Waste Water – Waste Money, Too!

How well do you conserve water?

Water conservation is not a fad.

Water conservation is not a fad.

With most of north Texas in some stage of drought and water use regulations, it’s more important than ever for us to seek out ways to conserve this precious resource.

The government’s EPA estimates that the average family of four uses 146,000 gallons of water per year, at a cost of $700. With just a few small changes, however, that cost could drop by as much as 28%. Learn more about water from the EPA

You’ll save on more than just your water bill, too. You may save on Collin County taxes.

This is because water management is often handled at the municipal level and as water usage grows, so does the need for costly investment in water treatment and delivery systems. Less usage means lower costs.

You’ll also enjoy lower home energy bills. 25 percent of a home’s energy bill is used to heating water for home use.

So, with these benefits in mind, here are a few ways to cut your household water usage.

50% of outdoor watering is wasted

In Collin County of course we all think first of our lawn, landscape and trees, served by sprinkler systems. The North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) says that sprinkler systems account for 60% of the District water usage. This is certainly the main restriction. Check your sprinkler or irrigation system, readjust or replace sprinkler heads. Currently lawns and landscapes in McKinney where I live, can be watered no more than one day per week.

Catch Your Shower Water

Nobody likes to step into a cold shower, and we sometimes run our showers for 5 minutes before stepping in. Even with today’s low-flow shower heads, that’s 10 gallons of water wasted. Instead of allowing pre-shower water to run down the drain, catch it in a bucket, then use it to water house plants and your garden.

Stop Pre-Rinsing Dishes

Today’s dishwashers are heavy-duty food busters. Don’t pre-rinse dishes in the sink, only to move them to the dishwasher where the job will be duplicated. Instead, use a wet sponge to wipe dishes clean, then place them in the dishwasher. The job will get done just as well. Or, for caked on foods, follow the steps above then start the dishwasher. After 3 minutes, pause the cycle to allow water to sit-and-soak on your dishes. Then, restart the cycle as normal.

Test Your Toilets

A single leaking toilet can spill 60 gallons of water per day and there are several places where leaks can occur. The toilet may have a worn out flapper; or, a damaged gasket under the flush valve; or, a crack in the overflow tube. One clear sign of a leak is having to jiggle the handle to make the toilet stop running.

To test for leaks, try “the dye test”. Fill the toilet tank with food coloring or instant coffee to a deep color and wait 30 minutes. If any of the coloring finds it way to the toilet bowl, you know you have a leak.

In addition to the tips above, the EPA keeps a list of water-saving steps on its website. See how many steps you can take to reduce your home water usage.

(Image courtesy : Microsoft clip art)

Demands on Your Part Do Not Create Obligations on My Part.

By Norma Wall, Broker

Many years ago, when I was a low-level assistant in a huge oil company, I was shocked to find the self-entitlement from everyone who held a higher position than me (which was everyone!). Frequently they would drop a “due tomorrow morning” task on my desk at 4:45. I hated it. But I had a family to feed. So, I begrudgingly did their last minute bidding.

My frustration was summed up by a simple quote, that I kept hidden in a desk drawer:

 “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine”

...more please...

…more chocolate please…

Back in the day, pecking order was worn like a shield.

I still get a little flutter in the pit of my stomach when I think about those formative years.

This was also my unofficial introduction into the art of negotiations and how the outcome is affected by your attitude.

Maybe I need more chocolate.

Now, decades later, I find the same backward logic in real estate communication between agents. From time lines, to threats, to intimidation, some agents have the misconception that they are somehow the “boss” of the transaction.

Intimidation in daily communication has the exact opposite result on me. And I really love the agent who does a complete personality change once the contract is executed, sort of “now I’ve got you, you son-of-a-bitch!”

Another well-worn tactic is to push fellow agents up to the wire, to force decisions favorable to them / their client. Remember how that logic backfired when your kids pulled the same trick? “If you need a decision now, the answer is no.”

Grow up!

Since this has become a somewhat hostile environment, I’ve modified my email disclaimer:

“Demands on your part do not create obligations on my part.”

Good, solid negotiations are the backbone of the real estate transactions. Protect your client with contract knowledge and skillful problem solving.

Leave the intimidation to the pros who have clearly defined corporate structures to back them up.

He’s Back….”Howdy Folks! I’m Big Tex!”

girl on a ride

The midway calls! It’s time again for the State Fair of Texas!

The New Big Tex, the official greeter of the biggest family entertainment event of the year, the State Fair of Texas, will be unveiled on the opening day of the Fair, September 27 at 2:00 p.m.

The original and iconic Big Tex welcomed visitors to the State Fair of Texas for 60 years. It burned last year, and the replacement will be making his debut on opening day.

The Texas State Fair has been a major source of entertainment for millions of visitors, and has been a contributor to economic growth in north Texas for over 125 year. So, here we go again!

Gear up for giant mechanical man (Big Tex), fried food of every description, exhibits, entertainers and of course the midway rides and games. There’s something for everyone, from gardening enthusiasts to hot rod fans.

This year the State Fair runs from September 27 to October 20, 2013 and as always, it’s at Fair Park in Dallas.

Map of the Texas State Fair

Fried everything — food is a major component of the State Fair.

