Author: Ali Palacios - Broker

FAQ about the Listing Agreement

Listing a home for sale can be overwhelming. I get it. There are a lot of documents involved along with getting your home ready for sale. Here are a list of the most common questions I receive. If there is something not covered here, just ask.

Questions about selling your home

What is the best time of the year to sell my home?

Honestly, there are pros and cons on selling a home anytime during the year. It depends on the home. In general, larger homes in more suburban areas sell better during the summer months. Smaller homes usually sell well all year around. It is best to have your home evaluated and speak to your real estate agent about the pros and cons on selling thought the year.

How long will it take to sell my home?

The time that your home is on the market depends on several factors: pricing, time of the year, the size of the home, location and much more. The best way to get a realistic number is by speaking to your real estate agent. Your agent can evaluate trends for the last 6 months and give you a general idea on timing. 

Once you are under contract, it can take 7-45 days to close. Cash deals can close sooner, while financed purchases can take 30-45 days to close. 

How much is my home worth?

The answer is not simple. Every home is different. When a home is sold, a willing seller and a willing buyer have just announced to the world the value of that home. From there, other similar homes are benchmarked, but other factors come into play. The most important are: location, size, finishes, and condition. For more info

Zillow states that my home is worth $200,000 and the state tax accessor has my value at $180,000. Why is your suggested price different?

All of these entities are looking at your home in different ways. Sites like zillow work well in states that discloses sales prices. In Texas we are a non-disclosure state. Zillow pick up values using data from county and tax assessor records. Since prices are not disclosed to our tax assessor, these zestimates are normally not accurate.

The tax assessor has also established a market value or assessed value for your property. This is the value they use to calculate your yearly tax bill. This value may or may not be your actual market value. More info

As a real estate agent we look at similar homes that have sold in your area and establish a suggested list price. We used several factors to determine price. For more info on this

How much it cost me to sell my home?

You have options when it comes to selling your home. You have to decide what is best for you. Here is a list of some of the most popular choices.

We are a full service brokerage. We will guide you through getting your home ready, marketing and the overall sales process.   What does the agent do for you?

Should I make repairs to my home before putting it on the market?

The answer is normally yes. Skipping repairs can lose you money in the long run. Repair the little things that often get negotiated and cost more after someone else discovers them and a “Professional” has to be hired. More info

Should I use a real estate agent or sell my home for sale by owner?

This is a decision you will have to make. Just know that selling a home is not as easy as they make it look on TV. There are several pros to using a real estate agent. 

  • Real Estate agent will facilitate the sale or purchase of a contract. Your agent know how and when things are done.
  • Agent can spot potential problems. Being proactive is always cheaper than reactive.
  • A real estate agent acts like a mediator between the buyer and the seller.
  • Home is promoted on the master listing system ( and distributed to other sites such as Zillow, Trulia,, etc.
  • Agents know what buyers want. It’s important to make your home as marketable as possible. This will translate into more income for a seller.
  • Only buyers that are qualified and represented will access your home.

Your selling options


Can you sell your home “as-is”?

Technically the standard sales contract is an as-is contract. The seller can make conditions on accepting an offer or in permitting an offer to be submitted, these requirements would limit the buyers that would be interested in your property. This also does not limit the buyer from getting your home inspected.  

Can I forbid home inspections?

Although a seller could refuse to permit a buyer to have inspections or a right to terminate under the termination option, it is generally not a good idea to try to prevent a buyer from having a right to freely inspect the home. Preventing a buyer from an inspection increases the seller’s risk of a subsequent claim that she withheld information about the condition of the property. Furthermore, most homebuyers are going to be reluctant to buy a home without a right to inspect the home and without an option to terminate the contract if they are not satisfied about the condition of the property. Permitting the buyer to inspect a property doesn’t obligate a seller to agree to repairs.

Before you refuse to permit any inspections, discuss this with an attorney. 

What appliances typically stay and which ones may I take?

The only appliances that are typically considered personal property and can be removed are the washer, dryer and refrigerator. That said, it will all depend on the contract you signed. If you agreed to leave those appliances within your written and signed contract, those appliances should stay. 

What are seller disclosures and do I have to fill them out?

A seller disclosure form is required by sellers of previously occupied single family residences and is to be used in conjunction with a contract for the sale of real property. It contains information required to be disclosed by Section 5.008 of the Texas Property Code regarding material facts and the physical condition of the property. 

The basic seller disclosure forms are composed and available to the public from the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC).

There are a few exceptions. See Texas Property Code Sec 5.008(e) will lists those cases exempt from needing to provide a Seller’s Disclosure.

Questions about the Listing Agreement

Do I have to sign a listing agreement?

If you want to sell your home using a real estate agent, you must sign a listing agreement. A listing agreement is a contract between the property owner and a real estate broker. The contract authorizes the agent to represent you and find a buyer for the property. The agreement is legally binding and gives the real estate agent or broker the right to sell your home.

Can I cancel the listing agreement once signed?

If you are unhappy and you are not under contract with a buyer, tell your real estate agent that you’re unhappy and you want to cancel the listing agreement in writing. They should send you a listing agreement termination to sign. 

What is included in a listing agreement?

The listing agreement, will list the parties involved,  everything that is included in your home sale, the agent’s commission, a list of seller and agent expectations, among other things. 

How long is the listing agreement?
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What can you negotiate in the listing agreement?

In real estate, almost everything is negotiable. Speak to your real estate agent if you’re uncomfortable with certain terms. 

What exactly I am selling?

“Property” means the land, improvements, and accessories described below, except for any described exclusions.

What are improvements?

The house, garage and all other fixtures and improvements attached to the above- described real property, including without limitation, the following permanently installed and built-in items, if any: all equipment and appliances, valances, screens, shutters, awnings, wall-to-wall carpeting, mirrors, ceiling fans, attic fans, mail boxes, television antennas, mounts and brackets for televisions and speakers, heating and air-conditioning units, security and fire detection equipment, wiring, plumbing and lighting fixtures, chandeliers, water softener system, kitchen equipment, garage door openers, cleaning equipment, shrubbery, landscaping, outdoor cooking equipment, and all other property owned by Seller and attached to the above-described real property.

