Off to the Races
August 27, 2013

apple-full[1]The start of a new school year brings mixed emotions.  For many, summer is too long and the start of a new school year is very exciting and long overdue.  For others, summer is never long enough and the end of summer brings nothing but anxiety as the next school year lurks around the corner.  For all kids and their families, it means transitioning away from the unscheduled pace of summer to a more hectic pace that fills the calendar with to do items.  Just as schools play a vital role in the lives of our kids, they also play a vital role in real estate.  Once again this year, Blue Leaf Realty had the good fortune of helping many families get into a new home just in time to begin the school year.  For that, we are grateful and we hope that all kids who are starting school or heading back to school will be challenged to reach their full potential.

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Going Back to School
August 28, 2012

As returning students, Liana and I did not really know what to expect when we signed up for graduate school at UTA in 2010.  Returning to school required some getting used to but we got back into the swing of it pretty fast.  Of course, we were older than most of our classmates and we had a business to run, but like many of them, we stayed up late on several occasions completing real estate projects and assignments.  Fortunately, we had each other to lean on.  We completed many projects together over the last two years and even wrote several real estate blogs.  Below is a complete list of the coursework that we completed to earn the MS in Real Estate at UTA:

REAE 5311 – Real Estate Analysis
REAE 5327 – Advanced Real Estate Market Analysis
REAE 5334 – Seminar in Real Estate Appraisal & ARGUS Software
REAE 5321 – Seminar in Real Estate Investment
REAE 5314 – Seminar in Real Estate Development
REAE 5319 – Seminar in Real Estate Finance
REAE 5317 – Real Estate Construction Management
REAE 5320 – Texas Real Estate Tour
REAE 5313 – GIS and Property Analysis
REAE 5318 – Sustainable Development
REAE 5315 – Real Estate Trends & Issues
REAE 5316 – Adaptive Reuse & Redevelopment

We learned a great deal about commercial real estate and would like to say thanks to professors, Dr. Forgey and Dr. Peterson, for helping us along the way.  For me, I must also say thanks to Liana.  She’s been a great study partner and has become a great spreadsheet creator, easily surpassing my expertise.  She’s not bad with a 10bii calculator either.  It’s been a lot of fun, we learned a lot, and we met some really nice people who I’m sure will prosper in the field of real estate.  Completing the program is a milestone and we are very glad to be done, but now comes the challenging part — putting what we learned into practice!

For help with commercial or residential real estate, please visit us online at BlueLeafRealty.com where the MISSION is to Deliver Remarkable Service.

Training Super-Agents in DFW
January 15, 2012

Helpful real estate agents aren’t easy to find; well-trained agents are even harder to find.  Blue Leaf Realty is changing that.  At Blue Leaf Realty, each agent is a Texas Realtor and undergoes extensive training designed with achieving BlueLeaf’s MISSION of Delivering Remarkable Service in mind.  The following categories comprise the BlueLeaf Super-Agent framework:  the Client Driven Agent, the Recognized Agent, the Organized Agent, the Professional Agent, and the Exceptional Agent.  Each category contains 4-6 independent lessons that challenge each BlueLeaf agent to think critically about each aspect of the real estate transaction.  At its core, the training is designed to help the agent better serve his or her clients and develop a sustainable real estate business model.  All BlueLeaf agents are required to finalize this training in addition to the education required by TX real estate law within their very first year of practicing.  As an added bonus, each agent completes many hours of BLR elective course material designed to enhance their understanding of their role within the real estate process.  Put this all together and what you have is a group of agents who are committed to Delivering Remarkable Service to their clients.  Thanks to all our agents who go out of their way each day to bolster our reputation – we appreciate your hard work and effort.

