How to Make Your Savings Goals Stick

In our last post we discussed ways to begin taking control of your finances. This week we’ll go over some ways to make those savings goals stick.

1. Do it automatically.

You can set up an automatic transfer with your bank so that each pay period a certain amount of money will be transferred to your savings account. This way you don’t have to think about it, which makes it much more likely to happen!

2. Make it fun.

Challenge a friend or family member to see who can save the most over a period of time. Just make sure the prize is FREE! Maybe the loser has to cook the winner a meal or wash their car. Make saving money a family affair by creating a savings thermometer. Draw a giant thermometer with your savings goal at the top. Once you reach your goal have a party to celebrate.

3. Reward yourself.

You have been pinching pennies and your savings account is growing! Periodically rewarding yourself with a small bonus will motivate you to keep going.

Taking Control of Your Finances in 2015

If you’re like most people, the New Year often prompts you to set goals for yourself. Maybe this year you have decided to reduce your debt or save more money. Here are some great tips to get you started:

1. Identify your goal.

Do you want to start an emergency fund? Save for a home? Get out of debt? Identifying your financial goal will help you develop a plan and stick to it.

2. Review your finances.

Most people underestimate how much money they spend. Print out 12 months of statements from your bank and credit card accounts. Highlight your fixed (mortgage/rent, utilities), irregular (car and home maintenance, taxes, etc), and discretionary expenses (shopping, restaurants, entertainment, etc.)

3. Create a budget.

This gives you control over your money. 55% of millionaires keep a budget!

4. Track your expenses.

Tracking your spending habits will show you exactly where your money is going.

5. Eliminate debt.

Eliminating debt can seem intimidating. Remember to tackle one debt at a time. For credit card debt, start with the card that has the highest interest rate. Make larger payments on that one while making the minimum payment on any others.

6. Review your credit report.

It’s smart to check your credit report annually to confirm that all your information is correct as well as to alert you in case there has been any fraudulent activity.

7. Start an emergency fund.

Having 3-6 months of living expenses stashed away will give you peace of mind and protect you in the event of an emergency.

8. Invest

By making smart investments you can have your money work for you!

Passing the torch in Georgetown Texas

Editor’s Comment: This has been re-posted from our company blog at to make sure all of our readers and clients know what is happening in our business.  Since the time of this writing, Autumn now has a work-at-home position and I will be re-building my real estate business in Northern Virginia.  We are very excited!


2012 ended with a great 10-year anniversary celebration for my wife and I on our first real vacation to Hawaii.  Personally, we felt refreshed and blessed that we could get away and celebrate what God has been doing in our lives since moving to Texas and starting our family back in 2003 when I was stationed at Ft. Hood as an Army MI Officer.  So much has changed since then.

Getting the Call

As we were making preparations for our vacation, we also received a call from a long-time friend of ours from college, Pastor Tom.  Over 10 years ago, we felt led to help Pastor Tom start a church when he was ready to transition away from leading Agape Christian Fellowship (ACF), a Christian student group at the University of Rochester in New York.  This is the same group that Autumn and I attended in college and how we first met.  ACF and Pastor Tom both have a very special place in our hearts.  Pastor Tom essentially told us that he was ready to plant a church and it would be located in Northern Virginia.  Specifically in Ashburn, VA, a town in Loudoun County.

Over the next few weeks, Autumn and I had to do some self-reflection and praying to make sure this is still something we felt led to participate in.  And if so, timing was also another consideration.

Making a Decision

To help us with our decision, we looked back over the years to see how God has been preparing us for this eventual move.  Over recent years, we have been developing goals in various areas of our lives to help us confirm the timing of this move and almost every one of those prayers have been answered!

We had financial goals that will be met next month.  We also had personal goals and relational goals that we witnessed God’s faithfulness in recent years.  Some of our goals are still unmet, such as securing a job in Virginia or developing a business idea before we move down.  However, we know God will continue to provide for us as we trust Him and make decisions by faith.

