Category Archives: Home Buying

Protesting Your Property Taxes

Hello Austin area residents/home owners!

Earlier this week I sent out an email to all my past clients about disputing their property taxes.I decided to go ahead and post the same note on the blog, given that, it’s some really helpful information.

protesting taxes scales

Option 1:

Log onto our website and if you don’t have an account, create one. From there, try to search your neighborhood by name or better, draw a polygon on the map of your area and homes similar to yours. If you have already verified your email on our site you should be able to see accurate SOLD pricing. If not, click the link next to the sold box on the status tab to “unlock sold pricing.”

From there, you will hopefully gain enough evidence that when you are arguing your value you can write in the box your counter offer and explain why. (ie other similar homes sold for $__ and are much newer/larger/in better condition etc) If your home has any sort of defects the county says those are big items they take into account, so compare it to others.

As an FYI–they ask you to submit evidence after you hit submit on the counter, however I have discovered they will counter back your offer before you have submitted any evidence, so do not feel the need to do that as soon as you submit your counter.

Option 2:

If your appraised value went up, you might consider hiring a professional like Texas ProtaxFive Stone Tax or O’Connor Associates to help you protest your taxes. They only charge a percentage of the money you save and are experts at dealing with the County Tax Assessors.

{My friend works for Five Stone Tax and she did say if they don’t end up saving you money, it will cost you nothing (so you have nothing to lose by giving this a shot)!}

Option 3:

If you would prefer to protest your taxes on your own, you can use our Home Valuation Tool to get a rough estimate of your home’s current market value using this tool as well and recent nearby sales.  

Reach out if you would like help finding recent sales to support your tax protest hearing. Don’t delay, as the deadline to file your tax protest electronically is May 24th, and May 31st if filing by paper.

**Also,if you purchased last year and taxes are above what you actually paid–you can show your closing statement to get the assessed value down to purchase price, however, remember– Tx is a non-disclosure state so you do NOT have to show what you paid for your home**

And if this is your primary residence, don’t forget to file your homestead exemption!

Hope you found this little post helpful and best of luck!

 

Ashley Brinkman

2017 broker signature

Austin Real Estate Forecast 2017 (Recapped from Ted Jones)

Dr. Ted Jones is the Economist for Stewart Title. (Twitter Handle is @drTCJ)

He gives a great presentation and holds your attention and packed with a few funnies along the way. This morning I wanted to re-cap some of the things he discussed and presented on regarding the future of Austin’s Economy.

Despite the election, Ted started off with reminding of us two things:

1. Brexit was the first sign that things were already changing and

2. Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.

No matter the outcome of the election, traditionally speaking, each election year, right before the election, things typically slow down due to market uncertainty–then they pick right back up (again, regardless if there’s a conservative  or dem in the white house, statistics usually demonstrate this).

Let’s start with Millenials (they are an important part of our Economy, especially here in ATX):

Things to Know: The top 3 Markets with Millenials are:

  • Charlotte 30%
  • Houston 17.4%
  • Austin, Tx 16.4%

76 Million Boomers, 83 million Millenials between 19-35 and 91 million Millenials between 16-35.

75% of Millenials polled say they can live without the call function on their cell phones, 76% prefer texting>talking and 19% never check their voice mail. (guilty a lil, right here).

The above statistic is funny to me. I don’t think of myself as a Millenial, but according to the year I was born, I am. But I will say I have traits from the generation before and after me combined.

{Fun fact: 70% of Millenials prefer shopping in store v. online, due to instant gratification/satisfaction. This is why company’s like Amazon are trying to speed delivery, do drone drops etc–Millenials want it NOW.}

HERE is a great little article on best housing markets FOR Millenials.

Now, let’s talk Non-Renewals/Dead on Arrival/Items already going away:

  • Mortgage insurance deductability
  • Mortgage debt forgiveness
  • Residential energy savings
  • Obama care (or some form of it)
  • Wind and Solar tax breaks

Soon to Happen Changes/Items in the works ??:

  • US has the highest corporate tax rate and we are one of the Top Developed Countries
  • Capital Gains tax cut
  • Middle class tax changes (some up and some down)
  • Carried Interest Elimination
  • US Overseas corporate profit repatriation
  • Corporate tax cut (35%–>15%)

{Fun fact: in 2000 Germany corp tax rate was around 42% in 2016 they are now at 15.8%. Did you know that every BMW x3,x4,x5,x6 was made in South Carolina due to the corp tax rate? It is the largest plant and they make BMW for worldwide-read more on that here.}

Things to note: Currently, and for the last several years leisure and hospitality spending is at a rate higher than job growth–which means a steady market, when we see a drop in leisure and spending is when we hit a recession.

Top States with Job Growth:

  • Florida
  • Washington
  • Utah
  • Oregon
  • Nevada
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • South Dakota
  • Georgia
  • California

Now let’s turn to the states at the bottom of this list (decline in job growth) and look at what they all have in common:

  • Alaska
  • Oklahoma
  • North Dakota
  • Wyoming
  • Louisiana
  • Kansas

They are all Oil and Gas based economy (ok maybe not Kansas, but what’s going on in KS…not a lot). Note, Tx isn’t on this list.

Tx is around 1.77% for job growth, we fall in the top half of the list. “This is the best oil turn down Texas has ever seen.” Jones said. And when you look at the greater Austin area: our market survives from: Tech, Education, Healthcare…Which leads me to…

2016 Stock Market Trends:

  • 13% up for Dow Jones Industries
  • 9.5% S&P500
  • 7.5% Nasdaq Composite
  • 45.2% crude oil

Mega Themes for 2017:

  • More Jobs before the election than ever before in History
  • Retail boom is on a 14 yr run
  • Entry level home buyers are returning
  • High end housing is retracting
  • Commercial Sales
  • Inflation potential (ie UPS increased rates 4.9% 12.26.16)
  • 2016 Commercial Sales were at an all time high in Austin Tx, this is different (above average) than the National record, and Austin is only at a 4% vacancy rate.
  • Rent has been increasing about 5% year over year.
  • Oil most likely stay about the same around $60/barrell (saving the average driver about $550/yr)

2017 Positives and Concerns:

  • Return of ARMs and Second rate loans
  • Faltering high end residential sales
  • Retracting commercial sales (Austin a little different)
  • Inflation
  • Midwest Land value increasing
  • Oil sub $60/barrel

Jones also predicted mortgage interest rates ranging from 4.7%-5.3%, but a 5yr ARM starts at 3.5% currently, “people will just have to get creative.”

Toward the end of the presentation we touched base on Property Taxes (and how outrageous they are and heavily based on our education system–another issue itself on how we pay and grade our teachers and schools, but I will digress).

