Fixed Rates on 30-Year Home Loans Rises to 5.05 Percent

Freddie Mac announced today that the average rate for 30-year fixed-interest rate loans has risen to 5.05%, up from last week’s 4.93%. Average rates on 15-year fixed-interest rate loans also rose, to 4.4% from last week’s 4.33%. This is the first rate increase in the last three weeks. Interest rates are evaluated weekly by Freddie Mac, the Fedaral Home Loan Mortgage Corporation.

Austin Mortgage Bankers See Rates Climbing

We have spoken with several respected Austin real estate mortgage bankers, and all are in agreement that once the Federal Reserve stops buying Mortgage Backed Securities through subsidies, that interest rates will gradually climb as private money enters the mortgage market. The current Fed mortgage purchasing incentives are set to expire at the end of March. Of course, there’s nothing to say that these incentives won’t be extended and keep rates low, for the short-term.  But, there has to be a breaking point where rates will be forced to climb. The government simply cannot subsidize the situation forever.

Interest Rates, Tax Credits, and Home Buyers

The lesson to take away from this: if you are on the fence and are looking to purchase a home at the lowest possible interest rate AND take advantage of current tax credits, seriously folks, now may be the last chance to do so. Yes, this week’s interest-rates for 1-year Adjustable Rate Mortgage’s went down from 4.23% to 4.15%, signalling that private investors believe that in the short-term, rates may drop slightly. But, the housing tax credit deadline is looming and is highly unlikely to be extended (although anything can happen).

What are your thoughts regarding the current interest rate situation and real estate prices in the short-term, particularly in the Austin area?


Auction Details for Sabine on Fifth Condos in Downtown Austin

The 27 remaining Sabine on Fifth condos in Downtown Austin are going on the auction block on February 28, 2010 at 1pm at the Hilton Austin Downtown, located at 500 East 4th Street.

Registration for Sabine Auction

Registration is required to be eligible to attend and bid on auction day.  Registration deadline is February 25, 2010 at 5pm.  Please contact us for information about registration, and we can provide you with an auction packet and quickly get you registered so you can attend and place bids.

Deposit for Sabine Auction

For each unit that you intend on bidding on, you will need a $2,500 cashier’s check payable to Heritage title Company.  Total depost required for each unit will be 3% if you’re bidding and win one home, and 5% if you bid and win on multiple units.

Sabine HOA

Each winning bidder (new owner) will become a member of the Sabine on Fifth Residential Condominium Association.  Monthly fees range from $275 to $580, depending on floor plan and unit.  (Average monthly HOA fee per square foot is $.02477)

Closing Incentives

If you use their preferred lender, Bank of America Home Loans or Colonial National Mortgage, and close within 45 days, winning bidder will receive $3,000 toward non-recurring closing costs from the seller.

How Do I Become a Bidder on the Sabine Condo Auction?

Please contact us or me directly at 512-740-8279 and we can walk you through the auction registration process.  We have been to Kennedy Wilson auctions with clients in the past, and are knowledgeable about the bidding process and can provide you with comps and other pertinent information.


Remodeling to Sell our Avery Ranch Home, Part One

The old adage “If I only knew then what I know now,” definitely applies here.

A Brief History

The time has come to sell our Avery Ranch home.  This was our first home in Austin, and we built it while we were still living in Arizona back in 2004. We bought it directly from the sales center after reviewing floor plans online, and we did not use a Realtor. (more on this, later) We made very few upgrades, and weren’t given any advice on what we should / shouldn’t do. Our sales rep looked at us with shrugged shoulders and left it all completely up to us, and we had no idea. Their representative at the design center was equally as helpful.

The ending result was a very well built house, albeit a very plain one. We painted a few rooms to make it feel more like home. We hired a landscaper to design a multi-level flagstone patio with beautiful native plants and flowerbeds throughout our property. However, after living there for two years, we decided that our desire was to live further south near downtown.

You Live, You Learn

If we had hired a Realtor, it’s highly unlikely that we would have bought this home in the first place. He or she would have gotten to know our wants and needs, and probably would have suggested that we take a look at homes in South Austin closer to downtown (where we currently live!) But, back then, I didn’t see the value in it and didn’t understand why I needed to hire a Realtor when I could just buy direct from the builder. Sigh.

