After our previous discussion on Realtor commissions, we thought we’d take the opportunity to let real estate professionals of all stripes flex their knowledge with two questions that we asked over two weeks that should be good advice for every buyer and seller out there.

So for our Aug. 10 and 17  Friday Questions, we asked real estate professionals to tell us what they wished everyone knew about the buying and selling process.

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commissionsThere has been a lot of discussion lately about Realtor commissions, and what sellers should expect for the commission they are going to pay. More and more startups are popping up to cut the Realtor out altogether.

So for our Aug. 3  Friday Question, we asked real estate professionals — and our readers — to tell us what they thought about commissions.

It didn’t take much to find a whole fistful of articles (some written by us, even), that discuss the topic of Realtor commissions and disruptors like Open Door and Door. In the past three years or so, we’ve written stories about Door and other companies looking to change the way people sell their homes.

And then there’s this article in Forbes this month, which asks, “Are Real Estate Agents Still Relevant In The Age Of Tech?” The article begins by talking about Zillow and other sites that allow prospective buyers to look through houses themselves, seeing multiple pictures, finding out all kinds of information about renovations, materials used, etc.

“But though tech has allowed homebuyers to do all this legwork themselves, in most cases, they’re still forced to go through agents to finalize the transaction,” the piece said. “And those agents? They get the same 3 percent commission they did decades ago—for seemingly doing a fraction of the work.” (more…)

Photo via Pinterest

Carpet in the bathroom. For us, a discussion about it started with a picture someone sent for a folder I keep of random godawfulness for a future Wednesday WTF piece.

I showed it to Executive Editor Joanna England, because this is how we torture each other during the workday. One thing led to another, and suddenly we had another Friday Question, which we posed on our Facebook page as a poll: “Carpet in the bathroom is a) Gross, stop it; or b) A perfectly lovely choice. (more…)

After a busy three days of panel discussions, networking and writing, the National Association of Real Estate Editors — or NAREE — announced Friday night that CandysDirt.com writers Jon Anderson and Bethany Erickson both took home awards for their reporting last year.

Anderson took home a Bronze Award for his breaking news story on the Friday night blaze that destroyed the Pink Wall’s Preston Place condos. His reporting was continuously updated through the night and next day as more than 100 firefighters battled the fire that left many displaced. (more…)

Ebby and Candy

Upon hearing the news that the “Grand Dame of Dallas Real Estate” had passed, KERA’s Kat Chow and Eric Aasen called up Candy to get her impression on what a loss this was for our community. An icon of entrepreneurship and a household name in North Texas, Ebby was so widely adored that her name was trending on social media yesterday. Nationally. Maybe internationally!

She was born in 1911 in a small town in Arkansas. Her father died when she was 5 years old. She moved to a farm in Kansas with her mother and stepfather.

“Ebby took that grit — I call it Midwestern grit — and she turned it into a powerhouse,” said Candy Evans, who runs a local real estate blog, Candy’s Dirt.

Evans says that even when Halliday was a kid, she was an entrepreneur. When Halliday was 8 years old, she’d ride her pony from farm to farm, selling Cloverine ointment to soothe burns and bug bites.

This taught her how to hustle, how to run a small business.

“And what she did was, she went into sales,” Evans said. “She had a lovely personality, she was a beautiful woman. … And so she sold.”

You can listen to the segment online to hear the whole story or watch some of the great interviews that took a closer look at this amazing woman.

 

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Remember our first Staff Meeting? Well, it’s a “thing” now. This quarter, on June 17th, we’re toodling over to Victory Plaza to celebrate this high-rise stunner at the W before it finds a new owner. Want to attend? Email jo@candysdirt.com.

At the W, the Skyline is your Oyster

At the W, the Skyline is your Oyster

This home is made stunning not only because of the home, but the homeowner’s stunning offer to “repurchase the home in six-months should the new owner be unhappy” (minus some rent, natch). Now that’s confidence you don’t often see in real estate! But seeing this home, I can understand why.

Unit 2508 is a luxurious 2-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home sprawling over 2,570 square feet including nearly 400 square feet of terrace. The home is being sold by its first owner for $1.25-million. The seller has nothing but wonderful things to say about the home and the W Residences, “If you live at the W, you’ll never want to live anywhere else.” So wonderful has the W experience been that he’s upsizing his family to a 3-bedroom unit just an elevator ride away.

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If 7 a.m. was too early for you (sometimes we just can’t even move before 8 a.m., so we understand) have a look at Candy’s spot on this morning’s Today show. The NBC website has the full segment on Linda Zavallos, the Dallas Realtor who dated Robert Durst, the subject of HBO’s documentary series called “The Jinx.”  The story has also been picked up by the LA Times and even People Magazine.

When we first met Candy in 2009, our address was on undeniably emasculating Princess Lane. (She loved it!) The place had just sold, and we were excited about the endless opportunities for the upcoming mid-century modern project under contract on Bobbitt Drive. (We also suffered her endless jokes about Lorena. Bobbit. As in cut off — Remember?) At this point in our lives, we loved reinventing aging, yet special Dallas homes. (Candy could relate!) We also had the desire to incorporate the demands of construction into our already-busy schedules. And then there was the tenacity needed to pull it all off. But, times change. Candy has her own blog. Months before deciding whether to remodel another diamond in the rough or build from the ground up, we decided to hand over the reins to a builder/contractor for the next project.

Careers had become more intense over the years along with increasing work travels. The energy and sense of excitement we had in our 20s and early 30s to take on Goliath-sized re-do projects was also beginning to wane. And then there was that other minor detail about us being clueless on how to actually build a house from the ground up.

But just because we were finally tapping a professional to help us out, it would never change how we are confirmed control freaks when it comes to house projects. (Candy says: join the club!) We have specific opinions on design and finish out for the homes we’ve remodeled over the past 10 years. For us, there’s a shared passion for discovering design, materials, and trends (which we try to avoid… or at least the really trendy, short-sighted ones), and then translating it all into the final product. In our past home projects, the thought of someone else behind the curtain created a little, or a lot of, anxiety. Contractor grade? No thanks.

Would this decision to hire a builder/contractor mean selling our design souls to the McMansion devil? Given the need to let go of the inner control freak, we were on a quest to find the “perfect,” or more accurate, right contractor/builder. Is this even possible? I mean, builders are human, aren’t they? And so we began the challenge of finding the special someone who could create our vision with the quality we expect. After searching and interviewing several builders, including those on this blog, we found the right builder for our project: Mark Hayes, of Hayes Signature Homes.

How did we decide Mark was “the one?” Simple: too many Bachelor episodes. We put the builder candidates under the microscope – everything from interviewing clients to tours of past projects to reviewing copies of their financial statements. On one hand, the quality of construction and ease of the overall process was critical. But on the other hand, their personality was very important too – were we going to like working with them for the next eight months?

Here are some suggestions, based on our experience, on choosing the right partner for your dream home… or in our case, OUR DREAM HOME:

Start dating

Identify three to four builders who could be the one to build or remodel your home. Ask friends, colleagues, realtors (did we mention we think  Alice Simonton is one of the best in town?!) and the owners of homes you like from REPUTABLE names. Stick with folks who have been around for awhile, or have roots in the community, like the builders on Candys Builders. If a builder is new to town, that may be a red flag, and you may have to check references (and the BBB) back where he or she said they were building.

Play 20 questions

You should be able to establish a level of comfort and trust where no question is off the table, and you feel like you’re getting honest answers to your honest questions. What is your builder’s background and does she/he have good diverse experience, perhaps having spent time doing production homes as well? How long does it take to build the average home and what types of warranties are included? Are they open to change or are they too set in their ways of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality. There’s a reason they call it a custom home! What level of finish out is standard for them – does it feel like their level of trim package has a higher finish out or does the builder consider everything an “upgrade?” Will your builder be the actual builder and project manager or will they hand it off to someone else once you’ve signed the contract?

 Silence is not golden

Observe how responsive, detailed, and organized your prospective builder is during the initial process. Are they quick to return calls and emails? Do they thoroughly address your questions and concerns, or do they speak in vague and high-level terms? Like any relationship, if there are red flags in the “courting period,” communication and responsiveness probably won’t get any better once you sign on the dotted line.

Dig into the past

Meet with the owners of completed projects. Include the owners of both recently completed homes and homes completed a few years back. Ask other owners how responsive the builder was… particularly after the dust has settled and they have moved on to other projects. Candy, for example, tells us she still calls her builder 12 years later!

Quality control

Ask to tour a few completed homes to get a sense of quality, but be careful to not focus too much on style or finish-out choices, as this reflects more on the homeowner, not the builder. Instead, pay attention to details and craftsmanship. Does the trim match up and look sharp? Are there cracks inside or outside the house? Are the doors square? Can you see lines or waves in the drywall?

Take it to the bank

The last few years have weeded out a lot of bad eggs in the building business, and also a lot of honest, great builders, but also don’t be afraid to ask for financial statements so you feel confident they’ll be around to complete your project and for many years to come. Request bank statements, letters from financial institutions or other documents indicating the builder is in good standing.

Gut reaction

Believe in what your mother always said – rely on what your gut feeling tells you. There will be a lot of decisions to be made and while most of the time you should try to veer away from any emotional considerations, this is one time it’s okay to rely on those feelings and internal voices guiding you to the right decision.

The Rose

Have any advice of your own or lessons learned from you building experience, let us know!

Next time on Building with the Boys: we’ll talk whether to build, remodel or buy a home as is, and how to figure it all out — Justin Kettler and Tim Loecker