What did I gather overall from attending Ted Jones’ Economic Forecast? In Sum:

  • Austin will be strong and steady this year, especially for those already here with jobs, he predicts Austin, Seattle and San Jose will not have a declining luxury market, however our (the company I work for, Realty Austin) Broker, Jonathan Boatwright differs on this a little, when he was quoted in the Statesman last week (article HERE and he says the numbers don’t lie)
  • Due to affordability in Austin, people will start getting a little more creative with their loans–perhaps 7 and 10yr ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages) for those who know they won’t be in a house for longer than that…these are for savvy, good credit buyers, wanting to get in their price point and save a quarter on the interest rate (the “scary” part is not knowing where rates will be in 7yrs)
  • Job growth is declining here in Austin (not by much, not rapidly, but it is becoming harder for those to find a job relocating here) Went from 5%-2%, so not by much, but slowing
  • We are NOT overbuilding. While it sometimes may seem like we are, we are still at 2.1mo of inventory. A balanced market is at 6mo of inventory and a seller’s market is usually around 4mo. So basically things are still pretty crazy here in Atx.
  • Will there be growth in 2017? Yes.
  • Will the Fed’s interest rate effect our market here in Austin? Not so much (they do correlate, but not impacted directly).

What’s Next? This is where I insert my plug. “If you are thinking of buying an investment property, leasing or selling your current place, buying your first home, selling a home…well get to it–call me.”

As always thanks for reading and I hope you found this re-cap informative!

-Ashley Brinkman

ashleybrinkman@realtyaustin.com-signature

 

Austin Real Estate Market Stats April 2015 v 2016: Where did Austin Increase 33%?!

Hello, hello!

It has been a while since I shared some market updates with you, so I was doing a little researching–and decided to share some interesting finds on the Austin market (for the month of April, 2016 in comparison to same time last year) as the market is really starting to stir up, school comes to an end & the busy Summer begins from home projects and vacations, to buying and selling.

Some areas have increased from last April as much as 33%, some down 5%, to find out more about which hoods, and where your next investment may need to be…read on.

“The market is hot!” Bet you haven’t heard that yet? (sarcasm).

As I am sure you have noticed: VALUES ARE UP! Taxes are up! Rents are up. Highrises are going up, and travel times are going up…and my clients who purchased only three years ago… Are movin’ on up.

jeffersons

All signs of a booming metro (according to Forbes, Jan 2016) show how much our housing market has increased–and this blog is more so about in what particular areas…

First–to understand what areas I will be referring to in the charts below-You must know the Austin MLS areas. You can choose a particular area to see the stats. I did not break them up by zip code, there are several zips in an MLS area.

Secondly, if you would like data specific to you, not listed in this blog-let me know- I can get it for you. All data comes from the Austin Board of Realtors, based on MLS data (which 99% of home sales are entered into).

Let’s look at Austin as a whole, first. All the Austin Board of Realtors area coverage (from Austin to Dripping Springs, Wimberly and Kyle to Georgetown, Taylor and Cedar Park for example):

 Greater Austin

Median

Average

 

Apr 2016

Apr 2015

% Change

Apr 2016

Apr 2015

% Change

List Price

$282,000 $269,900

+ 4.5%

$343,647 $336,725

+ 2.1%

Sold Price

$280,000 $265,000

+ 5.7%

$338,844 $330,111

+ 2.6%

Square Feet

1,958 1,957

+ 0.1%

2,132 2,141 -0.4%

LP/SF

$141 $133

+ 6.3%

$167 $160

+ 4.7%

SP/SF

$140 $131

+ 6.5%

$165 $157

+ 5.1%

SP/LP

99.7% 99.4%

+ 0.3%

99.0% 98.7%

+ 0.2%

DOM

12 11

+ 9.1%

45 44

+ 0.6%

Note above I bolded “as a whole.” Because when you are just looking at Austin in general, and not including the 5 MSAs surrounding Austin, the numbers are lower.

Now, let’s get down to the Austin core…yep DT (downtown).

skyline2

How were prices in April of this year compared to 2016? (Also note we have a few more high rises in the works to be built DT as well as more apartment complexes that are projected and just opened in the last year downtown.

                   Median Average
 DT AUSTIN Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change
List Price $397,500 $434,500 - 8.5% $509,920 $682,700 - 25.3%
Sold Price $387,500 $430,000 - 9.9% $497,007 $654,846 - 24.1%
Square Feet 831 1059 - 21.6% 960 1171 - 18.0%
LP/SF $506 $450 + 12.5% $523 $543 - 3.7%
SP/SF $489 $435 + 12.2% $510 $526 - 3.0%
SP/LP 97.9% 98.0% - 0.2% 97.5% 97.4% + 0.1%
DOM 23 21 + 9.8% 42 53 - 21.3%

Yes, you did see a decrease that I highlighted on percentage changed for our average sales prices, BUT not to be alarmed-as the stats are only comparing downtown to one month vs “the big picture.” Downtown still increased year to year and the other important thing to note is that the square footage listed in April was smaller than that of April 2015, therefore it skews the numbers to look as if there was a decrease–when there is really no area in Austin that has dipped in sales values. And while all signs point to the market steadily increasing–timing could be off in comparison. For example, more people put their expensive condos on the market April 2015 v 2016, but there may be an influx of listings coming the next few months.

longcenterDTview

CHECK OUT VOLUME IN APRIL ACCORDING TO HOUSING PRICES FOR GREATER AUSTIN:

Price Range Quantity DOM Price Range Quantity DOM
$149,999 or under 207 46 $500,000- $549,999 90 48
$150,000- $199,999 424 26 $550,000- $599,999 60 53
$200,000- $249,999 517 29 $600,000- $699,999 94 73
$250,000- $299,999 425 49 $700,000- $799,999 52 56
$300,000- $349,999 312 46 $800,000- $899,999 28 41
$350,000- $399,999 260 51 $900,000- $999,999 25 53
$400,000- $449,999 176 71 $1,000,000 or over 47 67
$450,000- $499,999 138 53 Total: 2,855 45
Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % change 2016 YTD 2015 YTD
Sold Listings 2,855 2,847 +0.3% 9,527 9,244 +3.1%
Volume $967,399,611 $939,825,174 +2.9% $3,141,290,016 $2,950,183,540 +6.5%

As I mentioned above, some of the decreases I am seeing in specific central Austin areas (downtown, clarksville, west lake etc.) more so have to do with scarcity of inventory and higher prices than lack of desirability. Some of these areas take very specific buyers; for example, the average sales price in charming Clarksville is $910k!

INVENTORY 1B Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % change 2016 YTD 2015 YTD
Sold Listings 24 28 -14.3% 69 94 -26.6%
Volume $11,928,174 $18,335,700 -34.9% $45,552,206 $58,488,050 -22.1%

Let’s talk about North Austin (aka: area 2n; aka 78758, 78753). With the growth of the Domain and many tech companies moving and expanding in North Austin, it is no wonder over one year’s time the average sales price has shot up 19.5%!

Area 2N April-16
Median Average
Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change
List Price $230,000 $199,900 + 15.1% $226,642 $187,470 + 20.9%
Sold Price $237,500 $206,390 + 15.1% $227,839 $190,629 + 19.5%
Square Feet 1425 1415 + 0.7% 1446 1363 + 6.1%
LP/SF $148 $131 + 12.7% $155 $135 + 14.8%
SP/SF $153 $138 + 10.8% $156 $137 + 13.8%
SP/LP 100.4% 100.7% - 0.3% 100.5% 101.3% - 0.8%
DOM 4 4 0.0% 33 10 + 229.2%

Click HERE to see the map breakout of areas. This is also the area I personally live in (what! what!) want to know more? Contact me!

domain growth

Let’s explore some more areas and evaluate home prices…read on…

When you head North east to the MLS area: NE (out toward Parmer and 290… near Samsung…and yes an old landfill) you have some new developments on the rise. If you are commuting to N. Austin, I think this can be a great buy for those who:

1. Solely want new construction (various builders and neighborhoods) at an affordable price and/or

2. As an investment–the area only has more acreage and room to grow with easy access to large companies, toll roads and highways and if staying E. not too bad of a commute into central Austin. Great for rental property or to live in, and hold.

