Which rooms are most important to prep for home sale?

March 14th, 2016


Two of the most critiqued rooms in a home are the kitchen and the master bath.  What does this mean for sellers? They should look to improve these two influential rooms first. Whether undertaking a major remodel or making small improvements, these are the two most lived in rooms in the home and they draw the most attention.

Popular kitchen projects with the highest return on investment:     

1. Install all real wood cabinets. Buyers are rarely impressed with flimsy shelves and composite materials. If attaching hardware, keep it neutral in style.

2. Buy commercial appliances, or go for the look of commercial. Upscale cooktops and ranges create real impact in the kitchen.

3. Seek to use natural wood, dark laminate wood or stone floors that clean easily. Spills can happen anywhere, but they are very common in the kitchen. Avoid light floor colors and grout as they show dirt and stains easier.

4. Install stone or granite countertops. Tile countertops are difficult to keep clean for the same reason tile floors are – the grout stains easily. Single material countertops, which are clean and easy to wipe down, are a favorite of most home chefs. They look beautiful too.

5. Update the lighting fixtures. Sellers will be amazed at the return they get from simply upgrading the kitchen lighting. Whenever remodeling to sell, keep in mind style varies, so keep items as neutral as possible.

Sellers don’t have to do a lot to make a big improvement in the master bathroom. A new tub liner, or “shell,” can make a marred tub look like new and save the seller from having to replace it. If not replacing the vanity, a new faucet, new lights, fresh caulking around the tub, a new towel rack and a new mirror can make a tired bathroom come alive. If not replacing the vanity, a new faucet, new lights, fresh caulking around the tub, a new towel rack and a new mirror can make a tired bathroom come alive.

Spa-Like Bathroom Upgrades Buyers Love Include:

  • Walk-in showers
  • Dual Vanity
  • Stone or natural wood flooring
  • Modern and bright lighting fixtures
  • Ample storage space for towels and personal care products

For bathrooms, always display a sparkling clean bathtub and commode. There should be no dirty clothes or even hampers visible. The bathroom should be clean and smell fresh.

A kitchen or bath upgrade can be as simple as a weekend-long, low-budget brush-up. With the right planning, some of the most noticeable repairs do not require much. A fresh facelift will go a long way in the buyer’s mind.

Washers, dryers, fridges oh my! What’s included in home sale?

February 9th, 2016


I get asked often about what appliances are included with the home sale. The Texas Real Estate Commission contracts say that an item that is “permanently installed and built-in” is part of the property-this means it will stay with the house when it sells. Whether that applies to the washer, dryer, or refrigerator depends on three factors:

  1. How is the item attached? Will the property be damaged by its removal?
  2. Is the item customized or standard for the property?
  3. Was the installation intended to be permanent or temporary?

For example, a standard refrigerator in the kitchen is unlikely to be considered permanent, while a counter-depth, built-in model may convey. Even if an item is not considered built-in, you can still ask the seller to include it with the sale. If the seller agrees with your request, you can use the Non-Realty Items Addendum, which is a Texas Real Estate Commission form.

Did you know…

February 3rd, 2016

Super Bowl Blog Post Image

…that the Super Bowl is the unofficial kickoff to home selling season? So after the chips and dips are gone and hopefully your team has won, let’s talk strategy for your home sale! If you are interested in determining the value of your home, click the “Home Evaluator” link for a free evaluation report:


Sound decisions can only be made with accurate and reliable information. So if you are thinking real estate, think Strategic!



A quiet but important victory for Texas taxpayers – by Mark Lehman

November 11th, 2015


We finally have some good news for taxpayers.

Last August, with great fanfare and intense media coverage, the City of Austin filed a lawsuit against the Travis County Central Appraisal District in an attempt to rewrite Texas law regarding the state’s property tax system, which says all taxpayers must be treated in an “equal and uniform” manner. To some, this municipal action was nothing more than an attempt to circumvent Texas law and increase tax revenue- putting all property owners at risk of paying higher taxes-with no input from taxpayers.

