It’s a Weird, Weird World of Real Estate Out There

By Cassandra Majors

Texas real estate can be pretty weird. In the rest of the country, for example, the idea of paying a seller a small fee in exchange for giving the potential buyers a window of time in which they can just change their fickle minds and walk away scot-free (the “option period”) sounds insane. Personally, I love this quirky feature of Texas real estate and think it could be applied to other kinds of contracts…like marriages, for instance. “Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband as long as you both shall live, including a 6-month option period for the bargain price of $500 during which you can dissolve the marriage with no legal consequences in case he turns out to be one of those guys who leaves his nail clippings on the carpet?” Why yes, I do!

Even though Texas real estate does have its quirks, I guarantee you we’ve got it pretty good here. To prove my point, please grab your passports and join me on a whirlwind trip around the globe to see how crazy buying and selling property can be in other countries. Once we get back, I think you’ll be even more grateful for good ol’ Texas real estate.

Enter Through the Debt-Free Door
Have you ever heard that painting a home’s front door red will make it seem more welcoming and homey and thus command a better price when you sell it? The jury is out on whether or not this actually works (a study by Zillow actually found that the magical money colors were navy blue and slate gray), but you may notice more red front doors when you’re driving through neighborhoods in Scotland. The Scots aren’t trying to get a better price, though—it’s actually a common practice on the island to celebrate paying off your mortgage by painting your front door red. Who knew? It does seem like a nice way to remind yourself every day when you come home that your house is paid off, and it’s not a bad way to show off to the neighbors. And it could come in handy for real estate, too—when I bought my first house years ago, the sellers revealed three days before closing that they were underwater on their mortgage and couldn’t afford to close. So I spent the next six months living out of a suitcase and crashing on friend’s couches while my lawyer and I fought to turn the deal into a short sale before I finally got to move in. If I had just passed the house the first time and seen the front door wasn’t red, I might have saved myself some trouble and kept driving!

Scatter the Ashes, but Keep the Heat
Here in Texas, renewable energy is growing by leaps and bounds, and you can often assign a portion of your home’s electricity to come from wind power. In Denmark and Sweden, you can similarly enjoy a portion of your home’s warmth in the winter from…corpses. Yes, the local crematoriums are kind enough to lend some of their heat to local residential utility companies when the weather turns frosty. Imagine putting that as a green home feature in a listing description! Waste not, want not! Denmark’s most defining national concept is that of hygge, which roughly translates to “coziness,” or the feeling you get from sitting around a cheery fire with loved ones while drinking a hot cup of coffee and wearing warm fuzzy socks. So next time you’re visiting the Danes and getting hygge with it, just try to enjoy the warmth and forget about where some of that coziness is radiating from.

That’s Not a Sales Price—THIS is a Sales Price!
The land down under has an interesting upside-down real estate feature. Here in the U.S., you might strongly suspect that a seller has padded the sales price for negotiating, but in Australia, it’s actually built in. Instead of listing a house for $300,000, for example, a realtor in Australia might instead list it in a range of $295,000 – $305,000. I find this superior to the American system, if you’ll forgive a little Aussie-envy. Think about it—if you’re listing the house and a potential buyer knows he won’t pay over $300,000 for anything, he may never even see your listing in his own internet searches or in an IDX feed from his realtor with that hard upper limit in the search criteria. But we all know that a $300,000 home could sell for slightly less than asking price, so why do we let Boolean search parameters hide our listings from those buyers? All homes are ultimately listed in a price range whether it says so or not, so I’m with the Down Under on this one.

Also, while most sellers in Australia list with an agent, most buyers don’t have one, probably because the fees are capped by law at 3% of the purchase price no matter what and the listing agents aren’t keen to share the spoils. (And if you were curious, no, I do NOT agree with Australia on this one. I’m a professional real estate analyst with full MLS access, and even I wouldn’t buy a house without a realtor. I’d rather walk into a sword fight with a butter knife.)

