Dual Agents…Why you should avoid it.


It seems like I have recently had many conversations with clients and other realtors about dual agent scenarios. Although my stance on it is likely an unpopular one amongst my agent friends, it comes up all too often and should be addressed.

What is a dual agent? According the TREC website (https://www.texasrealestate.com/for-texas-realtors/legal-faqs/category/intermediary), a dual agent is a broker who represents two parties at the same time in accordance with common law obligations and duties.

Basically, a dual agent is when a realtor is representing both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction. In this scenario, the seller is paying the full 6% in commissions to their realtor since they are working for both sides. This is assuming that the seller and agent are following the traditional structure of real estate commissions. (To better understand my commission structure, read about it here.)

My broker taught me early on in my real estate career that being a dual agent is never a good idea. No matter what the commission might be. It all boils down to your obligation to represent your client with their best interest as your priority. I don’t see how this is possible if you are representing both the buyer and seller.

Here are two obvious examples:

1. Agreeing on a sales price during the initial contract negotiations. As a seller’s agent, you likely know before even listing the property your client’s bottom line. Of course, we know that number is fluid and will often change over time and based on their situation. Advising your buyer about fair market value should be based on comparable, recently sold properties. It should not be based on your knowledge of what a seller will or will not accept. This situation could easily result in a seller not getting as much for their property as a buyer was willing to pay. It could also result in the buyer paying a higher price than they really had to because of what they were told it would take to get the deal done. Neither of these scenarios keep BOTH parties best interest in mind.

2. Further negotiations based on inspections. In representing a buyer, it is my responsibility as their agent to help them navigate through the inspection process and evaluate the existing condition of the home. Plumbing is a prime example. I always suggest my buyers pay for an extra plumbing test if the home is older with cast iron pipes. A $300 pipe test can easily reveal a $10-$20K need for new plumbing. As a seller’s agent, of course, it is not my responsibility to give any guidance to the other party during their inspection period. How can you possibly be providing BOTH sides with ethical representation during the inspection period?

I have been in the situation a few times where I have met a couple at an Open House and they have asked me about representing them in putting an offer on that property. I have always responded that representing both sides is not something I am comfortable with but I would love to refer them to some other wonderful agents. It is easy to get wrapped up wanting that full 6% commission, but it is truly not worth it. Getting a referral fee is more than enough compensation for avoiding a situation that can easily turn ugly.

Moral of the story is simple….don’t use a dual agent if you expect your realtor to truly keep your best interest at heart.


Little Luxuries


One of my favorite things when showings homes is discovering what I call “little luxuries” that homeowners have added to their house. Those things where you say, “OMG, I would kill to have one of those!”

“Little luxuries” don’t always come with little price tags, but if I was building my dream house on an unlimited budget, these are some of my favorites.

sonic ice

 1.       Sonic Ice Machine. Those limeades wouldn’t be half as good without that signature ice. Imagine having it in all your drinks? (see pic above…add crown…add lime) Opal Nugget Ice has home ice makers that produce Sonic ice. Would love to get one and have it built into a wet bar.

coffee bar

2.       Master Coffee Bar. I would love to wake up to coffee brewing in my master bathroom or to be able to grab a water (or wine) from my personal beverage fridge. So totally unnecessary but so fun.

steam shower

3.       Steam Shower. Feel like you are at the spa every day. Hide from your kids in the steam. Double win!

heated towel rack

4.       Heated Towel Bar. And then grab you heated towel after your steam shower….Heaven. I would jam my robe into this thing too.

automated drapes

5.       Electric Blackout Curtains. A client of mine recently installed these in their master bedroom. He said it’s like being in a hotel. And he uses a remote from his bed to shut them. The picture above shows them being used in  media room. I personally hate media rooms because they are built with no windows, not allowing you to easily repurpose the room if desired. With these blackout curtains, any room can become a media room without feeling like a cave.

espresso maker

6.       Built in espresso machine. Become your own barista!


7.       Kitchenette in the playroom. How nice for your kids to be able to grab snacks and drinks upstairs instead of barging into the kitchen. (Can you tell I have a thing for eating and drinking?)

garbage shoot

8.       Garbage shoot. Never argue over who has to take the trash out to your nasty garbage cans that you store around the side of the garage.

doggie door

9.       Collar Activated Doggie Door. I seriously dream about this. I am usually woken up from that dream around 3 am when my dog wants to “explore” the backyard. This product claims to only open the door when your dog in near it wearing a sensor on their collar. Pets come and go, creepy animals stay out, and toddlers stay in. You can learn about these here.

washer dryer master closet

10.   Second washer/dryer. One time I saw a beautiful master closet with its own washer/dryer in addition to the main laundry room and I thought- this is dumb. No, it’s not dumb. It’s amazing.

