Welcome to the New RealTown! Submit Feedback
Member Login | Join RealTown
The Real Estate Network

Austin Real Estate Blog

Mortgage Rates Hit A New All Time Low (For the Fourth Time This Month)

Aug. 17, 2010
The 30 year rate fell from 4.49 to 4.44 this week. This is the 4th week in a row where rates have fallen. What's interesting is not only is 4.44 an all time low. But we have been hitting new all time lows for the last 4 weeks in a row. What is even more interesting is no one cares. The market is hardly reacting to bizarrely low interest rates. It's also gotten very little play in the press which might be a contributing factor.

The 15 year dropped from 3.95 to 3.92. The 5 and 1 year arms dropped from 3.63 to 3.56 (5 year arm) and 3.55 to 3.53 (1 year arm). These are all new all time low rates as well. Below are rates from the weeks from Jul 15, 2010 to Aug 12, 2010

Aug 12, 2010
30-fixed 4.44 15-fixed 3.92 5 ARM 3.56 1 ARM 3.53

Aug 05, 2010
30-fixed 4.49 15-fixed 3.95 5 ARM 3.63 1 ARM 3.55

Jul 29, 2010
30-fixed 4.54 15-fixed 4.00 5 ARM 3.76 1 ARM 3.64

Jul 22, 2010
30-fixed 4.56 15-fixed 4.03 5 ARM 3.79 1 ARM 3.70

Jul 15, 2010
30-fixed 4.57 15-fixed 4.06 5 ARM 3.85 1 ARM 3.74

Jan 28, 2010
30-fixed 4.98 15-fixed 4.39 5 ARM 4.25 1 ARM 4.29

So mortgage rates are one thing but what really matters is mortgage payments so lets look at that. We took today's rates and translated them into a mortgage for a 200k house. We did the same thing with rates from July, 29 2010 and rates from January, 28 2010.

Aug 12
30-year $1006.25
15-year $1471.37
5-year ARM $904.8
1-year ARM $901.44

Jul 29
30-year $1018.12
15-year $1479.37
5-year ARM $927.36
1-year ARM $913.79

Jan 28
30-year $1071.19
15-year $1518.76
5-year ARM $983.87
1-year ARM $988.56

For a 200k loan the monthly payment is slightly above a thousand dollars at $1006.25. Which is similar to the "low low rates" that we saw on balloons which got the country into the mess we are currently into. Of course the current mortgages don't have sudden balloons or repayment penalties. The trick now is that the mortgages are much tougher to qualify for. Compared to 6 months ago a mortgage payment today on a 200k loan is $64.94 less a month for a drop of 6.06 percent.

So what is going to happen moving forward? It's hard to tell in the short term. The federal government is intent on keeping rates as low as possible as long as people are concerned about a double dip recession. Over the next few weeks I would be surprised to see rates rise. After that there are two possibilities. If we move into a double dip recession I would expect rates to stay at current levels. If the economy recovers its likely rates will increase perhaps drastically.

Ki's Austin Texas real estate business is easily accessible in Central Austin and the web. He designed a website, which includes a free search for Austin Texas real estate. His site also has several mortgage rate widgets and information on historical interest rates.

Dove Springs-A Quaint, Family-Oriented Community

Aug. 17, 2010
A quaint, tree-lined rural community exists in Southeast Austin called Dove Springs, and it has a unique charm and many opportunities for recreation, housing, entertainment and access to the central city area. Dove Springs can be found by exiting I.H. 35 and traveling east on Stassney, among other routes, and the neighborhood's proximity to the freeway is another advantage to residents.

Most of the street names include the word Dove, such as Dove Meadow, Dove Hill, Dove Wood and others. These streets are tree-lined, quiet, meandering, residential streets, with inexpensive to moderately priced homes and duplexes, as well as numerous apartments.

There is a local library at the Southeast Austin Community Branch on Nuckols Crossing, a few blocks east, and there is regular bus service to the area, as well as a good road system with close access to cities and towns south of Austin proper, since the community is also relatively close to Highways 71 and 183.

There are also many recreational facilities, especially for golfers, since the Jimmy Clay Course and the Roy Kizer Course are both just east of the neighborhood, as is McKinney Falls State Park for swimmers, boaters, hikers, anglers, and other sports enthusiasts. Park lovers will enjoy the Dove Springs Community Center on Ainez Drive, which includes an outdoor pool, three baseball fields, three soccer fields, and other facilities.

In addition, the adjacent Dove Springs District Park has a disc golf course, basketball court, volleyball and tennis courts and other park amenities such as picnic tables, barbecue pits and walking trails.

Ben White Boulevard and William Cannon are the unofficial boundaries of the neighborhood, and both streets offer access to shopping, restaurants, and other nearby interesting businesses. This area was recently the target of an improvement and renovation effort, and the successful project brought about changes which benefit area youth and families, such as the River City Youth Foundation, which has worked extensively with local youth at risk.

The area has roughly 36,000 residents, so it is a large community. The area included within its zip code, 78744, is considered the second fastest growing community in Austin, as well as an area with a large Hispanic population, and the area continues to grow rapidly.

With the large presence of Latinos, the Tex-Mex choices are abundant, and many corner grocery stores offer genuine Mexican menu items, meats, fruits, produce, and other ingredients usually found in traditional Mexican food fare. Some of these are called Camino Real, Dalia's Tacos, (a local favorite) and El Taco Gordo, and all of which are locally owned and popular with the neighborhood residents. There is also a popular catering company called Dina's on Peppertree, right off Stassney and Dove Meadow.

Dove Springs is also close to the restaurant row area of South I.H. 35, with many choices for shoppers and diners, including Texas Land and Cattle Company, Macaroni Grill, Johnny Carino's, Bennigan's, T.G.I. Friday's and many other well-known chains, and the new Southpark Meadows Shopping and Dining Complex is also very close, offering affordable and accessible homes as well. The South I.H. 35 area is also called the Austin Motor Mile, with car dealerships in abundance, so car buyers have a plethora of choices.

Dove Springs is a family oriented neighborhood, and in the process of revitalization, so it is a great location for those on an upwardly mobile path looking for a good home price or the possibility of finding a fixer-upper with lots of potential. There are also many very nice homes already complete, and multi-family dwellings as well, so consider Dove Springs if southeast Austin and its charms appeal to you, with access to the central city as well.

Ki is active in the Austin community. He built and grew a website, which allows buyers to search for homes in the Austin MLS by specific criteria. His site has statistics on Austin real estate and southeast Austin real estate. His business is conveniently located in Central Austin.

The Fed's Role in Crisis and Recovery

Aug. 17, 2010
Despite its apolitical mandate, the Federal Reserve remains one of the most politically sensitive institutions in the world, as evidenced by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's opinion column on November 29th. In the piece, Bernanke criticized proposed legislation before the Senate that would seek to curtail powers given to the Fed over its near-century of existence. With approval of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency comes a new regulatory regime that may also threaten the dominant paradigm, changing the way business at the top is done for decades to come. What will the Federal Reserve's role be in this new financial landscape, and how effective will they be in the face of continuing economic uncertainty?