Area NE
Median Average
Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change
List Price $225,000 $192,900 + 16.6% $239,439 $199,669 + 19.9%
Sold Price $226,021 $193,900 + 16.6% $237,895 $198,490 + 19.9%
Square Feet 1739 1928 - 9.8% 1876 1939 - 3.2%
LP/SF $134 $111 + 20.7% $131 $107 + 22.4%
SP/SF $134 $109 + 22.6% $130 $107 + 21.8%
SP/LP 100.0% 100.0% 0.0% 99.6% 99.7% - 0.1%
DOM 6 5 + 20.0% 16 19 - 13.8%

Which neighborhoods and builders am I referring to exactly in NE Austin? Check out the homes in this area above: HERE. There are a lot of new neighborhoods (and some only a few years old, still growing in this area). This area mainly comprises 78754 and 78753 and extends East to Manor. Some of the neighborhoods are Bellingham Meadows. Enclave of the Springs, Walnut Creek Enclave, Stirling Bridge, Parkside at Harris Branch, Pioneer Crossing, Pioneer Crossing West. In price points ranging from the affordable starter home, $205k, only a few years old to brand new homes you can pick finishes etc. around $350k. (here’s an old blog on purchasing new construction HERE).

And how is East Austin (area 3, aka 78723) fairing in home sales? Well, there is no doubt about it, the development of Mueller has increased housing not only in the diverse and eclectic, new community (that is still developing), but the surrounding neighborhoods such as Windsor Park, The Grove, University Hills, Cherrywood and St. John’s have all seen an increase in sales due to Mueller.

There are plenty of homes built in the late 60’s, updated and renovated, but like many areas of Austin–tons of new (and not so “affordable” developments can be found…like, HERE)!

Median Average
 AREA 3 Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change
List Price $375,000 $309,900 + 21.0% $371,796 $315,289 + 17.9%
Sold Price $372,500 $300,000 + 24.2% $370,279 $311,335 + 18.9%
Square Feet 1579 1508 + 4.7% 1593 1483 + 7.4%
LP/SF $244 $207 + 18.0% $238 $216 + 10.2%
SP/SF $244 $206 + 18.4% $238 $213 + 11.8%
SP/LP 100.0% 100.0% 0.0% 99.7% 98.6% + 1.1%
DOM 8 11 - 31.8% 41 43 - 4.0%

Perhaps two of the hottest Austin areas are South of the river and East of 35 (78741 and 78744).

One area in particular, {in my opinion that is undervalued and coming around–great rental investment opportunities} I have been telling many people who want to invest in is: 78744..or aka Area 11 on the map, check out what homes you can find HERE.

Median Average
Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change
List Price $199,900 $190,303 + 5.0% $211,912 $174,797 + 21.2%
Sold Price $203,110 $186,393 + 9.0% $211,246 $172,907 + 22.2%
Square Feet 1313 1466 - 10.4% 1590 1545 + 2.9%
LP/SF $144 $120 + 20.0% $139 $116 + 20.2%
SP/SF $149 $120 + 25.1% $139 $114 + 21.4%
SP/LP 100.0% 99.4% + 0.5% 99.8% 99.2% + 0.6%
DOM 8 17 - 51.5% 30 59 - 48.7%

You can find everything from grandma’s house to new construction in this area, above, that’s for sure.

 

However, if you are willing to spend a bit more—and you heard the news of Oracle relocating to East Austin on 27 acres, East of DT, overlooking Lady Bird lake… then this may be the area for you, (but the cat is out of the bag on this area–as it has increased already since last year 33.2%). Holy moly…one of the largest increases of all the Austin areas. With the boardwalk completion, easy access to airport, DT, ACC campus and more, it is no wonder people are choosing to invest in this area.

Median Average
 Area 9 Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change Apr 2016 Apr 2015 % Change
List Price $242,450 $224,500 + 8.0% $251,058 $193,749 + 29.6%
Sold Price $242,750 $217,000 + 11.9% $253,746 $190,471 + 33.2%
Square Feet 1122 1245 - 9.9% 1233 1239 - 0.4%
LP/SF $206 $159 + 29.8% $209 $153 + 36.2%
SP/SF $206 $143 + 44.2% $210 $150 + 39.9%
SP/LP 100.0% 97.6% + 2.5% 100.4% 97.9% + 2.6%
DOM 5 20 - 75.0% 9 37 - 75.2%

 oracle campus(Artist’s drawing of Oracle campus above)

When evaluating the sold prices from April 2015 to 2016, here’s a few popular areas and if you’d like more specific info like I have above-feel free to contact me and I will send it over (it is just too much to put into one blog).

  • Round Rock East and Round Rock West had about a +4% change for April 2015 v2016 (RRW was a little less than RRE with all the growth out East of Austin, w toll roads etc)
  • Pflugerville experienced a +5.8%, average sales price under $230k, so quite affordable!
  • NW Hills and Great Hills in Austin jumped +13.5% w/ avg sales price around $544k
  • The 78745 (or area S of Ben White, N of Slaughter-ish area) is steadily increasing, +4.8%
  • 78703 (aka Clarksville or a very desirable central Austin location near DT) actually decreased -5.1%, yet the average sales price in this area for a home in April 2016: $910k
  • The UT area (78705, or campus better yet) decreased in April as well, -3.4% w/ avg sales price around $290k
  • While DT showed to be down-24.1% in Apr 2016 v 2015, it also decreased in listings volume by 36%, what does $510/sq ft buy you? Check it out…HERE.
  • Cedar Park is still growing quite a bit, with an increase of +9.7% and avg sales price at $317k where you can get on avg 2300sq ft too!
  • Northern part of Cedar Park & Leander, due to all the growth in N. Austin are at an average sales price of $280k and up +11.7% from 2015 (examples of homes/area HERE)
  • Hays County experienced the largest annual gain in home sales in April 2016, with single-family home sales jumping 17.8% year-over-year to 338 home sales.
  • Williamson County was the only county in the Austin-Round Rock MSA to experience a decline in home sales in April 2016, with single-family home sales dropping 5.1 percent year-over-year to 816 home sales.

While I didn’t touch much on affordability in this blog, it is still a large issue in our growing metro areas.

Housing affordability includes not only a home’s sale price, but the homeowner’s ability to continue to afford the home as property values rise from year to year. “The Austin Board of REALTORS® encourages homeowners to learn how their home is being appraised and all property tax exemptions they might qualify for. A Central Texas REALTOR® can help homeowners contest their assessment by identifying comparable properties and gathering the necessary background information to formulate an appeal.” -Aaron Farmer, ABOR President

Anyway, thank you for reading–I hope you found these charts helpful and if you have any questions about your specific area, market stats, neighborhood stats, school ratings, home values, etc, please do not hesitate to reach out! To read more about me and contact me click here.

