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5 Dos and Don't When Viewing Properties

by Rebecca Shahan

Touring a home can be a fun and exciting time. This is a new beginning for you and your family. There's a lot of things you need to take in and learn about the home's you're viewing.

There's more to viewing a home than just walking through it.  There's some things to remember when it comes to making mistakes that could upset the seller, and possibly cost you the purchase or hurt negotiations.

What are some ways you can stay on the seller's good side, while keeping focused on getting the most from your tour?

1. The fewer the better.

This isn't a party. Don't being a bunch of friends or relatives just to get their opinion. If they're purchasing a home with you, that's one thing. But sellers usually aren't too fond of large groups touring at once.

The more people you have with you on a tour, the bigger the chance of someone doing something that will upset the seller. Plus they can distract you from taking in important details about the property.

You should also try not to bring small children, as this too could be distracting, and possible cause problems with the seller.

If you absolutely need to bring other people with you on a showing, ask your agent beforehand.

2. You're being watched.

Sellers are usually curious about who's viewing their home, and for good reason. They still usually have possessions in the home they want to protect.  They also want to know what you're feeling are about the home. And that's easy enough to view with security cameras.

The rule of thumb is to just act as if the seller is a silent partner on the tour.  That should help you avoid doing or saying things that will negatively affect the sale if you decide to buy. Also keep in mind that the seller may not even be using a camera to watch you. They may be next door watching, or having a neighbor watching you.

3. Don't take photos

You may think that since everyone has a camera on their phone, that it's no big deal to snap photos on a home tour. But that's not so. You are on private property, and unless you've been given express permission by the seller, you should never take photos during a tour. It's an invasion of privacy and could also be against the law.

Just because the listing agent has taken photos and posted them online also does not make it OK for you to. The agent and seller have an agreement to take those photos, and they are approved by the seller before posting them online.

So if the seller allows you to take photos, don't post them on social media. You could hurt your negotiations and invade the seller's privacy. Wait until the house is yours and post all the photos your heart desires.

4. Do use your imagination.

Since most people don;t have the same tastes, you need to imagine how the home would look with your decorating tastes. Try to think of inexpensive ways to decorate it, such as painting and where you would locate your furniture.

Augmented reality (AR) apps on your phone are an ideal way of doing this, as they let you picture how the home would look if you buy it.

5. Don’t use the bathroom.

Would you want a bunch of strangers using your bathroom? It's fine to test fixtures and cabinets, but don't use the bathroom unless the seller says it's OK in advance.

Touring homes can be a fun and beneficial experience, as long as you mind your manners and show respect for the seller.

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.  

5 Tips For First Time Home Buyers

by Rebecca Shahan

5 tips for first time home buyersIf you're ready to buy your first home, no doubt you've realized already there's a lot of things you need to think about. It can seem overwhelming. But it doesn't have to be.  Millions of people have bought homes before, and we know what makes the process go more smoothly. All it takes is planning and patience.

There are some simple steps you can take to make sure your home buying experience goes more smoothly. Here's a few things to think about before you decide to buy.

How Much Home Can You Afford?

Like any purchase, you need to know how much you can afford. It can be disappointing to find out you can't afford the home you fall in love with. The best thing to do is to determine the maximum amount you can afford.  An online mortgage calculator is a great way to start. You can find out your maximum price limit based on a 30 year mortgage.

You can also pin down a more exact amount of what you can afford is to talk to a loan officer at your bank. A loan officer will have a better idea of what the bank will loan you and what your down payment will need to be.

Knowing how much you can afford in advance, along with being pre-approved for a loan, will give you an advantage over buyers who haven't taken this step.  And it will save you time, since you know exactly what you can afford before you start your home search.

What Are The Must Haves In a Home?

Knowing what you want in a home, and what you don't want, is important. Sit down and think about all the things that you must have in a home, and the things that will make life miserable. Write it all down and use it in your home search. Show it to your agent as well so they know what to look for. You can adjust your list as you look at homes and see first hand what's available.

Use an Experienced Local Real Estate Agent

The right agent who knows the area inside and out makes a huge difference. Research the real estate agents in the are you're moving to.  If you have friends or family who've bought a home there recently, ask them for a referral. If not, read reviews online.