What are Accessories?

The following described related accessories, if any: window air conditioning units, stove, fireplace screens, curtains and rods, blinds, window shades, draperies and rods, door keys, mailbox keys, above-ground pool, swimming pool equipment and maintenance accessories, artificial fireplace logs, and controls for: (i) satellite dish systems, (ii) garage doors, (iii) entry gates, and (iv) other improvements and accessories.

What are Exclusions?

Exclusions are improvements and accessories that will be retained by Seller and must be removed prior to delivery of possession.

Who decides on the final list price and can be in changed?

The listing price is the price that a seller instructs Broker to market the Property. This price can change but only with seller’s consent. 

The broker’s compensation explained

The broker’s compensation is the amount that you agree to pay the broker for his services. Keep in mind that this fee is typically shared among the agents and brokers involved. There are normally two agents and possibly two brokers involved in a transaction; One that represents the buyer and one that represents the seller. 

How are the broker’s commissions paid?

All payments are made through the settlement statement and ultimately subtracted from the buyer’s net balance. 

Are there other agent Fees and/or Reimbursable Expenses?

Maybe, but these should be disclosed in advance under 5, D, 3 of the listing contract.

What is a protection period?

The protection period in a listing agreement is there to protect the real estate agent. For a certain amount of days after the contract expires, if any of the potential buyers that the seller’s agent brought in actually buy the home, then the seller will still owe them the commission.

Does my home have to be listed online?

It doesn’t but seller acknowledges and understands that if this option is chosen the seller’s Property will not be included in the MLS database available to real estate agents and brokers from other real estate offices who subscribe to and participate in the MLS, and their buyer clients may not be aware that Seller’s Property is offered for sale;

In addition, the seller’s Property will not be included in the MLS’s download to various real estate Internet sites that are used by the public to search for property listings; and real estate agents, brokers, and members of the public may be unaware of the terms and conditions under which Seller is marketing the Property.

When will my home be listed in the Multiple Listing Services?

You as a seller can decide.

Broker will file this Listing with one or more Multiple Listing Services (MLS) by the earlier of the time required by MLS rules or 5 days after the date this Listing begins; unless the seller instructs them differently. 

Does my sales price have to be disclosed to the MLS (master listing services)?

Submission of information to MLS ensures that persons who use and benefit from the MLS also contribute information.

MLS rules require Broker to accurately and timely submit all information the MLS requires including final closing of sales and sales prices.

Who and how will others access my property?

The listing agreement authorizes access to the Property. This means giving permission to another person to enter the Property, disclosing to the other person any security codes necessary to enter the Property, and lending a key to the other person to enter the Property, directly or through a keybox. To facilitate the showing and sale of the Property.

Seller instructs Broker to:

(1) access the Property at reasonable times;
(2) authorize other brokers, their associates, inspectors, appraisers, and contractors to access the Property at reasonable times; and
(3) duplicate keys to facilitate convenient and efficient showings of the Property.

Where will my key be kept?

A copy of your key will be kept in a supra keybox that is placed on the Property. A keybox makes it more convenient for brokers, their associates, inspectors, appraisers, and contractors to show, inspect, or repair the Property. The keybox is opened by a special programmed device so that authorized persons may enter the Property, even in Seller’s absence. 

What is a Cooperating broker?

There are usually two agents and brokers involved in any transaction.

The listing broker will allow other brokers to show the Property to prospective buyers. The listing broker will offer to pay the other broker a fee as described in the contract if the other broker procures a buyer that purchases the Property.

What is Intermediary Status

There are occasions that the listing broker will be contacted by a buyer directly.

Broker may show the Property to interested buyers who Broker represents. If a prospective buyer who Broker represents offers to buy the Property, the seller may authorize the Broker to act as an intermediary and Broker will notify Seller that Broker will service the parties in accordance to the contract. See section 9, A.

Please note that the seller can decline intermediary status.

Is any information I share with my agent confidential?

During this Listing or after it ends, Broker may not knowingly disclose information obtained in confidence from Seller except as authorized by Seller or required by law. Broker may not disclose to Seller any confidential information regarding any other person Broker represents or previously represented except as required by law.

What type of financing can I accept on my home?

Depends on the home’s condition, and sales price. Speak to you agent about those that you can consider. 

Can a seller list their home with multiple agents?

No. The seller should only be bound by one listing agreement with another broker for the sale, exchange, or lease of the property. You can cancel the first listing agreement and then sign a new one with another broker.

Do you need to inform your real estate agent of any past due balances due on the home, property taxes or any liens?

Yes, please inform your agent of any delinquent loans and all other financial obligations related to the Property, including but not limited to mortgages, home equity loans, home improvement loans, homeowner association fees, and taxes. 

I am relocating for work and my company requires that I use a relocation company. Can I choose my agent?

Depends. Speak to your company and see what their rules are. 

My property is vacant. Is there anything I should know about the listing process while vacant?

If the Property is or becomes vacant during this Listing, Seller must notify Seller’s casualty insurance company and request a “vacancy clause” to cover the Property. Broker is not responsible for the security of the Property nor for inspecting the Property on any periodic basis.

What are Addendas?

Addenda that are part of this Listing. If the item is checked off make sure it’s attached to the listing agreement. 

Do I need to inform my listing agent if I am a foreign person?

If Seller is a “foreign person” as defined by federal law, a buyer may be required to withhold certain amounts from the sales proceeds and deliver the same to the Internal Revenue Service to comply with applicable tax law. A “foreign person” is a non resident alien or a foreign corporation that has not made an election under section 897(i) of the Internal Revenue Code to be treated as a domestic corporation; or a foreign partnership, trust, or estate.

Is Curb Appeal Important? YES!

The truth is that we judge…

We do judge the home and what we can expect inside by the exterior. The exterior of the home is our first impression and will set the mood for the rest of the tour.