Ashley Brinkman, ABR, GRI @ Realty Austin.

Filing Your Homestead Exemption: Austin, Tx and surrounding areas

Did you buy a home last year?

Do you want a tax break?

Good, here is what you need to do to get that tax break…

First-write down on your “to do” list: File Homestead Exemption

Secondly, actually take about 10 minutes to do it.

Isn’t it funny how the most mundane tasks get put off and shoved to the side? When you put that stamp and send it in (or fill it out online) you think, “oh that really wasn’t so bad, afterall, why did I wait so long to do it?” {still on my to do list by the way}

So, my Austin area peeps:

Below are the links to information on how to download the necessary forms to claim your exemption-based on what county you purchased your home in:

  • Travis County 
    Mailing Address: P.O. BOX 149012, Austin, TX 78714-9012
  • Williamson County or File Online
    Mailing Address: 625 FM 1460, Georgetown, TX 78626-8050
  • Hays County
    Mailing Address: 21001 IH 35 North, Kyle, Texas 78640
  • Bastrop County or Call 512-303-1930 ext. 22
    Mailing Address: P.O. Box 578, Bastrop, TX 78602
  • Burnet County
    Mailing Address: P.O. Box 908, Burnet, TX 78611-0908
  • Llano County
    Mailing Address: 103 E. Sandstone St., Llano, Texas 78643

As Austin and surrounding areas home pricing increases, so will taxes. Typically (yet not always) your tax value is a bit behind your actual appraised value of your home.

**Remember your tax value and assessed home value by your lender are two different things. And as some say– You want the taxing authority to think you live in a shack and your loan provider to think you live in a mansion (wink, wink)**

So at the start of the year, by April 1, you need to have your homestead exemption filed if you are currently living in the home you purchased the year prior.

EVALUATION PHASE:

Jan-late March is the evaluation phase. Around April you will get a letter in the mail with your tax appraised value if:

  • the appraised value of the property is greater than it was in the preceding year $1,000 or more;
  • the appraised value of the property is greater than the value rendered by the property owner; or
  • the property was not on the appraisal roll in the preceding year

EQUALIZATION PHASE: 

April through July for the most part–

After you get the letter in the mail, you may protest your taxes.

If you paid less for your home than what the taxing authorities are saying it is worth, it is fairly easy to get your taxes reduced by showing them your final closing statement.

**However!! Fun Fact: Texas is a Non-disclosure state! So let’s say after you close on your home you get a piece of paper in the mail, it looks official and it asks, “What did you pay for your home?” send this back in to us…You, as a Texas Resident do NOT have to report what you paid for the home.**

There are two hearings to arguing your taxes-an informal and a formal. Basically if you don’t get your way in the informal (which you can send in the piece of paper- ON TIME), you can request a formal. You present your comparable sold properties and explain your case as to why you should not be taxed as much as you were. (This is where I come in! As your/a realtor, I can try to help you find homes similar to yours and what they sold for to help your case).

DISCOVERY PHASE

And finally August through the end of the year is the discovery phase for the following year.

After the inquiry/protest season concludes, the appraisal process transitions to the data collection and analysis phase. During this time, appraisers may be seen throughout the County in neighborhoods and commercial areas as they are measuring new residential or commercial construction, reviewing and updating characteristics of existing construction and/or land parcels, and reviewing, updating, or adding inventory of present or new businesses. Yearly updated aerial imagery, digital field devices for data collection, and GIS analysis tools are utilized to assist in staff efficiency, and ensure proper valuations and equitable results during the assigned/limited time for this phase. This process requires collection and analysis of three types of data:

General data, which affect values on national, state/regional, or neighborhood levels.
Specific data, about the site and improvements of a property.
Comparative data, which regards recent sales, cost, and income information for similar properties.

If this is still all over your head, this chart may help explain and is where I got most the information above from (along with past experience): Here is a great Tax Calendar visual to explain.

When your tax bill comes due, depending how your loan is set up will depend on how you pay it. If your money is with an escrow account–meaning you make a payment to your lender that covers: PITI–> principal, interest, taxes,  (home owner’s) insurance. If the value of your home goes up, so will your payment, as your lender will try to “pad” your escrow account so you don’t end up owing more when your bill comes due. Some home loans allow you to make your payment online–and choose if you want to pay extra and if it goes toward your escrow account or principle, which is nice. Or if you don’t have an escrow account (not required for those who put down more than 20%) you can manage your taxes yourself and pay the bill as it comes due.

Hope some of that information helps and if any additional questions, feel free to drop me a line.

AshleyBrinkman@realtyaustin.com

As always, thanks for reading!

How to be a Great Home Owner

I recently purchased a home and one of the things I REALLY appreciated were the seller’s care they took in the home I purchased, but also their responsiveness to questions I had about the home during and post closing.

As an agent now for…I don’t know like 7 yrs-(I cannot keep track any more), there is a noticeable difference of when an owner has lived in (and cared for) a home and when it is a flip or rental or unmaintained. Nothing brings me greater joy as a buyer’s agent than when the sellers are open about information with the home–past bills, year they put in wood flooring, last time they had HVAC serviced etc. These are important things to keep track of! And nothing brings me greater joy as a Selling agent than the big file/paper trail the seller hands over to me when we sign a listing agreement either.

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If you are not OCD that’s ok! And I am not trying to encourage hoarding either (which seems to become a habit of never throwing anything away once we move into a place that has more space).

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I thought I would put together a few tips on being a great home owner-and increasing your resale potential in the future, below.

1. Document, document, document.

It isn’t a terrible idea to keep a piece of paper taped inside your HVAC closet of dates you last cleaned it, changed the air filter or had it serviced, make a note each time. Also, to keep track of doing these items, after you purchase a home-maybe add reminders to your calendar (air filter monthly and servicing between seasons).

closing docs

More of an electronic person? Have a folder on your computer (in dropbox or a cloud provider so you don’t lose it if your computer crashes) with all your home owner paperwork: closing documents, survey (that’s a $450 piece of paper), and then as you update your home, take care of things, etc, be sure to keep copies of receipts, invoices, bids etc in this folder for future reference. Painted a room and have leftover paint? Write the room and paint color on can and keep in special place in storage, not just for future owner of your own home-but it may come in handy for you too! Do you have a lawn guy who comes a few times a month or a recommended pool cleaner? It isn’t a bad idea to pass along their info or card to the future owners of your place as well.

2. A special place

Have a designated drawer or file cabinet of some sort for these documents, invoices etc. as well. I was real fortunate when I purchased my home to have a huge stack of manuals of every appliance, light fixture, etc that was updated in my home. As well as a few parts to things that may not have been used, but could be added (extra lock to sliding glass door, under cabinet lighting, etc). The special place shouldn’t be in the attic in a box however, should be an easily accessible place and if you are super into security, perhaps in a locked safe or cabinet of some sort.

file cabinet safe

Are you an owner of an investment property? The management company should keep track of all leases, service orders and maintenance calls, and you will want to make sure you get a copy as well! Save emails between your and your tenants.

