Saturday, June 3, 2017

Does it always HAVE to be a mulitple offer situation?

For those of you who might not be in the market to purchase or sell a home, you might be blissfully unaware of the market we are currently negotiating through in North Texas. Called a "Seller's Market," there seems to be more buyers of homes than there are homes for sale. This creates a few interesting situations. For one, it drives prices for homes up. Secondly, it creates a competitive market for buyers who are all vying for the same low inventory of properties. Lastly, it can create false expectations of sellers when they do put their home on the market. 

I received a response today, after asking a fellow Realtor about a home that was still in "active" status (meaning, the property has not gone under contract yet). When I asked if she was working with other offers, the response I received was, "Yes, she's received one, but she's waiting until Monday to see if she receives anymore." This irked me a bit, because I wonder what this market doing to the expectations of sellers. It is almost expected that if your house goes live on the market, you will get multiple showings and multiple offers right off the bat. This scenario does present itself quite often. But buyer's agents often have the disappointing position of constantly having to figure out how to best present their clients offers to sellers who are expecting not just one full price offer, but several offers, all over asking price. It's certainly a difficult situation for both parties. Here are some tips to help you if you are thinking about buying or selling your home. 

1). Even in a seller's market, you can still overprice a home. 

Right now, home prices continue to soar. Even agents can have a hard time figuring out exactly how high to list a house when appraised values continue to come back higher and higher for each home. However, there is still such a thing as a home being overpriced. Even in this market, I can't accentuate enough the importance of pricing your house appropriately. The last thing you want is a home that is sitting for weeks in a market that is supposed to be incredibly fast for sellers. Rely on your Realtor's comps and allow them to show you reasonable comps that can support the appraised value. 

2) All you need is one good showing and one good offer. 

It is very dangerous when sellers will only respond to offers when they have more than one. There are still ethical ways of negotiating offers in this market that are fair to both parties. If someone has looked at your home and provided you an offer, do not wait for days for other offers to come through. Respond to the offer and negotiate with the party that is interested and who has quickly attempted to purchase your home. Making a buyer wait in this market is not only a waste of their time, but a waste of yours as well. If you have a solid offer, with a solid lender approved buyer, see if you can't work that offer out first, before waiting for others to come in. 

3) List the house for what you expect to receive. 

If you want $175,000 for your home, and the comps support $175,000 for your home, expect to receive $175,000 for your home. If the expectation that you can list your home for $175,000 but expect to receive offers at $185,000 or higher, then you might be setting yourself up for a disappointment. There is nothing wrong with listing a home as high as you can. In fact, you should list it for as high as you and your Realtor think you can go. Just set yourself up for appropriate expectations before listing and allow any offers over asking price to simply be icing on the cake, not the expectation. 

4) The highest offers aren't always the best offers. 

What matters more than anything is the bottom line you will walk away with on closing day. Sure, you might get an offer over asking price, but what all are they asking you to do to the home before closing? What all are they expecting you to pay for in the contract? Are they solidly preapproved? Do they have the funds to close the home at the agreed upon price, should the house not appraise with the bank? Realtors are going to help you, step by step, walk through the terms of the contract to see which offer works best for you. Sometimes, the offer accepted isn't always the highest, and that is OK. 

5) As a buyer, don't look for homes you can't afford. 

I can't stress this enough - look within your means. Many buyers move forward with the full amount a lender has approved them for. Your monthly payment to the bank isn't the only  thing to consider - what are the taxes? How much is the insurance? A lot of people purchase a home at the highest end of their budget, only to be sorely upset next year at tax time, when the property taxes have increased, and so have their payments. As your Realtor about these things when shopping around. 

6) Please don't use HGTV as your Real Estate educator. 

The scenarios on these programs are staged for camera. Very rarely in this market will a seller negotiate on price, especially if the house has only recently come on the market.  This is true for both buyers and sellers!! 

7) Use a trusted Real Estate Agent who can help you navigate through the process. 

Realtors aren't only useful to take pictures of properties and show homes to you. In fact, where they are most valuable is after those things have already been done. From the beginning of the process, a Realtor will use their experience to guide you through the offer, explain the contract and what you will be contractually obligated to pay for and accomplish prior to closing, to help aid and encourage the title company and lenders to stay on deadline and provide them any help they need during the process. to continue negotiation with the other party throughout the process and to ensure both parties get to the closing table. 

If you are thinking of buying or selling a home, let me be your Realtor! I can help walk you step by step through the process, ensuring an easy transition for you and your family!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Movie Night at the Whiteheads

Movie nights have always been a part of the Whitehead traditions. When we first got married, we were literally so broke it was really all we could do. As time progressed, and money grew easier to part with, movie nights are still very much alive in our household.
 
