Roger Martin and Life in the Loop

 

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

Nov. 30, 2009

"The Help" by K Stockett

Besides the traditional family turkey, the other high point of my Thanksgiving weekend was a book called The Help by K. Stockett. These days, it seems I am the last one to hear of any good "reads", but this one was was gripping. It is sort of an upstairs/downstairs story set in Jackson, Mississippi during the civil rights era. The wonderful, brave women described in this story manage to overcome social injustice of both the racial and Jr. League varieties.

I highly recommend The Help by K. Stockett!

Ann Martin

Roger Martin Properties

Posted in What West U Reads
Nov. 1, 2009

Houston Economy - Federal Reserve Update

Houston Economic Update - Federal ReserveThe Federal Reserve reported on the state of the Houston economy...

November 2009

... Both new and existing home sales were up sharply in both September and October in Houston compared with 12 months ago. Local agents point to a definite impact on the local market from the new-homeowner tax credit, but it is difficult to judge how much it affected sales. Both September and October 2008 were heavily affected by Hurricane Ike and its prolonged aftermath, so this year’s 15–20 percent gain in sales is significantly exaggerated..."

To read the full article, click here.

Oct. 30, 2009

Civility - Is Our Nation Divided Against Itself?

A discussion of civility in politics

Civility - does it exist in our political process any more?  Is compromise now a dirty word?  Are we a nation divided against ourselves?  And if we are, what can we do to heal the widening breaches?  This week, I attended a lecture at the Rotary Club of West U (www.westurotary.org) that addressed exactly these issues.

Cassandra Dahnke, of the Institute for Civility in Government, believes that there are two key threats to a nation’s political health:

  • Apathy – evidenced by a lack of participation at all levels of government, for our neighborhoods to our Capitol, and
  • Polarization – the fragmentation of our society along lines of race, socioeconomic groups, religion, age, politics and special interests.

Any nation experiencing both polarization and citizen apathy is a nation seriously at risk.

Cassandra and the Institute for Civility in Government do not endorse any political candidate or position.  Instead, they promote the process of civil discourse by teaching civility training workshops, organizing congressional student forums, and taking groups of high school student to Washington DC to experience government first hand.  Through their activities, they promote listening and communication skills, the importance of teamwork, resources for building civility, and a respect for other belief systems.

So there is something we can all do!  For more information (or to join the non-profit, 501 (c)3 Institute for Civility in Government) go to their website at www.instituteforcivility.org.

Roger Martin

Posted in Helping Others, Rotary
Oct. 26, 2009

Juliette Gordon Low - Happy Birthday!

Brownies celebrate Juliette Gordon Lowe's birthday

We have all celebrated birthdays at Palace Lanes on Bellaire (see http://palacebowlinglanes.com/but this party was unusual -- the birthday girl was absent!   This annual gathering of 70 giggling girls was hosted by Evergreen Service Unit in honor of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouting.

Juliette, nicknamed “Daisy”, was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1860.  It is easy for kids to remember her birthday, because it always falls on Halloween!  When Juliette Gordon Low was 26, she married a wealthy Englishman.  It was in England that she met Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of Boy Scouting.  When Juliette returned to Savannah, she started a similar program for American girls. Her niece was the first registered Girl Scout.

Juliette Gordon Low died of breast cancer in 1927.  She never had any children of her own, but the movement she founded continues to this day.  Girl Scouting has influenced over fifty million young women worldwide.

Thank you, Juliette Gordon Low ... and happy birthday!

P.S.  The chocolate fudge birthday cake from the new HEB Buffalo Market was absolutely awesome!  I highly recommend it.

Roger Martin

Oct. 23, 2009

West University Place - Not a Foreclosure Market

Foreclosure in West University Place

Is real estate in West University Place a "foreclosure market"?  Nope!  Please don’t mistake the green dots on this map for trees – they are foreclosures.  The Center for Public Policy at U of H has released the map above from a study on Inner Loop homes.  It is hard to see, so you might want to look at the original at http://www.uh.edu/cpp/Houston_Area_Foreclosures_Map.pdf.  It is worth noting how very, very few green dots (i.e. foreclosures) there are in the City of West University Place (red outline, mine).

The lesson learned is that quality residential real estate may cost you more to acquire in the first place – but it appreciates more in a good market, declines less in a downturn, and recovers more quickly after a market shock  Thus, you are less likely to find yourself under water with respect to your mortgage, and more likely to have good options when the time comes to sell, if that is what you want or need.

This principle is what experienced real estate agents are referring to when they say a property does (or does not) have good resale value.  Listen to them!  In the long run, a modestly-priced quality property is usually a better investment than the bargain-basement, price-is-my-only-consideration “deal”.

Traditionally, West U has tended to rise strongly, followed by a plateau.  That is exactly what we are seeing now.  Our prices are flat or up a couple of percent relative to last year.

So, flat – it’s the new up!  And that sounds pretty good to me, at least by comparison to real estate prices some of the national forclosure markets.

Roger Martin 

Oct. 8, 2009

FOUND MONEY! Check the Unclaimed Property Websites

Finding money on unclaimed funds websites

After a change of address - which of course is what my real estate clients all do - it can be a good idea (and fun!) to check the unclaimed property websites for "found money".  It is all too easy for a utility deposit or a tax refund to be left behind when your address changes.

Check out the Unclaimed Property website of the State of Texas at http://www.window.state.tx.us/up/.  I found a surprising amount of missing money among my friends and clients, ranging from 27 cents on up to $1,100.00, maybe more!  I personally found over $100.

The challenge!!! Go to the website and see if you are there. Or your relatives. Or your friends.

A few hints. Be bold. If you lived anywhere in Texas, put that city in and search. I have found funds going back so far I still had hair. There is a link to other states that also retain funds… where did your parents or other relatives live?

Final warning, searching can be addictive! When I find something, I’m sending out emails to friends from college. Hopefully, they will buy lunch next time I see them.

Roger Martin

Oct. 8, 2009

West University Place Building New Recreation Center

The City of West University Place is making GREAT progress on our new Recreation Center, located on the site of the former YMCA on Bellaire at Westpoint. The concrete parking lot is cured, and the new building is framed and covered with damp-proofing material (that neon green stuff in this photo).  The contractor began to sheath the building with stone in mid-October.  This project is really moving along – and is scheduled for completion next spring!

Well done, West University Place!  Its inovative design includes a second pool for the neighborhood lap swimmers, as well as squash courts, playing fields, and a gym.  Can't wait to see (and use!) this new Recreation Center.

Roger Martin