I know it’s sometimes easier to offer a buyer credit for paint or landscaping but don’t do it. Most buyers can’t visualize changes and often won’t take a second look at a house if the first look doesn’t appeal to them.

Let’s check out a few houses:

When I look at this home, I assume it’s abandoned. I also would consider putting on my boots just in case I encounter snakes or rodents. My first thought is that the home is unsafe so I will be very careful when walking through the home.

The first home is an extreme but let’s look at this one. The lawn looks great and is freshly cut. The front door and shudders appear to be in great shape. The landscaping is a little over grown. Although the ivy and vine growing on the home is attractive, it’s also very destructive to the home. I’d be concerned that there is a lot of structural damage under the vines.

What about this home? The home appears to me in great shape. I don’t see any peeling paint. The roof is clean and appears to be newish. The hanging plants adds a pop of color. The seating area is inviting. You can imagine yourself sitting on this patio, enjoying an evening. That’s exactly your goal! You want the buyer to see themselves living in the home. 

Clean and Repair

Step 1

Walk around your home and make a list of anything that needs to be repaired or cleaned. If it’s broken and it’s not essential to the home, consider removing it. For example, a broken gutter. Your home doesn’t NEED a gutter. So either repair it or remove it. Things to consider:

  • Power wash mold, mildew and/or dirt on the house, siding, sidewalks, or driveway.
  • Clean out any spider webs or mud daubers nests
  • Look for signs of pest. Treat for ant mounts, spiders or any other pests you might encounter. Look for signed of termites. If you think you might have termites, call a professional. See termite tunnel below.

  • Walk around the home and check out your foundation. Look for cracks and rebar exposure. If you are concerned about your foundation call a professional. Why do we have foundation issues?

Popped corners

Corner pop Repairs

Slab crack

Exposed Rebar

Water should drain away from your foundation and away from your home

Sitting water will cause wood rot and the concrete to sink

  • Cracks in your concrete? Walk the pathways to your door. Are there any tripping hazards? Is the concrete uneven? Cracks?
  • Take a look at your roof. Do you have any shingles that have any missing, lifted and/or broken shingles? Do you see any waves or bulges in the roof? Speak to professional. A new roof is a huge expense and will deter buyers. In our area a roof will typically last 15-20 years, depending on wind/storm exposure.

Missing shingles

Lifted shingles

Bulging or wavy roof

  • Pick up any items you might have laying in the yard
  • Clean all windows and gutters. While you are cleaning the window look for cracked caulking and wood damage. Repair as needed.
  • Remove any peeling paint and touch up any areas that need to be painted. This should include trim, front door, shutters and/or walls. This is especially important if the home was built before 78 because of potential lead paint.
  • Edge sidewalks and remove vegetation growing between concrete or bricks.
  • Mow the lawn and get rid of weeds. If you have patches of dead grass, consider adding sod or grass seed.
  • Rake and dispose of leaves.
  • Trim tree limbs near or touching the home’s roof. Trim all overgrown vegetation. Especially if it covers the home.
  • Clean out the flower beds. Removed weeds and old mulch. Add a thick layer of new mulch.
  • Don’t forget the backyard. Backyards are important in our area. Make sure you clean off your patio (declutter) and out door furniture.
  • Make repairs as needed to any wood decks. Treat the wood if needed.
  • Make sure the home number is visible. Trim any plants that might be covering the number. Touch up the paint if needed if the numbers have faded.
  • Check out all your exterior hardware. Has the paint faded? Spray paint them. Make sure to clean the glass and remove any dead bugs.
  • Does your doorbell work? If not, repair it.
  • If your home has gutters, check for sagging or leaking gutters. You an either repair, replace or remove them.
  • Check your fence. Consider power washing the fence if needed. Repair any loose or rotten boards

Set the Mood

Step 2


  • Add a new welcome mat or clean the one you might have
  • Add pops of color to your flower beds
  • Do you have a porch? Set up a nice seating area with colorful pillows and a nice plant. Let the buyers imagine themselves enjoying an evening on your covered porch.
  • Good flow. Make sure you are able to walk to the property without any obstacles.
  • Do you have a patio in your backyard? Consider setting up a nice seating area with a few plants.

Evening Curb Appeal

Buyer will drive by your home during the day, at night, during the weekday and the weekends. You are constantly in the spotlight. Make your home appealing at night as well.

  • Add some solar lights to your flower beds
  • Leave the lights next to the garage and porch on at night

Check out these pictures for inspiration

Holidays in December from around the world

I love that we live in an international city! We are exposed to all sorts of traditions and celebrations. I’m always curious and honored when invited to partake in these celebration. Here are a few that are celebrated in December. If you have one that I have missed, let me know. I’d love to learn about it. 

St. Nicholas Day December 6

A popular December holiday in many European countries, St. Nicholas Day, celebrates St. Nicholas of Myra, the man whose life inspired the tradition of Santa Claus and Father Christmas. He gave all of his money to the needy and was known for his compassion for children and all those in need. The holiday honors the man on the anniversary of his death, December 6, 343 A.D.

In the European countries of Germany and Poland, boys have traditionally dressed as bishops and begged alms for the poor. In Ukraine and Poland, children wait for St. Nicholas to come and to put a present under their pillows provided that the children were good during the year. Children who behaved badly may expect to find a twig or a piece of coal under their pillows. In the Netherlands, Dutch children put out a clog filled with hay and a carrot for Saint Nicholas’ horse.

Bodhi Day  (Rohastu) December 8th

Bodhi Day — or Rohatsu, as it’s known in Japan — commemorates the day in 596 BC that the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. According to tradition, the Buddha decided to sit under a pipul tree and meditate until he could discover the root of suffering, and how to liberate oneself from it.

It is celebrated by Buddhists all around the world. Some choose to celebrate the day by performing acts of kindness towards others, partaking in meditation, or chanting traditional Buddhist verses.

