Tag Archives: home maintenance

You’ll Never Believe!

Week 34_You'll Never Believe

You’ll Never Believe!

That Real Estate is a lot like delivering a baby!

It’s relatively easy to deliver a baby or close a real estate transaction when everything goes according to plan.  However, when things get challenging and life throws you that curve ball, that’s when the true professionals and specialists really show up.  Here are some examples of recent curve balls in real estate and what my amazing affiliates and vendors were able to do to help:

*Closing a home in 1 week (cash deal) and inspector finds foundation problems – Thomas Engineering was able to get us an evaluation with 1 day notice and this saved the sale for my client.

*AC went out on a listing 1 day before final closing walk thru and Golden Air was able to get AC serviced and repaired the same day we called.

*Buyer’s documents were late arriving at title, and our title rep at Old Republic Title stayed after hours to get our seller who was leaving town to sign closing paperwork.

*3 days before closing, the lender for our buyer told us that the trees had to be trimmed away from the house they were buying or they couldn’t close.  Dennis Elmore, my buyer’s agent personally trimmed the trees so buyers could close.

We love our affiliates, vendors and agents – and of course babies!

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My Hurricane Odile (or was it ordeal?) Part two

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Military with Machine Guns – helping clear the flooding areas.

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Looting lines

While the looting was getting scary, we still felt like everything was going to be okay. I mean really, how bad could it get – right? So we continued to laugh, make some meals with the food we got at Walmart, and we made plans to make the best of it and just lounge by the pool or on our balcony until everything was cleaned up and we were able to go home. On Tuesday morning we were making pico de gallo in our kitchen area with the door to our room open (it wouldn’t close anymore anyway after the hurricane) and four girls came running by our room. They were completely panicked – they told us that things were not as we thought – that it was about to get really bad in Cabo – and that they advised us to get out of there. They had just gone to a tourist information meeting at the nearby Wyndham hotel and they recommended that we go to the next one at 2pm that afternoon to hear what was really happening. They were quickly loading up their luggage and getting a taxi to LaPaz – a city 2 hours away, to try to get a plane out of that smaller, intact airport.

With much skepticism, half of our group went to the Wyndham meeting and found out that the Cabo airport had been demolished and was no longer flying commercial flights.   Basically, we no longer had tickets to get home! A plan for an evacuation by the Mexican Government was being developed, but would not begin for several days.   At the recommendation of the Wyndham management, we decided it was a good idea to get out of Cabo and head to LaPaz –2 hours away. We were informed that there were flights going out of that location and it was a way to get home. We headed back to our hotel, quickly drug our luggage down 6 flights of stairs (no electricity-no elevator) and loaded into a taxi with our newest best friend and taxi driver, Daniel. He took great care of us. During the ride we learned he and his family lived on the outskirts of Cabo and had no electricity or water and were dealing with looters in the evenings (he was carrying a huge machete knife in the taxi). He was moving his family to his mother in law’s home north of LaPaz the next day. It was during this ride that we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic by the Coca Cola plant and saw hundreds of trucks/people loading up everything from the plant and looting. It would have been so easy for the people walking by our taxi to open the door and rob us, or worse – we were very lucky.

The drive to LaPaz was beautiful – but we were very nervous, not sure of what we would find along the way and not sure if Daniel was truly a compadre. The city of LaPaz was remarkably better than Cabo – no looting, no mile long lines at the gas stations and not as demolished as Cabo – though there was still no phone/internet and there were some electrical outages. However, the general desperation that was felt in Cabo was not present in LaPaz. At the LaPaz airport, all flights had ceased and the airport was packed with tourists (yes, the information we had been given at the Wyndham was no longer valid – herein lies the difficulty in a disaster situation – information is constantly changing and is unreliable to say the least). No one was getting out or coming in and there were no hotel rooms available. The four panicked girls who had left that morning were still at the airport too. After much thinking/talking, we opted to return to Cabo where we had a guaranteed hotel room for the evening (we didn’t want to spend the night at the airport with the hundreds of other tourists waiting on the hope that we might be able to get a flight out the next day).