Seeing the way different people live has always been one of my favorite parts of being a realtor. What would you add to your dream home???

The Laundry Room

big laundry

Wait, your laundry room doesn’t look just like this???

A house without an indoor laundry room is a huge negative when selling your house. Finding the washer and dryer in the garage is not uncommon in many of the older Houston neighborhoods like Montrose, the Heights, or Oak Forest. The house in Memorial I grew up in had the laundry in the garage and believe me it is a pain in the butt! It’s probably no surprise that house has now been replaced with a McMansion. (And no, I am not bitter that my dad sold the house at all.) Not every house has the luxury of creating a legitimate laundry room, but with a little creativity most homes can accommodate some small area to fit a washer and dryer.

Adding a laundry station into a closet, bathroom, or mudroom is easier today with the availability of more compact or stackable units. Here are some things you need to consider to make this change as functional and efficient as possible:

1. Keep in mind that a washer and dryer will weigh about 300 lbs. If adding your units to a second story you need to make sure the floor can bear the load. The floor and wall might need reinforcement.
2. Remember the dryer must vent outside. Positioning your units on an exterior wall is key to keep the ductwork as short as possible. Also remember the dryer will blow out hot air and lint so avoid venting it out to your patio that you love to sit on every morning. Unless you love the smell of dryer sheets like I do!
3. Consider the noise factor. Some machines are noisier than others. You can minimize the noise by placing them in a closed off room like a bathroom, weather stripping the doors, and placing the units on rubber mats.
4. Additional plumbing might be needed. Remember, the washer needs to be hooked up with a hot and cold water line. It also needs to drain somewhere. You might need to add or reroute some plumbing lines to accommodate your addition. An ideal situation would be to place the units near some existing plumbing.
5. Piggybacking this project onto another renovation will likely save you time and money. If you are remodeling a bathroom, this might be the time to consider also adding the indoor laundry area that will greatly impact the liquidity of your property.

Here are some example of ways to bring your outdoor laundry room inside.
laundry room 1
laundry room 2
laundry room 3
laundry room 4

9 Things Buyers Need To Know

what you need to know
As a realtor in Texas, I receive a monthly magazine called Texas Realtor. There was an article in the April edition with questions that realtors are constantly asked by buyers. It listed nine questions but didn’t provide any responses. Here are my responses to their list of questions:

1. How long does the buying process take?
Once you have a signed contract on the house you want to purchase, a lender should be able to get your loan processed and complete within 30-45 days. If you are a cash buyer, all the needed paperwork should be ready for you to close at a title company within 7-14 days.

2. How many homes does the average buyer visit?
This totally depends on the buyer. Some people know exactly what they want while others are in the dark. Oftentimes you learn during the house-hunting process that you and your partner are on totally different pages. (That is another post for another day….the awkwardness of sitting through a couple’s argument.) With the help of HAR, Houston buyers have access to lots of information on homes and see photos without even seeing the house in person. This can narrow down their list of homes at the early stages of looking.

3. Is there anything I should not do during the house-hunting process?
Do not change jobs and do not go out and purchase a bunch of high dollar items that might affect your credit and loan status. (examples: all new furniture, new car, etc) Lenders typically run your credit a second time prior to your close date and a large expense can create a problem.

4. When should I make an offer?
In today’s crazy real estate market you need to be prepared to make an offer on a house the first day it is on the market. A couple years ago I would not have said this. However, todays market is very tight with low inventory and lots of buyers. Most first time homebuyers are not very comfortable with this advice. They often have to lose out on a few homes before they fully understand this concept and are ok with it. This scenario isn’t always going to be case, but it is very common these days.

5. How much should I offer?
Prior to offering on a property, your realtor should research comparable properties in the area and see what they have recently sold for. Today’s market has improved from even 6 months ago. Your realtor needs to be aware of these value increases and be able to confidently tell you if a house is listed above market value.