Finally, we also had goals for our brokerage, Mars Hill Realty Group, and my personal business of buying/selling real estate.   My goal was to transition away from my buying/selling business and eventually sell it.  Over two years ago I asked my brother, Edwin, and his wife, Candice, to join me in Texas, move from California and partner with me in my business as an initial step.  After a successful two year transition, Edwin has fully taken over my buying/selling business and I have been focusing on building up the property management division for Mars Hill Realty Group.  All this was done in preparation for an ineveitable move back east for church planting.

As Autumn and I look back at these goals, we know they could never have been accomplished on our own.  For God to have his hand so clearly in these plans, we knew that moving to Virginia to be a part of this church plant had to be God’s direction for us.

Preparing for Change

So, as of January 1, 2013, your favorite HOMEboy has passed the torch to another HOMEboy named Ed Lui.  To make it easier for our clients, we also exchanged phone numbers so that 512-554-9594 will now be answered by Edwin.  My new number is Edwin’s old number, 512-761-6476.  I will continue to serve as the broker for Mars Hill Realty Group and our property management team will continue to seek Investors to work with and manage investment property.

In case you’re wondering whether this change will affect the service you will receive, you can take comfort in knowing that, unofficially, Edwin had already been leading the buying and selling side for the past 12 months.  And for the past 2 months, Valerie, our VP of Operations, has been doing an excellent job running the Property Management division so that I could focus soley on new client development and sales.  During my extended vacation in December, I was able to “field test” for the first time how Mars Hill would operate without my physical presence and everybody passed with flying colors.

I’m so thankful for all of my clients and friends who have supported my family by trusting in me to help them buy, sell, invest and manage real estate over the years.  Your continued trust and referrals will continued to be handled with the same care and professionalism that you have experienced with me personally.  The Mars Hill Property Management team and my brother Edwin, have been personally trained by me to continue to serve your real estate needs in the areas of buying selling, investing and property management and are eager to help.

As my family and I prepare our move to Virginia this coming summer, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.  We are certainly excited for this adventure, but also sad to leave such great friends, clients and a close, loving community that we’ve raised our family in.  Mars Hill Realty is expanding to Virginia and we’ll keep you updated on our progress through this blog as well as our Facebook page:  Please send us any questions you have, and comment on our Facebook page.  We would love to hear your thoughts!

Your Favorite HOMEboy,



Want to learn more about Property management in Round Rock, Georgetown, or Greater Austin?  Visit our 2-page educational website here:

How to disappear from the face of the earth

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged and I thought I would start off 2013 with an update on my recent family adventure.  For an update on Mars Hill Realty Group, and our future second office location, visit us here:  Georgetown Texas Real Estate.

This past January marked the 10th anniversary for Autumn and I, so we decided to take a detour to Hawaii while visiting her family in California.  It was time well spent, and for the first time in over 10 years we took a vacation.  I mean, a REAL vacation!  If you want to take a REAL vacation, it should feel as though you’ve just disappeared from the face of the earth.  It’s eerily peaceful.  There are three things you need to do.

1.  Drop the children off with family or friends.  Yes, they will be burdened.  But, if they agree to it, even if they’re just trying to be nice, accept it and don’t ask questions.  After all, how often do you leave your children for 1-2 weeks?  Just splurge.

2.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT take your laptop with you.  This was pretty difficult at first, but I used this idea to justify the purchase of a Nexus 7 Tablet to take along with me on the trip.  If you get rid of your main productivity tool, chances are you won’t be doing any work on vacation.  With my Nexus 7, all I did was check email from time to time and visit Yelp to find out where all the best restaurants were.

3.  Lastly, do something with your phone.  I thought I would be bold and leave it at home…but I just left a vacation message on my voicemail to call the office.  Anybody that didn’t follow directions and still left voicemails were just forwarded to the office.

We had an amazing time, visiting both Oahu and Kauai.  We stayed in Bed and Breakfasts and splurged on great food wherever we went.  I don’t have the time or space to go into vacation details, but the pictures will speak for themselves.

