My Return To Toastmasters

 

It’s been a few years since I was in Toastmasters International. It is an organization that helps people come to terms with public speaking. They offer education and practice in front of a group, offering constructive feedback on your progress through a series of speeches.

Toaastmasters Logo

Why Did I Go In The First Place?

When I first started going to Toastmasters, I had been a corporate trainer for years. I had been in front of groups of people in a teaching environment. There was a need to take very complex concepts and make them understandable to people who had never used the technology before.

Although it was just a part of my job, I enjoyed it immensely. After a while, I became very comfortable teaching any subject to this group. The nervousness had gone away for the most part because these were people I had dealt with for years in the work environment.

I wanted more.

Something Was Very Wrong

One day, my boss invited me to go with him on a recruiting mission. My job was to present our “pitch” for getting new people to apply at the company. When I got up to speak in front of this “foreign” group, I stammered terribly. I was suddenly so nervous speaking that I barely got the words out.

Afterwards, my boss asked me what was wrong. I knew but I wasn’t about to tell him. I was nervous because I had been speaking in front of the same group of people for so long. I had not experienced speaking in front of groups I did not know and it was completely different. I knew I needed to improve. Enter Toastmasters

What I Accomplished

After about 18 months and two different clubs due to relocation, I achieved Competent Communicator status. I think the name has changed now to Competent Toastmaster Certification but it doesn’t matter. To get to that level, I needed to give ten speeches on different topics in front of people I didn’t really know. I even gave an evaluation at a competition and came in second place. It was kinda cool to accomplish those things.

It was during that time that I applied to teach at a Junior College in order to get in front of people I didn’t know on a regular basis. My Toastmaster training allowed me to take on that role without getting into a panic.

Shortly after that, I relocated again and fell out of Toastmasters.

Why I Returned

Due to medical conditions, I had to leave my employment. I returned to school, got a degree, but ultimately decided on Real Estate as my new career.

While I was in school, there were requirements to give speeches as assignments. Again, I could feel some nervousness getting in front of people. I pushed through it though and was very successful.

I realized, getting into Real Estate, that I would need to be comfortable talking to people I had just met with confidence and assurance. They needed to know that I knew what I was doing and could help them.

As part of my transition into this career, I had mentors through my office but wanted different mentors. I thought it would be beneficial to have mentors from other industries.

My “lead mentor,” the one I  would be sharing everything with and asking for specific feedback, suggested getting back into Toastmasters as a way of improving my communications skills.

I thought back to all the times I had given a speech at Toastmasters and the valuable feedback I had received. I knew that I could not only continue to improve my communications skills but could also focus more on my leadership skills. Together, it had the potential to change my effectiveness in my career and dealing with people I already knew.

So here I am, getting ready to give the first speech over again, just like the first time I attended Toastmasters. It’s the “get to know me” speech, The Ice Breaker Speech, so my new group can know my background. It’s the easiest talk since I already know the subject – me!

I will post occasionally on my progress and even include video when I get it.

What About You?

There are many reasons to join Toastmasters. There are probably more reasons not to go. However, if you want to improve your speaking ability in a variety of ways, give it a try.

See you at the next meeting or competition.

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If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

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That Feeling Of Despair

Despair - What Have I Done

Now What?

The New Year has begun. Remember over the holidays when everyone over-ate, over-spent, and generally over did it all? You woke up a day or two later and thought “What have I done?”

Despair - Overwhelmed

The House

The same thing can happen with a home purchase. It’s called buyer’s remorse. It’s not quite as easy to “return a house to the store.” You own it now. You’ve moved in and now you’re starting to rethink what you have done. Don’t worry, it’s a normal thing many people go through.

Despair - Own It

How To Combat Those Feelings

  1. Embrace what you have done. You are a homeowner now! What a great thing. It might seem like the costs are huge and there is no way you can really afford what you have done. Take heart. If you worked with a Realtor and a Lender, part of their job is to make sure you don’t overextend yourself. You actually can afford the home you are in.
  2. Make it your own. No house is perfect. Not even a new construction home. It’s quite possible there are things you will want to do to improve the property. Remember that it is your home now, not the previous owners. You can paint with whatever colors appeal to you, you can also change counters, drapes, and any other improvements you would like to make. Take it slow and start small. Paint one room. It doesn’t have to be done overnight. More than likely, you will be in the house at least seven years so plan things, save some money and be smart with the change decisions you want to make.
  3. Enjoy. You have spent a lot of time looking at properties and finding just the right thing for you and your family. Rest in the knowledge that you make an informed decision and it was what was best for your family at this time. The feelings of remorse will go away when you start making changes and making your new home more – well – homey!

