Monday, April 26, 2010

Another Reason to Love Austin --- Knitta Please!

For Art Week Austin Magda Sayeg knit bombed Trominski's blue signs on South Lamar. Driving into the office this morning, on South Lamar--  I actually felt lucky that traffic slowed enough for me to spend some time enjoying the transformed blue signs. I hope there is a time in the near future when I get to meet Magda. I am an amateur knitter at best, but Magda gives a girl inspiration! I love that she is bringing the art of crafting into the larger arts community. Read more about Magda and her plan for world domination one knit and purl at a time on her awesome blog KnittaPlease.

Turner Residential makes the Ellen Degeneres website!

My brokerage, Turner Residential, regularly advertises in The Onion and recently one of our print advertisements was featured on the Ellen website!

Check it out here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


In the real estate business your clients are everything. No clients, no business, no business, no late night shopping sprees on iTunes. I am really fortunate to have a lot of cool clients who then refer their cool friends, family and co workers to me and the cycle of being around fun and interesting people continues!

My clients needs are sometimes very similar but often they aren't. At any given time I could be working with a buyer that wants a move- in ready place, a seller that is looking to downsize or an investor who wants to buy cheap and sell high. In any of these scenarios or in any real estate transaction--the key to successfully getting a client what they want is clear and honest communication on my side and theirs.

I was thinking about the way I communicate with clients and people in general recently. Specifically, I was thinking about the way we perceive ourselves and then communicate this perception and how sometimes our perceptions may differ from reality. I see this manifested in the client-Realtor relationship most often with first time homebuyers who perceive themselves to be fixer upper types.

The idea of taking something rough and making it into something lovely and all your own is such an inticing idea and I fully understand why it is so appealing to people, especially creative people. DIYing is also very attractive financially to many people. "Sweat equity" is a term that exists for a reason.

Ok, so here's the straight dope. Everything will be harder and more costly than you thought it would be, a total remodel will take up all of your time and if you are living in the property while remodeling, it will suck. If you are cool with all of that, you should totally do it. Also, just like with everything in life there are degrees of difficulty and ease involved in making changes to a property. For example-- pulling up carpet is easy, but installing a sink is harder than you might think!

This brings me back to my original discussion about how we perceive ourselves. It is so important that clients engaged in the home buying process are honest with themselves and their Realtor about who they are as people, what they like to do on a daily basis and what they hope to achieve from home ownership. I meet many clients that initially want a fixer upper, and once they get out and look at properties that need work and they start to be more honest about who they are and how they want to spend their time, they discover that remodelers they are not. It is always interesting how people come to this realization.

So, what I am getting at is that it's always good to be honest with oursleves about who we are, but it is not always easy. I want to be the person that can knock out a wall, plant a garden, fix the dishwasher and give myself a home perm all at the same time, but I am not that person. It has taken me quite awhile to admit that--but now that I have, I am better at the stuff I am good at doing.

If you work with me, I will ask you all kinds of questions about your lifestyle and what you want out of your home. Questions like :

How important is it that you are near places you can walk to and get a coffee or the paper or whatever?

Do you need lots of yard space for gardens, dogs, babies, bunnies, chickens, underground tunnels etc.?

Have you ever painted a room?

Did you take wood shop in High School and if so, did you do well?

Have you ever been inside an attic space? Did it freak you out?

Are you REALLY going to cook every meal at home or do you have Pizza Hut on speed dial in your phone? You can tell me and I will not judge you.

And last but not least---Do you need help with that home perm? I am available. I am a FULL SERVICE REALTOR.

Those questions are kind of a mix of silly and serious, but I think you get the point. It is not just the "am I fixer upper or not" question that we need to ask ourselves when we are shopping for a home, but the "how do I want to spend my time and what is important to me about where I live" type questions that require a lot of self awareness to answer honestly.

I am here to help you get there if you aren't there already.

Oh- and PS: I have been in more attic spaces than I can count and I still get a little freaked out. Every time.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Austin Woman Magazine -- Who are these women?

While enjoying an awesome birthday on Monday, I came across Austin Woman Magazine in the waiting room of the place where I was having a massage (an awesome gift from an awesome guy, the massage--not the magazine).

I have seen this magazine in the past, but had not formed any strong opinions about its content. The primary mission of the magazine, as far as I could tell from reading it and then from a visit to the website, is to profile, promote and support strong and interesting women making contributions to Austin in the worlds of business, community, the arts, etc... This all sounds really good to me. The website refers to women like Liz Carpenter and Molly Ivins as inspirational.

