An update, since the world is waiting on me

I think most of these blog posts have to do with me continuing to want to add to the site, but then I never get around to it.  So then a few months go by, and then I decided to write another blog post about how I would like to continue to write blog posts.  I suppose it is some vicious cycle that I just can’t seem to get out of.

Figure 1.  The Blogging Cycle.

Figure 1. The Blogging Cycle.

Actually, I have written a few things, but it has been for my company’s website.  However, I have still decided to hold off on publishing those, because… Well, it’s hard to show anything on my website!  Everything is either in design, in for permitting, or under construction.  As interesting as underground plumbing rough-in is, images of select fill and PVC pipe don’t really state my mission.  But, I guess one sign of me not writing here is: things are actually still going well on the company front.  One of my “career maker” projects is well underway, and maybe I can pay myself (meaning my credit card) back for all of these company expenses.  Although starting an architecture firm is relatively cheap compared to other businesses, it seems like it slowly creeps up on you, especially when bankrolling it without a partner.  Throw on top of that – the decision to do this was right after I made a decision to acquire my first income real estate with a good friend of mine, so say goodbye to tens of thousands of dollars that maybe… I could have used on the business!  I guess by the end of this year, I might add up all of the costs associated with this venture.

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Here is my lease property. It has since been painted, and it is nicer and cooler than my own house.  It is also fully leased.  Yay.

I may have written this here before, I’m not sure, and this Saturday morning, over a nice cup of coffee, or eight of them, I’m not interested in researching it – but the reason I wanted to start this was frankly because a mentor of mine told me:

“if you want to do something in this world, and no one else is doing it, go do it yourself.”

So here I am.  Right now I don’t really look like I’m doing anything differently – I have a small architecture firm with a good team of consultants and contract labor, trying to stay lean through the start-up times, but I plan on truly building it.  However, that’s just the start.  I began the company to eventually develop real estate, which has also been done, and the architecture is a means to help start that venture.  I’m starting my first two development projects, so the business is slowly getting off of the ground, but the deal cycle on those is extremely long…  and the design side keeps growing, so I can’t complain.  The ultimate goal here is to have a design-oriented real estate development company. Honestly I don’t know many successful ones, and none in the area.  So here I am!  Just a chick getting out of the shell, but riding a little wave of success on my way out.  Even though there is nothing on the company’s website, I’m pleased to say that ever since I started this, I have been slowly putting myself into a position to make a real impact on our industry and our city, and I’ll be excited to move expand to the next one (I have a city in my long-range sites).

I took a trip to Marfa in September to write out business plans and get a lot of stuff down on paper.  And take a handful of photos.  I’ll be coming up on six months of that trip, and it will soon be time to revisit and revise it. I looked it over during the New Year, and I know there is a lot that will already need to be changed.  Yes, I’m actually living the advice of writing a business plan, and treating it as a “living document!’  Right now, I guess it is for my benefit only.

View of the Rio Grande as I wrote the first draft of my business plan.  Click the image for my shots of Marfa.

View of the Rio Grande as I wrote the first draft of my business plan. Click the image for my shots of Marfa on Flickr.

So more boring stuff coming your way:

  • Want to start an architecture firm?  This is what it cost me… This will be late in December.
  • I have an upcoming trip, late in the summer, which will include the Philippines and a good portion of China.  This trip will include visiting my sister, who has not left just yet, but has set up her blog here.  I’m also planning on making connections in China, both for development and another little business I want to explore.
  • I’m trying to upload “everyday photos” which aren’t posted every day, but I need some activity on the site!
  • I’ll probably write about my experience on my first half marathon.  Running Sucks.

That’s all I have on the docket right now, other than maybe some shop talk here and there… But for whatever reason, writing and publishing this garbage information is therapeutic to me, so just bear in mind… It’s all about me here.

OK I’m trying again

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This doesn't fit with the post, but here it is. Well, maybe it does.

So as usual I chide myself for not updating this poor neglected blog.  I ended up having ideas about what to write, but the project get long and daunting.  Other things I would like to write about get tied up in the “should I or should I not write about this” category due to other stakeholders involved… so, I stay quiet.  So now, at the end of the day on a Thursday, I sit down to write about nothing at all.

2011 had a bunch of events jammed into it – I had finalized my license in the previous year and followed up in 2012 with upgrading my real estate salespersons license to a brokerage license and completed a degree with the University of North Texas – the close of a long chapter of my life which ran in parallel with other events… I suppose creating a career was one of them.  Over the course of that process I found another interest of mine, mediation, which I got involved with… maybe that should be another blog post as well.

