San Antonio spotlight on Top Chef!

I’m a fan of the Top Chef series on Bravo, and especially the current season, which was filmed in Texas and mostly right here in San Antonio!  Last night’s episode (Feb. 1) was fun to watch as the final 5 contestants rode bikes around downtown looking for ingredients, then had to find a restaurant kitchen to use for preparation before serving lunch to Pee Wee Herman and the other judges at the Alamo!  One of the big topics in downtown housing options is the lack of a downtown grocery store, so I was curious as to where these chefs were going to find the fresh food items they needed to prepare a lunch.  I’m still not sure exactly where they came up with their ingredients (besides using some things they found in the restaurants they “borrowed”), but it was fun to watch!


I especially loved when one of the contestants was arriving on scene to do his final prep before serving.  He stopped on the street, pointed ahead, and asked someone, “Is that the Alamo?”  Yeah, it was!  I thought everyone knew what the Alamo looked like!  Guess not!

It was fun to see the chefs use the kitchens in several popular Southtown restaurants.  I’ve had the pleasure of visiting 2 of the 5 that were featured, and now I’m even more determined to get to the others!  The two I’ve enjoyed were Rosario’s and La Frite–have had memorable meals at both and I highly recommend them!  One that is on my list to visit soon is Madhatters Tea–have heard lots of good things about it!  San Antonio offers so many choices in dining options, from fast food, to chain restaurants, to neighborhood “joints” to local fine dining.  And just about everything in between.

If you’re looking for someplace to take your Valentine for dinner, why not try looking in a different part of town from where you live/work?  There are some great options in all parts of the city.  And the same goes for probably any place–get out of your normal routine–try someplace new and different!  Explore a new part of town!  You may find a hidden treasure and open up all kinds of new possibilities!

Good luck, and enjoy the exploration!



Deductible Is the Point

Points refer to prepaid interest on a home mortgage and can be fully deductible by the buyer in the year paid if the right conditions exist. The points must be used to buy, build or improve a taxpayer’s principal residence but not all fees charged by the lender are necessarily deductible.

According to IRS Publication 936, “The term ‘points’ is used to describe certain charges paid, or treated as paid, by a borrower to obtain a home mortgage. Points may also be called loan origination fees, maximum loan charges, loan discount, or discount points. A borrower is treated as paying any points that a home seller pays for the borrower’s mortgage.”

If you purchased a home in 2011, have your tax professional evaluate your closing statement to see if there are loan fees that may be used as a deduction on your tax return regardless of whether you or the seller paid them.

Refinancing a principal residence or purchasing an investment or income property require that points must be deducted ratably over the term of the mortgage rather than deducting them fully in the year paid. Borrowers in these situations should consider the benefits of lower interest rates from paying point to higher interest rates without points.

This article is meant to provide information that can be discussed with your tax professional about your specific situation and is not to be considered tax advice.

Choose Your Deduction

One third of all U.S. households, 75% of households with more than $75,000 income and most homeowners itemize their deduction on their federal income tax returns. It makes sense because the interest paid on their mortgage and their property taxes probably exceeds the allowable standard deduction.

However, with interest rates as low as they have been in the last two years and the price of homes having come down considerably, it is possible that the standard deduction may be the better choice.

Each year, the taxpayer can compare the total of the itemized deductions to the standard deduction to select which method will result in the most benefits. The 2011 standard deduction is $11,600 for married couple filing jointly and $5,800 for single filers.

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 allows homeowners to take the standard deduction and the lesser of their actual property taxes of $1,000 if filing their return married jointly. For more information, see Schedule L found on and consult your tax advisor.

I resolve…..will you too?

OK, it’s 2012 and we’ve all made our resolutions for the year, right?  Sometimes, it’s the same old same old we do every year–get organized, exercise more, eat healthy, yada yada yada!

This year, in addition to those same ones I do every year, I’m going to make some new resolutions for working with my clients, and I’m going to hope they’ll extend them right back to me!  I’m putting them in writing so they mean something!  Here’s what I promise for them and hope to get in return in 2012 (and thanks to Nowlin Roberts, my hairdresser, for his blog post which gave me the idea!  Check him out at www.Beyondthecallof ):

I will / I hope my clients will:

—Listen to my clients to learn about what they want and what they need when buying and/or selling a home so that I can guide them and assist them through the process, minimize the stress, and maximize their satisfaction at the end.
—Listen to Sue’s advice and follow it so that she can do her job and things will go smoothly.