So, imagine my disappointment when every other advertisement in this magazine is for a plastic surgery center. Seriously, like every other ad. I would assume from the number of these ads that the readers of Austin Woman magazine all have augmented breasts and are hard at work dealing with their varicose veins. If the readers are indeed spending time and money on surgeries and "beauty" treatments --where do they find the time to affect change in their businesses and their communities? While resting up after the last tummy tuck?

It is no news flash that women in our culture are confused about how to feel about the way we look and how we age. There are very few places where we can find positive reinforcement about dealing with these issues in an organic and enlightened way. Many women feel that they must look a certain way in order to be successful and to stay competitive in their chosen professions. I know that this is a very commonly held belief among women working in real estate. I feel very lucky to be able to run my business successfully and find fulfillment in my work in t-shirts and jeans and without a nose job.

Now, I would imagine that running a magazine is hard and to run a magazine you must have ad revenue. Can you turn away advertising dollars because you don't agree with the product for sale or the message it sends? Would that constitute censorship? These are all questions that I don't have answers for, but I do know this--plastic surgery and appearance are not a part of the conversation when it comes to men and the way they do business or participate in their communities. If there are any men out there that disagree with this, I would love to hear from you.

To be clear, nowhere in the Austin Woman magazine mission statement does it state that the publishers are feminists or supporting a specifically feminist agenda. In a conversation with a colleague about this subject HE made the observation that plastic surgery and feminist ideals could coexist. I wonder what Liz Carpenter would have to say about that and I wonder if I have blown my chances of being featured in Austin Woman magazine? :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Marijuana Law for Musicians

Charlie Roadman is a friend and client. I helped him and his family buy their current house and sell their old one. I like the idea of being able to use this blog to promote my real estate business as well as the endeavors of my clients, especially when they are doing cool stuff. On April 19th, 2010 Charlie will give his 5th annual "Marijuana Law for Musicians" presentation at the Mohawk. You can read more about him here, and below is an interview with Charlie that appeared in the ONION.

If the mere mention of April 20 (a.k.a. 4/20) makes you giggle, chances are you could do well to heed the advice of Charlie Roadman. A local musician (he fronts the Wilco-esque band F for Fake) and promoter, Roadman is also an attorney whose pet cause is defending people accused of marijuana violations — particularly musicians, such as Los Lonely Boys' JoJo Garza. In what's become an annual tradition on this stoniest of days, Roadman conducts a seminar called "Marijuana Law For Musicians," a humorous PowerPoint presentation in which he details many of the dos and don'ts of getting busted in Travis County. The A.V. Club recently spoke with Roadman about the common law violations musicians face, how not to get arrested (and what to do if you are), and what it's like being one of the town's most visible defenders of marijuana.

The A.V. Club: How does your being a musician aid you in defending them?

Charlie Roadman: I understand that $100 is a lot of money, which a lot of attorneys don't. And I've hung out with musicians all my life, so pretty quickly we can have a dialogue that doesn't have the dominant position of lawyer and client. [When I started], I thought there would be a lot more musicians getting arrested, and there really aren't. I think they're too busy making flyers and rehearsing to get in trouble.

AVC: Besides marijuana violations, what are musicians commonly in trouble for?

CR: DWIs, mostly. One of the things I talk about in my seminar is that — even though it seems funny to drive while you're stoned — if the officer thinks you're high, you will get a DWI, and that's not easy to get out of.

AVC: How would they decide that you're high?

CR: The eyes and the smell mostly. They're always looking for it. Then there's the field sobriety test.

AVC: What would spur them to give a field sobriety test?

CR: For them to let you go, they have to be willing to rish their job. They'll never, ever get in trouble for arresting people. So when they ask you to do the field sobriety test, nine times out of 10 they've already decided that they're arresting you, and they're just trying to gather evidence. Those tests are not designed for you to pass.

AVC: Let's talk about one of the most famous local cases: Matthew McConaughey, which you use in your seminar. What could he have done differently?

CR: The thing he did wrong was resist arrest and refuse to put on his clothes. He's an example of absolutely what not to do. He's standing there totally nude, screaming at these cops, "Get the fuck out of my house!" Don't resist. Don't be terrified to go to Travis County jail on a marijuana charge. You're gonna get out in eight to 24 hours, barring a few variables. You don't have to join a gang to stay alive, or whack anybody to prove you're a man. You can usually get a class C ticket if you haven't pissed off the cops, if you have a job or go to school, and haven't said too much that's incriminating.

AVC: But in McConaughey's case, it was his celebrity that got him off?

CR: Absolutely, yes. The punch line to my "Top 10 Ways to Avoid a Marijuana Conviction" is "Be a movies star and number one UT football supporter."