Are you a Linchpin?
November 16, 2011

I just finished reading Godin’s book Linchpin.  This book has numerous applications for business owners and entrepreneurs.  The book compels you to think about your role and the role of your business in today’s fast-moving business environment.  The book asks some fundamentally important questions such as: Are you making a difference?,  Do you understand how the world of commerce is changing?,  Are you connecting with the people you want to serve or sell to?  Many thanks to Seth Godin for writing another book that captures the essence of entrepreneurship – it should be required reading for every small business owner.  Godin gets what it’s all about!  If you’re a small business owner, I strongly recommend reading this book to find out what it means to be a Linchpin.  What you learn just might help you grow your business to the next level.  I know I’ll be leading the charge at BlueLeaf Realty to implement the ideas from Linchpin.

Avoid Costly Home Buying Mistakes
September 23, 2011

Miss the Pitfalls – Avoid These Common Home Buying Mistakes 

Purchasing a home is a big decision, and the process of buying a home can be stressful.  As such, there are some common mistakes that are inherent in the home buying process.  Fortunately, avoiding these mistakes is easier than you might think as long as you know what they are.  Below are some of the common home buying mistakes:

1.  Not doing your homework.  Because everyone leads very busy lives, it’s easy to forgo doing the research.  This mistake can cost you in the long run.  For instance, if there is a vacant field behind a home you like and you fall in love with the idea of watching the cows graze while the sun is setting, just remember that lovely field could one day become a bustling retail development.  Figuring out the zoning on the adjacent raw land should be a high priority for you and your real estate professional.  Don’t hesitate to ask your agent to investigate if you don’t have the time.   

2.  Not choosing the best location.  Although most buyers think about location in general, a common mistake is that many buyers do not think about it enough.  It’s very difficult to over think location when it comes to real estate.  Factors to consider should include, but not be limited to, such things as proximity to schools, jobs, retail providers, and major roadways.

3.  Not having the home inspected.  Many buyers make this mistake with new homes and existing homes.  In both cases, you should pay to have your home inspected.  The cost of the inspection is a small percentage of the sale’s price, so it is always smart to purchase a home inspection from a licensed inspector.  You should also talk with your real estate agent to make sure your offer to purchase a home includes an option period giving you the right to terminate and receive a full refund of your earnest money should you do so. 

4.  Not hiring a real estate agent.  Buyers, especially first time home buyers, sometimes make the mistake of deciding to go it alone.  A good buyer’s agent brings many talents to the table, and the listing agent and seller have already agreed to pay a portion of the commission to the agent who brings a buyer.  This means no out-of-pocket expense to the buyer in exchange for a wealth of expertise and knowledge about location, resale, negotiating, and market conditions, not to mention fiduciary duties to the buyer.  Ask an agent if he or she will agree to represent you exclusively and a world of opportunities will open up to you.  An agent should be willing to show you multiple properties in your price range, so don’t settle for mediocre service!  If you’re buying your first home, find someone who enjoys working with first time home buyers.  I’m biased, of course, but I stongly recommend Liana Oram – she is one of the best and takes very good care of 1st time home buyers! 

5.   Not being patient.  A common mistake is for buyers to rush through the home buying process or make an offer on the rebound.  If you don’t get the house you really thought you wanted, it might be a good idea to wait at least 24-48 hours before you make an offer on another home.  Rushing into a home purchase is never a good idea and usually results in the buyer overpaying.  It’s important to remember that there are always other nice homes on the market.  This is not to say that you shouldn’t be aggressive about a home if you really like it.  Chances are good that if you really like it, someone else really likes it too. 

6.  Not buying a home.  The final mistake many people make is not buying a home at all.  If you are in a position to buy a home, there are too many good reasons why you should buy rather than continuing to rent or live in a home that’s no longer suited for your family.  However, being able to obtain an exotic mortgage to squeeze into a home you can’t afford is just as big a mistake as not moving at all, so always weigh your options carefully and find a lender and real estate agent who you can trust.  Happy house hunting!