Buddhist homes, often have a fiscus tree displayed. On Bodhi Day, these trees are usually decorated with multi-colored lights, strung with beads to symbolize the way all things are united, and hung with three shiny ornaments to represent the Three Jewels – The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. A meal of rice and milk is also significant on this holiday, as according to Buddhist legend, this is what was offered to the Buddha upon his awakening under the Bodhi tree. Children often participate in baking heart-shaped cookies, modeled after the shape of the leaves of the Bodhi-tree.

St. Lucia Day December 13

To honor this third-century saint on December 13, many girls in Sweden dress up as “Lucia brides” in long white gowns with red sashes, and a wreath of burning candles on their heads. They wake up their families by singing songs and bringing them coffee and twisted saffron buns called “Lucia cats.”

Las Posadas December 16-24

Las Posadas is a nine-day celebration which originated in Spain, but is now mostly celebrated in Mexico, Guatemala, and in the Philippines. It begins on December 16th and ends on the night of December 24.

Las Posadas derives from the Spanish word posada (lodging, or accommodation) which, in this case refers to the inn from the Nativity story. It uses the plural form as the celebration lasts for a nine-day interval (called the novena), which represents the nine-month pregnancy of Mary.

The nine-day celebration often includes candle-lit processions re-enacting  journey through Bethlehem.  They then travel from house to house, re-enacting the journey of Mary and Joseph, until they reach a designated house where the celebration is being held that year.  The celebrations of Las Posadas wrap up on Christmas Eve with a large feast where a fruit punch is typically served (ponche navideno)

Hanukkah Dates vary 

Hanukkah (or Chanukah), also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday which celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar. On the Gregorian calendar, the eight days/nights fall on varying dates in between late November to late December. 

For each night of Hanukkah, one additional candle is lit, ending off with eight on the final night. The typical menorah/hanukiah consists of eight branches with an additional distinct branch in the middle. The extra light is called a shamash and is given a distinct location, usually above, or below the other eight. The purpose of the shamash is to have a light available for practical use, since it is forbidden to use the Hanukkah lights themselves for purposes other than publicizing and meditating upon Hanukkah.

It isn’t a holiday without food! Here are some traditional Hanukkah recipes

Soyal December 21-29

Soyal is the winter solstice celebration of the Hopi and Zuni Native American peoples. Participants for 9 days ceremonially bring the sun back from its long slumber, mark the beginning of another cycle of the Wheel of the Year

According to tradition, the kachinas (the spirits that guard over the people) come down from the mountains at the winter solstice. They remain with the people until the summer solstice. The Katsinam, which represent various beings, from animals to clouds, are messengers who send prayers for rain, bountiful harvests and a prosperous, healthy life for humankind. 

During Soyal, sacred rituals are performed in chambers, called kivas, and many ceremonies involving dancing and singing take place. During Soyal, stories are passed down from the elders to children in which they are taught important lessons.

The Hopi believe that everything that will occur during the year is arranged at Soyal.

In preparation for the kachinas’ arrival, the Hopi make prayer sticks to bless and purify the community, including their homes, animals and plants.

Yalda December 21

Yalda, or Sab-e-Yalda, meaning “birth”, in Persian is an Iranian festival celebrated on the longest and darkest night of the year. It is celebrated in the night between the last day of the ninth month (Azar) and the first day of the tenth month (Dae) of the Iranian civil calendar, which corresponds to the night of December 20th or 21st each year.

Friends and family gather together to eat, drink and read poetry until late into the night. Fruits and nuts are staple items. Pomegranates and watermelons are particularly significant as the red colour symbolizes the crimson hues of dawn and the glow of life.

Food plays a central role in the present-day form of the celebrations. Here is one of my favorite recipes.

Dongzhi December 21

Dongzhi literally means “the extreme of winter” and is one of the most important festivals celebrated by Chinese and other East Asian cultures during the winter solstice.

The origins of this festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in.

Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One activity that occurs during these get-togethers (especially in the southern parts of China) is the making and eating of rice balls, which symbolize reunion. Other dishes include dumplings, mutton soup, rice cake and red bean sticky rice. 

In Taiwan, many people take invigorating tonic foods during this particular winter festival. To the Taiwanese, winter is a time when most physical activities should be limited and you should eat well to nourish your body. 

Kwanzaa Decemer 26-January 1st

Kwanzaa is a week-long African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated December 26 to January 1st every year, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. It is based on seven core principles based on African Heritage.  The holiday was created by Maulana Karenga, and was first celebrated in 1966–1967.

Kwanzaa builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African “first fruit” celebrations: in-gathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment, and celebration.

Gifts are given mainly to children, and usually include a book and a heritage symbol. The book is to emphasize the African value and tradition of learning. The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green and are often utilized in decorations for Kwanzaa. Decorations include symbolic items such as: Mazao, the crops (fruits, nuts, and vegetables), Mkeka: Place Mat, Vibunzi: Ear of Corn, Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles, Kinara: The Candleholder, Kikombe Cha Umoja: The Unity Cup, and Zawadi: Gifts

Christmas December 25

In the Christian faith, Christmas is the historical celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether celebrated for this religious reason or solely as a cultural celebration, Christmas traditions vary around the world. While Americans celebrate with Christmas trees and visits from Santa Claus, In Australia they might decorate a “Christmas Bush,” a native Australian tree with small green leaves and flowers that turn red during the summer.

In England, Christmas traditions are similar to those in the United States, but instead of leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus, children leave mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas. In Iceland, capital city Reykjavik turns into a winter wonderland with its Christmas market and for the children, there is not one but thirteen Santas, known as Yule Lads. One arrives each night in the thirteen days before Christmas, leaving small gifts in shoes left in window sills. 

Boxing Day December 26

Boxing Day takes place on December 26. Only celebrated in a few countries, the holiday originated in the United Kingdom during the Middle Ages. It was the day when the alms box, collection boxes for the poor often kept in churches, were opened and their content distributed, a tradition that still happens in some areas. It was also the day servants were traditionally given the day off to celebrate Christmas with their families.

Boxing Day has now become a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, among other countries. In England, soccer matches and horse races often take place on Boxing Day. The Irish refer to the holiday as St. Stephen’s Day, and they have their own tradition called hunting the wren, in which boys fasten a fake wren to a pole and parade it through town. The Bahamas celebrate Boxing Day with a street parade and festival called Junkanoo. 

