Austin by the Numbers

I went to a really interesting and fun meeting today with the Platinum Top 50 Finalists and Winners. It is nice to be in a room filled with successful people I look up to and can learn a lot from.

We floated around the tables and had 15minutes to discuss various Real Estate topics.

One round we were given 10 questions, “How well do you know Austin” …I was shocked, our table did not fair well, actually not many of us in the room did -how embarrassing, we are Realtors! (but I blame it on the numbers being very close to choose from, ha)

Below are some of the things I learned and wanted to share (and a few pop quiz questions for you as well)

Austin by the Numbers: General information on our parks, demographics and more…

  • In the Austin metro, 40% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 29% nationally, putting Austin in the top 10 among the largest Metros!! (Woohoo, go college!)


  • Austin area households enjoy diverse options in education, including 29 public school districts, 17 charter schools and over 100 private schools


  • The Council for Community and Economic Research indicates that living cost in Austin are 6-7% BELOW the national average (in 2013…ha wonder if that has changed these past two years!)


  • The National Association of Realtors reports that the median home price in Austin was $222,900 in 2013 while the national median was $197,400


Here is one for YOU! (don’t cheat!)

  1. According to the census metro Austin’s population grew to nearly ____ in 2013 and is expected to reach ____ by the year 2020.

A. 1.7 million/ 2.0 million

B. 1.8 million/2.2 million

C. 1.9 million/2.3 million

D. 2.0 million/2.6 million

  • In 2013 the median household income in Austin was $61,750 compared to $52,250 nationally
  • The Parks and Recreation Dept. operates 12 off leash areas for you to enjoy with your dog and 2 skate parks


Another one for you:


  1. City of Austin operates 50 public school facilities, which includes _____ neighborhood pools, 3 wading pools, ____ municipal pools, 11 splash plads, 1 rental facility and Barton Springs Pool

A. 20/ 14

B. 23/11


D. 28/6

(answers to quiz Qs at very bottom, don’t cheat)

  • Over 19% of all residents in Austin live in poverty–according to City of Austin’s annual (2014) Economic Development Report (this makes me sad, and is a hot item we talk about here in Austin)
  • 19% of Austinites are foreign born
  • The city of Austin owns 6 golf courses and one short practice course all focused on a great golf experience at an affordable price.

As always thanks for reading! wink, wink!


Answers to the above quiz: 1.) C 2.) D *Did you get them correct?*

Filing your Homestead Exemption for 2015 FAQs

Well, we are in the 2015 year and a few things definitely pop into my mind at the beginning of each new year (and more so before April 15)…TAXES.

If you were one of my clients that means you already received an email reminder and “how to” on filing. You also most likely purchased in Travis or Williamson Counties, as that is the area I work the most–but note that each county varies some. For example, Williamson County now has electronic filing, whereas Travis does not-so be sure to check with your specific county on filing a homestead exemption.

If you purchased a home last year, in which you live in and declare as your primary residence, THEN you need to file a HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION! (unless you are over 65, you file a different exemption for that!)

What does the exemption mean in terms of saving?

Well, if your home is valued at $200k and you are in Travis County, then you if approved you will pay taxes on the home valued at $160k ($40k aka 20% off the value).

Does it cost money to file this exemption?


Do I have to apply year after year?

No. Unless you buy another home that then becomes your primary residence, you will file the following year.

If I am married do we both need to sign and apply?

No, only one person’s signature from the deed needs to be on the application.

How long before I can view my exemption on the website?

The website is updated only twice a month. Also, current year exemptions will not be reflected until after the value notices have been released (sometime mid April).

I own more than one home, can I get a homestead on both?

A person may not receive a homestead exemption for more than residence homestead in the same year.  You can receive a homestead exemption only for your main or principal residence.

What if I owned the property before I was married? 

You can still only have one exemption which must be claimed on your principal residence.

I own my own homestead, but also own a home with my child that they live in. Would they qualify for a homestead?

They must have ownership interest in the property to qualify and would only receive a portion of the exemption based on the percent of ownership.

My exemption fell off from last year, why?

Exemptions reflect the January 1 owner.  If you purchased a home after January 1st the exemption in place was for the previous owner.  You must file an exemption application.

I forgot to apply for my exemption, can I receive it retroactively?

You may file a late homestead exemption application if you file it no later than one year after the date the taxes become delinquent.

Is it true that once I become 65 years of age, I will not have to pay any more taxes?

No, that is not necessarily true. If you are 65 or older your residence homestead qualifies for more exemptions which will result in greater tax savings. The amount of the exemptions that are granted by each taxing unit is subtracted from the market value of your residence and the taxes are calculated on that “lower value”. In addition, when you turn 65, you may receive a tax ceiling for your total school taxes; that is, the school taxes on you residence cannot increase as long as you own and live in that home. The ceiling is set at the amount you pay in the year that you qualify for the aged 65 or older exemption. The school taxes on your home subsequently may fall below the ceiling.

If you significantly improve your home (other than ordinary repairs and maintenance), tax ceilings can go up. For example, if you add a room or garage to your home, your tax ceiling can rise.  It will also change if you move to a new home.

When do you apply if you are turning 65?

You may apply at anytime during the year of that birth date.  You would receive the exemption for the full year.

Do I need to file an application when I turn 65 or is it automatically added?

The appraisal district can only automatically process the over 65 exemption if it has the appropriate documentation on hand.  TCAD requires proof of age to grant an over 65 exemption. Acceptable proof of age includes either a copy of the front side of your driver’s license or a copy of your birth certificate or any official document reflecting your date of birth.  It is always best to file an exemption application with the appropriate documents to ensure that the Over 65 exemption is processed.

If I am disabled and over 65 can I claim both exemptions in the same tax year?

You may not claim both an Over 65 and a disabled person’s exemption in the same tax year.


If you are in Travis County and would like to see the form to file click here.

If you are in Williamson County and would like the form (as well as Qs to filing in Williamson) click here.

Buying a Home?: Getting Started and Credit Tips for 2015

It is that time of year again….where we set resolutions and goals of what we want to achieve in 2015.


