Hi. I'm Diane McNelis, Award winning Texas Realtor(R) with Coldwell Banker Southern Homes. Selling and Buying homes in Southeast Texas can be complicated. I'm here to help. When we work together I become your advocate. My goal is to get you the best deal possible and to exceed your service expectations. On my blog, I share tips and strategies for selling and buying homes in Southeast Texas.

Real Estate 101

Its Time To File Your Homestead Exemption in Jefferson County

Beat the clock

If you bought a home in 2010, listen up.  Its time to file your homestead exemption. 

What's a homestead exemption?

A homestead exemption removes part of the value of your residence from taxation and lowers your property taxes.  Now, that's something you don't want to miss out on. 

How do I qualify for a homestead exemption?

You qualify if you owned your home as of January 1, 2011 and use your home for your prinicipal residence.

How do I get the homestead exemption?

You file an application for the residential homestead exemption with your appraisal district.  Once you receive the exemption you do not need to reapply unless the cheif appraiser sends you a new application. 

Where do I get the application?

You can print a copy of the exemption form from your appraisal district's website or you can click here for the Jefferson County Application for Residential Exemption. 

What if I live in Orange County or Hardin County?

Don't worry.  You can print the exemption forms from The Hardin County Appraisal District Website and from The Orange County Appraisal District Website

The deadline to file is April 30, 2011. 

If you didn't buy a home in 2010, listen up.  There will be no better time to buy a home this year than the first quarter of 2011.  Prices are still low, there is plenty of inventory which means motivated sellers and interest rates are about to start going up so don't delay or you might be kicking yourself this summer. 

Contact me when you are ready to start your home search. 

Southeast Texas Home Buyers: Take This Quiz


How well do you know what repairs will be required if you buy a home using FHA financing?

Test your knowledge.

Answer yes or no to the following questions.

1.  Required repairs are limited to those repairs necessary to preserve the continued marketability of the property and are also known as the three S's.  Safety, Security, and Soundness.

2.  FHA will reject a property that would be cost prohibitive or impractical to bring up to the minimum property requirements.

3.  The following are considered defective conditions that must be remedied before the FHA will lend money on the property (answer yes or no for each)
a.  decay 
b.  termites 
c.  defective construction 
d.  evidence of continuing settlement  

4.  The roof must have 2 or more years of remaining life.

5.  A roof can have a maximum of three layers.

6.  In Texas a termite inspection is required.

That's it.  How do you think you did?


Here's a hint.  The biggest obstacles seen in Southeast home sales are termites, wood decay and foundation settling.  You can learn more about Appraisal and Property Requirements required by FHA at U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Want the answers without having to look them up?  "Yes" is the answer to each and every one of the questions.   

Owner Financing, Not Often Offered in Southeast Texas Home Sales

Dollar bill house Here's a question I hear all the time, "Do you have any homes with owner financing?".  With lending requirements being tougher than ever, more prospective home buyers have been forced to ask this question.  In today's market if your credit score is below the mid 600's you will have a hard time finding a bank to lend you money.  If you want to buy a home that only leaves one choice - find a home with owner financing. 

If only it were a simple thing to find.  Just this week, I heard that question, the same question again.  "Can you find me a home with owner financing?"  So I searched the MLS and here's what I found. 

10 listings that offer owner financing:

  • 2540 Tyler, 2 bedroom, 1 bath, $44,500, MLS 134001
  • 3360 Magnolia 2 bedroom, 1 bath, $45,000 MLS 135838
  • 570 Campus, 4 bedroom, 2 bath, $49,500 MLS 135832
  • 2348 Pecos, 2 bedroom, 2 bath, $63,000 MLS 127987
  • 345 E Alma, 3 bedroom, 1 bath, $169,900 MLS 135451

  • 5130 Canyon Circle, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, $175,900 MLS 133633

  • 5120 Canyon Circle, 3 bedroom, 2 bath $179,900 MLS 133632

  • 5140 Canyon Circle, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, $184,900 MLS 133634

  • 5110 Canyon Circle, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, $199,900 MLS 133631

  • 2108 Harrison, 5 bedroom, 2.5 bath, $395,000 MLS 136128

That's all.  Out of more than 1400 listings in the Beaumont MLS only ten offer owner financing.  But before you go out and offer owner financing on your home, you should know there has only been one sale in the Beaumont MLS this year that closed with owner financing.  Yes, home owners that can offer financing are picky about who they will finance too. 

