Let’s Take it Outside: Landscaping Differences in Existing and New Homes

Let’s start with existing homes. First, the pros. Places that were built many years ago have seen many growing seasons come and go. So the bushes are bigger, the lawns are more established and the trees are often taller and fuller. It’s just not your house, the whole neighborhood could have a lush full look from big mature Azaleas to the canopy of green leaves over head. There’s only one way to get that look and feel and that is the passage of time. It can be breathtakingly beautiful and it can make a neighborhood absolutely shine.

Now when you buy a house in that kind of neighborhood your landscaping will be pretty much all set. It’s great for people who want a turn key house because all the landscaping is already done.  It’s already paid for too. All you have to do is move in, maintain it and enjoy it. Unless you don’t like it.  Then you have to make some changes, and that’s a lot of work. That’s the downside with landscaping at an existing home. You just have fewer choices when you buy the place. The good news is that’s really the only downside.

Now let’s compare that to a new home. The upside here is you have many more choices.  You can bring in a landscape designer to help plan the look and the feel. A play area, a raised garden, a rambling rose bush along the white picket fence. You name it, you got it. Of course you’ll have to invest in all that.  The designer, the plants, the installation.  It can be expensive. So if you want to create your own landscape from scratch you better sock away a few thousand beyond the price of the house.

Of course most new homes have at least something in the yard. The bushes are often young and little.  The lawn is often brand new turf.  The trees, some developers just clear the whole lot.  That makes the building process go a lot faster. So the trees they end up planting later are young saplings. Now some developers try to save trees as they build. So you could have some mature trees on the lot. But if it’s a development, chances are the developer will have taken down lots of trees. So your house and the entire neighborhood will have that brand new look with a big view of the sky since the trees will not develop that lush, green canopy for many years to come.

Overall, you’ll have far more choices when landscaping a brand new home. Just like the textures, colors, and fixtures inside, every choice will be yours and that’s nice. As for me, I’ve done both. I’ve bought older homes with huge bushes and hundred-year-old trees and flower gardens dating back many decades. I’ve also bought brand new places where the entire yard was red clay with a few trees that were lucky enough to be spared. For me, I thoroughly enjoyed both, old and new. Because whether I was tilling that vintage flower garden or watching that brand new lawn pop up through that red clay, I was working on my own house.

So what about you? What’s sounds best, restoring a vintage garden or creating your own masterpiece from scratch? That’s the best thing about owning your own home. It’s your choice. Whether you’re working on an older yard or a brand new one, you’re working the very land that you own. It’s yours, and what can be better than that.

Your Smart Home

Do you really need your home to be a smart home or is your home just fine the way it is. Let’s take a look at that and look at some smart home devices and whether you really need them.

Let’s start at your front door. Chances are right now you have a regular deadbolt. And I would guess its works just fine. Get your key, unlock it and go right inside. And I bet your doorbell works fine too.  Someone pushes it, you hear the chime and you go to the front door to see who is there.

Let’s move inside now. If you want to turn the AC down or the heat up, the thermostat on your wall probably does the job just fine. You just walk up to it and spin that dial and your system does exactly what you tell it to. How about over in the room where you watch TV, you just pick up the remote and turn it on.  If you listen to the sound there through speakers throughout the room, you might turn on that system too. It’s all pretty easy.

Now when you’re at work or on vacation most of the time, you just leave your house, lock it up and everything is fine when you get back home.  So I think it’s reasonable to say that if your home is not a smart home it’s still just fine. But hey, why stop there? While we’re at it, why not use that old rotary telephone. You might have one in storage, and they still work, right?  Come to think of it, lots of really old things in every house still work fine.  That 30 year old counter top microwave works great.  The really old timer that you plug your lights into when you go on vacation works great. The old transistor radio your parents gave you when you where a kid, it just works great. Oh, and one more thing. Remember those old light bulbs, the types you can’t buy in stores anymore?  They work great too.

All of that old technology has been around for generations. If everything is working great, why change it?  Because as we all know just because if something works it doesn’t mean you have to use it forever. Things get better, and when they do, they can make your life better too. That’s the whole idea behind smart home technology – making your life better.

Sometimes that means just being able to lock or unlock your front door with your smart phone.  So that if you drive away and suddenly wonder did you remember to lock the door? You can do it with a tap on your screen instead of going all the way back home.  Sometimes making life better is being able to raise and lower the temperature inside of  your house without being there.  Again, your old thermostat works fine, if you’re home.  But a smart thermostat will do the job wherever you are.  That can save you money by lowering your utility bills.

Speaking of saving money. Those old light bulbs, they use a lot more electricity than the new CFL bulbs.  One home owner I know that the month after he swapped out every old light bulb in his house and put in the new CFL bulbs, his electric bill went down $50.

Sometimes making life better means making your home safer.  So sure, you’re old door bell works fine.  Some people like the idea of being able to see who is at the door before they open it.  Even if they’re not home. That can be some great piece of mind.

And sometimes making life better means having a little fun.  For many people that means walking into the TV room and saying “Alexa, turn on the evening news”.  And yes, you may not need a voice activated entertainment system, but it sure is fun.

Finally, think of the one thing that controls those devices – your smart phone.  Like I said, your old rotary telephone works just fine but your new smart phone just doesn’t sit at home.  It goes with you and it brings with it the power of the internet.  It connects you to your family, to your friends, and now to your home.

So while all the old stuff still works fine.  It probably won’t save you any money.  It probably won’t keep your house safer or more secure.  And it probably won’t make your life more fun.  That’s what the new home tech is all about, safety, security, saving money, and having some fun.  And that’s pretty smart.

The Year Ahead. What 2017 might mean to you, your home and your other real estate investments.

What are the experts saying about the new year and what you can take away from it.

First of all, let’s take a look at the value of your home. Now there, I have some good news for you. Prices in most parts of Texas and America are expected to keep rising in 2017. The reason is that there aren’t enough homes for sale. But there are still plenty of buyers out there. So the laws of supply and demand are in your favor if you own a home or plan on selling one. Now, it won’t be a huge increase. The National Association of REALTORS believes that by this time next year the median price of a home in the United States will go from its current point of $232,200 to $241,250. That’s an increase of 3.9%. Now it’s not a spike, but after all, up is up. That’s good news for owners who have even greater equity in their homes and investments. Also for sellers, who will see those profits at the closing table.

Now, that low inventory and rising prices are expected to create challenges for home buyers. Especially first time buyers. But, those buyers do have factors in their favor. For one thing, most mortgage lenders are allowing lower credit scores and lower down payments. Up to now, home buyers have enjoyed record low interest rates. Well that’s about to change. Interest rates have started to rise. Not by that much, but they are on the way up. They’ve gone up about half a point since the summer. By the end of 2017 they’re expected to be a half point higher than that. The days of record lows may be behind us, but even so, the rates will continue to be incredibly low and not a barrier to home ownership.

Experts believe there could be some really good news for buyers coming down the line in 2017. And that is more homes are expected to come on the market. That means more choices, less competition, and all that added inventory should help curb those rising prices. You see, the nations home builders are predicting that in 2017 they’ll finally be on tract to build more than a million new homes. That’s up there from after the slump they had after the downturn. Not up there all the way since the home builders ordinary would put up a million and a half homes. But again, up is up and new home construction is headed in the right direction.

So buyers who hang in there might do okay. Especially if they end up getting a home of their own. That would make 2017 a great year. And even better if they are moving from renting to buying because rents are expected to continue to rise throughout 2017.

So, what’s the bottom line? Well in prices, interest rates, mortgage rates, mortgage availability, and inventory we’re seeing positive changes on the horizon. Not massive, epic changes, but slow, steady movement back to be what could be considered a normal market. A balanced market in which buyers and sellers are on more equal footing without either being at a big disadvantage. You could call that a healthy real estate market. And that’s a pretty great outlook as we approach 2017, the year ahead.

Tips to stay cool without touching the Air Conditioner

Hello Everyone,

We are now in the dog days of summer and staying cool can sometimes be tough without a huge electric bill. I came across a few tips that might help stay cool with this summer heat that is not expected to let up any time soon.

1. Keep your blinds closed. As simple as it may seem, the Family Handyman notes that up to 30 percent of unwanted heat comes from your windows, and utilizing shades, curtains and the like can save you up to 7 percent on your bills and lower indoor temperatures by up to 20 degrees. In other words, it essentially prevents your home from becoming a miniature greenhouse, which is especially the case for south- and west-facing windows

2. And be smart about your doors. Closing off unused rooms will prevent the cool air from permeating these areas during the hottest part of the day. You’ll want to capitalize on the cooler night hours, however (see tip #7), and let air flow naturally through your home.

