Real Estate Information Archive

Blog

Displaying blog entries 1-8 of 8

Tips to Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford

by Rebecca Shahan

Owning a home should give you safety and security, and that includes being financially secure. Before you buy a home, you should calculate how much you can afford for a mortgage and make sure it fits safely withing your budget.

Prepare a Detailed Budget

The standard rule of thumb says that you can afford a home that costs 2 to 3 times your gross income for one year. In other words, if you earn $100,000 in a year, you should be able to afford a home between $200k to $300k.

There is one problem with this rule. It doesn't factor in your monthly expenses and debts. If we use our previous example of $100k per year income, and you have $1000 monthly debt payments, this leaves you with less money to pay the mortgage.

You should prepare a family budget that takes into account your ongoing monthly bills for everything — credit cards, car and student loans, lunch at work, day care, date night, vacations, and savings.

Now you can see what's left to cover the costs of owning a home, such as your mortgage, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable.

Factor in Your Downpayment

Having enough for a down payment is also an important factor to consider. It's simple: the higher the down payment, the lower your monthly mortgage costs will be. If you put down at least 20% of the home’s cost, you may not have to get private mortgage insurance, which protects the lender if you default and costs hundreds each month. That leaves more money for your mortgage payment.

The lower your down payment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for and the higher your monthly mortgage payment.

But, if interest rates and/or home prices are rising and you wait to buy until you accumulate a bigger downpayment, you may end up paying more for your home.

Consider Your Overall Debt

Lenders generally follow the 43% rule. Your monthly mortgage payments covering your home loan principal, interest, taxes and insurance, plus all your other bills, like car loans, utilities, and credit cards, shouldn’t exceed 43% of your gross annual income.

Here’s an example of how the 43% calculation works for a home buyer making $100,000 a year before taxes:

  1. Your gross annual income is $100,000.
  2. Multiply $100,000 by 43% to get $43,000 in annual income.
  3. Divide $43,000 by 12 months to convert the annual 43% limit into a monthly upper limit of $3,583.
  4. All your monthly bills including your potential mortgage can’t go above $3,583 per month.

You might find a lender willing to give you a mortgage with a payment that goes above the 43% line, but consider carefully before you take it.

Use Your Rent as a Mortgage Guide

If you currently are renting, then you can use an online calculator to compare the costs of renting vs owning a home to see which makes the most sense for your financial situation.

If you’re struggling to keep up with your rent, buy a home that will give you the same payment rather than going up to a higher monthly payment. You’ll have additional costs for home ownership that your landlord now covers, like property taxes and repairs. If there’s no room in your budget for those extras, you could become financially stressed.

Also consider whether or not you’ll itemize your deductions. If you take the standard deduction, you can’t also deduct mortgage interest payments. Talking to a tax adviser, or using a tax software program to do a “what if” tax return, can help you see your tax situation more clearly.

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.

Negotiate Your Best House Buy in Austin and Lake Travis

by Rebecca Shahan

There can be a lot of emotional moments when buying a home in Lake Travis and Austin. But negotiating a price doesn't have to me emotional. You just need to stick to the plan. Your agent will guide you through this potentially turbulent time. Your agent may offer advice, but in the end, you're the one who makes the final decision.

Here are six tips for negotiating the best price on a home.

Get Prequalified for a Mortgage

When you prequalify for a mortgage, it shows seller that you mean business and can afford to buy their home. This also puts you ahead of those buyers who may not be prequalified.

Ask Questions

Questions are your best friend. You need to know many things about the home and seller your interested in. What's the seller's motivation for selling? What is their financial position? Are they facing foreclosure or a short sale? Have they already purchased a home or relocated, which may make them eager to accept a lower price to avoid paying two mortgages? Has the home been on the market for a long time, or was it just listed? Have there been other offers? If so, why did they fall through? The more signs that sellers are eager to sell, the lower your offer can reasonably go.

Work Back From a Final Price to Determine Your Initial Offer

You should know in advance what you're willing to pay. Then you can work back from that number to make an initial offer. If you bid too low, you may offend the seller. If you bid too high, you may end up spending more than you need to.

You agent can work with you to compare homes in area that have sold recently to come to a fair initial offer.

Avoid Contingencies

Sellers don't like taking chances. Nobody does for that matter. So keep the bid free of complicated contingencies, such as making the purchase conditional on the sale of your current home. Try to keep contingencies for mortgage approval, home inspection, and environmental checks typical in your area, like radon.

Remain Unemotional

Remember that buying a home is a business deal. Treat it that way. Consider any movement by the sellers, however slight, a sign of interest, and keep negotiating.

Each time you make a concession, ask for one in return. If the sellers ask you to boost your price, ask them to contribute to closing costs or pay for a home warranty. If sellers won’t budge, make it clear you’re willing to walk away; they may get nervous and accept your offer.

Don't Let Competition Change Your Plan

Great homes and those competitively priced can draw multiple offers in any market. Don’t let competition propel you to go beyond your predetermined price or agree to concessions — such as waiving an inspection — that aren’t in your best interest.

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.

FInd Your Piece of the Past in Austin's Antique Shops

by Rebecca Shahan

One of the many great things about Austin Texas is its rich history.  And the many great antiques stores located in Austin let you purchase a piece of that past. Austin is an antique collector’s dream come true.  All the antique stores and dealers are located walking distance or a short drive from each other, so you can literally spend all day perusing the treasures they contain.  You’ll not only find tons of antiques from the Austin and Texas area, but from around the world.  And it’s the perfect way to find unique items to decorate your new home in Austin or Lake Travis. Here’s a short list of some of the best antique stores in Austin to get you started on your journey through time.

