To-Dos: Your March Home Checklist

With the first day of spring coming up on March 20, the time has come in many areas to start shedding winter layers and encourage new growth. Whether the view out your window this month is of a snowy wonderland or something springy and green, these 10 to-dos should help you get in the spring spirit.


By:   at


Austin leads the way in downtown job growth

austin riverAlthough most newcomers choose to live a suburban life, job growth in Central Austin is now outpacing job growth in the suburbs, according to a new report from City Observatory, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

In fact, Austin now leads all other U.S. cities in terms of the percentage of its overall workforce working downtown and in downtown job growth.

According to the report titled “Surging City Center Job Growth,” the downtown-oriented job growth in Austin mirrors trends seen in metro areas across the nation, reversing suburban-oriented job growth trends that stretch back more than 50 years.

As recently as the five years from 2002 to 2007, job growth was still suburban-oriented around U.S. cities. Then, job growth in suburban areas was growing at about 1.2 percent annually, compared to 0.1 percent in urban cores. But between 2007 and 20011, a switch happened, with job growth in urban cores rising to 0.5 percent annually, while suburban jobs shrank by 0.1 percent.

In Austin, the urban core job growth flip has been more dramatic. Between 2002 and 2007, city-center job growth in Austin was about 0.6 percent annually and suburban job growth was about 3.1 percent annually. Between 2007 and 2011, though, city center job growth in Austin surged to 3.4 percent annually while suburban job growth slowed to 2.3 percent annually. That’s the fastest-growing urban core job growth in the nation in that time. Austin, with 28.8 percent of its jobs located in the urban core, now has the highest level of core employment in the nation, ahead of even New York City, which only has about 23 percent of its employment in its urban core.

But while Austin’s new jobs are moving downtown, Austin’s overall population growth has, recently, been driven by growth in the suburbs, a fact underscored in a recent Austin Business Journal cover story that found that more than 62 percent of the Austin-area’s population growth since 2010 has been centered in about 54 suburban census tracts, with the fastest growing areas being Pflugerville, Round Rock and San Marcos.



Five Ways To Win At SXSW 2014

Here are seome tips on how to win at SXSW from an Austinite business owner and verteran of the conferences.

Don’t do it alone

sixth streetYou can go to SXSW by yourself, but I don’t recommend it. If you’re planning to cruise in and meet up with friends or people you kind of know from various places, you are fooling yourself. Why, you ask? Because you’ll spend your entire time texting people to “try and meet up.” People tend to operate in pods at SXSW, so you should find a pod to go with, too.

Try thinking of it this way: Would you go to a concert alone? As big as SXSW is, it’s lonely flying solo. Attending SXSW with friends or colleagues will help expand your network reach and therefore your access to different parties and fun experiences.

If you’re the choose-your-own-adventure type of person, please disregard this tip.

Everyone has something to contribute

Run your SXSW crew like a well-oiled machine. Assign something to every single person you have there, regardless of how senior they are. For example, put Johnny on extra battery detail, Jenny on hashtag party finding patrol (e.g. #secretwineparty), etc.

It’s an expensive and fairly decadent event, but nobody rides for free. Managers who come to the festival without the expectation of supporting their team are not going to have the results they expect.

If you’re a business trying to promote yourself, don’t. Just fill a need…

The impulse to be zany is strong for many folks at SXSW (and that goes double for San Franciscans). However, should you go the costume route… Know that people are going to make fun of your schtick and forget you immediately if your offering is just flash and razzmatazz.

Austin is an amazing city, but there are always many shortfalls when it comes to basics like Wi-Fi, transportation, and lodging. Just help people out with what they truly need and they’ll be far more open to your pitch. Heck, they may actually listen to it.

Everyone is there at SXSW to promote something on some level. Filling a real need that someone has ensures your introduction is going to be impactful.

Automate everything you can

Cancel all your calls and delegate what you can’t get done. Going to a huge show like SXSW that costs thousands doesn’t seem like a good time to be running your Salesforce reports.

Focus is a wonderful thing and if you dive deeply into the k-hole of SXSW, it could be your Burning Man. I’ve seen it happen. If you’re going to really commit to this thing, you’ll get more out of it.

