The Good Life in Austin Texas

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Barton Springs Eternal!

It is 102 degrees, the middle of August in Austin, Texas and IT IS HOT! I feel the sweat dripping down the small of my back as I step across theBarton Creek Pool concrete to the edge of the pool. Looking back, I see my friend kicking off his sandals and realize he does not suspect anything unusual. I look out over the clear; inviting, incredibly beautiful water and pause...hesitating because I know what is coming. I turn and quickly push off before I lose my nerve, diving into the water. The crashing sound of the water and bubbles fills my ears as I slip beneath the surface. Almost immediately my body reacts in shock to the icy cold water and I struggle to the surface. It takes everything I can muster to not scream as the astonishing cold envelops my body. Actually it is such a complete jolt that I can only struggle for breath as I try to swim slowly away from the pools edge determined not to make a sound or let on what is happening.

OH @%$#!After only a few moments my friend shouts "How's does it feel?" With great effort, I try to appear nonchalant and endeavor to answer in a calm voice "Come on in...the waters fine!" I turn away and try to deal with the intense temperature change from the heat of the day to the chill of the pool and not give away the "surprise"! Slowly treading water I watch as he takes a running jump from the edge of the pool and does a can-opener into the sparkling clear water. In a split second he surfaces in a roar of splashing water and as he flails about begins to shriek and well...he's not making as much noise as you would imagine because he is also gasping for air exactly the same wayI did a few moments earlier!  I ahhhhhhh *#@# Oh sh*^%rggghhh ohh Nooooo %*$#* aiejhsgdb @$%%^@ is all he can manage to howl as he thrashes about and attempts to find the edge of the pool and relief from the semi-arctic chill freezing his astonished body! I am laughing as I swim further out to hopefully avoid any immediate retaliation from my friend. After a few moments he calls out and say. You are such a  %#*&% but this is starting to feel pretty good! I start laughing and notice that several other nearby swimmers do the same. And so another person is introduced to the icy cold joy of a swim in Barton Springs Pool!

Barton Creek Pool 

Barton Springs Pool has been a popular attraction for years since it became part of a city park in 1917. In 1929, workers enlarged the irregular-shaped pool to 1,000 feet long by building a concrete lower dam and sidewalks on both banks. In 1932, the city added an upper dam. Over the years the springs has been the site of a flour mill, a source of drinking water for many citizens and a popular location for baptisms, family picnics, social gatherings, musical performances, fishing and swimming. Swimming   

 

 

The City Of Austin Website describes the history of the pool:
"Native Americans called them the Sacred Springs and came there to heal their wounds. Spanish friars believed to be the first European settlers in the Austin area set up three temporary missions at the springs in 1730-31 before they moved to San Antonio. In 1837, William "Uncle Billy" Barton, built his rustic cabin on a tract of land which included the springs. Since he owned several adjoining tracts, the area came to be known as the "Bartons". He named the three springs after his daughters Parthenia, Eliza and Zenobia. The largest spring became known as the main spring at Barton Springs Pool. Another spring feeds the Elks Amphitheater pool that Zilker built near the present day Barton Springs Pool. A third spring bubbles up from the Sunken Garden on the east side of the park."

  

  Swimmers & Divers 

Swimmers are incredibly loyal and the website talks about one particular fan:

"Beverly Sheffield, who served as director of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department from 1946-1973, swam at Barton Springs for 73 years, longer than any of today's regular swimmers. He began when he was 10 years old and on into his 80s, Sheffield continued to go the pool three days a week, weather permitting until his death."

  

Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs Pool
Is the fourth largest natural springs in the state. and the crown jewel of Austin, Texas located within the 358 acres of Zilker Park. The pool is over three acres in size and is fed by natural springs that flow nearly 27 MILLION gallons of clear, icy cold water every day. The average temperature is 68 degrees year round (ironically this same chill is perfect for winter lap swimmers in the winter because the water is so much warmer than the air temperature during the colder months.)

But you will not get me in that pool in the winter!

