Roger Martin and Life in the Loop

 

March 4, 2010

Negotiating Tips for Home Sellers - R U Crazy????

Negotiating Tips - R U Crazy????
Negotiating a real estate contract is somewhat like a dance – with stylized postures and gestures clearly recognized by both parties.  But lately, we’ve been seeing something new…In years past, a buyer would signal serious interest in a property by submitting an offer that was around six to ten percent below list value (Translation:  “Hey, I REALLY like your house.  Let’s dicker…”)

Recently, the housing market is noticeably hotter – phone calls, emails, offers, and closings are all more numerous these days.  But as we pull out of the sub-prime crisis, many buyers have adopted a new opening salvo.  Their first offer is sometimes a radical low-ball offer, falling a whopping twenty or thirty percent below list price.

The goal of an extremely low offer like this is to identify distressed sellers – those owners who are cash-strapped and unable to wait for a better buyer.  (Translation:  “Are you Broke?  Crazy?  Desperate?  If so, I can take that property off your hands…”)  Unfortunately, sellers can be offended by the implications of this opening salvo, and may even refuse to counter at all.  Which is a mistake.

Remember that negotiating is really a two-way conversation.  Breaking off contact seldom brings the other party around to your way of thinking.  Instead, I recommend a reasonable and moderate counter-offer.  (Translation:  “Desperate?  Nope, I’m fine.  How are you?”) 

To which there are two possible answers:  Nevermind!” which you will hear from a true bottom-feeder.  Or in the case of a serious home buyer: “Hey, I REALLY like your house.  Let’s dicker!”

Which is exactly where you wanted to be in the first place!

So the best negotiating tip is to remain calm and continue the real estate conversation.

Roger Martin

March 4, 2010

Fan Gram for Johnston Middle School

 Johnston Middle School produces SeussicalJohnston Middle School illustrates one of the enduring rules of real estate.  As any Realtor® can tell you, good schools are the driving force behind real estate sales.   Recently, it was my pleasure to be associated with just such a school…

Johnston Middle School, (www.johnstonmiddleschool.org) in Meyerland, is a Magnet school for the performing and visual arts – the only such middle school in the Houston Independent School District.  In February 2010, Johnston’s All School Musical was Seussical, a light-hearted romp based on the beloved children’s stories of Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.  Technically, this piece is an operetta, which is quite an ambitious undertaking for kids aged only eleven to fourteen years!

But the students of Johnston Middle School pulled it off admirably!  The orchestra was great; the sets were dynamite; the singing and acting were first class!  These youngsters did a bang up job on the lights, the sound, the mikes, the set changes – even the tickets and posters were student-designed and student-produced.

Roger Martin Properties is proud to count two Johnston Middle School teachers as members of our extended “family”, so we offered to print the Seussical program.  A special “Fan Gram” goes to Ethan Cantu – whose delightful original artwork (see above) made the program such a joy to publish!

The highest praise I can give these Johnston Middle School kids is this:  their performance was of such high caliber that they achieved the classic “suspension of disbelief” that is the goal of all theater productions.  The crowded audience agreed with me as well!

Roger Martin

Posted in Our Schools
Feb. 11, 2010

Real Estate Communications - How Fast is Fast Enough?

Just like the pace of modern life, the expectation for real estate communications is getting faster and faster these days.  I noticed something fascinating in a recent study by the California Association of Realtors.  (For graphs and charts, etc. read the full draft report at www.car.org/media/pdf/159699/2009HomeSellerSurveyDraft.pdf).  Many customers are demanding a quicker response time from their agents.  Two-thirds of the respondents expected a response from their realtors in less than two hours, and a whopping 35% said that only an instant answer would satisfy them.

When asked to estimate actual response times, these sellers guessed that two-thirds of their agents responded in under four hours, with 9% responding instantly.

Now, I live and work in West University, where improper cell phone usage can get me ticketed by the West U cops – so I simply cannot offer you an instant response every single time!  However, I have plenty of safety nets to make sure I respond promptly to my customers.  Technology provides one fail-safe (my email and text messages roll over to my cell phone), and people provide the other (my fully-licensed assistant Jane can answer most questions on my behalf).

But there is another important question to ask:  Do you want a fast answer - or do you want an accurate one?  Please remember that it takes time to review complicated legal documents and calculations – and that careful review is in your best interest.  My personal preference is for real estate communications that include accuracy as well as speed.

(Sorry, I must end this post here – gotta answer the phone!)

Roger Martin

Jan. 22, 2010

West University Place Retains Small-Town Character

West University Place Retains Small-Town Character
Many thanks to the Houston Chronicle, who interviewed me for this article about real estate in the City of West University Place.

West U Retains Small-Town Character

January 22, 2010

Dartmouth, Georgetown and Rutgers -- Judging by the street names alone, West University Place is an accomplished community, and its not just monikers making this bedroom community popular. Despite being in the middle of the fourth largest U.S. city, West University Place has managed to remain a small town.

With a population of about 14,000 in 2000, West University Place also is referred to as West University and West U. Bounded by Kirby Drive to the east; Bellaire Boulevard and W. Holcome Boulevard to the south; Bissonnet Street along the north and west and Community to the west; West University Place boasts abundant green space and convenience to all Houston has to offer.

"This is a neighborhood that prides itself on knowing your neighbors, biking and walking to restaurants, and sitting on the bleachers to watch Little League baseball while enjoying a hotdog and soda," said Roger Martin, owner of Roger Martin Properties.

West University Place primarily is residential, though there is a downtown area with small shops and offices and with the established Edloe Deli as a focus. The self-sufficient city has a mayor and city council, police and fire departments, trash pick-up and utilities, and six public parks within city limits. Most of the area's commercial centers and nightlife are on the edge of town, including grocery stores, restaurants and bars.

The city plans to unveil a $13.8 million West University Recreation Center, Colonial Park swimming pool and a senior center early this year. Residents passed a bond to fund the project in 2008 and construction of the recreation center is expected to be complete in March. The recreation center will include a large, multipurpose room; several smaller rooms for classes and fitness activities, cardio and weight room, multifunction sports courts, and bathroom facilities with access to year-round swimming pool.

The Colonial Park pool and senior center are expected to be complete by May. The pool will include a zero-depth entry, interactive play features, toddler's slide, lily pad walkway, floating log, lounge and bench seating, and lap lanes. Deep-water amenities include a climbing wall, drop slide and diving board. The senior center will include two multipurpose rooms, poolside concession area, bathroom facilities with access to the pool and a park-side restroom.

Since there is not a 'typical' home in West University Place, buyers will find primarily single-family homes, patio homes and townhomes starting around $400,000 to more than $3 million. With more than 75 year of history, West University Place has older two-bedroom, one-bath cottages.

Resale homes are the primary mover in West U, with new-construction projects slowing. As of Jan 1 there are 185 properites on the market with 64 as resale, 22 rentals, five townhomes, 23 tear-downs, 32 new-construction homes and 11 lots.

Heather Nicholson, the Houston Chronicle

I am proud to be a resident of West University Place. This really is a great residential community.  To read the full newspaper article, click here.

Roger Martin

Posted in Life in West U
Jan. 1, 2010

Curb Appeal - Weeding Between the Lines

Proper landscaping contributes to curb appeal, a buyers first impressionThe cliche is true -- first impressions really do count in real estate.  The house itself is only part of that essential, early curb appeal. Landscaping can be crucial part of the first impression, working for or against your property.  Check out the entry to this home... dappled shade, comfy garden chairs, and bright "pops" of color.  All combine to create curb appeal for a potential buyer.

The next time you pull into your driveway, take a fresh look at the exterior plantings. Do they enhance your home?  Good landscaping flatters a home by providing a visual transition from the lawn and walkways to the house. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it does need to be well thought out and well maintained.

Yes, you need to weed. Tidy up that garden kitsch and yard clutter. Tackle the tangles. Take on the overgrown garden – and the worn spots.

If your landscaping looks dated, freshen it up, especially if you have updated your home’s interior. An inside job can be negated by what’s ignored outside.

Refreshing your landscaping doesn’t need to be massive, expensive or seasonal, it just has to be neat. Color helps.  So does a light feeding of fertilizer.

If you opt to overhaul your landscaping, accept that you live in a subtropical climate. Add shade and appropriate plantings, but let your house breathe. Landscaping planted too close to the foundation is a wick for termites and rot. Similarly, adjust sprinkler system heads so the spray doesn’t rot out windows or French doors.

In sum, plan well. A little landscaping can go a long way toward improving curb appeal. If you’re landscaping impaired, befriend a nursery.

And when you view your grounds, don’t forget the fences. Good fences do make for good neighbors, but only if they’re well-maintained.

Roger Martin

Jan. 1, 2010

Roger Martin - HAR Top Producer 4th Quarter 2009

Roger Martin, of Roger Martin PropertiesThanks to the Houston Association of Realtors, who has named me one of their 2009 4th Quarter Top Producers for my work with real estate buyers.  and as always, thank you to my wonderful clients who made this award possible.

Roger Martin

Dec. 4, 2009

Snow in West University Place

Yes, it DOES sometimes snow in West University Place, TX

Yes, sometimes (rarely!) it DOES snow in West University Place, Texas.

We Texans may not have a great deal of experience at winter weather -- but give us a brief snow flurry, and we can certainly figure out what to do with it!

Even if Mr. Snowman is only a foot tall!

Roger Martin

Posted in Weather in West U
Dec. 2, 2009

Tips for Home Sellers - Home for the Holidays

Holiday TableWith the holidays fast approaching, home sellers sometimes wonder whether they should take their properties off the market and wait until the season is over.
But one of my tips for home sellers is…  The holidays can actually be your best time to sell!

Here’s why…

  • During the holidays, only serious buyers are out there shopping for homes. Casual lookers are in the malls hunting for other things.
  • Corporate transfers often choose to move at the winter break, to minimize the disruption in their kids’ schooling.  So expect to see out-of-town buyers hunting for homes at this time of year.
  • Your home will never look better nor feel more welcoming. You’ve decorated and freshened in anticipation of visiting friends and family.  That wreath on your door?  In real estate lingo, we call that curb appeal.  Everyday clutter has been cleared away and replaced with holiday decorations.  Hey!  Your home is staged!
  • And how about them cookies! With all the baking going on, your home simply smells its “homiest” during the holidays.

With the hubbub of holiday preparations, showing your home can be inconvenient. We usually recommend that a homeowner leave home for showings. (The buyer is more comfortable talking to their agent if you are not there.) However, if you are preparing for a dinner party, most people are very understanding. Just wish them the seasons greetings, hand them a cookie, and ignore them while you do what needs doing!

Tips for Home Sellers: If you have a Christmas tree, putting an inexpensive $5 battery powered smoke detector in that room is a good idea.

Roger Martin

Dec. 1, 2009

Ten Thousand Villages - Commerce with a Conscience

Ten Thousand Villages offers commerce with a conscience

Ten Thousand Villages illustrates one of my favorite principals...  I have always practised double-duty gifting whenever possible.  For example, if I am serving cookies at a real estate open house – they might as well be Girl Scout cookies, right?

The same principles apply when shopping for gifts, jewelry, housewares, toys and stocking stuffers -- there is no better choice than Ten Thousand Villages at 2424A Rice Blvd.  Ten Thousand Villages is a non-profit retail store, carrying Fair Trade items from more than 130 artisan co-ops in 38 countries.  Men and women around the world all share the same simple dream – to earn an honest living, to provide for their children and to be gainfully employed in a job that brings dignity and joy. Ten Thousand Villages improves our world by partnering with thousands of talented artisans in long-term, healthy business relationships. So go to www.villageshouston.org to check out their baskets, ornaments, scarves, stationary and other reasonably-priced gift items.

Happy Holidays!

Roger Martin

Posted in Helping Others
Dec. 1, 2009

Houston Economy - Federal Reserve Update

Houston Economic Update - Federal ReserveThe Houston economy is so vibrant that The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas keeps an economist on staff here.  This article gives an interesting update on the state of our city.

December 2009

Houston at year-end showed clear signs of sustained economic improvement: Job losses continued to shrink, the unemployment rate fell slightly and the local purchasing managers were increasingly optimistic. Houston’s recovery is probably still trailing that of the U.S. economy by a few months, but the difference is narrowing, especially in local job growth. Stabilization and improvement in oil-related jobs have been key to these gains...

That's all good news for the Houston economy!

Roger Martin