Archives for May 2009

Move over Nappa Valley, here comes the Hill Country

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Well, looks like the city of Georgetown, Texas is doing it again:  making headlines as one of the premier retirement spots in the country.

We’ve already been named to the top 10 retirement spots for golf nuts.  The top 12 places to buy an old house, the #2 place to start a business and the best overall place to retire in the nation!

This time we’re being recognized by US News and Reports as one of 10 Great Places to Retire for Wine Lovers.

That’s nice to know, since it really has been over the past 2 years when Autumn and I decided to explore wine tasting and we’ve found out that we’re in the perfect place for it!  If we (she) hadn’t been pregnant for the past 5 years, we might have been doing this sooner:)   Here is a list of wineries in the greater Georgetown area:

Georgetown Winery

Vineyard at Florence

Water 2 Wine

(Click here for more details on Wineries in Georgetown, Texas)  And here is a list of 34 more wineries in Central Texas.  Georgetown, TX is a great place for wine lovers, offering affordable flavor_wayout_cmykjpghousing, a relatively dry climate and proximity to all of the big city conveniences without having to BE a big city.  Just this past weekend, I took my family to the Georgetown Historic square and listened to some live Jazz music and sampled some local fruit wines made right here in Georgetown at the Georgetown Winery.  I didn’t have to struggle to find parking and while my kids were playing tag by the courthouse with a bunch of other kids, it felt good to know I was in a small, friendly place like Georgetown.

Check out the full article below:

10 Great Places to Retire for Wine Lovers
Wine country can be a beautiful and affordable retirement

By Emily Brandon

Posted May 26, 2009
It all starts with grapes, of course. Fields of them that stretch beyond your line of sight. And when these tiny bits of fruit are baked in the sun just right and then fermented under the correct conditions, they taste exactly like the ideal retirement. One person who discovered his retirement dream in a bottle of wine is Chuck Johnson. A former vice president for a transportation company in Omaha, Johnson, 47, retired from the corporate world and bought a 10 ½-acre farm in Yadkin Valley, North Carolina’s wine country. Now Johnson, his wife, Jamey, and their two teenage sons tend vines and mow grass at Shadow Springs Vineyard. In a brick-and-stone tasting room, they chat about their latest creation, a bold red wine blend infused with dark chocolate called Dark Shadow.

But like many jobs, planting a vineyard as a retirement career also casts a shadow, and not a chocolate-flavored one. “For a guy coming from the corporate life with hundreds of people working for him, having to do everything is a really daunting task,” says Johnson. “I’m working 70 hours a week, seven days a week. At 3 a.m., before I open, I am trying to program the cash register.” There’s a lot more to retiring in wine country than just watching grapes grow.

U.S. News asked a handful of wine experts how wine lovers should decide where to retire. (You can make a personalized list of best places to retire using this search tool.) “If you are a real wine lover and you know a lot about wine, California offers the most intellectual stimulation in terms of the number of different and magnificent wines you can taste,” says Karen MacNeil, director of the wine program at the Culinary Institute of America and author of The Wine Bible. In California’s wine powerhouses, Napa and Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, you can sip a glass of world-class locally grown wine with every meal. But that luxury comes with an exceptional price tag that could keep fixed-income retirees out of the area.

grape113120847jpgLuckily, many other wine-producing regions in the United States offer exceptional beauty and a low-key lifestyle coupled with a much more affordable cost of living. Ithaca, N.Y., and Jefferson City, Mo., both have median home prices below $200,000 while surrounded by gorgeous farmland. “You could probably do well financially if you retire there because it’s not that glitzy yet,” says Mary Ewing-Mulligan, president of the International Wine Center and coauthor of Wine Style: Using Your Senses to Explore and Enjoy Wine, about the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York “I just tasted a whole lot of Finger Lakes Rieslings, and the wines are very exciting.”

The remoteness of many vineyards is both a perk and a drawback. It can be useful for retirees to maintain at least some proximity to a city for medical care, access to airports for travel, or even to enjoy the bright lights and amenities on occasion. “It gets pretty wearing if you have to drive down an unbelievably mountainous road to get a quart of milk,” says MacNeil. “You may not want to be so far from civilization.” One winemaking region that offers a nice mix of proximity to a major city and plenty of lush vineyards and farmland is Leesburg, Va., which is about an hour’s drive from Washington. Austin suburb Georgetown is also close to the 24 wineries of the Texas Hill Country without being too remote. Bill Mateja, a retired director of consumer affairs for Montgomery Ward, and his wife, Susan, moved from West Palm Beach, Fla., to the Sun City Texas retirement community in Georgetown four years ago. The couple get out to the Texas Hill Country about once a month for black bass fishing, antiquing, and tours of the region’s famous wineries. “We will go out to the Hill Country just to inhale the beauty of it,” he says.