The Fed's mission is to balance between the twin specters of inflation and unemployment, which sets it apart from other central banks around the world, who usually focus primarily on inflation. This means that the Fed is seen as accountable for job growth and productivity in good times, as Alan Greenspan often did over his tenure as chairman. In tougher times, the US central bank assumes responsibility for propping up spending, as it did over the past two years of recession. By most measures, the unemployment target is far off, at a 20+ year high of 10.2 percent, when compared with short and medium-term inflation expectations. However, the Fed has remained somewhat quiet on the issue, likely fearing increasingly vocal calls for reform that have followed the heels of the financial crisis. By focusing on inflation, the Fed is acknowledging a tacit understanding that the recession has made clear: Central banks are responsible for banks, and the government is responsible for consumers.

Evidence for this strategy is everywhere, from the fiscal stimulus package to the continuing low borrowing costs for financial institutions. Many new tools created to address the credit crunch are now being unwound, with taxpayer leverage bearing the costs, most visibly through the TARP paybacks made recently. While the White House may browbeat bank CEOs to increase small business lending, the likely impact is minimal now that the finance industry is back on more sure footing. This leaves the Fed as the primary entity responsible for transparency for other banks. Yet legislation allows the Fed considerable leeway when it comes to publishing their decisions about interest rates and discount window offerings. An obvious need for oversight cannot result in further politicization of the central bank, but any choice for reform will necessitate political compromise, further complicating the issue. Some have called for Ben Bernanke's resignation as a way to change direction, but even with new management the Fed's hands have been made to seem tied. By exerting as little political involvement as possible, any movement on the Fed's part to bring their expertise to financial regulation will result in political cost which they cannot bear. If they try to expand small-business lending through their balance sheet, they further run the risk of stoking inflation, another politically risky move. But little options seem available, now that the economy has begun to improve and banks have less impetus to reform themselves. But if one assumes that unemployment is a high priority now, imagine what next year's congressional elections will look like. At least the Fed's directors are appointed.

Ki works in central Austin. Austin homes for sale are searchable on his website. He furnishes a free search on available Austin real estate. Ki has a blog covering Austin Texas real estate.

Find a Good Deal on an East Coast Vacation Home

Aug. 6, 2010
Whether you're looking for a condominium, multi-family unit or a single-family home, you'll find an abundance available in the housing market in almost every major city in the U.S.

Florida's slumping home market has targeted this state for some sweet deals on real estate. You'll even find beach front property at astounding prices. Check out Cutler Bay, Fisher Island or Homestead, all in Miami-Dade County.

Nassau County has some great offerings, too, on Amelia Island. Right now you can get a beautiful condominium on Sea Marsh Road right next to Oak Marsh Golf Course listed at $100,000. It's in foreclosure, so you know the lender would be willing to negotiate the price.

Boca Raton hosts a steal-of-a-deal on Ocean Boulevard. You'll find a three-bedroom, three-bath, single-family home in foreclosure for only $43,200. Beachfront property, baby, right there in Palm Beach County.

Jacksonville, North Carolina is host to a bevy of beauties when it comes to affordable, ocean-front homage. There is currently a two-bedroom, one-bath, single-family home on Shoreline Drive up for sale for a mere $76,559, and it's in foreclosure. The lender now owns the property, so get cracking and make an offer.

North Carolina beaches are hot for retirees and those looking for a vacation home. This real estate is pricier than some, but well worth the investment. Lots of foreclosure to choose from, and there's one on West Second Street that you won't want to miss. It's a two-bedroom, one-bath, single-family residence with 800 square feet of living sitting serenely on beach-front property. Submit an offer, prop your feet up, and bring on the drinks with those little umbrellas in them.

More great deals can be found on the beach in Brunswick, Georgia on London Street. With lovely lochs nearby, and a white ocean beach just a stone's throw away, you won't be disappointed. The $55,200 home is in foreclosure and will be auctioned off soon, so you won't want to pass this one by. You could also check out other homes for sale in the vicinity that are just as alluring.

If mountains are what do it for you, then you won't want to miss the lovely homes nestled into the climbing elevation of the Appalachian Mountains. Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a perfect place to lay your head with views to die for as 1,285 feet above sea level. You can find a nice two-bedroom, two-bathroom, single-family home for $106,000 on Ski View Drive. With the Great Smoky Mountains National Park out your front door, you won't lack for things to do in your new vacation home. Pigeon Forge of Dollywood fame is just a scoche away, too.

Asheville, North Carolina also has some great mountaintop villas at rock bottom prices. Shadowlawn Drive is host to a foreclosure with three-bedrooms, two-bathrooms and 1,092 square feet; although, you can find a devil of a deal on other properties there, too.

A nice three-bedroom, two-bath home is located at 686 Ada Street for a steal at only $89,000. This one is not in foreclosure. It's got a new roof and kitchen cabinets, along with all black appliances. A steal for $89,000, this cabin won't be on the market that long, folks.

Ki works, and lives, in central Austin real estate market. He built a website, which includes a free search of Austin homes for sale. Future homeowners can search available Austin real estate. He also has a mortgage widget to track current mortgage rates.

How to Become a Famous Real Estate Agent

Jul. 5, 2010
So, you have taken the classes and you have now become a real estate agent. Or, you already are a real estate agent. Now that you are, or already are, a real estate agent, how do you become a famous real estate agent?

Before getting into the specifics of becoming famous, you need to sit back, kick up your feet and decide on your niche. Your niche will be the springboard from which you launch your campaign to become famous. Is the luxury market your thing, or maybe being a buyer's agent is more your cup-of-tea. You need to decide where your strengths lie and then you'll be able to better focus your energy and hone your expertise.

Once you have defined your niche, you are ready to proceed with THE thing that will make you famous in your niche.

It has been said of late that 80 percent of house hunting begins on the Internet. If you are to become a famous real estate agent, you must become Internet savvy. Most major brokers nowadays provide a website for their agents. It would be a good idea if you sought out training to make your website stand out from the rest.

In addition, obtain an inexpensive web domain from one of the online providers like GoDaddy. You can name it some creative name that will make people find you and help them remember it when they need to get in contact with you.

Branding is the key to standing out from the rest. You must have a brand that makes people remember you. You'll want to link your branded domain name to your website with your broker to direct people to your listings and information. Also, find ways to use your brand to make it something that sticks in people heads. Association is a common method human beings use to retain memory. Associate your expertise or name with something related to real estate that people will remember. You want your brand to stand out from the rest.

Along with providing a web address for each agent, some brokers even provide training for their agents to learn how to set up their websites to make them individual and stand out. You'll want to either attend training or hire someone to develop your website for you.

Either way, you'll want to get your website up and running with splashy graphics and links that lead people to useful information. Make sure you insert a quality picture of yourself. Sales have been lost due to an amateur picture.

YouTube is a website where you can post videos you've created of useful real estate information. Along with posting it on your blog, some information you might want to consider teaching about on video is the rebate first-time homeowners can receive due to the approval of the federal stimulus package. Information like that is considered very valuable and would be visited many times over if you provided a professional presentation of it.

You'll need a blog on your website that provides useful information for potential homeowners, along with enabling readers to comment on your website. Comments are sometimes quite useful in finding out what your audience is really interested in. Provide links to helpful and needful information and provide stellar aesthetics to create interest in your website. Along with the blog, make sure you actually create blog posts on a regular basis that are of great importance to your audience. This will create interest and keep them coming back for more. Establish a RSS feed to enable readers to subscribe easily to your blog. If you do not know what that is, the webmaster you hire can create it for you.

You'll also want to consider signing up for several social networks, like Active Rain, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, LinkedIn and others. Make sure you include your website link on your profile of all social networking sites of which you become a member, along with your branded name.

While creating a stunning website, you'll want to discover and decide how you will distribute your listings via the web. You want your clients to be wowed at your ability to expose their listings.

The last thing you'll want to take care of is a means to determine your return on investment (ROI). You need a good method to track your marketing and advertising expenditures, so that you will know what your ROI is. Make sure you include a counter on your website that tracks unique visits to your site, along with some way to analyze the traffic your site receives in order to improve results.

Now that you've found your niche, become Internet savvy, have your website up and running and are experiencing some notoriety, make sure to keep track of how your clients found you. Ask them. Also, ask them if they have seen your website.

As you continue to promote yourself aggressively with electronic media, you will eventually become what you've always dreamed of - a famous real estate agent!

Ki works, and lives, in Austin, Texas. He maintains a website to search Austin Texas real estate. The site offers free and exhaustive information on homes in the Austin MLS to future owners. The site also has a blog covering Austin real estate.

Interested in a Condominium? Get a FHA-Insured Loan

Jul. 4, 2010
Mortgage Insurance for Condominium Units (Section 234(c)) program assists potential homeowners in purchasing a home in a condominium development. The prospective condominium must be the potential homeowner's primary residence.

The intent of this federal program managed under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to insure the loan of a borrower who buys a unit in a condominium property. HUD does not directly provide loans to borrowers. Instead, HUD insures loans through FHA-approved lenders. Some of those who take advantage of the program are low- to moderate-income renters who want to buy their unit in order to avoid displacement when their apartment building is converted into condominiums.

Some aspects of the program are as follows:

* Program insures the loan up to 30 years.
* Condominium development must be separated into a minimum of four dwelling units - can be a walk-up, a rowhouse, semi-detached or an elevator structure.
* Loan is made by a certified HUD lender.
* To be eligible, you must prove creditworthiness and meet FHA underwriting criteria.
* Down payment may be as low as 3 percent or less - FHA insurance enables homeowners to finance around 97 percent of the home's cost through the home loan.
* Some closing fees may be included in the loan, reducing up-front cost.
* FHA limits certain fees charged by lenders - e.g., loan origination fees.
* FHA limits the amount of the home loan based on the locale of the condominium and number of units being bought.

Some restrictions do apply to the program. FHA will not insure loans under this program for rental units converted to ownership except as follows:

* Units were converted over a year prior to loan application.
* Potential borrower or co-borrower was a tenant of one of the converted units.
* Property conversion is sponsored by a tenant's group that represents the bulk of households in the development - 80 percent of FHA-insured home loans must be for owner-occupants.

In order to get started, you need to find a FHA-approved lender. You may do so by contacting lenders and asking them if they are FHA-approved or by conducting a search on the HUD website. Either way, you'll want to shop around for a reputable lender with a good interest rate and low closing fees.

Compare rates and fees, and use the following as a checklist to compare lenders:

* How much is the lender charging for the interest rate and origination fees?
* Is the lender approved by FHA for your local area?
* Do you know the lender's reputation?

Ask plenty of questions and keep the following in mind:

* Interest rate is not regulated and points are not set by the FHA.
* Before signing any agreement, understand that you are responsible for negotiating with your lender regarding the terms set for the loan, to include routine and reasonable closing costs required to close on the loan.

Property developers who intend to finance the construction or renovation of properties they intend to sell as units under this program may also obtain FHA-insured mortgages.

For more information, visit the HUD website or contact your local lender.

Ki created a website to help buyers interested in Austin real estate. This is a free service for buyers interested in homes in the Austin MLS. He has lived in Austin, Texas for over ten years. He also has a blog for people to keep up with the Austin Texas real estate market.

Recipe for a Successful Real Estate Investment

Jun. 26, 2010
There are a few wants that home buyers perceive as needs when shopping around for a home. As you're shopping for your next home, you may not have any idea how long you will live there as you may need to sell at some point. With that in mind, consider some practical features potential home buyers look for when buying their next home. That way yours will be positioned for quick sale if or when you decide to put it on the market in the future.

Basic Functions

When you bought your first home, things like central air, a newer roof and a fenced in yard may not have been tie-breakers or even something you thought were important. As you progressed to other homes, however, it probably became more evident that certain offerings in a home are basic to your family's needs. Functions like air conditioning, a basement, a back yard/fenced yard are now often aspects that buyers shopping for their next home require. Other basics you'll want included in your next home purchase are a newer roof and central heat and air system. Bypass a home with any system over 15 years old, unless it's a bargain and you can afford to upgrade. Although ten years will do, five years or less is the ideal, which will help mitigate negotiations in the future sale of your home.

Stellar Storage

Don't know if you've noticed it, but buyers like their storage space. That includes a double- or triple-car garage, walk-in master closets and additional storage areas - the more storage the better. If your next home doesn't have an abundance of storage space, but fulfills the other needs of your family, build a large shed in the backyard. That may suffice for extra storage needed by the next buyers of your home; although, attics can also be transformed into living space and storage.

Green Living

If you'll be building your next home, instead of buying an existing one, consider home builders that build green. Eco-friendly trends receive high marks from almost half of the nation's consumers shopping for their next home. There are green products that can be used to build the structure of the home. Central air and heat units come in conservative models that limit emissions. Solar panels absorb energy and translate it into energy for use in the home. Energy efficiency is the order of the day, and the trend seems to be taking off.

Location, Location, Location

Sorry, someone had to say it. Although living next to a railroad tracks may not bother you, it is not the ideal for many of today's home buyers. Does the home sit on a four-lane busy city street or back up against businesses? Does the neighborhood consist mostly of retirees, or are there predominantly younger families living there? Are there huge power lines or airports in the immediate area? These are a few of the questions you'll want to ask when shopping for your next home. Consider safety, neighborhood amenities and close proximity to schools and neighborhood parks. A family often has different needs than seniors or a single person when it comes to services available in the immediate location of a home.

Ask your realtor questions about available services, the demographic of the neighborhood and neighborhood amenities. Find out from your realtor what the most sought-after features are in the real estate market in which you are shopping. Always consider resale when buying your next home, and diligently research the area. Do it effectively, and you'll set the stage for a recipe for a successful real estate investment.

Ki maintains a website, which works as a clearinghouse of information on Austin Texas real estate. There, future homeowners can search available Austin homes. Ki has worked with Austin buyers for over three years. He also maintains a blog for people that want to keep up with the market and activity for Austin real estate.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Reverse Mortgages

Jun. 26, 2010
Reverse mortgages are a relatively recent product on the lending scene. The approval process is somewhat abbreviated compared to a traditional home loan, but there are some conditions and requirements that make a reverse mortgage unique to other home loans.

What Is a Reverse Mortgage?

It is a home loan that enables the homeowner access to the equity built up in the home. Some borrowers prefer a lump sum when taking out a reverse mortgage. Others choose to receive monthly payments. No payment is required on the reverse mortgage until the homeowner dies, sells the home or vacates the home for more than 12 months - e.g., to go into an aged care facility. At that time, the reverse mortgage must be paid off, either through the sale of the home or reimbursement from loved ones who will be taking possession of the home.

Am I Qualified?

The primary prerequisites for a reverse mortgage are that borrowers be 62 years of age or older and have equity built up in their homes. The U.S. Department of housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that the borrowers of these mortgages obtain financial counseling from a HUD-approved third party prior to finalizing the note. Upon release of funds, the previous mortgage must be paid off. In most cases, borrowers may use the funds leftover from the equity of the home in whatever way they wish.

