Category Archives: Blog Posts

About Home Inspections

If you are purchasing a resale property, we highly recommend that you have a professional home inspector conduct a thorough inspection.  The inspection will include the following:

  • Appliances
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Air conditioning and heating
  • Ventilation
  • Roof and Attic
  • Foundation
  • General Structure

FrontThe inspection is not designed to criticize every minor problem or defect in the home. It is intended to report on major damage or serious problems that require repair. Should serious problems be indicated, the inspector will recommend that a structural engineer or other professional inspect it as well.

Your home cannot “pass or fail” an inspection, and your inspector will not tell you whether he/she thinks the home is worth the money you are offering. The inspector’s job is to make you aware of repairs that are recommended or necessary.

The seller may be willing to negotiate completion of repairs or a credit for completion of repairs, or you may decide that the home will take too much work and money.  A professional inspection will help you make a clear-headed decision.  In addition to the overall inspection, you may wish to have separate tests conducted for termites or the presence of radon gas.

In choosing a home inspector, consider one that has been certified as a qualified and experienced member by a trade association.

We recommend being present at the inspection.  This is to your advantage.  You will be able to clearly understand the inspection report, and know exactly which areas need attention.  Plus, you can get answers to many questions, tips for maintenance, and a lot of general information that will help you once you move into your new home.  Most important, you will see the home through the eyes of an objective third party.

Missed Opportunity for Giving: April 2013

As we promised last month, we are once again going to share the missed opportunity for giving – the amount that could have been donated to the community if every Realtor® in the Austin area donated 25% of their commission the way that Give Realty’s agents do.

April2013MLSGiven the total sales volume of $812,424,317 in the Austin MLS in April, the missed opportunity for giving last month was $12,186,364.75.

In case you can’t imagine what $12.1 million could have done for our community, here are a few examples. $12.1 million represents 25% of all expenses for Capital Area Food Bank for the fiscal year ending in 2011.  It represents 38% of all expenses for The Livestrong Foundation for the fiscal year ending in 2011. It also represents 127% of the total expenses for Life Works for that same fiscal year. Finally, 12.1 million is 49 times the $244,553.05 that Give Realty has donated since our beginning.

Talk about a missed opportunity…

Look for the “missed opportunity” every month on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

*Financial information based on numbers released in Austin Business Journal’s 2013 Giving Guide.

The Difference an Interest Rate Increase Can Make

Guest blog post written by Josh Flores, Senior Loan Officer with Supreme Lending.

Often times I get the question from prospective new buyers as to whether or not waiting to buy is a good idea. With the market as hot as it is, it can get frustrating trying to find the right house at the right price. For many buyers it comes down to the right monthly payment.

When you speak to us lenders, we are also concerned with payment and how that factors into your debt to income ratio, aka, your “DTI.” When we pre-qualify a client, we are always asked to generate a maximum sales price so that buyers know what price range they need to search in. For approval purposes though, the price is not as important as the DTI for us. Of course all the other factors come into play (credit, assets, employment, etc.), but for now, I want to talk about how rates can affect payment, affordability, and therefore maximum purchase price.

I have some comparisons on monthly payments when rates change at different sales price below.


I’m only calculating the effect that a 1% increase would make. Most experts will tell you they don’t foresee rates increasing sharply over the next 2-3 years. They will however warn that rates are “trending” upwards. So I believe 1% should be a relevant comparison for 2013 vs. 2014 mortgage rates. Notice how a 1% increase affects your purchase power at different sales price levels. The similar payment of the 300K loan at 4.5% vs. the 350K loan at 3.5% really shows how the rate can affect affordability and reduce purchase power.

The other factor to consider is property value. Equity growth very much depends on the area you are buying in but in Central Texas I would conservatively say a 5% increase year-to-year would be expected over the next few years, and we have seen (and will continue to see) some areas increasing at higher rates. So if you consider the fact that the home will be more expensive and the potential difference in finance rates moving forward, you find the answer as to why the real estate industry is so busy.

Whether you are buying your first home or moving into your next home, affordability plays a large role in this. If you’re on the fence, the indicators suggest that acting now is the right move. The market is tricky right now though, so if you have decided to pull the trigger, be sure to look for experience when choosing professionals to help you. Good luck out there!

Now back to work for me….

JoshFloresPhotoJosh Flores is a senior loan officer with Supreme Lending. He attributes his success as a loan officer not to marketing genius but rather to his practice of working with one client at a time. His philosophy is to do the best, most professional job for each of his clients, which has led to his history of repeated client referrals.

Josh believes that education and experience are the two most important assets he can share with each of his clients, whether that client is an experienced investor or a first-time home buyer.