Make your own challenges

Last year I created the contest at SXSW, because I was faced with a life challenge: What to do with my house. I realized instead of having a problem that I actually had an asset. I turned my problem around and wrangled it like a bull. As a result, I got to hang out with the crew from Funny or Die for a week. I had an amazing time.


By:  Anne Ahola Ward, CircleClick

Realty Austin Congratulates Ruth Powers And All The Agents Nominated For Austin Business Journal’s Residential Real Estate Awards

Posted by Realty Austin on Friday, February 7th, 2014 at 5:32pm.

Austin Business Journal Announces Nominees for Austin Residential Real Estate Awards

Thank you to everyone who supported me throughout my career and in 2013 to nominated as a finalist on this years Top 50 Realtors lists is a great honor and is only possible because all of you!

Realty Austin congratulates all of our agents and teams from our roster who are nominees for the Austin Business Journal’s Austin Residential Real Estate Awards. ABJ ranks the Residential Top Realtors by gross closed residential sales. The Top 50 will be announced at an awards ceremony on March 6, 2014 at the Sheraton.

For their outstanding achievements, 28 individual Realty Austin agents and 8 teams are finalists.

Residential Real Estate Awards Finalists

  1. Alicia Kelley
  2. Amy Gandy
  3. Barbara Ditlow, The Ditlow Team
  4. Barrett Sandefur
  5. Brian Copland
  6. Cara Keenan, The Keenan Team
  7. Carl Shurr
  8. Cristina Valdes
  9. Colette Fitzgerald
  10. Cynthia Mattiza
  11. Dori Garner
  12. Drew Griffin
  13. Elliott Sanchez
  14. Erin Bara, The Bara Team
  15. France Clausen, The Clausen Team
  16. Haval Abbas
  17. Jackie Good
  18. Jeff Hill, The Hill Team
  19. Jennifer Mehis
  20. Joe Cummings
  21. Joe Keenan, The Keenan Team
  22. Kevin McCord
  23. Kim Wilkin
  24. Laura Olesen
  25. Linda Traylor
  26. Lisa Hill, The Hill Team
  27. Lisa Muñoz
  28. Lisa Sexton, Lisa and Susan Team
  29. Maggie Falvey
  30. Mark Clausen, The Clausen Team
  31. Matt Ditlow, The Ditlow Team
  32. Michelle Jones, The Jones Team
  33. Patrick Birdsong
  34. Ryan Gamble
  35. Ruth Powers
  36. Shawn Rooker
  37. Sonny Bara, The Bara Team
  38. Susan Doyle, Lisa and Susan Team
  39. Susanne Lee
  40. Todd Bailey
  41. Todd Grossman
  42. Tom Thornton
  43. Thaddues Jones, The Jones Team

The Austin Business Journal’s Residential Real Estate Awards program honors the Top 50 Residential Real Estate Agents of Austin, Texas. In order to be selected, agents must rank among the top performing agents qualified by sales volume, transactions, and operational excellence in 2013.

9 Common Mistakes Home Owners Make On Their Taxes

Don’t rouse the IRS or pay more taxes than necessary — know the score on each home tax deduction and credit.

As you calculate your tax returns, consider each home tax deduction and credit you are — and are not — entitled to. Running afoul of any of these 9 home-related tax mistakes — which tax pros say are especially common — can cost you money or draw the IRS to your doorstep.

mortgagesSin #1: Deducting the wrong year for property taxes

You take a tax deduction for property taxesin the year you (or the holder of your escrow account) actually paid them. Some taxing authorities work a year behind — that is, you’re not billed for 2013 property taxes until 2014. But that’s irrelevant to the feds.

Enter on your federal forms whatever amount you actually paid in 2013, no matter what the date is on your tax bill. Dave Hampton, CPA, tax manager at the Cincinnati accounting firm of Burke & Schindler, has seen home owners confuse payments for different years and claim the incorrect amount.

Sin #2: Confusing escrow amount for actual taxes paid

If your lender escrows funds to pay your property taxes, don’t just deduct the amount escrowed, says Bob Meighan, CPA and vice president at TurboTax in San Diego. The regular amount you pay into your escrow account each month to cover property taxes is probably a little more or a little less than your property tax bill. Your lender will adjust the amount every year or so to realign the two.

