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And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

Monday Morning Coffee Stuart Sutton


Monday, September 19, 2016

The 4th quarter of the year is considered the slowest by most real estate experts, and that little fact resonates with home sellers.

There are a few facts that are worth pointing out though. 

1) Home buyers who look at homes for sale in the 4th quarter of the year are deadly serious about buying a home, so it does not take as many showings to find that right buyer.

2) The 4th quarter is a very busy quarter for employers to move employees, and these are decisive home buyers to be certain.

3) There is less competition in the 4th quarter because there are fewer homes for sale.

No, the 4th quarter may not be as busy, but many home sellers like the idea of having 3 buyers see their home in November while receiving an acceptable offer, rather than have 11 see their home in April in order to receive that offer. 

So do not discount the 4th quarter as a viable time to have a home for sale.


And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” – John Wooden

On Wednesday the best man I know will do what he always does on the 21st of the month. He'll sit down and pen a love letter to his best girl. He'll say how much he misses her and loves her and can't wait to see her again. 

Then he'll fold it once, slide it in a little envelope and walk into his bedroom. He'll go to the stack of love letters sitting there on her pillow, untie the yellow ribbon, place the new one on top and tie the ribbon again.

The stack will be 180 letters high then, because it has 15 years since Nellie, his beloved wife of 53 years, died. In her memory, he sleeps only on his half of the bed, only on his pillow, only on top of the sheets, never between, with just the old bedspread they shared to keep him warm. 

There's never been a finer man in American sports than John Wooden, or a finer coach. He won 10 NCAA basketball championships at UCLA (7 in a row), the last in 1975. Nobody has ever come within six of him. He won 88 straight games between Jan. 30, 1971, and Jan. 17, 1974. Nobody has come within 42 since.

So, sometimes, when the Madness of March gets to be too much -- too many players trying to make SportsCenter, too few players trying to make assists, too many coaches trying to be homeys, too few coaches willing to be mentors, too many freshmen with out-of-wedlock kids, too few freshmen who will stay in school long enough to become men -- I like to go see Coach Wooden. 

I visit him in his little condo in Encino, 20 minutes northwest of L.A., and hear him say things like "Gracious sakes alive!" and tell stories about teaching "Lewis" the hook shot. Lewis Alcindor, that is. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

There has never been another coach like Wooden, quiet as an April snow and square as a game of checkers; loyal to one woman, one school, one way; walking around campus in his sensible shoes and Jimmy Stewart morals. 

He'd spend a half hour the first day of practice teaching his men how to put on a sock. "Wrinkles can lead to blisters," he'd warn. These huge players would sneak looks at one another and roll their eyes. Eventually, they'd do it right. "Good," he'd say. "And now for the other foot."

Of the 180 players who played for him, Wooden knows the whereabouts of 172. Of course, it's not hard when most of them call, checking on his health, secretly hoping to hear some of his simple life lessons so that they can write them on the lunch bags of their kids, who will roll their eyes. "Discipline yourself, and others won't need to," Coach would say. "Never lie, never cheat, never steal," Coach would say. "Earn the right to be proud and confident."

You played for him, you played by his rules: Never score without acknowledging a teammate. One word of profanity, and you're done for the day. Treat your opponent with respect.

He believed in hopelessly out-of-date stuff that never did anything but win championships. No dribbling behind the back or through the legs. "There's no need," he'd say. 

No UCLA basketball number was retired under his watch. "What about the fellows who wore that number before? Didn't they contribute to the team?" he'd say. 

No long hair, no facial hair. "They take too long to dry, and you could catch cold leaving the gym," he'd say.

That one drove his players bonkers. One day, All-America center Bill Walton showed up with a full beard. "It's my right," he insisted. Wooden asked if he believed that strongly. Walton said he did. 

"That's good, Bill," Coach said. "I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them, I really do. We're going to miss you." Walton shaved it right then and there. Now Walton calls once a week to tell Coach he loves him.

It's always too soon when you have to leave the condo and go back out into the real world, where the rules are so much grayer and the teams so much worse. As Wooden shows you to the door, you take one last look around. The framed report cards of the great-grandkids. The boxes of jelly beans peeking out from under the favorite wooden chair. The dozens of pictures of Nellie.

He's almost 90 now, you think. A little more hunched over than last time. Steps a little smaller. You hope it's not the last time you see him. He smiles. "I'm not afraid to die," he says. "Death is my only chance to be with her again."

Problem is, we still need him here.  ~ by Rick Reilly ~ Sports Illustrated (written prior to John Wooden's passing)

Remember, it is Your Choice, so make it a Powerful Day!

 

Monday, September 5, 2016

As you may know from reading this update in the past, it is common for interest rates to decrease slightly when disappointing economic news is released.

Going against the norm, mortgage rates remained unchanged despite a disappointing jobs report - fewer jobs were added than expected last month, and a disappointing manufacturing report - less growth in the manufacturing sector than expected.

Mortgage rates stayed at 3.75% of the 30 year fixed rate mortgage and 3.0% for the 15 year rate.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

In honor of Labor Day ...

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” ~ Thomas Edison


During his tenure as CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas has doubled the profits of Market Basket, a regional grocery store chain. (Story by Ben Collins)

He had become a cult hero among his employees in the process.

His clerks earned starting salaries $4 above minimum wage. Full-timers were part of a 15-percent profit-sharing program that gave each employee a cut of the company's success. He even visited a store manager in the hospital when one was battling an illness.

Market Basket's prices, on average, were 22 percent lower than its closest competitor. They even beat Walmart's prices, despite giving employees what Walmart does not — benefits, guaranteed vacation time, and a living wage.

And Market Basket did it all while ringing in $4.6 billion in revenue last year, making the retailer — a regional chain in just three states — the 127th biggest company in America.

Still, after unprecedented success, he was forced out. The new CEOs wanted to liquidate and cash out.

So cashiers, truck drivers, managers and baggers — all of whom were not unionized — walked out in order to get their CEO back! 

They went on strike, risking their jobs and sacrificing paychecks.

After two months of protests, it finally paid off. 

Arthur T. Demoulas was bought back his company.

His speech about the benefits of treating the average American worker like a human being and not a means to an end, might be the best speech about the middle class I have heard. 

"You have demonstrated that everyone here has a purpose. You have demonstrated that everyone has meaning and no one person is better or more important than another, and no one person holds a position of privilege.

Whether it's a full-timer or a part-timer. Whether it's a sacker, or a cashier, or a grocery clerk, or a truck driver, or a warehouse selector, a store manager, a supervisor, a customer, a vendor or a CEO—we are all equal. By working together, and only together, do we succeed.

You proved that your grassroots effort to save your company and harness thousands and thousands of people was not about a family conflict or a Greek tragedy, but more about fairness, justice and a solid moral compass that unites the human soul.

I have always believed that we are born into this world and at a certain place to be with certain people for a reason and a purpose.

Everyone has a destiny, and because of you, I stand here with a renewed vigor and a sense of purpose.

May we always remember this past summer first as a time where our collective values of loyalty and courage and kindness for one another really prevailed. And, in that process, we just happened to save our company.

As you gave generously to those who had less than you, the public watched in awe and admiration, because you empowered others to seek change.

You all have demonstrated to the world that it is a person's moral obligation and social responsibility to protect the culture which provides an honorable and dignified place in which to work." 

Have a wonderful Labor Day!

 

Monday, August 29, 2016

The national housing data released this week revealed mixed results. In July, sales of previously owned homes dropped 3% from the multi-year high seen in June. This was the first monthly decline since February.

According to the NAR, rising prices and a lack of inventory are holding back sales activity. IN the Austin area, lack of inventory is certainly a factor.

By contrast, contracts signed for new homes jumped 12% in July to the highest level since October 2007, far exceeding expectations. The same strong new home market exists in the Austin area asa well.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Who needs candy, point systems or badges? There is no greater reward for student learning and behavior than a teacher who notices and cares. ~ Betsy Weigle

I was nine when I arrived at the Children’s Home in Nashua, New Hampshire, in 1965. I failed third grade that year, barely made it through a second time, and had squeaked through fourth grade by the time I reached Pauline Jambard’s fifth-grade class at Charlotte Avenue Elementary School.

I was convinced I wasn’t “smart” like the other kids, and I hoped I could make it through fifth grade. Ms. Jambard took an instant liking to me. Of all the subjects in school, reading was my favorite. She would tell me, “Terry, you keep reading. If you can understand what you’re reading, you’ll be smarter than most kids.” After I read all the books in our program, I started reading the classroom’s set of Encyclopaedia Britannica. I couldn’t find enough to read, and I started to really like school.

That December, the children’s home threw a Christmas party for family and community members. My brother and I had no family to invite. I still remember looking up and seeing Ms. Jambard walk through the front doors of the children’s home and realizing she was there to see me. That was the best Christmas of my life.

After I graduated from Ms. Jambard’s class in 1969, my brother and I moved, and I lost all touch with my teacher. In 1983, I was on a business trip and had to drive through Nashua. I took a chance and dropped by Charlotte Avenue Elementary. I was walking toward her classroom when she came out in the hallway and said, “Terry!” It was as if I had never left. I was in seventh heaven on my flight home.

We have stayed in touch, and I call Pauline at least once a year. Because of the confidence she instilled in me, I went on to have a successful career in engineering and law enforcement. I don’t know if Pauline realizes how much she helped me, but I’ll never forget her kindness and faith in me.
 ~ Terry Fallon

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, August 15, 2016

Retail sales make up about 70% of consumer spending in the U.S. Last week's retail sales data fell far short of expectations.  Since slower economic growth reduces the outlook for future inflation, this retail sales report was positive for mortgage rates, which ended the week lower.

The 30 year mortgage was 3.625% and the end of business n Friday, and the 15 year rate was 3.0%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.  ~ Nelson Mandela

The quote above is taken to heart by many, and the opportunity for education has such great importance that going back to school in this village in China is worth incredible risk and sacrifice.  

A bridge is to be built in a Chinese village where children are forced to cross a raging torrent on a steel cable to get to school.

School children in China

Nearly 500 children, from Maji village in Fugong town, Yunnan province, cross the most dangerous stretch of the Nujiang River each day.  They fasten themselves to the cable with a metal carabineer and a rope and slide across the 200 metre wide canyon, reports the Beijing News.

The youngest student, A Qia, 4, has to go over by herself each day. 'I have to hand walk for about 60 metres, since my light weight makes me stop about two thirds of the way across,' she said. 

The villagers say that usually four-year-old children are taken by their parents, and begin to go by themselves from the age of five.

A Pu, 5, who was stuck in the middle of the cable for nearly 20 minutes once, told reporters, 'I used to dream of having a bridge, but then I learned that my dream was too expensive.'  

However, officials have finally agreed to spend £35,000 on a bridge after a TV programme was made about the children's dangerous daily journey.

Remember it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, August 1, 2016

Once again, despite disappointing news in GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the broadest measure of economic growth, the bright spot for the U.S. economy was the Housing market.

Similar to the results for previously owned homes, sales of new homes rose in June to the best levels in about eight years.

The pending home sales report, which shows the number of resale homes that are actually under contract, showed an increase in June as well.

Again, it is important to note that these two reports likely would have been even better except for a low supply of homes available for sale.

And Here Is Your Monday Morning Coffee...

The fellow who thinks he knows it all is especially annoying to those of us who do.  ~ Harold Coffin

My wood-shop teacher, Mr. August J. Bachmann, was the most influential teacher I ever had.

I had gotten into trouble in his class: Another student had pushed me into a wood lathe, and I became enraged and began to hit him.

Mr. Bachmann stopped the fight, but instead of sending me to the office, he sat me down and asked a simple question: “Penna, why are you wasting your life? Why aren’t you going to college?”

I didn’t know anything about colleges or scholarships. No one had ever considered that a fatherless boy from the poorest neighborhood had a future. That day, instead of rushing off for lunch, he stayed and explained possible education options to me.

At the end of our talk, he sent me to see a secretary who had a child at a state college. This was in 1962 at Emerson High School in Union City, New Jersey.

Well, 53 years have passed, and what have I done with the knowledge he gave me? I gained a PhD from Fordham University when I was only 29. I taught English and social studies and then moved up the chain of command from teacher to principal.

I’ve sat on the board for Magnet Schools of America and represented that organization at the United Nations. I’ve won a number of prestigious educational awards.

But where would I be if a truly caring teacher had not taken the time out of his lunch period to speak to me? It was without question only his confidence in me that propelled me forward.

I have tried to repay his kindness hundreds of times by encouraging misguided youngsters to aim higher. If I have saved any children, it is because of him. If I have been a successful educator, it is because I had a great role model in Mr. Bachmann. ~ Robert Penna, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make a Difference to Someone Today!




 

Monday, July 25, 2016

June was another good month for the housing market nationwide. Sales of existing homes rose in June for the fourth month in a row to an annualized rate of 5.6 million units, which was the best level since February 2007.

This was achieved despite a very low supply of homes available for sale. There was just a 4.6-month supply in June. A healthy balance between buyers and sellers is considered to be a little over a 6.0-month supply.

Home builders are certainly aware of the lack of supply as they have ramped up construction. The Commerce Department reported that there were more houses under construction at the end of June than at any time in the last eight years.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“Wisdom is knowing the right path to take. Integrity is taking it.”  ~ M.H. McKee

I was shopping at my local supermarket., as I normally have for years. 

One particular day, I had done about 2 weeks worth of shopping and after the cashier had scanned my items and I had bagged them up, she stated that the total was $151.23.  

I reached into my back right pocket to grab the money to pay and noticed that there was no money in there.  I started to get nervous.  I knew my pocket book was in the car and I was sure I had put the money in my back right pocket.

As I realized what had happened I looked at cashier with wet eyes and a confused look not knowing what to do.  There were people behind me on the line. 

She told me to speak with the courtesy counter.  I laughed and said, "Really? It's cash, no one would hand that in!"  

I said I would be right back and ran to my truck to get out more money to pay my bill, money that was to be used to pay another bill.  I ran back inside and handed money to the cashier. 

She again prompted me to ask the courtesy desk, "You never know..." she said.  I laughed and said "okay".  

I decided that there was no harm in checking so I walked up to a women behind the counter and said "I have to ask, did anyone turn in cash by any chance?". She asked "How much?".  My face then lit up.  "$200 in the form of one hundred dollar bills." I replied. 

She said, "Actually, yes, someone did!".  I was so surprised! "Who? I want to thank them."  She points to a young girl about 10 years old and says, "She did."

I walked over to the mom and hugged her.  She said, "It wasn't me, it was my daughter. 

I said "I know, I wanted thank you both, although she found it ... it's because of how you are raising her that I got this back."  I was so happy, I was almost in tears. 

The next day at work, a person in another department offered me tickets to the circus.  He handed me 5 tickets. Almost instantly that young girls face popped in my head. 

After work I went back to the supermarket and stopped at the courtesy counter and asked if they had any idea who that woman was?  She smiled and said, "Yes, actually I do.  She is a friend of mine".  I asked her to do me a favor and pass along these 5 tickets to her and say thank you from me.

She told me the family of the little girl who found my money doesn't have much so they would really appreciate this.  She also said that they have 3 children, so five was the prefect number of tickets!

As I thought about it, I wonder how few people would turn in $200 cash, but what amazed me more was the thought of how few people who really need the money would turn in $200 cash? 

It is so good to know that to some people, integrity does not have a price. ~ Judy Abrams

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 

Monday, July 18, 2016

It was a pretty big week of news to see so little change in interest rates.

Numerous Fed officials made speeches over the past week, and the central theme was that federal funds rate hikes will take place at a very gradual pace. 

As a result, in the futures markets, investors have priced in less than a fifty percent chance of a rate hike during the remainder of 2016.

At the end of business on Friday, rates were 3.625% for 30 year mortgages and 2.875% for the 15 year mortgage... Yes, UNDER 3%!!

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

We hear a lot about setting goals, but even with ALL the knowledge we have about the power and impact of setting goals, less than 3% of us have goals and less than 1% review those goals, so here is a pretty darn good short video.

“Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I’ll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man with no goals and I’ll give you a stock clerk.” ~ J.C. Penney


Click Here to See the Short Video

Remember, it is YOUR Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, July 11, 2016

Over the past week, investors continued to seek the safety of U.S. bonds in the wake of the British vote to exit the European Union.

This added demand offset stronger than expected U.S. economic data, and mortgage rates ended the week at the best levels in years.

The 15 year mortgage was 2.875% at then end of business on Friday (less than 3%!!)! The 30 year mortgage was 3.625%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

The patriot volunteer, fighting for country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier on earth. ~ Stonewall Jackson

(This one received numerous requests to repeat, so here it is again... a true story.)

It was our normal Thursday morning business meeting at our real-estate office. No big deal. Before the meeting we hung around the bagel table, as usual, with our coffee. He stood aside, looking a little shy and awkward and very young, a new face in a room full of extroverted salespeople. An average looking guy, maybe 5 feet 8 inches. A clean-cut, sweet-faced kid. I went over to chat with him. Maybe he was a new salesman?

He said he was just back from Kabul, Afghanistan. A Marine. Our office (and a local school) had been supportive by sending letters to him and other troops, which he had posted on the American Embassy door in Kabul where he stood guard.

He had come to our office to thank us for our support, for all the letters during those scary times. I couldn't believe my ears. He wanted to thank us? We should be thanking him. But how? How can I ever show him my appreciation?

At the end of the sales meeting, he stepped quietly forward, no incredible hulk. As a matter of fact, he looked for all the world 15 years old to me. (The older I get, the younger they look.)

This young Marine, this clean-faced boy, had no qualms stepping up to the plate and dodging bullets so that I might enjoy the freedom to live my peaceful life in the land of the free. No matter the risk. 

Suddenly the most stressful concerns of my life seemed as nothing, my complacency flew right out the window with his every word. Somewhere, somehow, he had taken the words honor, courage and commitment into his very soul and laid his life on the line daily for me and us. A man of principle. He wants to do it. Relishes it. And he came to thank us? For a few letters? I fought back the tears as he spoke so briefly and softly.

He walked forward to our manager and placed a properly folded American flag in his hands. It had flown over the Embassy. He said thanks again. You could hear a pin drop. As I looked around I saw red faces everywhere fighting back the tears.

In a heartbeat, my disillusionment with young people today quickly vanished. In ordinary homes, in ordinary towns, kids like him are growing up proud to be an American and willing to die for it. Wow. 

We'll frame the flag and put it in the lobby. He only came to my office once, for just a few minutes. But I realize I rubbed shoulders with greatness in the flesh and in the twinkling of an eye my life is forever changed. His name is Michael Mendez, a corporal in the USMC.

We are a great nation. We know because the makings of it walked into my office that day. ~ Ann Baker, Huntington Beach, CA

Remember, its Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 


Monday, June 27, 2016

Well, the economists predictions are in. The exit of Great Britian from the European Union could cause interest rates to decrease... yep,even lower than they already are, if that is possible.

You see, when investors get wary of the stock market, they move to more secure investments and U.S. Treasury Bonds are a primary source.  Remember, the better bonds perform, the better interest rates perform, so here we are.

Predictions of another re-finance boom are are being made by many experts, so watch rates and start sooner than later if that is your plan.

Mortgage rates were not immediately affected, as rates at the end of business on Friday were still 3.75% for 30 year rates and 3% for the 15 year mortgage.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"Every one of us has access to something so simple and yet so much more powerful than we know, but few of us every truly use it. That is the power to make a choice!" ~ Tony Robbins

Take about 2 minutes to watch this short video... CLICK HERE TO WATCH... this is one of the shortest and has always been one of my favorites.

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make a Choice and Make it a Powerful Day!!

 


Monday, June 20, 2016

The Fed's most recent statement and Fed Chair Yellen's press conference proceeded pretty much as expected. The Fed made no change in the federal funds rate.

Investors mostly focused on the projections from Fed officials for the path of rate hikes in coming years which showed a significantly slower pace than the last set of projections made three months ago.

Little new information was provided about the timing of the next rate hike. The dovish tone of the statement was positive for mortgage rates.

Thus mortgage rates ended up the week at 3.75% for the 30 year mortgage and 3.0% for the 15 year fixed rate mortgage, near the best rates of the year!

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day. ~ Abraham Lincoln 

In June 1985, two British mountaineers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, made the first-ever climb of the West Face of the 21,000 foot snow-covered Siula Grande mountain in Peru. It was an exceptionally tough assault - but nothing compared to what was to come. 

Early in the descent, Simpson fell and smashed his right knee. Yates could have abandoned him but managed to find a way of lowering him down the mountain in a series of difficult drops blinded by snow and cold. Then Simpson fell into a crevasse and Yates eventually had no choice but to cut the rope, utterly convinced that his friend was now dead.

In his subsequent book on the climb entitled "Touching The Void", Joe Simpson wrote: "As I gazed at the distant moraines, I knew that I must at least try. I would probably die out there amid those boulders. The thought didn't alarm me. It seemed reasonable, matter-of-fact. That was how it was.

I could aim for something. If I died, well, that wasn't so surprising, but I wouldn't have just waited for it to happen. The horror of dying no longer affected me as it had in the crevasse. I now had the chance to confront it and struggle against it. 

It wasn't a bleak dark terror any more, just fact, like my broken leg and frostbitten fingers, and I couldn't be afraid of things like that. My leg would hurt when I fell and when I couldn't get up I would die."

The survival of Yates himself was extraordinary. That Simpson somehow found a way of climbing out of the crevasse after 12 hours, and then literally dragged himself 6 miles back to camp, going 3 days without food or drink, and contracting ketoacidosis in the process, wouold be the stuff of heroic fiction if it were not actually true!

Indeed, six operations and 2 years later, he was even back to climbing ... all because, against all odds, he tried.

Though life or death seems a strong motivation for trying, the same applies in daily life... not trying is the worst choice you can make. ~ by Joe Simpson

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 


Monday, June 13, 2016

Despite the blistering, hot real estate market, we tend to see a slight decrease in activity around the time that schools let out for the summer. That was noticeable this year as well.

If you know someone who has not refinanced or who is considering a home purchase, encourage them to check with a mortgage lender. It costs nothing to find out where you stand and what you can save each and every month.

Just to make sure you are in the best of hands, I will pass on the name of the best lender I have ever used in my 34 year career... Steve Ferguson ~ Southwest Funding ~ sferguson@southwestfunding.com ~ 512-913-7566 ... Call, email or text him, he will be happy to help.

And Here is Your Monday Morning Coffee...

America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. ~ Harry S Truman


Record of presentation of the "Medal of Honor"

Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism. 

While attacking a defended ridge guarding an important road junction, Second Lieutenant Inouye skillfully directed his platoon through a hail of automatic weapon and small arms fire, in a swift enveloping movement that resulted in the capture of an artillery and mortar post and brought his men to within 40 yards of the hostile force. 

Emplaced in bunkers and rock formations, the enemy halted the advance with crossfire from three machine guns. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Second Lieutenant Inouye crawled up the treacherous slope to within five yards of the nearest machine gun and hurled two grenades, destroying the emplacement. 

Before the enemy could retaliate, he stood up and neutralized a second machine gun nest. Although wounded by a sniper’s bullet, he continued to engage other hostile positions at close range until an exploding grenade shattered his right arm. 

Despite the intense pain, he refused evacuation and continued to direct his platoon until enemy resistance was broken and his men were again deployed in defensive positions. 

In the attack, 25 enemy soldiers were killed and eight others captured. By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance, and was instrumental in the capture of the ridge. 

Second Lieutenant Inouye’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

Now the interesting part... Daniel Inouye was a 2nd generation American, who family had immigrated from Japan, and the "Medal of Honor" was awarded him for his gallantry during World War II.

He was in high school in Hawaii when Pearl harbor was attacked. After a ban was lifted on Japanese-Americans joining the military he joined the army and was deployed to Europe with an all Japanese-American platoon.

Despite facing prejudice and hostility , Daniel Inouye served his country with grace and courage in war and in peace before his passing in 2012.

You may remember him as Senator Inouye, a 9 term Senator from the state of Hawaii who won his last election with 75% of the vote. He is described by peers as being quietly courageous and steadfast in is his representation of his state and his country.

Senator Inouye and his comrades were passed over for honors because of their nationality during WW II, but he was awarded the "Medal of Honor" and 21 others in his platoon were given well deserved awards in the year 2000.

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 


Monday June 6, 2016

Against a consensus forecast of 160K, the economy added just 38K jobs in May, which was the lowest level since September 2010.

Job gains over the past three months averaged just 116K, far below the average monthly gains of 219K over the prior twelve months. Remember that weak economic data typicall causes interest rates to decrease.

Thus, mortgage rates are near their lowest levels of the year. The 30 year year mortgage was 3.75% and the 15 year rate was 3.0% as of the end of business on Friday.

And Here is Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave." ~ Mark Twain

Of all the positions in journalism, that of war correspondent is the most dangerous... some are captured, and even killed.

Leonard Spencer was the newest war correspondent for the London Morning Post, on his was to his first assignment in South Africa.

The train he was on would take him as close to the front as possible, but then, it got a little too close. After the sudden crash, the train had hit a boulder on the tracks, and the volley from enemy rifles, the British returned fire.

And what did the first time war correspondent do? Leonard jumped off the train, directed the British defense, and helped clear the wreckage. As a matter of fact, accounts show that if not for Leonard, the train may have been captured and the troops on board massacred.

But the train did pull out and escape with the British soldiers, with only one individual left behind... Leonard Spencer was captured by the enemy. though technically a journalist, the enemy commander was so impressed with his bravery and strategy, that he had Leonard thrown into prison!

The prison in Pretoria was one of the world's most safely guarded strongholds. Despite that, Leonard plotted and successfully escaped with 2 British officers.

There was a small window, when the sentries changed posts, Leonard took the chance as carefully planned... when he reached safety he realized he was alone, as his 2 comrades has missed their chance.

Only 300 miles to freedom... he traveled alone, with no food, no water, dodging enemy patrols all the way.

When he finally reached the edge of enemy territory, found a mining town and was smuggled out on a train among bales of wood. The train carried him to the British consul.

And that is how this fledgling war correspondent got his story, and his reputation for daring, which stayed with him the remainder of his career.

The young correspondent who saved a British armored train and escaped under impossible odds continued to do then impossible for the rest of his life, and is better known to you and I as Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill!

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, May 30, 2016

The housing data released this week showed that home buyers were busy in April signing contacts to purchase homes. The market for both previously owned homes and newly built homes saw their best activity in years.

Improved labor market conditions and low mortgage rates are a great combination to support a very active housing market.

Mortgage rates end the week at 3.875% for a 30 year fixed rate and 3.125% for a 15 year mortgage.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes" ~ George Washington

I leaned against an oak at the side of the road, wishing I were invisible, keeping my distance from my parents on their lawn chairs and my younger siblings scampering about.

I hoped none of my friends saw me there. God forbid they caught me waving one of the small American flags Mom bought at Ben Franklin for a dime. At 16, I was too old and definitely too cool for our small town's Memorial Day parade.

I ought to be at the lake, I brooded. But, no, the all-day festivities were mandatory in my family.

A high school band marched by, the girl in sequins missing her baton as it tumbled from the sky. Firemen blasted sirens in their polished red trucks. The uniforms on the troop of World War II veterans looked too snug on more than one member.

"Here comes Mema," my father shouted.

Five black convertibles lumbered down the boulevard. The mayor was in the first, handing out programs. I didn't need to look at one. I knew my uncle Bud's name was printed on it, as it had been every year since he was killed in Italy. Our family's war hero.

And I knew that perched on the backseat of one of the cars, waving and smiling, was Mema, my grandmother. She had a corsage on her lapel and a sign in gold embossed letters on the car door: "Gold Star Mother."

I hid behind the tree so I wouldn't have to meet her gaze. It wasn't because I didn't love her or appreciate her. She'd taught me how to sew, to call a strike in baseball. She made great cinnamon rolls, which we always ate after the parade.

What embarrassed me was all the attention she got for a son who had died 20 years earlier. With four other children and a dozen grandchildren, why linger over this one long-ago loss?

I peeked out from behind the oak just in time to see Mema wave and blow my family a kiss as the motorcade moved on. The purple ribbon on her hat fluttered in the breeze.

The rest of our Memorial Day ritual was equally scripted. No use trying to get out of it. I followed my family back to Mema's house, where there was the usual baseball game in the backyard and the same old reminiscing about Uncle Bud in the kitchen.

Helping myself to a cinnamon roll, I retreated to the living room and plopped down on an armchair.

There I found myself staring at the Army photo of Bud on the bookcase. The uncle I'd never known. I must have looked at him a thousand times—so proud in his crested cap and knotted tie. His uniform was decorated with military emblems that I could never decode.

Funny, he was starting to look younger to me as I got older. Who were you, Uncle Bud? I nearly asked aloud.

I picked up the photo and turned it over. Yellowing tape held a prayer card that read: "Lloyd 'Bud' Heitzman, 1925-1944. A Great Hero." Nineteen years old when he died, not much older than I was. But a great hero? How could you be a hero at 19?

The floorboards creaked behind me. I turned to see Mema coming in from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.

I almost hid the photo because I didn't want to listen to the same stories I'd heard year after year: "Your uncle Bud had this little rat-terrier named Jiggs. Good old Jiggs. How he loved that mutt! He wouldn't go anywhere without Jiggs. He used to put him in the rumble seat of his Chevy coupe and drive all over town.

"Remember how hard Bud worked after we lost the farm? At haying season he worked all day, sunrise to sunset, baling for other farmers. Then he brought me all his wages. He'd say, 'Mama, someday I'm going to buy you a brand-new farm. I promise.' There wasn't a better boy in the world!"

Sometimes I wondered about that boy dying alone in a muddy ditch in a foreign country he'd only read about. I thought of the scared kid who jumped out of a foxhole in front of an advancing enemy, only to be downed by a sniper. I couldn't reconcile the image of the boy and his dog with that of the stalwart soldier.

Mema stood beside me for a while, looking at the photo. From outside came the sharp snap of an American flag flapping in the breeze and the voices of my cousins cheering my brother at bat.

"Mema," I asked, "what's a hero?" Without a word she turned and walked down the hall to the back bedroom. I followed.

She opened a bureau drawer and took out a small metal box, then sank down onto the bed.

"These are Bud's things," she said. "They sent them to us after he died." She opened the lid and handed me a telegram dated October 13, 1944. "The Secretary of State regrets to inform you that your son, Lloyd Heitzman, was killed in Italy."

Your son! I imagined Mema reading that sentence for the first time. I didn't know what I would have done if I'd gotten a telegram like that.

"Here's Bud's wallet," she continued. Even after all those years, it was caked with dried mud. Inside was Bud's driver's license with the date of his sixteenth birthday. I compared it with the driver's license I had just received.

A photo of Bud holding a little spotted dog fell out of the wallet. Jiggs. Bud looked so pleased with his mutt.

There were other photos in the wallet: a laughing Bud standing arm in arm with two buddies, photos of my mom and aunt and uncle, another of Mema waving. This was the home Uncle Bud took with him, I thought.

I could see him in a foxhole, taking out these snapshots to remind himself of how much he was loved and missed.

"Who's this?" I asked, pointing to a shot of a pretty dark-haired girl.

"Marie. Bud dated her in high school. He wanted to marry her when he came home." A girlfriend? Marriage? How heartbreaking to have a life, plans and hopes for the future, so brutally snuffed out.

Sitting on the bed, Mema and I sifted through the treasures in the box: a gold watch that had never been wound again. A sympathy letter from President Roosevelt, and one from Bud's commander. A medal shaped like a heart, trimmed with a purple ribbon. And at the very bottom, the deed to Mema's house.

"Why's this here?" I asked.

"Because Bud bought this house for me." She explained how after his death, the U.S. government gave her 10 thousand dollars, and with it she built the house she was still living in.

"He kept his promise all right," Mema said in a quiet voice I'd never heard before.

For a long while the two of us sat there on the bed. Then we put the wallet, the medal, the letters, the watch, the photos and the deed back into the metal box. I finally understood why it was so important for Mema—and me—to remember Uncle Bud on this day.

If he'd lived longer he might have built that house for Mema or married his high-school girlfriend. There might have been children and grandchildren to remember him by.

As it was, there was only that box, the name in the program and the reminiscing around the kitchen table.

"I guess he was a hero because he gave everything for what he believed," I said carefully.

"Yes, child," Mema replied, wiping a tear with the back of her hand. "Don't ever forget that."

I haven't. Even today with Mema gone, my husband and I take our lawn chairs to the tree-shaded boulevard on Memorial Day and give our three daughters small American flags that I buy for a quarter at Ben Franklin.

I want them to remember that life isn't just about getting what you want. Sometimes it involves giving up the things you love for what you love even more. That many men and women did the same for their country—that's what I think when I see the parade pass by now.

And if I close my eyes and imagine, I can still see Mema in her regal purple hat, honoring her son, a true American hero.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Fed officials made it clear that they will consider raising rates as soon as June if economic conditions continue to improve. Investors currently view tighter Fed policy as negative for mortgage rates, so rates rose as the Fed's position became better understood. 

Supporting the Fed's is stronger than expected improvement in the recent housing data.

Existing home sales in April rose for the second straight month and were 6% higher than a year ago. I

Housing starts, an indicator of future sales activity for newly built homes, increased 7% in April from March.

And Here is Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"It is even better to destroy the box than to think outside the box." ~ Albert Einstein

He was born to a wealthy family, whose dreams for him were nothing more than a "distinguished career". However, his interests were of great concern to his father.

Explosives... he was passionate about explosives. His father hoped that would pass, as there was no hope for a distinguished career involving explosives. This seemed to be a path to safe cracking.

But at age 13, he obtained some skyrockets from a friend. He had six of them, and as his mind searched for the best use of those elusive possessions he spotted the little red wagon.

No, he did not want to just blow it up, he thought differently, he always had.

If one skyrocket could launch itself high in the air, what could six of them do? Could they possible launch it into the air?

He tied 2 to each side and 2 to the back of the wagon, took a deep breath, lit the fuse and jumped cleared.

To his surprise, when the first of the rockets lit, its power tipped the wagon up on its back wheels, and when all 6 were lit, it was careening down the street at amazing speed. He was at first a little disappointed, because it was still earthbound, but then realized how fast that wagon was traveling.

Taking off after the wagon, he followed it until the rockets finally burned out 5 blocks away. Neighbors came out of their homes to see what was happening, only to find a 13 year old boy dancing around a charred out wagon with complete, unbridled exuberance!

They thought it was the typical excitement of a boy with explosives... all boys like to blow things up. The police thought the same thing when they arrived.

When his father bailed him out of jail, he was still excited, despite the severe reprimand.

But you see, he was not excited because he got to blow things up or use explosives for fun... remember, he thought differently.

He was excited because he had just proved what kind of power those little skyrockets could provide.

Since he was German born, his first foray into the use of the power of rockets was for Hitler and the German war machine, but he fulfilled his dream and moved to America.

His father's desire for a distinguished career came about a little differently than what he may have thought, because his son was the reason that the U.S. space program was the first to reach the moon. 

Without him there would be no Saturn V, yes the same Saturn V that carried men to the moon. 

Wehrner Von Braun thought differently, about life, about toys and about success. He destroyed the box.

Remember, it is your choice, so destroy the box and Make it a Powerful Day! 

 


Monday, May 16, 2016

Nice gains were seen in the JOLTS report, which measures job openings and labor turnover rates.

The JOLTS report helps to provide a broader picture of the performance of the labor market. Job openings in March increased to levels which were very close to record highs.

The "quits rate" also was at levels consistent with a healthy labor market. Employees are more likely to voluntarily leave their jobs if they are confident that they will find a better job.

Because this and other economic data was stronger then expected, interest rates increased slightly this past week, but are still close their lowest points for the year, with the 30 year mortgage at 3.75% and the 15 year rate at 3.375%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” ~ Stephen King

When he was 7 years old, his father died of pneumonia, and he was one of the 3 children out of 7 who lived to adulthood.

