What Questions Should You Ask Before Signing a Mortgage?

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 Selling your Austin area home? Get a free home value report.

If you’re thinking about buying a home, you’re going to need to secure a good mortgage with a reputable lender. To ensure you get the best rates and terms possible, we’ve got four questions for you today that you should be asking before you sign a mortgage agreement with a lender. Here they are:

1.  What is the APR?
The APR really tells you the true cost of the loan. It includes all closing costs, underwriting costs, and processing fees.

2. Does the mortgage carry a pre-payment penalty?
If you end up getting penalized negatively for paying off a loan in advance, it could negatively affect your ability to have a profitable investment. Watch out for pre-payment penalties!

3. Can you review the GFE and the HUD-1 together?
The Good Faith Estimate, or GFE, is an estimate a lender gives you when you first speak with them. The HUD-1 is the settlement statement at the closing table. You want to make sure that the GFE matches up with the HUD-1 at the closing table.

4. How long will my rate lock and what’s the maximum cap?
You might sign an agreement with a lender when you start looking for a home, but not find a home for two or three months. It’s important when you get that initial approval from a lender, you know how long you are locked into that specific rate. A lot of times, there are time limits, and rates can change. You don’t want to have to pay more than you agreed to.
These are four key questions you need to ask your lender before signing a mortgage contract. Working with a trusted real estate advisor will really help the process become more smooth and easy. If you have any questions for us, or are looking to buy or sell in Austin, give us a call or send us an email. We would love to hear from you.

You’re Invited to Our Free Pie Giveaway!

Looking to buy in the Austin area? Get a full home search, 
 Selling your Austin area home? Get a free home value report.

We’ve got a very special message for you today. We haven’t got any educational real estate news and information for you today, but we do have some free pie to give away.
If you’re watching this video, you’re invited to come to our office and pick up a free pie! We wanted to give a token of appreciation to all of our great clients, friends, and families for entrusting us with helping them and their referrals buy and sell homes here in Austin.

Our free pie giveaway is going to be on November 24th, from 3:30 to 7:30 pm. All you have to do to reserve your pie is let me know your first name, last name, when you are coming and what kind of pie you want. We will have both pumpkin and pecan pies, and we’ve got a local bakery cooking them up for us. They are going to be delicious.

We have been able to help over 500 families buy or sell homes this year alone, and we plan on giving away over 1000 pies. So give us a call, let us know what kind of pie you want, and we look forward to seeing you on November 24th from 3:30 to 7:30!

Five Lessons Learned from the Housing Market Crash

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 Selling your Austin area home? Get a free home value report.

Now that the real estate market is in great shape and the economy is doing well, it's not a bad time to take a look back at the housing crisis and figure out what we've learned:
1. Your home may not always be an investment. This may sound counter-intuitive coming from a real estate agent, but if you buy a home in an area where there is a massive number of months worth of inventory, you're buying into an area that's trending down, which means you're buying into an area where properties will be worth less down the road.
2. Every homeowner should have an emergency fund. This is pretty obvious, but incidental things happen. Make sure your mortgage payment is something you are more than comfortable paying each month, and that you can afford to pay it even if things take a downward turn.
3. Beware of risky mortgages. An example of a risky mortgage is, say, a variable-rate mortgage that adjusts every year. You might have gotten the loan on day one at 4.5%, but it may rise above 5% within a few years, which causes the cost of your home to go up too.
4. Buy what feels comfortable. Just because you qualify for a loan to buy a $400,000 house doesn't mean you can actually afford it. You don't want to give up a huge percentage of your income in order to make monthly house payments.
5. Home ownership is not for everyone! This may sound even crazier coming from a real estate agent than number 1, but it's the truth. On average, home prices go up 3-4%, so when you take closing costs into account, you're unlikely to make money for quite some time. You only want to get involved if you're comfortable enough financially.
If you have any questions about this topic, or if you need real estate assistance, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. We would love to hear from you!

The Pitfalls of Buying a Distressed Property in Austin

Looking to buy in the Austin area? Get a full home search, 
 Selling your Austin area home? Get a free home value report.

Today, we'll speak about the downfalls of purchasing a distressed property. A lot of people think that these homes are good deals, but there are some things that you need to be aware of prior to purchasing them.

1. Buy a clear title to the property:
I have seen people purchase foreclosures that have outstanding liens on them from the prior owner. You will be liable for these liens once you buy the property.

2. Some lenders have troubles getting a loan because of the condition of the home: The lender will want certain parts of your property to be in good condition. This includes the roof and the foundation of your home. Wood-destroying insects can also be a worry if you're trying to get approved for a loan.

3. Not examining market trends:
People don't often examine where the market is moving. Is there appreciation? If you buy a home in an area where homes are losing value every day, then purchasing a distressed property may not be the best idea for you.

