A STORY: Culebra Rd and Red Lobster

In late 1986, my Dad received his USMC Orders to transfer from Beaufort, South Carolina to San Antonio, TX. Our REALTOR® (at the time) drove us through new neighborhoods around the Ingram Mall area, since Dad’s new recruiting office was off of Ingram Rd.

Weaving through construction zones and trying to avoid pot holes, the REALTOR® kept our focus on the “growing community.” Dad asked when the construction was scheduled for completion; the REALTOR® chuckled and said,

“It’ll be done by the time you move into your new home in January (1987).  If it isn’t, I’ll treat your family to dinner at Red Lobster!”

Well, for those of you who know the area… there is STILL construction on Culebra Rd!  Here we are in 2011, and the orange barricades are as much of the community as La Popular Bakery. 🙂

Oh, as for “Red Lobster,” we didn’t hear from the REALTOR® after we moved in… BUT we found him years later…

In 1990, Dad retired from the Marine Corps and began a career in Real Estate.  In 1998, I became a REALTOR®.  In 2005, my brother Andy received his real estate license.  Guess who was our Real Estate Instructor? Haha!  That poor REALTOR®… there was no escaping us.

Without knowing, we each shared our “Red Lobster” story with the REALTOR®/Instructor (jokingly of course).  Finally, after hearing the story for the third time, he followed through with his promise and gave us a gift card to Red Lobster!  We got the family together (adding spouses and children)… we shared a good laugh and a basket of cheddar biscuits, compliments of our REALTOR® friend!

Lesson #1: The Aranda Family will never forget a promise.

Lesson #2:  I don’t think construction on Culebra will EVER end!  lol!

P.S.  The city proposes a construction completion in the Fall of 2011… however… I’m NOT making any promises.  😉


Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

NO Assembly Required

Your “baby” wants her first bicycle!  You go to the store, you inspect every 2-wheeler (with training wheels) and you compare prices.  Your little “Dora the Explorer” will be cruising the driveway in no time!

BUT WAIT… you’ve been standing in the same aisle for 30 minutes… you’re trying to decide between TWO great prospects.  One bike comes with a bell and streamers… but the kicker is, “Assembly Required.”  Ugh!  The other bike doesn’t come with the bell or streamers… it’s $30 more… and look, “NO Assembly Required.”  What do you do?

I know… “will favorite Uncle Sonny help me put this thing together so I can save $30?”  Hmm…. “Uncle Sonny hates asking for directions… is he really going to read the instructions?”  Chances are, you’ll pay the extra $30 to save on time and to insure safety.  It’s cheaper to buy the bell and streamers separately, anyway… right?

What does this have to do with Real Estate?  Well… I’m glad you asked…  Here’s the new topic for today… “Property Preparation” … to Fix or not to Fix…

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

Don’t Hire My Cousin Vinny!

Why You Should Work With a REALTOR® and not a Real Estate Agent…  (yes, there’s a difference)

Lisa: What the (heck) is going on here, Vinny? You (screwing) up this case or what?
Vinny Gambini: I explained it to you already, didn’t I? It’s procedure. I’m bound to (screw) up a little.
Lisa: A little? You’ve been thrown in jail twice.”

Source Unknown My Cousin Vinny 1992

“Most of us have seen that hilarious movie, “My Cousin Vinny.” Vinny passed the Bar Exam (after SEVERAL attempts), but never followed through with his practice and procedure requirements.  When it came down to it, his lack of practice, procedure and training cost him a night in jail!  Yes, it was his best night of sleep, but how did his Clients feel?

Hiring a plain ol’ Real Estate Agent (not a REALTOR®) is like hiring Vinny.  While Joe Pesci can turn his mishaps into a wild and crazy courtroom comedy, a Real Estate Agent may not have such a comedic outcome.

