El Siboney in Key West Florida

El Siboney Cuban Restaurant in Key West FloridaFate has an interesting way of showing up when you least expect it.

On a recent visit to Key West, Florida, we had picked out a local seafood place that was recommended by some friends. The day was nice so we decided to walk the eight blocks to the restaurant. You can only imagine our surprise to find out it was closed on Tuesday! (Note to self—Google can be your friend)

What to do?

Fate showed up at that moment in the form of a local taxi driver. He suggested a local Cuban restaurant called, El Siboney. I have to admit I was skeptical as the taxi dropped us off at this little hole-in-the-wall looking place on the corner of Catherine and Margaret.

Once inside I noted the Zagat Awards on the wall and the aroma coming from the kitchen was heavenly. We were quickly seated and a basket of fresh Cuban bread arrived. Now I really love bread, but this was up there with some of the best I’ve had.  The waitress suggested we try a pitcher of Sangria. Served over ice with a slice of lime, it hit the spot after our walk in the humid air.

The menu was filled with all kinds of interesting dishes—fresh seafood, chicken, pork and beef—it all sounded good. I selected the Chicken Enchilado with yellow rice and fried bananas. Being from Texas, I was a bit surprised when the meal showed up. What happened to the Tortilla? A quick taste and another piece of bread and the thought of the tortilla was long gone. With a hint of spice in the sauce, it was a wonderful dish.

No visit to Key West is complete without a slice of Key Lime Pie. It was homemade and the perfect way to finish up the meal.

If you find yourself in Key West, stop by El Siboney and enjoy yourself!

Tom Branch, Broker

Photo Copyright 2013 – Tom Branch


Making Smart Offers in a Seller’s Market

Home Buyers Sitting on the FenceIt’s a seller’s market in many places these days. The good news is buyers who have been on the fence waiting for interest rates and prices to bottom out are back in the market. The bad news for those buyers is inventory levels are at all-time lows. In Plano Texas, new listings are sold in hours with multiple offers. One new listing a few weeks ago had 34 offers in the first two days!

The impact is two-fold. First, buyers are driving up the prices of homes to the point where they will not appraise for the sales price. Second, for every buyer who manages to enter into a contract, many more are left dismayed that they cannot find a home. I had one buyer last week who offered $15k over list price on a $310k home and their offer was not the highest offer.

While it often would appear that the offer with the highest price is the accepted offer, that’s not always true. Sellers often consider other terms in addition to price:

Title Policy – In Plano Texas it is customary for the seller to pay for the title policy. On a $300k home, that policy costs the seller $1911. The buyer can make their offer look stronger by paying for the title policy. I recently sold my personal home and the offer I accepted was not the highest offer. I was really concerned about appraisal issues so I took a slightly lower offer that paid for the title policy (among other things) since those items added to my bottom line without raising the sale price of the home.

Possession Date – Typically the buyer takes possession at closing and funding. Many sellers are moving into new homes so being flexible with the closing date and allowing a seller lease-back can make a buyer’s offer stronger. I recently had a seller who was willing to move out of their home at closing and funding, stay in a short-term lease for 90 days, and place most of their furniture into storage. A smart cash buyer came in with an offer that included a 90 day lease-back. While it was not the highest offer, it was the accepted offer.

Residential Service Contracts and Homeowners Association Resale Certificates – These costs are typically paid for by the seller and can often add $1000 to the seller’s closing costs. Smart buyers are paying for their own residential service contracts and offering to pay for the resale certificates. This adds to the seller’s bottom line by reducing their closing costs.

Smart buyers can get their offers accepted in a tight market. It’s not always about the price!

Click here to search homes for sale in Plano Texas.

Tom and Gina Signatures

Tom and Gina Branch Selected as 2013 Five Star Real Estate Agents

5-star-professional-2013The Branch Tean - Tom & Gina Branch

We are pleased to announce that both Tom and Gina Branch have been selected as 2013 FIVE STAR Real Estate Agents for the Dallas Fort Worth area.