At Least You Don’t Have to Worry About the Home Inspection
The last ten years in Texas have seen an amazing appreciation of existing homes, with major metros seeing a whopping 4-5% annual appreciation in the last decade. But if you lived in Japan, you would probably never expect your home to appreciate, as the vast majority of houses lose value after purchase. Why, you ask? Because more often than not, the new buyer will bulldoze the home they just bought and start from scratch. This is why Japan has four times as many architects and twice as many construction workers as the U.S., even though Japan’s population is actually shrinking compared to ours. Half of all homes built in Japan are demolished within 40 years, and 60% of current homes were built after 1980. For this reason, homes in Japan are usually just considered a place to live rather than an investment. Check out this fantastic podcast from Freakonomics to learn more about this weird phenomenon.

Stop! It’s NOT Hammer Time!
Ever heard of those horrible eminent domain cases, where some poor grandmother is forced to sell her 100-year-old family farmhouse to the government so it can build a highway right through her wraparound porch? We’ve seen some of these cases in Texas over the years, but the really bad cases are relatively few and far between; often the homeowners are happy to just take a big check and move on. In China, however, exploding populations and mind-blowing expansion of new buildings and highways have led to a lot of citizens fighting the government to keep their houses. Many have lost their battles, but enough have won or are stuck in years of litigation that the developments have just built up all around the houses while leaving them intact and bizarrely out of place. These homes have come to be known as “nail houses,” like a nail that’s sticking up because it’s refused to be hammered down. The Atlantic has a fantastic slideshow of pictures of these stubborn houses awkwardly trapped in the middle of huge commercial developments, and I love every one of them. What can I say? I always root for the underdog.

And the Bizarro Award for Weirdest Worldwide Real Estate Goes to…
We’ve seen a lot of strange sights on our real estate journey around the world, but I want to end at the country that (for me) is the #1 strangest place on earth for real estate: France!

Do you like having an exclusive listing agreement with your sellers? Well, don’t move to France, because it’s very common for sellers to list their homes with multiple agents, and may the best agent win! Like many countries around the world, France has no centralized MLS of any kind, whereas in America MLS services are pretty much ubiquitous. Having no MLS doesn’t just mean you can’t easily search all listings at once—you also can’t easily find comps or property history when you’re trying to come up with a sales price for your listing or an offer for someone else’s. Agents in France just have to be experts in their local markets and learn all they can from clients and other agents to help buyers and sellers make informed decisions. Won’t that help you feel more grateful next time you’re painstakingly setting up a listing in Matrix?

In fact, the lack of a centralized MLS usually means that in Europe in general, the idea of a “rock star” agent is pretty foreign. Most real estate is handled by small outfits catering to very local markets. Branding yourself, selling yourself, becoming a top producer…these are near-universal goals of most full-time real estate professionals in Texas and the U.S. in general, but in Europe, agents tend to blend in and work quietly. Laurence Demure, a realtor who has worked on both continents, describes this difference in a fascinating article for Inman: “The [European] agent is expected to be like all other agents. It’s almost like the old image of an IBM employee when they all wore the same suit, white shirt and tie. There is no differentiation.” Imagine a Texas realtor trying to work under those conditions! Forget that glitzy billboard on I-35, buddy—you just have to wait until someone wanders into your office and you happen to know the area they want to buy in.

How would you feel if you had to ask permission from your kid to sell your house? Because of French inheritance laws, if you buy a home with your spouse and he or she passes away, you still usually have to share ownership with your children, who can block you from selling or renting out the house. It’s actually not a bad idea, now that I think about it; I bet my parents would be a whole lot nicer to me if we had this law on the books here.

And finally, I’m more than a little disturbed by the French practice of Le Viager. I’m sure you’ve heard of a reverse mortgage, where a bank pays a homeowner in monthly installments for the equity in their homes, slowly taking ownership over the years in exchange for providing monthly income for mostly elderly homeowners. Le Viager works similarly…except it’s SUPER creepy. Instead of a bank paying you for the equity in your house, it’s just a regular person who wants to buy the house that you’re aging in, and they’re willing to put up money for it and then…wait. The buyer usually pays a bigger lump sum to the seller at the beginning, then continues with monthly payments for as long as the seller lives. Only when the seller kicks the bucket does the deed finally transfer to the buyer. So when you enter into one of these arrangements and you want a good deal, are you basically betting on how quickly someone will die and hoping they don’t live too long? Seems kind of morbid to me, France, but hey, different strokes. Personally, I would sleep with one eye open if I were one of those sellers.

