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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May 2008

The Tale of Three Multiple Listing Services.

Three_dogs_3Even most real estate newbies have heard the term MLS.

Real estate practitioners know those three letters stand for Multiple Listing Service. MLS's were originally intended to help real estate professionals find buyers for clients who wanted to sell their homes.  Participants of an MLS are members who pay fees to have access to the information gathered by other members on properties that are offered for sale in a given area.

In Southeast Texas, we have three MLS's.  Orange, TX has an MLS.  Mid-County has an MLS.  Beaumont has an MLS.  Southeast Texas collectively- counting all three MLS's- has approximately 2500 listings. 

Here's where it gets a little complicated if you are a home buyer looking for a home in our area, some homes are listed in only one of the MLS's.  If you work with an real estate agent that belongs to one MLS, you might not ever see homes listed in one of the other two MLS's.  Some homes are listed in all three MLS's.  So it may seem like 2500 listings is a high number, but how many of those 2500 are duplicates?  How often is the same home listed in all three multiple listing services?

When you look at multiple listing services in larger markets, for example Houston or Orlando, those MLS's have up to ten times the listings Southeast Texas has but yet one only MLS to cover the whole area. 

Three MLS's:  Is it a good thing or bad thing?

Unfortunately, there no simple answer.  If you are a home seller, you will want to find out from your listing agent - the agent you sign a contract with to sell your home- which of the MLS's your home will be in.  If you want the most exposure to buyers looking for homes you will want to be in all three services.  If you are a home buyer, you will want to make sure you are seeing all the homes that match your needs.  Not just the homes that match your needs from one of the MLS's. 

Outlying areas are more affected than those in the town centers. 

If your home is in Beaumont west or in a popular Beaumont neighborhood such as Barrington Heights or Brentwood Club, you probably don't need to be in the Orange MLS.  The agents showing buyers in Beaumont will find you.  However, if your home is in Nederland do you want Beaumont real estate agents to know about it?  If you do, then it needs to be in the Beaumont MLS. 

If you have a custom home in Mauriceville on acreage, where should you list it?  Most buyers coming to the area from other areas know about Beaumont.  They probably don't know about the smaller towns.  If your home is listed in only one MLS then some buyers may never see it. 

One MLS would simplify the process of buying and selling homes in Southeast Texas.  But there are old traditions and people are protective of their turf.  It doesn't seem like there is much support for a united Southeast Texas or Golden Triangle MLS.  Personally, I think its too bad we can't combine the multiple listing services. There are clear benefits for buyers and sellers in a united multiple listing service. 

Until some of the old turf battle lines are relinquished the tale of the three MLS's will continue.


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66 Jefferson County Homeowners Face Foreclosure.

Foreclosure_signWelcome back from a long holiday weekend.  For most of us it was a well needed break from work and our daily worries.  For sixty-six or more homeowners in Jefferson County, it wasn't much of a break. 

According to records from The County Clerk's Office, there have been sixty-six Notice of Trustee Sale documents filed since the last foreclosure auction which took place on May 6, 2008. 

The number of foreclosures has spiked this year.  It is a problem across the Nation.  Jefferson County has not been immune.  Several times this year the clerk's office has had over a hundred notices filed in a given month.  That's more filings than last year according to one of the employees at the clerk's office. 

With all the information that can be found on the Internet these days, any motivated individual can research the notices of trustee sale and find out which homes are up for foreclosure, who currently owns them, where they are located, and the County tax information.  It takes a lot of research to try to find a home buying opportunity at the foreclosure sales.  Buying this way is not for the light-hearted.  You will need to have a cashier's check with you for the full purchase price. 

Interested in learning more?  Try reading up at How to Buy Texas Foreclosures.  Or you can call me and I'll be happy to share what I know. 

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Million Dollar Home Sold In Beaumont.

Thomas_rd_guest_house1.8 million dollars to be precise. 

That marks the highest priced sale so far this year through the Beaumont MLS.  Are you curious to know what you get for 1.8 million these days? 

This photo shows -not the main house- but the pool house.  The new-owner's guest house is a one bedroom, two and a half bath, with a full kitchen.  Their guests may never leave.

The mansion located on Thomas Road- one of the ritziest roads in Jefferson County- is over 7000 square feet.  The asking price was over 2 million.  1.8 sounds like a deal now doesn't it? 

