Your heart flutters; maybe you breathe a little faster, an excited energy takes over, you are ready. You did your search, compiled a list of potential abodes, and found a good hunting guide to help with your hunt. A pre-qualification or better yet pre-approval letter in hand, you are prepared to start the expedition in earnest. Your Realtor will contact either CSS (Centralized Showing Systems) or call the Seller’s representative to schedule showings. Some brokerages have their own scheduling process however most use CSS. There are three types showing confirmations, “Go” sometimes called “Go and Show” is typically a designation for vacant properties. It means the listing is approved and ready to show. “Courtesy Call” is also an approved viewing; however, CSS contacts the Seller to alert them. “Appointment Required” CSS calls the Seller to schedule a showing. Occupied dwellings typically require a one hour advanced notification prior to the actual visit. The house hunter must be aware of these factors when scheduling homes.
Your house-hunting guide gave you the address for the first walk through. You meet your Realtor at the first house. On the door handle, you observe a device. Those are key locks; they house the keys to the front door so the Realtor can gain entry. They are either a combination lock or a SUPRA lock box. The combination locks are older types of key storage and usually found on lower end or vacant abodes. The SUPRA Lock box is blue and requires a battery operated key card to open. The Realtor punches in a code and the box opens with the key. With this device, CSS tracks who is in the home and automatically shuts down access after 9 PM.
The home is now open for your review. Provided the Seller’s Realtor has coached the Seller well, he/she will not be in the house during the showing. Nothing is worse than having the owner over your shoulder while you look. Not only is the situation awkward but it also lessons the chance of you buying the place. When investigating the house pay specific attention to the walls, areas around door and window openings, and try the doors. If you notice cracks above window and door openings and/or if a door sticks while trying to open or close then the abode could have foundation problems. North Texas soils contain large deposits of clay. Clay expands when wet and contracts when dry. The soils dry in the summer heat and swell during autumn rains. The uneven lift can cause damage to concrete slabs. This is one reason why so many foundation repair ads are in the DFW area. Cracks in the ceiling are typically not a big issue. Gypsum board and joint compound are brittle products and with large span ceilings, even walking in the attic or the wind can cause cracks. Also, pay attention to the kitchens and restrooms. Make sure they function and the appliances and fixtures are in serviceable condition.
Try to picture yourself, your family, and friends in the abode. Make a mental plan how your furniture will fit in the spaces. Properly staged homes will make your job easier. Personal photos on the walls, the old worn comfortable chair, or other knickknacks can make the hunter feel like a visitor and not a potential owner. Investigate storage space; a house can never have too much storage. Do not worry about paint color or carpet because those are easy, cheap fixes, and sometimes corrected during the negotiation phase. Check the backyard, is it fenced, is it big enough, does it include a pool?
House hunting is fun; however, certain things should be avoided. Do not use the bathroom; remember the home is not yours. Do not bring food or drinks inside. Also, do not discus negotiations or finances inside the house. If you need to talk about those items, wait until you are outside. Sometimes Sellers will plant recording devices in the rooms in hopes to catch those types of conversations to strengthen their bargaining hand. A good Realtor will give you a MLS (Multiple Listings Services) info sheet about the abode. Take notes and try not to schedule too many showings in one outing. Houses can blend and a feature you thought you remembered in one home could actually belong to another. Relax and enjoy the search and remember that each abode you cross off the list brings you closer to the one you will pull the trigger on. See ya down the road. http://www.djlyons-realtor.com
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 https://www.texasrealestate.com/for-buyers-sellers-renters, 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. http://www.djlyons-realtor.com
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 desired 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 Realtor.com. 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. Realtor.com is the best search website on the net. Realtor.com 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. http://www.djlyons-realtor.com
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. http://www.djlyons-realtor.com
Maybe you outgrew your current home or you need to down size. For some it could be time for a first home, for others a relocation is the reason to start the hunt. The process of finding and purchasing a home can be daunting. This series of BLOGS will focus on buying homes. What a house hunter needs to do to find the perfect abode, what to do when you find one, what documents you need to sign and what the buyer needs to do while waiting for the contract to close.