Few rural areas can rival the stunning variety of wines that you can get in a big city. “The closer you get to any wine country, even Napa Valley, the less access you have to a very large range of wines,” cautions Claude Robbins, president of the International Wine Guild. “I would rather have access to wines from all over the world.” International wine-loving retirees may want to consider living in a big city near grape-growing regions such as Seattle or Portland, Ore., which provides access to wines made all over the world in addition to local masterpieces. For beer drinkers, both cities also have a thriving microbrewery industry.

If you do need or want to work during the retirement years, a part-time job in a wine shop or tasting room can be a great way to earn money, meet new people, and keep up with developments in the wine industry. “If you go to most wineries, you’re going to find a lot of retirees who are working in tasting rooms,” says Robert Richards, a Pennsylvania State University professor and author of the forthcoming book Wine Savvy: The Art of Buying, Pairing, and Sharing American Wine. “They like talking with people, and they’re very knowledgeable about wine.” Jan King, 69, a retiree in Grand Junction, Colo., works two days a week at the Plum Creek Winery tasting room. “Most of the fun is pouring the wine for visitors from all over the world, and during the quiet times we give tours of the wineries,” she says. King enjoys chatting with the visitors about the wine, local attractions, or even about the winery’s cat, Silvia. The paycheck gives her some extra spending money to eat out and travel. Working in a winery comes with another valuable perk in many parts of the country: discounts at other wineries and local businesses. “That’s how I buy most of my Christmas gifts,” says King.

If you can’t pick just one swath of wine country to put down your roots, you could spend your retirement traveling them all like Terry Sullivan, 58, a retired middle school teacher. He and his wife, Kathy, say they have visited 365 wineries all over the world, and they chronicle their adventures on their website, winetrailtraveler.com. The 2½-year-old website and blog bring in about $4,000 a year from advertisements, which helps subsidize the approximately 10 days a month the couple spend in various wine regions. “You meet people who care about other people at wineries,” says Terry. Plus, “the ambience of being out among the vines is really nice.”

Check out these 10 great places for wine lovers to retire.

Clemmons, N.C.
Georgetown, Texas
Grand Junction, Colo.
Ithaca, N.Y.
Jefferson City, Mo.
Leesburg, Va.
Napa, Calif.
Portland, Ore.
Santa Rosa, Calif.
Seattle, WA

Looking for information on Georgetown Texas Homes For Sale? Visit my website or call me anytime!! Want the latest updates on Georgetown Texas Real Estate, news and latest developments? Sign up for the blog by clicking the link below:

Williamson County Texas – No more “Sans” thanks to “Three Legged Willie”

Williamson County, Texas – No more “Sans” thanks to “Three Legged Willie”

Ever wonder why our home county is named “Williamson”? Most people would guess that it was named after some prominent resident who resided here or did some great thing in the county’s history. In fact, it was named after a man who never even lived here! Our county’s namesake is Robert McAlpin Williamson and although his connection to Williamson County doesn’t go much further than the name, his life makes for quite a story.

He was born in Georgia sometime between 1804 and 1806. Orphanrobert-mcalpin-williamsoned by the death of his mother and the abandonment of his father before his first birthday, he was raised by his grandmother in Milledgeville, Georgia. He studied law and was admitted to the bar by the time he was twenty. He must have been a peculiar site in Georgia courtrooms, as five years earlier, he had contracted a form of arthritis that left his right knee locked at a 90 degree angle for the rest of his life. Since the leg was perfectly healthy (other than the fact the knee wouldn’t unbend) the decision was made not to amputate the useless appendage. Instead a wooden leg was attached to the knee, giving him the nickname “Three-Legged-Willie.” Apparently he didn’t much care for the name since no one was willing to use it to his face.

Despite his odd deformity, something he obviously never saw as a limitation, he joined Stephen F. Austin’s colony in 1827. Some stories claim that the move was not of his own choosing. By those accounts, he was on the run after injuring a rival suitor in a duel over a young lady. Once in Texas, Williamson expended his considerable energy in founding and editing several newspapers and serving as the first public prosecutor for what later became Travis County. Never held back by his deformed leg, Williamson was an excellent rider and marksman and was soon appointed a Major in the Texas Rangers. He fought Comanches on the frontier and the Mexican Army at Gonzalez and San Jacinto. He helped to write the first constitution of the Republic of Texas and served as a Supreme Court Justice and Circuit Judge. (District Judges rode circuits within their districts and simultaneously served as Supreme Court justices.)

