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 Design and Future Trends

January 14, 2011

Home design is fluid and ever changing. Many features we clamor for today may be passé tomorrow. Remember white kitchen cabinets? At one time, this was THE top wished for item and now… It is dated and unwanted. Corian countertops… All the rage in the 1990’s but now, nowhere near the top of choices.

What changes can we expect in the near future?

Based on responses to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), here are some ways in which builders can expect homes to change by as early as 2015:

Single-family homes will get smaller (74 percent of respondents said).

Homes will have more “green” features (68 percent).

Homes will have more technology features (29 percent).

Homes will have more universal access features (20 percent).

Homes will have more outdoor living features, such as kitchens and fireplaces (10 percent).

The average home size will be roughly 2,150 sf.

Living rooms will merge with other spaces in the home (52 percent), vanish to save on square footage (30 percent), or become a parlor/retreat/library or music room (13 percent).

If the living room doesn’t vanish, it will likely decrease in size (76 percent).

Also downsizing are the entry foyer (66 percent) and dining room (63 percent).

Features “very likely” to be included in a new home in 2015 include a kitchen-living room combo (“great room”), walk-in closet in master bedroom, laundry room and two-car garage.

“Unlikely” features include three or more bathrooms, mudroom, unheated porch, dining room, skylights, three-car garage, four or more bedrooms, media room and two master bedroom suites.

Homebuyers are “somewhat likely” to want universal design features such as stepless entries, three-foot-wide doorways and four-foot-wide hallways, stepless showers that have seating, non-slip floor surfaces and grab bars in bathrooms.

People seem likely to lavish more attention on the kitchen, ensuring that room will retain its status as the home’s social center. Survey respondents said they are “very likely” to want double sinks, recessed lighting, table space for eating and breakfast bars. They’re “somewhat likely” to want a central island, walk-in pantry, recycling center and desk/computer area.


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!


Katy, TX – Cinco Ranch Does it Again! in Katy, TX – # 1 in sales in US

March 24, 2010

by christi borden

 According to a report by the PR Newswire – March 23, 2010 –  Newland Communities’ Cinco Ranch in Katy (sprawling suburb 20+ miles west of downtown Houston) was the nation’s top-selling master-planned community for new-home sales in 2009, according to a survey by RCLCO, an independent real estate advisory firm.

“With 887 net new-home sales in 2009, Cinco Ranch topped the RCLCO study, moving up from second place in 2008. Sales in the 7,600-acre community were up 14%, making it one of only four communities on the top 10 list to report a positive new-home sales gain from 2008 to 2009. Telfair, another Houston community by Newland Communities, was ranked fourth, up from sixth the year prior, with 450 new-home sales, a 9% sales increase over 2008 levels.”

 Interestingly, Newland held 5 spots in the top-selling 15 for last year: Cinco Ranch, Telfair, Eagle SpringsTeravista and FishHawk Ranch, No other developer has held such a record and continues to be the leader in not only sales but resident satisfaction.

The Cinco marketing folks have recently changed their campaign to, “Cinco Ranch, Your Comfort Zone”. At a time when the economy across the nation has people skittish about real estate, this is a brilliant approach. Buyers need to feel comfortable or safe when making a home purchase. This has never been truer than for the relocation buyer – who may only be here for a year or two before moving again and needs to place his/her family in the safest area in terms of resale value. Although there are many choices out there, one must really look to the strength of the community and the developer along with the actual builder when considering a purchase. Buyers understand this as do the Realtors that serve them. No amount of incentives or give-aways can change the fact that community is so very important in our area – not just in terms of resale values but also quality of life. If you research the sales data for area builders, you will note that many of them are being kept afloat because of the strength of the very communities in which they build.

 “Newland’s sales success at Cinco Ranch can be attributed to the product diversity our homebuilders offer, the proven established track records of these communities, and a highly focused marketing approach that speaks to our customer needs,” McLeod continued.
Houston’s strong showing in the RCLCO study underscores the fact that the city is a bright spot in the national economy.

 RCLCO has been releasing its top-selling MPC rankings since 1994.

About Newland Communities
Newland Communities is the largest private developer of planned communities in the United States. With a legacy that began in 1968, Newland specializes in comprehensive residential and urban mixed-use master planning with expertise in leading large-scale single and multifamily new-home communities. Headquartered in San Diego, Calif., Newland and its affiliated companies are currently developing and managing nearly 40 projects in 14 states. www.newlandcommunities.com

 About RCLCO

RCLCO is an independent real estate advisory firm, providing market and financial analysis and strategic planning services to a broad spectrum of clients including developers, corporations, financial institutions, institutional and private investors, public agencies, and nonprofit organizations around the globe.


Houston Real Estate Market on the Upswing?

November 10, 2009

The table below shows the difference between the market experienced in February, June and October YTD 2009.   As you can see, as 2009 progresses, the single-family housing market is slowly marching toward a healthier market.

 

Houston Market Improvement Comparison 2009 of Single-Family Homes

Market Indicator

February ‘09

June ‘09

Oct. ‘09

% Change from

June ‘09

# units sold

-24%

-20%

-11%

+81%

Dollar volume sold

-33%

-24%

-14%

+71%

Average Sales Price

-12%

-6%

-4%

+50%

Median Sales Price

-8%

-2%

-1%

+50%

# of Pending Sales

-23%

-21%

-14%

+50%

Active Listings

-20%

-22%

-21%

-.46%

A summary of October YTD market statistics compared to last year:

 

  • Sales are down from October YTD 2008 by 11% with 45,391 single-family homes.
  • Dollar volume sold is down from October YTD 2008 by 14% with $9,202,482,156.
  • Average sales price is currently $202,738, down by 4%.
  • Median sales price is $153,000, down by 1% [half of the homes sold above and half below this midpoint range.
  • # of contracts written [pending] are 31,101 and that represents 14% fewer than found last year.
  • Active listings, a metric that is good if on a decline, are currently 27,758 or 21% less than last year.  This is also a metric that in Houston is the exact opposite heard frequently in the national news.

For more detailed information, go to Prudential Gary Greene Blog


HOUSING RESCUE PROGRAM DETAILS RELEASED

March 6, 2009

– President Obama earlier this week unveiled details of his home loan aid plan designed to help millions of Americans who are at risk of losing their homes.

Administration officials say the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan could help nearly nine million households restructure or refinance their mortgages to avoid foreclosure.

The plan includes a $75 billion homeowner stability initiative that targets at-risk homeowners, many of whom have adjustable-rate mortgages that have increased house payments to as much as 50 percent of their monthly incomes.

This initiative offers cash incentives to lenders and borrowers for working out loan modification agreements that result in lower monthly mortgage payments and allow homeowners to keep their homes. Any bank that receives federal money under the Treasury Department’s $700 billion financial rescue program will be required to take part.

Another component of the plan is intended to help as many as five million responsible homeowners who took out conforming loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to refinance through those institutions.

To finance that effort, the Treasury is providing the two companies with up to $200 billion in capital on top of $200 billion that it had already pledged to them.

“This is not going to save every person’s home,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. “The plan is not intended to . . . augment somebody’s loan for a house that they couldn’t afford under any economic situation, good or bad.”

According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, nearly 12 percent of homeowners — a record 5.4 million — were at least one month late or in foreclosure at the end of last year.

New York Times/Associated Press