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This month I have to get on my soap box and ask, what has happened to customer service in this country? What happened to the days of calling a company and someone actually answers the phone? Why do we spend 15 minutes pressing buttons and sometimes waiting on hold for over an hour to speak to a live person?

Unless all our lines are in use, when you call Energy Realty, you speak to a live person. Although I am not a large corporation, I think it is important to speak to someone that can either answer your questions or direct you to someone who can. Personally, I am tired of calling a service company and reaching a person in another country that is following a script rather than truly listening to my issues and finding a resolution. Why do I have to spend 20 minutes going through a script of questions every time I call?

Real Estate is a service industry as well, yet so many Realtors do not want to pick up their phone and actually speak to someone.  Communications take place by text and e-mail, and we have lost the art of more direct communication. As a professional in the industry, I have learned that it is important to review Contracts in person so that our clients understand what they are signing and what their obligations and rights are prior to signing. I love the ease of e-signature as much as anyone, but how many people never read what they are signing?

Words can be misconstrued over text or e-mail, so when resolving conflict or negotiating, it is better to actually speak to the other party, either over the phone, or face to face.  Technology has brought us so many wonderful tools and made our lives easier in so many ways, but it is also distancing us from effective communication.

As more information becomes available on the internet, I still believe that nothing replaces the interaction with a live, knowledgeable person. We can find a “how to video” for almost anything we want to do, and some people may choose to follow that route, but many people will choose to hire an expert to assist them. In the end, a true professional will not only save you time, but often save you money as well.

There are so many details involved in a real estate transaction, so it is important to work with a professional that can guide you through the process and provide a full service experience. I am a big online shopper, but sometimes I require a local business that is available to answer my questions in person.  I want the Ace Hardware experience, where I can feel like a person and not a number.

I recently attended the Women’s Council – Houston Industry Event featuring both Ted Jones and Bob Hale for the 2018 HAR and Economic Updates, and left with a good feeling about the forecast for real estate in 2018. Both speakers presented an optimistic forecast for increased sales in Houston and a rebounding market.

Realtors are the foot soldiers, so we see firsthand what is happening in the market and can present a realistic picture of the activity in the field. At Energy Realty, we have seen both showing activity and open house activity double in the last few months, and many homes for sale have started to go under contract.

Since we are located in the heart of the Energy Corridor, a large percentage of our inventory last year was impacted by flooding, but we have continued to assist home owners with selling flooded properties both on and off the market so they can move on and rebuild their lives. The average price of flooded homes has increased by 10-20% as more investors arrive in Houston and make this market more competitive. A listed flood home sells on average for $50,000 more than the off market homes.

Our agents have been on the ground advising flooded home owners, and at this time, the only known is the “as is” flood home. We know what the as is flooded homes are selling for , but in the next month or two, we should have a better grasp of what remodeled flooded homes will sell for. To date, I have only seen a few comparisons of remodeled flooded home sales; one home in Westchester sold 10% under pre -flood value, and another home in Lakes on Eldridge sold at 100% of pre-flood value. Stay tuned as this market heats up…

Spring is the season for selling homes, so we hope to see inventory improve, offering buyers more options. If you have been thinking of selling your home, this may be the year to sell! Interest rates are on the rise, but should stay in an affordable range through the end of the year. Please call an Energy Realty Realtor today for professional advice on buying or selling.

The Houston real estate market has been about as consistent as oil prices and the weather lately! Let’s face it, if we are completely honest, 2017 was not a great year to sell a home. Houston was hit hard by unstable oil prices, and then Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc the last quarter. It is tough to sell a home when buying activity drops to half of what we saw in the first two quarters of 2017. If your home sat on the market for 3-6 months with little activity, don’t feel bad–a lot of sellers experienced the same thing.

I received calls from a lot of anxious sellers last year, and although I would love to tell every seller that I have some magical potion to sell homes in any market, I prefer to be honest and up front from the beginning. While every detail like staging, photos, updates, and pricing made a difference, there were no guarantees that this would sell your home.

