Sunday, November 20, 2011

The giving and the thanks

The holidays are right around the corner and the eat fest that is Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, primarily because of the aforementioned eat fest. I have been noticing a number of friends on Facebook doing this thing where for the month of November they make their daily status a "something I am thankful for" statement. I decided to make a list of things I am thankful for and while there are too many to list--I think I have some of the crucial stuff nailed down.

1. Air : I think I really appreciate you the most when I have a stuffy nose or almost choke on a too big bite of funnel cake. Without you I am nothing. Honorable thankful mention goes to water, food and shelter.

2. Band-Aids: What was the world like before Band-Aids? Oh, I know--an infected mess where adult life expectancy topped out at 40. Being a very accident prone person, I am so thankful for Band-Aids. Although, I must say they spent a lot of time being borderline racist until they came out with the clear ones.

3. Dogs and Cats: Only the really nice ones. The really nice ones can really turn a bad day around.

4. Air Travel: Can you imagine if it took 2 weeks to go from Texas to California? Or if it took 2 weeks to get anywhere? My best friend lives in Philly and if I could not fly to go see her, I might have to think about replacing her with someone closer to home---heartbreaking. In all seriousness she's not replaceable (she's totally going to read this).  Honorable thankful mention goes to highways, automobiles and mass transit.

5. Pockets: Without pockets where would I put my gum, brass knuckles, $5, worry stone, miniature hedgehog, keys, dream journal, polaroid camera, stinkbombs and machete? Right? A tip of the hat to you pockets!

6. Flyswatters: I don't own one, but if I did I would be thankful for it and I would enthusiastically use it to kill this fly that keeps flying really near to my face while I write this post. Oh man, it just landed on my pinky toe. Gross.

7. Hand Sanitizer: I can't believe I ever used a port a potty before the existence of hand sanitizer, but I did and it probably has something to do with why I had pink eye a lot in High School. So-- thanks hand sanitizer! Love, Brandi "hasn't had pink eye since the 90's" Weber

8. Email: It is really an effecient way to communicate AND when you pair up email technology with scanner technology it eradicates the need for FAX technology! I am thankful for no more stupid faxing.

9. The movie Bridesmaids: I know it's just a movie. I know it's just a little old funny movie and that in a world where the gross mistreatment of peaceful protestors goes unchecked, hate crimes and intolerance run rapant and war, greed and poverty afflict most nations we need funny stuff to keep us from going nuts---Bridesmaids does that.

10. My really long monkey arms: I can reach ALL KINDS OF STUFF!! I can also scratch most places on my own back if necessary. I can get stuff that falls into the floor boards of my car while driving and I can high five a million angels.

There's 10, but in all seriousness---I am really thankful for all kinds of stuff, like my friends and my cool job and the roof over my head and the sandwich I am about to eat. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope everybody gets some pie and down time with people they like to be around this week!

P.S.This is a hilarious holiday essay for you, but be warned profanity abounds. 11. McSweeney's

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What the--- House Hunters?

So, there's this show on HGTV called House Hunters and I am sure most of you have heard of it or watched it at some point. It's a reality show that follows homebuyers and their Realtor around while they look at houses and then at the end of the show they reveal which house is chosen.

I wrote a post last year about the things that never happen during an episode of House Hunters (you can read it here) and while the post  is not critical of the show per se, it does indirectly point out a certain "formality" that is part of the formula of shows like House Hunters. So imagine my suprise when I found my sassy ass filming an episode of House Hunters last week!

It was a really cool experience (not literally, thanks for nothing 105 degree temps. and AC units that are too loud to run during filming) and the clients I was working with are super fun. Here's some photos of them:

Uhmmm maybe the prettiest couple ever, not shocking that HGTV picked us!

Again, who wouldn't want to watch these two on T.V.?
The crew was great and very patient with my attempts to get euphemisms for the f-word on film and my nervous talking and my nervous sweating and my nervous " I am going to make lots and lots of hand gestures in order to fully communicate whatever point I am trying to make". We looked at some great houses and you will have to watch to find out which one Eva and Tyson end up buying. I mean don't you want to watch? If not to hear the story of a charming couple's search for the right East Austin digs, then watch to see me act weird and stifle the urge to look directly into the camera.

