Buy | Resources

How to Buy a Home in a Seller’s Market

It’s no secret that right now, Austin is in a seller’s market.

A seller’s market occurs when there is more demand from buyers for housing than there are homes available. A buyer’s market is the reverse and occurs when there are more homes available than buyers looking to purchase them.

Here’s how to put your best foot forward when submitting offers during a seller’s market.

1. Have Your Pre-Approval Letter Ready

Most sellers will not consider accepting an offer without a pre-approval letter from a local lender attached to it. While getting pre-approved for a mortgage is a relatively simple process, it can take several days to complete. A best practice is to get pre-approved before you start house hunting, so when you find a home you love you’re prepared to submit a complete offer.

2. Wear Your Decision-Making Hat

When the perfect property comes along during a buyers market, it’s generally okay to take a few days to think over whether you want to submit an offer or not. In a seller’s market, those few days often cost buyers the contract. When shopping for homes in a seller’s market, be prepared to put an offer in the day you find ‘the one’.

3. Know Your True Budget

Especially in Austin right now, multiple offer scenarios are not only common but to be expected. This often means that an offer price of list price or higher is needed to get your offer accepted. As your Realtor, it’s my goal to make sure you never overpay for a property and never exceed the budget that’s right for you. Knowing your absolute max ahead of time helps ensure that we know when to walk away, and when to raise an offer price to ensure it’s the winning one.

4. Work with an Experienced Realtor

Last but not least, make sure whomever you choose as your Realtor has experience negotiating in multiple offer situations! I’ve won contracts for my clients over tiny things like submitting a cleanly-written contract, providing a character reference, or working the contract in a way that puts a strong offer forward while still giving buyers an opportunity to get closing costs covered or walk away if needed after an inspection.

Buying during a seller’s market can take a little more work and patience but is still very doable. Austin shows no signs of slowing its growth, so please reach out if you have questions about buying or selling. I’d love to be your resource on all things real estate!

October 20, 2020

Buy | Rent | Resources | Sell

Market Update for Austin, Texas

As we enter month three of the pandemic, more and more data is becoming available as to how COVID-19 is affecting businesses, the stock market, and the real estate market.

The Austin Board of Realtors just released the April 2020 stats, and while overall home sales are down 20% from last April, the median sales price is up 3.2% and homes are selling 9 days faster than last April.

So what does all this mean for Austin’s housing market?

Buyers: Expect multiple offers and quick turnarounds from the time a house hits the market to the time it’s under contract. Inventory in Austin was low before COVID-19, and is even lower now as sellers wait to list their homes. It’s still worth buying now vs. later if you’re able to, as pricing shows no sign of decreasing.

Sellers: It’s a good time to sell if that’s been on your radar. Buyers are searching for great, new homes to hit the market. Matterport walkthroughs and virtual tours can help limit the number of people entering your home, and thus far we have not seen the prices of homes negatively affected.

Renters: Property prices in Austin are not showing signs of going down, even amidst a pandemic. If you’ve been thinking about buying, shoot me an email. In the meantime, most apartments are only offering virtual tours, though you can still view many rental houses in person.

Expect to see more new construction in Austin as inventory remains low. If you have any questions about the market or would like to go over your options for moving, buying, or selling, let’s hop on a Zoom call!

I’d love to be your resource on all things real estate, so reach out any time.

May 19, 2020

Buy | Invest | Resources | Sell

How to Protest Property Taxes in Travis County, Texas

Spring in Travis County marks the start of property tax season. If you own property that has increased in market value by at least $1,000 in the last year, you should receive a Notice of Appraised Value from the Travis County Appraisal District. At the top of the notice are two numbers; assessed value and market value. Your annual property tax amount owed is based on these numbers.

If you did not receive a Notice of Appraised Value via mail, you can look yours up online by using the official TCAD Property Search tool.

What’s the Difference Between Tax-Assessed Value and Market Value?

Tax-assessed value is what the county determines your property to be worth. Market value is how much an average buyer would pay for your home if it were for sale.

TCAD will attempt to match tax-assessed value as close to market value as they can, but will typically base their number off a general area and will not use neighborhood comps like a Realtor would when marketing your home for sale. All this to say; the values could be much too high or much too low given the non-specific data used.