—Educate my client about the process and what to expect at each step along the way.  Keep my clients informed and answer all questions that they have as we move down the path.
—Use the information Sue provides, read what she sends me, and do what she needs me to do.

—Be on time for appointments or call if I’m going to be late and reschedule if necessary.

—Work on my communication skills so that all parties to a transaction are kept fully informed, and respond in a timely manner to my clients, my colleagues, and anyone working to facilitate a transaction.
—Speak up and/or ask questions if I don’t understand what’s happening or am uncomfortable with any part of the transaction.  Respond in a timely manner to all e-mails, voice mails, and other communications from Sue, the title company, the loan officer, or anyone else who is working on my behalf.

—When we’re all done, and throughout the process, give my client multiple reasons to refer me to friends, family, and colleagues.
—Refer my friends, family, and colleagues to Sue as a way of recognizing and rewarding her efforts in helping me buy or sell my home.

—Be the best REALTOR® I can be!
—Be the best client I can be!

That’s my pledge and those are my expectations!   I’d love for you to be my client so you can make sure I follow through!  Call or e-mail me and let’s get you moving!

[email protected]




As REALTORS®, there are certain behaviors that are expected of us in dealing with the public, our clients, and our colleagues.  Most of them are just common sense and common courtesy, but it amazes me how UNcommon these behaviors can be sometimes!  I’d like to highlight a few things that some of my fellow REALTORS® need to remember, and, if you’re a buyer or seller, and your REALTOR® isn’t doing these things with/for you, you should remind him or her also!  All these “reminders” (and many more!) are in the Pathways to Professionalism brochure, published for members of the San Antonio Board of Realtors.

Respect for the Public
  Present a professional appearance at all times, dress appropriately, and drive a clean car!  Dressing “appropriately” depends a lot on the activity one is dressing for!  Showing houses all day in San Antonio summer weather means we can dress comfortably–it does not mean we show up in cut-offs, t-shirts, and flip-flops!  Looking at rural properties?  Jeans and boots are more appropriate than a 3-piece suit.  Meeting a client for the first time (or any time really)?  Don’t show up looking like you just rolled out of bed or were out partying all night!  Ladies, short short skirts and low cut tops are not appropriate business attire–even if you have the “assets” to make them look good!  And please, keep your car looking presentable!  If you parked under a tree and the birds had a field day, run through the car wash!  If you use your car as a mobile office (and many of us do), keep your papers contained and throw away your food trash!

Respond promptly to calls, e-mails, and other inquiries.  And remember to tell what you know, not what you think!  If you don’t know, refer the client to sources for information or offer to find out what they need to know and get back to them.

Respect for Property:

Never enter a property without permission, and be responsible for all who are entering with you.  Schedule your showings as far in advance as possible, and if the property is occupied, please call if you’re running late for an appointment.

If the property is occupied, please remember that it is still someone else’s home.  Be considerate.  Do not allow your clients to smoke, eat, drink, let children run around, bring pets, handle personal items, etc.  Practice the golden rule!

If something seems amiss, notify the listing agent right away.  Leave the property as you found it–turn off lights, close doors, lock up when you leave, set alarms, etc.  Leave a business card to let owners/listing agent know you were there.

Respect for Peers:

Respond promptly to inquiries, voice mail, e-mail, texts.  And when you leave voice mails, clearly identify yourself, your questions, and the best way to reach you.

Treat colleagues with courtesy and respect, ask questions, supply information.

Just keeping these simple courtesies in mind and practicing them consistently helps smooth the path between us as REALTORS® and our clients and colleagues.  Buying or selling a home are stressful endeavors.  Part of our job as  real estate professionals is to help facilitate that process and make it as easy as possible for all parties.  We all have enough stress in our lives that we have to deal with every day that we can’t control.  Here’s one area we can completely control and help everyone, including ourselves!

Here’s to a positive real estate experience!



It’s that time again!

