Free Real Estate Tools to Help Your Search

When starting your new home search, especially if moving to a new city, you will want to make as informed decision as possible. As a Realtor®, my job is help you make the most informed decision possible. Here are some tools and tricks that I use to help in your transition:

Traffic Tools

Austin like most cities has a really bad traffic problem. Often, how long you are willing to commute will dictate what part of town you will focus your search.

Google Maps (Free, Publicly Available)

Google maps has a feature that will help you understand what your commute will look like at a certain time. Let’s say you are moving to Austin for a job at the Texas Capitol and have heard good things about Circle C Ranch. You can learn what commute to expect by clicking on the arrow next “Leave Now” and change it to “Depart At”.

Change “Leave Now” to “Depart At”
Now you can see what your commute will be like at a certain time like 8am on a Friday.
Then do the inverse for 5pm on a Friday. If you don’t want an hour commute, you may want to focus your search somewhere else.
If you want to keep your commute to 30 minutes, you may want to look at a neighborhood like Harris Branch. It is the nearly the same distance from the Capitol but on Friday at 5pm, your commute will be 20 to 30 minutes.

Inrix – Drive Time™ (Paid, Only Available to Realtors)

If a decent commute is a high priority for you, I can setup a search for you that will only show you results that are within your likely commute. For example, if you want to see what homes are available within a 30 minutes of the Texas Capital at 5pm, the Drive Time™ tool will only show you houses in that area.

All the available properties within a 30 minute drive home from the Texas Capital at 5pm.


Many of my clients have school aged children and focus their search by school instead of commute. Here are some useful tools to make an informed decision in your search.

Great Schools (Free -Public)

There are many school ratings websites to dig through, one in particular that I find useful is Here you can search schools by ratings, test scores, or college readiness, and read reviews and school information.

Realtor Property Resource (Paid, Only Available to Realtors)

The National Association of Realtors has a really great tool called Realtor Property Resource or RPR. As a Realtor, I have access to this powerful tool and can do searches and put together a wealth of knowledge for you. If you would like an in-depth breakdown of schools that meet your criteria, let me know.

RPR Report

Tips For Home Care In The New Year!

Tips For Home Care In The New Year! 

Welcome to 2019! A year most of us almost 40 somethings never really pictured happening. Alas, we are here so let’s make the most of this opportunity.  

Tips for looking for a new place to rent: 

If you are thinking about finding a new place to rent, here are some tips to get started. 

  • Identify your budget 
    • Have you had some good years and looking for an upgrade? Either way, 30% of your income is always a good metric in terms of affordability in housing. 
  • Identify the part of town 
    • As you already know, Austin has a bit of a traffic problem. Where someone lives is often dictated by where they work. Start your search with where you work and venture out from there.  
  • What type of housing do you want to live in? 
    • House with a yard? Condo with a pool? Duplex close to your favorite burger joint? Apartment with a gym? Everyone has different needs and wants. Figure out what is important to you. 
  • When do you want to make a move? 
    • If you are currently renting a place, it is time to pull out the lease and take a look. Determine when the lease ends and how much notice you need to give. Most leases nowadays require a 60-day notice. This gives us plenty of time to find a new place. 
    • If you own your home and no longer want the responsibility of homeownership, we need to put a plan together to sell your home. Likely, it will be 60 to 90 days from start to finish. 
  • Reach out to me 
    • I can help you through the entire process.  Give me a call, text or email and I will help you execute a plan.  

Tips for purchasing a new home: 

If you have been kicking around the idea of buying a new home this year, here is how you should prepare: 

  • How Much Can You Afford? 
    • This is best done by reaching out to a mortgage lender to determine a price range that is affordable for you.
  • What type of home are you looking to purchase? 
    • House, Condo, Duplex, etc. What best suits you and how you want to live? 
  • Where do you want to live? 
    • Don’t for get to take into account that our little traffic issue here in Austin often dictates where to start your search. It is easy to get stuck in a terrible commute if you don’t account for that early. 
  • Do you need access to good schools? 
  • What else is important to you or a must have criteria?   
  • Once you have thought about some of these questions, it is time to call, text, or email me.  