The first thing any diligent house hunter needs to do is to find a lender. I can hear everyone already…find a lender. I have not even started to look for a home yet and you want me to find a lender? Yes, find a lender! With a lender, you can determine how much you can spend on your new castle. At the very least, you need a pre-qualification letter to submit with any offer you make. Stronger yet is a pre-approval letter. What is the difference between the two? A pre-qualifying is the first step and is usually free. The lender will require info such as income, debt, and assets. With this info, he will determine how much home you may be able to buy depending on final credit checks and verification. The letter is submitted with the offer, however, you are not in a strong position. It is much better to obtain a pre-approval letter. A pre-approval is the next step; you must fill out an actual application for a loan, pay an application fee, and submit other documents verifying employment and income. A credit check occurs and you will receive a letter stating the actual amount you can borrow. All things considered equal if a Seller receives an offer with a pre-approval letter and another for the exact amount and terms with a pre-qualification letter the Seller will choose the Buyer with the pre-approval letter every time.
Knowing how much home you can afford is an important first step and will save you from wasting time and the disappointment of finding and falling in love with a house that is not affordable. Being aware of your price limits will also streamline the search. In addition, many Realtors will not even show homes without at least a pre-qualification letter and the way the market is now, it is much better to have one in hand to submit an offer right away then to wait to obtain a letter. To be a good hunter the hunter must be prepared and it is no different with house hunting, find some more info on my website: http://www.djlyons-realtor.com. See ya down the road.
The presents are gone, the tree is down, and the ornaments placed away. Christmas is over and we are inching our way to 2014. Hard to believe an entire year has passed. Before we move to what lies ahead we must take a quick look back at 2013 to what brought us to this point in Real Estate. Unemployment remained high especially for those who have been without a job for more than two years and are off the official employment count. The launching of the Affordable Care Act, NAS phone tapping scandal and the government shut down all created unease in the market. Nonetheless the economy inched upward and so did home mortgage rates. In December 2012, the rates were at 3.5% now they sit at 4.65%, home prices in the DFW market have also increased by 10.3%. Texas is fortunate with our pro-business environment and low taxes. While other states experienced an exodus of workers Texas saw a huge influx of Buyers. In North Texas, low inventory was the norm. The market was good in the spring and early summer however, as homes sold listings dwindled, and Buyers became frustrated. New construction abodes skyrocketed as builders took advantage of the lack of existing houses on the market.
In 2014, we start the year much the same. Potential Sellers are sitting on their abodes waiting for prices to increase. This is no surprise; houses in Dallas are 12% below actual value while in the Fort Worth region are 20% below actual value according to Forbes magazine. Forbes also predicts home prices will rise 29% in the next three years. We are sure to see home prices on the upswing this year and as prices increase beyond owed mortgages, Sellers will get off the fence and list, especially those who are under water and finally seeing some relief. New construction will also continue strong at least until there is an equilibrium of existing and new houses on the market.
Rising prices are good for the Seller but no so much for the Buyer. The days of 3% interest are gone unless some unforeseen disaster occurs. The predictions I read show mortgage rates climbing to 5.5%-6.0% in 2014 of course this is an educated guess. Again many things can influence rates, however if trends continue this appears accurate. Higher rates mean less purchasing power for Buyers. A Buyer qualifying for a $200,000 home could only qualify for an $180,000 home by the end of 2014.
New lending requirements are also occurring in 2014. In January the Qualified Mortgage, QM rules go into effect. This means lenders will require borrowers to prove their ability to repay a loan. It also limits the debt-to-payment ratio to 43%. This rate is standard for many loans today however lenders will not allow compensating circumstances such as large down payments or large monetary reserves. Loans will also be harder for self-employed individuals to obtain. On the flip side, fees for originating a loan is capped at 3% of the loan. This is especially good for those purchasing lower priced houses. The new rules shall limit some potential Buyers and will have an impact on the 2014 Real Estate market.
All in all the market appears it should be stronger than 2013. The U.S. economy is strong and the ship is slowly righting itself if government will stay out of the way. For Buyers purchasing a home sooner is better than later however if you are a Seller it is tempting to wait for the prices to increase. 2014 should be an adventure, midterm elections are on the horizon, and who knows what will happen internationally. We are in this adventure together and it promises to be a good year house hunting in North Texas. See ya down the road! http://www.djlyons-realtor.com
On 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.
There are so many homes to choose from in north Texas it can be confusing for Buyers. Typically, when a Realtor shows a house they give their client a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Agent Report. This sheet contains all kinds of information including everything from price to square footage, number of bedrooms and baths to school districts and taxes. One additional bit of info it provides is style of house. The Buyer may not realize north Texas has a plethora of different style homes to choose from making house hunting a real adventure.
The most common style in our area is the Traditional style. The Traditional style is what most builders construct today. They are one or two-story homes with brick, stone, stucco, or wood siding. They have simple floor plans and efficient layouts and reflect the historical style and requirements of a particular region. A Traditional home in north Texas will appear very different from a Traditional home in New Jersey or Arizona. Newer designs also include energy-efficient designs.