      Barton Springs Pool

 

 

 

Almost every person who has ever visited the city hears about the pool one way or the other from a native or previous visitor.While working on the post for this blog I spoke with a number of swimmers and sunbathers and most all had been coming here for years but there I did meet a  group who were experiencing the pool for the first time. All were amazed at the incomparable beauty because although these pictures are beautiful (some taken my me but the best ones by my associate Tom Coplen) you really have to see and experience it to believe it. Every time I stop by for a swim I still search for words to adequately describe the experience and usually end up falling short.      

 another cold splash!                                                                     

 

Oh...I almost forgot, my friend did forgive me while still threatening to maintain the option of getting even with me at a future date. Later when my friend and I are joined by our wives at the pool, he tells me in a hushed tone "Don't say anything, I want to pull the same stunt on my wife" and so it goes on and on.

Barton Springs Pool

Come on in...the water's fine!

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70 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • August 25 2008 12:03PM

The sign said "OPEN HOUSE" but I felt like I was entering a Used Car Lot!

 Used car salesman                                                                           

Hello...hello??? Are you open today?    

I walk out from the kitchen to see the woman cautiously peering through the door and say "Sure...Come on in! There IS an Open House sign out front and several more planted at various nearby intersections so it should be obvious. The woman opens the door further and steps in followed by a man who quickly darts into an adjacent room before I can begin to introduce myself and start some kind of conversation.

This was how it used to be!

What changed everything was the day a close friend repeated the title of this post "The sign said "OPEN HOUSE" but I felt like I was entering a Used Car Lot!What is worse is the fact that it was his home I was holding open that day! He went on to explain that though I was different in almost every way from his previous experiences with Realtors, Open House's always made him feel pressured. So here I am talking to a close friend who knows and trusts me and I realize that if he feels uneasy then imagine what the general public must think! The general public has all kinds of misconceptions, fears and misgivings when it comes to Realtors on many levels and open house are no different. Some of the reasons the public is uncomfortable with the Open House are well founded. Often new agents are stationed in the open house to find buyers. Nice concept but a hungry, inexperienced new agent and a person "just looking" is a prescription for failure. Sometimes an agent will hold a house open for the seller and does not want to be there and is only doing it to get the seller off of his back. Again, another situation that is not positive for the agent or anyone who walks into the house, with a genuine interest in the home and the market!

I still do a couple of houses a month but I have a completely different attitude and expectations!                                                                                            Open House welcome                   

1) I do not expect to sell someone this house today! (I do not care for pushy sales persons either!)

2) I always provide a list of similar homes in the area and a description that will help the prospects when they leave and "drive by" other homes in the area. It is alsoa good way to start talking!

3) I always welcome neighbors and over the years have developed a large clientele from the folks I have met at open houses. It is an incredible referral and information base.

4) I take my work and laptop with me to stay busy in case the time goes by s l o w l y...(It's a great time to catch up on Active Rain)

5) Because of my laid back attitude I actually end up working with 2 or 3 buyers a year and at least one listing.

6) The best thing that has happened is that I now post a sign on the front door that says in big red letters "This is NOT a Used car Lot" and some verbiage to put the prospects at ease. Now, when they walk through the door they are usually laughing and the folks that want to visit are more comfortable while the "lookers" do not have to scurry around avoing any sontact with the "Realtor".

There is not a neighborhood where this will not work. My most recent open houses ranged from $970,000 to $3,875,000 so don't take anything for granted or be afraid to use some humor and always know what your talking about (don't EVER fake it).

If your searching for a different approach (or attitude) try it and send me a comment later and let me know how it works out!

 

 

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120 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • August 23 2008 11:16AM

Cheap Thrills...

August 12th, 2008

Forty years ago today Cheap Thrills the seminal work by Texas artist Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding company was released. This was the album that proved to be the breakout for Janis and sold over a million copies (what would have been multi-platinum by today's standards) and set her on the road to legend. There are so many great songs on this album that you will always get an argument about which is best but I like everything on the record! The cover features artwork by one of the most original and incredibly weird artists of the 60's R. Crumb (check out the documentary; Crumb). Bill Graham used to introduce the band as "Four gentlemen and one Great, Great Broad...Big Brother & the Holding Company!"

 
 

Enjoy the clip and buy the CD or download; this is both a compelling recording from the time and timeless at the same time. From one of a long line of interesting musicians from Texas!