Now, maybe not all of you write down your goals like I do, but I can’t help it. I look at them on my dry erase board above my desk every day. It keeps me motivated.

goalsettingNow, because I am in Real estate I start this year off by checking in with people who may have mentioned wanting to purchase last year, but perhaps did not get around to actually purchasing. And I decided to write this blog to hopefully inform, if not inspire you (if you are a buyer). I am not going into the nitty gritty detail and the process of buying like I have in past blogs, here (in case you want to read further). But would like to get into the first few crucial steps of home-buying (and honestly what every *good* Realtor will ask you when you tell them, “I am thinking of buying a house, can you show me this one?”)

So, you want to buy a house in 2015?


First, things first-have you been pre-qualified?

Q: What is this pre-approval process you speak of and why is it so important, Ashley?

A: Well, let me start with this. You must talk to a lender first! How do you know what you can afford (and what price range to start browsing homes online) if no one has broken down the numbers for you with taxes and insurance and what you need to put down and explained expectations? Things have changed since the financial chrsis. And you should know what you are getting into-and most importantly what buying a home REALLY COSTS.

Q: What’s the difference between being pre-approved and pre-qualified?

A: When you are “pre-qualified” that is the most basic form. It means you may have talked to a lender about-your score, what you make and what you pay every month-and boom you are pre-qualified for a home! BUT a pre-approval goes a little bit further. This means a lender has looked over documentation and your income and assets in more details and this also makes you a stronger candidate when submitting offers (and less risk later down the road for something to happen during the financing process)!

Talking to a lender is crucial for a few reasons:

1. A lender will help tell you what your monthly payments will equate to. You can even work backward. You can start by saying, “I am not comfortable spending over $1800 per month on a mortgage-including taxes and insurance-what will that get me?” and he can tell you where your price range needs to be set and what you can expect, then you can see where exactly you can buy in your range, and if the time is now, or perhaps waiting and saving more.

2. A lender can, most of the time- fix or give great pointers on improving your credit! I had a buyer who wanted to purchase and the lender looked over everything and told her if she paid off this one small balance her credit would increase enough so 1. she would be qualified to buy and 2. get her a tad-bit lower of an interest rate. Done. Mission accomplished in a short amount of time as well!

3. A lender can also tell you what route you may want to go financially. Perhaps a different program may work best for you if you only planned on keeping a house for 3-5 years or if mom and dad were going to help with payment a conventional type of loan that ALL down payment money can be gifted. There are various products for various buyers.

4. A lender will also let you know if it is important for you to file this year’s taxes to be qualified for more or if you past two year’s tax returns will work. Your DTI (debt to income ratio) is an important part of how much you will be able to afford-so be honest, when filling out an application for a mortgage, take a look at current credit balances for an accurate answer and no surprises.


What will a lender want from you?:

  • Past two year’s tax returns handy or income verification
  • Fill out an online application-social security number for a credit run
  • Accurate information of bank accounts, assets and in the future-explanation of any large cash sums, bonuses etc.
  • If you have had any recent job changes-a letter from new work place may be in order
  • If parents or trust may help fund the payment-disclose so you can hear options!
  • Honesty is the best policy! Disclose. Disclose. Disclose! (In the past I have had clients hold back information which ended up costing them a home in the end, because it was a condition that couldn’t be cleared)

So what are you waiting for? Talk to a lender and set some financial goals–even if you don’t think you will purchase this year, it is a good idea to get your mind right so you know what you want to achieve to become a home owner!

Falling credit cardsCREDIT TIPS. Here are some credit tips I have learned as an agent, that you may already know, but thought I would reiterate. If home buying is in the cards in the near future for you, I would take a look at these tips below, then follow up with talking to a lender to advise what’s the best route to give you the best score. **Remember the better your score the better your interest rate when you buy!**

  • DO NOT PAY LATE! I don’t mean a few days late (though still not a good idea), but when your payment is so late that it is recorded on your credit report, this can delay home buying for up to a year unless you can somehow fight it to be dismissed. Set alarms in your phone a few days before bills are due. Set up online bill payment. Late payments are the biggest hits on your credit report.
  • DO have several lines of credit. Showing you can manage money with a car payment and a credit card (major line like Visa, etc) is good.
  • DO NOT OPEN A NEW LINE OF CREDIT before you plan on buying a home (unless a lender advised it). Even in doing so, sometimes an account will need to be open 6mo. before you can buy if you do not have enough credit.
  • DO CARRY A BALANCE. It can be good to put on a tank of gas, then pay it off, but if you keep your balance less than $100 per month, the revolving credit can actually increase your credit score. Make sure it makes sense for you and you are getting some type of rewards if you don’t like carrying a balance.
  • DO NOT HAVE A BALANCE OF MORE THAN 30% OF YOUR CREDIT LIMIT. When you start to max out your cards, it will start to impact your credit score negatively. So be sure you are paying attention to the limits on your cards before you book those airline tickets, it may better serve you on a card that has no balance that has been open longer.
  • APPLY FOR ACCOUNTS ONLY WHEN NECESSARY. In college they used to get us to fill out applications for a free t-shirt, sounds good right? No. Running credit checks for you to buy a couch, a fridge, a car, and a credit card within a month or so can shows frivolous spending habits, so you don’t want to many inquiries on your credit. Open accounts that are only necessary. On the contrary, before you buy a home you can talk to several different lenders before purchasing and have them run checks and within a 30 day period it should not count against you (same goes for shopping different car dealers).
  • VIEW YOUR CREDIT REPORT. You can do this for free once a year or pay different websites to monitor your scores for a low monthly fee. You have the right to know! You’d actually be surprised what can pop up on your credit report…. Close out that Citi-bank card you were approved for in your early 20’s, it could be a good idea.
  • DO NOT GET OLD (GOOD) DEBT OFF YOUR CREDIT REPORT. This means, if you paid off a car, do not try to get that removed from your report ASAP, this is good debt. However, items that fall into collection will likely stay on your report for 7yrs, which is bad.
  • DO NOT TAKE OUT CASH ADVANCES. Basically, you do not want to put a huge sum on your card-maxing it out or take out cash advances–these items indicate risk, when you do that, your score can plummet.

Use lines of credit not as a way to finance your life, but as a way to build credit so you can have the life that you want in the future.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, want to talk to one of my many great lenders to get started or pick my brain about the market-let me know, happy to chat!



Australia and New Zealand Post Trip Follow up and Travel Tips!


