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Tips for Buying a Foreclosure Home

by Rebecca Shahan

When a home is foreclosed, the bank or lender wants to get it sold as quick as they can. Lenders are not in the real estate business, so they will use a real estate agent to market the property. You can also buy a foreclosed home through the multiple listing service, but that can be filled with problems. Here's 4 tips to help you buy a foreclosed home.

1. Choose a foreclosure sale expert. 

Lenders will usually sell a foreclosed home through a real estate agent. We can help you find foreclosed homes for sale.

As real estate experts, we have experience selling foreclosed properties and can guide you through the process.

2. Work with your agent to set a price. 

Ask your real estate agent to show you closed sales of comparable homes, which you can use to set your price. Start with an amount well under market value because the lender may be in a hurry to get rid of the home.

3. Get your financing in order. 

Many mortgage market players, such as Fannie Mae, require buyers to submit financing preapproval letters with a purchase offer. They’ll also reject all contingencies. Since most foreclosed homes are vacant, closings can be quick. Make sure you have the cash you’ll need to close your purchase.

4. Expect an as-is sale.

Most homeowners stopped maintaining their home long before they could no longer make mortgage payments. Be sure to have enough money left after the sale to make at least minor, and sometimes substantive, repairs.

Although lenders may do minor cosmetic repairs to make foreclosed homes more marketable, they won’t give you credits for repair costs (or make additional repairs) because they’ve already factored the property’s condition into their asking price.

Lenders will also require that you purchase the home “as is,” which means in its current condition. Protect yourself by ordering a home inspection to uncover the true condition of the property, getting a pest inspection, and purchasing a home warranty.

Be sure you also do all the environmental testing that’s common to your region to find hazards such as radon, mold, lead-based paint, or underground storage tanks.

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 That Fixer Upper in Austin?

by Rebecca Shahan

Buying a fixer-upper in Austin, if you buy the right one, can really be a great investment. If the right things are wrong with a house, it can become both your dream home, as well as earn a great deal of equity.

You don't need to be a DIY guru wither. Patience and time are all that's needed.

Here's how you can tell if that home you're looking at fixing up is worth it.

Evaluate the Price

A fixer-upper should be priced as such. Try not to fall in love too quickly with a home that “just needs a little TLC.” make sure you do your research and make sure the price is right for the work needed.

Also look at other homes in the neighborhood to see how much they sold for and how much work they've had and how fancy they are. you don't want to over-improve for the neighborhood, as this could affect the selling price in the future if you decide to sell.

Start Evaluating What Improvements Are Needed

An ideal fixer-upper is a home that offers a lot of opportunities for “instant equity." This means that if your turned around and sold the home right away, you would get your money back.

Some improvement tasks can be as simple as painting or landscaping, which you can accomplish with sweat equity.

Other tasks may require the work of professionals and cash to pay them. It’s those projects you want to carefully evaluate against the home’s price.

Which Hire-a-Pro Projects Add Instant Equity?

Some home improvement projects that require a pro stay at the top of the list of things that will be worth the cost instantly.

Based on data gleaned from the “Remodeling Impact Report” (RIR) from the National Association of REALTORS®’, if these three projects are on your fixer-upper’s list of must-haves, then you may have found your dream equity-builder:

  • New roof
  • Hardwood floors
  • Insulation

While those three are pretty safe bets. Almost any project can be worth it with a fixer-upper if the price is right. For example, a complete kitchen renovation can cost $65,000 and recover only about $40,000 when you sell. But if the fixer-upper is discounted enough, think how amazing it would be to cook in a kitchen you designed yourself.

Evaluate Your Ability to Deal with Disruption

Whether you’re a DIY Jedi or content to let the pros handle the remodel, if your patience is shorter than your potential home’s to-do list, a fixer-upper may not be a good choice.

Renovating a bathroom alone can take two to three weeks. Add hardwood flooring, a new kitchen, and siding, and you’re looking at a whole summer’s worth of rehab.

When considering a fixer-upper, evaluate the limits of your emotional energy as well. Inevitable project pitfalls and delays can be wearing. Only if you have the time, patience, and emotional endurance for a fixer-upper will it be a good fit for you. And only you can determine that.

But if you can budget your time and money, and employ the right fixer-upper strategies, you might find yourself with a double reward: A home that’s worth far more than you paid, and the joy of knowing you helped get it there.

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.

