Experiencing real estate in Austin, Texas

One of the biggest home-selling myths!

I recently read this article on the Texas Association of Realtors website.  The short post addresses a few of the most common myths about home-selling.  All three points are spot on- but I liked this one in particular:

Myth: If I price my home higher than market value, I’m leaving room for negotiations.

Truth: Buyers have no idea you’re employing this strategy and won’t understand why your price is too high. Many won’t even view your home, much less put in an offer. When your home is priced improperly, it’s more likely to sit on the market, making potential buyers think there’s something wrong it. When that happens, you’ll probably wind up with lower offers than if you had priced the home fairly at the start.

Home sellers in the Austin area are in maybe the hottest seller’s market we’ve ever seen.  However, REALITY CHECK:  A seller’s market doesn’t mean a stupid market!  What’s really interesting about our current market is that buyers have also never been more savvy than they are now.  Prospective home buyers have access to more information at their fingertips than at any other point in human history.  Many buyers in the modern era know- even without the help of a Realtor- if a home is overpriced.

Even in this crazy seller’s market, overpricing is by far the most costly mistake you can make when selling your home.



Barrett Raven


Fiduciary…  What’d you call me?!

In my very first real estate licensing class, my instructor introduced the topic of “fiduciary responsibility” right away.  Having majored in economics in college, I was familiar with the idea that corporate board members and officers have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders but wasn’t sure how this would apply to real estate.  One paragraph in one of the first pages of my pre-licensing textbook reads:    

“An agency relationship exists when one person (the agent) acts for, or on behalf of another person (the principal). The principal is also known as the client. This relationship is a fiduciary relationship, which means that it is a relationship based on trust. While treating all others honestly, the agent places the interests of the principal, or client, first. The agent must always remain loyal to the principal.” -Champions School of Real Estate (The Law of Agency– page 8, paragraph 1)

Shoutout to Chere- my first ever fiduciary responsibility!  🙂

In a way, I think this concept should be the foundation of every single job ever.  I mean, wouldn’t it be awesome if all of our interactions and decisions were based on trust?  However, in most jobs, you are not contractually bound to represent the interests of one person or party.  That just wouldn’t make sense for most jobs and I’m sure it’s obvious why.

One of the trickiest (and hardest) parts of this job is acting on behalf of my client in a way that is in their interest when I know that the other party will likely not be benefitting from it.  Luckily, though, I typically work with clients who are kind people and who, like me, seek to find a win-win scenario in any given situation.  In other words, I love my clients even more because, for the most part, they operate with a fiduciary mindset for others.

Below is an article I read recently on the TAR website that relates to this topic!

What “fiduciary” means and how it applies to your real estate transaction

05/13/2016 | Author: Marty Kramer

I read the most incredible thing this morning: Some financial advisers can put their own interests above yours.

That’s right … as long as that financial professional recommends an investment that is “suitable,” he or she can suggest a fund with higher costs to you (and higher commissions for the adviser) than a cheaper fund that may be a better option for you.

Though that is shocking to me, I am encouraged by the following:

Many financial advisers adhere to a higher standard that puts the interests of the client above those of the adviser.
New rules are in the works to require this higher standard for advisers and brokers who work with retirement accounts.
More good news for anyone buying, selling, or leasing real estate: When you receive agency services from a licensed real estate agent or broker in Texas, that professional is required by law to put your interests above his or her own. It’s called a “fiduciary” relationship.

Even better news when you hire a real estate agent or broker who is also a Texas REALTOR®: All REALTORS® pledge to abide by a Code of Ethics that holds REALTORS® to an even higher standard than what’s required by law.

To make sure you’re getting the highest level of professionalism, make sure your agent or broker is also a Texas REALTOR®. 

"Never do business with friends or family…in Twin Peaks." (aka- Client Testimonial)

When I first started in real estate (literally in my first licensing class), I heard several people say, “Never do business with friends or family.”  I guess, at some basic level, that made sense to me at the time.  I don’t know why- I just accepted it.  

