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Thursday, December 13, 2007

November LTISD Stats

Here we go again. Could the numbers possibly get any worse than this? I surely hope not. Based on units sold (not volume) sales are down 41% compared to last November (2006). So far, this is the largest gap since the beginning of the year. I surely hope the mortgage companies give buyers some room otherwise, who is going to buy next year?
Note: The information herein is obtained from the Austin Board of Realtors and the information retrieved was not verified.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

President Bush's Plan to Save Homeowner's from their Mortgage Woes

President Bush has unveiled a plan to help out homeowners who are facing higher mortgage rates in the next few years.

Before I go into this further, let me explain some basics. A typical homeowner who requires financing would get a 30 year fixed mortgage. Besides a 30 year fixed rate, there are other financing options available such as a 15 year fixed rate, adjustable rates and other programs. Usually, if a homeowner intends to stay in a home longer than 7 years, a lender would typically suggest a 30 year fixed rate. A borrower may go with a 15 year fixed rate if they wish to live in the same home longer and pay off their mortgage at a shorter term. Typically, a 15 year fixed rate is lower than a 30 year but the payments are drastically larger depending on the amount of the loan. A 15 or 30 year fixed is attractive to many because the rate does not change during the term of the loan.

Then there are these ARM (adjustable rate mortgage) programs which means that the first 3, 5, 7 years of the loan, the rate is adjustable and alot lower than the going fixed rate; but after the 3rd, 5th or 7th year, the rate re-adjusts (the new rate depends on many factors) and is generally higher than the rate 3, 5 or 7 years earlier when the loan began. An adjustable mortgage is feasible for someone who plans to live in the house in less than 3 years. We all know that during first few years of our mortgage, most of the monthly payment goes to the interest and very little towards the principal. An adjustable rate mortgage is also considered by many who cannot qualify for the fixed rate which is higher or who cannot make the higher monthly payment. Another resource for explanation would be this site I found.

So going back to President Bush's plan. The plan only helps borrowers with an adjustable rate mortgages. After the first 3, 5, or 7 years depending on the borrowers program, the rate converts to a much higher rate. The President would like the lower interest rate frozen for five years longer before it converts to the higher rate. To many borrowers who have received a loan between Jan. 1, 2005 and July 31, 2007, this is good news. The borrower would not have to pay the larger monthly payment for a long time. But in order for that borrower to be qualified, the borrower must live in this home full time, in other words, the home cannot be an investment property where it is currently rented out; and the borrower cannot be in default in any of their past mortgage payments.

As it is, not too many borrowers fall under this category, hence, the President needs to come up with a better plan. The President hopes that this will prevent homeowners from bailing out of their higher mortgage payment or preventing people from putting their homes on the market before their mortgage re-adjusts to the higher rate. Hence, adding to the housing slump.

The President's plan is being criticized by many. Some suggestions were to increase the freeze to 7 years. But the bottom line is, investors in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities are the ones who will lose the money. Maybe I need to re-look at my portfolio to make sure none of my mutual funds cover the mortgage sector. The real bottom line is, people, save money, pay your mortgage, don't buy a house if you can't afford the projected mortgage payment! Don't let the government keep bailing you out. Enough said, I'll work on finding a more enlightening topic.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Where are our qualified buyers?

I am confronted by many willing buyers each week who seem to be very interested in a home I have showed them. After the showing, the buyers are filled with excitement and joy. Then we start to talk about numbers. Not my numbers, their numbers. These homes I have shown them are in the low to mid $100K's. I ask how much they are willing to put down as down payment, the smiles start to become smaller..... then a tone of nervousness. Then I ask if they have $3,000-$4,000 cash for their closing costs, they shake their head, the smile gone. I ask how their credit scores are, then the enthusiasm disappears as they say they've been behind in a few loans, or one has filed bankruptcy recently or a recent divorce. These are working couples or working individuals, where has their money gone? Not only am I faced by many willing first time home buyers but many have no money saved! NADA! That is the scary part. Do most buyers live pay check to pay check and have no money saved especially for a rainy day? Yikes! Do most buyers have an average to poor credit score? At least many are truthful. The debt of many people scare me, hey I didn't say I was a credit saint but what is out there is pretty scary. I am seeing more listings that are short sales. That's a term for a pre-foreclosure process. My mortgage partner tells me that since taxes are due in the next month, he is coming across people who need to refinance just to pay their taxes. Common buyers, please, take care of your credit, let go the expensive car, shoes, television, and save up! Live the American dream. Own a home!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

4BR plus study in exclusive gated community by Toll

Toll Brothers, a luxury home builder, has a great reputation nationally especially in California. The Ridge at Alta Vista community, by Toll Brothers, is located on a ridge off of FM 620 and is bordered by a bird preserve. Many homes have great hill country views. What is wonderful about this community besides the fact that it is gated, is that it has an excellent community center which includes a clubhouse, Jr. Olympic size swimming pool with water feature for the young children, tennis court, playground, basketball court, sauna and a fitness center. The community center has a great hill country view giving you a resort-like feeling instead of a rural country feeling. You'll understand what I mean once you see this neighborhood. The HOA dues is only $85 a month and you get all these perks!