My recommendation: Go to Kauai if you really want a unique experience.  Oahu felt like California.  Try different foods and stay at the local B&Bs for the best value.  For example, we were at a million dollar plus home on the ocean and paid as much per night as we would if we stayed in a stale hotel room with boring surroundings.  Lastly, you can afford to go.  With free hotel points, airline points and time off, the only thing you should be spending (if you plan it well) is on food and adventure.

Need a vacation from property management?  Our property management division will provide you with a stress-free experience. Check out our newest educational website if you need a Property Manager in Austin or the surrounding towns.

Your Favorite HOMEboy, Edward



Luxury Home in Round Rock – 3551 Alexandrite in Walsh Ranch

It’s not often you find a true luxury home in Round Rock for under $100/sf that also feeds into exemplary-rated Cactus Ranch ES and James Garland Walsh MS (schools independently rated by Texas Education Agency). It’s not often you find a home with a game room, home theater, formal dining, living room, and second living room for $365,000. It’s not often you find a floor plan with three secondary bedrooms on the second floor, and master bedroom with dedicated home office or study on the first floor. This is a rare find in the highly desired subdivision of Walsh Ranch and 3551 Alexandrite has all the updates and upgrades you’d expect in this neighborhood.

Picture perfect setting in Walsh Ranch.

A feeling of grandeur consumes you when you enter through the wood door with its custom glass and wrought iron work. Your eyes immediately look up to the soaring vaulted ceilings, just barely after getting a glimpse of the wood floors beneath you. The foyer insists you take a moment to appreciate the size of the front entry way. The second living room and formal dining room flank you and watch closely as you make your next move.

Foyer serves as an appetizer to the main house.

The impeccable kitchen is fit for a chef or a home maker.  Long stretches of granite, tiled back splash, and stainless steel appliances are pleasing to the eye and easy to clean.  The over-sized center island is more like The Big Island (instead of the standard Oahu-sized islands).  The big island provides for more counter space (to cook or to eat on) and more storage space underneath.  You’ll also notice a wood built-in bookcase for all your cook books and recipes.

With a kitchen this nice you'll want to eat in it, too.

After your gourmet meal, bring a bag of popcorn upstairs to enjoy a movie in your home theater.  Surround sound and plenty of room for theater-style seating, this is just like going to the movies on a Friday night except you don’t have to wait in line and no one will look at you funny if you’re in your pj’s.  Actually, as owner of the theater, you can do, wear, and watch whatever you want!

Be the boss of your own theater.

The one thing someone might have a problem with is the back yard.  It has a beautiful wood-stained deck, mature trees, plenty of green grass to run around in, and a rock wall for ultimate privacy.  However, it backs to a two-lane section of Sam Bass Road. This particular section is not heavily traveled and has a slow speed limit of 35 mph.  You don’t get fast moving vehicles or heavy-duty 18-wheelers and it’s impossible to hear any road noise from the interior of the home.  You’ll still be able to enjoy the occasional back yard barbecue  and clear starry nights with your friends and family.

Most people would love a back yard like this. Wouldn't you?

See below for more information, photos, and video:



For more videos, visit

3551 Alexandrite – Sellers Disclosure

3551 Alexandrite – Upgrades

3551 Alexandrite – Survey & T-47

Sendero Springs 2012 1st Quarter Newsletter

Sendero Springs in Round Rock, Texas

It’s tax season.  For some of us it means filing tax returns.  For us in Sendero Springs, it means paying our property taxes!

Looking to save money on your property taxes? It’s no secret that homeowners in Sendero Springs pay one of the highest property tax rates in all of Williamson County – close to 3%! Here’s a New Year’s resolution that should be on every homeowner’s list because it’s fast, easy, and pays you back – file for a homestead exemption. Your tax break will depend on your eligibility, but even the most modest exemptions could net you several hundred dollars annually.