3. Take care of it.

If I had to choose between spending $1000 on a trip somewhere or fixing an HVAC leak, it is a no brainer on what I WANT to do, but not necessarily what I NEED to do. If you are generally keeping an eye on things in your home, then hopefully it won’t get to a point of discovering a major issue costing an arm and a leg. Water your foundation with soaker hoses (another item you can add to calendar if it hasn’t been raining), add insulation in the attic when needed, replace or fix items as they break vs putting it off. Yes, much easier said than done.

Plumber working on sink

Have you ever heard the term to “swallow the frog?” Your fixture in the bathroom works fine, but the handle is broken and you have been turning on the shower with a wrench for more than a year. Guess what, as soon as you get someone to fix it (if you can’t yourself) you are going to think: Man, why didn’t I just have this done month’s ago?! It’s the little things that are a pain in the butt, yes, but when everything works as they should in your home-you’re happier.

When  you take care of things now you also save a lot of time when it comes to putting your home on the market because then things are already done (and believe me there comes a hefty list of things to do to make your home sell faster-why add more little tedious projects to the list? “Take care of it” also goes without saying–this means your mortgage, taxes and HOA bills too. Don’t let bills slip away from you!

4. Befriend Thy Neighbor.

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I know, I know–the crazy cat lady across the street is annoying or the guy that lives below you at your condo is creepy. You don’t have to hang out and cook dinner together, but being aware of what is going on in your neighborhood, with your neighbors, amongst your HOA is never a bad thing. Sure some chat it up way too often and are always spying on what is going on at your place, but when you have great neighbors, there is nothing better! Even if you hate people, make it a goal to introduce yourself to a neighbor or say hi from time to time.

crazy cat lady

Good neighbors: alert you and watch your things when you are on vacation or if there was something suspicious. Good neighbors give great recommendations on who fixed their roof. Good neighbors mow your lawn sometimes since your yard connects. Good neighbors let you borrow a cup of sugar (or these days a wifi password) or lend you a helping hand when doing yard or car work. Are YOU going to be that good neighbor?

 

That’s a Wrap! What it was like filming for HGTV’s House Hunters

So, last week we finished up “Act 4″ of HGTV’s House Hunter’s with Pie Town productions. It was such a fun (and not going to lie, an exhausting) experience, here’s a few tid-bits from behind the scenes.

A while back I had wrote a blog about how I got picked for the show before we started filming, however I got in trouble because I did sign a confidentiality agreement and they asked me to take it down-whoops! So, here I am again posting about HGTV experience, post filming.

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(Note I do not have House Hunter’s permission to use their logo, but needed a filler and found this on Google image, I am sorry House Hunters-but this is recognizable!)

What I can say in sum, is that it was a pretty cool experience and since I have received plenty of questions, I will now attempt to address them all.

FAQ #1: How did you get picked to be on the show? 

People, it isn’t that hard to apply for a show! Most of the time you go online and then a casting producer calls you if the criteria fits. At the time I had two sets of clients I thought would be a great fit. They reached out to me weeks later. And contrary to popular believe I do not sit around applying for Reality TV shows, promise (I don’t even have cable! However today does mark the exact anniversary of my appearance on Anderson Cooper-still don’t have a dang tape of that either…probably for the best).

ANDERSON COOPER

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Above: (Sad I got no pics of Anderson and I, but here is the producer Jessica and I!)

Anyway, a casting director emailed me. After a few emails back and forth my client discovered the filming time would not work well with his schedule. At that time I had also just won an offer on a home for myself-so I asked if I would be a good fit, despite being an agent AND the buyer and they said it was fine. (Side note, I have only seen a few episodes of this show since I haven’t had cable in a long time).

THEN you have a phone interview. And they want specifics. How boring would a show be if people were only looking at new construction with an open floorplan and granite countertops and hobbies included movies and going out to eat? (Yes we all want that and do that, but it doesn’t make for exciting television). After she (casting producer) liked what I had to say about my house hunt and hobbies THEN I had to submit a video with a friend who would house hunt with me (and could get off work for filming).

nothingtowearThe hardest part was choosing what to wear (and getting people to sign releases).

So, I thought of Sarah. Plus Sarah and I do craft projects, talk about housing quite a bit, she was a client of mine, we dream of flipping and staging one day and every time I would look at a fixer house I would send her the video for ideas (she is a great visionary). When I asked Sarah if she would want to be on TV with me her response was: “Oh my God, that’s my lifelong dream to be on HGTV!” so it was a no-brainer.

IMG_8876THEN…Sarah and I created a video for the director to watch. I took it off YouTube so you can no longer watch that monstrosity (#sorrynotsorry). It was a Saturday night at midnight and we answered the questions they sent us in a witty/hilarious fashion (side note: we may have had a few glasses of wine prior). The best part of making a video was the fact we had to do a home tour…on a selfie stick. I came around the corner and hit a wall and the phone went flying, I picked it up and kept rolling because I was not about to start over.

Fast forward a week or so and I was in Mallorca, Spain with my friend on vacation. We had literally just got an invitation for free shots at the bar-and as I was about to take it–I got a call with an Los Angeles area code and had a feeling it was Pie Town Productions. Due to bad service and a 7hr time difference, we kept missing one another, but I had a feeling she was calling to give good news. I emailed her in the morning to discover we were in fact chosen for House Hunters. Yipppeeee!!

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FAQ #2: Is the show scripted?

So, fast forward, now about a month from when we got chosen the director (from LA), camera guy and sound guy (who are local and independently contracted, but have worked with the director and show plenty) show up at Sarah’s for day 1 of filming. As we get ready they do exterior shots and set up. Our opening scene is us at Sarah’s on her couch. This is “The Interview” where they discuss our “relationship” and my expectations of home buying etc. Do they tell us line for line what to say? No, the show is not scripted. Did we need help maybe phrasing what we were exactly trying to say and maybe had to repeat certain things-Yes. Sometimes what we wanted to say and what we were actually saying made no sense, I think the camera and lights start to get to you. Because the show looks like it is a “two camera show” we do a lot of takes. So you say everything you would say about a room 5 times because maybe we talked over one another, or maybe the camera was looking at the sink and not a facial expression reacting to what was said, so we do it again. However, please tell Sarah that you heard “she can’t cook but she can make a mean mimosa.” (This was from our crafting session footage and a line Sarah had to say more than 3x as we toasted Andre and OJ)

IMG_0326See this desk above-stay tuned for the After pics on the show!

FAQ #3: I heard some of the houses you tour aren’t even on the market, is this true?

All the houses that are on my show were actually on the market at the time of filming! It was not easy in this fast paced market because I had to have the releases signed about a week before we filmed. Fortunately one popped up on the market a few days prior and owner signed off for filming. The properties were legitimately in the area I was looking and met (for the most part) requirements of what I was looking for. The hardest part, no lie, was getting sellers to sign a release that there home could be on show. It’s a hot market in Austin and for us to take up a whole day filming in a house on a Saturday was rough. I may have even had an altercation with a crabby agent, who showed up before we were done filming. But we took ten and let her show her clients. Fortunately the owners were super nice and grateful regardless.

FAQ #4: Did you just say a whole day to film one house?

