December 8, 2015

The Telltale Signs It's Time to Refinance


Have you been giving some thought to how you might be able to save money if you refinanced your mortgage? How do you decide if it's really worth it? Here are four signs that show you might want to sit down with a banker and explore refinancing seriously.

  1. Interest rates are moving. If your mortgage has an interest rate that is several years old, it might be time to refinance. Mortgage interest rates fluctuate. If the Federal Reserve Bank raises interest rates, mortgage rates will likely follow.
  1. You have substantial equity in your home. Equity in your home can be accumulated by your monthly payments or by the value of your home increasing. Either way, it's good news. You can ditch PMI (private mortgage insurance) when your home reaches its 80% loan-to-value ratio. A lower loan amount likely translates to a lower interest rate, saving you money on your payments.
  1. There is a positive change to your credit score. Bank loans often involve a cargo-shipload of paperwork -- including your credit history. Indeed, you may not have realized it at the time, but the interest rate on your conventional loan was based on your credit score at the time of application. A current, higher score usually translates to a better interest rate.
  1. Your income increases. The promotion comes through. A major client signs the contract. Your book was sold to a publisher. These are all good things that relate to more money in your pocket. Take that to the bank -- literally. Secure a better interest rate based on your increased ability to repay the bank loan. Or you could refinance to obtain a 15-year vs. 30-year fixed rate to increase your equity.
  1. Your relationship status has changed. Breaking up is hard to do. Throw real estate in the mix and things get complicated. Division of the assets usually includes the residence, and that means each party's share of said assets. Refinancing the home is one way of "buying out" the other party involved.

Know Your Options

Once you've decided to explore financing, think about the kind of mortgage you want. You'll have a lot of choices. Below are some terms you should know, in order to make a choice that's right for you:

Jumbo Loans: Mortgage amounts greater than $417,000 (except for homes in Hawaii, Alaska, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) are considered jumbo loans. These types of loans mean more money is doled out by the bank and consequently they're riskier for the lender. Banks mitigate their risk by charging higher interest rates to borrowers.

Conforming Loans: A loan amount under $417,000 is called a "conforming loan" because it adheres to guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, buyers of secondary mortgages. Banks will typically sell qualifying loans to these government sponsored entities to free up cash.

Conventional Loans: Any mortgage issued by a lender, but not backed by the federal government. Both conforming and jumbo loans fall into this category, but only conforming loans sell on the secondary market.

Let's talk about how refinancing can help you get a better rate, or move you closer to your financial goals.


December 7, 2015

5 Last Minute DIY Projects for the Holidays


Your holidays are a time when memories are created and you can deepen connections with the people who are most important to you. It's wonderful to spend time in a space that reflects the warmth of the holiday, so creating the right atmosphere is important. Even if your day-to-day life has left you no time to prepare, these five super-simple DIY projects can transform your home in a snap.

#1: Candy Cane Centerpiece
Use a fairly large, clear glass vase. Place small, shiny ornaments (or fresh cranberries!) at the bottom, then stand candy canes on top, allowing the crook of the canes to hook over the lip of the vase. Fill the center with white carnations.  There are scads of variations on this idea - use what you have on hand and match your own color scheme.

#2: Chair Decorations
Dress up plain dining chairs with this simple project. Choose a sparkly fabric that complements your dining room, and a piece for each chair that is just wider than the chair. The fabric should be long enough to extend from the back of the seat, over the back, and down to the floor behind the chair. Secure the fabric with a sash; tie a large bow, and if you like, add mistletoe or ornaments.

#3: Place Markers
Add a personal touch to your holiday table by creating place markers. If you have a Scrabble game, use those tile and trays to make cool name plates for each place setting. Or make place card holders by hot-gluing 3 mini candy canes to create an easel for bright red name cards. The holders look like little pyramids, with the crook of the candy canes resting on the table.

#4: Berry Nice lighting
Create an attractive centerpiece or mantel decoration using fresh cranberries and simple tea lights. Fill a tray, serving platter or even a baking pan with cranberries, and nestle in several white tea lights. While you're in the fridge, see if there are any artichokes; they make a wonderful base for an elegant candle. Tie a red ribbon around them to complement their beautiful deep green tone.

#5: Fragrant Napkin Rings
Add a touch of greenery to the table with rosemary wreaths. This is a most useful herb, and great for holiday decorating. You can buy your own little plant in the produce section of most grocery stores.  Cut a 6-inch sprig of fresh rosemary for each napkin and curl it around to form a miniature wreath. Secure the ends with a tiny bow.

You don't have to string a million lights to create a warm and festive atmosphere for the holidays.  Keep it simple and use what you have on hand. Remember to appeal to all of the senses by including savory scents and sparkle. Put on some seasonal music, put a log on the fire, and prepare for some serious celebration.