Sealing the Envelope
June 12, 2011

 Blog by Liana Oram, Co-Founder of Blue Leaf Realty in Fort Worth, TX             

One of the areas of consideration when “going green” is evaluating and improving the building envelope.   These are the parts of the building that separate the interior space from the exterior.  This shell includes the foundation, exterior walls, windows, roof, exterior doors, and floors.  When you think about energy efficiency, this just makes sense.  When it is cold outside, we want to be warm.  When it is hot, we seek the cool interior.  Any transfer between the inside and the outside results in greater energy usage for us to be comfortable.  The two main action areas of closing the envelope are sealing and insulating – the main goal being to separate the inside and outside air.  If you are going for a specific GREEN certification, you need to be sure to consider these issue during the design stage of the building, but to seal an existing building you can use simple materials such as caulk and advanced materials such as OwenCornings new Energy Complete sealant. 

 The roof and windows are two very important considerations when sealing the envelope.  The options for roofs range from green roofs, which can be as simple or complex as you choose, to the installation of solar panels – a great way to create your own energy.  Green roofs also help prevent the heat island effect in urban areas – an extra plus!  Windows also have insulation and coating that helps let light into the building while reducing heat/cold exchange.  These low-e windows are increasingly common in all types of construction and are even part of many building codes. Doors and the efficiency of the HVAC system  play a huge role in helping to seal the building envelope and keep the occupants comfortable and healthy.  One interesting consideration when sealing a building is managing CO2 content.  Again, there are simple and complex solutions.  Opening the windows and allowing for a cross breeze refreshes the inside air.  There are also CO2 sensors that work with the HVAC system to bring in outside air when a specified level of CO2 is detected. 

When considering “going green” it is important to realize that there are many steps, considerations, and options – sealing the envelope is just one.  Determining your goals at the onset can help you focus your attention and resources in such a way to achieve maximum results and to take another step toward sustainability.

Grass Not Always Greener But Air Is Certainly Cleaner
May 31, 2011

New BRIT Building in Fort Worth, TX

Wow!  The new 70,000 square feet BRIT building in Fort Worth is incredible.  BRIT or the Botanical Research Institute of Texas is committed to the study of plants and the conservation of our natural heritage.  BRIT’s new building in Fort Worth just opened to the public.  At a cost of approximately $45,000,000, you expect nothing short of amazing with regard to BRIT’s new facility that houses various classrooms, a research center, BRIT’s library, and, of course, its centerpiece herbarium. It delivers a knock-out punch.  The building is truly very special.  You notice several things right away as you approach BRIT’s entrance. For instance, you notice the contemporary architecture, the concrete walls with cable trellises, and the curved covering that slowly pulls you toward the front doors, but most of all you can’t help but notice the grass on the roof.  BRIT calls this its living roof and it consists of vegetation that is native to Texas.  The idea behind this type of extensive roof is that it provides insulation and slows the runoff of water.  Most importantly, it returns a portion of the building’s footprint back to nature.

Once inside BRIT’s new building, you immediately notice how clean the air is.  Indoor air quality is one of the most important components of the US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designation system and BRIT is striving to obtain the Platinum certification, making it the first LEED Platinum building in Tarrant County.  BRIT fires on all cylinders that are important to LEED: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor air quality.  BRIT does such a good job, in fact, that it’s impossible to cover all the green features of the building,  In fact, a few visits to BRIT might be required in order to assimilate all of its green building features, but here are just a few of the highlights: 

5,000 Gallon Cistern

With regard to water efficiency, BRIT has low flow fixtures, waterless urinals, and two cisterns on its campus.  One cistern is underground and the other is visible above ground (shown in photo).  These cisterns collect water runoff from the living roof and store the water to be used for irrigating the native landscaping.  BRIT hopes it can irrigate all of its landscaping with water that has been recaptured and stored in its cistern and on-site catchment basin.

Natural Landscape Scene

BRIT has also been selected as a pilot project for the new Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), a program that sets guidelines for landscapes that are sustainable.  BRIT is working hard to preserve the Fort Worth prairie and is allowing natural vegetation and grasses to grow on the north side of the building.  BRIT will share its findings on the natural vegetation used in its landscaping by conducting on-site scientific investigations and research.