Ōmisoka December 31

Ōmisoka, New Year’s Eve, is considered the second-most important day in Japanese tradition as it is the final day of the old year and the eve of New Year’s Day, the most important day of the year. Families gather on Ōmisoka for one last time in the old year to have a bowl of toshikoshi-soba or toshikoshi-udon, a tradition based on eating the long noodles to cross over from one year to the next.

At midnight, many visit shrines or temples for Hatsumōde. Shinto shrines prepare amazake to pass out to crowds and most Buddhist temples have large cast bells that are struck once for each of the 108 earthly desires believed to cause human suffering. 

New Year December 31

In many places people stay up late to see the old year out and the new year in. Almost everywhere in the world fireworks are set off, church bells ring, horns toot, whistles blow, sirens shriek. It’s a time to bring in the new year.

In Ecuador, families dress a straw man in old clothes on December 31. The straw man represents the old year. The family members make a will for the straw man that lists all of their faults. At midnight, they burn the straw man, in hopes that their faults will disappear with him.

Those in Hong Kong pray to the gods and ghosts of their ancestors, asking that they will fulfill wishes for the next year. Priests read aloud the names of every living person at the celebration and attach a list of the names to a paper horse and set it on fire. The smoke carries the names up to the gods and the living will be remembered.

Three Kings Day January 3

Although this holiday is not in December, it’s part of the December holidays. At the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas comes a day called the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. This holiday is celebrated as the day the three wise men first saw baby Jesus and brought him gifts. On this day in Spain and Mexico, many children get their Christmas presents. In Puerto Rico, before children go to sleep on January 5, they leave a box with hay under their beds so the kings will leave good presents. In France, a delicious King cake is baked. Bakers will hide a coin, jewel, or little toy inside.

Do you celebrate a holiday I have not listed? Let me know, I would love to share.

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Prefabricated Homes – Modular, Manufactured and Mobile Homes

“Prefabricated” homes can refer to buildings built in components or panels that are transported to a homesite. Most people think mobile homes when their hear the word “prefabricated” home, this isn’t the case. Let’s explore these options and their pros and cons.

Modular Homes

Modular homes are created in sections, and then transported to the home site for construction and installation, think puzzle. These are typically installed and treated like a regular house, for financing, appraisal and construction purposes, and are usually the most expensive of the three. Although the sections of the house are prefabricated, the sections, or modules, are put together at the construction much like a typical home.

How can you recognize a modular home? Every modular home should have a small metal tag on the outside of each section, or in kitchen cabinets and bedroom closets.

Since modular homes are typically built using the same materials as traditional stick-built homes, it stands to reason that they will last as long as these homes.

Sample Modular Home Source
Sample Modular Home Clayton
Sample Modular Home Method Homes


  • Modular home construction tends to be more exact than on site built homes
  • These can be as large or as small as you choose.
  • There are many different style to choose from
  • Built in a weather controlled enviorment (not exposed to rain)
  • Can be constructed quickly
  • In most cases a municipality cannot differentiate between a modular home and a site-built home.
  • Manufacturers can purchase materials in bulk which will reduce overall cost
  • More financing options available


  • In most cases the home needs to be approved by city zoning and subdivision restrictions
  • You will need to already own the land where the home will be assembled
  • In most cases, the company will need to be paid in full before they start construction (this can be financed)
  • Not all mortgage lenders have knowledge in this area so finance may take longer
  • There may still be neighborhoods or municipalities that will not allow you to build a modular home
  • Perceived lower value by public may caused you issues once you are ready to resell
  • It is difficult to make changes once fabrication has started
  • When you buy a modular home, you may need to hire someone to assemble the prefabricated parts and take care of plumbing and electricity.
  • The home site (land) needs to be level and cleared of trees and wires to accommodate a large crane. The foundation must be poured perfect to fix the modular pieces
  • Prices can be deceiving because you will have to add land costs, assembling, hookups, transportation, driveway cost, etc.
  • Careful handling of the modular components while in transit is required. Sheetrock stress cracks are common.

How are modular homes built?

Manufactured or Mobile Homes

I’ve grouped these two together because there are a lot of similarities but please note that there are difference as well that I will note below.

Manufactured homes and mobile homes, or trailers, are built on wheels, and can be pulled by a vehicle. They are considered to be personal property, and are licensed by the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. They must be built to the DMV code, and pass inspection for licensing. 

Manufactured homes and mobile homes are different but they have lots of similarities. The HUD code, enacted in 1976, is really what makes a manufactured home fundamentally different from a mobile home. Some elements remain the same—for instance, they’re still built off site and then assembled on site on a rectangular chassis rather than a permanent foundation. Wheels, hitch and axles are removed on site when the home is attached to the land. Typically Manufactured homes are intended to just be moved once; whereas mobile homes can be moved several times. 

Once the land has been prepared and the foundation completed, the home may be delivered. At this point you will need electrical service. The home must be closed up as soon as it’s delivered so it won’t be damaged. This is called the finish work and it includes things like installation of roofing shingles, attaching exterior siding, construction on decks and porches, checking for leaks, etc. This will require the hiring of different contractors and good weather. 

Manufactured homes must have “HUD tags” to meet most mortgage lending guidelines. These tags, or more properly, certifications, state that the manufacturer complies with safety standards created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. A HUD tag ensures the home meets safety and livability standards, so it’s a good thing to have.

HUD stated that based to today’s building standards a manufactured home can last 30-55 years if properly maintained.

how to buy a mobile manufactured home

There are several rules you must follow to convert a manufactured home that is considered personal property or real property.

How are mobile homes converted from a “car” to a house?

