06/17/16 1:00pm

22427 High Point Pines Dr., Spring, TX, 77373

22427 High Point Pines Dr., Spring, TX, 77373Capital-R Realtor Jessica Arnett brought a price-reduced 4-bedroom house in Spring into the national spotlight this week by dressing up in a panda suit throughout the property’s listing photos. While there’s more than one way to panda to potential buyers, this particular tactic has been tried before: Arnett reportedly says the idea came from a British home listing from last month, in which the seller did roughly the same thing.

Arnett has already received calls from other real estate agents asking where to obtain a panda suit. But the stunt itself may be endangered — the British seller has already reversed course on bearing it all, and the photos in his listing have been replaced with more standard fare.  And Arnett readily admits that this kind of marketing likely doesn’t have much room to grow and multiply — while the Houston Chronicle reported earlier this week that she was open to the possibility of using the suit a sparing once or twice a year, her tone had changed by the time she spoke to Realtor.com’s Judy Dutton:


Endangered Salespitch in Spring
02/16/16 1:15pm

Leather-clad real estate agent Paul Gomberg, perhaps best known for the sales video of that Champion Forest house filled with excrement that made the rounds back in early January, is now starring in a less nose-threatening video tour — this one of a squeaky-clean 2011 mansion on Lake Conroe. The punchline this time: a suit-and-tie-clad 11-year-old that Gomberg chaperons around the property, who ultimately leaves the contract-ready agent hanging on the steps of the house pending parental permission to close the deal.

The house at 12386 Tramonto Dr., which first went on the market in October of 2014 for $1.6 million, was dropped to just below $1.5 million on Tax Day in 2015, two weeks before an early May relisting. The asking price dropped again last July to the current $1.35 million.


Lake Conroe Listing Antics
01/07/16 10:30am

What better character to hawk a house slathered in animal dung than a leather-jacketed agent from Rockstar Real Estate Group? Rhinestone-loving Paul Gomberg, who operates under the umbrella of Keller Williams Conroe/Lake Conroe, posted a video tour yesterday of a house featured on Swamplot on Monday (which, as commenters noted, included captions such as “Feces galore!”).

Gomberg seems eager to share his delight for the house at 5623 Willow Walk Ln., calling it “one of the best listings he’s had in the last 2 weeks” (even while warning his cameraman to hold his nose against what his HAR listing calls the “foul stench” permeating the interior). Gomberg posted the tour to YouTube last night — despite the fact that the property appears to have been under contract since December 20, after only 1 day on the market.

The house, currently listed at $125,000, originally sold for $280,000 in 2012, when it looked like this:


Video Shitshow
11/19/13 3:15pm

JURY TO URBAN LIVING: PAY UP FOR SUING YOUR FORMER CLIENT Urban Living, 5023 Washington Ave., HoustonA Harris County jury declared today that the parent company of Urban Living should pay more than $150,000 in legal fees to the former client it filed suit against last year. The real estate broker failed to comply with promises made in the same buyer’s representation agreement it insisted former client Christopher Drummond sign, the jury found, and Drummond therefore doesn’t owe the company anything. The company filed suit against Drummond last year, hoping to win just under $13,000 in commissions and bonuses it said it was owed after Drummond purchased a Dickson St. townhouse from another broker. [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Urban Living offices at 5023 Washington Ave.: Vinod Ramani

11/14/13 1:15pm

WHEN THE BROKER YOU SIGN WITH SUES YOU When you’re looking to buy a home, do you sign an agreement with an agent before that agent has shown you any properties? Testifying in a trial going on now at the Harris County Civil Courthouse downtown, a former VP of sales for real estate firm Urban Living says it was the firm’s policy not to show customers any homes unless they’ve signed a buyer representation agreement first. And that’s what’s landed Christopher Drummond, buyer of the townhouse drawn above at 4245 Dickson St. in Magnolia Grove, in court: The parent company of Urban Living is suing Drummond for the commission it says the company should have earned in 2011 after Drummond found and purchased the home using a different broker. Drummond claims Urban Living didn’t explain what the agreement required of him when he signed it, and that the company hadn’t used its “best efforts” — as the document requires — to find him a home. Drummond heard about the Dickson townhouse, then under construction, from a Sudhoff Properties agent he met at a party. Nancy Sarnoff has been tweeting live from the trial, which is expected to continue into next week. [Houston Chronicle ($); more on Prime Property] Drawing: NuHabitat

01/10/13 10:08am

Doug Britton thought he had the deal of a lifetime: a contract to buy 101 acres of land (in red on the map) just south of the spot in Spring where — it was rumored at the time — ExxonMobil planned to develop a new corporate campus. And it was available for cheap: just $5 million. Britton contacted two brokers at Bandier Partners to help him move on it.


07/11/12 12:06pm

HOW HAR AGENTS GET THOSE GLOWING REVIEWS ONLINE HAR’s pioneering ratings program for real-estate agents gets a bit of scrutiny from the Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money magazine. Among the amazing stats: A mere 1.4 percent of all ratings on HAR come in at less than 4 stars; meanwhile, on Angie’s List 5.9 percent of real-estate-agent reviews have equivalent “mediocre to poor” scores, and on Yelp the number is 18.5 percent. Agents participating in the Houston Association of Realtors program earn an average rating of 4.94 out of 5. How do they chalk up such glowing reviews? “In reality, that 4.94 represents the average score of just 12 percent of the association’s agents. Another 7 percent participate in the rating program but don’t make their results public. The rest — some 17,000 real estate pros — don’t get rated at all, either by choice or because they haven’t completed enough transactions. The group surveys only customers who have closed deals, leaving out everyone who, satisfied or not, walked away. Those qualifications help explain why fewer than 0.3 percent of the Houston agents have been awarded a low one-star rating by their clients — a figure that seems to defy reality, given all the things that can go wrong in a home deal. (The association says low-rated agents often opt out of the program.)” Reporter Alyssa Abkowitz quotes Katy agent Patricia Gant about the one black mark that brought her overall rating down to a comparatively low 4.4 out of 5 stars: “I would’ve never sent [a survey] to her,” she says, “if I’d had any idea that she’d give me one star.” [Smart Money]

04/22/09 7:50am

Here’s a brand-new home-search tool that will likely change the way you hunt for residential properties in Houston. And you can find it on the website of . . . a real estate agent working out of this Pearland strip center??