All of that said---I guess we did something right. The three of us got some really nice texts today from the field producer we worked with on the segment and she was really happy with the footage and maybe used the word "fave"---just saying.

I also received an email from another producer and they would like to do another episode with me! Whhhaaaat? So crazy. So, if you or anyone you know would like to be on House Hunters---hit me up!!

It's super fun and they have snacks like wasabi peas and Cheez-its. Who doesn't love Cheez-its?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

People Making Stuff Right

Today I was reminded that sometimes people still do the right thing, just because it's the right thing to do.

I represented a buyer on the purchase of a property that closed yesterday. Yesterday evening her AC stopped working. The property had changed ownership and technically the AC issue was now my client's--the new owner of the property.

The seller of the property, who is also a Realtor --took care of the problem today without any objection.

I meet a lot of nice people in my line of work, but I also meet a lot of people that only do the right thing when contractually obligated to do so---Donna Fullerton is one of the good guys that does the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. Very cool.

Thanks Donna for making things right for my client and for reminding me that there are still lots of good folks out there!

Friday, July 22, 2011

7806 Lowdes Drive in Cherry Creek! The antithesis of my previous post!

If you read my previous post about the dirtiest ceiling fan in Austin, please know there is none of that nonsense at 7806 Lowdes Drive Austin TX 78745. If you or someone you know does not buy this house---I may just have to-- because it's so BAD ASS! Located in the Cherry Creek neighborhood in South Austin (shout out to the 78745!) ---super close to Central Market South, Westgate Shopping Center (Yoga Yoga,  Whole Earth Provisions, Amy's Ice Cream and a Movie Theater, that's right.). Come see why Cherry Creek and it's "all of our houses don't look alike" vibe is so desirable.

Owner removed a half wall and opened up the space between living and dining, well done owner.

This total remodel of the master bath is spatastic. Not to be confused with spastic---SPA-TASTIC!

This room makes me want to curl up with a book and a bag of gummy bears and not come out for like 4 hours.

If you don't want to climb that tree, you may be dead inside.

Come on in and have some gummy bears!

So, yeah---this is a pretty cool joint. If you want more information click here. Or just get in touch with me!

And remember---no filthy ceiling fans ---not now, not ever.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dirtiest Ceiling Fan in the World to Convey with Purchase

The dirtiest ceiling fan in Travis County

So, here we have another stunning MLS (MLS = Acronym for Multiple Listing Service, A proprietary member owned database that expresses listings held by member Real Estate Brokerages. ) photo that a Realtor KNOWINGLY uploaded into the Austin  MLS in an effort to- I don't know, GROSS ME OUT?

This photo of this dirty, dirty ceiling fan is kind of sad. It's as if it's saying "Hey, I know I am a filthy ceiling fan and if you turn me on, I will fling five years worth of accumulated filth into your eyes and mouth, but why don't you stop in and see me anyways?" or maybe it's saying "Dirty ass ceiling fans in dirty ass houses need love too."

Whatever this photograph and the Realtor who posted it is trying to communicate, I don't want to hear it.

Here's the crazy thing folks---when we load photos into the MLS it is laborious and slow. It is very hard to load something by mistake and if you do, it's very easy to remove.

This kind of sloppy work always reminds me that some of my "competition" out there is no competition at all!

Oh snap! Look out! I am in a throwing shade kind of mood! I have been watching too much Ru Paul's Drag Race on Netflix! Is that possible?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summertime Selling Season!

Summertime is always a busy time for Realtors. This year I have been lucky to be representing some sellers with some pretty amazing properties for sale!

Like this one that sold near the beginning of the year on the Eastside in the Holly Street neighborhood.

and this is just the kitchen, the rest of the place was equally as cool

Presently, I have a gorgeous condominium over at SATSUMA 53 available! It's a 1/1 1100 sq.ft. It's right up the street from Foreign & Domestic and walking/biking distance to all of the cool stuff on North Loop.