If you follow me on fabulous facespace, or “Insta” I am sure you saw my “photojournaling” of my journey overseas. It was awesome. Closest one to guessing how many photos I took total wins a prize.

I wanted to follow up (because of course everyone’s infamous question when I returned was: “How was your trip?! Tell me all about it!” And I get tired of repeating myself, so you are just going to have to read below (or skim what you want, I know I write a lot).

First off, my last blog had my expectations v reality of my trip. Here is the follow up to my expectations and how everything exceeded (for the most part) my expectations.

Expectation #1: Planning everything perfectly plane wise and being comfortable on the plane.

Well, I certainly never was surprise upgraded like I had hoped. I missed my first flight to New Z (almost missed the second one) but over all I will say everything worked out the way it should have. The day I missed my flight I still had a free stay, so I went back, got my stuff together and went to pet kangaroos, dingos and wallabys at the Healesville Sanctuary. I traded one day of sunshine for one day of NZ chill/partly cloudy weather. To me, that is a win.

Funny side story: On my way there I sat in between a married couple. The woman next to me took a sleeping pill within the first hour of being on the plane-and literally passed out mid sentence talking to me. All I could think was, “Can you give me one of those please?!” I didn’t sleep much on the plane but am pleased that I took the 11:30pm from LAX, landing in Sydney (lost a full day) at 8:30am.

TIP: DO NOT TAKE A NAP. Power through!! I was not jet lag but crashed hard once it was bed time.

IMG_3995Above: This is me on the way back (Didn’t sleep a wink on the first 12hr flight, slept with mouth wide open the from the LAX-DFW leg. Awesome.)

Expectation #2: Holding a Koala


From what I understand, they don’t like it. They are protected in most states in Australia, so it never happened in Sydney or Melbourne, But dammit if they aren’t the cutest things eating their leaves and sleeping all day in trees.

IMG_3306(the closest I got to holding a koala, above)

Expectation #3: Trying kangaroo (to eat)

This too didn’t happen. Shoot, I thought it would be on the Mc Donald’s (macca’s) menu and pretty prevalent, but it was not. Feeding one and petting one will suffice, here is a lazy one pictured below at the Sydney Zoo but I did get to pet and feed one in Melbourne-photos below.


IMG_3646FYI: I highly recommend the sanctuaries over the zoos. They are more interactive. They also only feed the females, the males get too big and fight. Above is 12yo Harriet, who also learned that parents keep snacks in stroller and has been a theif in the past!

Expectation #4: Helicopter ride over Great Barrier Reef


This expectation was exceeded! Funny, I did get motion sickness on the boat on the way out (luckily no vomit, fresh air did me good) but the helicopter ride was my highlight of Australia actually. That day was perfect. I snorkeled and saw some amazing fish and turtles. Then got to ride in a “choppa” Best news is that the couple that also rode in the helicopter were getting paid to take some video footage so our trip was extra long and we stopped off on a deserted island for more photos etc. Woohoo!


Expectation #5: Not over packing.

Fail…just fail. So. many. clothes. The funny part is that I ended up wearing the same thing over and over. I also didn’t pack warm enough. Spring over there is NOTHING like Spring here, much colder!



TIP: I probably could have been fine with a rolling suit case. I do highly recommend this Osprey 45L bag though. It has a little backpack that zips off which made it great for when I went out in the day. Also the above HEB bag was just plane snacks and reads-not having a carry-on was genius on my part because I came back with more stuff and needed one then.

Expectation #6: Taking lots of beautiful photos.

This happened, but my camera compared to a professional’s awesome lenses and equipment doesn’t compare really. I fortunately remembered to charge my battery quite frequently as well.

DSC_0194(Blue Mountains, outside Sydney)

DSC_0228(Bondi Beach, Sydney)

IMG_0999(Queenstown, NZ)

Expectation #7: I am going to meet lots of interesting people.

I certainly did! In fact when I tell stories of my trips, they mainly have to do with the people I meet along the way. The woman next to me on the plane and her sleeping pill, the man on the white water rafting adventure who was a thrill seeking 70yr old, the boys from Melbourne I went bungy jumping with that wore dresses, the swingers that shared a bottle of wine with me in New Zealand (just kidding…I think).


(I wish I had more photos of all the people I met-this was from my first stop-above the French guys from our hostel and below my French roomies!)


Expectation #8: Meeting hot Aussie men.

Well, I will say this: Being in the middle of downtown in Sydney and Melbourne during the week and seeing all the men walking around wearing suits–it was nice (said like Borat). I did meet up with a friend’s boy(friend) and he was great! I also had a date in Melbourne with a nice Aussie bloke (no photo, I forgot dangit)

IMG_0869(Heidi, thanks for introducing me to Doubs-he was a good guide and we had lots of cider and Asain food! And thanks to many friends who reached out and connected me on facebook to people you know overseas!)

I also met up with Huw, who was a foreign exchange student in my HS, he lives in Auckland.


Expectation #9: Hostel Life won’t be that bad.

It honestly wasn’t. How I met so many cool people. Rating the hostels I stayed in would go like this: 1. Queenstown. 2. Sydney 3. Rotorua I prefer the mom and pop hostels over the bigger hostels. I am convinced I stayed in a Hippy Commune in Port Douglas (great barrier reef) and the rest were crappy but short stays so I didn’t care. Lucked out in Melbourne and stayed with a family friend so that tops off the list as the best stay for sure. Ah a nice home and good company.

I have no photos of the crappy places I stayed, haha.

TIP: I prefer “mom and pop” smaller hostels to the larger ones, hostels and used for all ratings on cleanlines and read many reviews to see if it was more of a younger, party vibe, or a great place. Getting a bathroom attached to your room was much better than the dorm like community baths, but again you are only in your room to get ready and sleep-so I am not terribly picky. In NZ I booked each place about one day in advanced since I had a car-it was very easy and there was availability. Australia was planned out about a month in advanced, thankfully.

My favorite hostels in order: Adventure Queenstown, Sydney Harbour YHA, and Rotorua Central Backpackers.

The best part of my trip is meeting up with a family member’s friend and having my own room and local host! Sam spent a few Thanksgivings with us in Memphis a while back and she was a fantastic host. My favorite meal of my trip was with her in Melbourne (and she bought me Tim Tams-an Aussie fav)



In 2012 I took a trip to Europe and made some contacts from Oz, I met up with them as well. Ah Facebook, you keep the world together!


