Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Saving for a down payment to buy a home: It's a marathon...not a sprint!!

I recently started training for the New York City ING Marathon and on my long run yesterday morning I realized that buying a home is much like training for a marathon.  That is, not many people can just go out and buy a house...just like not many people can go out and run a marathon with out preparation.  When buying a house there are a few steps that you need to make sure of first.  The essentials are that: you get pre-approved for a home loan and that you have a down payment saved up.  Saving for a down payment can take a long time!

I am often asked how much you need to put down on a house.  The answer is that it depends.  It can depend on the kind of loan as well as the lender.  General guidelines are that for an FHA loan you only need 3.5% and you can have a credit score as low as 640.  These loans are also assumable.  However, you cannot borrow more than $271,050 (on a single family home) and you will pay MIP (Mortgage Insurance Premium).  A future blog article in the near future on FHA.  If you have any questions in the mean time...please don't hesitate to give me a call.

General guidelines for a Conventional Loan:  10%-20% down
This too depends on the lender.  Some will even go lower than 10%, but you will have to pay PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance)

Side note: If you are a doctor or lawyer...there are a few banks out there that will offer 100% financing for you.  There is only one bank in Dallas that I know of that offers this!  The reason they do this is that they are banking on you making a lot more money in the future.

The bottom line is to choose a lender that you trust!  Never borrow the maximum that the bank says you can borrow.  Use a lender that is local!  Ask your REALTOR for a few recommendations.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

6739 Meadow Road Dallas, TX 75230 Open Sunday: 1-3pm

Beautiful traditional completed in 2000 offers a neutral palette and many recent updates. The dramatic entry has a sweeping staircase with gorgeous ironwork. It is open to the formals and library and lends a nice view to the patio and backyard. The oversized kitchen is a chef's delight! Complete with two Jenn Air ranges; two ovens and eight gas burners, forty-eight inch Sub-Zero, wine refrigerator, island, desk and breakfast bar. Open to breakfast and family rooms. The downstairs master offers a sitting area, fireplace and luxury bathroom. A split fifth bedroom also downstairs makes a nice private guest room. Three bedrooms, media, gameroom and workroom are upstairs. Attractive finishout, exquisite millwork, replaced hardware, handscraped hardwood floors and twelve foot ceilings downstairs are some of the many features of the home. Pretty landscaping front and back! Move-in ready!
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Stunning Home in Preston Hollow Area
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Perfect for Entertaining!
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Soaking Tub?  Yes Please!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The "M" Street area...for when you are thinking about growing up

The "M" Street area became our new home sweet home last year!  We decided that we were growing up a little and did not want a condo or a townhouse, but we did want to own something.  We wanted a place to call our own and we wanted a little bit of grass to go along with that.

However, Stephen works downtown and I work at Ebby's Little White House...neither one of us are exactly early risers or fans of traffic...so moving outside the loop (and I mean loop 12...not 635) wasn't really all that appealing to us.  After researching some of the neighborhoods in Dallas, we felt our best fit would be East Dallas and in particular the "M" Street/Lakewood area.

We could not have picked a better spot for us.  Our neighbors are great!  We are within walking distance to Greenville Avenue and within running distance to White Rock Lake!  Many of our friends live in the area or very close by and it has been fun to have the room that we didn't have in Uptown to entertain.

If I had to pick the Top 5 best things about our neighborhood I would have to say:
- Location
- Style of homes
- Great elementary schools
- Outdoor activities (White Rock Lake, kickball leagues, parks, etc)
- Neighbors

Sunday, May 22, 2011

6933 Greentree - Open Sunday 3:30-5:30

Fantastic opportunity to own in desirable Mockingbird Meadows and in Lakewood Elementary. Minutes from White Rock Lake! Major updates in 2010 include refinished hardwoods, 30 year roof with radiant barrier, HVAC including duct work with 10 year warranty, fresh paint inside and out, updated fixtures and ceiling fans, and more! Features additional living area with fireplace, built-ins, and wetbar not included in tax rolls. Storage shed in back.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Uptown Dallas - Urban Living Texas Style

I thought I would write a few posts on some of my favorite areas in Dallas.  My hope is that if you are not from the area that these posts will help you identify possible areas that might suit your personality as well as home needs.

