Save and Spend Smartly

piggy-bank-It’s hot here on Padre Island, and I’m not talking just the high temperatures. It is real estate’s steamy season, and properties are being listed and sold faster than season tickets at the ‘bahn. With the active market, it’s critical to take a look at your spending. How can you be assured you’re not wasting money? Here are some smart tips on how to save and spend during peak purchase season. Do not fall victim to these common money mistakes.

 

BUYERS:

DO NOT overpay. Unless you find yourself in a bidding war for the home of your absolute dreams, there is not a single home like it, and you do not plan to leave, ever ever ever, do not pay over the appraised value. Note: Do not get this number from the tax office, get this from an actual appraiser who visits the home and runs their own detailed determination of real value.

DO get an inspection. It’s worth the couple hundred dollars. Do your due diligence and know what you’re buying. If there is a deficiency on a large ticket item, it’s best to find out ahead of time so you can budget for it in the future or you can ask the seller to help right the wrong. You do not want to find these deficiencies later, once the sale is over, and you haven’t budgeted for them.

DO NOT make a lowball offer. Negotiating is normal, and it’s okay to not offer full price. But if you’re interested enough to make an offer, make sure it’s worth your time and the seller’s time. Your agent will be able to give their best advice as to what a good offer price would be, based on comparables and their knowledge of the market and area.

DO lender shop. Different lenders can offer different rates. Shop around, see with whom you can save and where.

DO NOT make large purchases prior to closing. This is a huge expensive mistake, as it can alter your credit score and can actually take you from having loan approval to not. You can lose your property and in turn gain something of expense (whatever it was that you bought, albeit a car, boat, etc.).

SELLERS:

DO NOT remodel what won’t pay off. If you’re going to do some upgrading prior to listing your property, spend money in the kitchen. This is a room that’s important. Otherwise, less expensive updates you can do include painting, new hardware, fixtures and carpet. Gutting bathrooms and shellacking your garage floor is likely not worth the pay off.

DO price properly. Your listing agent will be able to guide you to a proper sales price, so use their knowledge! You’re paying them, after all. If your property is priced too high, it’s likely to not sell as quickly, wasting your money on months of bills, taxes, mortgage payments, etc.

DO NOT reject reasonable offers. Letting your emotions get in the way of your sale can be tough, but you do not want to push qualified buyers away because you’re not remembering that this is in fact business. At the very least, provide a counter offer.

DO disclose. If there are issues that you do know about, it’s the law to disclose known deficiencies. If you do not, this could turn in to a lawsuit. Talk about expensive!

Try to keep these Dos and Don’ts in mind this summer and in to the fall, and you will be free from the most expensive mistakes that buyers and sellers tend to make. You work hard for your money, so keep your dollars where they will work for YOU!

Hydrostatic Testing

plumbing-840835_640You got your home under contract! You’re so excited, a buyer loves your home as much as you do! Then, inspections are set up. The three inspections typically performed on a home here are the general inspection, the pest inspection, and the plumbing inspection.

It’s this last one that seems to be an inspection that, as of late, has been causing some unease among sellers.

Fear not, sellers! The truth is, this is not at all a scary or intrusive test. But it is an important one. The only way to calm a fear or unease is to be well informed. Here I’ll break it down so that when the time comes, as either a buyer or a seller, this test is nothing to think twice about.

Definition: A hydrostatic test is a way in which pressure vessels can be tested for strength and leaks.

Don’t let the word pressure fool you. There is a common misconception that pressure is put on your system during this test. That is far from the truth. What the plumber does is quite simple. They will find your sewer cleanout/sanitary drain pipe and insert a testball/balloon into the piping and inflate it near the perimeter of the foundation. Next, they’ll simply fill the system up with water. They will then find a commode and/or shower on the lowest level and monitor the water levels. If the water maintains its level (they’ll typically watch for roughly 15 minutes) then there are no leaks! IF the water happens to fall, there is indication of a leak somewhere in the system.

Leaks often occur when foundations have shifted. Because we are built on sand here on the Island, it’s relatively rare to have a failed hydrostatic test as foundations move less on sand. In the case of a failed test, the next step is to find where the leak actually is. That test is slightly more involved, but still not dangerous to the system. An Isolation Test is what should be scheduled next, and this test finds the actual source of the leak. It’s smart to have a different plumber perform this test to eliminate the possible suspicion of an intentional failed test to get more business (as the isolation test is far more expensive).

The entire inspection/hydrostatic test takes roughly 20 minutes. Like a ninja in the night, you may not even know they were there! Our local plumbers are knowledgeable, true professionals who are happy to answer your questions or concerns.

Note: This test typically costs around $85, and only a licensed plumber is to perform this inspection.

Did you know? A hydrostatic test is DIFFERENT than a static test. They are sometimes accidentally interchangeably used in casual conversation regarding the plumbing inspection, and there’s where some confusion can occur in terms of whether pressure is put on your system during a hydrostatic test. A STATIC test is what indicates pressure, and you can do it yourself – it’s a gauge that you can purchase at any hardware store that you screw on to your hose bib. Then, turn the water on and the gage will tell you how much pressure it is outputting. Don’t let a static test be confused with a hydrostatic test.

CONSUMER BEWARE: Rebuilding after a disaster

contractors2With the flooding and other tragedies that have occurred across the state, it is important that consumers be aware of Chapter 57 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code that was enacted by HB 1711 effective September 1, 2011. The bill applies to contractors who remove, clean, sanitize, demolish, reconstruct, or otherwise treat improvements to real property as a result of damage or destruction to that property caused by a natural disaster. Specifically, it requires that a “disaster remediation” contract must be in writing and prohibits a “disaster remediation contractor” from requiring payment prior to beginning work or charging a partial payment in any amount disproportionate to the work that has been performed. However, the statute exempts contractors that have held a business address for at least one year in the county or adjacent county where the work occurs.

Please see the text of HB 1711 for details. Contact your local Home Builders Association for a list of contractors.

Download this document for important phone numbers and information on rebuilding after a disaster. (CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR PDF)

Know Before You Owe

knowbeforeyouowe

The holidays are over, the sun is finally peaking out, and the buyers are making their grand debut from dormancy.

But as a buyer, knowledge is power. And The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau knows that. They have worked diligently to make the loan process more transparent. The new forms discussed below (the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure) were introduced to present less confusing information as to ensure consumers understand the terms of their loan and the fees they’re paying. Know before you owe!

To walk the walk, you have to talk the talk. Here is the new lingo and the new forms.

Let’s talk Terminology:

A lender is now a “Creditor”

The Good Faith Estimate (GFE) is now the “Loan Estimate” or LE for short.

HUD or Settlement Statement is now your “Closing Disclosure” or CD for short.

The GFE was meant to provide the buyer with a really good idea of what they’d be bringing to closing and the terms of their loan. But the rules behind its successor, the LE, are stricter, and provide a higher financial accuracy to the buyer. It includes interest rate, fees for both creditor and third-party services (ie: appraisals, title insurance, closing costs, etc.)

Before you do anything, shop around for a lender and get prequalified for a loan. There’s little advantage to visiting with a Real Estate Agent until you know what you can afford.

First you get prequalified, then you work with a Realtor who finds you the perfect home, and then comes your Loan Estimate.

SIX ELEMENTS TO GET THE LOAN ESTIMATE

  1. The consumer’s name
  2. The consumer’s income
  3. The consumer’s SSN to obtain a credit report (creditor shopping will NOT affect credit rating)
  4. Property address
  5. An estimate of the value of the property
  6. The mortgage loan amount sought

CLARIFY!

The prequal is NOT a Loan Estimate. If the consumer/buyer requests a preapproval or prequalification, and provides 5 of these 6 elements in their application, the creditor will provide the prequalification, but is not yet obligated to provide the LE.

Only when the consumer provides all six elements of the application, the creditor must get the LE to the consumer within 3 Federal Business days (if the creditor is open on Saturday, then Saturday counts). Once provided, the LE holds true for 10 days once a property has been determined.