If successful, this lawsuit would set a precedent where one city’s dissatisfaction with the state legislative process would allow it to use the courts to override the will of the Texas Legislature. This type of action would cause massive gridlock, a blatant lack of transparency, and a meltdown of the separation of powers between state and local governmental entities.

Last Friday, with very little media attention, a judge dismissed the case in favor of the Texas Association of Realtors and other property owners challenging the suit. In doing so, the judge made it clear that no city had the necessary standing to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s property tax system.

This small but important action proves in Texas, when it comes to your pocketbook, there are plenty of good people and organizations, like the Texas Association of Realtors, who will fight and win for you.

Mark Lehman is vice president of Governmental Affairs at the Texas Association of REALTORS®.

Texas Voters Support Tax Relief for Homeowners

November 6th, 2015

Texas Votes

State Proposition 1 passed with 86% of the vote. This resounding victory will save the state’s current and future homeowners money in two ways:

  • The homestead exemption will increase from $15,000 to $25,000, reducing homeowners’ property-tax burden.
  • Passage of this proposition also means real estate transfer taxes are constitutionally prohibited, which saves consumers money when they buy or sell property.

Property taxes are a significant portion of a homeowners monthly payment so this important victory hits tax payers in the pocketbook – in a good way!

Our aging population and real estate concerns

September 17th, 2015

Senior and daughter photo

As we age, we demand specialists in our healthcare needs, so why not in our real estate and equity needs, too? Did you know that the fastest growing segment of the senior demographic is 85 and older? The older people get, the more support they need with activities of daily living. Additionally, many people are also outliving their children and others in their support network. And although most people would like to age in place as long as possible, many times the residence does not meet the needs that accompany frailty in old age.  Aging in place is a complex issue. It involves community resources, family systems, social services, faith based organizations and medical services – not to mention the aging senior themselves. Compounded by insufficient affordable options for elders needing supportive housing, families will choose or find it necessary to assist aging parents through living together or in very close proximity.

As a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES), we are on the frontline of issues related to aging-in-place, relocation to supportive housing, multi-generational living options, policy reform, and community education. Additional resources such as elder law attorneys, financial planners, lenders, senior move specialists, estate sale services and insurance agents can be coordinated through the real estate specialist to ensure coordination of services, thus easing some of the turmoil involved in a senior move.



