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Real Estate Blog

MH900205594Don’t believe me? Check out this article from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published last week. Not only did residential foreclosures fall 2.9 percent in Texas last month, but they dropped a staggering 10 percent nationwide. Take that, doomsday sayers!

For those of you who just love statistics, here’s how the numbers roll:

  • There were a total of 11,727 foreclosure postings filed last month in Texas (which equals 1 in 819 housing units)
  • Nationwide, 325,229 postings were filed (or 1 in every 397 housing units)
  • Unsurprisingly, Nevada continues to have the highest foreclosure rate in the nation (1 in 82 housing units), followed by Arizona and Florida.
  • However, even in California, another major foreclosure state, filings were down 38 percent from July 2009 and down 3 percent from June 2010.

Hmm… All of this looks suspicious like good news to me. I’ll end this post with some wise words from a little-known gentleman named Winston Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

That’s all for now, folks. Take care of yourselves and each other, and remember…

NOW you have options!


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Recently CNNMoney published a great article on the top 10 counties in the nation for job growth. As has often been the case with similar “Top 10” lists recently, Texas was well-represented, boasting 5 counties with strong employment records: Williamson, Hays, Webb, Collin and Fort Bend.

800px-Williamson_county_courthouse_2008Most impressive but probably least surprising is the fact that our very own Williamson County, home to the cities of Round Rock and Cedar Park, snagged the #2 spot on the list. The county boasted a staggering 58.9% employment growth between 2000 and 2009, second only to Lincoln County in South Dakota.

So, why has there been so much expansion in North Austin over the past decade? Economists have developed numerous explanations over the years: First, Williamson County offers easy access to Austin, the capital of Texas, which is home to the University of Texas at Austin, a highly-ranked state university. Also, with an array of high-quality schools, shopping and hospitals recently built and more on the way, the area has fantastic appeal for new and growing families.

CNNMoney, however, attributes much of “Wilco’s” growth to computer manufacturing powerhouse Dell, Inc., the county’s largest employer. Austin’s reputation for being a tech-friendly city has attracted many enterpreneurs to the area as well.

Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: The Greater Austin area is the place to be—always has been, and always will be!

Take care of yourselves and each other, and remember…

NOW you have options!


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MH900149487You’ve seen the news. You know the market hasn’t bounced back yet, and probably won’t for a while. If you’re hoping to buy a home, you know financing can be hard to come by right now. If you’re trying to sell, you know your home will most likely be listed longer and sell for less than you’d like.

What you may NOT know is that in the grand scheme of things, Austin is holding up quite well, according to the Multiple Listing Service report for June 2010 recently released by the Austin Board of REALTORS®. In fact, the organization called the market “stable” despite the expiration of federal homebuyers tax credits back in April.

Stable is good. We like stable. Stable means life goes on after tax credits

A few key stats worth noting from the report:

  • The total dollar volume of single-family homes sold equals $553,882,211, a 6% increase from June 2009
  • The average single-family home sold for $208,750, a 4% increase from June 2009
  • On average, homes are on the market 70 days, a 14% decrease from June 2009

So, if you’re one of those confused souls who thinks the market is shot, who thinks we’re headed toward another Great Depression, let this information encourage you. Austin is one of the best places in the country to be right now, but of course if you live here, you probably already knew that!

Take care of yourselves and each other, and remember…

NOW you have options!


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Earlier this week, I came across this article from the Wall Street Journal about a phenomenon that’s sweeping the real estate world: mortgage-loan buyers. Companies such as Kondaur and PennyMac are springing up all over the country, offering to purchase mortgage debt from homeowners on the verge of foreclosure. However, the article suggests that these businesses may not be the benevolent home saviors they appear to be.

House and Keys in Female Hands

Interesting to note is the fact that many of these companies (including Kondaur) started out as subprime lenders, some the same organizations many financial experts blame for our current housing slump. Kind of makes you say hmmm, doesn’t it? So, what’s the moral of the story? If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It’s a fascinating read. Check it out.

Take care of yourselves and each other, and remember…

NOW you have options!


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Even though now is a fantastic time to purchase the home of your dreams, getting preapproved for a loan can be a nightmare if you don’t have the right information. Many would-be buyers disqualify themselves before they even begin by making devastating mistakes in the months before the approval process. Avoid these 10 common missteps to keep the same thing from happening to you.

1. Failing to Submit Important Documents

Your lender doesn’t ask for items like paycheck stubs, bank statements and copies of your credit report just to make your life difficult. All that paperwork is a critical part of the home loan approval process, and each missing item means you’ll ultimately have to wait even longer to get the keys to your dream home.

2. Failing to Correct Errors on Your Credit Report

Getting approved for a home loan is difficult enough when your credit report is accurate. The last thing you need is a slew of phantom defaults and  judgments that you aren’t even responsible for paying. However, it can take up to 90 days to correct errors to your credit report, so you’ll want to dispute and remove any discrepancies several months before you begin the loan application process just to be sure you don’t hit any snags.

You can order a copy of your credit report from any one of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Transunion and Equifax) or get a free copy by going to   

3. Maintaining High Account Balances

Keeping your credit in tip-top shape is a delicate balancing act. Carrying too much or too little debt can have equally negative affects on your credit score. In general, people who carry high account balances are seen as high-risk to lenders because they appear to be struggling with their current monthly payments.

4. Making Late Payments

Just one or two late payments on an account can be enough to cause damage to your credit. This problem can be easily avoided by signing up for online banking. Most creditors these days have this feature available on their websites, either for free or a low fee per transaction. Many also allow you to set up recurring payments that are automatically drafted from your account each month.

5. Failing to Pay Fines or Other Old Bills

Think no one will notice if you let that old library fine or parking ticket slide for a few months? Think again. Yep, information about those tedious little bills is being reported to credit agencies as well, and over time, they can drag down your credit score without you even realizing it.

6. Closing Old Accounts

Once you’ve made the effort to pay off those lingering credit card bills, the next logical step for many people is to shut down the accounts altogether. Not so fast. Counterintuitive as it seems, closing credit accounts can actually lower your credit score even further. Each time an account is closed, it increases your debt to credit ratio, which once again makes it look like you’re overwhelmed by debt (See Mistake #3). If you must close an account, make sure it is fairly new and has a low credit limit to minimize damage.

7. Not Using Credit Cards At All

Along the same lines, buyers should know they can also be penalized for keeping credit card accounts open for too long without using them. In contrast to pre-recession days, credit card companies are now not only more hesitant to award credit in the first place, but also quick to close down lines of credit that don’t have enough activity.

8. Applying for Too Much New Credit

So, does that mean you should apply for every new credit offer you receive in the mail from now? Not quite. Repeatedly applying for new credit can also hurt your credit score in two ways: 1) It lowers the average age of your credit history, and 2) multiple inquiries decrease your credit score, especially when they occur over a short period of time.

9. Being Self-Employed

Is owning a small business a bad thing? Absolutely not. However, simple tasks like presenting a paycheck stub as proof of income can be much more difficult for buyers who are self-employed, which is why many banks won’t approve them. For these people, proper documentation and high credit scores are even more important in terms of making their case to potential lenders.

10. Waiting to Receive Gifts

If you will be receiving a gift for your down payment, make plans to receive it at least two months before submitting your loan application. If the funds show up any later than that, buyers are then required to verify where the money came from. Plus, the lender considers it added debt that will impact your your debt to income ratio as well (See Mistake #6).

The Bottom Line:

Applying for a home loan doesn’t have to be a nightmare, but it does require more than average planning and organization. Keep all your financial records up to date and your bills paid on time, and you’ll be exactly the kind of borrower most lenders are looking for. Good luck!


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MH900251313With all the doom-and-gloom that’s all too common in the media today, it can be hard to see the silver lining in the clouds. I can write feel-good posts all day long, but sometimes it just takes some cold, hard facts to let you know that maybe things aren’t quite that bad after all. Check out these statistics and you’ll see what I mean:

The Good

  • Active listings in the Austin area have increased by 16.83% over last year. During the week of June 27 through July 3 in 2009, there were 11,603 active listings; currently, there are 13,556!
  • The number of new listings has increased by 16.89% over this time last year.
  • The number of sold units increased by 6.56% during the month of June.

The Not-So-Good

  • The average price of new listings went down by 9.5% for the month of June.
  • The average price of homes that sold in June declined 3.47%.
  • The number of pending sales decreased by 14.31% during the week of June 27 through July 3.

The Bottom Line

If you focus on the “not so good” statistics alone, Austin’s housing market looks pretty depressing (especially when you look at that whopping double-digit decline at the end). But if you take a closer look at the numbers, you’ll notice something very interesting.

For the most part, the negative stats are short-term, while the positive stats  are usually long-term. What does that mean? It means that like most of life, it’s all about perspective. If you look at the here and now (let’s say, within the past month or two), you may see a lot of big declines in new and pending home sales, but if you pull back and look at the bigger picture (a year’s worth of data or more), those same declines become pretty minimal, and you’ll even see some increases.

Like many other areas in life, where you put your focus matters. It could make all the difference between you seeing a silver lining or a big patch of dark clouds. Think about that the next time you see headlines proclaiming the end of the world in real estate.

That’s all for now! Take care of yourselves and each other, and remember…

NOW you have options!


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Okay, I’ll be the first to say it: it’s been a while since our last post. Actually, let’s be honest—it’s been more than a little while. Three weeks is practically an eternity in the blogging world. Don’t worry, though. It’s not without reason. We’ve got some exciting news here at the EXIT: Options Realty office: We’ve moved!

Yup, that’s right! We’re in a brand-new location that we’re sure will allow us to do more for our clients than ever before. Don’t get me wrong, our old home was great; we just felt it was time for a change. And change we did!



Our new address is: 7800 Shoal Creek Blvd, Ste 100N, Austin, TX 78757. You’ll find us in the Exchange Park office complex, a lovely brick building located directly behind Suzi’s China Kitchen.



Directions from our old office:

  • Take Hwy 183 South toward Duval St.
  • Take MoPac Exit; take MoPac South (stay in the righthand lane) when the road splits.
  • Take Anderson Lane/Spicewood Springs exit. Stay on the access road.
  • Continue on access road and go straight through the light at Steck Ave. Turn left at the next light onto Anderson Lane.
  • Turn right at the light onto Shoal Creek Blvd (Suzi’s will be on your right).
  • Turn right into our parking lot. Our suite is on your immediate right when you’re facing the office courtyard.

Stop by and see us sometime! We’d love to show you around! Take care of yourselves and each other, and remember…

NOW you have options!


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Home For Sale Sign in Front of Beautiful New HomeFor the better part of the past year, the government’s home-buyer tax credit has been one of the core subjects of debate in the real estate world, and with good reason. Whether you were for or against it, its influence on the market was undeniable.

Now, that’s all fine and dandy if you entered into a binding contract by April 30. Of course, now the question on everyone’s mind is, what if you didn’t? What if you couldn’t get financed before that critical deadline? What if you didn’t find your “dream home” before then? What if you were still negotiating a final price, and what if you still are, even now? Is it too late to get a phenomenal bargain on the house you’ve always wanted? Or, if you’re a seller, do you still have a shot at finding a buyer for your property?

At EXIT – Options Realty, we pride ourselves on having the answers to the questions you ask most. Well, here’s one big answer that’s sure to make your day. On Tuesday, June 8, EXIT Realty Corp. International will be hosting a live, public, 30-minute webinar where you’ll learn what to do if you missed the boat on the tax credit.

The webinar, entitled, “Real Estate After April 30th – What Now?”, will be hosted by Tami Bonnell, President of the US Organization of EXIT Realty Corp. International, so you can count on getting solid advice from one of the top experts in real estate today. And the best part about it? It’s FREE. That’s right. F-R-E-E. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Check out EXIT Realty’s official blog, for more information on how to reserve your seat in one of the two webinar sessions available. Don’t miss out on this fantastic event!


