Helping Buyers and Sellers with North Texas Real-Estate


Thinking of Buying your First Home?

If you’re thinking of buying your first home this summer, you should hire a Texas REALTOR® right away. Why? The summer selling season is going to be competitive.

The latest Texas Quarterly Housing Report shows that monthly housing inventory continued to drop in the first three months of 2015, falling to a new all-time low of 3.1 months, a decrease of 8.82% from the same quarter last year.La_53787478_0_1025 Since summer is already a popular homebuying season, and many markets in Texas will experience high demand, you need to be prepared to move quickly when you find a property you love. If you begin working with a Texas REALTOR® this spring, you’ll be ready to do just that.

A Texas REALTOR® can help you determine what kind of property you’re looking for, how much you can afford, and other factors that will help you be ready to make quick decisions. And as a first-time homebuyer, you’ll need the extra help, due in part to the current market. Jim Gaines, Ph.D., economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, says homes are being built quickly, but many aren’t in the price range for the entry-level market. “Interest rates are still low, but tight lending standards, rising home prices, and slim inventory have created a tough market for first-time homebuyers,” he says.


House Hunting Part 4 – Selecting a Hunting Guide

20090429223736  The late night searches ended. With a warm cup of coffee at your side and your spouse checking in on you every now and then, you compiled your list of perspective abodes. The prize of your hunt could possibly be included yet you are not sure. The photos look nice, the price is right and you love the neighborhood.  Nevertheless, those pictures do not tell the whole story. Realtors take pictures of only the things they want you to see and exclude all the blemishes a home may have. Now it is time to take the hunt on the road. You need to schedule visits and to do this you need a hunting guide, a licensed Realtor. However, how do you choose one?

Selecting a Realtor is one of the most vital aspects in-house hunting. It may seem a daunting task with so many out there. Just google the tem “Realtor” and lists of perspective guides appear. How do you know which one is right for you? It is difficult. Let us start with the basics, what is a Realtor?  A Realtor is a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors, a real estate agent is an individual who is licensed to negotiate and arrange real estate sales; works for a real estate broker. Negotiates and arranges the showing of property, listing property, filling in contracts, listing agreements, and purchase contracts. Real estate agents generally are licensed to operate under the supervision of a real estate broker. They come from all occupations and are required in Texas to obtain 180 credit hours of classroom study followed by a computerized exam.  A college degree is not required.  All Realtors start at different places in their lives. Some set out from the start to become a Realtor while others begin after completing another career. Some are full-time and others work side jobs. The basic services of agents are the same throughout the industry and are not difficult. What distinguishes one from another are the intangible items.

In picking the right hunting guide, there are many things to consider.  Experience, for example may be important yet some types of experience hold more value the others. A Realtor who has been in the business for the last twenty-five years might be a good guide however they may also be so busy that they are unable to show you a home in a reasonable time or they may pass a client who is searching for a less expensive house to another non-experienced representative.  A new agent may cause you to pause, however remember every Realtor does more or less the same thing.  This does not mean the new agent is the way to go because there are ‘bad’ new agents as well as “good” ones.  Some potential house hunting guides possess other valuable experience. Some come from the construction industry and others from a financial background, this kind of knowledge can help the hunter.  Ask friends, coworkers, or local family members for their recommendations. Word of mouth is the best advertising a Realtor can get. If that is not available, go to the Texas Association of Realtors website, they have a Realtor search engine. When searching on Zillow or some other website to find homes usually the listing agent’s photo and contact info accompanies the listing. In Texas, the listing agent may also work with the Buyer causing an intermediary status. The Broker assigns the same agent to work both sides or delegate another representative to handle one side of the deal. Usually the listing agent stays with the Seller since they have a closer business relationship and the other goes to the Buyer. This is not the ideal situation for the hunter because he/she is either working with the Seller’s Realtor (by law they are to keep both sides of the deal separate) however in reality could cause conflicts or having the Broker choose your Realtor which is also not a good idea. Any licensed Real Estate Agent in Texas may show other listings besides their own. This is a critical concept for the hunter to remember.

