Buyers, Buyers everywhere with little-to-nothing to buy.

February 11, 2013

It is déjà vu… All over again.

2013 is starting to look and feel a bit like 2007. Try to remember back to a time when buyers were abundant, inventory was scarce, interest rates were very good and lending requirements were forgiving.

2007 was a perfect example of a market that was totally skewed to one side, creating a true seller’s market, thereby limiting buyer choices and actions. There were very few new homes available and resale properties were flying off the shelves, often times with multiple offers just days or mere minutes after hitting the market. This naturally (or un-naturally) drove sales prices up, up, up so that our average annual appreciation rate of 4 percent shot upwards to 10 and 12 %.

Good news for sellers; bad news for buyers, right? In 2007, it was. But not so today, as we experience valuation problems with the remnants of the HVCC legislation leading to low appraisals (read more about HVCC).

So what is a seller to do? Price competitively but realize that even though you may receive many offers that push the sales price above your initial asking or list price, today’s appraisal process might not allow for the overage. Your Realtor should prepare an appraisal packet including information about any and all updates, valid comparable properties in the immediate area and details of the multiple offer situation. This is still no guarantee that the appraiser will review or consider the data, but it goes a long way to helping your property make value. Sometimes the other terms offered by buyers are more important than taking the highest price. Financing terms are crucial and often the type of financing being used by a buyer can be indicative of future potential appraisal problems. If presented with a cash offer, make sure to negotiate what will happen if buyer seeks an independent appraisal (not required with cash) and the property does not make value.

Yes, a seller’s market is exciting and good for neighboring homeowners’ property values. The only downside, other than potential low appraisals, is an inventory level so low that future buyers stay put because they have nowhere to move and nothing to purchase.

This means everyone is waiting for the next guy or gal to list. That would be such a pity when interest rates on a 30 year fixed are below 3.5 as of today. So go on, jump in the market… The water is warm and inviting.


Public Open House Etiquette by a Realtor!

June 24, 2011

by Christi Borden, Realtor

Who doesn’t love to visit an Open House? Come on, you know you do. Go ahead … admit it. You love to see the decorations, to peek inside your neighbor’s home (who never invited you over the entire time they lived there), to learn more about what homes are going for in your area, or to check it out before giving your Realtor a call.

Either way, there are a few bits of advice I can give while visiting a Public Open House.

1. Follow House Rules: Seller may wish for you to remove shoes prior to entering. This may be due to nasty weather, new flooring or a cultural preference. Just ask the Realtor or Host on duty if removing shoes is expected.

2. Monitor Your Kids: Homeowners really expect parents to stay with their children at all times and to make sure nothing is touched or damaged. I have seen many visitors arrive and while the parents are involved with viewing the home, their kids are all over the place – totally unsupervised. The Realtor or Host cannot be expected to babysit or to monitor visiting kids. Please, please keep them with you as the home could experience damage that you quite possibly could be held liable for.

3. Go Before You Arrive: I am often amazed at visitors asking to use the Seller’s bathroom. The Seller’s home is a private residence and as such, unless vacant and only with permission from the Realtor or Host on duty, should you assume that it is okay to use the facilities. Seller’s have prepared the home for viewing… not using.

4. Have a Realtor? Tell Us: You will be asked by the Realtor or Host on duty for your contact information. Sometimes our clients request this information, as they want to know who has visited their home. And many times, the Realtor on Duty would like to contact you to send you more information and to try to develop a future relationship with you. This is not a bad thing and can be very helpful for visitors that are not currently under a written representation agreement with another Realtor. But if you already have such a relationship with a Realtor, simply let us know who it is. We are happy to send them more information about the property you have visited. We all want to honor your relationship with your Realtor but cannot do so if we do not know about it. This is actually a Code of Ethics issue with the National Association of Realtors, which all Realtors must follow.

5. Tell Us What You Think: Don’t be shy… Are we priced right? Do we show well? Are you considering this home? If not, is there anything that our Sellers can do to make your short list? By providing such valuable feedback, you are helping us help our Seller know exactly what the public thinks about the home. And feel free to ask us questions. If we do not know the answer, we will do our best to find it. If answering your questions will help sell the property, we are more than happy to help.

