• Answering All the Questions You’re Afraid to Ask During a Home Tour

    Have any questions on what the proper decorum is for buyers touring a home? Here are your answers.

    Q: “Should I take my shoes off?”

    A: Typically, you should discuss this with your Realtor before you enter the house. Many times, the home seller will request this specifically in the home showing instructions. Of course, if it’s rainy or wet outside, it’s a good idea to do this out of common courtesy.

    Q: “Can I use the bathroom?”

    A: Typically, yes. If you’re looking at houses all day, you’ll inevitably need to use the bathroom. Try to leave it as it was before you got there.

    Q: “Is it okay to bring in my coffee?”

    A: Sure! If you have a coffee cup that has some sort of lid on it, I don’t see any issues with that. If you bring in an open container and you have kids running around you, that’s probably not a good idea. You don’t want to spill on someone else’s floor and leave a mess for them to clean up.

    “Respect the seller’s house as if it was your own.”

    Q: “Can I peek into the closet?

    A: Absolutely. You can peek in all the closets, just don’t look into any drawers. All the rooms should be viewable, and you should be allowed to open any doors to see what kind of space the area behind them offers.

    Q: “Can I take a selfie?”

    A: Taking a selfie with a piece of furniture may be funny or good for some laughs on social media, but I don’t advise doing it. You don’t want to post someone else’s stuff on social media because they might get upset about that kind of thing. These days, a lot of sellers have hidden cameras placed throughout their house, so you’ll probably be on camera going through some houses, and your audio may be heard as well, so be careful what you say and do. A good rule of thumb is to respect the seller’s house as you’d want your own house to be respected.

    Q: “Can I plop down on that chaise lounge?”

    A: See my previous answer. You want to respect another person’s house and their belongings the same way you’d want yours to be respected.

    If you have any other questions about home tours or you’re thinking of buying or selling a home in our market, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. I’d love to help you.

    Written by -- CLIENT BRAND --
  • 8 Things to Avoid After Buying a New Home

    Today, we’ll be discussing eight costly missteps new homeowners make in their first year.

    1. Going with the lowest bid on projects around the home. It’s a good idea to get multiple bids on the different projects you’ll be doing, but going with the lowest bid isn’t always the wisest move. Make sure you are researching all the different contractors available to ascertain whether or not they’re reputable—just because they have the best bid does not mean they do the best work. Check reviewing sites to make sure the bid you choose will stand behind their work.

    2. Submitting small insurance claims.It’s never a good idea to submit small claims to your insurance company, especially if they’re close to your deductible, because it will end up increasing your insurance rates in the long term. Try to take care of small issues yourself to avoid this unnecessary increase.

    3. Making improvements without checking the return on investment (ROI). If you do any improvements to your home, be sure that you’ll get a good return on them, or be prepared to absorb something that doesn’t give you that return. For example, putting in a new $50,000 swimming pool will probably not get you a return on your investment. Some people want one anyway, but just make sure you understand that you’re probably not going to recoup your money on a project like that.

    4. Going on a furnishing spree. Spending thousands of dollars on new furniture isn’t a good idea after buying a new home, especially if you put that on credit. You’ll have to pay that off over time, and many times you’ll be charged outrageous interest rates if it’s not paid off quickly. Don’t overextend yourself.

    “If you do any improvements to your home, be sure that you’ll get a good return on them.”

    5. Throwing away receipts and paperwork. Keep all the papers from closing your home not only for the warranty, but also for when you resell the house. If issues should arise with the buyer (perhaps with disputes over improvements made), you can easily pull out the paperwork and save yourself money.

    6. Ignoring small items on your inspection report. If you buy a used home, there will likely be a lot of things you can’t get sellers to fix. It’s important to address these issues as soon as possible once you’ve moved in, so they don’t become bigger issues down the line. For example, simple gaps in your siding can lead to water penetration and ultimately water damage inside of your home. Address these issues soon to avoid the cost and headache.

    7. Remodeling without doing any research. You should always have licensed, competent contractors take care of your remodeling—you may run into any number of issues while remodeling your home yourself if you aren’t properly trained to do so.

    8. Buying cheap tools. We’re all on a budget. When you move into a new house, you’re trying to save money, so naturally you may want to buy the lower priced tools. But these cheap tools don’t last. Buy quality tools, especially if they have lifetime warranties, even if you have to pay a little more for them. Breaking and replacing tools regularly will be costly and just add to the time it will take to complete a project.

    If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home, call or email us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. We’re always happy to answer any questions you may have about real estate as well.

    Written by -- CLIENT BRAND --
  • You Can Make a Difference for Those Affected by Hurricane Harvey

    Hurricane Harvey has caused a great deal of destruction along our coast.

    Now, following the devastating storms that have hit our state, many people are wondering how they can aid those who’ve been affected.

