March Newsletter | And Then, There Was COVID

A Retreat in El Salvador

people doing yoga

In February, Chris and I took a trip to El Salvador with our friends Andrea and Kelly. Andrea is a fitness coach in Austin, and she was leading the retreat along with a yoga instructor from El Salvador.

retreat in el salvadorThis is usually the type of thing I would propose, but this time, it was Chris' idea. When he said, "Do you want to go do a fitness, yoga and surfing retreat in El Salvador?" My first thought was, "Who are you and what have you done with my husband?"

So in late February, we boarded a plane to El Salvador with Kelly and Andrea, and no idea what to expect.

The house where we stayed was about 45 minutes from the airport in San Salvador. It was in the beach town of El Tunco, which is apparently the most touristy destination in El Salvador. Let me tell you, that's not saying much. El Tunco is more like a second home community to San Salvador than it is a major tourist destination. That being said, the surf attracts surfers from around the world and there is a small but significant community of ex-pats living there. But it lacked that element of easy access that really touristy places like Playa del Carmen tend to have.

The food options were limited, so we were very happy to have delicious meals provided by the owners of the house where we stayed, one of whom happens to be a professional chef. We did, however, indulge in the (official? unofficial?) national junk food of El Salvador, the pupusa, on a daily basis. A pupusa is kind of like a mix between a quesadilla, a tamale, and a Domino's pizza. As far as I can discern, it's extra-lardy masa flour with mild white cheese inside, and an extra filling of your choice, served with a side of mild tomato sauce and sauerkraut. My favorite happened to be garlic, hence the pizza comparison. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here you go. 

Aside from a shameless overindulgence in pupusas, which cost about $1 each from the most expensive places, we had an exceedingly healthy vacation. Most days included both yoga and a bodyweight workout. We took a long hike one day which was sold to us as "a nice hike with a waterfall at the end" which was actually a near-death experience. (Side note: lots of things in El Salvador are more exhilarating than usual. Including driving a motorcycle, ziplining and being instructed to use your hand and a leather glove as the brake system, swimming in an ocean with deceptively strong waves and a serious rip tide, and, as mentioned above, scaling the side of a mountain using a power line for balance.)


Overall, it was a great trip and I would definitely go back. It was certainly the most active and healthy vacation I've ever taken. We ate very well, drank very little, worked out every day, and slept phenomenally. I like a margarita as much as the next girl so I wouldn't choose this for every trip, but I definitely enjoyed it enough that I'd do it again.

Shout out to everyone who made it possible.

Andrea Pallela:
Devine AIReal Yoga Retreat:
One Wave Surf House:
Charlie Miranda, photographer:

And Then, There Was COVID

Obviously none of us knew exactly what was coming down the pike with this one, but traveling through El Salvador was a warning for us. In late February, they were already taking temperatures before you were allowed to go through customs to enter the country. I thought that was eerie at the time, and I didn't imagine how fast things would escalate.

And here we are, under shelter in place rules.

What I'm currently focused on are three things:

1. How do I use this time well?

Currently, that includes learning to make sourdough, cooking a lot, working out, watercoloring, business planning, and looking for opportunities to help other small business owners stay positive and prepare for the end of quarantine.

2. How do I advise my clients?

Our team currently has several buyers under contract, and several listings waiting to list until the time is right. I'm watching the market pretty much daily these days, and trying to gauge what effect COVID and quarantine are having and will have on Austin real estate. The future is uncertain and I won't pretend to know what will happen next. So far, Austin real estate is still moving, much more than I'd expect given the restrictions. I'm hopeful that that's a positive sign for our marketplace, that we'll rebound quickly, but I can't say for sure. All I can do is watch the numbers, talk to other professionals I trust, and advise my clients on how to make the next right decision. If I can help give context to some of the data for any of you, please drop me a note. If you're interested in the most recent economic analysis I have been relying on specific to Austin real estate, click here

3. How do we pivot our business for the next few weeks?

It's clear to me that the marketplace and our clients need something more from us today than what's typically expected of real estate agents. We can't meet clients in person. Some people are hesitant to make real estate decisions. Some people are facing financial insecurity. And daily life is changing so fast that people are much more worried about things like how to keep their children busy while they work from home, whether they'll be able to buy basic necessities, and how to stay healthy than they are about their next real estate move.

Don't get me wrong, that's not everyone. Real estate is still trading, and there are good opportunities out there. So we're staying open for usual business. But we understand that the next real estate transaction is just not top of mind for everyone. What does that mean for our business? We're not sure yet. What I do know is I'm grateful for a strong and tight-knit team. I'm grateful that they're willing to pivot with me. And I'm grateful that they each care deeply about helping people, and not just our next closing.

Even before COVID I had planned to tale this week as a "Think Week" to do some business planning, budgeting, and deep focused thinking. I guess I got that, and more. So a big part of my work next week will be to figure out "What do people really need from us right now, and how can we deliver it?"

We hope you and your families are holding up okay. This is a unique world event where we're all in this together, regardless of nationality, race, socio-economic status, political affiliation or any of the other labels that sadly tend to divide us. I'm praying for peace, joy and understanding for me, and health and happiness for you and yours. If there's anything we can do to help, just drop me an email.

I'm also rather active on Facebook at the moment, posting COVID related inspiration to keep myself entertained. Topics like creativity, gratitude, how to work from home productively and eating well during the quarantine. If you'd like to stay entertained together, follow me there.

Homestead Reminder

I know this may seem like small potatoes since we're all struggling with deadly contagion, house arrest, and toilet paper shortages, but a friendly reminder to file your homestead exemption if you haven't already!

Homestead exemptions can be applied to a homeowner's residential home to remove part of your home's value from taxation, which will lower your taxes. 

In Texas, property owners are eligible for the homestead exemption if: 

  • You occupy your current residence as of January 1st of the current tax year
  • The property must be a primary residence 
  • Only able to declare one homestead if you have multiple properties 
  • Must be filed before deadline every year: April 30th 

Click here to learn more about Homesteads:

Click here to download the Travis County application (online or by mail):

Click here to read our resource on property taxes:

Recent Closings

Rick and Amy are long-time clients of ours, and we had the pleasure of helping them sell their home in Leander in a competitive multiple offer situation. Our timing could not have been better, as we closed and funded just a few days before COVID got real. It just goes to show that when it comes to real estate, you really never know what might happen next to derail your transaction. Luckily, we closed just days before the world shut down. Rick and Amy, congrats to you for prepping your home expertly, pricing it competitively, and closing with a great offer. It was a pleasure, and we appreciate you guys for your friendship and support as wonderful clients.

Coming Soon Listings

11008 Twisted Elm

       beautilful austin home interior

  • 4 Bed/2.5 Bath
  • 2927 sqft

We have a listing coming soon in North West Austin near River Place. This home sits on a large lot for the neighborhood, which backs to green space for extra privacy and a great view. It is asking under $600,000 and will be hitting the MLS... when we determine it's the right time. Given the current shelter in place orders and strong recommendation of ABOR that agents do not do any showings of occupied property, we're planning to wait until closer to the end of shelter in place to list officially online. In the meantime, we have professional photos in and a video I shot a few days ago.

If you are interested in more information before we go officially live online, drop me an email and I'm happy to share more. If there is anything at all that we can help you within the next coming weeks, let us know!

Posted by Isabel Affinito on
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