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Time to refinance?

Monday, May 18, 2015

With the increase of property taxes on the horizon, many property owners are concerned about the increase to their housing payments. First, the appraisals are reflecting generally what the properties are worth. After checking over 300 properties, in almost 90% of cases, there was less than a 2% difference between the appraised amount and the actual market value.


So what to do now? First, if you escrow for your taxes at the end of the year, notify the lender so that they can start withholding more. Nobody likes to pay more than they should, but if you don't do it now, they will definitely by contacting you at the end of the year. Then not only will they be wanting to add in the deficit amount, they will also be wanting to add in the projected amount for 2016. So better to start planning now versus being put in a bad financial situation 6 months from now.


Next, think about refinancing your home. If you are going to be in the home another 24 months or longer, the costs are easily offset over that time frame. If your interest rate on your mortgage is 5% or greater, it is definitely time. Rates will not be this low again. Currently, depending on your credit scores and debt to income ratios, interest rates are between 3.5-4.5%. And lenders want to earn your business so they are getting competitive. Remember, if you can refinance, you many not even notice the increase in taxes!

Bexar County Appraisals have jumped

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

We have all been receiving those envelopes from Bexar County Appraisal District this week and have been shocked and surprised in the appraisal value increases. We have been fielding lots inquiries over the past week requesting Comparative Market Analysis so that protests can be filed to get the values reduced. Even more shocking is that the values being assessed are actually matching up close to the real market value of the properties!


Homes in Northwest and North Central San Antonio have seen the bulk increases, averaging close to $15,000 minimum on the increase in values. Our market has been robust over the last 24 months and this is the unfortunate trade off.


There is hope however. On many multi family properties, we are seeing that the assessed values are not close the actual market value. In some cases, the values have missed the mark by $60-70,000. To protest is really simple and you want to take this opportunity to make sure that you have all the exemptions on your home that you are entitled to. It is FREE to claim your Homestead Exemption and other exemptions offered through the country.


If you are curious about the forms, visit BCAD. org. If you are curious about your home's value, visit our CMA page, http://sahomeprices.com. It is a simple process and lets you get real time information for your neighborhood. Any other questions, be sure to call us here are the office.

Think twice before proceeding with a pocket listing

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sam Debord, the managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth, made a guest blog post on Realtor.com yesterday. We thought it had some great information that we'd like to share with you.

 

Have you ever heard of  pocket listing? According to Debord, a pocket listing is a strategy for selling a home that limits the exposure of the listing "to just a small pool of potential buyers and to not publish it on the local MLS for all buyers to see." 

 

 

 

Debord had this to say about it:

 

Home sellers today are often approached with a variety of marketing strategies from potential listing agents. They offer a wide range of options to get exposure for the homeowner’s property.

The local MLS has listings that feed out to every brokerage and agent website in your area, and even nationwide in many cases. Since nine out of ten buyers are searching online, it’s the MLS that is real estate agents’ #1 tool for generating buyer exposure for their listings.

 

There are also some agents who propose different kinds of listings, known as “pocket listings”. The strategy for pocket listings is to limit the exposure of the home to just a small pool of potential buyers and to not publish it on the local MLS for all buyers to see.

 

Homeowners considered pocket listings for many reasons in the past, including privacy and simplicity. With today’s cutting-edge MLS technologies, however, the reasons for limiting a home’s exposure with pocket listings have almost all gone away.

 

Concern #1: “I need privacy. I don’t want everyone to know I’m trying to sell my home, know my address, or see pictures of the inside of my home.”

 

MLS listings today have the ability to cover for all of these concerns. A homeowner can list their property with an agent on the MLS, but restrict the listing information so as to totally preserve their privacy. A photo of the view away from the home could be the only image in the listing. The address can be undisclosed, as well as the owner’s name.

 

The listing could simply state a five-bedroom home in a certain neighborhood is available for sale at a particular price. All inquiries would go through the listing agent, who could screen the buyers and only allow showings to serious, pre-qualified candidates.

 

Concern #2: “I don’t want lots of people walking through my house every day. I’ll tell my agent a price, and if they can find the buyer, we won’t need to put it on the market.”

 

First, a homeowner can always limit showings. They can be as limited as one hour/week. The rest of the week no one is allowed through the home. Although this is somewhat limiting for potential buyers, it still allows the entire buying public to see the home is on the market and to schedule an appointment.

 

Second, and more importantly, homeowners often underestimate the value of their homes. Selling your home at a pre-defined price, without testing the market to see if there are higher bidders, can leave a lot of money on the table. With the number of bidding wars and homes selling above list price we’ve seen recently, homeowners risk a significant loss of profit when selling their home without exposing it to the full market of buyers.