6. Will I get my earnest money back if the contract is not accepted?
Yes. The earnest money is typically 1% of the sale price. You will write a check out to the title company where you will be closing and the money is put into an escrow account. The money is refundable to the buyer in a variety of situations that your realtor should go over with you. If your contract is never accepted by the seller you will not even provide a check for earnest money. Earnest money is required within 48 hours of the contract being executed or signed by both parties.

7. Do I really need a home inspection?

The short answer here is yes. You should always hire your own inspector (general and termite at a minimum) to inspect any property you are considering purchasing. You should get this done as quickly into your option period as possible. Inspectors are not cheap. However, spending $500 on an inspection is cheaper than finding out you just purchased a $400,000 money pit.

8. What happens at the closing?

You will close on your property at a title company. The main thing you will do is sign tons and tons of paperwork that your lender provides to the title company. You are signing off on loan documents, your deed, your loan application, tax papers, and tons of disclosures. The escrow agent at the title company should be able to clearly explain what all the forms mean and how they might affect you. If you are THAT person who reads each document, have your relator ask the title company for the paperwork the night before so you can take up your own time and not everyone elses reading all the fine print. (The reality is that if you have a problem with a document and don’t want to sign, the lender won’t send over the funds, which means you don’t get a house.) The other big thing that often happens at closing is meeting your seller. This can be really fun or really awkward, depending on how smoothly the transaction went down. Make it known if you would prefer to sign separately from the seller.

9. When will I get the keys?

You should get the keys once the loan funds. Typically, this is the same day as when you sign all your paperwork but sometimes the loans don’t actually fund until the next day. You technically should not receive the keys until the money has transferred but often times agents just leave the keys at the title company. Remember that you might need more than just keys….garage door opener, gate openers, mailbox key, etc. Your realtor should coordinate this all for you with the sellers realtor.

Hopefully these questions and answers were helpful to some of you who are starting the home buying process. Feel free to send me other questions you might want answered.

Got Junk?

garage sale
I am not someone who often goes to garage sales. Nor am I someone who has ever had one. My dad had one once that I had to recently help with. It was miserable. The gathering, sorting, pricing, setting up, taking it down….it wasn’t my cup of tea.

However, there are tons of people out there who live for garage sales. They either need to buy things at a major discount or they just like to look at other’s people junk and try to get a bargain. People often decide to hold a garage sale before they sell their house. It’s a great way to get rid of the clutter before your house hits the market.

Here are some tips on how to hold a successful garage sale. If you dare…

1. Try to convince some other families to do it with you. This way you can advertise your garage sale as a SUPER Garage Sale! Your best bet is to convince some friends who have never held one before so they don’t know what a pain it is. Bribe them with cocktails.

2. Don’t hold back. When you come across something and think- no one would ever buy this!- you are wrong. There are a lot of odd ducks out there. People will buy anything.

3. Be honest. If you are selling a stuffed animal that is supposed to light up but its broken then put a little note on the item letting them know. The last thing you need to do is get bad karma from something like a broken toaster. And if you need to sell a $7 toaster THAT bad then you should take a good look at your financial situation.

4. Make it easy. Price your junk in even dollar amounts of $0.25 multiples. This will save frustration on both ends. Plus it will make it easier on you if you are day drinking. (see #1)

5. Don’t overprice. No one is going to pay $25 for your used Tory Burch flats. No one cares that you paid $200 for them. Take it down a notch. You are not going to rich. Just try to get rid of your stuff. An appropriate price for nice dress shoes in good condition would be around $5.

6. The early bird gets the die hard shoppers. The garage sale fanatics are out for the kill! Start before 8am and plan on being finished before 2pm. These people know that the best stuff will go quickly. They probably won’t bother to stop by in the afternoon because they will assume the good stuff has sold.

7. Post signs on the busy intersections near your house with some balloons. While doing so, think of me. One of my least favorite things to do as a realtor is put out Open House signs. I loathe balloons now because of my job. You will inevitably get rained on, start sweating profusely from the Houston heat, get honked at by some nasty truck full of men, or worse…someone you know will wave at you.