When the kids were younger, it was pretty easy to find movies they'd both watch. Sophia had just turned 4 and Jordan just turned 7, but for the most part, cartoons were still the name of the game. This was our very first picture together, the three of us, watching Finding Nemo. At the time, I was 29 years old and had spent the last 10 years or so going out every night. This was definitely a change for me, relaxing on a couch with two little ones cuddling up next to me, watching a Pixar movie.
 
 
 
We would try to mix it up and make it interesting - we had the smallest living room in that little apartment, but would put our tent right in the living room while watching movies and eating fun junk!!
 
 

 
Occasionally, we would splurge on a movie night out, like this time we saw Cloudy with a Change of Meatballs at the IMAX.
 

 
But for the most part, we loved being home and watching movies. And we LOVE the way Jason makes us popcorn. Only with a popcorn popper, with special toppings just for us. We eat lots of popcorn.
 

Lots....
 

And lots....
 

 
And lots of popcorn. Even our pups get it on the action every once in a while.
 

 
Now that the kids are older, 15, 12 and 6, it's becoming harder and harder to watch movies that the whole family will like. Jordan likes action, Sophia loves that she's 12 and doesn't like watching cartoons of any kind anymore and Avery is still in kindergarten so she can't watch a lot of things we can all watch.
 
Pure Flix has been popping up on my Facebook feed and I had to give it a looksee. I was pretty surprised at this particular streaming channel. I honestly thought it would just be a bunch of boring movies I had no interest in. But after looking through some of the titles, I was pretty excited to try it out in my house! If you follow the link above, you can also receive one month free to give it a try.
 
There were three that popped out at me that I would like to try first - Queens of Nashville is the story of all of our favorite women artists and their rise to stardom. Carrie Underwood, Reba, Miranda Lambert, and more! I think that might be a girls night in type movie. Time Changer is one I picked for all of - it's an action movie about traveling into the future. iShine KNECT is specifically for Sophia and Avery. It's a faith based show, along the same format as Hannah Montana and iCarly. I thought they would really enjoy watching it.
 
 
So, I'm curious - what are your movie night essentials?
 

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale - A Review of the First Three Episodes

I knew nothing of this book when I began hearing about this show on Hulu. Ever since The Hunger Games, anything described as "dystopian" generally tends to capture my interest, so when I heard about this show, I was intrigued. I signed back up for Hulu just so I could watch the show.

This show is based on a 1985 book written by Margaret Atwood, a Canadian author. The adaptation into this Hulu series centers around a woman, whose real name is June, but is called Offred ("Of-Fred," the man, her commander she is bound to, is named Fred). We aren't really told when this story is set, but given the scenery of the events leading up to the overthrow of the government, I assume it is present-day. There are several songs used on the soundtrack, several from the 80's and a few from other times periods. In this alternate present, we learn that the United States has been overthrown by some sort of right wing, religious group who have instituted marshall law and have taken over the day to day goings-on of all citizens left within the country. Women have been reduced to three categories: wives of high ranking "commanders" who are barren but wealthy, non-fertile Marthas who have become servants in the home, and the fertile women remaining are all handmaids. These handmaids serve as the baby-producers for the wealthy wives who can't seem to have children. In this present alternate universe, something has rendered the birth rate almost non-existent, with infertility and still-births at an all time high. These handmaids, while enslaved, are revered to a certain extent, as they have proven their ability to become pregnant and have children prior to the "revolution." In a terrible routine, they are forced to have intercourse with these men while their wives are holding them down, until they become pregnant, then after their babies are born, are to become to property of the couple while the handmaid is moved to another home or forced to do it again. (I find it hard to believe that a group so powerful and wealthy, that has the means to take over the entire country, would not simply use some form of medical insemination instead of basically allowing men to rape another woman in front of their wife, but I digress). The fourth and small, but powerful, group of women, the Aunts, are left to brainwash the handmaids, and if brainwashing doesn't work, they have their cattle prods in hand, ready to keep any resistor in line.

I have to admit, this show has my attention. Not because it could actually happen, but because the show is just really well done and I have to admit, I'm pretty intrigued to see what's going to happen.

