Blog Archives

Six years, and Shono’s Japanese Grill still pleases

Grilled chicken and shrimp is one of several combinations popular with diners at Shonos Japanese Grill in Riverchase.

Grilled chicken and shrimp is one of several combinations popular with diners at Shonos Japanese Grill in Riverchase.

Any restaurant that has us coming back regularly for six years has to be doing something right.

The simple fact is that Shonos Japanese Grill—on Hwy 31 just north of the Cahaba River in the same shopping center as Hobby Lobby—has never disappointed.

Run by Eddie and Flora Cui, Shonos has gained a loyal following over the years, and it’s little wonder why.

Whether it’s the grilled chicken, shrimp or “Eddie’s special” beef entree, Eddie and Flora pride themselves on making sure that any choice you make is fresh and flavorful.

Shonos does a strong business during lunch.  One reason is because time-sensitive visitors who work in the Hoover area know they can get in and out without having to worry about a slow kitchen; Eddie cooks everything himself.

Eddie and Flora Cui have simple goals for Shonos:  Good food that's reasonably priced.

Eddie and Flora Cui have simple goals for Shonos: Healthy, good tasting food that’s reasonably priced.

Entrees are made to order, but Shonos knows how to deliver with only a few minutes waiting.

The fancy theatrics so popular at many Japanese steakhouses don’t happen here, so if you’re looking for someone to flip a shrimp in your mouth, you’ll probably be disappointed.

What you can count on is consistently good food at prices that won’t make you feel as if you’ve made a big financial sacrifice.

Eddie and Flora take pride in food that’s healthy, too.  They recently started offering brown rice (in addition to steamed and fried), and their food contains no MSG.

Service is always friendly and efficient; Flora sees to that.

Shonos does a lot of to-go business.  Orders for pick-up can be placed by calling 205-988-3319.

You can check out the Shonos website here…

Shonos is open Monday through Saturday, for lunch and dinner.

Go-2-Grill: Mediterranean Food For Birmingham

Chicken Shawerma from Go-2-Grill in Hoover, Alabama

Chicken Shawerma, complete with salad, rice, hummus, baba ghanoush and pita bread, is one of Go-2-Grill’s signature servings, available as a dinner plate or lunch serving.

One of the great things about living in the Birmingham area is the fact that we are blessed with many good restaurants.

For just about any type of cuisine you could want, there is probably at least one good place, if not two or three. For Colleen and me, Mediterranean food is a favorite.

The term Mediterranean, of course, carries a rather general geographic reference, and can include food from lots of cultures, including Greece, Lebanon and Italy, to name just a few.

We were saddened when, a year ago this month, a locally run Persian restaurant in Hoover that had been a favorite of ours shut its doors, limiting our choices.

Mike Alassi, Owner, Go-2-Grill, Hoover, Alabama

Owner Mike Alassi is usually behind the register, and is always happy to explain the ingredients in Go-2-Grill’s varied offerings.

But there are still options to sample cuisine from cultures afar, and the Go-2-Grill in Hoover may pleasantly surprise you.

Opened by owner Mike Alassi in January of 2012, Go-2-Grill used to be known by a different name:  The In-N-Out Grill.

Though Alassi changed the name a couple of months ago, everything else—including the menu—remains the same.

Baba ghanoush, served by Go-2-Grill, Hoover, Alabama

Go-2-Grill is one of the few places in Birmingham where you can enjoy Baba ghanoush, a dish usually made with eggplant, tomatoes and other vegetables and that’s popular as an appetizer throughout much of the Middle East.

Located in the WalMart shopping center at 2978 Hwy 150 in Hoover, Go-2-Grill is admittedly a bit short on atmosphere. With fluorescent lighting, paper plates and utensils, there’s little to convey a Mediterranean setting, but we’re not counting off for that.

What does impress is the food.

When Colleen and I visit, we typically choose from the Greek offerings.  These include grilled chicken kabobs, lamb kabobs, gyros, tahini or Falafel (a traditional Arab concoction of ground chickpeas and fava beans).

But Go-2-Grill also appeals to folks looking for standard American fare.  In fact, though we’ve not tried them, we’ve heard comments that the burgers are outstanding, while others rave about their wings and baked potatoes (giant size and loaded).

We have always found the service to be friendly.  You’re likely to find Alassi himself at the register much of the time, and we appreciate his always checking with us to make sure the food is good.

If the choices overwhelm you, Go-2-Grill has lots of pictures of their entrees on the walls to help you decide.

Desserts include baklava, a rich and sweet pastry made in layers with phyllo dough, nuts and honey.

You can order to go by calling 205-444-2014.

You can find Go-to-Grill on Facebook, too.

