Texas home sales volume, home prices and listing activity experienced strong gains in the first half of the year, according to the Texas Association of REALTORS® 2017 Texas Real Estate Midyear Report. San Antonio was no exception, as we saw median prices slide up 5 percent and price-per-square-foot increase 6.2 percent over 2016. But Hurricane Harvey, and the massive devastation left in its wake, will have an incredible influence over the next six months–and beyond. Most of us have friends or relatives who are now dealing with their losses from flooding and gale-force winds, and the challenges they are facing in rebuilding are enormous. Those affected will have to make the decision about whether to rebuild or try to sell and move, and either option comes with both a human and economic pricetag. Businesses from “Mom and Pop” operations to blue-chip companies will need to make the same determination. I have already seen buyers from Houston taking a look at relocating to San Antonio, and I also think area developers will face shortages of skilled workers (already in short supply), such as electricians and masons, as Houston and the coastal areas rebuild. Though we were spared the direct effects of Harvey’s wrath here, we will certainly see the ripples from it in our market for some time to come.
Jim Gaines, Ph.D., chief economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, cautioned that Hurricane Harvey will likely negatively impact housing market statistics for some time to come. “Houston’s housing market accounts for roughly 25 percent of the Texas housing market,” said Gaines, “and it could take months before the Houston area begins to enter the recovery phase and a few years before the impacted communities fully recover.”
When I help my clients prepare their home for sale, one of the topics I discuss is staging. Not every home needs staging, but over the years, I have found most homes photograph and show better with a little professional editing. I work with an experienced interior decorator with a knack for making little changes that create a dramatic impact. It’s surprising how simply turning a sofa or moving a rug or a lamp can make a huge difference in a room, and my clients often remark that they wish they had thought to make the changes years earlier.
Helping buyers fall in love with a property takes more than making the beds and running the vacuum. It requires decluttering, depersonalizing and styling. So what common mistakes do stagers see and address with my clients? These top offenders seem to come up most often:
Mistake: Decluttering into Closets. Most clients have momentos, collections, extra clothing and furniture that will need to be removed. But cramming all of that clutter into every corner of every closet is a major problem. Storage is an important consideration for most buyers, and overstuffed closets give the wrong impression. Sellers can streamline the moving process by donating or throwing out unwanted items, and consider renting a storage unit or using a corner in a friend’s garage for the excess.
Mistake: Lawn and Patio Neglect. Withering plants give buyers pause; if a seller doesn’t take care of the landscape, what else aren’t they maintaining? Trim the bushes, keep the lawn mowed and edged, and add new blooming plants in large pots near the door or on the patio. Get rid of rotted or rusty furniture, and power wash patios and walkways.
Mistake: Misused Space. Bedrooms should be bedrooms, not closets. Dining rooms should contain a table and chairs, not the children’s video game equipment and a sofa. Although a non-traditional arrangement of space might have worked wonderfully for the seller, to appeal to the greatest number of buyers, each room should have a clear, traditional function. An easy rearrangement of furniture is usually all that is needed to give buyers a clearer picture.
Mistake: Hunting Trophies. Although many sellers and buyers are avid hunters, especially here in Texas, a wall full of deer heads is a turnoff for some. Now is the time to remove the trophies and put them in storage, then patch and paint walls.
Mistake: Getting Personal. Buyers have trouble picturing themselves in a home if the seller’s interests and opinions are represented in every corner. Ditch the kitsch, remove university affiliations (this means you Aggies and Longhorns), take down political signs, and store family photos, awards and collections.
Mistake: Forgetting about Fido. Pets are like family members, but even buyers who adore animals don’t want to smell them in their potential new home. Sellers should ask a trusted friend to give their home the sniff test. Cleaning carpets, repairing any damage pets have done to moulding or door frames, and moving kennels and extra-loved doggie toys to the garage can go a long way towards easing buyers’ concerns over lingering pet problems.
So what can my sellers expect when working with a stager? Most staging appointments last between 1 to 2 hours. The stager will walk through the house with the seller, and make most of the necessary changes right on the spot. Most of my sellers have a notebook handy, and make notes about any staging tasks, such as taking boxes to storage or rehanging artwork, that will need to be completed as “homework” after the stager leaves. Once the staging is complete, we schedule our photographer, and then my sellers can relax—their home is ready to impress at its first showing!
We’ve all gotten much better at locking our doors, arming our security systems and securing our purses and wallets when we are out in public. But when it comes to our cybersecurity, we’re not nearly as careful. Some 15.4 million consumers were victims of identity theft or fraud last year, with criminals getting their hands on nearly 16 billion of other people’s money, according to a new report from Javelin Strategy & Research. But don’t let the stats scare you—a few common sense, no-cost measures can shield you and your family from the financial headaches and losses of identity theft.