Patio Shade Ideas Under $300

September 2nd, 2015

patio trellis

Not all shady deals are bad. These patio shade projects are each under $300. If you hop-skip like a rookie firewalker across your sun-drenched patio, then patio shade projects are probably a hot priority. But there’s no reason to get burned on price; you’ll find plenty of low-cost shade-giving options to cool your tootsies. If you’re looking for shade beyond the typical market umbrellas ($45) and freestanding gazebo kits (starting at $200 at home improvement centers), check out these other easy, affordable patio shade projects — all for under $300:
Tall order: vertical trellis
Even if you have overhead shade, low morning or late afternoon light can make your patio uncomfortably hot in summer. Filter low-flying rays with a vertical trellis for growing leafy climbing plants. The taller the trellis (60 inches or more), the more time you enjoy in the shade. Plus, an attractive trellis adds structure, lush greenery, and home privacy to your outdoor getaway. Trellises can be made of weather-resistant wood, metal, PVC, or a combination of materials. Build one from scratch in just a few hours for less than $100 using vertical posts and cross members that plants grip and climb. Or, make a simple frame and add pre-made garden lattice, $20 for a 4-by-8-foot sheet. Trellises also come in kits ($40-$250 and up) or ready-made ($15-$200 and up). In an hour or less, you’ll be ready to set the trellis in the ground. For plants, choose climbing leafy or flowering vines, such as English ivy, golden hop, morning glory, clematis, bougainvillea, or roses. Prices range from $10 to $40 and up for climbers. Or, start veggie climbers from seed ($1 or less per packet), such as pole beans or sweet peas, and harvest the rewards later.
Patio-dwelling trees
Add leafy shade by planting a sapling or ornamental tree in a container. A small (6-10 feet tall) tree will still throw plenty of shade — Japanese maples and dwarf red buckeyes are favorites. You’ll pay $40-$100 for a young tree. Select a container large enough to stabilize the tree so wind won’t blow it over. Add a wheeled base for shade mobility. Fill out with these other ideas for container gardening. A potted tree requires more care than one in the yard. Feed it monthly during the growing season and water regularly (once or twice a day in dry weather). As your trees grow, transplant them to larger pots. Winter over container trees indoors — anywhere with ample light and temperatures that won’t drop below 40 degrees. Potted citrus trees are a beautiful, bountiful option. A lemon tree loves a sunny patio while offering shade and juicy fruits for squeezing. Other fruit-bearing trees include fig and semi-dwarf apple trees. A potted palm transports your patio to the tropics with wide fronds for dappled shade and an island feel. Chinese windmill, or chusan palm (Trachycarpus), for example, can grow up to 7 feet tall in a container.
Sailing in the shade
Shade sails are triangular or square pieces of high-strength nylon that you suspend over your patio, adding color, pattern, and plenty of shade. The sails require connections to posts, trees, or rigid structural members of your house, such as exposed rafter ends. A sail with 11-foot sides starts at $40. More expensive shade sails ($170 and up) include hardware (turnbuckles, eye bolts, and cable) for sturdy, wind-resistant installations. As a frugal alternative, make your own shade sail using a canvas drop cloth ($15 for a 6-ounce, 9-by-12-foot piece). Install grommets ($10 for a kit) at the corners and loop clothesline ($5 for 50 feet) through the grommets.
Shade from the islands
Mix up a mai tai and enjoy a cool respite beneath these tropically inspired patio shade projects:

  • Top an existing structure, such as a pergola, with reed or bamboo fencing. A 6-by-16-foot roll of bamboo fencing starts at $22. Secure the fencing with galvanized staples or roofing nails.
  • Thatch panels ($200 for a 12 pack of 4-by-4-foot panels) are typically made from palm fronds cut into strips. Staple or nail the panels to the top of an existing pergola or awning frame for tiki-hut charm.

Did you wake up this morning and decide to buy a house?

August 30th, 2015


I didn’t think so. We understand that a home purchase is most often part of a bigger life strategy.  Marriage, a new baby, a new job location, rightsizing your space, access to amenities, investing and retiring are just some of the events that shift us into strategy mode. When life demands a strategy, you demand strategists on your team to execute. It is important to not only align with smart resources, but with those where a true relationship is valued. You want more than just your phone calls returned. You want professionals truly engaged and willing to roll up their sleeves to craft individualized solutions rather than off the shelf, one size fits all approaches. And you want these professionals available long after your strategy is executed. Relationships are essential to long term satisfaction, future needs, and business referrals. Ask the tough questions when you interview your key resources. What is the expectation after you sign on the line? A smooth and successful strategy depends on it. Go ahead…it’s your move!

Schools districts and your new home

August 27th, 2015



Lowering homeownership cost

August 4th, 2015

Gavel image

In Lehman’s terms:

Texas property owners scored several victories during the most recent session of the Texas Legislature.

I think the biggest of these victories is landmark legislation that could lower your property tax and prevent a tax on real estate sales-important if you ever buy or sell property. I say “could” because the legislation approved by the Texas Legislature puts the decision to approve these historic measures in the hands of the voters.

That’s right. Proposition 1 on your November 3 ballot, if passed, will lower the cost of homeownership.

Proposition 1 will increase your homestead exemption by 66%, which will lower your property tax.

Proposition 1 will ban transfer taxes on real estate-a tax that already exists in 37 other states.

There’s no question about it. If voters approve Proposition 1, property owners will save money-now and in the future.

Is there still work to be done on property tax reform? Of course. The appraisal system needs fixing, and local taxing entities could reduce their costs and save you money.

But lawmakers have sent a message: Texas is serious about lowering the cost of homeownership. Now it’s up to you.

Mark Lehman is the vice president of governmental affairs for the Texas Association of REALTORS®.