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Better to Rent or Own? It’s a question a get a lot. Again the answer isn’t a ‘one-size-fit-all’ type thing because it depends where you live and how expensive it is to purchase vs. rent. However, Trulia has a great...


Selling in 2011? 5 things you MUST know. If you are considering selling your house in 2011 here are my top 5 things you need to know as a seller. This is one of my few longer posts, just so you’re prepared! Of course my standard disclaimer...


Pflugerville home – 2000sqft+ for under $150K View Full Album Yes, the Austin market is still strong. For those who are relocating to Austin, TX, Pflugerville is just minutes away from Austin, and about 20 minutes to all the downtown fun! This...


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Better to Rent or Own?

Posted on : 25-01-2011 | By : Sumina | In : Austin, Education


It’s a question a get a lot. Again the answer isn’t a ‘one-size-fit-all’ type thing because it depends where you live and how expensive it is to purchase vs. rent.

However, Trulia has a great infographic which helps visualize the issue. Looks like Austin pans out pretty well, and leans toward the ‘renting is less expensive, but it might be better to buy’ category.


More interesting is New York, where the average price to buy is between $1.3M to $1.4M, and to rent is between $3000-$4000.

Overall though, Texas is definitely in the ‘better to buy’ category as a whole. Play around with it, there’s some great visuals when you change up the the ‘rent price’ and ‘list price’ options as well.

Top 5 Remodels

Posted on : 14-01-2011 | By : Sumina | In : Austin, Education


What are the top 5 remodels that get you the best return? According to a recent study by Realtor.org here they are. Although the study supposedly does account for regions and areas, number 3 on the list is Basement Remodels… In Austin? …go figure.

Top 5 Remodels

  1. Replacing your entry door with a steel door will yield you 116% remodel
  2. Garage Door replacement
  3. Basement remodel – which I don’t exactly get, since Austin isn’t known for having basements considering that in most parts of the city, digging 4 inches down, you hit limestone.
  4. Attic Bedroom will get you 78% of your investment recouped
  5. Window replacements will get you 76% back. So use those Austin Energy rebates, and

What are the top 5 WORST ways to spend your hard earned dough?

Top 5 WORST remodels

  1. Sunroom Addition – with being able to recoup just barely 50% of your money back
  2. Home Office Remodel – anticipates converting a 12×12 room with built in bookshelves, cabinets, laminate desktop, computer workstation. Also, a rewire for electrical equipment, drywall, paint, trim and carpet.
  3. Backup Power Generator
  4. Bathroom Addition
  5. Roofing Replacement

So of course the question is, when would I tell my clients to do some of the least cost effective remodels? If it’s going to impact the quality of your life. If having a second bathroom will improve your day-to-day life and prevent you from screaming at the kids every morning, then for your sanity and privacy, get a second bathroom installed. Just know that you aren’t going to be getting back what you put into installing it.

Austin Ranked Best in the US for Economic Recovery – In the World

Posted on : 08-12-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Austin, Education


The World. Yes, you heard right. An article in the Austin Business Journal today shows Austin as the leader, in the US, in 27th place, in a ranking for the highest-rated recovery.

Again, it looks like GREAT news for the Austin market, and I’m happy to be imagein an area which has worked hard for the past several decades creating policies and economies for a  stable market which we are now getting the opportunity to experience. It’s a rare thing folks. Enjoy it while you can.

What city way number 1 on the list, Istanbul, Turkey, but alas, I’m not selling real estate there.

For more detailed info about Austin in particular, just click the image above or this link.

Do you trust Realtors?

Posted on : 03-12-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Education


During an interview at the recent National Association of Realtors (NAR) convention, the FHA commissioner David Stephens had this to say about consumers trust in the real estate industry.

But Stevens cautioned that lending isn’t the only challenge today. The real estate industry also must close a "trust deficit" with Americans, especially with echo-boomers in their early 20s to early 30s who represent the future of real estate demand…."We’ve got to weed out the bad players," Stevens said to loud applause.“Shed the light on anyone who’s just out to make a buck. We need to have very accountable and responsible behavior.

