Thursday, January 11, 2007
About 11 years ago I had acquired some debt that I was finding a bit hard to pay off. I know, I know - that's rare today, right? ;) Someone had referred me to CCCS and said that they could help me pay of the debt over a period of time while setting me up on a payment plan that met my budget. It sounded great. I went. It was true. They did a fantastic job. I met with a counselor at no charge to me. This person assessed my situation and then gave me 2 or 3 options to choose from. I opted for one over the other and ended up paying off my debt. End of story? No! Well, it's the end of my story, but not this blog.
When I saw the advertisement on the odd angled flatscreen I assumed that CCCS was still one dimensional. In other words, I assumed that they still did basic debt management and assistance. I was wrong. They have branched out into money management, educational assistance for budgeting and so forth, and they've also made the move into the industry of bankruptcies. What do I mean?
Under the heading Bankruptcy Services you will find some useful information about the things that should happen before a bankruptcy is final. For instance, on their webpage it says, "The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 mandates that consumers receive financial counseling with an approved agency prior to their bankruptcy petition being filed. Further, the law requires consumers to participate in a financial education course before their debts can be discharged." I didn't know this. And seeing as how I'm in the real estate profession, this is very useful information. From time to time I run into very nice folks who either have a bankruptcy on their credit or they are a past client who is currently about to file chapter 11 or 13. I am contacted for advice. Can you see how this would be helpful?
CCCS offers 2 courses for folks dealing with bankruptcy:
Pre-filing Bankruptcy Counseling
Pre-discharge Bankruptcy Education
These courses are offered in 3 ways - over the phone, face-to-face, or online. That's incredible.
Here is their quote about the cost:
The fee for each course, including materials, is $50. However, we do not refuse service to anyone based on their inability to pay. If you feel that the fee is a hardship, please discuss this with your counselor. The required certificates will be issued at the conclusion of each course.
I have to tell you that I am thoroughly impressed. This is a great service and one that I am going to keep in mind for any past or future clients.
If you are someone who has, or is, dealing with a bankruptcy issue it may do you well to check out their website at http://www.cccs.net/index.asp.
Have a super day!
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Neighborhood Housing Services has begun a 2 night class on basic homeowner repair. I believe that it's limited to clients of the NHS, but it's still something that is available to the public. Some of the topics they cover are "particular chores" (whatever that means), cleaning out gutters, and using a stud finder. Yes, some of us need help understanding that freaky little box that seems to beep no matter where you place it. Mary Ann Anthony, a single mother of three, was taught how to use a cordless drill. She says, "No one ever let me do that." And now she knows how.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Pardon me, but may I have this dance?
Sunday, December 10th, in the newspaper, I found an article in the S.A.Life section entitled, "Passion in Action." It is subtitled, "Argentine tango stirs the soul." Yes, you guessed it, it's about dancing - specifically, it's about the Argentine Tango.
There are a myriad of dance styles. There's the more refined and elegant styles like the Waltz and the Foxtrot. There is also the fast paced style called Swing - the Lindyhop, Charleston, and Boogie Woogie are a few nuances of Swing. There's Country and Western dancing - the two step, county western waltz, and line dancing are a few sub styles within this genre. And there's even what is called "Street Dance." Yep, the bump and grind would be a style within this genre, but also breakdancing, uprock, and popping/locking as well.
However, if you've ever danced before, then you are aware that dances like the Rumba, Salsa, Bolero, and (drum roll please) the Tango are all in a class of their own. These are under the heading of Latin Dances. They are intricate, great exercise, and very, very CLOSE dances.
My wife and I took dance lessons at Arthur Murray's one time. I can't tell you how much fun that it was. Well, I could, but unless you experience it, you won't really understand. Not only was it really good exercise, but it was the complete antithesis of a dinner and a movie type outing. We actually talked!!! We touched!!! We laughed!!! Amazing, isn't it? And when we got to the Latin Dances, well...let's just say that it set a very great mood for the rest of the evening. Think about it - you are hip to hip, cheek to cheek, moving in rhythm, and sweating. So, I only suggest this for the married, or those who have accountability after the class is over. :)
Anyway, if you want to read what I read then go to this article at MySa.Com. You will find the locations and times of classes all over San Antonio. I really recommend taking a class or two if you haven't ever done so. Even if you have taken a class before, take one again. It can't hurt.
Monday, December 4, 2006
Now, they ARE in fact putting themselves on the line, but not in the way the consumer may be thinking. Another advertisement that is pretty popular is, "We will sell your home in ______ days or we will buy it!" This advertisement is more true than not. Your home will be purchased, but at what price? In most cases the deceptive agent WILL in fact buy your home if they don't sell it in 30, 60, or 90 days, but it will be purchased at appraised value - and I bet the appraiser used may be a good friend of the agent. Regardless, your home won't be purchased at list price.
