Category Archives: Home Selling

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 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.

Preparing Your Home before you Sell: Checklist and Reminders

The Sun is out and so are the buyers. And as hot as it is in Austin, Tx so is the real estate market-especially those ready to buy. With rates being as low as they are, it could be a good opportunity for you to sell your home. I have decided to write a short checklist of items you may want to gather and prepare before you list your home.

The Paperwork:

-May want to look into finding a copy of your survey

-If a part of an HOA or condominium community gather: Documents, regulations, rules, guidelines etc.

-Find past utility bills, to give your buyers an idea of what electricity costs in the Summer and Winter months (especially if your home is energy efficient)

-Information on any appliances or warranties on the home

-Offer bids for any work that needs to be done, or if work was done recently on HVAC etc. provide a copy of receipt

-Any proof of new roofs, leak repairs, foundation fixes etc. it is also important to make copies of all the documents or improvements and upkeep

-Financials, it is a good idea to also know what you owe on the home, and to look into what has sold recently in your area as well (a Realtor-like myself, can help you find this information)

-Tax statements are also important

-Your Realtor will also ask you to fill out a seller’s disclosure, this is good to have a copy in the home as well as available to other agents, as an attachment in the MLS (multiple listing service)

-I also believe it can be helpful (though buyer’s pay for inspection) to have home pre-inspected. This will likely sell the home faster if nothing major appears on the report that hasn’t been addressed

The Dirty Work:

After you have gathered documents and the “paperwork” it may be time to get some work done that you have been dreading or putting off. The bad paint job in the corner of the bedroom, the dirty/unorganized garage, the hole in the drywall from the kids, the lack of landscape or grass in the yard, carpet replacement or upgrade to appeal to a larger buyer demographic, etc. A good idea is to maybe have a fresh set of eyes come into your home and point out things that buyers will notice or make comments about. You may not necessarily have to paint over your daughter’s bright princess pink bedroom, but the toys scattered across the room and carpet stained with finger paints, may not be the best first impression either. I always recommend sellers to go into a model home in a new neighborhood, take notes, notice the placement of the furniture, how there aren’t a million family photos out, appliances on kitchen counters displayed, and things piled against the wall. This may also give you the opportunity to get rid of a lot of the items that you may not need in your next move. A garage sale is also another good way to get rid of items, let neighbors know you are moving (to bring potential buyers faster!) AND make some money for the appliance upgrades you may need or buyer’s closing costs.

Minimizing your home is super important. The less cluttered a home looks, the more appealing it is. Take down personal photos. Buyers do not need to know what you or your children look like, it takes the focus off the home as they start to guess what you are like as people, vs. how the home would best suit their lifestyle and needs. Trinkets and do-dads all can go! Put the dream catcher and 20 rooster figurines in the kitchen in a box labeled neatly in the garage. Clear the desk in the office, put things away in drawers, desks, shelves and racks. Bathrooms especially should looks as if no one uses it. Kitchen appliances should all be put in cabinets unless they are all matching and your kitchen is extremely spacious. Hopefully some of these tips help. Staged homes also sell faster than vacant or occupied cluttered homes. So if you must still be living in your home while it is on the market,there are certain ways to accentuate features of your living space. A home-stager or Realtor may be able to evaluate and help you maximize certain areas or spaces in your home.

As important as how your home looks the smell is important as well! As a dog owner, I am so used to my pet’s smell that I often don’t realize how potent it can be to non-dog owners. It is a good idea to keep your home very tidy of pet items and hair during showings etc. Litter boxes should go into an small, confined area as well as pet toys, dog bowls etc. Any pet damages to blinds, scratches and chew-marks on the wood may also want to be fixed. Carpets professionally cleaned, floors mopped and candles are all a nice touch. Personally, I was taught to always have cookies baking the oven during open houses, but that can’t always be the case when you are working during the day as your home is being shown. Just be mindful that what may smell good to you (for example I cannot stand some of the “food” scents from Yankee Candle) doesn’t always smell good to others, but I do recommend plug-ins in some of the rooms.

Pre-Showings and Showing Availability:

If you are sitting at home and an agent calls to show the house to buyers, leave the lights on, if a hot day, turn the air down a bit, with fans running, tidy up, make sure the dishes are in the dishwasher and counters are wiped down, put the pets away or take them with you. You want to make sure your home gets shown, but I sometimes find it funny when I call Sellers to show their home (with notice) and they say it is inconvenient for them. I understand if in the process of moving and boxes everywhere, a new born in the home, or kids are home all day during the Summer, but try and be specific with your agent about the time you would like your home to be shown. If you work 8-5 and no one is home, showing instructions should say “Seller prefers daytime showings, with notice after 5pm. Be as specific as possible, this will also help your schedule in knowing when you have time to unwind vs. having the home in tip-top showing shape.

As important as it is to have your home staged and clean, professional photos with wide-angled lenses also make a big difference. This will catch buyer’s eyes when they are looking at homes online (90% of buyers begin their search online). These photos below are also a good example of how well kept your home should be during showings.

Home photographed above is my listing in Central Austin, 302 Genard. Beautiful and well maintained 3/2 with the master in the back, huge yard for entertaining and deck, wood floors throughout, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and lawn care is included. For Lease $2500/mo. Just North of The Triangle close to North Loop area.