Josh received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from St. Edward’s University, where he graduated magna cum laude. Josh and his wife have two children, a daughter and a son.

What Your Donation Actually Means for the Nonprofit: CASA

I thought that you might like to know what the donations you make through Give Realty actually mean for the nonprofits that receive them.

Here is what one nonprofit said a donation meant for them:

A recent donation of $4,854.00 was made to CASA of Travis County on behalf of Hugh McGowan and Julie Warner.

Director of Development at CASA, Robin Bradford, stated this donation will provide a CASA advocate for a year to three children who have experienced abuse or neglect.

During that year, the CASA advocate/volunteer will get to know the child, meet with family, foster parents and other key adults, and become an expert on the child’s unique needs. The CASA volunteer will provide detailed written reports to the judge on how the child is doing and speak to the judge in court at quarterly hearings. Within a year’s time, the child’s temporary stay in foster care must end according to the law. By the end of that time, the CASA volunteer has played a key role along the way as the only person focused on that one child (and not a whole case load of children) and is often the most-informed person about where the child should now live.

What a wonderful gift!

We hope to bring you more examples of your donations at work in the future.

What If Every Realtor Did What Give Does?

As you know, the Give Realty business model is different than your average real estate brokerage. 25% of our commission from every transaction is donated to the 501(c)3 nonprofit of our buyer’s or seller’s choice, in their name. We do this because we believe in giving back to the community. Through these donations, we have donated a total of $232,698.55 and have much more in the pipeline.

SafePlace Donation Combined PhotoWhat you may not know is that for me, these donations are just a part of the plan. My hope is that these donations are just steps along a path of giving for my clients. For some, this donation represents the first time they were able to make a donation to a nonprofit organization. For them, I hope that this initial donation leads to additional donations, to advocacy, to gifts of their time and talent. For others, this donation is just another step in a path that has already begun. For them, I hope that this donation helps them continue on that path.

You see, what I really want is for these donations to trigger a change in our community, greater than the donations themselves.

Wells Love-A-BullI want these donations to shake up real estate in our great city, in our nation, and across the world. I want my clients to encourage others to demand this same kind of accountability for giving back from their Realtors®. I want ALL Realtors® to make similar donations. I would love for my unique business model to become ordinary. This is because I know the difference that putting this kind of money back into our community could make.

To that end, I am starting what I am calling the “If every Realtor did what Give does” social media feature. Every month when the figures for Austin’s sales volumes from the previous month are released, I am going to share with you the missed opportunity, the amount of money that could have been donated if every Realtor® in our community donated 25% of their commission.

March2013MLSFor instance, the total volume of sales in the Austin MLS during the month of March 2013 was $637,173,872. After factoring in 6% commission earned on each transaction (3% for the seller’s agent and 3% for the buyer’s agent) and the 25% of this commission that could have been donated, I can share that the missed opportunity for giving was $9,557,608.08

Can you imagine what that $9.5 million could have done for our community? I can.

~ Laurie

Look for the “missed opportunity” every month on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Housing Market

flipped house (2)If you are in the process of selling a home you can look forward to a roller coaster ride!   Having had 6 homes go under contract in the past two weeks (3 listings/3 buyers), here are some tips to help sellers navigate the craziness of the Austin real estate market.

Staging pays!  We advise our clients to de-clutter – twice!  Do it once and then do it again.  Next, straighten all the books left in the bookshelves, rent a storage unit and put all the clutter in there OR neatly pack it in boxes and store it in the garage in an organized fashion. Touch up the paint, clean your windows inside and out….and finally purchase some plants and flowers for both inside and outside to add splashes of color.  Make sure your agent hires a great photographer. The first impression a buyer will get is from the photos in the MLS.

Don’t get greedy!  Setting a realistic price point and getting multiple offers is much better than overpricing and having your home sit on the market.  With multiple offers, you have the opportunity to pick the contract that works the best for you!

Review all your offers and negotiate the terms that would work best.  Need the proceeds of the sale to purchase another property?  Negotiate an early close and lease the property back from the new owner.

Sometimes it’s not all about the money.  Don’t just look at the net proceeds. Find out the background of the potential buyer.  Maybe it makes a difference to you that this is their first home and they have saved for 5 years, or that the buyer works for a nonprofit or the buyer is a single mom, etc. You can still sell your home for a fair price and make a huge difference in the life of someone else, and we’re not just talking about the 25% commission donation Give Realty makes on our client’s behalf.

Tips for buyers and for people on the fence will follow in the next few weeks.

~ Laurie


Renovation Reality – It’s Done

Apologies for being so terrible in finishing up this blog post series. I never realized how much I would miss having Victoria as a back-up since she has been on maternity leave. I’m a firm believer in putting clients first and by doing so, my personal and family life had to take a back seat for a little while.

Here’s the original blog post and the remodel update if you would like to catch up.

Remodel of Bathroom 1
The “wet room” is complete! It’s a super small space (5’x4.5’) so it’s pretty hard to take pictures. I was finally able to take some decent photos when the bathroom window was replaced.


Remodel of the 2nd bath
The remodel of the second bath is now complete also! They started on 2/27 and I have to say the scariest thing was what would be behind the walls of the fiberglass molded tub – fortunately there was no mold or any other scary things. The project was very similar to the first bath. Everything torn apart so life felt very discombobulated, dust everywhere, Joy and Juan from Reflections Remodeling in and out of the house. We are fortunate to know and trust Joy enough to give her a key to the house and let her come and go as needed. The project took a little longer than anticipated, but they were all complete by 3/18 and we are very pleased with the results of both bathrooms!


I’ve learned a lot since both these project started. The most important is to have patience. Although the project took a little longer than anticipated, it was so worth it to have quality construction and things done right. I’d rather have it take longer and have quality work than have it done quickly and have the contractor cut corners.

I LOVE my new bathrooms and in reality, it only took 5 weeks of chaos to result in bathrooms we will enjoy for many, many years. Now I can have visitors to the house and not have to worry how we can get 4 people showered in the morning. Plus, every time I walk into the bathroom(s) it makes me smile and have an ooh-aah moment. I’m happy we didn’t go overboard and tear down walls to make things bigger. It also gave me a great opportunity to de-clutter and get rid of all the make-up, hair product and toiletries I will never use.

I’m a happy girl.

How much did all this cost in the end?

Bathroom 1 – the wet room
Reflections Remodeling estimate for work to be done $3,645.00
Work Included:
• Tile walls and floors – customer to purchase tile
• Remove vanity and create shower area. Includes shower pan, chisel for drain line and reconfiguration of plumbing in wall. Customer to purchase shower valve assembly.
• Add wall mount sink to adjoining wall. Includes removing drywall and tap into drain and water lines.
• Add LED can light to ceiling (light included in price)
• Install curtain track for shower
• Remove current door and repair/fill door trip

Change Orders $ 512.30

Shower head did not include a shower valve assembly
New window that could be used in a wet area
Modifications to can light
Extra box of tile

TOTAL – Reflections Remodeling $4,157.30

Cost of Tile $ 650.00
Corner Sink and Faucet $ 210.00
Mirror $ 75.00
Shower head/assembly $ 122.00
Cabinet $ 140.00
Corner Shelf $ 15.00
Shower Curtain Track $ 100.00

Grand TOTAL $5,469.50
Budget $5,000.00
Difference $ 469.50

Bathroom #2 –
Reflections Remodeling estimate for work to be done $2,765.00
Work Included:
• Remove flooring and baseboards
• Tile walls 40” up, floors and shower area – customer to purchase tile
• Remove bathtub and create standup shower area. Includes shower pan, chisel for drain line and add shower bench and niche in wall for bottles, etc.
• Install new shower assembly

Change Orders $ 225.00

Shower head did not include a shower valve assembly
Add new light/vent in bathroom

Grand total Reflections Remodeling $2,990.00

Cost of Tile (a tad extravagant but so worth it!) $1,410.00
Shower Head Assembly $ 122.00
Cabinet $ 190.00
Shower Curtain Track $ 70.00
Ceiling light/fan combo $ 120.00

Grand Total $3,492.00
Budget $3,500.00
Difference $ -8.00

~ Laurie

Related posts:
Renovation Reality: What a Remodel is Really Like
Renovation Reality: What a Remodel is Really Like. Day 1 – 13

St. Louise House Furniture Donations

For many people, moving means getting rid of used furniture. Whether you are trying to de-clutter before putting your house on the market, downsizing for a move to a smaller place, or just using moving as a reason to make a change, you probably have a few pieces of furniture that will need a new home of their own.

I’d like to encourage you to donate your gently used furniture to a great Austin area organization, Saint Louise House.

SLH_logo_center_notagSaint Louise House provides deeply affordable and supportive housing for low income homeless women and their children with the goal of helping families develop long-term stability. Saint Louise House has grown from five apartments in 2001 to two 24-unit apartment complexes with the capacity to serve 46 families. In this housing environment, families are encouraged to be a part of a supportive community as they work or attend school.