The home does not actually have to be under contract at this point, but it greatly benefits the buyer if it is. Without knowing which title company the contract will be at, your creditor can’t know the exact fees. With the new LE, the liability and financial accuracy weighs much heavier on the creditor than it did in the past. So what if there are differences presented on your final CD than those on your LE?  There are zero tolerance fees, and fees that fall between a 10% tolerance. So if there is a difference between your CD and your LE, depending on which category the miscalculation falls under, the creditor may have to pay.

Moral is, sellers want strong buyers. Preapproval from a creditor shows just that, which is why it’s critical to get that first. Present that to your Realtor, house hunt, get under contract, and request the LE. Leave the rest to your happy and knowledgeable Realtor.

We’ll leave the changes to the consummation (the new term for closing) for a later discussion…

QUICK FACTS FROM 2015 COMPARED TO 2014

Demand was healthy in 2015, and the supply was enough to give the buyers options.

  • 1% increase in new listings since 2014
  • 7% increase in median sales price in 78418
  • -4.2% decrease in days on market
  • 15% new construction market share in 78418
  • 8% list to sale price ratio in 78418

Design Trends in 2016

destrends2016

“This home is so ’70s.” How many times have we heard a home identified by a year based on its appearance and finishes? Well, 2016 will be no different, as fun and fresh designs are sure to be trending.

Outdoors, Indoors

Here on the Island, we practically live outdoors most of the year! Designs are beginning to recognize this. Homeowners are working on bringing the outside in with things like plants, and double doors, and also purchasing furniture that can be used both indoors and out. Create a fluid space where the indoor outdoor living concept is seamless.

Geometric Tiles

Tile backsplashes aren’t a new concept, but what we expect to see in 2016 are using the tiles to create more geometric patterns that feature fluid movement. New materials for this are coming onto the scene such as cement and wood. Whether it is a backsplash, an intricately patterned floor or a countertop, fluid geometry is eye-catching and coming in strong this year.

White Appliances

With so many homeowners going with the trending white cabinets, white appliances just blend right in. Also, many are becoming tired of the maintenance from the marks and handprints that are so evident and inevitable that show up on stainless steel appliances. Try Ice White from Whirlpool. Slate kitchen appliances can also bring a classic and modern look and are gaining momentum.

Metallics, Metals, and Minerals

All trends come back around, and the 1950s and 1970s are hot fashion trends in 2016, and this will also translate to the home. Gold and metallic finishes are exceedingly popular right now. Retro bling, shine, and polished geodes will rock your home (pun intended). Accessorize with oversized bowls of fools gold, big chunks of quartz, or even unpolished semi-precious stones turned into door pulls. Go au natural!

Chevron is Out

Herringbone, Chevron, Zig-Zag, the fun and often colorful pattern was so 2015. If you are still a fan of it, try putting it in easily removable ways, such as an area rug or throw blanket. Don’t stick it up on a large wall. Instead, try solid-colored, textured fabrics, or even animal hide is in!

Bye Brass

Brass hardware is one design element that almost immediately outdates a home. Hardware is one incredibly easy and inexpensive way to update! To replace brass hardware or other knobs, be sure to choose a size that will cover the “footprint” of whatever is currently installed. For 2016, try brushed or satin nickel hardware. Magic.

Fake Wall Treatments

Solids are back. 2016 interior design approaches emphasize authenticity. The prevalent use of natural materials (back to minerals, above) goes back to midcentury modern design. That means it may be time to get rid of the fake wall treatments such as Tuscan paint finishes and marbled columns. Use a solid paint! It’s chic, clean, and IN.

TEXAS WINDSTORM REFORM BILL

twiaIt’s no secret that it costs a lot to live on the coast, especially once you add up your taxes, homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance, and windstorm insurance. And in 2012, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) proceeded forward with several proposals to fund the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA), the provider of last resort for windstorm insurance on our coast. It was then that TWIA adopted a 5% increase on all residential and commercial windstorm insurance policies to policyholders in the 14 counties (Aransas, Brazoria, Calhoun, Cameron, Chambers, Galveston, Jefferson, Kenedy, Kleberg, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, and Willacy) comprising the Texas Coast. This was the third rate increase since 2009. But the long fight is finally over.