Make sure your house-hunting guide is able to access the MLS (Multiple Listing Services), CSS (Centralized Showing Services) and is a member of the Texas Association of Realtors. Realtors from major brokerages such as Prudential, Century 21, Keller Williams, etc. have marketing advantages over some of the smaller independent brokerages however in reality; this helps Sellers more than Buyers.   Personality is also a trait to consider. Is your hunting guide friendly, honest, conscientious? Is he/she prompt? Do they explain all the steps required to purchase an abode?  The qualities are objective yet significant and something only the hunter can answer. The hunting guide is perhaps the most important person by your side during the hunt. He/she will send you listings, schedule showings, write offers, negotiate deals, and coordinate between the lender, Title Company and the Buyer. They help you with the process all they way to closing and check up with you after moving into your new castle, so choose carefully. See you down the road.

House Hunting Part 3 – Scouting

You did all of your homework. You contacted a lender and you know your price limitations. You honed in your wants and needs, determined your desithCA9CN550red locations to live. Your weapons sharpened you are ready for the hunt. Scouting is the next step. Not too long ago newspapers and magazines were your best choices to find a new house. Today the internet is king and by far the best place to start the search. Most folks sit in their home offices, usually at night, when the kids are asleep with a cup of coffee or a glass of their favorite Pinot in front of a computer screen clicking away on one site after another. There are many web sites to choose. Some of the more popular ones are, Trulia, Zillow, Homefinder and All you must do is write in a location input the price range and a few other details and bam, a whole page of available houses appear. Seems so easy yet you must take care.  Unfortunately, independent listing websites are not monitored for quality and on some of these sites; anyone can post a home for sale. The hunter may find the perfect abode only to discover the house sold two months ago or you may find a fictional abode. Some unscrupulous Realtors place false advertisements on these sites only to get your business, when you call the Realtor accompanying the listing for a showing, he or she will tell you “sorry it just sold; however I know a few like this one I can show you.”  I have heard stories of Realtors placing a ‘for sale’ sign in front of their own homes they are not intending to sale and snapping a photo to place on the web to get business. Not all Realtors are like this; however, there are a few bad eggs. Not all web listings are bad; the prudent hunter needs to be aware of the pitfalls. is the best search website on the net. gains their information from the MLS (Multiple Listing Services) even so you must verify.

This is a good time to find a Realtor. A Realtor who is connected with the MLS can verify if the web listings are true. They can also set you up to receive fresh listings by email. A Realtor will take the information you gathered and place it in the MLS to limit the search to your criteria. The houses you receive are true with no worries of expired or fraudulent homes. A Realtor who misrepresents a listing on the MLS might be , or banished.  If you are not ready to seek a Realtor, another good place to search is on brokerage sites. Some of the major brokerages in North Texas include, Prudential, Century Twenty-one, Keller-Williams to name a few. Most brokerages have reciprocity agreements with competing brokerages to display houses. The listings on brokerages sites feed directly from the MLS and are true. Craig’s List and the Green Sheet websites also advertise homes, however again be aware of fraudulent Sellers.

The internet is a powerful tool. Over 37% of hunters start the hunt searching on the internet. Another 38% start with a Real Estate Professional who also uses the internet. With so much information on houses at your fingertips, the hunter should have no problems scouting for the perfect castle. …See ya down the road.

House Hunting Part 2 – The Gathering

John-Ferneley-Preparing-for-the-Hunt-102155 You have your pre-qualification letter; better yet, you went ahead and applied for a pre-approval letter. You know the limitations the lender has placed on you concerning how much you can spend on a home. So, what is the next step? The lender has shown you how much of a loan you can qualify for; however that may not be how much you really want to spend. The next step is to budget. Collect monthly bills from the last six months. Compare your monthly expenses with your monthly income. Include estimated grocery, gas, eating out and any other type of expense. Determine how much of a monthly payment you can afford. There are several good, free mortgage calculators on the internet, better yet contact your lender and he or she will give you a monthly payment estimate you can work backwards from there to determine how much you can spend. Include the down payment in your calculations. This step will save you from wasting time looking at houses you cannot afford  plus save you from any heartbreak if you fall in love with a an abode that is financially out of reach.