8. Batteries and extension cords. Keep them handy so you can prove to people your items work. I assure you, they will want to know.

9. Donate. When the day is over you will be exhausted, probably drunk (see #1), and maybe $300 richer. But a lot of your junk will be gone and that’s more than half the battle. Donate whatever is left to a local charity. If you are really smart you could coordinate with the charity to come pick up the leftovers that afternoon. Click here for a list of local charities that might be able to pick up donations.

Do’s & Don’t: Prepping your house for sale

taxidermy wall

I see at least a dozen houses that are for sale each week. If and when you ever sell your house, remember these tips below.

  1. Give your house a deep clean- including bathroom grout, oven, fridge, all the “hard” things you don’t clean on a regular basis. If you aren’t a good cleaner, pay someone else to do it.
  2. Declutter, declutter, declutter!
  3. Use closets for their designated use. For example, no kitchen appliances in the front coat closet. You don’t need your buyer realizing right away that the huge Kitchen Aid mixer they got for a wedding present won’t find in your tiny kitchen cabinets.
  4. Your clothes belong in the master closet…ONLY…no matter how small it is. (I’m talk to you, bungalow owners.)
  5. Clean out the old nasty food in the fridge- it will be opened and people will judge you.
  6. Keep religious décor to a minimum or remove completely. You may think it’s tasteful but other do not. Take it down.
  7. If you must keep a litter box in the house, it needs to be cleaned every day if not more. Better yet, let your best friend babysit your cat while you show your house.
  8. Keep personal pictures to a minimum. People will look at them. And please take down your professional pregnancy photos. Please.
  9. Take everything off your fridge.
  10. NO ANIMAL HEADS. None. At all. (And it doesn’t make a difference that “you harvest the meat from the animals you kill.” People still get offended.)
  11. Make your closets and pantry look spacious. If that means you need to rent a storage unit or donating all those random canned goods then do it.
  12. Rent a carpet cleaner (less than $50 a day) and clean your carpets. They will look so much better and it will help with any pet odors.
  13. Speaking of pet odors… Ask someone who doesn’t have pets if your house smells of animals. You are used to it and aren’t a good judge.
  14. All the stuff (crap) your baby, toddler, kids need/use/play with should go in their room. Get some bins or large baskets  for their room and stick all that stuff in them. You don’t need your living room to look like a playroom because that’s when they realize you don’t have a playroom and they might need a playroom.
  15. Take all the teenie bopper stuff off the walls (and ceilings, believe it or not) of your pre-teen or teenager’s room.
  16. Refrain from cooking fish, Indian, Asian, or Middle Eastern food while your house is on the market.
  17. Don’t smoke, duh.
  18. Take all those expensive energy efficient light bulbs and store them for your next house. Do this for ALL the lights in the house. Replace them with normal, cheap bulbs that do not take 15 minutes to “warm up.” While those lights are warming up, your buyer is thinking your house doesn’t have enough light.
  19. Remove anything from your house that lives in an aquarium that is not a fish.
  20. Keep the pool clean even if that means hiring a pool boy. You don’t need the buyer to actually know that taking care of a pool is a major expense and pain in the ass. And we certainly don’t want them realizing that the beautiful tree in the back drops thousands of leaves a day into the pool.
  21. Don’t leave your dog(s) at the house during showings even if you leave them outside/in a kennel/in the laundry room/etc. I agree that anyone who doesn’t like dogs are terrible people but lots of people out there have a serious problem with them.

The goal is to make people look at your home and not your stuff. You obviously don’t think you or your lifestyle is strange or distracting because it is YOU. However, potential buyers might not feel the same way. You want your home to appear as if it’s easy and comfortable to live there. You are trying to create a neutral palate for buyers to walk into and picture themselves living there. Selling your house and keeping it “show ready” is not an easy task. Nor is it always inexpensive. Follow the tips above and hopefully your house will sell quickly so you can go back to leaving the bed unmade and the dirty coffee mug in the sink each morning.

2012 Recap


2012 blew me away when it came to my job. Almost 3 years ago, I took a huge risk and a major pay cut to quit my job and start working as David’s assistant at New Leaf. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would work so hard, be part of such an amazing company, and love my job as much as I do. The chance I took has paid off in more ways than I can count.