He had to go to work to help out and began working in a print shop at the age of 13, foregoing any real education.

He became an apprentice on a steamboat at the age of 21, and gave his younger brother, Henry, a job. Henry was killed on the steamboat when the boiler exploded.

At 28 he moved on to become a newspaper reporter, but was fired from that job, admittedly having become disenchanted with it.

After marrying and starting a family, he and his wife Olivia experienced the pain of a son dying as a toddler and 2 daughters passing away in their 20's. Only one of their 4 children lived long enough to have a family of her own.

After developing a career that did became quite successful, he made some bad investments and had to declare bankruptcy. One of his worst business decisions was turning down Alexander Graham Bell, who offered him an opportunity to invest in his new invention, the telephone.

A series of hardships and failures, a life of pain and loss, yet a life that left the world in admiration and even awe at a talent that has rarely been matched,

Earnest Hemingway said of him "All books come from one, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the best book we have ever had."

Yes, the descriptions and events are facts about one very well known person, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.

His books were usually based on personal experiences...

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was based on a boy he knew in his home town. He says that he wrote the book exactly as the boy was -ignorant, unwashed insufficiently fed, but had as good a heart as any boy ever had.

"The Innocents Abroad" was based on a trip he and his family took aboard a steamship to Europe and the Holy Land.

Most people are not aware of his hardships and setbacks, but are keenly aware of the worldwide success of Mark Twain.

If you read any of his famous quotes, you will see that despite the hardships, the pain, the sorrow, the failures, he lived just the way he spoke and became one of the most revered Authors in history.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

Remember, it is Your Choice, so decide that you will not be disappointed by the things you didn't do!

 


Monday, May 9, 2016

With the 30 year fixed rate mortgage under 4% and the 15 year mortgage at 3.0%, it goes without saying that buying should be in everyone;s plans for 2016. That may be exactly the case because home sales are blazing hot in our real estate market.

If buying is not a consideration, consider refinancing if you have not done so. Just moving to a 15 year mortgage from your 30 year mortgage could save you tens of thousands of dollars. 

That is not a figure of speech... you can literally have tens of thousands of dollars in your savings or retirement account that otherwise would have gone to house payments.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us. ~ Alexander Graham Bell

They were Immigrants from Scotland, who desperately wanted to live the American dream of liberty.

His mother encouraged his passions, especially in the area of speech. She was always there for him and was so intent that his accent not be a detriment that when they moved to Boston from Scotland, no one even knew that Alexander was Scottish.

Then came the fairy tale of innocence and charm lived out in nineteenth century Boston,

She was rich and beautiful, he was brilliant and poor.

They encountered the typical obstacles of parental disapproval, disappointment and struggle. Yet they remained steadfast. 

He was a speech therapist with a passion for deaf children. He was so intent on helping them that he devised a machine that would hear for them.

It would render sound waves visible, even identifiable to those who could not perceive them otherwise. His purpose, his passion was to help those who could not hear.

His genius was ridiculed, as his machine was repeatedly a failure, yet he persevered.

Yes, you guessed it, his machine became the telephone. Maybe you should look at that quote again... he truly lived it, looking for open doors when others were closed.

His motivation came from 2 women, his mother and his wife. Both inspired him, loved him unconditionally and showed never-ending devotion.

The irony in his life is that not only would the children he cared so much about never really benefit from his invention, but neither would his mother or his wife, as each of them were deaf as well.

He may not have provided exactly what he hoped to those who could not hear, but he provided something remarkable to the world, and all because when one door closed he looked for another one to open. I doubt even he envisioned what the telephone is today.

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 


Monday, May 2, 2016

According to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) report released by the Austin Board of REALTORS®, Austin-area single-family home sales increased 9.3 percent in March 2016 compared to the same month the year prior. 

The average price of a home in the Austin area increased 4.5% over a year ago and is now $347,734.

Demonstrating the need for additional housing supply, Austin-area monthly housing inventory was 2.0 months in March 2016, a decrease of 0.2 months from March 2015. 

This figure is still well below the 6.5 month level the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University estimates as a balanced housing market, and shows that we are still very much in a "Seller's Market".

Homes spent 54 days on market in March 2016, unchanged from the year prior.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” ~ Victor Borge

Thoughts about life that you may not have thought of, and maybe could use in your life.

On dying:

When I die, I want to go peacefully like my grandfather did–in his sleep. Not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car. ~ Bob Monkhouse

On Old age:

A stockbroker urged me to buy a stock that would triple its value every year. I told him, “At my age, I don’t even buy green bananas.” ~ Claude Pepper

Retirement at 65 is ridiculous. When I was 65 I still had pimples. ~ George Burns

On Home Security:

I have six locks on my door all in a row. When I go out, I lock every other one. I figure no matter how long somebody stands there picking the locks, they are always locking three. ~ Elaine Boozler

On Therapy:

My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far I’ve finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already. ~ Dave Barry

If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments. ~ Flip Wilson

On Wisdom and Knowledge:

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. ~ Miles Kington

Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I am not yet completely sure about the universe. ~ Albert Einstein

Life’s Mysteries:

The only mystery in life is why the kamikaze pilots wore helmets. ~ Al McGuire

Why didn’t Noah swat those two mosquitoes? ~ Anonymous

On Children:

By the time a man realizes that his father was right, he has a son who thinks he’s wrong. ~ Charles Wadsworth

Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories. ~ John Wilmot

The best time to give advice to your children is while they’re still young enough to believe you know what you’re talking about. ~ Evan Esar

It is amazing how quickly the kids learn to drive a car, yet are unable to understand the lawn mower, snowblower and vacuum cleaner. ~ Ben Bergor

On Men and Women:

Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition ~ Marilyn Monroe

Instead of getting married again, I’m going to find a woman I don’t like and just give her a house. ~ Rod Stewart

To attract men, I wear a perfume called New Car Interior. ~ Rita Rudner

On Politics:

Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first. ~ Ronald Reagan

You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog. ~ Harry Truman

On People in General:

When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren’t even smart enough to get out of jury duty. ~ Norm Crosby

Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do. ~ Isaac Asimov

It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance? ~ Phyllis Diller

I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and I think, “Well, that’s not going to happen.” ~ Erma Bombeck

The trouble with being punctual is that nobody’s there to appreciate it. ~ Franklin Jones

All you need to grow fine, vigorous grass is a crack in your sidewalk. ~ Will Rogers

The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one. ~ Erma Bombeck

There is nothing so annoying as to have two people go right on talking when you’re interrupting. ~ Mark Twain

I have to exercise early in the morning before my brain figures out what I’m doing. ~ Jerry Seinfeld

On Being Confident:

If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize. ~ Muhammad Ali

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, April 25, 2016

National news showed that recent housing data was mixed. The existing home sales data for March revealed a solid increase of 5% from February, and March home sales were higher than a year ago. 

Also notable, the number of existing of existing homes for sale increased 6%. Tight inventories have been a big factor holding back home sales activity in many regions. 

The national median sale prices were 6% higher than a year ago. 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected. ~ Steve Jobs 

About Excellence ~ by Jon Gordo

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to all the student-athletes and coaches at the University of Nebraska.

In my talk I shared that the best of the best make their life and work a quest for excellence and that there is a difference between success and excellence.|

Success is often measured by comparison to others. Excellence, on the other hand, is all about being the best we can be and maximizing our gifts, talents and abilities to perform at our highest potential.

We live in a world that loves to focus on success and loves to compare. We are all guilty of doing this. However, I believe that to be our best we must focus more on excellence and less on success. We must focus on being the best we can be and realize that our greatest competition is not someone else but ourselves.

For example, coaching legend John Wooden often wouldn’t tell his players who they were playing each game. He felt that knowing the competition was irrelevant. He believed that if his team played to the best of their ability they would be happy with the outcome. In fact, John Wooden never focused on winning. He had his team focus on teamwork, mastering the fundamentals, daily improvement and the process that excellence requires. As a result he and his teams won A LOT.

A focus on excellence was also the key for golfing legend Jack Nicklaus. His secret was to play the course not the competition. He simply focused on playing the best he could play against the course he was playing. While others were competing against Jack, he was competing against the course and himself.

The same can be said for Apple’s approach with the iPod, iPhone and iPad. When they created these products they didn't focus on the competition. Instead they focused on creating the best product they could create. As a result, rather than measuring themselves against others they have become the measuring stick.

We have a choice as individuals, organizations and teams. 

We can focus on success and spend our life looking around to see how our competition is doing, or we can look straight ahead towards the vision of greatness we have for ourselves and our teams. 

We can look at competition as the standard or as an indicator of our progress towards our own standards. 

We can chase success or we can embark on a quest for excellence and focus 100% of our energy to become our best… and let success find us.

Ironically, when our goal is excellence the outcome and byproduct is often success.

Remember, its your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, April 18, 2016

While explaining why the Fed plans to move gradually to tighten monetary policy, Fed Chair Yellen said that she was concerned that the recent increase in core inflation may be due to  temporary factors. 

The consumer price index (CPI) report for March released on Thursday might be a sign that her concerns are justified. It would be good for mortgage rates if inflation remains low.

Mortgage rates at the end of business on Friday were 3.50% for 30 year rates and 3.125% for 15 year mortgages.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

The quality of an individual is reflected in the standards they set for themselves. ~ Ray Kroc

In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who the heck is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter, I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who in the world is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.

Then, finally … “You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. 

“No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered,

“Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”

Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?”came a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.

“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.'”

Pause.

“Coaches …”

Pause.

” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him, do we widen home plate?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. 

He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. 

“This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.

“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross.

“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. 

From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …” With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside. “… dark days ahead.”

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.

His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches. (by Art Richardson)

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, April 11, 2016

Mortgage rates improved again this week!

Interest rates are again near the best levels of the year!

Again the improvement resulted from statements by central bankers... economic data had little effect. Statements by the heads of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the U.S. Fed shared the same sentiment, the global economy needs support.

These statements affected investors and the result is lower rates. The 30 year mortgage was 3.75% and the 15 year rate was 3.0% as of the end of business on Friday!

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

When he was a teenager, Dan Ariely was horrifically burned in an accident at a graduation ceremony, when a flare was mistakenly lit and exploded right next to him. 

It very nearly killed and resulted in about 70% of his body being covered in third-degree burns.” 

He spent the next three years in and out of hospitals and surgeries.

Every day, he was given a soaking bath that involved removing the bandages and scraping off dead skin and flesh.  The nurses would rip off the dressings all at once, without a break. It was excruciating, but the nurses insisted that tearing the bandages off was the best way.

It was excruciating and he knew it was going to happen every single day. 

But what could’ve sent a young man’s life careening off course ended up doing exactly the opposite. 

Today, Ariely believes that it was this painful period in his life that inspired his life’s work of studying human behavior. 

He could have worried, felt sorry for himself and asked "why me?". (not that these feelings were completely absent mind you, but they did not overcome) 

Instead, badly needing a distraction from the impending pain, he began to distract himself by noticing things, observing people and tasks and beliefs. 

Take the task of removing his bandages for example. It’s the conventional wisdom, right? The best way to pull off a bandage is to rip the thing off quickly, getting the pain over with. 

But Ariely later found in his research that the opposite is actually true: People would rather endure a lower amount of pain for a longer period time than a very high amount of pain for a shorter time. 

“If my nurses, despite all their experience with burn victims, had erred in treating the patients they cared so much about, other professionals might also be misunderstanding the consequences of their behaviors and make poor decisions,” Ariely writes. In a way, this early observation of human irrationality would come to be the groundwork for much of Ariely’s work, including his best-selling 2010 book Predictably Irrational.

Because he handled what happened to him in a positive way, Dan Ariely is currently a behavioral economist at Duke University and a best selling author. 

I highly recommend his book by the way...  Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, April 4, 2016

In a speech last week Fed Chair Janet Yellen laid out reasons that the Fed should take a very gradual approach to tightening monetary policy. According to Yellen, economic troubles in other countries pose downside risks to the U.S. economy. 

She also said that it is unclear if the recent pickup in core inflation will be sustained or whether it was due to temporary factors. Yellen's message about an outlook for low inflation and a longer expected timeline for tightening by the Fed was good news for mortgage rates, which ended the week lower.

The 30 year mortgage was 3.875% and the 15 year mortgage was 3.125% at the end of the business day on Friday.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Leadership is vital for the good of others... your family, your circle of friends, your work, your Church. ~ Anonymous

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. —Sam Walton

Click Here to See a Short Video About Leadership

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, March 28, 2016

Austin area housing remains strong as evidenced by February, 2016 real estate statistics.

The number of homes sold was 2.9% more than a year ago despite the common knowledge that there are few homes on the market for sale. We are still far from a balanced market of 6.5 month supply of homes for sale, as that figure is at a 2.1 month supply.

The average price home in our market was $333,011, about 7.6% more than a year ago.

It is taking just a little longer to sell homes than a year ago... an average of 62 days.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

One person practicing good sportsmanship is far better than 50 others preaching it. ~ 
Knute Rockne, Notre Dame football coach

During the 2008 Washington State 4A track and field championship, Andrea Nelson, a Laurel in the Woodridge Ward, Spokane Washington North Stake, received her best time in the 3,200-meter race. Although it was Andrea's best time, her second-place finish was still seconds behind the event winner, a senior from another school and the defending state champion.

Within a few minutes after the event, the judges made a ruling that left runners, spectators, and coaches confused. The first-place runner was disqualified due to officials believing she had taken three consecutive steps on the inside line of the track. As the announcement was made, many were upset because of the clear and fair win the first-place athlete had earned.

As the award ceremony took place, Andrea received the first place award, but she said that wasn't the way she wanted to win the state championship. At the conclusion of the award ceremony, Andrea hopped off the podium and ran over to the first-place finisher. She took her medal and placed it around the neck of the disqualified first-place runner, telling her she was the one that deserved the medal.

After Andrea gave her medal away, the second-place finisher decided to do the same. She took her medal and placed it around Andrea's neck, giving her the second-place title. Each of the top eight medalists, one by one, placed her medal around the runner who placed directly before her until each of other top finishers had a medal.

Andrea's example of good sportsmanship carried on throughout the state track meet. Ten days after the meet, the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association ruled the disqualification void, and declared the first-place finisher the official winner of the 3,200 meter race. They announced that she had been mistaken for her teammate who had stepped outside the boundaries.

Andrea had done what she felt was the right thing to do. Despite the chance to be a state champion, she decided that doing what felt right was more important the being Number One.

During the next cross-country season in November of 2008, Andrea went on to win the Washington State cross-country 3A championship, a title she had received the year before. Andrea's good example echoes what we would all like to see in our kids in the way of sportsmanship, integrity, and values. ~ by Marianne Holman 

Remember, It's Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 


Monday, March 21, 2016

With no statistics to fall back on for this spring market, I can just share with you that it feels like 2015 again, and that is a very good sign.

Mortgage rates are still hovering around 4% for the 30 year fixed rate, and that remains a driving force behind home sales.

The largest group of home buyers is still the "35 and under" group.

Baby Boomers, however, are "moving down" at an unprecedented rate, thus the growth of areas like Sun City and similar communities are flourishing.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

“The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.” ~ Mark Twain

Things that took me 50 years to learn:

1. Never, under any circumstances sould you take a laxative and a sleeping pill on the same night.

2. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, it's full potential, that word would be "meetings."

3. There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

4. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.

5. And when God, who created the entire universe with all of it's glories, decides to deliver a message to humanity, He WILL NOT use, as His messenger, a person on cable TV with a bad hairstyle.

6. You should not confuse your career with your life.

7. No matter what happens ... somebody will find a way to take it too seriously.

8. When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that person is crazy.

9. Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.

10. A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.

11. Never lick a steak knife.

12. Take out the fortune before you eat the cookie.

13. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.

14. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.

15. Your friends love you anyway.

(by Dave Barry) 

Remember, it is Your Choice, so find a way to Laugh today!
 


Monday, March 14, 2016

If you or someone you know has just started the purchase process or the refinance process, tell them to talk to their lender about "Locking" their interest rate.

Rates have increased in the last 10 days by about a 1/4 point and it looks like that trend will continue. 

If you think a 1/4 point does not sound like much... just so you know, for the average price home in our market that increases monthly payments by about $50! 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

My greatest strength is my persistence. I never give up in a match. However down I am, I fight until the last ball. My list of matches shows that I have turned a great many so-called irretrievable defeats into victories. ~ Bjorn Borg (6 Time Wimbledon Champion)



Remember, it is Your Choice, SO Make it a Powerful Day!
 


Monday, March 7, 2016

A wide range of major U.S. economic data was released over the past week covering the labor market, manufacturing, services, and housing. Overall, the data suggested that U.S. economic growth and inflation were a little stronger than expected. 

remember the general rule ... a stronger economy means interest rates will increase ... as a result of this week's positive economic data, mortgage rates ended the week higher. 

At the end of the business day on Friday, the 30 year mortgage was 3.875% and the 15 year rate was 3.25%

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass... life is about learning to dance in the rain" ~ Vivian Greene

When I met 18-year old Patrick Henry Hughes, I knew he was musically talented. I had been told so, had read that he was very able for someone his age and who had been blind and crippled since birth.

Patrick's eyes are not functional; his body and legs are stunted. He is in a wheelchair. When we first shook hands, his fingers seemed entirely too thick to be nimble. 

So when he offered to play the piano for me and his father rolled his wheelchair up to the baby grand, I confess that I thought to myself, "Well, this will be sweet. He has overcome so much. How nice that he can play piano."

The original plan, I thought, would be this: We were going to talk a bit as he played. That was the plan. Hughes would explain how he managed to navigate the keyboard and how he first learned the piano and what his favorite songs were.

But then Patrick put his hands to the keyboard, and his fingers began to race across it -- the entire span of it, his fingers moving up and back and over and across the keys so quickly and intricately that my fully-functional eyesight couldn't keep up with them. I was stunned.

The music his hands drew from that piano was so lovely and lyrical and haunting, so rich and complex and beyond anything I had imagined he would play that there was nothing I could say. All I could do was listen.

That is the power of Patrick Henry Hughes. He quietly makes you listen.

"I mean, God made me blind and didn't give me the ability to walk. I mean, big deal." Patrick said, smiling. "He gave me the talent to play piano and trumpet and all that good stuff."

This is Patrick's philosophy in life, and he wants people to know it. He isn't fazed by what many of us would consider insurmountable obstacles.

"I'm the kind of person that's always going to fight till I win," he said. "That's my main objective. I'm gonna fight till I win."

Patrick also attends the University of Louisville and plays trumpet in the marching band. The band director suggested it, and Patrick and his father, Patrick John Hughes, who have faced tougher challenges together, decided "Why not?"

"That's right," the younger Patrick said.

"Don't tell us we can't do something," Patrick's father added, with a chuckle. He looks at Patrick with a mixture of love and loyalty and admiration, something not always seen in the eyes of a father when he gazes at his son.

"I've told him before. He's my hero," the elder Hughes said.

Patrick's father attends every practice and every game with him, and learns all the routines. It's fascinating to watch them together, with Patrick focused on his trumpet's notes, swaying with the rest of the band in time with the music, and his father focused on being his son's eyes and legs.

And this is no sit-still-in-the-wheelchair-while-the-band-marches-around-you routine: Patrick and his father are right in the thick of it, with the wheelchair sprinting and spinning in formation and Patrick hanging on and playing his heart out.

Patrick says the other students in the band have been great to them.

"The students always help out Dad because sometimes he might get out of step," he explained impishly.

Patrick's father grins and nods. He concedes that navigating a wheelchair across the thick grass of a football field, in formation, sometimes at top speed, offers many exciting challenges for a man old enough to be the father of a college student. Fortunately, fellow band members are eager and willing to point him in the right direction.

"The biggest problem is sometimes when I'm backing up with Patrick, I can't stop quick enough." he said. "I'll have a horn player behind me, and they've gotten smart enough now that, rather than running into their horn, they put their hand up."

Blindness as a Gift and a Blessing

Some parents might see some bigger problems in all of this. For example, Patrick's father works an overnight shift at a shipping company and gets four or five hours of sleep so he can attend Patrick's classes and band practices with him all day.

Patrick's mother, Patricia Hughes, works full-time to supplement their income. She also takes care of the household, Patrick's medical needs, and siblings, and handles the concerns of every parent of a disabled child who looks down the road and wonders how it could possibly work out.

That's just not how the Hughes family looks at things. Patrick taught them to see it all differently, his father says.

"Back then he was born it was, 'Why us? What did we do that this happened to us?'" he said. 

"And we ask the same question nowadays, but we put it in a whole new light. You know, 'What did we do to deserve such a special young man, who's brought us so, so much."

Patrick John Hughes' gaze drifted again to his son, and both their faces lit up with smiles.

"He sees the world in a way that we can't even imagine," the father said.

Just listen to young Patrick and you know what his father means.

"I've always felt that my talent has really been a gift from God," he said.

Patrick includes his blindness, by the way, in the list of gifts.

"That's one of the great benefits I've found of being blind. I don't see the skin color, I don't see the hair length, I don't see the eye shape, I just see what's inside the person," he said.

Actually, Patrick said, blindness is more than a gift to him.

"I would have to say a blessing, because overall, it's shown me a complete world."

That's how young Patrick Henry Hughes sees the world.

"He has so much more to teach me," his father said. 

"And I think to myself: I see just what you mean. He's taught me so much already. ~ By ERIN HAYES (ABC News)

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 


Monday, February 29, 2016

On the national front, the housing data released over the past week was mixed, but the much more significant report was encouraging. January existing home sales, which make up about 90% of all home sales, increased to near the best level in seven years. 

Sales of resale homes were 11% higher than a year ago. Low mortgage rates and solid job gains are having a nice effect on home sales. 

The 30 year mortgage was 3.875% and the 15 year mortgage was 3.125%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"Capital isn't so important in business. Experience isn't so important. You can get both these things. What is important is ideas. If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn't any limit to what you can do with your business and your life." ~ Harvey Firestone

By a two-step process of invention, Earl S. Tupper created one of the most practical items of Americana to date: the airtight plastic food container that still bears his name.

Earl Silas Tupper was born on a farm in New Hampshire in 1907. As a boy, he applied his native creativity to building devices that made work around the family's farm and greenhouses easier. 

In fact, he earned a patent for a frame used to dress chickens for sale. 

The young Tupper also showed a talent for salesmanship: he increased his family's income by selling poultry and produce door to door rather than from a stand or at the market.

A couple years after graduating from high school in 1925, Tupper set out to earn his fortune. After working for various Massachusetts operations, he decided that he could best use his agricultural experience by branching out into tree surgery and landscaping. 

From 1928 through the early 1930s, Tupper Tree Doctors ran a fairly successful landscaping and nursery business, until the Great Depression took its toll, forcing the company into bankruptcy in 1936.

However, in his free time Tupper had been filling notebooks with scientific inquiries, experiments and inventions. Tupper found a job at Viscoloid, DuPont's plastics division in Leominster, Massachusetts. 

Although he worked there for only one year, Tupper always considered his formal training in design, research, development and manufacturing the true beginning of his education. Tupper took this experience and founded a plastics company of his own (1938).

The Earl S. Tupper Company soon changed the bulk of its business from subcontracting for DuPont to equipping American troops with gas masks and other items for World War II. 

It was only after the War that Tupper decided to focus on producing plastic consumer goods. This was a challenge, because plastics were still primitive, being generally brittle, slimy and smelly --- and consumers could certainly afford to be more finicky than soldiers.

Tupper rose to the occasion first by inventing a method to transform polyethylene slag, a black, malodorous by-product of the crude oil refinement process, into a plastic that was resilient, solid, and grease-free, but also clean, clear and translucent. 

This was a significant step forward in itself, allowing products that would not offend a homemaker's senses or sensibilities. 

But Tupper also developed an air- and watertight seal, modeled on those of paint cans, for containers made of his improved plastic. 

This created an entirely new alternative to tin foil for the short- or long-term storage of food.

By 1946, Tupper was marketing his home products, which now came in a range of bright colors: cases for cigarettes, tumblers for the bathroom, and containers for leftovers. 

But despite a glowing feature in Home Beautiful magazine the next year --- "Fine Art for 39¢!" --- the public remained unconvinced. 

Then, in 1948, Tupper discovered that two Stanley Home Products sales representatives were selling a great deal of his products. Stanley salespersons introduced their products to homemakers assembled at a "party" a hostess' home. 

Mindful of his own youthful door-to-door sales success, Tupper was willing to adapt and improve his sales methods, so he met with several Stanley distributors to combine forces and the result was Tupperware Home Parties, which is still the exclusive distributor of Tupperware®.

By the end of the 1950s, Tupperware Parties were a national phenomenon. Even after other companies were able to imitate Tupper's products, the "home party" sales technique guaranteed Tupperware® such a unique and preeminent status in the industry that its trademark has become practically an international generic term. 

When Earl Tupper sold his company for $16 million in 1958, which would be approximately $133 million dollars today, not only did he achieve financial success, but his ingenuity and sales savvy had already won him a form of immortality.

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, February 22, 2016

Just 1 thing to say ... WOW!!

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 3.75% at the end of business on Friday! The 15 year mortgage was 3.125%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

We prowled through the second hand bookstore, the day after Christmas, just my husband, Louie, our daughters, Jenny and Helen, and me. This was a precious time for us, because we would be splitting up as a family, again, in just a couple of days.

It had been a tough eight months since my husband had retired from the Navy. As plotters and planners, we had manipulated the "military system," while on active duty, as much as we could, trying to prevent a long, dreaded absence from one another. Now, here we were, retired, and we were eight months into our longest separation.

When my husband retired, we discovered that the only job available for him was in the city of Norfolk, Virginia. Our dream was to live out the rest of our lives in the mountains of southwestern Virginia, six and a half hours away. My health had gotten so bad, that it was impossible for me to stay with Louie in the city. We had settled for a separation, praying that a job would become available in the beautiful region that we love.

So, there we were, delaying the inevitable, passing time in a second hand bookstore, before the girls and I headed back to southwest Virginia. 

We were as broke as we'd ever been, supporting two households; yet we were grateful to be together, and we seized every opportunity for extra hugs, shared daydreams and laughter.

There was only one other person in the bookstore, besides the proprietor, a lovely, well-dressed, woman, about my age. I noticed her clothes, her shoes, and her expensive handbag, and I wondered what it would be like, to be rich enough to walk into a bookstore and have the money to buy any book my heart desired. But we were having so much fun, that I quickly forgot the woman.

We joked as we continued our treasure hunt, clutching our spending money of five dollars apiece, all hoping to be the first to find the oldest, least expensive book. It was a bittersweet excursion. 

Frequently Louie and I would brush past one another, finding excuses to touch or to give on another's hand an extra squeeze.

Jenny remembered, that there was an ATM machine, not far from the bookstore, and she decided that she needed another twenty dollars that she had squirreled away.

"No fair!" I cried, laughing. "The rest of us can only spend five dollars, and here you're going to have twenty-five dollars?!"

We all laughed, and we began to tease Jenny, mercilessly, but she was able to convince her Dad that she must have the $20, in order to get that irresistible book.

"Come on, Jenny," Louie laughed. "I'll drive you to the ATM."

Then we did another round of hugging and kissing, none of us wanting to be apart for even a few minutes.

Soon Louie and I would be saying "good-bye." We couldn't resist the opportunity to assure one another of our love, and our faith that our separation would soon come to an end. It must have been a curious ballet, this demonstrative family scene, but we were oblivious to what others might think.

Military families seem to fall into two categories: those who look for affectionate opportunities, and those who avoid close contact, because "good-byes" are painful. I have to admit that we're a pretty "huggy-kissy" family, so unmindful of anyone else, we continued to give kisses and hugs all around. In our military career, we had become painfully aware, that anything can happen during even the briefest separation. But now, as I look back, I realize how odd me must have looked.

Finally, in between another hug and kiss, I saw the perfect book for me! It was one hundred years old, and it was on my favorite time period, the Middle Ages. Oh, how I wanted that book! I quickly checked the inside cover for the price, and my heart fell. It was twenty-five dollars! We just didn't have it. I looked up at Louie, already knowing the answer.

He must have wanted me to have that book. I could see the pain in his eyes. Louie reached out and gave me an extra hug. I understood his "honey, we just can't afford it" message. I leaned into his sheltering arms, and I saw that the well-dressed lady was also touching the book that I wanted. Ah well, let her have it. I gave Louie and extra hug, and half serious, I murmured, as my eyes locked with hers.

"Oooohh, I wish I were rich!"

"It looks to me as though you already are," she said with a smile.

There was a pause that stretched through eternity, and my heart filled with comprehension. I looked up at my husband, and I gazed at my daughters, wrapped as we were in the arms of love, and I knew it. I was rich. Very rich. I quickly turned to thank the woman for her gentle reminder, but she was gone!

Who was she? I'll never know. But what she did for my outlook, was nothing short of miraculous. I will never forget her. Where did she disappear to? I can't say.

Strangely enough, within days, my husband received a job offer in southwestern Virginia. In less than two weeks, he was hired and we moved to the place that is now our home. 

The job notice had been sent out two days before Christmas, even as we hugged and kissed and wished in that bookstore. Even as I heard the words, "It looks to me, as though you already are," events were already in motion to unite our family.

I am quite certain that it was all part of God's plan, to remind me of what being "rich" is all about... faith, love, family, and friends. And when I get to heaven, I will not be at all surprised to discover that God sent an angel to a second hand bookstore, in Norfolk, Virginia, to give me his richest message, the day after Christmas, many years ago. ~ true story shared by Jaye Lewis

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 


Monday, February 15, 2016

You may remember from past that slower economic news results in lower mortgage rates. That has happened again this past week, as we are near the record low mortgage rates of 2012.

As of the end of business day on Friday, the 30 year mortgage was below 4%, at 3.75%, while the 15 year mortgage ended the week at 3.125%.

This has spurred home buyers in our market to take action, as January and February have been much busier than typical for this early in any given year, and statistics are showing the results.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

On this President's day, here are some of my favorite quotes and little known stories about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. ~ Abraham Lincoln

A man is just about as happy as he makes up his mind to be. ~ Abraham Lincoln

1. Benjamin Franklin isn’t the only American political leader who demonstrated an inventive mind. 

After being aboard a steamboat that ran aground on low shoals and had to unload its cargo, Lincoln, who loved tinkering with machines, designed a method for keeping vessels afloat when traversing shallow waters through the use of empty metal air chambers attached to their sides. 

For his design, Lincoln obtained Patent No. 6,469 in 1849.

2. On April 14, 1865, Lincoln signed legislation creating the U.S. Secret Service. That evening, he was shot at Ford’s Theatre. 

Even if the Secret Service had been established earlier, it wouldn’t have saved Lincoln: The original mission of the law enforcement agency was to combat widespread currency counterfeiting. 

It was not until 1901, after the killing of two other presidents, that the Secret Service was formally assigned to protect the commander-in-chief.

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. ~ George Washington

I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man. ~ George Washington

1. Washington  was voted the most outstanding military opponent of Great Britain in a contest run by the National Army Museum.

He was on a short list (from an initial list of 70) that included Napoleon Bonapart and Erwin Rommel. 

Dr Stephen Brumwell, who had championed Washington, identified many reasons for the ultimate decision.

Washington scores highly as an enemy of Britain on three key grounds: the immense scale of damage he inflicts upon Britain's Army and Empire – the most jarring defeat that either endured; his ability to not only provide inspirational battlefield leadership but to work with civilians who were crucial to sustain the war-effort; and the kind of man he was.

Washington often outmaneuvered British generals with larger armies, his leadership enabled him to hold together an army of secessionists from 13 different states and keep it in the field – and ultimately prevail – during the protracted struggle.

2. Washington was the only sitting President to ever lead troops into battle. (except for Bill Pullman in "Independence Day")

 “On September 19, 1794, George Washington became the only sitting U.S. President to personally lead troops in the field when he led the militia on a nearly month-long march west over the Allegheny Mountains to the town of Bedford.”

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, February 8, 2016

Despite the hike in the Federal Funds Rate, mortgage rates continue to react to national economic news and remain low. The 30 year fixed rate mortgage fell below 4% and settled at 3.875%, while the 15 year mortgage was 3.125% at the end of business on Friday.

Austin area home sales for January seemed to reflect those of a year ago, and did so specifically in many areas. Official statistics will be out in a couple of weeks.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but the knowledge that something else is more important than fear"


Joe Kittinger is not a household aviation name like Neil Armstrong or Chuck Yeager. But what he did for the U. S. space program is comparable. 

On Aug. 16, 1960, as research for the then-fledgling U. S. space program, Air Force Captain Joseph Kittinger rode a helium balloon to the edge of space, 102,800 feet above the earth, a feat in itself.



Then, wearing just a thin pressure suit and breathing supplemental oxygen, he leaned over the cramped confines of his gondola and jumped--into the 110-degree-below-zero, near-vacuum of space.

Within seconds his body accelerated to 714 mph in the thin air, breaking the sound barrier.

After free-falling for more than four and a half minutes, slowed finally by friction from the heavier air below, he felt his parachute open at 14,000 feet, and he coasted gently down to the New Mexico desert floor. 

Kittinger's feat showed scientists that astronauts could survive the harshness of space with just a pressure suit and that man could eject from aircraft at extreme altitudes and survive.


Upon Kittinger's return to base, a congratulatory telegram was waiting from the Mercury seven astronauts--including Alan Shepard and John Glenn. 

More than four decades later Kittinger's two world records--the highest parachute jump, and the only man to break the sound barrier without an aircraft and live--still stand. 

FORBES GLOBAL wanted to hear from Capatain Kittinger himself:



Joe Kittinger: We got up at 2 a. m. to start filling the helium balloon. At sea level, it was 35 to 40 feet wide and 200 feet high; at altitude, due to the low air pressure, it expanded to 25 stories in width, and still was 20 stories high! 



At 4 a. m. I began breathing pure oxygen for two hours. That's how long it takes to remove all the nitrogen from your blood so you don't get the bends going so high so fast. 

Then it was a lengthy dress procedure layering warm clothing under my pressure suit. They kept me in air-conditioning until it was time to launch because we were in the desert and I wasn't supposed to sweat. If I did, my clothes would freeze on the way up.



It took an hour and a half to get to altitude. It was cold. 

At 40,000 feet, the glove on my right hand hadn't inflated. I knew that if I radioed my doctor, he would abort the flight. If that happened, I knew I might never get another chance because there were lots of people who didn't want this test to happen.



I took a calculated risk, that I might lose use of my right hand. It quickly swelled up, and I did lose use for the duration of the flight. But the rest of the pressure suit worked. 

When I reached 102,800 feet, maximum altitude, I wasn't quite over the target. 

So I drifted for 11 minutes. 

You can see about 400 miles in every direction. The formula is 1.25 x the sq. root of the altitude in thousands of feet. (The square root of 102,000 ft is 319 X 1.25 = 399 miles)     

The most fascinating thing is that it's just black overhead--the transition from normal blue to black is very stark. You can't see stars because there's a lot of glare from the sun, so your pupils are too small. 

I was struck with the beauty of it. But I was also struck by how hostile it is: more than 100 degrees below zero, no air. 

If my protection suit failed, I would be dead in a few seconds. Blood actually boils above 62, 000 feet.

I went through my 46-step checklist, disconnected from the balloons' power supply and lost all communication with the ground. I was totally under power from the kit on my back. 

When everything was done, I stood up, turned around to the door, took one final look out and said a silent prayer: "Lord, take care of me now." Then I just jumped over the side.



I had gone through simulations many times--more than 100. I rolled over and looked up, and there was the balloon just roaring into space. I realized that the balloon wasn't roaring into space; I was going down at a fantastic rate! At about 90,000 feet, I reached 714mph. 



The altimeter on my wrist was unwinding very rapidly. But there was no sense of speed. 

