Author Archives: Scott Fehr

About Scott Fehr

Individual Real Estate Broker in Texas Education: PhD in ECE, UT Austin

What a pivotal moment in world history can teach us today

In 1989, ten years after I studied Cold War policy and politics in East and West Europe while living in Germany, citizens on both sides of the Berlin Wall used hammers and small chisels to destroy this symbol of communist oppression that had stood for 28 long and heartbreaking years.

I snapped this photo from my dorm room in 1979 using a Kodak Instamatic—a far cry from today's digital cameras.

The wall didn’t just physically divide a city—it was a chasm of political philosophies, where personal freedoms like free elections, religious choice, and basic human rights were oppressed.

The wall fell on November 9, 1989, and Germans still pause on this day each year to celebrate the democratic freedoms all of them now enjoy.

This week, while Germany was honoring the anniversary of the Berlin Wall destruction, the United States of America was practicing democracy in another way—the American election.

Candidates engaged in races at all levels of government across the country, from school boards and city councils to state houses. Then, in the early hours of November 9, winners were announced.

Now that votes are tallied, we’re seeing people express their attitudes and opinions about the outcomes in uniquely American post-election celebrations and protests.

After personally witnessing a city physically divided and then reunited, I have grown to believe this free expression of ideals is actually the cornerstone of democracy.

Even though we may be divided by political perspectives, the world watched as defeated candidates conceded their races and newly-elected officeholders almost immediately shrugged off the slings and arrows of difficult campaigns and began to unite behind what is best for their constituencies. 

This magnanimous transfer of power is the envy of the world. While our campaigns have become too negative, personal, expensive, and lengthy, the final analysis is something to celebrate.

After her defeat in the race for the highest elected office in America, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained this perspective best in a gracious concession speech.

She told her supporters, “I count my blessings every single day that I am an American, and I still believe as deeply as I ever have that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions, and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us. Because, you know, I believe we are stronger together, and we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that.”

If your candidate of choice didn’t win on November 8, use this opportunity to stay engaged in the political process.

And join me in being thankful that the only dividing line we have to face is philosophical.

Mark Lehman is vice president of Governmental Affairs for the Texas Association of REALTORS®.

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Why not manage your own rental house? Three reasons

Sure, you could handle all the tasks necessary to manage the rental property you own. Before you make that commitment, ask yourself the following:

Do you know the laws pertaining to rental property?

Do you know when you're required to change locks, what you can deduct from a security deposit, when you can access the property, and where smoke detectors are required? There are also fair housing laws to consider, rules concerning applications, and more. 

Will you be available when problems arise? Do you know what to do?

What will you do when there's a plumbing problem or the AC doesn't come on? What if there's a burglary? What are your options if the tenant stops paying rent or leaves before the end of the lease?

What do you know about the market?

If you ask too much for rent, you'll lose money waiting for a renter who will never materialize. Ask too little and you'll lose money month after month. You'll also want to keep up with the market so you know when to raise rents and what to ask the next time you have tenant turnover.

Fortunately, you can hire a Texas REALTOR® to handle all of the above for you. Your REALTOR® can also collect rent, market your property, and a take care of other tasks that come with being a landlord. To find a Texas REALTOR® to manage your property, ask friends for a referral—or you can use the Find a Texas REALTOR® search on  

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5 home security lessons learned from the big screen

There were 153,054 burglaries in Texas last year, and according to the U.S. Department of Justice, most of them took place in broad daylight with the perpetrators entering a front or back door. While movies and TV shows might not always have the firmest grounding in reality, security lessons can be learned from the criminals depicted on screen.

Reinforce doors and locks.

The Discovery Channel’s “It Takes a Thief” follows two former burglars as they break into the homes of willing victims. They go through the process of a robbery while simultaneously teaching viewers what they can do to protect their homes from thieves.

One lesson they often stress is to reinforce your doors with metal plates and install extra locks. This extra protection will encourage a potential thief to move on rather than take the extra time needed to break in.

Install high-definition security cameras.

In numerous episodes of the TV series “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” the team’s audio-video analyst turns to surveillance footage for leads on the cases. Like this analyst, you'll get a high resolution image of someone who breaks into your house by installing a security system with 2K or 4K technologies. In addition to crisper images, there might be other improved features such as a better-quality digital zoom, night vision, wide-angle lenses, intelligent compression, and the capability to handle severe weather.

Outsmart the bad guys.

The holiday season is a lucrative time for crooks, who like to target empty homes while owners are on vacation. The movie “Home Alone” teaches several valuable lessons in home security in a fun way:

  • Put your interior and exterior lighting on a schedule.
  • Leave your TV on. You might just be on an all-day, all-night Netflix binge.
  • Strengthen first-floor windows with locks, sensors, and double-pane glass.
  • Get a motion detector. (Kevin uses a blowtorch in the movie.)
  • Conceal and protect your valuables in a safe.
  • Be informed of what’s happening in your area.
  • Know your neighbors and rely on them to keep an eye on your home while you’re away.