Here’s where to find the place:

Hoover Home Has Chef’s Dream Kitchen

This stunning 3BR home in Lake Cyrus---not far from downtown Birmingham---sparkles, and is move-in ready.

This stunning 3BR home in Lake Cyrus—not far from downtown Birmingham—sparkles, and is move-in ready. The Seller is offering a GE high efficiency washer and dryer, along with 46″ Sony 3D smart TV, high end receiver and surround system.

The owner is an executive Chef. Care to guess what his home’s Kitchen is like?

If you’re thinking fabulous gourmet Kitchen with all the high end features, you’ve nailed it.

We can’t help but think this fabulous 3BR home in Hoover’s Lake Cyrus (a popular Birmingham, Alabama, neighborhood) is going to sell quickly.

Loaded with upgrades and featuring one level living (plus a large upstairs Bonus Room complete with high definition TV and surround system), this 4-sides-brick home enjoys a great cul-de-sac location in a popular swim and tennis community with sought after Hoover schools.

Check out the video we’ve just produced—and let us know if you’re interested, or if you know someone who might be:

Just Listed: Chef’s Dream Home

Here’s quick info on a spectacular 3BR home Colleen and I have just placed on the market in Hoover’s Lake Cyrus.  The owners wanted a top-of-the-line Kitchen, and that’s exactly what they created:

You can click this link for more information about the home on the Greater Alabama MLS…

More details coming later.

Let us know if you’re interested.

Mediterranean Dining at In-N-Out

If you enjoy Mediterranean dining, Hoover’s In-N-Out Grill—in the WalMart shopping center on Hwy 150—needs to be high on your list to visit.

I wouldn’t call the atmosphere elegant, but the food makes up for it.  We’ve visited several times and have never been disappointed.

Colleen and I stopped there for dinner Saturday evening.  She had the Chicken Kabobs, and I had the Chicken Kawerma, one of their signature dishes.  Our dinners, complete with fresh salads and an order of their wonderful Baba Ghanouj appetizer with Pita bread, set us back less than $20.

We left full, happy and satisfied.

Falafeel, lamb, and grape leaves are among In-N-Out Grill’s Mediterranean offerings, but others rave about their hamburgers.

Service has always been friendly and efficient.  Mike, the owner, seems genuinely interested in making sure that your dining experience is a good one.

You can see their menu on their website.  For orders to go, call 205-444-2014.

In-N-Out Grill is open seven days a week:  Sundays through Thursdays from 10am ’til 9pm, and Fridays and Saturdays, 10am ’til 10pm.

David

Storyteller Dolores Hydock delights Birmingham

I remember thinking years ago, “you’ve got to be kidding.”

After all, what could be more boring than to have to sit and listen to someone tell a story for an hour?

Renowned storyteller Dolores Hydock has taught me a thing or two about being too judgmental in advance.

No matter what subject she chooses, Hydock’s tales are engaging, informative and loads of fun.

Dolores Hydock

Dolores Hydock talks about what people will do for money while appearing at Peham's Public Library on 4/22/12.

Dolores makes it impossible for you not to be entertained.

Colleen and I enjoyed seeing Dolores perform over the weekend at the Pelham Public Library when she told some great stories about–of all things–money.

A featured storyteller at the National Storytelling Festival, Dolores has won numerous awards for her work.  If you go to see her, you’ll understand why.

We’re lucky that Dolores calls Birmingham home; she frequently makes appearances throughout the area.  If you’d like to catch one of her shows, check out her website by clicking here.

Dolores has several more appearances scheduled in the coming months, including in Crestline, Homewood and Hoover.

Just one warning if you wind up going to see Dolores:  You’ll get hooked, and will want to go back for more.

David

First Steps All Home Buyers Must Take

Walking on to a new car lot can be fun.  You get to see all the latest technology and styling, and imagine yourself behind the wheel.

And then, after glancing at the sticker, reality sets in.

Looking was fun, but the sticker reminds that—before you can actually own that new car—you’re going to have to play the “show me the money” game.

Having your funding secured for the purchase of a new home is just as important.  After all, if you don’t have the money needed to make buying a home a reality, what’s the point of looking?

Having enough money on hand to pay cash for a home is great, but let’s face it … not everyone can do this.

The alternative, then, is to get a loan.

Unfortunately, a number of people looking to buy a home in the Birmingham area wind up starting the loan process the wrong way, which goes like this:

  • Buyer decides to buy a home
  • Buyer starts the home search, driving neighborhoods, looking at homes
  • Buyer finds the perfect home (“I want it!”)
  • Buyer starts envisioning the new home as theirs (“Living here will be great!”)
  • Deciding to move ahead with purchase, Buyer asks Lender for a loan
  • Lender looks over Buyer’s information and says, “sorry, can’t help”
  • Entire process comes to screeching halt

The scenario above is a classic invitation to major Buyer disappointment.