If Something Changes

Job loss, illness, family dynamic changes, more family members moving in or out. All these things can affect your ability to maintain the house you had so many hopes for.

If something happens that prevents you from enjoying the tranquility of your home, don’t despair. Keep your Realtor and Lender informed of changes within you family. They are there to help you. If the need arises that you need to change things, they can help figure out alternatives or sell the property if that is the best course of action. They have spent a lot of time with you, building a relationship. It was never intended to be a “once and done” setup. Every day, there are new programs being developed that could change your outlook even if there have been dramatic changes to your family.

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If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

3 Things Before Calling A Realtor®

It might seem strange that I would write a blog post telling people not to call a Realtor® when I am a Realtor®. Maybe, but I think it is important to educate my clients. If this helps, then I’m ok with it. If nothing else, it gives you a headstart on things you can look at when getting ready to sell.

What A Realtor® Should Be Telling You To Do

If they’re decent at what they do, a Realtor® is going to tell you these things anyway. Might as well do what they are going to suggest before they ever get there. It saves time. After all, if you’re calling a Realtor®, it’s because you want some help getting your house sold.

Selling your house can be a stressful thing. Will you get the price you want? What happens if it doesn’t sell in the time frame you want it to?

Here are three things you can do with your house before ever signing a contract with a Realtor®.

The First Thing

Before Calling - Get Packing

Get To Packing!

It’s a good idea to remove at least half of what you have in your house before it goes on the market. You may love your collections and sentimental items throughout your house but the people coming to buy it don’t care. Make sure all horizontal surfaces are bare so people can see the “house” instead of your stuff. Buyers need to be able to see themselves living there, picturing their stuff in the kitchen, living room and bedrooms. If your stuff is there, they won’t be able to see it.

The Second Thing

Before Calling - Make Minor Repairs

Fix the small, inexpensive stuff. Whether it is replacing a cracked outlet cover, light bulbs, or cleaning and painting, the idea is to make your house look cared for. Do you need to paint some rooms to get rid of those blaring colors? People generally want to see neutral colors throughout the house. If you aren’t painting, go through and clean around doorknobs, handrails, and any place the kids have been playing.

This goes for the outside too. Make sure the yard is kept. There are usually outlets on the outside too so make sure the covers are in one piece. The garage is an area that can be cleaned and organized. Many garages end up being a disorganized pile. If you have it organized, with proper storage arrangements, it not only looks cared for but shows how well things will fit, even with cars there.

The Third Thing

Before Calling - Appliances Work

Make sure everything is in working order. Appliances, fixtures, switches, outlets, etc. It may require having someone come in to fix some things but it is a small price if you want to get the maximum money for your house.

Keep this in mind. If a buyer comes in to look at your house and sees that there is work to be done, even if it is minor, they might go after the house down the street that has those things fixed already. Not only can it affect the price, but it doesn’t take long for the word to get out that the house hasn’t been cared for.

A Few Examples To Ponder

As a Realtor®, I hold open houses for various properties. Of course, I won’t indicate which houses however, I can describe some conditions that I have seen.

  1. A house that has been painted, however, they did not paint behind the place where the flat screen TV hung on the wall.
  2. The kitchen cabinet doors weren’t hanging straight and the kitchen sink was dripping.
  3. The bedroom that included a rather strange mural on the walls.
  4. Light bulbs burned out in the living room and bathroom.
  5. Not a clear spot on the kitchen counter and the beds were not made.

It’s amazing how the little things can make a big difference.  

Comment below with things you see in your home and what you did to correct them.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

3 Things That Affect Your Mortgage Payment

If you are looking for a house to purchase, the best thing you can do to help yourself is to get pre-underwritten. I’ve written another post speaking to pre-qualification, pre-approval, and pre-underwriting.

The reason pre-underwriting is important is the contract can be affected. The contract has two approval processes built into it.

The first is the approval of the borrower. This is where the pre-underwriting comes in. If you are pre-underwritten, it means that the people involved in the loan are fully approved. Their credit, income, employment, debts, etc. has been verified and the lender is confident that the loan is affordable.

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The second approval is for the property. This is where the inspections, appraisal, and general condition of the property is considered and approved. If something comes up during inspections, it doesn’t appraise, or even if a storm comes in and damages the house and it cannot be fixed, the contract could be affected or even terminated.

