Want to love where you live? North Central San Antonio offers the “triple crown” of established communities, excellent school districts and upscale urban amenities–all with a Hill Country vibe. Subdivisions include the amenity-packed, family-friendly neighborhoods of Inwood, the Vineyards, and Rogers Ranch plus acreage communities like Hill Country Village, Shavano and Hollywood Park. On the far north, Canyon Springs offers the convenience of a master-planned community centered around a beautiful golf course. With homes from the 300s to over a million, the area offers something for most every buyer’s price point and lifestyle. Take a look at this video for more information on all that the area has to offer.
An agent in our office recently notified us that one of her clients had fallen victim to a popular new scam. Like many of us, this client did a search for movers on the internet, and followed-up by checking out a few movers’ websites. One company’s site looked promising and when contacted, they promptly offered a very reasonable quote. On moving day, the moving crew arrived with their truck, and packed the clients belongings—and according to authorities, took them right to Mexico. Which, unfortunately, was not where the client was moving. Apparently, some unscrupulous individuals created a fake moving company on the internet, complete with a company name and logo.
How Moving Scams Work
Moving scams have become the next big thing for those out to take you (and your belongings) for a ride. Like the above example, they can take the form of a sham company that steals your household out from under you while you watch and offer lemonade. Some scam movers even get a large deposit up front, then steal your items for resale, or never show up at all on moving day, pocketing the cash you’ve already paid out. An alternate version of the moving scam involves a company quoting an extra-low price based on the “anticipated” weight of your goods, usually without doing an in-home visit to see the items. On moving day, the company loads all the belongings and then says that they exceed the weight estimate. They then charge you more (sometimes double) while holding your items hostage until the additional payment is made. With scammers, the best defense is a good offense—be on the lookout for these red flags that signal someone is out to take you for a ride.
Six Signs of a Shady Mover
- The website doesn’t list an address, or has one that you can’t verify. Real movers want you to find them, and they will have a real local address. Use Google Maps’ satellite image feature or drive by or visit the office to make sure it’s legit.
- The moving company website does not offer information about licensing or insurance. Moving locally in Texas? All movers within Texas must be licensed with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, and you can check their license at the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles website. Moving out of state? The US Department of Transportation requires all interstate movers to display their DOT# on their website. You can verify that it’s legitimate at the US Department of Transportation website.
- They don’t answer the phone with their business name, or only communicate via email. Scammers often use multiple business names to avoid detection, and they prefer to keep communication to a minimum. Requesting an in-home estimate will weed out many fraudulent companies.
- They don’t provide you with a complete written estimate. Shady movers don’t like to leave a paper trail, instead sending email quotes with scant detail. Get everything in writing, including a confirmation of insurance coverage. Carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract, and understand the limits of liability and any disclaimers. If you don’t understand something—ask. And never sign a contract that hasn’t been filled out in its entirety.
- They request a large deposit prior to providing any services, or request a cash deposit. This should be a deal breaker, as most reputable companies won’t require a deposit at all, and certainly won’t ask for cash. Use a credit card when paying your mover, so that you can dispute fraudulent charges if necessary.
- They are offering a quote that is well under what other movers have quoted. The deal sound too good to be true? It probably is! Rogue movers entice stressed-out relocators with low prices, knowing they can send the price skyrocketing once they have your beloved possessions in their truck.
Find A Reputable Mover
Friends, relatives and neighbors are your first line of defense. Ask them for recommendations before blindly hitting the internet. Realtors are also a good resource, as they often have a list of companies their clients have successfully used in the past.
Check the Better Business Bureau website for any complaints about companies you are considering. They also have a database that will refer you to companies that have received an A+ or A rating in your area at the Better Business Bureau website.
Check Yelp to see if there are any negative reviews for the company you are considering. While a company can place fake positive reviews on the site, negative reviews are a definite red flag.
Consider hiring a mover certified by the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA). Member companies are in compliance with state and federal guidelines, and do not have outstanding complaints against them with the Better Business Bureau. Consumers can get a referral to a professional moving comapny by entering some info at the AMSA website.
If the latest statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau are any indication, the word is out—San Antonio is a great place to live and work.
The Alamo city ranked first in population growth between July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2017, adding 24,208 residents according to estimates by the federal census agency. To put it in perspective, that’s about 66 people moving into the area every day.