Remember, a REALTOR® is not a used car salesperson trying to rip you off.  A bona fide REALTOR® is the ONE person in your corner who will protect your best interest throughout the entire real estate transaction.  Find a REALTOR® you can trust and hire him/her to represent you during your home purchase or selling.

A REALTOR® is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® who is committed and required to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics. We are held accountable.

Still not sure what to do?

Here are five more reasons why it pays to work with a REALTOR®

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

Menu of Services

“Gourmet Service at BBQ Prices”  ~Agent Val~



Whether you are “just looking” or you’re ready to make a move… I have a “Menu of Services” just for you.  If you have special requests or unique requirements, the Menu is completely customizable.


If you’re thinking about selling, I have a few tools to help with your decision-making.  Receive a complimentary Property Valuation, an Estimated Net Sheet (showing what you can walk away with), and complimentary staging/preparation ideas.  If listing your property is the route you take, I’ll gladly expose your listing all over the globe!


Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

Texas Homestead Exemption

HOMESTEAD EXEMPTIONS offered in the state of Texas:

ALERT!  New filing requirements took effect September 1, 2011.  This page provides the new law and filing requirements.


what is a homestead exemptionWHAT’S A HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION?  It’s a way to receive a discount on your Property Taxes. In TEXAS you have the right to claim your primary residence as your “Homestead.” Doing so, will give you a nice tax break (up to $15,000)!

Here’s the official word on Homestead and other exemptions available —> Bexar County Appraisal District (BCAD)

HERE’S AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THE TAX BREAK WORKS… Let’s say your homestead (your primary residence) is valued at $100,000 and you qualify for a $15,000 HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION.  Instead of paying School Taxes on $100,000, you’ll pay school taxes as if your home was only worth $85,000.  NOT BAD, HUH?

As long as the property meets certain criteria AND you have lived in the home as of January 1st of your filing year, you should qualify easily!


  • A copy of your Driver License (or state-issued I.D.) —AND—
  • A copy of your Vehicle Registration Receipt
  • If you do not own a vehicle, simply sign an affidavit stating so and submit a copy of a utility bill.

The Driver License and Vehicle Registration Receipt (or Utility Bill) MUST show the property address you’re filing for.

HELPFUL NOTE:  A Homestead Exemption also protects your home from a “Forced Sale” by a creditor.  See “Homestead Exemption” for more information and exclusions.



Homestead Application can be found online at www.bcad.org (Bexar County Appraisal District).

For other Texas Counties, visit www.texascad.com

Once you’ve landed on the correct County Appraisal District Web site, follow these quick and easy steps…
[The following hyperlinks are for Bexar County]

  1. Click on “Forms
  2. Click on “Exemption Application Forms (ex. Homestead, Veterans, AG, Freeport etc.)”
  3. Select “Residential Homestead Exemption (General, Over 65 and Disabled)”

You will be directed to Homestead information, instructions and the Homestead Application.  Fill out the form using the tax records for your property [link leads to Bexar county property search].

You can search your property by name or address.  The “Geographic ID” number on your Tax Record is the “County Account Number” you will need for your Homestead Application.

V.I.P. SERVICE OFFERED BY Val J Aranda, REALTOR® – Metro Realty:
Clients who purchase a home through Val, will receive their Homestead Exemption Applications in the mail.

If you are NOT a client of Metro Realty, but would like additional assistance with your Homestead Exemption application, we welcome your questions.  We are here to guide you, too.

State Government answers to in-depth Homestead Exemption questions.


Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

Resolution 2011

A new year… a new beginning… a new home?

New Year Resolutions are promises to ourselves to do something different.  Whether it’s cutting the diet down from four slices of pie to two, buying only ONE “Coach” purse in a year or committing to keeping the office organized so it’s easier to find that one sticky note with that extremely important phone number!  But, judging from the phone calls and recent text messages, it appears that some Texas Tenants are making resolutions to STOP PAYING RENT and to invest in their first home.  WHEW!  Now THAT’S a New Year Resolution!