Ok - first. If you are a Christian, this show is going to drive you bananas. We are led to believe that the group that has taken over the entire country, is some sort of Puritan-based, Bible-reciting, right-wing group of Godly believers. We haven't seen any of the leaders of the new government yet, only various men in black suits who drive black SUVs with the worst paint jobs I've ever seen. The woman in charge of keeping these women in line, called the Aunts, recite random verses from the Bible as they "encourage" these women to keep with the program. Gay people are called "gender traitors" and hung for their transgressions. Women are called sluts, whores and worse. They are told that they brought infertility on themselves by their loose sexual pasts. Somehow, this group not only took over the country, but redecorated all of the homes with furniture made in Amish country back in 1674, the same people who also happened to redesign their clothes. As I watched the sets changed, it reminded me of The Village, like somehow changing one's dress and furniture choices makes you innocent and pure. Clearly, this is not a Christianity I have anything to do with. One where the men are the leaders, women are merely slaves or procreators, and where any type of stain (or, "sin") on your life is grounds for hanging. Of course, it hasn't been said it's Christianity, or even what type of religious group it is, we just know that they recite the Bible and use it, literally, as a tool for their lifestyle, as well as legal prosecution and sentencing.

Secondly - financial resources and manpower needed by a religious organization to overthrow a government and take over every citizen in every city in the United States of America is so far beyond impossible. In every dystopian novel I read, I always wish they'd set these in a country the size of one of our states. To do this in America, one would need an army the half the size of the country. This could never happen. So, does it scare me? From that aspect, no. Try doing this in Texas and see how far you get.

What does scare me about this show is how they took over power. One day, all womens' credit cards were turned off and employers were made to fire them. No money, no way to make money, and completely dependent on the males for everything. Now this terrifies me. We are so far on the grid, so dependent on things like credit cards, electricity, etc, that it would be very easy for those things to be magically turned off one day and us all to be at each others' mercy. They tried to peacefully march before the revolution, and were gunned down in the streets by militia men with automatic weapons (yet another reminder of why the 2nd amendment matters so much, as it appears no one in this world had anything with which to defend themselves). Those people who tried to escape to Canada were chased and caught, their children were ripped from their arms to be raised by who knows who, the dads and husbands killed. and these mothers were put into slavery as nothing more than baby producers. Those who continued to be a part of the resistance are hanged, their bodies hung off the side of this big cement wall, as constant reminders for everyone to see. Women are forbidden to read. Trips to the grocery store don't include words, only symbols, on both the groceries and the money.

June, or "Offred," provides us a glimpse into society, both pre-revolution and post-revolution. Her actions fall in line to this new regime, but her thoughts, which we are privy to, offer us a glimpse into her personality and past as a book editor.  She narrates this story, and she things she says are quick witted and intelligent, sharp and sarcastic. Her only intention is to survive this so she can see her daughter again, a small girl ripped from her arms by armed men. Elizabeth Moss (Madmen) has a big acting task, as the bulk of her screen time is spent with the camera dead in her face as she reacts non-verbally to most of the things around her. This could have been a very annoying character, but Elizabeth Moss gives her a submissive quality while still remaining her strong and intelligent persona.

This show is very much about women's rights. What spurs this revolution on is the decrease in fertility and the declining birthrate. There is one scene in which June gives birth, then follows the nurse to the nursery for her baby's first bath. She asks where all of the babies are? The nurse says, "It was a bad night, some of them ended up in intensive care and the rest are with God." One must ask, what would a country do to battle this? How far would they go to change that the population was in a rapid decline? But in this show, it isn't the government, it's this religious group, that is forcing these women into these positions.

Something I couldn't seem to get over, and found a bit hard to believe, is just how quickly these rich women went from living in an America where women were working and liberated to a country of puritan women and slave owners, without skipping a beat. In one scene, Offred's "mistress" (as they call the wives of their commanders) offers Offred a cookie, apparently a gesture that the other mistresses find inappropriate. "Don't spoil them!" one says, as if they are literally speaking of dogs. I mean, this revolution literally just happened. Like, in one minute these women were working together in an office, and the next minute, one is basically a sex slave owner of the other, having completely forgotten that these handmaids are also human beings. I find that part of all this very hard to swallow,  that these wealthy wives so quickly fell in line with this way of living, as if they hadn't been raised in a forward thinking country as the US for their entire lives. And what of the rest of the world? We are supposed to believe that a superpower was taken over by sex slave owning, right wing religious nut group and no one else in the world seems to be doing anything about it? I guess I have to suspend disbelief to enjoy this show, at least, in some ways. In other ways, it's quite terrifying. Thinking of someone coming in with force, killing my husband, taking my children and forcing me into this life, literally kept me awake a little last night.

I think this is a show most of us would enjoy, if not for the idea of it, then the acting and the storyline. Well worth returning to Hulu for!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Movie Review: Passengers

I have read several reviews of this movie, just terrible reviews, of how awful this movie was. I didn't care. I tend not to always agree with movie critics, and I for one, have been looking forward to seeing this movie since the first time I saw the trailer, months ago. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are by far, two of my favorite actors, so it was a no-brainer that I had to see this movie. They could spend the 2 hours in a barrel and I'd probably love it, and this movie, well, this movie proved that.
 