For more information about 508 East 53rd St. #203 click here

And then there's this AMAZING remodel in the University Hills area. 4 beds/ 2.5 baths with 1900+ square feet and a 2 car garage. New HVAC and roof  as well as artful finish outs in the baths, kitchen and throughout!

For more information about 5712 Wellington Drive click here

This is just a sampling of what I have working right now. Hit me up if you want to talk Real Estate! Or other stuff---like good places to go swimming or thrift stores or libraries or sno cones!

TAX Benefits of Owning Investment Property

While I dutifully recorded my own tax deductions this year, it put me in a list making mood. Here's a list of some of the tax benefits of owning investment property.

• Depreciation

Depreciation is a deduction available to real estate investors. It allows you to deduct the cost of assets such as buildings and substantial improvements to buildings over a period of time defined by the IRS. The cost of a building can be depreciated over a period of 27.5 years. This is done by dividing the cost by 27.5 and then subtracting the resulting quotient from the property's income each of 27.5 years. If the cash flow on a property is just above the property's carrying costs, this would result in your making an actual profit but not paying any tax.

• Expense Deductions

Just about every expense associated with rental property is deductible. Mortgage interest, real estate tax, maintenance, property management, even your transportation costs to visit the property are all expenses, fully deductible in the tax year they are incurred.

• Capital Gains

When you sell a rental property, the profits are taxed as capital gains as opposed to ordinary income. The difference is important, because the maximum capital gains rate is 15 percent, whereas the maximum tax rate on ordinary income, as of 2010, is 35 percent.

• 1031 Exchange

If you plan to sell your rental property and buy a larger one, there is only one smart way to do it: through a 1031 exchange, also called a deferred exchange. In this process an exchange facilitator takes the cash that comes out of your sale and holds it until you close escrow on a replacement property. You must identify that property within 45 days and close within six months. It must be purchased for more than the price for which you sold your first property. If you keep using exchanges to sell and then buy, you defer the tax due forever.

• Tax-Free Cash-Out

When you sell without doing a 1031 exchange you pay taxes on the profit; when you take cash out through a refinance, the money is tax-free until you sell. If you never sell, you never pay taxes. This is an excellent tax strategy for retirement: once you pay off or pay down the mortgage on a rental property you can refinance it and take cash out and still have the monthly rents coming in.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What Did You Say?

So have you seen this ? It's only awesome pictures of Ryan Gosling with phrases every lady would want to hear from Ryan Gosling superimposed over them. Simple but genius. Genius but silly. Silly but serious.

If anyone said any of the things on the following list to me I would be as happy as this guy.

this guy
  • Hey, let's drop what we are doing and go to the library RIGHT NOW!
  • You should totally have another milkshake!
  • How did you get to be so good at everything?!
  • Do you want to watch the movie "Fletch" with me for the 10th time? I just watched Fletch for the ninth time but I think I'm gonna go for ten.
  • Did you see that study that came out that said drinking Dr. Pepper in the morning is totally acceptable and good for you?
  • Hey, I had some free time today so I went to the grocery store and I got all your groceries for you and paid for them and put them away. Is that cool?
  • We should have peanut butter and banana sandwiches every day!
  • I have killed all of the mosquitoes in the entire world. Just letting you know.
  • Instead of sending all these emails, what if we went swimming instead? Without mosquitoes!
  • I know---Ira Glass IS really dreamy!
  • I think you may be a genius.
  • Those pajama pants look great on you!
  • You know, you remind me of someone. Oh right! You're like a mix of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, only a little bit funnier!
  • I got you this $1 million gift card to I hope you like it!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Places that I Love on the Internet!

This is a map of the Internet. Turn left at the 85,000th little green strand and I will be there!
I love real estate and I work really hard at it a lot of the time, but we all need a little break from whatever it is we do most of the time right? So, when you find yourself with a little break in your day and you want to do some fun and easy internetting---here are some of my favorite blogs to visit on the world wide web. You will notice that a majority of the stuff I like to "waste time" on is funny stuff. I can't ever get enough funny. Ever. My friend Erin often sends out lists of places she likes to go on the www and I am always turned on to something new. I would love to know about some of your favorite places as well!