You can download the form here:

And read more about it here:

Home prices in 2011 were at a 4-year low, but an improving 4th quarter can be an indicator that Sendero Springs prices are on the rise. The average home price increased to $90.50/sf, which is above the 2010 4th quarter price. (Remember, a $5/sf increase can mean $15,000 on a home that is 3,000 sf.) Despite the small sample size (only three homes sold from October to December), we are headed in the right direction (up!) for 2012.

Homes Sold Last 12 Mos 38
Absorption Rate (# sold/mo) 3.17
Current Active Listings 9
Months of Inventory 2.84

The absorption rate has not changed significantly. There are more homes for sale than before, which means an increase in inventory. (Absorption rate is the number of homes sold per month in the past 12 months.) Our previous inventory was two months and currently it is approaching three. Anything under 6 months is considered a seller’s market!

Last 12 Months Homes Sold Sq Ft List Price List $/SF Sold Price Sold $/SF SP/LP Ratio Days on Market
1st Qtr, ’11 13 2,966 $ 266,362 $ 89.81 $ 253,498 $ 85.47 95.17% 110
2nd Qtr, ’11 12 3,031 $ 265,842 $ 87.72 $ 258,403 $ 85.27 97.20% 41
3rd Qtr, ’11 10 2,981 $ 265,140 $ 88.93 $ 251,718 $ 84.43 94.94% 75
4th Qtr, ’11 3 3,009 $ 279,966 $ 93.04 $ 272,300 $ 90.50 97.26% 53

Looking for information on Round Rock Texas Homes For Sale? Visit my website or call me anytime!! Want the latest updates on Round Rock Texas Real Estate, news and latest developments? Sign up for the blog by clicking the link below:

Sponsoring Lunch at Champions School of Real Estate

Guess who’s the next lunch sponsor at Champions School of Real Estate?

Well, tomorrow’s the big day!  I’m sponsoring lunch for the students of the Principles of Real Estate II class on Monday.  This is the first time I’ve tried something like this, and I still don’t know what I’m going to do with the 20 minutes of time I have alloted!

Why am I doing this?

a.  I have so much money that I like to buy free lunches for rookie agents

b.  I am practicing my speech-giving skills

c.  I’m starting a revolution and I need a few volunteers

(Hint:  The answer is C)

Slow down there tiger, I don’t mean that type of revolution.  I mean a REAL ESTATE REVOLUTION!

At Mars Hill Realty Group, I’m offering real estate agents a revolution from the traditional real estate norms that plague our industry.


A revolution from the public distrust of real estate agents.

A revolution from the myriad of confusing marketing options available.

A revolution from ineffective negotiation expertise.

A revolution from poor pricing and predictive analysis skills.


Want to learn more?  Visit our brokerage website at or read our latest blog article on what makes us different from other traditional Austin real estate companies.

– Your Favorite HOMEboy,




Not For Sale By Owner

In today’s economy, people are pinching pennies any chance they get. In my line of business, that means more and more sellers trying to sell their home without the expertise or skill of a real estate agent. Central Texas has been home (no pun intended) to the most stable real estate market despite the crash the rest of the nation has experienced, yet I still see plenty of For Sale By Owner signs on yards across Georgetown, Round Rock, and Austin. No community is immune to the temptation of saving money.

Not only is the owner potentially saving thousands of dollars from paying the agent’s commission, with the internet at our fingertips, there are great websites like that help owners sell on their own. So it must be pretty easy and money-wise to sell without a licensed real estate agent. Or is it?

The founder of a popular for sale by owner Web site used a real estate broker to help sell his 2,000-square-foot, two-bedroom New York apartment after it lingered on the market for six months. Colby Sambrotto, the founder and former chief operating officer of, tried to sell the property himself by listing it online and through classified ads, but after six months of it sitting on the market, he sought the help of a real estate broker. The condo soon attracted multiple offers and ended up closing recently for $150,000 more than the original asking price.

It’s like Dieter Zetsche (CEO of Mercedes-Benz) buying one of these for his daughter:

In other words, he got a much better product and paid less.

