Defining Homes: First Impressions

Steven McFarland, below, and his company The Make Ready Group can prep any house before it hits the market. The company also offers services to customers just in need of home services but not necessarily selling their homes.

The Make Ready Group takes care of all those finishing touches before your house goes on the market — and more

By Rich Lopez

Apartment dwellers are all too familiar with the dreaded make ready preparations when moving out. Whether it’s making sure the baseboards are pristine or the oven actually works, everything has to be in tiptop shape for that next renter.

Apply that idea to that home about to go on sell and the task grows exponentially. But don’t fret — this is where The Make Ready Group can step in.

“We focus on the whole make ready aspect of helping Realtors out,” says founder Steven McFarland.

So basically, someone can do all this for you. That in itself can be a much needed relief from the already stressful duty of selling a home. But McFarland reminds that the property owner remains completely accountable for the house and any issues it may have — especially if it’s to sit vacant while on the market.

“Although the upkeep can be farmed out to an agent, the owners of that property are responsible for everything,” he says. “Sometimes a bank will own a property but they will usually have a property preservation dispatch that covers everything in the home like maintenance, repairs, landscape. Even the structure is maintained.”

The Make Ready Group grew out of working on apartments, but evolved because McFarland was also a Realtor. He began seeing how much time was getting taken up just preparing a home when he could have been selling. Now, he and his company focus solely on homes and specialize in not only preparing a home for the market, but also taking some burden off the agents.

“They really want someone to take over that responsibility,” he says, “And we specialize in that.”

Much like that property preservation crew, the Make Ready Group are the people that will handle the same issues. With McFarland coming from a real estate background, he knows all to well the importance of having a picture perfect house.

“We do anything to a property that needs to be done. Our philosophy is that the land must be maintained,” he says. “The buyer is the consumer and they will buy what they like.”

With Texas having such extreme weather, McFarland warns of certain precautions. The Texas heat is a given, but with major ice and snow storms over the past two years, he says the smallest measures can reduce major catastrophes.

“With the cold weather like we just experienced, you always want to winterize the pipes,” he says. “Drain water from the pipes and heater and make sure the water is secured going into the property. And drip the faucets. Nobody wants the pipes to burst. I’ve seen water pouring out of the ceiling and it just destroys.”

On the flip side, he recommends safety when it comes to heat. As summer gets over 100-degree temperatures, McFarland advises that no matter what, at least two people should tend to the duties should one suffer from heat stroke.

“People tend to insulate the attics in the summer, but it gets so very hot in there,” he says. “So two people are a must. Otherwise, people should really have some good ventilation going through the house and sometimes it’s just as easy as putting a box fan in.”

But one item stands out that a buyer will have much concern over.

“Heating and air is a biggie,” he says. “A place that sits vacant for a long time with the heater or air conditioning off needs to be checked to see if it’s working properly.”

McFarland has advice for the people who opt to do the make ready themselves, because there are those few willing to take it on. With his experience, McFarland immediately knows what to look for that needs his services. But ultimately, the goal is to make the house presentable and he says that can start easily with a new coat of paint, a “royal cleaning,” adjusting doors and patching holes in the wall.

“You want it ready,” he emphasizes. “Nobody can see a flaw when they walk in.”

Just don’t think the company is only for sellers. They provide home services throughout Dallas and have moved beyond the city limits tending to homes in Frisco and Southlake. But McFarland’s also noticed a recent trend in his maintenance orders.

“Oh yeah, you don’t have to be selling the property to use us,” he says. “Even if you have a commercial space, we can do the job. We have individuals with the proper skills for most any job. And we’re familiar with lots of areas around town, but as of late, we’ve definitely been getting more orders from the LGBT community in and around Oak Lawn.”

Sounds like just the right kind of company.

For more information, visit TheMakeReadyGroup.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Craigslist congressman quits; iPhone confession app includes anti-gay query

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. New York GOP Congressman Christopher Lee resigned late Wednesday after Gawker reported that he sent a shirtless photo (above right) to a woman who’d placed an ad in the “Women Seeking Men” section of Craigslist. Lee, who is married and 46, told the woman in a series of e-mails that he was a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist. According to the Associated Press, Lee had cultivated a family values voting record since being elected to the House in 2008. With so many sexually repressed conservatives in Congress these days, we look forward to an abundance of stories like this one over the next few years, and we can only hope some involve lawmakers from Texas.

2. A new iPhone app that allows users to make Catholic confessions is under fire from LGBT advocates for asking, “Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?” The app, “Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” is currently ranked No. 22 in sales worldwide. (INSERT PEDOPHILE PRIESTS JOKE HERE.)

3. On the local front, there will be no 7-11 at Oak Lawn Avenue and Gillespie Street, after a property owner withdrew the proposal in response to concerns from angry Oak Lawn residents. The property two blocks southwest of the Cedar Springs strip previously was home to Tony’s Wine Warehouse but has been vacant for the last two years. Nearby residents and businesses were concerned about the crime and late-night traffic a 7-11 would bring. Among other things, the compromise reached Wednesday ensures that most crime will continue to occur near the Valero on Cedar Springs instead.

—  John Wright

City orders removal of Oak Lawn cross

The wooden cross at Atmosphere of Praise on Hall Street can be seen at left.

The city of Dallas wants a cross in the backyard of a property on Hall Street to come down. But apparently God doesn’t.

A cross standing for years in the backyard of the property at 3917 Hall is a city code violation and must be removed. The house is used by Atmosphere of Praise, a group founded by Pastor Linda Harris, who passed away on Jan. 5.