Willem and I above. Rachel and I below.


Expectation #10: This trip will be very active.

Yes. Yes it was. I think I kept trying to achieve the endorphin high that was experienced in Queenstown they day I bungy’d and skydived (see pics and video below) within a few hours of one another. It can’t be done. Hiking was great. White water rafting was great, and honestly just walking around cities and taking photos, trying new things is great! But it cannot match the adrenaline rush you get from doing something adventurous.



To watch the video of me skydiving, click here!NZON_NZQT_2014_10_27_C1101_0803To watch my GoPro video of my first bungy jump click here! (fast forward to the good part)




The professional bungy jump video is here (I did it twice it was so much fun!) Below is the white water rafting and zorbing I did in the N. Island of NZ.

DSC_9917 DSC_9929

White water rafting in Rotorua above and “Zorbing” belowDSC_0667


If you feel like reading more…

Overall the first leg of my trip was booked-flights and accommodations ahead of time. I am glad I did it this way. New Zealand was tougher for me to decide what to do, so I decided to “wing it” but it was easy once I was there to decide on a whim. I also found more wifi readily available in NZ than Oz. I really loved NZ the South Island the best. Everything worked out as it should have-and I made the best of any situations that went array (missing my flight for example). Not to say I have any regrets, because I covered a lot of ground, met some awesome people, did some amazing things, but if I could go back or pass along any advice I would say: skip N. Island of NZ (maybe spend 3 days before you fly out) but see the South Island, do the amazing hikes, adventure items etc. but be weary because NZ is such a safe country that every activity is dependent on the weather! Skydiving was canceled three times for me due to wind. But I lucked out (book earlier in day because if you do get canceled they will just push back your time vs making you go the next day). Australia and NZ overall have some of the friendliest people I have ever met!! If I could change anything about my Australia leg of the trip0 I would have changed my stay in Port Douglas, ha (the hippy commune) and an extra week to add in Byron Bay (and paid a visit to a former Austinite friend). Ah so many places to see, so little time.

Here are some words I learned along the way (I made notes in my phone). Everything sounds so much more sophisticated I swear! They call things as they should (for example they aren’t bathrooms or restrooms, they are “toilets”). Aussies  abbreviate EVERYTHING. For example Mc Donald’s they call “Maccas”


Aussie Sayings:
Power point- outlets on the wall
Dooner-Duvet blanket
Wanker “wanka!”-self explanatory I think.
Heaps- a lot
Hire- to rent (hire a car)
keen- cool, the slang term
arvo- short for afternoon (plans in the arvo?)
natter-(ie I love to sit on the porch and drink wine with friends and have a good natter)
grouse-choice/sweet-slang term
sorted-they all say this (ie after you set your bags down, “Did you get all sorted?”)
munted-destroyed (this can apply to wrecking a car or being totally belligerent)
scull-chugging ones drink?
peckish-hungry (I love this and want to say that here)
curvy grips-bobby pins!
Kiwi Sayings:
sweet as- (like saying something is all good. They ALL use it and I love it).
They say the f word. A lot. (I fit right in).
tosser-see wanker.
cut your lunch-(ie when a guy has been talking to a girl all night, then his friend swoops in-he just cut your lunch!)
lollies-candy (this was adorable on Halloween the kids saying lolly all the time)

Expectations vs. Reality: My Upcoming Australia/New Zealand Backpacking Trip

Well, I have another trip around the corner, I am excited to report. I think it is interesting– the “build up” before any trip. I have researched, read blogs, asked other fellow travelers who have been there, backpacked or lived there for their advice. I then come up with a list of amazing things I want to do and expectations I THINK I will have. I was even reminded in a recent lunch with my mentor when discussing my trip, he reminded me “Didn’t you say you weren’t ever going to leave for that long again because it was too stressful?” Yep. I do recall saying that now. And not stressful as in traveling but having the work covered while gone (I had three closings on my last trip while out of the country-Eeeek!)

He did have a point. I think after a while you forget the struggles you had and look forward to the “good” again. It is like after you have a child. People say “I will never do that again.” And a week later you are so overjoyed you want to have three more. So maybe the situation isn’t exactly the same-but you get my drift. (because I know all about giving child birth, right?)

Let’s get to my Australia/New Zealand to do list. The expectation…and the reality that will most likely ensue. I try to envision some of the things I will be doing-but I also try not to get my hopes up (hence the “reality” perspective).

Here we go…

1. EXPECTATION: I will be comfortable on the plane and I have scheduled everything fine so that I won’t be tired at all! The time will just fly by and I will watch my shows and read and sleep on the plane, maybe even have a whole row to myself like when I went to Europe! Maybe I will even be upgraded to first class for no reason!


REALITY: I am most likely going to be exhausted and uncomfortable. Then my iPad battery will run low in the middle of a Homeland episode, leaving me in full suspense–when I have 12hrs left in the air. Then I will be wide awake and my hamstring/lower back will be killing me since it has given me problems lately and I will be completely miserable, have dry lips and come down with a cold on the way to Sydney. I will also be more jet lag than I have ever been before in my life.

2. EXPECTATION: Holding a cute and cuddly Koala bear will be so awesome. Check that off the bucket list!


REALITY: Koala bear ends up biting me, being super heavy, smelling like crap, has brillow pad type fur and I am blinking  in the photo and look awful in the ONE photo I have to show evidence that I actually held a koala bear. ha.

3. EXPECTATION: I am going to try kangaroo! I hear it isn’t too bad.

REALITY: Kangaroo probably taste nasty.


4. EXPECTATION: This helicopter I booked over the Great Barrier Reef is going to be awesome and beautiful.


REALITY: Rains and excursion is cancelled….with no refund. OR I get horrible motion sickness and vomit all over the helicopter.

5. EXPECTATION: I didn’t even overpack this year, good for me!


REALITY: I have nothing to wear because I packed all wrong and not right for this cold weather and my bag is still annoyingly heavy to carry around.

6. EXPECTATION: I am going to take so many beautiful photos of scenery.


REALITY: My camera battery never charged properly with my converter. Then standing atop a beautiful glacier at sunset and the most picture perfect moment–I can’t snap it.