Sample Manufactured Home Source
Sample Manufactured Home Source
Sample Manufactured Home Sunshine Homes


  • These homes can be placed on owned or leased land
  • Less expense overall
  • If you own the land, you might be able to use the land as collateral for the home
  • Quick built time and installation
  • They can be attached to land and made permanent
  • Potentially lower tax bills


  • Manufactured homes are considered mobile homes until they are fixed to land. See restrictions with the DMV
  • You can move them from one location to another and moving these can cause financing issued
  • Local laws may restrict movement and installation
  • Utility services are required and can be costly if not available
  • Foundations are not always needed
  • Check deed restrictions because many will restrict Mobile/manufactured homes even if they are permanently placed onto the land
  • Financing is limited and restricted. They are typically financed as personal property and land is consider “real” property. Few real estate lenders will finance mobile homes built before 1976. Financing limitations.
  • Mobile homes tend to depreciate like vehicles, not increase like traditional housing
  • Land preparation will add to the overall cost
  • Perceived lower values from public
  • Interest rates are typically higher than mortgage rates because loans for movable property are riskier for lenders
Sample Mobile Home Source

Mobile home loan Info

Mobile home loan Facts

Homesite development checklist

Land and Home Expense Planner


Your Home, Your Rules – Showing your Home during the Conoravirus outbreak

Speak to your Real Estate agent about possible changes/rules that you can implement to make your property tours safer.

These restrictions may reduce the number of visits but it will assure you that those that do tour your property are serious buyers.

1. Have your listing agent request a copy of the buyer’s pre-qualification in advance. If they are not pre-qualified they shouldn’t be touring your property.

2. Have your agent use the following form to at least ask if the parties that will tour your property have symptoms.

3. Have all persons entering your home remove their shoes 👞👡 right outside your home. Add a note to your front door requesting this just in case the buyer’s agent forgets to tell their client.

4. Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily (e.g., tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles).

5. Consider offering hand sanitizer by the front door. Add a note asking those entering to please use the sanitizer before they tour your home.

6. Speak to your agent about offering a video tour of your property. Sometimes a video with answer the questions buyers have about your property and they might rule it out based on further details. The truth is that your home is not for everyone. Let’s limit the tours to the ones that really are interested.

🗣This works both ways, if you as the seller are feeling ill please speak to your listing agent about canceling all showings until further notice.

We all have to do our part to help stop the spread!

COVID-19 Addendum provides for a 30-day extension of the closing date

My job as a Real Estate Agent is to protect my buyers and sellers during the buying and selling process. 🌟 We have seen many delays in the home selling/buying process. 🌟 These delays have caused extensions in closing dates. It’s very important to protect your interests. The Realtor Organization has created a form that will cover you should you need an extension due to the COVID19 outbreak. Ask your agent about this form. Read it and see if you feel you’d like it included in your offer/contract.

The 30-day extension under the addendum is available if the delay in closing is due to a quarantine or closure that affects the buyer, seller, or other service provider, including, but not limited to, a title company, lender, inspector, or appraiser.

Please note that any date extensions must be approved by sellers and buyers alike. If one party does not agree, you will have a problem.

Does it Freeze?

With all us buying more than usual these days we might find ourselves throwing food away that will be expiring soon or getting a little too ripe. There are ways to minimize waste and save some of these items. You can save this food with a little prep and freezer space. Below you will find a list of items that freeze very well.

Freezing Instructions


Almost all produce can be frozen.  Here are some that freeze particularly well.  See link below for instructions. I typically diced up the produce before I freeze. This is great for produce that is getting a little too ripe.

Here is a list of produce the freezes the best

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado (peeled, sliced or pureed with a little lemon/lime juice, perfect for guacamole)
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Grapes
  • Greens (including spinach, kale and collards)
  • Green beans
  • Mangos
  • Melon (cut in chunks)
  • Mushrooms (whole or sliced)
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Peaches (peeled, sliced)
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Pineapple (chunks)
  • Potatoes (cooked or raw)
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash (summer squash, zucchini, and all winter squashes)
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet potatoes (cooked or raw)
  • Tomato (I dice the tomatoes before freezing and used them in cooked meals)

Produce that freezes but don’t hold up as well

  • Cabbage (will be soggy once it unthaws but it can be used in cooked dishes)
  • Celery (same as cabbage)
  • Garlic (frozen in oil works best)
  • Herbs I blend the herbs with water or oil and pour the mixture into ice cube trays to freeze. Ginger works really well in this manner.
  • Overripe bananas, peeled and diced (great for smoothies, sorbets and baking)
  • Apples (treat with a little lemon juice, great for baking. You can also make apple sauce and freeze it in this manner)

Don’t like plain water?

Frozen Ice cubes with produce and/or herbs are a great option to flavor water and keeps your beverage cool.

Grains and Nuts

These items last much longer in the freezer due to the higher fat content. In fact, the fats will go rancid much quicker at room temperature.

  • Nuts (this also includes nut flours)
  • Seeds
  • Flours

Baked Goods and Dough

Most baked goods will freeze really well.


  • Biscuits
  • Brownies
  • Cakes (frosted or unfrosted)
  • Crackers (saltines remain perfectly fresh once opened)
  • Tortillas
  • Muffins
  • Cookies (cookies or raw in small balls)
  • Sweet breads like banana bread
  • Donuts
  • Pie (no meringue topped pies)
  • Yeast breads

Most unbaked good will freeze well but it should be portioned in advance.

Cookies: I used a small scoop to portion the cookies and I freeze them in scoops. They can be taken from the freezer to the oven. No need to unthaw.

Yeast Dough: It’s best to pre-portion before you freeze if they will be rolls. If it’s a loaf, leave it whole.

Sweet dough: Cake batters can be frozen. It will need to be unthawed before it’s baked.

Pie crust: freeze very well whole or blind baked.



Raw: Most meats can be frozen in its raw state. Unthawed and cooked as usual.

Cooked: Cooked meats freeze very well. I typically portion the cooked meats into individual portions and take them out as needed. These work great in casseroles.

Cooked or Raw Bacon: Bacon freezes well both raw and frozen. In its raw form, I normally diced it up before I freeze. This makes it super easy to take out only what you need for a recipe.

