Photo courtesy of Home Snappers

At 19 years old, Lance Hames knew two things: college was not for him, and he was going to do something with a camera. In a Steve Jobs-ian tale of self-taught success, Hames is now the owner of Home Snappers and a rising star in Dallas real estate photography.

Driven and admittedly, just plain lucky, Hames has come a long way in a short time. But the journey wasn’t without a few bumps in the road. Like anyone who’s made their own path, Hames has learned some tough lessons along the way – lessons, he hopes, that have made him a better businessman and a better service provider to his Dallas real estate clients.

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Update, 6/29: I know what it feels like to be legally bullied, and it is scary as hell. I have just heard that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EEF) is now helping Ms. Wagner! 

If you have wondered what has happened to the hilarious and often irreverent blog, “McMansion Hell,” that we have linked to on a few occasions, you’ll have to wait for the book*. McMansion Hell temporarily shut down after the founder, a 23-year old grad student at Johns Hopkins, got a cease and desist letter from none other than Zillow!

On Monday, Kate Wagner, a John Hopkins grad student focusing on architectural acoustics, found herself staring down the legal letterhead of a cease and desist order. In her spare time, she runs a popular blog, McMansion Hell, which skewers the trend of mass-produced suburban mansions. Posts on the site featured promotional shots with amenities like “doors to nowhere” and “compulsory chandeliers.” Real estate aggregator Zillow was not happy when it noticed she was using photos from its site. Wagner posted a picture of the order to her Twitter account and has since taken down the site while she seeks legal counsel.

Wagner started the blog just last year, and amid the ever-escalating obsession of Americans with real estate, it has grown and proliferated and been featured/linked to from many huge eyeball-reading sites such as Business Insider, The Independent, and Huffington Post.  Our tag line, for example, is “The people who brought House Porn to the Bible Belt.” Wagner’s is “If you love to hate the ugly houses that became ubiquitous before (and after) the bubble burst you’ve come to the right place.”

McMansion Hell was a cleverly written blog that mixed sarcasm, internet/millennial lingo, and erudition into commentary all superimposed digitally onto real estate listing photos; sometime the front of a house, often the interiors. There was copy, too.  She created a whole section of homes that are “Certified Dank™” (Texas has 3), her collection of the worst of the worst or “fugly”. Knowing how long and hard we work here at CandysDirt.com to produce quality content, I am sure Kate spent hours upon hours at her laptop.

Alas, many Texas homes have been featured on the site.

It is interesting that Zillow, arguably the biggest, most popular and influential real estate website on the planet, sent the cease-and-desist to someone making $22,000 off her blog. Because Zillow makes all its revenue and builds its business model off of using photos provided to it for free from MLS feeds across the country.

Of course, it has permission to do so, which is Zillow’s “rational” for the cease and desist:

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Stereotypical “Starter Home”

A commenter on my last High-Rise Buyer’s Guide column lamented my use of the word “starter” to describe the final two columns in the series that’ll cover Dallas’ lower-priced high-rise options.  He felt it was demeaning to those for whom one of these economical homes wasn’t a “starter,” but a destination. The result of many years of saving and planning. My gut reaction was an eye-roll, but thinking about it, it began to make sense … but not because I thought it was demeaning, but because “starter” was no longer accurate.

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BUSTED. Google snapped the pic in 2014, it’s still on the market.

BUSTED. Google snapped the pic in 2014, it’s still on the market.

Most homebuyers and sellers put their emotions front and center during a home transaction.  For Realtors, the “stars in their eyes” may help with a quick purchase, but it can definitely work against you on the selling end. Sure, it’s easy to say that every home from Strait Lane to South Dallas that takes too long to sell is overpriced.  But when it’s your home, you need some detachment.

Searching Ebby.com, in the last 30 days, 5,163 properties reduced their price … 1,722 in the last week.  Getting the price right the first time is becoming more important.  Since I’ve been in a “guide” mood lately, here’s a home seller’s guide to knowing if your home is overpriced.

(Realtors: Feel free to slip this under your seller’s door … It’ll be our secret.)

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Opendoor start-up team

Sell your home with a click? A lot of things have changed about buying a home in the last ten years, from the way we shop for real estate (on line, or via mobile device) to the way we sign closing documents. And though the disruptors Redfin Inc., Zillow Inc. and Trulia Inc. have made searching for homes easier by taking the process online, the process of actually SELLING a home still has not really changed. Still pretty slow and cumbersome.

Experts say this is the next real estate horizon.

A San Francisco-based startup that just landed in Dallas may just be the disruptor to shake it all up. Opendoor.com has technology that replaces the traditional “cash for homes”  market — you know, “We Buy Ugly Houses”, or those signs on the street corner saying, “We buy houses.”

There is, of course, a huge market for investors who want to buy troubled (read: cheap) homes quickly. Opendoor may be their Nirvana. Or it may be great for the person who just doesn’t want to mess with the time it takes to sell.

Opendoor redefines how real estate is transacted, transforming a more-than-two month process into an instant and frictionless experience. Instead of dealing with the hassle of listing and showings, upfront costs and repairs, negotiating with multiple parties, and the risk of the home not closing, homeowners can visit Opendoor.com, receive a guaranteed Opendoor offer and complete their sale in a few clicks.

The startup is expanding from its test market cities to buy homes nationwide. Thursday, OpenDoor launched in Dallas, one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. (more…)

Team collaboration apps change how agents and sellers communicate

Team collaboration apps change how agents and sellers communicate

Real estate is a game of information, relationships and teamwork. Communicating with buyers, title companies, appraisers and the like covers the gamut of telephone, text, email, and sometimes capabilities like Dropbox. Often, something is shared via one communication channel and then misplaced requiring resending. Other times, telephone tag ensues, with “call me” messages left everywhere. And then there are the messages left at “work” when clients aren’t there. What if it didn’t have to be this way?

This is where I (cliché-ly) say, “It doesn’t.”

In the past couple of years, a new crop of communications applications have been hitting the scene. They’re loosely known as “team collaboration” and in many ways displace older technologies like “web collaboration” and conferencing. Their expanded goal is to unite the various methods of communications into a single stream of multimedia consciousness.

I hear you saying, “That’s a lot of big words … what’s it mean?”

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Bert and Ernie

Photo illustrations: Dallas City Center Marketing Director Shawn Burns

It’s a question we’ve asked all our lives, us Millennials: “Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?”

Kevin Caskey and Bill Clarkson can, though it’s not the bright-colored row houses of our childhoods. Instead, it’s a sleek and sophisticated updated ranch at 11219 Sesame St. in Royal Highlands.

Caskey, director at Dallas City Center Realtors, says the home is poised to go on the market very soon, and seeing as how excited Bert and Ernie are about that cool Sputnik-style dining room chandelier, it probably won’t be on the market for long. This home was last sold in August of this year, and the sellers have done a great job flipping this beauty into a property that is sure to get multiple bids. It’ll hit MLS at $645,000.

Jump to see the other Sesame Street residents who have fallen for this home.

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What if you could turn your listing over to a virtual assistant that can take it from contract to close, doing everything including the photography? It's possible, says Claire Cavalieri. (Photos: Claire Cavalieri)

What if you could turn your listing over to a virtual assistant that can take it from contract to close, doing everything including the photography? It’s possible, says Claire Cavalieri. (Photos: Claire Cavalieri)

Selling real estate is a people-based business that requires a lot of paperwork. Realtors are pulled in a lot of different directions when it comes to business development, compliance, and the fine art of matching buyers and sellers. But the paperwork is a huge time suck that pulls agents away from the parts of the business that keep leads and clients coming in, like networking and open houses.

“There are Realtors at the high-end of the market who may not have their own assistant, and there are Realtors on the low-end of the market who don’t do enough business to have an office or their own assistant. They may do 12 transactions or so a year, and hiring an assistant doesn’t make sense,” Claire Cavalieri points out. “They would have to pay their taxes and social security and then there’s benefits. Or you could have a virtual assistant and get all of the benefits of having a helper without the hassle.”

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