We went shopping at a local market that was absolute heaven – no looting, no desperation and it had electricity and AC! We helped Daniel buy groceries for his family and loaded up gallons of gasoline and headed back to our hotel in Cabo. Two hours later, we drug our luggage back up 6 flights of stairs and spent the night in our hotel with no AC/electric/water and no door that would close/lock and we began our 3 day fast on Peanut Butter sandwiches and water that we had purchased at the market in LaPaz.

On Wednesday we decided to check into the Wyndham as they were taking better care of hotel guests than our hotel, and they were certainly providing more information about the evacuation plan.  Things were getting scarier each day – more military with machine guns walking around in town, and the Wyndham staff always escorted us back and forth in the hotel. We were told to meet in a ballroom at the Wyndham at 10pm that night to go through our luggage and condense our things down to a small carry on bag. A few ladies in our group had no small bags and were asked to put their items in a trash bag. The evacuation plan would not allow larger suitcases and “traveling light” was required. We were asked to tape a paper with our name, email address and home address on our luggage and the hotel would work to get these items shipped back to us, eventually. We spent another night without electricity and with an open hotel door.

We began the evacuation in the hotel lobby on Thursday morning at 4:30am after showering by candle light. We took a one hour bus ride to the demolished Cabo airport, unsure of what we would find there. We got out to line up with thousands of other tourists at the Cabo airport which was bringing in 10-12 small passenger airplanes each day to transport 30 thousand tourists home. The line was miles long filled with families, groups, children, elderly, all with bags, and belongings. It was like looking at a lineup in a Holocaust movie. Due to health concerns for a few of our older ladies, we opted not to stand in line all day in the 100 degree, shadeless weather waiting for an evacuation ride home. We later found out that several people had died of heat exhaustion in the evacuation line.

The assistant manager at the Wyndham gave us the name of her sister in law who worked at a shelter in LaPaz and she recommended we look her up if we were unable to find a hotel room. Feeling like we had a good option with the shelter if we struck out with a hotel room, we headed out of Cabo. Luckily, between the 6 of us, we still had cash and were able to pay our next new best friend and taxi driver Eduardo to take us back to LaPaz to sleep on the airport floor and wait for commercial flights to begin flying again. Our guardian angel taxi driver, Eduardo, took very good care of us, letting us check out 7 hotels (all with no vacancies), grocery shopping with us, and helping us to locate after four attempts, a working ATM machine (in disaster situations, cash is king). He took us to the shelter – which resembled the Presbyterian night shelter full of homeless people on Lancaster in Fort Worth. We quickly decided that would not be a place for us to spend the night and Eduardo happily agreed.

In LaPaz, we prepared to sleep on the airport floor – along with about 20 other tourists. What had seemed like a crazy plan on Tuesday to stay in LaPaz, now seemed like a good option since Cabo was getting so dangerous. We took spit baths in the airport bathroom, and made friends with the American Consulate workers. We were told police would be staying throughout the night – but at 9pm they all left – and we began to see trucks full of men driving by the airport. Two of our 73 year old ladies were lying on the sidewalk in front of the airport because it was so hot inside. After a very tearful and fearful time, the American consulate was able to find a room for us to share for the evening – at the Hyatt hotel – which had water, electricity, food, and AC. It was absolutely heaven! By midnight that evening, my brother was able to secure 6 tickets home on Aero Mexico – they had just begun releasing commercial flights again – and we loaded up to the airport on Friday at 7am – got on a plane to Mexico City, and then to DFW from there. We totally felt like battered women running away from an abusive spouse. Afraid to get our hopes up that we were actually leaving – but feeling desperate to leave.

I got home, sat on my sofa and didn’t leave my house for two days – having nightmares about not being able to get out of Cabo. What an experience – probably have some PTSD – but having a safe home, with electricity, water, sewer system, clean food and drink – along with being with people I love and trust – I’m recovering quickly.

The life lessons that I learned from surviving the Hurricane:

It’s always about the people you meet – no matter where you are, or what’s going on.

Treat people how you want to be treated

There’s good and bad people – disasters show people for who they really are – look for the good ones and be good back.

Be grateful, appreciative, kind and make sure to smile.

Nothing ever gets better by thinking negatively – hope is always the key to getting problems solved.

Don’t give up – and focus on what’s really important ( for us it was – are you safe, are you healthy)

Network, Network, Network – it might just save your life.