Here are a few “Fear Factors” when considering a home purchase…

  • Do I qualify?
  • Will I find the right home?
  • When is the right time to buy?
  • How do I make an offer?
  • What if I change my mind AFTER I make my offer?
  • Am I buying a “Money Pit?”
  • Am I offering too much for the home of my dreams?
  • What if I don’t have thousands of dollars for closing?

First, welcome to Val-A-Homes and Metro Realty! We are here to help.  My name is Val Aranda, REALTOR® and I’m here to answer your questions and address your fears!

NEXT… Let’s start with “Do I qualify?

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.


To help spread the Holiday cheer, I held a Photo Contest on Facebook to showcase family’s Christmas Lights and decorations!  We had THREE gorgeous entries and ONE lucky winner.

Battista Family Home | 2010

WINNER OF THE $50 VISA GIFT CARD… Just in time for Christmas!  Congratulations.

The Battista family graced us with a festive light display.  Santa is patiently waiting on the roof, while his reindeer have a brief conversation with Frosty in Candy Cane Land!

The photo contest was fun to watch as the deadline grew closer.  Votes were coming in from loyal friends of the contestants!  It was a twinkling competition… the Battista home won by a doorknob!

Wiggins Family Home | 2010

In a VERY close second, this home gained lots of popularity during the competition!  The Wiggins family worked diligently getting this home ready for Santa’s arrival.  It was a great pleasure to have this home featured in our contest.  The fine details and elegant touches did not go unnoticed!

Quiroga-Maldonado Family Home | 2010

With a company name like, “Own a Piece of Texas,” I have to say I was extremely pleased to receive this entry!  This fine country home is obviously waiting for Cowboy Kringle!  I sure hope Mr. Kringle’s spurs don’t get caught in the tinsel!  (Oh, by the way… if you love this home… IT’S FOR SALE!  This fantastic Floresville home can be yours at a price WAY BELOW market value!)


Although we only had ONE grand prize winner, I am happy to announce that ALL THREE ENTRIES have been featured on our web site!  Congratulations, everyone!

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

Aranda Family Vacation

In the early 1970’s (not THAT long ago), my parents packed the car and loaded my brother and I for a family road trip.  We paved the roads from Texas to New Mexico to Arizona and back.  We visited the Hoover Dam, we took photos with Fred Flinstone (at the Bedrock campground), we braved the Grand Canyon and made our way to Circus Circus in Las Vegas.

Here we are, almost 40 years later… I am the oldest of four (and yes, the shortest)  😉

In this photo, I’m standing with my parents and two of my three “baby” brothers.

It was our turn to load up our vehicles for a Family Road Trip.  It was special to see how our family has grown over the years.  A sister-in-law, three nieces, two nephews (who couldn’t join us), and significant others.  Not everyone could make this journey, but they were with us in spirit!

Our final destination… MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) in San Diego, California to visit my baby brother #3.  Brother #3, Diamond Justin, was graduating from Marine Corps Boot Camp… this was a trip we would NOT miss!

The road trip from Texas to California wasn’t really planned out.  The only thing “planned” was our arrival in San Diego.  We wanted to check-in by Wednesday and prepare for graduation on Friday.  No plans… no itinerary.  All we had was a GPS!

We left on a Sunday night and on our way to California, we decided to detour through the Grand Canyon.  In route to the Canyon, I caught a quick glimpse of Fred Flinstone waving at me!  I kicked my heels through the floor board and stopped in my tracks… I made a U-turn (probably illegally) and drove straight into the campground.  WOW!  What a flashback!

I stood still… I was in awe… I pictured myself holding my kid brother’s hand.  I couldn’t keep my jaw off the ground.  My parents had taken us to this very spot over 30 years ago.  They photographed us with Fred, Dino and the gang.  We still have those photos somewhere… we’ll have to compare pictures!

