Houston and San Antonio…Top Metro Areas in the United States

Did you know that there’s only two Metro Areas in the United States that home values showed an increase from 2007? If you are keeping track of yearly home value statistics, 2007 marked the peak of the housing market. Both HOUSTON AND SAN ANTONIO received this honor with Houston reporting a 4.8% increase and San Antonio reporting and increase in home values of 2.7%

Last Month it was 7 and now it’s 8 for the Houston/Katy Area!

The statistics are out! January marked the 8th consecutive month of increased existing home sales in our area. When you compare the statistics from January, 2011 and then look at our numbers for this January, sales of single-family homes have increased 9.2 % according to the Houston Association of Realtors.

Now That I Have A NEW Home….What Do I Do Next?

There’s general maintenance that a homeowner should do every year to keep their home in the best condition possible. Here is a checklist that we give to our buyers.
1. Caulk windows and trim.
2. If your home is built with Pier and Beam Foundation inspect your crawl space for water.
3. Check Wooden Decks for Moisture.
4. Inspect and Touch Up Paint.
5. Service and Clean the HVAC System.
6. Get the Chimney Swept and Inspected.
7. Check Bathtub Caulk.
8. Periodically Run Water through Drains of Plumbing that is not Used Regularly.
9. Check the Toilet Seal.
10. Clean out the Gutters.
11. Clean Your Roof’s Valleys.
12. Switch Ceiling Fans to Run Clockwise in the Winter and Counterclockwise in the Summer.
13. Make sure to maintain the Finish on your Front Door.
14. Two or Three Times a Year put some Vinegar Ice Cubes down the Disposal.
15. Check A/C Filters
16. Clean Dryer Vent Duct
17. Clean Glass Shower Doors

If you would like more information on how to maintain your home after you buy it, just let me know. I work with a great home inspector, Blake Salcetti, the head of Texas Certified Inspections, who makes it a point to make sure our buyers and sellers have the best possible information when it comes to keeping your home in top condition.

Are You a Buyer? Here is Something to Think About….

If you are a buyer, have you ever given a thought to which title company you are planning to use? Probablly not, you might even be planning on on the seller choosing the Title company and letting the seller pay for the policy. It will save you some money….Right?

You might want to reconsider.

Below are some top reasons a Buyer Should Choose their Title Company:
1. The Buyer is the Covered Party.
2. The Buyers Lender is Covered.
3. The policy costs the same, no matter which company you choose.
4. The Buyer’s heirs are covered.
5. What if the Seller’s company fails or goes out of business?
6. What do you do if your claim is denied?
7. It can avoid lawsuits……

2012 Predictions for the Houston Housing Market

Last Wednesday, at the 2012 Houston Housing Forecast, Metrostudy President, Mike Inselmann predicted home sales and home starts to increase 10% for this year. That would mean home starts for 2011 will increase from 18,000 to 20,500 in 2012. When you look at existing homes that number would increase from 2011’s 54,000 to approximately 59,400 for 2012.

Top Investors are Looking at Houston for 2012!

According to a new survey that has been conducted by Jones Lang La Salle, investors will be focusing on multifamily properties. Home ownership rates are still declining and rental rates are still rising….When investors were asked where in the US would they invest their money next year, Dallas, was a top choice. Top investors included in this survey also said they would focus on selling their Houston properties in 2012.

I don’t know if I entirely agree with this survey. We are seeing a tremendous amount of investor traffic here in the Houston area. They don’t necessarily want to sell…..they are looking to buy and take advantage of the low prices of our housing market.

Homestead Exemption Information for Houston/Katy/Richmond New Home Owners

If you are looking for addition information on how the Homestead Exemption can help lower your property tax bill you might be interested in reading this article from Texas Real Estate Magazine.