3. Swap your sheets. Not only does switching up your bedding seasonally freshen up a room, it’s a great way to keep your bedroom cool. While textiles like flannel sheets and fleece blankets are fantastic for insulation, cotton is a smarter move this time of year as it breathes easier and stays cooler. And as an added bonus, buy yourself a buckwheat pillow or two. Because buckwheat hulls have a naturally occurring air space between them, they won’t hold on to your body heat like conventional pillows, even when packed together inside a pillow case.

4. Set your ceiling fans to rotate counter-clockwise. Whether you know it or not, your ceiling fan needs to be adjusted seasonally. By setting them counter-clockwise in the summer at a higher speed, the airflow produced will create a wind-chill breeze effect that will make you and your guests “feel” cooler.

5. Worry about the person, not the house. If your ancestors survived without air conditioning, so can you. From sipping tasty iced drinks to applying a cold cloth to strong-pulsed areas like your neck and wrists, doing the cooling from the inside out is not a bad idea. Other tricks include being smart about your clothing choices and telling your partner you won’t be cuddling until the leaves start changing color.

6. Turn on your bathroom fans, or your exhaust fan in the kitchen for that matter. Both of these pull the hot air that rises after you cook or take a steamy shower out of your apartment. That being said, you don’t want to let the cooler air escape, so be sure windows, doors and cracks are caulked before things start really heating up.

7. Let the night air in. During the summer months, temperatures tend to drop during the night. If this is the case where you live, make the most of these refreshing hours by cracking the windows before you go to bed. You can even create a wind tunnel by strategically setting up your fans to force the perfect cross breeze. Just be sure to close the windows (and the blinds) before things get too hot in the morning.

8. Ditch the incandescent lights. If you ever needed motivation to make the switch to CFLs, this is it. Incandescent bulbs waste about 90 percent of their energy in the heat they emit, so throwing them to the curb will make a small difference in cooling your home while lowering your electric bill.

9. Start grilling. It’s obvious, but we’re going to say it anyway: Using your oven or stove in the summer will make your house hotter. If it already feels like 100+ degrees in your home, the last thing you want to do is turn on a 400 degree oven. Besides, who doesn’t want to get more mileage out of their outdoor furniture and seasonal accessories?

10. Make a few long-term improvements. If you’re really, really committed to the whole no-AC thing, you can make a couple changes to your home that will keep it cooler for seasons to come. Insulated window films, for example, are a smart purchase as they work similarly to blinds. And additions like awnings and planted trees or vines on or in front of light-facing windows will shield your home from the sun’s rays, reduce the amount of heat your home absorbs and make your investment nothing but worthwhile.

Please stay safe this summer and remember to stay Hydrated!

Happy house hunting & Please call one of our agents today to get your buying process started!

Sincerely,

Scott Myers, Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors  (210) 479-1222

(210) 479-1222c21

HOW TO SPOT A GOOD BUY

Hello Everyone,

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, particularly when it comes to buying a home. Features that attract one home-buyer may repel another.
However, the one feature of interest to every home-buyer is price. Getting the most home for your money is paramount. The real problem is figuring out whether that fixer-upper on one street is a better buy than the home in next-to-new condition two blocks away. That’s why knowing what to look for before you buy can save you time, energy and money down the line.
The first step is figuring out what kind of house you need. A good buy is only a good buy if it meets your current and future living requirements. Before shopping for a home, decide how much space you and your family require. How many bedrooms, bathrooms? Is a family room necessary? Do you need a layout that will accommodate a lot of entertaining? Do you prefer a spacious or compact work space in the kitchen? If you have small children, can the house easily be childproofed?
Evaluate the front and back yards. Is there enough space to accommodate your children? Do you want a park-like or garden setting? Do you enjoy yard work and gardening, or do you want a low-maintenance yard? Take into consideration the cost of extensive landscaping and upkeep.
Next, determine how much work is required to make the house you are considering livable. Make an honest assessment of your fix-it abilities. How much work are you willing to do or pay someone else to do? Do you have basic decorating, carpentry and plumbing skills? If you plan to learn as you go, make sure you have accurately determined what you are getting into. Ask an experienced friend, family member or your real estate agent for their opinion, and be sure to consider how much remodeling inconvenience the rest of the family can handle.
Unless you are ready and able to tackle a major remodel, look for a house or condominium that needs only cosmetic improvements. These include painting, wallpapering and replacing items like flooring, window treatments, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, light fixtures, cabinet and interior door hardware and appliances. Remember that even these simple changes can be costly if you have to make many of them.
Beware of improvements that seem easy enough at first glance buy may turn into major headaches and require a lot of money once you’ve moved in. Remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, changes to the floor plan, room additions and redesigned landscaping are examples of seemingly minor changes that can easily eat away the money you thought you saved by selecting a so-called “bargain priced” home. Of course, you may be perfectly willing to spend whatever money is needed to customize the house to match your tastes and needs.
Make sure major systems in the house are in good working condition. The furnace, air-conditioning and plumbing should be up to date, since repairs can be costly. Your agent can arrange to have a professional inspector determine whether the electrical wiring and any room additions are to code. Local utilities often offer free or low-cost inspections to tell you if the house is energy-efficient.
Look for a house with universally popular selling points. If you’re impressed, the next buyer down the line is bound to be, too. For example, a roomy, modern east-to-clean kitchen is the best selling point a home can have. A house with only one bathroom is less desirable than a house with two or more. Many buyers expect at least three bedrooms, with a master bedroom that offers a feeling of privacy. Lots of storage space and closets, especially walk-in closets, will be a real selling point. Family rooms or “great rooms” also are desirable. On closer examination, a house that looks like a bargain may lack some of these key features.
Don’t forget the old adage: location, location, location. Unless you’re looking for a fixer-upper, the house should be in a condition that is comparable to other homes in the neighborhood. Avoid buying the biggest or fanciest home on the block. Consider the amount of traffic or noise. Homes located in a quiet area away from a busy street will command a higher price. Make sure the schools in your district have a reputation for quality education and safety. Nearby supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants and theaters also will make a location more desirable.
Good community facilities also add appeal; pools, athletic fields, community centers, libraries and hospitals all add to a neighborhood’s value and desirability. Transportation needs also should be considered. Is local public transit available? How long are typical commutes to places of current and potential employment? Are there several alternate route? How close is a major airport? All of these can affect a home’s pricing.
Consider the cost of living in a home. It’s important to consider not only purchase price but the monthly cost of living in a home. Estimate your utility and maintenance costs. For example, will the house need to be painted on a regular basis and will you need to spend money maintaining a swimming pool? Ask your agent about the property tax rate and whether increases are anticipated. Will you have to pay special assessments for a homeowner’s association? Consider the point in the life cycle of major household systems, such as the furnace, air conditioning, roof and kitchen appliances.
You can find a bargain! Your first step should be to seek out a knowledgeable real estate agent with experience in the market areas where you wish to purchase a home. Your agent can help you locate those properties that truly are “bargains” and help find the home that most closely matches your desires and needs.

For all of your Realty questions or needs please contact us today!

Sincerely,

Scott Myers,
Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors
(210) 479-1222sa1

EASING YOUR WAY INTO HOMEOWNERSHIP: HOW YOUR REAL ESTATE AGENT CAN HELP YOU QUALIFY FOR A LOW DOWN PAYMENT MORTGAGE

Hello Everyone,

For many renters, the first step in buying a home is becoming educated about the process. If you’re like many people considering a home purchase, you’ve spent nights and weekends poring over your local real estate section. You’ve talked to friends and relatives about their experiences. Maybe you’ve even purchased a book or tow to help you become more familiar with real estate terminology and the various types of mortgages commonly used today.
Coming up with a down payment and finding a loan that meets your needs are the greatest hurdles faced by first-time homebuyers. So, you may even have leafed through stacks of brochures and flyers from lenders offering down payments that are far less than the 20 percent you’d always thought you’d need to save before you could buy. With so many excellent first-time buyer programs to choose from these days, you practically need to be an expert to sort through them all.
That’s why if you’re a first-time homebuyer seeking a low down payment loan, you’ll save time by selecting a professional real estate agent who is experienced in working with people just like you in the area where you plan to buy. An agent who frequently assists first-time buyers will know from experience which lenders in your area offer a low down payment program that will most closely match your needs.
A professional real estate agent can help you determine whether you are likely to qualify for these special programs, since participation in some may be limited to buyers under a certain income level or for the purchase of homes below a certain purchase price. Your agent also will be able to tell you whether there are other requirements you must fulfill in order to be considered. With some programs, for example, you must attend an educational seminar before you can be considered for one of these low down payment loans.
`It’s important that your agent become familiar with your current financial situation. Before you meet with your agent to discuss your financial situation and housing needs, you’ll want to collect some basic information to make the process easier. Be prepared to show recent paycheck stubs or pay vouchers to certify sources of income; a complete list of current credit card, auto and other consumer credit payments you make each month; and recent bank and savings statements. These documents will help you and your agent determine how much home you can afford. It’s also important that you disclose any prior credit problems or late payments. Your agent may be able to suggest ways to remedy any negative remarks on your credit report that could disqualify you from a low down payment loan program.
In addition, because most lenders w2ill require that you have several months of house payments in the bank as a reserve, your agent may be able to suggest ways you can increase your savings in the weeks and months leading up to your home purchase. Don’t forget that some programs allow you to apply a cash gift from a family member to cover the required down payment and losing costs.
Your agent also may know a motivated seller who would be happy to assist you in accomplishing your home purchase by caring a second mortgage. A second mortgage is helpful because it reduces the amount of the first mortgage you need to obtain. In some cases, a second monthly payment and generally is required to protect the lender when a down payment is less than the standard 20 percent of the loan amount. Even if your seller isn’t willing to take a second mortgage to complete the sale, he or she may be willing to pay your closing costs, which will reduce the amount of cash you need to have on hand up-front.
With interest rates edging up, innovative mortgage financing programs that require a low down payment are even more important than ever to first-time buyers. A professional real estate agent can help you sift through the countless programs that are available and help find the one that’s mortgage can eliminate the need for private mortgage insurance, which is added to your right for you. To locate a CENTIURY 21 agent near you, call 210-479-1222c21

