A Strong 2015 Housing Market

Hello Everyone,

Another year of strong economic growth, improved employment and pent-up housing demand bodes well for most sellers in 2015, particularly in the Farm Belt and in energy-producing states such as Texas, North Dakota, Louisiana, Montana and Wyoming, and urban areas like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and Boston.

In fact, the National Association of Home Builders, or NAHB, predicts that the 2015 single-family home sector will outperform a strong 2014. There are cautions: Moody’s predicts mortgage rates will rise from about 4 percent now to 6 percent by 2017.

The recovery has yet to arrive in many states, reinforcing the notion that real estate growth is regional. No one can accurately predict when this real estate uptick will end or how hard, or soft, a landing it will make. In the meantime, let proven fundamentals, applied with a few modern wrinkles, rule the day. Here are 10 tips for 2015 to help the real estate process.

1. Do sweat the small (cheap) stuff, sellers

Little touches go a long way in the buyer’s eye, starting logically with the entry. Trim bushes, wash walkways and change out trampled welcome mats. Inside, de-stink with candles and counter sprays, de-jam closets and de-clutter rooms, focusing keenly on kitchen counters. Hide scrub brushes and other fantasy-killing labor tools. Dust, wax, scrub toilets, wash windows, test and clean lights, put out fresh towels, winnow family mementos, harness or hide that avalanche of toys, remove prescription drugs from medicine cabinets and police the yard for “pet bombs.” It’s time well-spent.

2. Take note(s), buyers

In a whirlwind house-hunting tour of several properties, buyers benefit by keeping a pro-and-con checklist of each home they visit. Otherwise, the features of several homes tend to blend together in a tired brain by day’s end. Creating a rating scale of 1 to 10 also helps, as does carrying a checklist of specific features that you seek in an ideal home.

3. Sell by season

Though spring is optimal, home selling is a year-round sport. Use seasonal accents to make buyers linger longer.

Winter: Unfurl throw rugs and spotlight functional fireplaces. Near holidays, add touches like wreaths and pine-cone centerpieces. Display photos of your home a season ahead, particularly in winter, so buyers can see the house ensconced by greenery.

Spring: Fresh-cut flowers and candles bring spring scents indoors. For that new-start look, do extra spring cleaning and use brightly colored linens, spreads and pillows. Add little pops of color to the entry and landscape.

Summer: Highlight patios and other outdoor areas. Swap out dark towels and curtains for light colors. Put out a seasonal fruit basket or add hanging flowers. Keep the house cool but not cold.

Fall: Display pumpkins by the door and vases of fall foliage or tricolored corn inside. Use seasonal scents such as baked apple. Keep those leaves at bay.

4. Drill deeply

Buyers are regularly advised to scope out the block at varying hours, but why not drill down further to see if your potential new neighborhood is fading or flourishing?

  • Bad signs: A major local employer is struggling or moving away; adjacent neighborhoods are progressively turning into rentals; and a few too many for-sale homes are lingering on the market. Nearby commercial spaces remain persistently vacant.
  • Good signs: Schools are in high demand and well-rated. Young families and artsy types are moving in. Older couples are “aging in place” and nearby commercial properties are getting redeveloped and quickly leased. For-sale homes are generating multiple offers.

5. ‘Big data’ is everywhere, so tap in

While local knowledge and old-school networking will always be valuable, the latest technology lets agents offer much more. Some agencies offer “livability” ratings by ranking and contrasting neighborhoods by air quality, traffic choke points and specific data on a home’s energy efficiency. In 2013, the National Association of Realtors introduced its Predictive Analytics group. Banks already use “big data” to gauge the worth of foreclosures and short sales, and mobile apps now offer it for consumer and agent use. Ask agents if they offer this and other edgy technology such as high-definition aerial footage shot by drones. Should your grandiose home merit that, go big!

6. Transparency equals trust

Buyers will certainly enlist inspectors to twice-over your home, Mr. Seller. So instead of inviting disappointment, delay and distrust, go transparent with your own presale inspection. It’s far better to know now about issues with the plumbing, HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning), foundation, electrical systems and roof. Provide the buyer a copy of the inspection along with repair receipts, and explain if or how you’ve adjusted your price accordingly. Buyers appreciate candor.