As a Realtor, we love having you visit our Open Houses. In fact, that is why we give up our valuable family time on weekends… just for you. Help us make it pleasant for you and for our Sellers. Happy house hunting and support your local hardworking Realtor by visiting an Open House today!!!


Home Seller: Your “To Do” List Prior to a Home Inspection.

February 22, 2011

by christiborden

Home Inspection Approaches

So you finally have a contract on your home. Congratulations! Now, your buyer has ordered an independent inspection. Believe me, this is a good thing. When so many real estate transactions end in court due to disclosure items, inspections are a wonderful way for both parties to be aware of the condition of the property and hopefully resolve any such issues up front. You should applaud a buyer that thinks enough of his investment to hire an inspector. I am always worried about buyers who don’t. In fact, I would rather not represent a buyer that declines to inspect, even new construction.

Even though it is probably too late to make major repairs prior to the inspection, there are some things a seller can do to help the inspection go well for both parties and most of these items are simply the little nagging, honey-do type of things that we, as homeowners, tend to get used to and ignore.

  • Let there be light: Check all light bulbs and replace those not working. An inspector is not going to test the fixture itself but may call it as a deficiency and recommend that it be examined by a licensed electrician. Quite a costly repair for a blown bulb.
  • Water, water everywhere: Repair any leaking faucets, water fixtures, irrigation systems, etc. If you do not know how to do it, hire a plumber. If you are aware of rotten wood on the exterior of your home, this is usually flagged for repair.
  • Heating, Cooling and More: How long has it been since your systems have been serviced? How long has it been since you changed your filters and cleaned your vents? A well-maintained home will shine at an inspection, helping you and your buyer keep the transaction together.
  • Access to your home: Make sure there is access to your breaker box, the heater/air conditioner, water heater, etc. If your personal belongings block these important items, the inspector will not inspect it causing the buyer to either accept an incomplete inspection, having to pay an additional fee for a further inspection or he may just pull out of the deal completely.
  • Disclose, Disclose, Disclose: Please click here to read my past blog about your responsibility as a Seller to disclose. This is not something to take lightly or to ignore. If you know about it something that you, as a buyer, would want to know about a property, disclose. Even if you have made a repair, it is required to let them know the issue existed.

That should get you started on your way to having your property ready for the inspection. If you have questions about this or other items, contact your Realtor or your real estate attorney for advice regarding the inspection report and repairs. Also, in the State of Texas, you are required to disclose this and any other property inspection performed within the last four years and must note same on the Seller’s Disclosure Notice.

I hope this has helped you and wish you a safe and stress-free journey toward your closing.

Disclaimer: My name is Christi Borden. I am a licensed real estate agent in the State of Texas and a member of the National Association of REALTORS. As such, I adhere to a strict code of ethics and all laws with regard to equal housing, which is reflected in the content of this blog. My broker is Prudential GARY GREENE, REALTORS, 23922 Cinco Village Center, Suite 123, Katy TX 77494. My TX Real Estate License number is 0517398. All of the opinions in this blog are mine, unless otherwise noted.


Texas: A Proposed Sales Tax on Real Estate –

January 12, 2011

Texas, like many states, is currently facing an economic shortfall and our Legislators are scrambling to make up the difference. There are many proposed bills being brought for consideration to try to shore up the State’s coffers. While I realize the money has to come from somewhere, an informed consumer is wise consumer.

Political party affiliations aside, as a Realtor, I am a fierce proponent of private property rights. I will be running a series of discussions about the proposed bills to share available information so that you aware of items that could negatively impact your property rights and your pocket-book.

Taxes on real estate transactions: Combined State and Local sales tax rate would be applied when a property is sold or changes ownership and on long-term leases.

This is similar to buying a car now but could come into play whether a home is bought, sold, or transfers ownership due to divorce, probate, etc. The position of the Texas Association of Realtors (TAR) is that this will actually drive down the number of transactions and potentially  increase the future tax rates needed to cover earmarked expenditures, burdening both buyers and sellers and hurting the real estate market and the Texas Economy.

As a Buyer: This would certainly eat into the cash reserves for your down payment, repairs, furnishings, etc. And if your margins for borrowing are narrow, this could actually diminish the amount you can finance or size of home you can purchase.

As a Seller: This will eat into the equity or net proceeds you walk away with from the sale and could end up raising the costs of housing in your area.

