior of your home, this is usually flagged for repair.
  • Heating, Cooling and More: How long has it been since your systems have been serviced? How long has it been since you changed your filters and cleaned your vents? A well-maintained home will shine at an inspection, helping you and your buyer keep the transaction together.
  • Access to your home: Make sure there is access to your breaker box, the heater/air conditioner, water heater, etc. If your personal belongings block these important items, the inspector will not inspect it causing the buyer to either accept an incomplete inspection, having to pay an additional fee for a further inspection or he may just pull out of the deal completely.
  • Disclose, Disclose, Disclose: Please click here to read my past blog about your responsibility as a Seller to disclose. This is not something to take lightly or to ignore. If you know about it something that you, as a buyer, would want to know about a property, disclose. Even if you have made a repair, it is required to let them know the issue existed.

That should get you started on your way to having your property ready for the inspection. If you have questions about this or other items, contact your Realtor or your real estate attorney for advice regarding the inspection report and repairs. Also, in the State of Texas, you are required to disclose this and any other property inspection performed within the last four years and must note same on the Seller’s Disclosure Notice.

I hope this has helped you and wish you a safe and stress-free journey toward your closing.

Disclaimer: My name is Christi Borden. I am a licensed real estate agent in the State of Texas and a member of the National Association of REALTORS. As such, I adhere to a strict code of ethics and all laws with regard to equal housing, which is reflected in the content of this blog. My broker is Prudential GARY GREENE, REALTORS, 23922 Cinco Village Center, Suite 123, Katy TX 77494. My TX Real Estate License number is 0517398. All of the opinions in this blog are mine, unless otherwise noted.


Why Volunteer for HAR/TAR/NAR!

February 15, 2011

While I do not exactly live and breathe real estate, you just might think I do by the amount of time I give it, both as a Realtor and as a volunteer. In fact, today I returned from our bi-annual governance meetings in Austin and I am first to admit that I am thoroughly “pooped”.

Why do I do it?  Why would I spend so much time away from my business and family on volunteer projects that at first glance do not make me money? I am often asked these questions and want to share my personal experience with you.

As a volunteer, you get to…:

  • Surround yourself with industry leaders and innovators, nationally recognized and gifted individuals known for their contributions to our industry. These are people usually who move in different circles than we do. In fact, you might rarely get to meet them, much less work with and learn from them without giving of yourself and your time to the things they love – the business of real estate.
  • Learn something new every single day. This is the best form of continuing education and is being taught by the true masters in our business.
  • Be “in-the-know” and at the forefront of industry trends and technology. Things change so fast with regard to contracts, marketing, social media, etc. that you may end up with a huge advantage over your competitors by leading the pack.
  • Network with like-minded professionals across the State and Nation, which could pay off in quality future referrals. I have been fortunate to receive referrals from many fellow Realtors with clients moving to or from my area of Katy, TX. And I also have a great resource to refer my clients when they move. A true win-win situation. 
  • Serve your fellow members, building good will and a strong reputation with your peers. Plus, it really does the heart good!
  • Make an impact on your industry. You might just be the next great innovator or “influencer” and your association and its members will benefit.
  • Enjoy your business more thoroughly through building life-long relationships. Some of my best friends are Realtors who work hard and play harder. This is a group that enjoys life and they never get upset if I have to text a client or take a call. They truly understand me and my life as a busy Realtor.

There are so many more reasons for you to step up to the plate. What is stopping you? Volunteer Today!


Top # 10 books for Real Estate

February 14, 2011

I recently participated in a panel of peers speaking on the subject of what we, as full-time, residential real estate agents, were doing to move our business forward in a challenging business environment.

Part of my presentation on the panel was sharing books that contribute to my successful journey in this crazy world of real estate and for life in general. I thought I would share it with a broader audience and ask for your opinion of books that I can add to my shelf of knowledge.

My Current Favorites:

Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands by Terri Morrison and Wayne A Conaway. A fabulous guide-book for anyone working with international clients. While you may need more in-depth information for a specific client, this book helps you understand the decision-making process of different cultures and may help prevent a critical yet innocent faux pax.

Hard Optimism by Price Pritchett. This is a small, concise, easy-to-read booklet that gets to the heart of what is necessary to be truly optimistic. I keep a copy in my car to read when I find myself with a few moments of down time. I also have several copies on my shelf that I loan out and have given away.  Whether you are in real estate or not, it is powerful and I recommend it highly.

E-Myth Revisited by  Michael E. Gerber . This book helped me to see the difference between the “job” and the “entrepreneurial” mentality, which is crucial to success not only real estate but in any business venture. If you behave like an employee, you will never be the boss. And in real estate, you must rise to the position of boss or fail. While it is a little dry in places, this book has a powerful message.

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. If procrastination is your thing, you need to buy this book today.. no not tomorrow, TODAY. This is short, sweet and to the point. If there is a job you need to do but tend to put off, this book is for you. 

How to List and Sell Real Estate by Danielle Kennedy with Warren Jamison. This was my first introduction to real estate prospecting. In my freelance court reporting past life, I was very familiar with how to attract clients but Danielle helped me focus on the particlar business at hand. Timeless advice for an ever evolving business.

The Tech Savvy Real Estate Agent by Galen Gruman. Although written with the agent in mind,  this book has great technology advice and information that many businesses could benefit from reading.