7. EXPECTATION: I am going to meet lots of interesting people.


REALITY: I am going to be the oldest person in the damn hostel.

8. EXPECTATION: This isn’t my expectation (but what all my friends say): “You are going to meet some hot Aussie guy and never return! he he”


REALITY: I will only meet other travelers, probably end up rooming with a smelly 21yo who doesn’t speak English and we have nothing in common. ha.

9. EXPECTATION: Even though I am “older” the hostel life won’t be that bad. It is affordable, has lots of community type activities and a great way to meet other travelers.


REALITY: Kill me now, why didn’t I stay in a nice hotel by myself.

10. EXPECTATION: This is going to be such an active trip for me! Lots of hikes, snorkeling, maybe even bungee jumping, skydiving, a run on the beach….


REALITY: My. feet. hurt. I will just sleep in today and maybe get a massage later.



Well this is the “before.” I look forward to sharing my “after” and hopefully my perceived realities won’t be as bad as they could be, but I will have tons of stories and moments to share (and treasure). Can’t wait to start checking things off my list! Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

An Apology and A Thank You

This may be a silly comparison but something dawned on me today that I felt like writing about…

So, my friend and I are researching places to stay on Air BnB for our next trip to Vancouver.

vancouverVancouver above.

{Ahem-Don’t even get me started on some of the horrible real estate photos people actually post and expect people to stay in their spare rooms on Air BnB}

Anyway, we came across this sparking, clean, perfect location, dates available, have our own bathroom type of place with a similar-ish female (safety perk) and then…she had NO reviews. No one had stayed with her.

I emailed the friendly 30-something, nice looking girl and asked if she was new to Air BnB, because I noticed she had no reviews, however she had been verified.

airbnblogo(New AirBnB somewhat controversial logo)

She wrote back-“Yes I am new.”

My more weary friend was NOT excited that this was the girl’s only response to my message. She didn’t try to convince us to stay with her or beg of us to believe she is nice and trust worthy,  or she would be a fantastic host–she merely answered the question I asked. My friend was not thrilled. {Me–I am different, I am a little more trusting and naive, and more like-so what if she kills us, our trip will be fun…and who doesn’t trust a Canadian?!} I asked my friend if she wanted me to add her on Facebook and stalk her (totes normal, right?), but she made a good point–that people can put out on Facebook and reflect however they want to be anyway and she didn’t feel comfortable staying with someone with no reviews.

Now….this is very unrelated, yet related…As I was jogging today and thinking about our options in Vancouver it dawned on me–how are you supposed to trust someone if they never get a first chance?

It reminded me of my real estate days when I first began. {Not that I have twenty years of experience under my belt now or anything}. My same friend actually bought her first home from me. A one year-ish Real Estate agent who had only done leases, NEVER done a short sale, never sold a single family home (only condos at that time) and when I look back now and think of the mistakes I made, the questions I ask and the lack of professionals I had under my belt to refer her to I think:

I am sorry. I am sorry I couldn’t be the agent I am now to you back then.


Then I think:


thankyousTHANK YOU SO MUCH FOR GIVING ME THAT FIRST CHANCE!! Did her closing run as smoothly as it could of? Hello no. It was the last day of the month and the title person had the name of the bank wrong on EVERY. SINGLE. DOCUMENT. But I am so grateful for those past clients who took a chance on me. It was so hard starting off in the real estate world then seeing your friends buy homes left and right-and they didn’t pick you as their Realtor. There are a lot of Realtors in Austin Tx (last I heard 8,000)!! So of course someone is ALWAYS going to know a Realtor or two. I just want to thank the clients who almost knew more than me, but could see I was working so hard and I was busting my tail trying to show them properties, find them properties and answer all their questions. I want to thank the clients that knew I worked a second job in the evenings and would try to schedule showings during the day to fit my schedule. I just want to be thankful in general. Had it not been for all my previous mistakes, hiccups and let-downs I wouldn’t be where I am today. {oh and thank heavens for good mentors and brokers I could always go to. Shout out to Kent Redding-I call him my second dad, always so helpful, positive and a cheerleader}. It is so very important in any business (but especially one where you are your own boss) to have a mentor.

Now, I don’t do leasing as much any more these days, because I simply just cannot find the time, but you bet I try to refer them out to any hungry, hard working, (almost professional-because that comes with time) agent who is in the same boat I was in years ago (and that was during the worst time of the market). Anyway, that sums up my rant. Not saying you should trust open heart surgery with a year one medical student, but I think you understand where I am coming from.

Did I mention I have no reviews on Air BnB? I hope someone takes a chance on me letting me sleep in their spare room. ;)

That is all for now and thank you for reading. Now go give someone a chance!

Paying off Your Mortgage ASAP: Yes or No?

When I first got into real estate, I would sit across the table as my buyer signed all 3 million closing papers for their first home. There came that point where we would make a joke about the “no pay no stay” document and usually a comment of how great of an interest rate they got. (I got into real estate when the market was crappy and interest rates were in the 2% realm for some!!)

Another discussion that always popped up in regards to mortgage payments, taxes, insurance and interest was the “if you make two extra payments a year it knocks down about 7yrs of interest.”

So SHOULD YOU or SHOULD YOU NOT pay off that mortgage early? And should you take that money and invest it?

Here are some pros and cons to both, and perhaps you can figure what works best for you.


1. Peace of Mind. Waking up everyday and knowing you own your home out right is a pretty good feeling, may take a while to get there, but it sure will be nice once the bank doesn’t own it.

2. Guaranteed investment return. Paying off that debt early is as if you are earning the interest you would have otherwise paid on it.

3. If you didn’t put 20% down, then you should definitely pay down your loan to the 80% loan to value ratio to avoid that monthly mortgage insurance premium–that will definitely save you money in the long run!

4. And for those of you who usually say you are going to do something….but then well, aren’t so great with the follow through. You may say “I am going to just make minimum payments, let this extra money snowball and invest it” but the ACTUAL chances of you actually doing that are slim to none. So perhaps you are only doing yourself a favor by paying down your mortgage because you wouldn’t have done something smart with the money anyway?


1. If you bought your home at a time with a really great interest rate (or re-financed) the downside to paying off that mortgage is the opportunity cost. You could possibly be giving up investment returns that are better than your mortgage interest rates (you just have to do a little research).