4 Austin-area restaurants fail inspections in September-October

Four Travis County restaurants failed their health inspections between September 15 and October 15, according to data available on Austin's open data portal. The lowest-scoring restaurant, Margarita's Mexican Grill, had a routine inspection score of 46, well below the pass-fail mark.

We've compiled all the restaurant inspection scores for that time period in a database embedded below this article. The database is sortable by clicking the column headers at the top of the chart.

Here's the usual disclaimer of things to consider when going through the list:

  • Not every restaurant in the area is inspected every month. These are the results of quasi-random, unannounced inspections by health inspectors. There are also a smattering of results from follow-up inspections conducted after a restaurant has received a failing score.
  • Also, these scores are not just for restaurants. The list includes scores for kitchen facilities at schools, social clubs and churches, among others.
  • A failing score is any grade below 70 out of 100 points. Restaurants are graded against a set of standards, and violations can be anywhere between a 5-point hit — for things such as improper food temperatures, broken refrigeration, and others — down to 3-point violations for failures to meet facilities standards. The individual violations that resulted in docked points for these restaurants are not provided, but any 5- and 4-point violations must be corrected immediately. Three-point violations must be corrected within 10 days.


Austin’s scorching real estate market poised for record-breaking year

Luxury HomeAway Manse Austin Front
A new report from Austin Board of Realtors details the scorching real estate climate in Austin this fall. Photo courtesy of Luxury Homes From HomeAway

Austin is on track for another record-breaking year in real estate. A newmonthly report released by the Austin Board of Realtors (ABoR) details the booming housing market in Austin and its consistent yet slowly increasing home sales.

“We’re on pace for another record year and while home sales typically slow each fall, housing demand has remained strong far past the typical peak selling season,” said Barb Cooper, 2015 president of ABoR, in a press release. “This demand stems from strong employment and our area’s high growth rate — factors that help create a stable housing market.”

In October 2015, Austin-area single-family home sales increased year-over-year for the fifth consecutive month. This increase is accredited to the city’s strong employment numbers and the high rate at which we’re growing.

Key findings in the ABoR report include a 2 percent increase from last October in single-family homes sold. The average number of days a home spent on the market was 50, down by one day from October 2014. The average price for single-family homes was $333,452 in October 2015, up 7 percent from October 2014.

“A stable housing market bodes well for Central Texas,” said Cooper. “But we need to find ways to give more Austin-area homeowners access to that stability by increasing our density, preserving our existing housing stock through stronger code enforcement and creating more affordable housing options.”

To view a helpful infographic that highlights the October 2015 housing statistics, visit the ABoR report.  


Experience With Ryland Homes

October, 2015

I just recently closed a sale for a client that is relocating to the greater Austin area.  We looked at numerous resale properties, and a few new construction properties.  Many of the on site sales people were very knowledgeable and truly interested in the complete satisfaction of the Buyer, while others only concern was "What Can I Do To Get You Into A House Today?"  Both my client and I found this to be an extreme turn off and it just has t be the polar opposite of my sales philosophy.  I work very hard to build relationships, and insure that my clients are 100 plus percent satisfied with their purchase, the price point as well as the terms of the transaction.  As part of the itinerary that was prepared for their visit, we visited Terivista in Round Rock, a new community close to shopping, major highways and relatively close to Austin.  Although the sales representative was with other clients, he gave us a few minutes of his time, was very engaging and personable, albeit swamped with potential buyers.  We drove around the community, toured the model homes and gathered facts and figures.

On my client's next trip out, they asked to revisit Terivista and revisit the community.   I made an appointment to visit with the same sales person, Andrew.  Upon our arrival he immediately recognized my clients and I.  He took his time, explaining Ryland Homes sales philosophy, and once again we toured the model home.  We spent a lot of time having all of my clients questions answered.  We looked at several home sites that were merely slab and basic framing done.  After walking a few sites, my clients decided that they wanted to purchase a home. 

    We went back to the office, got all of the facts and figures including amenities included, as well as                   available upgrades.  My clients thanked Andrew for his time, and wanted to sleep on it.  The next morning,     instead of visiting my planned itinerary, my client requested we go back to Terivista and try to make a             deal on a property. Andrew was very accommodating, addressed the concerns of my clients and really           took his time to explain everything to them and address each and every one of their concerns and                   questions.

Additionally, we found Ryland to be very generous with their upgrades.  They also added several upgrades at the buyer's request at  no additional charge to them.  

Once construction was completed, we did a walk thru and found several minor issues that needed to be addressed.  Each issue was corrected promptly and with very little stress and drama.

My client and I highly recommend that you consider Ryland homes if you are in the market for new construction.  I will be happy to meet with you and help you locate the perfect community, show you all of the possibilities, and help you negotiate the best possible price, upgrades and terms. As a full time real estate professional, I have been helping folks buy and sell homes in the greater Austin area for over 15 years & would very much like to work with you also.

Please give me a call today!

- Brian

Brian Kerman
Brian Kerman