7. Math versus ego

Too often, buyers get caught up in win-at-all-costs negotiation. They’ll stubbornly let as little as a few grand lock them out of the right house. At an interest rate of 4.5 percent, the difference between paying $200,000 and $195,000 — assuming 1.25 percent property tax and 15 percent down — is only about $25 per month on a 30-year mortgage, or about the cost of lunch for two at a fast-casual eatery, before the tip. Don’t let that ruin your chances at your dream home.

8. Retain mineral rights

With so many giant natural-gas fields (shales) in play across the U.S. and new ones pending, homeowners should exercise “seller’s market” clout to retain mineral rights. While that intent needn’t even be mentioned in the sales contract in some states, it’s always safest to note it, provided the buyer doesn’t protest. Avoid that scenario by conveying those rights to a trustworthy relative or to an energy company buying them before putting the house on the block. “Mineral rights? Oh, so sorry, I no longer own them.”

9. Buying? Then cool it for a while

Refrain from making big capital purchases like a new car, opening new credit cards or amassing big chunks of other new debt before buying a home. These raise your debt-to-income ratio, which lenders examine to determine the mortgage amount you can afford. Also avoid moving large sums of money around, changing banks, changing jobs and becoming self-employed before buying a home.

10. The price is right

Trite, you say? Perhaps. But accurate home pricing from the outset never goes out of style because it sells homes. Some agents advise sellers to overprice because inventory is low. Others say go below market to spur a bidding war. Don’t get caught up in pricing games.

Activity in the first month of a listing is always the best, so don’t risk wasting it. Price too high, and scare off many buyers and agents. Price too low, and risk leaving dollars on the table. Hiring the right agent based on recommendations, response time, in-person interviews, track record and data support will yield that pricing expert you need.

Cordially,

Scott Myers, GRI
Broker-Owner
Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors
11830 Wurzbach Rd. (The Elms)
San Antonio, Tx. 78230
Phone # 210-479-1222
Fax # 210-479-1981
Toll free Phone # 1-888-868-1222
Scott.Myers@Century21.com

Find us: Web Site | Facebook | Twitter | ReachFactor
Check out our Blog: Living in San Antonio

Advertisements

Important to keep Your Home Safe While on Vacation

Hello Everyone,

c213

If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong while you’re on vacation — which is arguably the worst time a household calamity can strike. Coming home from your honeymoon, African safari or Mediterranean cruise can be gloomy. But returning from a memorable journey and learning something has gone seriously wrong at home can be downright devastating.

To make matters worse, a house or apartment left empty while its owners are traveling is a tempting target for criminals. We don’t want to scare you — or leave you fearing for your treasured belongings while basking on a Caribbean beach. But it’s imperative that every traveler take certain key steps to keep his or her home safe and sound while seeing the world. Basic preventative measures (which take only minutes to complete) can work wonders to help you avoid power surges, broken pipes, home invasions and more.

1. Ask a Friend to Help

A simple, albeit crucial, way to gain peace of mind while traveling is to ask a friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your house while you’re away. First, bribe your friend with some freshly baked cookies or cupcakes. Next, ask him or her to drive by your home once every day or so and check on the place. Give this person a key so that he or she can bring your mail in, feed your cat, water your plants, rake your leaves, etc. If you don’t use a garage, you may also want to give this person a key to your car — you never know when your vehicle may need to be moved. He or she should also have your contact information and a copy of your itinerary in case of emergencies.

Do you have more than one person visiting your house while you’re away? If so, tell them about each other! If the watchful neighbor you asked to keep an eye on your abode calls the police on your elderly cat sitter, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

2. Don’t Tip Off Criminals on the Web

In a world where it seems everyone is blabbing about their business on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, it’s important to stop and think: Who exactly is reading this stuff? The anonymity of the Internet can encourage us to share personal information without fully realizing that there may be hundreds of complete strangers receiving our daily musings. Would you announce to a crowd that you will be leaving your house unattended for two weeks this December? If not, then you should think twice about posting your detailed vacation plans on Twitter or Facebook — especially if that information is visible to Internet users other than your friends and family (and it probably is).