Curious to know how many other million plus homes are on the market?  Right now three. 

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How Hot Is The SE Texas Housing Market?

Fire_eaterIf you look at closings the first three weeks of May, it's hot!  We've had 98 closings since May 1, 2008.  $15,386,000+ in dollar volume.  *Statistics from the Beaumont MLS.  If you add Orange and Mid-County MLS figures the numbers would be even higher. 

On average this year we've had about 1200 listings at any give time.  98 sales is just under 10% of the total listings on the market.  Keep in mind, this is just for a three week time period.  Traditionally, summer is the most active time for buyers.  It looks like that is holding true this year too. 

About 50% of the closings used conventional mortgages.  About 30% used FHA.  FHA Loans are the new go to loan for home buyers would can't come up with a 5% down payment.  Conventional lenders did away with the 100% financing loan earlier this year.  Too many of those went bad, so the banks tightened up and started requiring a minimum of 5% down. 

Here's some cold, hard, home sales stats by area:

  • Bridge City = 2 closings. Avg. DOM 152.  Avergage sold price % of asking price 97%
  • Fannett = 5 closings. Avg. DOM 86. Average sold price % of asking price 94%
  • Groves = 3 closings. Avg. DOM 47. Avg. sold price % of asking price 92%
  • Lumberton = 15 closings. Avg. DOM 130. Avg. sold price % of asking price 94%
  • Vidor = 5 closings. Avg. DOM 108. Average sold price % of asking price 97%
  • Beaumont West = 29 closings.  Avg. DOM 80.  Average sold price % of asking 96%

Keep in mind these figures cover a very short time frame, just about 3 weeks, so they can be interrepted wrong if you don't have all the details.  *DOM stands for days on market.

The short of it is our market is hot.  Maybe not as hot as it was this time last year but its still better than most housing markets across the Nation.  If you want more details on your neighborhoods housing trends let me know.  I'll be happy to research your neighborhood and let you know just how hot it is.

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Flood Insurance Quiz: How much do you know?

Flood_2Here's a quiz for all the educated home-owner's out there. 

We all have homeowners insurance.  Some of us have multiple policies. You have dwelling coverage.  You have windstorm coverage.  And, in some cases you are required to have flood insurance coverage. 

For those of you with flood insurance, let's see how much you know. Can you answer the following five questions? 

  1. Does flood zone A require mandatory insurance?
  2. What is the percent chance of flooding in flood zone x?
  3. Who determines your properties flood zone designation?
  4. How much FEMA debt did the Senate just forgive?
  5. Which zones are considered moderate to low risk areas that do not require flood insurance?

Don't look at the answers yet. 

Here's a few other things you should know.  Flood zones are geographic areas designed to reflect the severity or type of flooding in the area.  The flood zones refer back to the 100 year flood maps.  There are still some areas with possible but undetermined flood hazards.  These areas are zone D.  The flood insurance program is managed by the National Government. 

Did you jump ahead for the answers?  Okay, for those of you with little patience here are the answers.

  1. Yes.  Flood zone A has a 1% annual chance of flooding and a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage.
  2. Less than 1% annually.
  3. FEMA
  4. 17 Billion!
  5. B,C, and X

How did you score?  Less than 100% then you need to check out to brush up your knowledge.  For more information on the Senate approval of the latest flood insurance bill read the Associated Press Story.

If you got 100% call me, you can write the next blog article on flood insurance.

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Three proposed HUD changes would affect home sales.

ChangesThe Government is trying to fix a mess. 

The Nation is still struggling with the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, declining home prices, and restrictive lending practices. The Government is attempting to make things better. 

Three Changes that are being considered:

  1. Fannie Mae Announces a single down payment policy.  The new policy replaces a policy just adopted in December 2007 which required higher down payments in declining markets.  The National Association of Realtors supported and pushed for the change.  The December 2007 policy which required higher down payments in declining markets hurt the areas that have been the hardest hit by foreclosures.
  2. RESPA Changes might include an expansion of the current HUD good faith statement from a 2 page form to a 4 page form.  The change could also require the settlement agents to recite a 45 minute closing script to each borrower at every closing.  Ugh.  Not in favor of that one.  Closings can take long enough now.  The average closing can last from 30 minutes to over an hour without any additional requirements.
  3. Foreclosure Bill up for Vote.  There are bills working there way through the House and Senate that could change the way we buy and sell homes.  President Bush may veto the H.R. 3221 bill as known as the Foreclosure Prevention Act. NAR press release about the bill.  H.R. 3221 Bill full details.