What Are the Advantages?

The greatest advantage of a reverse mortgage is that the borrower has full access to the equity built up in the home. With medical costs at all-time highs and diminished medical for seniors, many take out a reverse mortgages to pay for ongoing medical bills that are not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Others do not have extended family to leave their estate to, so they take out reverse mortgages for vacations and other recreational activities and products, so that they may enjoy their twilight years.

In the past, seniors often agreed to a reverse mortgage without understanding the consequences. The results were devastating to many when they realized they had little or nothing left to pass on to their children. HUD now requires all those considering a reverse mortgage to undergo financial counseling, so that seniors understand exactly what they are getting into prior to agreeing to a mortgage.

What are the Disadvantages?

There are many disadvantages of a reverse mortgage. Many seniors have worked hard all of their lives to achieve financial independence and provide a legacy and inheritance for their children. Although having access to the equity in the home will provide greater financial opportunities, the legacy and inheritance will be impeded upon and diminished through a reverse mortgage lien on the home.

Some homes are not qualified, and other homes must adhere to strict requirements - e.g., a mobile home must sit on a concrete base, among other constraints. Astonishingly, lenders can lawfully charge loan origination fees up to $6,000 for a reverse mortgage. Interest continues to accrue on the loan for the remainder of the homeowner's life, or until the home is sold, and is added to the lien on the property through the reverse mortgage agreement.

If you are considering a reverse mortgage, talk to your family members first. Include your children in the discussion. There may be other options you can pursue without having to tie up your home in a loan that will reduce the equity you've worked so hard to build up in your home.

Ki graduated from college in Austin Texas, and never left. He created a website to provide information on the Austin real estate market to future buyers. Anyone can search homes in the Austin MLS on his site. He also writes a blog looking at trends for Austin Texas real estate.

Newlyweds -- Merge Mortgage With Refi

Jun. 12, 2010
Couples who decide to get married have many decisions ahead of them as to how they will live their lives after they are married. Merging finances is typically one of the first things worked out. If both own homes, that issue should fall at the top of the list. One decision might be to keep both homes - live in one and rent the other out, and then do a mortgage refinance on both. Another might to sell one, live in the other and do a mortgage refinance.

How to Determine Which House to Sell

There are several factors that need to be determined before deciding on which house to sell. See the list below for some considerations. Preface each question below with "Which home ... :

* Is closest to each one's work location?
* Has the greatest amenities?
* Has the lowest property taxes?
* Has a higher market value?
* Needs the least amount of repairs?
* Would be easiest to sell? Is in a neighborhood where homes are selling fairly fast?
* Has access to the best schools? This is only if you will be living in the home long-term and planning a family.
* Meets the needs of both individuals in the marriage? Needs versus wants may have to be further discussed.
* Has the lowest balance/principle due?
* Is closest to relatives, if this is important?

Before making any decisions regarding both homes, print off this article for each, or write the bulleted items out on a piece of paper. Include any additional related questions. Each person needs to rank each item as to the degree of importance. Put a ranking number next to each, one being the highest priority. Compare lists and see which items on which both agree. This exercise may help drill down to the most important issues, resolve them and assist in moving on to making a decision.

Refinancing the Mortgage

Once the decision is made regarding each home, the next step is to decide on whether to refinance the mortgage(s) under both names or simply add the other person's name to the deed. Prior to refinancing, find out what interest rate will be offered if the note is refinanced under both names. Obtain interest rates from several lenders and require that all fees be provided to you in writing, along with the date through which the interest rate is effective.

If a higher interest rate will be required, the easiest way to resolve any issues on the ownership of the home might be to simply add the other person's name to the deed. Some states are considered "joint property" states and require property to be divided equally in the case of divorce, regardless of whose name is on the mortgage.

It doesn't matter if only one person in the marriage is on the mortgage note, since joint property states require that both be on the deed. Check to see if the state in which you will be living has "joint property" laws regarding the division of marital property. If it is a joint property state, then state law dictates that both have equal access to marital property, including real estate like a home. With both names on the deed, each has equal access to the property. Consult legal counsel, however, prior to making this decision.

If a lower interest rate is the result, then the best financial resolve is to do a mortgage refinance using both incomes. There are a variety of mortgages from which to choose. A lender can help refine the choices to one that works best for your financial situation and needs.

Ki caters to future buyers of Austin real estate. He has a graphical Austin home search on his website. His site also has several charts and graphs showing historical mortgage rates along with information on the Austin real estate market.

Bargain Markets for Homebuyers and Investors

May. 30, 2010
Since 2007, foreclosures and short sales have littered the real estate market and drove down the price of property and home values. The upside to the down housing market is that homebuyers and investors can find sweet deals in some of the nation's most sought after cities.

If cities like Milwaukee, Memphis, Baltimore and the Big D interest you, then you'll find a honey of a home in any of these metro areas. Though the initial listing price may begin at what properties are currently valued, they are often reduced from 26 to 33 percent. The top ten U.S. cities with the listings discounted the most include the following:

* Milwaukee, WI - 33 percent
* Phoenix, AZ - 31 percent
* Mesa, AZ - 31 percent
* Memphis, TN - 31 percent
* Baltimore, MD - 30 percent
* Jacksonville, FL - 30 percent
* Dallas, TX - 29 percent
* Minneapolis, MN - 29 percent
* Tucson, AZ - 27 percent
* Columbus, OH - 26 percent

Falling in the first quarter by 4.3 percent, Milwaukee home values continue to lose ground, but the number of home listings is huge. In fact, Milwaukee has the most real estate listings of any city in the state. As of April 2010, the average home in Milwaukee was valued at $144,609, which is making buying real estate in this city much more affordable. Add to it a 31 percent reduction on the listing, and you could buy a home there for only $99,780.

Phoenix was on a top ten list in 2008 for being one of the cities hardest hit by the real estate bust. In the first quarter of 2009, property values were still going down, tumbling by almost 20 percent. Economists predict that the city has a looming shadow inventory getting ready to hit the market soon and will drive values down even further. Standard & Poor's Case Schiller Study showed Mesa home values were on the ever-so-slight rise by last quarter 2009 and into first quarter of 2010. As of April, the average estimated value of Mesa homes is around $133,664.

According to the most recent Clear Capitol market report, the River City was noted with the most sales in the nation of foreclosed property by lenders in the first quarter of 2010. It resulted in an 18.1 percent drop in Memphis home values from year-end 2009. Baltimore and Jacksonville tie for having a 30 percent reduction in the listing price. The median listing prices are $250,000 and $189,900, respectively.

In earlier 2010, foreclosures were still climbing in Dallas; although, at a slower pace than in the recent past. By May, foreclosure filings dropped for the second straight month. That's good news for Dallas real estate value and could indicate the beginning of a recovery. Minneapolis showed a 24.7 decrease in inventory compared to the same time in mid-April 2009. It looks like the housing market in the Twin City might be leveling out, since new listings are still on the decline. What that means for buyers is that home listing prices could soon be on the rise, so now would be the time to buy.

Median home values for Tucson continue to decline and currently sit at around $192,000. That's almost a 4 percent drop since January 2010. Housing inventory is about the same as it was this time the previous year. Columbus appears to be leveling out somewhat in median home values staying steady at $159,900 since the beginning of year. That's still a decline of 5.9 percent from the same time last year, but the inventory is decreasing, so these may be indicators that the market is beginning to level off. The dream of buying a quality, affordable home has become much more attainable. Falling home values, along with reductions in listing prices, lowers the cost to a more manageable price point.

Meanwhile, there are four other markets that did not experience a decline in home values in 2010 that were among those hardest hit nationwide by the housing bust. San Diego and Detroit both showed an increase, along with Los Angeles and San Diego. These cities, along with previously mentioned Phoenix, are now at the top of the list for cities recovering in the housing market.

Ki lives in Austin and helps buyers interested in Austin real estate. There is a lot of information on Austin homes on Ki's website. His website also has detailed information on Austin real estate. It also provides a mortgage widget to breakdown monthly payments.

Community Reinvestment Act - Impact to Housing Loans

May. 30, 2010
Many of those in the media feel that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) is the culprit for the recent real estate market bust. Politicians have even echoed this sentiment from the Congressional podium. What is the Community Reinvestment Act, though, and did it actually contribute to or cause the U.S. housing market demise?

First, it is good to understand the origination of the Act, the planned purpose of the Act and its intended benefits. The CRA followed three other enacted laws that addressed housing discrimination and equal opportunities for housing for all peoples; however, the CRA took it a step further. Previously, banks that had a presence in low income neighborhoods and communities would not lend to their patrons making a low income due to strict lending standards.

The CRA changed all that and made it a requirement to make loans to low income individuals in the low income neighborhoods in which the banks had a presence. Community activists pushed the use of the CRA to banks and banks succumbed under the pressure. Lending standards were lowered and more loans were made to those with low- to medium-income levels. The subprime lending market was birthed.

Banks were being pressured by large groups of community activists to make more loans to the lower income borrowers but were unable, since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would not buy them. Eventually, lobbyists successfully pressured officials under the Clinton Administration to lower Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lending standards to enable even more underprivileged and disadvantaged borrowers to obtain mortgages. Subprime lending grew to astronomical proportions.

By 2000, almost half of all major businesses had an investment portfolio that mirrored risky, subprime mortgages. Simultaneously, home values were climbing and continued to skyrocket until late 2006. Other factors were at play, though, that contributed to the real estate crisis. Corporations were laying off in large numbers. Borrowers were buying homes they couldn't afford. Homeowners were refinancing to include the equity in their homes to pay for kids' college, remodeling and vacations. Other borrowers were buying homes at inflated values that would later fall dramatically.

Additional activity that played a role in the mortgage crisis was the predatory lending that arrived on the loan landscape. Stated income loans, sometimes referred to as "liar loans," became accepted in the home lending industry. All a borrower had to do was state his income and he received a home loan based on the stated income. No documentation was required to verify the applicant's income; however, after the U.S. Treasury Department took over Fannie and Freddie in 2008, stated income loans were no longer allowable.

As a result of many factors, some that include corporate layoffs, underwater home loans and buyers who were in over their heads in their mortgages, foreclosure signs became the norm in many neighborhoods. They grew like wildfires that couldn't be extinguished. Home values continue to decline in most states due to the number of foreclosures; although, some are leveling out.

Since Fannie and Freddie securities, which consisted mostly of subprime packages, were traded on the open stock market, the stock market took a huge blow when lenders had to initiate foreclosure proceedings against borrowers who were not paying their mortgages. Securities investors were losing money, big time.

What does all this have to do with the CRA? The initiators of the act had good intentions, to enable those who previously were restricted from obtaining loans to achieve the American dream. It appears that lower lending standards established in 1999; however, further exposed the nation's overall economy and caused it to become vulnerable. This led to a major meltdown in U.S. economic condition.

Was the CRA to blame? Did it cause all these problems and result in the recent real estate crisis? According to many of its critics, it did. In fact, various CRA opponents say that it has led the nation into the greatest financial crisis since 1929, the start of the Great Depression. Proponents of the law vehemently disagree. They stand by the intent of the law, and insist that it has helped many who would never have owned a home to obtain a mortgage.

Ki's works as a realtor in the Austin real estate market. His website provides future home buyers with a free searchable database of homes in the Austin MLS. Buyers can obtain comprehensive information on Austin real estate, along with graphs showing historical interest rates.

The Hard Facts About Hard Money Loans

May. 22, 2010
Hard money loans have been around for quite a while, but just not so much in the forefront as are more traditional loans. There are a variety of uses for hard money loans, and they have evolved in the past several years as to how they are used and what is now required to obtain one. Although they have their advantages, hard money loans also have their limitations. Before applying for one, make sure that you cannot be approved for a more traditional loan. A hard money loan should be your last resort.

What is a Hard Money Loan?

When investors discuss money as it relates to lending, they use two terms to differentiate it - soft money and hard money. Soft money typically refers to a loan with flexible terms. Traditional and government home loans offer a variety of options for a real estate loan. A hard money loan, on the other hand, has rigid, very specific terms. It is loaned for a relatively short timeframe with a specific interest rate not necessarily determined by your credit score. Hard money is also called "private money," because it often originates from individual investors who possess a lot of money to invest.

Some characteristics that set a hard money loan apart from a more traditional one are high interest rates, a brief approval timeframe and the loan is most often for a short period of time. Low loan to value ratios are also typical of hard money loans. Often no more than 60 percent is approved for the loan. High interest rates are the hallmark of hard money loans, up to 21 percent and higher if the property goes into default. Hard money loans are borrowed for very short periods of time, and can often be obtained within a few days, as opposed to weeks for a more traditional property loan.

Uses for a Hard Money Loan

Hard money loans are most often used for flipping a home, bridge loans and construction loans where the money would only be borrowed for a short amount of time, until the property is sold or refinanced. An investor may find a home that is in need of repair at a very good price. Obtaining a hard money loan may be a way for the borrower to buy the home, repair it and make a lot of money when the property is sold.

A hard money loan is usually not used to finance property over a period of years. Homeowners who have no credit history or experienced a default in homeownership often cannot obtain approval for a traditional loan with a lower interest rate. They will sometimes borrow hard money until their credit score raises enough to be approved to refinance using a traditional loan with a much lower interest rate.

How to Get a Hard Money Loan

If you've tried the traditional route to obtain a home loan and failed, you might want to try for a hard money loan. Obtaining approval for one is not as easy as it used to be in some cases. In the past, hard money lenders based the loan strictly on the value of the property. Now, however, many of them require borrowers to fill out credit applications and provide pay stubs and income tax statements. Before applying for a hard money loan, make sure you have access to any income statements the lender may require.

The best way to access a hard money lender is to contact local lending institutions and mortgage companies. Ask them for names of reputable hard money lenders. Most loan servicers are familiar with ones they've known over a period of years.

Ki is a realtor operating in the Austin Texas real estate market. He writes about mortgage issues and his site provides a mortgage calculator widget along with several mortgage rate widgets.

Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Crackdown

May. 22, 2010
Every aspect of the real estate industry has experienced fraud at one time or another. From homeowners, homebuyers and real estate professionals to lenders, appraisers and title companies, every step of the home buying process has been tainted by fraudulent activity. A greater abundance of it came to light more recently due to the housing market bust. Most once booming markets either diminished significantly or came to a screeching halt as foreclosures began to overshadow the home sales scene.