Be careful what you say on your answering machine or voice mail too. Callers don’t need to know that you’re not home — they just need to know that you can’t come to the phone right now.

3. Do Tip Off the Police

tulips flowers curtains window homeConsider notifying the police if you’re going on vacation. No need to let the cops know about a weekend getaway, but do call them if you’re leaving town for longer than a week. It’s possible the police may go out of their way to drive by your house while on patrol, especially if you live in a small town. If you have a security alarm, leave a house key and the code with someone you trust, and provide the police and alarm company with their name and phone number. You may also want to contact your local neighborhood watch program if there’s one in your area.

4. Curtains Closed — or Open?

Before you leave for vacation, you may decide to close your curtains to prevent people from peering inside your home to see whether you’re there. However, closed curtains also stop those who aim to help — the police, your neighbors or friends — from seeing inside your house. So what’s your best bet? Leave your curtains exactly as you usually keep them when you’re home, since noticeable changes could hint that you’re not around anymore — especially if your curtains are uncharacteristically left closed for two weeks. Move expensive items, like jewelry or computers, out of plain sight if they’re visible from the window.

5. The Lights Are on But No One’s Home

Don’t leave your lights on at home throughout your entire vacation in an effort to make it look like someone is in the house. Your electric bill will end up more costly than your mortgage, and, of course, leaving the lights on is not exactly “green” behavior. Plus, house lights blazing throughout the night might look a bit odd.

Instead, purchase a light switch timer that can turn your lights on and off automatically according to a programmed schedule. Criminals keeping an eye on your house will notice lights flipping on and off, and will probably assume someone is doing the flipping. Nextag.com offers a comprehensive list of light switch timers available online at a variety of price points.

6. Stop Your Mail

Either place a “stop” order on mail and newspapers or arrange to have a friend or neighbor pick up your mail while you’re away. Otherwise, a week’s worth of papers piled on your front step could signal to criminals that this particular homeowner is out of town. It’s easy to put your mail on hold at USPS.com.

7. Put That in Your Pipe

If you live in a cold region of the world and your pipes are in danger of freezing during winter, you have another compelling reason to leave a house key with a friend while you’re traveling. Ask your friend to stop by and check your faucets. If he or she turns on a faucet and only a few drops of water come out, your pipes may be frozen.

Take other precautions like making sure your pipes are properly insulated or keeping your heat on while you’re away. Show your key-bearing companion the location of the water main shut-off in case a pipe breaks.

8. Pull the Plug

plug socketUnplug your television, computer, toaster oven and other appliances to protect them from power surges. Do this to save power as well. According to the Consumer Energy Center, many appliances use power even when they’re turned off.

9. Remove Your Spare Key

That plastic rock isn’t fooling anyone. If a criminal figures out you’re away on vacation, it’s likely that he or she will check your porch for a spare key. So reach under the mat, into the mailbox, above the door frame or into the flower pot and remove your spare key before you leave on your vacation.

Thanks for Looking!

 Cordially,

Scott Myers, GRI
Broker-Owner
Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors
11830 Wurzbach Rd. (The Elms)
San Antonio, Tx. 78230
Phone # 210-479-1222
Fax # 210-479-1981
Toll free Phone # 1-888-868-1222
Scott.Myers@Century21.com
Find us: Web Site | Facebook | Twitter | ReachFactor | Google +
Check out our Blog: Living in San Antonio

The Home Appraisal

Hello Everyone,

Appraisal Steps: Determining Market Value of Property

How Do You Determine the Market Value of Property?

The appraisal steps taken to determine the Fair Market Value of property are well-defined. These steps are part standard process, part research and part art, and the quality of each is demonstrably dependent on the experience and judgment of the real estate appraiser.

In addition to listing these steps with a brief introduction on this page, we’re documenting them in a series of posts (as an Appraisal Process Tutorial) over the next few weeks and months. Our website software should interlink the posts together, to make finding them and reading them in order (or out of order, if you wish) easy.

Steps of a Real Estate Appraisal

Prior to Visiting the Property:

    1. Pull subject data detail. The subject in this case is the property to be appraised.
    2. Research active, pending, and closed sales for the neighborhood (defined market area) for the last six months.
    3. Select comparable active, pending, and closed sales for the last six months. Comparable sales are properties that have characteristics that are similar to the subject property.