Tips For Home Maintenance To Start The Year 

  • When was the last time you changed your air filters? 
    • If you can’t remember, it is time to change them. If you can remember, it is also probably time to change them.  
  • It’s cold right now. Check your windows for leakage and make necessary improvements. 
    • Often it is as simple as caulking around the outside of the window. Amazon sells a cheap and awesome thermometer tool identify leakage. 
  • Do a lap around the house and make sure no dirt/soil has piled up above the foundation. A quick and easy way for termites to start eating away your home is through ground contact of your wood and bricks. The remedy is simple, just pull back all the dirt and re-route any chances for water to get above your foundation.  
  • Check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. 
    • These alarms are vital for your safety. If you haven’t changed them lately or ever, it may be time.  
  • Refrigerator lint 
    • When was the last time you looked under your refrigerator? Was it never? Grab your vacuum and put that brush attachment that has never been used. Pop off the bottom of your fridge and vacuum all the lint and debris. Remember those travel magnets you lost? Remove those. 
  • Leaf Clean Up 
    • By now, most trees that will drop their leaves or have already done so. Take some time to clean those up from around your house and gutters. You will thank yourself come Spring when everything is in bloom. 
  • Door knobs and locks 
    • Over time, your door knobs and locks will start to jiggle and move. Grab a Phillips head screwdriver and walk around the house tightening all the knobs and locks. This will prevent long term door wear and tear damage from loose knobs.  
  • Dust Clean Up 
    • By now, you have cleaned up your Christmas tree but have you vacuumed behind your TV stand? Take some time to move all of the furniture and sweep or vacuum under it. You will be surprised by how much collects back there.  
  • Water Heater Flush 
    • Central Texas has hard water. This often builds up in the water heater. Turn off the electricity and water to the water heater. Grab the hose and attached it to the bottom. Run the hose outside and put it into a bucket. Then open the drain valve and run into the bucket until the water becomes clear.  
  • Clean Faucet Screens 
    • Unscrew the screens on all your faucets and clean them out. You will often be surprised by how your water pressure returns.  

Property Tax Appraisals Are Out. What Can You Do?

That wonderful time of year is here. Spring has sprung, the weather is beautiful, and the local apprais

al district has made up a new value for your home. If you feel like the value on your home is too high, you only have until May 15th, 2018 to file a Protest.

Here Are Your Options

– Nothing – You are certainly within your rights to do nothing at all. Your tax appraisal will continue to climb year after year and your property taxes will continue to go up.

– Informal Protest – There are two types of protests. Information and Formal. Most taxing districts offer an online informal protest. You can also request an in-person informal process. This is an easy way to try to get a reduction. You fill out an online form, provide your evidence and argument, and wait for a decision. If you like that decision, you can accept the new value. If you do not, you can file a formal protest.

– Formal Protest – if you are not satisfied with the outcome, you can request a formal hearing. In a formal hearing, it will be you, a county representative and three board members.

– Hire Someone – There are lots of tax protest companies out there. Most work for a percentage of reduction.

How Can We Help?

– Get Your Facts Straight

You may protest the value on your property in the following situations:

  • the value the appraisal district placed on your property is too high;
  • your property is unequally appraised;
  • the appraisal district denied a special appraisal, such as open-space land, or incorrectly denied your exemption application;
  • the appraisal district failed to provide you with required notices; or
  • other matters prescribed by Tax Code Section 41.41(a).

– Ask Us For Evidence

If you feel like your property value is too high, you will need to support your argument with evidence. Contact me today at I can pull comparables for your home and discuss what my opinion of value on your home may be. We can often find alike home sales that will support a lower valuation than the county.

 You Can Do It!

The process to protest your taxes is actually fairly simple. It may seem like a lot of unknowns but we are confident you can do it.



More Information:

Carbon Monoxide Detectors Required in the City of Austin Starting April 1st.