Subsequently, the flowing streams of wealth enjoyed by many during the housing bubble slowed to a trickle or dried up altogether. The lure of quick money gained through fraudulent activity enticed a number of those still reeling from the market's blows, who felt compelled to maintain their previous standard of living. Not only has fraud increased in the mortgage process, but debt management companies under the guise of foreclosure rescue have come out of the woodwork to reap the revenues. Fed up by the cases filed in the State's Attorney General (AG) offices, AGs are fighting back with the help of motivated law makers.

Florida is a prime example of legislation passed due to urging by the state's attorney general. Some highlights of the Foreclosure Prevention Fraud Rescue Act of 2008 includes a requirement that documentation be provided to the homeowner explaining in detail what will transpire, the homeowner is provided a cooling off period, unfair terms and misrepresentation is prohibited and the homeowner doesn't pay a dime until the services specified in the contract are fulfilled. All businesses operating in the state and businesses that service Florida residents are subject to the fraud prevention statute. More stipulations regulate anyone performing rescue transactions related to foreclosure.

Referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Foreclosure and Rescue Fraud Act of 2009, H.R. 1231, would stipulate similar law only at the federal level. It has yet to be released from the committee whose responsibility is to refine, revise and determine if it is worthy of debate before the House of Representatives. Similarly, the Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue and Loan Modification Services Fraud Prevention Act of 2009, H.R. 2666, expanded to cover loan modifications fraud of those facing foreclosure.

Delaware signed its Mortgage Rescue Fraud Protection Act into law on January 1, 2009. In June of 2009, Pennsylvania signed similar bills into law prohibiting unscrupulous foreclosure rescue tactics. Among other things, the laws require full disclosure to homeowners using services for foreclosure rescue and mandate no payment be made to companies providing services until such time that all services agreed-upon in the contract are fulfilled.

New Jersey's foreclosure rescue bill was released from the Assembly Committee in March 2010. The Texas Attorney General partnered with a state representative for like legislation regarding foreclosure rescue scams in Texas. Illinois's Mortgage Rescue Fraud Act was passed in January 2007 and was another initiative of a state's attorney general.

Ki is a real estate broker helping clients interested in the Austin real estate market. There site provides a map based search of homes in the Austin MLS. It also has statistics and homes in the Austin real estate and Cedar Park real estate markets. In addition it provides statistics broken down by the different Austin MLS areas.

Five Bad Home Improvement Ideas

May. 15, 2010
When considering adding value to a home, you consistently hear from the real estate industry that updated bathrooms and quality kitchens stand out in a home sale. Those are proven sale closers. There are certain other improvements you can make to your home that will beautify it or create convenience for your family. When it comes time to selling, however, those improvements may do nothing to increase the value of the property and may even turn off potential homebuyers.

Over-the-Top Renovations

Au contraire mon frère, not all renovations will raise the value of your home. Just `cause it's bigger doesn't mean it will be perceived as better by future homebuyers. Unless your home is located in Beverly Hills or some other very posh neighborhood, don't install the bathroom with the supersized steam shower, imported Italian marble and several different spray heads ... unless you have the money to do it for your own pleasure and enjoyment only. That kind of improvement doesn't typically do anything to increase the value of the average home.

On the other hand, if you updated an old bathroom, you could see an increase of several thousand dollars to your home's bottom line. Real estate professionals suggest that homeowners pour over local home listings to see what amenities are the standard in your area, then upgrade your home to meet it. If you overdo it, however, you may not recoup your investment.

Swimming Pools

If you think installing a swimming pool in the back side of your home will draw hoards of homebuyers clamoring to make offers on your home at sale time, you'd be wrong. Some may consider it a perk, but others may perceive it as a pain with all the maintenance it will require. Homeowners have even paid to have their swimming pools buried to create more yard space. If you shell out the expense to build one, don't expect your home's value to budge. The only exception to building a swimming pool is if you live in states where they are considered the norm.

Home Office Renovations

Although, a home office is often an amenity appreciated by those shopping for a home, it should be built with frugality in mind. Overhauling an office doesn't pay off when it's time to sell your home. Don't steal usable space from another living area to create a home office. Instead, make sure the space can easily be converted back into a bedroom or other living space if needed. If you decide you just have to have the built-in Curly Maple wood shelves, know that you will only recoup around 50 percent of your cost at sale time.

Unique Builds

Home magazines are always coming up with clever and creative ways to change the look of your living space. Some are exotic and outlandish, but they can pique your interest. Tempted to put a classic disco ball with lights in your bedroom, a constellation ceiling in your family room or a peaceful Koi pond in your back yard? Avoid making outlandish changes to your home or changes that will be perceived as adding work for a future homeowner. Don't be tempted to incorporate these ideas into your own home, unless you don't plan on selling anytime soon. Homebuyers may not share your enthusiasm.

Roof Renovations

If your roof needs repair, don't hesitate to have the work done. It will be one less issue you'll have to deal with when listing your home. If in your pursuit to list your home you think replacing your roof with cedar shakes or clay tiles will increase the value, think again. Although they have the ability to make your home stand out, they probably won't inspire homebuyers to pay more for them. So, unless you have the money to burn, keep it simple when preparing your home to be listed on the real estate market.

Ki has been an investor in the Austin real estate market for several years. The website has an Austin home search for listings in Austin, Texas. It also has general statistics covering Austin real estate along with several neighborhoods in Barton Creek.

Mortgage Rates For The 5 and 1 Year ARM Hit All Time Lows

May. 15, 2010
The 30 year rate fell from 5.00 to 4.93 this week. In a time where the news is filled with stories about inflation fears we are seeing mortgage rates steadily decline. This is the 5th week in a row where rates have held steady or fallen. Its also the lowest we have seen rates in 2010.

The 15 year dropped from 4.36 to 4.30. This is only slightly above the all time low of 4.27 for the 15 year fixed mortgage.

The 5 year arm dropped from 3.97 to 3.95 which is an all time low for the 5 year arm. The 1 year arm fell from 4.07 to 4.02. Oddly enough even though the 1 year arm is at an all time low this week its a pointless option because the 5 year arm is lower than the 1 year arm.

Below are rates from the weeks from Apr 15, 2010 to May 13, 2010

May 13, 2010
30-fixed 4.93 15-fixed 4.30 5 ARM 3.95 1 ARM 4.02

May 06, 2010
30-fixed 5.00 15-fixed 4.36 5 ARM 3.97 1 ARM 4.07

Apr 29, 2010
30-fixed 5.06 15-fixed 4.39 5 ARM 4.00 1 ARM 4.25

Apr 22, 2010
30-fixed 5.07 15-fixed 4.39 5 ARM 4.03 1 ARM 4.22

Apr 15, 2010
30-fixed 5.07 15-fixed 4.40 5 ARM 4.08 1 ARM 4.13

Oct 29, 2009
30-fixed 5.03 15-fixed 4.46 5 ARM 4.42 1 ARM 4.57

As we can see we are not seeing wild jumps in mortgage rates like we saw last year. But we are seeing a slow but steady decline in rates for all 4 mortgage products.

In addition to rates it also interesting to look at mortgage payments. We took today's rates and used a mortgage calculator to determine mortgage payments for a 200k mortgage. We also did the same thing with rates from April, 29 2010 and rates from October, 29 2009 (6 months ago).