Where you determine speed is visual--if you see something go flashing by. But nothing flashes by 20 miles up--there are no signposts there, and you are way above any clouds. 

When the chute opened, the rest of the jump was anticlimactic because everything had worked perfectly. I landed 12 or 13 minutes later, and there was my crew waiting. We were elated.

My right hand hurt--there was quite a bit of swelling and the blood pressure in my arm was high. But that went away in a few days, and I regained full use of my hand. 

We did it for air crews and astronauts--for the learning, not to set a record. 

But somebody will beat it someday. Records are made to be broken.

Stuart Sutton Monday Morning 

Remember, it is YOUR choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 


Monday, February 1, 2016

Recent economic reports supported the outlook for slower economic growth. As a result, mortgage rates ended the week lower. 

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage is actually UNDER 4%, at 3.875% and the 15 year mortgage is 3.25%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.” ~ Mark Twain

Click Here to See a Short Video of True Courage!

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 


Monday, January 25, 2016

Mortgage rates actually fell this past week, an unexpected occurrence after the long awaited increase in rates by the Fed.

As of the end of business on Friday, 30 year rates were 4.0% and 15 year mortgages were 3.375%.

Partial reasons for these rates are the VERY low rate of inflation, the lowest since 2008, and one of the major causes of that was the VERY low price of oil then and now.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

"People who ridicule others for setting goals, and having dreams, have never experienced the true power of either." ~ Anonymous

Don't let anyone else discourage you! 

So what if your New Year resolutions have dropped by the way side, and it is not even February yet.

There is NO reason you cannot start your New Year resolution today, January 25. It is actually easier now because there is no "New Year Resolution" pressure on you.

Just go back to what you wrote on Jan 1, take a step back and consider why you did not follow through with those resolutions.

One of the biggest reasons those resolutions did not stick is the fact that each one is overwhelming, much less all of them at once.

Instead of resolving to not to drink soda for a year, set a goal for 1 week. Identify the times you are most likely to have a soda that week and then change the routine or scenario.

If you usually have a soda on Tuesdays and Thursdays because that is when you go to lunch with the gang from the office, recognize that is your habit and resolve to break it on Tuesday and then again on Thursday. 

Now, having identified your habit, change the habit and move forward.

Despite conventional wisdom, I actually prefer to keep my resolutions to myself. Knowing that I crossed a milestone like passing my 4th week without having a soda is still quite satisfying, and in a way, even more satisfying if it is known only by me.

Now, those small goals add up to big goals... before you know it, you have gone a full year without a soda.

I still remember a young lady who set her goal to make an extra $10,000 in income the next year in her sales job.  As a single Mom, she needed that to be able to keep her kids in their home, their current school and quite bluntly, fed and clothed without going farther into debt.

After this same discussion, she resolved to have lunch out one less time per week, and to work through that lunch.

She found it easy to make it that first week, and was surprised and excited at the results from the extra hour plus of productivity that first week.

That first week led to the 2nd week, the 3rd week and so on. At the end of a year, she has been so productive that her income increased over $12,000 that year, and she tracked nearly every dime to that one goal!

By the way, she started it the first week in February, after being disappointed in herself for not getting it done starting at the first of the year!

So, write those resolutions (goals) somewhere so you can see them every day, somewhere ONLY you can see them every day. Refer to them every day, commit to them every day, and have a great 2016! ~ Joshua Trenton

It is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 


Monday, January 18, 2016

Mortgage rates remain impressively low, with the 30 year rate at 4.125% and the 15 year mortgage at 3.50%.

Home sales started very strong in 2016 ... if the first 2 weeks are an indication of buyer activity coming, then 2016 will be another strong real estate year.

Forbes projected a 3.9% growth in home prices in 2016, and that looks to be realistic. 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

3 Inspirational Lessons From Dr. Martin Luther King ~ Linal Harris

Dr. King has been a source of inspiration for me, since I was a child.

It was Dr. King (by way of my elementary school teachers) who first introduced me to the idea of dreaming and standing steadfast in a dream.

To honor Dr. King, on the day that has been set aside to celebrate his birthday, I would like to share three lessons I’ve learned from his life.

Lesson #1: Personal Immortality

Dr. King believed at a young age that as human beings we can achieve personal immortality. This doesn’t mean that you can cheat death…we all will die!

What it means is that as human beings we all have the potential to live our lives in such a way, that our legacy becomes immortal.

Our beliefs, dreams, words, writings, and lives can leave a lasting impact on future generations for thousands of years. He achieved this…will you and I?

Lesson #2: Shadow Casting

Dr. King hadn’t always been the man we all know and respect. In his writings, he admits to letting hate creep into his heart as an adolescent and later as a young adult he admitted to a short stretch of skepticism about his faith.

Dr. King became the man we love and know with help and influence from many other great people.

In college, Dr. King read Civil Disobedience by Henry Thoreau. He was so moved by Thoreau’s deep beliefs and writings, that he read Civil Disobedience multiple times that year. Thoreau’s life and his book were both catalyst that began to mold King’s life work.

What if Thoreau had never gone to prison for what he believed?

What if he had never written this book?

What if King’s college professor had not assigned it?

In seminary school, Dr. King had the opportunity to hear Dr. Mordecai Johnson, President of Howard University speak in Philadelphia. Dr. Johnson had just returned home from India and it was there that Dr. King was introduced to the teaching and beliefs of Mahatma Gandhi.

What if Dr. Johnson had chosen a different topic?

What if Dr. King had been to tired or busy to go?

What if Mahatma Gandhi hadn’t achieved personal immortality?

“Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King.

We can celebrate Dr. King today, because of the shadows those before him cast.

What shadows are you casting?

Lesson #3: Somebodiness

Dr. King often talks about the important role his parents played in his upbringing. One of the lessons his parents taught him, that he refers to often is the lesson he calls ‘somebodiness’

Somebodiness’ is a state of self dignity and worthiness, despite what others may think. It is a deep inner resolve that nobody can convince me that I am not somebody.

In 1967, Dr. King spoke in Cleveland and provided the following instruction to the audience:

“The first thing we must do is to develop within ourselves a deep sense of somebodiness. Don’t let anybody make you feel that you are nobody. Because the minute one feels that way, he is incapable of rising to his full maturity as a person.”

Are you embracing the full potential of your somebodiness?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has left so many lessons for each of us to learn. Personally, he has been a continual source of inspiration for me and because of that I celebrate his birth.

Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and thank you.

Remember, it is your choice , so Make it a Powerful Day!
 


Monday, January 11, 2016

New regulations  that went into affect October 3 affected home sales, and November saw a sharp drop.

However, Fannie Mae projects the improvement in housing activity seen in 2015 will continue in 2016 with a 3.9% increase in total homes sales.

Despite the volatility in the stock market, there was no change in mortgage rates over the last week ... 30 year mortgages are at 4.125% and 15 year rates are 3.5%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"The only thing worse than starting something and failing ... is not starting something." --Seth Godin

The Red Kettles was saw a few weeks ago are less than 15% of the Salvation Army's donations. With Twitter and Facebook and many other sources, the Salvation Army is keeping up with the times.

But, let's go back to the beginning. William Booth began The Salvation Army in July 1865. Preaching to a small congregation in the slums of London, his spirit was as militant as that of a professional soldier while battling an almost overwhelming army, and that modest beginning led to the service of over 30 million last year.

Recognizing that his followers needed more than just religion to improve their lives — and that the way to attract the destitute was the provide services — Booth provided meals, clothing and other assistance to his early converts. He was famous for saying, "Nobody ever got saved while they had a toothache."  

Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among Booth's first converts to Christianity. His congregation were desperately poor. He preached hope and salvation. His aim was to lead them to Christ and link them to a church for continued spiritual guidance.

Even though Booth's followers were converted, churches did not accept them because of what they had been. However, Booth gave their lives direction in both a spiritual and practical manner and put them to work to save others who were like themselves. They, too preached in the streets as a living testimony to the power of God.

In 1867, Booth had only 10 full-time workers. By 1874, the numbers had grown to 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists. They served under the name "The Christian Mission" and Booth assumed the title of General Superintendent, although his followers called him "General". Known as the "Hallelujah Army", the converts spread out to the east end of London into neighboring areas and then to other cities.

In 1878, Booth was reading a printer's proof of the organization's annual report when he noticed the statement, "the Christian Mission under the Superintendent's of the Rev. William Booth is a volunteer army." He crossed out the words "volunteer army" and penned in "Salvation Army."

From those words came the basis of the foundation deed of "The Salvation Army" which was adopted in August of that same year.

The Salvation Army gained a foothold in the United States by the work of Lieutenant Eliza Shirley, who had left England to join her parents. 

At 17 years old, she held the first meeting of The Salvation Army in America in Philadelphia in 1879. In 1880, General Booth sent a party of eight Salvationists, led by George Scott Railton, to officially begin the work of The Salvation Army in the United States.

In 1886, President Grover Cleveland received a delegation of Salvation Army officers and gave the organization a warm personal endorsement. This was the first recognition from the White House and was followed by similar receptions from succeeding presidents of the United States. 

The Salvation Army expanded rapidly to Canada, Australia, France, Switzerland, India, South Africa, Iceland, Germany, and many other countries.

Despite its sheer size and numbers, the Salvation Army spends over 90% of its incoming donations on the needy, and pays its Chief Administrators one of the lowest salaries of anyone in a similar position of leadership.

Today, The Salvation Army serves people in over 100 countries.

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 


Monday, January 4, 2016

The real estate market improved year over year in 2015... as a matter of fact, the results were a little better than expected. I will have all of those details for you before next Monday. Suffice it to say that 2015 was a continuation of a strong real estate market in the Austin area.

I can already tell you that 2016 looks positive... yes, only a few days into 2016, real estate activity is strong - it started the day after Christmas and has continued daily. 

Interest rates held steady for the last week of 2015 and into 2016, with 30 year mortgages at 4.25% and the 15 year rate at 3.50% 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Yes, I have included this little video before, but I thought it was perfect for the first Monday of the year.

Click Here to Watch the short video, "The Dash"

Remember, it is YOUR CHOICE, so Make it a Powerful 2016!



Monday, December 28, 2015

Interest rates are slightly higher as expected, but still remain at VERY positive levels. The 30 year fixed rate mortgage is 4.25% as of the end of business on Thursday and the 15 year mortgage is 3.50%.

Home sales are typical for the month of December, sporadic, but it is always surprising how many buyers are out looking at homes. That number is probably due to the prospective increases in mortgage rates. 

And Here is Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"If you think you can you can do it, or if you think you cannot, you are right." ~ Henry Ford

Click Here for a Short Video About An Autistic Basketball Player

Remember, it IS your choice, so Make it a Powerful Year!
 

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Fed finally did it, they raised the Federal Funds rate which does affect mortgage rates. 

Though the 30 year mortgage was 4.125% at the end of the day on Friday, and the 15 year mortgage was 3.50%, rates tend to inch up after an increase by the Fed, so expect some slight increases over the next few weeks.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"The only blind person at Christmas time is he who has not Christmas in his heart" ~ Helen Keller

In September 1960, I woke up one morning with six hungry babies and just 75 cents in my pocket. Their father was gone.

The boys ranged from three months to seven years; their sister was two. Their Dad had never been much more than a presence they feared. Whenever they heard his tires crunch on the gravel driveway they would scramble to hide under their beds.

He did manage to leave $15 a week to buy groceries. Now that he had decided to leave, there would be no more beatings, but no food either. If there was a welfare system in effect in southern Indiana at that time, I certainly knew nothing about it. I scrubbed the kids until they looked brand new and then put on my best homemade dress, loaded them into the rusty old 51 Chevy and drove off to find a job.

The seven of us went to every factory, store and restaurant in our small town. No luck. The kids stayed crammed into the car and tried to be quiet while I tried to convince whoever would listen that I was willing to learn or do anything. I had to have a job.

Still no luck. The last place we went to, just a few miles out of town was an old Root Beer Barrel drive-in that had been converted to a truck stop. It was called the Big Wheel.

An old lady named Granny owned the place and she peeked out of the window from time to time at all those kids. She needed someone on the graveyard shift, 11 at night until seven in the morning. She paid 65 cents an hour, and I could start that night. I raced home and called the teenager down the street that baby-sat for people.

I bargained with her to come and sleep on my sofa for a dollar a night. She could arrive with her pajamas on and the kids would already be asleep. This seemed like a good arrangement to her, so we made a deal. That night when the little ones and I knelt to say our prayers, we all thanked God for finding Mommy a job. And so I started at the Big Wheel.

When I got home in the mornings I woke the baby-sitter up and sent her home with one dollar of my tip money-- fully half of what I averaged every night. As the weeks went by, heating bills added a strain to my meager wage. The tires on the old Chevy had the consistency of penny balloons and began to leak. I had to fill them with air on the way to work and again every morning before I could go home.

One bleak fall morning, I dragged myself to the car to go home and found four tires in the back seat. New tires! There was no note, no nothing, just those beautiful brand new tires. 

Had angels taken up residence in Indiana I wondered? I made a deal with the local service station. In exchange for his mounting the new tires, I would clean up his office. I remember it took me a lot longer to scrub his floor than it did for him to do the tires.

I was now working six nights instead of five and it still wasn't enough. Christmas was coming and I knew there would be no money for toys for the kids. I found a can of red paint and started repairing and painting some old toys - then hid them in the basement so there would be something for Santa to deliver on Christmas morning. Clothes were a worry too. I was sewing patches on top of patches on the boy’s pants and soon they would be too far gone to repair.

On Christmas Eve the usual customers were drinking coffee in the Big Wheel. There were the truckers, Les, Frank, and Jim, and a state trooper named Joe. A few musicians were hanging around after a gig at the Legion and were dropping nickels in the pinball machine. 

The regulars all just sat around and talked through the wee hours of the morning and then left to get home before the sun came up.

When it was time for me to go home at seven o'clock on Christmas morning, to my amazement, my old battered Chevy was filled full to the top with boxes of all shapes and sizes.

I quickly opened the driver's side door, crawled inside and kneeled in the front facing the back seat. Reaching back, I pulled off the lid of the top box. Inside was a whole case of little blue jeans, sizes 2-10! I looked inside another box: It was full of shirts to go with the jeans.

Then I peeked inside some of the other boxes. There was candy and nuts and bananas and bags of groceries. There was an enormous ham for baking, and canned vegetables and potatoes. There was pudding and Jell-O and cookies, pie filling and flour. There was a whole bag of laundry supplies and cleaning items. And there were five toy trucks and one beautiful little doll. 

As I drove back through empty streets as the sun slowly rose on most amazing Christmas Day of my life, I was sobbing with gratitude. And I will never forget the joy on the faces of my little ones that precious morning.

Yes, there were angels in Indiana that long-ago December. And they all hung out at the Big Wheel truck stop.

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Giving Christmas!
 


Monday, December 13, 2015

Mortgage rates at the end of business on Friday showed a slight drop from the previous week, with the 30 year mortgage at 4.125% and the 15 year mortgage was 3.375%.

The Federal Reserve Board Meeting is expected to result in an announcement that will result in an increase in Mortgage rates. December home sales may benefit, as buyers are looking to beat more rate hikes in early 2016.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"It is always more blessed to give than to receive."

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve, I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. 

We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures. 

But Pa didn't get the Bible; instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn't worry about it long though; I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight. " 

I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We'd already done all the chores, and I couldn't think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. 

But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load.

Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. 

"I think we'll put on the high sideboards," he said. "Here, help me." The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood---the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting.

What was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked, "what are you doing?" You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. 

Sure, I'd been by, but so what? "Yeah," I said, "Why?" "I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the wood pile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt."

That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait.

When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the little sack?" I asked. "Shoes. They're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunnysacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy."

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy?

Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern. We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, and then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?"

"Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in for a bit?"

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp. 

"We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it.

She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children -- sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out.

"We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to me and said, "Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up to size and heat this place up."

I wasn't the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. 

In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak. 

My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. "God bless you," she said. "I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us."

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about eleven.

It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to say, "'May the Lord bless you,' I know for certain that He will."

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, "Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough.

Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunnysacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand."

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night; he had given me the best Christmas of my life. ~ Matthew Miles

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, November 30, 2015

A recent Freddie Mac (FHLMC) report ranked Austin as the 2nd most stable housing market in the U.S. The report cited Austin as an improving real estate market with positive gains in employment and mortgages in good standing. (fewer foreclosures and mortgages in default)

This identifies the Austin real estate market again as a great place to buy a home or invest in real estate.

No, real estate appreciation may not be as exciting as some other areas, but the stability of the housing market, consistent appreciation, and continued demand will certainly pay dividends.

And Here Is Your Monday Morning Coffee...

During the summer my father sold everything we owned, took all the money and disappeared from our lives. 

My mother suddenly found herself alone to care for five boys. I was the oldest, barely ten years old. My youngest brother still wore diapers. 

My grandparents welcomed us to their place – eighty acres of rocky hill country, twenty miles from the nearest town. They scratched a living out of growing row crops in the thin topsoil, and running cattle on open range.

My mother worked in the fields and cared for us kids while I started fifth grade at school.

Changes in our lives couldn’t be avoided. I worried about what might happen, but my mother stayed positive, and assured us that she would keep us together as a family and safe from harm.

Relatives donated hand-me-down clothes whenever they could, and the farm produced enough food to nourish all of us every day. I milked cows before catching the school bus, and did chores after I got home each day. The younger boys washed dishes, fed chickens and pigs, and carried in firewood. Six-year-old Jerry was paired with me on a crosscut saw, and we regularly cut wood to heat the house during the winter.

Our efforts paled in comparison to what our mother did, however. At one hundred-five pounds, she could swing an axe, manhandle heavy horse-drawn plows, haul hay for the cattle, and harvest crops. Still, she found time to help us with homework and say prayers with us. She also made sure we attended church regularly, and taught us to appreciate music.

As Christmas approached, my mother didn’t seem to smile as much. She hinted that Santa might have trouble bringing us presents this year. I considered myself practically grown, so I hid my disappointment, but when I overheard a conversation between my mother and grandma, I really started to worry.

“I can’t afford to buy Christmas presents for the kids,” my mother said.

“You need to have something for them,” grandma replied. “Maybe you could wrap some of the hand-me-downs.”

“The kids would be terribly disappointed to find old clothes under the tree. I have to do better than that. Maybe I can make toys.”

Homemade toys didn’t excite me, but I realized she had no money to buy presents. Explaining that to the younger kids might be difficult, though.

One day, my mother took a saw into the forest and returned with a stack of tree limbs. She left them in the harness room in the barn and refused to tell her curious children what they were for.

She worked on her project while I was in school, but I peeked when I had a chance. Pieces of wood had been cut into different shapes, then planed and sanded smooth. Later I found a stack of discs cut from a round oak limb. She also had started to carve a long piece of hickory, but I couldn’t figure out its purpose.

By Christmas week, my mother was her normal happy self again. Her project was apparently complete, and she evidently kept it secret because I’d looked everywhere without success.

When school let out for the holiday, my brothers and I cut a Christmas tree in the forest and dragged it home through the early snow. The whole family helped decorate it with ornaments, pinecones, and strings of popcorn. We gathered mistletoe and holly boughs and hung them throughout the house.

On Christmas Eve, we sang carols, and grandpa read aloud from his Bible. 

After my mother shooed us off to bed, I lay awake for a long while, anticipating Christmas morning. Aunts, uncles, and cousins would come for dinner, and I was curious about what my mother’s project would yield. I doubted that it could be anything elaborate, and homemade toys still didn’t sound exciting, but I couldn’t help noticing that she’d made a huge effort to provide for us.

I was already awake when she tapped on our door. “Merry Christmas, boys.”

We hurried into the living room, and saw that a stack of packages had magically appeared overnight under the tree. But before we were allowed to investigate what Santa had brought, my mother herded us into the kitchen for breakfast.

We gathered around the tree a little later, and my mother handed out the presents. 

My brothers opened packages stuffed with brightly colored trucks, tractors and trains. Those odd pieces of wood she had handled in secret were assembled and painted to form toys. 

The round discs made wheels that rolled, and the trucks and trains carried tiny logs and blocks. A tractor pulled a miniature wagon. The toys were beautifully crafted, and my siblings were thrilled.

When I tore off the newspaper wrapping my present, I found a hand carved bow and a quiver of blunt arrows. Blunt was fine, because I knew how to make them suitable for hunting rabbits by forging steel arrowheads in grandpa’s shop.

Many difficult years would follow that particular Christmas, but I never again doubted my mother’s ability to care for us. 

That Christmas would have been bleak without her skill and dedication, and it foretold her ability to provide for us. 

We were never hungry, and she made sure we got an education. She taught us faith in God and faith in our own abilities. That faith sustains me still.

Looking back, my mother’s determination and perseverance changed the harsh reality of that time, transforming our poverty into a memorable Christmas filled with delight. And as it turned out, the craftsmanship in those toys predicted her later accomplishments as an artist and sculptor.

Sixty-three winters have come and gone since that special holiday – that doubtful Christmas. I’m quite sure, in fact I have no doubts, that I’ve never had a happier one. ~ Doyle Stint

Remember, it is Your Choice, so make it a Powerful Day!
 


Monday, November 16, 2015

The 15 year mortgage has climbed to 3.5%, while the 30 year mortgage is at 4.25%. Yes, we have enjoyed these rates for awhile now, as it has been over 4 years since we saw rates above 5%. 

Despite our extremely strong market, there will be an impact if rates increase in 2016, and that is certainly the expectation.

And Here Is Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Know your priorities and identify 5 powerful action steps you intend to take to move your initiatieves forward each day. If you take and ax to a tree and take five whacks every day, it does not matter if it is an oak or a redwood, eventuall that tree is going to fall. ~ Jack Canfield

When Scott Harrison was 28, he realized he was a "selfish scumbag" while on vacation in Uruguay. 

He thought he had everything he wanted: model girlfriends, a Rolex, a BMW. But he wasn't satisfied. 

He didn't like the fact that things like toothpaste had better marketing campaigns than lifesaving causes. 

There were a few other things he thought he could change. 

So at 30, Harrison founded Charity: water, which brings clean drinking water to developing nations. 

One goal was to make sure that the branding wouldn't suck. To date, Charity: water has funded 3,962 water projects, providing access to clean, safe drinking water for 1,794,983 people in 19 countries. 

Harrison's goal now? Raise $2 billion to help 100 million people in the next 10 years.

This is what can happen when priorities are in place!

Remember, it is your choice, so make it a Powerful Day! 


Monday, November 9, 2015

Mortgage rates at the end of business on Friday were the same as a week ago... 4.125% for 30 year mortgages, and 3.375% for 15 year mortgages.

In an October 21 article, Entrepeneur magazine identified the top 10 real estate markets for earning a return on investment in the U.S.  Austin comes in at number 8, while Dallas is actually number 1 and Houston is number 4. Yes, there are 3 Texas cities in the top 10. 

If you like buying real estate in other cities, Dallas and Houston are great options, but if your back yard is #8 best city in the country to invest in real estate, it might be a great time to consider getting involved.

And Here is Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” ~ Albert Einstein

Click here to watch an awesome short video!

Remember, It is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 


Monday, November 2, 2015

Even though many recent economic reports in the U.S. contained signs of a slowing economy, the Fed statement explicitly kept the door open for a federal funds rate hike at its December meeting. 

This tone surprised investors and caused an unfavorable reaction in mortgage rates. At then end of business on Friday, the 30 year mortgage rate was 4.125% and the 15 year mortgage was 3.375%

Virtually all areas of the Austin market are still improving, but statistically the improvement is less than a year ago, as we continue to see in month over month stats.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"Work is a surefire money-making scheme." ~ Dave Ramsey 


It was a special trip to their daughter... each of her kids would be there for this special 25th anniversary trip, and she really wanted them to be there as well. 

There really was no money for it, but they looked at each other, and each knew what the other meant... they would find a way. The number of times that happened is beyond counting at this point in their lives.

The medical bills that went above and beyond then insurance covereage had to be paid after the birth of their first, and yes each child after, but they found a way.

As the years passed, clothes seemed to get more and more expensive, especially when the girls hit their teen years and make-up was added to the "clothes budget", but they found a way.

The extra funds needed for lessons - yes, piano of course, and the added assessments for school trips and clubs... could they really ask their son not to be in the band?

The crutches, the therapy for sports injuries, the equipment for sports. Maybe, just maybe a professional baseball player with a big contract... nah, but it was fun thinking about it.

Dogs are not free either, and the vet bills were quite a shock! But when their kids fell in love with the scruffy little brown eyed mutt, they looked at each other and as always, each knew what the other meant... they would find a way.

Each Christmas and birthday required a little more planning and budgeting, but they always found a way.

The way they raised their kids meant that each would work and contribute to their cars, and their college and they each did just that. But let's face it, the annual premium insurance for teen drivers was more than the cost of their first car, but they found a way. 

Of course the "find a way to pay" strategy included college educations for each child because they were determined not to have their kids start their adult life with debt hanging over their heads. 

When their daughter and son-in-law handed them the envelope, they were asked not to open it until they got home, which they agreed to.

When they climbed in the car for the long trip home they looked at each and knew exactly what they were going to do... as he tore open the envelope and showed her the contents, they both felt warm tears rolling down their cheeks... it contained plane tickets and hotel accomodations for their daughter's special anniversary trip, and the hand written note, said 

"We want you there so badly, and we know you would have found a way, but instead we decided to find a way... We love you Mom and Dad"

Maybe, just maybe your kids know how hard you tried, how much you sacrificed and how you always managed to find a way! ~ Author Anonymous

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, October 26, 2015

In national news, it was a solid week for the housing market data. September existing home sales increased 5% from August, near the best levels in eight years, and they were 9% higher than a year ago. 

Total inventory of existing homes available for sale fell to a 4.8-month supply, which was 3% lower than a year ago. 

The median existing-home price was 6% higher than a year ago, so all national housing data is positive.

At the end of business on Friday, the 30 year mortgage was 4.0% while the 15 year mortgage was 3.125%

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

It is that time of year again... it is nearing the holidays and we have so much to be thankful for, and there are so many in need.

As we do every year, we will be making someone's house payment... their December 1, 2015 house payment as a matter of fact.  And if we are fortunate, we will bem making house payments for more than one family.

A few years ago our real estate team was in deep discussion about all the wonderful charities we could support during the Christmas season. 

As the conversation continued we decided to consider a way of helping a family that represents who we are.... as real estate professionals we thought that making the December house payment for someone in need would free up the funds for Christmas gifts, dinner etc. 

If you would like to nominate someone you feel could truly use this gift for Christmas, we will be choosing a family or families to provide this gift for on November 25.

Please consider family, friends, co-workers, someone you know who may be in need, based on financial, medical or other difficulties that would make this kind of gift brighten their Christmas!

We feel truly blessed and would like to bless someone in need this Christmas... please help us find the family who is deserving.

Just send an email to me with your nomination. Thank you in advance. 

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, October 19, 2015

Home values and home sales both increased in September, 2015 compared to a year ago. Home buyers also paid slightly closer to asking price than they did a year ago.

However, homes did take slightly longer to sell than in September, 2014, but the change was small enough that it is not cause of concern about market changes.

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 4% at the end of the day on Friday and the 15 year mortgage was 3.125%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Tests show that after watching a humorous video, there are significant boosts to the immune system, including higher levels of anit-bodies, which can stay in this advanced state for 12 hours afterward. There are so many other benefits of laughter, including lowering of blood suger, pain control, improved sleep and better respiratory system performance. ~ Dr. Barry Bittman

Click Here for a Short Video - "Laughter is an Instant Vacation"

Remember, is is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 
 

 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Under most circumstances, mortgage rates improve when stocks decline, and the reverse is true as well. We have seen an example of this relationship over the last few weeks. 

During the second half of September, stocks declined and mortgage rates improved. The trend has reversed, however, as the Dow has climbed about 600 points over the past week, while mortgage rates have risen.

Although real estate sales tend to slow to a gradual and less frezied pace after school starts, and the month of September is the first of several months at a slower pace of homes sales.  

However, September was literally my busiest and most productive month of 2015.  I hope to see that continue!

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.” ~ Anne Frank

It was a day like any other, business as usual, following up with orders, taking care of problems, identifying solutions, wondering why little problems like these still exist after working so many years on fine tuning our business.

The little problem was something I really felt I need to address, so I asked one of my employees into my office to discuss how we could address it, solve it and not have to deal with it again, and then planned to do the same with a couple of other employees.

The problem was simple enough, but rather annoying to me as the boss. 

You see, my salespeople were leaving the orders incomplete and expecting the shipping department to complete what has always been the job of the salespeople in our process.

When I mentioned to Zach that I felt he could be more thorough in completing his orders and started to explain how and why it was important to our process, his immediate response was to ask why he was being picked on. 

I listened in awe as he explained that others were guilty as well, and he did not deserve to be corrected because others did the same thing.

I asked him if he knew the correct process?

He said "Yes", and as he added "but..." I stopped him. I asked that he make the necessary changes to adhere to our process, assured him he was a valuable employee and ended our meeting.

After he left, I pondered what my father had taught me, and what I hope I had taught my kids... NEVER blame someone else for your actions.

We all remember correcting one of our kids and having them say, "but sis did it too" or "my brother made me do it" or the one I always dreaded, "but you do it Dad".

As parents, we always said, "We are talking about YOU, not your brother."

As I listened to the news yesterday about a family bringing a suit against a business for something that was obviously not the fault of the business, but a result of the family doing something pretty darn stupid, it struck me as just another example of people not taking personal responsibility. 

When I was a little league coach, (I coached 14 little league teams) I never let my players or assistant coaches blame the umpire for a loss or even criticize them for a bad call.  

If they blamed the umpire, it was just another way to place blame elsewhere, when in fact the loss was our fault... had we gotten 1 more hit, or made 1 less error, that questionable call would not have even been an issue. 

In my business we interact with other firms every day and it boggles my mind to see the lengths others will go to to make sure they are not blamed for a mistake.

Our policy is simple, when we make a mistake, we take care of it, even if it causes a financial loss, because our customers depend on us, and do not deserve for us to be less than 100% forthright.

Recently one of our customers came to me about a problem that had cost her money and she felt we were the cause.  

Instead of putting her off and taking time to find out whose fault it really was, I paid to have the issue corrected, and gave the customer a discount on their purchase.

It turned out to be the fault of the 3rd party vendor, someone who does not even work with our firm, but finding out who to blame was not my priority, taking care of my customer was.

Finding blame can be important to avoid the same mistakes again, but placing blame to avoid responsibility is not productive and is often transparent.

In reality, I have a little less respect for those who do not take responsibility, and a lot more respect for those who do. ~ Stephan Gregory

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 


Monday, October 5, 2015

Mortgage rates fell to their lowest level since April... the 30 year rate was BELOW 4% at 3,875% and the 15 year mortgage was 3.125% at then end of business on Friday.

Keep in mind that weak economic data is a driving force keeping rates low, and the weaker than expected  job gains and weaker wage levels caused interest rates to remain low.

The Austin real estate market is feeling the seasonal change that results in fewer home sales and fewer homes being placed for sale after school starts each year.

This seasonal change is typical, and the fact that we experienced less of this change in the 2013 and 2014 markets just shows how strong those years were in Austin area real estate. 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

If you have never read "Life's Little Instructions" this is a great time to share. It is a great reminder of some small things that make a big difference. Here is part of the list...

* Sing in the Shower

* Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.

* Watch a sunrise at least once a year. 

* Never refuse homemade brownies.

* Strive for your best, not for perfection.

* Plant a tree on your birthday at least once.

* Learn 3 new clean jokes.

* Return borrowed vehicles with a full tank of gas.

* Compliment 2 people every day.

* Never waste a chance to say "I love you".

* Leave things a little better than you found them.

* Keep things simple.

* Relish small pleasures.

* Become the most encouraging person you know.

* Floss your teeth every day.

* Overtip your wait person.

* Always be eager to forgive.

* Always say "Please" and "Thank you". 

* Buy whatever kids are selling on card tables in their front yard.

* Carry jumper cables in your trunk.

* Wave back when kids on school bus are waving at you.

* Pay for the order of the car behind you in the drive through.

* Keep your promises... no matter what.

* Marry only for love.

* Count your blessings every day.

* Rekindle old friendships.

* Hug your children every day. 

What if you added one thing on this list to your life every once in a while?

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 
 


Monday, September 28, 2015

The change in real estate activity that normally occurs after school starts is finally being felt. Compared to just a few weeks ago, the number of homes being placed for sale has decreased, and consequently the number of homes going under contract has decreased.

Although there are typically fewer buyers looking at homes from now to the end of the year than in the spring and summer, the buyers who are out looking this time of year are typically more serious... a higher percentage of buyers looking at homes in the 4th quarter of the year will actually purchase a home.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Never surrender your dreams to noisy negatives. ~  Anonymous

Her husband liked her idea, but did not really think it was practical to put into action.

Her friends applauded her creativity and felt her idea was actually very creative, but not something that would actually work.

Her family knew she was right about her idea being a good one, but did not feel it was something that could become a reality.

Since her husband was associated with a pretty well known business consultants, she approached them… same reaction… super idea, but not one that would translate to business success.

Advice from those she cared about and trusted was certainly worthwhile, but she could not quit thinking about her idea and the fact that despite the practical advice she was receiving that not only was it a good idea, but it would work in real life.

So she did it, she rented a small space and put her idea into action.  You see, she made the best chocolate chip cookies anyone ever tasted… at least that is what everyone told her.

It was common for a group of family or friends polish off the last cookie from a fresh batch while complimenting it as being the best they have ever had, and at the same time telling her it would never be a viable business.

Their reasoning – everyone wanted crispy chocolate chip cookies, hers were chewy,,, great tasting but they were not crispy. Somehow, that just did not make sense to her.

The small space she leased had pretty good walk-by traffic, but few people walked in… she couldn’t help but believe that if only people tasted her cookies.

She began taking platters of cookies outside to the sidewalk and giving them away… if only people would taste them.

T
aste them they did, and their reaction was EXACTLY the same as her family and friends… best chocolate chip cookies they ever had… they always had 2 questions… where did the cookies come from, and how could they get more?

Word got around and the people started coming in to the little store to get the chewy cookies that no one wanted because they weren’t crispy.  So many people wanted the cookies that weren’t crispy that Debbie Fields became a local, and yes, a national sensation… (over a one hundred million dollar company in just a few years)

Debbie Fields was 20 years old when she started that little store, because Debbie Fields believed in her dream and she never gave up on her dream!

Let's repeat that quote from above ... "Never surrender your dreams to noisy negatives" ~ Anonymous

Remember, its your choice… Make It a Powerful Day!

 

 

Monday, September 21, 2015

The most highly anticipated Fed meeting in years contained good news for mortgage rates. The Fed chose to make no change, citing concerns that weaker global economic growth could exert downward pressure on U.S. inflation rates. 

Because expected future inflation levels are a key component in setting mortgage rates, mortgage rates ended the week lower. 

The 30 year mortgage was at 4.0% and the 15 year mortgage at 3.25% at then end of business on Friday.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“Greatness is all around us… just use it” ~ Bob Richards

Truly great people will share, they will give and they will give some more. Those with greatness inside have no reason to hold back, to hoard, to be selfish with what they know.

Great sales people will help less experienced sales people, great athletes will help less accomplished athletes, great business people will mentor younger business people with no expectation of return.

John Wooden, the greatest college basketball coach (and possibly THE greatest basketball coach in history) had a goal every day of his life… to help someone who could not reciprocate, where there was no benefit for helping them… he felt it was his obligation every day, and those who know him say that is how he has lived his life.

Bob Richards was a world class athlete, an Olympic pole vaulter with his sights on a world record. As many athletes do, he had hit a ceiling and could not seem to increase his pole vaulting height. He could not figure out how to improve.

Bob did the only thing he could think of, he called fellow athletes, and asked for help. One fellow Olympian, Dutch Warmer Dam, told him to come on up and visit him and they would figure it out.