The Bloggess  Oh man, oh man this lady is funny and manages to write about the mundane in a way that elevates the mundane to the highest heights of hilarity.

27b/6  If you look up "snarky" in the dictionary, there's probably a picture of David Thorne there. He's too mean for some folks, but not for me. Here you will find a collection of David's correspondence with colleagues, random folks that write to him via the blog, neighbors, landlords and educational administrators. He never misses an opportunity to mess with people and the results are pretty brilliant and funny.

Oh, Noa. So Noa Gavin states that she is funnier than your Grandma, which in and of itself is not a ringing endorsement (my Grandma is notoriously unfunny, but she does kind of look like Roy Orbison and that's funny, but not "on purpose" funny)---but Noa is really funny. She writes about politics and crazy stuff that happens to her and she does it all with humor and insight.

Hyperbole and a Half  Great and ridiculous drawings made in MS Paint accompany every story. One of the best blog entries ever (Why I Will Never Be An Adult) can be found here.

Cake Wrecks  Crazy cakes---really crazy cakes.

The Oatmeal    I think the maker of this blog is a programmer/super techy type in his day job. I love the layout of this blog and the size and style of the comics. Whenever I visit this blog it reminds me of reading the funny pages in the paper when I was a kid.

So, there's a few for you! I hope you find something here that makes you laugh and after you have taken a little break at any of these awesome stops on the web, you can go back to being super productive. Like me!

 Productive like me--right after I go check on what's going on at   Go there and keep refreshing you won't be sorry!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fighting the Tax Man! Steps for Protesting Your Property Taxes.

Another in a series of posts about money and real estate and taxes. I know it's kind of dry---but you will thank me someday. That day may be when you successfully contest your property taxes!

Filing the Protest

The first step is to file a protest. The appraisal district has protest forms available, but you can hand write it on a piece of paper and fax it in. It simply needs to identify you as the owner, identify the subject property, and state that you disagree with the appraised value and wish to protest. If you’ve waited till the last minute, it would be best to fax it and then send a follow-up copy by certified mail.

The Informal Hearing

Next, the Travis County Appraisal District will schedule what they call an “informal hearing”. This may be months from now. The purpose of the hearing is for you to present your evidence that the appraised value is too high.

I’m going to stop here and point out a couple of things. It’s important before you attend a hearing that you understand the fundamentals of what the Travis County Appraisal District does. They simply set the appraised value of your home based on what they believe to be the market value. The tax rate multiplied against the appraised value determines the amount of property taxes you pay.

The Appraisal District does not establish the tax rate. Your elected officials do that. You can’t protest the amount you are paying, or the tax rate. All you are protesting is the Appraised Value.

When you show up for the hearing, make sure you bring data to support your protest.

Have Your Fact and Data Ready

Opinions and emotions are not data. In order to change your appraised value, the person you are working with at the informal hearing must have evidence and data to support the change. I’ve sat in the cubes over the years at the informal hearings and overheard other protesters arguing completely irrelevant gripes to the tax people. They don’t care how unhappy you are, how little you earn, etc. You’re there to discuss whether or not the appraised value on your particular home is too high or not, and that’s it.

If you know a Realtor, ask for a written market analysis on your home to determine the market value. You can take that along with you to use as your data and evidence. If your home has condition problems, take pictures and bring those. If you back up to a busy street, take pictures and print out your home’s location on a Google Map, and bring it in with you to show the tax people. Any “fact” that helps you prove a lower value may be helpful, but bring something to show to support it.

If the appraised value is higher than the amount you’ve recently paid to purchase the home, bring your Settlement Statement showing what you actually paid, and they’ll lower the value to the price you paid without a fuss.

You may be angry about the higher taxes, but unless the Appraisal District assessed your home at too high a value, and you can prove it, you have no grounds for a protest and you’ll lose. Since you know an awesome Realtor, me---you can get in touch with aforementioned awesome Realtor and I can do a free market analysis for you to determine the current market value of your home.

Be polite and courteous.