The City of Austin recently passed an ordinance requiring Carbon Monoxide detectors in all Austin homes that have a gas or fuel-burning appliance in the house or has a connected garage.

Read more about it here:

Some best practices from The Family Handyman.

  • Make sure you have at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home, including the basement.
  • Locate carbon monoxide detectors near bedrooms – close enough so that they’ll wake you up if they go off in the middle of the night.
  • Mount detectors on the wall at least a couple feet below your ceiling or even lower. Carbon monoxide often won’t rise all the way up to the ceiling (like smoke does) until the concentration of the gas is at a critically dangerous level. Additionally, some carbon monoxide detectors have digital readouts – mount those kinds of detectors at eye level so you can read them. If you have pets or curious children, you’ll need to find somewhere the detector won’t be bothered.
  • The detecting mechanisms in carbon monoxide detectors need to stay at stable temperatures and humidities to work properly. Keep them out of direct sunlight and away from fixtures that generate heat (appliances, lights, radiators, etc.) and out of overly humid areas (bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc.). Keep in mind air flow, too: Don’t mount carbon monoxide detectors by windows that are often opened or in dead air spaces.
  • Don’t cover the detectors. Keep them mounted out in the open and away from curtains, furniture or shelves that could potentially block them or interfere with normal air flow to the sensors.
  • If your house has an attached garage, make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector mounted inside the house within 10 feet of the door to the garage. A running car could very easily elevate levels of carbon monoxide in the home.
  • Make your carbon monoxide detectors easy to test. Put them in areas where you can easily reach the detectors and check them every six months or so and get in the habit of replacing them when the manufacturer recommends it (most carbon monoxide detectors are good for about five years or so).



Be Safe!

The Market Might Be Busy, But Your Home Still Has To Deliver.

You will hear everywhere that the Austin’s market is hot. It is a Seller’s market. My Dad’s Uncle’s Neighbor’s Yard Guy’s Brother sold his junk of a house in two days and got a quarter-million over asking.

Most of that might just be true. The Austin market is very busy. Cash is very much King and home can move quickly BUT.

But, the house has to deliver. The exact floor plan of your home sold two weeks ago and they had three offers in two days but your house is sitting….Why?

Reason 1: Warm and Fuzzy – The house has to deliver a warm and fuzzy feeling as soon as a potential buyer walks in. If it does, the buyer will do anything in their power to get it. If it doesn’t, they will start to scrutinize it. When that happens, that buyer is gone. All of the sudden that hand print on the wall can’t be wiped off, and the whole house needs to be painted. Now that pink spot in the corner where the kool-aid man came busting in means the whole house needs brand new flooring.

Reason 2: Your builder options aren’t as important as you think. – As nice as a builder’s sales rep is, they are in the business to make money for the builder. The builder will have their base floor plan and a slew of options of which to upsell. That $10K bay window, the $5k front porch, or the $150 pocket lights just do not carry much weight when it comes to your homes valuation. In the end, you and your neighbors all bought the same floor plan and that is how it is going to be valuated against one another. While it will differentiate your same floor plan from your neighbors, there isn’t a valuation increase. When going into new construction, do not upgrade based on what you think will resell. Upgrade to your personal preference and don’t expect much return.

Reason 3: Accessibility – We all live busy lives and moving out before selling is often not an option but remember this. If a potential buyer has a hard time setting up access to a particular home or there are pieces of the property they can’t access then they cannot picture themselves living there. We all have pets and they are all wonderful in their own special way but if a potential buyer can’t stand on a back patio, close their eyes, and picture themselves there because the animals everywhere trying to rip their head off, that is a problem.

Reason 4: Price – Heard often, “Hey, we heard joe bubblegum from down the street sold his house for more than you are suggesting. Why can’t we list for that?” The reality is that you can but don’t expect to sell. This market is crazy hot but it is also very smart. We all have access to the same data and if you over-price because you heard the market is hot, don’t expect your house to sell quickly. In general, you are better offer listing for 95% of market price then 105%.


Happy Selling!