 

Concern #3: “If my house doesn’t sell right now, I don’t want there to be a record of it on the MLS being an unsellable property.”

 

This is a reasonable concern for a homeowner but also one weakening their ability to attain their true goals. If a homeowner truly wants to sell their home, the most likely place for success is on the MLS where the most potential buyers are shopping online. We see homes every month sitting on the market until one perfect buyer falls in love.

 

Some homes only get one offer after months on the open market. If they had been exposed only to a small number of buyers in a pocket listing, the chance they would have been sold would be significantly lower. By trying to limit negative exposure, the home seller in this case would also be limiting the most important factor, positive exposure.

 

If you’re not a celebrity or in a very unique situation, pocket listings are rarely the best choice.

Realtors and real estate organizations nationwide agree getting the maximum exposure for your home from an MLS listing is essential to achieving top dollar on your sale. While there are some rare situations where home sellers are more concerned about keeping their sale quiet than what price they can get for their home, the vast majority of homeowners are best served by an MLS-listed property.

 

Whether it’s a simple listing with little information, or a fully-marketed listing with 25 photos, the exposure to potential home buyers with an MLS listing is invaluable to the process of getting a home seller the greatest return on their investment possible.

 

Sam DeBord is managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth, and a state director for Washington Realtors. You can find his team at SeattleHome.com and SeattleCondo.com.

Nicer Home or Better Location? Which Would You Choose?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Texas Association of Realtors has great advice for consumers. In a recent article they posted they discuss a conflict many home buyers face. If you're debating between a nicer home and one in the better location, which one do you choose? Below is the highlights they said are important to consider. 

 

How long are you willing to sit in your car?
You might be able to buy a bigger, nicer home by adding 20 minutes each way to your daily commute, but understand that you'll be spending 14 additional hours behind the wheel every month. Don't forget the additional gas and maintenance costs, too.

 

How frequently do you want to engage in your favorite activities?
Whether your most-cherished pastime is shopping, playing tennis, hanging out with friends, or taking your dog to the park, you're likely to do more of it when you have easy access.

 

Ready to keep up with your neighbors?
Moving to a neighborhood means buying into a lifestyle. You're not required to keep up with the Jonses, but it's difficult to suppress your consumer instincts when the people next door drive better cars, take nicer vacations, and purchase the latest high-end appliances.

 

Speaking of neighbors ...
Do you enjoy constant interaction with people, or do you like a bit more privacy? Your preference might point you toward a high-rise condo, a ranch, or something in between.

 

Do nearby schools make the grade?
If you have school-age kids (or plan to), you'll want them to attend good schools. Even if you don't have kids, the quality of nearby schools can affect property values.

 

What's with that noise/smell/view?
Vehicle or air traffic may not bother you in the least. Or it may drive you nuts. Same goes for other nearby sensory stimuli. Make sure you know what you can easily tolerate and what you want to avoid at all costs. 

 

You may also want to assess neighborhood safety, access to public transportation, and other aspects of location. A Texas REALTOR® can help you find a home based on the criteria important to you, so you not only wind up in a nice house but in a good location, too.  

Bee-Friendly Garden

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I cannot believe Spring Break just ended. It feels like New Year's Eve was just last week!

 

With Spring right around the corner, it's time to start thinking about your garden. Sierraclub.org has some good tips for a bee-friendly garden:

 

"5 Steps to a Bee-Friendly Garden

Bee on a flower Bugged by aphids in your garden? Spray them with garlic oil. Overrun by slugs? Eggshells will do the trick. Most experienced gardeners know the ins and outs of pest control, and avoid using conventional insecticides that can be toxic to the wildlife in their gardens. But even the environmentally aware may have been caught off guard by the recent news that supposedly bee-friendly plants purchased at big-name hardware stores can come pre-treated with chemicals believed to be fatal to bees. As more and more research linking colony collapse disorder to pesticides use comes out, it's more important than ever to look out for the bees in our own backyards. Here are some tips for keeping your garden bee-safe:

Know your plants. Choose what to grow based on your local environment and begin to prevent infestation even before you plant. Research which plants fare best in your area and in soil conditions, and carefully monitor plant health so you'll recognize signs of infestation later on.

Buy organic. Begin with untreated seeds or organic plant starts, and plant them in organic soil. Ask around for a trusted neighborhood nursery or seek out suppliers who have demonstrated a commitment to growing organic. Keep an eye out for providers who've signed the Safe Seed Pledge.