    First of all, there are many different organizations that are collecting relief effort funds. The mayor of Houston, himself, has begun collecting funds at the Great Houston Community Foundation. GoFundMe and the Salvation Army are both also accepting donations.

    There are also ways you can aid those affected through non-monetary means. Blood donations are needed at the American Red Cross, and AirBnB has opened up an urgent accommodation site that allows you to open your home to those who may have lost theirs.

    Area food banks, too, are accepting donations of food and money.

    “These relief efforts are truly saving lives.”

    This certainly is not a comprehensive list of the ways you can help. We merely wanted to provide you with a starting point. However, for a more complete list of ways to aid those affected, simply click here.

    Finally, we would like to extend our sincerest thanks to those who have already given their time and effort to this cause, and especially to those who have risked their lives in doing so.

    We appreciate the resources, time, and money given by so many of you, already,  to those in need. These relief efforts are truly saving lives. In this time of great hardship, please keep those affected in your thoughts, prayers, and daily efforts. May God bless Texas.

    If you have any other questions or would like more information, feel free to give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Written by -- CLIENT BRAND --
  • Why Full Disclosure Is Best

    In the state of Texas, there are certain disclosures that you are required to provide as a seller unless your home is brand new or in an estate. These disclosures cover anything and everything that has gone on in the home, from water damage to mold to any other mechanical or cosmetic issue. You’re also required to disclose any environmental dangers that a home possesses.

    There are certain federal disclosures that also apply no matter where you live. For example, if you own a home that was built prior to 1978, you must comply with The Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 and provide an addendum on your contract.

    “Full disclosure protects you legally.”

    When in doubt, disclose. Full disclosure will protect you from future legal claims as a seller and give you more confidence in purchasing as a buyer. I’ve seen several sellers in the past fail to disclose certain things and end up being held liable for more than the cost of the home because of it.

    If you have any questions about disclosures or anything else related to real estate, give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Written by -- CLIENT BRAND --
  • What Is the Cost of an Appraisal?

    How much will your appraisal cost? This is a question many people wonder at some point in their real estate transaction.

    The cost of a home appraisal is typically paid in advance by the homebuyer after acceptance. This usually happens once the inspection is completed to satisfaction.

    However, fees will vary. This variation is largely dependent upon location, complexity of the appraisal, and to some degree, market demand.

    In our San Antonio area, residential appraisal fees will typically cost between $350 to $500. If a property is a farm, ranch, acreage, or is complex in another way, this amount can be a little more.

    So, how is an appraiser selected? This is something that will depend on your lender and that you can ask them about ahead of time. However, most lenders tend to either keep a list of trusted appraisers or will make use of an appraiser management company.

    “You should ask your mortgage lender about the cost of appraisal as soon as possible.”

    However, after the Dodd-Frank era, it has since been necessary that lenders rotate their certified area appraisers.

    While they are aware of the stakes for both the buyer and seller, an appraiser cannot base their appraisal strictly on the sales price.Appraisers will look at comparable homes to help them determine value.

    Low appraisals can happen. At that time, however, you have a couple of options. You can either renegotiate the contract or, in some cases, you may get a second opinion.

    Ultimately, if you are curious about the cost of a home appraisal, this is something you should ask your mortgage lender about as soon as possible so that you can accurately factor it into your closing costs.

    If you have any other questions or would like more information, feel free to give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Written by -- CLIENT BRAND --
  • Could Another Market Meltdown Happen Soon?

    With housing prices slowing down, a lot of people are asking themselves if there is a meltdown coming in the housing market. After the crash in 2007, we had a few really bad years. Since 2010 however, the market has been on a strong run.

    The San Antonio real estate market is pretty stable with mostly single-digit appreciation levels on an annual basis. Inventory is still pretty low, however, for both resale homes and bank-owned properties. During a slowdown, you’ll see an increase in the number of bank-owned properties. That hasn’t happened yet.

    “The market is cyclical and there will always be ups and downs.”

    Will another meltdown happen soon? It’s hard to say. What we do know is that the primary factor that led to the last meltdown, bad lending, has since been corrected. Lending guidelines are much stricter now. However, the market is cyclical and there will always be ups and downs.

    Your best bet is to get with us so we can help shield you from these wild swings in the market. If you have any questions for us about this topic or anything else related to real estate, give us a call or send us an email. We look forward to hearing from you.

    Written by -- CLIENT BRAND --
  • What to Know About Building a New Home

    Before deciding to build a new property, there are a few key things you should be aware of first.

    The first and probably most important tip to know is to choose a builder who is reputable and won’t leave you hanging during the process. Unfortunately, some builders will vanish before the job is totally completed and leave the buyer with a load of unpaid bills.

    A good builder will not only meet your building needs, but will also service your house under the long-term warranty. Talking to people within your community, especially your agent, can help you choose the right builder.

