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!
Buyers with children have many things to consider when purchasing a home. Everything from proper-gated barriers around swimming pools, working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and the location of a master bedroom compared to the child’s bedroom are all-important concerns for parents when searching for a perfect abode. Unfortunately, these days there are outside dangers a parent must be aware of when choosing a new home. As of May 24, 2013, 503 registered sexual offenders live in Fort Worth neighborhoods and many more in adjacent counties. This is not a new phenomenon, these monsters have always been with us, with 24-hour newscasts and Amber alerts we hear of abductions much too frequently. Now we have the tools to track them and this knowledge is truly valuable for any parent. A Realtor cannot find this information for you; it is up to the Buyer to do the research. A good website to get this info is https://records.txdps.state.tx.us. This is the Texas Department of Public Safety’s website and it provides all the data of offenders in different neighborhoods. The Buyer must look at the number and location of offenders as compared to the location of the new home. The site also provides outline information of the crimes so the Buyer can determine the extent of the threat. You will also discover that some neighborhoods have more offenders than others. Parents need to educate themselves of all the potential dangers a new home and neighborhood might have. Do your homework! See ya down the road. http://www.djlyons-realtor.com/
The home built in 1984 is very nice and in good shape. The problem is it is outdated. The ceiling has a popcorn finish, the walls in the living room consist of natural stained wood panels, the kitchen includes laminated countertops, stained wood cabinets and when you peek at the bathroom, you find carpeted flooring, old plumbing and lighting fixtures as well as original vanities and plumbing fixtures. The walls papered with trendy 80’s style patterns and the bubbled skylights hark back to when Reagan was in office and when U2 released the album “War”. The Seller wants to sell his home however; he or she is on a limited budget. What must a Seller do to sell this listing?
With today’s economy, this is a common problem. A client with an older home who retains some equity however not enough cash for upgrades. My advice is to do the items that provide the most bang for the buck. For instance replacing carpet, removing wallpaper and painting are relatively inexpensive and can brighten up a dingy abode. Kitchens and bathrooms are the biggest attractions for Buyers. Granite countertops are a big plus, yet are expensive. There are cheaper alternatives such as ceramic tiles, quartz and recycled counter tops. Painting wood stained cabinets is also the current trend and is an inexpensive upgrade. In the bathroom, replacing old plumbing and lighting fixtures are not wallet busters. Painting wood paneling in the living room helps to brighten up a space. The more expensive upgrades include scraping the popcorn texture from the ceiling to create a smooth finish. Replacing fogged windows, removing carpet and adding tile to bathrooms help sell a home as well as renovating a shower.
All the above may help sell an abode. The problem for many Sellers is many of these upgrades will not increase the final net proceeds of the sale. The number one thing to sell any home is the price. If the Seller does not have the funds to upgrade yet the establishment is in good shape hope is not lost. The number one goal is to find market value of your home. For example, your neighbor listed his dwelling for $200,000. He has all the upgrades. Smooth ceilings, granite kitchen counter tops new plumbing fixtures yet yours is still in the 80’s. In order to compete something must differentiate your house from your competitor. When everything else is the same, square footage, year built, construction type and location what will attract the Buyer to your listing? Both priced at $200,000, why would the Buyer choose a home with no upgrades over one with upgrades. The Seller to compete must lower the price. If the Seller offers $180,000 then he or she is creating the difference and attracting Buyers who cannot afford a $200,000 but can afford a $180,000 to get into the neighborhood. Every home will sell provided the price is right. See ya down the road. http://www.djlyons-realtor.com/
No fooling this is the current market. Many Sellers are getting offers for full price, a growing number are receiving higher than listed offers, and homes are disappearing fast. In fact, average days on market are down 22.4% from last year. House hunters must be prepared. The first thing they need to do is to get a Pre-approval letter from their lender. In today’s market, the Buyer must be ready to pounce on the home they desire. When viewing the home, the house hunter must remember even if you think you toured the home first, chances are, you are wrong. When walking through a nice home, be assured, an offer is already in the works. The Buyer must be ready to pull the trigger and not have to wait around for a Pre-approval letter. The Buyer must also be aware of his obligations concerning escrow money and option period money. Escrow money guarantees the Buyer will show up to closing and usually runs $1,000 per $100,000 of offered price. The option money gives the Buyer a seven to ten-day option period, granting the Buyer freedom to bow out of the contract for any reason what so ever. After the option period then only a problem obtaining the loan or an act of God will allow you to opt out of the contract and obtain your escrow money. If you truly want to buy a home, be equipped for the hunt.
Prepare for multiple offer situations. What I mean is to be mentally ready for the possibility of missing the offer. Unfortunately, this is the market; you cannot get depressed or get in the dumps because you lost that perfect abode. It only means the hunt will last longer but do not despair, the right home is out there for you. This is also not the time to think you will be able to negotiate for a lower price. Negotiations are out the window. Think at the very best you could receive is list price. More than likely, you must offer above list price if you want to beat out the competition, especially for a very nice home. If you are searching for a home with the maximum price of $200,000 than look at homes in the $180,000 to $185,000 range to give you cushion to make an offer better than list price.
How much more must you go over list price? That is a loaded question. The Seller’s Realtor in the state of Texas cannot disclose the price of the highest offer to a Buyer’s Realtor. The only answer you will receive from the Seller’s Realtor “Is that your best offer?” What is a house hunter supposed to do? The sky is the limit to what you could offer however, it all depends on how you plan to purchase the home. If you are paying with cash no problem. If you are financing then you could have a problem with submitting high offers. With conventional loans, the Buyer must at a minimum place 5% down on the home. Those seeking a FHA loan are required to put a minimum of 3% down while those obtaining a VA loan are sometimes not required to place any money down for a down payment. If you find a home and are aggressive with the offer, you risk pushing the price higher than appraised value. The bank will take the appraisal plus the Buyer’s down payment. Add those two prices together and if the Buyer’s offer is higher than the final appraised price than the house hunter is in trouble. They will need either to cough up the additional funds or renegotiate with the Seller to accept a lower price for the home to meet the loan amount the bank will approve.
Homes are available, yet it is not as easy as it was only a year ago. Folks are hanging on to their homes as others are moving in to the area. Your Realtor must be persistent and knowledgeable with the market and north Texas neighborhoods. Purchasing a home in this market is a blood sport, be prepared! If you want more info, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website at http://www.djlyons-realtor.com .