After you have finally closed on a house, there are many things that can affect the mortgage payment.

Appraisal Value Of A New Construction Home

Every city places a value on your property based on the market conditions in the area. When you purchase a new construction home, sometimes the first year taxable value of the property is based on the price of the land.

Many people get surprised the second year when their mortgage payment goes up several hundred dollars because the city has now attached the house to the appraisal. The year after that, it can happen again.

If you aren’t careful, you can become mortgage poor.

Appraisal Values Go Up

Mortgage Appraisal Values

There haven’t been many times when the value of your property goes down. In 2008, during the housing crisis, property values tanked. People walked away from their properties instead of dealing with the dramatic decrease in value.

Since then, property values have been on a continuous increase in value. The city increases the appraised value of the property. You have an opportunity to dispute the value after notification and then the new value generates additional tax income for the city. This can also contribute to making someone mortgage poor.

Population Increase

Mortgage Appraisal Values

The economy is based on scarcity. The more of something there is, the less expensive it becomes. At least most of the time. When there are not enough of something, the prices go up. This is true for housing also.

Currently, in the DFW Metroplex, many companies and people are relocating to the area. As a result, the inventory of available homes is low which has been raising the prices of homes.

That can be good news or bad news depending on where you are in the market. If you are someone who is selling their home, higher prices means more money in your pocket. If you are buying a home, it will cost more for the home you want to purchase.

Bonus Tip – Interest Rates

Mortgage Interest Rates

St. Louis FED Graphic

Most people are familiar with interest rates – at least a little. It is the cost of borrowing money to purchase something. With credit cards, the interest can be as high as 30% depending on your history. For houses, the interest rates are historically low at this time.

Interest is what it is but you have some control over the amount you pay. Keeping your credit healthy, living within your means, and saving some money for later are all ways you can help get the best interest rates when it comes to purchasing a home.

Remember, there is a difference between a need and a want.

5 Minor Home Repairs You Can Do Yourself

Every homeowner will tell you that it takes a lot to maintain a home. When it comes time to thinking about selling your home, there are some things you can do quickly and inexpensively to make your home more attractive to prospective buyers.

Minor Repairs Candle

Five Things To Consider

  1. New Plantings. Curb appeal matters. People will be looking for a house online first. They will be looking to see about the location, the price and the size before ever walking into the home. While they are looking at the photographs online, they will also be looking at the curb appeal. Planting some colorful flowers and putting down new mulch in the beds will help with the look of your home. Make sure the grass is also cut before photographs are taken.
  2. Fix Minor Things. There’s no reason why you can’t fix a broken outlet cover, a burned out lightbulb, or a missing pull on a drawer. These are very minor fixes with minimal costs but can make a huge difference to someone thinking about purchasing your home. When all these minor things are taken care of, it lets potential buyers know that the house has been taken care of and reduce their anxiety about buying it in the first place.
  3. Clean the Walls and Doors. Nothing says dirty like seeing finger prints on the walls and dirt around the door knobs. Many times, a simple cleaning of these frequently used areas will brighten a room without even getting to the point of having to paint.
  4. Organize. Whether it’s the closet shoes, placing them in clear plastic boxes, or the pantry, getting organized can make a difference. It shows potential buyers that you are meticulous about things. Someone seeing an organized closet or cans in the pantry with the labels facing forward will get the sense that you care about the things you have and therefore, care about the house.
  5. Aroma. I’m not talking about lighting fifty fragrant candles an hour before an open house. I’m talking about a regular clean smell to your home. Eliminate pet odors, clean toilets, and vacuum carpets and let your house speak for itself. If you are trying to cover up odors with other types of smells, people will know.

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Takeaways

Taking care of the little things in your house can make a difference between an “offer to buy” or a “move on.” Not only can it make a difference about whether there is an offer or not, there is also the potential to affect the price. Someone looking to purchase a home will be considering how much work they have to do to the house once they own it.

What Is Your Home Worth Button  New Build Button

Contact me for more information about how to improve the experience of someone looking to purchase your home.

Honoring Our Military

Military - Peace Flag

Thank You

Thank you for your service to our country.

Thank you to your family who has sacrificed their lives as well as you served.

Thank you for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for people they don’t even know.

Thank you for putting yourself in harm’s way for us.

Thank you for moving every few years, up-ending your family to get to a new duty station either in the United States or anywhere else around the world where you are needed.

Thank you for taking those temporary duty stations without your family because the area was too dangerous to have them near.