We hit the road again and made our way to the Grand Canyon State Park.  We bunked for the night and waited anxiously for the crack of dawn!  While the sun peeked over the walls of the canyon, we flashed our cameras like paparazzi photographing every moment!

The Canyon was a magnificent sight!  I realize it’s so cliche to ask “with something so large, how does God remember me?”  But it’s exactly what I was thinking!  There is so much beyond our scope of understanding.  There is so much to be thankful for.

Agent ValI am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for my health.  I am thankful for the world around me.

After our chilly 28 degree morning at the Canyon, we hit the road again.  Next stop… San Diego?  NOPE… we broke away from the map, again!  Dad and I (with just hand gestures and facial expressions), signaled for another detour.  Next stop… LAS VEGAS!

“SURPRISE!  We’re in Vegas!”  We checked into the Excalibur Hotel & Casino.  I walked the Casino floors with amazement.  I was mesmerized with the sounds of slots and the smell of money… it was spectacular… it was overwhelming!  Of course the “smell of money” was my dollar getting swallowed by the machines!  🙂

All-in-all, this trip was just what I needed.  I spend so many days working and concentrating on other families (clients) that I tend to unplug from my own.  During this trip, I fell in love with my family all over again… I reconnected.  I didn’t realize how unplugged I was until I plugged myself back in.  Thank goodness for LONG extension cords!  😀

My greatest memory during this road trip is how we ended up on the same route we drove back in the 70’s.  We re-visited the Hoover Dam, we high-fived Fred Flinstone, we stood on the Grand Canyon and we walked the streets of Las Vegas!  This venture was “accidental,” but not.  It was unintentional, but perfect!  I don’t think we could have planned it any better.


We arrived in San Diego just in time for “Family Day” with our new Marine!  I’d like to introduce to you… PVT. D. J. Aranda, USMC.

My dearest brother Diamond, the world awaits you.  You have such a journey ahead of you.  Thank you for your sacrifice… we are so proud of you!  Semper Fi!  ~Your Sis~

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.


The end of the year is near.  Many of us will be making new resolutions for 2011.  This next year, I’m going to focus on home maintenance!  My little “to-do” list is getting a little too long.  Power-washing, paint touch-up, new bedroom set and maybe a new refrigerator!  I love my home.

Around this time of year, I also receive several inquiries about home buying.  It seems that a lot of single folks, young couples and growing families make HUGE resolutions for themselves… they set their fears aside and go for the plunge… they make their decision to STOP RENTING!     Everyone knows renting is pretty easy… it’s safe… and it comes with only a 6-12 month commitment.  Not much maintenance, not much “ownership” … trust me, I understand COMPLETELY!

Home ownership, on the other hand… there’s nothing else like it!  Continue reading “RENT-VS-BUYING”

Giving Thanks

The Thanksgiving Holiday seems to refresh my spirit with “thanks,” with “love,” with “forgiveness” and much more.  Although I try to renew my spirit throughout the year, there’s something spectacular in the air this time of year.  I’m sure the early Christmas music has something to do with it!

This festive holiday season had an unusual start, though… a sad start.  I read a post from my Aunt on Facebook… she was going to head home from the hospital in “just a few days.”  Recovering from a foot injury, no one was prepared for the phone call just hours later announcing that she had passed away.  My darling Aunt Nina, who was only 51, had a cardiac arrest and died with no one by her side.  Her sons (my cousins) live out of town and her beloved husband had been waiting for her at the pearly white gates.

The Ancira boys (my three fairly young cousins) rushed into town with their families.  We all shared tears, tight hugs, stories and laughter.  We brought them into our home and catered to their every need.  These fine young men have always had a special place in my heart… and without thinking twice, we made sure to tell them they have a a special place in our lives!

This Thanksgiving Season, I’m thankful to have been given the opportunity to give back.  I’m thankful God provided us with just enough to give to those who walked through our door.  I’m thankful for my family and for my friends.


——— Val J Aranda (ever so grateful) —————

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

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