Home Sweet Home
Welcome home to Texas! Thank you for joining me on this trip around the world. Now doesn’t that option period seem way less weird? Plus, here your house can appreciate over time without getting ripped apart by bulldozers, there’s no “dead bodies” setting on your thermostat, no one is paying you to wait around for your death, and you can sell your house without first having to beg your millennial kid to move out from in front of his Nintendo 360. As much as I love to travel, I still have to say: God bless Texas!

Cassandra Majors has been a market analyst and data guru in the Austin real estate industry for over a decade.

Rising Interest Rates Bring Challenges and Opportunities

The Federal Reserve announced on November 1st that interest rates will remain unchanged, for now. However, analysts are all but certain that the Federal Reserve will raise rates in December, and four more times in 2018. Economic growth remained at a robust 3% in the third quarter, even with the losses from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Despite the growth, inflation is still languishing at 1.3%, well below the 2% target rate set by the Federal Reserve, prompting the desire for an interest rate hike.

For those of us in the real estate industry, this means we can expect mortgage rates to rise. Corelogic is predicting a mortgage rate of 4.7% by the end of 2018.

This will make buying a home less affordable, for two reasons. The first reason is that higher mortgage rates mean more expensive mortgages. A common rule of thumb in the mortgage industry is that for every 1% rate increase, consumers lose 11% of their purchasing power.

The second reason is that current homeowners will be less motivated to sell, enjoying the low interest rates they currently pay from mortgages written since the Great Recession in 2008. This will mean fewer homes on the market, further reducing affordability. CoreLogic Chief Economist Frank Nothaft predicted a 5% rise in home prices in 2018. Clearly, the mortgage industry will see some impact. The economic fallout will not be contained to one industry, though. Home buying generates billions in economic activity from appliances, furnishing, repairs, and remodels.

If you’re already a homeowner, rising home prices doesn’t sound too bad on its face. The average American homeowner saw their equity increase $13,000 over the past year. In Texas, that was $11,000 in equity increase, and in Austin, as much as $20,000 for the median priced home.

Even if you’re enjoying the increased home equity, there are still negative effects to consider. For one, if you’re unwilling to sell your home due to the increased cost of buying somewhere else, you’re less likely to move to pursue a higher paying job or better opportunity elsewhere.

Decreased affordability also reduces household formation. We saw a huge drop in the number of households formed following the Great Recession, further dragging down the economy. When young people can’t move away from their parents and form new households, downstream industries suffer.

Finally, the ability for existing homeowners to “move-up” to a bigger home, better location, or even adding a second vacation home will be greatly reduced. Again, these effects aren’t just contained to the housing industry. Real estate decisions touch most every part of the US economy.

While rising home prices and interest rates present challenges, it is no reason to lose optimism in our current market. Nationally, the unemployment rate is at its lowest level since December 2000. As the economy nears full employment, wage growth should follow. Locally, job growth and immigration continue, bolstering our housing market. Austin is still a very attractive market for skilled workers, offering good quality of life and relative affordability compared to other job-growing metros.

Are You Utilizing Zillow’s Video Walk-through Feature?

zillow-1Earlier this year, Zillow released a new feature allowing Realtors to post a “video walk-through” of their listings.  These video walkthroughs are soundless videos that are shot directly from the user’s smart phone via Zillow’s app.  They are capped at two minutes and no less than 10 seconds, so they are designed to be quick and best of all, this feature is offered to ALL agents at no cost.