Governmental change is usually prompted because of a crisis.  Right now, our Nation has a housing crisis and the Government is trying to fix the mess.  How it will finally be resolved is yet to be determined.  You might not think any of these measures is the answer or you may support all of them.  At least we know the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is willing to help.      

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Beaumont Home Price Performance Ranks in Top Three

Third_place_ribbonBeaumont-Port Arthur made the national news again

In the latest quarterly survey by the National Association of Realtors, Beaumont-Port Arthur was ranked in the top four housing markets in the South.  After Spartanburg, SC, Texas had the next three top markets with the strongest price increases. 

Prices in our area were up 6.1%El Paso, Texas took the top spot in Texas.  Homes there went up by 8.5%.  Coming in at number two was Amarillo, Texas with a home price increase of 8.2%.  For the complete article click here Mixed Home Price Performance Continues in Metro Areas.

Once again, here is statistical proof that Beaumont's housing market is much healthier than most any other market across the U.S.  Regular readers of Southeast Texas Real Estate Talk already knew that.  Out of the 149 markets surveyed, 100 had home price declines.  One market was unchanged.  48 markets showed higher median prices than they had one year ago.

NAR President Richard Gaylord, is quoted as saying "It's more important then ever to examine what's happening with home prices at the city and neighborhood level." 

If you want to know what's happening in your neighborhood email me, call, or comment on the blog.  I'll be happy to let you know what's happening where you live. 

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Bad Day For School Bonds in Three SE Texas Towns.


The voters said, "No". 

Three different towns all had the same result at the polls. Voters spoke and they said no to the school bond issues in Lumberton, Vidor, and Orange.  KBMT Channel 12 covers the Vidor Independent School district bond defeat.  It seems unanimous that we all believe our local children need updated classrooms, the latest technology, and improved recreational facilities but the question is are we willing to pay for it.

Earlier this year, the Beaumont Independent School District was supported by Beaumont voters in a bond issue which passed.  They are the only district in our area to have won the support of local voters.

So what is the difference between voters in Beaumont and the other three towns?  Probably nothing.  More likely, the defeats can be blamed on the current economy. Things have changed in the past few months.  The country is now in a recession.  Energy prices are up.  Food prices are up.  Gas prices are way up.  Voters aren't as willing to vote for another tax increase right now.  Bad timing for these three school districts.

Other school districts around the state faired better with voters. 76% of all school bond issues passed, according to the Texas Independent School District Website.  Apparently 86 Texas towns voted on school bonds this week.  66 of those towns passed the bond issues. 

For more coverage on the local bond defeat read The Beaumont Enterprise article.

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Live Here, Graduate Here, Go to College For Free.


If you have a child about to start Kindergarten, you may want to move to Orange, Texas.

Residents living in the West Orange-Stark High School district and the Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School district are eligible for the Inspire XII Foundation Scholarship Program.

What is the Inspire XII Foundation?

Inspire XII is a nonprofit program of educational support that seeks to involve and assist the private sector in expanding educational opportunities and encouraging education achievement. That is a statement printed on their website. In layman's terms, this scholarship allows kids who attend school in the district to go to college for free.

Free college, really?

It may seem hard to believe but they give scholarships to eligible students who have attended school in the West Orange-Stark and/or Little Cypress-Mauriceville district.  The length of attendance determines the amount of benefit available.

  • K-12 = 100%
  • 1-12 = 95%
  • 4-12 = 90%
  • 5-12 = 85%
  • 6-12 = 80%
  • 7-12 = 75%
  • 8-12 = 70%
  • 9-12 = 65%

Students do need to submit an application and supplemental documentation to the Insire Foundation to be eligible to receive the scholarship.  One other requirement of note, recipients are required to complete 40 hours of community service in the Orange area each year the student is part of the Inspire XII Promise.  40 hours of community service doesn't seem much to ask in exchange for a free ride to any accredited Texas public university, community college, public health institution, or technical college. 

Planing to stay in Southeast Texas while your children are in Kindergarten through High School?  Then, you might want to move to Orange. Live there, send your children to school there, and they are eligible to go to college for free.  Now that's a selling point! 

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