Making the Decision To Rent or Sell

Being the mathematician that I am, I created a spreadsheet with several projections on how we could best make the transition out of Avery Ranch. I weighed the options of selling our Avery Ranch real estate right away or renting it out for a few years, while the builders completed our neighborhood phase. The conclusion was to rent it out for a few years. As luck would have it, I found a wonderful family who stayed in the house for three years and left it in immaculate condition. They recently moved out, and I’ve decided that now it is time to sell versus trying my hand with another renter.  Being handy with Excel helps make these tricky decisions easier to make, as you can see your expected investment returns by keying in different scenarios and variables.

Choosing the Right Renovations, Contractors

When you’re preparing to sell a house in today’s market, you have to take a very close look at your active competition, pending sales and recent solds. The actives will show you what your competing against, and ideally you would like to be better than your competition, right? To keep things in perspective and to avoid going over budget or unwisely spending renovation dollars, you’ll need to look at homes that are currently pending in your area. Reviewing pending sales in your area will give you a precise look at what buyers are buying. And the recent solds will keep things in perspective and prevent you from over-renovating. Once you have a complete picture of what is in, and what is out, you can start putting together an action plan.

For example, we noticed that homes that are in our area typically have large tiles in the master bathrooms, have Corian or granite countertops in the kitchens, and hard-surface floorings on the first level. Fortunately, we were smart enough to choose Corian countertops for our kitchen when we built the home, and they are in great condition.

We will focus our renovation efforts on flooring and freshening up the landscaping that has overgrown.

Being in the real estate business makes finding good contractors very easy. Our office has over 70 Realtors in the Austin area, and sending out a few emails to our friends at the office quickly yielded us a list of referrals.

Generally speaking, you will get a better price on a renovation project if you purchase the materials yourself and find a qualified and skilled professional to handle the installation.

I met a tile contractor at my house, and I asked him a couple basic questions to gauge his knowledge. He passed my test, so we negotiated on a price for the job and that was that. He started the job on the day he said he would, and I couldn’t be happier with his professionalism and the quality of workmanship. It pays to use referrals from people that you trust!

Stay tuned for Remodeling to Sell Our Avery Ranch Home, Part Two where we will continue the remodeling project. We will have before / after photos of the downstairs flooring areas, and then we’ll discuss the way that we determined the listing price for our Avery Ranch house.

Avery Ranch Home with Flagstone Patio
Avery Ranch Home with Flagstone Patio

Should You Hire a Stager Before You Sell Your Austin Home?

A home is, in the end, a product. Many products are sold as is, nothing fancy nothing exciting. When you sell your home like an as-is product, you are likely not going to sell your product for top dollar. To make your home generate interest and be memorable to potential buyers, you need to differentiate it from any other home in the same price range or location.

Enter the Home Stager

Home Stagers organize your home & store away furniture that makes the home look smaller. A good home stager will also request that the homeowners paint rooms in soft neutral colors, clean the home thoroughly, upgrade the landscaping, and even make necessary repairs to make the home move-in ready. In essence, home stagers prepare your home to optimize its value and help potential buyers see themselves living in your house.

I have known staged houses versus non-staged houses to sell upward of 6 percent higher in the asking price. It is very important to stage your home BEFORE you put it up for sale. When your home first goes on the market is when you usually have the most traffic because it is a new listing. After a few weeks on the market, you’ll tend to get lesser traffic. This usually puts the seller in a tough spot where they’ll usually lower their asking price to try to get it sold. This decrease in asking price is usually higher than the cost of hiring a stager. Wouldn’t it make more sense to do it right the first time, and have your home staged by a professional?

Clearly a good home stager will make your home more appealing and desirable, and this makes people more emotionally attached to it, highly increasing the chances of receiving an offer and getting it sold! In my opinion, a great company and professional home stager in the Austin area is Ashley Whittenberger at Interiority Complex.

If you need more information about home staging and the value it adds to your home, please do not hesitate to contact me. Also, be sure to check out my website that allows user to search through thousands of Austin MLS listings for Austin homes for sale. As your Austin Realtor, I’ll help you make the tough decisions much easier when it comes to buying or selling Austin real estate.

Do you have experiences with home stagers that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Are UT Campus Condos Worth Buying Now?

I was recently asked whether I thought now was a good time to buy UT campus condos. Here is the MLS data on recently sold UT condos and homes:

In 2008, the Average Sales Price for UT Campus condos and homes was $254,634. In 2009, Average Sales Prices declined by 12.76% to $222,155.

In 2008, the number of units sold in the UT campus area was 238 units. In 2009, 183 units sold for a decline in volume of 23.11%.

Without a doubt, these numbers are tough to digest if you owned a UT campus condo and have recently tried to sell. For some people who bought at the height of the market (depending on their down payment & other factors) a 12.76% in one year would erase almost all of their equity.