Bob spent 3 full days with Dutch, where they worked tirelessly to figure out how to get Bob past this obstacle in his promising pole vaulting career.  Dutch pointed out some technical flaws, and Bob made corrections, and they practiced and practiced and talked it out and made changes.

To make a long story short, Bob Richards increased his pole vaulting height by 8 inches soon after… that is a HUGE increase for someone competing at that level.

Here is the interesting part of that story… Dutch was not just a fellow competitor, not just a friend in track and field, he was actually the pole vaulter whose world record Bob was determined to break!

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 


Monday, September 7, 2015

Another week of virtually unchanged mortgage rates... 30 year mortgage at 4.125%, and the 15 year mortgage increased ever so slightly to 3.375% as of the end of  business on Friday.

Local real estate activity is surprisingly active for this time of year. But do remember, from now to the end of the year is the most active time for employee relocations, so alhtough there may be fewer active buyers, those home buyers who are looking are very serious about buying a home! 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

Yesterday, Rebecca and I sat in a 2nd row pew at Grace Baptist Church and watched Trent, our 21 year old son, share a sermon with the congregation. As we watched and listened, we were feeling so many things... pride, love, gratitude, nostalgia are just a few in a seemingly endless list of emotions. 

As I pondered yesterday, it reminded me of this video. It applies to parents, co-workers, friends, family and so much more.

Click Here to see the Short Vide " The Push"

Remember, it is your choice, so "Give a Push" today, and have a Blessed Labor Day!


Monday, August 31, 2015

Stock market volatility shook the markets with record lows and record highs. The volatility may delay the Fed's intended policy rate increase until later this year.

In housing, new home sales rose in July, recovering from a slide in purchases in June. Demand is attributed to a healthy job market and low mortgage rates.  

One of the best indicators of the economy is consumer confidence, which rose to a 7 month high in August. This confidence suggests strength in the housing markets.

The 30 year mortgage was unchanged at 4.125%, and the 15 year mortgage dropped slightly to 3.25%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

Be willing to give that extra effort that separates the winner from the one in second place. ~ H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Click Here for a Short Video ... 
212 Degrees ... the extra degree that makes all the difference! 

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Home sales continue to show strength, and the Austin market particularly has been strong in 2015. Many inidividual neighborhoods have seen fewer home sales, and time on the market has increased slightly, but overall statistics are still better than they have ever been in Austin area real estate.

Unlike a year ago, when all 6 major statistics were positive, only 2 or 3 of these statistics is positive.

However the changes are so slight, and the statistics are so strong that the concern about a turn-around in our real estate market is quite premature.

The 30 year mortgage was unchanged at 4.125%, and the same goes for the 15 year mortgage at 3.375%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.” - George Moore

It had been some time since Jack had seen the old man. College, girls, career, and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams.

There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.

Over the phone, his mother told him, "Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday." Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days. "Jack, did you hear me?"

"Oh, sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It's been so long since I thought of him. I'm sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago," Jack said.

"Well, he didn't forget you. Every time I saw him he'd ask how you were doing. He'd reminisce about the many days you spent over on 'his side of the fence,' as he put it," Mom told him. "I loved that old house he lived in," Jack said.

"You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man's influence in your life," she said.

"He's the one who taught me carpentry," Jack said. "I wouldn't be in the business if it weren't for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important. Mom, I'll be there for the funeral," he added.

As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser's funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.

The night before he had to return home, Jack and his mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time. Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time.

The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture ... Jack stopped suddenly. "What's wrong, Jack?" his mom asked. "The box is gone," he said. "What box?" "There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he'd ever tell me was 'the thing I value most,'" Jack answered.

It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it. "Now I'll never know what was so valuable to him," Jack said. "I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom."

It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. "Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days," the note read. Early the next day Jack retrieved the package.

The small package was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention. "Mr. Harold Belser," it read. Jack took the package out to his car and ripped it open. There inside was the gold box and an envelope.

Jack's hands shook as he read the note inside. "Upon my death, please forward this package and its contents to Jack Bennett. It's the thing I valued most in my life."

A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filled his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the gold box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch. Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved:

"Jack, thanks for your time! Harold Belser."

"The thing he valued most... was... my time," Jack thought.

Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. 

"Why?" Janet, his assistant asked.

"I need some time to spend with my son," Jack said. "Oh, by the way, Janet... thanks for your time!" (author anonymous)

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 

 

Monday, August 10, 2015

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 4.125% at the end of the day on Friday, while the 15 year mortgage was 3.375%. These rates were the same as a week ago despite the fact that a Fed announcement indicates a near future increase.

Unless the economy significantly under-performs, the Fed's next meeting of September 17 may see the first interest rate increase.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value." ~ Albert Einstein

Some years ago I took an assignment to work with those on public welfare. My challenge was to show that nearly everyone has the capacity to be self-sufficient if they are activated properly.

The county sent a group of people of different racial groups, family make-ups, and backgrounds. I would meet with them for 3 hours a week. 

The first thing I said after introductions was "I would like to know what your dreams are."

Everyone looked at me as if I were a little wacky... "Dreams? We don't have dreams."

"Well, when you are a kid you had them... what happened?"

One woman said "I don't know what good dreams are, rats are eating up our home and my kids."

"That is terrible... Of course you are too busy with problems like the rats and with your kids. How can that be helped?" I inquired.

"I could use a new screen door, that is how they are getting in." she replied.

"Is there anyone here who can help her, anyone who can fix a screen door?" I asked the group.

"I used to do things like that, but now I have a bad back." one man shared.

I told him I would provide the funds if he would go buy supplies and fix her screen door.

"I will try." he said.

The next week I asked the same lady, "Is your screen door fixed?"

"Oh yes." she seemed pleased about it. 

"Then we can start dreaming now can't we?" She sort of smiled at me.

"How do you feel?" I asked the man who fixed her door.

"Well, it's a funny thing, but I am feeling a better this week." he replied.

That helped this group begin to dream. These and other small successes allowed them to see that dreams were not insane. It made them feel that something really could happen for them.

Other people began to share their dreams... One woman shared that she awlays wanted to be a secretary.

"What is standing in your way?" was my typical response.

She had 6 kids and no one to care for them while she was away. "Let's find out if anyone in this group will take care of your kids for a day or 2 a week while you get trainiing at the community college." I said. 

One woman said that she had kids also, but would take it on. 

So the plan was created and the woman who wanted to be a secretary went to school.

Everyone else found something as well. The man who fixed the screen door became a handyman and stayed quite busy. The woman who took in the children ended up becoming a licensed foster care person and stayed really busy.

In 12 weeks everyone in the group was off of public welfare. This was not an isolated incident... I have done it many times. 

People who lose hope quit dreaming, but people who can dream also have hope. ~ Virginia Satir

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 
  


Monday, August 3, 2015

June's pending home sales were healthy but down slightly after 5 months of gains. Tight supply could be the cause as competition remains stiff. 

That low supply of homes helped home prices continued to rise in May, for the fourth month in a row. Home prices rose nationally an average of 4-5%. 

On a side note, Rent-to-own homes are making a comeback as investors look to profit off the recovering housing market. Consumer demand for this option is growing. 

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 4.125% at then end of business on Friday, and the 15 year mortgage was 3.375%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Who are your heroes? They are those who affect your life through courage, sacrifice and honor, and these are often apparent in every day activities. It may not be a war hero, or a professional athlete ot a world renowned surgeon. Your Hero may be someone you see every day." ~ Anonymous

Bruno Serato moved from Italy to USA in 1980 as a poor immigrant who didn't speak a word of English. He began his career working as a dishwasher. 

Working hard, he dreamed of owning his own restaurant. He achieved his dream with hard work and dedication. 

He now serves Italian food in his own restaurant called the White House in Anaheim. Though celebrities and politicians have eaten at his restaurant, his favourite customers are the ones that he feeds for free, the so-called "motel children" of Orange County. They are the children whose parents are too poor to afford them decent, regular meals. 

The story began on April 18th, 2005. Bruno's mother came to visit him from Italy. As part of her tour of California, they visited the Boys & Girls Club charity in Anaheim. There, they saw a little boy eating potato chips. The director told them that those chips were all he had for dinner - his family was too poor to afford him a full meal. 

His mother then came up with the idea that started it all - to give the children who need it food from Bruno's restaurant. 

Bruno, inspired by her idea, then decided to start his own charity that offers free meals to children in need. He called it Caterina's Club, after his mother. 

Every night, the White House makes a meal of fresh pasta and sauce and sends it to the kids at the Boys & Girls Club in a van. 

Bruno has given away hundreds of thousands of meals so far. Some nights his restaurant struggled, having more children to feed than paying customers. 

But Bruno kept going and says he will never stop giving to the children, as it is his passion in life. 

Though his day to day actions are self-sacrificing and honorable, he does not consider himself a hero in any way, but that is exactly what he is to so many.

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 


Monday, July 27, 2015

Major real estate statistics were positive for June, 2015 in the Austin area.  

You may have heard on the news that Austin area home sales exceeded $1 Billion for the month of June, another record, as well as exceeding 3000 homes sold, approximately 5% more than a year ago.

The average home sale price increased approximately 10%, while homes spent about 50 days on the market (3 days longer than a year ago) 

The number of homes on the market remained hitorically low, so buyer demand is high and supply is low... perfect for an increase in values.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain" ~ Vivian Green

This short video will explain more... click here to see it!

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 
 


Monday, July 20, 2013

One of the best measures of U.S. economic activity is the monthly Retail Sales report. After a large increase in May, continued improvement was forecast for June. This did not happen. Instead of the expected increase of 0.5% from May, June retail sales declined slightly, and the figures from May were revised downward as well. 

Slower economic growth reduces inflationary pressures, which is favorable for mortgage rates. 

The 30 year mortgage as of the end of the day Friday was 4.25% and the 15 year mortgage was 3.375%

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“There’s nothing that makes you more insane than family. Or more happy. Or more exasperated. Or more… secure.” ~ Jim Butcher

It was a rare family reunion where everyone was able to attend. All their kids and grandkids were present and having a great time. One of her favorite ways to spend time is to watch her kids... she often sits quietly and observes.

There is no greater joy than watching her kids laugh, and it is even better when they are laughing with each other.

As I noticed her observing, I walked over and sat beside her, watching with her for a few minutes.

I could not help myself, so I broke the silence and asked the cliche' question, "What are you most proud of when you watch your kids?"

Now, keep in mind that all 5 of her kids would be considered financially successul, most own their own businesses and all live in lovely homes.

Without hesitation she said "Watch for a minute and you'll see it".

In silent agreement, I watched... they talked, laughed, teased and laughed some more.  

"Did you notice?" she asked.

"Are you proud that they are happy?"

"Of course," she replied, "but I am very proud of the fact that all of my kids can laugh at themselves." 

That seemed a little unusual to have near the top of the list as a reason to be proud of your kids... "Can you explain?" I asked. 

As I continued to watch I noted one sister tease another, resulting in laughter by all, and then the sister who was the subject of the joke added to the joke and laughter continued.

"You see, she said, people who can laugh at themselves are not taking themselves too seriously, they are rarely arrogant, and understand they are not perfect."

"People who understand that tend to understand that others are not perfect, and are more forgiving. I always taught my kids that no one is better than them, but that they are not better than anyone else."

"All of my kids have compassion, empathy, and care about the feelings of others. I believe that is why they are all so happy, and probably why they all are successful financially."

Taking this advice to heart, I often use this when observing others, and have found her to be exactly right. ~ Anonymous

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, July 13, 2015

The latest proof that buying a home is still a great option ... rental rates have increased a full 15% since 2010 and are expected to continue rising.

Mortgage rates decreased slightly for several reasons: Comments from the Fed's meeting indicated the policy of increasing rates my be delayed due to global concerns. Those concerns of course include the situation in Greece, as well as the rout of the stock market in China. 

The fact the unemployment applications rose to their highest level since February created some economic concerns domestically, which puts downward pressure on interest rates.

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage ended the business day on Friday at 4.25% and the 15 year mortgage was 3.50%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

"The love we give away is the only love we keep" ~ Elbert G. Hubbard

"BZZZZZZZZZ." The sound of my alarm clock was enough to make me jump. I turned over with a groan and stumbled out of bed. Today, I would begin my summer job. I was volunteering at the hospital. When I had decided to work there I had been excited, but now I was very anxious about what I would be doing.

At the hospital I learned that most of my job would be to take patients to their rooms and to do other odd jobs. On Fridays, however, I would spend time in Pediatrics, visiting with a child. 

The first few days passed quickly. By Friday, I had forgotten about my date on the Pediatrics floor. So when I was instructed to go meet Emily, a leukemia patient, I tried to plaster a calm smile across my face, but inside I wanted to cry. Even with her lack of hair and an IV in her arm, she mustered the strength to smile and speak with me.

I soon learned that Emily was eight. She loved going to the beach and playing with dolls, and she had an older brother named Ryan. She was on the town soccer team and proudly informed me that she had scored more goals than anyone else on her team. With our incessant chatting, that first Friday very quickly came to an end.

When I told her I would be back in a week, she begged and pleaded for me to visit on Monday. I couldn't resist her toothless grin, and so I "pinkie-swore" to be back after the weekend. It wasn't long before I was spending lunch breaks with Emily and leaving the hospital long after my shift had ended to spend time with her in the game room.

On the days she felt strong enough we played soccer, although it was not allowed. The nurses would pretend not to notice as Emily's most prized possession, her soccer ball, went flying through the air.

On rare occasions her illness would get the best of her, I would read to her or play Barbies ... on one occasion we cut Barbie's hair off so she would look just like Emily.

I admired Emily for so many things, but at 8 years old, I never saw her shed a tear... her will to live was inspring. Her constant optimism, her contagious laughter, her emotional strength, her wisdom beyond her years made her an inspiration to me.

In addition to playing, there were the tough times .... I would have given anything to take her pain away, but could only hold her hand while she vomited from the medication wreaking havoc on her frail little body.

Toward the mid-summer, her yuck days (as he called them) began to out number her good ones, and I remember the day arriving to find Emily in an unusual state - she was in a deep sleep. Her mother informed me that she had only a few weeks left.

Even during her last few days, Emily brought joy into the lives of all those around her.  She laughed and giggled as only an 8 year girl can with all those who visited, and she marveled at all the cards and stuffed animals brought just for her. 

One evening after dinner, we played soccer, a special event because she had not felt strong enough to play in a while.  We then finished the evening with her favorite book, Cinderella, and I pinkie-swore that I would be back for another game the next evening. She gave me the biggest hug her frail body could muster.

The next morning, I sprinted down the corridor to see my favorite patient, but was instead met by her mother, who informed me that Emily has passed away and that I had made her last few months very special. That did not ease my aching heart, but as I left, she handed me an envelope ... I could tell that it was from Emily because of the backward "S" scribbled in red crayon.

Opening it in my car, I found a dawing of Emily and I playing soccer, with the headline "To my favorite soccer player". The tears I had been desperately trying to hold back poured freely... I had been truly blessed by this amazing 8 year old girl.
|
I never want to forget the time shared and lessons learned, so I keep that folded drawing in my wallet, and I pull it out whenever I need it, and smile back at that beauitiful toothless grin that taught me so much about life, about optimism in life's darkest hours, and about unconditional love and friendship. ~ by Suzanne Timmons (Chicken Soup for the Soul)

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 


Monday, June 29, 2015

National housing data released this week was encouraging. May Existing Home Sales rose 5% from April to the highest level since November 2009!

Home sales were 10% higher than a year ago, and many of those were first-time buyers. 

New Home Sales increased 2% from April, a 20% increase over last year, and the highest level since February 2008. 

A tight supply of homes for sale prevented even better results. Recent data on housing starts and building permits suggest that builders are ramping up production.

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage as of the end of business on Frday was 4.375% and the 15 year fixed mortgage was 3.50% 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.  ~Thomas Paine

As you may know, I spent five and one half years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. In the early years of our imprisonment, the NVA kept us in solitary confinement or two or three to a cell. In 1971 the NVA moved us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men to a room. 

This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change and was a direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans on behalf of a few hundred POWs 10,000 miles from home.

One of the men who moved into my room was a young man named Mike Christian. Mike came from a small town near Selma, Alabama. He didn't wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old. At 17, heenlisted in the US Navy. He later earned a commission by going to Officer Training School. Then he became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967.

Mike had a keen and deep appreciation of the opportunities this country-and our military-provide for people who want to work and want to succeed. As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home. In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves and other items of clothing. Mike got himself a bamboo needle. Over a period of a couple of months, he created an American flag and sewed on the inside of his shirt.

Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike's shirt on the wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important part of our day now, but I can assure you that in that stark cell it was indeed the most important and meaningful event.

One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did periodically, and discovered Mike's shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it. That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all us, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours. Then, they opened the door of the cell and threw him in. We cleaned him up as well as we could.

The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept. Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room. As I said, we tried to clean up Mike as well as we could. After the excitement died down, I looked in the corner of the room, and sitting there beneath that dim light bulb with a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian. He was sitting there with his eyes almost shut from the beating he had received, making another American flag.

He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was to us to be able to pledge allegiance to our flag and our country.

So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you must never forget the sacrifice and courage that thousands of Americans have made to build our nation and promote freedom around the world. You must remember our duty, our honor, and our country.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." (Taken for a speech by John McCain)

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Patriotic July 4th! 

 


Monday, June 22, 2015


The average price of a home in the Austin, TX real estate market was $348,201 in May of 2015, approximately 7% more than a year ago.

Homes are still selling quickly with an average time on the market of only 42 days.

The number of homes for sale was 6% higher than a year ago, so the trend seems to be toward a slightly less overwhelming sellers' market, though multiple offers are still common in many areas and expecially in homes priced under $300,000. 

With interest rates having dropped slightly, 30 year mortgages at 4.125% and 15 year mortgages at 3.375%, buyer demand will continue to remain strong. 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments. You must experience each one before you can appreciate it.” ~ Sara Ban Breathnach

(Life has so many of these moments, and so many of these hours and even days. Recently my own son pointed out that he and I had just experienced a near perfect day! As I reflected on it, I realized how right he was and then I found this little video... hope you enjoy. ~ Stuart Sutton)

Click here to see this short video about the "Perfect Moment"

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 


Monday, June 15, 2015

Following the stronger than expected May Employment report, additional evidence that the labor market continues to improve at a solid pace was the fact that job openings in April rose to the highest level since December 2000. 

Employees also showed a high willingness to voluntarily leave their jobs, a sign of confidence that they will be able to find another job. 

Strong data is great for the economy, but it raises expectations for future inflation, which is negative for mortgage rates. 

At the end of business on Friday, the 30 year fixed mortgage was 4.25% and the 15 year mortgage was 3.50%, unchanged from a week ago.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.  ~ Napolean Hill

During a mining accident, no one worked harder, no one worked longer, no one was more passionate about saving those who were trapped and injured. He tirelessly nursed the wounded, fed the hungry and clothed the poor. He even scraped the slag heaps to give his people fuel.

His selflessness was what really drew the people in this little Belgian mining town to respect and love him and embrace him as their spiritual leader.

Their attendance overflowed his services each week to listen to this unassuming man share the Word of God. Willem was passionate about devoting himself to his fellow man and to the Word of God, and the people could feel his passion and his devotion. 

Then lightning struck. A visiting Church official was stunned tio find Willem living in a simple hut, wearing a soldier's coat and trousers made of sack closth.  He looked more miserable than the people he served observed the Church official. What had he done with his salary?

Willem simply answered that he had given it to the miners to help them.... wasn't this what was intended in the service of God's people?

The Church official disagreed and felt it would take years to rebuild this Church and ministry, and he dismissed Willem.

Willem was in despair, and spent weeks mourning the loss of his position with the Church. Then one day he noticed a miner, bent over under the burden of a heavy sack of coal. That's when it hit him... their lives, their desperation would always be his.

He fumbled through his pockets and pulled out a tattered envelope and a pencil and sketched the weary figure who had so moved him.

Denied the chance to preach and teach, from that day forward he shared the torment, the triumph and the dignity of the people he loved. 

He used the same passion and purpose to immortalize them to the world through his art, because the clergyman who was not to be was none other than Vincent Willem Van Gogh. (From Paul Havrvey)

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, June 8, 2015

Mortgage rates at the end of business on Friday were 4.25% for 30 year fixed rates and 3.50% for 15 year fixed rates.

Austin area home sales are still occurring at a blistering pace. Because of the extraordinarily low number of homes for sale and the high demand from buyers, (mainly because of those low interest rates), home prices continue to increase steadily.

It is common knowledge that some homes are selling above asking price. The problem with this is that appraisals are often not meeting those prices. When that happens, buyers are often paying the difference in cash... pushing prices up even more.

The result will be higher appreciation than typical in this hot market because the number of homes is so limited. The Supply part of "supply and demand" is VERY limited!

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Click Here to Play A Short Video

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 


Monday, May 25, 2015

Austin-area single-family home prices once again hit an all-time high, while single-family home sales volume set a record for the month of April, according to the April 2015 Multiple Listing Service (MLS) report released today by the Austin Board of REALTORS®. 

This marks the eighth-straight month of annual home sale increases, and according to the report, the median price for Austin-area single-family homes increased 14 percent year-over-year to $274,000 in April 2015, while average price increased 11 percent to $341,054 during the same time frame.

Mortgage rates continue to support home buyer demand with 30 year fixed mortgagesw at 4.0% at the end of business on Friday, and the 15 year fixd rate mortgage at 3.375%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

It is the Soldier, not the minister Who has given us freedom of religion,

It is the Soldier, not the reporter Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag, And whose coffin is draped by the flag,

 Who allows the protester to burn the flag. Copyright 1970, 2005 Charles M. Province
Memorial Day

Holidays in her home were filled with family, laughter, youthful exuberance and adults catching up, which usually meant wondering where the time has gone.

Hosting her family was her life's joy. She loved to watch, listen, give as many hugs as possible and receive even more.

The week's preparation included repeated trips to grocery stores, traveling to specialty stores across town and late nights preparing an extensive array of meals, and lovingly creating desserts her family loved, expected and looked forward to during every visit. 

Maybe the work and preparation would not be fully appreciated, but the food most certainly would be, as evidenced by the literal applause, the second and third helpings taken by nearly everyone, including daughters on never-ending diets and by a continuous barrage of compliments.

There was so much joy in her heart. She was so grateful they all still loved to visit her home. The joy had its limits though, the burden of sadness always crept in, as it did every day. Her goal today, as it was every day was to exhibit her joy and not the anguish.

Her family gathered for the special meal, the meal at every holiday including this Memorial Day, where everyone's expecations were heightened, the one that felt like Thanksgiving.

Just like every other holiday meal, they gathered around the awkwardly large dining room table. So much family gathered that 2 tables were needed, yet there was always one empty place at the main table... the source of her unspoken sorrow.

He was smart, resourceful, and outgoing, and she knew that ROTC was his way of removing the stress and burden he knew she would feel in trying to help pay for his college education. 

She had begged him to let her her help, to avoid the military, but his response was always the same and one he believed with all his heart... "The United States of America deserves my service, freedom requires it, and what's more, I get a college education, how can you beat that?"

As they gathered, the tradition of leaving his place empty was unspoken and known by all.  As her oldest son finished the prayer, giving thanks for their blessings, their health and the chance to be together once again as a family, they sat.

Only minutes into the meal, 8 year old Thomas wandered in, quietly and cautiously, as if handling a breakable heirloom, he eased back the empty chair. So far, so good, no one had noticed.

He slid into place and looked around the adult table with satisfaction on his young face as if he has just accomplished the impossible.

She was the first to notice... her face went blank, overcome with the desire to discipline, but unable to speak or move. 

Following her stare, each of the others turned toward Thomas and his proud, upright position in what had always been the empty chair.

With all eyes on him, the silence deafening, he swallowed deeply, his mouth felt like he had been chewing on cotton, so he used his tongue and lips to try to work up a little moisture, he said his peace in a voice barely audible - "I was named after him, I just figured he would want me to sit here because I am going to be a hero just like him" 

You could hear then the clock tick from the living room, you could hear the cat's soft breathing ... slowly, quietly, purposefully, she slid her chair back, walked around the table, put her hands on Thomas' shoulders and whispered, "This is exactly what he would have wanted and it is what I want too."

The sorrow was still there, it always would be, but that day it seemed to take a little less space in a grateful heart. ~ Author Anonymous

Remember, it is your choice, so make it a Powerful Day!
 


Monday May 18, 2015

Large swings in mortgage rates were seen this week. Rising rates dominated the first few days, while much of that was reversed on Thursday and Friday. Mortgage rates ended the week a little higher with the 30 year mortgage rate at 4.0% while the 15 year mortgage rate is 3.25%.

Home sales continue at a blistering pace.  The number of homes available for sale is still very low. Home buyers are still taking advanatage of low interest rates. 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever. ~ Jim Valvano

Even if you are not a sports fan, you may apprecaite the last speech given by a passionate, enthusiastic and loved coach before he lost his battle with Cancer...

Now I'm fighting cancer, everybody knows that. People ask me all the time about how you go through your life and how's your day, and nothing is changed for me. 

I'm a very emotional and passionate man. I can't help it. That's being the son of Rocco and Angelina Valvano. It comes with the territory. We hug, we kiss, we love. 

When people say to me how do you get through life or each day, it's the same thing. To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. 

Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. 

Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. 

Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. 

But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.

I always have to think about what's important in life to me are these three things. Where you started, where you are and where you're going to be. Those are the three things that I try to do every day.

When I think about getting up and giving a speech, I can't help it. I have to remember the first speech I ever gave. I was coaching at Rutgers University, that was my first job, and I was the freshman coach. 

That's when freshmen played on freshman teams, and I was so fired up about my first job.

The very first time you stood in the locker room to give a pep talk. That's a special place, the locker room, for a coach to give a talk. 

So my idol as a coach was Vince Lombardi, and I read this book called "Commitment To Excellence" by Vince Lombardi. And in the book, Lombardi talked about the fist time he spoke before his Green Bay Packers team in the locker room, and they were perennial losers. 

I'm reading this and Lombardi said he was thinking should it be a long talk, or a short talk? But he wanted it to be emotional, so it would be brief.

Well, this is the first one I ever gave and I read this thing. Lombardi, what he said was he didn't go in, he waited. His team wondering, where is he? Where is this great coach? He's not there. Ten minutes he's still not there. Three minutes before they could take the field Lombardi comes in, bangs the door open, and I think you all remember what great presence he had, great presence. 

He walked in and he walked back and forth, like this, just walked, staring at the players. He said, "All eyes on me." I'm reading this in this book. I'm getting this picture of Lombardi before his first game and he said "Gentlemen, we will be successful this year, if you can focus on three things, and three things only. Your family, your religion and the Green Bay Packers."

They knocked the walls down and the rest was history. 

I said, that's beautiful. I'm going to do that. Your family, your religion and Rutgers basketball. That's it. I had it. 

Listen, I'm twenty-one years old. The kids I'm coaching are nineteen, and I'm going to be the greatest coach in the world, the next Lombardi. I'm practicing outside of the locker room and the managers tell me you got to go in. 

Not yet, not yet, family, religion, Rutgers Basketball. All eyes on me. I got it, I got it. Then finally he said, three minutes, I said fine. 

True story. I go to knock the doors open just like Lombardi. Boom! They don't open. I almost broke my arm. Now I was down, the players were looking. Help the coach out, help him out. 

Now I did like Lombardi, I walked back and forth, and I was going like that with my arm getting the feeling back in it. Finally I said, "Gentlemen, all eyes on me." Then  I said. "Gentlemen, we'll be successful this year if you can focus on three things, and three things only. Your family, your religion and the Green Bay Packers,"!

I did that. I remember that. I remember where I came from.

It's so important to know where you are. I know where I am right now. How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. You have to be willing to work for it.

I talked about my family, my family's so important. People think I have courage. The courage in my family are my wife Pam, my three daughters, here, Nicole, Jamie, LeeAnn, my mom, who's right here too. 

That screen is flashing up there thirty seconds like I care about that screen right now, huh? I got tumors all over my body. I'm worried about some guy in the back going thirty seconds? 

I just got one last thing, I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get you're emotions going. 

To be enthusiastic every day and as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm," to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems whatever you have. The ability to be able to work hard for your dreams to come true, to become a reality.

Now I look at where I am now and I know what I want to do. What I would like to be able to do is spend whatever time I have left and to give, and maybe, some hope to others.

Five hundred thousand people will die this year of cancer. I will also tell you that one in every four will be afflicted with this disease, and yet somehow, we seem to have put it in a little bit of the background. 

I want to bring it back on the front table. We need your help. I need your help. We need money for research. It may not save my life. It may save my children's lives. It may save someone you love. 

And ESPN has been so kind to support me in this endeavor and allow me to announce tonight, that with ESPN's support, which means what? Their money and their dollars and they're helping me-we are starting the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. 

And its motto is "Don't give up, don't ever give up." 

That's what I'm going to try to do every minute that I have left. I will thank God for the day and the moment I have. 

If you see me, smile and give me a hug. That's important to me too. But try if you can to support, whether it's AIDS or the cancer foundation, so that someone else might survive, might prosper and might actually be cured of this dreaded disease. 

I can't thank ESPN enough for allowing this to happen. I'm going to work as hard as I can for cancer research and hopefully, maybe, we'll have some cures and some breakthroughs. I'd like to think, I'm going to fight my brains out to be back here again next year for the Arthur Ashe recipient. I want to give it next year!

I know, I gotta go, I gotta go, and I got one last thing and I said it before, and I want to say it again. Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.

I thank you and God bless you all (Jimmy Valvano)

Remember, it is your choice, so make it a Powerful Day! 


Monday, May 11, 2015


Mortage interest rates ended the week slightly lower, with 30 year rates at 4.0% at the end of the business day on Friday, and 15 years mortgage rates at 3.25%. 

The Austin real estate market continues to show strength and momentum. After the news that home prices hit the highest point in history last month, home buyers contiued to press the point. Multiple offers on homes are common in "Austin proper", but that phenominom reached closer suburbs like Cedar Park and Round Rock last year and has become more and more common in Georgetown and Liberety Hill.

Yes, there are fewer homes on the market, and demand remains strong, with the inevitable result being an increase in home prices.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass... it's about learning to dance in the rain!" ~ Vivian Green

The date was July 16, 2008. It was late in the afternoon and I was sitting in my hotel room in Louisville, Kentucky. I was scheduled to speak that evening for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA).

I was a little "down in the dumps." I hadn't gotten to exercise lately because of my traveling schedule and recently I'd experienced some mild bouts of vertigo (that inner ear condition that can cause the room to start spinning.) You got it...speaking and "spinning" are not good partners!

My keynote presentation was scheduled for 7:00 P.M., but I had been invited to show up at 6:00 to see a performance they said I'd enjoy. Little did I know that I was about to see something I would never forget.

They introduced the young musician. Welcome...Mr. Patrick Henry Hughes. He was rolled onto the stage in his wheelchair, and began to play the piano. His fingers danced across the keys as he made beautiful music.

He then began to sing as he played, and it was even more beautiful. For some reason, however, I knew that I was seeing something special. There was this aura about him that I really can't explain and the smile...his smile was magic!

About ten minutes into Patrick's performance, someone came on the stage and said..."I'd like to share a seven-minute video titled, The Patrick Henry Hughes story." And the lights went dim.

Patrick Henry Hughes was born with no eyes, and a tightening of the joints which left him crippled for life. However, as a child, he was fitted with artificial eyes and placed in a wheelchair. 

Before his first birthday, he discovered the piano. His mom said, "I could hit any note on the piano, and within one or two tries, he'd get it." By his second birthday, he was playing requests (You Are My Sunshine, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star). His father was ecstatic. "We might not play baseball, but we can play music together."

Today, Patrick is a junior at the University of Louisville. His father attends classes with him and he's made nearly all A's, with the exception of 3 B's. 

He's also a part of the 214-member marching band. You read it right...the marching band! He's a blind, wheelchair-bound trumpet player; and he and his father do it together. They attend all the band practices and the half-time performance in front of thousands. 

His father rolls and rotates his son around the field to the cheers of Patrick's fans. In order to attend Patrick's classes and every band practice, his father works the graveyard shift at UPS. Patrick said..."My dad's my hero."

But even more than his unbelievable musical talent, it was Patrick's "attitude of gratitude" that touched my soul. On stage, between songs, he would talk to the audience about his life and about how blessed he was. He said, "God made me blind and unable to walk. BIG DEAL! He gave me the ability...the musical gifts I have...the great opportunity to meet new people."

When his performance was over, Patrick and his father were on the stage together. The crowd rose to their feet and cheered for over five minutes. It gave me giant goose bumps!

My life was ready to meet Patrick Henry Hughes. I needed a hero, and I found one for the ages. If I live to be a hundred, I'll never forget that night, that smile, that music, but most importantly, that wonderful "attitude of gratitude."

I returned to Chicago and shared Patrick's story with my wife, my friends, and our team at Simple Truths. About two weeks later, I received a letter from a friend. He said, "Mac, here is a quote from Vivian Greene that I think you'll love!" "Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass... it's about learning to dance in the rain!"

I thought...that's it! We all face adversity in our life. However, it's not the adversity, but how we react to it that will determine the joy and happiness in our lives. During tough times, do we spend too much time feeling sorry for ourselves, or, can we, with gratitude...learn how to dance in the rain?

It almost sounds too simple to feel important, but one word...gratitude, can change your attitude, and thus your life, forever. Sarah Breathnach said it best... "When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that's present...we experience heaven on earth." (by Mac Anderson)

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Day of Gratitude!
 


Monday, May 4, 2015

According to the Austin Multiple Listing Service, Austin-area single-family home prices hit an all-time high with an average price of $334,758. 
This is the highest Austin home prices have ever been. 

Austin-area monthly housing inventory was statistically unchanged from March 2014 at 2.2 months, a figure still well below the 6.5 month level the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University estimates as a balanced housing market. 

Also, homes spent more time on the market in March 2015, increasing four days year-over-year to an average of 55 days. 

What all that means is that the housing market is still very strong... multiple offers and quick home sales are still common in most areas of the market.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.” ~ 
 Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D.

Guess the grounds crew at UPS is in good health ...

After every flight, UPS pilots fill out a form, called a ‘gripe sheet,’ which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems; document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight.

Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by UPS pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers. By the way, UPS is the only major airline that has never had an accident.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement. 
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough. 
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit 
S: Something tightened in cockpit

P: Dead bugs on windshield. 
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent. 
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear. 
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud. 
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick. 
S: That’s what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode. 
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield. 
S: Suspect you’re right.

P: Number 3 engine missing. 
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search

P: Aircraft handles funny. (I love this one!) 
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious.

P: Target radar hums. 
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit. 
S: Cat installed.

And the best one for last...

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer. 
S: Took hammer away from midget.

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 

Monday, April 20, 2015

With Fed policy tightly linked to incoming data, the economic reports were the main influence this week. The major reports were weaker than expected, which was disappointing news for the economy, but good news for mortgage rates. As a result, mortgage rates ended the week a little lower. 

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 3.875% and the 15 year mortgage was 3.125% as of the end of the day on Friday. 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature." ~Antoine-François

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear."  ~Ambrose Redmoon

It was February 20, 1942, and no less than 9 Japanese bombers in formation, closed in on their target, the aircraft carrier, Lexington. 

Butch O'Hare was their lone pursuer.  If he did not seize the opportunity now, there is no telling how many would die on that aircraft carrier... before it was over, Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare had downed 5 of the 9 Japanese bombers and ran out of ammunition while firing at the 6th.

His buddies arrived to finish the job.

Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare was the 1st naval aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

A year later, he went down in combat, but his home town would never forget his heroics.

But step back a few decades ... the roaring 20's saw Al Capone as control a syndicate of crime unlike any other in American history.