Enjoy!

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16 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • August 12 2008 04:14PM

Guess who's turning 50 this year?

Many baby boomer celebrities will cross the big Fifty Year line this year. It's funny in a way because in our area we now call homes built in the 1950's "Mid-Century". Yes, I passed the mark several years back myself but never really thought of myself as "older". Like they say it's all in your head. After seeing a list posted in the newspaper, I feel a sort of vindication because most of these folks are still rocking along (and not in rocking chairs).

I guess this attitude runs in my family because years ago, when my Father turned 70, I asked him how it felt. He replied "Now I know what it's like to be middle aged"! Words I am living by myself today!

Prince

Madonna

Michael Jackson

Ellen DeGeneres

Michelle Pfeiffer

Jamie Lee Curtis

Alan Jackson

Tanya Tucker

Viggo Mortensen

Kevin Bacon

Patricia Heaton

Ice-T

Grandmaster Flash

Mark Cuban

Angela Bassett

Belinda Carlisle

Tim Burton

Dr. Drew Pinsky

Jeff Foxworthy

Chris Columbus

Jennifer Tilly

Lita Ford

Marty Stuart

Simon Le Bon

Robert Patrick

Kim Delaney

Candace Bushnell

Nikki Sixx

Prince Albert

Holly Hunter

Andie McDowell

Alec Baldwin

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27 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • August 07 2008 09:32AM

Do you believe in Fairy Tales? For those who INSIST on talking politics...

I think my grandmother was right when she told me that we should never discuss religion or politics in "polite company". With that said, I have noticed a larger number of posts with a political bent lately so when I came across this little illustration I thought "What the heck; when it comes to politics and the ongoing political season, every side seems to want to promise us something for everyone".

I thought this little illustration said it perfectly:

Fairy Tales

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72 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • August 04 2008 09:40PM

Competing with Commission Cutters and Discount Brokers -Any other ideas?

Sale! Sale! Sale

Everyone deals with this question on a fairly regular basis. "Will you reduce your commission? I do not like people getting into my back pocket but it is a reality and of course everything is negotiable. Here are some questions I ask of potential sellers. Discount

•1)    Would reduce your salary for the job you perform? This is what you are asking a Realtor to do and they also have to pay for all of their expenses, taxes and give a portion their commission to their broker.

•2)    Selling your home is not just putting a sign in the yard, a listing in MLS and an ad in the paper. Do you realize that selling your home can be very stressful even in the best of situations? Do you know all the legal requirements in your state, the legal issues of proper disclosures and protocol?

•3)    What services and marketing are you willing to forego for a reduction in commission?

•4)    Do you understand the role of title companies, which lenders close on time, inspectors, appraisers and the many other people who will be involved in the sale of your home?

•5)     Do you know that current statistics show that homes fail to sell, sell for less and take longer to sell with MLS Entry Only or limited service brokers?

•6)    Do you have a marketing plan? What part of mine (marketing to agents, print ads, brochures, marketing to the public, online marketing, do you know about any of the online services and web sires beyond MLS and Realtor sites, and do you have your own website?

•7)    Do you know anything about Active Rain?

That is a start and it is best to NOT belabor the point and instead concentrate on all the positives and what you will provide to EARN that commission. I do understand a seller's reluctance and somewhat distrustful attitude because there are plenty of people in real estate industry who do not perform up to professional standards. On the other hand there are many full time professionals who work diligently every day to earn every dollar for their services along with many satisfied customers who are glad they employed a real estate agent to help them with what (for most) is the single most important investment of their lives.

 There was a recent program on 60 Minutes that dealt with discounting and commission cutting Realtors that sparked a huge number of emails and responses.