For example, your tax bill might be $1,200, but your lender may have collected $1,100 or $1,300 in escrow over the year. Deduct only $1,200. Your lender will send you an official statement listing the actual taxes paid. Use that. Don’t just add up 12 months of escrow property tax payments.

Sin #3: Deducting points paid to refinance

Deduct points you paid your lender to secure your mortgage in full for the year you bought your home. However, when you refinance, says Meighan, you must deduct points over the life of your new loan. If you paid $2,000 in points to refinance into a 15-year mortgage, your tax deduction is $133 per year.

Sin #4: Misjudging the home office tax deduction

This deduction may not be as good as it seems. It’s complicated, often doesn’t amount to much of a deduction, has to be recaptured if you turn a profit when you sell your home, and can pique the IRS’s interest in your return. Hampton’s advice: Claim it only if it’s worth those drawbacks. If so, here’s what to  know about what you can write off.

Sin #5: Failing to repay the first-time home buyer tax credit

If you used the original home buyer tax credit in 2008, you must repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years. If you used the tax credit in 2009 or 2010 and then sold your house or stopped using it as your primary residence, within 36 months of the purchase date, you also have to pay back the credit.

The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe.

Sin #6: Failing to track home-related expenses

If the IRS comes a-knockin’, don’t be scrambling to compile your records. Many people forget to track home office and home maintenance and repair expenses, says Meighan. File away documents as you go. For example, save each manufacturer’s certification statement for energy tax credits and lender or government statements to confirm property taxes paid.

Sin #7: Forgetting to keep track of capital gains

If you sold your main home last year, don’t forget to pay capital gains taxes on any profit. You can exclude $250,000 (or $500,000 if you’re a married couple) of any profits from taxes. So if your cost basis for your home is $100,000 (what you paid for it plus any improvements) and you sold it for $400,000, your capital gains are $300,000. If you’re single, you owe taxes on $50,000 of gains. However, there are minimum time limits for holding property to take advantage of the exclusions, and other details. Consult IRS Publication 523.

Sin #8: Filing incorrectly for energy tax credits

If you made any eligible improvements in 2012 — or will in 2013 — such as installing energy-efficient windows and doors, you may be able to take a 10% tax credit (up to $500; with some systems your cap is even lower than $500). But keep in mind, it’s a lifetime credit. If you claimed the credit in any recent years, you’re done. Fill out Form 5695.

The first part of the form, which covers systems eligible for a larger tax credit through 2016, such as geothermal heat pumps, can be complex and involves crosschecking with half a dozen other IRS forms. Read the instructions carefully.

Sin #9: Claiming too much for the mortgage interest tax deduction

You can deduct mortgage interest only up to $1 million of mortgage debt, says Meighan. If you have $1.2 million in mortgage debt, for example, deduct only the mortgage interest attributable to the first $1 million.

By:  at

This article was original published in Jan. 2011.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice.

Highlights of the 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers From N.A.R.

homebuyer characteristicsFor most home buyers, the purchase of real estate is one of the largest financial transactions they will make. Buyers purchase a home not only for the desire to own a home of their own, but also because of changes in jobs, family situations, and the need for a smaller or larger living area. This annual survey conducted by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® of recent home buyers and sellers provides insight into detailed information about their experiences with this important transaction. Here are highlights from the latest report.

  • Sixty-six percent of recent home buyers were married couples—the highest share since 2001.
  • For 42 percent of home buyers, the first step in the home-buying process was looking online for properties and 14 percent of home buyers first looked online for information about the home buying process.
  • The use of the Internet in the home search rose slightly to 92 percent.
  • The typical home buyer searched for 12 weeks and viewed 10 homes.
  • Eighty-eight percent of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker—a share that has steadily increased from 69 percent in 2001.
  • Eighty-eight percent of sellers were assisted by a real estate agent when selling their home.
  • Two-thirds of home sellers only contacted one agent before selecting the one to assist with their home sale.
  • The share of home sellers who sold their home without the assistance of a real estate agent was nine percent. Forty percent knew the buyer prior to home purchase.

Buy the Full Report

The full 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers is available in the Store.


In this 22-minute webinar, Manager of Member and Consumer Survey Research, Jessica Lautz, talks about the highlights of the 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Watch the playback of the webinar.


More About the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

See and share the infographic.

Courtesy of and National Association of Realtors

Why Sellers Shouldn’t Wait Until After the Holidays to List Homes

By Brendon DeSimone 

trail_of_lightsWith the holidays approaching, sellers often wonder if they should keep their properties on the market or take them off? Or if they haven’t listed their homes yet, should they wait until after the first of the year? Maybe hold off until spring?

Conventional wisdom used to be that you shouldn’t even try to sell your home during the busy holiday season. Potential homebuyers were too preoccupied with attending parties, cooking meals, buying presents or planning vacations. With all that going on, there just wasn’t time to ride around with a real estate agent, looking at properties.

But with the Internet, smartphones, tablets and our always-on lifestyle, that conventional wisdom isn’t relevant anymore. The reality is, the homebuying season is now year-round. Here’s why you should consider listing your home during the holidays, or even in January.

Today’s buyers never stop looking online: Serious buyers are always looking — and the holidays are no exception. They may check out the latest listings in a Zillow Mobile app before bed or while waiting for the kids’ school holiday show to start. Our hectic lifestyles also play a role.

Many serious buyers today work hard. They don’t shift into holiday mode until the last minute. Even during the holiday break, they’re still squeezing in work. There’s no such thing for them as “going off the grid.” So why not continue to monitor real estate listings, too?

The inventory — and the competition — is usually lighter: Despite our always-on lifestyles, many sellers still believe buyers can’t be bothered to look for a home between, say, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. At the same time, sellers who’ve had their homes on the market often take them off during the holidays. The net effect is that the inventory for good homes often tightens this time of year. So there’s less competition for sellers, at a time when motivated buyers are out there looking — and no doubt wishing there were more properties to see.

If you’ve been considering selling, are motivated, are flexible on timing and have a home that truly sparkles, after Thanksgiving there’s still a window of several weeks to get buyers into your home before the end of the year. And those buyers flipping through listings at their kids’ basketball game will be excited to see something new and awesome hit the market — especially if there’s a lack of good inventory in their area. These buyers will be motivated to see your home, regardless of what the calendar says.

1800 Palmwood Cove-small-002-Exterior Front 002-666x463-72dpiHome not selling? Now’s the time to lower the price or change your strategy: If your property has been on the market for months, most buyers and their agents will see it as stale or overpriced and disregard it no matter how great it is or how light the competition is. In that case, it’s time to take action, and the year-end holidays can be a great opportunity to shift course. Dramatically reducing the price or overcoming some major obstacle that’s been preventing the sale might be what’s needed to sell your home.

If you received lower offers early on but weren’t ready to accept them, or you keep hearing there are issues with how your property shows, this is a good time to show the market you’re listening and are serious about selling. The motivated buyers, desperate for good inventory, will notice you and take a look. You might even get a sale closed before the end of the year.

Before you make any big changes, talk it over with your real estate agent, as always.

Don’t want to be bothered during the holidays? List in January: Admittedly, the thought of keeping the house clean, holding open houses and vacating to accommodate last-minute showings during the holidays is a deal killer for some would-be sellers. If so, consider listing your property after New Year’s Day.

Traditionally, not much inventory comes onto the market in January. It’s cold in most places, the leaves are off the trees and landscaping is dead. Many sellers wait until the spring instead, a more conventional time to sell.

January inventory is still very tight. And yet, each January, buyers call up agents, wanting to get into the market. Often, new buyers — with their fresh New Year’s resolutions to stop wasting money on rent and buy a home — are ready to jump into the market as soon as possible. Some buyers are motivated to search for a home in January because of year-end tax planning.

Whatever the buyers’ motivation, for sellers it means one thing: Demand for homes can increase at a time when inventory is traditionally low. And that means if you’re ready to sell, you’ll have an even more “captive” audience during the holidays, all the way through January.

Courtesy of: AOL Real Estate

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow,