An inside look at the residential real estate market in Southeast Texas including: the hottest neighborhoods, proven home selling strategies, home buying and negotiating tactics, median prices by neighborhood, average days homes are on the market, and professional advice on how to get the best deal when buying or selling a home.

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June 2008
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August 2008

July 2008

First-Time Home Buyers In SE Texas Facing a Sellers Market.

Home_buyersFirst-time home buyers face a number of challenges when starting out on the path to homeownership. 

Today one of the biggest obstacles is the availability of financing.  If you don't have a three percent down payment saved up your choices are limited. 

Another obstacle is the process itself.  How to begin?  That's where a good Realtor is invaluable to a first- time home buyer. 

Once you've overcome obstacle one and found financing, and overcome obstacle two and started your home search with a knowledgeable professional, it is time to consider obstacle number three.

How is the market for first-time home buyers?  Is it a buyers market or sellers market?

Buyer_market_v_seller_market

Surprised?  Its a sellers market in this price point.  The data used comes from the Beaumont MLS.  Data consists of single family homes throughout Southeast Texas listed in the Beaumont MLS priced from $80,000 to $100,000. Since the first of the year 147 homes in this price point have sold.  There are 104 active.  There are 54 in a pending status.  They don't count as active or sold for this exercise.

If you are considering buying your first home don't let this be discouraging.  You just need to find a good Realtor(C) to help you.  If you need one call me. 

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Texas Foreclosure Filings Drop 13.61% in Q2.

Just released by RealtyTrac, the foreclosure activity across the U.S. is up 14 percent in the second quarter of 2008.  But the good news for Texas is the foreclosure activity in our state is down 13.61% from Q1.  Texas ranks 21st in activity among the 50 states.  Nevada holds the dubious top spot.  Followed closely by California.  Real estate speculation was rampant in those states before the housing correction. 

Texas Quick Stats:

  • 14,781 homes had a notice of trustee sale filed in Q2 2008.
  • 14,020 homes are owned as REO properties.  (Bank owned)
  • 1 out of every 317 has had some time of foreclosure activity in Q2.
  • % change from Q1 is -13.61.  (Down 13.61%)  Woo Hoo.

Here's how that is good news.  When the problem loans are purged from the system and those homes are repossessed by the mortgage holders and then sold, that is when the housing market can begin to rebound.

Take a look at these maps:

Realtytrac_mapus Provided by RealtyTrac(R), this map shows the foreclosure activity across the U.S. 

Texas Map Shows Hot Spots. 

Realtytrac_maptexas_2

Jefferson County has some of the area's highest numbers.

Jasper and Newton are low. 

Orange and Hardin are in the middle.

A few Texas cities made the top 100 list.  They are:

  • Dallas #49
  • Fort Worth #50
  • Houston #51
  • San Antonio #68
  • Austin #78
  • El Paso #91
  • McAllen #92

No Southeast Texas metro areas to report. 

The bright side to all this news is when the foreclosure activity in our area starts to drop off, it is a good sign for the overall housing market.  When less REO properties are on the market at below market prices, overall prices should gain strength.  Less inventory = higher prices. 

This drop in Q2 is good news. If Texas foreclosure filings drop in Q3 consider that a very positive sign. 

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Who Likes The New Incandescent Lightbulbs??? Not Congressman Ted Poe.

A little off the topic of real estate for the moment, today's post is a video by Southeast Texas' own Ted Poe.  Did you receive a voice mail from him today?  I did.  The message did what it was supposed to do.  That is, get me to watch this video.

Have you seen it?  The video of Congressman Ted Poe addressing congress about the new energy saving light bulbs? Over five million people have seen it on you tube.  Maybe not a comedian outright, Poe has some humorous points.  The video is about five minutes long.  If you've got five minutes go ahead and watch.  You'll learn something you didn't know about lightbulbs.  I promise.

The speech shows how good ideas can be marred by bureaucracy.  Just listen to the EPA instructions for disposing of a broken light bulb. 