So why has San Antonio become such a mecca for newcomers?
I think a large part of San Antonio’s draw is that the housing market is still very affordable, with an average sale price of $273,174, according to June 2018 stats from the Multiple Listing Service Report from the San Antonio Board of REALTORS® (SABOR). Plus, there’s a neighborhood to fit every buyer, from close-in to almost-Hill Country, historic home to new construction—with good schools and amenities to boot.
Then there’s traffic—or the relative lack thereof for a major city. While those 25,000-plus additional commuters have added to some isolated traffic headaches, especially around rush hour, San Antonio has mostly avoided the standstill snarls of other big cities, ranking far behind Dallas, Houston and Austin in a recent report on traffic wait times by INRIX. Some of this is thanks to the spread of major employers throughout the city—there’s downtown, the medical center, Fort Sam on the east side, Lackland on the west side, and everything in between.
Throw in the burgeoning culinary and arts scene, the rich cultural heritage, and of course, Pop and Los Spurs, and you get the picture. San Antonio will continue to reign as one of the most populous cities (it’s currently 7th in the nation) for a long time to come.
In my 18 years as a REALTOR®, I’ve seen hundreds of deals, and am happy to say that most go smoothly. However, since so much is negotiable in a real estate transaction—from price to the closing date to whether the drapes will stay or go—the potential for misunderstandings and disagreements is tremendous.
To keep your next deal on track, avoid these 4 common mistakes:
Taking it Personally
If you are the seller, this house is much more than a place to live—it’s your home. Maybe you marked the kids’ growth on some trim in the kitchen, or perhaps this was the first place you bought when you were newly married. Whatever the case may be, you likely have more than just dollars invested in your home–you are emotionally attached to it. But this emotion can cause real problems during the negotiating process. I counsel my sellers to keep cool when a buyer presents a lower offer for their home. It’s not meant to be an insult, and I prefer to reframe it as the first step towards a great deal. It’s also part of the reason I ask my sellers to leave when their house is being shown. An overheard comment about the “awful” choice of paint color in the kitchen can color a seller’s reaction to that buyer’s offer.
Much like a gambler may give away the strength of his hand with a “tell,” buyers may also signal their emotional attachment to the property and thereby put themselves at a disadvantage in negotiations. When a buyer isn’t able to walk away, they’ve lost all bargaining power, and that’s when bad decisions like paying 10% over an appraisal get made.
What’s the lowest price you’ll accept for your home? How quickly do you need your home to sell, and what concessions, if any, will you make? I work to answer these questions with my sellers before we put their home on the market. All of this, along with an in-depth market analysis, helps us to set a price that will achieve the best outcome. Knowing the price is right helps my sellers to feel comfortable waiting for the right deal rather than jumping at the first offer. Buyers also need to hold firm to their target price range. It’s easy for buyers to let that top number creep upwards, especially in a hot market, and strap themselves financially for years to come.
Ignoring the Market
There are buyer’s markets and seller’s markets, and negotiating a good deal requires understanding which side the market is favoring. A buyer asking for lots of concessions in a seller’s market, or a seller who won’t compromise on anything in a buyer’s market, will likely end up without a deal. How do you know what the market’s doing? Ask your REALTOR®, and take a look at the last few monthly market analysis provided on SABOR’s website.
Are you willing to jeopardize the sale of your home because the buyer wants the refrigerator and microwave to convey? I’ve seen half-million dollar deals fall apart over similar negotiating points. Flexibility pays off, and both buyers and sellers should avoid overemphasizing minor details if they want to get to closing.
Remember, as a REALTOR® and north San Antonio luxury home specialist for over 18 years, I can help you avoid these mistakes by identifying an appropriate buying or selling strategy for your specific circumstances.
Check out these five “egg-cellent” events over the next two weekends for some family-friendly Easter-themed fun.
Children’s Easter Egg Hunt
This Saturday, March 24th at 11 am, the Alley on Bitters welcomes children of all ages to their epic Easter egg hunt. Hundreds of eggs filled with treats will be hidden on their back lawn, just waiting to be gathered in baskets and taken home. Dress the kiddos up in their Sunday best for pics with the Easter Bunny afterwards.
Click here for more information at the Alley on Bitters website.