AVC: What about people whose celebrity is linked to marijuana? How is it that Willie Nelson isn't always in jail?

CR: [laughs] I have no idea. If it were you or me, we definitely would have been arrested. Cops don't want to arrest Willie Nelson, but really, the whole criminal justice system is based around people not wanting to lose their jobs.

AVC: So do you philosophically disagree with marijuana prosecution?

CR: There's no way I could prosecute somebody for any drugs, but absolutely not for marijuana. The first marijuana case that came across my desk, I'd dismiss it and I'd be fired. The system is really effective at stopping people from being cool. And not just marijuana, but the way we handle all drug users. If this culture ever has an enlightenment, 200 years from now, they'll look back at this and go, "Those guys were barbarians."

AVC: Do you think marijuana will ever be legalized?

CR: It pains me to say it, but I don't have faith that it will. There's just no rationality to it at all. Luckily in Travis County — which is a little bit of California surrounded by Alabama — you have the possibility that someone on the jury will be like you or me. So if prosecutors aren't reasonable in the plea bargain for a marijuana case, defense attorneys can say, "We're going to jury trial and we may win." You don't really have that option in Hays or Williamson County.

AVC: By putting yourself out there with these seminars and proclaiming yourself as a "defender of marijuana," do you find you're under closer scrutiny?

CR: People do the same thing with DWI charges, and that's a lot riskier in terms of public reaction. I think that people in Travis County smile when it's marijuana. The judges don't even want to deal with it. But they can't not deal with it, or the next time an election comes along a candidate will say, "My opponent is soft on drugs." It's a hypocrisy that everyone wishes they didn't have to deal with you, but it's not possible because of the bureaucracy. I wish it were.

But then you might be out of a job.

CR: That's okay. I could do something else.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Growing up in my family, the only real shared tradition was something that happened on Sundays called "Bloody Mary Morning", inspired by the song of the same name. It was pretty cool and allowed for a lot of observation of adult behavior that I found to be entertaining and sometimes funny and gross all at the same time. Some examples would be my uncle Jerry removing his false teeth on command, my grandfather telling stories that involved gun purchases made in parking lots in Mexico, and political discussions that were neither stimulating or progressive. I had not thought about these Sundays in a long time, but now that I have a Sunday tradition of my own I was reminded of the good old days (wink wink).

For the better part of a year, every Sunday morning/early afternoon I have been going to eat Dim Sum at this really authentic place here in Austin. I know that Austin TX and Chinese Dim Sum may seem like an incongruous marriage, but I assure you it is super tasty, really authentic and my new favorite tradition. I go with my boyfriend and sometimes other friends. My boyfriend and I are both super busy types so it's really cool that we have this immovable thing that we do on a weekly basis. We both feel very protective of it and if work/social obligations threaten it's occurence we both get very anxious. I know this may sound dramatic, but we both take food pretty seriously, for reals.

The other thing about having something that you do at certain times regularly is that it starts to give those interactions more meaning. The people that run the restaurant where we go for Dim Sum know us now and we have conversations with them and look forward to seeing them. They make suggestions for us, allow my boyfriend some space at their counter for him to leave postcards promoting a show he put on during SXSW and in this way become a part of our lives. I mean, I am not saying that if I were in jail or something I would call Yen from T and S Seafood to bail me out, but it's a big world with room for all kinds of relationships.

So, thank you Dim Sum and my boyfriend and my friends for helping me start my own tradition that I look forward to every week and that does not involve anyone removing false least not yet.


The following comes my way via Penelope Trunk's awesome blog (find it in the links section). I am generally wary of systems that advise a one way approach to matters as subtle as negotiating, but I like the BATNA idea in particular and it allows for flexibility. I think that women in business are faced with very specific challenges when it comes to negotiation practices. We are taught from a young age to please/placate and there is also the matter of our biology. We are wired to caretake and this can sometimes make negotiating challenging. In my line of work I am negotiating on behalf of my clients everyday and each situation is so unique, but I do think that being armed with some clearly defined strategies is a leg up---no matter what your gender! I hope you find this information as compelling and useful as I do.

Penelope writes:
So I was excited when I had the opportunity to interview the author of Getting toYes, William Ury. He's director of the Global Negotiation Project at Harvard, and his new book is The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes. Here are his five best tips for doing well in negotiations.

1. Take a break.
Ury calls this "going to the balcony" in order to get a big picture handle on what's going on so that you are not getting too worked up over irrelevant details. He says, "When we negotiate when we're angry we give the best speech we'll ever regret."