A good agent will know the area you're moving to inside and out, and will pay attention to your needs. In many cases, a great agent will have repeat clients over the years. They will also be able to connect you to loan officer and real estate attorneys, along with other needed professionals.

Compare Prices

You should look at homes in the area that are comparable to get an idea of what they're selling for.

You can easily compare homes in the area you plan to move to using tools such as our Home Search feature.

Ask Your Real Estate Agent About Closing Costs

Closing costs can vary, so make sure you determine the expected costs in advance to avoid any nasty financial issues during closing. Closing costs can include the costs of hiring an attorney to look over the  seller agreement, along with a home appraiser to inspect the home before the sale. A good real estate agent will be happy to help you determine closing costs.

Being a first time home buyer may seem daunting, but it's something you can accomplish successfully with the right planning and information.

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.  

Check Out This Creative Way to Save For a Down Payment

by Rebecca Shahan

Many first time buyers struggle with saving enough for a down payment. But one creative way to save that money is gaining traction - crowd sourcing. It's a great way to let friends and relatives help you buy your first home.

Here's how it works. When a young couple gets married, they ask their wedding guests to contribute to their “Down Payment Fund" instead of buying them traditional gifts.  Many new couples already live together and have what they need to furnish a home. So now they just need the home.

Think about it.  Most weddings average about 120 guests in attendance who buy a gift. If the average gift is $186, the newlywed couple would now have over $22,000 to use for a down payment! Of course this is just an example.  The figures could vary greatly.  But it would still go long way to help with a down payment. Plus the givers know that the money is going toward a worthy cause.

And as you've probably already guessed, there are services set up right now to facilitate this new trend, such as HomeFundMe. These services will allow anyone in the fundraiser's circle to contribute. The ones contributing can even decide if the gift will be ‘conditional’ or ‘non-conditional’ on the beneficiary buying a home.

A recent Wall Street Journal article reports, “about 400 borrowers have used HomeFundMe to help buy homes since the program launched in October and on average, they raise about $2,500.” According to the article, these funds are used by the borrower along with their own savings to help them reach the down payment.

In addition, more programs are available to first-time buyers that lets people put down as little as 3%, such as with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan programs. Also, FHA programs require as little as 3.5%, and VA Loans are often approved with 0% down!

The days of paying 20% down for a new home are a thing of the past. So it's time to get creative if you need help saving for your down payment.

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.  

Should You Buy a Second Home?

by Rebecca Shahan

Do you dream of buying a 2nd home, or vacation home? Of course many people do.  It’s kind of a rite of passage, getting married. Buying a 2nd home can be a strong investment.  It’s also a sign that you’re doing financially well and can plan more for retirement.  And since finance rates are lower than they’ve been for a while, now may be a good time to think about whether you should buy a second home.


The main question is why should you should buy a 2nd home? Answering this question will help you see where your priorities are.

You Can Afford It

Can you afford to buy a 2nd home or vacation home?  Usually, the age range for people who buy an additional home is 40s -50s.  By this time, their children may have moved out.  Therefore, they don’t have as much reason to remain in the same place, especially as they get closer to retirement.  Also, by the time most people get to that age, they’re making a higher income and have more in savings.

A Good Investment

If you’re looking for a great investment, an additional home may be just the right choice. But don’t forget, there are still risks. Make sure to look for a home in an area that’s growing, as it could improve the property value over time.

Comfortable Retirement

Since most people buy a 2nd home in the latter half of their lives, they are planning for retirement or at least thinking about retiring by that age. Owning a second home can be a great way to plan for retirement.

Let’s say you want to retire to a community with a beautiful lake front and sunny skies such as Lake Travis (assuming you don’t live here already). Why not search for a home in the area you want to retire? That way you’ll already have the home and it will have increased in value until then.

Tax Benefits

Everyone loves a good solid tax break. The great news is that you can write off the property taxes on a second home. And it doesn’t matter if it’s an investment, rental, or for your own use. You can also deduct interest, insurance, and depreciation against your home’s value.

Buying a second home may not be for everyone. But if it’s something you can do, take time to consider the advantages and disadvantages before you make the big move.

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.  