Also this Saturday, March 24th, Traders Village hosts an egg hunt (and more) from 10 am to 1 pm—rain or shine. There will be four egg hunts, by age groups: 0–3 years, 4–6 years, 7–9 years, and 10–12 years, totaling 30,000 eggs. Plus, there will be door prizes, and pictures with the Easter Bunny at the train depot from 12:00–1:30 P.M. The event is free, although parking is $4.
Click here for more information at the Traders Village website.
Underwater Easter Egg Hunt
Annual spring event with fun activities for kids in and out of the pool, including mini golf and giant Jenga and Connect Four. Egg hunts will take place every 30 minutes for different age groups. $2 per child. Click here for more information on the San Antonio Parks And Rec website.
Annual Easter Egg Hunt
The City of Boerne hosts its annual Easter Egg Hunt at Boerne City Lake Park, Saturday, March 24 at 10:30 am. Festivities include pictures with the Easter Bunny, an inflatable obstacle course, face painting and kids crafts, along with the egg hunt at 11:15 am SHARP! “Hunters” will be divided into 4 different age groups (ages 3 & under, 4-6, 7-9 and 10+) with over 15,000 stuffed eggs to find! Mobil food vendors will be available at this event, and parking fees at the lake will be waived until noon.
More information by clicking here for the City of Boerne’s website.
Eggfest at University Bowl
Easter Sunday, April 1, from noon until 5 pm, enjoy unlimited bowling, face painting, egg hunts, Easter piñata break, and a special visit from the Easter Bunny at University Bowl! $15.99 per person. Call 210-699-6235 for more information.
We are shaking off the winter doldrums here in the Alamo City, and it seems like the real estate market is following suit. Buyers continued to find properties to call home in February, with a three percent year-over-year increase in sales for a total of 2,012 homes sold, according to the Multiple Listing Service Report from the San Antonio Board of REALTORS® (SABOR). Meanwhile, the average and median sales prices each climbed six percent from last year, with a median sales price of $215,100 and an average of $247,300.
The majority of homes sold, 51.3 percent, were those priced between $200,000 and $500,000 while 44 percent of sales were homes priced under $200,000. The remaining 4.6 percent of sales were those over $500,000 with nine of those homes priced over $1 million.
“With tight supply and high demand for homes, 97.6 percent of sellers in February were able to sell their homes for list price,” said Lorena Peña, SABOR’s 2018 Chairman of the Board. “But even though the market is favorable to sellers right now with just 3.3 months of inventory available, we still continue to see a steady flow of houses come on the market which is good news for buyers.
Here on the Northside, I’ve seen a similar increase in inventory in March. My phone has been ringing with people looking to list their homes, especially in perpetually hot Inwood. Luckily, San Antonio’s economic forecast continues to be strong, meaning plenty of buyers for those homes. “With people continually moving into the city for jobs, including our military and medical personnel, there is always a market for both buyers and sellers at many different price points,” according to Gilbert Gonzalez, SABOR’s Interim CEO.
When I first meet a seller, one of the topics they are most eager to discuss is their listing price. Some sellers have a “magic” price in mind, and others are looking for guidance on finding the perfect number that will attract the most buyers without leaving money on the table unnecessarily. It’s a delicate balance, and there is now another issue to consider: searchability.
Over 44% of all home buyers begin their home search online, and 90% will search online at some point in the process, according to a 2017 study by the National Association of Realtors. That means most buyers are using popular sites like Zillow and Realtor.com, and buyer’s agents are using their MLS, to efficiently narrow down candidates. So why does this change the way sellers should think about pricing?
These and other sites allow buyers to use a dropdown menu to conduct their searches, and the range of options provided are even numbers that increase by $25,000. For example, a buyer is able to search for homes from $300,000 – $325,000 or $350,000 – $400,000 but there isn’t an option to search from $335,900 – $355,900. So, the formerly popular “charm pricing” strategy of setting prices just below a round number, such as at $399,900 instead of $400,000, now has some very real drawbacks of which I want my sellers to be aware. Take a look at the graphic below for a quick primer on how raising a listing price by as little as $100 can make all the difference in the amount of exposure the home will get.
Technology has changed the way we buy and sell houses. From sites that display millions of listings to sensitive transaction documents sent through email, the internet has made buying and selling a home easier than ever. But all of that personal information floating out in cyberspace, along with the large sums of money that real estate transactions require, has caused scammers to take notice.
By now, you probably know that if a “Nigerian prince” contacts you, or you get a Facebook notice from a distant relative saying they lost their wallet while overseas, it’s time to hit the delete button. But cybercriminals have become increasingly sophisticated over the years and have come up with new scams that have fooled even the most savvy consumer.
The National Association of REALTORS® recently warned its members and consumers about one example—a wiring scam during the closing stage of the home buying and selling process. Hackers will break into the email accounts of consumers to get basic details about a real estate transaction. Then the hackers send an email pretending to be the buyer, seller, real estate agent, title officer or someone else involved in the closing process and say there has been a last minute change. That change—new wiring instructions—sends the closing funds directly to the hacker’s bank account. And just like that, the money vanishes.
While it may seem like there are hundreds of ways for a criminal to take advantage of a consumer online, there are just as many ways consumers can protect themselves. Here are a few tips to help home buyers and sellers recognize and avoid real estate scams:
♦ Do not send your social security number—the skeleton key to your entire financial life—banking information, or anything else that could be used to comprise your identity over email or text. A REALTOR® will be sure to send all correspondence/ documents over encrypted channels.
♦ Do not click on unverified email. If you do not recognize the name or email address of the sender, do not open the email. Many scams involve “spoofing,” where a fraudulent sender pretends to be a legitimate one, including using pictures and brand marks that closely mimic legitimate sites. These can be very convincing. Look for strange subject lines (“Second Delivery Attempt” and “Urgent Action Required” are popular with hackers because they work), misspelled words, incorrect or informal grammar and requests to open or download files that you aren’t expecting.
♦ Always call the sender to verify instructions. If you do receive an email asking you to wire funds, even if it looks legitimate, it’s a good idea to call the sender just to verify. It only takes a moment and could save you thousands of dollars. Your REALTOR® can also tell you what to expect to receive and in what format.
♦ It may seem harmless to check banking information using the free Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop or airport, but using an open connection can leave you vulnerable to hackers and scammers. Only access sensitive information on your home computer or on a secured network.
♦ If you suspect that fraud has or is in the process of occurring, contact all parties pertinent to the transaction immediately. Once your money leaves your account, there is virtually no way to get it back.
♦ For more information on how to safely and securely buy or sell a home, visit SABOR.com and use a San Antonio area REALTOR®.
Ever wonder why the stove stays but the washer and dryer usually go when a house is sold? In Texas, if an item is permanently attached, or the property might be damaged by the items removal, it stays with the property. If a seller wants to keep a sentimental item, such as a rare cactus they planted in their outdoor rock garden, or the curtains that Aunt Erma made, the items should be specifically excluded in the contract. Likewise, a buyer who would like to retain a dining room table that was built to fit perfectly in the space, will need to state this in the Non-Realty Items Addendum. A REALTOR® can help make sure any variances from the standard contract are properly documented and agreed to by all parties. Take a look at this graphic from Texas Realtor Magazine for more on inclusions and exceptions.
SAN ANTONIO RESTAURANT WEEK
January 15-27, 2018
Just when you thought it was safe to stay home eating takeout and watching reruns wrapped up in your Snuggie—the folks at Culinaria are back with two weeks of tempting offers to lure you out of your pajamas and into area restaurants. San Antonio chefs will be showcasing their talents January 15-27 with special three-course prix-fixe menus for lunch and dinner throughout the city. Plan your cheat day in advance, and make your reservations (which aren’t necessary, but why take chance) now for lunch or dinner at one of the participating establishments. Been reading all the buzz about Jason Dady’s new downtown steakhouse, Range? Now’s your chance to see what the fuss is about. Craving a pork chop the size of your head at one of your fancy favorites? J. Prime or Bob’s Steak and Chop House have you covered, at a fraction of the usual cost. When you arrive, show you’re in the know and ask for the Restaurant Week menu to take advantage of the curated fare and special pricing.
Tier 1 restaurants are offering a $15 lunch and $35 dinner multi-course menu, and Tier 2 restaurants will have a $10 lunch and $25 dinner menus. Just don’t forget to show your server some love, as tips (and tax) aren’t included.
And you can feel good about treating yourself. With each meal ordered, restaurants will donate $1 for lunch and $2 for dinner to Culinaria and the programs it supports.
Check the Culinaria website for a list of restaurants and menus.