Archive for the ‘Economic Development’ Category

Take The Stress Out Of Buying A Home

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Which emotion surges higher when buying a home … excitement or anxiety? You will probably experience both during the homebuying process. Imagining the possibilities of your new house can bring great joy, while the financial implications of making such a purchase can create worries. Take these steps to reduce the stress, though, and you will be able to focus on the enjoyable aspects of buying a new home.
Get ready
Long before you start walking through properties, you can lay the groundwork for a good homebuying experience. The sooner you start saving for a downpayment the better. Having some money to put toward the purchase gives you more flexibility when it comes time to get a loan.

You’ll want to check your credit report, too, to see if there are any mistakes or problems you can clear up prior to applying for a mortgage. You can request one free credit report annually from each of the three credit-reporting companies by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Speaking of mortgages, learning about various types of loans and assistance programs will give you the knowledge to find the right loan for you – one that you will be able to afford for the life of the loan. You can research whether you qualify for any assistance programs at TxHomePrograms.org.

Finally, you’ll put yourself in a strong position by getting pre-approved – not just pre-qualified – for a mortgage. And don’t necessarily jump at a high loan amount just because someone says they will lend you that much. Take a hard look at your own finances and future plans to make sure you are living within your means.

What do you want?
Do you see yourself in a ranch-style home in the suburbs? A downtown loft apartment? A neighborhood where you can walk your kids to school?

Take the time to figure out what features are most important to you. You will also find it helpful to decide if there are some items you desire but might be willing to look past if everything else falls into place. Once you can determine the must-haves, you can quickly make decisions about which properties to view.

Get someone on your side
Buying real estate is much more involved than most other transactions – even high-dollar purchases like automobiles and stocks. It can be a tremendous help to have a professional looking out for your best interests along the way.

I’m sure it won’t shock you that I recommend hiring a Texas Realtor®. Your Realtor® can explain the entire process, help you negotiate, keep the transaction on track, and make sure you have the information you need to make good decisions.

Understand what goes into an offer
There’s much more to a good offer than deciding what price you’re willing to pay. Before you start searching for homes, talk to your Texas Realtor® about earnest money, option periods and fees, inspections, contingencies, closing time frames, and other factors that may make your offer more attractive to the seller while protecting your interests.

Don’t let up after your offer is accepted
Not every transaction successfully progresses from an accepted offer to a closed deal. However, you give yourself the best chance of getting the keys to your new home if you and your Realtor® stay on top of the deadlines and tasks to move the process forward.

If you have questions during this period, ask as soon as possible. You want answers long before you get to the closing table.

Buying a home should be an exciting time in your life. If you plan well and work with people who are looking out for your best interests, you can minimize the pressures involved and enjoy the process of purchasing a new place to call your own.

For more information, I invite you to visit TexasRealEstate.com.

Easy, Inexpensive Ways to Make Buyers Think Your House is Bigger

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

You can’t change when or where your house was built. And unless you want to spend a lot of money that you’ll never recoup in a sale, now’s not the time to knock down walls or build an addition. But there are ways to make your rooms look bigger, and I recommend that you try some before you put your house on the market.

You don’t have to be a professional home stager to accomplish this trick, and you don’t need a lot of money. There are plenty of decorating tricks that can have buyers feeling like your living room is spacious, not small.

Get rid of clutter
This step is the most basic but can be hard for some sellers. Removing clutter doesn’t mean putting your books and magazines in neat piles—it means getting rid of the books and magazines. Take all your knick knacks and put them in storage. You want tables and shelves with space on them, not clogged with photos and curios. Lose any area rugs and pare down your furniture, too. It’s better to have a few large pieces than several small ones.

Keep traffic patterns clear
Every house has natural paths that people take. Whether it’s from the kitchen to the dining room or from the living room to the bathroom, make sure these walkways are clear. You may not mind having to walk around a large sectional to get from the TV room to the kitchen, but buyers will think your TV room isn’t big enough.

Preserve your views
Related to clear walkways are clear views. Keep tall furniture like bookshelves away from doorways, and pull back the shower curtain to expose the entire bathroom. Don’t block any part of windows, sliding glass doors, or French doors.

Choose your colors wisely
You probably plan to repaint some rooms. Make sure you choose light colors that feel cool, such as light blue or light green. Not only will light colors create a sense of openness, actual light helps, too. Open curtains or blinds to let in sunlight, and consider adding a lamp to dark corners.