The person helping you at your informal hearing with has dealt with plenty of rude and uninformed people already – all day every day. You’re not going to get far if you present yourself as just another angry, unprepared and uneducated person coming in to yell at them and gripe about your taxes. Be nice, smile, dress professionally and have your facts ready with an extra copy for the appraisal person to keep. Make it easy for them to decide to help you by presenting yourself as a reasonable person who is well prepared and understands the process. As the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Two Bites at the Apple

If you are not satisfied with whatever reduction offer you receive at the informal hearing, you can move on to a formal hearing in front of a panel of the Appraisal Review Board. There will be an Appraisal District Representative arguing against you in support of the Appraisal District valuation, and a panel of three (usually old) people listening to both sides and making a decision.

If the informal hearing results in a deal you can live with, take it and avoid the time and frustration of the formal hearing.

If you truly are being hosed with an unreasonably high appraised value, then try your luck at the formal hearing. But know that once you forgo the offer made at the informal hearing, the formal hearing can result in an even higher value than what you passed up at the informal hearing. Your informal hearing deal ends when you decide to try your luck with the ARB.

For more information, check out the Taxpayer’s Rights, Remedies and Responsibilities document published by the State Comptroller.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why is Real Estate a Good Investment?

Something a lot of Real Estate folks won’t tell you is that real estate historically does not offer a better rate of return than the stock market. It also does not offer you the liquidity that the stock market offers. You can buy and sell stocks and bonds much more easily than you can buy and sell property. So, why do people choose real estate as an investment?

• It’s easy to understand. Property is tangible and appreciation is easily measurable. Flipping and running rental property are two very different types of real estate investing, but the math involved with each is pretty basic.

• Tax benefits. Owning property gives you lots of stuff to write off.

• Long term appreciation.

• It can be kind of fun depending on your personality and interests.

6 Reasons Real Estate is a good investment:


Real estate is less volatile than stocks. While real estate may be less liquid, and you may have to wait indefinitely before a buyer agrees to purchase your property for the price you seek, the prices are not as volatile as the stock markets. The transition towards a correction or boom takes place gradually, giving ample time for investors to read the transition and safeguard their positions.

Price correction

The economic slowdown had an impact on this sector. The rates have come down over the past few months. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to invest in real estate when a price correction is taking place rather than in a heated market? People with a large disposable income can explore investing in real estate for diversification of their assets. Lowering home loan interest rates and lower property prices makes it an opportunity hard to resist.

Good in recession

Some investments are considered safe in times of recession like precious metals and foreign currencies. In this list of investments that are popular during times of financial uncertainty, real estate can be included. Focus on achieving positive monthly cash flows rather than immediate appreciation. Cash flow refers to the amount of cash coming in relative to the amount going out.

Hedge against inflation

Real estate and gold are considered a hedge against forces of inflation. Inflation has led to the rupee value depreciating and property prices travelling upwards. Property investments are typically held over a long term.

Tax benefits

Home loan borrowers are eligible for tax deductions on their interest and principal repayments subject to a certain limit. Further, you can use the rental income from the property to make a portion of the EMI repayments.

Good returns in long term

Investments in property has always proved to be stable and yielded good returns over the long term. With lesser risk and probability of higher returns, this is a much favoured investment option.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

5 Tax Tips For Homeowners

Ask a roomful of homeowners what's so great about owning versus renting, and you'll hear them holler in unison: "the tax deductions!" And it's true – homeowners who itemize their taxes are able to deduct 100% of their mortgage interest and property taxes from their income tax returns.

That means that if you're in a 28% tax bracket, Uncle Sam effectively subsidizes about a third of your borrowing costs or more, making your home more affordable or allowing you to buy a larger home than you could have otherwise. Also, big chunks of your closing costs are tax deductible, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of any profit (or capital gains) that you realize when you sell your home are exempt from income taxes.

At tax time, it's critical to know what you're entitled to, so you can claim it. So, here are five essential need-to-knows about home-related income tax tips to help you get the most tax-reducing bang out of your home-owning buck – and to avoid hefty home ownership-related tax traps.