The Austin Antique Mall

The ideal first stop on your antique shopping list in Austin, the Austin Antique Mall houses over 100 vendors.  For over 30 years, antique collectors have been exploring the largest selection of antiques and furniture in Austin.  You’ll also find items such as military memorabilia, crystal, toys, sports items, china, and just about anything else you can imagine.

Uncommon Objects

This quirky shop focuses on unique collectables, taxidermy, gadgets and more. With 24 vendors, it makes for a more intimate shopping experience, described as "your eccentric uncle’s attic on steroids." You’ll also find folk arts and parlor crafts from around the world.

Jean-Marc Fray French Antiques

If you prefer antiques with an international flavor, then Jean-Marc Fray French Antiques is an excellent place to find the perfect French and Italian antiques from the 18th – 20th centuries.  They specialize in fine furniture, lighting, and items perfect for  decorating your home in Austin.

Antique Marketplace

Antique Marketplace offers a unique mix of American and European Antiques, featuring art, furniture clocks, potter, and much more.

Other antique dealers in Austin include Antiques & Things, Antique Swan, Room Service Vintage, Out of the Past Collectibles, just to name a few.

Check back each week on our blog for more great reasons to buy a home in Austin. 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.

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.

Spring Brings Out the Beauty of Austin's Parks

by Rebecca Shahan

Now that spring is underway in Austin, it's time to get out and explore the many beautiful parks in Austin. Austin boasts a wide range of parks that feature an endless variety of activities and programs.  No matter what you want to do, you’ll find it in one of Austin’s many great parks, whether it be going for a swim, exploring nature, exercising, or learning about art and history. And of course, if you have kids, taking them to the park is the perfect way to wear off all that youthful energy. Here’s a few parks in Austin you might want to explore soon.

Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail

Runners, walkers, and cyclists alike enjoy the 10 miles of trails that border Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin. This scenic trail is the ideal place to relax as you enjoy the peaceful green parks and lakes.

Zilker Metropolitan Park

Home to Barton Springs, the Zilker Eagle, a large playscape, and four hundred acres of sports fields and woodlands, Zilker Park is a popular weekend destination in Austin for all ages.

Zilker Botanical Garden

As the centerpiece of Austin, this spectacular park is adorned with trees, grottos, and other natural aquatic features. Zilker Park has been a fixture in Austin for 100 years.

Lake Walter E. Long / Lake Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park

If you’re in the mood for catching largemouth bass, then Lake Walter E. Long, located in Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park is the perfect place to go.  Or you can go boating, jet skiing, swimming, enjoy a nice picnic, walking or running.

Barton Springs Pool

This enormous pool measures 3 acres and is located in Zilker Park.  This historic pool brings together people from all around the city for a unique swimming experience, attracting almost 800,000 people per year.

For more great parks in Austin, visit www.austintexas.gov/department/parks-and-recreation.

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.

Things Every New Homeowner in Austin Should Have

by Rebecca Shahan

Being a new homeowner is quite a learning experience. No matter what the project you try to tackle, it seems like there's always something that will catch you by surprise.

Yet if you have the right items handy, then you can be better prepared for any scenario. By stocking your home with these following items, you'll be ready for any new challenge as a new homeowner.

Wet-Dry Vacuum

You’re gonna be spilling stuff. Look for a wet-dry vacuum that can handle everything from paint to nails and small stones.

(The Right) Fire Extinguisher

Most people don't realize there are more than one type if fire extinguisher. In fact, there are five different types of fire extinguishers with different uses, from extinguishing cooking oils to wood and paper. Check the U.S. Fire Administration’s guide to make sure you get the right one for your home.

Extension Cord Organizer

No one likes to deal with tangled cords, especially extension cords. You can save yourself time and hassle with cord management devices. You can also make your own with a pegboard, hooks, and velcro straps to keep each cord loop secure.

Either way, your cords will be knot-free and easy to find. And be sure to include a heavy-duty extension cord in your organizer that’s outdoor-worthy. You don’t want to really have to use that fire extinguisher.

Big-Kid Tools

Odds are you already own a bunch of the basics: drill, screwdriver, hammer, level, tape measure, wrench, pliers, staple gun, utility knife, etc. But home ownership may require a few new ones you might not have needed before, including a:

  • Stud finder. You can make as many holes in the walls as you want now. Use the stud finder to figure out where to hang those heavy shelves so they’re safely anchored.
  • Hand saw. Much easier (and cheaper!) than a power saw, you can get a good cross-cut saw for smooth edges on small DIY projects.
  • Ratchet set. Every bolt in your new house belongs to you, so you’d better be able to loosen and tighten them when needed. Crank that ratchet to get to spots where you can’t turn a wrench all the way around. Great for when you’re stuck in a corner.
  • Pry bar. Get one with a clawed end to pull nails and a flat end to separate drywall, remove trim or molding, and separate tile.

Tool Kit

You’ll need something to carry all those tools around from project to project. Create a tool carrier using a tool bucket liner and an old 5-gallon bucket. Or invest in a handyman belt filled with the basics to keep on hand in the kitchen.

Confidence

With a little self-confidence — and some YouTube tutorials — there’s (almost) no DIY project you can’t master.

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 1-8 of 8

Syndication

Categories

Archives