Get an objective opinion
When you’re “done” making these changes to your house, ask for feedback. Your Texas Realtor® is a great source for such information—and she likely has other suggestions to make your house seem bigger—but also ask friends or colleagues who don’t often visit your house to give their impressions as if they were buyers.

These are just a few ways you can get buyers talking about the space you have, not the space your home is missing. No amount of interior decoration or home staging will alter your home’s size, but a few of these tips might get buyers double-checking your listed square footage.

For more tips on preparing your home for sale, visit TexasRealEstate.com or talk to a Texas Realtor®.

Are You Being Treated Fairly?

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

I’d like to tell you that we no longer need laws to protect homebuyers and renters from discrimination, but we’re not there yet. While I hope you never experience discrimination, know that federal law prohibits denying an individual or group the right to buy or rent a home based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, family status, or disability.

So, how pervasive is housing discrimination in the 21st century? The National Fair Housing Alliance reports that in 2009, the most recent available data, more than 30,000 people reported fair-housing violations. More troubling, however, is that the alliance estimates that almost 4 million other violations went unreported.

For example …
Housing discrimination takes many forms, but here are a few real-world scenarios:

• An owner or landlord falsely tells you that his property or unit is unavailable because of your religion
• An agent only shows you homes in one neighborhood because that area has a high concentration of residents of your race
• A landlord asks you for a higher deposit on a rental unit than other tenants because you have kids
• A landlord refuses to accommodate your need as a disabled tenant, such as allowing a service animal or installing grab-bars in bathrooms

It’s lenders, too
When people think about fair-housing violations, they usually conjure up images of a slammed door or a restrictive advertisement. But violations of the Fair Housing Act are not only about a living situation or steering allegations. There are problems in the lending industry, as well. Because the lending process is so complex, it’s difficult to identify discrimination with any consistency.

Realtors go beyond what the law requires
You may know that members of the National Association of Realtors® adhere to a strict Code of Ethics that holds them to higher professional standards than what state and federal law require. However, you may not know that this year the Code of Ethics was amended to prohibit Realtors® from discriminating against individuals based on their sexual orientation, in addition to the seven classes protected under federal law.

So … what should you so?
Violations of fair-housing laws are not always obvious or easy to detect. After all, unless victims are somehow able to compare their experience to someone else’s, they likely have no reason to suspect any prejudice ever occurred. Fair-housing laws do have teeth, however. So if you believe you’ve been the victim of housing discrimination, you can submit a formal complaint with HUD (visit HUD.gov) and any local private housing enforcement agency.

For more consumer-oriented tips about buying, selling or leasing real estate visit TexasRealEstate.com.

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How to find the right Texas Realtor®

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Real estate is a diverse industry, with residential, commercial and other specialties. If you’re selling a house, you obviously want an agent who knows residential real estate, but what else should you look for?

What’s in a name? A lot
Holding a real estate license does not make someone a Realtor®. The main thing that distinguishes a Realtor® from someone who’s merely licensed by the state to sell real estate is the Code of Ethics, which requires Realtors® to put their clients’ interests first at all times. Hiring a Texas Realtor® means you’ve retained someone who is committed to continuing education, professionalism, and integrity. So, before you ask potential real estate agents any other questions, ask if they’re Texas Realtors®.

Look beyond dollar signs
When considering an agent, it may be a mistake to choose your representative based solely on compensation. Agents charge differently and provide different levels of service. Make sure you know what you’re getting.

The price may not be right
It’s also not always the best idea to go with an agent solely because he suggests the highest asking price. Yes, you want to get as much as possible for your home, but neither you nor your agent determines what a buyer is willing to pay. An agent who prices your home too high to get your listing isn’t doing you any favors.

Where are all the buyers?
Suppose your house is beautifully remodeled and priced to sell. What good is that if no one sees it? Before you hire an agent, ask how she plans to market your property. Agents have different marketing strategies that may include the Internet, MLS, print ads, open houses, staging and other means. Make sure you’re comfortable with the efforts planned for your property.

Staying in touch
Find out how an agent stays in touch with clients. Phone calls? E-mails? Posts on your Facebook wall? Tell the agent which method you prefer – and how often you want to hear from her. It’s better to find out now if an agent doesn’t use text messages, which may be your preferred method of communication, than to find out during negotiations with a buyer.