Passengers 2016 film poster.jpg
 
For starters, let me tell you there will be some spoilers in this review, but I feel like I am glad I read a few spoilers before seeing it. You are tricked into thinking, from the previews, that this movie is Sci-Fi. It isn't. It's a human story told on a spaceship, and to me, there's a huge difference. If you are going, thinking this is a Sci-Fi spectacle, you will be disappointed. There are elements of Sci-Fi, but as much as Gravity was a human story told in the caverns of space, this is a romantic story told on a spaceship. Just be warned before seeing it.
 
Just to set this movie up, this is the story, set in a far distant future, of average mechanic Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) who is awoken from a 120 year slumber, 90 years too early. He is traveling on a ship transporting 5,000 passengers and 200+  crew to a new planet called Homestead II. The ship is transporting these people to inhabit a new planet and we find out, later, that people are paying massive amounts of money to take this journey. A journey that ensures you will never see your family or friends on Earth (Or Homestead I? It doesn't really say). You will go to sleep and wake up, 120 in the future, to start over on a new planet. Due to a mechanical failure, Jim's hiber-chamber is opened 90 years too early. After he realizes he is the only one who has awoken on this ship, he quickly determines he will forever be alone, and doomed to a lifetime aboard this ship, as by the time they reach the new planet, he will have died. He spends a whole year, plus some months, in solitude, with only the android bartender Arthur to keep him company. Day after day, night after night, he is surrounded with the cushiest surroundings one can find - an endless supply of good food and fine spirits, exercise, video games and movies, and even regular walks out in space. He quickly figures out just how lonely of an existence this is and decides to take his own life. While walking amongst the vast hiber-chambers filled with sleeping people, contemplating suicide, he comes across the chamber of Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) and is quickly taken by her beauty. After scouring the ship's files, he finds all of the information he can on her, including her interviews about why she wants to travel. He grapples with this for some time - finding solace in seeing someone else's face and hearing someone else's voice, he soon falls deeply in love with her. He speaks nightly with Arthur about the consequences of waking her up, talking about how much he loves her but knowing waking her up is a death sentence. Being a mechanic, he's tried desperately to find a way into the ship's main deck or to find a way to go back into hiber sleep, but to no avail. He does, however, figure out how to wake someone up.  One day, he decides to take the chance, waking her up but telling her it was an accident. Of course, they fall in love and develop a pretty lovely existence on this ship together. On the night of her birthday, Jim decides to ask her to marry him. While he is in the bathroom, Arthur lets it slip that the reason she is awake is because Jim woke her up, not a mechanical failure (This android is 100% innocent, he misconstrues a conversation and gives up this information on accident). She is infuriated. Now, not only are the doomed to die, they are doomed to spend the rest of their lives on a ship where she knows of his selfish choice and hates him, and with him spending every day with the guilt of knowing what he did to her. That's as far as I will go, the rest of the movie is a thrill ride and I certainly don't want to spoil it!
 
What I love about this movie is that it's a completely unique story. We've seen people marooned on a desert island, destined to spend the rest of their lives lonely and in solitude. We've even seen a movie about a man marooned in space and the lengths he went to, to get back to earth. What we haven't explored is the idea that you can be marooned, alone, in a ship, with thousands of people around you, whom you will never meet or talk to. What would you do? How desperate would you become for companionship? Holding the fate of someone else's life in your hands - what would you do after being alone for a long period of time?
 
I've heard this movie described as creepy (which is kind of is), an example of Stockholm's Syndrome, in which the captee falls in love with the captor, a sick demented example of a stalker. But I didn't find it to be any of those things. This isn't a serial killer, set out to get his prey. Jim is an average guy who finds himself in a very serious, very extraordinary situation. And then we watch Aurora, and her very real emotional response to this situation. There is real love, real hate, real emotions and real survival questions that come up and I loved every minute of it.
 
The CGI in this movie is nothing to turn your nose up at, either. There are some incredibly breathtaking scenes, and by breathtaking, they literally take your breath away with beauty but also with suspense. There is one scene, in particular, in which Aurora is swimming in the ship's pool, and a technical difficulty causes the ship's gravity to suspend. Aurora is caught in a bubble of water, floating around the room, unable to get to a surface for air. It's an incredible scene and one of the many suspenseful moments of the film.
 
I am not sure that the reason I don't feel like this film is not more creepy isn't because of Pratt. He's so charming, and his love for her is so real and true, and his guilt for what he did is so intense, that you can't help but still love him through all of this. They are both charming together - and not in an annoying way. Just truly engaging. Is there an actor on this planet who doesn't have amazing chemistry with JLaw? The woman is likeable, to the core.
 
I highly suggest this film, but take it as pure entertainment value and revel in the scenery and the beautiful relationship between these two highly attractive actors!!