So how does this all relate to real estate in Southeast Texas?  Here's how.  Energy prices- the high energy prices- are having an effect on real estate sales.  Right now its not a good effect.  Sales have slowed.  The election will have an effect on real estate.  The candidate you support will vote for legislation that effects real estate.  Today's post is just about being knowledgeable.  Your vote will have an impact on the future of real estate sales in Southeast Texas.  Now, who likes those new incandescent light bulbs?

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Hurricane Dolly Is Gone. Homeowner's Insurance Policies Are Back.

Hurricane_dollyHurricane Dolly is now just a weak Tropical Depression.  Still being tracked by the National Weather Service she is no longer a threat to home owners in Southeast Texas.  Her weakened condition also means she is no longer a threat to the insurance companies in Texas and they are once again writing insurance policies.

Did you know you can't get insurance for your home or change your policy when a hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico?

The Texas Windstorm Binding Procedures go into effect.  No new policies.  No policy changes.  Buying a new home?  You can't close without insurance.  If there is a storm in the Gulf when you are supposed to close - guess what- the closing is delayed.  That's why its a good idea to have your policy in place a few days ahead of closing.  This is even more true during hurricane season.

This is still the start of hurricane season.  If you have not checked your homeowners policy lately, now is the time.  If you have done any of the following you need to update your policy:

  • added an additional to your home
  • made renovations to the inside of your home
  • built new barns or out buildings
  • added a pool

Anything you have done that increased your home's value calls for an update to your insurance policy.  The policy you took out when you bought your home is probably for the original purchase price or maybe just the mortgage amount. 

That isn't enough coverage to rebuild your home or replace additions that aren't covered on your policy.  I confess. My husband and I are guilty of not updating our insurance too.  We added a six stall horse barn since last summer.  Its not on our coverage yet.  We got lucky with Dolly.  She went the other way.  As the hurricane season continues storms get more intense and there is a good chance another one will come close to Southeast Texas before the season ends.

Now that Dolly's gone.  Its time to update our insurance

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Two Loans Most Buyers Have Never Heard Of...That Can Be Used To Buy A Home In Southeast Texas.

House_on_key_ringRemember the days when you could borrow over 100% of a home's purchase price? 

Those days are a faint memory for most of us in the real estate industry. Insiders and real estate veterans refer to them as the good old days when anyone who could sign their name could buy a home.  Alas. A few greedy people made some bad (cough. should I say, fraudulent) loans and spoiled 100% financing for the rest of us.

Good News. There are still low and no-down federally sponsored mortgage programs available for home buyers with steady jobs but little to no savings. 

  1. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Program will lend up to 102 percent of a home's value in a community with a population is less than 10,000.  In Southeast Texas, here's a few of the communities that qualify: Winnie, Vidor, Mauriceville, Fannett, Silsbee and there are others.  Just about every community other than Beaumont qualifies. Want more information contract the Local Field Offices For Jefferson County to get details.
  2. Streamlined 203(K) Limited Repair Program is another unique loan program.  This one allows you to buy a home that needs repair and finance up to an additional $35,000 into your mortgage to improve or upgrade your home before you move-in.  That's pretty awesome.  Want to get more details on the Streamlined 203(K) Click Here For Approved Consultants Near Us.

These loans aren't for everyone.  Qualification standards can be restrictive.  But just in-case you thought 100% loans were a thing of past, now you know they are not gone entirely.  You just have to know where to look to uncover these little-known loan programs that can be used to buy a home in Southeast Texas.

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Will New Legislation Help The Housing Market?

The National Association of Realtors is at work again in Washington, DC.  As strong advocates for the new housing stimulus plan, this video discusses some of the key points of the new legislation.  Its about 5 minutes long.  What it lacks in excitement it makes up for in providing detail about the key facts about the legislation.  The New York Times posted an article on their blog yesterday discussing the move toward approval of the housing bill. 

If you are still debating whether or not the government should intervene in the housing crisis, you may be debating for nothing.  The government is going to take action.  The question is will the action they take do any good. 