When traveling, keep enough cash to buy a plane ticket, a taxi ride, water bottles, and peanut butter

(It’s funny that so many of these “ahas” I regularly apply to my career in real estate.)

Here’s a quote that I thought was applicable from a placemat at a restaurant we ate at in Mexico City between flights:

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

And finally, thank you to my 5 wonderful hurricane friends – I personally think we were quite amazing in that we got along, worked together to figure things out, encouraged each other’s strengths, and looked for the positive in all this adventure. And thank you to our guys – the husbands who were solid rocks for us and who kept helping us click our heels to get home. I agree with Dorothy – “There’s no place like home”.

 

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Surviving Hurricane Odile…from a Realtor’s Perspective (part one)

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After Hurricane Odile

After a very busy summer season in Real Estate, I decided to take a week vacation with my sister in law, friend, mother and my mom’s two friends. Six ladies ranging from ages 41-73. Don’t get me wrong, the real estate market has been wonderful this year – homes were selling within days and working with sellers had been a delight. Working with buyers on the other hand had been like being in an abusive relationship – offers being picked apart, rejected, competing with up to 20 other buyers for a house, and remaining hyper vigilant to find that home that is just about to go on the market to be the first one in the door with an offer. Needless to say, a rest was welcome. I spent the 7 days before leaving for the trip working deals/offers and updating my staff with all the contracts that were in process, and the new listings that were being marketed. As most people know, getting ready to take a vacation and then catching up when you get back is rather a beast. However, I was happy to do all this in the hopes that I would have a heavenly break from reality in a wonderful place called Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This was not my first rodeo to Cabo – my mom has a timeshare there, and this was our 5th year traveling to Cabo in September. Typically we were there for the Mexican Independence Day celebration – and only experiencing rains once or twice previously while on vacation there.

When we heard there was a storm brewing in the ocean by Cabo– and weather people believed it would stay at sea and not make land fall – we did not hesitate in our trip plans. Little did we know, Hurricane Odile was headed right through the middle of our lives.

We landed on Friday afternoon, checked in , laid by the pool, went to dinner, and dancing at “The Pink Kitty” in downtown Cabo. Saturday we repeated this and then woke up on Sunday morning to clouds. We decided to go to Walmart for some water and sandwich items just in case we needed to make do for a day or so during the storm. It was then that we learned the storm had begun to transform into a Category 4 Hurricane named Odile. The lines at the Walmart were out the door, and they began denying entrance into the store as they were running out of food on the shelves. We spoke with many of the natives who began to tell us they were worried and would recommend that we get ready for one of the worst hurricanes they have ever seen. We got back to our hotel with our provisions, were told by staff to close/lock doors, stay away from windows, put towels under the door to keep water out, and hide in the bathroom if it got bad.

It soon got bad! The wind began blowing and the waves began cresting over the sea wall. Sea spray was rising above the famous Cabo Rock formation which stands about 60 feet high. We stuffed towels under our door while the wind howled and the door threatened to crash in. Leaves began blowing between the cracks in the door and water began seeping into the room. We took off the two comforters on the beds and used those along with all the towels to stop the water from continuing into the room. The wind sounded like a train for several hours – then it became quiet for about 30 minutes – we later learned that was the eye of the storm. Then the wind began blowing from the other side of the room – threatening to crash in the large balcony windows – we heard things slamming around and blowing against the door and window and began making plans for how we would handle cuts from the glass if the window broke. Thankfully, the window stayed in place and after several more hours, the wind calmed down. We fell asleep for a few hours, and woke Monday morning to wrench open the door (it had warped with all the wind) and look at the severe devastation of the storm. There were 6-8 inches of water in many of the hotel guest rooms, light poles were down, AC units had blown off buildings, windows had caved in, thatch roof hotels were topless, there were 8-10 inches of sand at the bottom of the pools, many of the outdoor eating areas were caved in or blown away, and the beach was full of debris. We got dressed with no electricity/water (they were moving the electrical in the hotel to a generator and without electricity there was no water) and walked the beach and went into downtown. All the places we had visited the day before were caved in, blown away, or flooded. Owners began boarding up the windows, but the looting had not begun. Everyone we met had a different story about the hurricane and all seemed in shock. This was when I noticed how vastly different the various buildings and structures were built in Cabo. The locals seemed to have built buildings that easily gave way and suffered complete destruction from the Hurricane. The larger chain resorts and hotels were mostly in tact – having been built with cement, blocks, stone and metal. Many times I thought during this experience that the people who were closest to the edge of having financial problems were the ones most likely to suffer greatly at the hand of a disaster.