So why are you telling us about this, you may ask?!  Well, after posting a video, these listings will be promoted at the TOP of search results (for free!)  According to Zillow:  “Listings with video are prominently displayed and receive preferred placement in search results. Buyers with saved searches are notified when a new video is added.”  If you don’t believe it, head over to Zillow and do a search on your favorite zip code.  The top results will have “video walk-through” on them.  Remember this is a new feature, so your zip code may not have any agents doing it yet.

With all of this being said, if you are thinking what we were thinking….  yikes is right!  Holding a shaky phone and walking through a home without the proper lighting, etc. can be a really bad thing!  (That’s why you pay to have a professional take the photos, right?!)  Our suggestion on a quick fix?  As mentioned above, the video has a MINIMUM of 10 seconds.  Order yourself a simple smartphone tripod from Amazon like this one, find out when the sun is in the right spot (whether you are going to showcase an inside shot or just simply a quick pan of the front) and get out there and shoot a 10 second video.  Don’t overthink the two minute video they tell you to do and try to film a bunch of different shots.  Again, that’s why you paid for the professional photos!  Get the 10 second video shot, post the video from the app and your listing will get boosted to the top of the search results!  Don’t fret – your beautiful, professional photos will still be there and the consumer will still be able to click through them to see more of the home.

So we ask you:  Why are you not doing this with your listings?!  Click here to get started.


Shoot the video directly from the app on your smartphone!

*UPDATE 11/3/2016 – Zillow just announced you can now add videos that aren’t shot within the app for a fee.  According to the latest Inman article, for $149, you can upload an outside video, i.e. a professionally done video.  Does that fee sound a little steep?!  Don’t throw in the flag, you can still follow our tips above for FREE!!


My Assistant Can’t Do What?


The quarterly TREC meeting was held on August 15, 2016 and there was no discussion about changes to the current advertising rules as suspected.  Instead the commission focused on changes that could affect your assistant’s job description.  The proposed changes to TREC Rule 535.4 would impact the showing of properties by assistants who are unlicensed, and would eliminate the ability for an unlicensed assistant to hold an open house.

In order to create rules around unlicensed assistants showing properties, the committee proposed to include the following language in the definition of a “showing.” “Causing or permitting property to be seen by a prospective buyer or tenant, unlocking or providing access onto or into the property or hosting an open house at the property.” -TREC.  According to the proposed changes all of the actions in the definition of “showing” must be performed by a licensed broker or agent.  Of course like most rules there are exceptions.  Unlicensed assistants can show vacant property.  Vacant property being defined as the only thing left behind will convey with the sale.   If the property meets the definition of vacant and an unlicensed assistant is going to show the property, you must obtain written consent from the owner as well as the buyer/tenant prior to the showing.  You may also allow an unlicensed person to have unescorted access to a vacant property if the owner has given written consent.  Click Here to find out what language to include in these documents and to read the full version of the potential changes.

The final change that could affect unlicensed assistants’ job duties is to TREC Rule 535.5, License Not Required.  This change would remove the language that allows unlicensed individuals to hold an open house.  This would mean that only people with an active Real Estate license can hold open houses. Click Here to learn more.

The next meeting of the commission will be held on November 14th at 10:00am.  It is unclear if the proposed changes to TREC Rule 535.4 and the addition of TREC Rule 535.5 will be brought to a vote, and when they will become effective if passed, but updates will be posted as soon as they become available.  Staying on top of changing TREC Rules is always important for your business, and we encourage you to read more on the TREC website to determine how these changes will affect your business.  If you would like to make any comments to TREC on this or any of the proposed rule changes  email

The Education Team at Independence Title has a mission to stay current on everything Real Estate.  We hope by bringing you information via our blog, you can stay on top of your fast paced and ever changing industry.

Have You Updated IndependenceTitleAgent?

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Have you ever tried to explain a Seller’s Net Sheet to someone and their native language is Vietnamese? Or have you ever had trouble comparing multiple offers IndependenceTitleAgent can help! IndependenceTitleAgent is a closing cost app that will help you calculate closing costs, run Seller Net Sheets and Buyer Quick Estimates, and so much more!