If you live in Texas and own a home, there are a lot of opportunities to reduce your property tax bill. From deducting mortgage interest to writing off home improvements, you can save a lot of green when it really counts – income tax time. One of those money-saving goldmines is the homestead exemption. No, you don’t have to own a ranch to qualify for one. Any homeowner can apply for a homestead exemption on their principal residence in Texas.
It’s a great way to lower your overall property taxes. Why? An exemption removes part of the value of your property from taxation and lowers your taxes. For example, if your home is valued at $125,000 and you qualify for a $15,000 exemption, you pay taxes on your home as if it was worth $110,000. This exemption only applies to your principal residence, not to any other property you own.
Beware of homestead exemption scams
There is no fee for making the application for a homestead exemption. Again, there is no fee. However, certain companies offer to “process” your application for a fee, notifying homeowners by sending you a letter in the mail. These letters usually will start appearing in your mailbox around the first few weeks of the new year.
The Texas attorney general’s office reports that companies in the past have styled their advertising to make it appear that they are an “official” taxing authority, or that their fee must be paid for the homeowner to get the exemption. Other companies will act as “tax processing centers” – when in fact they’re doing no such thing.
These companies will often mail a very official-looking solicitation letter, saying that for a fee (usually $50 or more) they’ll take care of your homestead exemption application. But the fact is that Texas law requires all these companies to make it clear that they are not a governmental agency. Still, many people are confused by these letters and send in the fees.
Once again, filing for a homestead exemption is free. You just fill out a simple application and mail it in – no fee required. There’s absolutely no reason to get scammed out of $50 in the process.
Exemption requirements
Qualifying for a homestead exemption is easy. Here’s what you need to qualify:
You must own your home. To qualify for a general exemption, you must own your home on Jan. 1. If you are 65 years of age or older or disabled, you need not own your home on Jan. 1. You may apply for the homestead exemption as soon as you qualify and will receive the exemption as of the previous Jan. 1.
Your homestead can be a separate structure, condominium or a mobile home located on leased land, as long as you own it. And, for all you ranch owners, your homestead can include up to 20 acres if the land is used as your yard. A residence can also be owned by an individual through an interest in a qualifying beneficial trust and can be occupied by a trustee of a qualifying trust.
If you are not the sole owner of the home, you will receive only a portion of any qualified exemption, based on your percent of ownership. For example, you own a 25-percent interest in your homestead valued at $100,000, for a total value of $25,000. You will receive 25% of a $15,000 homestead exemption, or $3,750.
You must use the home as your principal residence on Jan. 1. If you have more than one house, you can get an exemption only for your main or principal residence. You must live in this home on Jan. 1.
If you temporarily move away from your home, you can still get an exemption if you don’t establish another principal residence and you intend to return. For instance, if you enter a nursing home, your home still qualifies as your homestead if you intend to return. Renting part of your home or using part of it for a business does not disqualify the rest of your home for the exemption.
Types of exemptions
The Texas Tax Code offers homeowners a way to apply for homestead exemptions to reduce local property taxes. The Texas Property Code allows homeowners to designate their homesteads to protect them from a forced sale to satisfy creditors. That means there are several types of exemptions:
School taxes (all homeowners). You will qualify for a $15,000 homestead exemption on your home’s value for school taxes.
County taxes (all homeowners). If your county collects a special tax for farm-to-market roads or flood control, you will receive a $3,000 exemption for this tax.
Optional exemptions (all homeowners). Any taxing unit, including a school district, city, county or special district, may offer an exemption for up to 20% of your home’s value. The amount of an optional exemption can’t be less than $5,000, no matter what the percentage is. For example, if your home is valued at $20,000 and your city offers a 20-percent exemption, your exemption is $5,000, even though 20% of $20,000 is just $4,000. Each taxing unit decides whether it will offer the exemption and at what percentage. This percentage exemption is added to any other homestead exemption for which you qualify. The taxing unit must decide before July 1 of the tax year to offer this exemption.
Age 65 or older homeowners. Taxing units are allowed to offer additional homestead exemptions to homeowners who are age 65 or older or disabled.
Disabled veterans/survivors. You may qualify for a property tax exemption if you are a Texas resident and are either (1) a veteran who was disabled while serving with the U.S. armed forces or (2) the surviving spouse or child (under 18 years of age and unmarried) of a disabled veteran or of a member of the armed forces who was killed while on active duty.
There’s a lot to consider when filing and applying for an exemption, but as long as you avoid the scams, it’s a great way to save money on your annual property taxes. For more information on exemptions, contact the Texas state comptroller’s office or the Texas attorney general’s office.

A Christmas Gift from Fannie?

Fannie Mae has just announced that it will halt all evictions of foreclosed homes from December 19th of this year until January 2nd of next year. During this 13 day period, both legal and administrative actions will continue, but homeowners living in these foreclosed properties will be permitted to remain in their homes.

Who Wouldn’t Want A Christmas Present in Their Front Yard?