Other Items

  • Wine: Do you have left over wine? If so freeze it in ice cube trays. These cubes can be put into cooked dishes.
  • Sauces: Most sauces can be frozen and unthawed when ready to use. Think: tomato sauce, pesto, gravy, glazes, etc. Creamed based sauces don’t do well in the freezer.
  • Cooked Pasta: Place the pasta in a large freezer baggie and flatten it out before freezing. Unthaw as needed.
  • Casseroles: Almost all casseroles can be prepped in advance and frozen in an oven safe container. Think: Enchiladas, Lasagna, King Ranch Casserole, etc.
  • Fried foods can be frozen after they are fried. It’s best to reheats these in the oven to get them crispy.
  • Rice can be frozen and microwaved when ready to eat. Add a little water to create some steam.
  • Butter freezes perfectly. Just unthaw as needed. The high fat content makes this product last longer frozen
  • Block Cheeses freeze very well and last much longer in the freezer. It’s also a little easier to grate when it’s slightly frozen. Hard or semi hard cheese freeze better than softer cheeses like fresh mozzarella.
  • Eggs will freeze well separated and wished together. It’s best to portion the eggs out before you freeze so it’s easier to use in the future. These are best unthawed and used in baked good.
  • Citrus juice can be frozen in ice cube trays to later be used in recipes or drinks. The zest can be frozen as well to be used in future recipes.
  • Milk may become grainy after frozen and unthawed so it’s best for cooking and baking rather than drinking. Freeze in ice cube tray, for easy use in the future. Make sure to thaw the milk in the refrigerator.
  • Yogurt freezes well but the texture changes a bit once it’s unthawed. Eat it frozen for a cold treat.
  • Cooked beans freeze perfectly
  • Soups, stews and chili freezes very well once cooked.
  • When prepping for a meal, freeze the produce straps and meat bones for future stock preparation.

Deferred Mortgage Payments and Foreclosures

As the number of coronavirus cases in the US rise, many will find themselves unemployed or with cut hours. Yet your expenses have gone up due to unforeseen purchases. This can easily lead to financial struggles. Normally our largest expense is our mortgage payment so if we can find assistance here, it can be a relief.

There is a lot of information out there on mortgage forbearance/deferrals and foreclosures. Some of this information only applies to certain loans so make sure you ask questions before you agree to anything. Don’t assume that the bank will automatically stop payments or foreclosures. They won’t.

If you feel that making your mortgage payment will be an issue, contact your lender sooner than later. They may offer a mortgage forbearance or deferral BUT BEFORE YOU APPLY/AGREE MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THE TERMS.

A mortgage forbearance or deferral could allow homeowners to skip a few mortgage payments so that you can use your current funds on other unforeseen expenses until you return to work. This all sounds great, right!? Ask for details.

Most lenders will accumulate the skipped payments for a period of time and they will be all due once the period ends. Some lenders expect a lump-sum payment, while others offer repayment plans added to your normal mortgage payment.

We saw this happen after Harvey. Some of us contacted our lenders after Harvey and were offers a forbearance/deferral as a solution. Some of these same people were surprised to find out that after the 3-4 months of forbearance/deferral they owed 3-4 months of mortgage payments all at one time! I personally don’t feel that this is a solution. In fact, in most cases it makes matters worse.

When I hear the word deferral, I incorrectly assume that the payments are simply tacked onto the end of the loan. Although some lender did this, most did not. So ask before you agree to this assistance.


Another question to ask your lender is how your escrow will be handled. Normally part of your monthly payment will be deposited into your escrow account. This account will then pay for your insurance and taxes. What happens if you don’t make a payment for several months? Your escrow account will be short and you will get a large bill come the end of the year.

Mortgage Modification

A better option might be a mortgage modification. Normally a modification will allow you to skip a few payments and they will be added to the end of the loan or the mortgage balance is altered so that the payments are divided amoung the remaining months. Every bank does this different so ask for details.


President Donald Trump recently stated that the Department of Housing and Urban Development will suspend “all foreclosures and evictions” for a period of time. All single-family borrowers with a FHA-insured mortgage are eligible. What does this mean? It means that not all mortgage holders will fall in this suspension. It depends on the type of loan you have. If you are behind on your payments, call you lender and see if you qualify. Don’t assume you qualify. The foreclosure process in Texas is quick. Its best to speak to your lender as soon as possible. 

Helpful links:

HUD Guidelines of foreclosures and evictions (FHA loans)

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

VA Loans

Federal Housing Finance Agency

Bank of America

Wells Fargo

Chase Bank

Window Cleaning and General Maintenance

Let’s take advantage of the low temperature right now and take care of an often overlooked area of maintenance in the home. Windows!

It’s recommended that we check out windows once a year. This is one of the most common areas in which moisture gets into our homes. It’s better to catch the problem right away then try to fix it once more damage has been done. Let’s review some general maintenance suggestions:


Cleaning your windows is not only recommend for esthetic reasons but it will also extend their longevity.

One of the best tools to use is this scrubber that can be attached to any broom handle or other long poles.

I’ve tried many cleaning products and the best ones are also degreasers. These seem to do a better job of cleaning all the build up on the windows. Dawn dish soap would be my second favorite.

Don’t forget the window sill and track

  1. Open the window and vacuum the window sill
  2. Use a tooth brush and warm soapy water
  3. Get in there with q-tips if needed
  4. Wipe down and dry the area
  5. Lubricate the track. For wooden tracks, use the right wax and for vinyl tracks, use a small amount of silicone lubricant.

Here are some tips from our friend Bob Villa

Check for damage

While you are cleaning the windows go ahead and check for common damage and general maintenance that might be needed.


Check all around the window on the outside and the interior for separation in the caulking. This is one of the most common ways that moisture gets in.

Check out this video on how to caulk around your windows

Choosing the right sealant

Window Screens

Remove the screens and spray them down. As you are cleaning them check to make sure the window screens are in good shape. These can easily be repaired. Check out this video

Wood rot

Don’t forget to check the interior wood frame and interior sill. Looks for caulking separation, water stains, rot and other indications that moisture has been reaching the interior. This is one of the first places you will find damage.