I hope that if/when one of these kids (my own children!) want to buy their first home, they’ll know who to call.  haha
However, I sought out wise counsel from seasoned real estate agents who I deeply respected and who I knew had a solid ethical backbone.  One agent, in particular, directly challenged that little bit of what he called “folk wisdom”.  He said, “Screw that, dude!  I say only work with friends and family!”  This guy said that avoiding business deals with friends and family is only important if you (or the other party) are planning on acting without integrity.  He encouraged me to be open to working with anybody who I genuinely believe I can help.  After all, if I am honest, ethical, and trustworthy, why in the heck should I exclude those who are closest to me?!

Some of my favorite peeps, Leif and Autum
With that in mind, I recently had the ammmmazing opportunity to work with Leif, who is one of my dearest childhood friends (and his awesome wife, Autum…who is also a dear friend!).  We had such a blast together and I am so glad that I was the one who was able to help them buy their first home!  Leif and I actually played in a band together in high school and college (see us shredding below), travelled the country in a van playing gigs, and grew up about 200 yards from each other.  

See Leif and Autum in the video below describing what it was like working with me…a friend…and also family…basically.  
(If the video doesn’t show up below, check it out HERE on my YouTube channel!)

p.s. My first blog post and other bits of folk wisdom.  

Barrett Raven
C:  512-970-2648
O:  512-910-7403

There. Is. No. "Typical".

One question I often get from clients is:

“How does (fill in the blank) typically work?”  

“Devastating termite damage is pretty typical, right?”  (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Here are a few specific examples:

  • How long does it typically take for a seller to respond after an offer is submitted?
  • Sellers won’t typically contribute to a buyer’s closing costs, right?
  • Do the washer and dryer typically stay?
  • Do sellers typically repair any items in the inspection not up to code?
  • Will a buyer typically pay over asking price for a home like mine?
  • Homes in my neighborhood typically sell pretty quickly, right?
  • I could go on and on…

Well, I’m here to tell you that there is no “typical” in real estate.  Before getting into real estate, I was a middle school math and economics teacher for about eight years.  In teaching, there were certainly many obstacles- many of them you couldn’t prepare for.  However, most of my day was literally planned out by me or someone else.  Our curriculum was planned a year in advance.  I knew what lessons I’d be teaching each day; I knew when grades and report cards were due; and if any of my students misbehaved, there were plans of action.  Especially with respect to the academic content- there were rules and theorems that had to be obeyed in order to succeed.  I mean, none of my students ever asked, “Mr. Raven, if I were to divide 56 by 8, would I typically get an answer of 7?”  

This was on the door of my classroom for a couple of years.  

So, back to real estate!  One of the things I love most about this (Realtor) job is that everything is different virtually all the time.  Every property is different and comes with its different quirks.  Every seller is different.  Every buyer is different.  Every listing agent is different.  Every buyer’s agent is different.  Every mortgage lender is different.  Of course, the market can change on a dime.  Lending laws change all the time.  Even the real estate sales contract changes occasionally.

Let’s break this idea down with one simple scenario:  I’m sitting in front of a home with my buyer clients and they love it.  They say to me, “Barrett, we love it.  But we really want to pay $20,000 less than what they are asking.  But sellers in this market don’t typically consider offers below asking price, right?”

