Interior Color

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Paint color trends from The Spruce

The photo above is one of the photos used in the linked article above. The deep color on the walls looks luxurious, but is not overwhelming because of the white rug, trim, furniture, and ample natural light falling on the room.

Two personal stories for you:

  1. When we had three young children at home, I was always dreaming up ways of making our home more appealing (to me), and more usable for the family. After adding on a master bedroom and doing a lot of the work ourselves, we were down to the wall-painting part of the deal. I had chosen what I call “1940’s lawn furniture green”, which was a rich color. The room could support it, though, because it was lined with windows and plenty of white woodwork. I was standing in the other end of the house when I heard our eldest daughter say, “Daddy, why are you painting the room that color?” I laughed at my husband’s serious answer, “Because your mother went to art school.”
  2. Years later, different house. I had been contemplating our front room/entry hall for some time. I think it was designed to be a living room, but it was quite small for a home that was 4000 square feet. We used it for various purposes throughout our years in that home, and at this point, it was an office, with a cherry-finished L-shaped desk and credenza. I needed some excitement in that room, so one day when my husband came home from the office, I said, “Can you help me move this desk, please? I have decided to paint this wall purple.” And you know what he said? “Let me go get a phillips screwdriver to take apart the desk.” That was all!  By the way, in that same house, we went through 5 different paint colors in the dining room, including mustard yellow, before my friend landed on a soft green for us.

What paint stories do you have?

 

Number

Mark Sprague, of Independence Title in Texas, forecasts that the cost of labor will rise as much as 25% in the next year or so. Let’s think about it: the entire Texas coast and inland for 75 miles or more, was damaged/destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. All those homes and buildings need repair and replacement. That requires lots and lots of workers, right? More need for workers= rise in wages to lure those workers to the task at hand. This also means that more people will have money to buy stuff. Perhaps goods and services that you and I provide?

Already, the cost of building a new house is rising because of labor cost. I am thinking that if you, or someone you know, were planning to buy a new home anyway, now is the time.

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Kitchen in a Lennar home that a client and I were looking at this weekend.

Too Much Weather

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It is hard not to think about the weather, even when I look outside and see bright sunshine and early fall temperatures.

Keller Williams Disaster Response Teams have been “on the ground” along the Texas coast following the disaster that was Hurricane Harvey, carrying 18-wheeler truckloads of cleanup supplies to leased warehouse space close to the points of need. Agents and brokers in the Keller Williams family have been coming and going from undamaged areas for a week now, helping KW agents in the coastal areas clean out their storm-and-flood-damaged homes. This next week was supposed to be the annual Keller Williams Mega Camp in Austin, during which there are speakers and sessions on all aspects of the real estate business. This year is different, however: all attendees will be bused to the coastal areas on 137 chartered buses to help make more order out of chaos for areas devastated by Harvey two weeks ago. Agents come from all over the world to Mega Camp, so there will be a lot of people working to clean up Texas this next week.

I was just in the office of the man who is coordinating the buses and the work sites so that help is spread evenly where it is needed, and making sure that Keller Williams’ efforts are not duplicating efforts by other groups in the same locations. He said that the 18-wheelers are already loaded with supplies for the Florida area after Hurricane Irma hits.

The current hurricane report from the Washington Post is here, and I have quoted it below describing Category 4 winds:

Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

It is too late to re-engineer or do major preparations right in the immediate path of this storm, but Consumer Reports published some great articles on acting quickly after storms and flooding.

What Flood Insurance Does and Does Not Cover

How Flood Victims Can Get Financial Help

How to Salvage Your Valuables After Serious Flooding

Writing Off a Catastrophic Loss

 

 

 

The Measure of Things*

* Or, ‘Why square footage listed on the MLS points toward the truth, but might not be truth itself’. 

Just me being silly before leaving for my “What is ANSI?” class at Austin Board of Realtors

I am pretty sure the 100-foot tape measure in the video is older than I am, by the way.  Here’s bringing you information from Friday’s class on measuring square footage…

Where does that square footage number come from on a home-for-sale listing? It will say something like “according to tax records” or “according to owner”. But, really where did the county appraisal district or the owner get that number?

If the house was originally built as part of a subdivision of houses going in pretty much all at once, the builder probably had blueprints for 4 or 5 different house designs and the house in question came from one of those blueprints. Did the builder follow that blueprint exactly, or are there variations in the homes that all came from the same blueprint? Who knows? But, the county probably used the builder’s blueprint numbers to assign a square footage to the house in question.