Ask around
Don’t be afraid to interview several agents. Ask your friends and family who they’ve used. There are lots of us available to help you, and we each have our own style, personality, strengths and business models.

To find Realtors® in your area that can help you sell your home, visit TexasRealEstate.com and use the Find a Texas Realtor® search. You can narrow your search by criteria such as city, whether they represent buyers or sellers, what languages they speak, and what type of real estate they specialize in.

Seguin Real Estate

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Location! Location! Location! Seguin has it!! Logistically, Seguin is sitting pretty for well planned growth as a hub of some of Texas’ famous highways. With its small town atmosphere, friendly people, excellent schools, and proximity to great jobs, Seguin is a great fit for all ages.

Seguin is home to a variety of real estate. . .farm & ranch living close to amenities; historical homes rich in history; gated communities; waterfront living on Lake McQueeney, Lake Placid, Lake Seguin, and Meadow Lake; new and established garden homes and residential communities close to shopping and Guadalupe Regional Hospital; and fantastic opportunities for commercial growth near I-10, Hwy 46, Hwy 123, and SH130. The diversity of Seguin Real Estate is what is often most surprising. The Seguin Board of Realtors is here to welcome you and help you find the right home or investment to meet your needs!

Katie Clark
President
Seguin Board of Realtors

What Makes A Fair Offer And Asking Price

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

When you’re buying anything—and that includes a house—you want to be as informed as possible.

One of the most important factors in the purchase of a home is determining what makes a fair asking price and, by extension, a fair offer—one that is more likely to be accepted.
How do sellers arrive at an asking price?First, it’s helpful to know that there are two primary considerations most homeowners use to determine the asking price for a property—and they’re both about motivation.

The first motivation is to sell the house quickly. Sellers in this situation may be more aggressive in their pricing strategy—and that could mean good things for you. It may also mean a multiple-offer situation, so be prepared to act.

Some sellers don’t need to sell in any particular time frame. Their main motivation is to maximize profit on the property. In many cases, the home may be owned outright or be a second home. This can mean the seller is looking for a certain price and will likely be less flexible.

In most cases, though, there’s a happy medium between the two extremes—and that’s where most homeowners end up.

So how do you know if an asking price falls is reasonable?Do your research
As I mentioned at the outset, it’s important to be an informed consumer. The best way to get informed is to do your research. The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University (www.recenter.tamu.edu) is a good place to start. The center offers sales data from around the state, which enables you to learn about the local market.

You should look for things like how quickly homes have been selling in a neighborhood and the surrounding areas.

Aside from the seller’s motivation, which you will likely not know, think about what factors may go into pricing a home—renovations that have been done, the general condition of the home, school district, location, and more.
Get help from an expert
Buying a home can be an intimidating, confusing and lengthy process, and I strongly urge you to use an expert to guide you through the transaction.

Texas Realtors® are certainly industry experts, but more than that, we’re local experts who know what’s going on in a particular neck of the woods. Real estate market conditions can greatly vary within a city, so it’s this local expertise that really offers value to you.

From the specific to the general
You may only buy a few homes in your entire life, but most Texas Realtors® conduct several transactions per year—often in the same area. This frequency not only enables us to spot local trends in pricing and market conditions, it also affords a familiarity with the process so there are no stones left unturned, no documents left unsigned, and fewer chances for the transaction to fail.

For more real estate advice, tips and information about buying, selling or leasing property in the Lone Star State, please visit TexasRealEstate.com.

Real Estate is one of the Most Significant Industries in Texas

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Going by the latest information from the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, the third most significant industry of the Lone Star state is real estate. This industry typically contributes about 7.8% – 12% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of Texas.

Texas real estate industry goes across the boundaries of the state and affects the financial activity of other parts of the nation as well. The interrelated finance dealings form a complex web that reflects the scenario of the modern economy. So whatever happens in Texas influences the entire country, and to some extent, the world as a whole.

U.S. bureau report highlighted some facts: 

  • For every $1 million of revenue generates by the Texas real estate industry, about $0.5 million of revenue is earned in other parts of state economy.
  • For every $1 million of revenue generated by Texas real estate industry, 5.16 jobs are generated in the real estate industry, and 5 jobs are generated in other industries in the state.
  • Texas real estate industry has the largest proportion of self employed individuals

About 0.5 million people of the state work in the real estate industry, making it 3.9% of the statewide employment.  Looks like it’s a good time to buy a home in Central Texas.