  1. In this example, the outcome primarily depends on the seller’s motivation.  (e.g. Are they just selling to see what the market will bear?  Do they even care if they sell or not?  Or did the husband just get a job in Chicago and they need to sell FAST!?)  If the seller is highly motivated to get a sale done, they might be willing to give a little on price.
  2. Is the home priced appropriately?  The price of any given home on the market may or may not be based on reality.  In my opinion, a good real estate agent should give you an accurate projection of the market price before you ever offer on a home.  If it appears the market supports a price $45,000 less than where they are listed, there’s a decent chance a $20,000 price reduction may be successful.  Or maybe there are obvious defects present in the home that the seller did not take into account when they listed.  
  3. Another important factor in this scenario is the method and strategy by which your agent presents the low offer.  In the end, someone wants to sell their home and someone else wants to buy that home.  This is a very cooperative process.  There’s no reason to present a low offer in an insulting or condescending way.  We are all on the same team here!  As a buyer’s agent, I am still helping the seller get their home sold.  Of course, I must do this while representing the buyer’s interests.  I could write about this particular topic all day.  But if my client’s interest is to buy the home for $20,000 below asking, I believe I am much more likely to achieve that for them if I treat the listing agent with kindness and bring data to the table demonstrating that my client’s offer is a reasonable one.  (Someday, I will write a post just about this…but this one is getting too long.)
  4. Of course, there are market factors at play.  For example, if the average days on market in a particular neighborhood is 15 days and you are asking for a $20,000 price reduction on the third day, you’re probably not going to get it.  But you never know!
  5. Lastly, there is the financing component.  Are you paying in all cash?  If so you may be able to get a price reduction.  If not, how much are you putting down?  
There are even more pieces of the puzzle than this!  So, to just say that you can’t typically get this or that is oversimplifying things pretty drastically.  What a beautiful process we get to experience together!

Signing 34 Million Documents and Having Babies (aka- Client Testimonial!)

Closing on a home- especially your first home- can be a very emotional and overwhelming experience.  It can be exciting, thrilling, and heavy.  It can be mind-numbing and scary.  It can be so many things.  However, the most common feeling I’ve observed in my clients at the closing table is that of relief.

I mean, everything between making the decision to enter the marketplace and getting your closing statement can leave your head spinning.  (e.g. nailing down your home search criteria, viewing homes, choosing one, making an offer, getting an offer accepted, having a home inspection, processing the inspection report, negotiating repairs, gathering and submitting documentation to the lender, getting through loan processing and underwriting, choosing a home warranty plan, choosing home insurance, wiring obscene amounts of money out of your bank account, packing up furniture, scheduling closing, and more!)

My boy, Brent, (and me) after closing!
One might say this is the closest a man gets to childbirth.  Wait, no?  OK, maybe not.  Regardless, by the time we get to the closing table, there is always a huge sense of relief.  I hear things like “Holy crap, I can’t believe it worked!”  or “Wow, it’s over!”  Having experienced closing on my own home, I can testify to the fact that there is a feeling of comfort when you realize, at closing, that all of the documents have been prepared and there’s really nothing you can do to change anything at that point.  If you want the house, you gotta sign!  haha

Check out the short video below where my awesome client, Brent, describes what it was like closing on the purchase of his first home, an eastside condo conversion.  I’m thinking you can sense his delight punctuated by overwhelming relief.  Additionally, take a look at some of the photos below the  video that were taken during the construction of his place.  (There were many many delays in construction, permitting, and other issues…but Brent was a freaking rockstar the whole way through.)


Barrett Raven
C:  512-970-2648
O:  512-910-7403

Be a Better Buyer (Part Two): 7 Tips for Improving Your Credit

As promised, here is the second post in the series we’re calling “Be a Better Buyer”.  In this installment, we are addressing the issue of creditworthiness.  In the Austin real estate market, we have a lot of home-buyers who purchase their homes with all cash.  However, the overwhelming majority of you out there will be taking out some sort of home loan.  Many prospective buyers are shocked when they find out they do not qualify for a loan.  After all, they make plenty of money, don’t have a lot of debt, and they can more-than-afford the projected monthly payment.  So…what the heck?!  

