Advice for Consumers

Welcome to the Advice for Consumers blog, where you'll find tips about buying, selling, and leasing property, and so much more.
  • Not having enough credit history for a credit score doesn't necessarily mean you must go through a drawn-out manual underwriting process to get a home loan. If you have a history of making housing payments on time and references, you could benefit from a new automated process from Freddie Mac, a quasi-public agency that purchases mortgages. Starting in June, borrowers without credit scores can see if they're eligible for purchase mortgages or no-cash-out refinance transactions on one-unit owner-occupied homes. Lenders will be able to use Freddie Mac's automated assessments to quickly approve your loan with greater confidence that Freddie Mac will purchase it. Loans will still be evaluated against Freddie Mac's credit requirements, but the automated process should allow lenders to more efficiently serve borrowers.

  • First-time sellers beware: there are lots of myths out there about the right way to sell your home. While your Texas REALTOR® is your first line of defense against making these mistakes, here are three common selling myths busted: Myth: I bought a house, so I know what it's like to go through a real estate transaction. I'll sell my home on my own and save money by not using a real estate agent. Truth: Texas REALTORS® don't work for free, but that's because they provide valuable assistance through the home-selling process. Selling isn't the same as buying, and a Texas REALTOR® can help you reduce your risk of making a costly selling mistake. Plus, they help clients with the ins and outs of property transactions every day and are plugged into your local housing market. If you DIY, that means you'll have to spend time marketing your home adequately, be available to show the home yourself, and navigate your way through a tricky transaction alone. Myth: If I price my home higher than market value, I'm leaving room for negotiations. Truth: Buyers have no idea you're employing this strategy and won't understand why your price is too high. Many won't even view your home, much less put in an offer. When your home is priced improperly, it's more likely to sit on the market, making potential buyers think there's something wrong it. When that happens, you'll probably wind up with lower offers than if you had priced the home fairly at the start. Myth: All I need to do is mow the lawn and hide my stuff in a closet and my home will be ready to show. Truth: Is a mowed lawn and hidden clutter all it takes to attract you to a home? It won't work for potential buyers of your property, either. Your Texas REALTOR® might go through your home with you and identify areas that could use some sprucing up to make your home more appealing. Or, he or she might recommend working with a home stager to make the best impression. Be open to those suggestions … your Texas REALTOR® knows what makes a property sell quickly for top dollar.

  • Buyers often want to know what their utility bills for a property will be. The answer isn’t always straightforward. The products and building techniques that determine a house’s energy efficiency may be hidden from view. However, there are ways to learn this information. Ask questions If the seller made energy improvements to the house—upgraded insulation, new windows, efficient appliances—he will brag about it. And it’s likely the listing agent will include that in the property’s marketing materials and descriptions. If you don’t see those types of improvements listed, here are some questions to ask the seller or his agent. How much are the utility bills? Compare the costs to that of a similarly sized house. What’s the R-value of the insulation? Many people won’t know the answer, but those who do will give you valuable information. Here are the recommended R-values for different regions of the country. What do you know about the windows? For most of the Texas, you want windows with a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient of less than 0.25; the range is between 0 and 1, with the lower the better. If that information is not available, look for double glazing with inert gases between the panes, reflective tints, and low-E coatings that reflect heat. Are the appliances Energy Star rated? Energy Star is a voluntary program of the Environmental Protection Agency, and products with an Energy Star label are more energy efficient than standard products. Do you have the maintenance records for heating and cooling equipment? Heating and cooling equipment that is not properly maintained wastes energy. Signs to look for When walking through a property, do you see programmable thermostats? These devices let homeowners regulate heating and cooling based on need rather than at a set temperature, saving energy. Also, look for energy labels on appliances, which compare the product's approximate energy use to similar products. Just by glancing at the label, you can tell whether the appliance falls in the energy-efficient category or the not-so energy-efficient category. Your Texas REALTOR® can help you communicate with the sellers and look for information about a property’s energy consumption. And be sure to discuss your energy-efficiency concerns with a home inspector, as he will examine the property’s systems. Fran J. Donegan writes home- and garden-related content for The Home Depot, which carries a wide selection of energy-efficient insulation options, as well as numerous other publications. He's also the author of the books Pools and Spas and Paint Your Home.

  • As a homebuyer or seller, an accepted contract is exciting. But hang on … the deal’s not done. Thankfully, if you’re working with a REALTOR®, he or she can guide you through all the potential twists and turns on the way to closing. An option to back out For starters, most purchase contracts include a termination option. The buyer pays the seller a fee for a specified period of time during which the buyer can cancel the contract. The buyer can exercise this option for any reason. In fact, he doesn’t even have to explain why. A closer look at the property Buyers usually hire inspectors during the termination-option period. Inspections that reveal items in need of repair may prompt a buyer to ask for a price reduction or repairs prior to closing. Or the buyer may simply choose to cancel the deal. Financing considerations Transactions sometimes unravel when a buyer cannot obtain the financing specified in the contract or the property does not meet the lender’s requirements. For example, appraisals can come in lower than the purchase price, or there may be issues with obtaining insurance for the home. The list goes on Option periods, inspections, and financing are three common trouble spots for transactions, but there are many others. Problems with title insurance or the survey, disagreements about items that convey, issues related to homeowners associations, or damage to the property after acceptance of the contract but before closing are a few examples of issues that can arise. You have a valuable resource Communicating with your REALTOR® about each stage of the transaction will minimize surprises and increase the chances that your transaction will proceed smoothly.  

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