If you believe that the assessed value shown on your notice does not accurately reflect the market value of your home, you have the right to protest it.

Why Protest My Property Valuation?

When people don’t appeal, TCAD interprets the lack of response as confirmation that their assessed value is correct. This affects all homeowners in a given neighborhood for future years to come. By appealing too-high assessed values, you can help keep property taxes reasonable in congruence with the market value of homes in your neighborhood.

How Do I Protest My Property Taxes?

There are two ways to protest your property tax values.

1. By Mail

Download this form, fill it out, and mail it to the address below. Make sure you list facts and data as to why you believe the assessed value is incorrect.

Travis Central Appraisal District
PO Box 149012
Austin TX 78714

2. Online

Visit the Travis County E-file page to file your protest online. To file online you will need your Owner ID and PIN number found on your notice. If you have misplaced your notice or don’t know your owner ID and PIN, contact TCAD by phone (512-834-9317) or email (CSInfo@tcadcentral.org) to request that info.

After you file, you should hear back from TCAD about an informal hearing date. The purpose of the hearing is to share your evidence as to why you think your home over-valued on your notice.

Keep in mind that it can take several weeks to several months to hear back about a hearing date after filing your protest. Also, please note that TCAD is in charge of assigning appraised values of homes; they have nothing to do with setting the tax rate itself.

Where Do I Get Evidence for the Market Value of My Home?

  1. Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). Contact your Realtor to see if they’ll send you an updated CMA with an estimated market value of your home, or conduct your own research.
  2. List and take pictures of any deficiencies in your house. Foundation issues, plumbing failures, etc. can all affect the tax assessed value.
  3. If your home was recently purchased and you paid less than the tax assessed value, bring a copy of your settlement statement to the hearing.

The deadline to protest property valuations in Travis County for 2020 is May 15th.

I’d love to be your resource for all things real estate, so please reach out any time!

May 5, 2020

Buy | Resources

Should You Refinance During COVID-19?

First, a quick update. Homespace has gone virtual! I am now offering virtual tours to all present and future clients. Click here to read more and learn about some additional options available for those who plan to buy or rent real estate during the pandemic.

Now, let’s talk about refinancing! Currently, interest rates for both new purchases and refinancing are near all-time lows. I recommend that homeowners with an interest rate above 4% consider talking to a lender about refinancing.

Refinancing FAQ’s

What is refinancing?

Loan refinancing is the process of obtaining a new loan to pay off an already existing loan. Homeowners typically refinance in order to receive a lower interest rate so that they can reduce their monthly mortgage payment.

Are there any downsides?

There are fees associated with refinancing and depending on the length of the new loan you term you select, you could end up paying on your house for longer than initially planned. Ask for a side by side comparison of your current monthly payment and amortization schedule vs the quoted refinanced option.

What’s the first step?

Reach out to myself or a loan officer to discuss your options, get a rate quote, and see if refinancing makes sense for you. I’m happy to provide references for some excellent lenders who have some of the lowest rates right now.

What should I know about refinancing during COVID-19?

Many lenders are double and triple-checking employment status’s which can make the refinance and/or purchase process take a bit longer than usual. Jumbo loans (loans larger than $424,100) are also temporarily suspended in many areas. Otherwise, it’s business as usual on the lending side.

If you’re considering refinancing and have any additional questions, please call, text, or email me for more info. If you’ve been thinking of purchasing in the near future, let’s talk too! Rates are great right now and the Austin market is showing no signs of slowing, even amidst the pandemic.

I’d love to be your resource on all things real estate, so reach out any time!

April 20, 2020

Buy | Invest | Resources

New Real Estate Projects in Austin

If you’ve lived in Austin for a while, you’ll know that the city changes rapidly. From downtown towers to new suburban communities, Austin is growing more every year.

Here’s a spotlight on a couple of new projects in the works in central and east Austin.

A. Natiivo, Downtown

Natiivo is a 33-story tower currently under construction on Rainey Street. The twist with this building is that each unit will come with full amenities, furniture, and hotel licensing. This means that owners will be able to rent out their units short term, or on sites like Airbnb for personal profit. This is an extreme rarity for any condo building; contact me if you’re interested in more details and/or investment potential.