I lived in Uptown Dallas for three years when I first moved to Dallas.  I LOVED IT!  I was a newlywed who had moved from South Carolina to New York and wound up in Dallas a year afterwards.  I knew nothing about the city I was moving to and I was pretty sure Dallas...like I presumed the rest of Texas...was full of cowboy hats and spurs.  How wrong was I?  I think Dallas, in particular, Uptown Dallas is currently one of the best kept secrets in the world (yes friends from Oak Cliff, M Streets, HP and UP your posts are coming).  It is a fantastic urban area stashed in the middle of the country with a low cost of living.  You can find apartments, condos, town homes... and even a few houses if you are lucky.  It is also an area where you can find great bars, restaurants, a few clubs and people who like to be a part of the scene.  The best part though...is that you can actually WALK to them!  These great places are just outside your doorstep...and are closer than any grocery store.  Hey, isn't the fridge just for left overs anyway?
The Dallas Trolley.  A nice ride if your feet need a break...and...it's FREE!

The Katy Trail 
In 1997, a coalition of community members and city leaders banded together to preserve the greenbelt along which the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT or “Katy”) Railroad traveled through Dallas. They envisioned an urban park featuring a pedestrian and bicycle path set among 30 acres of nature in the densest part of the city. Their plan will eventually become a key link in Dallas’ plan to connect White Rock Lake to the Trinity River.  The Katy Trail extends 3.5 miles from Airline Road to the American Airlines Center. Once completed, the bike and pedestrian path will link the Mockingbird DART station near SMU to the West End in downtown Dallas. It will feature a 12-foot-wide concrete bike trail and an 8-foot-wide parallel, soft-surface running path, with several entrances and plazas linking the Trail to other area parks.

Magnolia Theater - Want to watch a new release with a cocktail in hand?  This is the place to go!

A great bar for nice weather!  Excellent patio...and if it is a bit chilly they have outdoor heaters


The Ginger Man - A great afternoon watering hole!  As laid back as Uptown gets!

Nick and Sam's - Best Steak in Dallas and it's in Uptown!  Bar scene is very much a scene and somewhere you could have found the Rat Pack hanging out back in the day.

These are just a few of my favorites!  Would love to hear about your Uptown Favorites!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

When it comes to commitment...are you the chicken or the pig?

I had the privilege to attend the United Way Young Leaders Luncheon yesterday.  Our speaker, Randy Tomlin, is the Senior VP of U-verse field operations for AT&T, and is a company man through and through.  He has been with AT&T throughout his entire career and worked his way from the bottom up!  You can tell that he really loves AT&T and what he does!  I can only hope that after I have been a REALTOR for the same amount of time he as been with AT&T that I love my job just as much as he does!

Something Randy left me contemplating yesterday when it comes to growing my business is whether I am a chicken or a pig!  What is my level of commitment to my business, my clients, my family and my future.  This might have you scratching your head, as was I, when he first gave the analogy.  He went on to say that when it comes down to breakfast...there are eggs and there is bacon.  The chicken is only partially committed...as she just gave up an egg or two...but the pig...well, he's all in!

So where do I stand you might ask?  Well, I have to say I am pretty much all in when it comes to serving my clients.  However, I am at the point in my career that I am putting so much into my business that time with family is suffering a bit and I am working on finding a better balance.  (That is another post)

Reasons I say I am all in are as follows:
1.  I am a full time REALTOR!  A lot of folks out there do this job part time (still not sure how they do that and fully serve their clients, but that is another post).
2.  My husband and I own a home.  I understand the financial and emotional aspects of buying your first home.
3.  I am just as excited about finding the one that fits you as you are!  When you find THE ONE...you just know it.  You might look one day...you might look for 8 months or more...that part is up to you...but when you find the one...it feels like home.  That is the magic moment that I got in the business for!  I know it's there...we just have to find it!
4.  As my client, my goal is to build a relationship with you.  (I know you might be thinking...sure...that's what they all say) but the difference is that I am not a salesy person.  I tried sales once and I was horrible at it!  My goal is to be a trusted advisor/consultant!  I will look and look and look!  I will tell you the truth even if it is sometimes hard to swallow.  (Example:  You might not be able to afford the area you really really want to live in with all the amenities you are looking for)  I am a friend and an advocate.  I WILL NOT push you into buying or selling if that is not what you are ready to do!  I will also recommend that you NOT spend as much as the bank says you can afford!  That is an easy way to get in trouble... really FAST!

I hope this helps you learn a little more about me and my philosophy towards buying or selling your home!  I am here to offer my time and my knowledge!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I received the below solicitation in my inbox today from another Real Estate brokerage firm. I have NO IDEA how I got on their list...never heard of them and never talked to them.  Yet, it showed up...in my Ebby mail no less.  

I read the below and I got a great laugh and that is why I am posting this.  I consider the below a scare tactic solicitation...and I would strongly encourage anyone who ever received something like this from ANYONE to use someone else!  I don't care if it is me or not...just anyone else!

Trust is a two way street.  When we work together you trust me to be honest with you and do what is in your best interest.  I also trust you to be honest and forthcoming with me!  The below doesn't come anywhere close!

5 Reasons You Should Consider Selling NowIf you plan on moving anytime in 2011, you should strongly consider selling your house now rather than waiting. Here are five reasons why: 
  1. This is when your house will get the most exposure
The spring, and particularly the month of May, is when most buyers enter the real estate market. This surge of buyers dramatically increases the exposure for your house. The best chance of getting quality offers (perhaps even multiple offers) is RIGHT NOW!

   2.  Foreclosures and short sales will increase in about 90 days

The good news is that the number of people paying their mortgage on time is increasing. This will lead to less distressed property sales later this year and throughout 2012. The not-so-good news is that there is still a large inventory of existing foreclosures and short sales that will still be coming to market.

As an example, LPS reported in their latest Mortgage Monitor that:
  • There are still twice as many loans going 90+ days deliquent as are starting foreclosure
  • There are almost three times the number of foreclosure starts as there are foreclosure sales
  • Distressed property inventory levels are almost 45 times the rate of monthly foreclosure sales
This means that there is a backlog of properties which will start coming to the market in about 90 days as banks clear up their paperwork challenges. These properties sell at dramatic discounts. They will be your competition. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have recently discussed the magnitude of this challenge.

   3. Interest rates have risen over the last six months

Interest rates have stabilized recently. However, in the last six months, interest rates have climbed over 1/2 %. Every time the rates increase 1/4%, approximately 250,000 buyers are eliminated from qualifying for a mortgage. In an environment of volatile rates, waiting could mean that there will be fewer buyers eligible to purchase your house. It also could mean that you will pay a higher rate on the next home you buy.

   4. Qualifying for a mortgage is about to get even more difficult

Besides increasing rates, there are other factors that will hinder a buyer's ability to qualify for a mortgage as we move forward. Lending standards have been getting tighter over the last year. And as the government debates the new proposed guidelines, banks are gearing up for even more stringent standards.

   5. It's time to get on with your life

Probably the most important reason to sell is so you can get on with your life. You placed your home on the market for a reason. Do not allow a less-than-sellar housing market prevent you from reaching your goals as an individual or as a family. Think about the reasons you decided to move in the first place. Are these reasons still important to you? If you have to take less than you were originally hoping to get for your house, your family has a question to ask each other: Is the dollar difference in sales price worth putting off our plans? Only you and your family know the answer to that question.