IndependenceTitleAgent has added new features in its most recent update! Below are the features you can start using today:

Languages: IndependenceTitleAgent has added 6 new languages to the app: Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, and Arabic. The new languages can be applied to all printouts and marketing pieces. To change the language, simply select the language icon at the top of the preview screen.
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Multiple Offer Comparison Enhancements: Comparing multiple offers can be confusing and time consuming. Instead of creating a spreadsheet, have the app do the comparing for you! Before the update, you could compare up to 3 offers but now you can compare up to 12 offers!


New Printout Styles: Every client that you work with is different. Some may be visual learners while others may just want a list of data. There are many new printout styles to choose from when sending customized reports to your clients. After generating a report, simply swipe left to see the different styles.

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Closing Date Default: Instead of choosing a closing date every time you run a quick estimate or seller’s net sheet, simply choose a default of 30, 60, or 90 days out and it will automatically default to that every time.

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Contact your ITC Business Development Representative for more information about IndependenceTitleAgent!

To Download click below!

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The Ultimate App!!

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How much will my monthly payment be? How much do I need to bring to the closing table? How much will I net at closing? If you are a Realtor you probably hear these questions every day from your buyers and sellers.

What if you could answer your clients’ questions within seconds with one user-friendly app?

IndependenceTitleAgent is THE APP that will make your life easier and impress your clients! Generate Buyer Quick Estimates, Seller Net Sheets, access Rent vs. Buy and Net-to-Sell calculators, and more . . . from your smartphone, tablet, or desktop!

Follow the steps below to download IndependenceTitleAgent and be on your way to real estate greatness!


Be sure to attend “The Ultimate App” class or contact your Independence Title Business Development Rep for more information.  You can also download the desktop version at

To download click below!Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 8.09.52 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-24 at 8.11.31 AM

Beware! Wire Fraud is at an All Time High.

You’ve done it!  You took a Buyer from shopping for a house, to a contract on a house, to the closing table and you couldn’t be more ecstatic for them.  Then… in total shock you find out your Buyers have wired thousands of dollars to a thief!  You discover the “I could never be a victim to wire fraud, it’d never happen to me” has actually happened to you!  It’s becoming more and more common in our industry and way more sneaky and sophisticated than you may think.

Unfortunately, we are seeing attempts to divert wires to imposters’ accounts on a weekly basis, leaving the Buyer, Seller, Realtor and Title Company at risk.  More often than not, the fraudster hacks into the Realtor’s email account (yes YOUR email account) or creates a close duplicate email account along with your exact signature, and then posing as the Realtor gives bogus instructions trying to divert the funds of one of the parties involved.  It’s happening and it could very well happen to you!  As a Realtor, the video below is a great tool to send to your Buyers & Sellers warning them of the risk.  NAR’s General Counsel, Katie Johnson, has made this video to help you educate your clients on how to avoid being in a wire fraud scam.

Here at Independence Title, we have put many policies and procedures in place to combat this growing issue.  This document is a great tool to send to clients during the contract process.  We send this out to all parties with a commitment and/or contract.  It is critical that you take the time to educate your Buyers and Sellers and warn them of this risk.

How can TRID Regulations affect your commissions?


It is important to remember that the new closing disclosure forms, created by the CFPB, are federal loan forms and these promulgated forms are used in all 50 states.  This allows for consistency when consumers are buying or selling real estate.  Since each state has their own set of regulations, regarding real estate, they may have their own disclosures that will need to be executed at closing in addition to the federal forms.  In Texas, the Texas Department of Insurance created the Texas Disclosure (Form T-64) to adhere to Texas regulations.

The Texas Disclosure:

  • Explains and breaks out simultaneous title policy premium rates.
  • Itemizes title company fees and recording fees if combined on CD.
  • Specifies all agents receiving a portion of the commission.
  • Allows the consumer/seller to authorize the title company to fund and disburse.

Per the Texas Department of Insurance, anyone that receives funds from a real estate transaction must be disclosed at closing.  The Texas Disclosure does allow all the payees on the Commission Disbursement Authorization (DA) to be listed on the disclosure. This section of the document is on the page that is signed by the consumer and seller at closing, unlike page 2 of the 2010 HUD. If the title company does not have an agent’s DA prior to the consumer or seller executing this document, one check will be cut at funding directly to their broker. This will have no affect the other agent in the transaction as long as their DA is received in a timely manner.