Capone's secret weapon was a lawyer referred to as "Artful Eddie", the fastest of all fast lawyers.  His loopholes and unsavory legal strategies made sure the most glamorous gangsters walked the streets.

"Artful Eddie" became the undisputed Czar of a very profitable illegal dog racing empire. He was as rich as the rich could be, as feared, as powerful and nearly as famous as Capone himself.

Than one day, Eddie did the unthinkable... he squealed on Al Capone. He wanted to go straight.  

The Feds were understandably skeptical ... What was the catch, why would the man who had the personally pledged security of Al Capone, risk it all?

What could he possibly gain?

Then they found the catch... there was only one thing in his life that meant something to "Artful Eddie"... his son. Eddie wanted him to have a real life, not a life of disrepute and crime. 

Eddie knew exactly what would happen, and it did, he was silenced with 2 shotgun blasts eventually, never to know if his dream for his son came true.

It did of course, as "Artful Eddie's" son lived an acceptable life, so acceptable that he was accepted into Annapolis, and Lieutenant Commander Edward "Butch" O'Hare was the flying ace who took out those five Japanese bombers and saved all those lives and won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Remember the next time you fly into Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, named for "Butch" O'Hare, remember his bravery, and remember the sacrifice of a crook, who despite his lifelong mistakes, through his love as a father, paid with his life for his son's chance to make good! (from Paul Harvey)

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 


Monday, April 13, 2015

The Minutes from the March 18 Fed meeting contained no major surprises, although they revealed that "several" Fed officials supported a federal funds rate hike in June. 

Since the meeting, however, the economic data has been weaker than expected. As a result, the Fed's Dudley stated this week that it is "reasonable" to think that the Fed is less likely now to support a June rate hike.  

By now, everyone reading this should know what this means...  a Federal Funds Rate Hike means increased interest rates as well. If buying real estate is in your near future... make it the nearer future and take advantage of these interest rates.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

“The closest thing to being cared for is to care for someone else.” ~ Carson McCullers

Like most elementary schools, it was typical to have a parade of students in and out of the health clinic throughout the day. We dispensed ice for bumps and bruises, Band-Aids for cuts, and liberal doses of sympathy and hugs. 

As principal, my office was right next door to the clinic, so I often dropped in to lend a hand and help out with the hugs. I knew that for some kids, mine might be the only one they got all day.

One morning I was putting a Band-Aid on a little girl's scraped knee. Her blonde hair was matted, and I noticed that she was shivering in her thin little sleeveless blouse. I found her a warm sweatshirt and helped her pull it on. "Thanks for taking care of me," she whispered as she climbed into my lap and snuggled up against me.

It wasn't long after that when I ran across an unfamiliar lump under my arm. Cancer, an aggressively spreading kind, had already invaded thirteen of my lymph nodes. I pondered whether or not to tell the students about my diagnosis. The word breast seemed so hard to say out loud to them, and the word cancer seemed so frightening.

When it became evident that the children were going to find out one way or another, either the straight scoop from me or possibly a garbled version from someone else, I decided to tell them myself. It wasn't easy to get the words out, but the empathy and concern I saw in their faces as I explained it to them told me I had made the right decision. 

When I gave them a chance to ask questions, they mostly wanted to know how they could help. I told them that what I would like best would be their letters, pictures and prayers.

I stood by the gym door as the children solemnly filed out. My little blonde friend darted out of line and threw herself into my arms. Then she stepped back to look up into my face. "Don't be afraid, Dr. Perry," she said earnestly, "I know you'll be back because now it's our turn to take care of you."

No one could have ever done a better job. The kids sent me off to my first chemotherapy session with a hilarious book of nausea remedies that they had written. A video of every class in the school singing get-well songs accompanied me to the next chemotherapy appointment. 

By the third visit, the nurses were waiting at the door to find out what I would bring next. It was a delicate music box that played "I Will Always Love You."

Even when I went into isolation at the hospital for a bone marrow transplant, the letters and pictures kept coming until they covered every wall of my room.

Then the kids traced their hands onto colored paper, cut them out and glued them together to make a freestanding rainbow of helping hands. "I feel like I've stepped into Disneyland every time I walk into this room," my doctor laughed. 

That was even before the six-foot apple blossom tree arrived adorned with messages written on paper apples from the students and teachers. What healing comfort I found in being surrounded by these tokens of their caring.

At long last I was well enough to return to work. As I headed up the road to the school, I was suddenly overcome by doubts. What if the kids have forgotten all about me? I wondered, What if they don't want a skinny bald principal? 

What if I caught sight of the school marquee as I rounded the bend. "Welcome Back, Dr. Perry," it read. As I drew closer, everywhere I looked were pink ribbons - ribbons in the windows, tied on the doorknobs, even up in the trees. The children and staff wore pink ribbons, too.

My blonde buddy was first in line to greet me. "You're back, Dr. Perry, you're back!" she called. "See, I told you we'd take care of you!"

As I hugged her tight, in the back of my mind I faintly heard my music box playing... "I will always love you."

Remember, it's your choice, so take care of someone else today! 


Monday, April 6, 2015

The economic data released this week again fell below the consensus forecasts. One bright spot in this week's data was found in the housing sector. February Pending Home Sales rose 3% from January, to the highest level since June 2013. They were 12% higher than one year ago. Pending Home Sales are a leading indicator of future housing market activity.

Besides housing news, slower economic growth reduces expectations for future inflation, this was good news for mortgage rates. As a result, mortgage rates ended the week lower, falling to the best levels since early February. 

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 3.75% and the end of business on Friday, and the 15 year mortgage was 3.0% !! Wow... it has never been much better than this!

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. ~ Arthur Ashe

On January 13, 1982, during an extraordinary period of freezing weather, Air Florida Flight 90, took off from nearby Washington national Airport, failed to gain altitude, and crashed into the 14th Street Bridge, where it hit six cars and a truck on the bridge, killing four motorists.

After the devastating crash on the bridge, the plane then continued forward and plunged into the freezing Potomac River. Soon only the tail section which had broken off remained afloat. 

Only six of the airliner's 79 occupants (74 passengers and 5 crew members) survived the initial crash and were able to escape the sinking plane in the middle of the ice-choked river.

News cameramen watched helplessly from the bridge, recording the disaster for the rest of the world to see. There appeared to be no way to reach the survivors in the water. 

Bystanders helped as fellow passerby Roger Olian, with a makeshift rope, began an attempt to rescue them. 

Then, hope arrived at about 4:20 p.m. EST when Eagle 1, a U.S. States Park Police helicopter based at Anacostia Park in Washington, D.C., arrived and assisted with the rescue operation at great risk to themselves. At one point in the operation the helicopter's skids dipped beneath the surface of the icy water.

According to the other five survivors, one passenger continued to help the others reach the rescue ropes being dropped by the hovering helicopter, repeatedly passing the line to others instead of using it himself. 

While the other five were being taken to shore by the helicopter, the tail section of the wrecked Boeing 737 shifted and sank further into the water, dragging Arland Williams under the water with it.

Arland Williams was about 50 years old, one of only 6 survivors clinging to twisted wreckage bobbing in the icy Potomac when the first helicopter arrived. 

To the copter's two-man Park Police crew he seemed the most alert. 

Life vests were dropped, then a flotation ball. The man passed them to the others. 

On two occasions, the crew recalled last night, he handed away a life line from the hovering machine that could have dragged him to safety. |

The helicopter crew – who rescued five people, the only persons who survived from the jetliner – lifted a woman to the riverbank, then dragged three more persons across the ice to safety. 

Then the life line saved a woman who was trying to swim away from the sinking wreckage, and the helicopter pilot returned to the scene, but the man was gone.

On June 6, 1983, Arland Williams was posthumously awarded the U.S. Coast Guard's Gold Lifesaving Medal in the White House Oval Office presentation to his family by President Ronald Reagan. As a lasting tribute, the 14th Street Bridge was officially renamed the Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge in his honor. 

A Time Magazine Article described Arland Williams heroics ... "So the man in the water had his own natural powers. He could not make ice storms, or freeze the water until it froze the blood. But he could hand life over to a stranger, and that is a power of nature too. The man in the water pitted himself against an implacable, impersonal enemy; he fought it with charity; and he held it to a standoff. He was the best we can do. ~ Rosenblatt, R., "The Man in the Water," Time Magazine

Now for his background ... Williams grew up in Illinois where he acquired the nickname "Chub. He subsequently attended The Citadel in South Carolina, where according to his high school girlfriend, Williams had been nervous about The Citadel's swimming requirement, as he had always had a fear of water and "didn't know if he could overcome it to push through that test." 

Remember, it's Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Another Great real estate report in National news, the housing data released this week was mostly positive. February Existing Home Sales increased a little from January, while New Home Sales rose a surprising 8% to the highest level since February 2008. Existing sales were 5% higher than they were at this time last year, while new sales were up 25% from one year ago.

new home sales

Optimism about Fed policy helped mortgage rates improve early in the week. The rally may have been overdone, however, and the gains were lost later in the week. As a result, mortgage rates ended the week just a little higher.

A 30 year mortgage was 3.875% and a 15 year mortgage was 3.25% at the end of the business day on Friday. 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...


Hard times do not create heroes. It is during hard times when a hero within us is revealed. ~ Bob Riley

It happened every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun resembled a giant orange and was starting to dip into the blue ocean.

Old Ed came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier. Clutched in his bony hand was a bucket of shrimp. Ed walks out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. The glow of the sun is a golden bronze now. 

Everybody's gone, except for a few joggers on the beach. Standing out on the end of the pier, Ed is alone with his thoughts...and his bucket of shrimp. 

Before long, however, he is no longer alone. Up in the sky countless white dots come screeching and squawking, winging their way toward that lanky frame standing there on the end of the pier. 

Soon, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him, their wings fluttering and flapping wildly. Ed stands there tossing shrimp to the hungry birds. As he does, he says with a smile, 'Thank you. Thank you.' 

In a few minutes the bucket is empty. But Ed doesn't leave. He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and place. 

When he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the beach, a few of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets to the stairs, and then they, too, fly away. And old Ed quietly makes his way down to the end of the beach and on home. 

If you were sitting there on the pier with your fishing line in the water, Ed might seem like 'a funny old duck,' as my dad used to say. Or, to onlookers, he's just another old codger, lost in his own weird world, feeding seagulls with a bucket full of shrimp. 

To the onlooker, rituals can look either very strange or very empty. They can seem altogether unimportant...maybe even a lot of nonsense. 

Old folks often do strange things, at least in the eyes of Boomers and Busters. Most of them would probably write Old Ed off, down there in Florida. That's too bad. They'd do well to know him better. His full name: Eddie Rickenbacker.

He was a famous hero in World War I, as he was in WWII. On one of his flying missions across the Pacific, he and his seven-member crew went down. Miraculously, all of the men survived, crawled out of their plane, and climbed into a life raft. 

Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific. They were in the sun. They were surrounded by sharks. Most of all they were hungry and thirsty. By the eighth day their rations ran out. No food. No water. They were hundreds of miles from land and no one knew where they were or even if they were alive. Every day across America millions wondered and prayed that these men might somehow be found alive.

The men adrift needed a miracle. That afternoon they had a simple devotional service and prayed for a miracle. They tried to nap. Eddie leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged on. All he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft.  Suddenly, Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap. It was a seagull! 

Old Ed would later describe how he sat perfectly still, planning his next move. With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull, he managed to grab it and wring its neck. He tore the feathers off, and he and his starving crew made a meal of it - a very slight meal for eight men.  Then they used the intestines for bait. With it, they caught fish, which gave them food and more bait...and the cycle continued.

With that simple survival technique, they were able to endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued after 24 days at sea.

Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never forgot the sacrifice of that first life-saving seagull...and he never stopped saying, 'Thank you.' That's why almost every Friday evening he would walk to the end of the pier with a bucket full of shrimp and a heartfull of gratitude. 

PS: Eddie Rickenbacker was the founder of Eastern Airlines. Before WWI he was race car driver. In WWI he was a pilot and became America's first ace. In WWII he was an instructor and military adviser, and he flew missions with the combat pilots. Eddie Rickenbacker is a true American hero. And now you know this story about the trials and sacrifice he and his brave men endured for your freedom.

As you can see, I chose to pass this on. It is a great story that many don't know...you've got to be patient with old people. You also may want to take the time to talk to them. You just never know what they have done during their lifetime.

(Thank you to Jalane Kerlin for contributing this week's story!)

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 


Monday, March 23, 2015

The big story this week was Wednesday's Fed meeting, and the Fed statement was well received by mortgage investors ... they forecasted a slower pace of rate hikes once the rate hikes begin. Mortgage investors were pleased by the prospect that interest rate hikes are farther away and will take place at a more gradual pace

As a result, rates ended the week lower. The end of the day Friday saw the 30 year mortgage drop to 3.875% and the 15 year mortgage at 3.25%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his family and friends. ~ Dwight Eisenhower

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen! In order merely to keep food on the table for this mob, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood. 

Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder's children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.

After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines. They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg.

Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht's etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.

When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht's triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will support you."

All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated over and over, "No ... no ... no ... no."

Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, "No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look ... look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! 

The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother ... for me it is too late."

More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer's hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer's works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.

One day, long ago, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother's abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply "Hands," but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love "The Praying Hands."

It is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, March 16, 2015

Interest rates continue to remain low, while predictions from various experts and authorities point to increased mortgage rates later in 2015.

The end of the day Friday saw the 30 year mortgage at 4.0% and the 15 year mortgage at 3.50%.

With Spring break for most school districts and colleges in full swing, real estate activity has been  unpredictable.  More homes are coming on the market each week than in the last 2 months, so the number of choices for home buyers will continue to increase, as is typical in the Spring market.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche 

Click here for a brief video you won't soon forget about Love and Kindness.

Remember, it is Your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 

 

Monday, March 9, 2015

In national economic news, the Unemployment Rate declined from 5.7% to 5.5%, the lowest level since May 2008

Stronger job gains also raise future inflationary pressures, which is not good for mortgage rates.

Thus Interest rates ended the week at 4.125% for 30 year fixed rate mortgages and 3.50% for 15 year mortgages.

Just an FYI - predictions are that mortgage rates will gradually increase to 5%, maybe even 6% by the end of 2015.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

Do you LOVE Texas Chili?  Read this ... t
his is an actual account as relayed to paramedics at a Chili Cook-off in Texas. Enjoy!

Note: Judge #3 was an inexperienced Chili taster named Frank, who was visiting from Springfield, IL.

Frank: "Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge's table, asking for directions to the Coors Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chili wouldn't be all that spicy; and, besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted and became Judge 3."

Here are the scorecard notes from the event:

CHILI # 1 - MIKE'S MANIAC MONSTER CHILI

Judge # 1 -- A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.
Judge # 2 -- Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.
Judge # 3 (Frank) -- Good Grief, what the heck is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope that's the worst one. These Texans are crazy!

CHILI # 2 - AUSTIN 'S AFTERBURNER CHILI

Judge # 1 -- Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight jalapeno tang.
Judge # 2 -- Exciting BBQ flavor, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
Judge # 3 -- Keep this out of the reach of children. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver.

CHILI # 3 - FRED'S FAMOUS BURN DOWN THE BARN CHILI

Judge # 1 -- Excellent firehouse chili. Great kick.
Judge # 2 -- A bit salty, good use of peppers.
Judge # 3 -- Call the EPA. I've located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite.

CHILI # 4 - BUBBA'S BLACK MAGIC

Judge # 1 -- Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.
Judge # 2 -- Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.
Judge # 3 -- I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds?

CHILI # 5 - LISA'S LEGAL LIP REMOVER

Judge # 1 -- Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
Judge # 2 -- Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.
Judge # 3 -- My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. I wonder if I'm burning my lips off. It really ticks me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming.

CHILI # 6 - VERA'S VERY VEGETARIAN VARIETY

Judge # 1 -- Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spices and peppers. 
Judge # 2 -- The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, garlic. Superb.
Judge # 3 -- My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames. I farted again, and I'm worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that Sally. Can't feel my lips anymore. I need to wipe my butt with a snow cone.

CHILI # 7 - SUSAN'S SCREAMING SENSATION CHILI

Judge # 1 -- A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
Judge # 2 -- Ho hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. I should take note that I am worried about Judge 3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.
Judge # 3 -- You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn't feel a thing. I've lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. At least during the autopsy, they'll know what killed me. I've decided to stop breathing; its too painful. I'm not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I'll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.

CHILI # 8 - BIG TOM'S TOENAIL CURLING CHILI

Judge # 1 -- The perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili. Not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
Judge # 2 -- This final entry is a good, balanced chili. Neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge #3 passed out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he's going to make it. Poor feller, wonder how he'd have reacted to really hot chili?
Judge # 3 - No Report.

Remember, it is your choice, so make it a Powerful Day! 


Monday, March 2, 2015

Comments from Fed Chair Yellen on Tuesday were favorable for mortgage rates. A wide range of economic data released this week was roughly neutral. 

Yellen's semi-annual testimony to Congress caused investors to push farther in the future when they expect the Fed to begin raising the fed funds rate. Now the consensus outlook is for the first rate hike to take place in September

The net result was a small decrease in mortgage rates, the first weekly decline in February. The 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 4.0% while 15 year mortgages were 3.375% at the end of business on Friday.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” ~ Mother Theresa

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

I'm a Ham radio operator and spend some time working with radios and electronics. So when I heard this story it really made me think! I hope that you will find some application in your own life as well...

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the basement shack with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning, turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it.

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whoever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles."

I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say. "Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital."

He continued, "Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities." And that's when he began to explain his theory of "a thousand marbles."

"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years."

"Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now stick with me Tom, I'm getting to the important part."

"It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail," he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy."

"So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to roundup 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away."

"I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight."

"Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast.

This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time."

"It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. 75 year Old Man, this is K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!"

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter. Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss.

"C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast."

"What brought this on?" she asked with a smile.

"Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles." ~ Jim Davis

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The latest housing data indicated that activity slowed during January likely due to unusually bad winter weather. Both Housing Starts and Building Permits declined a little, but both remain far above levels of a year ago. 

new home building permits 

The Nat'l Assc Home Builders Housing index also showed a small drop in home builder confidence, but that was a nationwide index... local Austin builders are forging ahead at an unprecedented pace.

Mortgage rates rose back to about 4% for a 30 year mortgage and 3.50% for a 15 year mortgage. 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

(this Monday Morning Coffee is s repeat due to numerous requests)

A U.S. veteran is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America for an amount of 'up to and including my life.'"  That is Honor... and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat.  It was going to be a long flight. 'I'm glad I have a good book to read.  Perhaps I will get a short nap,' I thought.

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me.  I decided to start a conversation.  "Where are you headed?" I asked the soldier seated nearest to me.

"Great Lakes Air Base.  We'll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we're being deployed to Iraq," he answered.

After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars.  It would be several hours before we reached Chicago, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time.

As I reached for my wallet, I overheard the soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch.  "No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch.  Probably wouldn't be worth five bucks.  I'll wait till we get to Chicago."

His friend agreed.

I looked around at the other soldiers.  None were buying lunch.  I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill.  "Take a lunch to all those soldiers."  She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly.  Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me.  "My son was a soldier in Iraq... it's almost like you are doing it for him."

Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated.  She stopped at my seat and asked, "Which do you like best - beef or chicken?" "Chicken," I replied, wondering why she asked.

She turned and went to the front of plane, returning  a minute later with a dinner plate from first class. "This is your thanks."

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room.  A man stopped me.

"I saw what you did.  I want to be part of it.  Here, take this."  He handed me twenty-five dollars.

Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand, and said, "I want to shake your hand."

Quickly unfastening my seat belt I stood and took the Captain's hand.  With a booming voice he said, "I was a soldier and I was a military pilot.  Once, someone bought me a lunch.  It was an act of kindness I never forgot."  I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.

Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs.  A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine.  He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.

When we landed in Chicago, I gathered my belongings and started to deplane.  Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word.  Another twenty-five dollars!

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base.  I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars.  "It will take you some time to reach the base. It will be about time for a sandwich.  God Bless You."

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers.  As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return.  These soldiers were giving their all for our country.  I could only give them a couple of meals. It seemed so little. ~ Anonymous (just as he wished to be on the plane)

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Mortgage rates fluctuate depending on many variables, and on the heels of last Friday's strong labor market report, mortgage rates drifted higher during the first half of last week. 

They reversed direction on Thursday however, due to a shortfall in Retail Sales data, thus ending the week slightly higher.

Retail Sales, which account for about 70% of US economic activity, fell in January due to the large decline in gas prices. Economists had correctly predicted this, but they overestimated how much consumers would increase their spending in other areas, so the overall decline in Retail Sales was much larger than expected.

The 30 year mortgage was 3.875% and 15 year rates were 3.375% at the end of the day on Friday. 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. ~ C.S. Lewis 

In honor of President's Day, here are a couple of true stories you may not have heard: 

1) Once George Washington was riding near Washington city with a group of friends and they came to a place where they had to leap over a wall.

In the process one horse knocked off a number of the stones from the wall.

Washington said, “We better replace them.” 

His friends told, “Oh, let the farmer do it.”

But Washington didn’t feel right about that.

When the riding party was over, he went back the way they came.

He found the wall and dismounted. Then he carefully replaced each of the stones.

His riding companion saw what he did and said, “You’re too big to do that.”

His only response was, “On the contrary, I am the right size.”


2) Once upon a time a rider came across a few soldiers who were trying to move a heavy log of wood without success.

The corporal was standing by just watching as the men struggled.

The rider couldn’t believe it. He finally asked the corporal why he wasn’t helping.

The corporal replied: “I am the corporal. I give orders.

The rider said nothing in response. Instead he dismounted his horse. He went up and stood by the soldiers and as they tried to lift the wood and he helped them.

With his help, the task was finally able to be carried out.

Who was this kind rider?

The rider was George Washington, the Commander-in-chief.

He quietly mounted his horse and went to the corporal and said, “The next time your men need help, send for the commander-in-chief.”

It seems that humility and integrity make for great leaders... George Washington was voted by the Bristish as the greatest military leader ever faced by the British Empire, over Rommel and even Napoleon. 

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Presidents' Day! 
 


Monday, February 9, 2016

Investors were shocked by the strength of Friday's Employment data. The economy added 257K jobs in January, which exceeded expectations. 

The bigger news was that upward revisions to prior months added another 147K jobs. 

Monthly job gains over 200K are considered strong, and the economy has added an average of 336K jobs over the past three months!

Stronger growth increases expectations for future inflation, which is negative for mortgage rates, and mortgage rates rose slightly after the announcement.  Mortgage rates for 30 year fixed rates were 3.875% and 15 year rates were 3.325% at the end of the day Friday!

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Always seek the seed of triumph in every adversity. ~ Og Mandino

God Made Me Blind... Big Deal - By ERIN HAYES (for ABC News)

When I met 18-year old Patrick Henry Hughes, I knew he was musically talented. I had been told so, had read that he was very able for someone his age and who had been blind and crippled since birth.

Patrick's eyes are not functional; his body and legs are stunted. He is in a wheelchair. When we first shook hands, his fingers seemed entirely too thick to be nimble. So when he offered to play the piano for me and his father rolled his wheelchair up to the baby grand, I confess that I thought to myself, "Well, this will be sweet. He has overcome so much. How nice that he can play piano."

The original plan, I thought, would be this: We were going to talk a bit as he played. That was the plan. Hughes would explain how he managed to navigate the keyboard and how he first learned the piano and what his favorite songs were.

But then Patrick put his hands to the keyboard, and his fingers began to race across it -- the entire span of it, his fingers moving up and back and over and across the keys so quickly and intricately that my fully-functional eyesight couldn't keep up with them. I was stunned.

The music his hands drew from that piano was so lovely and lyrical and haunting, so rich and complex and beyond anything I had imagined he would play that there was nothing I could say. All I could do was listen.

That is the power of Patrick Henry Hughes. He quietly makes you listen.

"I mean, God made me blind and didn't give me the ability to walk. I mean, big deal." Patrick said, smiling. "He gave me the talent to play piano and trumpet and all that good stuff."

This is Patrick's philosophy in life, and he wants people to know it. He isn't fazed by what many of us would consider insurmountable obstacles.

"I'm the kind of person that's always going to fight till I win," he said. "That's my main objective. I'm gonna fight till I win."

Patrick also attends the University of Louisville and plays trumpet in the marching band. The band director suggested it, and Patrick and his father, Patrick John Hughes, who have faced tougher challenges together, decided "Why not?"

"That's right," the younger Patrick said.

"Don't tell us we can't do something," Patrick's father added, with a chuckle. He looks at Patrick with a mixture of love and loyalty and admiration, something not always seen. in the eyes of a father when he gazes at his son.

"I've told him before. He's my hero," the elder Hughes said.

Patrick's father attends every practice and every game with him, and learns all the routines. It's fascinating to watch them together, with Patrick focused on his trumpet's notes, swaying with the rest of the band in time with the music, and his father focused on being his son's eyes and legs.

And this is no sit-still-in-the-wheelchair-while-the-band-marches-around-you routine: Patrick and his father are right in the thick of it, with the wheelchair sprinting and spinning in formation and Patrick hanging on and playing his heart out.

Patrick says the other students in the band have been great to them.

The students always help out Dad because sometimes he might get out of step," he explained impishly.

Patrick's father grins and nods. He concedes that navigating a wheelchair across the thick grass of a football field, in formation, sometimes at top speed, offers many exciting challenges for a man old enough to be the father of a college student. Fortunately, fellow band members are eager and willing to point him in the right direction.

"The biggest problem is sometimes when I'm backing up with Patrick, I can't stop quick enough." he said. "I'll have a horn player behind me, and they've gotten smart enough now that, rather than running into their horn, they put their hand up."

Blindness as a Gift and a Blessing

Some parents might see some bigger problems in all of this. For example, Patrick's father works an overnight shift at a shipping company and gets four or five hours of sleep so he can attend Patrick's classes and band practices with him all day.

Patrick's mother, Patricia Hughes, works full-time to supplement their income. She also takes care of the household, Patrick's medical needs, and siblings, and handles the concerns of every parent of a disabled child who looks down the road and wonders how it could possibly work out.

That's just not how the Hughes family looks at things. Patrick taught them to see it all differently, his father says.

"Back then he was born it was, 'Why us? What did we do that this happened to us?'" he said. "And we ask the same question nowadays, but we put it in a whole new light. You know, 'What did we do to deserve such a special young man, who's brought us so, so much."

Patrick John Hughes' gaze drifted again to his son, and both their faces lit up with smiles.

"He sees the world in a way that we can't even imagine," the father said.

Just listen to young Patrick and you know what his father means.

"I've always felt that my talent has really been a gift from God," he said.

Patrick includes his blindness, by the way, in the list of gifts.

"That's one of the great benefits I've found of being blind. I don't see the skin color, I don't see the hair length, I don't see the eye shape, I just see what's inside the person," he said.

Actually, Patrick said, blindness is more than a gift to him.

"I would have to say a blessing, because overall, it's shown me a complete world."

That's how young Patrick Henry Hughes sees the world.

"He has so much more to teach me," his father said. " ... And I think to myself: I see just what you mean. He's taught me so much already. ~ by Erin Hayes

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 


Monday, February 2, 2016

The major economic events this week were generally bond friendly. The US GDP data fell short, the Fed statement was very similar to the prior one, and core inflation declined in the Eurozone. As a result, mortgage rates continued their move lower.

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 3.625% at the end of business on Friday and the 15 year mortgage was 3.125%.

For buyers looking for an FHA loan, rates are .5% lower than last month, but not because of the interest rate, because of the FHA MIP (mortgage insurance)

It is a historic time to be a home buyer!

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“We must never be afraid to be a sign of contradiction for the world.”  ~ Mother Teresa

One day a man was walking along the seashore. He noticed that during the night many seashells and starfish had washed up on the shore. Thoroughly enjoying the morning sun and cool sea air, the man strolled for miles along the sand.

Far off in the distance, he saw a small figure dancing. The man was joyous that someone was celebrating life in such a grand and uninhibited manner. As he drew closer, however, it became apparent that the figure was not dancing, but repeatedly performing some act.

Approaching the small figure, the man noticed that it was a child. The girl was methodically picking up starfish from the shore and tossing them back into the surf. The man paused for a moment, puzzled, then asked, "Why are you throwing those starfish back into the ocean?"

"If I leave these starfish on the beach," she replied, "the sun will dry them, and they will die. I am throwing them back into the ocean because I want them to live."

The man was thoughtful for a moment, impressed with the child's thoughtfulness. Then he motioned up and down the miles and miles of beach and said, "There must be millions of starfish along here! You cannot possibly expect to make a difference."

The young girl pondered the man's words for a moment, then she slowly leaned over, reached down, and carefully picked up another starfish from the sand. With a gentle effort, she lobbed the starfish back out into the surf.

She turned to the man and smiled. "You may be right," she said, "but I made a difference for that one!" ~ Author - Anonymous

It is Your Choice, Make a Difference to Someone Today! 

 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Housing data for December of 2014 was released this week and showed that we head into 2015 at a faster pace than at this time last year. 

Existing Home Sales are 4% higher than one year ago. Single-family Housing Starts are at their best level since March 2008. Building Permits, a leading indicator of future activity, also are higher than one year ago. 

Headwinds for housing market activity in 2015 include a fewer existing homes for sale and higher home prices.

Median existing home prices rose in 2014 to the highest level since 2007!

Mortgage rates are certainly not an issue, as they are now lower than at any time last year. The 30 year Mortgage is still 3.75% and the 15 year mortgage is 3.25%. 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day. ~ Abraham Lincoln 

In June 1985, two British mountaineers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, made the first-ever climb of the West Face of the 21,000 foot snow-covered Siula Grande mountain in Peru. It was an exceptionally tough assault - but nothing compared to what was to come. 

Early in the descent, Simpson fell and smashed his right knee. Yates could have abandoned him but managed to find a way of lowering him down the mountain in a series of difficult drops blinded by snow and cold. Then Simpson fell into a crevasse and Yates eventually had no choice but to cut the rope, utterly convinced that his friend was now dead.

In his subsequent book on the climb entitled "Touching The Void", Joe Simpson wrote: "As I gazed at the distant moraines, I knew that I must at least try. I would probably die out there amid those boulders. The thought didn't alarm me. It seemed reasonable, matter-of-fact. That was how it was.

I could aim for something. If I died, well, that wasn't so surprising, but I wouldn't have just waited for it to happen. The horror of dying no longer affected me as it had in the crevasse. I now had the chance to confront it and struggle against it. 

It wasn't a bleak dark terror any more, just fact, like my broken leg and frostbitten fingers, and I couldn't be afraid of things like that. My leg would hurt when I fell and when I couldn't get up I would die."

The survival of Yates himself was extraordinary. That Simpson somehow found a way of climbing out of the crevasse after 12 hours, and then literally dragged himself 6 miles back to camp, going 3 days without food or drink, and contracting ketoacidosis in the process, wouold be the stuff of heroic fiction if it were not actually true!

Indeed, six operations and 2 years later, he was even back to climbing ... all because, against all odds, he tried.

Though life or death seems a strong motivation for trying, the same applies in daily life... not trying is the worst choice you can make. ~ by Joe Simpson

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Weaker than expected economic data was favorable for mortgage rates this week. The biggest economic reports released this week contained mostly positive news for mortgage rates.

Inflation data also supported lower mortgage rates. Core CPI inflation, which excludes food and energy, was just 1.6% higher than one year ago, back to the lowest level of the year. Due to the decline in oil prices, overall CPI inflation was just 0.8% higher than one year ago, the lowest annual rate in over five years. 

Mortgage rates again ended the week a little lower... 30 year fixed rate was at 3.75% and 15 year mortgage was at 3.125% at the end of business on Friday.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” ~ Maya Angelou

I have some important news ~ by Bob Pritchard

At least to me. I want to share my news with my family and friends first. I'll get right to the point. 

I am not going to survive 2015. I'm serious as a heart attack. What may be more shocking to you is that I hope you don't survive either. Let me help you understand.

A few years ago my dear Uncle Dale passed away. He lived a good long life. But on his death certificate the medical examiner wrote the cause of death as "Failure to Thrive."

I've thought about that ever since. Slowly, with each passing day, that has changed my life. It started out as a small voice in my head that would spring to mind every month or so. But then it became more frequent and louder with each passing day. Now, it's constantly on my mind.

Simply put -- I don't want to "survive" 2015 -  I want to thrive!!!  "Thrive" means "to develop well or vigorously. To prosper." That's why I started this by saying I'm not going to survive 2015.

I'm going to thrive -- and I want you to thrive in 2015!

I know life can be tough. I'm fairly certain that, like me, you faced some struggles in 2014. Perhaps those challenges still feel like a burden you can hardly bear. Maybe you think that "surviving" is the best you can hope for. When someone asks how you are doing, you routinely reply "not bad", or "ok, I guess", or "not bad ... all things considered."

But it doesn't have to be that way. Don't just "settle" for life and stand in line until it's your turn to die.

THRIVE!

Whether it's struggles with your health, relationships, your job, your business, your finances, your distance from God -- you can change starting right now and begin to thrive.

Thriving isn't about an end result or our status relative to others -- it's about your personal journey and my personal journey and what each of us can do to experience the best life has to offer and, along the way, help others as well!

Maybe your desire is to thrive spiritually (a closer walk with The Lord), or maybe it's to experience the joy of a stronger relationship, or read that book you never had time for (or write one!), or learn a new skill or a new language. 

Perhaps your desire is stronger health, a better car, a new house, or a dream vacation. Maybe you are looking for a promotion, a new job, or to start a new business. This can be the year that you thrive!

By spring of 2014 that voice telling me to thrive was so loud inside of me that I gave up Diet Pepsi (I had been drinking about a 6-pack of cans per day until then). Then, on Easter Sunday, I decided to change my health. My wife joined with me. We ate less food and started walking.

Up to that point, I spent my entire life shunning exercise and essentially deciding to be overweight. I say "deciding" because nobody ever forced me to eat -- it was a decision made bite-by-bite. By October, I had lost 35 pounds and now my wife and I walk/run about 12-15 miles a week. 

But what happened with my health in 2014 isn't the point. The point is to make clear how you can thrive -- and not just survive -- in all areas of life, by making a decision, taking one small step and then staying with it. As Zig Ziglar says, "You can't be great to start, but you've got to start in order to be great." 

Make a decision to thrive -- then stick with it step by step. It doesn't matter what your starting point is -- you can thrive from wherever you start!

That voice is becoming louder every day and encouraging me to thrive in other areas of my life. I feel more energetic and excited about the coming year than ever!

I hope you hear and listen to that little voice as well. If you are completely honest with yourself, I bet you can hear that voice deep down inside you right now bringing to mind that one thing you are really hoping to see change this year.

You might be thinking "Bob, you just don't understand why I can't..." Let me encourage you right now to go for it! Take a chance and throw off the negative! Remove the chains that hold you back and begin to thrive!

Let's make 2015 a great year! ~ Bob Pritchard

Remember, it is your choice, Make it a year to Thrive! 
 


Monday, January 12, 2015

The FHA announced that beginning at the end of this month it will reduce the annual mortgage insurance premium (MIP) it charges on new loans by 0.50%.

Since MIP is calculated like an interest charge, the reduction will feel like mortgage rates suddenly fell by 0.50% for buyers using FHA loans. This change will make home ownership more affordable for many people, especially first-time buyers. 

Concerns about the pace of global economic growth caused bond yields around the world to decline this week. The positive U.S. economic data released this week had little impact. Mortgage rates ended at the lowest levels in over a year, with 30 year mortgages at 3.75% and 15 year mortgages at 3.25%. 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” ~ Winston Churchill

As I ran on the beach the other day I noticed that certain areas were closed off by fences and signs that said "Sea Turtle Eggs."