If a house has no blueprint that is available, the county tax appraiser can come out and, using a wheeled device running along the ground, measure the footprint of the foundation to the nearest foot and calculate the square footage of the foundation from those measurements. (How exact do you think that is?) And, if the house has a second story, the footprint number is doubled to represent an approximation of the size of the house. Imagine if the upstairs portion of the house is a loft with only half the square footage of the room below. Or, imagine rooms under the sloping roofline that are scarcely high enough to stand up in. The county appraiser does not know these things just by looking at the house from outside, so the square footage calculation might be off considerably from the area a person can actually walk on inside the house.

Even square footage that was calculated by a licensed appraiser hired by a previous seller or by a previous lender might be a deceptive number. Until fairly recently, there was no standardized way of measuring square footage. Some measurements would include the thickness of interior walls in the total square footage and some would not. Some would include staircase space, some not. Some older measurements might include square footage of upstairs rooms with only 6-foot ceilings, while newer measurements would not. And so on and so forth.

A licensed appraiser is required now to use methods spelled out by the American National Standards InstituteWhich is a good thing, because we can compare two different house sizes measured recently by licensed appraisers.

But, if we are looking at the work of an appraiser from years ago, we simply don’t know how the square footage was calculated at that time.

Are you starting to be a little skeptical about how personally important that number is on the builder’s marketing material, or on the MLS listing? Yeah, me too. That’s why you always hear me answer the square footage question with exactly what we know, “1843 square feet according to the tax records“, or “5220 square feet according to the builder.” I am not trying to evade the question as much as I am emphasizing the approximate nature of that number we’re all looking at.

How does this affect you? Buyer or seller, you are gonna want the buyer’s lender to see an appraisal that matches what the buyer is offering for the house, right? I mean, what if the appraiser comes up with square footage that is considerably less than the square footage that has been on the county tax records all these years? The appraisal might not match what everyone has been thinking that amount of square footage should be worth! Either the buyer coughs up more funds from her pocket, or the deal falls through, ‘cuz no lender is going to make a loan greater than the ascribed value of the house.

Two lessons:

  1. If you are a seller and the square footage listed on the tax records, or from another source when you bought the house, seems really off from what you are observing when you are in the house, you might want to hire your own appraiser to make the calculation using the most up-to-date methods. Why risk going down a long road toward closing a sale when the whole thing comes to a screeching halt because the buyer’s appraisal is lower than the contract amount?
  2. If you are a buyer and you are running around trying the get the most square footage for the dollar, how are you going to know when you’ve found that touchstone? Can you trust the exact number you are seeing on the listing?

Buyers: calculating the value of a home in your mind should not begin and end with price per square foot. I hope you see by now that this is not a trustworthy number! Like I said, that number is a signpost that points toward truth, but it is not likely to be Truth itself.

Sources: Candy Cooke’s class on “What is ANSI?”

Square Footage- Method For Calculating: ANSI Z765-2013 from Home Innovation Research Labs

 

Finding a Contractor

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Need a new roof? How ’bout a bathroom remodel? What about getting some additional electrical outlets in that 1965 split-level?

You are looking for a contractor, aren’t you?

I just recently heard a Facebook tale of woe from a friend who had hired an electrician to do some work at her house. Upon completion, the work didn’t pass inspection, AND the electrician in question was reluctant to admit that there was a problem, AND he had a ‘smart’ attitude, too. Does this sound familiar? Very few of us have escaped this sort of encounter.

Angie’s List just had a useful article on hiring a contractor. I receive a print copy of the bi-monthly magazine and here are a few tips I found there, plus a couple of my own:

  1. Talk to friends and neighbors who have had similar work done. You can add or subtract potential contractors on your interview list just by finding out about other people’s experiences. Caveat #1: some people are negative in general, and will find fault with most any workers who come near. Is your consultant in this category? Caveat #2: Every contractor, even the best, has one job that just didn’t go well from the very beginning. You can’t make a judgment call based on only one customer’s opinion. Remember this when you read online reviews, too; frequently, only people who have a gripe bother to leave a review. Conversely, the business might have found a way to front-load the reviews with artificially positive comments.
  2. Ask if the business has ever done business under a different name. DBAs (doing business as) are easy to get, and if the business has a lot of DBAs in its past, it might mean the business has something to hide and is trying not to leave a trail.
  3. If the contractor you are interviewing is in a field that can be licensed, such as plumber or electrician, the contractor will gladly give you the license number. If you run into resistance at this point, best run the other way or do a lot more homework, either because the person is not licensed, or because the person has let the license lapse, or it has been revoked.
  4. Ask the contractor for contact information. You want a street address of some sort, because if the person is operating without a permanent address, it is too easy for them to disappear when there is a problem with the work down the line.
  5. Ask for a copy of the insurance policies that will cover workers’ compensation AND damage to your property. Make sure the policy looks adequate to cover whatever disaster happens- you don’t want to be the one liable for injury to the crew!
  6. Make sure the contractor specializes in the type of work you want done. For most jobs, you want someone who does that work all the time, not just every once in awhile when business is slow otherwise.
  7. Ask yourself how the contractor makes you feel when you are discussing all these points. If the person is reluctant, or glosses over answers, or denigrates you for asking the questions, 1) the person isn’t going to get easier to work with than when he/she is trying to impress a new customer and 2) the person probably has something to hide, or feels insecure about the number of complaints she/he has received in the past. Remember what your mom told you about ‘not making excuses’? Yeah, that. You don’t want to hear a bunch of excuses from a person your are considering hiring.