Unbelievably, it’s that time again–holiday time!  Stores around town are decorated, I’ve been getting catalogs and e-mails with holiday sales already–and it’s still early November!  Is it just me, or does this time seem to come around earlier every year???  Sigh!

We just “fell back” from Daylight Savings Time.  I’m starting to think about Thanksgiving and realizing that it’s going to be here way too quickly!  And now, let’s throw the stress of holiday/Christmas preparation into the mix!  But, I was out shopping yesterday for a couple of things I needed and while I was out, I found something that someone on my gift list could use so I bought it.  I have officially started my Christmas shopping!!  Those of you reading this who can say you’re already finished–don’t even go there!!  I don’t want to know!

I’ve been collecting recipes for homemade goodies to make, package, and give.  I’m going to be cooking and sampling soon to decide which ones are worth the cost, time, and effort.  If I find a real stand-out, I’ll share the recipe here.  Until then, time to make some lists and, for a change, a budget!  I am determined to not go overboard this year!  Of course, I’m determined not to every year, and I usually do anyway, but this year’s going to be different!  I’m going to get organized and be a budget-minded Santa!   Hey, there’s a first time for everything!

Hope you’ve enjoyed your extra hour of sleep–I sure did!  Now to use that hour wisely and get my holiday activities in gear.  Oh, and I still need to do some real estate business too!  Know anyone who may be interested in purchasing or selling a home?  Please send them my way!

Happy Holidays!


Time for Ghosts and Goblins!


Here we are, in mid-October!  Stores are full of Halloween–from candy to costumes to decorations!  The fun is almost here!  Seems like Halloween has become as much of an adult holiday now as it is a kids’ one–guess we just decided it was too much fun to give up, just because we all grew up!

San Antonio offers lots of fun activities all around town for all ages, from haunted houses to safe trick-or-treating to clinics and some hospitals that will check candy for safety!

All us us “adult” kids have our own kinds of Halloween fun to enjoy, but if yours includes children or if you live near where they’re likely to be on Halloween evening, here are a few reminders about safety.  Halloween is a fun time–let’s keep it that way!


 Keep pathways and porches well lighted for easy navigation. Look for and remove any tripping hazards such as garden hoses and low potted plants.

Never use candles as outdoor decoration as costumes, kids and pets can easily knock them over and cause a fire. Use small battery-operated lights instead. There are some that look just like small votive candles and provide the same effect without the flame.

If using decorations such as dried corn stalks, be sure to keep them away from any flames or other fire sources.

Trick-or-treaters should use flashlights to guide their way from home to home. This will also help them be more visible to drivers. Stick to familiar neighborhoods, and visit only homes where the lights are on.

Be sure that any costumes are labeled as flame resistant. This makes them safer, but does not mean they are completely flame proof. Avoid overly long and loose sleeves, and be sure the length allows the child to walk normally.

If using masks, be sure they fit the child properly and allow them to see clearly. Alternatively, face paint or make-up is a good option for a safe disguise.

Children should refrain from eating their goodies until a parent can examine the treats for opened or damaged wrappers or any off-limits ingredients.  And, parents, you might want to “ration” the goodies over several days.  Halloween’s on a school night this year, so if you want your little goblins to sleep that night, don’t let them eat too much that evening!  (Consider this the voice of experience!)

When driving, be on the lookout for trick-or-treaters that may dart out into the street unexpectedly. Drive slowly and cautiously, and make sure headlights are on.

Turn on your porch light to let trick-or-treaters know your home is welcoming them.  If  you won’t be home, consider leaving a bowl of treats outside or just leave your lights off.   Also, turn the lights off when your treats are gone!

Speaking of treats, if you give out food/candy, be sure things are individually wrapped, for safety.  Otherwise it’s likely to be discarded.  Alternatively, consider giving out non-food items–many stores offer inexpensive coupons you can purchase.  Or consider inexpensive party favors with a Halloween theme–available at party stores or other places that sell party goods.  Kids get so much candy, sometimes parents appreciate seeing something else in that goodie bag!

Remember your pets–doorbells ringing and strangers coming can be upsetting to some, so consider keeping them safely enclosed in a bedroom or other quiet place.  Don’t let your pets, especially cats, roam outside on Halloween.