I remembered reading that female sea turtles swim to shore between May and August to dig nests in the sand and lay their eggs. Months later, the eggs hatch and the baby turtles follow the pure light of the moon back to the surf.

In a perfect world, the pure light of the moon guides every turtle back safely to the ocean.

However, as we know, we don’t live in a perfect world.

Sea Turtle hatchlings instinctively crawl toward the brightest light. On an undeveloped beach, the brightest light is the moon. On a developed beach, the brightest light can be an artificial light source emanating from restaurants, homes and condominiums along the coast.

Unfortunately, these powerful artificial sources of light often attract the hatchlings and cause them to move in the wrong direction when they are born.

Rather than follow the pure light of the moon to the ocean the sea turtles follow the wrong light to a disastrous outcome.

It occurred to me that we humans face a similar challenge.

Rather than follow the path we were meant to follow, unfortunately we too often are distracted by things that move us in the wrong direction.

Technology, online games, too much time on social media, bad habits, addictions, stress, busyness and meaningless distractions lead us astray.

Instead of following the pure light of perfection we allow bright and shiny artificial things to sabotage our journey.

So, what about you?

Are you following your priorities and pure light to the right destination or are you allowing artificial distractions to lead you in the wrong direction?

Are you following the path you were meant to follow or are you letting meaningless things keep you from being your best?

The great news is that unlike sea turtles we have the ability to think, adapt and change direction when we realize we are following the wrong path.

You can tune out the distractions and focus on our priorities and let the pure light lead you to an ocean of possibilities and a great future. ~ Jon Gordon

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 

 

Monday, January 4, 2015

Weaker than expected US economic data and concerns about the pace of global economic growth helped bonds and hurt stocks during New Year's week. 

The result is that mortgage rates ended the week a little lower, starting 2015 over .5% below the levels seen at the start of 2014. 

At the end of business on Friday, a 30 year mortgage was 3,875% and a 15 year mortgage was 3.375%.

As statistical reports regarding 2014 come out over the next few weeks, keep in mind that the whole story cannot be told in national or even local Multiple Listing Service reports. I will try to dissect and share specifics as we see statistics for 2014.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

She was three. Just released from a far-away hospital after life threatening brain surgery, ready to take on the world again. 

I was happy just to have her back. My little "Mr. Clean" (shaven head and hoop earrings) and me driving along to our local mall. Hanging out with dad day. I recall her words as if it were yesterday.

"Daddy, can I get a treat?"

As she was understandably spoiled (if there is such a thing), I replied "ok honey, but just ONE". Her eyes beamed like the Fourth of July in anticipation of that something only she knew at the time.

We drove around to the new end of the mall on the normal seek-and-destroy mission of capturing a parking place. After all, it was Saturday. We landed a fair distance from our destination, and began walking hand-in-hand towards the entrance, her pace gaining momentum with each tiny step. 

A few feet from the doors she broke loose and ran hands-first into the thick wall of glass, trying with everything she had to swing the big doors open. No luck. With a little assistance, she 'did it' and tried the very same thing at the second set of doors.

It was then that I asked her what she wanted for her treat. Without hesitation, she matter-of-factly said "an ice-cream comb from the ice-cream store". 

Ok, the goal was set and we were in the mall!

But hold on! What was this? At the end of what was just an ordinary looking lane of retail chain outlets she spied something new- this huge fountain, water shooting who knows how high into the air. The new goal line!

She ran, and I walked (don't ya just hate it when parents let their kids run wild in public?), and we arrived at the spectacle at about the same time. The turbulent noise was almost deafening. 

"Daddy, can I make a wish, can I make a wish?" she screamed as she jumped with the kind of pure joy we've all long since forgotten.

"Sure honey, but that will be YOUR TREAT you know," I explained (gotta be firm with these kind of things).

She agreed.

I fumbled around in my pocket and pulled out what I think was a dime (big spender) and placed it in her outstretched hand. She cupped it tightly, closed her eyes and grimaced, formulating her wish. 

I stared at that little scrunched-up face and said my own kind of prayer of thanks, feeling so blessed to still have this ball of energy in my life. And then like a shooting star, the coin was flung into the foaming water and with it, her wish.

We happily continued our stroll into the familiar section of the mall. An eerie silence ensued, which I was admittedly uncomfortable with. I couldn't resist breaking it.

"Aren't you gonna tell daddy what you wished for?"

She retorted "I wished I could get an ice-cream comb".

I just about lost it right then and there. Couldn't imagine what the shoppers thought of this lunatic laughing uncontrollably in the middle of a crowded mall. And needless to say, she got her wish, and two treats.

Little did I know then that my beautiful little girl would soon embark on a long road of seizures, surgeries, special schools, medications and end up partially paralyzed on her right side. She never learned to ride a bike.

Today, she is almost seventeen. She cannot use her right hand and walks with a noticeable limp. 

But she has overcome what life seemed to so cruelly inflict on her. She was teased a lot and always struggled in school, both socially and academically. But each year she showed improvement. 

She is planning a career in early childhood education. With one year still remaining in high school, her and I, one night not too long ago mapped out all the courses she would need to take in community college. It was her idea. 

She volunteers weekly at a local hospital, on the children's floor. She baby-sits a neighbors children five days a week. On her own this year, she stood outside in line for four hours on a cold Canadian January afternoon and enrolled herself, with her own babysitting money, into two courses she felt she would need for college.

You see, to her failure was never an option.

It would almost be redundant for me to explain why I wanted to share this story with you. She IS my daughter and I carry all those fatherly biases with me wherever I go. But these aside, she is a very exceptional person and one that I admire and have learned a lot from.

It is my sincerest hope that her story will have even a momentary positive impact on you as a human being, a parent, a spouse or even, an entrepreneur.

I'd like to leave you with a closing thought. As human beings, we deserve all the treats, and the multitude of good things that life can offer us. We all have wishes and dreams, AND the power to make them reality. Just simple truths of the universe.

We can wish for, and get, that ice-cream comb. ~ By Rick Beneteau

It is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Say! 

Monday, December 22, 2014

After Fed Chair Yellen's press conference, there was a big rally in the stock market. According to Yellen, the Fed is unlikely to start raising the fed funds rate for "at least the next couple of meetings".

Most Fed officials expect to begin raising the fed funds rate next year, but that the pace of rate hikes likely will be a little slower than previously thought. 

The reaction in mortgage rates was much smaller, however, and negative, as mortgage rates increased ever so slightly.

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage ended the business day Friday at 4.0% and the 15 year mortgage was 3.375%, and the FHA 30 year mortgage is 3.875%, below 4% again!

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" ... well, Linus certainly knows... 

Click here to see the short video 

Remember, it is Your Choice, so make it a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! 
 


Monday, December 15, 2014

Evidence that home values in the Austin area real estate market are continuing to increase comes from the fact that FHA loan limits are being increased to $331,200 in 2015.  

The 3.5% down payment available through FHA mortgage loans will be available for home buyers wanting to purchase over $330,000 now.

There can be some advantages to having access to an FHA mortgage ... In addition to the lower down payment, at the end of the day Friday, an FHA 30 year mortgage was 3.75% and a conventional loan is 3.875%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid.

I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus?" she snorted..."Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.

For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he didn't have a good coat.

I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. "Yes, ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby."

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it.

Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were -- ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95. ~ Author-Anonymous

Remember, It is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 
 


Monday, December 8, 2014

U.S. economic data was Stronger than expected, and remember - this type of good news is also negative for mortgage rates. 

Bond friendly comments from the European Central Bank (ECB) helped limit the losses, however. But regardless, mortgage rates ended slightly higher, reversing the nice improvement in rates seen during Thanksgiving week.

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 4.0% on Friday at the end of business and the 15 year mortgage was 3.50%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. ~ Emma Goldman

We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly eating and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, "Hi there." He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment. 

I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. 

We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. Hi there, baby; Hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster," the man said to Erik. 

My husband and I exchanged looks, "What do we do?" Erik continued to laugh and answer, "Hi, hi there." Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby.

Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, "Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo." 

Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. 

My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.

We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. 

The old man sat poised between me and the door. "Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik," I prayed. 

As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's "pick-me-up" position. 

Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man's. Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their relationship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder.

The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck. 

The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, "You take care of this baby." Somehow I managed, "I will," from a throat that contained a stone.

He pried Erik from his chest unwillingly, longingly, as though he were in pain.

I received my baby, and the man said, "God bless you, ma'am, you've given me my Christmas gift. You see, m'am, I never saw my child grow up. My wife and son were taken from me in an automobile accident when they were both too young. I was never able to get over it."

I said nothing more than a muttered thanks and "I'm sorry to hear that." With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. 

My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, "My God, my God, forgive me." 

I had just witnessed God's love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, while I only saw a suit of clothes. 

I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not. I felt it was God asking, "Are you willing to share your son for a moment?" when He shared His for all eternity... He reminded me through a ragged old man, and an innocent, loving child.

It's Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day, and Merry Christmas! 
 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Well, this year may end with the lowest mortgage rates we have seen in 2014. The 30 year fixed rate mortgage was at 4.0% at the end of business on Friday and the 15 year mortgage was at 3.375%.

These rates, along with a typical December push should result in a strong December in home sales.

The 4th quarter is the busiest quarter of each year for employee transfers, but these rates will add to those home sales because local buyers who normally would not be in the market cannot help but take advantage of these mortgage rates. 

After all is said and done, the last few months of 2014 should show strong statistics for the real estate market, and the current market benefits buyers and sellers alike.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

With 2015 looming, the most common question asked is "What can I do to make 2015 a great year?" Well, sometimes it is a hard answer to hear, but self-discipline overcomes so many obstacles ... 

In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first.  ~ Harry S. Truman

We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort
. ~ Jesse Owens 

Click Here to Watch This Short Video on "The Power of Discipline". 

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Economic news this week contained few surprises, as the major data, including the US Retail Sales report came in very close to expectations. 

As a result, mortgage rates ended the week with little change.

One other US report released this week has been gaining in prominence since Fed Chair Yellen said that she watches it closely as a labor market indicator. This report, called JOLTS, measures job openings and labor turnover rates. The data showed that job openings in September remained near the 13-year high reached in August.

Another interesting component of this report measures the rate at which employees voluntarily leave their jobs... this "quit rate" rose from 1.8% to 2.0%, the highest level since April 2008. 

A higher quit rate is viewed as a sign of a stronger labor market, since employees generally are less likely to quit a job if they are not reasonably confident that they can get a new job. Taken together, the strong readings for job openings and quit rates point to continued improvement in the labor market. 

Mortgage rates remained unchanged for the 5th week in a row at 4.125% for 30 year mortgage and 3.50% for a 15 year mortgage.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

There never was any heart truly great, that was not also tender and compassionate ~ Robert Frost

Only partial news coverage was given to a remarkable editorial, broadcast from Toronto, by Gordon Sinclair, a Canadian television commentator. This is the text of his remarks as printed in the Canadian newspaper, Congressional Record.

-----

By Gordon Sinclair, Canadian Commentator

"This Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least appreciated people on all the earth. Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. None of these countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.

When France was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up, and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris. I was there. I saw it.

When earthquakes hit distant cities, it is the United States that hurries in to help. This spring, 59 American communities were flattened by tornadoes. Nobody helped.

The Marshall Plan and the Truman Policy pumped billions of dollars into discouraged countries. Now newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent, war-mongering Americans.

I'd like to see just one of those countries that are gloating over the erosion of the United States dollar build its own airplane. Does any other country in the world have a plane to equal the Boeing Jumbo Jet, the Lockheed Tri-Star, or the Douglas DC10? If so, why don't they fly them? Why do all the International lines except Russia fly American Planes?

You talk about American technocracy, and you find men on the moon - not once, but several times - and safely home again.

You talk about scandals, and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everybody to look at. Even their draft-dodgers are not pursued and hounded. They are here on our streets, and most of them, unless they are breaking Canadian laws, are getting American dollars from ma and pa at home to spend here.

When the railways of France, Germany and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them. When the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central went broke, nobody loaned them an old caboose. Both are still broke.

I can name you 5000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble. Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don't think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake.

Our neighbors have faced it alone, and I'm one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them get kicked around. They will come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their nose at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles. I hope Canada is not one of those."

Stand proud, America!

Remember, it is YOUR choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 


Monday, November 10, 2014

The biggest question being posed to real estate professionals is how the elections last week will affect mortgage rates.  

Obviously there was little immediate change. In addition, the general belief is that there will be no significant changes any time soon, and probably not before the next Presidential election.

Friday's Employment data caused mortgage rates to improve slightly and end the week a little lower. The 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 4.125% and the 15  year mortgage was 3.50% at the end of business on Friday. (unchanged for several weeks now)

And Here is Your Monday Morning Coffee...

America was not built on fear.  America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. ~ Harry S. Truman.

This editorial was published in a Romanian newspaper on September 24, 2001... 

Why are Americans so united? They don't resemble one another even if you paint them! They speak all the languages of the world and form an astonishing mixture of civilizations. Some of them are nearly extinct, others are incompatible with one another, and in matters of religious beliefs, and not even God can count how many they are.

Still, the American tragedy turned three hundred million people into a hand put on the heart. 

Nobody rushed to accuse the White House, the army, and the secret services that they are only a bunch of losers. 

Nobody rushed to empty his or her bank accounts. 

Nobody rushed on the streets nearby to gape about. 

Instead, the Americans volunteered to donate blood and to give a helping hand. 

After the first moments of panic, they raised the flag on the smoking ruins, putting on T-shirts, caps and ties in the colors of the national flag. They placed flags on buildings and cars as if in every place and on every car a minister or the president was passing. 

On every occasion they started singing their traditional song: "God Bless America!"

Silent as a rock, I watched the charity concert broadcast on Saturday once, twice, three times, on different TV channels. There were Clint Eastwood, Willie Nelson, Robert de Niro, Julia Roberts, Cassius Clay, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Sylvester Stalone, James Wood, and many others whom no film or producers could ever bring together. 

The American's solidarity spirit turned them into a choir. Actually, choir is not the word. What you could hear was the heavy artillery of the American soul. What neither George W. Bush, nor Bill Clinton, nor Colin Powell could say without facing the risk of stumbling over words and sounds, was being heard in a great and unmistakable way in this charity concert.

I don't know how it happened that all this obsessive singing of America didn't sound croaky, nationalist, or ostentatious! It made you green with envy because you weren't able to sing for your country without running the risk of being considered chauvinist, ridiculous, or suspected of who-knows-what mean interests.

I watched the live broadcast and the rerun of its rerun for hours listening to the story of the guy who went down one hundred floors with a woman in a wheelchair without knowing who she was, or of the Californian hockey player, who fought with the terrorists and prevented the plane from hitting a target that would have killed other hundreds or thousands of people. How on earth were they able to bow before a fellow human?

Imperceptibly, with every word and musical note, the memory of some turned into a modern myth of tragic heroes. And with every phone call, millions and millions of dollars were put in a collection aimed at rewarding not a man or a family, but a spirit, which nothing can buy.

What on earth can unite the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their galloping history? Their economic power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases, which risk of sounding like commonplaces. I thought things over, but I reached only one conclusion.

Only freedom can work such miracles!

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 

Monday, November 3, 2014

The most closely watched economic news this week was Wednesday's Fed meeting. As widely expected, the Fed announced that its Treasury and mortgage-backed security (MBS) purchases will conclude at the end of this month, and there was little reaction. 

Over the last few years, these bond purchases, described as quantitative easing, helped push mortgage rates down to the lowest levels in decades. 

The true market reaction to the end of quantitative easing took place way back in May of last year when the Fed first indicated that it was going to gradually wind down the program. 

That caused mortgage rates to increase from historic lows. Since the announcement, the tapering has taken place at the anticipated pace with little additional impact. 

At some point, though, Fed officials will begin to reduce the size of their MBS holdings. When the Fed makes that announcement, mortgage rates could be affected.

Interest rates stayed at 4.125% for 30 year, and 3.50% for 15 year mortgages.

And Here’s Your Monday Morning Coffee…

You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1972, Jim Cathcart was working at the Little Rock, Arkansas Housing Authority, making $525 a month, with a new wife and baby at home, no college degree, no past successes, and not much hope for the foreseeable future.
 

One morning, he was sitting in his office listening to the radio, to a program called "Our Changing World" by Earl Nightingale, who was known as "the Dean of Personal Motivation." That day, Nightingale, in his booming voice, said something that would change Jim's life forever: "If you will spend an extra hour each day in study of your chosen field, you will be a national expert in that field in five years or less." 

Jim was stunned, but the more he thought about it the more it made sense. 

Although he had never given a speech, he had always wanted to help people grow in areas of personal development and motivation. He began his quest to put Nightingale's theory to the test by reading books and listening to tapes whenever he could. 

He also started exercising, became better organized, and joined a self-improvement study group. He persisted through weeks of temptations to quit, just by doing a little more each day to further his goal. 

Within six months he had learned more than he had in his few years of college, and he began to believe he could turn his goal of becoming a motivational speaker into reality. 

All the hard work, the discipline, and study paid off... Jim now has delivered more than 2,500 speeches worldwide and has won every major award in the speaking industry. 

Just like companies have market value, so do people. 

In the simplest terms, your market value increases by knowing and doing more. Knowledge is power, not only for your career, but also to improve your family and spiritual life. 

I once heard a quote that sums it up well, "Knowledge is like climbing a mountain; the higher you reach the more you can see and appreciate." 

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 


Monday, October 27, 2014

Despite the fact that September seemed SOOOOOO slow to agents and sellers, (probably because it followed a blistering pace this summer) home sales actually increased over 10% from September, 2013.

The average time on the market for homes in September was unchanged from a year ago, which is a nice surprise since there were about 8% more homes for sale than a year ago.

Yes, the average price increased about 7% compared to September, 2013.

Nearly all stats are still improving, while a few are about the same or have seen a downturn, but that is ok, as those stats just could not have gotten any better. At worst, the real estate market is moving toward a more "normal" market which is not a bad thing.

And Here’s Your Monday Morning Coffee…

"Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look. ~ Ronald Reagan

"Where are the heroes of today?"... a radio talk show host thundered. He blames society's shortcomings on public education. Too many people are looking for heroes in all the wrong places. Movie stars and rock musicians, athletes and models aren't heroes - they're celebrities.

In addition to law enforcement, our military, fire fighters, heroes abound in everyday life and especially in our schools, a fact that doesn't make the news. 

You want heroes? Consider Dave Sanders, the school teacher shot to death while trying to shield his students during the shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Sanders gave his life, along with 12 students, but other less heralded heroes survived the Colorado blood bath.

You want heroes? Columbine special ed teacher, Robin Ortiz, braved gunfire, moving from classroom to classroom, shouting at students and teachers to get out of the building. His action alone cleared the east side of the high school. No one will ever know how many lives he saved. 

You want heroes? For Ronnie Holuby, a Fort Gibson, OK middle school teacher, it was a routine school day until gunfire erupted. He opened a door to the school yard and two students fled past him. A 13-year-old student had shot five other students when Holuby stepped outside, walking deliberately toward the boy, telling him to hand over the gun. He kept walking. Finally the boy handed him the gun. Holuby walked the boy to the side of the building, then sought to help a wounded girl. 

You want Heroes? Bob House, a teacher in small Georgia community tried out for Who Wants to be a Millionaire. 

After he won the million dollars, a network film crew wanted to follow up to see how it had impacted his life. New cars? Big new house? 

Instead, they found both Bob House and his wife still teaching. They explained that it was what they had always wanted to do with their lives and that would not change. The community was both stunned and gratified. 

You want heroes? Doris Dillon dreamed all her life of being a teacher. She not only made it, she was one of those wondrous teachers who could wring the best out of every single child. 

One of her fellow teachers in San Jose, CA, said, "She could teach a rock to read." 

Suddenly she was stricken with Lou Gehrig's Disease, which is always fatal, usually within five years. 

She asked to stay on the job - and did. When her voice was affected she communicated by computer. 

Did she go home? She is running two elementary school libraries. 

When the disease was diagnosed, she wrote the staff and all the families that she had one last lesson to teach - that dying is part of living. Her colleagues named her Teacher of the Year. 

If you think there are no more heroes, you just aren't  looking in the right places.

It is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 
 

 

Monday, October 20, 2014

It was a volatile week in the financial markets and wild swings in stock prices caused equally wild swings in mortgage rates. 

The net result was favorable for mortgage rates, which ended the week marginally lower once again, and now stand at their lowest level since June 2013

A 30 year fixed rate mortgage could be had at the end of business on Friday at 4.125% and a 15 year mortgage was $3.375%

Locally, more home buyers have stepped back out into the market and are looking at homes than in September, but the 4th quarter is here and those summer numbers won't be matched, however, home sales compared to a year ago should fair well when statistics are revealed.

And Here’s Your Monday Morning Coffee…

Most people will lose more to indecision than they will to a bad decision."  ~  Andrew Carnegie

This is not only the truth; it is the Number One reason people remain unsuccessful in their lives.

Even the unsuccessful people aware of this principle remain unconvinced of how powerful decisions are and how debilitating indecision can be.

Tony Robbins, the most successful speaker, writer in the world on the topic of "Success" spends a tremendous amount of time coaching on the power of simply "making decisions", and the common problem of indecisiveness. But he is not the first.

Think about this... If someone asked you to give up the next 20 years of your life, without being paid, how long would it take you to make that decision? (of course, it might depend on who was asking)

Andrew Carnegie is believed to be the world’s first Billionaire. He called a young cub reporter into his office and asked him to devote 20 years to interviewing only the world’s richest people in order to share the secrets of wealth, success, and happiness with the rest of the world.

Mr. Carnegie secretly held a stopwatch beneath his desk and gave Napoleon Hill only 60 seconds to answer yes or no before he would lose the opportunity forever.

Mr. Carnegie knew that if Napoleon required more time to think about it then he was the wrong guy because he knew that 'Successful People' make decisions quickly.

Looks like he was correct about that ... Napoleon Hill took 32 seconds to say YES... and his lack of indecision led to the writing of "Think and Grow Rich", one of the greatest books on success principles of all time.

Born into poverty in 1883, Napoleon Hill rose to become one of the world’s most distinguished and respected authors of all time.

He moved from newspaper reporter to law student to working for Andrew Carnegie, and became a confidant and advisor to businessmen and presidents. Hill has counted among his many associates Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and hundreds of other world leaders.

Yes, he himself credits the power of making decisions as a major factor toward his success.

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Interest rates remained unchanged this week, but don’t think it was a boring week.  Rates ended up where they were last week only after wide swings… a 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 4.125% at the close of business on Friday and a 15 year mortgage was 3.50%.

Activity in the market is increasing after a slight slow-down in September.  We are seeing more buyers look at homes online, view homes in person, and I believe we will see a nice increase in home sales this month.

And Here’s Your Monday Morning Coffee…

You ask a kid in a third world country, “What is the one thing you want more than anything in the world?” and he replies, “A pencil”. ~ Blog by James Altucher

That one event began a path for Adam Braun that led him to quit his cushy consulting job at Bain and start an organization, “Pencils of Promise” that has now built over 100 schools for little kids in various third world countries just five years later.

I used to think I could be on the path to happiness if I only stayed inside my tiny comfort zone (wife, money, blah).

But I didn’t realize that happiness is the path. You start with that. Now your comfort zone is the entire world.

Adam did start with that, and then he did something extraordinary: He wrote a book The Promise of a Pencil: How An Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change.  You will rarely see such a high ratio of five star reviews to overall reviews on Amazon. Out of 350 reviews, 337 are five star.

So I read the book... The book was great. By the time I was finished reading the book, I felt like starting my own charity. And then I called him and we had a great talk, but one thing stuck out (other than him being roommates with Justin Bieber among other things).

I asked him about quitting Bain, a secure future, for something that seemed totally “un” secure. He said Justin Bieber asked him the same thing (and I was really surprised about that part in the book).

One of the things he said in response struck me:

“I feel people can be paid in three ways: in money, in mastery, or in meaning, and ideally you want to be paid in all three.”

Let me repeat that:  Money, Mastery, Meaning. 

The money part is what most people focus on. Most of us think having money solves your money problems. The reality is: money magnifies every problem you’ve ever had, and makes it worse until you find meaning and mastery.

It’s only in the past few years I’ve tried to focus more on the meaning and the mastery.

But it’s hard. It’s scary to think you can get all three, when it’s money that seemingly pays the bills.

But every day, it’s a guarantee, today, there are ways to find money, mastery, and meaning in life. And if you’re only finding one out of the three, look hard for the other two.

Because they will be there if you look for them: If you surround yourself with other people looking for them… If you read, if you meet people, if you learn from the things around you, if every day you get slightly out of the comfort zone…

If you get inspired by what is around you instead of blindingly daydreaming about office politics or cash in the bank or all the things we are usually afraid of, regret, or worry about.

You truly can find meaning in life every single day, but it does not just happen... it is a choice.

That I master this writing thing a little more… that the bills get paid… that maybe I can help one person.

Success is supposed to zigzag. It’s never once gone in a straight line for me. I’m not sure if it’s ever gone in a straight line for anyone.

But I know my only job is to get paid in these three Ms each day. And to be around others who are looking in their lives for all three Ms.

That’s a good day. And that’s all I have to do. All the tomorrows will be fine if I take care of today.~ by James Altucher (professional writer and host of his own successful business broadcast show)

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

BTW ... the first 10 people who like my Facebook Business Page "Real Estate by Stuart" will receive a copy of the book The Promise of a Pencil: How An Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change.
 

MONDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2014

The U.S. economy continues to show moderate growth, as the Unemployment Rate declined from 6.1% to 5.9%, which is the lowest level since July 2008. The strong data caused mortgage rates to reverse some of the improvement seen earlier last week.

However, this past week investors grew more concerned about the pace of economic growth outside the US. As a result, they shifted assets to bonds at the expense of stocks, which helped mortgage rates end the week a little lower.

As a result, mortgage rates decreased about .05%, which is hardly noticeable by you and I, but it was just enough to push the quote for 30 year fixed rate mortgages to 4.25%, while 15 year mortgages remained at 3.625% for the 4th week in a row.

AND HERE’s YOUR MONDAY MORNING COFFEE…

“Nothing is permanently perfect. But there are perfect moments and the will to choose what will bring about more perfect moments.” ~ Mary Balogh

Click Here To Watch a Short Video ... "The Perfect Moment"

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Be Sure to Catch Those Perfect Moments!

 

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2014

In National housing news, housing data released this week continued to be encouraging. August New Home Sales jumped 18% from July to the highest level since May 2008. 

Existing Home Sales nationwide, which include roughly 90% of the market, did decline slightly in August, but this followed four straight months of gains. 

With mortgage rates remaining relatively low, home sales are near the highest levels of the year. At the close of business on Friday, rates were the same as the previous 2 weeks ... a 15 year fixed rate mortgage was 3.625% and a 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 4.375%.

AND HERE’s YOUR MONDAY MORNING COFFEE…

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn those men who died, rather we should thank God that such men lived! ~ George S. Patton

Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock, did something not to be forgotten.

On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal, and the building supervisor, she took all of the desks out of the classroom.  The kids came inot first period and there were no desks. They obviously looked around and said "Ms Cothren, where are our desks?"

And she said, "You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn them."

They thought, "Well, maybe it's our grades."

"No," she said.

"Maybe it's our behavior."

And she told them, "No, it's not even your behavior."

And so they came and went in the first period, still no desks in the classroom. Second period, same thing, third period. By early afternoon television news crews had gathered in Ms. Cothren's class to find out about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of the classroom. The last period of the day, Martha Cothren gathered her class.

They were at this time sitting on the floor around the sides of the room. And she says, "Throughout the day no one has really understood how you earn the desks that sit in this classroom ordinarily." She said, "Now I'm going to tell you."

Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it, and as she did 27 U.S. veterans, wearing their uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. And they placed those school desks in rows, and then they stood along the wall. And by the time they had finished placing those desks, those kids - for the first time I think perhaps in their lives - understood how they earned those desks.

Martha said, "You don't have to earn those desks. These guys did it for you. They put them out there for you, but it's up to you to sit here responsibly to learn, to be good students and good citizens, because they paid a price for you to have that desk, and don't ever forget it."

In 2006 the Veterans of Foreign Wars named Martha Cothren their "Teacher of the Year."

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2014

The average price of a home in the Austin Multiple Listing Service increased 9% in August, 2014, compared to August 2013. The average price of a home in the Austin area real estate market is now $311,414.

In addition, the number of homes on the market increased about 10% over a year ago, but the number of homes on the market is still well below a "Normal" market and is still defined as a "Seller's" market.

Mortgage Interest rates remain unchanged from a week ago... a 30 year fixed rate mortgage is 4,375% and a 15 year mortgage is 3,625%.

AND HERE’s YOUR MONDAY MORNING COFFEE…

"A life isn’t significant except for its impact on other lives."  ~ Jackie Robinson

Steve, a twelve-year-old boy with alcoholic parents, was about to be lost forever, by the U.S. education system. Remarkably, he could read, yet, in spite of his reading skills, Steve was failing. 

He had been failing since first grade, as he was passed on from grade to grade. Steve was a big boy, looking more like a teenager than a twelve year old, yet, Steve went unnoticed... until Miss White.

Miss White was a smiling, young, beautiful redhead, and Steve was in love! For the first time in his young life, he couldn't take his eyes off his teacher; yet, still he failed. He never did his homework, and he was always in trouble with Miss White. His heart would break under her sharp words, and when he was punished for failing to turn in his homework, he felt just miserable! Still, he did not study.

In the middle of the first semester of school, the entire seventh grade was tested for basic skills. Steve hurried through his tests, and continued to dream of other things, as the day wore on. His heart was not in school, but in the woods, where he often escaped alone, trying to shut out the sights, sounds and smells of his alcoholic home. No one checked on him to see if he was safe. No one knew he was gone, because no one was sober enough to care. Oddly, Steve never missed a day of school.

One day, Miss White's impatient voice broke into his daydreams.

"Steve!!" Startled, he turned to look at her.

"Pay attention!"

Steve locked his gaze on Miss White with adolescent adoration, as she began to go over the test results for the seventh grade.

"You all did pretty well," she told the class, "except for one boy, and it breaks my heart to tell you this, but..." She hesitated, pinning Steve to his seat with a sharp stare, her eyes searching his face.

"...The smartest boy in the seventh grade is failing my class!"

She just stared at Steve, as the class spun around for a good look. Steve dropped his eyes and carefully examined his fingertips.

After that, it was war!! Steve still wouldn't do his homework. Even as the punishments became more severe, he remained stubborn.

"Just try it! ONE WEEK!" He was unmoved.

"You're smart enough! You'll see a change!" Nothing fazed him.

"Give yourself a chance! Don't give up on your life!" Nothing.

"Steve! Please! I care about you!"

Wow! Suddenly, Steve got it!! Someone cared about him? Someone, totally unattainable and perfect, CARED ABOUT HIM??!!"

Steve went home from school, thoughtful, that afternoon. Walking into the house, he took one look around. Both parents were passed out, in various stages of undress, and the stench was overpowering! He, quickly, gathered up his camping gear, a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, a bottle of water, and this time...his schoolbooks. Grim faced and determined, he headed for the woods.

The following Monday he arrived at school on time, and he waited for Miss White to enter the classroom. She walked in, all sparkle and smiles! He yearned for her smile to turn on him. It did not.

Miss White, immediately, gave a quiz on the weekend homework. Steve hurried through the test, and was the first to hand in his paper. With a look of surprise, Miss White took his paper. Obviously puzzled, she began to look it over. Steve walked back to his desk, his heart pounding within his chest. As he sat down, he couldn't resist another look at the lovely woman.

Miss White's face was in total shock! She glanced up at Steve, then down, then up. Suddenly, her face broke into a radiant smile. The smartest boy in the seventh grade had just passed his first test!

From that moment nothing was the same for Steve. Life at home remained the same, but life still changed. He discovered that not only could he learn, but he was good at it! He discovered that he could understand and retain knowledge, and that he could translate the things he learned into his own life. Steve began to excel! And he continued this course throughout his school life.

After high-school Steve enlisted in the Navy, and he had a successful military career. During that time, he met the love of his life, he raised a family, and he graduated from college Magna Cum Laude. During his Naval career, he inspired many young people, who without him, might not have believed in themselves. Steve began a second career after the Navy, and he continues to inspire others, as an adjunct professor in a nearby college.

Miss White left a great legacy. She saved one boy who has changed many lives. I know, because I am the love of his life.

You see, it's simple, really. A change took place within the heart of one boy, all because of one teacher, who cared.

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2014

Increased concerns that the Fed will raise the fed funds rate more quickly than previously expected was the driving factor for mortgage rates this week. 

There is growing concern that next week's Fed announcement will open the door to a fed funds rate hike sooner than previously expected. 

Stronger than expected economic data was another negative factor, and mortgage rates ended the week higher.

A 30 year mortgage as of the end of business on Friday was 4.375% and a 15 year mortgage was 3.625%

AND HERE’s YOUR MONDAY MORNING COFFEE…

“In the end it is not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio .

" To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested 
column I've ever written.

My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short enjoy it.

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the future.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye, but don't worry, God never blinks.

16.. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful. Clutter weighs you down in many ways.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19.. It's never too late to be happy. But its all up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34 God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative of dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have, not what you need

42. The best is yet to come...

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2014

The economy added just 142K jobs in August, the lowest monthly increase since December 2013. 

A 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 4.25% as of the end of business on Friday, and the 15 year mortgage was 3.50%.

And Here’s Your Monday Morning Coffee…

“Spend quality time with those you love … someday you will either regret that you didn’t or cherish the time you did”

It was Molly's job to hand her father his brown paper lunch bag each morning before he headed off to work. One morning, in addition to his usual lunch bag, Molly handed him a second paper bag. This one was worn and held together with duct tape, staples, and paper clips.

"Why two bags" Fulghum asked.

"The other is something else," Molly answered.

"What's in it?"

"Just some stuff. Take it with you."

Not wanting to hold court over the matter, Fulghum stuffed both sacks into his briefcase, kissed Molly and rushed off. At midday, while hurriedly scarfing down his real lunch, he tore open Molly's bag and shook out the contents: two hair ribbons, three small stones, a plastic dinosaur, a pencil stub, a tiny sea shell, two animal crackers, a marble, a used lipstick, a small doll, two chocolate kisses, and 13 pennies.

Fulghum smiled, finished eating, and swept the desk clean - into the wastebasket - leftover lunch, Molly's junk and all.

That evening, Molly ran up behind him as he read the paper.

"Where's my bag?"

"What bag?"

"You know, the one I gave you this morning."

"I left it at the office. Why?"

"I forgot to put this note in it," she said. "And, besides, those are my things in the sack, Daddy, the ones I really like - I thought you might like to play with them, but now I want them back. You didn't lose the bag, did you, Daddy?"

"Oh, no," he said, lying. "I just forgot to bring it home. I'll bring it tomorrow."

While Molly hugged her father's neck, he unfolded the note that had not made it into the sack: "I love you, Daddy."

Molly had given him her treasures. All that a 7-year-old held dear. Love in a paper sack, and he missed it - not only missed it, but had thrown it in the wastebasket. So back he went to the office. Just ahead of the night janitor, he picked up the wastebasket and poured the contents on his desk.

After washing the mustard off the dinosaurs and spraying the whole thing with breath-freshener to kill the smell of onions, he carefully smoothed out the wadded ball of brown paper, put the treasures inside and carried it home gingerly, like and injured kitten. The bag didn't look so good, but the stuff was all there and that's what counted.

After dinner, he asked Molly to tell him about the stuff in the sack. It took a long time to tell. Everything had a story or a memory or was attached to dreams and imaginary friends. Fairies had brought some of the things. He had given her the chocolate kisses, and she had kept them for when she needed them.