Now the fun begins. This next step will focus you for the hunt. As any good hunter, you must determine your prey, study its characteristics, and recognize the beast so when the right one comes along you can pull the trigger. To hone in on the target, I suggest making a list. Get a blank piece of paper, notebook paper is fine. On the top, write the maximum price you can afford to spend on your new castle. Leave the first three lines blank and draw a line down the center of the paper to create two columns. On the lines above list the areas you would like to live, perhaps the location of work, good schools, affordable neighborhoods, or just preferences. Include different counties, towns, or subdivisions. These two lines will focus on your hunting territory. Over one column place the title “Needs” and over the second column use the title “Wants.” Under the “Needs” heading, list everything you need in a home. Some examples could include acreage, how many bedrooms, the number of baths, square feet, swimming pool or no swimming pool, age of house, trees on the lot. The “Needs” list are items you cannot live without.  When you are searching for a home on the internet or doing a walk through you have a basis to eliminate the listing. If the abode has all of your “Needs,” you may consider jumping on it and making an offer. The “Wants” column is for niceties. Things you do not need but if the listing has it all the better. You would not necessarily eliminate the house however; you may keep an eye out for something better, and if the something better is nowhere to be found, possibly this one is for you.  These items might include trees, pools, spas, privacy fence, dedicated library etc. When searching for a used home there is some give and take. If you cannot distinguish your “Needs” from your “Wants,” an existing abode may not be what you are looking for and maybe time to consider new construction.

Even though you have everything written down, the list is not in concrete. As you search, your tastes might change. You may list a basement as a “Need” you would soon discover basements are not common in North Texas due to the clay soils. You may find a couple but not many and you may want to adjust your “Needs.” Sometimes you may see a “Want” in a particular house and decide that is not for you, and that is okay, remove the item from the list. Maybe you want to expand your search area or situations have changed so you can increase/decrease your maximum price. The list will simplify things and make it easier to make a logical choice on your new abode and help you pare down the choices. The next Blog will focus on how to hunt…See ya down the road.

Selling or Buying a Haunted Home…

Ghost-edited-300x300On those certain nights, when the family is sound asleep and everything is still and quiet. I work alone in front of a computer, the wind outdoors blows fallen leaves, and clouds drift by a crescent moon. Those peaceful times when she makes herself known, the slight aroma of perfume, an unrecognizable noise, a whisper, a shadow perceived out of the corner of an eye or an insignificant touch on the back of a neck, never seen yet she is always present and she will be with this place until the end of time…

Selling a house is a strenuous process but what if you know your abode is haunted? Well in Texas, it is not necessary to disclose you have a ghost living in your hallways, however, can it add value?  The answer is sometimes…let me step back a little. If you own a fully restored Victorian home, then yes, maybe not monetarily but an intrinsic price. The paranormal is a popular subject in today’s culture as proven by the number of paranormal television shows such as “Ghost Hunters,” “My Ghost Story” and “A Haunting” just to name a few. As long as the spirit is friendly (think Casper) then there is a market of interested buyers who may find some charm knowing a hundred year old spirit roams the hallways. Condition, location, age, and square footage determine prices. The haunting may be appealing and distinguish the residence from the competition for the certain Buyer but actual market value is the determining factor. Be aware however, there is a distinction between the allures of an antique house with all the bumps and cold chills in the night and a stigmatized home.

A stigmatized home is a structure with a recent dark history such as a heinous crime, a suicide, or murder; it is a dark unseen stain, on an otherwise physically perfect structure. For example, who would want to purchase and inhabit a serial killer’s dwelling such as John Wayne Gacy’s small house in Des Plains, Illinois or Ted Bundy’s abode in Utah? Recent horrific events can and will turn off potential Buyers. In fact, sometimes the best idea is to level the structure and build a completely new house.  In Los Angeles, a couple bought Sharon Tate’s old dwelling, the location of the infamous Manson murders. The couple had the place demolished and built a brand new abode and they still live there today.  Oddly enough, however they paid the full price for the home. In this case, the Buyers were not buying the home; they were buying the property and the location. Some eastern cultures believe a suicide creates a bad energy that will stay with the house from owner to owner. They will steer clear from that listing limiting the number of potential Buyers.

It is possible to sell a stigmatized home however; the price must be lowered to fit the circumstances. In Texas, a Seller must disclose the fact of a murder or accident caused by property condition. A Seller is not legally bound to disclose a suicide, however, neighbors talk and depending on the Buyer this could cause trouble. The Buyer must always educate themselves before placing an offer on a home. If you are concerned about a past suicide, ask neighbors, do a Google search on the address on the property. For the Seller adjust your price accordingly. If the history is too dark, remove the structure and only sell the property. On the other hand, if stigmatized homes do not bother you, they can be quite a bargain.