My favorite was from an anonymous Realtor:

"You can sell your home yourself, sell your car yourself, sell your body yourself; but will you fetch the best price?Also, are you going to want to deal with all of the associated hassles? Probably not. I've seen people attempt to sell their own homes and most of them I have converted into clients. They are gung-ho about the prospect of saving big bucks on real estate agent services, until they realize - and I know that some of you will have a hard time believing this - how hard real estate agents really work, especially in this market. They also realize how much money we pay in advertising when they attempt to list their homes for sale in the newspaper. Sure, we can make big bucks, but we also have huge expenses. And, I'm not only talking about the fancy cars we have to buy and maintain to impress you. No, it's the dues, the advertising, the desk fees, the insurance, the gas, etc., etc., etc. And, the hours, don't get me started. We take calls during movies, family birthday parties and weddings. Heck, an agent returned my call yesterday in between the funeral service and the burial! We work hard for our clients. Sure, there are some agents who are just in it for the money, but most of them are now in traditional jobs with guaranteed incomes. They went back to the "real world" after they realized that representing buyers/sellers is hard work and expensive.

Sell your own home. I don't care anymore than Nordstrom cares that you shop at Wal-Mart.

-Hard Working Realtor

In the end you may have to just let it go and move on to clientele that have a better grasp of business and a realistic attitude. It will save you a lot of time and unnecessary stress!

I look forward to other feedback and suggestions and thanks!  Russell  

                                                

 

 

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83 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • August 02 2008 07:15AM

Create your own Funny Street signs!

I just saw a post about "Funny signs" and remembered a really humorous site where you can create your own funny street, building, highway and other signs with your own dialogue.

Go to: http://atom.smasher.org/bar-b-q/

Currently there is a Bar-Be-Que Restaurant sign but you can scroll down and see more for your posting pleasure. I have used the sight many tomes to create funny or sarcastic signs for friends and clients and then send it to them by email. At first look it appears like you have taken a picure of a real sign and it always gets a reaction.

Try it and I guarantee you will laugh (and probably waste some time creating your own signs!

Enjoy! Now I have to get back to work!

Russell

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38 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • August 01 2008 10:36AM

America Sorts its Mail over the Trash Can!

I do not know where I first heard that statement but caught myself doing it ten years ago (and I still do...don't you?). It was at that point that I wondered if my direct mail was ever seen before it went into the trash.standing over the trash

I decided years ago that I would not send any more mail to my clients in envelopes. I set began sending monthly marketing cards and yes I still do. Even with all the wonderful ways of communicating through the internet and all of the new technology, it still works for me. I keep it simple and usually send "just listed", "just sold" and market data cards. And I have been consistent every month something goes out to my SOI (the single most important source of referral business) and my geographic and professional lists. Not only do I keep it simple but I actually use an up to date picture (so people still recognize me at the grocery store and other public places). Over the years the consistency and the simplicity have paid off. Many people try this and are gung ho for several months and then stop. It takes a minimum of five times before people will even notice and after that you better follow up at least every other month. This is just another component that works with everything else we do to generate business.

The best part of the card is that when the recipient is standing over the trash can, they always look at one side to see if the mail is something that's needed and then turn it over to make sure. They see a brief message and then your name and face and then it's into the trash can but by then they have seen you and your message so the job is done. I cannot tell you the number of people whom I meet that know me just from my cards and we always manage to have something to talk about and that is all you really need; chance to make yourself known in a non threatening manner. I know this is rather "old school" but I have to tell you it has continued to pay dividends over the years!

Onward,

Russell

 

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39 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • July 31 2008 12:08AM

WHY I OUGHTA!!! (Commenting on blogs)

Talking trash

As a relative newcomer to Active Rain, I am learning at a fast clip that there are many wide and varied opinions and that a lot of people can get very upset and speak out rather vociferously at times. Sometimes it's to express anger or hurt and at other times it's intended to insult or intimidate. I think this is odd but then again it's not surprising. It's easy to comment from the safety of your computer without being nose to nose with others and often I think that folks would never make some of the remarks they do in person. I have a little different perspective and it's probably from my previous career.

Fight!I spent sixteen years working in different areas of the construction industry and as many of you may surmise, the communication styles are vastly different. Sometimes they are very *#%@!...different I have seen many times when arguments on the job site escalated to physical contact and outright fighting! When I first entered real estate, I was fortunate to work for a small upscale firm here in Austin that specialized in the luxury home market and though I had so many years in construction, I still came from a good family, was relatively educated and had been taught manners and tact. The broker at the company (did I mention that I was their first "token male"?) and my mentor taught me so much about the style and quality of doing business although she used to say "Russell is the easiest person with whom another agent can do transaction or the hardest, it all depends on their attitude!" Yes I was rather combative and aggressive in my negotiating style but over time she and my mentor polished my sharp edges and taught me when to be tough and when to be conciliatory and to always look at the big picture with an eye toward being REALISTIC!