May 13
30-year $1065.1
15-year $1509.62
5-year ARM $949.07
1-year ARM $957.13

Apr 29
30-year $1080.98
15-year $1518.76
5-year ARM $954.83
1-year ARM $983.87

Oct 29
30-year $1077.31
15-year $1525.9
5-year ARM $1003.88
1-year ARM $1021.7

As we can see rates are lower but not vastly lower. Compared to two weeks ago a mortgage payment would be $15.88 lower (1.46 percent). So there is a savings but its not huge. Moving forward I still think rates have more room to move up than down. With two of the four mortgage products at all time lows there is not that much room to move farther down. While I don't see alot of movement for the next few weeks overall I would expect rates to be substantially higher 6 months from now.

Ki works as a realtor in the Austin Tx real estate market. He writes about the mortgage industry. His site has a free mortgage calculator and a mortgage rate widget.

Private Mortgage Insurance Basics

May. 1, 2010
Keep in mind that when you buy a home and don't have 20 percent down, you may be required to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI gives homebuyers the ability to buy a home with as little as three to five percent down. It also provides loan servicers assurance that, should your mortgage go into default and your home is foreclosed upon, the loan will be paid for. Those are the advantages, but there is a dark side to PMI.

A good example of this involves a recent bout Bank of America experienced with the Massachusetts Attorney General's office. In November 2009, Bank of America acquired Countrywide Mortgage loans. Countrywide was already under scrutiny due to questionable mortgage tactics regarding the removal of PMI on mortgages paid below 80 percent of the original loan. Qualified homeowners were requesting that PMI be removed, but Countrywide was not complying. Bank of America settled and no further court action was initiated by the state.

Some things you may not know about PMI are that the IRS allows it as a deduction on your federal taxes if you qualify, you can legally require a mortgage company to remove the PMI and you can decide which PMI company to use. The primary requirement for deducting PMI on your federal taxes is that your adjusted gross income (AGI) fall at or under $100,000 if you are married filing jointly. To claim the full deduction, the maximum AGI for those married filing separately is $50,000. You cannot claim a deduction for your PMI if your AGI exceeds $109,000.

Congress passed a law in 1998 called the Homeowner's Protection Act (HPA), which addresses changes regarding the lawful use of PMI. Generally, this law applies to residential property and requires lenders to remove PMI if the principle of the loan equals 80 percent of either the appraised value when the loan was obtained or the original purchase price at closing. There are some considerations to keep in mind. You must be current on your home loan in order for the PMI to be terminated, and you must have been current throughout the previous year.

Under HPA, lenders are required to automatically terminate PMI once your loan is paid down to 78 percent. Again, you must be current on your payments. Another requirement of HPA is that lenders are required to provide specific disclosures to homebuyers on closing. Some specifics include the borrower's right to request that PMI be canceled, the date on which the request may be submitted and the lender's responsibility to automatically terminate PMI.

Another thing most borrowers don't know about PMI when obtaining a home loan is that you do not have to use the PMI company referred to you or suggested by your lender or real estate professional. Shop around and compare prices to get the best deal.

You will have to put forth some effort to work PMI to your greatest advantage, but if you do, you'll come out way ahead and pay far less than if you depend solely upon your lender to do the job.

Ki is an investor and broker working in the Austin real estate market. His site provides a graphical search of homes in the Austin MLS. It also has profiles of different areas in the Austin real estate market and graphs showing historical mortgage rates.

Is Now A Good Time to Buy?

Apr. 30, 2010
Have home prices hit rock bottom? Probably not in some areas and maybe not as a whole. Nonetheless, now could be the best time to buy a house. Even with the homebuyer's tax credit due to expire at the end of the month, there are compelling reasons to buy a house in the current economy.

This recession made a good case for the renting over buying argument. But as the country tentatively enters the recovery phase, buying a house makes sense in many circumstances. The rent versus buy analysis has many considerations, including home prices, how long you planning on staying, the down payment, interest rates, and the future rise or fall of home values. Some of these are easy to evaluate and for others it would be nice to own a crystal ball.

According to a recent The New York Times articles, the consideration really is how are current home prices relative to pre-bubble prices. "(T)he situation is getting more complicated because the housing bust has been playing out unevenly across the country." Some places, like San Francisco, home prices are still higher than they were before the housing bubble. Other places, like Las Vegas, prices are comparable to those of pre-boom years.

However, the purveyors of doom are warning that house prices are still falling. According to a recent Associated Press article, the government index of home prices shows a 0.2 percent decline in February, continuing a three month trend. That coupled with a stagnant national median home sales price is cause for concern. Some economists speculate that home prices could fall as much as another 20 percent.

Even with the bad numbers, home sales nationally are up 18 percent from the lowest point during the recession (AP). Home sales across the country rose in all regions, including 6 percent in the Northeast. For sale signs are coming up like spring flowers in neighborhoods across the country, which is a reassuring sight.

Short of owning that crystal ball, timing the housing market perfectly is part luck and part research. Knowing the local market and using an experienced real estate agent are the best ways to navigate the buying versus renting conundrum. Are home prices holding steady or rising? How are prices compared to five years ago? Two years ago? Fortunately, the Internet and real estate agents have a wealth of price information to evaluate.

Then there are the personal factors: How long do you plan to stay in the area? Can you afford to own a house in the neighborhood where you are renting? Do you like the rental enough to stay awhile longer? There is no crystal ball and there is probably not a "perfect" time to buy. The best a person can do is crunch the numbers and be realistic about both the hard numbers and the softer realities.

Escapeso real estate operates in the Austin Texas real estate market. Their site also buyers to look for Austin homes online and provides average values of neighborhoods in the Austin market. They also have a blog with updated statistics covering Austin real estate.

Strategic Home Security Measures

Apr. 18, 2010
Whether you're living in a large metropolitan city or in Podunk, USA, you'll need security in your home to protect your loved ones and personal possessions. You may not know this as a homeowner, but, just like in treating your health, prevention is the best medicine. The best way to not become victim to a security breach in your home is to exercise prevention.

One of the most important preventive measures you can use is to conduct an inspection on your home with a security specialist. You may also do this yourself if you are aware of the entry points criminals use most often. Note windows in need of repair, windows and doors that don't lock property, ladders and other items outside your home that may assist a criminal in gaining entry.

Surprisingly, one method criminals use to gain entry is a garage door opener. Do not leave your car unlocked with your garage door opener in it? A criminal could remove it from your car, follow you home and come back later to perpetrate a crime against you, a loved one or your property. Don't leave garage door openers in unlocked cars.

You may not associate auto theft with home security. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), however, reveals that 65 percent of all motor vehicle theft takes place within five miles of the owner's residence, including vehicles stolen from the owner's home garage. NCVS is the U.S. Government's main source for U.S. criminal victimization statistics, and is cosponsored by Homeland Security.

While conducting a home security check, ensure your windows are intact and do not need repair. Make sure screens are solidly installed. Check window frames and functionality. Caulk where necessary, install window locks or other hardware that is missing, and repair damage or wear. Keep all windows locked at all times when you are not in the home and at night.

Never leave windows open at night. Although, a cool breeze might feel refreshing while you sleep, your open window is a welcome mat for potential criminals. Many experts even suggest that you never leave windows open when unattended. Examine all entry points to your home, including a cellar or basement entrance. Make sure everything is securely in place and note any bolts or hardware missing. Replace missing hardware immediately.

Once you've completed a thorough security walkthrough of your home and made all the repairs and updates, it's time to consider a home security system. You may either hire a system installation through a company like Broadview Security (formerly Brinks), ADT,GE or some other mainstream home security monitoring company, or you may choose to install your own home security system. Decide whether you want a hard-wired system or a wireless security system. Broadband security solutions are now available in some areas, too.