    While building a home may sound like a good idea, make sure you take add-ons and upgrades into account before deciding if this is the best move for you. Both of these things will drive up the price, and will be charged for a premium. You may be able to do some negotiating, but ultimately you should make sure that the add-ons and upgrades you’re choosing are actually best for you and your home.

    That being said, remember to stay involved in the building process. Visiting the site, keeping in touch with the builder and contractors, and scheduling regular meetings will help you make sure that you are aware of everything that’s going on. This way you’ll be able to tell right away if something isn’t being done correctly.

    “Always stay involved in the building process.”

    Also, learn the neighborhood. You can choose the way your house is built, but once it’s finished you need to consider the neighborhood you’ll be left in.Partnering with an agent who knows the area will help you avoid any mistakes or conflicts.

    Keep in mind, too, that building is a lot different than simply buying a home. It is a messy process, so you’ll need to be patient and flexible. Deadlines may shift and issues will come up, so make sure you have contingency plans in place.

    During the process always plan a walkthrough. Because they have experience on their side, your agent will have the knowledge to tell you what to look for when you do this to make sure everything is as it should be. Hiring an inspection team to check the home throughout the process is also a must.

    Use your agent as a resource to help you look into home warranties, as well. Agents want the process to go smoothly and will have all the information you need for things like home insurance.

    If you have any other questions or would like more information, feel free to give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Written by -- CLIENT BRAND --
  • 9 Ways to Cut Energy Costs This Summer

    If you’re looking to cut energy costs for the summer season, here are nine useful methods that will save you money without sacrificing comfort:

    1. Plug any holes you may have in your house. Use plastic film on any drafty windows or just replace them if you have the budget, as leaking air is one of the biggest ways energy gets sucked out of your house and costs you money. Foam and caulk any other problem areas you see, like gaps around your doors and windows and around your outlet plates.

    2. Close the shades. Anything that keeps the sunshine from coming directly into your house will help lower your energy costs.

    3. Keep your filters clean. You should check your AC filter at least once a month to make sure it’s clean and you should be replacing it as necessary. This way your air conditioner isn’t working twice as hard to circulate cool air throughout your house.

    4. Program your thermostat. If you aren’t home, you obviously don’t need it to be as cool as when you’re there, so feel free to raise the temperature a little bit. Only about half of all people actually take advantage of their programmable thermostat, which is unfortunate because it’s a cheap and effective way to reduce energy costs. Also, overhead fans can circulate and cool air a lot more cheaply than a low thermostat, so don’t forget to use them if you have them or install a couple to help keep your air just how you like it.

    “If you aren’t home, you obviously don’t need it to be as cool as when you’re there.”

    5. Unplug, unplug, unplug. Computers, TVs, mobile devices, and any other devices such as these that are plugged in can use up energy while they’re not in use. Unplug them when you don’t use them and you’re not around so they’re not drawing energy while you’re not there.

    6. Cut back on oven usage. Using a grill or outdoor cooktop instead will reduce the amount of heat being generated in your house.

    7. Turn down the thermostat on your water heater. Lowering the temperature from—say—130 degrees to 115 degrees can save you around $50 a year, which can add up over the long term.

    8. Get your HVAC tuned up. Don’t ignore your air conditioner until something goes wrong with it, because if it malfunctions when it’s 100 degrees out in San Antonio, you’ll want someone to fix it right away, and it will probably cost you a lot of money to get that done.

    9. Upgrade your systems.This means things like changing your light bulbs and replacing major appliances like your refrigerator, washer, or dryer. If and when you do, make sure you check out the energy efficiency rating of these items before you buy another so its replacement has a higher rating.

    If you have any questions about cutting summer energy costs or you’re thinking about buying or selling a home in the San Antonio market, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d be glad to help you.

    Written by -- CLIENT BRAND --
  • 5 Obstacles to Buying Your First Home

    Buying a home is not always an easy process, and there are many obstacles that a first-time homebuyer may encounter.

    The best thing you can do is be prepared for those obstacles. An experienced agent can help you find the right home, negotiate for you, and guide you every step of the way. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter any wicked witches or flying monkeys while you’re on the yellow brick road to homeownership.

    1. Finding a down payment. Unless you’re independently wealthy or have just won the lottery, you will probably have to get a mortgage to buy a home. VA loans are the only loans that allow you to purchase a home with no money down, and you need to be active or retired military to qualify. Most loans require some kind of down payment. The most popular loans are FHA loans and conventional loans, which require anywhere from 3% to 20% down.

    2. Obtaining a minimum FICO score. You need at least a 620 FICO score for an FHA loan, and you need a 720 score for a conventional loan with mortgage insurance. However, if your FICO score falls below that, you may still qualify for a mortgage; you will just have a higher interest rate or different requirements that you have to meet.