How are you going to see your figures for closing?


As we near the end of 2015 I think we should focus on one detail of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulations, which is the American Land Title Association (ALTA) Settlement Statement. For most residential transactions the ALTA Settlement Statement is a Realtor’s new best friend. This form is quickly becoming the golden ticket among title companies as a solution for navigating new privacy rules that limit which closing documents can be shared from a real estate transaction.

New lending practices mandated by the CFPB, effective Oct. 3rd, in conjunction with existing privacy laws, prevent title companies from sharing the Borrower’s Closing Disclosure with the seller or with Realtors. The Closing Disclosure, or “CD,” combines the HUD-1 and Truth in Lending form and is prepared in most cases by the lender. There are promulgated authorizations from TREC (last paragraph of the new Third Party Financing Addendum) and TAR (“Authorization to Furnish TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosures”), but it is unknown if lenders’ compliance departments will accept these authorizations. The Closing Disclosure contains non-public information like the term of the loan, interest rate, payment amount, and so forth.

The ALTA Settlement Statement shows all fees from the contract and the Closing Disclosure It also allows Realtors to confirm that all provisions of the contract have been honored and all agreements between parties are satisfied, without specific authorizations for the lender to release the Borrower’s CD. The ALTA form does not contain non-public information, and can be shared with all parties. Most importantly, Realtors requesting a preliminary closing statement will likely be receiving the fees on the ALTA Settlement Statement.

If your title company is unaware of this solution, feel free to refer them to the “ALTA Combined Settlement Statement”.

For more information, visit the Independence Title Blog, and our Austin Education page.

Should you have coffee with your lender?


CFPB & TRID regulations are now upon us! As of October 3rd any loan applications submitted will fall under TRID (TILA RESPA Integrated Disclosures) regulations. If you have a lender that you refer business to Independence Title Co encourages you to have coffee or lunch with them to find out how your lender will be conducting business with the new rules & regulations.

Over the last 10 months we have spoken with numerous loan officers, processors, attorneys, and compliance departments and each lender may interpret TRID regulations differently from one another. Here is a list of questions to get the conversation started with your favorite lender.
Q: Who prepares your Closing Disclosure?
ITC Perspective:
• Most lenders are taking on this responsibility
• They are responsible for the accuracy of the Closing Disclosure
• They are also responsible for adhering to the strict timeline for delivery
Q: How will you deliver the Closing Disclosure to the consumer?
ITC Perspective:
Delivery method can impact closing date
• USPS mail may require up to 7 days
• Overnight delivery may require up to 4 days
• Hand delivery or electronic delivery may require 3 days
Q: Do you require a signature on the Closing Disclosure to start the 3-day review period?
ITC Perspective:
• It is not in the regulations that the consumer must sign the Closing Disclosure
• Lenders may or may not want a signed copy returned
Q: Can I get a copy of the Closing Disclosure from the lender?
ITC Perspective:
• The regulations state that the Closing Disclosure to the consumer
• The Texas Association of Realtors created an Authorization Form for consumers to give authorization for their Realtor to receive a copy of the Closing Disclosure
• Some lenders may not accept this form but they might have a similar form to allow the Realtor to receive copies of the disclosures
Q: What is your contract to close turn around time?
ITC Perspective:
• Most lending professionals agree that a 45 day turn around time is realistic
• By early 2016 we might see a 30 day contract to close timeline
Q: Tell me about your pre-qualification/pre-approval process?
ITC Perspective:
• Prior to the CFPB there was a regulation in regards to pre-qualification/pre-approval process in existence but it was mostly overlooked
• The rule stated that a lender cannot require upfront documentation prior to a bone-a-fide loan application
• With CFPB audits right around the corner some lenders may be changing their pre-approval process
• Consumers may voluntarily provide upfront documentation for pre-approval
• See our Consumer’s Guide Brochure

For more information on CFPB check out our related blog post

Our Online Calculators ready for the New Regulations

No more late night negotiations!


