Archive for the ‘Real Estate Tips’ Category

AUSTIN, Texas – December 20, 2012 – According to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) report released today by the Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR), the volume of Austin-area home sales continues to rise as November became the 18th straight month of sales volume increases and the most home sales in November since 2007.

According to the report, 1,671 single-family homes were sold in the Austin area in November 2012, which is 23 percent more than November 2011, and the total dollar volume of single-family properties sold was $455,959,086, or 35 percent higher than the same month last year.


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I think by now, just about everyone knows who Warren Buffett is and his contrarian approach to investments.  Remember it was Warren who said, “We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy when others are fearful.”

Folks, reading the newspaper this morning in Austin sent some cold “fear” shivers down my spine.  According to the Austin American Statesman – Texas A&M Economist Mark Doutzor gave a bleak economic update to about 560 attendees of the Real Estate Council of Austin annual economic forecast on Wednesday.  The full article is here.

“Dotzour showed several slides of a ship symbolizing the U.S. economy: the ship sits upright in the water in 1996; in 2003 and 2008, it’s partly submerged, reflecting the downturns those years; pictured in 2012, the ship is overturned, which Dotzour said reflects the course the economy is on.”

On the upside, Dotzour did have some good news for the Austin economy, saying it will continue to generate jobs at a rate of about 1.1 percent during the next year, which “is going to look like a gold mine compared to a lot of places.”

So… now that we are all fearful of the coming year (2012)…. how does Warren’s advice come into play?  One way is as an investor in Real Estate – at least locally in Austin anyway.  Think about it… interest rates are low (super low), Austin is a ‘gold mine’ compared to other places economically – and will continue growing jobs – which will attract the unemployed from out of state… they won’t have enough savings (… my 401k is a 201k now…) or equity from their previous home sale (if it sold at all), and they will be FORCED to lease homes, condos, apartments – at increasingly higher monthly rates.

Barron’s recently called it ‘RENTER NATION‘, but I’d prefer to call it RENTER GENERATION. 

Bottom line, NOW IS THE TIME to become an investor in REAL ESTATE… folks, if you have some savings for 20% down payment – (non-owner occupied properties typically require at least that much) – take advantage of the low interest rates and the lack of confidence nationwide (offset by the gold mine locally in Austin’s job forecast) and buy rental properties! 

While, I admit there isn’t a large supply of suitable homes or condos for sale currently – a competent REALTOR can help you find the right property and forecast your financial future using proper real estate investor software or spreadsheets.  Remember, not all properties are going to be cash-flowing (positive), but with the right due diligence you can create a brand new kind of 401k… where the tenant makes all your contributions and you manage the transition periods – or hire a property manager to do that for you.

The above scenario applies to out of state investors as well… we invite you to visit Austin, or learn as much about the market you can remotely while investing in rental properties as a strategy to build wealth (not necessarily become greedy as Warren says) in the coming years.

I welcome your comments and insight into the local or out of state economy.

Bob McKenna is the Broker|Owner of Austin Real Estate Partners

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Save money and increase your home’s energy efficiency with these easy home updates.

1. Make sure your walls and attic are well insulated
Effective insulation slows the rate that heat flows out of the house in winter or into the house in summer, so less energy is required to heat or cool the house.

2. Upgrade or replace windows
According to EnergyStar.gov, replacing windows will save you 7 to 24 percent of your heating and air-conditioning bills.

3. Plant shade trees and shrubs around your house
In summer, the foliage blocks infrared radiation that would warm the house, while in winter the bare branches let this radiation come through.

4. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
CFLs can save three-quarters of the electricity used by incandescents. Most people don’t think about the fact that the electricity to run a light bulb costs much more than the bulb itself. A new CFL costs around two dollars but lasts 10,000 hours and uses only about 27 watts to generate as much light as a 50 cent, 100-watt incandescent bulb that lasts around 1,000 hours.

For even more energy saving advice, have an certified ECAD auditor perform an energy audit on your home. Click here for a list of local auditors.

(Source: U.S. Building Council’s Green Home Guide | Image source)

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Get the most bang for your home improvement buck with these home updates.

1. Increase the amount of usable space
Add square footage to your home by adding an office or deck.

2. Remodel an outdated kitchen
More activity takes place in the kitchen than any other room in the house. So it follows that kitchens are of utmost importance when selling your home. Consider adding granite counters, stainless appliances, and upgrading dated cabinets.

3. Renovate an existing bathroom
Updated fixtures and faucets instantly refresh a dated space. Take it a step further with separate his and hers vanities and fresh towels and accessories.

4. Update flooring

Having too many flooring options in a home can hinder the sense of “flow.” Try to keep flooring consistent throughout to maintain an continuous feel. Hardwoods and tile are options many home buyers find desirable.

(Source: HGTVonline.)

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1. Create or update a home office space.
With more people working from home than ever, having a home office is a necessity for many. Consider converting unused formal living or dining area into a usable home office.

2. Make necessary home updates
Now is the time to finally make a dent in that honey do list. Replace a dated roof, old windows and shabby siding.

3. Add a splash of color
Even simple updates like removing old wall paper and adding a coat of fresh paint can go a long way in the eyes of future home buyers.

4. Liven your landscape!
Create an outdoor entertaining space with comfortable patio seating, elegant lighting and lush plants.

5. Spruce up the garage area
Add a touch pad entry system, work area, or simple shelving to make maximum impact for minimal dough.

(Source: HGTV Online)

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Austin is a city known for it’s seemingly indestructible oak trees. Tall and strong, they can live for well over one hundred years if properly cared for. Spring is just around the corner . . . and so is the threat of oak wilt. Oak wilt is the kryponite of the mighty oak. The The Texas Forest Service (TFS) warns that spring is the prime season for new oak wilt infections.

Accoring to TFS, “New oak wilt infections are created when sap-feeding beetles carry oak wilt spores to fresh cuts or wounds on oaks. Tree sap from fresh wounds can attract sap-feeding beetles that may be carrying these oak wilt spores. When these spores are introduced to the wound, a new oak wilt infection is created.”

To prevent this from occurring:

1) Avoid pruning or wounding oaks from February through June.

2) Immediately paint cuts or wounds on oaks, regardless of season.

3) Contact a certified arborist to determine the current health and offer preventative measures for your oaks.

For more resources on oak care, visit texasoakwilt.org or txheritagetreecare.com

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What was true for Smokey Robinson is also true for mortgages . . . you’d better shop around!

When it comes time to choose a home loan, knowing your options could save you thousands over the life of your loan. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you go shopping:

1. Know what you can afford. One of the best places to start is by finding out your credit score. You can find out for free once per year at annualcreditreport.com.

2. Know what you’re looking for. How long are you planning on staying in your home? how much risk are you willing to accept? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you choose the best loan for you.

3. Know and use your 30 day window. Don’t worry about getting “too many” loan quotes. Multiple pulls of your credit score down within a 30 day window while you’re rate shopping won’t negatively affect your score.

4. Know where to look. Save time in your search by visiting one of many one stop comparison websites like bankrate.com or lendingtree.com

5. Know your lender. Get to know the reputation of lenders you’re thinking about working with. You want to work with someone you can trust.

(via Zillow)

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