My point is that these advertisements are very misleading. They are borderline deceptive.
I had an interesting conversation with an attorney at the Texas Real Estate Commission today. I explained to her a hypothetical scenario. My hypothetical scenario was a "what if" type of event. For example, what if I said this, that, or the other (one of the gimmicks mentioned above) in my advertising as an Agent or Realtor? She immediately let me know that I was being deceptive and/or misleading. I agreed. She also told me that if a client were wise enough they could report me, I would be investigated by TREC, and I'd be in trouble. It was an enlightening conversation.
Now, some of you reading this may say, "Gosh, aren't you kind of shooting yourself in the foot? You aren't going to be able to use these gimmicks now. You have knowledge of their motive." No, we aren't shooting ourselves in the foot. We don't use these kinds of gimmicks. We never have. Call us here at 4Front Real Estate Group old fashioned, but we believe in stellar Client service as the best tool for growing and sustaining our business. Smoke and mirrors aren't necessary. When we advertise, "Wow - under contract in 8 days," that's because the home went on the market 8 days earlier and had a receipted contract on it in 8 days. Or, when we advertise, "This home sold in _____ weeks," it really did. Or when we advertise that we give unique and preeminent service, we really do. You see, if we advertised using gimmicks then we'd be more worried about avoiding the catch in the gimmick than we would be concerned about you - the Client. Thus, you'd suffer. This is unacceptable.
Agents have enough trouble competing against each other in the marketplace without gimmicks. And Agents who advertise like this, in many instances, give the rest of us bad names who work in this industry. There are enough car salesmen in the world.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Ok, so I did some research on what is called "Blog Optimization." Why? Well, I'm trying to make our blog a little higher up on the search engine. Let me tell you what - blog optimization is much like website optimization, i.e. extremely expensive and difficult. I'm not in to expensive. I'm ok with difficult. Thus, I tried to find ways around the expensive part.
Lo and behold I found some ways around the expensive part of blog optimization. You can create a blog and then do what is called link reciprocation. For instance, if you go to Active Rain's website you will see very quickly that it is a real estate resource concerning blogs. I went there, registered, placed a link for my blog on there registry, and then also placed a link on my blog homepage to their website - link reciprocation! They aren't the only folks who offer this service. Below are a list of folks to visit:
These are just a few of the people who offer link reciprocation, RSS feeds, and so forth. There are also free search bars that push you up in Google's crawlers. The options are pretty endless.
Then there are the paid sites you can visit, register, give them large amounts of money, and they do automatic link reciprocation, page optimization, and you are automatically placed into a network of websites who have also paid these same people and give allowance for link reciprocation de facto.
You may be asking, "Dustin, did it work?" Yes and no! I have now placed myself in the running, so to speak. I will begin to move up on the searches. However, there are a couple of people who not only do free link reciprocation, but they also shell out the bucks for professional page optimization. I don't feel this is necessary - yet. :)
So while my efforts don't have immediate fruits, much like fruit - they will blossom over time. Besides, I'm fairly positive that blog optimization is much like long term real estate: it's based on referrals, not out sourcing. In other words, the more that people like you say, "Hey, that guy Dustin has a good blog site. You should visit," and then people come and we get more hits on our site, the higher up we are in Google's ratings. It's a referral based business.
That's all I have for now! I could post so much more. Please, if you have any comments feel free to share them.
I'm going to post more about this topic later tonight, or possibly tomorrow. In the mean time, if anyone how multifaceted, complex, and intricate the blog world is then please feel free to comment.Technorati Profile
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Texas Homestead Exemption --
The Texas Homestead Exemption, in addition to providing legal protection regarding your home, will also save you money on your property tax bill. This homestead exemption reduces taxes by lowering a home's taxable value. In addition, all school districts offer a $5000 homestead exemption. Some districts taxing units offer a percentage exemption of up to 20% of a home's assessed value. This means that homeowners can lower their property taxes by applying for these exemptions for which they are eligible.
Here's the thing - You must actually OWN your own home and occupy it as your principal residence by January 1, 2007. You can have only ONE principal residence and ONE homestead exemption.
Here is the link for the form needed in order to apply and be eligible:
If you are in the market to purchase a home before the 1st of the year then you couldn't have picked a better time. First of all, because the market is a bit slower during the "off" season, sellers are a little more willing to negotiate on price. Second, the typical transaction from start to finish (including the home search) takes anywhere from 30-60 days. This means that if you have a strong and knowledgeble real estate professional (like us) then you can get your search done, negotiations done, and the closing done -- all before the 1st.