The TREC One to Four Family Contract and other TREC contract forms have been revised and are available on the TREC website. While many of the changes are insignificant, such as changing the word facsimile to fax, there are some important changes worth noting

Negotiating during the option period of the One to Four Family Contract can be a stressful time for both REALTORS and principals. Adding to this stress is the fact that the last day of the option period expires at midnight. This resulted in some late-night negotiations with amendments being executed and emailed past what most would consider regular working hours. Many REALTORS will be excited to see that in paragraph 23 of the contract the option period will now expire at 5:00 pm on the last day.

Another significant change to the One to Four Family Contract is the revision of the financing terms found on page 1. In the previous edition of the contract, paragraph 4 outlined what type of financing the borrower would obtain for the purchase with more specific information found in the Third Party Financing Addendum. Now, there will be a simple checkbox on page 1 to indicate what type of Financing Addendum will be attached.

In order for the numbering of the paragraphs to remain the same the Broker/Lawyer Committee of TREC decided to replace paragraph 4 with licensee disclosure. This gives REALTORS the opportunity to disclose any relationship they may have with the principals involved in the transaction.

For those REALTORS that have transactions where the property adjoins a fluctuating body of water, they will be glad to see the addition of paragraph 6(E)10 on page 4. For the past several months TREC has advised REALTORS to write this language in special provisions of the One to Four Family Contract and now it is a part of the promulgated form.

These are just a few of the changes that were approved by the state on November 2nd. REALTORS may start using the new forms immediately and they should be available in ZipForms soon. The mandatory use date for all of the new forms is January 1st, 2016.

To see all of the changes to the forms you may read the materials from the TREC meeting held on November 2nd. The form changes start on page 79 of this document. For your convenience here are links to red-lined versions of the One to Four Family Contract and the Third Party Financing Addendum. | Extreme Makeover

You may have noticed the Austin Board of REALTORS website got a makeover recently.

Austin Board of Realtor's Website

The changes offer a more intuitive experience while surfing the site, but change is always a little difficult so they’ve made it easy to quickly access some of the most important areas of the site. Notice this?

When you click View Site Tips, you get (you guessed it) site tips!


There is one tip you can’t see on this screen, and that’s what happens when someone searches using the Find a Member button.


You’ll still be able to search with partial information…


and see a list of agent names and phone numbers.


However, to see more information, like an email address, click Details. You’ll then be redirected to the profile for that agent.

So if you haven’t logged in to claim your free profile on, or haven’t logged into the site in a while, now is the time! Be sure your contact information is up to date, and if you haven’t already, include a cover and profile image as well.

| Log-in to as an agent | has recently updated its website as well, it seems much more user-friendly with several easy ways to include recommendations and reviews from past clients and other industry professionals.

Lastly, if you can’t locate something on the new ABoR site, remember to use that search bar at the top!


Hopefully these tips will help you make an easier transition to using the new site. Remember, go set up your profile today!

Evergreen: Cultivating Enduring Customer Loyalty

Today I attended a South by Southwest session on creating Evergreen Clients by Noah Fleming of Fleming Consulting & Co. Noah’s book Evergreen: Cultivate the Enduring Customer Loyalty That Keeps Your Business Thriving covers, what he calls, the three c’s as the keys to building lifelong relationships with clients; character, community and content. Twitter user @Salmonilla tweeted her notes from the session and they sum up his talk perfectly.

 Customer Loyalty Noah Fleming SXSW

Quote bubble reads:
Building lifelong relationships with customers builds loyalty

According to Noah, client retention is often overlooked as many sales funnels end with the sale. They are, after all, called sales funnels and not life-long-client funnels. He believes you can create Evergreen clients by focusing on the three c’s, which he breaks down into practical methods in his book.

EvergreenCover2Read a few pages of Evergreen.