As a Tenant/Landlord: One concern is what will be designated as a “long-term lease” and how much will this impact lease costs because someone has to bear the expense:  landlord, tenant or both. As an investor, this could certainly impact your ROI.

What are your thoughts on this proposed sales tax item?


Winter… Finally arriving in Houston but are you ready?

January 9, 2011

by Christi Borden

Cold fronts are few and far between here in South Texas. Oh, sure the folks up in Dallas will often get ice, sleet and occasional flurries of the white stuff, but by the time it travels down Hwy 45, we usually get a soggy, windy mess.

Hold on to your hats folks because it looks like we are in for quite a storm. With 100% chance of rain (and it must be serious because our weather experts rarely risk putting themselves out there beyond the usual 35% chance), high winds in the morning expected to be up to 30 mph and temps reaching into the low 30’s by nightfall… Houston, winter has officially arrived.

If last year’s cold fronts taught us anything, we need to protect our property from costly damage due to freezing conditions. I posted information about freezing pipes this time last year and it bears repeating.

(January 2010)

 This information is taken directly from http://www.tdi.state.tx.us/pubs/consumer/cb011.html

Icy winter weather can cause water pipes to freeze and burst if you haven’t prepared them for the frigid temperatures. Outdoor pipes, pipes in unheated areas, and pipes that run along uninsulated exterior walls are susceptible to expanding and bursting if they freeze. The result can be thousands of dollars worth of water damage to your walls, ceilings, carpets, and furniture.

Prepare for the Freeze

You can protect your home by taking the following precautions to prepare your pipes for a freeze:

  • Protect faucets, outdoor pipes, and pipes in unheated areas by wrapping them with rags, newspapers, trash bags, or plastic foam.
  • Insulate your outdoor water meter box and be sure the lid is on tight.
  • Cover any vents around your home’s foundation.
  • Drain water hoses, unhook and store them in a garage or shed.
  • Protect outdoor electrical pumps.
  • Drain swimming pool circulation systems or keep the pump motor running. (Run the pump motor only in a short freeze. Running the motor for long periods could damage it.)
  • Drain water sprinkler supply lines (and cover above-ground piping).
  • Open the cabinets under the sinks in your kitchen and bathrooms to allow heated air to circulate around the water pipes.
  • Set your thermostat at a minimum of 55 degrees, especially when you’re gone for the day or away for an extended period.
  • Let indoor faucets drip, but don’t run a heavy stream of water.
  • Make sure you know where your home’s shut-off valve is and how to turn it on and off.
  • If you leave town, consider turning off your water at the shut-off valve. Leave your faucets on when you turn the water off to drain the pipes.  Make sure you turn the faucets off before you turn the shut-off valve back on.
  • If you drain your pipes, contact your electric or gas utility company for instructions on protecting your water heater.

If Your Pipes Freeze

If a pipe bursts and floods your home, turn the water off at the shut-off valve.  Call a plumber for help if you can’t find the broken pipe or if it’s inaccessible.  Don’t turn the water back on until the pipe has been repaired.

If the pipe hasn’t burst, thaw it out with an electric heating pad, hair dryer, portable space heater, or towel soaked with hot water. Don’t use a blowtorch or other open-flame device. They are fire risks and could produce dangerous carbon monoxide.

Apply heat by slowly moving the heat source toward the coldest spot on the pipe. Never concentrate heat in one spot because cracking ice can shatter a pipe. Turn the faucet on and let it run until the pipe is thawed and water pressure returns to normal.

If You Have Damage

Contact your insurance agent or company promptly. Follow up as soon as possible with a written claim to protect your rights under Texas’ prompt-payment law.

Review your coverage. Most homeowners and renters policies pay to repair houses and replace personal property damaged by the bursting pipes. Most policies also pay for debris removal and for additional living expenses if you have to move temporarily because of damage to your home. If you can’t find your policy, ask your agent or company for a copy.

Homeowners policies may require you to make temporary repairs to protect your property from further damage. Your policy covers the cost of these repairs. Keep all receipts and damaged property for the adjuster to inspect. If possible, take photos or videos of the damage before making repairs. Don’t make permanent repairs. An insurance company may deny a claim if you make permanent repairs before an adjuster inspects the damage.