1. Create unique, complex passwords for each of your accounts. Thieves often test lists of passwords stolen in one breach against other accounts to see, for example, if your Amazon password is the one you use for your online banking. No one likes having to keep track of all of these passwords, but criminals like it even less, so it’s worth the aggravation.
2. Monitor your credit report annually. You’re entitled to one free credit report, once a year, from each of the three credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This gives you the opportunity to check for any items that you don’t recognize—such as accounts, judgments, liens, collections, bankruptcies, and other possible markers of identity theft—and dispute all erroneous and fraudulent information. Go to annualcreditreport.com to access your free reports.
3. Date all electronic keypad signatures. Wherever you are asked to sign electronically—the grocery store, gym, or hair salon to name a few—add the date next to your name. This prevents criminals from lifting and using your signature on other days and in other places.
4. Never, ever list your social security number on checks, and don’t carry your card or number with you. Don’t write it in the memo section on checks (except to the IRS) or put it on non-credit applications or forms. The most damaging identity theft cases start with a name and a social security number in the wrong hands.
5. Don’t enter information online without knowing who you are dealing with. Criminals may pose as banks (complete with graphics and brand markings that look just like the real thing) retail businesses or even people you know like family members or coworkers. Even entering some information into a form without pressing send may allow unscrupulous individuals to gather that intell. And don’t make it easy for them: Don’t post your date of birth, mother’s maiden name, pet’s name, or other personal information on websites like Facebook or Twitter. They’re often used to verify your identity and could allow an imposter electronic access to your accounts.
6. Always review your statements. It’s no longer enough to wait for your monthly credit card or checking account statement to look for suspicious activity. Sign up for online access to your accounts and check each regularly. The faster you realize something is amiss, the quicker your card company can put a stop to it.
7. Remove bar codes from magazines or shipping labels and shred them. Do the same with your boarding pass. Bar codes can contain volumes of information about you, including the last 4 digits of your credit card, or in the case of a boarding pass, your entire frequent flyer number, which can be used for deeper hacking.
8. Don’t leave a paper trail. Gather all receipts, including those from the ATM and gas pumps, and shred them.
9. Stop unsolicited credit card offers. Low-tech crooks can steal your identity by making off with the preapproved credit offers from your mailbox. They open the account in your name, then watch your mailbox to grab the new card you didn’t know was coming. You can stop credit bureaus from selling your name to lenders by going to optoutprescreen.com or calling 888-567-8688. Opting out should stop most offers, and it’s free.
10. A last tactic to consider: Placing a credit freeze with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. This drastic measure prevents anyone—including you—from opening new lines of credit in your name. This means you won’t be able to take advantage of those instant 25% off offers if you apply for a credit card while shopping, or any other type of credit or loan you might need, without notifying the agencies in advance and allowing for processing, so it’s not a measure to take lightly.
Special thanks to Advantage Credit, Inc. for assistance in preparing identity theft protection tips.
If you read my blog last week, you know that buying a house while you are selling your existing home can be tricky. Whether closing on the sale or purchase first, you hope everything will go smoothly; but in case it doesn’t, you need some insurance. I walk my clients through the pros and cons of a variety of strategies that might be useful in reducing risk and managing setbacks. Take a look at a few worth considering:
There are many contingency clauses that are commonly used in real estate transactions. If the home doesn’t appraise for the agreed-upon sales price, for example, the buyer may terminate if an appraisal contingency clause is part of their agreement. Less used, but worth considering, is the sales contingency clause. If you’re unable to sell your current home within a certain time frame, this contingency allows you to cancel your offer on the new home. While this sounds perfect, there is a catch. When the market is hot, sellers many prefer to look for a “sure thing” rather than gamble on whether or not you can sell your home in a timely manner.
Extended Closing on Purchase
This is similar to a contingent offer but without the contingency. If you’ve found a new home and are confident your existing home will sell within a given time frame, you can ask for the closing on the new home to be a few weeks later than the standard 30-45 days. This move does have its drawbacks. The seller may ask for more earnest money, to insure that you are committed to the purchase, and in a competitive market, you might need to boost your offer price to make up for the added flexibility.
If you are selling in a seller’s market, where good homes in your price range are tough to come by, you may be able to ask for a “rent-back” provision. Usually for a period of 60-90 days maximum, a rent-back means you get to stay in your home after it sells. Of course, there’s a cost, either in a reduced sales price or in daily rental to the new owners. And in a buyer’s market, when there is plenty of inventory, your buyers may not want to become your landlord, even temporarily.