B. 6 X Guadalupe, Downtown

If you thought The Independent, also known as the “Jenga Building” downtown was going to remain the tallest building in Austin, think again! 6X is planned to be 66 stories tall – a full 7 stories taller than its predecessor. The space will be filled with offices, retail, and apartments.

C. Grove at Shoal Creek, Central Austin

The Grove at Shoal Creek is a master-planned community smack dab in the middle of the city. This new Rosedale/Hyde Park development will be 76 acres of housing, retail, green space, and offices.

D. Centro Complex, East Austin

Encompassing a full two blocks between E 5th and E 6th, this new development will be part of East Austin’s Plaza Saltillo district. A 3.25-acre, five-story office and retail space is planned for the space once permitting is completed.

These projects are just a fraction of all the new development happening throughout the Austin-metro area. If you’ve had thoughts of buying a home or planning to invest in Austin’s growing market, contact me and let’s grab a coffee to talk about your options!

I’d love to be your resource for all things real estate and am always happy to answer questions.

February 21, 2020

Buy | Rent | Resources | Sell

5 Tips to Make Your Next Move Easier

Buying a new home or moving into a new place is exciting, but moving generally is not. Here are a few tips to make your next move a bit simpler and more affordable.

1. Get Free Moving Boxes

Buying enough boxes to pack up an entire house can add up quickly. Next time you’re planning a move, call around to local grocery stores first and ask to pick up their shipment boxes. In Austin, Trader Joes and HEB are both generally willing to set any sturdy boxes aside for you for free.

Facebook Marketplace is another good resource, as many people who have just moved want to get rid of their own moving boxes and offer them (usually free) to the first person who picks them up.

2. Play ‘Keep or Toss’ Before Packing

The simplest way to slim down a move is to purge any unwanted or unused belongings as you pack up your current place, rather than waiting to do it at your new home.

Start packing earlier than you need to and donate any items that you don’t think you’ll use in your new space. You’ll save money on boxes and movers, plus have less unpacking to do!

3. Get Truck Rental Discounts

If you’re planning to rent a U-Haul or moving truck for your move, wait until after you’ve filled out a change of address with USPS online. They’ll typically give you a variety of moving-related coupons to download and often times a truck rental discount is included.

4. Hire Haulers vs Full-Service Movers to Save Money

There are dozens of ways to conduct a move. From DIY to full-service movers who bring boxes, pack, haul, and unpack, you’ve got options.

If you have the time to box everything yourself and prefer to unpack your own belongings, save several hundred dollars by hiring day-of movers to get everything from point A to point B. Services like Bellhops or Two Men and a Truck will provide vehicles and labor to do all the heavy lifting for you.

5. Schedule Repairs in an Empty Home

Some repairs are easier to have done with nothing in the house. Before you bring all your belongings into a new place, consider the practicality of having essential repairs done first.

Things like sealing the grout on floor tiles and in bathrooms, getting window treatments installed, or having the home professionally cleaned are worth considering before filling your new place with boxes.

 

I’d love to be your resource on all things real estate, so please contact me any time!

October 28, 2019

Buy | Invest | Resources

Austin Investment Hotspots (Fall 2019)

Austin, Texas has been an investor haven for the last two decades or so, with next to endless opportunities to purchase investment properties and rent them out for a profit. With the amount the city has grown in the last few years however, the number of cash flowing properties from the time of purchase has dwindled significantly.

For those willing or able to put a higher down payment (over 20-30%), opportunities are more accessible throughout the city. But for the average investor, the norm is losing a few hundred dollars per month in exchange for having most of the mortgage payment covered as well as anticipating a larger profit margin from home equity when they eventually sell.

The above is a solid strategy for the Austin area, and the most realistic for most homebuyers and investors. For those who really want to buy with 10-20% down and have the entire mortgage payment covered from day one however, there are a few remaining pockets in the Austin area to consider.

1. Round Rock – Multiple Pockets

Of the three on this list, Round Rock currently has the most areas available with potential to yield a positive return. A 3-bedroom, one-story home rents for around $1,575. With a 15% down payment and target purchase price of $220,000, you could earn roughly $100 per month and have your mortgage payment completely covered.