have had terrible experiences with remodelers and other contractors and I have had wonderful experiences over and over again with other home maintenance and remodeling contractors. I can tell you that the previous suggestions are worth following.

I have one picky, perfectionist friend I rely on for great recommendations over and over again. I figure that if Stephanie is happy, then I will be, too. Who is your trusted picky-person?

 

Dripping Springs Opportunities

Today, right now, at 1:31 pm, there are 130 new, under construction, or to-be-built-soon homes on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) in the Dripping Springs school district. They range in price from $247,250 to $1,499,000, and a few even have acreage. There is even one cabin-style wood house on acreage out in the Henly area. By the way, there are some homes with an Austin zip code which are zoned to Dripping Springs, and there are houses in Driftwood, too, which are zoned to D.S.

Dripping Springs Independent School District

Now if it’s recreation you want in the DSISD, there are 22 homes on the MLS, of various ages, which have…. pools AND horses allowed. Sign me up! Oh, and the prices range from $525,000 to $3,197,700.

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See the baby? This was the end of May- I wonder what this little fawn looks like now? They are all starting to lose their spots.

Lynn Bridge 512-970-9121

Get Away for a Few Hours

We have the good fortune of living only a 30-minute drive from Wimberley, Texas. It is an old ranch community, but in recent decades, it has re-fashioned itself as a tourist and arts destination, too. The Blanco River runs through it (and periodically floods parts of it) and several creeks, including Cypress Creek, wind through town and nearby ravines.

Mom and I took off this morning for a bit of shopping and lunch in Wimberley. Our first stop was Kiss the Cook, housed in a former residence on the town square (which is NOT square). The owner is Bren Isgitt and she opened the shop 16 years ago.

The merchandise is all kitchen ware and kitchen gadgets, so there really is something for everyone, right? Of course, Mom and I both loaded up our shopping baskets.

I’m pretty sure shops in Wimberley are required to have creative front doors. This one adds a relevant sign to its door.

Here’s the ‘flavor’ of this kitchen shop:

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Also, the next time I need a thematic cookie cutter, I know where I’m going.

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Janie

When you’re in a shop in Wimberley, you just naturally start a conversation with people working there, unless they start the conversation first. Janie was working at the counter today and she admitted that she is a newcomer, only having been there for 6 years. We touched on many topics, including the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, a blog post topic for another day.

Next, Mom and I wandered over to a new shop in another old building off the square, Ceremony Botanical Studio, which opened in May. Mom is a sucker for succulents, and this shop has great ones.

After we made our purchases, I parked Mom on a handy porch bench while I walked a couple of blocks to the public lot, where I’d left the Realtormobile in deep shade. 🙂

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Wimberley has done its best to accommodate the tourists

After wading through heavy Wimberley Market Days traffic to retrieve Mom, we drove about 3 miles north on Ranch Road 12 to eat lunch at Jobell Café and Bistro. Not sure, but I think this is housed in a former 1970’s-era residence which has been completely renovated to be an attractive restaurant.

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Good thing I took this photo before the restaurant became so packed with diners that you couldn’t see the designed ambience.

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I snapped the lunch menu for you:

We read the dessert selection first, so that we’d be mindful of our ultimate goal when we ordered lunch. I chose the Carprese Quiche and Mom had the Avocado and Heirloom Tomato Grilled Cheese on sourdough. We split a Salted Caramel Crème Brûlée. And, yes, it was all wonderful.

After lunch, I made a drop-off at a former client’s home in Woodcreek and then we drove back to Dripping Springs. I love ‘having’ to go to Wimberley for business or pleasure!

As of this morning, there were 89 homes in 78676 (Wimberley) listed for sale, with prices ranging from 195K to 5,995K. As you might imagine, these come with varying amounts of acreage associated with them. If you are feeling the need to list your Wimberley home, or to buy a Wimberley home, I would welcome your call. 512-970-9121 will find me.