Choosing a Neighborhood in Lake Travis and Austin

by Rebecca Shahan

When buying a home in Lake Travis and Austin, location is everything. It may seem easy to find a neighborhood filled with beautiful homes and think it's the right one for you. But there are other factors to consider when choosing a neighborhood that are not as evident, such as budget, non-negotiable home features, and proximity to the things you can’t live without.

When it comes to searching for a new neighborhood, here’s a few things to consider.

Property Taxes

Property taxes in Austin and Lake Travis can play a huge role in your overall cost of living. Property taxes for specific homes are typically included in online property listings. You can find out more about property taxes in Travis County here.

What to consider: How much will my property taxes be?

Safety and Crime

Before you commit to a home, search online for crime stats for the neighborhood you want to move to. Determining if the crime level is acceptable is part of the process of choosing the right neighborhood.

We can guide you to resources to help answer questions about a neighborhood, but we can't give you an opinion about neighborhoods per the Fair Housing Act. The act aims to provide equal access to housing for all groups of people and to protect against discrimination.

What to consider:

  • What is the crime rate in this particular neighborhood? How about the neighborhood next door?
  • What level of crime do I feel comfortable with? 

Topography and Geography

Land geography can play a role in costs — especially if you’re overlooking a scenic vista or you’re right by the water, especially in Lake Travis. On the flipside, look out for flood zones or other danger-prone areas when making a decision.

What to consider: 

  • Do I need special insurance in addition to homeowners insurance?
  • Is this property in a flood zone?

Property Value

When buying a home, your agent can check for recent home sales in the desired neighborhood to get an idea of the potential value of homes in that area. Usually, similar homes in the same neighborhood will sell within a few thousand dollars of each other.

Question(s) to ask:

  • What are the comps in this area?
  • What’s the projected growth rate for this area?

School Zones

School zones come to mind when thinking of location, especially if you have children (or plan to have them soon), as they tend to affect home values. If schools are important to you, evaluate the schools in your neighborhood and which homes fall into which district. Additionally, there may be community centers or parks that increase the value of the neighborhood.

What to consider:

  • What school would my child attend if we moved here?
  • Are there parks or community centers in this area?

Using these factors as a guide for finding the right neighborhood can help you evaluate what you care about and make the decision that’s right for you.

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.

Bad Habits Austin Homeowners Need to Break Now

by Rebecca Shahan

Bad habits can be hard to break. It's so easy to start a bad habit since we may not realize it's bad in the first place. When it comes to owning a home in Austin, bad habits can be costly. Here's  a few habits that would be good to break.

Taking Long, Steamy Showers

Who doesn't love a long hot shower, especially after spending a relaxing day on Lake Travis? It may be good for your body, but long showers build up steam that is also great for mold and mildew. Make sure you run the exhaust fan or open a window during and after your shower. Every few months, make sure to scrub the grout.

Compulsively Buying Bargains

When it comes to household items, it's better not to go cheap. In fact, budget buys might cost you more in the long run. Those dollar paintbrushes may look like a good buy, but they will usually leave annoying streaks, requiring a costly do-over.

And when it comes to buying appliances, spend a little more — especially if you plan on selling your home soon.

Running a Half-Full Dishwasher

Sure, it's nice to have clean dishes every morning. But if you don't do a full load, you're wasting water.

It's true that dishwashers save more water than handwashing. Yet most machines will use the same amount of water no mater how full the load is. In the end, you're wasting water and can cost more on your utility bill.

Mega-Mulching

Don't go overboard with the mulch around your tree, as this can suffocate your tree, causing root rot and inviting invasive insects.

Your trees can add a lot of value to your home. Each one can add $2,000 or more to your home’s value while saving on energy costs. Protect your valuable trees by packing mulch loosely, letting water filter properly toward the trunk.

Going on a Remodeling Rampage

You don't need to launch into remodeling the moment you buy your home, unless it really needs it to be lived in. Take time once you move in to get to know your home and all of it's quirks before you renovate.

For example, lets say you remodel your kitchen, then discover the original layout would have worked better for parties. Or you pain a room your favorite color, only to discover that the natural light makes it not so much your favorite color.

Packratting

It's easy for things to pile up, especially in the garage or shed. There's always that "what if" when it comes to getting rid of things we don't use. Many people use a 6-month or 1-year rule - if you don't use an item in that time, ditch it.

Decluttering can seem like such an insurmountable goal — even though every jam-packed square foot is space you can’t enjoy.

If the task seems impossible, start small.