Every year there’s a friendly food fight like no other, between the Texas State Fair concessionaires for the coveted Big Tex Choice Awards for the Most Creative and Best Taste fried whatever. And it’s official. Organizers actually registered the claim ® that the State Fair is the FRIED FOOD CAPITAL OF TEXAS®. Who can argue? These are the creative minds that gave us fried bubble gum and fried beer!

2013 WINNERS:
Best Taste: Fried Cuban Roll
Most Creative: Fried Thanksgiving Dinner

Don’t miss a single fried delicacy — it’s a long time until the next State Fair.

Food Finder

Buy Tickets

 

On a side note, it normally rains a lot during the fair. We’re hopeful this year will bring some much-needed drought relief, but not at the expense of fair goers. Enjoy! — N. Wall

 

Title Company Should Not Cause “Closing Stress”

BALANCING ACT Real estate transaction rarely close by accident.

WARNING: This is a rant.

Recently I had a bad experience with a large title company and I can’t get past it. I don’t understand it. And I certainly do not plan to repeat it.

This was an easy deal. Cash, no survey, no title issues. But the closing was sad — mishandled with careless disregard. My client was suspicious and unhappy. I was angry and frustrated. The agent who “preferred” this title company could say nothing to defend them.

The last time I was this mad at a title company was 15 years ago, and I have not closed or encouraged any of my agents to close with that title company since. Conservatively, they have missed out on 150 closings because of the way they treated my client and me years ago!

There are so many ways for a real estate transaction to get off track, normally, the title company is not the problem. But lately, I’ve had a rash of lazy, careless, unconcerned and incompetent title company interactions — and even more shocking — most would rather get rid of me than do the right thing! Don’t know why, and frankly, I don’t care.

All we ask of our title companies is to do their job in a timely fashion, and keep all parties informed. They have a duty to follow instructions of the contract and the lender, and to collect and disburse funds.

But…lately there is this little-big thing called customer service that seems to have vanished from their “checklist” of things to do.

Yes, manpower cutbacks hit all phases of our business, and the title companies are not exempt. Many couldn’t make it through the downturn and have vanished completely or joined together in various mergers or purchases.

But who hasn’t? All residential real estate related businesses have had to pull back. At least the ones who wanted to survive!

Six years ago — before the big downturn — real estate companies hired assistants by the dozens; lenders were plentiful and staffed to the limit; appraisers, inspectors, warranty companies, even professional stagers, were all flush with business and employed support staff as needed.

And commercial landlords across north Texas did the happy dance!

Today is different. We do more work, with fewer people, less space, more stress. I get it.

But don’t forget who brought you to the dance. No, not the big banks with their foreclosures and short sales. That’s a business unto itself — they simply needed our talent for a short time. We are expendable.

Pay attention to people who want to buy or sell a home, and those of us who represent them.

If we fail to treat our customers, clients and fellow industry survivors with the respect and customer service they deserve, we too are doomed to scratch for every financial scrap. Not a pretty site.

My job is to represent my client and put their interest first. That includes tapping into my history with various service providers. It is my responsibility and privilege to help my client have the best possible drama-free transaction. This can’t be done when the title company clearly does not care.

Title companies, please re-visit your customer service policy.

  • Keep the real estate agent informed. We don’t want to be the last to know.
  • Don’t give us ANOTHER website to maneuver — quick email updates are a great.
  • Focus on your file before you ask us to send the same information over and over again.
  • Have your front desk person extract information from the contract and fill in most of the blanks on those annoying forms you send us to complete (even though we’ve already delivered that same information to you!) Seriously, we hate duplicating tasks.
  • Make direct contact with the Seller for Social Security info when we ask you to — we don’t need that for our files, and we don’t want it.
  • Take or return our calls – at least acknowledge by email. The more you avoid us — the more we call you!

North Point RealtyWhew! I feel better now. Norma Wall, Broker

Before Moving, Check Your New Cost Of Living Estimates

Cost of Living adjustments in a new townWith home values slow to rise and mortgage rates at all-time lows, there’s never been a more affordable time to own a home.

However, there is more to the cost of living than just a mortgage payment. There’s the cost of groceries, gasoline and routine medical care, too.

Not surprisingly, where we live affects our costs.

Big cities are often more expensive in which to live, for example, and local tax laws influence daily costs, too.

For home buyers moving across state borders, therefore — or even for those moving long distances intra-state — it’s important to know the relative costs in your new hometown as compared to your current one. Your household cash flow depends on it. You can’t know your budget for a home if you don’t know what life in a new town will cost you.

Enter Bankrate.com’s Cost of Living Comparison Calculator.

In comparing the costs of 60 mundane, everyday items, the Cost of Living Comparison calculator can show you how common costs in your current home town compare to costs in your soon-to-be new home town.

The calculator asks for just three inputs — (1) In what city do you live now, (2) To what city are you moving, and (3) What is your current salary — then uses that information to produce a detailed cost comparison.

Some of the Cost of Living items compared include :

  • Ground beef costs
  • Veterinary services costs
  • Dozen egg costs
  • Doctor visit costs
  • Hair care costs

The calculator also includes local mortgage rate differences to help plan for housing, and accounts for median home prices, too.

The online Cost of Living calculator is based on data from the ACCRA. On the ACCRA website, a similar cost comparison report sells for $5. At Bankrate.com, you can get the data for free.

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