Alexa, It Always Feels Like Somebody’s Watching (and listening to?) Me 👀👂🤪

Remember the family that had Alexa accidentally send a recording of a conversation to a random contact? Remember that show “Person of Interest” that showed how people could be so easily traced through the use of “public” surveillance cameras? What do these two things have in common with real estate? Well, it may be more than you think. There’s a little known thing that’s happening in homes these days that can affect the buying and selling process that a lot of people probably don’t know about.  That is, with the increased use of security devices like Simplisafe and Ring doorbells, and “convenience” technology devices like Alexa, Echo, Goggle Home, potential home-buyers can be seen and heard by sellers at showings, inspections, etc.  In my experience, this isn’t common knowledge to the general house-viewing public, and even some realtors aren’t aware of what these things look like or how they’re activated.

Don’t get me wrong, having visual and listening devices in a house isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all.  Home-sellers take a risk every time their house is shown by letting people they don’t know walk through their home, so they have every right to record things seen and heard during a showing. I have actually had clients that caught a teenager stealing a bottle of liquor from their house, and other clients that witnessed some relatively innocent but still inappropriate behavior between an agent and buyer in their home (it was in the kitchen at least, lol!), so there are definite benefits.

On the other hand, listening to or watching buyers as they talk about and walk through a house can not only be a bit voyeuristic, but can also give a seller a bit of an advantage in DIDYOU~1a negotiation.  For example, let’s say the buyers are just in love with the house – they walk through it exclaiming constantly at how wonderful this and that are…does that give a seller an advantage when an offer comes in? I think it does. And when it comes to inspections, a simple comment from a buyer about there not being anything from the inspection to make him/her walk away from the sale of the house puts the seller at an advantage for sure!

So, I always advise buyers to keep their comments to a minimum during showings at the beginning of the home-buying process. When I notice a listening and/or visual device during a showing, I often just make a joke of it by waving at the Ring doorbell or saying “hi, sellers!” to make the thought of potentially being watched or listened to less uncomfortable.  For sellers who have these devices, they can of course monitor their home in any way they see fit. Disclosing that ability is the key to making sure that buyers and their agents are aware of the possiblity of “surveillance”.  In fact, our MLS system has added places in the house information input section so that agents can see, and make their buyers aware of, that possibility.

Have you ever said or done anything on video that you realized later had been recorded?  Have you had a candid camera moment? I’d love to hear about it! If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you!

Vacation Homes = Winning!

We all know that owning a home is a great investment, right? It’s been well-documented (as shown in the National Association of Realtors graph below) that homeownership provides large financial gains for families over time.How Homeownership Delivers Unsurpassed Family Wealth | MyKCM

So why wouldn’t owning two homes be an even better investment?  The short answer is that it definitely can be. But, there are some big considerations that have to be well thought out in order to ensure that it is in fact the best investment for you and your family.

  1. Initial Investment.  This is number one, because if you run the numbers and supporting another house isn’t affordable and/or isn’t financially comfortable, then there’s no need to consider other factors!  A good place to start your research is with a mortgage professional. They can tell you whether your debt-to-income ratio works, how much you can spend on a second home, how much money you’d need to put down, and what your what mortgage estimate would be.
  2. On-Going Investment.  Another affordability factor is how much needs to be set aside each month or year to maintain a second home. The money advice website NerdWallet.com reports that “A good rule of thumb for maintenance expenses is to set aside 1.5% to 2% of the home’s value each year for repairs.” So, be ready to add that amount to the 12-month mortgage amount for a benchmark of annual expenses for a vacation home.
  3. Location, Location, Location. None of us have ever heard that one before, right?? Ha!  Well, that old adage very much applies to vacation homes as well. Do you have to have your vacation home right on the water, or are you ok walking a few blocks to get to the water? How much more house can you buy in this area versus that one? How far are you willing to drive to get there to enjoy a weekend, or are you ok buying further away from your primary home because you’re planning to spend at least a week at a time there?
  4. Knock, Knock, Who’s There? If you are buying it just for you or your family and you aren’t planning to rent it out as an Airbnb (or similar-type) property, theHow Homeownership Delivers Unsurpassed Family Wealth | MyKCMn there are two more considerations. One, how much money and for what percentage of time can you expect to rent your vacation home out for?  Two, how does the price and the location of the home impact the rental in terms of price you could charge and demand you could expect?