Going back to my listing, this home on 303 Hensley Dr., Austin, has 3,464 sq. ft. of living space, 4 bedrooms (master on main) plus a study, 3.5 baths, an over sized game room with a technology center which includes a built-in desk, and a large storage room which can be easily converted to a media room (which is a 250 sq. ft. bonus!). The kitchen has all the luxury items: the granite counter tops, stainless steel sink, stainless steel dishwasher/oven/microwave, cook top, walk in pantry and abundance of cabinets. It has a great open floor plan. You step into the foyer and be greeted by the two story family room which has a fireplace. The backyard is large, flat, completely fenced and has plenty of room for a pool. The home is situated in a cul-de-sac which is very quiet and private.

The neighborhood is a melting pot of Austin transplants. The people are wonderful and friendly. Why do I know so much about this neighborhood? Call me and I will tell you. Come see this wonderful home offered at $449,900.

Lake Travis ISD Sales Stats for October 2007

I always run the statistics for Lake Travis ISD because so many people ask me everyday, especially on Sundays (during an Open House) how the market is. It really isn't so bad especially when a home I listed for $1.09M sold in 2 weeks! The home by Stadler Custom Homes is already in contract and we expect to close in 2 weeks. Oh BTW, the home on Emerald Falls, went in contract only after 7 days on the market and the home closed end of October.

What does this mean? There are buyers out there! Absolutely! The first week I hosted an Open House at 102 Golden Bear Cv, I had 7 groups of people come through the home. 4 out of the 7 are ready to buy now, one has to sell a home in Barton Creek, one is ready in January and the other is looking for a friend who is planning to move here. I would also have to say that these buyers are shopping in the above 600K. I hosted another Open House this past Sunday and had 7 groups of people come through. What I have to say is, many are looking at most of the inventory available within their criteria before making a decision. But when a Stadler Custom Home comes their way, especially when it is priced at the current market value, sorry, but make a decision now and stop dilly dallying. Get real, buyers!!! When a home is priced right, and you love the home, make an offer now! It just doesn't make sense to have your realtor show you 20 more homes when you've already fallen in love with the one you just saw. And then what happens when that home gets an offer and you've missed your chance? And you have to settle for a home that is your second or third choice, yikes!

Enough of that, going back to the stats, Lake Travis ISD residential home sales are down 29% from last October. So far, February 2007 marks the worse at 30% of sales down. Overall, in the entire Austin MLS, sales are down 23% from last October. Still not bad compared to the rest of the nation. Buyers are still coming from areas such as Michigan, California, Minnesota, etc. Rates are still pretty good. I heard of a mortgage company who is offering 5.875% at 30 year fixed! I really have a good feeling that December will be a good month. Many want to move in before the holidays. Let's see come January when I run the stats. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

FOR SALE: Flintrock Falls Home by Stadler Custom Homes

Owning a home built by Stadler Custom Homes is a statement of luxury living. Brent Allison builds a showcase home. His work shows in the craftmanship and his service is absolutely superior. Not only do I know this man professionally but this man is a true person. He has a great family and my children know his children.

To personally promote, advertise and market a Stadler Custom Home is like a dream come true. It's better than having Brad Pitt knocking at my front door or Tom Cruise for dinner! Brent finally gave me an opportunity to sell his 2006 Parade of Homes masterpiece located at the guarded and gated golf course community, Flintrock Falls. This home is incredible! As I write about this home, I am giggling like a little girl because I cannot contain my excitement!

First of all, this $1.09M home won "Best Street Appeal". Home has 4,773 sq. ft., 4 bedrooms plus a study, 4.5 baths, 2 fireplaces, 3 living areas, 2 dining areas and a 3 car garage. The gourmet kitchen includes a Wolf 6 burner stove with griddle, hood and 2 ovens, microwave oven, warming drawer, Subzero refrigerator, wine refrigerator, granite countertops, custom pecan cabinets. Meticulous details include travertine flooring, cast stone columns and arches, leather textured walls, judges paneling, faux painting, triple groin vaulted ceiling, Cortexa smart house system with touch screen master controller (for surround sound stereo, security, temperature and lights) and more. The covered back patio includes a fireplace, oversized hot tub and has views of the 16th green on Flintrock Falls golf course.

The pictures are an understatement! Stadler currently has 2 homes under construction in Spanish Oaks, one $1.875M and the other $2.05M; one in Seven Oaks for $2.4M. He has a Rough Hollow home currently under construction which is included in the 2008 Parade of Homes for $3.1M, which is already under contract!

Want to see more? My new dream is to own one of these homes! Don't you dare wake me up!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Haunted House for Sale

The following blog is 100% fictional. Sorry to disappoint those who were actually looking for a real haunted house:

Eerie-sistible Deal! Excellent location, private and quiet!
Backs up to cemetery, incredible views of graveyards from your master deadroom.

4 Deadrooms and 2.5 Batts with room for batminton tournaments
Features ghostly apparitions and footsteps after midnight. Hardwood floors and hand textured walls have appearing and disappearing blood stains after midnight.

Floating furniture and threadmill in exorcist room may convey depending on offer.

Interested parties, please contact Ghouldilocks to arrange viewing, she has access with her special spoo-key.

Life is sweet at Sweet Berry Farms

With Halloween just around the corner. One of our regular family events is a visit to Marble Falls, about 45 minutes west on Rte 71 from Lakeway to Sweet Berry Farms. There were so many things to do for the children besides picking the largest pumpkin with a good stalk for handling. They had a petting zoo, corn maze, hay rides, face painting, stuff a scare crow, wash your squash, etc. They were selling homemade jams, ice cream and many more.

It seems a bit odd to be pumpkin picking on a beautiful sunny day. There was a cool breeze to gently remind everyone that it is fall! Hence, another reason why it is so great to be here in Austin for autumn!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Travis County Tax bills posted for 2007

Anxious to find out how much you are paying this year for your property taxes? If your home is located in Travis County, you can find out by going to the Travis County tax website:

Taxes are due by January 31st and can be paid in several ways:

For my community which is located in the City of Lakeway, the tax rates imposed by the different taxing units are as follows:
Travis County .4216
Lake Travis ISD 1.3585
WCID #17 .0575
Travis County Health Care District .0693
City of Lakeway .2139
Travis County ESD .1

Naturally, depending where you are in Lakeway, the taxing units differ, hence, the rates differ.

If you live outside of Travis County, you will have to check your county's tax assessor's website to see if your bill has been posted.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

McMansion ruling that affects many Austin homeowners

Just in my neighborhood, the average home size is 3,500 sq. ft. Oh boy, if this new bill gets passed by the Congress, this is going to hurt us!

The Congress is entertaining once again a bill that affects large homes. The bill would decrease the tax write-offs, meaning mortgage interest, on homes over 3,000 sq. ft. A home over 3,000 sq. ft. will only be allowed to write-off 85% of the interest; 3,200 sq. ft. only 70%, 3,400 sq. ft. only 55%, 3,600 sq. ft. only 40%, 3,800 sq. ft. only 25%, 4,000 sq. ft. only 10% and over 4,000 no tax write off!

This bill has the consumption and dependence on fuels, etc. in mind hoping that the average American will consider living in efficient homes using less energy etc. Many very large luxury homes are still being built in many areas of Austin. The average Austinite still has the large home criteria in mind (over 3,000 sq. ft.) If this bill gets passed, who will want to buy these luxury homes when the average Austinite has a mortgage and will need the tax write off? Yikes! Email your State representative or Senator and voice your opinion today!

Community Event - Collection of canned goods for Capital Area Food Bank

Once a year, Keller Williams Realty of Austin collects canned good donations for the Capitol Area Food Bank. In the past, Keller Williams has collected 260,000 lbs. of food over the past fifteen years, the largest collection in Austin.

I distributed over 140 bags of Keller Williams food bags with the help of two neighbors in my community at Ridge at Alta Vista. Over 70 food bags overflowing with canned goods were collected and dropped off at my door step by Friday, Oct. 12th just in time for delivery at Riverbend Church on Saturday. The response was overwhelming and I am so proud to be a part of this neighborhood. In such little notice, so many neighbors have come together to help the poor. Thank you neighbors!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Lake Travis ISD Residential Sales Statistics for September 2007

Ok, the numbers are in for September. Sales are 15% down from this time last year. If you think this is bad, I checked out the numbers for Lake Pointe Subdivision. Sales are 50% down from this time last year. And this is comparing residential units sold not sales volume. I am sitting here in an Open House in my Lake Pointe listing and had only one visitor. BTW, I thought I'd mention this but I have a contract pending on my Lake Pointe listing after only 7 days on the market! The reason for the Open House is to get a potential buyer for a back-up offer.

Click on the graphs to enlarge the photo. FYI again, the information has been obtained from the Austin Board of Realtors and has not been verified for accuracy.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Got any real estate horror stories?

With Halloween around the corner, I tried to rummage thru my exhausted brain a real estate horror story to share. Only one comes to mind, not from my experience but my sister's, a real estate agent in Northern CA. A vacant home she had been selling (her own, one that she had flipped) had homeless people dwelling in it for only a few days. She received warning from a neighbor and called the cops but the unwanted guests took off just as the police arrived. My sister was disgusted by the litter and smell she ended cleaning up. She had just shown the home a few days earlier!

The other story I have in mind is the horrific story of a friend or client that does not refer me to a future buyer or seller. We won't get into the details of what happened to their missing margarita machine. Don't let this happen to you! LOL! Got a real estate story to share? Please share them with me and I am going to post the best one on this blog. Stories cannot have anything to do with the neighborhood I live in now, I've already heard of the possessed automatic gate story way too many times this month ;)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Top 15 home improvements for resale

Having a pool in your backyard here in Austin is almost a necessity because of the extreme hot summers. But these days, the popular outdoor kitchen and living area seems to be the top priority to many. A great arbor with a long rock counter with dual sinks, wine refrigerator, and jumbo stainless steel grill seems to be the common sight these days. I think about this time last year, the media room was a must have. But do you really get the $100K you put into the money you put into (the new negative edge pool with water feature and wrought iron fence surrounding it) back when the home is sold? states the top 15 home updates, hence, here are the top 5:

1) Minor bathroom remodel - 102% return
2) Landscaping - 100% return
3) Minor kitchen remodel - 98.5% return
4) Vinyl siding, fresh paint, front entry - 70% return
5) Attic Bedroom conversion - 93.5% return

Friday, September 28, 2007

WANTED: Buyers who want to live in a spectacular home at Lake Pointe for $319,900

This post is only for serious buyers who want their children to go to school at Lake Travis ISD without having to pay the high taxes and expensive homes.

ADDRESS: Emerald Falls Dr., Austin

This home is situated on a spectacular setting in the heart of Lake Pointe, surrounded by lush landscaping, close to the exemplary Lake Pointe Elementary, community pool, and playground.  Once a model home, this home offers 4 bedrooms (4th BR or office/study), 3 full baths, 2 dining, 2 fireplaces and a 2 car garage. Step into the inviting 2 story foyer with luxurious hardwood floors. The open and bright kitchen features an island, abundance of cabinet space and a reverse osmosis water system. Home looks out to the fully fenced backyard with a large deck great for entertaining and a covered hot tub. The large master bedroom has a fireplace and access to the rear upstairs balcony. Close to the new Hill Country Galleria and only minutes from Capital of Texas Highway. Call me at (512)736-SELL for a showing today.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hidden community by Steiner Ranch

Shhh, don't read this out too loud. Not too many have heard of this hidden community near Steiner Ranch, called Montview Acres. Just North of the Mansfield Dam before the Steiner Ranch entrance on Quinlan Park road, is Low Water Crossing which leads to Montview Acres. On Montview Dr. lies 11 brand new custom built homes many of which are built by Laurel Haven Homes and Hausman Homes. What is amazing about these new homes is that the finish out on most of these homes include tile, travertine, granite, stainless steel appliances, luxury master baths, elegant lighting, the list goes on and on. The average home site is on a 1/2 acre with hill country views! Most homes have 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, between 2,500-3,000 sq. ft. and priced in the $400,000's and is in the Steiner Ranch schools! The property tax rate is 2.586% still lower than a home bought inside the Steiner Ranch community. There are no amenities unlike Steiner Ranch which also means there is no HOA.

Looking at 2007 built homes in the Steiner Ranch community a 2,000-3,000 sq. ft. home, with granite and stainless steel appliances, in the $440,000, you get a townhouse and pay 3.2% property tax rate and a monthly $268 HOA. So you do the math, which one would you rather buy?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fed cuts interest rates .5%

Let me repeat it. The Federal Reserve Board has announced on 9/18/2007 that they have cut the short term interest rate .5% or the current rate which is 4.75%. This is the government's way of fixing the current housing problems and economy. It is too soon to tell how this will affect the current Austin real estate market but I sure hope that it will bring out confidence to the public, hence, bringing out the motivated buyers. Come on out buyers and come to my Open House this weekend!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Silly or creative marketing?

A real estate agent must be creative to capture any audience. One should always think outside the box after all, why would I spend tons of money on advertising if it will look like another agent's marketing ad? This postcard was aimed to capture a buyer who is looking to buy a home and perhaps a potential buyer for a listing. But the fact is, the silliness of this ad reflects my personality and creativity. Silly or creative, I thought I'd post one of my marketing postcards on my blog. After all, who says I can't be BOTH silly and creative?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hiking at Barton Creek

My family enjoys hiking when time permits. Now it is time to take Wilson, our new dog, on his first hiking trip. What better place to take him but Barton Creek? The first time we went on this hike was two years ago and we discovered this great swimming area for the kids. This time, we are well equipped with our bathing suits on hand. We took the short route to the swimming hole, a good 30 minute hike surrounded by lush vegetation, a site of cliff walls and waist high weeds. Finally, we walked down to the creek and spent a good 2 hours enjoying the warm water. With all the rain we have been getting, some areas of the creek were chest high. Speaking of rain, it will be a wet day again today.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Lake Travis ISD August Statistics

The numbers are out and this time around, alot better than last month. Residential sales in Lake Travis ISD is only down 6% compared to sales last August. The average sales price of homes sold in the Lake South MLS area are $425,942.