1. You Have to Itemize Your Return to Claim Your Deductions

During the recent debate on Capitol Hill about whether the mortgage interest deduction should be eliminated (it won't be, not anytime soon), it came out that nearly 40% of homeowners lose out on their major tax advantages every year when they fail to itemize their income taxes. If you own a home and otherwise have a fairly simple return, it might be tempting just to take the standard deduction – and if your mortgage, property taxes and income are low enough, the standard deduction might outweigh your homeowners' deductions. But you'll never know if you're losing out on the tax advantages of itemizing unless you try; before you grab a pen and start filling in that 1040-EZ grab those forms from your mortgage company and answer the questions on tax software like TurboTax, which will automatically do the math on whether itemizing or taking the standard deduction will result in the lowest tax bill – or the highest tax refund – for you.

2. Plan Ahead and Be Strategic When Taking a Home Office Deduction

According to the Small Business Administration, the average home office deduction is $3,686 – multiply that by your tax bracket – 15%, 20%, 30% or whatever it is, and that's what you'll save on your taxes by writing off your home office. Know, though, that the space you designate as your home office cannot be exempted from capital gains tax when you sell your home later. The $250,000 (single)/ $500,000 (married filing jointly) income tax exemption for capital gains is only good on your personal residence, after all – not including any space in your home you've claimed as your tax-advantaged office. If you foresee selling your home for much more than you bought it in the future, near or far, discuss this with your tax preparer to see if the few hundred bucks you save is worth the capital gains complication later.

3. Tax Relief for Loan Modifications, Short Sales and Foreclosures Is Only Around Through 2012

While the long-term housing outlook is beginning to look up, 2011 is projected to be the peak year for foreclosures during this market cycle. Distressed homeowners who are on the brink of a short sale, loan modification or foreclosure should be aware that normally, any mortgage balance that is wiped out by one of these outcomes is taxed as what the IRS calls Cancellation of Debt Income, or CODI.

Under the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act of 2007, the IRS is currently not charging income taxes on CODI incurred through a loan mod, short sale or foreclosure on most primary residences through 2012. But right now, banks are taking many months, or even years, to work out mortgages in all of these ways; the average foreclosure in New York state right now occurs only after 22 months of missed mortgage payments. If you foresee any of these outcomes in your future, don't put things off. Do what you can to get to closure on your distressed home and loan, ASAP, while you won't have income taxes to add as the insult on top of your significant housing injury.

4. Project the Income Tax Consequences of a Refinance or Property Tax Appeal

Homeowners everywhere are working on applying for a lower property tax bill on the basis of the last few years' decline in their home's value. Those who have equity have flocked en masse to refinance their 7% home loans into the 4% to 5% rates of the last few months. These strategies offer some of the heftiest household savings out there for the corresponding investment in time and money they take. But here's a caveat for savvy homeowners who slash these costs: remember that property taxes and mortgage interest, the very costs you're minimizing, are also the basis for the major tax benefits of being a homeowner. So plan ahead for your income tax deductions to go down along with your taxes and interest.

5. Don't Forget Those Closing Costs

If you bought or refinanced your home in 2010, you may be so focused on your mortgage interest and property tax deductions that you forget all about your closing costs. Any origination fees or discount points that were paid to your mortgage lender at closing are tax deductible on your 2010 return, get this – even if the seller paid your closing costs. If you can't figure out exactly what you paid, look for your HUD-1 settlement statement, that legal sized paper full of line item credits and debits that you should have received from your escrow provider or title attorney at, or just after, closing. Can't find it? Drop your real estate agent or mortgage broker an email; they can usually get a copy to you quickly.

Note: This post first appeared on on 2.28.2011.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Want a mortgage loan? 10 ways to screw up your chances of approval.

Our credit is a magical and delicate thing that can be thrown off balance very easily. Qualifing for a mortgage post "economic major meltdown circa 2008 - present" has become a bit tougher and credit scores are more important than ever when it comes to getting a loan to buy a house.

Please let me apologize in advance for my potential overuse of capital letters in this post. That said--I do want the following 10 titles to read like I am screaming at you. IT'S THAT IMPORTANT!! I WANT TO SAVE YOU FROM YOURSELF!!!  :)

1. DON’T DO ANYTHING THAT WILL CAUSE A RED FLAG TO BE RAISED BY THE SCORING SYSTEM. This would include adding new accounts, co-signing on a loan, changing your name or address with the bureaus. The less activity on your reports during the loan process, the better.