Yep, the days are long. And you really can’t go run errands on your lunch break and be taking calls because you literally don’t stop filming. The five-seven minutes spent on the show touring a home is actually 8am-3pm-ish in real time footage, sometimes later. Camera guy arrives early for street shots, exterior shots, then sets up. Then Sarah and I would show up, get mic’d, go over the order of everything and begin shooting room by room. If a car drove by playing a blatant song-CUT! Start over (don’t have rights to play that song). If Sarah or I looked at the camera-CUT! Start over. If I made a weird/awkward/funny face after I said a statement I was unsure about (this happened a lot) CUT! Start over. So you can see how the day just flies by. Lunch with everyone was great and you start to bond with “the crew” which is nice too because as much as it is work, there is a lot of joking around too. The conversation topics are endless as well as our questions for the crew: “How awesome is it to work on food network shows and eat that food?” Or “What’s the grossest thing you saw when you filmed Hoarders?”

IMG_1042Day 2 wrap up above.

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Above: Camera guy Chris during mine and Sarah’s least favorite scene: All of us packed in a car with no air conditioning (too loud on microphones) talking about homes, driving around while he is all up in my grill-BUT I have to pretend like I am talking to Sarah next to me AND not look at camera or make fun/laugh at Chris (again that whole two camera show shots).

After the filming of home tours, Sarah and I had said specific things we enjoyed doing together on camera in our interview–therefore, they wanted footage of us doing those actual “activities.” Makes for much better TV to show it rather than just talk about it, amiright?. So, we really regret saying we jogged/ran half marathons once a year together and wished we would have said we just stay in and watch TV or something. haha.

There we were at 4pm on the Lady Bird Lake board walk jogging…sweating…on camera…with angles from our feet, looking up, I can only hope that footage gets edited down.

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The other “thing” to note is that for all the other things we were filming I had to have location releases, artist releases (for logos or artwork shown), and camera releases for those who would be on camera with me. I would then say “be here at this time, but we could be late, be flexible.” It was a bit stressful coordinating because I didn’t want to hit any snags, but so glad so many of my friends pulled through! I am forever grateful.

Let’s see, We filmed at CG Arena since I said I enjoyed working out (again, can’t have music, so we had to whip up a workout with no music on-so weird). We did a kickball game with a bunch of Austin SSCers (thanks again to all of you who patiently waited for us and played along! And Austin SSC for letting us wear the logo and use the fields! We also filmed Charlissa and I having a sno-cone and chillin’ (she is my lil with Big Brothers Big Sister) a special thanks to her mom for letting her be apart of it, she was excited. And then, because I like photography, we shot me taking photos of hearts at Tyson’s Tacos off Airport, (who was super nice to sign the release on short notice and if you heard, Vance Joy played there after ACL for free tacos!) as well as my signature “clients in front of the door with the SOLD sign” photo. (Thanks Ana and Andres!) So, the days were long, but worth it (or so I hope when I see it air).

girls touched upAn old school kickball team pic of the ladies-thanks for filming with us!

herrerafamilyWhen the show airs, you may spot this sweet family as well!

We spent a total of 4 days shooting. Then they gave me time to move in, and they came back for one day of filming Sarah and I hanging up things in my house, my “exit interview” regarding the home buying process and a quick shot of me and friends enjoying my new backyard/house! (Special shout out to those of you who could make it over at 5pm on a Monday with less than 24hr notice, you da best!)

FAQ #5 When does it air?!?

It won’t air for another 4-6months. I know they already started editing footage because when they came back they made sure to hit on certain key points that you mention in the beginning to tie it all together. They told me they can’t give me an exact date. However, one co-worker who has been on the show says she did get enough advanced notice to plan a watch party (#goalz) and you also get a copy of the show AFTER it airs. You can also keep checking the website for the episode # to see the air date as well. (Episode #11202 folks)

I am thinking of a watch party/client appreciation party when it airs and open to venue locations, send suggestions to me! (ashleybrinkman@realtyaustin.com)

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FAQ #6: Do you get paid?

If I were just the Realtor on the show, no, I would have not gotten paid. The buyer gets paid. I will say it isn’t much. The seller’s who let their house on the show also do not get paid. The friend of the buyer/partner etc does not either. I told Sarah I would split it with her, but she was kind and said I could keep it since I have literally been hemorrhaging money since I closed on my home. haha. {Those home improvement projects add up!} But Sarah and I are going to do a nice dinner to celebrate soon (on me).

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FAQ #7: Do they pay for the home renovations?

Maybe if this were House Hunters renovation-yes, but I have no idea. This was regular House Hunters. The things I chose to do with my house after moving in were all my choice on my dime. In fact, I had already decided to do many of those things before even agreeing to be on the show. I will admittedly add that the projects probably would not have gotten done that quickly had it not been for the camera crews coming back to film me “settled in.” I know Sarah can attest to a couch purchase, laundry room renovation completion and an outdoor project due to the taping of the show as well. But hey, sometimes we need deadlines in life!

jordan ln finishing 3I spray painted the mailbox (to match my front door) the night before the crew’s arrival!

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This house number project was much more complicated than it looks.

jordan ln finishing projectNote this photo was taken at 11pm (because that’s when I finished hanging the patio lights.

jordanlnfrontHad exterior painted a few days prior to arrival as well. The gray is darker than I had wanted, but definitely growing on me and happy overall.

IMG_1122(This is in the midst of the popcorn removal for my home)

FAQ #9: Did you really only look at 3 houses?!

On the show-yes. In real life? Not so much, I probably made offers on about 7 homes for almost a year before I found this one. I know what you are thinking, You are a realtor and you lost out on 7 homes first? And I would argue that I knew what I was willing to pay for the RIGHT house. So when I would get a counter offer at times, (because all the houses I made offers on were multiple offer situations) I wasn’t willing to come up any more because “I just wasn’t feeling it”. So glad I stuck with my gut on that one. I often tell my clients- You will know when you find the right house, it is a feeling you get when you are inside. And then you go for it!

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“It will be mine, oh yes it will be mine.”-Wayne

FAQ #8: Would you do it again?

I would totally be on the show again (as a Realtor) not the buyer (plus I don’t think you can be a buyer twice). But I think it really depends what it will look like post editing when it airs. There were a lot of things I look back on and think “As a Realtor I would have never done __xyz__” but for TV sometimes you have to skip the garage, and you don’t pull down the attic ladder or check the HVAC age and hot water heater. I also think my sense of humor can be taken out of context (especially if you don’t know me)…so when I joke about a safe in my closet and “That’s where I will store my gun,” you may not know that’s me being facetious (plus the laughter after I made that comment will probably be edited out to make for good TV and poking fun of Texans) haha.

IMG_0984I also have seen enough episodes to know that sometimes the buyers in the show are focused on “Where the husband’s large TV will go?” or “How the home must have a jet tub in the master” And yes, when I work with buyers there are sometimes these specific requests, but for the most part, people want a home that’s a good investment they can see themselves in and if they found the PERFECT house BUT the nook for the TV wasn’t big enough for their current TV, it usually doesn’t stop them from purchasing a home. So I know, based on some of the little things I stressed in these home tours and put in my wish list, it will be edited to make it seem as if they are a bigger ordeal to me than they actually are. However, I will say these items make me appreciate my house so much more! So I think we all need a far-fetched wish list item achieved to make us reassured about our purchase.