2. Leander – Crystal Falls

Though tax rates are high, Leander has grown rapidly over the last few years with no signs of slowing down. The Crystal Falls area is still heavily under construction from new home builders, and the monthly payment after purchasing many of those homes can be roughly even when marketed for rent. A 3-bedroom, one-story home in this area rents for around $1,750. With a 15% down payment and a target purchase price of $245,000 or less, you’d break just about even and have your mortgage payment completely covered.

3. Bluff Springs – Southpark Meadows

Last on the list is Southpark Meadows, a growing employment hotspot in South Austin. Though opportunities for instant cashflow are incredibly slim, there are still a few homes that pop up from time to time that fit the bill. A 3-bedroom, one-story home in this area rents for around $1,750. With a 15% down payment and target purchase price of $260,000 or less, you could earn roughly $35 per month and have your mortgage payment completely covered.

Please note that the above examples are purely estimates based on today’s mortgage rates and market and are each hypothetical scenarios. If you’re considering purchasing a property in Austin, please contact me! I’m always happy to talk numbers and work with your budget to find an investment strategy that makes sense for you.

I’d love to be your resource for all things real estate, so please reach out any time!

September 25, 2019

Buy | Rent | Resources

6 Must-Do Move In Tasks

Moving into a new place is exciting, especially when purchasing a home. You can finally change the paint colors, hang things wherever you like, and update fixtures, lighting, etc. While these are all important rites of passage, there a few ‘less fun’ tasks that should be on your to-do list.

1. Locate the water shutoff and main circuit panel for your home

Emergencies happen and can be entirely out of your control. It’s a good idea to know how to turn off all the water to your house in case of a plumbing crisis. The shut-off valve is usually located somewhere in the garage, or at street level.

Having an accurately labeled circuit breaker panel can also save you a huge headache if a fuse ever gets blown and you need to reset the electric in all or part of your home. Understanding where these fixtures are located and how to use them before you need to will generally serve you well.

2. Schedule routine pest control

It’s no secret that Texas has plenty of bugs and creatures that love to sneak into homes. Whether this bothers you or not on a principle basis is a personal matter, but from a maintenance standpoint pests should be kept at bay. Luckily, there are several affordable and reputable pest control agencies that can do on-demand or routine treatments to keep your home pest-free. Contact me if you need a referral.

3. Install a water softener

As a whole, Texas has hard water. Simply put, hard water contains a high amount of minerals, usually calcium and/or magnesium. Over time, hard water can wreak havoc on a home’s pipes, leading to potentially huge and expensive repairs.

Hard water can also affect your skin, hair, and health, so there are many reasons to look into purchasing a water softener. These can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars but pale in comparison to the cost of having to re-plumb your home.

4. Check to see if you have gutters

The purpose of gutters is to route water away from a home’s foundation and allow for proper drainage. Failure to have an adequate drainage system can result in the soil around your home eroding and the foundation becoming unstable.

Many homes come with gutters, but not all do. New construction homes in particular often leave this as an add-on for the homeowner to address after closing. Check to see if your house has gutters. If it does not, look into having them installed to protect your foundation. Once you do have gutters, be sure to keep them free of leaves and debris.

5. Make a list of an emergency plumber, handyman, and HVAC technician

A 3am emergency is not the time that anyone wants to be researching who to call to fix a leaking faucet or broken A/C unit in the middle of July. Contact me for some quality referrals or take some time to do a bit of research on who your go-to emergency repair contacts are. Ask important questions like how long wait times generally are, and what the costs are for basic services or inspections. You’ll thank yourself later!

6. Find out what size air filter you need and schedule regular changes

Air filters are an item that I see many clients forget about both when renting and buying homes. In either scenario, you’ll want to change the filter every 1-3 months. Air filters are inexpensive but do a very important job of cleaning the air that circulates through your home by filtering out things like dirt, dust, and pollen.

Not changing your filter regularly can result in higher electricity bills, slower heating and cooling times, growth of mold or bacteria, and damage to your HVAC unit. For a simple solution, use a program like Second Nature to get deliveries to your door whenever it’s time to change the filter.

Preventative maintenance for a home can go a long way. If you have any questions about buying or settling into a new place, please reach out!