2. DON’T APPLY FOR NEW CREDIT OF ANY KIND. Including those “You have been pre-approved” credit card invitations that you receive in the mail or online. Every time that you have your credit pulled by a potential creditor or lender, you lose points from your credit score immediately. Depending on the elements in your current credit report, you could lose anywhere from one to 20 points for one hard inquiry.

3. DON’T PAY OFF COLLECTIONS OR CHARGE OFFS during the loan process. Unless you can negotiate a delete letter, paying collections will decrease the credit score immediately due to the date of last activity becoming recent. If you want to pay off old accounts, do it through escrow – at closing.

4. DON’T MAX OUT OR OVER CHARGE ON YOUR CREDIT CARD ACCOUNTS. This is the fastest way to bring your scores down 50-100 points immediately. Try to keep your credit card balances below 30% of their available limit at ALL times during the loan process. If you decide to pay down balances, do it across the board. Meaning, pay balances to bring your balance to limit ratio to the same level on each card (i.e. all to 30% of the limit, or all to 40% etc.)

5. DON’T CONSOLIDATE YOUR DEBT ONTO 1 OR 2 CREDIT CARDS. It seems like it would be the smart thing to do, however, when you consolidate all of your debt onto one card, it appears that you are maxed out on that card, and the system will penalize you as mentioned above in 4. If you want to save money on credit card interest rates, wait until after closing.

6. DON’T CLOSE CREDIT CARD ACCOUNTS. If you close a credit card account, you will lose available credit, and it will appear to the FICO that your debt ratio has gone up. Also, closing a card will affect other factors in the score such as length of credit history. If you HAVE to close a credit card account, do it after closing.

7. DON’T PAY LATE. Stay current on existing accounts. Under the new FICO scoring model, one 30-day late can cost you anywhere from 50-100 points, and points lost for late pays take several months if not years to recover.

8. DON’T ALLOW ANY ACCOUNTS TO RUN PAST DUE --EVEN 1 DAY! Most cards offer a grace period, however, what they don’t tell you is that once the due date passes, that account will show a past due amount on your credit report. Past due balances can also drop scores by 50+ points.

9. DON’T DISPUTE ANYTHING ON YOUR CREDIT REPORT once the loan process has started. When yousend a letter of dispute to the credit reporting agencies, a note is put onto your credit report, and when the underwriter notices items in dispute, in many instances, they will not process the loan until the note is removedand new credit scores are pulled. Why? Because in some instances credit scoring software will not consider items in dispute in the consider items in dispute in the credit score - giving false data to the lender.

10. DON’T LOSE CONTACT WITH YOUR MORTGAGE & REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONALS. If you have a question about whether or not you should take a specific action that you believe may affect your credit reportsor scores during the loan process, your mortgage or real estate professional may be able to supply you with the resources you need to avoid making mistakes that could drop your credit scores or possibly, cause you to lose the loan.

To refinance or not to refinance? That is the question.

There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about the low mortgage rates and it's true! They are really low! So, if you have been on the fence about buying, low rates are a good reason to get off the fence---but if you already own a home, now may be a good time to think about refinancing.

It's time to think about refinancing your home loan IF:
• rates are 2% + lower than your current rate

• you are paying mortgage insurance and you have 80% equity in your home,

• you’re current loan is an ARM and your term is up and your rate is looking at resetting

And most importantly ---only refinance if you are planning on sticking around in your home for at least 2 years post refi.

Here are some more things to consider when thinking about refinancing:

Four Reasons to Refinance Your Home

There are many situations where refinancing a mortgage is a good decision. It can save your house, save you money, or help you with other financial needs. Read on to learn the four reasons to refinance your home.