4. Unforeseen damages and deferred maintenance: This probably seems like common sense, but I've seen some bad situations arise. I have a lot of horror stories about this happening to people who have bought distressed homes, so you need to be careful not to cut any corners when you're doing renovations or making repairs.

Hopefully this information has been helpful to you! If you'd like to learn more about real estate in Austin, please don't hesitate to contact me!

What to Avoid for the Best Results When Selling in Austin

Looking to buy in the Austin area? Get a full home search, 
 Selling your Austin area home? Get a free home value report.

Today, I have some information for all the homeowners out there. I want to share the four biggest mistakes people make when selling their Austin homes!
  1. Not getting a pre-inspection prior to listing: This is one of the best ways to get the highest return on investment. Whoever ends up buying your home will likely get an inspection, which will usually reveal some defects with your property. A pre-inspection will put you in a position of strength and knowledge when it comes to negotiating. Also, fixing problems ahead of time is cheaper and more time efficient!
  2. Overdoing upgrades: In Austin and the surrounding areas, on average, you are not going to get a positive return on investment by making huge upgrades. I highly recommend staying clear of risky upgrades and focusing on things that will net you a positive return.
  3. Not staging your home: Study after study has proved that getting your home staged is going to help a seller net significantly more money! If you're currently living in the home, a huge benefit of working with our team is we pay for a free consultation with one of our expert stagers, who will show you how to best arrange your home for buyers. Staging is a great way to get buyers to emotionally connect to your home.
  4. Pricing too high: It's our job to make sure you net the highest amount of money possible for your home. There's a method we use to ensure you get top dollar for your home. Instead of just looking at historical sales, we can actually predict what is going to happen in two to three months simply by looking at the market absorption rate. Using this strategy, we can help you maximize the value of your home!

If you have any questions about this topic, or if you need real estate assistance of any kind, don't hesitate to reach out to me. I would love to help you make the most of your next real estate transaction!

Selling Vs. Renting in Austin

Looking to buy in the Austin area? Get a full home search, 
 Selling your Austin area home? Get a free home value report.

Hey everyone, thanks for joining us again today. I wanted to share a question with you I recently got from a client, who wanted to know if they should sell their home or rent it out. 

It's a great question, because having an investment property is a great way to build wealth. However, the answer is a little more complicated than that.

If you're thinking about renting out your home, the first question we have to ask is, "What are your plans after you rent the home out?" Are you going to turn around and buy another home? If so, can you afford to do that? If you're going to need the equity out of your current home to pay for another, you may want to ask the lender to give you a home equity line of credit from your current home to use as a down payment on your next purchase. 

It all really depends on your goals. If you need the equity on the property, I suggest you sell rather than rent it out. Right now, our market is having rising prices and lower days on market, making conditions even better for sellers. 

If you have any questions for us, or are looking to buy or sell a home in Austin, feel free to give us a call or send us an email. We look forward to helping you!

Austin Home Moving Tips ft. Blue Whale Moving and Storage

Bradley Pounds recently had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Hunter Armstrong from Blue Whale Moving and Storage. Moving can be an overwhelming experience, especially if it's your first time packing up an entire house. Mr. Armstrong recommends planning ahead and packing a couple of boxes a day in order to avoid a last-minute, sleepless night of packing the day before the move. He also discusses his favorite packing materials, the craziest thing he's ever had to move, and the proper way to pack up a kitchen. (Hint: you've been packing plates the wrong way all this time.)

Austin Home Moving Tips ft. Blue Whale Moving and Storage  (Question 1)

Bradley Pounds: Hunter Armstrong from Blue Whale Moving and Storage, thank you so much. This is so helpful.

Hunter Armstrong: I’m very well, thank you. And yourself?

Bradley Pounds: Good! Listen, this is Bradley Pounds from Watters International Realty, and I wanted to thank you so much for taking a little bit of time. Our buyers have a burning question. We get this all of the time, Hunter. They want to know: How do you properly pack up a kitchen?

Hunter Armstrong: Sure! Packing, whether it’s a kitchen or any other area of your home, all boils down to density and weight. You want to select your box accordingly, and determine how to pack that box. So the denser the items are, the smaller the box you should use. And you should always try to put the densest items toward the bottom of the box.

Bradley Pounds: Tell me why that is. I’m interested.

Hunter Armstrong: That’s the case for a few reasons. In terms of selecting the box, it’s important because if you put very dense items in a big box, you’re not only going to make the box too heavy to safely move, you could also compromise the integrity of the box. When you’re talking about within a box, you want the denser items on the bottom. You don’t want those heavy pieces on top crushing the lighter, typically more delicate items on the bottom.

Bradley Pounds: Okay, so heavy on the bottom, and if you’re moving super dense items, then you need to keep it small and manageable.
Hunter Armstrong: Precisely.