Be safe and enjoy the evening!              

ICE–Are you prepared?

The summer of 2011 has been brutal here in San Antonio and surrounding areas.  Extreme heat, no rain, exceptional drought.  In short, perfect conditions for fire danger!  And the danger became real in these last few weeks.

You’ve probably seen reports of the horrendous fires burning around Texas, particularly in the Bastrop area.  Over 1500 homes–gone!  Damages in the millions of dollars!  Several lives lost, countless lives turned upside down.  Sometiimes it’s strange to watch all that on TV and think, “wow, what if that happened here?”  Well, Labor Day, it did–in San Antonio!  Every day for a week, new fires broke out around the city–in all parts of the city.  And given the extreme dryness of plants, yards, trees, these fires spread like, well, wildfire!  One of them was just a few miles from my home and watching the local news coverage, I saw people I know who had had to evacuate their homes in minutes, most of them with nothing but the clothes on their backs and whatever few things they could grab, throw in the car, and get out with.

That was scary!  And it’s really gotten me thinking about what I would do if that ever happens to me.  The police are banging on the door and saying you have 10 minutes or less to get out–what do you take?   Family and pets first, of course–hoping you can find your pets and get them into the car (could be harder than you think!).  But beyond that, what else?  Here are a few suggestions:

Important papers. You’ll need to be able to prove your identity, your residence, and have access to your financials.  Grab your passport, your birth certificate, military discharge, insurance documents, credit cards, cash, anything you would store in a safe deposit box, if you haven’t already.

Family heirlooms. Even if you have insurance coverage, sentimental value cannot be replaced.

Cash, jewelry, gold/silver coins, collectibles. Don’t forget your checkbook, credit cards, coin collections, stamp collections, anything of value.

Photos/photo albums. Treasured family photos should be digitized and backed up, but if you have some that are not, grab ’em.  Also any artwork that’s not scheduled on your homeowners insurance policy.

Anything else that cannot be replaced.

OK, you have an idea of what to grab, but do you know where it all is?  If you had only minutes to find all these things, could you?  If the answer is no, then now’s a good time to gather these things together and put them in a bag that you can pick up on the way out the door.  Better yet, scan and save the paperwork items to a jump drive and keep that in a safe deposit box or somewhere you can find it quickly.

Consider taking some pictures on your smartphone of the rooms in your home and items of value so you’ll at least have that for insurance purposes.  Keep you computer files backed up with Carbonite or some other backup system. That way you’ll be able to access your files even if your equipment is lost.

Make a plan and be sure everyone in the family knows it! Decide on a place to meet, be sure everyone has access to a cell phone, have a number to call to check in if you get separated.  Cell phone service could possibly be disrupted so decide in advance on a location where everyone can convene.  Also have a plan to get out of your home in the event of a real emergency and be sure everyone knows the plan and has practiced it.

God willing, you will never need to use any of these suggestions, but if you ever do, being prepared can make all the difference!

Home Security fixes/upgrades

Everyone wants to feel safe and secure at home, wouldn’t you agree?  That’s one of the reasons first-time homebuyers want their own home–to feel safe and have peace of mind.  Many homeowners have installed security systems that help them achieve that peace of mind, and certainly a monitored security system is one of the best investments you can make for your family’s safety.

But, what if your home doesn’t have a security system already installed and your budget doesn’t have room for that at the moment?  Are there other ways you can make your home more secure?  Absolutely!  And many of them can be done without a huge investment, maybe even as a weekend d-i-y project.  Here are some suggestions for things you can do around your home. Hope you find some that will work for you!

1. Install a better door!  Ideally, any door that allows entry from outside should be solid core or steel.  There are a wide range of choices in price, finish, and style to complement your home.

2. Install a peep hole.  An easy do-it-yourself project so you always can see who’s there before you open the door.

3. Consider adding a mail slot in the door.  Newer homes and neighborhoods may not allow this to comply with postal regulations, but if you’re in an older home in an older neighborhood that has an outside mailbox, removing the box and adding a mail slot in the door may prevent theft of checks and credit card numbers contained in your incoming and/or outgoing mail.