The bottom line is that homeownership builds wealth. So, buying a second home is a great thing in so many ways, including building MORE wealth!  As one investment expert says “If done correctly, these investments will help you grow your income safely over time, and they’ll also produce recurring monthly cash flow.”  Plus, you can have a spot to enjoy vacation time, and if you rent it out, you can have others pay for your asset.  There are so many areas you can consider for a vacation home, including nearby lakes, small Texas towns, and multi-acreage getaways. Give me a shout and let’s discuss the pros and cons!

TOP STRANGE LUXURY HOMES ON THE MARKET

There are a number of hidden gems on the market that could be life-changing for the right buyer. Unconventional properties like these offer a creative twist to the luxury real estate market, because – as you’ll see with these examples – a strange story, combined with luxurious details, makes for some of the most astonishing and lavish homes available today. Not in the market for a strange luxury home? No sweat, these properties are still worth a look just for the “shock and awe” value, plus the fabulous uniqueness!

7 STRANGE LUXURY HOMES ON THE MARKET RIGHT NOW

1. Floating Houseboat

Though this houseboat serves as a unique luxury home now, it previously served as one of the two floating chapels in the world. Aside from its rich history, the beauty of this property is its mobility. You could take it out to sea or dock it at your location of choice. With over $1,000,000 put into renovations alone (yep, you read that right, $1 mill just in renovations!), the houseboat is updated and modern while retaining some of the original features that give it character, like stained glass windows and a 30-foot steeple. If you’re looking to make a splash (see what I did there?? ;)) with your next special event or wedding venue, renting out this houseboat could be just the thing.

2. RESTORED VAUDEVILLE THEATER

From Vaudeville to contemporary chic, this luxurious home has a lot of quirky features. Located in Los Angeles (where else, right?), highlights of the property include a red velvet-covered living area with cutouts for seating and exposed beams throughout the rooms. The renovated home was famously rented by Katy Perry, who used the space to live stream her life 24/7 for three days after releasing her Witness album. It is currently advertised on AirBnb as a great place to host special gatherings or large dinner parties but I’m sure it’s plenty big enough to house a variety of other fabulous events too.

3. CALIFORNIA TREEHOUSE

I think this is my favorite!  Tasteful yet delightfully offbeat, this treehouse home in California is an ideal getaway for those looking to reconnect with nature, catch up on work or just get some quiet time. Decorated with mid-century furniture and luxurious natural detailing, this treehouse home is more than a few notches above your average treehouse. The home is surrounded by 1.5 walkable acres of land and available for rent on AirBnB. This immersive and creatively designed property is perfect for nature lovers who prefer to experience its beauty from the comfort of a modern home. This is definitely on my bucket list to rent someday!

Free Report: Download this month’s Luxury Market Report for an in-depth look at the top residential markets across the United States and Canada.

4. CONVERTED U.K. WATER TOWER

This property is a tall drink of water, literally. Located in the West Midlands of England in Warwickshire, it was converted in 2016 from an abandoned water tower. The interior of the home is amazingly decorated and holds six bedrooms, five bathrooms, a home gym and a roof terrace in addition to multiple common areas. Plenty of room, don’t you think?? If you’re in love with the house but worried about it being too remote, not to worry. This house is near Birmingham International Airport, a village hall, primary schools and just a stone’s throw from the amenities in Kenilworth and Balsall Common. If you’ve got a thing for refurbished water towers, you should seriously consider this one. I’ve got an agent referral for you too! 😉

5. CUBE WITH VIEWS

This property in France is luxury in the most minimalist form. A product from the mind of Austrian architect Hermann Kaufmann, this home has an emphasis on environmental consciousness as it features solar panels and a green roof. The house is going for €620,000 which is currently just under $700,000 USD in May 2019, but pays for itself in nearly panoramic views of Chanteloup-les-Vignes, France. Divided into two different levels, access between the upper and lower floors is through a uniquely designed wooden staircase. At that price, I think this one is a hellava deal!!!