    It’s important to talk to your lender about your credit score, as online credit scores may vary. Get pre-qualified with a lender before you start looking at homes, even if you don’t plan on doing so for another six to 12 months. That way, you can identify any issues with your credit that you may need to repair and you can get some guidance from your lender to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to get the house that you want.

    1. Meeting lender ratios. Most lenders have a certain ratio that you have to meet. Your PITI (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance) ratio for your mortgage payment cannot exceed 33% of your monthly gross income. Some lenders accept higher than that but again, that is something you need to check with your lender. For example, if you earn $5,000 a month, then the max PITI payment you could qualify for was $1,650.

    Your back-end ratio includes your PITI ratio with all of the debt that you pay on a monthly basis. That ratio should fall between 41% and 50%, depending on your lender and the type of loan you are looking for. If you don’t want mortgage insurance, you typically cannot exceed 41%; to qualify for a higher back-end ratio, you can put 20% down.

    There are always exceptions to the rule, however, so make sure you work with a lender that you trust.

    “Make sure you speak with a trusted lender before you start looking at homes.”

    1. Receiving an appraised value. The appraisal occurs after you’ve gone under contract. Before May 1st, 2009, your lender could select their own trusted appraiser that was experienced and comfortable giving appraisals in the area. As a result, you would get a fair and balanced appraisal.

    However, a new home valuation code of conduct allows appraisal management companies to pluck an appraiser from a random pool. Your appraiser may be from another area and not know anything about the neighborhood that you’re buying in, which could result in a low appraisal. That’s tough for buyers and sellers alike, but that is the world we live in.

    If the appraisal does not come in and the seller does not adjust the price, you can walk away from the transaction, pay the difference in cash, or meet the seller in the middle. Homes often don’t appraise in our current seller’s market, as home prices continue to increase.

    1. Satisfying your loan conditions. Underwriting can be frightening. An underwriter will review your file and make demands that you might not have even known about. At that point, you’ve probably already gone through your home inspection and your appraisal. When the underwriters come back with conditions and requirements, don’t get upset. They may need more documents or they may have rejected the loan for any number of reasons; they write the rules.

    For example, if you’ve remarried but your former spouse went through a short sale or foreclosure with your name on the mortgage, you may be disqualified for your mortgage.

    That’s why it’s important to disclose everything about yourself and your finances to your lender so that the loan officer will be able to foresee any problems down the road. You can also get a full underwritten approval before you look at homes to make the whole process easier for you.

    These are just a few of the most common obstacles first-time homebuyers may encounter. If you have any other questions, just give me a call or send me an email. I would be happy to help you!

    Written by -- CLIENT BRAND --
  • 6 Tips for Buying in a Sellers Market

    The real estate market often fluctuates, so planning for mistakes in advance is smart. It’s tough to predict whether the market will favor buyers or sellers when it’s your turn to buy.

    If it’s a seller’s market like the one we are seeing right now, buyers can get what they want. However, they need to bring their A-game and be decisive in order to do so. Here are six common mistakes we see in a seller’s market like this and how you can avoid them:

    1. Not making your best offer up front. The motivation to buy for as little money as possible is deeply ingrained in us. When buyers see a high list price, they naturally wonder if they can get a better deal. Offering less than asking price is a reasonable strategy in a buyer’s market, but it doesn’t work quite as well when there is a shortage of inventory. In fact, it doesn’t work at all. Competition is fierce, so come in with a strong opening offer if you really want to get the home.

    2. Overanalyzing the purchase price. This is ill-advised because the longer you take to make an offer, the higher the risk of losing the home you want. Once you’ve determined the type of home you want, the location you desire, and the right price range, don’t wait to make an offer. Be prepared to move quickly by having your finances in order and being pre-approved.

    3. Work with an experienced agent. A lot of people make the mistake of not doing this, and it costs them. If you have a seasoned agent on your side, they will give you a better chance of getting the home you want. In Texas, sellers pay the commissions for their agent as well as yours, so it costs you nothing out-of-pocket to have an experienced professional advising you on the best course of action to take.

    “Low offers won’t do a thing for you in this market.”

    1. Not being pre-approved. This is a common problem. With the market moving so fast, you’re going to lose out on a lot of great homes if you’re not pre-approved. Without that letter in hand, most agents and sellers won’t even entertain your offer.

    2. Not being prepared for a bidding war. No buyers want to be involved in bidding wars, but they are inevitable in this kind of market. Start your search below your maximum budget so you have room to up your offer.

    3. Not learning from your mistakes. It’s easy to get frustrated by repeatedly declined offers. Learn from prior offers and transactions so you can move into your dream home.

    If you have any questions for us or you’re interested in buying or selling a home in San Antonio, give us a call or send us an email. We would love to hear from you.

    Written by -- CLIENT BRAND --