It’s nice to see that even those who are higher up are seeing the lack of trust that the average consumer has in the average real estate agent.  As an industry, we’ve done a pretty crummy job in the past several years creating a lack of trust with the American public. And for those of us who are going to stick around in this career, it’s our job to clean it up.

expertAs a consumer, what would make you think that an agent actually cared about YOU; cared about your home, your transaction, and would be there to answer questions for you after the deal was done?

As the future of the real estate industry changes, I think the trust level that the consumer is going to expect and SHOULD expect from a real estate professional, yes, professional, is really going to change how the real estate market operates. And I, for one, say bring it on.

What comes first, buying or selling?

Posted on : 23-11-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Education


A question I get fairly often from clients is,  ‘When looking to sell a home and buy another one, what is the process?’ Buy first, then sell the old house? Put the current home on the market? Find a home I like then put my house on the market?  HELP!

Well really, there are only a few options, and much of that will be determined by what your financial position is. confusing sign - mod

  1. Sell your home, rent for a few months, and then buy a home
  2. Sell your home and while it is for sale, find your next home and move
  3. Buy a home, move, and then put your now (old) home on the market. This is not an option for everyone because of the Very Important Question below.
  • Can you afford to buy a home without selling your current home? In other words, are you financial secure enough to manage dual  home payments? Even if YOU think you are, will a lender or bank?

It’s important that you talk to a lender to get a good idea of what you can afford and that will help dictate what the process is going to be. So let’s go with the assumption that you WILL need to sell your current home in order to purchase. Here’s what I would suggest:

  1. Put your current home on the market. Talk to your lender about the expected selling price and how much home you can afford.
  2. Start casually looking at homes in the area you think you’ll want to live in. Casually meaning, on the web, open houses, etc. This is not an all out fall-in-love-with-a-house-you-can’t-buy type of looking.
  3. Once you get a contract on your current house, then, and ONLY then, we can move forward with getting a contract on a new house. Things can get tricky with timelines, and often you’ll be selling your house and buying a new house in the same day. You can also do a lease back for a few days if needed, but not all sellers are okay with those for a variety of reasons.

So that’s my suggested route. Of course my disclaimer is that every area is different, every market is different, and every time is different (this is not the same market as 5 years ago) as is every situation. So talk to your preferred agent or lender. What may have worked for you best buddy 2 years ago may not work the same for you.

7 Future Housing Trends – Outhouses and Sheds?

Posted on : 21-11-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Education


Realtor.com recently reported the 7 future housing trends coming our way in 2011. You can read the full article on their site, but there was one that I was taking a closer look at. Specifically #3 – Sheds are the next evolution.  Hmmm.

As builders seem to be moving away from the huge McMansions, I wonder how viable of an alternative sheds would be, especially in our area. With 100+ degree summer days, cooling and efficiency would be top-of-mind with these types of units. Some of the protocols do look pretty interesting, and I’d be curious to see how they’d hold up in a Texas summer, both with cooling and costs.  Not only that, but how the aesthetics would appeal to the Texas population. The most of what we see right now to increase flex-space are converted garages (often very badly done).

But imagine that you live in Hyde Park, or in the ‘burbs. Would you really imageput one of these in your backyard?  Personally, I’m a fan of modern design, but if I had an historic, turn-of-the century home with limited space, I doubt my neighbors would appreciate this in the neighborhood.

Interestingly, this article from ProSalesMagazine says that a recent survey found that 17.2 million American’s work from home, close to a 40% increase from 2006. So is this a trend that’s going to stick? Whether that’s because more people are doing contract work, or more workers have the ability to work from home, I definitely think it’s trending toward more home-based workers and more flex-space is going to be in demand from home builders.