6. HAUNTED WELSH CASTLE

Have an attraction to mystery, plus a little over a million dollars? Bodelwyddan Castle, a Welsh castle originally built in 1460, is on the market—and it’s also rumored to be haunted. The history of the Bodelwyddan Castle is rich as one might assume, serving as a hospital in World War I and later as an all-girls boarding school in the 1920s. Approximately 15,817 square feet total, the castle offers a lot of room for chilling encounters to occur, and there are plenty of them to choose from. Bodelwyddan Castle was featured on the television series Most Haunted and is said to house the ghosts of a soldier and a woman in a Victorian dress among others. If you’re looking to spice up your housing situation, this castle would surely be a good way to do so.

7. LAS VEGAS DOOMSDAY BUNKER

This property gives the word “unique” a new definition. Located underground in Las Vegas, the space is spread across 15,000 square feet, outfitted with artificial lights and eccentrically decorated to look as if it’s above ground. The bunker is selling for $18,000,000, which also includes the 2,311 square feet of house at street level, the lot above the underground bunker as well as a pool, sauna, and mini-golf course. What a deal!!! 😉 Worried that you’ll miss the daylight? The lighting system installed throughout the bunker has different settings to simulate different times of the day. You have to see this property to believe it, and if you’re looking for a getaway below the ground, this is likely a great contender.

BONUS: BAT CAVE MANSION

Though this property isn’t currently on the market, I had to include it because of how outrageously unique and truly strange it is. Located in Arkansas (which is not where I would expect such a unique property at all!), the home was originally intended to be a bomb shelter by the first owners but repurposed with luxury in mind as an elite club which saw the likes of Hollywood stars like Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Ross. Though this property is definitely a niche sell, it is outfitted with geothermal units throughout, which makes the cave comfortable to live in. It is rumored to have sold for about $3 million to the current owners, which is a large price tag for a home built in a cave. However, purchasing this home makes you the modern day Batman by default, and can you really put a price on that?

 

Have a unique home in mind that you want to share?? Post in the comments below here or on social media – I’d love to read about it!

Wanna Know More About Local Hotspots?

So, last week was National Small Business Week, 3607f460f30377b507669aa6eb778952which I love because small business is one of the big things that really what makes this country great!  I’d much rather shop at local places, eat at local places, and have fun at local places than go to huge corporate-run type locations (can I get an ah-men to that??). So, I decided to highlight 3 of my fave places in 3 of my fave cities in the Dallas area – my hometown of Rowlett and then the neighboring cities of Rockwall and Garland.  See what you think and please go visit these great small businesses when you get a chance!

The Modern Well is the cutest little coffee shop in Texas, and it’s in Downtown Rowlett, which is really an up-and-coming location in and of itself.  They have all kinds of coffee and treats, and it’s got such great atmosphere to just relax in and sit with a cup of coffee while having a nice conversation. Check it out!

 

 

Bin 303 in Rockwall is shown in the video above and the food is sooooooo good…the wine is really good too, and it’s also in a downtown area a block from the old Rockwall County Courthouse.  My fave dishes are the appetizer crab dip and the crab mac and cheese…I guess I like crab a lot! But seriously, the food is worth every calorie and the ambiance is amazing because it’s located in an old house, so you can feel the history there, you can hear the way your footsteps sound on the old floors, and it’s got a cozy and kind of “private” vibe because you feel like you’re eating in your grandma’s house (but the food is at least as good if not better, no offense to grandma!). 🙂

Pinot’s Palette in Garland’s Firewheel area (video below) is a super fun venue where you can go and become an pseudo artist for a few hours as a real artist (art teacher) guides you through each step of painting a picture on canvas. It is such a great thing to do with friends, your spouse, or kids AND you get to take home a finished canvas with your own masterpiece!