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My hang ups on the show will be: must have a mature tree in the front yard (ok this may be an actual deal breaker for me), built in shelving, gas cooking, a laundry room inside, no converted garages, a large master bath  and my hatred for popcorn ceilings.

And no blog would be complete without a picture of my dog #GoodGollyMsMollyMaltipoo:

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**You bet your butt you will see her on the show too! They definitely wanted to film me baby-talking Molly and saying “we are going to get you a house!” it was awkward to say the least..because while I do baby talk her (I usually do it in private!) Where are my dog lovers at who can relate?!?!**

Now, who wants to be on House Hunters, I know a great Realtor that’s willing to help get you on the show!? ;)

Thanks for reading as always, sorry for the long detailed posts (as usual, but I am not one to skip out on details!).

How to buy your first home: A Breakdown of the Process of becoming a Home Owner

Even though these steps are already listed on another tab on my website, I thought it couldn’t hurt to also blog about the steps since I seem to be working with so many buyers right now, which is great because it is only January, interest rates are still low and Austin is still doing great!

I love working with buyers.

There’s always a few obstacles, but there’s something about researching to find the best option for my clients that I love (of course, there are always those who have already done their homework online and know what they want), but I’d say the hardest part is the “break up.” I mean it is kind of awkward. You spend so much time emailing, discussing options, driving and looking at properties together, then you make an offer, wait until it closes and then that’s it. I don’t really see or hear from my clients anymore but always want to and try to keep in touch. I guess it could be considered a “friendly/on good terms” breakup, and those are the best kind.

First off, before the 8 steps, can I just add that due to the financial situation we are in (the “lending crisis”, the “housing crisis” you hear mentioned on the news), lending regulations and guidelines have strengthened and there is a lot more red tape that comes into play when getting a home loan. Austin and Texas in general have remained strong and economically are better off than the rest of the US…so that is always good to hear.

For example: you will want at least 3.5% saved up to put down on a home…and really, you want more, for 1. reserves and 2. closing costs.
How will I know what I am approved for? 
A lender will tell you based on income, debt to income ratio and overseeing your credit and employment history as well.
Is it ok if I talk or shop more than one lender?
Absolutely. You can always start with your bank (if you have banked with them for a long time), but in my personal experience have found it is better to deal with a mortgage broker. Often times I recommend a few lenders to any first time buyer, whom they feel more comfortable with regarding confidence, personality and rates is up to the buyer to move forward with in helping them process their home loan.

What are closing costs? And what do they usually run me?
Closing costs are “the cost of doing business” and the money you need to bring at closing (when signing a million documents to your new home purchase).
Estimate for closing costs 4-6% of the sales price. It will vary if a seller or buyer pays for closing. Often times if a seller refuses to pay for closing costs, a buyer can roll it in to the price of the loan, should they not want to bring that much to the table (aka closing).

What else will I need to prove to buy a home?
Depending on the loan program, you will need a credit score around 640. If your credit is lower, than often times it can take someone reviewing your credit report, and anywhere between 3-9mo to establish better credit.
Tips for maintaining great credit: Several different lines of trade (i.e credit card, car payment, furniture lines). Paying on time (this is the BIG one, that can really hurt you if late). Paying over the minimum amount. No delinquencies. Keeping your credit card balances at 30% or less of the total limit. If you have a credit card open, but never use-charge at least one item per month on the card and pay it off. Lines of trade that aren’t recent (the longer established lines of credit show that you can month after month manage credit, pay on time and be responsible for your charges). No debt in collections.

What are some other costs, as a buyer, I will be expected to pay?
Once you find the home you like, it is a very good idea to get in professionally inspected. You are looking at a few hundred dollars, depending on the size of the home, and arranged between the buyer and inspector. Even if the home was recently pre-inspected, it is always a good idea to still get another inspection.
Also, the appraisal. Once under contract and inspection looks good, the lender will need to make sure the home they are about to lend on appraises for that amount, this is usually charged to the buyer as well and arranged between buyer and lender.

You will also need proof of income. Independent contractors and small business owners/people who work for themselves, need to have income proof of at least two years to buy a home. Steady income can be hard to prove to receive a loan, so make sure you keep an accurate track record of your finances, while also accounting for taxes and saving for your first home purchase. You also don’t want to make a big career change right before you buy (after perhaps), but if you do decide to make a change, it is much easier and more explainable if in the same field.

So, you have had steady income, your credit looks stellar, you are tired of apartment living and rent going down the drain, what’s next?

Steps To Buying Your First Home:

1. Decide to Buy
  • There is never a wrong time to buy the right home. The key is finding a good buy and taking the time to carefully evaluate your finances.
  • A home purchase is an important step in the path to long-term wealth. Purchasing your own home is a great investment that provides specific financial advantages, including equity buildup, value appreciation potential and tax benefits. It’s also an automatic savings plan that you cannot get from renting!
  • You don’t have to know everything. Let me help you and walk you through the process.
2. Hire an Agent
A great real estate agent will:
  1. Educate you about the current conditions of the market.
  2. Analyze what you want and what you need in your next home.
  3. Guide you to homes that fit your criteria.
  4. Coordinate the work of other needed professionals throughout the process.
  5. Negotiate with the seller on your behalf.
  6. Check and double-check paperwork and deadlines.
  7. Solve any problems that may arise.
3. Secure Financing
Ultimately, your lender will pre-approve you for a certain amount, but YOU will decide what you’re comfortable paying every month. Remember, your lender only sees your finances on paper. It’s up to you to decide how much you’re willing to stretch your budget in order to get into your dream home.