So I have things to write about – in November I attended a conference with a group called Entrepreneur’s Organization, which I found very energizing.  I am yet a member but need to sign up… A severe workload has put a lot of things, including this, on the back burner.  So, that trip is another blog post… It will probably come in February or later, making the recap three or four months old… nice.  Well, I will have had a good chance to reflect by then.

Lets see, what else – I was accepted into The Real Estate Council’s ALC program which is in full swing – I suppose thats something I should talk about, but there is an official blog on our project which should go up soon, so maybe I shouldn’t just yet.  I’m co-chair of our project, which has some demands on my time as well.

My company has also been caught up in a “merger” of sorts, which has presented its opportunities and challenges.  I have added another to the group and will add one more at the beginning of February.   I had a marquee student housing project (at least for me) last year that started construction in August and will finish for the fall semester 2012.  I have two other major projects that we are working on, and am optimistic about our future…  A nice feeling for a change.  I’m out to invent our company from the ground up and work on the practice from a business standpoint – actually bringing some of the principles of my long and drawn out education (business management, sociology, and applied economics) into the field of architecture.  I’m still in the planning stages, but so far my small group is receptive to the change.  The challenge is delivering on the promise.  But as long as I keep taking a step back to make sure we’re focused I have confidence we can make this work and make it work well while improving the product of our work.  It starts with a group of “A players,” which I believe we are starting to build.

A creepy picture I took in Chicago. Oh yeah, I went to Chicago.

Here are my Chicago pictures without me or anyone else I know in them.  I wanted to put the link in the caption but Worpress says no.  So, despite the feeling like 2011 has slipped by with no forward movement, I suppose  a lot has happened and I just haven’t stopped to notice.  I also bought a new fun car which I’ll probably write some short blurb about, although its not really blog worthy.  Maybe I should stop worrying about what’s blog worthy.

I’ve started putting a portfolio of sorts on Architizer, which may be a better spot for my stuff, anyway.  No sense in putting all of the old stuff that I simply did the CAD work for in my youth… but actual design work.  It doesn’t seem as cool as all of the awesome houses and such on the site, but it is a nice place to put the work and actually generates some traffic, which is helpful.

So here I go, starting again.  What made me even write this post was the fact that I have signed up for the Sam’s Club Ride for MS again, Dallas’ local MS 150.  That was the last time I used the blog… So that, peppered with little tidbits of my boring life, will hopefully generate some content to this sad little site.  Until next time!

Dallas Area Housing Values

 

Dallas Skyline as seen from the top of the Ritz Carlton Phase II condos while under construction

 

 

I know this blog is supposed to be about architecture, but seeing as I passed the brokerage exam (still waiting, two weeks later, on my paperwork) I do pay attention to housing – just because I have learned a lot in the transactions I have been a part of.

In the Dallas area, we have been blessed with a housing market which has not been hit nearly as bad as other areas.  We have had our share of builders with excessive inventories and neighborhoods which have had concentrated pockets of problems, but on the average the Dallas market has done relatively well.  From the graphic below from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University (using data from MetroTex, which is Dallas’ local chapter of Realtors) one can see that we saw a substantial drop in average price in 2009 which was quickly recovered in 2010.

Source: T A&M Real Estate Center

 

Volume, showed in blue, is significantly lower, which is most likely a result in the lack of confidence – people less likely to build a new house, trade up, or whatever the case may be.  This has been a lesson in economics – prices will not ALWAYS go up.  The long term trend, however, from 1979 shows growth, but like any other investment vehicle, homes are not steady.  My own thoughts are that home prices will remain relatively flat for quite a while.

 

This graphic shows price distribution – we you can see numbers from 2000 in blue and 2010 in red.  Interesting phenomenon here is a substantial shift from the 100-120K range to the higher end range, showing more expensive homes have not been apparently as hard hit (and therefore are still conveying ownership) as the median price range.

 

Source: T A&M Real Estate Center

 

I’m going to hope that this has been adjusted for 10 years of inflation.  It does not say so on the graphic, but usually these guys are pretty smart.  Just from a simple inflation calculator that I use regularly (this uses the CPI), $100,000 in 2000 would be valued at $123,357 in 2009, which is a pretty good jump.  Real estate rolls a little differently due to markets and liquidity, but the power of a dollar should still be a factor in this comparison.

 

Is it required to disclose a murder on a property in Texas?

In studying for my real estate broker’s test (which is tomorrow), I ran across a question that I always took the answer to for granted…  It ended up being a lot more complicated than I thought.  Being an architect, I’m accustomed to having to fall back on codes or laws, and I’m always looking for a source.  So I went to look for the answer to:

Is it required to disclose a murder on a property in Texas?

I have always thought the answer was yes.  However, when checking the sources, I didn’t get an answer I really liked.  I went first to the Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 1101, which is effectively the Texas Real Estate License Act.  Here is what we have:

Sec. 1101.556. DISCLOSURE OF CERTAIN INFORMATION RELATING TO OCCUPANTS.