2017 was as upredictable as oil prices. It was not surprising to see a neighbor’s house go under contract with multiple offers while the one across the street sat with little showings. The “wow” houses continued to sell as well as homes priced under market. What creates that “wow” factor in a home? While every seller believes that they have the most beautiful home in the neighborhood (and they should), they may have missed all the changes in home design over the last 10 years. Below are some of the “wow” factors that could help a home sell faster in today’s market:

  • Large back yard with pool, outdoor kitchen, or living space. The average back yards are a dime a dozen in Houston, but I have seen an impressive back yard sell a house in days. If you have a small yard, your realtor may give you some tips to make it more appealing.
  • Open living spaces and high ceilings. This is something that is not easy to change and may not be characteristic for your neighborhood. Buyers today like open spaces and in Texas we entertain in our kitchen. An open kitchen gives you more breathing room.
  • Updated Kitchen. White cabinets and counters have been the rage for the last 5 years. If you have old wood cabinets, think about painting them. Not only will it update your kitchen, but it will makeyour kitchen look larger. If appliances are old, this may be a decent investment to help your home sell faster.
  • Update bathrooms. Updating a bathroom is a lot less expensive than a kitchen. A bathroom can often be updated with new counters, faucets, and lights. Don’t have a budget to update? You would be amazed at how new faucets and lights can transform a bathroom. Add a framed mirror and neutral shower curtain. These are details that a professional realtor can offer guidance on.
  • Fresh paint and flooring.A fresh coat of paint can transform a house and make it look new again. Believe it or not, the reds and tans are no longer in style. A neutral color palette will appeal to a greater number of buyers and help your house sell faster. My go to color is Accessible Beige by Sherwin Williams. Flooring can be a lot more expensive, and you may not have the budget for it. If carpet and floors are in good shape, a good cleaning can make a big difference. Don’t forget to clean dingy grout!

These tips will help your house sell faster in a down market. 2018 is heating up, so it may not be necessary to update and improve your house in the next few months, but a clean, fresh smelling home will always give a better first impression. Remember that buying a home is an emotional decision in most cases. A clean and well staged home has a better chance of giving a buyer warm fuzzies about living there.

Happy New Year! The Christmas decorations are coming down and everyone is resuming their normal routines again after the holiday break.  We ended 2017 with a bang after being hit with Hurricane Harvey and the market did not rebound as we had hoped it would the three months following Harvey.

Ringing in 2018, the stock markets rallied this week and so did oil prices, surging over $60 a barrel for the first time in almost 2 years! Analysts are predicting that prices could go up as high as $80 a barrel in 2018, which will have a positive impact on our real estate market.

If you are reading the newspapers, it seems that Houston’s real estate market picked up after the hurricane, but if you have been trying to sell your home for the last 5 months, your perspective might be different. Home sales did surge in some areas after the hurricane, but how many of those homes were flooded and sold to investors? Flooded homes are a hot commodity and are seeing multiple offers in many cases, while non-flooded homes continue to move slowly.

Why is there such a demand for flooded homes while other homes remain on the market until prices drop? I believe that buyers are looking for deals, and the flooded home is a perceived value. Whether or not the flooded home is truly a deal, buyers perceive these homes to be a deal, just like a foreclosed property. The reality is that by the time you add the rebuild cost to the flooded homes, they may not be the best “deal” on the market, so all costs should be evaluated carefully.

As we move into 2018 and oil prices move into a more positive direction, I am optimistic that our real estate market will continue to revitalize as well. As we pack our holiday decorations away and put 2017 behind us, we look forward to seeing more buyers gain confidence again and we sell more homes in 2018!

Energy Realty officially re-opened our office just before Thanksgiving,  2.5 months after the Army Corps of Engineers released water from the reservoirs and flooded our community.

I want to thank Vista Management and the owners of our shopping center for being proactive in restoring our office and making it better than before! We have new floors, new cabinets, new counters, new furniture , and new computers. I hope that we can be an example to the community that we can all come back after Hurricane Harvey and be stronger and better than ever!

I am also happy to report that I am back in my home after restoring it after Harvey, and I am re-building my other home in Memorial Thicket. Many neighbors, clients, and friends have reached out for guidance on what their options are in regard to selling a flooded home or remodeling it, and both I and my agents have been scurrying around the neighborhoods offering guidance and assistance when needed.

Whether you are remodeling your home or selling it, please seek professional guidance so that we can help you protect your investment.

Every situation is different, so it is important to evaluate all of your options before making a decision. Our communities are slowly turning around, and we are seeing signs of life as families move back into their homes. Some of the lawns have green grass again, and as every day passes, life is more normal again.