Most homeowners policies do not cover loss caused by freezing pipes while your house is unoccupied unless you used reasonable care to maintain heat in the building; shut off the water supply; and drain water from plumbing, heating, and air conditioning systems.

Stay warm, Houstonians!


Christi Borden, Realtor receives the “Certified Negotiation Expert (CNE®)” Designation

August 6, 2010

Professional negotiation skills a must for all real estate agents helping home buyers/sellers, especially in current market

Christi Borden, a Relocation and International Property Specialist with Prudential Gary Greene in Katy, TX has been awarded the Certified Negotiation Expert (CNE®) designation by the Real Estate Negotiation Institute.  The CNE® is earned by real estate professionals by successfully completing formal training in the art of negotiation and persuasion.  Agents who receive this certification are in the top 1% of all agents nationally.

With professional negotiation skills, agents are able to help clients obtain better results in the sale or purchase of their home.  CNE® agents have a powerful competitive edge because of their ability to 1) uncover more information, 2) work collaboratively with others, 3) exchange value during sales/purchase negotiations, and 4) retain control over desired outcomes.  Bottom line, CNE® agents know how to influence and persuade others more effectively than agents without professional negotiation training. 

The Real Estate Negotiation Institute, the leading negotiation training and coaching company in the real estate industry (based in Peoria, AZ) provides the CNE® certification training.  Tom Hayman, the CEO and co-founder of the Real Estate Negotiation Institute, is a professional negotiator with 35+ years of experience, including 25 years with The Procter and Gamble Company, a Fortune 50 company.  Hayman asserts “Any Buyer or Seller who hires a CNE® agent can feel confident that they have the best trained agent in the business.  They will get superior results and have better resolution of any issues when hiring a CNE® agent.”

 For more information call me at 281-492-5984 or visit http://www.theRENI.com.


Low Home Appraisal? What Do You Do Now?

July 20, 2010

by christiborden

So everything seemed to be going well in the home selling process…

  • Listed with your favorite Realtor – Check
  • Home Staged to attract buyers – Check
  • Good showing traffic and feedback – Check
  • Ready, Willing and Able Buyer presents an offer, which is negotiated and accepted – Check
  • Inspections are performed and repair items negotiated – Check
  • Appraisal is performed – Check
  • Appraisal comes in lower than acceptance price… WHAT? Back up a minute. How can that be? Shouldn’t a home be worth what a ready, willing and able buyer is willing to pay for it?

Not according to the buyer’s lender. In fact, the home needs to appraise not only at what the buyer is financing but the entire sales price as well. Why? Fraudulent loans and appraisals have caused such a backlash that lenders are very cautious and need to make sure their collateral (the property itself) is at lease worth the indebtedness so that they are covered should the buyer walk away without benefit of paying off the loan.

So, now what do we do?

Appraisals are really just the opinion of that one person and they are only human… mistakes are made. If the appraiser is unwilling to reconsider or revise, then you (the seller) can do one of three things.

  1. Accept the appraisal value and lower your sales price to match.
  2. Negotiate with buyer to pay either the original sales price regardless of appraisal or to meet somewhere in between (may mean buyer has to bring more cash to the table depending on his loan).
  3. Let buyer terminate (could be with a return of earnest money depending on the contract terms) and go back on the market hoping for a better appraisal with your next buyer. One item to note, if the buyer had an FHA loan, this appraisal stays with the address for any future FHA loans within 6 months).

How can we insure a good appraisal?

In today’s lending environment and with the HVCC  (Home Valuation Code of Conduct) rules in place, the lender has no control over who handles the appraisal. But there are things you can do to increase the chances of the property appraising if it is indeed selling for or below market value:

  1. Make sure property is in good working order on day of appraisal.
  2. Leave behind a list of any and all upgrades to the home that you wish the appraiser to consider.
  3. If there were multiple offers on the home which may have driven the sales price over list price, leave data supporting this such as copies of other offers to show a demand for this property over and above the competition.
  4. Provide comparable properties for the appraiser to view in the event he or she is not familiar with the community. While the appraiser may not use these exact comps, he or she may find it helpful. I find it is always better to offer the assistance up front prior to the appraisal rather than afterward so that there is no hint of impropriety or influence.

In our market, the majority of appraisals turn out as they should. However, as every Boy Scout knows… Be Prepared!