Don’t leave windows or doors unlocked.

In the movie “Ocean’s Twelve,” Danny Ocean’s accomplices attempt to heist the very first printed stock certificate from a well-protected mansion in Europe. To access the home, they sent a security system decoder on a cable through an open window.

The lesson here is to always shut and lock your windows and doors when not home. Even if you are home, be sure you don’t leave them open in plain view. Burglars can live right in your neighborhood.

Know your security measures.

Everyone in the house should know how to work the security measures you have in place, including the kids. During a scene in the movie “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” a dinosaur is attempting to get through a door that can only be locked via the park's computer system. While the parents are holding the door shut, the daughter is able to activate the security system and lock the doors, thus keeping the dinosaur on the opposite side of the door.

Look at your home through the eyes of a burglar, and take notice of areas where security may have been overlooked.

Anne-Marie Pritchett is a freelance writer, storyteller and idea girl who has lived in six states and two countries.

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4 easy ways to update the kitchen before you sell

Homebuyers can overlook many deficiencies in a property, but the kitchen isn’t usually a place they like to compromise. As such, it’s a great place to make small improvements before you sell. Here are four things you can do to make your kitchen a selling point.

Freshen the paint and backsplash
One of the easiest updates to your kitchen is to paint the walls and redo the backsplashes to fit today’s trends. Many homeowners are opting for neutral colors, such as gray or ivory, for walls and backsplashes. Not only do these colors provide a modern feel, they also provide a blank slate for prospective buyers.

Put a new face on appliances
Sure, buyers will love new appliances, but spending $10,000 on them won’t necessary add $10,000 to your sales price. Another option is to give your current kitchen appliances a facelift. New doors on the refrigerator and oven and panels for the dishwasher can make the kitchen pop without breaking the bank, and you can also get a UPVC painting kitchen service to improve the looks of the kitchen too.

Lighten up the room
Lighting is extremely important for any kitchen. Simple overhead lighting is a thing of the past. Modern homebuyers are interested in unique, functional lighting that is cohesive with the overall aesthetic of the kitchen. Under-cabinet lights and glass pendants over islands are two of the top trends for modern kitchen lighting. Even installed battery-powered LED strips under cabinets can go a long way toward updating your kitchen’s look.

Modernize the cabinets
Kitchen cabinets are perhaps the most noticeable feature of your kitchen. They help establish the style and aesthetics of the whole room. Some cabinet companies have gone high-tech with digital visualizations of what different cabinet styles, designs, and colors would look like in your kitchen. If completely replacing your cabinets isn’t in the budget, a simple refurbishing of the current cabinets can add significant value to the kitchen and the overall appeal of any home. Kitchen updates like these give you great bang for your buck—and will catch potential buyers’ attention.

Alexandra Bohigian is the marketing consultant for Cabinet Collection, an online supplier of cabinets. Contact her at

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What else is on your ballot?

In Lehman’s Terms

It’s finally here. After a seemingly never-ending campaign season, it’s time to cast our votes.

You may already know who you’re choosing for president … but do you know what else will be on your ballot?

Going down the ballot
There are several state-level races and the race for who will represent your district in the U.S. House of Representatives. (All of the 36 Texas seats are up for election.) And depending on where you live, you may be voting for your state representative or senator, or for local races, such as city council or school board.

You may even have local propositions to vote “for” or “against” on your ballot.

These are known as “down-ballot” races. While they don’t garner as much attention as the top of the ticket, they have the greatest impact on your daily life. The people in these state and local offices make decisions about the roads you drive, your children’s schools, and how properties are developed in your community.

Are you getting the truth?
That’s why it’s so important to educate yourself about the candidates and the issues. Don’t wait and just be surprised by what’s on your ballot. Contact your county elections office to request a sample ballot ahead of time to see what exactly you’ll be voting on, and then research your options.

With so much misinformation floating around on social media, talk radio, email chains, and from sources that aren’t associated with candidates’ campaigns, voters have more responsibility now than ever to dig down and get the truth ourselves.

You can also see what credible sources are saying about your options. Like many trade associations, the Texas Association of REALTORS® spends months vetting candidates before deciding who to support. Visit to see the REALTOR®-supported candidates on your ballot and a list of all the candidates we’re supporting in the general election based on their dedication to protecting private-property rights.

Give your ballot a second look
Maybe your plan is to only vote for candidates in one political party—a practice called straight-ticket voting. Texas is actually one of only nine states that allow straight-ticket voting.