Just remember: Breaking habits takes time and patience. But it's worth it.

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.

Everything to Know About the Pre-Approval Process

by Rebecca Shahan

No doubt, you've already hear about being "pre-approved" if you're planning on buying a home. Yet many people don't fully understand the process.

What is Pre-Approval?

In short, being pre-approved for a mortgage means that the lender decides if you're eligible for a loan and how much you can borrow. This decision is based on your finances and credit rating.

Why Do I Need to Get Pre-Approved?

Being pre-approved is necessary for a number of reasons. It gives you clearer picture of how much money you need to complete the buying process. The more you put down, the lower your monthly payments will be. You will also get a better idea of how much you can afford for the total price of the home.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that the loan product that a friend used will work the same for them. Even though that's a possibility, it's not safe to assume so. No two loans are alike, just as no two lives and circumstances are alike.

Loan products also have different costs, such as varying lender origination fees. Your loan officer can work with your to learn the costs of a loan and how the loan process works.  This will give you a good idea of what costs to expect.

Knowing these things will make you more comfortable when deciding on a home to buy. It also shows sellers that you're serious about making an offer, giving you an edge over buyers who haven't been pre-approved.

Getting Pre-Approved is Easy

Pre-approval is an easy process, so there's no reason not to do it. You just need to know how much money you make, assets, and debts.

What Will My Lender Need to Check During Pre-Approval?

  • Your credit score. Yes, your lender will then have to pull your credit. Don’t worry, pulling your score once shouldn’t affect your score. 
  • W2s or 1099s
  • Pay stubs
  • Tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Account statements
  • Your list of monthly expenses

Gathering all these documents can feel like busy work and is typically the hardest part for you.

If you want to have an idea of whether you’ll get pre-approved before choosing a lender, a good first step is finding out your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI. Your DTI ratio helps a lender understand how much of your monthly income goes to paying debt and what you have left after those debts are paid. You can calculate the ratio by dividing monthly debt payments by gross monthly income.

The lower your debt-to-income ratio is, the better. A lower DTI will make you seem less risky to lenders.

Although each loan product is different, most lenders would prefer your debt-to-income ratio to be at 36% or lower.

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.

Things You Should Know About Buying Your First Home in Lake Travis

by Rebecca Shahan

A down payment may not be the toughest hurdle when buying your first home.

If you're thinking about trading your landlord for a mortgage, here are four things you should think about to help you decide if you're ready to buy a home.

Your Down Payment May Not Be the Biggest Hurdle

Let's admit one thing: buying a home is a huge financial commitment.

A healthy credit history is also important. Most home buyers can qualify for a mortgage with a score as low as 620. But the more competitive rates are offered to those with a score of 700 or above.

Many young adults are carrying student loan debt, making their debt-to-income (DTI) ratio more of a challenge to balance. Mortgage companies want borrowers to have a certain level of cash flow each month, and that means taking into account how much you’re paying out to other lenders. Ideally, a borrower’s debt-to-income ratio — how much you pay toward debt each month divided by your gross monthly income — should fall below 36%. If yours doesn’t, think about how you can get that debt needle moving in the right direction.

Be Emotionally Ready for Financial Surprises

Owning a home comes with unexpected surprises. When you rent, surprises don't require as much emotional investment. If the rent goes up, you can move. When an appliance goes out, you can call your landlord. But when you own a home, if the toilet breaks, it's your job to arrange to fix it. When property taxes unexpectedly rise, it’s on you to appeal or pay up.

Fixing problems in your home isn't just about the money. It's also important to have the mental and emotional capability of dealing with them responsibly when they arise. You could be doing fine for months, then several issues could arise all at once. Stress management and problem solving skills are important when owning a home.

A Mortgage Can Be Cheaper Than Rent

In some cases, a mortgage can be cheaper than rent. But either way, it's still financially advantageous to own your own home and build equity.

Your Lifestyle May Call for Buying Instead of Renting

Many people realize that renting a home can only take them so far, especially when starting a family. Growing families need extra rooms, a yard, and space for your pets. More and more rentals are limiting pets, or just not allowing them at all. That's not an issue if you own your own home.

Then there are the renovations. If you’re itching to test out your DIY skills and personalize your space, you’re probably ready to own. Landlords who allow property renovations — especially DIY projects — are few and far between.

Buying a first home is a big change — both from a financial and an emotional perspective. Still, for many, home ownership can be one of the most rewarding life choices one can make.

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.

