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Your Austin real estate blog

Thank you for visiting Homeowner Herald, the official blog of AustinHomeSearch.com, providing valuable information for both home buyers and sellers. Follow us on Twitter or check in each week for new posts on topics ranging from holiday decorating to the economy to moving into your new home. This blog is maintained by the Austin Board of REALTORS®. If you’d like to suggest a blog topic, contact the ABoR Marketing Department.

Home buying topics

Austin real estate blog
HGTV’s My First Place casting in Austin
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9, 2010

HGTV is coming to Austin to cast for reality television show My First Place. If you're looking to buy your first home in the Austin area, you could be featured in an episode of the show!

"Fun, high-energy" homebuyers in Austin are encouraged to apply, as long as they are comfortable sharing the personal and financial aspects of their home buying experience.

Selected applicants will be filmed for a minimum of ten days within a three-month period as they go through the ups and downs of finding and securing their first place. They will also receive a special housewarming gift and DVD copy of their episode from HGTV, in addition to a taste of television stardom.

Buying your first home is an experience you won't forget. Applying to be cast for My First Place could be just the way to make your experience even more memorable.

Austin real estate blog
2010 Austin real estate market: First quarter review
WEDNESDAY, MAY 12, 2010

The first quarter of 2010 put forth a solid performance from the Austin real estate market. While home sales increased modestly during January and February, year-over-year Austin home sales increased a remarkable 27 percent in March, bringing the total amount of homes sold in the first quarter to 3,749 - a 12 percent increase over the first quarter of 2009. The median price of Austin homes remained relatively unchanged from one year ago, ending the quarter at $180,000.

Pending sales, which indicate the number of homes expected to sell in the next couple of months, remained elevated during the first quarter, increasing 7 percent in January, 24 percent in February and 31 percent in March 2010. These increases bode well for the Austin real estate market.

In the face of increasing sales volume, the Austin real estate market maintains a healthy inventory of homes. The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University cites 6.5 months of inventory as a balanced market, meaning demand for homes is evenly balanced with inventory of homes for sale. At the end of the first quarter, Austin held a 6.4 month supply of homes.

For more information on the Austin real estate market and how it may affect your buying or selling situation, contact your Central Texas REALTOR®.

Austin real estate blog
Mortgage loans: Which one’s right for you?
WEDNESDAY, MAY 5, 2010

When it comes to buying a home in Austin, there is a world of financing options to choose from. Descriptions of some of the most popular loans are listed below.

Conventional Mortgages -- Mortgages not insured by the federal government are called conventional loans. Conventional loans are either kept in the lender's investment portfolio or sold to a secondary market. Because there is no standard regulation from state to state or from lender to lender for conventional mortgage documents, these types of loans are specific to the lender. This means that the lender may determine unique guidelines that pertain to the lender's conventional loans and may add certain clauses to the loan document. Because the lender can underwrite conventional loans at the its discretion, loan rates may exceed those of loans backed by the government.

Fixed Rate Mortgage (FRM) -- With a FRM, the interest rate of the mortgage remains fixed throughout the life of the loan. While the rates on FRMs are sometimes higher than rates on other types of mortgages, an increase in market rates will not impact the rates on the loan. Monthly payments on FRMs change only when there are changes in tax and insurance rates.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) -- With an ARM, the rate on the loan is adjusted according to various market fluctuations. The interest rate and monthly payment can change each month, quarter, year or a term determined by the type of ARM; however, there are caps limiting the amount the interest rate can be adjusted per period. Buyers interested in adjustable rate mortgages should be sure to obtain the indexes that the lender uses to adjust the loan.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loan -- FHA loans are insured by the federal government. This means that if the borrower defaults on the loan, the federal government will pay the lender and the lender will not have to write off the loan. A borrower's down payment may be as low as 3.5 percent, and closing costs can sometimes by included in the loan. Rules regarding credit qualification and gifting for down payments are relaxed, and financial hardship rules may be less stringent.

VA Loan -- A VA Loan is insured by the Department of Veterans Affairs and protects a lender from loss should an eligible veteran default on the loan. VA loans have established credit and income guidelines and the buyer usually does not need a down payment; however, down payment may be necessary if the lender requires one or if the purchase price of the home is greater than the reasonable value of the home. Mortgage insurance premiums are not required and the VA provides temporary assistance should the buyer encounter financial hardships.

Be aware that there many more types of loans to choose from. Some, such as Graduated Payment and Growing Equity loans, cater to those who currently have a low income but expect their income to increase substantially within the next five to ten years. Others, such as Reverse Mortgages, cater to homebuyers over the age of 62. Be sure to continue your research and talk to your REALTOR® about which option may be best for you.

Austin real estate blog
Taking the stress out of moving with pets
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28, 2010

Moving into a new Austin home is an exciting time for you and your family, but it can be very stressful for your pets. It's important to clearly think through how you will handle your pet's adjustment to its new home.

Before your pet moves into the new house, do a safety perimeter check. Are there any plants in the yard that may be poisonous? Is the fence secure? Also check the inside of your home for potential safety hazards and decide where your pet's food and bedding will be kept that you won't confuse your pet by moving those items later. Try to imagine every situation from your pet's point of view and deal with it before it becomes an issue.

When moving to Austin from out of town, you may want to consider a pet relocation service, which will arrange for door-to-door transportation including pet-friendly flights, climate-controlled vehicles, boarding services, veterinary services and more. If you are relocating due to a job transfer, check to see if this is can be covered by your employer.

Even if you're moving to an Austin home from within Central Texas, you may consider boarding your pet for a day or two while executing the actual move. The commotion, the changing environment and the new people (movers) in your house can put undue stress on your pet. Boarding your pet will allow you to concentrate entirely on the move and relax knowing that your pet won't be underfoot or running out the front door.

Once you've moved into the new home, try to keep your pet's surroundings as familiar as possible. Let your dog or cat have its old blanket, its favorite toy and its same food. Take time to walk your pet around your new Austin neighborhood or release some pent-up energy at the nearest dog park. Sitting down and petting your dog or cat is the easiest way to assure them that everything is fine and if you put your feet up, you'll feel better too.

Finally, it's important to update your pet's microchip information right away so that you'll be contacted if your pet has been lost and found. And always remember: Pets are resilient, so it shouldn't be too long before your cat or dog is ruling the roost once again!

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