It’s a convenient option for voters who want to support all of the candidates in one party. But it presents the possibility that you may not make a selection in some races because it doesn’t apply in nonpartisan races—like city council and school board—or ballot propositions. If you use straight-ticket voting, be sure to review these races, too.  

The Texas secretary of state announced earlier this month that a record number of Texans—more than 15 million people—have registered to vote. Thankfully, early voting runs through November 4 … so we don’t all have to stand in line on November 8.

See you at the polls.

Mark Lehman is vice president of Governmental Affairs for the Texas Association of REALTORS®. 

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You sure you want the internet to solve your real estate problems?

I was reading user comments on a real estate website the other day. The questions buyers and sellers were asking reminded me that real estate transactions can get complicated in countless ways.

Here’s a random sample of issues buyers and sellers were having …

  • A lien the seller didn’t know about is making it difficult to sell the home.
  • A person buying a home is thinking of renting out her current home rather than selling it.
  • The seller accepted the buyer’s offer, and now the buyer has found a home he likes better.
  • The homebuyer wants to move in before closing and rent the home until the closing date.
  • An inspection revealed costly repairs are needed, and the buyer wants to renegotiate the purchase price.
  • A buyer has a contract to buy a home and learned the seller has another a contract with a second buyer.
  • The buyer and seller disagree about what items should stay with the property after the sale.
  • A buyer of a commercial building doesn’t understand the seller’s reply to his offer.
  • The seller wants to know how to handle multiple offers.
  • The seller didn’t show up to closing, and the buyer doesn’t know what to do.

This list could keep going and going.

I understand why people would “ask the internet” about their real estate problems, but I would be wary of the advice found there. You don’t really know what you’re getting.

On the other hand, a Texas REALTOR® is a professional with the experience and knowledge to help you avoid many problems, deal with those that arise, and help you reach the best possible outcome on your real estate transaction. 

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How smart home features can make you safer

Smart home technologies have obvious benefits, such as more efficient heating and cooling or being able to unlock doors remotely. But do you know a smart home can also be a safer home?

Smart smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors are clear examples of devices that keep your family safe. If these devices connect to a central hub or mobile device, they can alert you to issues in the home and let you take action whether or not you’re present. Smart garage doors can let you know if they're left open. Internet-connected cameras and motion sensors can detect intruders in the home. Smart locks can quickly and easily be programmed to block a person who is now unwelcome in your home.

Keep in mind that smart home features, like any online service, can be vulnerable to security weaknesses. Create strong passwords, secure any wireless networks or hard-wire devices, read reviews before purchasing devices, and stick with devices or systems from established brands that you can trust to update security features and provide support.

Smart home features may not be at the top of your list when shopping for a home, but they can add value and safety.

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What’s the point of mortgage points?

If you’re financing a property purchase, you’ve probably come across the term points or discount points. Although there are other meanings, most often these terms refer to prepaid interest, with one point equal to 1% of your mortgage loan.

Lenders offer borrowers the opportunity to purchase points on their mortgage, which means you’re paying up front to lower the interest rate of your loan. Here are some questions to ask when deciding whether you should buy points:

How long will you live in the house?
You usually benefit more from points the longer you stay in the property. That’s because the savings you realize on each monthly payment will accumulate and eventually offset—hopefully exceed—your points payment.

Can I afford points?
You need to provide a downpayment and cover the closing costs to secure a mortgage. Do you also want to pay for points? 

How much will the rate come down?
Each point costs 1% of the loan amount, but the interest-rate reduction you receive varies from lender to lender.

Don't worry. Experts like your Texas REALTOR® are available to help you make the decision right for you.

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3 ways to prepare for November 8

Mark this date on your calendar: October 11. That's the deadline to register to vote for the November 8 election. Go to to learn how you can get and submit an application.

If you’ve already taken this important step, there are a few other ways to ensure you’re ready for this historic election.

Double check your info
Did you move recently? Even if you just moved across town, you may be in a different district or precinct, so it’s important to keep your record up to date. The Texas secretary of state’s website is a great resource to see where you’re registered and to change your information.

Learn when and where to vote
Early voting will be October 24 to November 4. This convenient option lets you cast your ballot at any location in your county, but you may have to vote in your precinct on Election Day.

Get deputized for democracy
If you’re really dedicated to the election process, contact your county to find out how to become a deputy voter registrar. After completing a brief training, you’ll be empowered to educate people about the voter-registration process.

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Becoming a homeowner? Test your knowledge of common home features

Buying your first home is an exciting time, but there’s a lot to learn about your new investment. If you’ve never owned a home before, you may not be familiar with some of their most common exterior features. Learning about these features now can help you maintain your home in the future.

Your Texas REALTOR® is an excellent resource for the basics of homeownership. In the meantime, take this quick quiz to see how well you know houses.

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