Successful Buyers in a Seller’s Market

Whether relocating from in town or from out of state, buyers are often surprised to find out just how strong and competitive the San Antonio housing market is. Maybe it’s because they have been watching too many HGTV real estate rehab shows that they think there are a ton of great listings out there, or maybe it’s because of the frequency with which national news outlets have reported on weaker real estate markets from around the country. Whatever the case may be, buying a great property in San Antonio isn’t as effortless a task as buyers seem to think.

Why is this the case? Well, in a word – inventory. According a San Antonio Board of Realtors’ February 2014 market report, we had just 4.1 months of inventory available in January of this year. That number probably doesn’t mean much to the average buyer, but to the real estate professional (realtors) that’s a pretty significant statistic given that anything under 6 months of inventory is considered a sellers’ market. The demand is strong, but the supply is not.

Another San Antonio trend helping to further the current seller’s market, is the disconnect between buyer and seller expectations. Generally speaking, San Antonio property owners tend to leave remodeling or updating their properties to the next guy. Their reasoning is ‘why should I risk putting more money into updating the place, when a buyer can remodel it to suite their own tastes.’ On the surface, that seems like a fairly reasonable idea. However, it’s not such great reasoning when you take into consideration the large number of buyers in San Antonio using FHA loans. Don’t get me wrong, FHA loans are great, they have enabled many people to buy homes who would have otherwise not been able to do so. However, if a buyer is using an FHA loan, 9 times out 10, it means they don’t have a lot of money for a down payment, and this means a large proportion of a property’s potential buyers cannot afford to buy a property and then remodel or update it afterwards.

So what’s a buyer to do? Well, as you prepare yourself to make offers on properties realize that the competition isn’t really between you and the seller, they have the upper hand at the moment. The competition is between you and other buyers. When inventory is low and the number of rehabbed or updated properties even lower, it’s not uncommon for the best looking properties to go under contract their first day on the market. So, buyers beware: if you want to compete with sellers, be prepared to lose; if you want to win, expect to move fast and be prepared to face your real competition – other buyers.

Commuting between San Antonio and Austin

Commuting between san antonio and austinCommuting between San Antonio and Austin is a common question from our clients. Can I live in Austin and work in San Antonio?  How long would it take me to get to work each day?  With the Texas Metro-plex exponentially growing each day, traffic and the I-35 corridor that connect San Antonio and Austin can prove to be daunting if you choose to commute from one city to the other.  Leaving SA takes at least 40minutes.  Once you get on I35 everything opens up  and is smooth all the way to downtown Austin, then it takes another 45 minutes  to get through downtown.  That is without calculating accidents, gas, and car maintenance.

If you are planning to spend a significant amount of time in either city, we recommend buying a home in New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, or Buda.  These are charming cities that rest in between San Antonio and Austin.  They offer abundant amenities and are only a 30-45 minute commute to San Antonio and Austin.  These cities are known for their parks and recreation, live music, festivals, tubing down the clear rivers or sailing across the deep, blue lakes.  In addition, there is plenty of affordable housing, master-planned communities, and great schools.

Commuting between San Antonio and Austin would be a lot easier and less stressful if you lived in any of these great cities.  Texas Dream Realtors has agents that are experienced in all of these bordering cities, as well as, San Antonio and Austin.  Please contact us if you are considering moving to Central Texas and we would be delighted to provide you with more information.

Buyers Are Liars. Fact or Fiction?

buyers are liars

Buyers are liars.  Fact or fiction?  In several sales professions, namely, car sales and real estate sales, you will hear sales people say that buyers are liars.  Normally, you would never hear me compare these two professions, but figuring out what a buyer really wants is something we have in common.

It is usually spoken by a resentful salesperson, as in, “Can you believe that guy? He told me he was going to show his wife, but, well, you know—once they walk out the door, they’re gone. Buyers are liars.”

Another scenario I hear about from more seasoned salespeople is that they have a pre-determined notion that the buyer is not telling them the truth.  “If the buyer says they want an open floor plan on a cul-de-sac, with a view, don’t believe it.  Buyers are liars.  One of those might be true, but the others they’ll compromise on.”