If you plan to sell this year, the reasons above prove that selling now makes more sense than waiting until later in the year.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Great People deserve Great Service

I had a great conversation this morning with a great person who has received really poor service from not ONE, but TWO Real Estate agents recently.  She needed a question answered and she needed help.  We talked for a moment and I quickly realized that at this point they had put an offer in themselves because they felt other agents didn't have time for them!  Folks, that is what this business has to offer...that is what I have to offer.  My time and my knowledge.  I am here to serve!  It is my job and why I got into this business...because quite frankly...there are a lot of agents out there not giving their clients the devotion they deserve.

On the flip side...the listing agent wasn't doing what was best for his/her client either.  There is a short sale involved and there is already one offer under contract that has been sent to the bank.  The problem is (the folks who I hope to have as clients) came in with a higher offer.  The listing agent told them that he couldn't submit their offer until the bank declines the first offer.  THIS IS NOT TRUE!  If an agent tells you this...call me!  It is the listing agents fiduciary duty to get the best price for their client and even though they are under contract the bank has the right to review other potential offers...especially if they are higher!  The agent also told (I hope my future clients) that he had other properties he wanted them to look at.  So what this agent is really doing is trying to sell 2 properties vs. just the one!  Serving himself first and NOT his client!  This is just WRONG WRONG WRONG!

Do the right thing and serve your CLIENTS FIRST!  It will come back to you 10 fold!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Protesting your Residential Property Taxes

The right to protest to the Appraisal Review Board (ARB) is the most important right you have as a taxpayer. You may protest if you disagree with any of the actions the Appraisal District has taken on your property. 

The ARB is a group of private citizens authorized to resolve disputes between taxpayers and the Appraisal District.  No officers of the Appraisal District or the taxing units it serves may sit on the ARB.  To qualify for service on the ARB, an individual must be a resident of the Appraisal District for at least two years prior to taking office.

The ARB determines taxpayers protests and taxing unit challenges.  The ARB's decisions are binging only for the year in question.  The ARB begins protest hearings around May 15 and finish by July 20.  There are 90 members on the ARB of Dallas County.

Duties of the ARB
-  Determine protests initiated by property owners
-  Determine challenges initiated by taxing units
-  Correct clerical errors in the appraisal records and the appraisal rolls
-  Act on motions to correct appraisal rolls
-  Determine whether an exemption or a partial exemption is improperly granted and whether land is improperly granted appraisal
-  After it has completed substantially all protests the ARB provides the appraisal records.

What can you protest?:
-  The proposed value of your property is too high  (If similar properties are selling for less than your property, you may have a reason to protest)
-  Your property is valued unequally compared with other property in the Appraisal District
-  The Chief Appraiser denied you an exemption
-  The Chief Appraiser denied agricultural appraisal for your farm or ranch
-  The Chief Appraiser wrongly determined that you took your land out of agricultural use
-  The appraisal records show an incorrect owner
-  Your property is being taxed by the wrong taxing units
-  The Appraisal District or ARB took other action that affects your property

How Do You Protest?
Beginning on May 1st, protests to the ARB can be filed in written form or by electronic communication via the Dallas County Appraisal District (DCAD) website using the Online Protest Program (uFile).  The ARB will NOT accept protest filings by facsimile or e-mail submission.  Any written notice of protest will be acceptable as long as it identifies the owner, the property that is the subject of the protest and indicates apparent dissatisfaction with an action or decision taken by the Appraisal District.  Protests MUST BE FILED by MAY 31, 2011.  If you fail to file a protest on time, your options are limited.

How to File Using uFile
Go to: www.dallascad.org
Simply search your property using the Search Appraisal function in the Navigation LInks box to the left of the screen.
You can search by Owner Name or Address
Once you are on the details page of your property, click on the "Online Protest" link and it will take you through the steps to file online.  

If you have not heard from anyone:
Taxpayer phone calls, walk-ins and formal ARB Hearings take priority during this time of year.  Many times appraisers are unable to review documents attached to a protest until a day or so before the ABR Hearing.  However, if you attached documentation to your protest, call and ask to speak with the appraiser so they can pull your protest and review your documentation with you.  If they are able to make an adjustment that you are in agreement with, there may be no need for your formal ARB Hearing.  SUGGESTION:  File either online or by mail and GO DOWN THERE!  