The real estate market here in Houston was insane in 2012….not just for us at New Leaf but for all buyers and seller across Houston. Here is a look back at some of our highlights from the year:

– Completed over 60 transactions between representing buyers and sellers
– Those 60 transactions came out to over $45 million in sales
– Dealt with multiple offer situations on over half of our transactions (you can’t just throw together an offer and send it over these days, there are tricks to the trade)
– Sold a house through a Facebook post so I never had to list it on HAR
– Lowest mortgage rates in HISTORY
– Created this blog
– Completed over $10 million in NON-MLS sales (meaning we represented either buyers or sellers on homes that were never listed on HAR)
– Lots, New Construction, Condos, Townhomes, and Single Family resale…sold it all
– Represented buyers or sellers in River Oaks, West U, Memorial, Spring Valley, Braes Heights, Old Braeswood, Southampton, Southgate, Heights, Shady Acres, Timbergrove, Memorial West….not to mention in Austin, Galveston, and Lake Livingston….just to name a few
– Still awaiting the results, but we expect that David will be ranked within the top 5 realtors in Houston according to the Houston Business Journal

And to save the best for last, we were able to offer our clients over $750,000 in savings this past year. Houstonians are more real estate savvy then ever these days and they are demanding a business model that rewards them for their efforts. If you STILL don’t know what I am referring to, check it out here.

This business is a constant roller coast. Looking back over what we accomplished this past year makes me feel really thankful and blessed to be in this “housepeeping” industry we can real estate. It really is a neat experience to work with people as they sell their home or to help people find a place to become their new home. It’s an exciting and stressful time in people’s life and I hope that my role in the process provides them with knowledge, comfort, and guidance. I am super excited to see what opportunities 2013 has to offer me as I keeping working alongside David while continuing to building my own book of business. Thank you for visiting my small section of cyber space. I wish you all a happy and healthy year!

Home Safety Tip: Your Weekend Homework

As a realtor, I learn the most about home maintenance, safety, and repairs during inspections. General inspections should be done once a contract has been negotiated during the buyer’s option period. We always recommend that a buyer get a general inspection. Based on what is found by the inspector, you can decide if a specific tradesman should come and inspect anything further. An example might be that the general inspector tells you there are some electrical issues with the home. So we decide to bring an electrician over to the home to a) confirm there is a problem, b) address how this affects the electrical system and overall safety of the home, and c) how much it will cost you to remedy the problem.

I have been in the real estate business almost 3 years. I listen to inspectors probably once a week. You would think that if I hear of a common problem in homes over and over and over, I would check to see if such a problem existed in my own home. Nope. It took me three years to discover (aka walk into my closet and take one look) that I have a certain brand of electrical panel that is now considered to be a fire hazard.

Your homework for the weekend: Walk over to your electric panel…aka breaker box…aka that thing you go to when a fuse blows and you open a little door and flip one of many black switches. If your panel says “Federal Pacific” on the outside, you have an electric panel that is not up to code and considered a fire hazard for today’s standards.










To replace an electric panel will run you about $1500 with a reputable electrician. Does it totally suck to spend $1500 on a new electric panel? Absolutely. But it would suck more for your house to burn down. If you live in a rental, I would still suggest checking out what is in place and alerting your landlord that you heard from a random friend (me!) that those panels can cause fires. There’s a good chance they won’t care. But go ahead and try!










What to do if you are purchasing a home that has a Federal Pacific electric panel? Your realtor needs to ask that it either be replaced or there be some sort of concession for you to replace it. In my opinion, this is just a given and should not be negotiable. Most importantly, your inspector and realtor should not allow you to purchase a home without alerting you of the potential hazard prior to your option period expiring. Knowledge is power, right? And you want to be as knowledgeable as possible when it comes to your home and family.

SIDE NOTE: On the subject of electrical issues…if your lights dim in certain rooms when your AC cycles on, you likely have an electric panel that doesn’t provide your home with enough power. You need a larger capacity breaker to sufficiently “power up” everything in your house (AC, TV’s, computer, 5 phone chargers, etc). When you notice things like dimming lights, have an electrician come look at your system. The lights are likely dimming because your panel is working extra hard to provide power everywhere and a short can easily occur, causing a fire.

Now to get my OWN panel updated….