There are an abundance of security products that may be incorporated into your security system. Some are simple such as motion detectors at entrance doors, window monitoring devices and wireless cameras. Other more elaborate security applications may be metal grills installed on windows, a video door phone to see and communicate with visitors remotely or an additional entrance door to see and communicate with visitors from a safer position.

Regardless of where you live, security should be one of your utmost considerations. Do your due diligence to ensure that your home is as secure as possible to protect your possessions, and especially your loved ones. They are irreplaceable.

Escapeso Realty helps buyers interested in the Austin market. Their website provides information on Austin real estate along with a map search of Austin homes for sale. Their site also have numerous graphs showing historical interest rates.

10 Things to Know Before Enlisting the Help of a Real Estate Agent

Apr. 11, 2010
Real estate agents are great sources of information and assistance in the housing industry. Their purpose is to serve the real estate market with integrity. Under contract they have fiduciary responsibilities to their clients. Before enlisting the assistance of a real estate agent, there are 10 things to keep in mind.

1. Before a real estate agent can successfully sell your home, you need to have it in tip top shape. All colors inside and outside of the home should be in neutral colors, including wallpaper, painted walls, and the exterior. If you are a smoker or own a pet, find a way to make the home odor-free. The best option would be to smoke outside only and buy an air cleaner. Clean spotlessly and free the home of all clutter. Nothing turns a potential buyer away more quickly than dirt, clutter or odor.

2. Not all real estate agents are created equal. There is a lot of competition in the market and some real estate agents work harder than others. When you are ready to put your home up for sale, you want an agent that will work hard for you. Your best bet is to use one referred to you by someone you know.

3. The seller pays the real estate sales commission, not the buyer. There is very little exception to this rule.

4. Your real estate agent is not responsible for ensuring that your inspections are carried out appropriately. When you find your dream home and your offer is accepted by the buyer, inspections will ensure. Your real estate agent may be in attendance at your inspections, but your agent is not responsible for following around the inspector and ensuring that everything is noted.

5. If you want to live in an adult community, within a specific religious area, particular ethnic demographic, a low crime neighborhood or one that services a particular school, your real estate agent cannot help you find those areas. It is against the law according to the Fair Housing Act.

6. Until you sign a Seller's or Buyer's Agent Agreement, your real estate agent is not bound by law to keep anything you tell the agent private between the two of you. Once you sign, your agent is legally bound by user disclosure. It explains the legal responsibilities of the type of agent applicable to your situation.

7. Once you sign a Buyer's Agent Agreement, only your agent should be showing you homes in which you are interested. In fact, you should only contact your agent when you find a home in which you are interested. Your agent is your point-of-contact when you have questions.

8. There are advantages and disadvantages to signing a Buyer's Agent Agreement for more than 60 days. The advantages are that you know your agent by now and you won't be starting on square one, redoing work already done. The disadvantages are that you and your current agent may not see eye-to-eye on the sale strategy and a different agent may work better for you.

9. Your home may not be priced at the amount you feel it is worth, and the projected price of your home may not cover what you currently owe on your house. You may have to concede on what you think your home is worth based on the agent's best estimate of your home's value. If it is less than you owe and you need to sell, you may want to consider a short sale.

10. Understand that when you finally enlist the assistance of an agent, if the situation becomes unmanageable, you can legally fire your agent. You're only legally obligated to an agent if that agent fulfills his legal and contractual obligation to you. If at any time an agent violates your confidence, continually does nothing to promote your home or in any other way violates your agreement, then you can legally fire him. It is best, however, if you and your agent can jointly agree to dissolve the contract.

Selling or buying a home is a huge undertaking and you shouldn't go into it blindly. Understand your rights and responsibilities, and your transaction will go more smoothly and be less stressful for you and your family members.

Ki is a real estate broker in the Austin real estate market. His site provides a free search for homes in the Austin MLS along with news and statistics on Austin real estate. It also provides a real estate blog with updated news and commentary.

Hope for Homeowners

Mar. 28, 2010
Hope for Homeowners program was enacted to assist homeowners either in default or at risk of foreclosure. It began in October of 2008 and will end on September 30, 2011. Those eligible for the program will be provided a new 30-year, fixed-rate FHA-insured mortgage. For homeowners finding it hard to pay their existing mortgages, this may provide an avenue to refinance their current mortgage into one that they can afford.

Both lender and homeowner must formally agree to participate before a new mortgage can be approved.

Some of the program requirements are as follows:

* Your home must be your primary residence, and you cannot have ownership in other residential property, like a second home.
* Your current mortgage originated on or prior to January 1, 2008, and you've made a minimum of six full monthly payments.
* You are unable to pay your current mortgage payments without assistance.
* Effective March 2008, your monthly payments to your mortgage company must have exceeded 31 percent of your combined gross monthly income.
* You attest that in the previous ten years you haven't been convicted of fraud; intentionally not paid any debts; and didn't deliberately or willfully submit false information when obtaining your current mortgage.

Before proceeding with the program, you'll want to know some specifics:

* You must initiate the program through your lender, or a FHA-approved housing counselor or lender.
* Your new mortgage payment cannot exceed 31 percent of your monthly gross income.
* Your new mortgage cannot exceed 90 percent of the new appraisal of your home's value.

If your home is appraised at $100,000, your new mortgage will be $90,000. The drawback, however, is that you must agree to share the original equity created - the $10,000 - and any future appreciation in the home's value. The payout doesn't occur, though, until or unless you sell your home. At that time, you will split the equity with FHA, accordingly. Year one, you would receive nothing, but the FHA receives 100% of the equity. Year two, you receive 10 percent; FHA receives 90 percent, etc.

Every year, thereafter, you will receive an additional 10 percent of the home's equity until you reach year five. Year five, and after, you will split the equity with the FHA equally at 50 percent. Keep in mind, that if your home's value diminishes when you decide to sell, you will owe nothing.

A major drawback to the program is that you have to come up with a 3 percent mortgage insurance payment upfront. You also have to pay a 1.5 percent annual premium for mortgage insurance on your outstanding balance, which will be added to your monthly mortgage payment. In addition, you will be responsible for paying closing costs on your new loan.

Your new interest rate may, or may not, be less than your current rate. It will be determined by current rates and provided to you by your lender. No second mortgage is allowed for the first five years after your new loan. The only exception is emergency repairs.

If you think this program may be able to meet your needs and keep you in your home, it might be worth looking into.

Ki helps buyers and sellers interested in the Austin market. The website has featured information and statistics for Austin real estate. The website allows future homeowners to search Austin real estate by Austin MLS number. The site also provides a graph showing recent mortgage rate trends.

Austin Real Estate Blog

Blog by Ki Gray
Austin Texas, Texas

A general blog about real estate with random tips and observations.


Your E-mail Address:
Subscribe to:

Recent Comments

RE: Mortgage Rates Hold At All Time Historic Low
Valuable post  and very informtaive . thanks...
RE: Failure Is Not a Good Option
I'd like to thank you for the efforts you have put...
RE: Profiles in Urban Redevelopment : Mueller Austin
I want to get information about real estate theref...
RE: Home Loan Advantages and Benefits for Military Personnel
 I am a veteran and looking to apply for mort...
RE: Should You Refinance or Remodel in Today's Economic Market?
I think I hit a glitch with your site... I got a &...