At the Property:

    1. Take exterior photos of subject, including a street scene that shows the general character and condition of the neighborhood.
    2. Measure exterior of home.
    3. Take interior photos of subject, including photos of the kitchen, bathrooms and the fireplace.
    4. Drive neighborhood (market area) and take exterior photos of comparable sales.

After Visiting the Property:

  1. Research general data for neighborhood.
  2. Pull specific market data for comparable sales.
  3. Begin reporting process.
  4. Upload photos.
  5. Pull and upload plat map. The plat map shows the boundaries of each property and how they are oriented relative to each other.
  6. Pull and upload survey map (when available).
  7. Pull and upload location map.
  8. Pull and upload Flood map.
  9. Enter sketch (the diagram of the house) into sketching software to calculate square footage.
  10. Confirm the Legal description of the property – usually (in Texas) defined as Lot X, Block Y in Section Z of Subdivision G, where X, Y, Z and G are the specific detaisl for the subject property. This information and the plat map make certain the subject property is the one being appraised.
  11. Read the sales contract information if the appraisal is for a purchase transaction.
  12. Write neighborhood description.
  13. Write market description
  14. Write the site description
  15. Write a description of Improvements
  16. Use the Sales Comparison Approach.
  17. Make adjustments to the comparable properties to account for extra bathrooms, additional (or less) square footage, etc.
  18. Analyze previous sales/transfers of the subject property.
  19. Apply the Cost Approach to arrive at an additional determination of value.
  20. Apply the Income Approach if this is an investment property.
  21. Record a thorough explanation of adjustments in the report.
  22. Perform the process of Reconciliation which means the appraiser weighs the results of the three different approaches to value and arrive at an opinion of value. Please note that this is not simply an average of the three values.


These steps may take half a day for an experienced appraiser appraising a property in an area where the homes are very similar and sell frequently.

It could take a day or more for a custom or unusual home in with acreage in an area where data to support an opinion of market value is far more difficult to obtain and to analyze within the constraints of the current market in the area. Ultimately, the time necessary to perform an appraisal is heavily dependent on the expertise of the appraiser. Organized, efficient and methodical approaches to appraising property will lead to more reliable and defensible opinions of Fair Market Value.

Select Your Appraiser Carefully

When you choose Appraisal IQ for your real estate appraisal services, you’ve made an Intelligent Choice and you can be confident that your property is in good hands.

Cordially,

Scott Myers, GRI
Broker-Owner
Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors
11830 Wurzbach Rd. (The Elms)
San Antonio, Tx. 78230
Phone # 210-479-1222
Fax # 210-479-1981
Toll free Phone # 1-888-868-1222
Scott.Myers@Century21.com
Find us: Web Site | Facebook | Twitter | ReachFactor | Google +
Check out our Blog: Living in San Antonio

Clean Your Air Conditioning Unit

Hello Everyone,

Making sure your Home Ac Air Conditioning system is very important right now in this brutal summer we are having. Here are a few things you can do to make sure your sytem is working properly.

Overview: What you can do and when to hire a pro

Chances are that if you’ve neglected a spring checkup, your air conditioner isn’t cooling nearly as well as it could. A year’s worth of dirt and debris clogging the cooling fins, a low coolant level, a dirty blower fan filter and a number of other simple problems can significantly reduce the efficiency of your air conditioner and wear it out faster.

You can’t do everything; only a pro can check the coolant level. But you can easily handle most of the routine cleaning chores and save the extra $120 that it would cost to have a pro do them.

In this article, we’ll show you how to clean the outdoor unit (called the condenser) and the accessible parts of the indoor unit (called the evaporator). All the steps are simple and straightforward and will take you only a few hours total. You don’t need any special skills, tools or experience. If you aren’t familiar with air conditioners and furnaces/blowers, don’t worry. We’ll walk you through the basics. See “Parts of a CentralAir Conditioner,” below, to become familiar with how an air conditioner works and the parts of the system.