Is a 15-Year Mortgage Right For You?

by Rebecca Shahan

Are you planning to buy a home in Austin and want to pay it off faster and save money? If so, then a 15-year mortgage can be a great way to pay off your mortgage in half the time and save tons of money on interest. Just keep in mind that to really get the most from this type of mortgage, you need to have enough income to keep on top of the payments, along with all your regular expenses. This fact alone can deter home buyers to stay away from a 15-year mortgage, since the payments are about 50% higher than a similar 30-year mortgage.

As with any mortgage, there’s pros and cons.  What are the pros and cons of a 15-year mortgage?

Pros

  • Owning your home faster. Your home will be paid for in only 15 years.  Plus you’ll have peace of mind that it belongs to you after it’s paid off.
  • Builds equity. Paying off the principal faster helps you build more equity.
  • Save money. As there’s fewer years of risk in a 15-year loan, they have a lower interest rate. And since the term is shorter, you save even more money on interest.

Cons

  • Higher payments. The payments will be 50% higher than a 30-year loan, so you need to be sure you can keep up with them.
  • Locked up equity. The equity you’re building is locked up in the home. The only way to use it is to sell the home or refinancing.
  • Missing other opportunities. Higher payments means you may not have enough money to take advantage of other financial opportunities, such as investments or matching your employers contribution to a retirement account.
  • Lower quality home.  Since you aren’t stretching your payments over 30-years, you won’t qualify for as high of an amount as you would with a 30-year loan.

To sum up, a 15-year loan is an ideal way for those who can afford the higher payments to save money and own their home more quickly. But if you’re not entirely sure your finances are stable, then you should avoid a 15-year mortgage. 

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.  

First Time Buyers - Avoid These Common Mistakes

by Rebecca Shahan

Avoid these first time buyer mistakesAre you ready to buy your first home?  If so, this is an important time for you.  This is a big decision, so don’t get caught up in the emotions and make the same mistakes that so many first time buyers make. Let’s take a look at just a few of those mistakes and what can be done to avoid them.

Picking Out a House Before the Mortgage

Having enough money to buy your home is a step you would think most people would realize. But it turns out that many first time buyers get so excited that they start looking at houses before they secure financing. You can’t blame people for doing this, as looking at homes is definitely more fun shopping for a mortgage. But if you don’t know what you can afford beforehand, it can lead to disappointment if you can’t finance enough money to buy the home you want.

Make sure you talk with a lending professional to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a loan before you start looking at any houses.  You’ll have a better idea of what you can afford. And it also gives you leverage, as the seller will be more confident that you’re serious.

Not Looking at First Time Buyer Programs

As a first time buyer, you may not have a lot of money saved up to put down on a home and cover closing costs. This may lead you to think that you have to wait until you save enough for a huge down payment.

However, there are programs such as Veterans Administration or U.S. Department of Agriculture loans that don’t require a down payment. You may also qualify for a Federal Housing Administration loan that only need a down payment of 3.5%. Even some conventional loans have down payments as low as 3%. You never know until you ask.

Applying For Credit Before Closing

The closing period is the worst time to apply for new credit, as some make the mistake of applying for credit cards so they can buy furniture and other items for their new home.  To be blunt, that is a huge error on their part. The lender will be looking at your credit during this period and will base their decision on your debt-to-income ratio.  Applying for credit can lower your score. About a week before closing they will also check your score.  So if they see any change in credit activity, it could change the interest rate or fees.

Pick out what you want to buy ahead of time, and then get any needed credit after the closing.

Not Having the Home Inspected

Not having a home inspected before you buy it is only asking for trouble. Homes, especially older ones, can have many issues that are hidden from immediate view. You need to be able to see the hidden issues. Some buyers feel that if they waive the inspection that it will give them an edge on other buyers.  But if you end up buying a home that needs major repairs, it ends up being a bad deal anyways. 

The simple solution is to hire a home inspector of your own choosing.  This way they won’t have any bias toward the home seller or your agent, and can give you an honest assessment.

Buying your first home can be a positive experience if you take the time and make wise decisions with the future in mind. Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.  