Most proponents feel the $8,000 first time home buyer tax credit will give the biggest boost to the economy.  Possibly adding one million more home buyers to the housing market.  The government can not stand by and let Fannie and Freddie fail.  The best way to help make sure they remain healthy.  Now that's another question.

Your thoughts and comments are always encouraged?  Do you think the new legislation will help?  Do you think it is needed? 

Here's my thoughts:  Everyday I work with people who would like to buy a home.  There are fewer loans available today for people to buy a home than there were two years ago.  There are a lot more homes on the market across the country than there was two years ago.  The pendulum has swung too far.  Banks are in a tough spot because of the easy lending of yesterday, so a lot of buyers today aren't able to finance a home.  Sure, perfect buyers with good credit and 20% down can still buy.  But what about the first time home buyers.  Buying your first home is hard.  Saving up 20% for a down payment is next to impossible for most unless they have family that can help them. We need to get back to a sensible balance.  Propping up Fannie and Freddie is a good place to start.  Voting for the $8,000 tax credit seems to make sense too. 

Will the new legislation help the national housing market?  One thing seems certain, it can't make it any worse.

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June's Final Numbers: Guess how many Southeast Texas homes sold in June?

Horse_raceJune's residential home sales have been recorded in the history books.  It wasn't a bad month for Southeast Texas.  It was actually pretty good.

In Beaumont -as recorded by the Beaumont Board of Realtors- 215 homes sold.  Not quite as many as in June 2007 when 231 homes sold but better than June 2006 when 205 homes sold.

In Mid-County 98 homes sold this June. 

Other noteworthy facts:

  • Average days on market 113 in Mid-County.
  • Average days on market 107 in Beaumont.
  • Active residential listings in Mid-County 611.
  • Active residential listings in Beaumont 1,488.
  • Average sales price in Beaumont $140,841.
  • In both MLS's combined there were only three sales of $500,000 or more.
  • Combined active listings of $500,000 or more is 63. 
  • It looks like the market has an excess of high priced homes right now. 

Those are just a few noteworthy bits of information about how the market fared in June 2008.  So what was your guess?  Did you get close to the right number of home sales? 

How about taking this test. 

Guess the number of homes sales in Beaumont -through the MLS- for July 2008.  Email me your guess.  If there is a winner who gets it right, you'll get a shout out in the blog when July results get posted.  Go ahead.  Guess!

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How You Search For A Home Is Changing Everyday.

W2_map_search_2

Mapping technology is revolutionalizing the way we find things these days. If you haven't used Mapquest yet to find driving directions you are behind the times. 

Interactive maps are bringing us more and more user friendly information. The City of Beaumont has plans to have GIS maps of Beaumont online by early 2009 that will identify the zoning of all parcels of property located in Beaumont.  I've seen a preview.  Its going to be a great resource.

In the bigger cities across the country the newest technology is bringing home searches to life on interactive maps.  Click link for an example from Coldwell Banker in Portland.

Want to look in a certain neighborhood?  Want to look on a certain street?  The technology is now out there.  Google Maps and Yahoo! Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth are the premier interactive mapping services that are breaking new ground. 

The map shown above demonstrates the way a new search could be conducted.  The area shown is Beaumont westend from Thomas Road west toward Dowlen but stopping about Howell.  The red numbered squares represent homes that are for sale.  In the interactive version you can scroll your mouse over the number and a photo with information about the home will be displayed on your screen. 

Its amazing technology.  You will never look for a home the same way again once you experience this interactive mapping. 

Want to know a secret? 

The mapping technology will be added to the blog soon!  We are doing some beta testing now.  Soon blog readers will be able to search the MLS for homes on an interactive map.  Its going to be the first site in Southeast Texas that has the technology available.  Stay tuned. 

How you search for your next home will be changing soon.

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Jefferson Co. Residents Call For Property Tax Relief.

Dollar_bill_house

Did your property value go up this year?  How about your assessment from the appraisal district? 

Many Jefferson County home owners will be answering yes to those two questions this year.   