Look for water stains, rot and other indications that moisture has been reaching the interior.

I love these products for minor wood rot repairs: wood hardener to treat the remaining wood and wood filler to build up any areas that are rotten.

Caulking window sills

Exterior wood rot repair

This is a more severe case of wood rot and water damage around a window.

TIP: This is a great cheap tool you can use to check for moisture in wood and sheetrock

Foggy Windows

Occasionally double pane window will get foggy or you will see moisture accumulation between the panes. This normally happens when the seals around the edges of the glass begin to fail and it allows the inert gas to escape and outside air to enter the space between the glass panes.

Before you do anything check to see if your windows are under warranty.

This page offers a better explanation and possible solutions.

Do you have any comments or suggestions? I’d love to hear them

Short Term Rental Scams

When people hear Airbnb, HomeAway or VRBO, they think vacation. These services connect homeowners who want to rent out a room or their entire house or apartment with travelers who want an alternative to hotel chains.

These short term rentals are used for many other reasons. They are temporary homes between selling and buying a home. They are temporary homes for business trips. They are used as temporary housing for college students.

These types of rentals can also be found on Craig’s list, facebook market page, other social media, etc.

In the last few years there has been a rise in cases of fraud.

Let review some of the most common scams:

  • Fake Rental – One scheme known as take the money and run occurs when a fraudster creates a fake vacation rental listing or website to get money from unaware victims. The pictures are usually stollen from other sites and the property they are advertising doesn’t usually exist. The fraudster will typically ask you to pay the first and last day or sometimes the stay in full. Once they receive the funds they tend to disappear. Usually the victim will not find out they were scammed until they show up at the property (or lack of property).
  • Bait and switch – Another scam is the bait and switch. In this scam, the fraudster shows unavailable properties to lure the would-be renter to a less-desirable property. This is sometimes done in a sneaky way. You may not even know you’ve been scammed.
    • Imagine that the short-term rental owner calls you the day of check-in. You are informed that the previous guest had flushed something down the toilet, which had left the unit flooded with water. He offers you another unit in the mean time and they will let you know when the flooded unit is available (which is probably never). This other unit is usually not the same quality.
  • Price jacking – You get to the property and it’s the property you expected but you are asked to pay more at the last minute. They may push you to pay by turning on the home’s WIFI, turn off the lights, etc.

In 2019, the median loss of victims who reported rental scams to Scam Tracker was $996. The Apartment List survey found that the median loss was $400, but one in three victims lost more than $1,000.

  • Let’s share the winnings: This is typically a scam targeting the short term rental owner. They will ask the owner to charge a certain amount for a room they never plan on using. In exchange they want the owner to give them 1/2 of the amount charged. If you receive a check that’s for more than the specified amount, return it. Do not deposit it. 
  • Cancelled Booking – The victim will receive an email stating that the home or home is not longer available due to renovations or repairs. You are informed that you will get a refund (which never happens).
  • No showings but give me more info – If you ask to see the property and they either tell you no or they book a tour but end up canceling. At times they will ask you to fill out an application with tons of personal info before they allow you to see the property. They might asked to run a credit check before they show you the property—they might say the property is so popular that they are only entertaining serious inquiries or a similar excuse. Red Flag.
  • Home for Rent – Longer term rentals also experience fraud. Fraudsters will use homes that are currently up for sale (and vacant) and they will list them for rent; normally using the same pictures. Sometimes they even gain access to the home and have copies of the keys. They will collect the security deposit and 1st rent, have them sign a lease, and give the victims the keys. It all looks legit until someone shows up to tour the home and realized that there is someone already living in it!
  • Rent-to-Own – I know this is appealing to some renters but the fact is that there is a lot of fraud in this area. This can be legally done by signing a rental agreement with an option to purchase.
Sample Fraud Communication
  • You owe me money! – On occasions the fraudster (property owner) will contact you after the fact and request that you pay a certain amount for repairs. Take photos and video of a property when they arrive and when they leave.
  • Room for Rent/fraudster tenant – There are fraudsters that are renting rooms in vacant homes or homes that they might have rented legitimately but have stop making payments on their rent. Normally they will try to rent every room in the home within a short period by offering an amazing rate. They will take a deposit and the month’s rent in advance. Shortly after they disappear.
  • No Credit Check – If someone is willing to rent you a home or a room for a period of time, wouldn’t they be concerned about your credit or criminal history? Red flag.
  • You can pay the rest later – If the property owner tells you that you can pay a portion of your security deposit now and the rest later, be careful. This is a way to establish trust and they may only be seeking to steal the first part of the payment.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Reverse image search – If you search the images and you find that they are stock pictures or they belong to another listing, this should be a BIG red flag.
  • Contact number – Search for the property owner’s telephone number. If it turns out to be a google number, this might be an issue. Not to say that all google numbers belong to fraudsters but I’d be on high alert.
  • Map the address – Map the address and make sure there is a property located at that address. Does the home match those in the picture?
  • Read reviews – A lot of times just reading the reviews will cause red flags. Do the good reviews sound strange? Do they use the same wording you found in the ad?
  • Cancellation Alerts – Are there multiple cancellation alerts on a property? Red Flag.
  • Price too good to be true? – It probably is. Red Flag. A guest offering to pay extra for a week because they love your place? Scam! A single traveler renting your five-bedroom house for themselves? Scam! Trust your instinct.
  • Payments – Is the host asking you to take their business off the official site? Red flag. All communications and payments should be handled through the site. If they ask for a money order or wire, backoff and report them.
  • Website – before making a payment look at the website address. Sometimes you are sent a link to an “airbnb” like site but the web address is not correct. vs.

  • Owner Search – Search for the property’s owner. Make sure that the person that you are dealing with is the owner.  It will not hurt to ask for documentation to prove the identity of the person you are dealing with. If you find the property is owned by a company, call the company and see what you can find out.
  • Few or no reviews – Red Flag
  • Lease – You are asked to sign a lease before you are able to see the place/room.

More info/Sources: