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Your Austin real estate blog

Thank you for visiting Homeowner Herald, the official blog of, 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.

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Austin real estate blog
8 steps to take before making an offer on a home

Buying a home is a multi-step process that involves many moving parts and a good amount of "up front" work. Though your personal circumstances may dictate how you go about the homebuying process, we've provided a general checklist of tasks that will likely need to be accomplished before you even make an offer on your dream home.

1. Check your credit score
Make a request to see your credit report and check it for inaccuracies. You'll want to correct any erroneous information before speaking with a mortgage lender. Mistakes in your credit report could reflect poorly on you, which in turn could have a negative impression on the lender.

2. Think about how much you want to spend each month
Outside of monthly expenses such as groceries and entertainment, you'll need to consider how much you are willing and able to put toward homeownership expenses, such as a mortgage, real estate taxes and insurance rates. Depending on where you live, you may also need to take an HOA fee into account. To get a feel for what mortgage amount may be within your budget, use the online mortgage calculator provided by

3. Decide how much you can put towards a down payment
Most down payments will be anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent of the home's selling price; however, you may be able to opt for a rate lower than 5 percent depending on which type of mortgage loan you go with.

4. Find a REALTOR®
Not only do REALTORS® know their markets and particular neighborhoods like the back of their hand, but they can also assist in negotiations and legal paperwork. Finding a REALTOR® to guide you through the home buying process can save you time, trouble and money. It's a good idea to interview your REALTOR® (or several REALTORS®) to make sure you find the real estate professional who is right for you.

5. Talk to a REALTOR® about your wants and needs in a home
Although you may have conducted a preliminary Austin real estate search to get an idea of where you might like to live and what home features you like, discussing your ideal home with your REALTOR® is very important. With this information, your REALTOR® will be better able to introduce to you to homes that meet your criteria, possibly within neighborhoods you may have never before considered as an option.

6. Find a mortgage lender
Banks and credit unions are common places to find a mortgage lender. You'll want to do some research to find a lender that can give you a good rate. Lenders can also help you determine what type of loan is right for you.

7. Get your paperwork in order for your lender
You'll likely need to provide personal documentation to your lender, such as your driver's license, employment information, pay stubs, recent tax returns and credit history. Make sure to confirm with your lender exactly what documents they need to see.

8. Find out how much money you qualify for
Banks use a certain percentage of your monthly income, as well as other factors, to determine what amount of money you are qualified to borrow and at what rate. Keep in mind that, once qualified, the mortgage rates you've been quoted may only be locked in for a certain period of time.

Once you've accomplished these steps, you'll be prepared to make an offer on a home and begin the most exciting part of your journey. Your REALTOR® will be there to offer his or her expertise, assist in the negotiating process and guide you through the closing process until you finally receive the keys to your new home. For more great tips on buying a home, visit our Consumer Tools section here at

Austin real estate blog
Foreclosure freeze: What’s going on?

You may have heard about—or even been affected by—the recent foreclosure freeze and be wondering exactly what led to this situation and what it means for home buyers and sellers. If so, the following information may help share shed some light on the issue.

Earlier this month, Bank of America froze home foreclosure sales in all 50 states after reports indicated that employees of the lenders may have mishandled foreclosure documents. Other major lends such as JPMorgan Chase and GMAC Mortgage followed suit, though they limited the freeze to 23 states, not including Texas. The freeze was a response to allow these lenders time to review the foreclosure process and determine whether recent foreclosures were in accordance with state laws.

Suspicions are aimed at an illegal practice known as "robo-signing," which refers to signing an affidavit without adequately reviewing the document. The practice is called "robo-signing" because the documents are signed quickly, almost automatically, as if a computer performed the task. Without fully understanding the affidavit being signed, lenders risk placing foreclosures on homes without having the legal right to do so.

In Texas, a demand letter was sent to 30 mortgage banking and servicing institutions by the Texas Attorney General, requesting that they "suspend all foreclosures, all sales of properties previously foreclosed upon, and all evictions of persons residing in previously foreclosed upon properties." The letter's definitions of possible infringement includes "signing documents without reading them," and "filing documents with records attached that did not correctly reflect loan payments, charges and advances."

John Horton, Chairman of the Austin Board of REALTORS®, recently spoke to KVUE news in regards to this matter. For sellers with non-distressed assets, Horton noted that the situation may help them compete with foreclosures, as buyers may be less inclined to purchase properties affected by the foreclosure freeze. Horton also mentioned that the freeze shouldn't have a drastic effect on the Austin area, as only about five percent of the Austin market consists of foreclosed properties. However, Horton noted: "...for sellers, if they can wait to put their home on the market in the Spring, they probably should."

Recently, Bank of America and other banking institutions have begun lifting the freeze in many states. In states where the freeze has been lifted, court cases have been proceeding to determine the validity of foreclosures on a case-by-case basis. In states such as Texas, where judges don't sign off on foreclosures, the freeze is scheduled to continue for an undisclosed period of time.

For more information and updates on this issue, talk to your REALTOR® or visit the National Association of REALTORS® website at

Austin real estate blog
Protecting your homeowner rights
MONDAY, JULY 12, 2010

If you're a current or soon–to–be homeowner—congratulations! Homeownership is wonderful right that we enjoy as Americans and one of the best ways to begin building wealth. Because buying a home is likely the largest investment you'll ever make, it's important to protect that investment and your interests as a homeowner. Below are several ways to do so:

1. Ask your REALTOR®
Through organizations such as the Texas Real Estate Political Action Committee (TREPAC) REALTORS® work as a group to advise elected officials and influence public policy in order to protect private property rights, real estate licensees and—most importantly—home buyers. Ask your REALTOR® about current issues affecting Austin homeowners and what actions you can take together to protect your rights.

2. Sign up for legislative alerts
The Texas Association of REALTORS® (TAR) will be glad to alert you via e-mail when legislation arises that could infringe on your homeowner rights or lead to additional taxes. Rest assured that the e–mail you provide TAR will be used only to send you legislative alerts and will not shared with other parties.

3. Contact your legislator
Once you're aware of issues that could affect you as a homeowner, contact your state and local representatives to share your opinion and influence the decision-making on Capitol Hill. Together, homeowners and REALTORS® can raise a strong voice to help support all citizens in living the American Dream.

Austin real estate blog
Mortgage loans: Which one’s right for you?

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.

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