Contrary to popular (and unsubstantiated) belief, real estate agents can save you time and earn you more money than you realize. Contact your local REALTOR today if you are thinking about selling your home and if you don’t have one, contact your favorite HOMEboys!

Read the full story here.

Homestead Exemptions in Texas

If you bought a new home recently, a good way to lower your taxes is to file for a homestead exemption on your primary residence.  This is something I mentioned in a previous article about protesting taxes and could save you a few hundred dollars a year.

Williamson County is a good resource if you need more information about this exemption and you can click here to go to their website.

You can also download the 2011 application below.


Here’s more information provided by Independence Title Company:

Homestead exemptions remove part of your home’s value from taxation. If you want to receive a homestead exemption for the taxes on your home, the home must first qualify as a residence homestead on January 1 of the year in which you are applying.

There are two requirements:
1. You must own your home on January 1. (If you are over 65,and/or
disabled the January 1 ownership and residency are not required.)
2. You must use the home as your principal residence on January 1.

A state law that took effect on September 1, 2011 has changed proof of residency requirements for homeowners applying for the property tax homestead exemption.
(CLICK HERE) to download more information.

Your Favorite HOMEboys

Edward and Edwin

Mayfield Ranch Home: High-end pool with landscaping to match

Trying to find a home with an in-ground pool in the heat of Texas summer is like the holy grail for real estate shoppers. To get a recently built home, with mature landscaping, and over 2700 SF (according to tax records) at $275,000 is nearly impossible.

Until now. Let me tell you about 3644 Fossilwood Way located in Mayfield Ranch in Round Rock, Texas:


1.  There are many homes that try to “squeeze” into this price range by offering a pool, but skimping on the landscaping.  From the moment you drive up to this home, your eyes will be immediately drawn to the meticulously chosen native plants that line the front yard in a very natural setting.  This landscaping design not only minimizes the amount of yard that needs to be cut, but also the owner’s water usage.  Landscaping involves more than just well-chosen plants, but also good utility of stones, rocks and pathways that wind through the yard.  This home also has a beautiful walkway made of flagstone laid on top of crushed granite that connects the front and back yard.

2.  If you’re a shopper in this price range, something else you’ll notice different about this home is that it’s only built in 2004 and it’s a relatively new home that has been well taken care of.  What that means to you is that you don’t have to buy a home, and already start planning for your next renovation project.  The floorplan is very modern and all the spaces are well-proportioned and the flooring and paint upgrades have been well chosen.


3.  This isn’t an ordinary pool that was picked out from a catalog and just plopped in the yard!  In fact, the owners had it custom designed for the backyard and you will have a view of this pool from almost every room in the home:  Living, Kitchen, Breakfast, Gameroom and two bedrooms.


When you step out here, your first inclination may be to jump in the pool, so let me point out a few things that this pool may distract you from.  The deepest point is in the middle of the pool and it’s shallow on both ends…this is perfect for a game of water volleyball.  If you have young children or just want to wade in the pool and relax with a good book, there is also a sun ledge, an ultra-shallow wading area.  This pool can be for fun as well as exercise or therapy.  If you want to do laps, you can do that too by just turning on the swim jet and swimming against the current.  After spending hours in the pool, it’s nice to know that your largest organ, your skin, didn’t just absorb lots of unhealthy chlorine.  That’s right, this is a salt water pool, which results in minimal maintenance costs and leaves swimmers with skin and hair softer then when they came into the pool.  Say “good-bye” to smelly chlorine that lingers on your body after you swim.

This home is the entertainer’s dream: A high-end pool set in a natural surrounding with an outdoor kitchen to handle all your grilling needs.  This home isn’t too old, where renovations and updates are in order…on the other hand, the home has upgraded window treatments, flooring and paint to give it a very modern and cozy feel for the next homeowner.

Click here to download disclosure-survey-floorplan

For more pictures of this home, click on the photos in the gallery below:

Looking for information on Georgetown Texas Homes For Sale? Visit my website or call me anytime!! Want the latest updates on Georgetown Texas Real Estate, news and latest developments? Sign up for the blog by clicking the link below:

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