In the entire Austin, MLS, sales have dropped 17% in comparison to August 2006's residential sales.
SOURCE: Austin Board of Realtors as of 9/8/2007

Friday, September 7, 2007

July Central Texas Market News

According to the recent MLS report by the Austin Board of Realtors (ABoR), Central Texas market for existing single family homes remains healthy.
  • Number of homes sold in July 2007 only fell 2 percent from July 2006.
  • The median price increased 7 percent from last July to a record sales price of $190,000.
  • Average days on market for homes are 55 days, down 7 percent from July 2006.
  • Active listings has increased by 13 percent from July 2006 while new listings fell by 2 percent.
  • Townhouse and condominium sales rose 17 percent from one year ago.
  • The median price for townhouses and condominiums rose 36 percent from one year ago.

Lake Travis ISD makes Honor Roll

The Lake Travis View has reported that two Lake Travis ISD schools, namely, Lakeway Elementary and Lake Travis High School are among 385 public schools that have earned a spot on the Texas Business and Education Coalition (TBEC) Honor Roll. Apparently, TBEC Honor Rolls is a prestigious award for sustained academic excellence in Texas. To obtain this award, a school must have demonstrated three years of consistent, high performance in all subjects compared to other Texas schools that are of similar student population.

In the 2006-2007 school year, Lakeway Elementary and Lake Travis High School earned Exemplary Ratings. Kudos to our Lakeway Elementary and Lake Travis High School staff, teachers and students! In behalf of Lake Travis ISD parents, thank you!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Austin in the Top 10 Lists

Austin, can you handle being in the top ten in several categories? Here are just a few reasons why people are relocating to our awesome city.

Top 10 Best Cities in 2006 reported by CNN
#2 Austin with a population of 690,300.

Top 10 Fitness Walking Cities in 2007 reported by
#2 Austin

Reported by National Geographic Adventure's September 2007 issue, Top Cities
#3 Austin

Hottest Colleges in 2007 for Saving America's Schools reported by Newsweek
University of Texas - Austin

Austin Business Journal reports that according to AARP magazine for retirement-friendly community
#1 Austin

Cooking Light's Best Cities
#1 Austin

View another author's list where Austin ranks in the Top of the Charts for several other categories.

Monday, August 27, 2007

FICO Scores, Part 2

With all the mortgage buzz going on and the lenders new qualifications, it is a good idea that a future borrower understands what they are up against when borrowing money. Most importantly, how good is a 'good' FICO score? We already covered much of FICO scores in a previous blog, now let's talk about the various credit scorings and what it means. This information was obtained from a mortgage lender, who speaks at our meetings regularly.

Think of your FICO score as a report card where 90-100 is Excellent and 75 is Acceptable. This is the speaker's interpretation of the various FICO scores.

Over 750 is Excellent
720-750 is Very Good
660-720 is Acceptable
620-660 is Uncertain
Less that 620 is Risky

If you are a competitive student like I was who always has to have an A, I would make sure I'd have a FICO score of 750. A score of 620 would probably mean I'd have to repeat that class or in lender lingo, they would require additional assets, lower LTV's, and often higher interest rates. Once again, before you seriously start looking at a home, call your lender and get pre-approved. There are no costs involved to get pre-approved, just a few minutes of your time.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Austin's condo market

Downtown Austin is beginning to look like mini-Manhattan to me. When I lived in Long Island, I visited New York City frequently and remembered looking at the skyline littered with construction cranes, scaffolding, newly restored buildings, etc. This is becoming a familiar sight in Austin as developers take a dip in the high-rise condominium projects.

The Austin Statesman (dated Aug. 26 2007) reports that more than 1,000 condominiums units are under construction either downtown or nearby and that more than 3,100 are planned. Soon we will find out if all of the 3,100 planned will be built. Some of the planned projects include:

Lofts on Shoal Creek: 7 stories/91 units
Gables Park Plaza: 15 stories/100 units
Seaholm Plaza Hotel: 22 stories/62 units
Block 51: 35 stories/420+ units
Block 52: 40+ stories/500+ units
W residences (Block 21): 36 stories/196 units
The Austonian: 55 stories/195 units
721 Congress: 6 units/16 stories
Fifth & Congress: 47 units/180-200 stories

And the list goes on. To view more and to keep track of downtown condominiums projects, view the Austin Statesman's site.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bee Caves Parkway is finally open

Today is a beautiful day for the Bee Caves/Lakeway commuters. The long awaited Bee Caves Parkway which is the new road which connects FM 620 and FM 2244 (or Bee Caves Road) in Bee Caves has finally opened. The 4 lane divided road was added to divert traffic to/from Bee Caves to Lakeway without having to go thru the messy Rte 71 where the new Hill Country Galleria is still under construction. The Hill Country Galleria which is scheduled to open this fall, will be home to upscale stores will have a cinema, Barnes and Noble, Dillards, etc. To view more information or to inquire about leasing, please view this site.

Austin as hottest entrepreneurial areas

Austin has done it again. On August 24th, the Austin American Statesman has reported that according to Inc. magazine, Austin is one of the hottest entrepreneurial areas in the country! 72 Austin companies are listed in the new Inc. 5,000 list of the fastest-growing companies in America. In the list includes real estate giant, Keller Williams Realty International, with $114.3 million in revenue. The ranking of Keller Williams Realty in the list was not reported. Other Austin companies include Sports Clips, a hair salon franchiser with $88.3 million in revenue; the Mercury Mambo adertising firm and Hayes Software.

If you wish to read the complete list, it will be published in the September issue of Inc. magazine.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Seller's should not panic in a buyer's market

Now that the tables have changed and it is a buyer's market in many states, many sellers are worried that they may not be able to sell their home. What should a seller do especially if they really need to move?

First of all, let's understand the definition of a Buyer's Market. How do you know if your area falls under the economists' definition of a buyer's market? The assistance of a good realtor will help you determine if your area falls under this. Your realtor has access to statistics and reports from their market center or their Board. Bottom line is, it is a buyer's market if there are more than seven months of listing inventory. As an example, in area LS (Lake South), 92 homes have sold in July alone. There are currently 1,102 active/pending homes, hence, there are 12 months of listing inventory. Yikes! When a buyer's market occurs, there are many buyer mindsets such as: buyers expect all homes to be sold at a "steal" price; they expect to have an upper-hand in negotiations; buyers ask for concessions from the seller or; they are hesitant to make an offer because they think that the seller will lower the price or a better opportunity will arise.

Sometimes, a buyer's market is created by home seller's or those advising them what price to list their home at. 80% of the homes in a buyer's market are over priced and 20% are well-priced. Those that are well priced are most likely to get into a multiple offer situation. One must price their home within the CMA pricing researched by their real estate professional. If a home is over priced at time of listing and the average days of market increases, once the DOM hits the triple digits, the listing has been considered stale.

If you are a motivated seller, the only two things that matter the most is pricing and condition. Price your home at market value and make sure the condition of the home is pristine. A seller may have to put money on repairs, staging, fresh paint and perhaps landscaping. As mortgage lenders have tightened their belt and increase rates and fees, a seller might have to be prepared to throw in some incentives to help off-set the buyer's closing costs. Like I said above, be better off falling within the 20% of the range than having to sit and wait for the call that it's time to drop the price (again)!

Hot Areas in Austin Real Estate as of July 31, 2007

Based on the reports released by the Austin Board of Realtors, the top 5 Austin residential MLS areas, per my opinion, based on average sold price closest to the list price are as follows: The average price mentioned below is the sold price.

1) Area GTE (Georgetown), closed 102.16% above asking price averaging at $188,725;

2) Area FC, 2 homes sold averaging at $85,250 closed 100.41% above asking price averaging at $190,180.
FC includes cities of Fayette County where there are only 7 residential listings currently in active/pending status;

3) Area N, closed 99.50% under asking price, averaging at $190,180, includes areas North of Parmer Lane, West of I-35;

4) Area 10S, closed 99.42% under asking price, averaging at $177,986 includes areas North of W. Slaughter Lane but South of William Cannon Drive, between Mopac and I-35;

5) Area 1N, closed 99.02% under asking price, averaging at $279,832 includes areas North of 360, South of McNeil Rd., between Bull Creek Road and Rte 183.

I was afraid you'd ask which Austin real estate areas are selling far below the asking price. I might as well give you this information too.

Area WW at the bottom of the list, closed 80% below asking price, averaging at $140,000. If it makes you feel better, only one home sold in July. Area WW is in Williamson County. Second to the last is area CM (Comal County), closed 88.72% below asking price, averaging at $444,395.

Now that I have some Austin buyers attention, many curious birdies are wondering which areas are most expensive. Based on the average sold price, the top 5 are, drum roll please:

1) To many, this isn't a surprise but at $883,602, area 8E is topping the charts. This includes homes between 360 and Lake Austin and just South of Mopac. Average days on market (DOM)is only 26 days!

2) Area 8W which includes West of 360, between Barton Creek and Lake Austin, at $605,774. Average DOM is 40.

3) Area 1B at $564,770, which includes homes East of 360, between Lake Austin and 2222. Average DOM is 36.

4) Area LS at $538,898, which includes homes South of Lake Travis just North of the Travis County border. The average DOM is a bit high at 71.

5) Area RN at $466,471 with DOM at 59. This includes areas North of Lake Austin but South of Bull Creek Road, West of 360.

You've probably figured out that certain areas in Austin are still a sellers market. This is absolutely good news for us and many Austin sellers.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mega Agent Camp 2007

I am a proud attendee of this exclusive seminar for Keller Williams Realty agents who sold 6 million and upwards in the past year especially if you are an agent who has a mindset to make more this year. There must have been more than 3,000 people who attended today's sessions, agents from all over the country. I took the opportunity to network with 40 or so agents, exchanging business cards from attendees from California, Seattle, New York, Arizona, Tennessee and Kentucky. The majority of cards collected were from California. I had lunch with 2 agents from Stockton who shared with me the challenges they were facing in today's market. They said that if not for short sales, they would not have any income by now. Most of their listings are "short sale" listings which means that the sellers are very motivated because time is of essence. If the home isn't sold, the sellers face foreclosures.

As explained by the Californian agent, the advantage of a short sales opposed to a foreclosure is that the seller has a debt judgement carried on their credit history for 2 years while a foreclosure remains in their record for 7 years.

I have asked if the Stockton agent have any absurd incentives that have been given to buyer's and the most she had to share with me was: a builder was giving a choice of an SUV or a truck. If you have any absurd buyer incentives, oh please do tell by clicking on the Comments icon.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dogs in Austin

Effective October 1st, it is now prohibited to leave a dog alone on a chair or tether in Austin. An explanation of this new ordinance can be viewed. The site includes reasons why chaining is bad for the dogs. In addition, some suggestions have been posted. Other pet laws include:
1) It is unlawful to transport an animal loose in an unenclosed vehicle. Animals must be confined securely in a manner that prevents the animal from falling or jumping from the vehicle or otherwise being injured.
2) It is unlawful not to provide adequate shelter for your pet.
3) All pets residing within the City of Austin are required to be registered with the City.
4) All pets must have current rabies vaccinations.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Understanding FICO Scores

With the lending institutions tightening their underwriting. One of the basis when giving out a loan is the applicant's FICO score. The FICO score is a way to determine the credit standing of an applicant. As a consumer, do you really understand what makes a FICO score? This information was obtained from a mortgage loan officer who came to speak to a class I attended this week.

What makes up the FICO score? An obvious reason is your payment history (35%). Do you pay your loans on time? Second is capacity which comprises 30% of your score. What is your credit limit? 15% is based on the length of credit, 10% of accumulation of debt in the last 12-18 months. The number of credit inquiries and the opening dates of the loans are also taken into consideration. Then lastly, 10% is based on a mixture of credits which are installment or revolving credits, number of finance company loans (the more the lower the score). Perhaps it's time to re-think if you really need to have a credit card for each store found at the Barton Creek Mall. Once, a friend from New Jersey showed all her outstanding credit cards, which could have been enough to wall paper a small room if needed.

As a consumer, you might want to know that your income, length of residence, length of employment or debt ratio has nothing to do with your score. If you are in the market of buying a home, here are some DON'TS or it might hurt your credit score. Don't miss a payment; don't borrow money on your credit cards to the limit; don't close your credit card, it will lower your available capacity; don't shop using your credit card excessively; don't open numerous credit cards in a short time period; don't have more revolving loans in relation to installment loans; don't borrow from finance companies.

So let's say the damage has been done and tomorrow when you wake up, you're a changed person and have become a wise spender. You can improve the score by paying down on credit cards; do not close the credit cards even when the balance is zero (the credit capacity will decrease); continue to make payments on time; slow down on opening new accounts; acquire a solid credit history with years of experience; and move revolving debt to an installment debt.

Next time you put that $500 Coach purse on your charge card, perhaps it's time you take out your checkbook or debit card instead. Better yet, put the Coach purse back on the shelf, save the $500, it will be a good addition to the down payment of your new home!

Mortgage Meltdown

Every week, we have speakers from Land Mortgage come to our Keller Williams meetings to speak about the mortgage industry and the recent happenings. In the past 3 days, I have heard 3 different representatives from mortgage companies come and update us. They all have the same things to say and wanted to stress the importance of making sure that our buyers are "pre-approved" not just "pre-qualified" before taking them out.

There seems to be a bank that seems to fold every day these days. What is exactly happening? Could it be a Mortgage Meltdown? A Land Mortgage loan officer explains that the loan programs that are affected and will be changing are the interest-only, no income verified, second liens, and jumbo loans (over $417,000). I will try to reiterate the explanation of the loan officers, without using the techno lingo. The secondary market are the loans that are sold to other banks. These original loans are not selling because borrowers have forfeited their loans, hence, the banks are less hesitant to purchase more of these type of loans. The 100% loans have tightened up and only those with higher credit scores will be able to obtain them or pay a higher interest rate. We will see more people get loans at a higher rate or people will have to put in a higher down payment. Remember the mortgage insurance? These are coming back once again after the 80% first loan/ 20% second loan or 100% financing became popular. A loan officer states "mortgage insurance is the most popular girl at the dance". Not only that, the fed has "put a new dress on it" which she refers to, mortgage insurance is now tax deductible if you earn less than the maximum yearly salary. Unfortunately, I cannot find my notes to that amount.