Happy house hunting and I will see you down the road…if you dare.

So, You Want to Make an Offer?

You toured house after house. Searching for that perfect abode, eliminating the homes which do not meet your stringent criteria and you find the right one. Like a majestic castle sitting on some far away green hill not a house but a home. Now is the time to make the offer. So many things to consider and do, the prospect can seem daunting. Making an offeEdinburgh_Castler really is not hard if you are prepared.

An offer on a home is a contract only signed by the Buyer. In Texas we use the “One to Four Family Residential Contract” created by the Texas Real Estate Commission for either new or resale properties. This contract can be used for single family homes up to a quadruplex.  Anything larger needs a different agreement.  This document contains the identification of the subject property, including the legal description as well as the Seller and the Buyer. All the exclusions are also included. Exclusions are the objects in the home that may appear to stay but the Seller takes with them as they vacate the home. This is all done upfront so there is no mistake what the Buyer is buying.

The offered price for the home is written on section 3 “Sales Price”.  After a thorough review of a market analysis (comp) of the subject property and consideration of how much the Buyer can afford an initial offer price is determined.  This offer price is broken into two parts, if you are financing the home, the down payment  and the financed portion.  How you plan to finance is also shown. It is very important to have your financing planned out prior to showings. When you are ready to buy you do not want the delay before making the offer.

Earnest money is also shown. This money is held by the title company and guarantees the Seller that the Buyer will show up to close on the home. If the Buyer does not fulfill his contractual obligation the Buyer looses that money to the Seller. If the contract is closed then the earnest money is given back to the Buyer. Usually the title company applies the funds to the purchase of the home. Earnest money typically runs $1,000 for every $100,000 of sale’s cost.

Negotiations are not limited to sale’s price. Title policy and surveys must also be worked into the equation. Usually the Seller pays for the title policy however the survey is 50/50 on who pays for that. Sometimes the Seller has a good copy of the survey showing current conditions of the property.  A good survey can be used in lieu of ordering a new one. However if not, a new survey is required and is negotiable on who pays for the survey. A survey can cost around $400 depending on the surveyor.

Property condition is also a major factor. Repairs and upgrades are negotiable. Remember the cost for repairs and upgrades come off of the Seller’s bottom line. If you are buying a home for $100,000 and request $20,000 in upgrades, the Seller is only making $80,000 on the sale. Upgrades and repairs must be considered as a part of the sale’s price.

The closing date must give time for both the loan institution to process the loan as well as the title company to order all the legal documents required for the sale. At the very least a month should be given between the initial offer and the closing date. If the loan is through a large bank such as Chase or Bank of America more time may be needed to secure the loan.

Closing costs are another factor to consider. Along with sale’s price and renovations and upgrades closing costs are negotiable and also diminishes the Seller’s bottom line. Closings costs can be as much as 3% of the sale’s cost and depending on the loan there are limitations on how much closing costs the Seller is allowed to pay.

The final aspect is the option fee. The option fee usually runs $150 for ten days. The option period starts at the time the offer becomes an executed contract and runs for 10 continuous days including weekends. The option period gives the Buyer the opportunity to cancel out of the contract for any reason what-so-ever and have the earnest money returned. During the period the Buyer should hire a home inspection and have the house inspected. If anything major is discovered than the Buyer has the right to re-negotiate the contract with the option of canceling if the Seller is not willing to cover the cost of the repairs. Of course you can cancel the contract for absolutely any reason during the option period and get your earnest money back. Once the period expires, not meeting lender’s requirements is the only way to cancel the contract and get your earnest money returned. As soon as the option of the option period is used the $150 check is given to the Seller. If it is not used then option money is given back to the Buyer.

A good realtor will go over all of these points with you.  Other things you are required to submit, a pre-approval letter from your lender if you are financing or a proof of funds letter from your bank if you are paying cash. The reason why this is important is because you are showing the Seller you are a serious Buyer. The Seller does not want to waste time negotiating with someone who may not be able to afford the home. Why should he waste his time? The Seller will simply reject the offer. You will also have to submit a copy of the check for the earnest money and the option fee. When the offer becomes a contract then the earnest money check must be given to the title company and the option money goes to the Seller.

The process seems harder than it really is. A good Realtor can help you through all the stages of the transaction. I hope this bit of info helps you with your future purchases. See ya down the road.