You may have a different type of central air conditioner than we show here—a heat pump system, for example, or a unit mounted horizontally in the attic. However, you can still carry out most maintenance procedures we show here, because each system will have a condenser outside and an evaporator inside. Use the owner’s manual for your particular model to help navigate around any differences from the one we show in our photos. And call in a pro every two or three years to check electrical parts and the coolant level.

Tip: Call for service before the first heat wave, when the pros become swamped with repair calls!

Figure A: Parts of a central air conditioner

The outside unit, called the condenser, contains a compressor, cooling fins and tubes and a fan. The fan sucks air through the fins and cools a special coolant, which the compressor then pumps into the house to the evaporator through a copper tube. The coolant chills the fins and tubes of the evaporator. Warm air drawn from the house by the blower passes through the evaporator and is cooled and blown through ducts to the rooms in the house. The evaporator dehumidifies the air as it cools it, and the resulting condensation drains off to a floor drain through a tube. The blower unit and ducting system vary considerably depending on whether you have a furnace (shown), a heat pump or some other arrangement. It may be located in the basement, garage, furnace room or attic.

Figure A air conditioner parts

Typical central air conditioner system

Step 1: Clean the condenser

Clean your outdoor unit on a day that’s at least 60 degrees F. That’s about the minimum temperature at which you can test your air conditioner to make sure it’s working. The condenser usually sits in an inconspicuous spot next to your house. You’ll see two copper tubes running to it, one bare and the other encased in a foam sleeve. If you have a heat pump, both tubes will be covered by foam sleeves.

Your primary job here is to clean the condenser fins, which are fine metallic blades that surround the unit. They get dirty because a central fan sucks air through them, pulling in dust, dead leaves, dead grass and the worst culprit— floating “cotton” from cottonwood trees and dandelions. The debris blocks the airflow and reduces the unit’s cooling ability.

Always begin by shutting off the electrical power to the unit. Normally you’ll find a shutoff nearby. It may be a switch in a box, a pull lever or a fuse block that you pull out (Photo 1). Look for the “on-off” markings.

Vacuum the fins clean with a soft brush (Photo 2); they’re fragile and easily bent or crushed. On many units you’ll have to unscrew and lift off a metal box to get at them. Check your owner’s manual for directions and lift off the box carefully to avoid bumping the fins. Occasionally you’ll find fins that have been bent. You can buy a special set of fin combs (from an appliance parts store) to straighten them. Minor straightening can be done with a blunt dinner knife (Photo 3). If large areas of fins are crushed, have a pro straighten them during a routine service call.

Then unscrew the fan to gain access to the interior of the condenser. You can’t completely remove it because its wiring is connected to the unit. Depending on how much play the wires give you, you might need a helper to hold it while you vacuum debris from the inside. (Sometimes mice like to over-winter there!)

After you hose off the fins (Photo 5), check the fan motor for lubrication ports. Most newer motors have sealed bearings (ours did) and can’t be lubricated. Check your owner’s manual to be sure. If you find ports, add five drops of electric motor oil (from hardware stores or appliance parts stores). Don’t use penetrating oil or all-purpose oil. They’re not designed for long-term lubrication and can actually harm the bearings.

If you have an old air conditioner, you might have a belt-driven compressor in the bottom of the unit. Look for lubrication ports on this as well. The compressors on newer air conditioners are completely enclosed and won’t need lubrication.

Step 2: Restart the condenser (outside unit)

In most cases, you can simply restore power to the outside unit and move inside to finish the maintenance. However, the compressors are surprisingly fragile and some require special start-up procedures under two conditions. (Others have built-in electronic controls that handle the start-up, but unless you know that yours has these controls, follow these procedures.)

1. If the power to your unit has been off for more than four hours:

  • Move the switch from “cool” to “off” at your inside thermostat.
  • Turn the power back on and let the unit sit for 24 hours. (The compressor has a heating element that warms the internal lubricant.)
  • Switch the thermostat back to “cool.”

2. If you switched the unit off while the compressor was running:

  • Wait at least five minutes before switching it back on. (The compressor needs to decompress before restarting.) With the air conditioner running, make sure it’s actually working by touching the coolant tubes (Photo 6). This is a crude test. Only a pro with proper instruments can tell if the coolant is at the level for peak efficiency. But keep a sharp eye out for dark drip marks on the bottom of the case and beneath the tube joints. This indicates an oil leak and a potential coolant leak as well. Call in a pro if you spot this problem. Don’t tighten a joint to try to stop a leak yourself. Overtightening can make the problem worse.