Know your pest. Learning to recognize your pests is an essential first step in eco-friendly gardening, as you can target your attention on the uninvited guests and keep your essential predators safe. To get a closer look at what you're dealing with, post sticky cards in your garden to trap a few of your pests. 

Be pesticide-free. "In a backyard situation, pest insect problems hardly ever become so overwhelming that a pesticide is required," says Dr. Eric Mussen, UC Davis apiculturist and honey bee expert. "There normally is some physical way to detach the insects from the plants — picking, dousing with a hose, etc. We have simply become too used to squirting our problems away with toxic chemicals." The internet is full of safe and chemical-free solutions, from using organic items that naturally repel certain insects to planting trap crops to lure pests away from the threatened plant.

Know your natural predators. It pays to know who's on your side. Most people know ladybugs can be counted on to take out aphids, but plenty of bugs have a whole host of enemies out to get them. Parasitic natural predators contribute a lot to pest management, says Dr. Andrew Sutherland, Urban Integrated Pest Management advisor to the San Francisco Bay Area. In the right numbers and conditions, insects like lacewings and parasitic wasps can provide great pest control, but only if you provide them the resources they need to survive. Make sure your garden has enough flowers to keep your pollinators happy and healthy, recommends Dr. Sutherland, and you'll have a tiny pest-control army."

Speak Up!

Friday, March 07, 2014

In an article posted by the Texas Association of Realtors, they say:

 

"It’s perfectly normal to change your mind about what you’re looking for during your house hunt. Maybe the properties you’re seeing aren’t what you expected or you’ve learned something in the process that changed your perspective.

Just remember that your Texas REALTOR® selects potential properties for you to view based on the search criteria you provide, so it’s in your best interest speak up if the homes you’re viewing don’t cut it.

 

If any of these thoughts pop into your mind, I recommend that you say so ASAP:

 

Oh, no, not another two-story. You told your real estate agent that you were OK with viewing homes with multiple floors, but now you dread the idea of climbing those stairs. Just say so. Your Texas REALTOR® will eliminate those properties from the search, and you never have to consider the cost of installing an elevator again.

 

Eh, it’s only five more minutes to work. You initially only wanted to view homes within 10 miles of your office, but the few listings in the area are at the top of your price range. Let your real estate agent know if you’re willing to add a few miles to your drive to increase your options.

 

We have one on the way … or one on the way out. Do you expect your family situation to change? Maybe you’re planning to have children in a few years, or your teen is leaving for college soon. This information can help your real estate agent build some flexibility into the search criteria, like proximity to schools or number of bedrooms.

 

We’re going to want a bigger boat. Just because you’re pre-approved or pre-qualified for a certain amount doesn’t mean you have to only view homes at that price. Let the Texas REALTOR® working on your behalf know if you’re open to homes at a price that gives you room for other expenses."

Agent or No Agent?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

 One of the main questions people ask themselves when they are looking to buy or sell a home is, "Should we hire a real estate agent?" Many people think that they will net more money if they conquer the task alone. But having an agent definitely has it's benefits. Here's an infographic you may have seen floating around online that illustrates some of these advantages.

 

 

 

Many people believe these benefits are totally worth it. In the long run, an agent can save you a lot of time and tons of money.

 

It is important to make sure you have an agent that will work for you. So, in the event you do decide to hire one, here are some important questions to make sure to ask before you hire them.

 

1. How long have you been in the real estate business?
How long has this person been on the job (look for upward of a year), and were they full or part time? While experience is no guarantee of skill, real estate, like many other professions, is mostly learned on the job.

 

2. Are you a member of the National Association of Realtors?
This organization requires certain standards from its members, and you don't want to worry about having a shady agent.

 

3. Are you a member of MLS?
This is the Multiple Listing Service, which gives agents access to houses represented by all agencies -- not just their own. For sellers, this means your home will be posted on the list as well, which means more people will see it.

 

4. Do you work on weekends?
Since this is when most open houses take place, the answer to this should be yes.

 

5. Can you outline how you would represent us?
The answer should include your housing inspections, following through with your mortgage approval process, and being present at your closing.

 

6. Will you show me houses listed by other companies?
Double-check that the agent isn't partial to his or her own realty group.

 

7. Are you familiar with our area?
You'll want the agent to know the ins and outs of your community.

 

8. How many homes have you sold?
If you're in the market to sell, find out how many homes they successfully sold last year. While those numbers may be low due to market activity over the past six months, it’s a good way to compare candidates.

 

9. What's your business style?
Do you want a broker who calls you once a week or emails daily? Find out how the agent will keep you updated on prospects and inform them about your preferences.