Local gay artist Robb Conover described Atmospere of Praise as “a meeting place for people in the community no one else will have anything to do with.”

He said that Byron Zealey lives at the property.

“Byron prepares lunch and invites people on the street to eat,” he said. “We don’t call it a church. We don’t have a parking problem. People walk there.”

Conover said it’s never a large group of people and not a daily occurrence. He said the house is not a shelter but has been used for meetings since 1999.

Councilwoman Angela Hunt’s office received a complaint from a local businesses. Hunt’s office didn’t say which businesses complained.

Hunt’s staff referred the complaint to city code enforcement. Code enforcement ordered the cross to be removed.

Conover thinks the timing is interesting coming just a week after Harris’ death — and after a notice in Dallas Voice included the address of Atmosphere of Praise.

To comply with the city order, the property owner hired someone to cut down the cross on Tuesday night. But as the workman began to cut it down, the chain on the chainsaw broke.

Zealey said he was consulting with an attorney. On Thursday morning, the cross was still standing.

—  David Taffet

Look closer • Defining Homes

Buyers and owners alike can always find hidden discounts

By M. M. Adjarian

These days, there’s no denying that anyone who owns, sells or buys property is concerned with the bottom line. With liquidity in short supply and loans more difficult to secure, homeowners and homebuyers are looking for ways to get the most and best for their money. Besides, who doesn’t like a good deal?

With his experience as a Dallas Realtor, Rogers Healy of Rogers Healy and Associates Residential Real Estate, knows what to look for regarding money-saving opportunities for people standing on either side of the property-owning fence.

If a property owner is specifically renovating to sell, taking care of electrical, plumbing, roofing, foundation and window issues should be at the top of any to-do list.

“It’s the stuff that a homebuyer’s going to ask for when they get the house under contract,” says Healy.

Healy advises to do research on how much projects will cost and then to get bids from contractors.

“In the economy that we’re in, people are definitely willing to work for less,” he says.

Just don’t limit searches for bids to the newspapers and telephone book. Consider a modern approach. Healy suggests that social networking is a reliable way to go with the search. Plus, feedback is easily found.

“I think you can catch some great deals on Facebook fan pages and on Twitter as well,” Healy says. “That and also skimming the paper. Places like Home Depot and Lowe’s will compete against each other for your business, meaning they will want you to come to their store for the better deal.”

Realty offices are a surprising resource. After buying your home,  the affair, with your agent doesn’t stop there. Agents and firms can also provide homeowners the names of vendors specializing in renovation materials and services.

Healy’s own firm has a service provider list “of at least three people for everything from aquarium installation to air duct cleaning” that it shares with clients and non-clients alike. The one word of caution Healy has for home renovators is that a project could run double the expected price tag.

“Prepare for it to cost more money than you think,” he says.

Financial flexibility is crucial for those selling their home. Properties stay on the market longer due to the economic situation and seasonal fluctuations. These conditions are creating possibilities for property discounts that come from homeowners willing to sell for a lesser price.

One option would allow the seller to finance a home purchase. Another, which is becoming increasingly popular, is leasing to own the property.

“People who maybe have been burned or don’t have great credit or don’t have a huge amount of liquidity can get on a contract and then have an extended option period which is the lease,” Healy explains. “At the end of the lease, they have the option to apply a percentage of the money they’ve paid as rent as a down payment and purchase the property.”

Neither method of financing provides buyers with discounts, but  offer possibilities for home ownership to more people.

Affordable options and breaks are also offered to veterans, individuals who have owned property for two or more years and first-time buyers.
Or you could just be in the right job at the right time.

“A couple of banks I know of are doing creative financing if the buyer is a CPA, a dentist, an accountant or an attorney,” Healy adds.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of Defining Homes Magazine October 8, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

It’s Texas-OU weekend and parking will be a pain — but hopefully not a costly pain

Finding safe — and legal — parking can be tough on any weekend in Oak Lawn. But throw in the annual Texas-OU showdown, and finding parking anywhere gets even tougher.

A parking scam during the 2008 Texas-OU weekend cost a lot of football fans some big bucks. But Dallas city officials said this week that they will be coordinating with state agencies as they did last year to make sure nobody gets scammed again.

The ’08 scam was a coordinated effort between fake parking attendants and licensed towing companies, where “unsuspecting fans were flagged into private parking lots where they paid the ‘attendants’ to let them park for the game. Towing companies then swooped in and hauled off the vehicles,” the city’s statement said.

Last year, the city put new procedures in place to avoid such scams, including special permits and city-issued signs to let people know where they could park, and Dallas police and the Texas Department of Licensing beefed up patrols and enforcement around Fair Park. They will be doing the same this year.

Paul Curington with the Dallas Police Department’s parking enforcement division suggested people headed to the game park inside Fair Park where fees will probably be lower and the area safer. But those who park in an off-site private lot or in someone’s yard need to look for the official green signs that indicate that property owner has a valid city permit to offer parking, and a “towing enforced sign.”

If you  head down to Oak Lawn in your own car, be sure to park in a well-lit area — one where your vehicle won’t get towed — and park as close to your destination as possible. Don’t walk alone, and stay out of the dark areas. Park in one of the lots with security if you can.

Curington also suggests leaving the car at home and taking DART to the game. The same holds true for those headed to Oak Lawn to party, either before, during or after the football game. If you don’t want to ride the bus, consider a taxi; it might cost a few bucks, but not as much as having your car towed and sure as hell not as much as being robbed or assaulted. Isn’t it worth a little extra to be safe?

—  admin