August 22, 2019

Buy | Invest | Resources

‘Hacking’ Home Equity in Austin, TX

The Austin real estate market isn’t slowing down. Both home prices and rent hikes are on the continual rise, incentivizing more and more renters to buy their first place. Buying into a real estate market while prices are rising opens the opportunity to gain equity in a home relatively quickly. This means a higher profit for you when you eventually sell.

In addition to rising prices, Austin is also in an inventory shortage. This means that the demand for new homes is very high, which is bringing more home builders into the city. The inventory shortage and influx of builders has created a unique opportunity to ‘hack’ some extra home equity.

Six #homespacehomebuyers are currently under contract doing just this, and I’d love to help more of you do the same!

Here’s how it works:

Instead of buying an existing home, talk to me about purchasing a brand new house in one of the new home communities currently going up in Austin. The big advantage of this is that a new home takes 6-8 months to build.

Why is this a good thing? Because the purchase price for the home is locked in at the time of contract. This means that for 6-8 months you can be ‘collecting equity’ as the market appreciates, yet you don’t pay anything other than earnest money on the home until you close on it.

The reality for several of my clients is that by the time closing date rolls around, they’re moving into a brand new home with a few thousand dollars of equity already in their pocket.

Of course, this isn’t the right move for everyone. If you’re locked in on a certain location that doesn’t have much new construction or want to live in a non-HOA neighborhood, traditional home sales are still the way to go. But for those who have some flexibility on location, it’s definitely worth looking into.

I’d love to be your resource on all things real estate, so please reach out any time!

July 24, 2019

Buy | Rent | Resources

Does it cost more to Rent or Buy in Austin, TX?

The rent vs buy debate is common in Austin, TX. With almost 52% of Austin residents renting, it’s easy to see why. The truth is, there’s a fair argument for both renting and buying, and the answer varies depending on how long you plan to do either. 

Let’s take a look at a cost breakdown for rent vs buy over 5 years for an Austinite. We’re going to assume ‘Robert Resident’ wants to live in a modest 2 bedroom apartment if renting, or a 3 bedroom single family home if buying.

First, let’s keep it simple and just look at the dollar for dollar costs over 5 years. The average rent increase in Austin is 4% each year, which is what the ‘rent payment’ column is based on. For the ‘mortgage payment’ column, let’s assume Robert buys a $250,000 home and puts 5% as a down payment. His all-in monthly payment would be around $1913 every month on a 30-year mortgage.

As you can see, for years 1-4, Robert does save some money by renting (though the savings is negligible by year 4). On years 5 – 30 however, Robert saves more money by owning his home because he avoids any rent increases.

Next let’s take a look at all the other costs involved in a home purchase, along with tax and equity savings over 5 years.

After looking at this chart, you’ll see that over 5 years, though the costs aren’t too far off, they do slightly favor the renter up until the last two rows, time and equity. Let’s take a look at the two biggest factors that tilt the scales towards buying.

1. Equity buildup. Austin has been appreciating an average of 7% over the last 5 years. I used a 5% appreciation number for this example to more closely reflect the national average in case of market changes. After 5 years of owning his home, Robert will have ‘earned’ roughly $62,000, while he’ll have $0 if he chooses to rent. This is one of the biggest upsides to homeownership.

2. PMI Dropoff. If Robert chooses to buy, he’s only planning to put 5% as a down payment. The downside to this is he’ll carry a fee called ‘private mortgage insurance (PMI)’ for the first few years of his loan. This fee is factored into the $1913 monthly payment. Once Robert reaches 20% equity in his home, the PMI charge will fall off and his monthly payment will decrease by about $100 a month for the rest of the 30 years. in this example, Robert already has over 20% equity in his home by year 5. The remaining years of his mortgage will have a payment closer to $1,800, which is only $100 more per month than the initial rent payment.

The Bottom Line
Renting or buying is a personal decision and there are certainly other factors that play into it besides money. If you’re planning to stay in the Austin area for a while and are still renting, let’s grab a coffee and see if it makes sense for you to continue to rent, or think about taking the leap to home ownership.

I’d love to be your resource for all things real estate, so please reach out any time!

May 17, 2019