Water Heating Efficiency

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

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Hey guys! Hope everyone's doing their best to stay warm (even though it still gets up to almost 80° some days!).

 

Although the weather is still all over the place here in Central Texas, it's been more cold than warm lately and everyone is using their hot water like crazy. Which, as I'm sure you've noticed, results in higher utility bills! Running more hot water runs up your water bill and your electricity bill causing higher payments.

If you're wondering what you can do to try to keep your utility bills down during these cold months, CPS Energy has posted some water heating efficiency tips on their website that I've included here.

  1. Use Cold Water as much as possible when using a dishwasher or washing machine
  2. Take Short Showers or shallow baths for the kids
  3. Buy a High Efficiency Washing Machine when you need a new washer
  4. Check the Setting on Your Water Heater. The recommended setting for our area is 120°. Also check the unit for possible leaks.
  5. Wrap an Old Water Heater with an insulation jacket to decrease it's heat loss. Insulating the water pipes can also help.
  6. Don't leave hot water running when shaving or rinsing dishes. This will reduce the amount of energy needed to heat the water and save on your water expenses as well.
  7. Wait to wash dishes and clothes until you have a full load.
  8. Install a Low-Flow shower head or faucet aerator to not only save water but reduce water heating costs as well.
  9. Try a natural gas water heater for greater efficiency. Take advantage of CPS Energy's Natural Gas Rebates.
  10. Consider a tank-less water heater system. Tank-less units heat water directly without the use of a storage tank -- saving energy and water, reducing both of your utility bills.

These may be small but they add up and if you do them all you'll be able to notice a difference in your utility bills. They could even aid in preventing rolling blackouts like we had a few years ago!

 

If you aren't familiar with some of rebates CPS offers, make sure to look at their website. If you're in other parts of the state or the country, make sure to check out your energy company's website for rebates as well. I know our local utility company, CPS, offers rebates for several things including air conditioners, attic insulation, solar, air flow performance and more.

 

Do you have techniques of your own that help converse hot water? Share them in the comments below. We want to hear about them!

 

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Curb Appeal

Friday, January 31, 2014


You only get one shot at a first impression. It’s your one chance to make an impact or inspire action. And sometimes, a first impression is all you get. That’s why some real estate experts say curb appeal is the most underutilized, powerful element of selling your home. It’s the first impression to potential buyers. Based on the curb appeal of your home, they’ll decide if they want to see the inside of it or not. It’s their first step in.


Curb appeal is also important even when your home isn’t on the market. Believe it or not, it can actually influence the desirability, and thus the market value, of the homes in your neighborhood. Have you ever had an HOA that held contests for the best yard? The HOA in a previous neighborhood I lived in held one every month. Judges from the HOA would determine who had the best looking yard for that month and they would get a sign to post in their yard and bragging rights. Everyone likes a little friendly competition but the HOA did this for a very specific reason. To keep the market value and desirability of the neighborhood up. It’s genius! Everyday when neighbors would jog or walk their dogs, they’d get to see who had the best yard for that month. They were beautiful lawns and everyone looked forward to seeing who had the best yard when a new month rolled around.


Maintaining the market value of the homes in your neighborhood is critical, especially in an upcoming housing market like the one we’re in now (check out San Antonio Board of Realtors December 2013 market statistics). It directly relates to the equity you have in your home, which could be crucial in an emergency if you need to take out a second mortgage or even sell it. It’s also important to the overall economy of the city you live in and ultimately the country’s. Everything is interrelated so it’s important not to take anything for granted.

 

If you’re still not sure how significant curb appeal is, HGTV created an entire show dedicated to it (literally called Curb Appeal)! Have you seen it? Oh, it’s great. You have to check out these amazing before and after pictures! Now, we certainly don’t expect you to master the art of curb appeal like Architect John Gidding from the show but these pictures are so fun to look at!


If you’d like to spruce up the exterior of your home a little, check out our Curb Appeal board on Pinterest for some easy inexpensive ideas.


If you need helping selling your home, contact us. We can help.


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Cold Weather Safety

Monday, January 27, 2014

Brrrr!! Cold weather is here! We hope everyone is doing their best to stay warm.Cold Weather is here!

I wanted to take a moment to address something important today: cold weather safety.

In a news article CNN published yesterday, a six year old boy sacrificed his life to save six other family members in a fire. The problem was that there were no working smoke alarms in the house! The young boy happened to wake up and smell the fire and helped six other family members out of the house. He went back in to try to get his disabled grandfather who wouldn’t have been able to get out by himself, but neither one of them made it out. The news outlet said that if there had been just one working smoke alarm anywhere in the home, their lives could have been spared.