Sincerely,

Scott Myers, Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors
(210) 479-1222

7 Ways to Improve your sell-ability

Hello again,

If you have a house on the market, or are considering selling yours, there are some ways to improve your chances. Here are seven tips that will make it easier to sell your house and make a smooth transition from one owner to the next.

1. Maintain neutrality
This policy has worked for Switzerland, and it can also work in real estate. Customizing your home is great if you plan to stay there, but extreme colors and themed rooms can scare off potential homebuyers. If you have customized every room with extremely bright or dark colored paint, wallpaper or wall fixtures, you may want to consider toning it down a bit. Using neutral colors on the walls can help prospective buyers create their own vision for the house, and will also leave them with less work to undo if they buy the house.

2. Less is more
Even though you have not moved out yet, removing some of your furniture can help the house move off the market. If you take pictures for your listing, having less furniture can help the home appear more spacious. When potential homebuyers arrive, having less furniture can also provide clear walkways.

3. That new house smell
Honestly, the new house smell isn’t always the most pleasant, but at least it is new. In preparing to show your home, you should avoid strong smells. To avoid odors, make sure to take out the trash and clean the refrigerator regularly. It’s also good to be mindful of what you cook in the days leading up to a showing; certain foods have strong scents. If you have pets, keep an eye on the litter box. Any smell that is too strong could send potential homebuyers running out the door.

4. Pay attention to the details
It’s not a good idea to make major renovations when you are ready to sell your home; you may not recoup your investment. If you never got around to starting or completing that total kitchen or bathroom makeover, then you can make some small, inexpensive changes to spruce things up. Replacing the hardware on cabinets is a quick way to improve the appearance of older looking fixtures. Upgrading small items such as light switch and outlet covers can add a nice touch.

5. Maximize your “curb appeal”
The front of your home is the first thing prospective homebuyers will see, so keeping it presentable is a must. If there is a yard, keep the grass to a reasonable height and, if there are trees, be sure to keep the branches under control. The path to your front door should be a clear and welcoming one, not an obstacle course.

6. Don’t get too personal
Upon entering your house, everyone will know it is lived in, but they do not need to see all the evidence. Get rid of excess clutter such as newspapers, magazines and mail. Be sure to put away your laundry and shoes. It may also be a good idea to put away some other personal belongings, like pictures on the refrigerator or mantle. For you, the pictures may make a house a home or display your personal touch. For the new homeowner, it may appear too personal.

7. Take care of repairs
Waiting to make repairs until after you find a buyer can be tricky. Depending on the nature of the repairs, you may not be able to find a buyer. Depending on how fast the buyer wants to close on the house, you may not have enough time to make the repairs. Save yourself some time and potential trouble by making repairs before you list your home. The repairs will have to be made anyway, so it is better to get them out of the way sooner rather than later.

First impressions can make the difference between a sale or no sale. Keeping things simple can give you a leg up on similar houses on the market.

Please make sure to contact our office for any questions or to set an appointment with one of our agents!

Sincerely,

Scott Myers, Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors
(210) 479-1222