Bradley Pounds: Okay. What else is important about packing up a kitchen?

Hunter Armstrong: When you’re talking specifically about a kitchen, you definitely want to use specialized boxes. What we use are called ‘Dish Packs,’ or ‘Dish Barrels.’ Again, you want to go density first. So typically you want to take your dishes, your plates, and those sort of things, wrap them up—use a lot of packing paper! We definitely recommend packing paper over bubble wrap or anything like that. The other trick that a lot of people don’t know or don’t do is you actually don’t want to stack your dishes. You don’t want to lie them flat and stack them up; you want to put them on edge, and put them into the box that way. Then as you go higher in the box, you move to things like your glasses, crystal, champagne flutes, etc., up near the top.

Bradley Pounds: Okay, so tell me what’s better about packing your plates that way. I had no idea that’s the way you’re supposed to do it!
Hunter Armstrong: Really, it’s just about making it stable and keeping the weight managed. So if you pack them all up on an edge, none of the dishes have the weight of the rest of the dishes on top of them, whereas if you pack them flat, the bottom dish has the weight of every single dish above it sitting down on top of it.

Bradley Pounds: Okay. So you throw that box around a couple times, and you might crack it just because of all the extra pressure. I totally get it! That’s so smart, Hunter. That’s why you’re here. Can you think of anything else that we should keep in mind whenever we go to pack up that kitchen?

Hunter Armstrong: You know, Mr. Pounds, I asked my lead packer that question this morning, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. When I asked her that exact same question, she said “Use a lot of paper.” You don’t need cell packs, which are those little cardboard inserts to separate glasses, or things like that. You don’t need bubble wrap. What you need to do is just use a lot of paper. The other thing she said is to make sure you seal the boxes well. That’s something that a lot of people overlook. Make sure you have good tape, and make sure you’re taping the tops closed well. Ultimately, these boxes are going to get stacked, be on a dolly, and they need to be able to hold out against the pressure of another box on top of them.

Bradley Pounds: Okay, so I feel like I have a really good idea now about how to do it. At the same time, if I don’t want to pack my kitchen up, or if I just don’t have time, could you guys pack for me?

Hunter Armstrong: Absolutely! We do offer packing as a service. We can come in and pack as little or as much as you want, whether that be just your kitchen, or just your books, or your entire house (including the garage)! Doesn’t have to be all or nothing—we’re happy to just come and do what you don’t want to do!

Bradley Pounds: Well, that’s fantastic. Mr. Hunter Armstrong from Blue Whale Moving and Storage, I want to thank you so much for giving us this great information. I feel so much more prepared for the big move now!

Hunter: Great! Absolutely. Happy to be here, and thank you very much for having me!

Austin Home Moving Tips ft. Blue Whale Moving and Storage (Question 2)

Bradley Pounds: Mr. Hunter Armstrong, from Blue Whale Moving and storage, how are you?

Hunter Armstrong: I’m doing great, Mr. Pounds, thank you so much.

Bradley Pounds: You’re so welcome. Listen, I appreciate you taking a little time out for me. I know you’re a busy guy. You’ve got a lot of moves going on this year. I have a big question for you. Since a lot of our clients end up moving themselves, for better or for worse, I want to know what is the most common mistake that you see people make when they try to pack and move themselves?

Hunter Armstrong: I would actually have two answers to this question. We see or hear about these two things with almost the frequency. One is a problem that people have when they hire movers as well, but especially when they try to it themselves, and that is waiting until the last minute. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people talk about their previous moves, and they try to pack on Friday and do the whole move on Saturday with the U-Haul. They were just completely and totally underwater on that. So that’s one, and the second is cutting corners on materials. I’m talking about not using packing paper, not having the appropriate boxes for what you’re trying to move, not using tape but just folding the lid on the box over—that really is a seductive way to think that you’re going to save yourself time, money, and energy. But it’s really going to cost you all of those things in the end, because of the additional difficulties that it will cause.

Bradley Pound: I’ve certainly moved myself before. Never again. I tell you, you will certainly be getting a call from me the next time. But I remember going to the truck rental place, and they’ve got a huge selection of expensive materials that are supposed to help you make sure your stuff is okay. One of those things that’s really expensive is bubble wrap, but I’ve heard that you’re not a fan of bubble wrap. You really like paper. Why is that?

Hunter Armstrong: We find that packing paper is not only more cost-effective, but also more versatile. Bubble wrap is good. It serves its purpose, certainly, but it is expensive and hard to fit into some shapes that you need it in. If you’re going to pack, say, a coffee mug, what you want to do is wrap the whole thing in some sort of cushioning, and then also get some cushioning inside. Doing that with bubble wrap is very challenging. You can get paper into whatever shape you need! Packing safely is all about filling voids. You want there to be no empty space whatsoever left in that box. Bubble wrap has a tendency to leave voids. Packing paper you can fill any crevice and corner that you need very easily.