Though the devastation after the hurricane was immense, the town still felt safe and we were not afraid to walk around and talk to people. However, on Monday afternoon, our cell phone coverage and internet was gone and remained gone until Wednesday. This began to get creepy, especially since there was no local media coverage and no one seemed to know what the next plan was for recovery, food, water, fuel, or evacuation. At this point, everyone thought the Cabo Airport was still intact and flights would just be moved to later in the week. It wasn’t until Tuesday that we learned that there was no Cabo Airport, and all flights were cancelled and the only way to get out from there was via an evacuation plan that was being managed by the Mexican Military. We learned there were around 30k tourists in the Cabo area that needed to get home and there were very minimal plans for getting that process completed. We began to notice some degree of desperation in the local workers, and in the tourists. Trucks full of natives from the surrounding areas began to arrive and park outside the City Club, Walmart, Ace Hardware, Sam’s club, and Coca Cola plant. It was like being at a stoning –the mob waiting for someone to throw the first stone – but the crowd was waiting for someone to bust open doors and gates to allow everyone to have access to looting the companies. People were loading up TV’s, mattresses, food, beverages, electronics – anything that they could carry.

(Stay tuned for Part 2 to come)

Preparing Your Yard for the Spring Growing Season

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The temperatures have been quite cool lately so most of us aren’t thinking about our yards, but when the sun peaks out and we have those warmer days there are a few things you can do to get your yard ready for performing its best.

1. Clean out gutters and clean out drainage/runoff areas – get ready for those April Showers
2. Trim dead limbs on trees and shrubs
3. Trim to the ground all dead perennial foliage
4. Cut back at least by a third all perennials with foliage (ie. Sage, Salvia)
5. Repair edging around beds and trellises
6. Feel free to pull any young weeds that are growing – if you see bare spots in beds, cover with 3-4 inches of mulch to help prevent upcoming weed growth
7. Rake the yard and mix grass seed with soil and spread in bare spots
8. Apply pre-emergent herbicides like corn gluten meal or generic brands with these chemicals – Bensulide, pendimethalin, oxadiazon and DCPA.
9. Transplant shrubs you want to move before they leaf out
10. Plant bulbs that are sprouting (daffodils, tulips, etc)

So, take advantage of those warmer Texas days that are woven in with the 20 degree ones and get out there and get your Vitamin D. Enjoy!

It’s Home Repair Time

I have always wondered why one of my favorite stores, The Container Store has their Annual Elfa (shelving organization) sale in January each year.  I think it’s because when we put all the Christmas decorations back in the attic and our homes seem a little less sparkly, the “Get Organized, Get Tidy” bug sets in.  For a home owner, that often means it’s time to start working on the home maintenance and repair list.

As you begin to prioritize your home maintenance and repair items, keep in mind that we have a long list of amazing contractors and service companies that we can recommend to you.  Our contractors have been tested over and over by our clients in the homes they buy and sell and by ourselves in our personal homes.  This year I have personally tested out three different paint companies, two carpet cleaning companies, two plumbers, and two electricians.  Only the good ones make the cut and we are happy to recommend them to you as well.

If you are prioritizing your repairs as you get your home ready to sell, that’s easy.  You will want the “high dollar” functional repair items completed first.  That includes plumbing, electrical, HVAC (air/heat), roof, water heaters, and of course foundation.  If you have cracks in your foundation, we have two wonderful structural engineers that we use regularly to assess if repairs are needed.  An evaluation and report costs about $400 and is well worth the cost if you are planning to sell your home.

We work with many buyers who are very willing to buy a home that needs some cosmetic repairs, but they won’t bother with a home that needs functional/basic system repairs.   Also, some functional repairs will prevent a buyer from being able to get an FHA loan on the home they are buying, which decreases your “buyer pool” (the number of people that may be interested in your home) if you are selling.  So, let us know if you need some good recommendations for contractors.  Homeowners, start your to do lists!  Happy fixing!