Be sure to follow these six steps to financing your home:
  1. Choose a loan officer (your agent may be able to recommend a few)
  2. Complete a loan application and get PRE-approved.
  3. Determine what you want to budget monthly and select a loan option.
  4. Submit to the lender an accepted purchase offer.
  5. Get an appraisal and title commitment.
  6. Obtain funding at closing.
4. Find your Home
So you are pre-approved and ready to begin your search. But how or where do you begin? There are a lot of homes out there and diving in without a guide can become overwhelming and confusing. A great agent will help you more accurately pinpoint homes that fit your criteria and budget. The right home will meet all your important needs, and as many of your additional wants as possible. An agent can guide you in the right direction if you are unsure.
You’ll learn as you look at homes, your priorities will probably adjust along the way.
5. Make an Offer
Once you’ve found a home you love, the next step is making a compelling, educated offer. While emotions are probably in high gear once you’ve found a home you love, it’s important to remember that a home is an investment. Your agent will research similar properties in the neighborhood to help you determine the market value, and fair price, for your home. Look to your agent to explain and guide you through the offer process.
  • 3 basic components of your purchase offer: price, terms and contingencies.
  • Price is the dollar amount you are approved for, willing and able to pay.
  • Terms cover the other financial and timing factors that will be included in the offer.
  • Contingencies are clauses that let you out of the deal if the house has a problem that didn’t exist or which you weren’t aware of when you went under contract. They specify any event that will need to take place in order for you to fulfill the contract.
6. Perform Due Diligence
Just because you love a particular property doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. In fact, this is where reason has to trump emotion. You’ll need to have a property inspection (which your agent can recommend a few, and they will go over their full report in detail and any hidden issues). This way you’ll know what you are getting into before you sign closing papers.
  • Your main concern is the possibility of structural damage. This can come from water damage, shifting ground, or poor construction when the house was built.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s the inspector’s job to mark everything discovered no matter how large or small. The inspectors report may be long, but, things that are easily fixed can be overlooked for the time being.
  • If you have a big problem show up in your inspection report, you should bring in a specialist and if the worst-case scenario turns out to be true, you might want to walk away from the purchase.
  • Even if your home passes inspection, you’ll still need to buy a home owner’s insurance policy that protects you against loss or damage to the property itself and against liability in case someone sustains an injury while on your property.
7. Close
Once you’ve made your offer and have completed the inspection process, you’re in the “home” stretch! But, in order to ensure that you don’t put your closing date, or your mortgage at risk, you have a few pre-closing responsibilities that you’ll need to be mindful of. These include:
  • Staying in control of your credit and finances. If you are tempted to make any large purchases during this time, it’s best to talk to your lender first.
  • Keeping in touch with your agent and lender, returning all phone calls and completing paperwork promptly.
  • Communicating with your agent at least once or twice a week, and verifying with your lender that all mortgage funding steps are completed.
  • Conducting a final walk-through of the home with your agent.
  • Confirming with your agent, home insurance professional, and lender that you have the settlement statement, certified funds, and evidence of insurance lined up prior to closing.
8. Protect Your Investment
Congratulations, and welcome home! The home-buying process is complete, but just like any big process, there’s a maintenance plan! It’s now your responsibility, and in your best financial interest, to protect your investment for years to come. Performing routine maintenance on your home’s systems is always more affordable than having to fix big problems later. Be sure to watch for signs of leaks, damage, and wear.And remember, just because the sale is complete, your relationship with your agent doesn’t need to end! After closing, your agent can still help you – providing information for your tax returns, finding contractors and repair services, tracking your home’s current market value and when you are ready to buy again and sell!

I reiterate these steps on my website as well, and maybe all this reading can seem quite overwhelming, but so long as you are ready to take on the financial responsibility, and can afford to, as I mentioned before–there’s never a bad time to buy the right home. You can find reviews from some buyers (first time as well), by clicking on my reviews on the Zillow website here! First time and in the Austin area? Call me, I am happy to help and walk you through the process. I love helping buyers.

Feng Shui? What is it exactly and what should I look for?

Recently I have had the pleasure of working with several different types of buyers. I suppose everyone is different, but this couple is great and once more I have learned a lot from them. They have a feng shui approach to things! While you may not believe in these types of things, it doesn’t mean someone else won’t down the road when they are ready to buy.

She walks around the house and observes, commenting what she likes and doesn’t and analyzes the home as it should suit them…or not. He stands outside first, and if he cannot find his barings, asks me what direction the home is facing (they moved to Austin not too long ago, and are ready to buy here shortly…if they can find the house with feng shui that suits them). Then comes inside. They talk about what they like and don’t like, and we are in the process of searching.

Here are some feng shui tips buyers can look for. Though some feng shui issues can be fixed, try to avoid the following:

Exteriors

  • lots of cracks in outdoor pavement
  • a triangular shaped lot or one that narrows in the back
  • a corner house on a busy street
  • a house at the bottom of a cul-de-sac or below street level
  • trees that appear to be leaning away from the property
  • a house within view of a cemetery, church, hospital, fire station, ugly eyesore, or a place that makes a lot of noise (i.e an auto repair shop, or bar)

Interiors:

  • chronically dark rooms or tight, congestive spaces
  • uneven floors
  • big exposed beams in bedrooms
  • front door aligned directly with back door or window
  • toilet or kitchen in center of house
  • stairs right behind entrance door

I found a helpful link on feng shui, should you want to look more into color characteristics, for decorating  and painting your home:

http://www.experiencefestival.com/wp/article/feng-shui-color-choice-benefits-for-your-rooms

Area 2 Under 2

In the Austin market there are many great neighborhoods. And when people start to catch on…and they have for many years now, these neighborhoods get more expensive. I have a lot of friends that are first time buyers. A lot of my first time buying friends have got a bang for thier buck and moved South, or to up in Pflugerville. What is their biggest complaint? “We are too far from town now.” I see my friends less because they had to move to an area they could afford…or so they think.

Well, there are many parts of Austin that appeal to certain Austinites and lately, I have had my eye on a particular area. And though I don’t currently live in the area now, I used to, I am still pretty close and I think highly of it. Area 2 (according to the MLS area for Realtors) is the North Central part of Austin. Confined by Hwy 183, I-35, MoPac and 2222/Koenig Ln. It is comprised of several different neighborhoods, easy access to convenient highways and roads to get where you need to be, as well as your favorite Austin restaurants (for me, Phil’s Ice House, Trudy’s) and shopping spots, and just  minutes from downtown, the Arboretum and a hop to get on 183 to the Airport. Recently I have featured some of these houses (unremodeled and remodeled) on my Real Estate Facebook Page called Area 2 Under 2 ($200,000 that is). I am going to do my best to feature (with permission of course) the area’s homes. For those first (and second time looking to take advantage of the extended tax credit), looking to be in an affordable area, with homes of charm and no charm, older and newer, fixer uppers and already remodeled. Here is  one now and you can find a few others featured on my facebook real estate page as well and the photos of the properties.

www.facebook.com/pages/Austin-TX/Ashley-Brinkman-Austin-Tx-Real-Estate/107679068028

 

Marketing Your Home-Holiday Style…

For some people the holidays are not “the most wonderful time of the year,” however, for people like me (voted most spirited in high school), the holidays are festive times! The day after Thanksgiving I head to the garage, get out all the packed away rubbermaid tubs and crates labeled “Christmas lights,” “Chubby Santas” and “Ornaments” and “deck the halls” of my casa. After brunch with some friends today I received a marketing piece that was passed out to me advertising Exterior Christmas lights service (put up and break down). It dawned on me then, this might be a good idea for a house that needs to sell. If a house just came on the market…or maybe it has been on the market a while (preferably one on a busier street), and you put lights around it, the trees, the shrubs, maybe a few snowmen figurines and a big spotlight shining on your name on that “for sale” sign on the front lawn, it might not be such a bad way to attract attention. Sure there are a few kinks to work out, if the house is vacant who is going to plug in the lights every day and is the electricity even on and if the people are home, do they want circus lights on their front yard? But I was thinking of the positives, day and night exposure, that “warm, homey” feeling people get when they see a wreath on the door of a big bulb white-lined house. There are different approaches you could take by marketing the house as well. Maybe a more expensive home could be professionally decorated and something that needs a little more elbow grease can be overdone. I mean, car lots have giant blow up gorillas and flags, why can’t a house have Christmas lights adorning it like Chevy Chase’s home in Christmas vacation. This also could be a fun activity with your family, who says Christmas has to be all about spending money and buying gifts? Decorating can be just as entertaining. Anyway, this might not be the most original thought ever, however a little can go a long way some times, so to those of you who like doing something a little “different” I hope I have inspired you some, or given you a good idea. Happy Holidays…here we come!