Do you have to go to an ARB Hearing to settle your issue?
NO!  It is encouraged that all taxpayers try to resolve their issues with an appraiser prior to the formal hearing.  You should prepare to present whatever documented evidence you have to convince the appraiser of your point of view.  IF you are able to resolve your issue prior to the hearing, there is no need for a hearing.  

Do you need to make an appointment to see an appraiser informally?
NO!  To see an appraiser, go to the Appraisal District office and sign in.  Wait is typically not more than 30 minutes.  (Unless you go during lunch)  SUGGESTION:  GO EARLY IN THE MORNING!  Kind of like the DMV!

A hearing before the ARB is conducted very much like a court case, but less formal.  The ARB will hear evidence from the property owner and the Appraisal District appraiser (5-7 minutes each)  The entire case takes about 15 minutes and you will know the decision before you leave.  A Notice of Final Order is then sent via certified mail to you or your agent if you were represented.  The decision by the ARB is binding for the current tax year unless you file under binding arbitration or appeal to the District Court.

Do you need to appear in person?
You have three choices: appear in person, appoint someone else to appear for you or file an affidavit stating your facts and presentation by mail.  (I would show up)

By law a copy of all evidence submitted to the ABR must be retained.

Standards of Documentation - Residential Real Estate
Provide documentation that supports your market value position
The saying...A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS rings true when presenting evidence
Recently bought your home?  Provide a copy of your closing statement and/or fee appraisal if one was done for financing purposes.  
Not a recent buyer?  Try to provide sale comparables, broker opinion of value, and/or sales information that you feel supports your position.  If your property has conditional problems - professional repair estimates of the problem areas as well as pictures are helpful.  If you have a recent fee appraisal undertaken, this information should be provided as well.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Patio

Tis that time of year! The temps begin to rise...the rain holds off (hopefully) and its on your mind and everyone's mind. Heading to a patio after work for a few liquor libations (beer and wine also acceptable). The Facebook posts may start as early as 9:00am if Charles or a Clayton are involved. Others hold off until around lunch (the kickball team) and then there are those who have been thinking about it all day, but don't think its best to mention until around 2-3 pm (Sara, Jonathan, Liz and Blake). Below are some of my favorite patio's as well as summer concoctions. What are your's?

Patio's (in no particular order)
My house (a great house isn't great to me until it has a great patio)
Times Ten
Neighborhood Services Tavern
Black Friar (if you can find a seat...haven't been there in a while)
Urban Taco (Uptown Location)
Ocean Prime
Ginger Man
Primo's (on Tuesday) been this way since we moved here and still holding strong

Libations of Choice
Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and Water with a squeeze of fresh lemon
Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and Lemonade
Tanqueray and Tonic
Margarita on the rocks no salt
Arizona Stronghold - Mangus (a great red wine blend from Arizona...no lie! It's great)
Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat (beer)

Monday, May 2, 2011

More Affordable Than Ever

The Housing Affordability Index reached a record high of 192.3 for February, 2011. Two contributing factors to the Index are the price adjustments homes have experienced in recent years combined with the unusually low mortgage rates make this an outstanding opportunity for buyers who can qualify.

Before the housing bubble burst in 2006, the index average for the year was 108. The high prices and higher interest rates restricted many buyers from purchasing. As the market started to deteriorate, which resulted in declining values and lower interest rates, the index started to rise.

The opportunities are not being seized by buyers and some real estate professionals feel that it's because there is confusion in the marketplace. Buyers are uncertain whether they would qualify and whether now is a good time to be purchasing a home.

All markets are different and every situation is unique. The only certain way to determine would be to investigate your individual situation. You owe it to yourself and your family to visit with a real estate professional who can show you the real cost of housing and recommend a lender.

The National Association of Realtors releases the index at the end of each month with a two month lag time for compiling the information. When the index is at 100, a median income family can afford a median price home. As the index increases, housing affordability increases.