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Austin Skyline

Okay, we’ll admit it. We Austinites adore our city, and we always have. After all, what’s not to love? We’re the capital of the Great State of Texas, home of the world-famous University of Texas Longhorns, the Live Music Capital of the World… I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. There’s pretty much something for everyone here.

Of course, knowing your city is great and having the rest of the country confirm it are two totally different things. And lately, it seems the rest of the nation has been confirming it for us an awful lot. If you don’t believe me, check out the latest evidence of Austin’s awesomeness for yourself.

If taking the number one spot for Kiplinger’s “The 10 Best Cities of the Next Decade” wasn’t good enough, here’s a list of some of the various distinctions Austin has been awarded in widely-read publications this year alone (courtesy of PSW Real Estate). Pretty impressive, huh? All I can say is, if this doesn’t make you want to relocate, I don’t know what will!

Want to find out more about all the things our fabulous city has to offer? Check out Austin City Connection and the Austin Chamber of Commerce. I know you won’t be disappointed!

Take care of yourselves and each other, and remember…

NOW you have options!

P.S. Here’s a fun fact about Austin I bet you didn’t know: Austin’s first skyscraper was built back in 1910, when E. M. Scarbrough built the Scarbrough building at Sixth and Congress. That intersection continues to be one of the busiest in the city today!


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Ask 10 different people what they think about Craiglist, and you’re sure to get 10 distinctly different answers. For a college student hoping to cheaply furnish a first apartment, it can be a lifesaver. For a recently laid-off software engineer, it can be a fresh, new approach to finding work, especially when compared to wandering the often dreary  job fair circuit. For a working mom with multiple mouths to feed, it can be the perfect way to organize a garage sale that will generate some quick cash.

Unfortunately, it can also be a source of danger. For all the good it does for millions of people every day, it seems hardly a day goes by without the publication of at least one news story describing a Craigslist scam. One of the most recent warnings came from the Texas Association of Realtors.

In a press release issued on April 1st, TREC’s Standards and Enforcement Division warned the public about recent reports involving real estate brokerage scams in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In these reports, victims claimed that a group of individuals and companies represented themselves as licensed real estate agents and brokers when they were not. They allegedly also performed property management services, such as accepting deposits and rent from tenants, yet withheld these funds from the property owners.

Other victims claim they were unknowingly employed by these same individuals and performed brokerage services on their behalf. Interestingly, these “employees” reported that they were hired through Craigslist as well.

In layman’s terms, this whole affair amounts to some scary, messy stuff. Even if you live in Alaska, it’s enough to give you goosebumps. Of course, if you live in the Lone Star State like we do, it hits a little bit closer to home. It’s the kind of scenario that could make you want to swear off Craigslist altogether.

Not so fast, though. The Craigslist Monster may be big and hairy and have sharp teeth, but that doesn’t mean you have to hide under your bed. Remember what Mom always did when you were a kid to make the monsters go away? Sometimes turning on the light is all you need to make a dark room a lot less scary.

Let’s try it, shall we? Here are a few tips to help take some of the bite out of that big, bad Craigslist Monster:

  • Be sure to use a real estate agent who is licensed with TREC (check the “Search licensee info/education” link on the home page of the TREC website to verify). Any such agent is required to follow the regulations outlined in The Real Estate License Act and the Rules of the Texas Real Estate Commission. Other states have similar organizations with laws that protect consumers as well.
  • Check out the “Avoid Scams and Fraud” link on Craigslist before you make contact with anyone you see on the website. Some very good information is provided there, including red flags for scams, examples of fraudulent ads and who to notify if you recognize a scam attempt.
  • If you suspect an agent has acted unethically and would like to file a complaint, visit the “Complaints/Consumer Info” link on the TREC website and follow the appropriate instructions.

I’d like to leave you with a German proverb I came across recently: “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.” Think about it.

Take care of yourselves and each other, and remember…

NOW you have options!


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