4. Add a security door–a glass door with a screen, heavy lock, and decorative bars.  This will allow you to leave the front door open in nice weather, see who’s there, and talk to them without having to open the door to a potential stranger.

5. Change the locks!  If you’ve ever given a key to a neighbor, a babysitter, a housekeeper, even a relative, you have no way of knowing where those keys may be and who has access to them.  While you’re changing the locks, consider upgrading to a new model that is keyless.  There are locks that operate electronically with a passcode or fingerprint or even a fob like you carry for your car door locks.  Again, lots of choices in lots of price ranges.

6. Secure pet doors.  If you have a doggy or kitty door for your pets, be sure you keep it locked when you’re going to be gone for extended times.  A small teenager could conceivably get through a medium to large pet door and unlock everything for someone else.

7. Add lighting and trim landscaping.  Be sure your outside lights are in good order and keep landscaping trimmed away from windows so burglars don’t have convenient hiding places.

8. Install smoke detectors!  This is so important as fall and cooler weather are approaching.  Be sure you have a working smoke detector outside every sleeping area and near kitchens and fireplaces.  This is code in San Antonio and it’s the best way to be sure your family is safe if the worst case scenario happens.

9. Upgrade/replace old windows.  Be sure your first floor windows are double pane tempered glass.  It’s harder to break.  And new windows likely have sturdier locks than older models.

10. Put out warning signs.  If you have a dog or a security system, get some inexpensive signs at a home improvement store and display them prominently.  If a would-be burglar sees those signs, he might just decide to go somewhere else.  Experts caution not to display the signs from your security system company that advertise the brand–a clever thief could go online and figure out how to bypass your system if he knows what brand it is!

Hope that gives you some ideas of easy ways to increase your home’s security.  We don’t want to be alarmist and feel like we live in a fortress, but we don’t want to take unnecessary chances with our family’s safety either!

There’s no place like home!

Home Tips for When You’re Gone

Yes, it’s August, and the end of summer is near–at least on the calendar!  So these tips may be too late for summer trips, but they’re good to remember whenever you’re out of town, whether for an extended vacation, a weekend getaway, or a business trip.  Hope some of them help you leave with fewer worries about your home while you’re gone!

  • Use on/off timers on a few lights throughout the house to make it looked occupied, scheduling them to turn off and on at various times after dark. You can also use a timer on a radio to provide background noise that can deter potential intruders. Timers are inexpensive and can be found at any hardware or general merchandise store.
  • Ask a neighbor park in your driveway on occasion so it looks like there is someone at home.
  • Suspend delivery of your newspaper and have the post office hold your mail, or ask a neighbor to collect them for you each day. A buildup of mail or uncollected papers is an obvious sign that no one is at home.
  • Use caution when communicating about your vacation dates via Facebook and other networking sites before you leave. Information spreads quickly, and you don’t want it to get into the wrong hands.
  • Advise your friends and trusted neighbors of your travel plans and when you’re expecting to return. Provide your cell phone or another number where they can reach you in an emergency.
  • Close the window coverings on any ground-level rooms where valuables may be visible from the window.
  • Turn off the ringer on your telephones so they can’t be heard from outside. Leave a note on at least one of the phones as a reminder to turn the ringer back on when you return.
  • Unplug appliances such as coffee makers, toasters, microwaves, video systems, stereos, televisions, and computers. Be sure to leave the refrigerator and freezer plugged in.
  • To avoid the potential of water damage from an unpredictable leak or a burst hose, turn off the water supply lines for the toilets, sinks, washing machine, dishwasher, and ice maker. It’s easy to do and can help avert disaster.
  • Turn the water heater to its lowest setting or to vacation mode if it has one. Maintaining the hot water at its everyday temperature while you’re away wastes energy and money.
  • If possible, pack your vacation gear into the car while it’s in the garage so that you’re not announcing to passersby that you’re leaving for vacation.
  • Lock the garage, gates, and storage structures. Don’t forget the standard entry doors to the garage, either from the house or to outside.
  • If you’re going to be away for more than a week, arrange to have someone mow the lawn in your absence.

So go, relax, enjoy, and travel safely!  Whether you’re heading to the beach, the slopes, going on a cruise, or hitting the road, have fun!