2. And of course there is INFLATION! Consider it. Inflation erodes the value of the dollar. So basically your future mortgage payments will cost less than they do now and the money you are sending in won’t be worth much in terms of “real” buying power.

3. The other thing to factor in are the unfortunate “what if’s.” I would hate for any of this to happen. But if something bad does happen (job loss, crazy medical expenses), what can the bank take?–your home that they still own, right? That’s ok–because you still have a stockpile of money in accounts earning interest. If you had paid off that home that’s all you have, and in turn you will most likely need to sell it to get the money from it or pull an equity loan and borrow against it. HOWEVER if your money was earning 8% in an index fund or retirement account you may have the extra funds necessary to still live and maintain the lifestyle needed. Just a thought.

And a few cool links I thought may be helpful mortgage payoff calculator HERE.

And I also found this article/info graphic of best places to invest. Ummm, so glad I am in Tx (though this vouches for Houston mainly, it was still interesting).

Hope you found this little read interesting, I know it isn’t as exciting as my tips on online dating profiles, but I am busy these days and real estate consumes my mind! Thanks for reading.

-Ashley Brinkman
Realtor, ABR, GRI
Realty Austin




My Adventures in Tulum, Mexico

If you follow me on Facebook, I recently posted a few (about 1,000) photos of my trip to beautiful Tulum. Nothing new for this girl–I really enjoy taking photos and capturing moments–but mainly taking photos of pretty and colorful items.

Since a lot of you had asked me how my trip was and “Would I like it there?” I thought I would share my opinions on Tulum so you can decide for yourself if you want to visit!

DSC_0510Personally, I am not a “beach/relaxer/vacationer” I am a busy body explorer type. HOWEVER, escaping for my step sister’s wedding was a great excuse to finish up on my latest read, (which you all need to read: Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan) work on my tan and “go off the grid” for a bit.


You will love Tulum if….

-You like to travel where there isn’t a McDonald’s in sight! (or other American-ized/Commercialized places)
-You can handle being barely clothed or barefoot most the time
-You enjoy yoga (tons of places practice yoga daily, not to mention lots of vegan and healthy cuisine along the way)
-You can handle drinking bottled water or coconut water right out of the coconut:
-You like bars that don’t have stools, but swings!:
-You are ok with waves/wind:
-You can sleep in a hammock:
-You are ok with not having wifi in your room (or a television for that matter)…
-You are ok with opening your door to your room and seeing this: IMG_0618
-You are ok with NO air conditioning in the day time (this place only had it from 7p-7a)!! I somehow survived.
-You love Fish tacos!


To my friends with children…hmmm…I don’t know what to tell you (simply because I don’t have kids nor understand if they are high maintenance or easy when it comes to the beach).

I don’t know if this is the best place to bring the little ones. Unless your kids just LOVE the beach and you are ok with being on the beach daily (though you may fry the first day and be miserable the rest of the time!). I think this is a great “get away from los ninos” type place or baby moon… in my opinion (yet I don’t have children, I just have plenty of friends that do–and I see what you have to bring when you travel with kids). Kids need air conditioning and dark rooms when they nap (I think?) and Tulum is also 1.5-2hrs South of Cancun, so after landing and traveling you still have quite the drive. There are definitely water parks nearby, Ruins, zip lines, snorkeling in Cenotes (fresh water caves), but they are still bus rides to get to most of the “cool attractions.” Tulum seems more of a romantic trip, a place to unwind, a place to de-stress, get a massage on the beach, practice yoga, snorkel, walk around the beach town or downtown etc. Also a thing to note–I was there almost a week and every day there was someone kite-boarding. There is a lot of wind. I heard that it isn’t ALWAYS like that, but I do think it is pretty windy most the time. Don’t they know I am trying to take wedding pics without the wind blowing hair in my face?! Ugh.

CT46(windy, but still fun!)



Anyway, my recs to you on Tulum would be to experience the following…

Definitely try Fish tacos at Mateo’s (or the shrimp is really good too!)

DSC_1099DSC_1100 DSC_1102 DSC_1108 DSC_1109

If you like Thai Food DEFINITELY try Mezzanine, plus there’s a gorgeous beach view and you can walk right on down or sit and eat at a little cabana overlooking the beach.

DSC_0459(view to right-restaurant/bar. View to left: the beach!!)

Snorkeling in a a Cenote was honestly kind of scary (because I am a sissy when my masks starts to clog up or water goes in my snorkel, I start to freak out) but it was refreshing and cool to explore with our flash lights.


I wish I had a go-pro because under water shots of the sea turtles I snorkeled with were “totes adorbs” and an awesome experience.

I also wish I would have seen the Ruins and done a zip lining tour, but honestly didn’t feel like planning and making the drive (apparently the good oens are a little farther out and into the jungle. Or you can do near by Ruins and easy zip lining dropping into a Cenote as well).

We stayed at Cabanas Tulum, which is one of the nicer places on the beach strip (so I was told). Ziggy’s (the restaurant there) has a great lunch menu! The staff is SUPER friendly, always saying hello and very accommodating. The wifi worked in the lobby and beach restaurants, so I would go down there when I had to get some work items done, but it wasn’t that bad (and honestly quite refreshing to just keep the phone in the room all day and be with family). There are no room phones for you to call and order items, but you can go down there and ask for items, such as ice (they brought us a bag of ice and a cooler for our beverages to enjoy in our room and by the beach). Paying $7 for a pina colada or margarita gets pretty old quick!

IMG_0630(Here is our helper following us back to the room after our trip to the store! And there actually was a decent super market with everything you need!)



Bars downtown Tulum are cheap and fun. An evening spent down there and souvenier shopping could be a nice change from the beach scene (here are a few pics of my siblings and I being goofy-and enjoying 2 for 1 drinks)! DSC_0502

IMG_0726DSC_0550 DSC_0557 DSC_0529

Also the cabs are regulated by the government so there are flat fees. You don’t even have to tip (was told this by some friends that live there). So it shouldn’t be $6 one way, then $10 back or you are being ripped off! Fortunately most the people who order the cab for you at the resort will tell you exactly what it will cost when you tell them where you are going.


Here are a few of my favs from the wedding, I had fun playing around with my camera and trying some effects etc….