"Sometimes I think of all the times in this sweet life," Fulghum concludes the story, "when I must have missed the affection I was being given. A friend calls this 'standing knee deep in the river and dying of thirst.' "

We should all remember that it's not the destination that counts in life - it's the journey.

The little girl smiles, the dinosaurs and chocolate kisses wrapped in old paper bags that we sometimes throw away too thoughtlessly, each day, each a tiny treasure.

The journey with the people we love is all that really matters. Such a simple truth so easily forgotten.

It’s Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 

MONDAY, AUGUST 25, 2014

Interest rates remain impressive despite a slight increase from last week.  The 30 year fixed rate mortgage is at 4.25% and the 15 year mortgage is at 3.50%.  

Housing date released this week showed nice improvement on the national level with Home Sales improving and new home starts increasing. The national supply of homes for sale rose slightly, and that is a trend that is expected to continue, even in strong markets such as ours.

Here is you Monday Morning Coffee...

People assume my disability has to do with being an amputee, but they are wrong, our only disabilities are our insecurities, and I struggle with those just like everyone else. ~ Aimee Mullens

At seven years of age, Kevin MacGuire was playing baseball, as American children are wont to do, when a drunk driver drove off the road and struck him in the yard in which he stood. He was paralyzed from the waist down.

My parents never allowed me to use my disability as a crutch," Kevin told me. "I wasn't to wallow in pity. I never made excuses because of my disability."

n fact, Kevin's parents went to great lengths to help him walk again, even sending him to Lourdes, France, at twelve years old, to visit a shrine with healing waters.

"I went there to be healed, however, upon arriving, I saw so many other people from around the world who had more dire medical conditions," Kevin said. "This put my disability in perspective. During that week, I realized I would be fine, and began praying for the other visitors."

Kevin went on to graduate from Georgetown Law Center and founded his own firm in 1992, specializing in Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. He consults with NFL teams and stadiums, Live Nation concert venues, and the White House Visitor Center on accessibility issues.

He is also the founder of AbleRoad, a website and free smartphone app that allows people with disabilities to find and review any public space or business location for accessibility. He hopes AbleRoad reviews will help businesses understand the accessibility issues their locations may pose to people with disabilities, and persuade them to make changes.

What drives Kevin to help others? He says, "I have this instilled work ethic to push myself when others would simply give up and walk away. That's not me."

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 

MONDAY, AUGUST 18, 2014

Economic news showed that some parts of the economy are slowing... The biggest report was Retail Sales, which account for roughly 70% of US economic activity.

During the end of the first quarter, Retail Sales showed a nice bounce back from depressed levels due to unusually severe winter weather. The momentum did not continue, though. For the last several months, the gains in Retail Sales have been diminishing, and the July data showed no increase from June.

Slower economic growth reduces future inflationary pressures, which is positive for mortgage rates. 

Mortgage rates are the lowest of 2014 with 30 year fixed rate at 4.125% and the 15 year fixed rate at 3.50%.

AND HERE'S YOUR MONDAY MORNING COFFEE...

The most wasted of days is the one without laughter. ~ E.E. Cummings

Occasionally, airline attendants and pilots make an effort to make the “in-flight safety lecture” and their other announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples... I have actually heard many of these first hand...

  1. From a Southwest Airlines employee.... “There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane...” 

  2. Pilot: “Folks, we have reached our cruising altitude now, so I am going to switch the seat belt sign off. Feel free to move about as you wish, but please stay inside the plane till we land...it’s a bit cold outside, and if you walk on the wings it affects the flight pattern.” 

  3. After landing: “Thank you for flying Delta Business Express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.” 

  4. As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Washington National, a lone voice comes over the loudspeaker: “Whoa, big fella. WHOA!” 

  5. After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced: “Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted.” 

  6. From a Southwest Airlines employee: “Welcome aboard Southwest Flight XXX to YYY. To operate your seatbelt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seatbelt and if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with two small children, decide now which one you love more. 

  7. “Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but they’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you or your money, more than Southwest Airlines.”

  8. “Your seat cushions can be used for flotation and in the event of an emergency water landing, please take them with our compliments.”

  9. “As you exit the plane, please make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.”

  10. “Last one off the plane must clean it.”

  11. From the pilot during his welcome message: “We are pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry... Unfortunately none of them are on this flight...!”

  12. Overheard on an American Airlines flight into Amarillo, Texas, on a particularly windy and bumpy day. During the final approach, the Captain was really having to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant came on the PA and announced: ”Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Amarillo. Please remain in your seats with your seatbelts fastened while the Captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!”

  13. Another Flight Attendant’s comment on a less than perfect landing: “We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal.”

  14. An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a “Thanks for flying XYZ airline.” He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally,everyone had gotten off except for this little old lady walking with a cane. She said: ”Sonny, mind if I as you a question?” “Why no, Ma’am,” said the pilot, “what is it?” The little old lady said: “Did we land or were we shot down?”

  15. After a real crusher of a landing in Phoenix, the Flight Attendant came on with, “Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt up against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we’ll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal.”

  16. Part of a Flight Attendant’s arrival announcement: “We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of us here at US Airways."

  17. On arriving at London's Heathrow Airport, the pilot announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm pleased to report that we have arrived on time since, owing to a stroke of luck, we managed to find the airport at the first attempt."

    Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 


MONDAY, AUGUST 11, 2014

During the first 6 months of 2014 we have seen a pattern in most areas of our real estate market.

1) Average home prices are UP
2) The number of Home Sales is UP and DOWN
3) The Number of days on the market is DOWN
4) Home buyers are paying closer to asking price than a year ago.

The  number of home sales is Down in some areas ONLY because there are not as many homes to sell, thus restricting the number of home sales that can actually take place in that neighborhood.

The fact that homes are selling faster and closer to asking price still shows that buyer demand is strong.

Home values are increasing, but be careful… there are still overpriced homes even in a sellers’ market. Some neighborhoods have literally seen home price increase over 24% in a year, while others are up only about 3%.

AND HERE’S YOUR MONDAY MORNING COFFEE…

Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. ~ Vince Lombardi 

During the first World War, a young man - a barber in peacetime - enlisted in the Iowa National Guard. Soon he found himself part of the 168th Infantry of the 42nd Division. By virtue of its makeup, with soldiers from all sections of the country, this division was dubbed the Rainbow Division.

In July of 1918, the 42nd was committed to battle against the Germans to reduce the Marne Salient. In spite of withering machine gun fire and heavy artillery bombardment, the 168th Infantry took their objective.

As the battle drew to an end, a messenger was needed to deliver an important word to one of the platoons. Private Martin A. Treptow, barber turned warrior, grabbed the message and moved out under fire. 

As he reached the platoon leader, Treptow was shot down by a hail of bullets. Later, in policing up Treptows personnel effects, a diary was found in the blood-stained blouse of this doughboy.

Written in Treptows own hands were the words entitled, My Pledge, words that serve as a memorial to the price he paid.

"America shall win the war. Therefore, I will work. I will save. I will sacrifice. I will endure. I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the whole issue of the struggle depended on my alone."

We are so blessed as Americans to be the beneficiaries of this type of commitment to Freedom from those who have sacrificed everything!

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 

MONDAY, JUNE 9

This was the first weekly increase in rates in six weeks, but it is not perceived as much of an increase since 30 year mortgages are still only 4.25% and 15 year  mortgages are 3.5%!

Pretty much the ONLY homes that are not selling quickly are homes that are priced a little too high (yes, as hard as it is to believe, some home sellers and agents do price homes too high even in a hot market.)

The most important advice regarding this is simply to react quickly… move the price if showings are not occurring or offers are not being initiated.  Don’t let time cost you money.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee..

The following is an actual letter that was sent to a bank by a 96 year-old

woman. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the New York Times.

To whom it may concern, 

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored
to pay my plumber last month.  By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his depositing the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it. 

I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly transfer of funds from my modest savings account, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only thirty-one years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank. 

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused
me to rethink my errant financial ways.  I noticed that whereas I
personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to
contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging,
pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has recently become.  From
now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person.
My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally
and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.
Be aware that it is an offense under the Postal Act for any other person
to open such an envelope. 

Please find attached an Application Contact Status form which I require
your chosen employee to complete.  I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but
in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about
me, there is no alternative.  Please note that all copies of his or her
medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the
mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets
and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.  In due course,
I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in
dealings with me.  I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but,
again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me
to access my account balance on your phone bank service.  As they say,
imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 

Please allow me to level the playing field even further.  When you call
me, you will now have a menu of options on my new voice mail system to
choose from. 

Please press the buttons as follows: 

To make an appointment to see me.
To query a missing payment.
To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.
To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.
To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is
required. Password will be communicated to you at a later date to the Authorized Contact.
To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7.
To make a general complaint or inquiry. The contact will then be put on
hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service.

While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call. Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee of $50 to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.  Please credit my account after each occasion. 

May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous, New Year. 

Your Humble Client...  (Remember: This was written by a 96 year old woman)

Remember, it is YOUR Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 

MONDAY, MAY 19

Interest rates stayed at about 4.25% for a 30 year mortgage and 3.50% for a 15 year mortgages.  

Yes, economists, financial gurus, mortgage professionals and real estate professionals have been saying it for awhile now, but when these rates go away, they may not return for a long time, if ever!

Home sales continue at a blistering pace compared to inventory... simply meaning that though the sheer number of sales may not be as impressive as a year ago, the low number of homes available compared to the high number of homes actually selling is historical!

And Here’s Your Monday Morning Coffee… In honor of so many upcoming graduations continues:

Salman Khan From his 2012 commencement address at MIT

"... Imagine yourself in 50 years. You’re in your early 70s, near the end of your career. You’re sitting on your couch, having just watched the State of the Union holographic address by President Kardashian.

"You begin to ponder your life. The career successes, how you’ve been able to provide for your family. You’ll think of all the great moments with your family and friends. But then you start to think about all of the things you wished you had done just a little differently, your regrets. I can guess at what they might be.

"Sitting in 2062, you wish that you had spent more time with your children. That you had told your spouse how much you loved them more frequently. That you could have even one more chance to hug your parents and tell them how much you appreciate them before they passed. That you could have smiled more, laughed more, danced more and created more. That you better used the gifts you were given to empower others and make the world better.

"Just as you’re thinking this, a genie appears from nowhere and says, “I have been eavesdropping on your regrets. They are valid ones. I can tell you are a good person so I am willing to give you a second chance if you really want one.” You say “Sure” and the genie snaps his fingers.

"All of a sudden you find yourself right where you are sitting today. It is June 8, 2012, at Killian Court. You are in your shockingly fit and pain-free 20-something body and begin to realize that it has really happened. You really do have the chance to do it over again. To have the same career successes and deep relationships. But, now you can optimize. You can laugh more, dance more and love more. Your parents are here again so it is your chance to love them like you wished you had done the first time. You can be the source of positivity that you wished you had been the first time around.

"So now I stand here, once again deeply honored to be here. Excited by what you, the MIT class of 2012 — both undergrads and graduate students — the young wizards of our time — a time like no other in human history — will do with your second chance."

Watch the full speech here.

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 

MAY 12, 2014

Mortgage rates moved down a little last week, to the lowest levels of the year! 

There are several factors which have contributed to the decline in mortgage rates this year. One reason is that inflation has remained low. The major indicators, such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) show that core inflation is well below the Fed's target level of 2.0%, and it is expected to remain low in coming months.

A 30 year fixed rate mortgage is 4.125% and a 15 year mortgage is 3.50% as of Friday at the end of business.

And Here’s Your Monday Morning Coffee… In honor of so many upcoming graduations:

11 Things You Didn't Learn in School
By Charles Sykes

Rule 1:  Life is not fair - get used to it.

Rule 2:  The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3:  You will NOT make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone, until you earn both.

Rule 4:  If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure.

Rule 5:  Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping - they called it opportunity.

Rule 6:  If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7:  Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So, before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8:  Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9:  Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10:  Television is NOT real life (nor are video games). In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11:  Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

It is Your Choice, so Make It a Powerful Day! 

 

APRIL 28, 2014

Austin Multiple Listing Service released statistics for March 2014, and the results shown a strong, continuing trend.   

There was more than a 7% increase in home sales in march of 2014 compared to March 2013.

The Median home price in our local market increased by approximately 6% to $231,750, while the average price is closing in on $300,000 – it was $296,640 for March, 2014, about 5% more than a year ago.

The number of homes for sale is less than a year ago and homes are selling faster… both of these last 2 statistics have helped push home prices higher.

And Here’s Your Monday Morning Coffee…

Ben Stein's last column:For many years Ben Stein had written a biweekly column called "Monday Night At Morton's." (Morton's is a famous chain of Steakhouses known to be frequented by movie stars and famous people from around the globe.) On August 9, 2004, Ben wrote his final column to move on to other things in his life. Reading this is definitely worth a few minutes of your time...  

------------------------------------

How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World?

As I begin to write this, I "slug" it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is "eonlineFINAL," and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started. I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.

It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world's change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton's, while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton's is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again.

Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.

How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while someone is doing their nails.

They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer. A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.

A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.

A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.

We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.

There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament...the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.

Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse. Now you have my idea of a real hero.

I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin...or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.

But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

Remember, it is Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 

MONDAY, APRIL 14, 2014

The stock market was the biggest influence on mortgage rates this week, as investors shifted assets from stocks to bonds. The Fed Minutes also were favorable for mortgage rates, and rates ended the week near the lowest levels of the year.

The 30 year fixed rate mortgage was at 4.375% on Friday at the end of business, while the 15 year mortgage was at 3.50%... still pretty impressive!

Home sales are still impressive as well, maybe not in sheer numbers, but that is just because there are not as many homes available to sell.

Home buyers have fewer choices than they ever have in the Austin real estate market, causing home prices to increase steadily.

And Here’s Your Monday Morning Coffee…

“You will find the key to success under the alarm clock” ~ Benjamin Franklin

10 Golden Lessons From Steve Jobs

No matter what you think of Steve Jobs, he did change the world in his own lifetime...

“I think we’re having fun. I think our customers really like our products. And we’re always trying to do better.” - Steve Jobs

His accomplishments and character helped define a generation and change the world. He is co-founder of the fairytale company we now know as Apple Computers. And he is the visionary of the personal computers world that led the entire computer hardware and software industry to restructure itself.

This man with boundless energy and charisma is also a master of hype, hyperbole and the catchy phrase. And even when he’s trying to talk normally, brilliant verbiage comes tumbling out.

Here’s a selection of some of the most insanely great things he said, golden lessons to help you succeed in life, Jobs-style:

1. Steve Jobs said: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

Innovation has no limits. The only limit is your imagination. It’s time for you to begin thinking out of the box. If you are involved in a growing industry, think of ways to become more efficient; more customer friendly; and easier to do business with. If you are involved in a shrinking industry – get out of it quick and change before you become obsolete; out of work; or out of business. And remember that procrastination is not an option here. Start innovating now!

2. Steve Jobs said: “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

There is no shortcut to excellence. You will have to make the commitment to make excellence your priority. Use your talents, abilities, and skills in the best way possible and get ahead of others by giving that little extra. Live by a higher standard and pay attention to the details that really do make the difference. Excellence is not difficult – simply decide right now to give it your best shot – and you will be amazed with what life gives you back.

3. Steve Jobs said: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

I’ve got it down to four words: “Do what you love.” Seek out an occupation that gives you a sense of meaning, direction and satisfaction in life. Having a sense of purpose and striving towards goals gives life meaning, direction and satisfaction. It not only contributes to health and longevity, but also makes you feel better in difficult times. Do you jump out of bed on Monday mornings and look forward to the work week? If the answer is ‘no’ keep looking, you’ll know when you find it.

4. Steve Jobs said: “You know, we don’t grow most of the food we eat. We wear clothes other people make. We speak a language that other people developed. We use a mathematics that other people evolved… I mean, we’re constantly taking things. It’s a wonderful, ecstatic feeling to create something that puts it back in the pool of human experience and knowledge.”

Live in a way that is ethically responsible. Try to make a difference in this world and contribute to the higher good. You’ll find it gives more meaning to your life and it’s a great antidote to boredom. There is always so much to be done. And talk to others about what you are doing. Don’t preach or be self-righteous, or fanatical about it, that just puts people off, but at the same time, don’t be shy about setting an example, and use opportunities that arise to let others know what you are doing.

5. Steve Jobs said: “There’s a phrase in Buddhism, ‘Beginner’s mind.’ It’s wonderful to have a beginner’s mind.”

It is the kind of mind that can see things as they are, which step by step and in a flash can realize the original nature of everything. Beginner’s mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgments and prejudices. Think of beginner’s mind as the mind that faces life like a small child, full of curiosity and wonder and amazement.

6. Steve Jobs said: “We think basically you watch television to turn your brain off, and you work on your computer when you want to turn your brain on.”

Reams of academic studies over the decades have amply confirmed television’s pernicious mental and moral influences. And most TV watchers know that their habit is mind-numbing and wasteful, but still spend most of their time in front of that box. So turn your TV off and save some brain cells. But be cautious, you can turn your brain off by using a computer also. Try and have an intelligent conversation with someone who plays first person shooters for 8 hours a day. Or auto race games, or role-playing games.

7. Steve Jobs said: “I’m the only person I know that’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year…. It’s very character-building.”

Don’t equate making mistakes with being a mistake. There is no such thing as a successful person who has not failed or made mistakes, there are successful people who made mistakes and changed their lives or performance in response to them, and so got it right the next time. They viewed mistakes as warnings rather than signs of hopeless inadequacy. Never making a mistake means never living life to the full.

8. Steve Jobs said: “I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates.”

Over the last decade, numerous books featuring lessons from historical figures have appeared on the shelves of bookstores around the world. And Socrates stands with Leonardo da Vinci, Nicholas Copernicus, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein as a beacon of inspiration for independent thinkers. But he came first. Cicero said of Socrates that, “He called philosophy down from the skies and into the lives of men.” So use Socrates’ principles in your life, your work, your learning, and your relationships. It’s not about Socrates, it’s really about you, and how you can bring more truth, beauty and goodness into your life everyday.

9. Steve Jobs said: “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?”

Did you know that you have big things to accomplish in life? And did you know that those big things are getting rather dusty while you pour yourself another cup of coffee, and decide to mull things over rather than do them? We were all born with a gift to give in life, one which informs all of our desires, interests, passions and curiosities. This gift is, in fact, our purpose. And you don’t need permission to decide your own purpose. No boss, teacher, parent, priest or other authority can decide this for you. Just find that unique purpose.

10. Steve Jobs said: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Are you tired of living someone else’s dream? No doubt, its your life and you have every right to spend it in your own individual way without any hurdles or barriers from others. Give yourself a chance to nurture your creative qualities in a fear-free and pressure-free climate. Live a life that YOU choose and be your own boss.

Each lesson might be difficult to integrate into your life at first, but if you ease your way into each lesson, one at a time, you’ll notice an immediate improvement in your overall performance. So go ahead, give them a try.

Remember, Its Your Choice, so Make It a Powerful Day!

 

MONDAY, APRIL 7, 2014

Mortgage rates this week are still 4.50% for 30 year mortgages and 3.75% for 15 year mortgages.

Austin home sales still show strength, but while the stats are not as impressive as past months, the number of homes for sale are still far below typical, and has become a limiting factor in the number of home sales. There is less than a 2 month supply of homes available, compared to a norm or 6 months.

Our market has transitioned from a buyers’ market to a sellers’ market in the last 24 months.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"If you haven't any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble." ~ Bob Hope 

This was the last litter of puppies we were going to allow our Cocker Spaniel to have. It had been a very long night for me. Precious, our only black cocker, was having a very difficult time with the delivery of her puppies.

I laid on the floor beside her large four-foot square cage, watching her every movement. Watching and waiting just in case we had to rush her to the veterinarian.

After six hours the puppies started to appear. The first born was a black and white party dog. The second and third puppies were tan and brown in color. The fourth and fifth were also spotted black and white. "One, two, three, four, five," I counted to myself as I walked down the hallway to wake up Judy and tell her that everything was fine. As we walked back down the hallway and into the spare bedroom, I noticed a sixth puppy had been born and was now laying all by itself over to the side of the cage. I picked up the small puppy and laid it on top of the large pile of puppies, who were whining and trying nurse on the mother.

Instantly Precious pushed the small puppy away from rest of the group and refused to recognize it as a member of her family.

"Something's wrong," said Judy.

I reached over and picked up the puppy. My heart sank inside my chest when I saw the little puppy was hare-lipped and could not close its little mouth. We had gone through this once before last year with another one of our cockers. That experience like to have killed me when the puppy died and I had to bury it. If there was any way to save this animal I was going to give it my best shot.

All the puppies born that night, with the exception of the small hare-lipped pup, were very valuable because of their unusual coloring. Most would bring between five to seven hundred dollars each. The next day I took the puppy to the vet. I was told nothing could be done unless we were willing to spend about a thousand dollars to try and correct the defect. He told us that the puppy would die mainly because it could not suckle.

After returning home Judy and I decided that we could not afford to spend that kind of money without getting some type of assurances from the vet that the puppy had a chance to live. However, that did not stop me from purchasing a syringe and feeding the puppy by hand. Which I did very day and night, every two hours, for more than ten days.

The fifth week I placed an ad in the newspaper, and within a week we had taken deposits on all of the pups, except the one with the deformity. The little guy had learned to eat on his own as long as it was soft canned food.

Late that afternoon I had gone to the store to pick up a few groceries. Upon returning I happened to see the old retired school teacher, who lived across the street from us, waving at me. She had read in the paper that we had puppies for sale and was wondering if she might buy one from us for her grandson. I told her all the puppies had been sold, but I would keep my eyes open for anyone else who might have a cocker spaniel for sale. I also mentioned we never kept a deposit should someone change their mind, and if so I would let her know. Within days all but one of the puppies had been picked up by their new owners. This left me with one brown and tan cocker as well as the smaller hare-lipped puppy.

Two days passed without me hearing anything from the gentleman, who had placed a deposit on the tan and brown pup. So I telephoned the school teacher and told her I had one puppy left and that she was welcome to come and look at it. She advised me that she was going to pick up her grandson and would come over at about eight o'clock that evening. Judy and I were eating supper when we heard a knock on the front door. When I opened the door, the man, who had placed a $100 deposit on the dog, was standing there. We walked inside where I filled out the paperwork, he paid me the balance of the money, and I handed him the puppy.

Judy and I did not know what to do or say if the teacher showed up with her grandson. Sure enough at exactly eight o'clock the doorbell rang. I opened the door, and there was the school teacher with her grandson standing behind her. I explained to her the man had come for the puppy just an hour before, and there were no puppies left.

"I'm sorry, Jeffery. They sold all the puppies," she told her grandson.

Just at that moment, the small puppy left in the bedroom began to yelp.

"My puppy! My puppy!" yelled the little boy as he ran out from behind his grandmother.

I just about fell over when I saw the small child was hare-lipped. The boy ran past me as fast as he could, down the hallway to where the puppy was still yelping. 

When the three of us made it to the bedroom, the small boy was holding the puppy in his arms. He looked up at his grandmother and said, "Look Grandma. They sold all the puppies except the pretty one, and he looks just like me."

Well, old Grandma wasn't the only one with tears in her eyes that day. Judy and I stood there, not knowing what to do.

"Is this puppy for sale?" asked the school teacher.

"My grandma told me these kind of puppies are real expensive and that I have to take real good care of it," said the little boy, who was now hugging the puppy.

"Yes, ma'am. This puppy is for sale."

The lady opened her purse, and I could see several one-hundred dollar bills sticking out of her wallet. I reached over and pushed her hand back down into her purse so that she would not pull her wallet out.

"How much do you think this puppy is worth?" I asked the boy.

"About a dollar?" He replied.

"No. This puppy is very, very expensive... More than a dollar," I told him.

"I'm afraid so." Said his grandmother.

The boy stood there pressing the small puppy against his cheek.

"We could not possibly take less than two dollars for this puppy," Judy said, squeezing my hand. "Like you said, "It's the pretty one." She continued.

The school teacher took out two dollars and handed it to the young boy.

"It's your dog now, Jeffery. You pay the man."

I think it must be a wonderful feeling for any young person to look at their selves into the mirror and see nothing, except "The pretty one." (by Roger Dean Kiser)

Remember, its your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 

MONDAY, MARCH 2, 2014

On the National scene - After a couple of months of weaker readings, the New Home Sales report released this week was a pleasant surprise. January New Home Sales jumped 10% from December. This was the highest level since July 2008.

Also released this week, January Pending Home Sales posted a slight increase.

These national stats coincides with local statistics, which were all positive in January as well.

Oh, and the 30 year mortgage is currently 4.375%.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart! ~ Helen Keller

His birth certificate says 16. His face says 80. His body size says 6. His mind says 35. His medical diagnosis says, "Failure to thrive," but that's a lie. Few people you'll ever meet thrive like Sam Berns.

Ask Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots.

"I get to meet a lot of people in my life," Kraft says. "But I've never met anyone quite like Sam. I love the kid."

Sam has progeria, which ages him at eight times the normal rate. Even though he's a junior at Foxborough (Mass.) High School, he looks like a tiny old man. And yet he plays drums in the marching band, umps baseball games, wears his Eagle Scout badge, invents things, makes straight A's, talks like an after-dinner speaker, and is trying to decide whether to go to MIT or Harvard in two years.

Pray he lives that long.

When Sam was 2, his parents were told that he probably wouldn't make it past 13, the usual life expectancy for the one in 4 million kids born with progeria. They were told that he would be a living time lapse. His skin would wrinkle, his eyesight would fade, his hair would go, his nose would beak, his head would swell, his face would shrink and there would be nothing they could do about it. There's no cure.

But Sam's parents -- Dr. Scott Berns and Dr. Leslie Gordon -- didn't listen. If nobody was coming to the rescue, why couldn't they?

They started a foundation and after years of work, helped identify the gene mutation that causes the disease and the first experimental treatment for it, lonafarnib. But with Sam's time running out, they need money -- $4 million -- to figure out through clinical trial if it's a cure. That's where Kraft enters.

Kraft read about Sam in the Foxboro Reporter. This is a man who watches young men perform astonishing athletic feats with their bodies. This is a man who still grieves his wife, Myra, who died two years ago at 68. In Sam, he must've seen a tragic meld -- a young man dying of old age.

He invited him to a Saturday practice, just before the Patriots' September 29 game in Atlanta, and liked him so much he decided to donate $1,000 for every year Sam had been alive. 

But then Sam mentioned his birthday was October 23. Now the donation had to be $17,000. "Smart businessman," Kraft grinned.

And that was just the start of Kraft falling in love with a young man trapped in a senior citizen's body.

Kraft: "Who's your favorite player? I'll introduce you."

Sam: "Oh, I could never pick just one player. Football is a team sport."

So Kraft introduced him to the entire team. He met Tom Brady. Bill Belichick. Everybody. They gathered around and made Sam look even tinier. Then Sam gave the whole team a speech, telling them how they could strategically beat Atlanta and quarterback Matt Ryan. "Make Matty Ryan feel uncomfortable ... so he throws an interception and we get the ball back. And drive it in."

The players and coaches stood there scratching their heads at this little old boy who sounded suddenly like Vince Lombardi.

"You're looking at him and these 300-pound guys are coming at him and he's got such a calm demeanor," Kraft says. "We need to keep him alive. We need to keep him strong and healthy."

And maybe they need to hire him as a coach. The Patriots rattled the Falcons 30-23.

"I should've had him at the Cincinnati game," Kraft moans.

The soup thickened. Sam invited Kraft to a screening of a documentary -- "Life According to Sam" -- that airs on HBO Oct. 21. The longer Kraft sat there watching it, the more his wallet itched. The more he learned about Sam, the more he gave. His donation went from $17,000 to $100,000, to $250,000, to, finally, a $500,000 matching donation. Now that's a movie that can OPEN.

He couldn't help himself. "I'm looking at him and seeing how smart he is," Kraft remembers, "how passionate, how full of life. And I'm thinking of so many other friends I have who are just, 'Woe is me.' ... I haven't been moved like this by someone in a long, long time."

I know what he means. I spoke with Sam for a half-hour and felt as if I was talking to a U.S. senator.

Wait. I felt as if I was talking to somebody with much more sense, charm and polish than a U.S. senator.

"I was so inspired by Mr. Kraft," Sam says. "Maybe because we're alike in so many aspects. I'm extremely inspired by how he approaches things and who he is as a person ... I am so grateful that he's given this initial push, this initial mobilization, to finding a cure and helping so many."

You know many 16-year-olds who talk like that? Or 66-year-olds?

At one point in the terrific HBO film, Sam says, "I didn't put myself in front of you for you to feel bad for me. You don't need to feel bad for me ... I want you to get to know me. This is my life."

Where does he get the courage not to feel sorry for himself, or beg for it in others?

"Sometimes I do feel badly," he says. "When that happens, the first thing I do is accept the fact that I feel bad about it. The second thing I do is remember that most of the time I do feel happy. And that's how I negotiate through that feeling and get past it."

See what I mean?

At one point, Kraft showed Sam, a Patriots fan since birth, the three Super Bowl trophies. It filled Sam with awe and hope.

"Hopefully the run isn't quite over," Sam told me. "We're going to try to keep getting better and keep this going."

Do, Sam. Please do. ~ written by Rick Reilly

Remember, its Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2014

January housing statistics showed a strong start to 2014!

Since the number of homes sold was up by 4%, the median prices of homes sold was up 7%, and the time on market was down 14%, it is obvious that the positive trend in Austin housing is continuing.

Interest rates continue contributing to market strength, with 30 year mortgages at 4.5% as of Friday at the close of business.

Forbes magazine cited Austin as the fastest growing city in the country for the fourth year in a row. That growth has driven demand for housing in Austin.

Texas A&M Real estate Center cites 6.5 months of housing supply as balances... the Austin real estate market has only a 2 month supply ~ a great market for home sellers!

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Laughter is an instant vacation ~ Milton Berle

Click Here for a short, but Instant vacation

Remember, it is your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2014

The primary influence on mortgage rates this week was new Fed Chair Janet Yellen's semi-annual testimony before Congress. Although there were no significant surprises, maintaining the status quo for Fed policy was taken as good news for stocks and bad news for bonds. 

She said that recent weak data and turmoil in emerging markets did not alter the Fed's long-term economic outlook. Her upbeat assessment of the economy lifted stocks, but was negative for mortgage rates. Also hurting rates, she stated that the Fed will continue scaling back its bond purchase program at a steady pace, unless the performance of the economy worsens significantly.

Mortgage rates rose during her testimony and ended the week a little higher with 30 year fixed rate mortgages at 4.50% and 15 year mortgages at 3.625%.

And Here’s Your Monday Morning Coffee…

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected. ~ Steve Jobs


About Excellence ~ by Jon Gordon

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to all the student-athletes and coaches at the University of Nebraska.

In my talk I shared that the best of the best make their life and work a quest for excellence and that there is a difference between success and excellence.

Success is often measured by comparison to others. Excellence, on the other hand, is all about being the best we can be and maximizing our gifts, talents and abilities to perform at our highest potential.

We live in a world that loves to focus on success and loves to compare. We are all guilty of doing this. However, I believe that to be our best we must focus more on excellence and less on success. We must focus on being the best we can be and realize that our greatest competition is not someone else but ourselves.

For example, coaching legend John Wooden often wouldn’t tell his players who they were playing each game. He felt that knowing the competition was irrelevant. He believed that if his team played to the best of their ability they would be happy with the outcome. In fact, John Wooden never focused on winning. He had his team focus on teamwork, mastering the fundamentals, daily improvement and the process that excellence requires. As a result he and his teams won A LOT.

A focus on excellence was also the key for golfing legend Jack Nicklaus. His secret was to play the course not the competition. He simply focused on playing the best he could play against the course he was playing. While others were competing against Jack, he was competing against the course and himself.

The same can be said for Apple’s approach with the iPod, iPhone and iPad. When they created these products they didn't focus on the competition. Instead they focused on creating the best product they could create. As a result, rather than measuring themselves against others they have become the measuring stick.

We have a choice as individuals, organizations and teams. We can focus on success and spend our life looking around to see how our competition is doing, or we can look straight ahead towards the vision of greatness we have for ourselves and our teams. We can look at competition as the standard or as an indicator of our progress towards our own standards. We can chase success or we can embark on a quest for excellence and focus 100% of our energy to become our best… and let success find us.

Ironically, when our goal is excellence the outcome and byproduct is often success.

Remember, its your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2014

Interest rates remained below 4.5% for 30 year fixed rate mortgages and less than 3.75% for 15 year mortgages, mainly due to weaker than expected economic reports in January.

How home sales fared in January is a little unpredictable due to the severe weather conditions through much of the month. Our home sales exceeded January of 2013, but overall market statistics are nor available yet.

With the weather conditions limiting the activity of home buyers and the extremely limited number of homes available, I do not expect January home sales to show much, if any improvement over a year ago.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

Will Rogers, who died in a 1935 plane crash with his best friend, Wylie Post, was probably the greatest political sage this country ever has known. 
Enjoy some of Will's humorous observations on Life...

1. Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.

2. Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

3.. There are two theories to arguing with a woman... Neither works.

4. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

5. Always drink upstream from the herd.

6. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

7. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back into your pocket.

8. There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.

9. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

10. If you're riding' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.

11. Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back.

12. After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut.

ABOUT GROWING OLDER...

First ~ Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.

Second ~ The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.

Third ~ Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me; I want people to know 'why' I look this way. I've traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren't paved.

Fourth ~ When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra.

Fifth ~ You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.

Sixth ~ I don't know how I got over the hill without getting to the top.

Seventh ~ One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it is such a nice change from being young.

Eighth ~ One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.

Ninth ~ Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable.

Tenth ~ Long ago, when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it's called golf.

And, finally ~ If you don't learn to laugh at trouble, you won't have anything to laugh at when you are old.

Rmember, its Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2014

The economic data for 2014 has been disappointing so far.  Bad news for the stock market, but good news for the bond market, and thus good news for mortgage rates.

Mortgage interest rates remain below 4.5% for 30 year fix rate mortgages and below 4% for 15 year mortgages.

Housing improved so dramatically in 2012 and 2013 that it is very unlikely that 2014 will keep up with those levels of improvement, but January was another great month of home sales and buyer activity for us, and showed improvement over last year. 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“Remind thyself, in the darkest moments, that every failure is only a step toward success, every detection of what is false directs you toward what is true, every trial exhausts some tempting form of error, and every adversity will only hide, for a time, your path to peace and fulfillment. ”  ~ Og Mandino

This video is slightly longer than most that are included on Monday Mornings,  but it is worth the time...

Click Here to Hear From Og Mandino, one of this country's greatest stories. 

Remember, its your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!
 

MONDAY, JANUARY 27, 2014

The driving force for mortgage rates this week came from an unexpected source. Chinese manufacturing data fell short of expectations, causing sharp losses in global stock markets. Investors shifted to relatively safer assets, helping mortgage rates end the week lower.

Though we typically focus on local housing, but national housing news was positive for 2013! Home sales in 2013 showed an increase of 9% from 2012, and the highest level since 2006. While the gains may be more modest, most analysts expect the improvement to continue in 2014 as well.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) projects a very small increase in home sales next year, but both Freddie Mac and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) forecast home sales to increase about 5% in 2014.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Hee Ah Lee was born with severe physical deformities. She only had two fingers on each hand. And her legs ended at her knees. Her doctors didn’t expect her to live.

But she did live. At the age of six she started to play piano. At the time, her four fingers were very weak. She couldn’t even hold a pencil. Her mother hoped playing piano would strengthen her grip.

It worked. But more than that, Lee found a calling. She now tours the world, playing for stunned audiences. She plays pieces that would be difficult for able-bodied pianists. Hers is the story of a mother and a daughter who have overcome odds from the very beginning.

Doctors told Lee's mother that because of a medication she had been taking her child would not be normal.  She elected to continue with the pregnancy and in 1985 in Seoul, South Korea, little Hee Ah Lee was born with only two fingers on each hand, disfigurement of her legs, and slight brain injury. 