Back in May, State Rep. Hunter announced that Senate Bill 900 has passed the Texas House of Representatives, a major victory.

And now after years of the unknown, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has just signed into law the Windstorm Insurance Reform Bill. The bill will spread the cost of storm-related increases to the rest of Texas instead of having the lion’s share being paid by the 14 coastal counties.

Last year, on March 5, over 400 residents came to a public hearing the city held at Texas A&M for our residents to voice their opposition to the proposed “tax,” as State Representative Todd Hunter referred to it. He pointed out that the TWIA website specifically states that they do not discriminate against geographical locations, which is exactly what this surcharge would have done. Rep. Hunter suggested doing an economic analysis on the minority groups affected. Perhaps his suggestion was heard.

Hunter believes the measure will benefit property owners along the Texas coast should a hurricane strike. For instance, when hail or tornadoes pummel other parts of Texas, funding from our coastal counties goes toward aid. But what if our coast gets hit with a hurricane? It has been on us and us alone to pay for the damages. This has made many of our residents scratch their heads. But this bill creates a new funding structure to provide fair and better insurance rates throughout the 14 coastal counties in Texas. It also changes the makeup of the Texas Insurance Board.

Over the years, there has been a lot of support from our local power forces. Mayor Nelda Martinez explained this surcharge would have a burdensome affect on the momentum of our community, and that an increase in insurance over the past 14 years will economically sink these 14 counties. She wrapped it up by saying “Mother nature doesn’t discriminate…”

JJ Johnson with TPCO American noted that with all the new big plants coming to Corpus (TPCO, Cheniere Energy, M&G Chemicals, Schlitterbahn…) there will be thousands of workers, too. We need to ensure that our new laborers on blue-collar salaries can afford to live here.

State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa commented on the misconception that all coastal residents are rich. In reality, we’re just like the rest of working America, where many of us can’t afford to pay much more.

At the Corpus Christi Association of Realtors luncheon at the Corpus Christi Town Club on March 13 2014, Representative Hunter explained that they will probably pass the rule, but they may be hesitant to enforce it. He promises to “fight them forever.”

Here’s to hoping he doesn’t have to!

How to Rid Those Summertime Pests

Pest-NoBugsSignThey fly, crawl, bite, invade and annoy! And the word is that this summer, they’re coming in larger numbers due to the increased rain we’ve received this spring.

The cockroaches are sneakier, the fire ants are terrorizing from their sandy mounds, the ticks hide in unmentionable places, and the mosquitoes are the size of small hummingbirds. Then of course, with lots of rain, comes lots of pretty flowers with lots of buzzing bees!

Here are some tips to still enjoy the summertime, spend time outside, and not end up itching, burning, screaming, and picking.

  1. First and most effective is to have your local pest control company come and spray your yard and home. Then when your landscapers come, ask them to blow the dead ones away.
  2. On that note, be sure to keep your yard maintained and cut regularly, as insects will lay eggs in your lawn.
  3. Clean your house and reduce any clutter. This gives them places to hide. Cockroaches in particular will be drawn to food in your pantry or pet food. Keep those items tightly sealed.
  4. Check your screens. Even the smallest of holes is equivalent to a fancy written invitation to a pest to enter.
  5. Get rid of outdoor lights. If you do need them, use yellow lights. The bugs are less attracted to those.
  6. Check your yard for standing water, which is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, among other insects. Eliminate any standing water you do find.
  7. Plant onions in your garden. They HATE onions!
  8. Keep your trash covered or taken our regularly. Need I explain more?
  9. Use a Eucalyptus-based repellent or just plain old Eucalyptus essential oil (Walmart sells this) and rub it on your exposed skin. The bugs will stay far away from you.
  10. Don’t forget about your pets! Treat them and give them their monthly doses of flea and tick meds. Not only do we want them to be protected, but they provide a first-class ticket for these insects into your home.

Enjoy this amazing time of year, and don’t be bugged by the bugs!