Saint Louise House takes a unique approach to housing. Each family that moves in opens the door to a fully furnished apartment (including house wares, linens and décor). When the family is ready to move into their next home, they take everything with them. This approach provides a sense of stability for families who’ve experienced much uncertainty, and it is furniture donations which help make this approach possible.

Saint Louise House accepts the following furniture items for donation:

• Sofas, loveseats, chairs
• Dining room tables and chairs
• End and coffee tables
• Sturdy TV stands or small entertainment centers
• Night Stands
• Dressers
• Toddler beds with mattress
• Adjustable metal bed frames

For a full list of all items accepted for donation, click here.

So instead of throwing away the furniture you won’t be taking to your new home, donate it to a family in need.

To donate your furniture or learn more about Saint Louise House, contact:
Mindy Heredia, Volunteer and In-Kind Donations Coordinator
302-0027 ext. 17 or

Top 10 things I learned at SXSW last week

I experienced SXSW for the first time this past week! Here’s my top 10 countdown to the top things I learned at SXSW:

10.  Paisley capri pants on men is not a good look.  Ditto for white overalls.  I don’t care how European you are.

9.  SXSW in Austin Robert Rodriquez on the Doritos Stage AntonesIt was insane that there was an Eric Clapton concert on Sunday (not related to SXSW, but an amazing way to round the week out).

8.  The most obscure artists can be the best musicians you have ever seen.

7. Musicians and real estate agents have a lot in common.  Both careers are much less glamorous than the media and public makes them out to be and most barely make a living at it.

6. Sometimes you need to just let go and dance like a white chick.

5. Call me old school but what do prerecorded tracks and a gizmo on a microphone that manipulates vocals have to do with “live music”?

4. The electrical outlet was one hot commodity.

3.  If you have musical Attention Deficit Disorder, SXSW is the event for you! 30-45 minute sets, 5-7 songs….my kind of listening.

2.  I now understand why Austin is known as the music capital of the world.

1.  Austin REALLY knows how to throw a party!

-Laurie Loew

GeneroCity Award: Give Realty Took Home a Win!

Austin realtor

In photo (right to left): Bobby Jenkins, Laurie Loew, Ed Kargbo (owner Yellow Cab), and Don Kendrick (President Wells Fargo).

Butterflies in my stomach; a table full of Give Realty staff and supporters; a room full of 300 generous people at the Austin Gives Luncheon to celebrate the inaugural GeneroCity awards.  I feel honored just to be in the same room, let alone for Give Realty be a finalist for the Small Business Award.

Roy Spence, cofounder of GSD&M/Idea City and founder of Royito’s, was the guest speaker.  To hear him speak is always inspiring and the story of his journey entertaining.  I’m always surprised at the similarities in the entrepreneurial stories of folks who have started a business and Roy’s tales about startup funding, business ideas and making a difference were all relative to the Give Realty journey.

As you can imagine, I often get asked about the Give Realty business model.  There are many adjectives that can be used to describe it: smart; rewarding; transformational; difficult. Now that Give Realty has 4.5 years under its belt and has survived the ups and downs, I can honestly say it has been the bravest thing I have ever done.  As the saying goes “hindsight is 20/20 vision”.  I am not so sure I would have had the stamina and the courage to fund the model had I known how long it would take to gain traction.

We won!  Give Realty’s name is called as the winner of the Small Business award. There is a round of cheers at the table.  Ultimately this award belongs to Give Realty’s clients.  Without you there would be no Give in Give Realty. I have said it before and I will say it again, our clients are our angel investors. You get it. You understand that allowing us to help you change your address allows us to continue giving in hopes of changing the world.

The rewards are endless. Give Realty has the best, kindest, most inspiring, giving and caring clients on the planet.  The business model allows us to give to wonderful organizations that are doing amazing things in and for our community. Our clients and the nonprofit community are our biggest fans and best advocates along with all the friends who share our story.

Give Realty consists of two full time agents (Laurie and Victoria), one part time agent (Sarka) and a part time admin person (Kim).  There are 9000+ agents who are members of the Austin Board of Realtors®.  If  I  am being truthful, most days I feel like David.  Thank you, Austin Gives, for helping Give Realty be Goliath.

Congratulations to Harden Health Care and BuildASign on their wins too!

Austin Gives™ is a community program to recognize and encourage business philanthropy in metropolitan Austin. There are currently over 130 business members who have committed to giving 1% or more of their pretax earnings to philanthropic efforts. 

How it Works

When you buy or sell a home, 25% of Give Realty’s commission is donated to the 501(c)3 nonprofit of the client’s choice. That’s right – YOU choose the recipient. Learn More

Change your address. Change the World.®