The hospital told Sun that she could not care for the child at home and relatives wanted her to place the child for adoption in a foreign country.  Sun thought her baby was beautiful, however, and was determined that she would live a successful life.

When Lee was a pre-schooler her mother decided that she wanted her daughter to take piano lessons and for two reasons.  One was that she felt it would help her strengthen her hands so she could hold a pencil.  The other was that she felt that if she could master the piano, she could master anything.   

For six months piano schools turned them down,  then the one teacher who did accept the task got discouraged and wanted to quit.  It became a three-month contest of wills between mother and daughter.  

She said Lee then played for the first the children’s song she had been trying to learn.  That was the turning point and one year later Lee won the grand prize in a piano concert for Kindergartners. It was at age 7 that Lee won Korea’s 19th National Handicap Conquest Contest and was presented with her award by the President of Korea.

Today Lee is 22, has won numerous awards, and is a widely traveled concert pianist with more than 200 appearances.  Her first album titled “Hee-ah, a Pianist with Four Fingers” was to be released in June, 2008.

Lee gives tribute to her mother for challenging her to master the piano and said that although her training was difficult, “as time went by, the piano became my source of inspiration and my best friend.”

Remember, its Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 

MONDAY, JANUARY 20, 2014

Because moderate economic growth and low inflation afe favorable conditions for interest rates, 
Interest rates decreased slightly last week to about 4.5% for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage, and 3.75% for a 15 year mortgage.

Austin area housing remains strong, with the single biggest factor driving home prices being the lack of inventory.  Home sellers have less competition than ever in this real estate market, buyers have fewer homes to choose from, thus prices are continuing to inch up.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

Today is Martin Luther King day, and though everyone has heard of or maybe even heard the "I have a Dream" speech, few Americans have actually read and absorbed the speech made that day in 1963.

Many people have their 15 minutes in today's reality tv, youtube environment, but few people have the impact on a country and a way of life that Martin Luther King Jr. had. Yes, most of us remember the "I have a Dream" speech... but here is just a little more.

  • Graduated from High School at age 15
  • Graduated from the distinguished Morehouse College
  • Elected President of a predominantly white class at Crozer Seminary
  • Received doctorate from Boston College in 1955
  • Elected president of the Southern Leadership Christian Conference in 1957
  • Between 1957 and 1968, traveled over 6 million miles
  • Between 1957 and 1968, spoke over 25,000 times
  • Between 1957 and 1968, was arrested over 20 times
  • Between 1957 and 1968, assaulted 4 times
  • Between 1957 and 1968, wrote 5 books
  • Conferred with John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Was given 5 honorary degrees
  • Named Time Magazine "Man of the Year" in 1963
  • Was the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at 35

    There was much more to Martin Luther King Jr than the "I Have a Dream" Speech.  the enviroment we live in today was influenced greatly by this man and though there are many great people who have influenced our country, few have had the impact of a life of sacrifice, commitment and passion of Martin Luther King Jr.

    If you have a few minutes, click here to read or listen to that famous speech, voted one of the top 100 speeches of All Time.

    Remember, its Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 

MONDAY, JANUARY 13, 2014

Interest rates started last week a little higher, but ended the week a little lower at 4.5% for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage.

The first 2 weeks of 2014 have been extremely busy in the real estate market, with buyers looking for homes in record numbers.

Fewer homes on the market is causing upward pressure on housing prices because buyers have fewer homes to choose from, and are paying closer to asking price, and even above asking price to procure a home. 

AND HERE's YOUR MONDAY MORNING COFFEE:

"Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might as well put that passing time to the best possible use." ~ Earl Nightingale

Earl Nightingale's "The Strangest Secret" confirmed his standing as one of the world's leading experts in motivation and success, selling over 1 million copies - that's over 1 million copies for a short inspirational talk! (That means people were buying this record instead of an Elvis Presley song!)

Click Here to Watch This Brief, but Powerful Video!

Remember, its your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 

MONDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2013 

Interest rates increased this week because... wait for it, the economy is doing so well!  

That's right, stronger economic data like lower unemployment, and more jobs available actually tend to result in higher interest rates.

A 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 4.75% at the end of business on Friday and a 15 year mortgage was 3.875%.

New homes sales increased again, along with resale homes nationally and locally.  Once again, I predict a strong December for Austin area home sales.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.


It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas---oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it-overspending...the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma---the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black.

These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears.

It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them."

Mike loved kids-all kids-and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came.

That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church.

On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me.

His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years.

For each Christmas, I followed the tradition---one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal it's contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn't end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad.

The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.

May we all remember each other, and the Real reason for the season, and His true spirit this year and always. God bless---pass this along to your friends and loved ones. ~ Nancy Gavin

Its Your Choice, Make it a Powerful Christmas!

 

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Austin area Real Estate market is still active, even in December.  It is not as active as say, April or June, but there is more activity this time of year than most people think.  

How could I possibly know that on December 2? 

Because yesterday, December 1, more buyers were out looking for homes than any December weekend that I have seen in many years. No, not as many as in April, but the good news is that home buyers in December are more serious about buying a home. 

The reason for this activity.- its still that mortgage rates are still incredible... 4.25% for a 30 year mortgage, and 3.5% for a 15 year mortgage.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"One human episode amid all the atrocities which have stained the memory of the war". ~ Sir Conan Doyle

On Christmas Day, 1988, a story in the Boston Globe mentioned that a local FM radio host played "Christmas in the Trenches," a ballad about the Christmas Truce, several times and was startled by the effect. 

The song became the most requested recording during the holidays in Boston on several FM stations. 

"Even more startling than the number of requests I get is the reaction to the ballad afterward by callers who hadn't heard it before," said the radio host. "They telephone me deeply moved, sometimes in tears, asking, 'What did I just hear?' "

You can probably guess why the callers were in tears. The Christmas Truce story goes against most of what we have been taught about people. It gives us a glimpse of the world as we wish it could be and says, "This really happened once." 

It reminds us of those thoughts we keep hidden away, out of range of the TV and newspaper stories that tell us how trivial and mean human life is. It is like hearing that our deepest wishes really are true: the world really could be different.

If you know have heard the story of the "Christmas Truce", it is an amazing and true story of the power of the meaning and message of Christmas. 

Click here if you care to hear the song of that day written by a man who was there.

(or paste this YouTube Link...  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTXhZ4uR6rs)

Remember, its Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

What emerged from the Minutes of the most recent Fed meeting is that a number of Fed officials expect improvement in the labor market to warrant tapering to begin "in coming months." this was in contract to Janet Yellen's comments

Because Fed policy is currently the most influential factor for mortgage rates, the minutes from this Fed meeting resulted in mortgage rates ending the week a little higher. 

In local news the Austin housing market showed improvement again in October, 2013 compared to October 2012. The 9% increase in home sales from a year ago was actually one of the more modest year to year improvements of any month this year.

There are still fewer homes for sale and the median price is still showing improvement... 9% more than a year ago.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily." - Gerald Good

What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving? I am thankful that I do not have a clothes dryer. If I owned one, surely I’d miss the exhilaration that comes from taking a basketful of clothes into the fresh air and the ritual of the clothesline, where garment by garment, peg by peg, I link my family together, symbolically at least.

I’d miss the wet flapping sound that sheets in the wind make. I’d miss the feeling of sisterhood I share with all the women of all ages who have worked at homey chores for the people they love.

I am thankful I do not have a microwave oven, for I am accustomed to a slower pace. Besides, I love to peek into my friendly old stove to see the turkey crisping, to watch pale, waddy dough turning into fluffy brown rolls.

I am thankful I do not have air conditioning, for then I likely would not fling open the windows. Closed in, I might not see the little green lizard scampering on the screen.

Over the hum of an air conditioner, I might not hear the chattering of blue jays in the early morning, the gentle rain at night. I might even miss the howling of the wind.

I am thankful I do not have: wall-to-wall carpeting, for I love the glow of polished hardwood; central heat, for watching the dying embers in our fireplace makes me feel at peace; a new sofa, for I like the way the old one embraces me. It would take too long, I fear, for a new one to yield to my measurements.

I am thankful I do not have a gardener, for I would not spend the hours I do in my flower beds. And I would not be on my knees as often, closer to the earth, closer to you, Lord, in prayer, telling you of all the many things for which I am thankful. ~ Fay Fields

Its Your Choice, so Make it a Thankful Day! 

 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wow... this past weekend saw more buyers get out to see homes than any weekend since school started.  Its no wonder, as the year is coming to an end and many buyers want to be in their homes by the time school starts in january, and it did not hurt that comments by the probably new Fed Chief.

According to Janet Yellen, the nominee to replace Ben Bernanke, Fed officials are looking for signs of sustainable economic growth which will "promote continued progress" before they begin to scale back the Fed's bond purchases.

In short, her comments suggested that the Fed is in no rush to tighten monetary policy... result - Mortgage rates remain LOW! Mortgage rates for 30 year fizxed rate loans are below 4.5% again!

This could be one of the reasons for all the activity in the real estate market this past weekend! 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"You can never do a kindness too soon, because you never know how soon it will be too late." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. It was a cowboy's life, a life for someone who wanted no boss. What I didn't realize was that it was also a ministry. Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional.

Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, made me laugh and weep. But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night.

I responded to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partyers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory in the industrial part of town.

When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many poor people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation.

Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needed my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked.

"Just a minute," answered a frail, elderly voice.

I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knick- knacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said.

I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

"It's nothing," I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated."

"Oh, you're such a good boy," she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"

"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.

"Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice".

I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

"I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long."

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds.

She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, I'm tired. Let's go now."

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up.

They were attentive, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

"How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse.

"Nothing," I said.

"You have to make a living," she answered.

"There are other passengers," I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you, Dear."

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done very many more important things in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.

But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully wrapped in what others may consider small ones. ~ Author Anonymous

Remember, its Your CHoice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Interest rates are still below 5%, keeping buying power strong for Austin area home buyers.  

November and December will see fewer home showings than in previous months, but since we have seen more online activity than a year ago, we know that leads to showings and sales.  There is no doubt that  we can expect more home sales this holiday season than a year ago. 

As mentioned previously, we are seeing a higher percentage of out of town buyers this year than in previous years, but more and more local buyers are realizing the window of opportunity with today's interest rates.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; But, he that stands by it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." -- Thomas Paine 1776



Remember, its Your Choice, so Thank a Veteran Today!!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Interest rates are still below 5%, keeping buying power strong for Austin area home buyers.  

Activity of buyers in the market has decreased, but those buyers who are looking are much more serious than buyers looking in the Spring for example.  

We are seeing a higher percentage of out of town buyers this year than in previous years.  November and December should both see improved home sales over a year ago.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

"Its a Myth that sports build character... character has to be taught, and coaches are on the front line" ~ Joe Erhman

He might be the most amazing story in sports. At 3, his father was murdered. He'd sit by the front door weeks after the funeral, waiting for the man who never would return to his life. His only memory is of their eating Lay's potato chips together.

Out of that came an appreciation for the pain of sons without fathers. 

At 10, his older, twin brothers became addicted to crack cocaine. They'd shoo him away when he told them to stop. "Who do you think you are, our dad?" they'd say, and laugh, as they did all the way to their graves of AIDS, joining their sister who already had died of that epidemic that raged on their side of the street.

Out of that came an understanding of shadows cast inside families. Shannon has recruited players in houses where drugs sit on the table between them and another who ran the family numbers business. 

He counseled a player who was told, at 20, the man he always thought was his father wasn't and then met the stranger who was. He's talked another player weighed down by family issues back into school. He's helped a player in the pros who was bankrupted by his family. On the stories go. And on.

"I say, 'Don't get frustrated and flustered. Don't think the world's coming to an end. Don't quit on yourself. I know how you feel -- I've been there,''' he says.

At 16, he became a father. He was scared. He thought the life he dreamt about was gone. He can still summon that fear in his big office today, even with his daughter all grown and strong and a veteran of the Iraq war.

Out of that came a compassion for kids with kids. He has a player who was kicked out of his home in high school for fathering a child. He has others balancing school and football and families. Last week, when fullback Pat Hill was distraught, his girlfriend working, his baby needing care, Shannon offered a solution.

"Bring your baby to the meetings,'' he said. That's why a toddler played on the floor while Miami's offense plotted a win against Georgia Tech.

At 17, something else came, something foreign. The Dade County schools offered etiquette lessons. Don't laugh. He learned how to hold open a door for someone, how to pull out a chair and sit down, how to eat with a salad fork and soup spoon, even how to waltz.

Out of that came a porthole into another, bigger world, the one where all these years later he now walks comfortably. Chamber of Commerce breakfasts. Booster-club dinners. University fund-raisers.

"I can go into any world, talk to anyone at all,'' says Shannon, now 43.

Shannon stands behind his wide desk, with its picture window looking out to the practice field, under a framed black-and-white photo. It's from the 1950s. A black man walks outside a stadium in a dark suit and long, dress coat.

None of Shannon's players recognize the man. Nor have they heard of the name on the stadium: Ebbetts Field. Of late, Shannon has been pointing to him to address a current pet peeve: players with low-riding pants.

"Look how the man presents himself,'' he'll say.

The players look.

"You don't know if he's a player or a businessman,'' he'll say.

Then he'll them tell about Jackie Robinson... "They listen,'' he says when asked if his players understand.

The talk is how Miami has shown the kind of big plays and big-name players that you haven't seen from it in several sputtering seasons. But look closer to realize what you haven't seen.

Do you know how many Miami players have been arrested in the two-and-a-half years since Shannon was named coach?

One. That was Robert Marve, the former quarterback, for breaking a side mirror on a car.

Do you know how many senior players are on course to graduate?

All of them.

Do you know how many black coaches off America's meanest streets walk the sideline of big-time college football in these enlightened times of 2009?

Just this one.

Maybe Shannon isn't the most amazing story in sports right now. But go ahead, name someone else. ~ by David Hyde - Insider Sports

Remember, its your choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 

Monday, October 28, 2013

According to the Multiple Listing Service the volume of Austin-area home sales continued to rise in September and had the most single-family home sales for the month since 2005

In September, 34 percent more homes sold than in September 2012

On average, homes spent 44 days on the market, which is a decrease of 22 days from one year prior. 

The median price for Austin-area homes increased to $223,000, which is 13 percent more than the same month in 2012. Additionally, the market featured 2.7 months of inventory in September 2013, which is about 1 month less than September 2012. 

Again, EVERY statistic is POSITIVE!

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ~ Andy Warhol

Click Here for a Short Video That Inspries Change

Remember, its Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!


 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Interest rates are still below 5%, as a matter of fact, rates decreased slightly this week to about 4.5% for a 30 year mortgage. 

Activity of buyers in the market has been steady since just after the new school year started, and I fully expect September home sales to show another increase over September of 2012.

If this is a typical 4th quarter, we will see home buyers moving in from corporate relocations and November and December will both be stronger months than October. 

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...


A Young Marine Restores My Faith

It was our normal Thursday morning business meeting at our real-estate office. No big deal. Before the meeting we hung around the bagel table, as usual, with our coffee. He stood aside, looking a little shy and awkward and very young, a new face in a room full of extroverted salespeople. An average looking guy, maybe 5 feet 8 inches. A clean-cut, sweet-faced kid. I went over to chat with him. Maybe he was a new salesman?

He said he was just back from Kabul, Afghanistan. A Marine. Our office (and a local school) had been supportive by sending letters to him and other troops, which he had posted on the American Embassy door in Kabul where he stood guard.

He had come to our office to thank us for our support, for all the letters during those scary times. I couldn't believe my ears. He wanted to thank us? We should be thanking him. But how? How can I ever show him my appreciation?

At the end of the sales meeting, he stepped quietly forward, no incredible hulk. As a matter of fact, he looked for all the world 15 years old to me. (The older I get, the younger they look.)

This young Marine, this clean-faced boy, had no qualms stepping up to the plate and dodging bullets so that I might enjoy the freedom to live my peaceful life in the land of the free. No matter the risk.

Suddenly the most stressful concerns of my life seemed as nothing, my complacency flew right out the window with his every word. Somewhere, somehow, he had taken the words honor, courage and commitment into his very soul and laid his life on the line daily for me and us. A man of principle. He wants to do it. Relishes it. And he came to thank us? For a few letters? I fought back the tears as he spoke so briefly and softly.

He walked forward to our manager and placed a properly folded American flag in his hands. It had flown over the Embassy. He said thanks again. You could hear a pin drop. As I looked around I saw red faces everywhere fighting back the tears.

In a heartbeat, my disillusionment with young people today quickly vanished. In ordinary homes, in ordinary towns, kids like him are growing up proud to be an American and willing to die for it. Wow.

We'll frame the flag and put it in the lobby. He only came to my office once, for just a few minutes. But I realize I rubbed shoulders with greatness in the flesh and in the twinkling of an eye my life is forever changed. His name is Michael Mendez, a corporal in the USMC. We are a great nation. We know because the makings of it walked into my office that day. ~ Ann Baker, 
Huntington Beach, CA

Remember, its Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 

Monday, October 7, 2013

The government shut down also affects the buying and selling of homes across the country.
 
While the VA and FHA will have functions running to keep the system moving forward, the IRS is not presently processing requests for tax return transcripts.  Because virtually every mortgage loan must have a transcript of past year’s tax returns in the file in order to proceed to closing,  the ability of mortgage companies to collect those is hindered and this reason, above all else, is why home purchases may be delayed.

Additionally, the social security administration is also affected and the ability to verify that a borrower’s social security number is truly theirs will also be subject to delays.

The immediate impact last week was neglible, as most mortgages with loan approval and established closing dates had IRS transcripts already ordered and in the file.  After a couple of weeks, this will start to become quite a problem, affecting everyone involved in a home purchase... buyers, sellers, brokers, inspectors, appraisers, insurance agents, title companies, warranty companies, moving companies, and more.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ~ Charles Dickens

One day a man was walking along the seashore. He noticed that during the night many seashells and starfish had washed up on the shore. Thoroughly enjoying the morning sun and cool sea air, the man strolled for miles along the sand.

Far off in the distance, he saw a small figure dancing. The man was joyous that someone was celebrating life in such a grand and uninhibited manner. As he drew closer, however, it became apparent that the figure was not dancing, but repeatedly performing some act.

Approaching the small figure, the man noticed that it was a child. The girl was methodically picking up starfish from the shore and tossing them back into the surf. The man paused for a moment, puzzled, then asked, "Why are you throwing those starfish back into the ocean?"

"If I leave these starfish on the beach," she replied, "the sun will dry them, and they will die. I am throwing them back into the ocean because I want them to live."

The man was thoughtful for a moment, impressed with the child's thoughtfulness. Then he motioned up and down the miles and miles of beach and said, "There must be millions of starfish along here! How can you possibly expect to make a difference?"

The young girl pondered the man's words for a moment, then she slowly leaned over, reached down, and carefully picked up another starfish from the sand. With a gentle effort, she lobbed the starfish back out into the surf.

She turned to the man and smiled. "You may be right," she said, "but I made a difference for that one!" ~ Author Unknown

Remember, its Your Choice, so Make Make a Difference to Someone Today!  

 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Interest rates still show signs of increasing, but seem to be somewhat stable for now, ending the week just under 5% again. We closed buyers at 4.75% last week and that is still the rate this morning.

As most home sellers are concerned about selling a home in the 4th quarter of the year, I point out that although there may be fewer buyers in the market, they are serious home buyers. 

The 4th quarter is the most active time of year for relocation moves, and home buyers rarely look at homes this time of year unless they are prepared to buy.

There may be fewer buyers see a home on the market this time of year, but the buyers who see it are more likely to buy it!

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

On Tuesday the best man I know will do what he always does on the 21st of the month. He'll sit down and pen a love letter to his best girl. He'll say how much he misses her and loves her and can't wait to see her again. Then he'll fold it once, slide it in a little envelope and walk into his bedroom. He'll go to the stack of love letters sitting there on her pillow, untie the yellow ribbon, place the new one on top and tie the ribbon again.

The stack will be 180 letters high then, because Tuesday is 15 years to the day since Nellie, his beloved wife of 53 years, died. In her memory, he sleeps only on his half of the bed, only on his pillow, only on top of the sheets, never between, with just the old bedspread they shared to keep him warm.

There's never been a finer man in American sports than John Wooden, or a finer coach. He won 10 NCAA basketball championships at UCLA (7 in a row), the last in 1975. Nobody has ever come within six of him. He won 88 straight games between Jan. 30, 1971, and Jan. 17, 1974. Nobody has come within 42 since.

So, sometimes, when the Madness of March gets to be too much -- too many players trying to make SportsCenter, too few players trying to make assists, too many coaches trying to be homeys, too few coaches willing to be mentors, too many freshmen with out-of-wedlock kids, too few freshmen who will stay in school long enough to become men -- I like to go see Coach Wooden. I visit him in his little condo in Encino, 20 minutes northwest of L.A., and hear him say things like "Gracious sakes alive!" and tell stories about teaching "Lewis" the hook shot. Lewis Alcindor, that is. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

There has never been another coach like Wooden, quiet as an April snow and square as a game of checkers; loyal to one woman, one school, one way; walking around campus in his sensible shoes and Jimmy Stewart morals. He'd spend a half hour the first day of practice teaching his men how to put on a sock. "Wrinkles can lead to blisters," he'd warn. These huge players would sneak looks at one another and roll their eyes. Eventually, they'd do it right. "Good," he'd say. "And now for the other foot."

Of the 180 players who played for him, Wooden knows the whereabouts of 172. Of course, it's not hard when most of them call, checking on his health, secretly hoping to hear some of his simple life lessons so that they can write them on the lunch bags of their kids, who will roll their eyes. "Discipline yourself, and others won't need to," Coach would say. "Never lie, never cheat, never steal," Coach would say. "Earn the right to be proud and confident."

You played for him, you played by his rules: Never score without acknowledging a teammate. One word of profanity, and you're done for the day. Treat your opponent with respect.

He believed in hopelessly out-of-date stuff that never did anything but win championships. No dribbling behind the back or through the legs. "There's no need," he'd say. No UCLA basketball number was retired under his watch. "What about the fellows who wore that number before? Didn't they contribute to the team?" he'd say. No long hair, no facial hair. "They take too long to dry, and you could catch cold leaving the gym," he'd say.

That one drove his players bonkers. One day, All-America center Bill Walton showed up with a full beard. "It's my right," he insisted. Wooden asked if he believed that strongly. Walton said he did. "That's good, Bill," Coach said. "I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them, I really do. We're going to miss you." Walton shaved it right then and there. Now Walton calls once a week to tell Coach he loves him.

It's always too soon when you have to leave the condo and go back out into the real world, where the rules are so much grayer and the teams so much worse. As Wooden shows you to the door, you take one last look around. The framed report cards of the great-grandkids. The boxes of jelly beans peeking out from under the favorite wooden chair. The dozens of pictures of Nellie.

He's almost 90 now, you think. A little more hunched over than last time. Steps a little smaller. You hope it's not the last time you see him. He smiles. "I'm not afraid to die," he says. "Death is my only chance to be with her again."

Problem is, we still need him here.

by Rick Reilly ~ Sports Illustrated

Remember, its Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day! 

 

Monday, September 23, 2013

According to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) report released by the Austin Board of REALTORS®, the Austin housing market in August experienced the most home sales ever for the month of August!

According to the report, 30 percent more homes sold than August 2012. This is more than double the home sales figures in 2010, during which only 1,490 homes sold in August that year.

Additionally, the average home price was approximately $224,000, a 6% increase from a year ago. 

News is still positive in all areas for Austin area real estate!

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

My poem, The Dash, is based on that little line on a tombstone, between the dates of birth and death. Ultimately, that dash is a symbol which represents every day we've spent alive on earth. Therefore, how you spend your "dash" is all that really matters. Following is an amazing story about someone whose dash truly made a difference.

Recently I heard about a little girl named Hope Stout. After learning more about her life, I couldn't help but feel it was not by coincidence, nor happenstance, that she had been named "Hope." 

It had to be attributed to fate. The compassion and generosity housed in her young heart made a lasting impression on me and countless others, and her legacy of love continues to bless lives every day. She was wise beyond her tender years and very, very special. When I tell people her story, I always say, "if this doesn't inspire you, I don't think there's much that could..."

Hope was a twelve-year old girl who was offered a "wish" in early December 2003 by the "Make-A-Wish" Foundation after being informed that she had a rare type of bone cancer. However, when she found out that more than 150 children in her area were waiting for their wishes to be granted, she unselfishly used her wish to ask that those children have their wishes granted. She also asked that it be done by January 16, 2004. 

Unfortunately, however, the organization informed her that her noble request could not be granted as the funds were simply unavailable. They calculated that they would need to raise more than one million dollars in thirty days in order to grant her wish. 

Disappointed, but not discouraged, she turned her dismay into an enthusiasm that inspired caring individuals to spearhead fundraising to help grant the wishes of the other children, and eventually hers as well. 

Newspaper columnists and reporters for radio and TV stations shared the story of this caring young girl who had touched the hearts of so many and as word spread, the community was challenged. Committees were formed and schools, corporations and various organizations assisted in raising money to help bring Hope's dream to fruition.

Though she lost her battle in 2004, knowing that her wish was going to come true, Hope lives on. 

Her heartfelt efforts were not in vain as they continue to help others, not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well. 

At the initial fundraiser and gathering to celebrate her life, "A Celebration of Hope" on January 16, 2004, the announcement was made that they had indeed received donations totaling more than one million dollars on behalf of Hope Stout. Her wish had been granted! ~ by Linda Ellis

Its Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!  

 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mortgage Interest rates ended the week slightly lower because most economic data released last week fell short of expectations... so we are still around 4.75% fixed for a 30 year conventional mortgage, but FHA 30 year mortgages are at 4.50%. Meanwhile, a 15 year fixed rate mortgage is about 3.75%.

Home sale in July, 2013 in the Austin real estate market were so strong compared to 2012, (35% more home sales than in July 2012) that we expect that trend to continue when August statistics come out this week.  

We continue to see relocating buyers moving to the Austin area specifically for job opportunities, and Austin home owners moving to take advantage of the hot market and low interest rates.

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee...

A Trooper's Story

By Jack Graham

[Publisher's Note: This story is sad, but TRUE... about a U.S. soldier who lived in Boonville, NY and was killed in Iraq. It is taken from a letter written by Senior Investigator Jack Graham of  the New York State Police to fellow members of the NY State Police and to the Syracuse Police who, on April 17, 2003, participated in a hastily planned ceremonial escort for the soldier. This is the kind of story that make you proud to be an American.

On Thursday, April 17, 2003, you participated in an escort detail for GREGORY P. HUXLEY JR who was killed in action in Iraq on April 6, 2003. On behalf of the entire Huxley family and from me, personally, I want to say "Thank you very much." Your professionalism, dedication and sincerity meant so much to the Huxley family, that words cannot describe their feelings at this time.

That most did not know was that the US Army had promised the family members that they would be taken to Dover, Delaware to be present when their son arrived from Iraq and there would be a full military ceremony in Dover for GREGORY. Unfortunately, there was a communication problem and they were not present during that ceremony.

Then they were informed that the body of their son was being flown to Syracuse and that the funeral director could pick up the "fallen soldier" at the cargo area of the airport and that somebody would help them remove the casket from the cardboard shipping container for transport to Boonville, NY.

The funeral director felt that unacceptable for a nineteen year old young man that gave his life for this country and for the freedom of so many others. As a family friend, he contacted me to see if anything could be done. We now had six hours before GREGORY arrived in Syracuse. Phone calls were made to State Police in North Syracuse and SGT Nick Harmatiuk took over from there.

What you participated in and observed the rest of  that day was truly an outstanding display of what this agency can do in very short time. What happened was just visually and emotionally overwhelming.

The procession left SP North Syracuse led by eight Syracuse PD motorcycles, followed by the hearse, four cars with family members and followed by ten State Police and Syracuse PD cars. How ironic it was that when the procession was traveling parallel to the runway, the  plane carrying GREGORY landed next to it. 

We were able to enter the planes cargo area and remove the shipping crate from the casket and drape the American flag over the casket. When the casket traveled down the conveyor belt, fifteen New York State Troopers and the same amount of Syracuse Policemen lined the path to the awaiting hearse - all at attention. A hand salute was executed as six State Troopers proudly bore the flag draped coffin to the hearse. After a short prayer, the family was given some time to welcome their son home.

The entire airport was so quiet. I looked up at the concourse windows and saw a hundred or more people. They were all standing, watching, with their hands over their hearts, saluting a young man that they did not know.

Somehow they learned that a fallen soldier had come home and they wanted to honor his sacrifice.

The casket was then placed in the hearse and the procession left the airport in the same fashion as we arrived, only this time with a young hero that our hearts will never forget.

The motorcade was escorted to the thruway entrance by the Syracuse Police Department's motorcycles. All traffic was stopped for the procession and we headed east towards Boonville. After getting off the thruway, we found that every intersection that the procession encountered was controlled by State Troopers, allowing us a safe, unimpeded passage. 

At each intersection, the State Trooper stood at attention, saluting the fallen soldier and his family, giving him and his family the respect that they deserved. How emotional that was to see and now to reflect on.

When entering the Village of Boonville, the main street was decorated with an infinite number of American Flags and yellow ribbons. As we approached the center of town, all of the church bells began to peal at once recognizing and saluting Gregory's arrival. 

Hundreds of people holding American flags lined the street, some with their hand over their heart and some weeping for GREGORY for what he sacrificed, for us and his country. 

As we drove by the village park, the National Anthem was being played, for GREGORY, and I think, for all of us.

At the funeral home, eight veterans lifted the casket out of the hearse and into the home with the family. GREGORY had returned home.

GREGORY'S family said to me later that the images I have just described will always be etched in their hearts, forever. But the one memory that will always be there first, was of the State Troopers at the airport, standing at attention, saluting, with tears running down their cheeks for their son, a fallen soldier. A hero whom those Troopers never personally knew.

Our jobs take many different avenues in life. We hope that during our day or shift that we have made a difference, a positive contribution. On this occasion you did just that. An entire family knows that you cared to do your very best to honor their son. Their words and expressions told me just that.

You made a difference yesterday, and you did it well.

The rewards we receive for details like this one do not come from anywhere but from the heart. Take pride in what you accomplished, because it was distinct and without equal in this Trooper's eye.

I have had so many good things happen since I have been a State Trooper, but  in those twenty four years, I have never been more proud the New York State Police as I was yesterday - A fallen soldier, a hero, a son, a brother has finally come home, in grand deserving style, thanks to all of you.

Jack Graham
Senior Investigator
New York State Police 

Remember, Its Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mortgage Interest rates ended the week slightly higher last week... so we are still around 4.75% fixed for a 30 year mortgage. Meanwhile, a 15 year fixed rate mortgage is about 3.75%.

As mortgage rates continue to increase, home buyers are reacting, and local home sales remain strong.

However, something is occurring that was not present during the last 2 years... "Seasonal Change".  You see, the last 2 years we saw little change in home sales during times of the year when home sales typically slow down, like when school starts.

Well, that has happened this year... its not negative, just showing a return to a slightly more "Normal" real estate market. Multiple offers, and homes selling above asking price is still a part of our market, but not in the frenzied pace it was 6 months ago.  

And Here's Your Monday Morning Coffee... 

A first grade teacher had twenty-five students in her Clarkston, MI class. She presented each child in her class the first half of a well known proverb and asked them to come up with the remainder of the proverb. It's hard to believe these were actually done by first graders. Their insight may surprise you. While reading, keep in mind that these are just 6-year-olds, because the last one is classic... although sad to see it said!

1. Don't change horses........................... until they stop.

2. Strike while the.................................. bug is close.

3. It's always darkest before................... Daylight Saving Time.

4. Never underestimate the power of..... termites.

5. You can lead a horse to water but....... how?

6. Don't bite the hand that..................... looks dirty.

7. No news is.......................................... impossible.

8. A miss is as good as a......................... Mister.

9. You can't teach an old dog new.......... math.

10. If you lie down with dogs, you'll........ stink in the morning.

11. Love all, trust.................................... me.

12. The pen is mightier than the............. pigs.

13. An idle mind is.................................. the best way to relax.

14. Where there's smoke there's............ pollution.

15. Happy the bride who.........................gets all the presents.

16. A penny saved is............................... not much.

17. Two's company, three's..................... the Musketeers

18. Don't put off till tomorrow what....... you put on to go to bed.

19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and................ you have to blow your nose.

20. There are none so blind as................ Stevie Wonder.

21. Children should be seen and not....... spanked or grounded.

22. If at first you don't succeed............... get new batteries.

23. You get out of something only what you............... see in the picture on the box.

24. When the blind lead the blind........... get out of the way.

And the WINNER is... the last one...

25. Better late than................................ pregnant.

Remember, its Your Choice, so Make it a Powerful Day!

 



 

 

Quotes on COURAGE





"Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities . . . because it is the quality which guarantees all others."

— Winston Churchill
British Prime Minister



"The encouraging thing is that every time you meet a situation, though you may think at the time it is an impossibility and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it you find that forever after you are freer than you ever were before. If you can live through that you can live through anything. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, `I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line, it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

— Eleanor Roosevelt
You Learn By Living (1960)



"The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise."

— Tacitus
Roman historian



"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflections."

— Thomas Paine



"Only be you strong, and very courageous, then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."

— Joshua 1:7-8



"There is nothing in the world so much admired as a man who knows how to bear unhappiness with courage."

— Seneca



"Bravery is a complicated thing to describe. You can't say it's three feet long and two feet wide and that it weighs four hundred pounds or that it's colored bright blue or that it sounds like a piano or that it smells like roses. It's a quality, not a thing."

— Mickey Mantle
The Quality of Courage



"Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared."

— Eddie Rickenbacker
World War I hero



"The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances."

— Aristotle



"Fight hard when you are down; die hard—determine at least to do—and you won't die at all."

— James H. West



"Whatever your sex or position, life is a battle in which you are to show your pluck, and woe be to the coward. Whether passed on a bed of sickness or a tented field, it is ever the same fair play and admits no foolish distinction. Despair and postponement are cowardice and defeat. Men were born to succeed, not to fail."

— Henry David Thoreau



"One man with courage makes a majority."

— Andrew Jackson



"What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate."

— Donald Trump



"Courage is not limited to the battlefield or the Indianapolis 500 or bravely catching a thief in your house. The real tests of courage are much quieter. They are the inner tests, like remaining faithful when nobody's looking, like enduring pain when the room is empty, like standing alone when you're misunderstood."

— Charles Swindoll



"Never let the fear of striking out get in your way."

— Babe Ruth



"No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy."

— Admiral Horatio Nelson



"[Admiral Nelson's counsel] guided me time and again. On the eve of the critical battle of Santa Cruz, in which the Japanese ships outnumbered ours more than two to one, I sent my task force commanders this dispatch: ATTACK REPEAT ATTACK. They did attack, heroically, and when the battle was done, the enemy turned away.
All problems, personal, national, or combat, become smaller if you don't dodge them, but confront them. Touch a thistle timidly, and it pricks you; grasp it boldly, and its spines crumble. Carry the battle to the enemy! Lay your ship alongside his!"

— Admiral William "Bull" Halsey



"Come to the edge, He said.
They said: We are afraid.
Come to the edge, He said.
They came. He pushed them,
And they flew . . ."

— Guillaume Apollinaire
French poet



"Never forget that no military leader has ever become great without audacity."

— Karl von Clausewitz



"One man with courage makes a majority."

— Andrew Jackson



"Courage is fear holding on a minute longer."

— General George S. Patton



"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."

— Winston Churchill
British Prime Minister



"To look at something as though we had never seen it before requires great courage."

— Henri Matisse



“To see what is right and not do it, is the want of courage.”

— Confucius



"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave."

— Mark Twain