Notwithstanding other law, a license holder is not required to inquire about, disclose, or release information relating to whether:

(1) a previous or current occupant of real property had, may have had, has, or may have AIDS, an HIV-related illness, or an HIV infection as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States Public Health Service; or

(2) a death occurred on a property by natural causes,suicide, or accident unrelated to the condition of the property.

Added by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1421, Sec. 2, eff. June 1, 2003

Okay, then I went to the rules of the Texas Real Estate Commission.  This has some additional items not included in the OC, but there I found nothing.

So, in Texas, one is not REQUIRED to disclose a murder in the house…  HOWEVER, I went to the Texas Association of Realtors.  Here I found a good summary (finally):

Must a seller disclose that a murder occurred on the property and, if so, how should this be done?(updated Jan. 1, 2002)

  • Section 5.008(c) of the Texas Property Code provides that “a seller or seller’s agent shall have no duty to make a disclosure or release information related to whether a death by natural causes, suicide, or accident unrelated to the condition of the property occurred on the property.” Murder is not covered by this “no duty” rule. Since a murder occurring on the property might be considered a material fact concerning the property that a buyer would want to know in deciding whether to purchase the property, it’s probably prudent for sellers to disclose this fact.

TAR’s Seller’s Disclosure Notice (TAR 1406) contains a question that asks the seller about deaths not covered by the “no duty” rule. Where a murder has occurred on the property, the seller should answer this question in the affirmative. In explaining the “yes” answer, the seller is not required to explain in great detail the circumstances surrounding this death. The seller might include a statement that indicates more detailed information about the murder is available upon request.

Since it is almost certain that the neighbors will inform buyers about deaths on the property, whether those deaths involve murder or any of the deaths covered by the “no duty” rule, sellers may choose to voluntarily disclose information about all deaths in order to avoid those situations where buyers concerned about deaths on the property want to terminate pending contracts.

 

Hearts and Hammers, Week 1

For the last few years, I have been on the team for The Real Estate Council for Hearts and Hammers Dallas.  This year, however, I was moved up to co-captain of one of two houses.  I actually didn’t know I was until I received an email for a meeting related to it, and I showed up.  Apparently, the email meant I was going to turn it up a notch.

Hearts and Hammers is a program that serves people in the area (there are chapters all over the country) who need help with their homes.  The clients must meet a certain income level and a certain amount of need.  In Dallas, the City actually takes this task on.  They take the applications and perform the interview process and background check.  I do not know what all of the requirements are to receive help, but it appears that the City goes out of its way to make sure we are helping the right folks.

When we come in, we basically pick out the houses, schedule the pick up days for materials, and coordinate what we need, what our scope of work is, and how many workers we will need.  Hearts and Hammers actually provides the majority of the materials; however, their materials are somewhat limited – if there is some other work you need to do, it is up to the teams to get that done.

This year, the program accepted money from HUD, which put a new set of rules in place having to do with the control of lead based paint.  The captains had to go to a training event, where an instructor went through a Power Point presentation provided by HUD and played a short instructional video.  Mostly, the information had to do with dust management and collection (keeping the paint from staying on the ground and soaking into the soil).  All was good, but it made me think about a few things.

There were a couple of other items that were typically provided by the program that were not this year.  The Real Estate Council has a budget for this project; so covering was not necessarily a problem.  However, the fact that Hearts and Hammers did not cover certain things and that they accepted HUD money shows that they have had budget cuts just like many of the programs in Dallas have suffered (I assume it is coming from Dallas due to the items not provided – I’m just choosing not to go into what they were).

On a general level, it got me talking with my girlfriend about budget cuts made my governments.  Since our city, just like many others, is suffering from budget problems, the program gets less money. Well, fine.  But what happens when times get better?  Will they get their original budget back, or will the increase in revenue go to other programs, or even new programs?  After listening to the budget meetings for the City of Dallas, I am beginning to wonder about this on many levels: the libraries and rec centers in particular – will they increase their hours and programs back to what they were before?  I suppose only time will tell.  This is the first time I have had firsthand experience with a government budget cut (I work in pretty much all private work), so I have no experience to base any sort of projection.

Week one was prep work – clear out the property, scrape the house down, and fix odds and ends with skilled labor (i.e., not me).  Our carpenters got a lot done on my house, and a few folks from my firm were able to handle some of the difficult items on the other house.  Next week, we will paint and landscape, making everything all nice and pretty (right now my house looks like it has been in a war).  This is when we have the most volunteers show up.  I’ll post more when we are done!

I will also get a picture of the house up as we were working on it when I receive one.