Roger Martin and Life in the Loop

 

May 1, 2010

Museum of Fine Arts Houston - Sargent and the Sea

Sargent and the SeaThis week, it was my privilege to see one of the most fascinating art exhibits I have ever experienced.  The show was called Sargent and the Sea, and it was tucked away in the basement of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (www.mfah.org).

Their collection of John Singer Sargent portraits has long been a backbone of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston collection, but these 80 new pieces are much less well-known.  They represent some of Sargent’s early works, while he was developing his style as a young artist of 18 to 23.  Instead of formal society ladies, the subjects are the boats, beaches and fisherfolk of the Breton coastline.  Most importantly, this exhibit traces the evolution of a composition, from his earliest sketchbooks, through intermediate paintings, and finally to finished exhibition-grade work.  It is also possible to see the same subject treated differently for his two separate audiences – the more formal world of European painting, and the breezier American market across the Atlantic.

I was not the only one impressed.  I struck up a conversation with a visitor from San Francisco as we both stood (slack-jawed!) in front of the gorgeous portrait of an unknown Spanish lady.  This visitor was in town on business, and she made a point of dropping by the MFAH during her stay.  Her comments?  “Of course, I knew Houston’s art museum was world class – but I never expected anything as good as this.”  Her words, not mine!

Next stop for this exhibit is London, where Sargent and the Sea will be featured at the Royal Academy of Arts.  Hurry!  You need to enjoy this exhibition while it is still here at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) is located just 3.2miles from downtown West University Place.  Easy access to great civic venues like this is one of the benefits of living in West U.

Roger Martin

April 27, 2010

"Net Inward Migration" favors Houston, West University Place

2010 CensusNet inward migration is changing the labor pool in Houston and West University Place.  And those changes are documented on the 2010 survey.

I timed myself – it took just six minutes to complete my 2010 Census questionnaire.  And, as of April 27, 2010, between 81 and 83 percent of West University Place residents have done the same, a good ten points higher than the US average.  You can see our neighborhood's results here http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/.

Now Texas (in general) and Houston (specifically) have been growing in population.  But we are actually growing faster than our own ability to raise children – we have had “net inward migration”.  In other words, Houston has been attracting people from other parts of the country.  In fact, Houston was the #1 destination city in the country, according to U-Haul International’s 2009 National Migration Trend Report.

Now obviously, our voter and tax bases increase when people pack up and move to our city.  And of course, the Census data is important for political representation, redistricting, etc.  However, you may not have considered that net inward migration is a big, big boost to local businesses and helps keep our tax rate low as well.

Why?  Because workers who arrive via "net inward migration" get here as fully-grown adults.  If we raised these workers from scratch, we would have to send them to public school for eighteen years.  Think of the cumulative cost of books, salaries, buildings, maintenance, etc. needed to educate a single kid - before that person can become your employee.  California has benefitted from this “migration bonus” for years, but is now being forced to play catch-up in providing education.

So say “Howdy” to all these new Texans – they weren’t born here, but "net inward migration " got them here as soon as they could.  Let’s welcome them and put ’em to work!

Roger Martin

April 27, 2010

Tree Trust Provides Free Trees in West University Place!

One of the benefits of living is West University Place is our City's Tree Trust, a source of free trees for local residents.

West University Place is increasingly an oasis of green in the middle of Houston’s paved-over urban environment -- and this is deliberate, not accidental.  Stringent building codes maintain a strict proportion of buildable land to free space.  The result is plenty of room for beautiful lawns and gardens.

Appropriate landscaping not only frames a home visually, it adds to property values as well.  A recent article by EcoBroker International (www.EcoBroker.com) provides these pithy quotes:

“Improved landscaping can increase your property value by 7 percent to 10 percent.” – American Nursery & Landscape Association

“Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20-50 percent in energy used for heating.” – USDA Forest Service.

West University Place is so dedicated to maintaining our green space that a careful inventory has been made of every tree in our parks and public areas.  We have an Urban Forester on staff at the City offices.  Best of all, the West University Tree Trust has been established to replace trees as they age or decline.  And it’s free!

To apply, go to the Tree Trust section of the city website.  These thirty-gallon trees are about ten feet tall and two inches in diameter.  In 2009, the Trust planted 60 to 70 streetside trees in the City of West U.  You can choose one of 23 trees suited to our climate and soil, and you may upgrade to a larger tree in exchange for a small donation.  The trees will be delivered, planted, fertilized, mulched and staked.  (Love that!)  The only catch is that trees from the Tree Trust must be planted in a public right-of-way such as the area between your sidewalk and the street.

Happy Planting!

Roger Martin

April 17, 2010

Houston - Technology Incubators Changing the World

Technology IncubatorHouston has just been cited by Forbes.com for its innovative technolgy incubator...

April 16, 2010

A good chunk of recent U.S. economic stimulus efforts were aimed at refurbishing roads and electrical grids--activities that create jobs in a hurry. Creating jobs by creating companies takes more time, but the rewards are greater. A 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration found that, for each $1,000 EDA investment, incubators created 45 jobs. Road-building added just five jobs for the same amount of money.

... [The] Houston Technology Center is focused on two critical areas: energy and nanotechnology. In the last decade, HTC has spawned 1,000 entrepreneurs who have raised $1 billion in funding. (Just last year HTC companies snared $125 million.) The Center works with 60 companies at a time. Successful grads include NanoRidge Materials, which makes carbon nanotubes to make metal alloys 10 time stronger than steel; [and] Hydro Green Energy, which produces hydro-electricity using the energy generated not by a dam but by the natural flow of a river or stream...

Christopher Steiner, www.Forbes.com

Here in Houston, we have always been innovators.  For us, that translates into jobs for our residents.  To read the full Forbes.com article, click here.

April 13, 2010

Haiti Earthquake - Here's How to Help

Dr. Surena, by Lynne Sladky, AP 1-17-2010
Dr. Surena, by Lynne Sladky, AP 1-17-2010

 Recently, it was my great privilege to meet two doctors from the battlefront of the relief effort following the Haiti earthquake.  My thanks to Reverend John Collier for coordinating this unique opportunity to provide help for Haitians.

Before the earthquake, John traveled to Haiti with Pure Water for the World, a group dedicated to installing simple, low-tech water filtering systems in countries with bad drinking water.  There, he met Dr. Claude Surena, a pediatrician and president of the Haiti Medical Society.

Then came the devastating Haiti earthquake.

Dr. Surena found himself in charge of the receipt and distribution of all relief supplies and the coordination of international doctors.  This quiet, soft-spoken man let the numbers and the pictures tell the story…

  • Hurricane season is approaching and 1.3 million people are still living in tents.
  • 65% of the economy is gone, together with 85% of the tax basis.
  • Pre-quake photos of government buildings, churches, schools and hotels contrast with post-quake photos of tons of rubble and debris.
  • An entire graduating class of nurses was killed.  Their loss to the medical profession is felt now and for years to come.

Saddest of all were the photos of children missing arms and legs.  Unfortunately, delayed medical care and lack of sanitary conditions caused rampant infections, leaving amputation as the only life-saving alternative.

Dr. Surena is in Houston this week, coordinating relief efforts with his colleagues in the Texas Medical Center, and he graciously agreed to speak at the West U Rotary Club.

Houston’s Can Do attitude shone out during the Katrina disaster.  Here’s hoping we can help our Haitian neighbors as well.  To contribute to the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund sponsored by Rotary International, go to www.rotary.org/RIdocuments/en_pdf/haiti_earthquake_relief_daf_en.pdf.

Thanks!

Roger Martin

Posted in Helping Others, Rotary
April 9, 2010

Internet Fraud - a Warning About Real Estate Websites

Warning about internet fraud in real estate

Unfortunately, one of our listings has just been used as “bait” for an internet fraud scam.  I have filed all possible abuse reports and the fraudulent posting has been removed.  But, here’s how the scam works…

  • A warm and friendly ad posts on Craigslist or other websites.  The house is listed for lease, usually at an attractive, below-market price.
  • The property is actually a legitimate listing – but for sale, not for lease.
  • A “Rental Application” asks for personal and financial information.
  • You are asked send a deposit, after which the keys will be mailed to you, because the owner “has been transferred overseas”.

Unfortunately, the overseas destination for your check and/or financial information is a fraudster.  ‘Nuf said.

According to the 2009 survey by the National Association of Realtors, ninety percent of home buyers start by shopping on the internet.  Internet fraud schemes target these people, exploiting them during a very vulnerable time in their lives.  The open nature of the internet is, unfortunately, both a blessing and a well-known curse.

Just remember -- not all real estate sites are equally safe.  Trustworthy sites include legitimate real estate firms (like mine!), HAR.com, and Realtor.com.  These organizations are governed by state laws and held to a stringent code of ethics.  You can safely rely on lease and sale information from these sites.

Please surf prudently when shopping for real estate!

Roger Martin

March 31, 2010

Roger Martin - HAR Top Producer 1st Quarter 2010

Roger Martin, of Roger Martin PropertiesThanks to the Houston Association of Realtors, who has named me one of their 1st Quarter 2010 Top Producers for my work with real estate buyers.  An many thanks indeed to the clients who made this possible.

Roger Martin

March 23, 2010

Houston - Best Cities for Borrowers

Houston Best City for BorrowersHouston has been named by Forbes.com as one of the best cities for borrowers...

March 22, 2010

Record-low mortgage rates should be good news for homebuyers, but restrictive lending still makes it hard to get a good loan in most parts of the country.  Yet in a few cities, like Kansas City, Mo., Houston, and Dallas, you'll find some of the lowest mortgage rates and the smallest percentage of people with extremely delinquent loans or foreclosed homes.

Because more people in these metros are current on their loans, banks in these areas are more likely to lend--and offer decent terms.

The reason these places are more borrower-friendly is that the local housing markets never saw the cascading real estate price that led to delinquencies and foreclosures. As a result, borrowers are less likely to have underwater mortgages--home debt that is greater than the value of their home--and can refinance their homes more easily. A healthier market means more lending...

Francesca Levy, Forbes.com

Here in Houston, we took our real estate licks during the 1980's, so we never saw the inflated markets common to rest of the country during the subprime meltdown.  Our residents still reap the benefits of that earlier correction, in the form of healthy local lending markets. To read the full article from Forbes.com, click here.

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