Noah’s was my favorite session today, and I’ll probably be buying his book this week. The concepts he discussed are applicable to any industry, and since most people have to live somewhere we know the evergreen concept is certainly applicable in real estate. You can follow Noah on Twitter, like his Facebook page or check out his website.

by: Erin Reichman, Education Specialist

The End of MLXchage and Fusion

If you’re an ACTRIS member, you received this email:
Last week, the ABoR Board of Directors voted to retire the MLXchange and Fusion MLS systems, effective November 18, 2014. After that date, Matrix will be the only MLS system offered to ACTRIS members.

ABoR Leadership has made this decision because we are committed to providing the best MLS solution for your business. Technology has come a long way since MLXchange and Fusion were launched. Smartphones and tablets revolutionized how and where we do business. But the legacy systems aren’t designed to work with today’s technology, leaving users tethered to a desktop computer in an increasingly mobile world. By retiring MLXchange and Fusion, we can focus resources on further enhancements to the Matrix MLS system and deliver new services that add value to your ACTRIS subscription.

How to Prepare:

Beginning mid-September, ABoR will offer ten weeks of dedicated Matrix training classes at multiple locations throughout Central Texas, as well as evening and weekend classes. MLXchange and Fusion users are strongly encouraged to take advantage of these training opportunities before November 18. Additionally, online resources ensure that you have access to the answers you need 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

To help facilitate your transition to Matrix, your contacts and saved searches will be imported from MLXchange/Fusion to Matrix. Additional details about this process and the transition will be communicated in the coming weeks.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact


Bill Evans
President, Austin Board of REALTORS®

Lisa Messana

ACTRIS Advisory Committee Chair, Austin Board of REALTORS®

To ensure a smooth transition for those of you still utilizing MLXchange and Fusion, Independence Title is bringing you three opportunities for Matrix Training. The following dates are now available for registration. Please contact your business development representative with Independence Title or a member of the Education Team for more information.

OCTOBER 7th at 9:30am | Click here to register.

OCTOBER 16th at 9:30am |Click here to register.

OCTOBER 21st at 1:30pm | Click here to register.


With all the good economic news, why doesn’t the economy “feel” better?

We keep hearing that we are in a recovery from the ‘great recession’, yet it seems that the market is just a single media zinger away from locking up and shutting down for the third year in a row, perhaps from a sound bite that originates from China, the European debt crisis, or standstill on Capitol Hill.

Homes prices and mortgage rates are at sixty year lows. What’s more, at least locally and regionally a good number of people seem to believe the experts who say that prices have hit bottom, so their sense of risk has diminished and their potential for home investment is greater than it has been the last five years. In addition, people are marrying, having babies, divorcing, and having grandchildren, and keeping their jobs or landing better ones. This could be described as ‘pent up demand’ for household formation.

  • Home prices and mortgage rates are at sixty year lows
  • The recession has delayed household formation, resulting in “pent-up” demand for housing
  • Huge structural changes in the housing market have occurred since the recession
  • Move from buying a home principally as an investment to buying a home for shelter
  • Only thirteen states showed positive price appreciation last year
  • Counter intuitively, a large obstacle in our recovery is under-supply
  • Despite foreclosures and shadow inventory there is a shortage of well-located, well-priced properties, especially in Texas metros
  • 18,000+ developed lots in Austin, only half are spoken for. The other half isn’t desirable due to schools, financing, utilities, distance, etc. Over 150,000 entitled lots in Austin, 70,000 in Dallas in similar situations.
  • Undersupply in an oversupplied market – an uncomfortable paradox
  • Banks are still sitting on $1.7 trillion in bad commercial loans that haven’t been written down to market, making equity reluctant to lend on acquisition and development
  • “Land is like ice cream. The right amount is wonderful. Too much makes you sick.”

    Independence Title quarterly economic land briefing recap

  • High demand in Austin for well located commercial and community properties continue to drive occupancy and absorption
  • 22,000 planned rental units in Austin over the next two years, yet still not enough to support demand
  • The most in-demand communities in Austin have a dwindling supply of lots, with no substitute community in sight
  • “Sweet spot” in the residential market is between $200-$450k