1. Avoid Foreclosure with a Refi

If you are on the brink of foreclosure and are desperate to save your home, refinancing may be the answer for you. Whenever you are having trouble paying your mortgage, it is always a good idea to approach your lender and discuss the issue with them. They may be open to helping you through a refi. This can help you lower your current interest rate, lock in a fixed rate, and/or change the length of the loan. This can lower your monthly payments and make your mortgage more affordable, helping you avoid foreclosure. You can also talk with other lenders or mortgage brokers to see if they have programs available for you. The biggest obstacle in this situation is going to be whether you have enough equity in your home. If you do not, you need to talk to your lender and review your options.

2. Changing an ARM to a Fixed Rate Mortgage

Maybe you are not on the brink of foreclosure, but you do have an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) whose rate is going to increase in the near future, making it harder for you to afford your mortgage. Many people are solving that problem by refinancing their homes to get a fixed rate, so they no longer have to worry about when and how much the rate on their mortgage will increase. This can help you avoid financial trouble before it starts.

3. Saving Money When You Refinance Your Home

Not everyone who refinances a home does it because they are experiencing some sort of financial trouble. Usually, refinancing is an effective way to save money on your monthly payments. For the same reasons that it can help people avoid foreclosure, it can help you save money by lowering the interest rate, lengthening the term of the mortgage, locking in a fixed rate, or paying off other higher-interest rate debt.

4. Getting Money Out of Your Home

Another reason to refinance is to get money out of your house, which is known as a cash-out refinance. This type of refnance allows you to access the equity in your house to use that money for other purposes. Many people do this to pay off other high-interest debts they may have. It is also a very popular choice for finally doing those improvements around the house. Of course, any time you take equity out of your house, you want to make sure you assess any possible risk involved and confirm that you are not putting your house in jeopardy.

Two Reasons Not to Refinance a Home

A refinance is not an easy fix to complicated problems, nor is it an ATM for making unneeded purchases. As with anything relating to mortgages or your house, you need to be smart about a refi and know when it is not the right decision.

1. When a Refinance Does Not Save You Money

Lower rates do not necessarily mean that a refinance will save you money. You need to thoroughly assess the situation and evaluate how much you will save, if anything. It is important to remember that with any mortgage, including the one you are about to refinance, there are always fees involved, such as closing costs. These can add up to several thousand dollars, which can prevent the refinanced loan from saving you money. You also need to consider how long you plan to stay in that specific house. If you plan to move in the near term, a refi may not save you money. Talk to a mortgage professional or trusted financial planner if you are not sure where you stand.

2. Cashing Out for Frivolous Purchases

We all would love to go on a two-week Caribbean vacation or buy the luxury or sports car we have always dreamed of driving, but using a cash-out refi for such purchases is not a very smart choice. Once you get into the habit of using your mortgage as a way to pay for things you can not really afford, you run into the danger of going into debt you cannot handle or losing your home. Using equity for home improvement projects can increase the value of your house. Using equity for luxury purchases saps the value from your home.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Another Crazy MLS photo and by Crazy--- I mean Sad

So, really? Not only does this make me not want to bring a client to this house this makes my stomach hurt.

I sent this over to the mad genius over at my favorite Real Estate blog, Real Estate Rumble and this is what she had to say---I could not have said it better.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

News Flash : It's Cold in Austin

I am fighting my second cold of the winter season! What gives? I am generally a one cold per season kind of gal. This Austin weather could have something to do with it. It is really cold for Austin and I love how we kind of collectively go crazy as a city when it gets cold here. We drive weird or refuse to drive at all and we openly complain to anyone that will listen about how cold it is, even though in many other parts of the nation/world folks are resorting to full body sweater wearing as pictured here:

I include myself in the collectively crazy for sure---I mean, as we speak I have on a lot of socks---like multiple pairs of socks and my pantry is stocked in a way that suggests I am expecting company---all because the temperatures have dipped into the 20s. A few days ago we had a little snow. In the time that it took me to contract my second cold of the season, it had melted. This is the type of snow we are more familiar with:

Soon enough it will be so hot that we won't even be able to remember the wonder of Wintertastrophe 2011. So, drip your faucets and make some soup and wear that crazy scarf I knitted you that one year when I was knitting A LOT because I had just quit smoking---and try to enjoy the wonder that is winter in Austin.