Positive Signs for the 2019 Housing Market

Wondering if now is a good time to buy or sell a home?  Well, looking back at the 2018 market, we see there was an overall increase in home sales of four percent from 2017, and an average sales prices increase of four percent as well.  That’s good news.  With a recent report from Mayor Ron Nirenberg highlighting continued growth—San Antonio is growing by 66 people a day and the next 2 decades will bring 1 million more residents—the signs are all pointing to a strong 2019.

One of the factors that may have benefited my sellers last year, was rain…believe it or not.  San Antonio had its wettest fall ever on record, and all that rain meant less lots being developed.  At the annual San Antonio Housing Forecast meeting, Metrostudy real estate analyst Jack Inselmann gave his opinion about the wet weather’s impact.  “One of the big issues last year was all the rain we had,” said Inselmann. “What impacts the development of lot supplies more than a lot of rain? Not very much.” Less new inventory may push some buyers to reconsider homes being sold in existing neighborhoods that are all ready for move in.  Grant Lopez, SABOR’s 2019 Chairman says, “while inventory has remained tight, hovering between 3.2 and 3.6 months, it has not discouraged buyers from getting into the market.”  Lower interest rates certainly helped buyers.  (And anything that helps buyers get into the market, or afford more house comfortably, is good for my sellers, too.)

Homes priced between $200,000 and $500,000 made up 55.2 percent of the sales in 2018, a 5.4 percent increase from last year. Meanwhile, homes priced over $500,000 accounted for 5.6 percent of the year’s sales.  Analysts are expecting similar figures going forward, although the mayor’s focus on affordable housing production, rehabilitation and preservation may be good news for buyers currently priced out of the market.

Posted on January 15, 2019 at 7:08 pm
Judy Dunlap | Category: Uncategorized

Three iPhone Tricks You Need in Your Life

In case you missed Good Morning America the other day, and no one in your office has shared the latest iPhone tricks making the rounds, I have you covered.

Cursing Your Cursor?

Ever gotten frustrated while trying to make a correction on a text message—you tap and you tap, but the cursor won’t go where you want it? You will be happy to know there’s a workaround, and it’s easy to do and remember. While typing a text, just press down firmly (with your thumb) and hold anywhere on your text keyboard until the keys disappear. (If a letter pops up instead of the screen shown below, you aren’t pressing firmly enough.) Without the keyboard, you can slide your thumb around in this space to move your text cursor.  Release your thumb when the cursor is exactly where you need it.   You will wonder how you ever texted without it!

If your screen looks like this, you are ready to slide the cursor with your thumb

Photo Sensitive?

We’ve all been there—you start to show a co-worker a photo of something that pertains to business when a slightly embarrassing selfie pops up right next to it? Maybe that bikini selfie from last vacation?  The problem with having your photo albums on iCloud is that others may spot an image that…requires explanation. If you have pictures in your phone that you want to conceal, you can actually hide them from view.  In the Photos app, bring the picture up as if you were going to send it to a friend.

Click the box with the arrow on the bottom left side of the screen.

Now scroll through the options on the bottom of the screen until you see Hide.  Click and select the Hide option, and your photo will no longer lurk in your photo stream, waiting for an inopportune moment to show itself.

To view this photo, just go to Albums in the Photos app, and scroll down until you see Other Albums.  Select Hidden, and you’re ready to see how tan you weren’t last winter in Costa Rica.

Message Received?

In a meeting, or dinner with friends, and need to quickly respond to a text?  The iPhone now allows you to put an icon such as thumbs up or a heart on a message you’ve received.  Just hold down the text to which you’d like to reply, and a “thought bubble” with a quick menu of icons will appear.  Click the icon you want, and back to work, or dinner, or life, you go.

You can thank me later.

Posted on December 20, 2018 at 7:46 pm
Judy Dunlap | Category: Technology, Uncategorized

Add Some Pumpkin (Patch) Spice to Your Weekend

Rain, rain…go away!  Ready to turn off the TV, crawl out of your Snuggie, and get outside to enjoy some of the cooler, drier weather in the forecast?  Check out these pumpkin patches, corn mazes and special events in and around San Antonio to put some actual spice in your fall weekend.

Devine Acres Farm
944 FM 2200, Devine, (830) 665-9730

Devine Acres Farm

Through October 28, take a scenic little trip south to Devine for an old-fashioned pumpkin patch complete with hayrides, a petting zoo, scarecrow dressing, games, live entertainment and of course…pumpkins galore! Kids 2 and under are free while everyone else has a $12 admission fee (there are discounts for seniors and military members), with extra goodies available to purchase.  Open Saturdays 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sundays 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

Vogel Orchard
12862 US-290, Fredericksburg, (830) 644-2404

Vogel Orchard

Want to visit an actual orchard, where there are still pumpkins on the vine ripe for the picking?  Vogel Orchard in Fredericksburg is one of the few places near San Antonio that allows you to pick your own pumpkin…or choose from already-picked varieties, and check out the sweet, pumpkin-themed treats at the stand while you’re there.  Open Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sundays from 11:30 a.m.–5 p.m.