The one home that closed was on Taft.  It sold for $55,000 and had 1024 square feet of living space.  So next time you are thinking about buying a home with owner financing, just remember you might have your work cut out for you because its not often offered in Southeast Texas.

Ten Things To Know About the Home Buyer Tax Credit, Before Buying a Home In Southeast Texas.

Baby toes Have you heard about the $8,000 tax credit for home buyers? Its been getting a lot of press lately. 

Before you rush out to buy a home, here's ten things you should know about getting the tax credit.

  1. To qualify you have to be a "first-time home buyer".  Now what does that mean exactly?  According to the rules it means you can not have owned a home in the past three years.
  2. You have to close on the home before November 30, 2009.  You have got about six months left to be eligible for $8,000.  Its time to start looking at homes.

  3. If you buy a home that costs less than $80,000, you'll get a tax credit of 10% of the purchase price.  Math 101- Buy a home for $70,000, you are eligible for a $7,000 credit.

  4. Here's a catch.  You have to live in the home as your primary residence for three years or you will have to pay the credit back if you sell the home and make a profit.

  5. Here's two exceptions: If you get divorced or die you don't have to pay the money back.  Try not to do either of those things.

  6. Here's another catch.  If you are a single individual and you earn more than $90,000 annually, you aren't eligible.  If you are married and your combined income is more than $170,000 annually you don't qualify.

  7. All homes that are used as a primary residence qualify.  If you buy a Boat house as your primary residence it qualifies.

  8. You can use the $8,000 to help with your closing costs.  *This is a new rule that is just now being implemented. Federal Housing Tax Credit Website  has all the details. 

  9. Its $8,000!  When was the last time someone gave you $8,000?

  10. What are you waiting for?  Its $8,000.  Call me and I'll help you find your dream home.

Slower Market Equals Faster Home Sale for the Savvy Seller.

Slow roadIts not a secret that the record home sales Beaumont experienced in 2007 slowed a little in 2008.  Talk about the perfect storm going against home sellers.  Sellers are faced with increased inventory, difficult lending standards, and a barrage of economic news which is scaring all but the bravest home buyers. 

So how does a seller make the best of this market and get their home to sell faster than their neighbor?

Slow-Market Secrets offers sellers some strategies to help sell their home before the "For Sale" sign begins to collect dust.  Authors William Bronchick and Ray Cooper offer these top tips for a home seller. No, they aren't anything earth shattering or never heard before but they do offer some common sense advice for all those hoping to sell their home in a tough market. 

To break it down for you, here's the six things they tell you do to:

  1. Make sure your sales price puts you in the best price point in the right price range.  For a full explanation - read article or call me.
  2. Information is key.  Buyers want to know everything about the home they buy.  That means schools, utility bills,taxes, and more. 
  3. Ask your REALTOR to prepare advertising fliers on your home to keep out with the yard sign. *I'm not sure I agree with them on this one.

  4. Tell the neighbors.  Tell all the neighbors.  Tell them again.  They may want to pick who moves in.  Let them help you sell your home.

  5. Creative financing can help buyers over the hurdles of closing costs.

  6. Don't pass up the first offer.  Holding out in a slowing market can be a big mistake.   

Sure its a little tougher to sell now that it was this time last year.  You just have to be market savvy.  If you've owned your home for more than three years you will probably have around 25% appreciation in your home's value.  Don't be greedy and try to over price your home.  That doesn't work in the current market.  Price it right and you will find you can still sale your home fast even in a slower market. 

Need to know what your home is worth in today's market?  Call me and I'll provide you with a competitive market analysis on your home.  Free!

Do you really need Title Insurance?

Frustrated_ladyThe whole home buying process can get daunting at times.  For the non-professional there is so much to consider.  Do you need an inspection?  Do you need a home warranty?  And, today's topic:  Do you need title insurance? 

First:  What is title insurance?