CT9(my sister did this with the sparklers)

(PS rehearsal dinner and wedding all took place at Cabanas Tulum-where everyone stayed, at Ziggy’s, they did a great job and decorated beautifully). Complete with bright colors, maracas and a Mariachi Band (I am not kidding when I say–I also saw a Chihuahua running around as well)…perfect Mexico wedding for these two!

CT13 CT15 CT2 CT4CT5CT16CT19CT31CT24CT30

Who is Ashley exactly and what does she do? Learn more here! And start your Austin home search here!

I Own Scissors, but Don’t Cut My Own Hair: An Agent’s Insight to the Austin, Tx Seller’s Market

Hello there blog readers of mine! (All two of you).

I know you look forward to my blogs about my bad dates and theories of my generation and what not, but due to the non-existant dating life I am going to write about something that has been time consuming lately (and I am not complainin’): Real Estate! So stay with me on my rant and hopefully learn a little about this crazy market we are in.

Currently we are going into Summer Months in Austin Tx and yes, it is still a hot seller’s market, with low inventory, but here is what is just starting to baffle me as an agent….

Just because I own a pair of scissors doesn’t mean I try to cut my own hair (or other people for that matter). And just because I know how to run doesn’t mean I am capable of teaching someone how to train for a race–so why, oh why on Earth if you don’t have a Real Estate License would you try to sell your home on your own???


Oh you want to save money?…I get it. Well know this–most people who do NOT use an agent to sell their home end up getting less for their home and it sits on the market longer. Not only that, but when you represent yourself you are more liable than ever before. Hello lawsuit!lawsuit

I just want to give this example because I think it is a good (smart) one. My broker calls me into his office to chat recently. Mind you, he has 20 something years of real estate under his belt AND he is a real estate attorney. He says, “Hey I am thinking about listing my house soon and I want you to come take a look and tell me what you think.” I responded puzzled, “Why are you asking me? You know your home and neighborhood and how to sell it.” And he responded with a very honest answer, “You know how sellers are-we always think our homes are worth more than what they actually are. I need an honest, professional opinion. Plus I have a few things I want you to tell me if you think I should paint, stage, where to put things etc.”–all that coming from someone IN the business. While some real estate agents do list their own homes (and in Tx you must disclose if you are affiliated with the selling party or the actual home owner) the last brokerage I worked for would not allow owner/agent relationship, you would sell it under someone else in the office–which is smart.

FSBOI know, I know–you think real estate agents just take some photos, move a few pieces of furniture and stick a sign in the yard and they are done with it. There is so much more to it than that (well for the good agents anyway)! And actually in this market, it is even more pertinent to have an agent with diligence, market knowledge, an agent great at marketing your home in non-traditional ways and has a “pre-marketing plan”, a proactive one that foresee road blocks (like buyer’s financing and appraisal or title issues).

Another example I recently encountered: I am representing a buyer on a duplex. We were in multiple offers. We won. A few weeks later–appraisal comes back higher than contract price! Yessss!! (Always a good feeling to walk in with equity). This listing agent is a discount broker. He didn’t use professional photos and I don’t think he even pre-marketed the duplex. Did we go under contract after only two days? Yes. But do you think if he would have marketed the home more professionally and tested the market price prior to putting it in the MLS he would have had higher offers on the table that would have matched what the appraiser said it was worth? Possibly. (Just a theory, but no way of actually knowing).


It makes me wonder, though: Does an agent do as good of a job when he/she is taking that big of a discount? And furthermore, if he is discounting himself does he:

1. Value himself as a professional or his time?

2. Is he so busy being a discount broker that he has time to market my home, others and take care of everything?

3. Can he even afford an assistant or professional photographer?

4. Does he even have experience?! Maybe he is cheap because he is new and doesn’t know what he’s doing!?

I am not going to lie, when I first got into this industry, you could have paid me $500 to list your home and I would have been ecstatic–and that was in a bad market!! But as time and experience have taught me: time is money. And my work is valuable.

I will say often to all my friends and clients that trusted in me with their real estate transactions in my wee-early real estate days I: 1. Appreciate you having faith in me and am grateful for your business!!! and 2. I Apologize because I know so much more now than I did then!!

Sadly, that SAME broker from the duplex deal had a sign in the yard of a home I recently met with the owner prior and told him EVERYTHING he should do to get his home ready to market (so he did that, then hired someone cheaper…sigh). So, yes people like to save money, but sometimes it is worth it to pay more, get more and have to do less if you ask me (and that goes with a lot of things in this world, huh?–like a pair of sunglasses, a good cutting knife or a car-for example). A home worth over $400,000 (that’s been owned for almost 10yrs) and the owner thinks it is smarter to save a few by hiring a discount broker. Yes, I am bitter! Don’t get me wrong, I have and still do discount my commission when appropriate to the situation, but I don’t advertise myself as the “1% girl” or “flat fee gal” Some brokerages don’t even allow agents to discount themselves unless it is their own transaction.  I know it is a seller’s market, but I keep seeing people get real greedy or maybe it is high optimism? In fact, last week there roughly 500 price reductions in the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). That is A LOT of price drops. Maybe the market is cooling off? Highly doubtful. Perhaps the overly aggressive pricing is starting to correct itself.  Sometimes we agents have to stand behind our work and listen to the words of L’Oreal: “You’re Worth It.”

You’re darn right I am!

youreworthitIn this world of Wiki, Google, HGTV I guess we are all experts. And in a town of 7,000 real estate agents or something crazy like that, I guess there are a lot of people to choose from. Be smart out there folks, do your research, and shop: rates, agents, plumbers, insurance–everything–you will be glad you did in the end. And just because it is the lowest price DOES NOT mean you are getting the best value (think we all know this by learning a lesson one way or another).

htvfunnyYou can find more about Ashley by clicking here and you can start your Real Estate home search here! Realty Austin has fantastic agents to help you find a home, guide you in the process and a great support team to help market your properties to get them SOLD! Also voted Best Places to work in Austin three years in a row according to the Austin Business Journal!

What to Expect when Buying New Construction (in an Austin seller’s market)

Hello again!