Lesser-Known Fees That Factor Into the True Cost of Home Buying

by Rebecca Shahan

Buying a home can be a tricky process, and there are plenty of little costs that can add up. How can you prepare to cover these costs?

Since most people focus on the larger costs, such as the down payment and mortgage payments, they tend to overlook the smaller fees that come with buying a home.

Here are a few of these lesser known fees and what they could cost you.

Home Inspection

A home inspection is critical to protecting you from buying a home with hidden issues that could ruin your finances. The inspector looks for structural and general issues with the home. Inspections cost between $300 and $500, and whether or not you end up purchasing the property, you still need to pay this fee. You may also have to hire a specialist if specific issues are found, such as foundation issues or termites.

Appraisal Fee

This appraisal report goes to your lender to assure it that the property is worth what you’re paying for it. If you’re selling, review the appraisal thoroughly for any oddball numbers or descriptions that could affect the value of your home. An appraisal can take about 2 hours and costs between $200 and $425.

Application Fees

Before ever approving you for a loan, the lender is going to run your credit report and charge you an application fee, often lumping the credit report fee in with the application fee. This can run $75 to $300. Be sure to ask for a breakdown of the application fees to understand all costs.

Title Services

These fees cover a title search of the public records for the property you’re buying, notary fees for the person witnessing your signature on documents, government filing fees, and more. These can cost between $150 and $400, and it’s important to get a line item for each cost.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

When you put down less than 20% on your new home, the lender requires that you purchase PMI once you reach 78% of your loan-to-value ratio or you have 22% equity. So PMI is a policy that you have to buy to protect the lender from you. PMI rates can vary from 0.3% to 1.5% of your original loan amount annually.

Tax Service Fee

This is the cost (about $50) to ensure that all property tax payments are up to date and that the payments you make are appropriately credited to the right home.

Always ask questions when it comes to understanding the fees you’re paying. If possible, print out documents and go through them with a highlighter to indicate any areas you have concerns about. Discuss them with your lender or real estate agent and determine if you can negotiate any of them down.

Don’t be afraid to price shop to ensure you’re getting the best value. Just because you’re spending hundreds of thousands on a home doesn’t mean you should be comfortable throwing thousands of dollars at fees.

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.

Easy Rules for Negotiating Your Lake Travis Home Offer

by Rebecca Shahan

Here’s the dream: Your offer is perfect, you don’t need to negotiate, and you can spend the next few weeks addressing more pressing home-ownership questions, like “Why is it called wainscoting?” and “Do I want a new couch in blush or emerald green?”

And it could happen. Many sellers accept the best offer they receive, and for a variety of reasons.

But sellers are also known to reject offers for a variety of reasons. Or make counteroffers. This is especially likely if you bid low, or when you’re up against multiple competing offers.

Here are a few rules every buyer should know before they — and their agent — start negotiating:

Act Fast — Like, Now

When you receive a counteroffer, you should respond quickly — ideally within 24 hours. The longer you wait, the more space you leave for another buyer to swoop in and nab the property. Also? If a seller senses hesitation, they may decide to withdraw their counteroffer before you even have a chance to respond.

Raise Your Price (Within Reason)

While you obviously don’t want to overpay for a house, you may have to up the ante — especially if you initially made a lowball offer. Lean on your agent’s expertise to determine how much money you should add to the Before you make an offer, talk with your agent about how high you’re willing to go if the seller doesn’t accept your bid.sales price to make it more enticing to the seller.

Then, through their powers of persuasion, your agent can make the counteroffer look even more attractive by pointing out similarly priced “comps” — recently sold homes in your area that are comparable in terms of square footage and features.

As your agent negotiates, it can feel like things are escalating quickly. It’s stressful. You may feel a sudden urge to do whatever it takes to win.

Before you go overboard, there are two things you must keep in mind:

  1. You can’t exceed the monetary confines of the pre-approved mortgage you received from your lender.
  2. You shouldn’t overextend your budget.

Because your counteroffer has to be an amount you’re comfortable spending on a home. You want that new house and to keep living your life. Plus: You’re not out of options yet.

Increase Your Earnest Money Deposit

Increasing your earnest money deposit (EMD) — the sum of money you put down to prove to the seller you’re serious (i.e., “earnest”) about buying the house — is another way to show the seller you have more skin in the game. A standard EMD is typically 1% to 3% of the sales price of the home. Making a counteroffer with a 3% to 4% deposit could be what you need to persuade the seller to side with you.