In my opinion, buyers mix their “must haves” with their “wish list” and it takes a true professional salesperson to determine what they can compromise on and what they cannot.  Many times buyers don’t know what they really want, they just saw it somewher and think they have to have it.

Salespeople hold a lot of power by virtue of expertise and this can be intimidating during the sales process.  Buyers need to feel like they are making an educated decision without being sold to.  Therefore, many buyers attempt to control the situation by limiting what they disclose to the salesperson.  They want to avoid getting screwed over, so they resort to what feels low-risk.

Buyers are liars.  However, usually it is the salesperson’s fault.  Taking the time to get to know the buyer’s lifestyle, personality, and how they make decisions is imperative to closing the sale.  Texas Dream REALTORS are trained to get to the point of mutual admission so that each party feels they are bringing something to the table in an effort to reach a common goal…homeownership.

What does a ‘Good Deal’ mean exactly?

What does a 'good deal' mean exactly

Often times I meet people who tell me they just want to get a good deal when buying or selling their home.  What does a ‘good deal’ mean exactly?  For a long time, I figured my clients just wanted to walk away with more money in their pockets.  However, after a recent trip to my hair salon, I realized that a good deal could mean different things to different people.

I told my hair stylist I wanted to remain blonde, but wanted to add golden and copper highlights for winter.  He said, “Okay.  What color is golden to you?”  I showed him a picture of a celebrity’s hair in a magazine that I thought would look nice and he said, “Honey, that’s not golden, that’s light brown with honey-colored highlights.”   I digress…

As I sat there with my head wrapped in foil, I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I was not clear on what was most important to my client’s needs when they said they wanted a good deal.

What does a good deal mean exactly?  Does it mean you want to buy a home for less money than it’s worth?  Does it mean you want more upgrades?  Does it mean you want more closing costs or a lower interest rate?  Or does it mean you want a colonial, not a ranch style house?  Would a good deal mean closing in two months versus two weeks because the kids will be on spring break?  I could go on and on.

Since my salon experience, I am determined to dissect and investigate what a good deal means to each of my clients.  If I were to ask you what a good deal means to you when buying or selling your home, could you answer me?  Is your idea of a good deal different from your spouses?  Because what is golden to me, could be light brown with honey-colored highlights to you.

What Makes Your Home Hard to Show

What makes your home hard to sellSellers, here are some tips on what makes your home hard to show.  If you want to sell your home quickly, avoid these What Makes Your Home Hard to Show no-n0’s:

No-no #1)  Restricted showing hours.  Generally, buyers have a window of when they can go house shopping.  If you have restricted hours or need a lot of advanced notice, your home may drop off the list.  If a buyer’s agent cannot get access to your home, they cannot sell it.

No-no #2)  Combo lock boxes.  I hate combo lock boxes.  If a home has a combo lock box, it tells me several things.  One, the seller’s agent is not member of MLS or was too cheap to buy a real lock box.  Two, combo lock boxes are a royal pain in the you-know-what to get into.  And three, combo lock boxes get rusty and hard to get into over time.

No-no #3)  Smells.  Most buyers can get past messiness or some clutter.  No buyers can get past smells.  With cigarette and animal smells being the most obvious,  even good smells can be bad.  You could have the best floor plan in the neighborhood, but smells will make your home hard to show.  Get rid of the wall plug-ins and for goodness sake please no Febreze!

No-no #4)  Tell a story.  Why did you buy your home in the first place?  What is it about your home that you love so much?  Be sure to highlight those areas.  Buyers can’t see your awesome game room if there is laundry all over the pool table or can’t walk into the “walk-in closet”.

No-no#5)  Overall condition.  If your home needs many updates and a lot of TLC and has several large projects that are obviously waiting to be completed, there is a very good chance that your home will be hard to show, and ultimately sell.  Projects equal money and you could cost yourself more money off the sale price than the projects are worth.