But for a buyer looking for an investment going forward from today, this might be the correction that LONG TERM investors have been waiting for. University of Texas enrollment is still strong, and those undergraduates need a place to live. West Campus condos are always in high demand, and we’ve had plenty of calls and inquiries from students looking to pre-lease condos for next semester.

Continued demand for rents in the area, and a 12.76% decline in prices, and near all-time low interest rates? You be the judge of whether you think it’s a good time to buy!

And if you’re a seller, not all is doom & gloom.  There are some condo buildings in the UT area that have outperformed the averages quite well.  It all depends on location, condition, price and marketing.

Let us know if you would like any additional information on West Campus Condos or North Campus Condos, including market trend reports or historical rent data.

Here is a list of some of the UT campus condos for sale on the Austin MLS as of today:

UT Campus Condos For Sale

2409 Leon St #107, Austin, TX 78705 : $184,000 | Austin Real Estate MLS # 2834369
2409 Leon St #304, Austin, TX 78705 : $134,900 | Austin Real Estate MLS # 7363395
2505 San Gabriel St #602, Austin, TX 78705 : $248,900 | Austin Real Estate MLS # 4855800
2832 San Gabriel St, Austin, TX 78705 : $375,000 | Austin Real Estate MLS # 7841126
2216 San Gabriel St #102, Austin, TX 78705 : $205,000 | Austin Real Estate MLS # 2975414
3015 West Ave, Austin, TX 78705 : $459,500 | Austin Real Estate MLS # 7639195
2101 Lamar N Blvd #7, Austin, TX 78705 : $599,000 | Austin Real Estate MLS # 4635098
711 26th St #502, Austin, TX 78705 : $282,130 | Austin Real Estate MLS # 2604920
1109 22nd 1/2 St, Austin, TX 78705 : $420,000 | Austin Real Estate MLS # 5390569


Thank You to All Attendees of Brewing Hope’s Austin Pub Crawl!

Team Ensor would like to thank everyone who came out to enjoy a beautiful Austin afternoon with friends and brews yesterday at the Brewing Hope event in Austin, TX.  We had a great time, and it was fun getting to meet all of you who participated!

We look forward to the next Brewing Hope event here in Downtown Austin.  But for those of you who can’t wait that long, check out Brewing Hope events coming soon to cities all around America!

We are very excited to have been able to sponsor the Brewing Hope event yesterday.  Team Ensor plans on sponsoring other events in the near future here in Austin, and we’ll keep you posted once we get a schedule!

Thanks again, and we’ll see you all soon!


Barton Place Condos Nearing Completion!

The parking lots are now open for Billy’s BBQ and Austin Java in South Austin, as the finishing touches are being put on the Barton Place condominiums.

Construction of the Barton Place has made it somewhat tricky for patrons of Billy’s BBQ and Austin Java to enjoy the local fare, but now that parking has been restored, it’s time to get back down to Barton Springs Road and spend an afternoon or evening at the local establishments.


Bastrop Earns Spot on 2010 Distinctive Destinations List

The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently added Bastrop to its 2010 list of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations.  It was chosen for several reasons.  Downtown preservation, annual events and its place in Texas history are just a few. 

Mayor Terry Orr said in a statement that he is very proud and says that this proves that all of the restoration of downtown has been well worth the money and effort.  This should also add to Bastrop’s tourist and business appeal. 

Bastrop is the only Texas city that made the list for 2010.  Previous Texas recipients are Galveston, Ft. Worth, New Braunfels, Fredericksburg and Fort Davis.  NTHP started this list in 2000 as way to raise awareness for communities with something to offer other than typical vacation spots.

The Complete List of the NTHP’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2010

» Bastrop, Texas
» Cedar Falls, Iowa
» Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania
» The Crooked Road, Virginia
» Fort Collins, Colorado
» Huntsville, Alabama
» Marquette, Michigan
» Provincetown, Massachusetts
» Rockland, Maine
» Simsbury, Connecticut
» Sitka, Alaska
» St. Louis, Missouri

It’s easy for me to see why Bastrop made this distinct list.  I have lived in Bastrop for several years, and the list of reasons why it made this list are a lot of the reasons why I enjoy being a resident of this historic and cultural town.

Interested in joining me as a resident of the great historic city of Bastrop?  Check out my website that goes into great detail about Bastrop, and offers ways to search for Bastrop homes for sale.  I can help you find that great historic home downtown or a new modern home in one of Bastrop’s great subdivisions.

Source: News 8 Austin