It doesn’t have to happen this way.

Colleen and I feel strongly that the first–and most important–steps in the home buying process are to contact us as your Agents and then speak with a Lender.

By finding out how much money you can borrow before you start looking, your search will be easier, as well as more targeted to properties that fit within your price range.  If there are parts of your financial background that need work, a Lender can be a good resource for charting a course for you to follow so you can be approved.

If you’re thinking of buying a home, a good Lender will answer all of your questions and make you feel comfortable with the entire process of obtaining financing.  Since buying a home is the biggest purchase many people make, if you don’t have this feeling of comfort, our advice is simple:  Find another Lender.

Buyers lacking some time of financial qualification may be in for a surprise, given a reality we see all the time in the Shelby Co. and Birmingham real estate market:

Sellers want some assurance that a prospective
Buyer can actually obtain needed funding.
“Show me the money.”

If you try submitting an Offer without including either a loan pre-qualification or verification of funds (if paying cash), many Sellers simply won’t deal with you.

We know of several good Lenders in the Birmingham area with a thorough knowledge of the mortgage profession, different loans, costs and how they work.  These Lenders have a strong commitment to providing good service.

Fortunately, most of our Clients purchased their home the right way, having contacted us first and then following our advice on consulting with Lenders before we started helping them with their search.

As a result, they are now happy homeowners.

David

Birmingham Home Sales Thoughts for 2012

As Fisbo, our highly spoiled six pound poodle, and I took our early morning walk a few days ago, I used the time to contemplate how our real estate business has evolved during 2011 and thought about what’s ahead as we kick off 2012.

Our walk was made rather intriguing because the neighborhood was shrouded in fog, limiting visibility sometimes to only a few hundred feet.

You can’t see very far ahead, and as you keep moving, what’s behind you grows increasingly vague.

Predicting home sale trends in Birmingham and Shelby County can be a little like walking into the fog:  You can see a certain distance in front of you, but after that, knowing what’s ahead gets tricky.

That’s not to say we’re in a fog about what will happen, market-wise, during 2012.  In fact, Colleen and I are optimistic that a lot of people will be buying and selling homes during ’12.

We think it’s going to be a busy and successful year.

Our optimism about ’12 is due in part to 2011, a year that was not only productive for us, but outperformed previous years.

For a lot of people in the Birmingham area, 2011 was a very difficult year, with the April 27th tornado affecting so many thousands of people and Jefferson County declaring the largest municipal bankruptcy in history.

I believe the new year will be one of healing and stories of success.

So, what does this mean for you if you’re thinking of buying or selling a home?  Okay, watch out, I’m getting out the crystal ball!

If  You’re Buying:

2012 will be a year of excellent opportunity.
You might have to spend a little more time picking and choosing than during previous years, because inventory in some areas has dropped.  This doesn’t mean the good deals are gone.  It just means you’ll have to do a little more work to find them.  An Agent with a good knowledge of the market as well as sharp negotiating skills will be one of your most valuable assets during this time.

Pricing will continue to be very much in your favor, but if you’re in search of a “steal,” you stand a greater chance of a Seller saying, “no deal.”  If inventory continues to drop, Sellers have less competition, and therefore less reason for agreeing to a “fire sale” Offer.
The Buyer who understands and accepts this still stands to get a very good deal.

With no sharp rise in mortgage interest rates on the horizon, ’12 is shaping up to be another year of tremendously low borrowing costs.

If You’re Selling:

You will be in a better position to get your home sold than in some previous years.   Home values will continue to be a big challenge, but the news isn’t all bad.  With the number of homes for sale dropping in some areas, what has been very much a Buyer’s Market shows signs of changing.  That’s a good thing, but the change is going to be gradual.

During ’11, we saw many homes sell for the same price they sold for ten years earlier.   This was great for the Buyer, but not for the Seller.  Seeing both Buyer and Seller bring checks to the closing table was not uncommon last year.

If you plan to sell during ’12, understanding one “fact of life” about the Birmingham and Shelby Co. real estate market will help:  The maximum a Buyer thinks your home is worth may wind up being significantly less than you had anticipated.

We do feel optimistic that the slide in values is beginning to ease.  This easing, however, is likely to be so slow and so slight that many people selling in 2012 may not feel it’s very noticeable.  It’s important to remember, though, that the slide in home values didn’t happen in a few weeks or months, but rather, took years.   Any correction won’t happen fast, either.

And then there’s the matter of your home’s condition.  Do you want your home to appeal to a majority of possible Buyers or only a few?  In the Birmingham and Shelby Co. area, the overwhelming majority of Buyers we work with want homes that are immaculate, need nothing done, and are “move-in” ready.  We do get calls from Buyers looking for places to fix up, but they expect to pay “bottom dollar” for the work they know they’ll have to do.