I am not sure what 2018 has in store for us, but there is a positive buzz in the air! Houston suffered tremendous losses in 2017 with huge layoffs and then Hurricane Harvey, but we are on our way back. We expected to see the market turn within 2-3 months of the hurricane, but ran into the holidays and continued layoffs. There are some changes in the horizon with higher mortgage limits and tax reform that could impact the housing market in both a positive and negative way.

I remain optimistic that 2018 will be an amazing year for Houston, so I want to encourage all of you to enjoy the holidays. We wish you a joyous holiday and a Happy New Year!

By now, many flooded homeowners are on the road to recovery and are starting the rebuilding stage in their homes. As a flooded homeowner myself, I understand many of the concerns and obstacles ahead for all of us, so I would like to share some of my insight on how we can rebuild our homes and not only regain the lost values, but also increase the values of our homes and neighborhoods. 

As the Broker/Owner of Energy Realty, I have the advantage of seeing the changes in construction and remodeling on a daily basis as I tour both new and old construction homes on the market. In this newsletter, I have included articles to make our homes more modern and appealing as we rebuild our homes, but I will try to highlight some of the elements that I think are more critical: 

  • Proper Remediation:  The first step before remodeling is to have your home professionally remediated by a professional, certified moisture remediation company like Servpro. I hired laborers to tear out sheet rock and flooring, then had a local Servpro company complete the remediation with drying machines, dehumidifiers, and anti-microbial for $2100. Please call Thad with Bear Creek Servpro at 713-501-5652 if you have not done this.  I then had AQ Mold Testing Services test for mold prior to starting construction on my home, and I passed! My home is mold free!  The mold test was $500, and they will issue me a certificate from the Health Department that my home was mold free after the flood.  This is a critical step! 
  • Open Floorplans:  Prior to 1990, homes were constructed with kitchens closed off to living areas. Most new homes built after that time opened the kitchen to the living area. This accommodates a lifestyle for families so that they can be together when they are cooking and is also a great lay out for entertaining. No matter how appealing we make the other rooms, everyone ends up in our kitchen! I hired a design firm called Kent and Kent at www.kentandkent.com. I am happy to share my designs for an open floor plan upon requests. 
  • Timeless Finishes:  Design trends change every 10 years, so what we updated 10 years ago is already out of style. Oil Rubbed Bronze faucets and fixtures were the rage 10 years ago, but they are already outdated. Believe it or not, gold is back, but I believe it will be out again in 10 years. If you don’t want to remodel your home again in 10 years, select classic finishes like chrome or brushed nickel;  hardwood floors in medium brown finish; and white cabinets. Greige is the trending color for walls currently, but may be out of style in 10 years as well.  However, it is not expensive to re-paint, so if you like the grays, go for it! White walls are coming back, so don’t be afraid to go with this timeless neutral. 
  • Update for Your Neighborhood:  Your updates need to be a consistent with the quality found in your neighborhood. I see home owners make the mistake of over updating for their neighborhood often. Talk to your neighbors or look at their homes. If you are in a custom built neighborhood, you will need higher end finishes, but if you are in a starter neighborhood, you can install lower grade finishes that look great. 
  • Update the Exterior:  Now that we have the opportunity to update our interiors, we should make our exterior look new as well. The water from the floods could have damaged exterior paint, fences, pools, and landscape. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but don’t forget to make the exterior look new as well. 

We have a long path ahead of us, and the floods were devastating to so many. I am confident that we can see the bright side of the damage caused by Harvey and rebuild our neighborhoods to be better than ever! I have a team of experienced agent on hand to sit with you and offer guidance on rebuilding, or I am happy to share the names of contractors, designers, and builders. Harvey Knocked Us Down, but We Will Rebuild Together! 

As I write this, I am in week three of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and the devastation and loss has been heartbreaking to witness, not to mention the loss of my own homes and office.

While I am dealing with my own losses, I feel fortunate that I have the resources and knowledge on how to get through a flood quickly and cost effectively, but I also realize that not everyone has that same advantage. The purpose of this newsletter is to help spread information  and get the word out that Energy Realty is here to help.

We are currently in the process of setting up a temporary office while our office is rebuilt, and I am arming my team of 30 Realtors with the information in this newsletter so that we can help the homeowners in our community that have been affected.