2. Know your BATNA.
This is negotiator-speak for "best alternative to a negotiated agreement." That is, if you have to walk away, what's the best you can get? This tells you how much power you have in negotiations. The person who needs the agreement the least has the best BATNA and the most power.

3. Put yourself in the other person's shoes.
Ury describes negotiation as an exercise in influence. "You need to change someone's mind, so you need to know where they are right now." This means listening more than talking. And the first question to ask is Why. You will hear their needs, but you need to know the underlying cause for the need. For example, if your boss wants you to work a 16-hour day. To negotiate with your boss, you need to understand why – what needs to get done in those hours. Maybe you can get it done a different way.

4. Learn to say no.
"In order to get to the right deal, you need to be able to say no to the wrong deal. Saying no is fundamental to the process of negotiation."
Tip from the department of great-if-you're-him: Warren Buffet once said that he doesn't understand "getting to yes" because he just says no until he sees a perfect yes. Buffet says you only have to give four or five great yes responses in his work in order to be a billionaire.

5. Be clear on your values.
For those of us who might not see a perfect yes, deciding on no is more complicated, and we have to be really clear in our own minds about what we value and what we need. Sometimes a no is surrounded by a deeper yes. For example. You say yes to the values, no to the tactics and yes to going forward. Ury calls this a positive no. But he warns that if you're in doubt, then the answer if probably no.

What I take away from Ury is that good negotiation is a combination of good self-knowledge and good people skills. And, not surprisingly, this is the combination that gets you a lot of things in life.

There are opportunities in each of our lives to practice negotiations constantly – even, as Web Worker Daily points out, in email. You can do it with a spouse, with a boss, with your neighbor who doesn't clean the yard. The better you get at the small stuff, the easier the big moments of negotiation will feel.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Investment Property Update: Austin Texas

Here is some really good information about buying and running investment properties in Austin.

Outlook for Rest of the Year

Along with the stellar Spring weather comes the historical high point of the real estate sales season. Several factors suggest that 2010 will continue to see surging demand for small multifamily real estate in the Central Texas area:

Reasons for Optimism:

• Central Texas unemployment is the lowest in the US at 7.2% and continues to drop. (link to As we've said many times, job growth is the single most important factor in real estate values. And our jobs are good ones. Most recent announcements of thousands of new jobs include Facebook, Yingli Solar Energy, and Hangar Orthopedics.
• Interest rates remain at all time lows.
• Our prices remain relatively affordable compared to other cities with a similar quality of life in other areas. U-Haul rates from California to Texas are still twice as expensive as rates in the opposite direction.
• We continue to be heralded in national publications as the best city in the U.S. for whomever and whatever (you name it). After watching the swarms of people attending this year's South by Southwest festival, I wasn't surprised to hear that $100M is injected into our economy every year from this event alone.

Potential Pitfalls:

• The $8,000 homebuyer tax credit expires April 30th. Some fear that the market will slow without this incentive, but I don't see the expiration as deeply reducing demand.
• The Federal Reserve will soon stop buying mortgage backed securities. This will almost certainly increase mortgage interest rates, though probably not too steeply.
• The Double Dip Recession seems increasingly unlikely, but remains a potential threat.
• Pressure to reduce the deficit will eventually require Washington to make some tough choices about taxes such as long term capital gains and possibly the mortgage interest deduction (which would both have an impact on real estate prices). Given how politically unpopular such moves are, however, we probably will not see any action here until 2011 or beyond, when the recession is an increasingly distant memory.

Remember, the days of rapid appreciation are gone, and will not return any time soon. Investors should always assume that real estate prices will rise in tandem with job growth and inflation. The more vibrant the area's economy, the more people moving to the area for jobs, and the more people buying real estate.

The Golden Rules of Property Investment Revisited

• Income must exceed debt service and operating expenses.
• Equity appreciation is nice, but should never be the primary factor in acquiring real estate.
• Focus first on cash flow, then on neighborhood, then on property.
• Working class neighborhoods are fine if they're in the path of progress and not at the end of their life cycle with deteriorating demographics.
• Like most experienced Central Texas investors, I like to stay as close to Central Austin as reasonably possible
• Keep a vigilant eye on operations.
• Are you protesting your appraised value with the county each year?
• Are you holding your property manager and leasing agents accountable for their performance?
• Make readies and maintenance shouldn't be eating up more than 20% of your monthly rental income.
• Don't raise rents! Wait until the tenant moves out, and then readjust to slightly under market value for the next tenant. Vacancy is the worst enemy of cash flow. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish.

Help Save the Cathedral of Junk

The Austin landmark, the Cathedral of Junk is in danger of being outlawed! Read more about it here---