So for those in the process of buying a home or have put off buying a home because of all the mortgage lending changes, I suggest that you speak to a loan officer before you meet with your real estate agent. Get educated and find your options. There are still alot of loan programs out there and an experienced and professional lender is the best person to speak to. If you do not have one, I have a mortgage partner that I would be more than happy to recommend.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Austin Residential Sales Statistics for July 31st

Now that I've told you about the statistics for Lakeway, what is Austin looking like? Overall, Austin Board of Realtors (ABOR) is reporting an 8% decrease in sales units in comparison to July 2006. This graph has been obtained from ABOR. The information reported herein has not been verified for accuracy. Please click on the photo to enlarge the graph.

Lake Travis ISD Residential Sales Statistics as of July 31st 2007

Statistics will be posted monthly on Lake Travis ISD Residential Sales. This data has been obtained from the Austin Board of Realtors as of 8/1/2007. The information herein has not been verified for accuracy. There has been a 29% drop in sales in comparison to residential sales last July. You may click on the graph to enlarge it.
In my experience, I have had little or no visitors during my Open Houses. 2 weeks ago, I held an Open House in Hudson Bend. I had put more signs up than usual on a busy street on FM 620. I usually get 3-4 visitors but on this particular Sunday, I had none! Many real estate agents have been reporting the same experiences and some have refused to put advertisements in the paper for their open houses and have not been holding open houses.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Negotiating Real Estate Listing Commissions

When you hire a real estate broker to sell your home, they charge a commission for listing and selling your home. The rate varies and is negotiable. The rate is a percent of the sales price. A typical commission here is 6% and is split between the listing agent and the buyer's agent. The buyers agent's commission is listed on the MLS listing sheet and can be viewed by any agent who has access to the MLS. When you start negotiating the commission to a rate lower that 6%, ie. 5%, you need to clarify with the listing agent you are planning to hire how they are willing to split the commission. A listing agent, may consider the 2% commission and give the buyers agent the 3%. But when the listing agent starts to lessen the buyer's agent, even at 2.5%, the buyer's agent tend to show the listings that pay a higher commission first than those paying less. In the same token, hiring a discount agent to list your home could mean that you will not get a service level that you expect. Most discount agents would simply put your home on the MLS and a for sale sign on your front lawn and you may not hear from them until the listing expires. Some sellers agree to this and they also agree to show their own home to the buyers.

A discounted commission is usually negotiated and given by the listing agent if you agree to use the listing agent to purchase your new home.

So before you negotiate to a lesser commission, think twice and find out what level of service you expect to receive.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

78738 2nd Wealthiest Zip Code (dated June 15-21, 2007) has published that 78738 is the 2nd Wealthiest Zip Code in the area. Amazing! #1 is 78730 which is the North Hills/Westlake area. This is ranked by propriety method of calculating affluence based on income, disposable income and net worth.

In my zip code, 78738, reports there are 3,174 households and the average size per household is 2.68 people. The average income is $176,000 and the net worth per household is $1,097,510!!! The average income in 78730 is $211,000.

So for you homeowners in the Bee Caves, The Hills, Hudson Bend area, if second is good enough for you, give me a call and I can find you a home in the North Hills/Westlake area.

Proud to call Austin, my home

Austin, Texas is the home of the Longhorns. Having moved here from Camas, Washington a few years ago, it never dawned on me that I would love this place just as much as Camas. The transition has not been easy as I fought coming here. Many moons later, I now consider Austin my home and I absolutely love the people and the topography.

Washingtonians are friendly, patient, laid back and trustworthy people. To find another place that will surpass the Camas environment would be hard. I fought that and it was hard. Then I learned to accept that Austin was going to be a place where my children would grow up.

The moment my eldest son, Ryan, started 6th grade, in Lake Travis Middle School, he became a Longhorn fan and had dreams of becoming a pro football player. The boy never played football in his life! When he entered 7th grade, his mind was made up. He played football and there we were, his parents who knew nothing about the game. But we were determined to sit in all of his games and a friend educated us as he became our personal commentator during all games. Of course, Chris, is a #1 Longhorn fan, a UT graduate. What other reason would he want to have a longhorn tatto on his arm for?

As soon as we moved to our new home in Lakeway, I confess, I became a Longhorn fan though to this day, I only understand 25% of the game. Hence, I had painted and decorated Ryan's room with burned orange and Longhorn paraphernalia. What can I say, I have the Longhorn bug. A trip to the coop was very damaging... $300 later on kids clothing and stuff I don't remember! I don't know how this could have happend. Could it have been because every other Austinite wore a Longhorn tee shirt, drive orange cars and talk nothing else about the game? Maybe, but these people just moved here! They are converts like me!

It's exciting to be a football mom and be a part of this city. The topography on the West side is something else. Never did I imagine that Austin would look like this. I can't wait for the next visitor to see and hopefully fall in love just like I did with this awesome city.