Think of it this way:  If you were hiring an employee to take care children at a daycare, you would probably want to know the applicant’s criminal record, right?  You would want to know if the man/woman interviewing for the job has demonstrated character worthy of supervising small children.  Well, banks who loan money out think of their mortgage (re)payments as their little children.  These banks look to your credit history just like a criminal record.  They want to know that you have demonstrated that you can take care of your debt obligations and that you have proven that you get those payments in- healthy and on time.  (Huge caveat:  Of course, when reviewing an applicant for a job, you would obviously want the criminal record to be blank.  However, when a lender reviews your credit report, they want it to be full…just full of good stuff!  But maybe I’m taking this analogy too far…)

Anyway, check out this amazing article published by!

7 Tips for Improving Your Credit

Here’s how to clean up your credit so you get the least-expensive home loan possible.
Getting the loan that suits your situation at the best possible price and terms makes homebuying easier and more affordable. Here are seven ways to boost your credit score so you can do just that.

1. Know your credit score

Credit scores range from 300 to 850, and the higher, the better. They’re based on whether you’ve paid personal loans, car loans, credit cards, and other debt in full and on time in the past. You’ll need a score of at least 620 to qualify for a home loan and 740 to get the best interest rates and terms. 
You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the major credit-reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Access all three versions of your credit report at Review them to ensure the information is accurate.

2. Correct errors on your credit report

If you find mistakes on your credit report, write a letter to the credit-reporting agency explaining why you believe there’s an error. Send documents that support your case, and ask that the error be corrected or removed. Also write to the company, or debt collector, that reported the incorrect information to dispute the information, and ask to be copied on any materials sent to credit-reporting agencies.

3. Pay every bill on time

You may be surprised at the damage even a few late payments will have on your credit score. The easiest way to make a big difference in your credit score without altering your spending habits is to diligently pay all your bills on time. You’ll also save money because you’ll keep the money you’ve been spending on late fees. Credit card or mortgage companies probably won’t report minor late payments, those less than 30 days overdue, but you’ll still have to pay late fees.

4. Use credit carefully

Another good way to boost your credit score is to pay your credit card bills in full every month. If you can’t do that, pay as much over your required minimum payment as possible to begin whittling away the debt. Stop using your credit cards to keep your balances from increasing, and transfer balances from high-interest credit cards to lower-interest cards.

5. Take care with the length of your credit

Credit rating agencies also consider the length of your credit history. If you’ve had a credit card for a long time and managed it responsibly, that works in your favor. However, opening several new credit cards at once can lower the average age of your accounts, which pushes down your score. Likewise, closing credit card accounts lowers your available credit, so keep credit cards open even if you’re not using them.

6. Don’t use all the credit you’re offered

Credit scores are also based on how much credit you use compared with how much you’re offered. Using $1,000 of available credit will give you a lower score than having $1,000 of available credit and using $100 of it. Occasionally opening new lines of credit can boost your available credit, which also affects your score positively.

7. Be patient

It can take time for your credit score to climb once you’ve begun working to improve it. Keep at it because the more distance you put between your spotty payment history and your current good payment record, the less damage you’ll do to your credit score.
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who keeps a close eye on her credit scores. A frequent contributor to many national publications including, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Barrett Raven
C:  512-970-2648
O:  512-910-7403

"A picture is worth 1,000 words. A handshake is worth $120,000."

Please tell me you’ve seen Million Dollar Listing (MDL).  If you haven’t, stop reading this blog post now and go watch it!  My personal recommendation is to watch the New York iteration (MDLNY) first starting with season one.  

I actually have love in my heart for these guys.  It’s crazy.  (Photo courtesy of BravoTV)

There is an alarming amount of strangers who, when I tell them I am a real estate agent, they immediately respond by excitedly asking, “Do you watch Million Dollar Listing?!”  Of course, I respond with a resounding “HECK YES, I DO!”  So, when I was emailed this exact question a little earlier this year, I had no choice but to record this short video response where I analyze the show exponentially more than is necessary.  

That being said, enjoy!

Barrett Raven
C:  512-970-2648
O:  512-910-7403