Ranch style homes are the next popular. They harken back to the time when North Texas was still a part of the frontier. Low to the ground and spread out the Ranch style home first came about in the 1920’s. In Texas, the popularity of this type of house blossomed in the late 1960’s through the late 1980’s. They are clad in brick, stucco, wood, and glass. They have attached garages as well as sliding glass doors leading to a concrete patio. The floor plans are open, non-symmetrical and the interiors are rustic, wood panel walls are common. The eaves are deep and overhanging, with cross-gabled or side gabled or hip low-rise roofs.
Spanish style homes are also popular in this region. They also overlap the Traditional style. They have open floor plans, stucco siding and terra-cotta tile roofs, a unique style with roots to the old world.
The Contemporary style started in 2000 includes post modernism, modernism, and pop architecture. Usually this style is custom designed by an architect.
In some of the older sections of Tarrant and Dallas counties, you can find all kinds of historic styles. American Craftsman Bungalows is a style originating from the American Arts and Crafts movement in the turn of the 19th century. These homes are brick or stucco with large overhanging eaves, low-pitched hip roofs, exposed rafters, and decorative brackets. The Sears Company and the Aladdin Company furnished kits to construct these homes back in the day, truly a classic American design. Prairie is another style in north Texas. Originated by Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 19th century, the style incorporates horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs and horizontal bands of windows. American Four-square is a classical style found in this region. This style was popular in the 1890’s to the 1930’s and like the Bungalow ordered through a catalog. The typical price was $5,000 but the low-end was under a $1,000. It combined both the American Craftsman style and the Prairie style. Designed in a box shape, two and a half stories with four rooms per story, it has a large front porch with wide stairs.
Some other miscellaneous styles in our region include, log homes, A-frames and mobile homes. Log homes of course constructed with treated logs, appear straight from the frontier however have all the modern amenities. A-frame homes started in the 50’s and lasted through the 70’s with tall roofs shaped in the letter A and mobile homes an affordable alternative to standard homes.
House hunting in north Texas is an adventure and the Buyer needs a good Realtor http://www.djlyons-realtor.com to guide them. Just know that if you are in search for the perfect abode and you are open to different styles, your home is out there…happy hunting. See ya down the road.
The dog days of summer, the Romans associated the seasonal heat with the star Sirius also known as the “dog star” the brightest in the heavens during this time of the year. Here in North Texas, a mid-summer rain spell has cooled us off, however this will not last forever and the temperature will rise. Prices on homes are also increasing yet volume of available homes on the market is low. Buyers are out shopping but not as numerous as this past spring and early summer. What is going on in the housing market this summer?
The Feds until recently have been keeping the mortgage interest rates at historic low levels, hoping to revive the sluggish economy. They did this by purchasing 85 billion dollars of mortgage-backed securities and treasury bonds. This allowed lenders to sell loans at very low rates and recoup their money fast with high profits. The Feds recently cut back on buying those bonds and securities leaving the market to private buyers thus raising the interest rates. The market was especially hot this spring and early summer. Buyers bought and the price of homes began to increase. The Feds read this as a strengthening economy and it was however, they might have been too hasty in pulling the trigger.
Within 52 days, the rates increased from 3.29% to 4.5%. Four and a half percent is still an incredibly low-interest rate and rates are not expected to go over 5.5%, 2003 levels. However, the strength the market had shown in the first quarter was a result of the low-interest rates and yes; rising home values, the combination spurred the market. In my opinion, the Feds should have held back and let the market and home prices continue to grow. With higher home prices, those who could not afford to sell could finally see relief and the low rates spurred the Buyers to buy. This trend would have continued yet the rising rates have now sparked some doubt with Buyers. The housing market has slowed. The Feds hope Buyers will adjust to the higher rates and they will. Buyers will not be able to afford as much of a home and the rise in prices may begin to slow down. Why rock the boat just yet? I believe the market might have been too fragile to pull the plug. The Fed should have seen at least a year of strong growth before making this change.
The rise in the mortgage rate is a double-edged sword. Buyers will pay more for a home although lenders will be making more money and decrease restrictions on who can qualify for a loan, opening the market to more Buyers. We will see how all of this works. In the meantime, Buyers are still out there and if you are considering listing, your home now is the time to do it before interest rates go higher. If you would like to see what is available in the North Texas market please visit my website at: http://www.djlyons-realtor.com/
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See ya down the road!