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed a sneak peek at these different venues in these great cities. We are so lucky to have small businesses in this country that are truly the backbone of our economy!  And I’m happy to buy you a cup of coffee at the Modern Well is, a lunch at Bin 303 (or meet you for Happy Hour!), or enjoy a fun time painting at Pinot’s Palette, just holler and we’ll make it happen. 🙂

Rowlett & Rockwall Market Update

Want a peek at the local markets? Here’s what’s happening in Rowlett and Rockwall right now!  Need info on another market? Either stay tuned for next week or just ask me, and I’m happy to send it to you!

Curious About Your Home’s Value?

Curious About Your Home's Value?

Homeowners are often surprised (to put it mildly) when they receive their annual statement from the local tax appraiser’s office.  The assessed value of a home can be very different than what they believe the property is worth.  Now’s a great time to take a look at the difference between two common real estate terms: “Assessed Value” and “Market Value.”

The Assessed Value is the dollar value assigned to a property by a public tax assessor for the purposes of measuring applicable taxes. The number is very often a point of contention with homeowners, who may believe it to be too high or too low. The Assessed Value does not offer a shortcut to a home’s Market Value, and – contrary to what some might think and in a way makes logical sense – the Assessed Value is not used to price a house when a seller wants to sell or when a buyer wants to buy.

The Market Value is the highest estimated price a property will bring in a reasonable amount of time if exposed for sale on the open market. Market Value is influenced by such factors as homes that recently sold in the area, the location of the property, the home’s amenities and updates, and the condition of the property. And of course, Market Value is also influenced by the sometimes ugly e-word – the economy. 😉

Knowing generally what your home’s Assessed Value should be is important, because 1) that value is what determines your property tax amount, and 2) as citizen you have the right to protest the Assessed Value in order to (ideally) decrease the taxes you are required to pay. And heads up…if you wish to protest 08d23b09caa985ca09220ee24bc70dcfyour property tax assessment you must do so by May 15, 2018, or 30 days after a tax notice is delivered, whichever is later. Do you think your Assessed Value is too high?  You can find out in two easy steps…first click HERE to subscribe to this fabulous blog (full of great real estate info – just scroll down on right side of screen to “Follow Blog via Email”, then click here to request a Property Tax Evaluation from me! I’ll send it within 48 hours or it’s FREE…just kidding, it’s free anyway, but seriously, I’ll get it to you in two days of you making the request.  I’m happy to do this for you because I always want to be your FIRST and BEST choice for real estate info, whether you or someone you know is wanting to buy, sell, or needs something house-related. 🙂

Also, check out one of my dreamy listings in Dallas!

5547 Ledgestone Drive, Dallas, TX 75214

 

MLS# 14060276

5 ‘Affordable’ Ways to Make a Home Look Expensive

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5010 Lake Forest Drive, Rowlett – Hip Pocket Listing

If you know me at all and know how I sell real estate, you have definitely heard me talk about how important staging a home for sale is. When selling a house, pricing and marketing go hand-in-hand to get you the highest price…when getting a house READY to sell, staging and photography go hand-in-hand to get you the highest price!  As part of the staging process, it’s vital to make a home look high fashion without paying the cost of high fashion. How do you get that look without spending a bunch of money on things for a home you’re about to sell?  Here Stephanie Decker of Staged Marin Homes describes her top 5 ways to achieve this look…

1. Use One Expensive Piece In Each Room. In order to make a room look high fashion, you have to believe that it is, even when it isn’t. The way to do this is to incorporate one expensive, well-positioned piece in each room.  It can be a piece of art, a table or piece of China. I will position it where the focal point is so that when the buyer first walks into the room, this is what they see first. Then, they just assume that everything else is expensive too.

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5010 Lake Forest Drive, Rowlett – Hip Pocket Listing

2. Use White. White will always be a staple that home stagers use. It gives the look of light, cleanliness, and an open space. I love white moldings, cabinets, and doors. I also love white lamps, accessories, and linens.  White is easy to clean and can also be bought very cheaply but made to look expensive. One of my favorite stores to find great white accessories is Z Gallery.  Using inexpensive white pieces on an expensive table is my favorite trick! It highlights the table while filling the space.

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5010 Lake Forest Drive, Rowlett – Hip Pocket Listing – The white vase makes the rich wood stand out!

3. Look At What Can Be Recycled. To bring fashion back into your home, you might see if you can re-cover your old upholstered furniture. Recently, I had a club chair that had just lost its will to live. The fabric was worn and the cushions no longer were able to hold their shape. To replace it would cost more than $4,000 for a comparable chair. But this old chair still had great lines, and I didn’t want to part with it so I decided to recover it instead. The cheapest way is to have it slip-covered. You can buy one at stores like Bed Bath & Beyond or have one made.  I decided to have it re-upholstered. I needed 10 yards of fabric, and I found a local shop to do the work (driving the piece myself to and from the shop) for less than $1,500 total. The key is to buy a good chair. Then, it will only need a little maintenance over the years. Plus, remember: it’s better for the environment to recycle rather than throw away an old chair.

4. Rotate Color. Each season the design world changes the “IT” color. This spring is turquoise and champagne; last year it was lavender and fuchsia. A good way to make a home look in-style is to have that in-style color. This can be in a pillow, a throw, a candle, or a vase. Whatever your budget, you always can find something with the fashion “it” color. (Read: Add Some Punch With This Year’s Hot Hue or Pillow Power)  To stay abreast of the latest “in” colors you can look online at Web sites like Pantone.com or home sites like Williams Sonoma Home. I like to walk into a store to get the feel and touch. Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel are good places since they rotate their floor inventory so quickly that it’s easy to catch up on the new color.  Then, I go to Cost Plus or Pier One to find accent pieces cheaply. You don’t want to pay full price for these items since this year’s “it” color will be next year’s color.

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5010 Lake Forest Drive, Rowlett – Hip Pocket Listing – Look at that punch of color on those chairs!

5. Buy One Month After the Season Starts. It’s important to not get lured into buying new things as soon as the new season starts. You can window-shop to get your plan for the season plan, but if you wait 4 to 6 weeks, it will likely go on sale. I know this can be difficult when you get that first beautiful summer day and you’re biting at the bit to set up your garden for that summer BBQ. But in reality, that summer BBQ won’t start for another month.

Adapted from an article by Stephanie Decker, Staged Marin Homes 

This is such great advice for getting your home ready to stage and sell!  As a realtor, I actually have a storage unit where I keep what I call “fluff” items, for homes that need a little something extra on the day of staging. Be sure to ask your real estate agent about these kinds of services when you choose an agent to help you sell your home! Or better yet, just call me. 😉

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5010 Lake Forest Drive, Rowlett – Hip Pocket Listing. CONTACT ME FOR MORE INFORMATION OR FOR A PRIVATE SHOWING FOR THIS HOME!

 

The Housing Market Will “Spring Forward” This Year!

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Just like our clocks on Saturday night, March 10th that have to be moved forward one hour (ugh, I HATE losing an hour of precious sleep!), the housing market will soon “spring forward!” tooIf you envision how there’s tension in a spring, the lack of inventory available for sale has been holding back the market in a similar way.

Many potential sellers believe that waiting until Spring is in their best interest.  Traditionally, they would have been right, because Buyer demand does have a “seasonality” to it. Usually, it falls off in the winter months and reappears with the time change and the warmer temperatures.

That hasn’t happened this year.

Demand for housing has remained strong as mortgage rates have remained near historic lows. Even with an increase in rates forecasted for 2019, buyers are still able to lock in an extremely affordable monthly payment. And there are lots of buyers who are increasingly jumping into the market to secure a lower rate. So, sellers who act quickly and list now, before a flood of increased competition, will benefit from additional exposure to buyers.

Bottom Line

So what does all this mean for you?? Well, if you’re planning on selling your house in 2019, get in touch with me for more money for you. Hope to hear from you soon!

2019 Spring Forward

The KonMari Method: Helping You Prep Your House For Sale

The KonMari Method: Helping You Prep Your House For Sale | MyKCM

One of the biggest challenges for my sellers when we discuss listing their house is decluttering. It is so important to do though, because cleaning out some of the more personal decorating choices allows buyers to imagine themselves living in the home and makes them more likely to fall in love with it!

Marie Kondo, the inventor of the KonMari Method of Tidying Up, has become the newest, hottest guru in the “organizational world” and her decluttering process gained enormous popularity with her new Netflix series. She gives some great tips for sorting through years of accumulated possessions that we all collect in our homes.

“The KonMari Method™ encourages tidying by category – not by location – beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.”

Can we all just take a moment and acknowledge the “thank them for their service” part of the process?? Love that!  And really, when you subjectively look at all of your belongings, you can pretty quickly identify the ones that mean the most to you. Not only will you increase space for more joy-bringing items in your new home, but you will also have a much easier time packing remaining belongings!

“Remember, tidying up isn’t about getting rid of stuff. It is about creating an environment that sparks joy and improves your quality of life.”

As I tell my sellers, first impressions matter so much when you’re selling your house – buyers don’t come back or make offers on homes that don’t WOW them. This is why making the most of the spaces in your house is so important.  This is also why part of my selling services for clients includes complimentary professional staging – I hire a professional stager to work in the house (usually for two or three hours) to situate furniture and items in the home. This allows the things in the home to highlight the home itself, to enhance the home, and not to be a distraction to buyers.

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Then the professional photographer comes and takes fabulous photos so that the home really shines online.  My advice to sellers is also that the way you stage a home is not for living, it’s for selling…it’s a way to look at your house with fresh eyes, as well as to begin emotionally distancing yourself from it being a “home” to it being a “house”.

There’s one other important piece to this too…when you sort through your more sentimental items, you can go ahead and pack them away to ensure that you know where they all are. That way, they are safe during the staging process and during showing appointments. This will also cut down on the amount of packing you have to do right before you sign the closing papers and make the actual move!

Bottom Line

Whether you are selling your house to move up to a larger one, downsizing, or moving in with family, only bring the items that truly spark joy for you. Proven Strategy for Home SellingThis will not only help cut down on the items you move, but also ensures that you’re off to a great start in your new home! And always consider professional staging when you’re selling – or better yet, just call me and I’ll provide fabulous real estate AND staging services FOR you.  Email me at HeatherSims@Ebby.com, call me at 214-549-7978, send me a carrier pigeon (sorry, no link for that) and let’s discuss my proven strategy for home selling!

Your House Should Be Like Bacon!

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Your house really should be like bacon, it’s as simple as that. How should it be like bacon?? You might be wondering.  Well, your home should make everything better. It should be your refuge and comfort at the beginning and end of every day, it should be where the people (and/or pets) you love are, it should be where you most LOVE to be.

If you’ve fallen out of love with your current home – or current situation in an apartment or rental – consider this…the market is still really good for both home sellers and home buyers. There may not be the frenzied level of selling that there was in the previous 2 or 3 years (like one of those crazy meat market singles bars!), but the market is strong.

Houses are only staying on market for an average of 30 days prior to contracting, and actually my stats are lower!  I think because of the professional staging and photography that I provide, plus proper market pricing, my listings do go under contract faster than the norm.

So, here’s the bottom line: if your house isn’t like bacon…if it doesn’t make everything better and you don’t LOVE it anymore, don’t take your chances on Realtor.com or some other random home-dating website. Nobody finds The One on those! Let me help you fall in LOVE with another home that’s a better fit, I bet I can find you your perfect match!

PLUS I can help you get your current home sold so that you can put that all equity (that you gained over the past few years that prices increased exponentially) to work for you in a home that works better for you.

Call me, I’ll be waiting by the phone like a lovesick teenager! Well, not really, but it seemed to fit in with this theme! 😉

-Heather Kinder Sims