I always welcome intense and passionate dialogue between folks but I do not respond well to insults or intimidation and I do not think anyone else does either.

In construction when you have an argument you might get socked in the nose. In real estate, people just talk behind your back or crab at you from the safety of their computer terminal and I can live with that!

I have often spoken out too quickly but I try to remember that words once spoken (or posted) are like rocks thrown and you can't take them back!

Have a great week and let's all try and remember to use a little tact!

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28 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • July 28 2008 09:16AM

What’s all the fuss about buying a Localism neighborhood?

I have been reading with growing interest a number of posts and comments concerning the upcoming localism neighborhood sale/ land rush:

http://localism.com/sponsor

There appears to be a number of different opinions about the subject and I would like to add my two cents worth. Please bear with me because I want to comment on each of the issues and do the best I can to articulate my responses to each.

A number of people have indicated that they feel they have been working and marketing themselves in a region and do not want someone else to have that particular area. The sentiment being that for some reason they "deserve" the location.  I guess the most extreme are those who would like to have an entire city. I think this is unrealistic because there are lots of agents in any particular city and more than enough business to go around. There are others who would like it narrowed to a zip code. I know that many people expend a lot of money, time and energy marketing these areas and want something in return but I know that there are many realtors in every part of the country who may feel the same way about these localities but again there are potentially thousands of homes within a zip code. I live and work in Austin, Texas and my primary focus is in Central, West and Southwest Austin and the Eanes School District in the $500K-4.95M price range. There are many neighborhoods within these areas and frankly I have farmed a couple for many years. Again, that hardly seems reasonable and in addition there are 7 or 8 different zip codes in the areas I work that encompass many more THOUSANDS of homes. Narrowing the bids to smaller areas seems fair and reasonable to me so neighborhoods could probably work and let me give you an example.

When I first moved to my neighborhood in the Eanes School District in 1992 (an area with more than a thousand homes), it was referred to me by a fellow realtor. I mentioned that I would probably work there and that we might compete. There are at least five other realtors living there that regularly list and sell homes in the neighborhood. Her comment to me was that I should not worry because each of the realtors working the area had completely different personalities and ways of doing business and that someone that employed me would probably not use her or any of the others. I have always admired this realtor and her advice was right on the nose! My point here is that even if someone stakes a claim to YOUR neighborhood, it does not mean you are going to lose business or that the new person is going to dominate the market at all. They might not even use what they have and that's the point. It is a great idea but an agent will have to actually put some work into it to make it profitable and don't we all hopefully do that every day?

Here is another way of looking at the issue. Purchasing a neighborhood in Localism is a tool. My previous life, before I entered real estate in 1989 was as a carpenter/construction worker. I went through an intense four year apprenticeship program combined with working on site and learned everything from the ground up. I learned to use various tools to complete many construction tasks from the foundation to finish out. I eventually went on to be a Construction Foreman and Superintendant as well as co-founding a company that designed and built furniture and high-end finish out projects all over Texas. As realtors we have a toolbox full of different tools that we can employ along with our experience to generate business and deliver the best possible service in the most professional manner for our sellers and buyers.

I plan to bid on a couple of neighborhoods that I have worked for years and hopefully will add this service to my tool chest an means of increasing my marketing and market share. If I am successful at signing up the neighborhoods, I will add this component to my marketing to increase and develop my market share. If not, I will continue to learn more in this incredible community and frankly I have already received so many great ideas that my assistant and I will be busy trying to use everything else we have found so useful here.

I like that active rain has provided such a great forum for the exchange of constructive ideas and look forward to as much brain storming as possible Again, this will probably generate some serious discussion and I am not attempting to create controversy but you can never tell when it comes to "opinions".

I'm just sayin'...

Russell

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76 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • July 26 2008 01:03AM