BRIT’s Lobby

BRIT has strategically positioned its building to take full of advantage of natural sunlight or daylighting.  The bulk of BRIT’s windows face north and south.  The east and west ends of the building have few to no windows, reducing the cost to heat and cool the building in hot Texas summers and cold Texas winters.  The interior spaces are bathed in natural sunlight – the lobby’s floor to ceiling windows overlooking the natural prairie are especially impressive. 

Cylinder Style Solar Tube

Utilizing the latest solar panel design by Solyndra, BRIT’s solar energy system capitalizes on close to 300 solar panels each with cylinder style tubes mounted on them.  Each tube is able to collect sunlight from 360 degrees of its surface allowing it to collect and then transform more energy than traditional panels.  BRIT anticipates that approximately 14% of its electricity will come as a result of these innovative solar panels.

Sustainably Harvested Cypress Wall

BRIT has done a fantastic job of selecting sustainable materials.  The BRIT building was made with 20% recycled materials and they even recycled 97% of the site’s previous building, the Public Health Center.  With ceilings made of bamboo, floors made of rubber and carpets made of wool, the building feels very natural and sustainable.  It’s also very attractive and feels very clean, especially the air that you breathe.  BRIT seems to have thought of everything, including the use of low VOC paint to cover the walls.  The most striking use of sustainable materials is the cypress wall.  BRIT used cypress wood recovered from the bottom of a river to showcase its commitment to sustainable architecture as shown in photo.

It would be easy to go on and on about the different sustainable aspects of the BRIT building such as its geothermal wells, bio-swales, motion sensors, and natural vegetation, but to truly appreciate it, I think it’s best to visit BRIT and experience it for yourself.  Be sure to take the kids and let them enjoy the many different learning opportunities that are available.  While you’re there, you can see first-hand the living roof, the rainwater retention pond, the cistern, the cypress wall and much much more.  Congratulations to BRIT on the realization of a dream.

Giving Thanks for Good Teachers
May 3, 2011

I’ve heard it said that those who can’t do, teach.  Obviously, these words came from someone who has never taught.  Teaching well is part art and part science and is incredibly challenging, and anyone who has ever taught or been taught by a good teacher knows this.  We must do a better job in this country of recognizing and encouraging good teachers to remain in the classroom.  If we don’t, they will find their way into other jobs in the private sector where their talents will be better rewarded.  This means that testing must take a back seat to teaching and teachers must be properly compensated for their efforts.  At BlueLeaf Realty, we love to help teachers with their real estate transactions.  We have a special place in our hearts for those who work tirelessly to improve the lives of young people.  Teachers – keep up the good work – we salute you!

Succeeding In Real Estate Today
April 29, 2011

Success in real estate does not come easily and requires a great deal of hard work.  With patience and perseverance, however, it is still possible to make an above average income in real estate even in today’s challenging real estate market.  A real estate agent must be personable and must have an innate drive to succeed.  They must also be willing to work hard to build their business and their brand.  If they are dogged and persistent, the hard work will pay off and their business and income will grow.  Very few career opportunities offer the same unlimited income potential as real estate.  Those who get into the real estate business believing in overnight success usually don’t fare well.  You must have a plan and must be ready to work that plan daily.  Only then will you see the return on your investment of time, energy, and effort.  You must also position yourself in a brokerage that has your back and is ready to help you reach your fullest potential.  That means the company you partner with should have a comprehensive training program designed to help you reach your goals.  Requirements do vary from state to state but Texas licensing requirements are straightforward.  Get started on your path to a career in real estate today!  There are many traditional and online real estate schools who are eager to help you pass the licensing exam.  Compared to two-year or four-year colleges, tuition for real estate is very minimal.  Upon completing your courses and passing the licensing exam, the final step is to partner with a sponsoring broker who is just as serious about your success as you are.  Email your questions about starting a career in real estate to blueleafrealty@gmail.com.