Design Tips from Domino Magazine

I discovered Domino Magazine in the airport this past week. I loved it!  The current edition is called “Our Favorite Spaces of All Time” and it takes you through different rooms you would find in a house…living room, dining room, etc. What I like most about the magazine is that it has a panel of successful designers who serve as a “council” and give opinions and tips on interior decorating throughout the entire issue. I often feel like I am challenged when it comes to interior design. I know what I like but I don’t know how to get there. Anyone else?










I see some incredibly decorated homes here in Houston that are up for sale.  More often than not I am thinking to myself, “I love everything in this room but would have never picked these things to go together on my own”. Here are some of the tips from Domino that stood out to me the most.  Enjoy…and maybe learn something too!

1.       Every entryway should have a front hall mirror.
                I don’t have one.  Dang.










2.       Ceilings should never be painted white, especially if you have lower ceilings. A good choice is a shade of grey.
                 ALL my ceilings are white. Again, dang.

3.       How high should your coffee table stand?  Traditionally somewhere between 14 to 16 inches.
                 I am good here. I just don’t like my coffee table.

4.       Never use fluorescent lights. Your light bulbs should be Soft White. The other high scoring light bulb colors were Pink and Frosted.
                 I don’t even know what that would look like. Who has pink light bulbs??

5.       A perfect all-purpose sofa size is 7 feet long and 38 inches deep.

6.       Wallpaper is back and a powder room is the perfect place to use it.
                  It’s a small space so once you get bored it shouldn’t be that hard to change, right?










7.       Indian bedspreads are great for decorating.
                  I am obsessed with anything from India or with that general look so that little tip really made me excited.








8.       A 60 inch round table is the perfect size. It comfortably sits 2 people as well as 8 people.
                  I need to remember this one. I like the idea of that.

9.       Your chandelier should be 33 inches above the table.
                 Time to lower those.

10.     Recess lighting (aka canned lights) should never be in a home.
                 I literally paid an electrician to ADD recess lighting to our house when we bought it. I have a hard time with this one because I see canned lights all the time in houses. If someone wants to tell me canned lights are acceptable, I would love some reassurance.

11.     Put something special on your mantle. It’s better to have nothing than something that has no meaning to you.
                 Sigh…we have a mahi mahi that my husband caught. At least it’s special to one person in this house.

12.     Every home needs a reading chair somewhere. And every reading chair needs an awesome throw blanket draped across it.

13.     Everyone looks good in a red room.
                I finally got one right…I have a red dining room.









Below are some quotes from the magazine that resonate with me….

“I like a collected look, not a decorated look. And dogs don’t hurt either.” –Nathan Turner

“You should be able to put your feet up on every surface.” –Jonathan Adler

“Decorate for who you are, not who you want to be.” –Phoebe Howard

“The best rooms can handle many things at once. They’re for sleeping, playing, and dressing. They can stage an art show on one wall while a train makes its appointed rounds on the floor below. They’re homes for friends both real and imaginary. Best of all, they’re places to hide, seek, and (of course) be found.” –Domino Magazine










And lastly, here are some awesome sites that this design “council” listed as their online addictions that I found really cool. Enjoy and be inspired!


I’m Baaaaack!

I’m back from the ultimate summer of blood, sweat, and tears. Literally…blood, sweat, and tears.

First, I tripped down three porch steps while showing a house back in June. I took a knee AND an elbow (how is that even possible??), ripped my pant leg and got a strawberry.  Awesome.  Second, I have officially taken the prize for sweatiest real estate “professional” in Houston. However, I feel anything but “professional” as I stumble through someone’s backyard in high heels to find a hidden key on a back fence that I am told only opens the rusty pad lock on the garage door that I must manually open to get into the house. In 100+ degree Houston heat. And then the house is vacant and the AC hasn’t been turned on for months. I look really good at this point. And lastly, the tears. I only cried over the strawberry. Of course, I would never let work get me so stressed, frustrated, irritated, or exhausted that I actually cried.

For everyone else’s enjoyment, below are some texts between David and me this past weekend. Since he doesn’t read the blog I started to promote his business, he will never know I posted these. We are discussing holding an Open House on Labor Day.



















My goal for the fall is be more dedicated to this blog by posting on a regular basis. If you have any real estate topics or questions please send them my way at housepeeping@gmail.com.


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