Why It Takes an Average of 52 Days to Close

Monday, October 31st, 2011

A very good lender that I know, Steve Brown, sent me the following article this morning. I guess if anything, it helps me understand why so many contracts get extended and closings rarely happen in 30 days. The article is kind of long, but I found it very interesting. The underwriting scrutiny is real. I tell my clients that the lender will ask for standard documentation, then the underwriter will ask for more documentation, and then even more before closing. It often slows the closing up and frustrates buyers and sellers. Another point to note: Buyers should not buy anything before closing, i.e,, furniture, vehicles, big purchases. . . . .

(Bloomberg) — Government efforts to make lenders pay for soured mortgages may be keeping potential borrowers from record-low interest rates, slowing home sales and refinancing as banks tighten standards to avoid more demands for refunds.
Lenders are insisting on higher credit scores and more documents than required by the Federal Housing Administration and government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Quicken Loans Inc. and Vision Mortgage Capital are among firms saying they are increasing scrutiny of would-be borrowers in response to pressure to cover losses incurred on U.S.-backed housing debt.
“You’ve got to take measures now to protect yourself,” John B. Johnson, chief executive officer of Birmingham, Alabama- based MortgageAmerica Inc., said during a panel discussion this month. Demands that lenders repurchase bad mortgages from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are “casting a pall over the market. I fear that it will face a much longer recovery because of this.”
Mortgage rates as low as 3.94 percent are proving insufficient to revive housing. Sales of existing homes fell 3 percent last month, National Association of Realtors data show, and 18 percent of the group’s members reported contract cancellations, at least twice as high as in normal circumstances. Among the reasons were refusals of loan applications after appraisals came in below sales prices.
Faulty mortgage lending and foreclosure practices have cost the five biggest U.S. home lenders more than $68 billion since 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. Much of the amount has stemmed from losses tied to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA, which together buy or insure more than 90 percent of new mortgages.
‘More Onerous’
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have drawn $170 billion of U.S. aid since being seized 2008. The companies are under orders from their regulator to recover as much as they can for taxpayers.
Lenders’ contracts with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac allow them to force buybacks of mortgages if the loan originators fail to properly vet debt, such as by accepting inflated borrower incomes or appraisals. Flawed paperwork can lead to pressure from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac even on performing mortgages.
“Documentation standards are getting more and more onerous because no one wants to manufacture an imperfect loan, even if the imperfection is really insignificant,” said Quicken Loans CEO Bill Emerson, who leads the eighth-largest U.S. home lender and No. 1 online mortgage originator.
The response by his Detroit-based company includes having each of its loans reviewed by a second underwriter to ensure the quality isn’t later questioned, Emerson said in an Oct. 11 interview during the Mortgage Bankers Association’s annual conference in Chicago.
Septic Tank
MortgageAmerica has had to deal with repurchase demands for seemingly minor issues or ones outside a lenders’ expertise, according to Johnson. In one case, the septic tank for a home was located slightly beyond the mortgaged property. The natural response, he said, is to limit lending.
The Justice Department sued Deutsche Bank AG in May for more than $1 billion for alleged failures by the company’s shuttered lending unit to meet FHA standards. The U.S. sued under the False Claims Act, which allows damages three times the size of loss. Deutsche Bank has said the case targets conduct that occurred before it bought the unit and a spokeswoman for the company called the allegations “unreasonable and unfair.”
Lenders are probably “overcompensating” for the risk they face from soured mortgages, said Robert C. Ryan, a senior adviser to the head of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the FHA. “We’re not in the business of trying to scare lenders.”
‘The Right Balance’
The government must “strike the right balance between providing financing and access to borrowers and, at the same time, making sure the loans originated are fair and sustainable for the borrowers,” Ryan said in an interview.
Freddie Mac is doing what it should to protect itself and taxpayers, and is being reasonable in its demands, said Brad German, a spokesman for the McLean, Virginia-based firm.
“We don’t want to pay for mortgages that should never have been sold to us,” German said in an interview. “When minor defects in a loan file are found, it does not necessarily trigger a repurchase; it triggers a request to the lender to remedy the defect, either by finding a missing document or taking similar corrective actions.” Andrew Wilson, a spokesman for Washington-based Fannie Mae, declined to comment.
“Mortgage originators are more closely adhering to underwriting guidelines resulting in fewer of the mortgage defects of prior years,” said Corinne Russell, spokeswoman for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates so-called government sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. “This lowers default risk to the GSEs.”
‘Substantial’ Relief
President Barack Obama’s latest push to help more borrowers refinance into cheaper rates may hinge on the effectiveness of changes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac repurchase rights. FHFA acting Director Edward DeMarco told reporters yesterday that the companies would offer “substantial” relief from buyback demands without providing “blanket or absolute” protection as they expand the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program for borrowers with little or no equity in their houses.
While the average rate on a 30-year fixed loan was 4.11 percent in the week ended Oct. 20, the historically low costs don’t capture the “very, very harsh underwriting standards” that potential home buyers face, said Ron Peltier, CEO of HomeServices of America, the property brokerage owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The process is “the most embarrassing, difficult thing you can imagine,” Peltier said in an Oct. 13 interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York.
‘Gone too Far’
The average time between mortgage application and closing rose to about 52 days last year, three weeks longer than in 2008, according to J.D. Power and Associates surveys.
Pressure from the GSEs has “definitely stanched the flow of credit to the mortgage market, but we had clearly gone too far,” said Richard Eckert, an analyst in San Francisco at securities firm B. Riley & Co. who wrote research on subprime lenders during the housing boom and then joined a hedge fund betting against property loans during the collapse. “We’ve got to return to some kind of happy balance.”
Bank of America Corp. has scaled back mortgage lending as CEO Brian T. Moynihan prepares for new capital requirements and grapples with demands that it compensate investors including Fannie Mae and Freddie for losses.
‘Increasingly Inconsistent’
“Our repurchase experience with the GSEs continues to evolve and their repurchase requests and resolution processes has become increasingly inconsistent with our interpretation of our contractual obligations,” the Charlotte, North Carolina- based bank said in a slide presentation last week.
Terry Francisco, a spokesman for Bank of America, had no immediate comment. Wells Fargo & Co., the largest U.S home lender, had no comment, according to Vickee Adams, a spokeswoman.
The prospect of reimbursement demands has hurt home sales, said Brian Chappelle, a partner at consulting firm Potomac Partners LLC, during a panel at the mortgage conference. While the FHA allows down payments as low as 3.5 percent from borrowers whose credit scores are at least 580, lenders are setting the bar higher, such as at 620, he said.
Lenders “feel like they’re being held accountable for things beyond their control,” he said. “The only thing the industry can do is tighten up on the front end.”
Vision Mortgage Capital President Regina Lowrie has her staff conduct extra quality-control reviews on all of its loans before closings, up from 10 percent before housing slumped. “That adds cost to the process,” hurting consumers who ultimately must pay for the work, she said at the conference.
The unit of Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania-based Continental Bank also started taking additional looks at consumers’ credit files shortly before completing loans, based on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidance, Lowrie said. It finds more situations like the potential borrower who took out a new car lease while waiting for the application to clear, “and now that loan’s going back to underwriting again,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jody Shenn in New York at jshenn@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alan Goldstein at agoldstein5@bloomberg.net