Clients who buy a new house before selling their current home might also consider using a short-term bridge loan to cover their down payment expense. The lender will give you a certain amount of money based on the amount of equity you have in your current home so that you “bridge” the money gap between the equity in your current home and the down payment on the new one. This allows you to make a more competitive offer that doesn’t contain a contingency clause. The downside? Bridge loan terms vary widely in cost and conditions. Plus paying two mortgages in addition to a bridge loan while waiting for your existing home to sell can create financial stress.
As a REALTOR®, I am positioned to help my clients understand financing options and identify qualified lenders, as well as help with any negotiations regarding price, terms, date of possession and the inclusion or exclusion of repairs and furnishings or appliances. The Dunlap Real Estate Team guides each client from listing through the closing process, making sure we have dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” so that there are no delays from our side of the table. We are committed to providing detail-oriented service along with carefully considered experience-based guidance to our clients. Let us know if we can help you navigate your next home sale or purchase.
Buying a home can be difficult, but try selling your home and buying another at the same time. Two major life events at once—talk about stress! But it’s a situation that most homeowners will face at some point in their lives. So which comes first—the sale or the purchase?
In a perfect world, most buyers would prefer to sell their home first, then immediately use the equity in that home for a down payment on a new one. It certainly simplifies financing, but in reality, it is hard to pull off simultaneously. Closings can be delayed, and deals can fall through. When you sell before you buy, there is less financial risk, but more logistical hurdles. Where will you live if the house you are selling closes before you are able to complete the purchase of the new one?
But buy before you sell? You will certainly have someplace to send your furniture, but you could get stuck paying two mortgages…for a very long time. That is, if you can find a lender to finance that purchase in the first place.
If it sounds like a catch-22, it is. But it’s far from impossible! I have successfully helped clients buy and sell (or sell and buy) throughout my 17 years as a realtor, and I’ve learned a few strategies along the way that help make the whole process go smoothly.
Know your financials
It’s a rare client who is able to buy a new home with cash and sell the old home at leisure. That means you will be dealing with financing, and the first step here is to have a good grasp of your financial picture. Know your credit score, and clean up any discrepancies that may be lowering your credit. Look at your debt-to-income ratio. Build a relationship with a lender, and get prequalified for a mortgage. Assess whether you can swing two mortgage payments at once for a few months.
Know the market
This is where I come in. In a buyer’s market, with falling house prices and lots of inventory, selling first may make the most sense. The last thing sellers want is to be paying interest costs on two loans. To help speed up the process, I work with my clients on paring down belongings and staging their home so that it will appeal to the widest range of buyers possible. I also suggest they do any quick fixes—taking care of that toilet that has run off and on over the last year—that may come up during an inspection and possibly delay the process unnecessarily.
In a seller’s market, buying a home first might be the best option, as your property would likely be sold more quickly. Sellers may have more power when it comes time to negotiate a timeline that is favorable to them, as buyers are generally more willing to accommodate sellers’ needs when inventory is low.
No matter which side of the transaction the market seems to be favoring, pricing the home right for market conditions is vital. I stay current on citywide statistics, changing local conditions, and neighborhood inventory to help my clients set a price that is competitive.
Don’t rely on timing
Closings get delayed. Buyers might have difficulty securing a mortgage, or a home inspection might bring to light issues that will need to be fixed. My clients are only part of the equation, and I help them prepare for setbacks. Preemptive planning may include contingency clauses, renting back the home after sale, extending the closing timeline on the purchase, or using a bridge loan to cover expenses.
Check back next week as I discuss the pros and cons of these preemptive planning strategies.
San Antonio’s red-hot culinary scene is set to heat up even more this August—Culinaria’s Restaurant Week is back! The event doesn’t begin until next month, but the official list of almost 100 participating restaurants has been released, which means tables are already booking up. On the menu—palate pleasers from barbecue, to Tex-Mex, to seafood—in restaurants ranging from funky tapas bars to special occasion steakhouses.
The two week-long event, running August 12-26, is the perfect time to finally test out the places you’ve been meaning to try, or to revisit fancy favorites without breaking the bank. Craving J. Prime’s filet mignon, or Perry’s “famous” pork chop? Culinaria has you covered! Thinking sushi? Kona Grill has a rainbow and Picasso roll on their menu. Special three-course prix fixe dinners run $25 or $35 per person, depending on the restaurant’s price point, and certain restaurants are also offering lunch for $10 or $15.
Best of all, your dining experience will be a charitable one. With each meal ordered, restaurants will donate $1 for lunch and $2 for dinner to Culinaria in support of their culinary scholarship and farm programs. For more information, as well as the most up-to-date menus for the event, go to Culinaria.org.