Thank you for the deployments you went on where you were gone from your family for anywhere from three months to a year.

Thank you for the thankless efforts you provide for some who don’t respect any of that but you do it anyway.

Thank you.

Military - Blue Angels

Let Us Honor You

As a Realtor® with Ebby Halliday, REALTORS® there is an opportunity to offer a thank you to you for your service through a program called “Military on the Move.”

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This program offers rebates to those who have served our country, when they purchase a home in Texas. For information on the extent of those rebates, email me and I can send you a brochure about the program and the range of rebates available.

My partners at Texas Premiere Title have also generously offered to waive their title fees for active duty military and veterans. That’s a considerable savings when purchasing a home.

Military - Ship Mast

There’s More

I have a standard giving offer from every transaction I am involved with regarding the sale or purchase of a property, that I will give $200 to Agape Resource & Assistance Center, Inc. Agape is an organization that offers housing for women and their children who are escaping domestic violence situations and find themselves homeless. There holistic approach allows these women and their children to rebuild their lives.

Let’s make a deal today!

Real Estate Photos

Front House Photo

Why Does It Matter?

When you are in real estate, there are a ton of photos you view each week. You can immediately tell which agents have their client’s best interest at heart just by looking at the photos. Using your phone doesn’t really qualify as a professional photo.

Here’s the reason. When someone comes in to take photos of your home for sale, you are broadcasting to a large number of people, including international buyers interested in purchasing. The photos are their first look at your property. Think about that!

I know what you are thinking – The market is so hot right now, it doesn’t matter what the quality of the photos are. People are buying homes left and right.

Although that may be true, those photos will be in the various systems until your home goes on sale again. That could be years or decades. Since they stay in the system, every agent out there who looks at the property will see the photos and the agent who placed them there.

What NOT To Photograph?

Bathroom Photo

Toilets

Everyone knows you have toilets in your house. Unless this is a very unique toilet, you probably don’t need to waste much time taking a photo. If it happens to be in view when you are taking a photo of the bathroom, well, ok.

Clutter

No one needs to see your dirty socks on the floor or the dishes in the sink. You may have the greatest soda can and bottle collection around but it does nothing for selling your home. Clean off all flat surfaces. Kitchen counters, bathroom counters, bureaus should be clear.

Branded Company Signs

Believe it or not, it is against the rules to have photos of your company signs in the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). It can lead to guiding consumers to your business instead of using the open market. Oops!

How To Take Great Photos

Kitchen Photo

Use a DSLR with a wider angle lens, 20mm or less. Use proper lighting. I heard this trick too. That the same photos at several different exposures and overlap them so that bright spots are dimmed and darker spots are enhanced. Then again, is that manipulating the photos? Hiring a professional photographer isn’t cheap but you can get about 25 photos of a property that will be great quality and show the real estate agent’s professionalism towards their clients.

Take photos of the main areas of the house, bedrooms, bathrooms, media rooms, and the outside areas. If possible, provide a floor plan of the home for people to see the overall layout. Of course, you want a nice, clean shot of the front of the house.

Highlight the favorite areas of your house. If you put a lot of work into your kitchen, take a few extra shots of it. Installed an outdoor kitchen? Make it attractive and snap another shot. Just remember that all improvements are not treated the same. Don’t overdue improvements. You may be wasting money.

Three Things To Improve Curb Appeal

Maintain your yard

Cut the grass, clean up the yard, plant a few new flowers. The first impression anyone has when they physically come to look at your house is the curb appeal. For a few dollars, you can spruce it up nicely so that it stands out on your street.

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Fix Minor Repairs

Fix obvious repairs before accepting any contract. If you make the repairs before people offer contracts, then in some cases, you can fix the issues yourself. Got some window trim that has some water penetration? Fix the caulking yourself and you could save a ton. If you wait until after you accept a contract, then the repairs must be done by a licensed person, not you.

Pool Photo

Pools and Spas

Make sure they are clean and working properly. If the pool or spa is dirty or the pump is not working, it will leave the impression that there are underlying issues with it. A clean and functioning pool and spa appeals as a relaxing oasis for all who come.

Things To Do Inside

Gathering Area Photo

Clean Rooms, Remove Clutter

Make the beds and basically clean out anything from inside the house that you do not need if you are going to still occupy the home.

Look at it this way – you’ll already have some of your stuff packed even before you make the mad dash to get out of there.

Of course, work with your REALTOR® to come up with the best marketing plan for your home. If you don’t have a REALTOR®, I’m available to help. Visit my business website for more information.