I would like to share an article with you that I’ve just completed for the Houston Chronicle…

If you are serious about selling in Houston and the surrounding areas, the holiday season can be an ideal time to have your home on the market. While most of us are focused on the events that surround the Holiday season, the house hunter that is in the market to buy a new home has other priorities. Generally speaking, people don’t go shopping for houses during this busy time of year unless they’re really serious, which is an opportunity to be at an advantage when most sellers are waiting to list their homes.
Traditionally, January is the biggest transfer month of the year. Transferees are seriously looking at homes in November and December and taking advantage of the holidays to take time off to look for their new home. Another positive of having your home listed during the holiday season is real estate inventory is traditionally low and new home buyers have fewer housing choices. The seller will have far less competition versus other times of the year. This is the time of year that sellers can really showcase their properties.
The holidays hold a certain kind of charm that is very attractive to our buyers. What time does your home look prettier than during the holidays? Having buyers see your home at its warm, appealing best, helps them to envision celebrating their own holiday traditions there in the future. You never know…you might just receive the best holiday gift of all! What seller wouldn’t want a sold sign in their yard during the holidays?
Candice Skoby is a Realtor at Keller Williams Premier Realty in Katy and can be contacted at 281-682-2555 or www.candiceskoby.com.

HAR’S Latest Report….


Average price hits an October high as increased pending sales and declining months inventory signal ongoing market stability
HOUSTON — (November 16, 2011) — The Houston real estate market has added reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving season after logging a fifth straight month of positive home sales in October. The year-over-year increase in single-family homes sales, coupled with a rise in pending sales and continued decline in months inventory, signals a market that is benefitting from a healthy absorption of housing inventory. Adding to the positive report is an average price that achieved an all-time high for an October in Houston.
According to the latest monthly data prepared by the Houston Association of REALTORS® (HAR), October sales of single-family homes rose 9.1 percent versus one year earlier. All segments of the housing market, from the sub-$80,000 to the $500,000 and above, experienced growth. On a year-to-date basis, sales were up 3.4 percent.
“The further we distance ourselves from last year’s tax credit as we analyze the local housing data, the clearer an indication we get of market performance, and the latest numbers show a healthy sales climate for an autumn in Houston,” said Carlos P. Bujosa, HAR chairman and VP at Transwestern. “As long as the Houston economy continues to strengthen with additional job growth, we can be cautiously optimistic about the state of the housing market going into the new year.”
The average price of a single-family home rose 1.1 percent from October 2010 to $208,506, the highest level for an October in Houston. The October single-family home median price—the figure at which half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less—was unchanged from the October high of $150,000 it reached in 2010.
Foreclosure property sales reported in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) increased 6.0 percent year-over-year in October. Foreclosures comprised 22.0 percent of all property sales, up slightly from the 19 to 20 percent range they have maintained since May of this year. The median price of foreclosures in October was flat at $80,600.
October sales of all property types in Houston totaled 4,815, up 8.9 percent compared to October 2010. Total dollar volume for properties sold during the month rose 10.9 percent to $962 million versus $867 million one year earlier.

First Time Home Buyers, Baby Boomers and All of the Rest!

If you’re an avid reader of my blog, you know that I’m all about statistics. Did you know that over the past year the amount of first-time buyers have dropped significantly? In fact, 4 in 10 of all home sales over the past year made up the first time buyer population, which brings them to 37%. If you look at this statistic from a regional standpoint, the South and Midwest had the smallest amount of first-time buyers with 34% as compared to the Northeast with 43% and the Western Region of the U.S. coming in at 42%.

How Do You Help Buyers Buy in Such a Bad Real Estate Market?

Below is an article that I had the honor of writing for the Houston Chronicle.

I can answer that question in three words: Educate…Educate…Educate
My buyers always start out a little apprehensive, but once they see past the gloom and doom of what is being reported in today’s economy, they realize very quickly that they have an incredible opportunity they can take advantage of.
In Houston and in surrounding areas, including Katy and Richmond, you can find one of the most inclusive price spectrums imaginable when looking at residential real estate. Buyers can find homes from under $100K all the way up to multi-million dollar residences. The surrounding areas of Houston showcase gorgeous neighborhoods including Cinco Ranch, Lakes of Bella Terra, Firethorne, and the list goes on and on.
Today’s buyers are shocked when I take them out to see what is really going on in our real estate market. Homes today have all of the latest luxury and energy saving features as well as huge incentives. The financing options are discussed with my experienced team of lenders. We all sit down and talk about the loan process and which loan product will work for them and their life style. It’s unbelievable that we are seeing loan products, at fixed rates under 4%.
My job as a Realtor is to educate my buyers about the home buying process and make their home buying experience as seamless as possible. The Houston real estate market is booming. Buyers are out there and they are taking advantage of unbelievable opportunities before it’s too late.
Candice Skoby is a Realtor at Keller Williams Premier Realty in Katy and can be contacted at 281-682-2555 or www.candiceskoby.com.