Did you hear that The House Select Committee On Property Tax Relief and Appraisal Reform was in Beaumont today? 

Speaking in a public hearing at Lamar University, Chairman Otto explained the goal of the committee is to report and recommend legislation which will give taxpayers relief from rising property taxes. 

Concerned citizens spoke up about their property tax problems.  If you didn't have time to attend the hearing today, here's a few statements that you missed:

  • A resident of Vidor, "There should be no increase in a home owners value unless there are comparable sales to support the increase".
  • A retired home owner in Beaumont, bought her home in 1986 for $80,000 and now can't afford the taxes on her home that is currently valued at approximately $175,000.
  • A retired home owner in Mid-County has seen an 88% increase in his tax assessed value in the past five years.  His home is 50 years old.
  • A Valero Representative spoke in favor of the current system.  He states that in all the states Valero has operations, Texas has one of the best tax systems.  (I'm not sure how popular he was with the rest of the crowd).  Even the committee called him on the carpet about a West Texas Valero Refinery that is disputing their tax assessment and withholding paying taxes while the issue is resolved.
  • A Nederland home owner who's lived in his home for 49 years has seen his home's tax assessment go from $74,000 in 2007 to $94,000 in 2008.  He's 78 years old.

Five key points made by the committee worth mentioning:

  1. In Texas there is no state income tax, therefore the consumption tax and property tax are the only taxes that fund the operation of the government.
  2. In the five prior hearings they had found 50-60% of the time Appraisal Review Boards sided with the home owner making an appeal.
  3. The government is run by those who show up.  This quote made by Representative Taylor implies that citizens who care and get involved can make a difference in government decisions.
  4. Tax assessments will now show a five year tax history in an effort to give home owners more information about their property tax increases.
  5. The creation of a taxpayer advocate is an idea being considered by the committee.

The hearing continued on for more than three hours with public testimony.  After the public said their peace then invited testimony was heard from the Chief Appraisers of Chambers, Jefferson, Liberty, and Orange Counties.  Unfortunately, I couldn't stay for the invited testimony. 

One take away from the hearing, Jefferson County home owners called out loud and clear.  They want property tax relief.

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Selling Your Home In Southeast Texas: Consider Yourself One of the Fortune Ones.

Nar_graphic_2

Across the nation, its the worst home-selling market since Herbert Hoover was president.  *According to the Wall Street Journal.

Southeast Texas home sellers are faring much better than most of our compatriots.  Our year over year home prices are still appreciating.  So if you bought a home in Southeast Texas last July, it is probably worth more than you paid for it.  Some neighborhoods have had double digit price increases in the past twelve months. That's almost unheard of in most markets right now.  Look at the nation as a whole and every region of the country has had price declines since May 2007.  Most regional markets also had double digit sales declines.  Not as many homes are selling in the current market. 

Do you remember when Herbert Hoover was President?  Its been a long time.  Most of us haven't gone through a real estate market quite like this.  So what do you do if you have to sell your home? 

Even Southeast Texas has seen sales numbers fall off since 2007.  Our prices have held, and in most areas continued to appreciate.  But the months supply of inventory has grown.  The region has a seven plus months supply.  Its more important now that it was last year to have a plan when you need to sell.

Here's seven tips on how to sell your home in today's tougher market. The Wall Street Journal wrote this clever article titled, "How to sell a house, when you have to sell it now".  The information is good.  Even though our Southeast Texas market is better than most other housing markets these are good tips to live by.  No time to read the whole story.  Here's the cliff notes.

  • Clean it up. 
  • Hire a top REALTOR.
  • Price it Correctly.  Aggressively for a fast sale.
  • Seller financing can help if you can offer it.
  • Take the offer.  If it is reasonable take it.

If you live in Southeast Texas consider yourself a lucky home owner.  If you need to sell your home in Southeast Texas you are still one of the fortunate ones.  Most of the country hasn't seen the housing-market this bad since Herbert Hoover was in the oval office.  Be glad you are a Southeast Texan. 

If you need assistance selling your Southeast Texas home call me.

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