Steele Farms

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Do you want fresh produce delivered to your doorstep every week? I have had the pleasure to work with the beautiful Steele Farms family and am fascinated to learn about their gardening. Steele Farms can hand deliver a sac full of organically grown produce to your doorstep weekly! They have staple items and then you get a choice of seasonal items to add to it. Check out their website at www.SteeleFarms.org They also sell at local farmers markets. If you are in New Braunfels or Seguin, they have a weekly route for home deliveries!

Interest Rates Better for Home Buying than Investing

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

 

Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, recently made a statement that the interest rates would be low till 2013. Though it might be good news for some people, Investors find it as a distressing blow.

Many investors like to purchase bonds, and so the older they get, the more bonds they have.  It is one of the many common portfolio managements, and many people . A number of people purchase CDs and treasury bonds at local banks.

Let’s say you retired about 5 years ago, and all your retirement savings are into CDs at a bank. In those days, CDs got more than 5% interest. But what will happen if your annuity or Treasury bond is maturing this year? You wouldn’t be enticed by zero interest rates.

The zero interest rate Federal policy has both winners and losers, and the effect of this news depends upon which side of coin you fall on. While investment banks and other large financial organizations are winners, the investors are the losers.

So while large banks can borrow big sums of money at almost no cost, and therefore lend at great rates, those who are investing in bonds are not getting a great deal.  So in the end it is currently better to invest in Real Estate.