What a brave and heroic little boy! Even so, this is more than heartbreaking and we hope the families accept our deepest condolences.

It’s easy to forget about little things like smoke detectors, especially if you’re renting your home. But it’s so important not to! Put it in your calendar in your phone, put a sticky note on your computer or send a text message to another family member who lives in the home. Do what you have to help you remember!

If everyone could please take a few minutes  to test your smoke detectors and make sure they’re working properly. If you’re unsure how to do that, I found these steps on WikiHow:

  1. Alert all members of your household that you are testing the alarm first, unless you would like to use the opportunity for a fire drill.
    • If your smoke detector is hardwired to a monitored security system, be sure to notify the security system's company that you are performing a test before you test the alarm. You don't want the fire department showing up at your door!
  2. Have someone go to a part of the house or apartment that is as far from the smoke detector as possible when conducting a function test, to determine whether the alarm can be clearly heard at that distance. Remember, it has to be loud enough to awaken the deepest sleeper in the household.
  3. Push and hold the test button for a few seconds. The detector should produce a loud noise.
  4. To test whether the unit will actually work in a fire, you will need a small spray can of smoke detector test aerosol. You might find this in a well-stocked hardware or home improvement store. If not, you can find it by searching the Internet. They cost only a few dollars, and one small can will last for years. Just spray some of the test material into the detector, and wait 5 to 10 seconds for a response. If the alarm sounds, you know the unit will sound in a fire. If not, you have a non-functioning smoke detector, even if it beeps when you push the button. Try changing the batteries and cleaning the detector to remove any dust that may be blocking the openings, then repeat the test procedure. If that does not get it working, it is useless. Replace it as soon as possible.
  5. To turn off the alarm after testing you can hold a small, hand-held vacuum under the detector, suck out the test material, and the alarm will silence. If you only have a full-sized vacuum (the kind with wheels) use the extension tubes to reach up to the alarm and suck the test material out of your smoke detector. Newer smoke detectors may have a silence button that can silence the alarm until the residue leaves the unit. Alternatively, you can just wait for it to turn off by itself, but that wastes battery power, and the sound is very annoying.
  6. Test every smoke alarm in your home every month. If you are not willing to do that, do it at least a few times a year. Always test alarms after battery changes to ensure that the device is working.

Tips

  • Never decorate any part of a smoke alarm (including the outer cover) with paint, stickers, hanging objects, etc. This can impair function.
  • Smoke detectors have a reliable service life of ten years. After ten years, replace the smoke detector with a new one.
  • A few times a year, use a vacuum cleaner (hand-held or full-sized with extension tube) to gently remove dust from the slots cut into the unit's cover. Dust in those slots could slow the entry of smoke and interfere with early detection of a fire.
  • Wear ear protection when you test the smoke alarm. It's very loud and you will be right next to it when you're testing it.
  • Most manufacturers recommend testing the detector weekly. The push button test is sufficient for this. Use the aerosol test gas a few times per year to ensure proper airflow into the detector.
  • If you move into a home with existing smoke detectors of an unknown age, look at the manufacturer's label on the back of the device. It might display a date of manufacture and you can use that date to calculate the device's age. If you cannot find a date of manufacture, replace the unit with a new one as soon as possible.

Warnings

  • Do not use candles or incense to test a smoke detector. The smoke produced by candles and incense contain waxy or oily particles that can contaminate the sensor and reduce its sensitivity.
  • All the test button does is check the BATTERY. It does NOT check the smoke sensor.
  • An alarm of any sort is merely a signaling device, it does not make the danger go away. In order to survive, you and your household must take actionMake a fire escape plan[2] discuss it with everyone in your home (including children) and practice it.
  • No smoke detector can sound the alarm instantly. The fire will grow and spread before the alarm sounds. Consequently, when an alarm sounds, you MUST get yourself and everyone else in your home out as quickly as possible. In a house fire, the difference between death and survival is often measured in minutes; sometimes seconds.
  • Laws in your jurisdiction probably specify how one must dispose of outdated and unreliable smoke detectors. Check the rules that apply in your area, and dispose of old and unreliable detectors properly.
  • It is dangerous to test a smoke detector using flame. It is safer to use an aerosol test spray. However:
  • Never try to test a smoke alarm with any aerosol spray other than one specifically manufactured for that purpose. Other types of sprays contain material that will stick to the sensor, and make the device less reliable in the future.

I can't stress enough how important this is. And maybe, in an effort to protect our own families we can honor a brave boy who sacrificed his life to save his.

Do your best to stay warm out there y'all!

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