A Home WIth a View of Lake Travis - What Is It Worth to You?

by Rebecca Shahan

How much is a view of Lake Travis worth to you?The amazing views in the Lake Travis area are certainly what draws people to move here. But the real question is how much it’s worth to you to see those amazing views of the hills, water, or other scenic features from your front window? What you need to decide is how extra you’re willing to pay for a stunning view.

According to appraisers and analysts, there’s no simple answer. “Views are actually really difficult to quantify. It’s somewhat subjective,” according to Principal data scientist Andy Krause at Greenfield Advisors.  “What makes a better water view? Do you want it to be wider? Do you want more of the water from a taller angle? You know, some of that is in the eye of the beholder.”

And that’s a great thing to consider when it comes to living in a location like Lake Travis. What kind of view matters the most to you?

If a view is a must have for your next home in the Lake Travis area, here’s a couple of tips.

Is the view protected?

In Houston, a homeowner sued after a high-rise office tower was built across the street. Not only did the office block their view, but workers could see their back yard and pool. Were they protected from this intrusion? As it turns out, no. With some basic research, they would have seen that the area was zoned for such a building, and so the lawsuit was dismissed. How can you avoid this happening to you?  Make sure to check with planning authorities about zoning near your home and if there’s any large projects planned where your view is going to be.

Find a Great View with a Not As Great House

What if you find a house with a great view, but the windows are smaller and don’t show off the scenery? This may be a great opportunity, as you can pay less for the home and then spend money later for a remodel to add larger windows or perhaps a rooftop deck. Make sure you check the deed for restrictions as well as homeowner association rules, if any.

What could be better than a home with a spectacular view of the Lake Travis area? If you’re looking to buy a home in Lake Travis, whether it’s a view of the lake, or just a regular view, we can help you find the perfect home. You can also search for your dream home now using our convenient home search tool.

The Steps to a Succesful Home Inspection

by Rebecca Shahan

Steps to having a succesful home inspectionOf all the parts of the home selling and buying process, the home inspection is certainly one of the most important steps.  A home inspection is really important, as it will determine the condition of the home and could save you quite a great deal of money as a home buyer. And if you are selling a home in Austin, then it can give you time to make the needed repairs to get the most money you can from the sale. A home inspection will also give valuable insight into potential problems in the future.

What are some important things to consider when getting a home inspection?

  1. Research the Inspector

A costly mistake that people make is hiring the first inspector they find or is recommended. As with any service, it’s important to research who you hire, as it can make all the difference in the end. You need an inspector who will make sure you understand the issues and will be thorough.

Here are some important questions to ask a potential inspector:

  • How long have you been inspecting homes professionally?
  • How many home inspections have you performed in your career?
  • What are your qualifications, certifications and training?
  • What did you do for work before you were a home inspector? (Preferably, you want someone who was a contractor or builder.)

Also, is the inspector keeping current in their education? They need to be up to date so that you get the best and most current information possible.

  1. Be There During the Inspection

Being present during the inspection may seem excessive or not needed, but that’s not the case.  A good inspector will welcome your presence. And simply reading the report doesn’t always reveal all that needs repairing.  Seeing the issues in person and having the home inspector explain them will be far more helpful.  Even though an inspection may take a few hours, it will be well worth your time, as it could save you a great deal of money.

  1. Get a Presale Inspection

If you’re selling your home, you may think you can leave the inspection to the home buyer. Here’s the issue with that plan. If the buyer’s inspection reveals repairs that are needed to make the sale, you won’t have as much time to make the needed repairs. But if your home is inspected before you put it on the market, you’ll have more time to make needed repairs and will have more control over the costs.

A good home inspection is crucial to buying a home, so make sure you find the best inspector you can.

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.  

Has the 2018 Tax Reform Damaged the Real Estate Market?

by Rebecca Shahan

Recently some speculated that the 2018 tax changes would damage the housing market. Some headlines were reporting that there was a potential for double-digit price depreciation. These headlines even suggested that buyer demand could decrease rapidly. Some felt that the American dream of owning a home would slip away.

Now that we’ve come past the first quarter of 2018, we can look at the number and analyze the actual impact of the tax reform on the real estate market.