I’ve had a few clients in the past few years buy new. Meaning from a home builder or custom builder or condo developer. And being that I now have gained some experience on “the other side” (meaning, representing new projects/the listing agent) I wanted to take some time to write a blog on what to expect when purchasing a new home (in a seller’s market). I add the parentheses because when the market is “bad” or a buyer’s market, builder’s are offering incentives, upgrades, decorating allowances, raffles for a new car. BUT in Austin Tx currently we are in a seller’s market, with this inventory being low, what can you expect as a buyer now that housing is in demand? on!

Since every builder contract is different (and none of them are the standard TREC <Texas Real Estate Commission> promulgated form) I am not going to go through the nitty gritty details, but basically give you a sum up of what to expect in that contract and when building a new home (or buying one from a builder that is a “spec” home). A spec home is a homet hat has already been started by the builder-lot, floorplan and decor already chosen. Most the time when you choose to use a builder to buy you pick the lot, floorplan and then go to a design center for upgrades etc.

(and use some real life examples!)

Below: Jordan at the closing table-yes, he sent me a selfie, because I couldn’t make closing! Bought his new place in Edgewick, stand alone condo with detached garage! soldJordan

This is a photo of Ashley, below-just closed on her home with Milsetone Builders off Riverside that was built from the ground up-with her input! That area has blown up, she is so happy she bought there when she did!


#1–A Builder’s contract will state that they are allowed to make changes to the property as they deem necessary.

This is important to know, because recently I had some clients (ok, pickier than normal clients) who were very angry that the developer said there would be 4 trees (according to the brochure) and there were only 3 actually planted. These things happen. Does a builder try to purposefully deceive a customer? Of course not, but often times what “they thought” would work, doesn’t once they cross that bridge.


#2–a Builder’s contract is going to cover THEIR butt, not yours. Basically it will state things (in legal jargon) like: the builders have up to xx amount of years to complete the project.

I have another client who was supposed to close in October, ok November, ok late December….well you get the idea, it is March 2014 and we are still not closed.  This definitely has put a cramp in her lifestyle (and wallet, as rent continues to increase-especially when you go month to month)

Now, does a developer or home builder purposefully try to deceit people or make unrealistic timelines? Absolutely not. Do they want to sell the homes as quickly as possible? Of course. But it happens quite often that inspections hold up, Texas has freeze days??, labor shortages, City inspection hold ups (again), permits expire (or they don’t really but some dummy in the office doesn’t know what he is doing) and so on and so forth. Delays are constant. I wish they weren’t, but I have NEVER had a builder complete in the amount of time they said they were originally going to finish a home in. I promise. I wish it wasn’t so, but just the way things go.

So the #1 characteristic you have to possess (in my opinion) going into a new build is PATIENCE. Projects always take longer than anticipated, possibly a few changes along the way. I have been telling my clients (in this busy seller’s market) it is easier to sign a six month lease while your home is being built and break it/sub lease it later in this hot renter market, than to continue to pay increased rent prices month to month.

#3 A Builder almost NEVER pays Title Policy.

If you have bought a home before, more often than not a seller will pay for the buyer’s title policy. Now, in this hot seller’s market, there have been times when I have advised buyer’s to pay for the title policy to have the edge over another offer, which has worked to our advantage. I have only seen a builder for a new home/project pay for a title policy (which usually equates to a little less than 1% of the purchase price) maybe twice. Have I tried to negotiate this almost every time? Of course! But the advantage a new home builder has is that his product is rare and if it is in a buyer’s price range and they REALLY like it, they will pay the title policy vs back out completely. In the times the seller has paid for a title policy, I will add– the buyer didn’t ask for any other concessions, appliances, had strong financing and was at the asking price. So there ya have it.

DSC_0048Above: finishes the buyer’s get to choose at a project I am listing (Towns on Cumberland)

#4 A Builder will have little to no incentives for you as a buyer.

I say rule #4 with the intent of someone understanding the current market state, especially in Central Austin. As housing becomes scarce, pricing has increased and incentives to get people to buy have decreased. Why? Because a builder doesn’t have to offer allowances and upgrades when his product is in demand. I am not saying it doesn’t happen at all, it does, but usually at the start of a project. Asking price is usually final unless a builder is at the tail end of his inventory and ready to close up the project.

Some examples: I had a buyer purchase from Pulte up in North Austin. If he signed by the end of the week he would receive $2000 extra in his upgrades. Done.

Another builder (and most builders, honestly) will have a preferred lender. Do you have to use this lender? No. But most likely the builder will have established a working relationship and the lender is already familiar with the project, the people and have solidified a routine to get the loan done. For using their preferred lender the builder will most likely pay title policy or offer some kind of closing costs paid for at the close of the loan, etc.

drwallSansoneProgress (this home finished months after it’s projected date–it happens).

finishedSansoneBut buyers are super happy with the finished project (couldn’t even fit the whole house in my wide angle lens): Teravista, Round Rock by Partners in Building

However, neighborhoods perhaps farther out in a VERY newly developing area that may take years to grow etc. could possibly be offering more incentives and bonuses for your extra long commute and factor incentives for you. The fact you will be living in a construction zone for the next few years–you deserve a few upgrades. There are pros, however to buying further out– If you can hang tight in this busy market, you will be happy with the equity you start to acquire in your new home. You need to make sure you want to be there for a while, though, because often times if someone tries to sell a year later the home is worth just as much as a new home down the street. Be sure you pay attention to “what is to come” and what “can’t” be put next to you, too!

I hope this blurb about what to expect doesn’t sound like a “crappy deal” or like I am being pessimistic. I consider myself a realist, ha. I also hate when I don’t fully explain to buyers what they may run into when buying a new project. This isn’t to discourage one of NOT buying new, but just educate one on how it can be different from purchasing from a seller. Buying new can be great! Modern finishes, the ONLY one that has lived in a place, your own finishes (tile, backsplash, flooring, constructed floorplan) all picked by you. A new community with like-minded people in an up and coming (or already established, hip) area. Do what is best for you, but know what you are getting into!

resizedSome buyers prefer to buy old charm and fix up (Heidi and Brian above)…

JT4And some prefer starting their family in a new home (Jennifer and Travis above).

But whatever you decide, be happy with your new home!

Start your home search here and register! Read more about Ashley here and how she can help you with your real estate needs!

Happy house hunting, let me know if I can be of help and as always, thanks for reading!