Texas Monthly partnered with FIVE STAR Professional to identify the real estate agents in the Dallas Fort Worth area who provide exceptional service and overall satisfaction as indicated by clients, peers and industry experts. The 2013 FIVE STAR Real Estate Agents are a select group of fewer than 7 percent of all real estate agents in the Dallas Fort Worth area.

FIVE STAR Real Estate Agent is a Service Mark of FIVE STAR Professional. Logo licensed from FIVE STAR Professional.

Prepare Your Home for Inclement Weather

Preparing your home for inclement weather.

Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers

Trillers, Fillers, and Spillers

I learn something new every day. This afternoon I was out meeting with Aaron Law with Marlin Landscape Systems.

We had met with Aaron several weeks ago about doing the landscape design for our new home in Frisco, Texas.

Today, we got a peek at his work. As we chatted, we mentioned we wanted to add some color to the short columns in front of the home. He talked about adding pots to the columns and adding annual plants. As we explored the idea, he stated, “you need a thriller, some fillers, and a spiller.”


Once again he stated, “You need a thriller, a filler, and some spiller”

The thriller is the tall plant in the center of the pot, the filler is the colorful plants that fill in around the thriller, and the spiller spills over the sides of the pot.

You have to love this business! We meet new people every day and learn something new every day!

Tom and Gina Signatures

Photo: Used with Permission

Single Level Townhomes in the Greater Dallas Area

Single Level Townhomes in the Greater Dallas AreaIt happens more and more these days—the phone rings or an email arrives with somebody looking for a single level townhome in the greater Dallas area.

Single level townhomes are relatively rare in the area. Townhome lots tend to be narrow with 25 to 28 feet being typical. The small lot size usually dictates that the builder has to go vertical in order to get a reasonably sized townhome to fit on the lot. Larger lots are possible but land prices and material costs (larger foundations and roofs) drive up the cost of single level townhomes.

Most of the available single level townhomes are older but a couple of new townhome builders do build single level townhomes when they can find the larger lots. The most recent run of single level townhomes was built by CB JENI Homes in The Settlement at Craig Ranch. Demand was so high that the builder completed and sold all 39 townhomes in about a year and a half.

With the baby boom generation reaching retirement, many are selling their larger homes and moving into smaller homes and townhomes. Townhomes are especially appealing because the owners associations often takes care of all exterior maintenance and lawn/landscape care.

Click here to see all single level townhomes for sale in the greater Dallas area.

Contact us at 214-227-6626 for more information.

Tom and Gina Signatures

Photo Copyright 2012 Imaged2Sell

CB JENI Homes to Build Viridian Townhomes in Arlington Texas

CB JENI Lifestyle HomesCB JENI Lifestyle Homes has announced that they will be building townhomes in Viridian.

These two-story townhomes will range from 1572 to 2249 square feet with prices starting at $195,990. There will be six different floorplans including the Ashland, Caterina, Marcello, Salerno, Tuscany, and the Verona.

Pre-sales have begun and the builder is offering a number of pre-sale incentives including up to $12k that can be used for upgrades and closing costs (buyers must use one of the recommended lenders) and 2 hours with a professional interior designer to help create and personalize these new homes.

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Located in Arlington Texas, Viridian’s tagline is “Exceptionally Placed in the Center of the Metroplex.” Residents enjoy easy access to the entire DFW Metroplex whether its uptown fine dining in North Dallas or a downtown evening in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Viridian is also loaded with community amenities including Poolside Escapes, Lake Viridian, the Club House, tennis courts, and more. The community boasts 600 acres of lush parks, 600 acres of serene lakes, 14 miles of trails, and three luxurious amenity centers.

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Click here to see all homes for sale in Viridian Arlington Texas.

Feel free to contact us at 214-227-6626 if you have any questions or need additional information.

Tom and Gina Signatures

New Home Rebate

Purchase a new home through us and we'll help you with your closing costs! We'll give you a credit of 1.5% of the price of the home at closing to use towards your closing costs.

Click here for our New Home Rebates page.