Simply, it is a contract that protects the borrower/buyer against loss or damage due to title defects. It protects you if someone challenges the ownership (title) to the property.  In certain scenarios there can be title defects that are unknown when the property is purchased.  One nationwide survey found that in 25% of real estate transactions there are defects in the title that are usually unknown. That is where the title company plays an important role.  They check for defects in the title by examining public records.  The search done by a title company determines who owns the property, if there are any liens, and the condition of title. 

Second:  What does it protect you against?

For starters it protects against mistakes in recording of legal documents.  Forged deeds, releases or wills are covered.  Undisclosed or missing heirs including spouses are covered.  You will also be protected against deeds by persons of unsound mind, deeds by minors, and deeds executed under expired power of attorney. You will also have protection against liens for unpaid taxes and fraud. Want a more detailed explanation view Land America Commonwealth.

How long does title insurance last?  A policy will remain in effect as long as the owner owns the property.  It is a one time cost.  Its not a reoccurring fee like your home owner's insurance.

Third:  How much does it cost? 

Your policy cost is calculated on a formula tied to the total purchase price. Take the median priced home in our Beaumont housing market, a policy for $150,000 purchase price would cost approximately $1,110.  Title companies are governed by the Texas Department of Insurance and charge the same rates, which are set by TDI.

Yes is the answer.

You should spend the money on title insurance.  It is your assurance that the home you're buying is protected and covered from title problems.  A small price to pay to protect a big investment.

In Beaumont you have several choices of title companies. One choice Southeast Texas Title Company is associated with Chicago Title Insurance Company a company that has been in business more than 160 years. They are also members of the Texas Land Title Association.

Once you have a title insurance policy in place then you can focus on all the other important issues that go with buying a home. 

Should I be represented in a real estate transaction?

Contract_and_pen_3 You don't have to work with a real estate agent when you buy or sell a home. 

You can try to go at it alone.  But ask yourself this, "Do you really want to negotiate one of the biggest financial decisions of your life without any professional advice and guidance?"

  "Imagine investing your whole 401K without any advice from a financial advisor."

"Would you try to win a lawsuit without an attorney?"  If you answered no- like most of us with common sense and enough humility to know when we could use some help from someone who specializes in a particular field- then read on.

In Texas there are three forms of representation.

  1. The broker represents the seller (owner)
  2. The broker represent the buyer
  3. The broker acts as an intermediary

Explanations coming in just a minute. 

Texas law requires all real estate licensees to give prospective buyers and sellers the  Information About Brokerage Services at the first substantive dialog.  This information helps explain the duties of the broker and who the broker represents.

Today, we are keeping it simple.  If you are a seller and sign a listing agreement to list your home for sale you are then represented by the broker that you signed a listing agreement with.  If you are a buyer and you sign a buyer representation agreement you are represented by the broker you signed the representation agreement with.  In the third scenario, called intermediary, the broker represents the seller of a home and the buyer of the home.  To act on behalf of both parties the broker must obtain written consent of each party.

So, how does it benefit you to be represented?

Before you enter into a representation agreement with a real estate agent, you are a customer. The following three duties are owed to customers:

  1. They must be treated honestly.
  2. They must be treated fairly.
  3. All material facts about a property must be disclosed.

Once you find a real estate professional you are comfortable with and enter into an agreement to be represented, you become a client.  The relationship created becomes one of trust and confidence.  Your agent can start to give you their advice and opinions.  Benefits that a customer would not receive.

There are six duties owed to clients:

  1. obedience
  2. loyalty
  3. disclosure
  4. confidentiality
  5. accounting
  6. reasonable care and due diligence

We won't explain those terms today.  But they do give you some distinct advantages over someone who doesn't chose to be represented by a real estate professional.  If you are thinking of buying a home, wouldn't you like to know if your real estate agent thinks the house is priced high, low or just right?  Well, that information can be told to a client but not a customer.  Do you want to be able to confide things in your agent that should be kept confidential?  For example: how much you are willing to pay for a home if your first offer isn't accepted.  This information can be confided by a client and the agent is bound to keep it confidential. 

I could go on with examples of how it benefits you to be represented, but this post would go on too long.  Hopefully, this brief explanation made it a little more clear.  All I know is when I invest my money I talk to my financial adviser.  When it comes to legal matters I'd consult an attorney.  And, if I'm buying or selling a home I'd enter into a representation agreement with a local real estate professional.