A 2011 High Point:

Of all the homes Colleen and I sold during 2011, one property we were particularly excited to sell was a home in Alabaster.

Price wise, this home was nowhere near our biggest sale.  But it’s not about the money.

The Seller had tried to sell five times before, starting three years ago, and not had success.
This was a sizable home in extremely nice, clean condition.  But the sales price had never been in alignment with what was taking place in the Shelby Co. market, and we didn’t feel that the property had been marketed correctly.

Lowering the price was not easy for the Seller to do.  But we worked hard in marketing the property, and our Seller worked hard, too, cooperating closely with us as we moved toward our common goal.

That team work finally paid off with a successful closing.

It pays to be a student of the market.  Many of the sales Colleen and I helped with here in the Birmingham area offer lessons to the wise if you’re thinking of selling during ’12.

A 2011 Low Point:

We had many successful sales last year.  But one home we listed in No. Shelby Co. was not destined to be one of them.  It stayed on market for five months and never received an Offer.  The home was not priced correctly, drew very little interest, and had significant structural issues cited by many of the few Buyers who actually looked inside.

During one phone call, the Seller (who had moved out but was still making monthly payments) says, “I really need to sell this house.”  Only seconds later—during the same conversation, as we discuss pricing—he says, “I’m not giving my house away.”

The Seller’s viewpoint could be summed up in five words:  Take it or leave it.

Buyers gave their answer.

The experiences from both our High Point and Low Point provide clear support for a prediction we’ll make for the year, though it’s not the boldest call I could make:  2012 will show that price and condition have never been more important in getting your home sold.

Changes To The Dictionary:

As we kick off ’12, I’m also deciding that it’s time to change the definition of some of the terms real estate Agents use (hmmm …  am I allowed to do that?).

Agents have long referred to motivated and unmotivated Sellers.  These categories don’t exist any longer.  A Seller who is determined to do what it takes to get their home sold is, by definition, motivated.  They will adjust their price as needed and will make sure their home is immaculate (as so many folks we worked with did last year).  These are the people who, in all likelihood, will get to sit at a closing table.

The unmotivated Seller is typically unwilling to price attractively enough to receive an Offer.  They also choose not to deal with with the moldy smell in the basement or the rotted wood that needs to be replaced.  This person is not a Seller.  They are a home owner.  If they do happen to receive an Offer, it is likely to be for an extremely low price.

This year will be another time of great opportunity in real estate.  If you’re giving thought to buying or selling a home, you no doubt have questions.  Whether you’re a veteran or just starting out, Colleen and I hope you will feel welcome to contact us for assistance.

Feel free to call us at 205.356.5412 or 205.677.8686.  Or e-mail us at:  sales@theblackteam.com

And we’re on Facebook, if you’d like to join us.

As for walking through the fog, I look forward to it.  What might be ahead may not always be known, but if you’re determined to keep moving, the scene gets clearer as you forge onward.

Our optimism and positive thinking have us excited … we know there are lots of opportunities ahead.

We look forward to being part of your 2012 success story…

David

Agents Go to Open Houses, Too

Home buyers aren’t the only people invited to Open Houses.  Real estate Agents are, too.

That may seem kind of odd at first, but it’s a great way for Agents working with Buyers to be familiar with homes for sale in different communities.

We thought you might enjoy tagging along as we take in an Agent Open House in Hoover, sponsored by Newscastle Homes, Inc.

We hauled the video camera along so you can get an idea of what you can get for your money in some areas around Birmingham.  In Lake Cyrus, you can buy a new home with plenty of features and pay less than $200,000.

See what you think:

If you’re thinking of moving to the Birmingham area, there are lots of great deals on homes.  Give us a call at 205-356-5412 and we’ll be glad to help.

David

Saturday Open House in Hoover/Lake Cyrus

If you’re out and around in the Hoover area this Saturday 10/22, stop by 5729 Park Side Pass in Lake Cyrus for our Open House.

Yep, that’s an Open House on a Saturday…

This is a beautiful home on a cul-de-sac street in one of the Birmingham area’s most popular swim and tennis communities (with award-winning Hoover schools).

The huge open Kitchen is a Chef’s dream, and features a hardwood floor, granite counters, tile back splash, under mount sink, island and more. The Master Suite is on the main level, and there are two more bedrooms upstairs plus a huge Bonus Room that could be a 4th bedroom.

With its open floor plan and high ceiling in the Great Room, this will be an ideal home for entertaining. A covered patio looks out to a very pretty (and large) level, fenced yard.

See the video below…

The Seller has cut the price ($239,400) and is looking for Offers!

See you Saturday 10/22, from 2pm ’til 4pm..

Click here for a Google map link to find the home…

Questions? Call us @ 205.356.5412.

David