Bradley Pound: Well, like I said, I would never attempt to move myself again, but for those folks who are dead-set on doing it, I think you’ve given us some really helpful tips. I’m sure they feel much more prepared to do that themselves. Mr. Hunter Armstrong from Blue Whale Moving and Storage, I can’t thank you enough for joining me.

Hunter Armstrong: Thank you so much for having me!

Austin Home Moving Tips ft. Blue Whale Moving and Storage (Question 3)

Bradley Pounds: Mr. Hunter Armstrong from Blue Whale Moving and Storage, thank you so much for joining me.

Hunter Armstrong: Mr. Pounds, thank you for having me.

Bradley Pounds: Listen, I’ve got a fun one for you this time. I want to know what’s the biggest, wackiest thing you’ve ever had to move?

Hunter Armstrong: So Blue Whale was founded in 1988. At that time, I was one year old, so I was not around for the biggest, craziest thing that we’ve ever moved. To my knowledge, the biggest, craziest thing we’ve ever moved was Anne Richard’s marble desk. The entire desk was made of marble, as I’m told. I don’t even know that I want to speculate how much that weighed, but we were the ones who got to move that, and that’s a mark of pride to us. If I’m going to talk about the biggest, craziest thing we’ve moved under my tenure—we had a client who purchased a table that’s probably 22 or 23 feet long, four feet wide, and was cut from the center of a tree trunk. I don’t know for sure, but if I had to guess, I’d say this table probably weighs 1,500 to 1,800 pounds. We had to take eight guys out there to even get it onto the truck. In terms of what I’ve seen moved myself, that’s the biggest and the craziest under my tenure.

Bradley Pounds: That’s a pretty great story. Mr. Hunter Armstrong, that was a fun one. Thank you so much!

Hunter Armstrong: Absolutely. Thank you.

Austin Home Moving Tips ft. Blue Whale Moving and Storage (Question 4)

Bradley Pounds: Mr. Hunter Armstrong from Blue Whale Moving and Storage, thanks so much for joining me.

Hunter Armstrong: Mr. Pounds, thank you very much for having me.

Bradley Pounds: Hey I’ve got a question for you. As we’re speaking, it’s the height of the sales season. We have so many buyers who are getting into new homes, and so many sellers that are moving onto that next chapter, I get sort of the sense that when it comes to moving and packing, some of them really don’t know where to start. Let’s say you’re moving out of a two-bedroom apartment to a larger property. If we just took the contract today, you’ve got 30 days to close as a seller or buyer. When do you start? What do you do first? If it were you, what would you do?

Hunter Armstrong: When do you start? What do you do first? You start yesterday, and the first thing you do is figure out your plan and start packing! There are a lot of reasons why moving is stressful. It is a huge disruption in your life and so on, but with regards to the actual move itself, I think that the majority of people who are moving are sleep deprived and have more on their plates than they’re prepared to handle. That’s because they’ve let the plan get away from them, and thought they could pack their whole home themselves in one day. It’s certainly doable, but it’s certainly not fun. My recommendation would be to go out tonight, get yourself some boxes, and start packing today. Pack about five boxes every night leading up to your move day. We all know that there’s stuff in your home that you don’t need to use for the next 30 days. Start with that. Get a few boxes packed every day. That way, by the time the move comes around, you’ll have extra time, and it won’t be such a big headache.

Bradley Pounds: So a little bit at a time. Keep it super manageable, and then you won’t have that big, staying up all night long, waiting on the moving truck the next morning, right?

Hunter Armstrong: Exactly.

Bradley Pounds: Okay. Mr. Hunter Armstrong from Blue Whale Moving and Storage, thank you so much. That’s super helpful.

Hunter Armstrong: Absolutely, sir. Thank you so much for having me.

Is Using a 401K for an Austin Home Purchase a Good Idea?

Looking to buy in the Austin area? Get a full home search, 
 Selling your Austin area home? Get a free home value report.

I recently got a question from a viewer about whether it was a good idea to buy a home with money from a 401K. Keep in mind that I am not a CPA, and I'm not licensed to give any advice on this, so I'll just give my opinion.

What I would think about right now is how low interest rates are. They are quite possibly the lowest that they've ever been. There is a high likelihood that if you buy a home now, you can save tens of thousands of dollars (in interest) over the lifetime of a loan. 

I wouldn't be too concerned about a home losing value once rates do eventually rise again, but I would keep in mind that real estate prices have only risen in the last few decades. 

So, again, if you're thinking of pulling funds from your 401K to buy a home, I'd really want you to talk to a financial adviser, but now really is a great time to buy a home. 

Please don't hesitate to contact me with any other questions you might have about real estate in Austin!