Bracken UMC Pumpkin Patch
120377 FM 2252, San Antonio, (830) 606-6717

Bracken UMC Pumpkin Patch

This free fall event at Bracken UMC is a tradition for many San Antonio families, and for good reason. Not only are there over 15,000 pumpkins, but there are Halloween and fall-oriented activities including hayrides and the Pumpkin Patch Express Train—plus photo ops with costumed scarecrows and fantasy characters.  A special Fall Festival with bounce houses, a treat walk, silent auction and food trucks will be held Saturday, October 20 from 4 p.m.-6 p.m.  This year the pumpkin patch runs through October 31 from 9 a.m. to sundown.

Circle-N-Maze Corn Maze
558 County Rd. 345, La Vernia, (210) 274-3816

Circle-N-Maze Corn Maze

Weekends in October are your chance to get lost in a 5.5 acre Sugar Skull maze with 3 miles of trails on the back 80 acres of Circle N Farm.   Along with the maze, there’s a huge pumpkin patch, photo stations, petting zoo with baby animals, a “mini maze” for toddlers, and multiple vendors and food trucks.  The maze isn’t lit, so bring your flashlights and glow sticks to light your way on Friday and Saturday nights.  Extreme weather will close the maze, so be sure to check the weather, or give them a call before you visit.  Hours are Fridays 6 p.m.–10 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; and Sundays noon–5 p.m.  Admission runs $10, with kids 2 and under free.

Zoo Boo!
3903 N. St. Mary’s Street, San Antonio, (210) 734-7184

Zoo Boo!

San Antonio Zoo hosts its family friendly, non-spooky Halloween celebration, Zoo Boo! Every Saturday and Sunday through October 28, from 9 a.m.–6 p.m. The zoo will offer trick-or-treat stations, a fun hay maze, pumpkin painting, and plenty of games. Families can even enjoy a ride on the Zoo Boo! Express, and little ghouls and goblins are encouraged to wear their best (non-scary) costume for a chance to be in a costume contest. Zoo Boo! is included with standard zoo admission and FREE for zoo members.

Posted on October 9, 2018 at 6:22 pm
Judy Dunlap | Category: Community, Events, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

New Scam Moving Into San Antonio

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.

Posted on August 2, 2018 at 8:09 pm
Judy Dunlap | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged ,

San Antonio Tops Population Growth List in 2017

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 citythere’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.

Posted on July 31, 2018 at 6:53 pm
Judy Dunlap | Category: Uncategorized

Four Common Mistakes to Avoid in Real Estate Transactions

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.

  Disregarding Limits

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.

  Getting Stuck

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.

Posted on May 8, 2018 at 9:59 pm
Judy Dunlap | Category: Uncategorized

Market Favors Sellers in February

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.

Posted on March 15, 2018 at 8:29 pm
Judy Dunlap | Category: Real Estate, Statistics, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Pricing Your Home So It’s Searchable

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.

Posted on March 6, 2018 at 7:39 pm
Judy Dunlap | Category: Uncategorized

What’s Included in the Sale of a House in Texas

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.

Posted on January 19, 2018 at 3:57 pm
Judy Dunlap | Category: Uncategorized

Top Tips to Get You Ready for Wintery Weather

Okay, San Antonio.  We all made it through our big snow day, and while it may be another 30 years before we see whiteout conditions here again, it was the perfect reminder that we DO get winter weather in the Alamo City.  Cold temperatures and icy conditions are a part of most winters here, and now is the time to make sure you are prepared for them.

In thinking about my own preparedness for winter storms, I took a look at several websites and found some helpful information I thought I’d share.  Ready.gov has some great resources on making an emergency plan for your family, as well as a checklist of what to put in your emergency supply kit to make it comfortably through extended power outages.  They also have a kit to create for your pets.

Texas Department of Public Service has some good home winterization tips.  One I found interesting is finding the shutoff valve for the water to the house.  For most of us, there is a hole with a metal cover in the front yard somewhere that has a meter and valve, but how many of us know where it is, where our shutoff tool is, and how to use it?  A burst pipe can cause an incredible amount of damage, and everyone in the house, from young teens to adults, should be aware of the valve’s location, and try their hand at operating it.  If you aren’t sure how to do it, Mr. Plumber SA has a great video you can find by clicking on the link.

Did you leave a restaurant on Friday to find an inch of snow on your car, or wake up in the morning with twice that on your windshield?  Put a scrapper in your car to be prepared for unexpected ice and snow.  A warm blanket and some kitty litter wouldn’t hurt either.  (If your vehicle gets stuck on a slick road, cat litter can help create the traction you need to get out. The non-clumping kind works best for extra traction on slick roads.)  Better safe than sorry.  And to settle the old argument, the proper way to defrost your car windshield, according to Car and Driver is:

  • Defroster fan on highest setting
  • Temperature control on its hottest
  • A/C turned on
  • Recirculate turned off
  • Crack your windows

You can also find a cool 6-minute video about the science behind this at the link I included.

A last note on winter safety:  please check your carbon monoxide (CO) detector’s batteries!  Experts recommend that you change yours every year during daylight savings time, but if you missed out, do it today.  Any time you burn fuel in stoves, lanterns, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces, CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it.  Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, and you have no way of knowing if you are at risk without a working detector.

I hope everyone enjoyed our little version of a white Christmas, and that you all take this opportunity to make sure you stay safe and sound for the rest of the season.

 

 

 

Posted on December 12, 2017 at 7:33 pm
Judy Dunlap | Category: Home Maintenance, Uncategorized | Tagged