The Millionaire Real Estate Agent…. by Gary Keller, et al. A well-written book that focuses not only making money but it is one of the most information-packed and practical guides to starting and maintaining a successful a real estate business.

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. A great book that is not directed at real estate but has provided great insight into marketing strategies that will “stick”.

Exploiting Chaos… by Jeremy Gutsche. Again, a non-real estate specific book but chock full of powerful strategies for thriving in a chaotic economic crisis.

Swanepoel Trends Report and Swanepoel Social Media Report both by Stefan Swanepoel. I always follow this yearly report on trends and market leaders. It provides me with insight into where our industry has been and where it most likely is headed.

101 Technology tools for Business on the Go by Shannon King and Melissa Dittman Tracey. A wonderful quick read sharing tools that every real estate road warrior will want to have. (I had the chance to meet her in Austin this week and she is terrific).

How about you? Read any good books lately that have helped you in your business?


Superbowl … A Lesson in Living The Dream!

February 5, 2011

Today is Superbowl Sunday and, like everyone else, I have my mind on the game. However, it isn’t the game but the athletes themselves that interest me. Okay, the commercials, too but that is best left to another post.

I love learning about their individual stories and how they made it here. How they started playing the game as little boys, and continued to define their strengths, refine their skills, and struggle through years of injuries, hardship and courage to become these men at this time in history. Amazing, when you when you think about it.

Consider the immense number of people in life who start playing, training or studying to prepare for their desired area of expertise, and then consider the number who actually make it. What are the odds? What makes the difference? What is it that gets them from novice to Superstar while others, with similar talents, flounder instead of flourish?

Training: They are always training and have been since they first picked up a ball. I can tell you that the Ben Roethlistberger’s and Aaron Rodger’s of the world never stopped training once mastering their talent. In fact, they never believe it to be fully mastered.

Tenacity: They never give up. Injuries may sideline but still they press on. Even to their physical detriment, they continue to play with broken bones, bruised muscles (and egos), rain or snow, heat or cold. Something deep within drives them to continue when others are given the permission to rest.

Coaching: Every single professional has a coach and this is not limited to sports. The gifted require this external element, whether they are writers, actors, singers, and even Realtors (my field of play). A coach is someone who can clearly see where the athlete needs to be and knows how to get him there. He studies the the strengths and weaknesses and creates a plan of action that is specific to that individual. There is no one-size-fits-all! They develop a continuous push/pull dynamic to their relationship. The coach provides the roadmap, monitors the progress and constantly encourages, presses, cajoles, maybe even threatens to ensure action. An effective coach will not fall for excuses or procrastination. If the athlete is tough, the coach must be tougher.

Desire: They can see it, taste it and smell it, even when it exists only in their mind. What might seem daunting to most will only feed this desire further. Ask a true believer what their goal is and you will be astounded by dreams that appear unattainable at best and possibly even bordering on delusions of grandeur. Could it be we lack the belief system and vision to go there or maybe we never had it in the first place? There are no self-induced limits on their ability to achieve… and what they lack, they go back to the first three items above and create it, fix it or improve it.

So while you watch the game today, pay attention to the back-ground stories that the media uses to fill dead air time. Listen to proud parents as they portray their son’s childhood. Ask yourself; what was unique about the seed planted in the “Sapling” of the kid that helped him grew into this mighty “Oak” of a man? If you took a poll of each player on the field and asked what he wanted most as a kid, he will tell it is today. It is this one moment in time. It is to play in the Superbowl!

Win or lose, they are all champions and should be honored for truly “Living the Dream”!


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?


Home Design and Future Trends

January 14, 2011

Home design is fluid and ever changing. Many features we clamor for today may be passé tomorrow. Remember white kitchen cabinets? At one time, this was THE top wished for item and now… It is dated and unwanted. Corian countertops… All the rage in the 1990’s but now, nowhere near the top of choices.

What changes can we expect in the near future?

Based on responses to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), here are some ways in which builders can expect homes to change by as early as 2015:

Single-family homes will get smaller (74 percent of respondents said).

Homes will have more “green” features (68 percent).

Homes will have more technology features (29 percent).

Homes will have more universal access features (20 percent).

Homes will have more outdoor living features, such as kitchens and fireplaces (10 percent).

The average home size will be roughly 2,150 sf.

Living rooms will merge with other spaces in the home (52 percent), vanish to save on square footage (30 percent), or become a parlor/retreat/library or music room (13 percent).

If the living room doesn’t vanish, it will likely decrease in size (76 percent).

Also downsizing are the entry foyer (66 percent) and dining room (63 percent).

Features “very likely” to be included in a new home in 2015 include a kitchen-living room combo (“great room”), walk-in closet in master bedroom, laundry room and two-car garage.

“Unlikely” features include three or more bathrooms, mudroom, unheated porch, dining room, skylights, three-car garage, four or more bedrooms, media room and two master bedroom suites.

Homebuyers are “somewhat likely” to want universal design features such as stepless entries, three-foot-wide doorways and four-foot-wide hallways, stepless showers that have seating, non-slip floor surfaces and grab bars in bathrooms.

People seem likely to lavish more attention on the kitchen, ensuring that room will retain its status as the home’s social center. Survey respondents said they are “very likely” to want double sinks, recessed lighting, table space for eating and breakfast bars. They’re “somewhat likely” to want a central island, walk-in pantry, recycling center and desk/computer area.