First and foremost, please make sure to call a Certified moisture remediation company to properly test your home for moisture and mold and to provide a final remediation and letter stating that your home has been properly remediated. If you do not do this, it will seriously impact your ability to sell or lease your home in the future. You can hire someone else to tear out your drywall and flooring to save money, or do it yourself, but you will need this certified remediation before you re-build. I have a contact with Servpro that will perform this remediation for $2100-$2500.

Once you are ready to re-build, please think about how to properly re-build to improve the value of your home. We have a unique (though unwelcome) opportunity to improve the values in our neighborhoods by updating and modernizing outdated homes. Energy Realty agents are available to advise on this, so please call us. We are your neighborhood Realtors.  Most of our flooded neighbors are fearful of the negative impact this flood will have on their home’s value, and I think that this article below that I found online, best explains how we can turn this into a positive outcome for everyone.

We need to work together to rebuild our neighborhoods to be even better than before. I have added an article that talks about the city’s plans to add a third dam and to improve the integrity of the current dams so that our homes are never flooded again. I am committed to lobbying this and will keep you posted on the progress.

The Energy Corridor has been my home for over 13 years, and I plan to make it better again and spend many more years living here. Join us in re-bulding and making our community stronger.

The uncertainty in the oil industry continues to impact home sales in Houston, and with the most recent downward turn of the price per barrel dropping under $50 a barrel, Houston’s home sales ease up as buyers become cautious again.

This was  just confirmed in an article in Houston Chronicle yesterday, which is reporting “inventory for single family homes has reached 4.5 months, the highest in 5 years, as the number of homes for sale jumped 16.7%  from a year ago.”

This is unfortunate, because like every commodity, it is a supply and demand issue, and as the supply goes up, the demand should follow, but the demand to purchase a home is not following the number of homes going on the market. With more to choose from, buyers become more selective and are choosing from the cream of the crop, so in order to be competitive, homes need to be pristine and updated to sell in this market.

Easier said than done for sellers that are operating on a budget and are forced to sell due to a job change or other reasons. Talk to your Realtor for tips on some minor inexpensive changes that may make a big impact, but remember that first impressions are critical, so please at least make sure that your home is well maintained and clean if you plan  to sell.

In May, Energy Realty launched a new website focusing on the difference between hiring an Energy Realty agent verses someone from a large company. In the last month, I have heard more complaints from consumers about Realtors aggressively soliciting for listings when they expire and making false promises about what they will deliver. The second biggest complaint I hear about our industry is that Realtors do not return calls nor follow up once they have the business, and I am appalled. If all I have to do is call my clients back, I win that hands down!

It is easy to become a licensed Realtor, but it takes the right training and leadership to become a professional Realtor. As a small boutique of 30 agents, I personally train and coach agents on a daily basis on how to provide exceptional full service to our clients and protect their interests during the real estate transaction. My goal is to make sure that all of our clients receive the same exceptional service, no matter which Energy Realty agent they are working with. Please check out our new website for more details on this commitment.

Aggressive agents are the “used car salesman” of the industry, but don’t think that we are all the same. Some of the larger brokerages have over 750 agents and most of these agents are not seasoned Realtors. The large brokerages are training these agents to aggressively call and knock on doors to get business, but they are not training these agents on how to be professionals and to understand the contracts. Your home is your largest asset, so choose your Realtor wisely.

When I wrote about the condition of the housing market in April (from my perspective), I was excited to report that activity was picking up and we were seeing multiple offers again. Perhaps I spoke to soon, because we saw a definite decrease in activity in May; although when priced right and in good condition, homes continued to go under contract in the first two weeks. However, across the board, we experienced a slow down in activity in May, and many of our sellers questioned why showings on their homes appeared to be slow.

We typically see a slow down in showing activity in the last two weeks of May as families become pre-occupied with end of school year activities and graduations, so there is no need to push the panic button yet. As we ease into June, activity is picking up again, and we hope to see the next two months remain strong in home sales and rentals.

The real estate market will follow the Energy prices, which are unpredictable, but stabilizing. The word on the street is that domestic production is picking up and companies are hiring again—good news for the U.S. and Houston!

With mortgage rates dropping again, and home prices rising slowly, it is a great time to buy! If you plan to sell this year, buyers are still particular, so contact a professional to give you the proper guidance to prepare your home to sell.


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