1. Has tax reform killed off home buyer demand?

If we look at the Showing Time Index which “tracks the average number of buyer showings on active residential properties on a monthly basis” and is a “highly reliable leading indicator of current and future demand trends,” we can see that buyer demand has actually risen each month over the last three months and is even higher than it was for the same months last year. We can clearly see from this that buyer demand is not going down, but up.

2. Have the tax changes affected America’s belief in real estate as a long-term investment?

Gallup released its annual survey two weeks ago that asked Americans which asset they thought was the best long-term investment. This is what the survey showed:

“More Americans name real estate over several other vehicles for growing wealth as the best long-term investment for the fifth year in a row. Just over a third cite real estate for this, while roughly a quarter name stocks or mutual funds.”

This survey also revealed that there has been no change in the past year of the percentage of Americans who believe real estate is a good investment.

3. Has the homeownership rate been negatively impacted by the tax changes?

In her latest “Z Report,” Ivy Zelman helps us to understand that the 2018 tax reform didn’t damage the homeownership rate. In fact it helped it.  She explains it this way:

“We have been of the opinion that homeownership is most highly correlated with income and the net effect of tax reform would be a positive, rather than negative catalyst for the homeownership rate. While still in the early innings of tax changes, this has proven to be the case.”

5. Will the reforms in the tax code cause home prices to tumble over the next twelve months?

According to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Insights Report, home prices will appreciate in each of the 50 states over the next twelve months. Appreciation is projected to be anywhere from 1.9% to 10.3% with the national average being 4.7%.

As we’ve proceeded through the year, we can see that the dire predictions of the 2018 tax reform have not affected the real estate market adversely.

Check back on our blog each week for more real estate and local Lake Travis and Austin articles. If you're planning to buy a home in the Austin and Lake Travis area, please contact us today. You can also search for your dream home now using our convenient home search tool.

 

How to Move With Pets

by Rebecca Shahan

Moving in Austin With PetsIt’s time to move! But what about your pets? How can you be sure the move is a good one for them as well? Moving with pets is never easy, but it will be a worthwhile challenge. Your pets are used to the same environment and neighborhood, which gives them a sense of security. During a move, that environment changes and disrupts that security, especially since they don’t know why everything has suddenly changed. Needless to say, this can be a tough time for your beloved pets. But you can show them it will be OK and make the change more tolerable.  Here’s a few tips that can help.

Moving With Dogs & Cats

Prepare for the First Few Days

You can make sure your dogs and cats are more comfortable during the first few days by preparing an ‘overnight kit’ that has enough food, litter, toys and other needed items to help your bets feel at home.

Keep Them Out of the Action

Ideally, you should try to find friends or family that can watch your pets during a move, or a kennel.  After the hubbub of the move is over, then you can move them into the fully furnished home.  If you can’t do that, try to find them a quiet room in the new house to adjust to.  Make sure you also check on them regularly and try to stick with feeding and walking routines.

Keep Them Inside

Do not let your dogs or cats outside until you get to the new home. It’s easy for them to get lost in a new environment. Make sure they stay inside for a few days to let them have time to adjust.

Move the House Before You Move Your Pets

Move your pets into the new home after everything else is moved if at all possible.  Try to get as much set up as you can before moving your pets in. If you have an extra room or garage you can set up and keep clear, this will help them adjust.  Give them plenty of attention and toys to make them feel at home.

Update Their Info

After you move, visit a local pet store or vet to update their tag and chip info.

Moving With Fish

Moving fish can be tricky as they can be easily traumatized and can die easily from a move. Move them in plastic bags filled with their old tank water if you’re moving short distances.  But if you’re moving a long distance, it may be better to find your fish a new home rather than risk them dying.

Moving With Birds

You never know when a bird will just up and fly away, which happens quite a lot during moves.  The stress of your move can make them easy escape artists. So make sure you keep your bird caged during the move and even a few days after.

Moving is never easy, but if you prepare, you can make it easier for your furry family.

Are you planning to buy a home in the Austin area and have questions about moving ideas? Please contact us today for more information. You can also search for your dream home now using our convenient home search tool.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 20

Contact Information

Photo of Rebecca Shahan Real Estate
Rebecca Shahan
Keller Williams Realty, Austin
1921 Lohmans Crossing, #100
Austin TX 78734
512-657-4467
Fax: (512) 263-0109