Actually, the new search tool is just a branded implementation of Diverse Solutions’ dsSearchAgent, which has been around for a few years in other markets, and received a major makeover late last fall. The same system might be hiding on some other area broker’s website, but this is the first we’ve seen it working with Houston MLS data.

What’s so special about dsSearchAgent?


03/10/09 3:47pm

READY FOR THE NEXT RACE Last week, Realtor Karen Derr had to give up her plan to run in the special election for City Council’s District H seat, after she failed to meet the paperwork deadline to get herself on the ballot. Abc13’s Miya Shay tracks her latest plans:Derr’s retooled website now says she’s running for At Large 1. That’s the seat currently occupied by Peter Brown. The election is in November, so it’s certainly not too early to start. The joke at City Hall is that At-Large seats are usually easier jobs. If your sidewalk is mangled or you need a speed bump, you call your district council member. So, what do At-Large council members do? Mainly, with no district to manage, At-Large council members are allowed to address issues they are passionate about. It might be housing, public safety, city finances, or some less well defined passion. Then there is the other passion I find politicians can’t live without: running for another elected office.” [Houston Political Blog; previously on Swamplot]

03/06/09 10:53am

THE REALTOR AND THE MISSING PAPERWORK After selling her Houston real-estate business last year, Realtor Karen Derr became one of the first candidates to announce an interest in running for City Council in District H, even before it was clear Adrian Garcia’s former seat would be available. But her ramped-up campaign missed this week’s filing deadline, so Derr won’t be on the ballot: “Derr tells 11 News that she thought the city’s deadline matched a state deadline for special elections, which is not until later this month. ‘To tell you the truth, we’ve been out with a very grassroots campaign on the trail and going to three and four meetings a day,’ she said. ‘We dropped the ball, evidently.’” [11News; previously in Swamplot]

10/14/08 3:29pm

READY FOR THE OPEN SEATS A reader reports that broker-agent Bill Baldwin is buying Karen Derr & Associates Realty. Owner Karen Derr has announced she’ll be running for Houston City Council in District H in an upcoming special election. Of course, the current occupant of that seat, Adrian Garcia, will need to cooperate by winning his race for Harris County Sheriff first. [Swamplot inbox]

03/12/08 11:36am

Offices of Karpas Properties, 3355 W. Alabama, Houston

It’s gonna get kinda lonely soon at the Karpas Properties offices on W. Alabama. Owner Hedley Karpas has sold his company to Martha Turner Properties, leaving a few agents and employees to scramble for new homes.

Karpas told his 60 employees — including more than 40 agents — about the sale Tuesday morning. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Karpas told the Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff that he’ll become a broker associate at Martha Turner Properties. But he won’t be bringing many people with him:

Turner said she will be interviewing about a dozen Karpas agents and retain a “select few.”

Ouch. According to Sarnoff, Karpas’s office will close at the end of this month, though agents will continue to work with existing clients.

Photo still from virtual tour of Karpas Properties office: TK Images

11/27/07 8:11am

Here’s another example of the importance of loyalty and reputation in the Houston residential real-estate biz. The Houston Press‘s Richard Connelly catches up with the ex-partner of formerly ubiquitous Houston real estate agent Mike Spear, whose ubiquity has been a bit challenged since he began serving a two-year sentence in federal prison for income-tax evasion earlier this year.

. . . even though Spear himself might be behind bars, his spirit lives on: If you’re looking to buy or sell a house here these days, you might be forgiven for thinking you’re doing business with the well-known realtor.

Before the two joined Prudential Gary Greene in 2005, Spear and Realtor Ray Allison ran Montrose mainstay AllisonSpear Realtors. Allison explains to Connelly:

There’s a group of professionals within Prudential Gary Greene that are organized as the Mike Spear Team, but it is not the official name of this company.


Mr. Spear did work with this firm. He is no longer with this firm. The Mike Spear Team does continue. It is appropriate for it to continue . . .

There’s more: Spear’s admissions from the July 2007 plea agreement, featuring shell corporations and a Mercedes Benz.


04/23/07 10:02am

If you’re trying to sell your home without an agent, how do you get your listing onto MLS? Sure, there’s Craigslist and an assortment of FSBO online catalogs you can get on easily, but most Houston homebuyers do their searching exclusively in the difficult-to-navigate MLS listings at HAR.com. If you’re not with an agent, how do you get buyers to find you online?

As of today, a whopping five Houston homesellers have discovered a secret way to sneak into MLS—by using a new free service out of Florida called Iggys House. The five listings show up when you search the Iggys House site for Houston properties. More important, though, they also show up in HAR searches. Pay no attention to the weird Florida broker listing above the property. They’re in.

What’s in it for Iggy? In Texas, nothing yet—but just wait. In five other states, a sister company called BuySide Realty serves as an agent that passes onto the buyer 75 percent of the commissions it receives. Presumably, if a buyer buys a $400,000 house using BuySide, and the seller is paying a six-percent commission (with $12K to each agent), the buyer will end up with a new house and an extra $9,000. It appears to work for 1031 exchanges, too.

The free listings, then, are just a way of trolling for potential BuySide buyers. And it means that BuySide may be operating in Texas soon.