Step 3: Clean the indoor unit

The evaporator usually sits in an inaccessible spot inside a metal duct downstream from the blower (Figure A). If you can get to it, gently vacuum its fins (from the blower side) with a soft brush as you did with the condenser. However, the best way to keep it clean is to keep the airstream from the blower clean. This means annually vacuuming out the blower compartment and changing the filter whenever it’s dirty (Photos 7 and 8).

Begin by turning off the power to the furnace or blower. Usually you’ll find a simple toggle switch nearby in a metal box (Photo 7); otherwise turn the power off at the main panel. If you have trouble opening the blower unit or finding the filter, check your owner’s manual for help. The manual will also list the filter type, but if it’s your first time, take the old one with you when buying a new one to make sure you get the right size. Be sure to keep the power to the blower off whenever you remove the filter. Otherwise you’ll blow dust into the evaporator fins.

The manual will also tell you where to find the oil ports on the blower, if it has any. The blower compartments on newer furnaces and heat pumps are so tight that you often can’t lubricate the blower without removing it. If that’s the case, have a pro do it during a routine maintenance checkup.

The evaporator fins dehumidify the air as they cool it, so you’ll find a tube to drain the condensation. The water collects in a pan and drains out the side (Figure A). Most tubes are flexible plastic and are easy to pull off and clean (Photos 9 and 10). But if they’re rigid plastic, you’ll probably have to unscrew or cut off with a saw to check. Reglue rigid tubes using a coupling, or replace them with flexible plastic tubes.

Thank  you for taking time to read some important and great knowledge and information.

Cordially,

Scott Myers, GRI
Broker-Owner
Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors
11830 Wurzbach Rd. (The Elms)
San Antonio, Tx. 78230
Phone # 210-479-1222
Fax # 210-479-1981
Toll free Phone # 1-888-868-1222
Scott.Myers@Century21.com
Find us: Web Site | Facebook | Twitter | ReachFactor | Google +
Check out our Blog: Living in San Antonio

Home Improvement Tips

Hello Everyone, 

Making home improvements not only creates beautiful upgrades to your home but can also increase its overall value. Using a U.S. Bank Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or Loancan be the smartest way to manage the expense associated with making home improvements. The following tips from industry experts offer some of the most cost-effective and valuable enhancements you can make to your home.

Tip #1
Updated homes frequently sell faster. The renovation of dark or dated kitchens is one of the most profitable home improvements you can make.

Tip #2
Time to refinance your mortgage? If interest rates are lower now than when you closed on your current mortgage, you may be able to save money by refinancing.

Tip #3
Updating an old bathroom is one of the most profitable home improvements you can make.

Tip #4
Adding casual living areas like a den or family room is a smart home improvement.

Tip #5
Thinking of updating your home with one of these home improvements and wondering how long they generally last?

  • new chimney: 100 years or more
  • asphalt shingles: 15 to 30 years
  • a wooden deck: 15 years
  • ceramic tile or terrazzo: 100 years or more
  • vinyl flooring: 20 to 30 years
  • oak or pine floors: 100 years

Tip #6
Planning to buy new appliances? Here’s how long they generally last.

  • refrigerators: up to 20 years
  • microwave: 10 years or more
  • stove: 15 years or more
  • washer and dryer: about 13 years

Tip #7
Adding a second bath to a house can be a significantly profitable home improvement.

Tip #8
It’s true: sometimes you have to spend money to save money. Buying a new refrigerator can save you money on electricity. Insulating an attic can save on heating and air-conditioning bills. The improvements you make not only save you money now but may also increase the value of your home.

 Cordially,

Scott Myers, GRI
Broker-Owner
Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors
11830 Wurzbach Rd. (The Elms)
San Antonio, Tx. 78230
Phone # 210-479-1222
Fax # 210-479-1981
Toll free Phone # 1-888-868-1222
Scott.Myers@Century21.com
Find us: Web Site | Facebook | Twitter | ReachFactor | Google +
Check out our Blog: Living in San Antonio