If you own an older home, are limited in space, and would consider something like this, here is my take-away:

  • Please consider the aesthetics of your  home and neighborhood before putting something like this in. Find something that ‘fits’.
  • Also know that you probably aren’t going to get anywhere near the price you paid for this when you go to sell. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but at least for a while, it’s not going to happen.
  • Make sure you are dealing with a reputable company who can make you aware of hidden costs you may not have considered (plumbing, electricity, permits, HOA, etc)

Closing costs high in Texas

Posted on : 26-08-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Buyers, Education


Tying into my previous article on the lack of affordable housing, according to bankrate.com, Texas ranks the second highest in closing costs. Way to go Texas.  Although in 2009, we ranked #1 in highest closing costs.


Debating with a few non-real estate friends, the question was, if a family doesn’t have a few grand stocked away to purchase a home and are depleting all their cash reserves to purchase a home, should they really be in the home buying market? Any setback (loss of job, disability, auto emergency, etc) would put them in a very difficult position.

According to the general government funding programs, a household should not be spending more than 30% of the total household income on housing. I can say for a fact, that I have several friends who spend close to 60% of their monthly income on housing.

The question becomes, is it lack of affordable housing, or poor financial planning. Obviously, this is food for another post.

Austin Housing Affordability… what affordability?

Posted on : 26-08-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Austin, Education


I was recently at an Workforce Housing Forum held at the Omni downtown, which is only one of 4 such forums offered nationwide. During the course of the 2 days, there was much discussed about the barriers to affordable housing, and how poorly Texas ranks. Exactly how bad? According to the Texas Association of Realtors (or TAR), Texas ranks 44th out of 50 in overall homeownership. Gulp.

That homeownership gap is widest in Texas among Hispanics, who account for 36 percent of the state’s population but only 5 percent of homeowners.

So what are we doing to address the problem? TAR has launched TXHomePrograms.com to help homebuyers indentify programs that are available on the city, county, state and federal level to help with affordability.

Going through the ‘Program Search’ feature on the site with the following criteria, 2 person household, annual household income of $60k, looking in Travis county, and I selected all the programs… guess how many programs were available to help me purchase a home. Drumroll please. Zero. Nada.

Try it for yourself and see if you come up with something different.

So the saying goes, ‘Drive till you qualify’. We’ve got to get more people who work in the city, who are service providers, police officers, medical service providers, living closer to where they are working.


National housing numbers

Posted on : 26-08-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Education


Although most of my focus is on the local numbers, taking a look at what we are doing nationally is also important to figure out what we should be expecting across the nation.

The numbers put out by the National Association of Realtors show that home sales are up slightly and the home buyer credit, which was extended till April 2010, has contributed toward shifting the number somewhat for 2010.

Here is one of the charts reflecting home sales for both new and existing homes since 2004. More info is available here.


My takeaway: Although nationally we are not doing as badly as we were in 2008-2009, we still have a while to go on the national level before we’ll be back to ‘stable’. Not normal, but just stable.

More positive growth for Texas economy

Posted on : 25-08-2010 | By : Sumina | In : Austin, Education


Even though the doom and gloom continues for the rest of the nation, our data shows that things are turning around for Austin. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that in my opinion, although Texas and Austin were definitely hurt by the economy, we were no where near as bad as some other places in the nation, and now it seems we are on our way back to recovery.

It isn’t going to be an easy road, but this Monthly Report from the Real Estate Council Association is a good source of information. The most important take-aways for me?

  • After 16 months of job losses, Texas had it’s third positive month of positive job growth
  • The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Texas rose from 7.9 percent in July 2009 to 8.2 percent in July 2010, while the U.S. rate increased from 9.4 to 9.5 percent over the same period.
  • Nineteen Texas metro areas had positive employment growth rates from July 2009 to July 2010, up from 16 for the period from June 2009 to June 2010. San Angelo ranked first in job creation, followed by College Station-Bryan, Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission.


Sumina’s take away: If you’re in another part of the nation, struggling to find a job, take a look at what Austin has to offer. (the answer is a LOT). Low cost of living, job growth in multiple industries, and a great quality of life with warm weather for most of the year.