Demonstrate Patience About Taking Possession

Depending on the seller’s timetable, changing your proposed possession date — the date you take over the property — could butter them up, too. If the seller wants to stay in the home for a few days after closing, try offering a later possession date. You could also draw up a “rent-back” agreement, meaning the seller pays you rent for staying in the home for a set period of time after the closing date.

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.

How to Seal the Deal When Closing Your Home

by Rebecca Shahan

This is the moment you've worked for. It's time to close the deal on your new home. The home you've been wanting is almost yours, and the keys are nearly in your hands.

As you cross the finish line, what are some things to consider?

What Does "Closing" Mean?

Closing simply means that you sign the final paperwork that gets you the keys to your new home.

The process really begins when you sign a purchase and sale agreement, which specifies the closing date. It usually takes about 4 - 6 weeks from the signing date to closing date. During this time, purchasing funds are held in escrow, where your money is safe until the deal is officially done.

What's a Closing Disclosure?

A Closing Disclosure, or CD, is provided by the lender at least three days before settlement. The CD discloses you final loan terms and closing costs.

The reason for this step is to make sure there's no surprises during the final closing. You should let your lender and title company know right away if there's a significant discrepancy between the Loan Estimate and CD. Depending on what the underlying issue is, the closing has to stop and a new closing disclosure must be sent out with a new three-day review period.

The main things that can't change between by the time you get the Closing Disclosure is the interest rate and lender fees. Some items can change by only 10% (fees paid to local government to record the mortgage might be one); and others can change without limit, like prepaid interest, because it can’t be predicted at the start of the loan process.

When Will the Final Walk-Through Happen?

Usually within 24 hours of the settlement, you and your agent will do a walk-through of the home, making sure any repair work that the seller agreed to make has been completed.

If any repair work is missed, your agent will contact the listing agent and, in most cases, negotiate to get the seller to compensate you at closing, This will usually be in the form of a personal check for the costs of fixing the problems yourself.

Worst-case scenario: You have to delay closing to resolve problems. In the unlikely event that happens, your agent will help you address the issue.

How Much Will I Pay for Closing Costs?

Closing costs can be frustrating for home buyers, as there can be unexpected surprises.

Costs are split between you and the seller, but as the buyer you’ll cover the lion’s share. You can generally expect your closing costs to be 3% to 4% of the home’s sales price. So, on a $300,000 home, you can pay anywhere from $9,000 to $12,000 in closing costs. (Meanwhile, the seller typically pays closing costs of 1% to 3% of the sales price.)

You can try to predict closing costs with calculators which lets you plug in your mortgage details to get a rough estimate of what your costs will be.

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.

What Austin and Lake Travis Home Buyers Should Know About Appraisals

by Rebecca Shahan

Most of us have our own reasons for wanting to buy a home. Maybe we want a bath with a luxury spa. Maybe we want a huge deck for parties.

But your lender doesn't care about such things - the designer tub, the fire pit, and all the extras. What they really care about is the actual value of the home and if it's worth as much as the value of the mortgage.

To a bank, a house is collateral. That means that they can foreclose on the home if you miss payments.

Therefore, a home must be valued at, or above, the agreed-upon purchase price, and this has to happen before you can close on a house. That’s where a home appraiser comes in.

A Home Appraiser Is Neutral

After you sign a home purchase agreement, which is the contract between you and the seller about the terms of the pending sale, and before your lender approves your loan, the home you’re buying must pass an appraisal.

An appraiser is either licensed by the state or a certified professional. It's their job to asses the value of the home. They are on no one's side, not you or the seller. They are chosen by your lender through an appraisal management company, which is a neutral entity.

Appraisers survey a house in person, using five main criteria to determine the value of a home:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Condition
  • Additions or renovations
  • Recent sales of comparable homes

Be Prepared to Pay for the Appraisal — or to Negotiate

Usually the home buyer is the one that pays for the appraisal, and this is generally included in the closing costs. But this can be negotiated. You can always ask if the seller will pay for it.

Home appraisals are not as expensive as you might think. They will usually cost between $287 and $373.

Appraisals Take a While, So Be Patient

Typically, a purchase agreement has a “home appraisal contingency” requiring that the appraisal be completed within 14 days of the sales contract being signed. Because it takes appraisers some time to visit your house and write a report — up to a week, or longer in a busy housing market — your lender will order the appraisal immediately after you sign the purchase agreement.

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.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 33