After ending his career in the Texas judiciary, he ran for and won office in the House of Representatives and later in the Senate in the Republic of Texas. After the annexation of Texas, he served as a representative in the state government and it is here that we come to the story of how Williamson County came to bear his name. In 1848 the state legislature, responding to a petition from 107 residents of western Milam County, decided to split off what is now Williamson County. The question came up as to what they should call what is now our home county. The most favored name seemed to be “San Gabriel” for the river that runs through it and was an early center of settlement. An objection was raised by Representative Williamson who stood up and irreverently exclaimed that, “We’ve already got enough San’s in Texas!” One of his legislative colleagues responded by proposing that since he disagreed with the name San Gabriel, they should just name the new county for Judge Williamson himself. The motion carried and today we live in Williamson County rather than San Gabriel County.

Mortgage rates are low…but what are the drawbacks?

Whether you live right here in Georgetown, Texas or 1000 miles from here, the mortgage industry has certainly been a dominant news story for the past year.  To date in 2009, that has continued with the biggest mortgage related news being the incredibly low interest rates that we have been seeing since the beginning of the year.  In fact, mortgage rates are as low as they have been since 1963. These extraordinarily low rates can be attributed to the Federal government’s intervention in the Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) market.  While interest rates are currently low (just below 5% on a conventional loan today), there is speculation that the Fed could push rates even lower if they threw enough money at the right target.  The FED however does not set mortgage rates, but they can buy the securities that dictate rate levels and that’s how they’re keeping rates low.  They could make a concerted effort to push the rates lower but I believe the rates are in a territory where they want them and will continue their efforts to keep them there for awhile.

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This historically low rate environment, coupled with the recently unveiled $8000 First Time Home Buyer tax credit, has certainly spurred some increased activity in the offices of many mortgage lenders.  And now, we are entering into the high selling season for the year.  This should be a great recipe for putting the skids on the reported housing slump!  However, if you are planning to either purchase or refinance a home this summer, there are a couple of trends of which you should be aware.

1.  The unreported story of the mortgage market today is that the government’s interest rate intervention has created a refi boom in an industry whose workforce has been shrinking for the past three years.  While the number of mortgage applications may not be unprecedented, these loans are being funneled to a smaller number of lenders.  Basically, the same number of loan applications are being forced through a pipeline that is probably 25% of its previous 2006 size.  This has led to a huge backlog of loans awaiting processing and underwriting and extended turn times at some banks to 2 months – double the normal time.  In fact, a loan officer colleague of mine told me that he has been waiting for 22 days for one particular lender to even look at his file for the initial underwrite!   If you are in the process of submitting a loan application, ask your loan officer for some straight talk about expected turn times for underwriting, processing, and closing your loan!

2.  In addition, the second under-reported story of the mortgage and credit crisis is that, as demand for mortgages increase, many lenders are finding that they are unable to fund loans or are extremely slow in funding as their warehouse line capacity is shrinking or disappearing altogether.  (A warehouse line is revolving line of credit in which a mortgage banker arranges for a loan using the funds from this line of credit.  After closing that loan, the mortgage banker looks to sell the loan to an investor, thus freeing up the funds on that revolving line for the next loan.)  Through this credit crunch, many banks have begun pulling back the warehouse line capacity from their mortgage partners and thus making it difficult for them to operate.  In addition, many of these investors who buy these loans are bogged down with a lack of available personnel to process and complete the purchase of these loans (see the comment above regarding shrinking employee pools) and this keeps that warehouse line money tied up and unavailable for the next loan.  This means that as the economy struggles to recover, homeowners that have the biggest need to refinance are finding their loans are not funding or are funding significantly later than they had expected with these delays leading to increased fees for consumers as lenders must extend their locks and many times requires borrowers to resign loan docs when their loans do not fund on time.  Again, to ensure that you do not become a victim of this market phenomena, ask your loan officer if he or she has been experiencing any of these issues in the past few months and how will they help you from getting caught up in it. (Editor’s Note:  Your favorite homeboy, Edward, experienced this on the refi of his own home!)

fri2jpgThere are tremendous opportunities to take advantage of today’s real estate market offerings and secure a great rate on a mortgage loan.  But just remember, like Circuit City on a Black Friday, where people are scrambling to get the best deals, it can get crowded at the “checkout line” when getting your loan.

Mark Hanley is a mortgage consultant with United Lending and guest blogger with GeorgetownCustomHomes.com. Check him out at www.HanleyMortgage.com

Berry Creek Country Club in Georgetown, Texas

Berry Creek Country Club in Georgetown, Texas

To all you residents out there who live in Berry Creek, you now have a community forum!  I just created a Facebook page for neighbors to interact, network, conduct business and get the inside scoop on Berry Creek real estate!
All you have to do is click here:  Berry Creek Country Club

Getting a Facebook account is real simple and it’s a great way to connect with friends…and this is just another reason to do it!:)

Check out my new Facebook page!

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In an effort to separate some of my networking and business posts from my personal facebook profile, I created a Facebook page!  Please check it out and become a fan by clicking here! Or you can search for “Edward W. Lui – Your Favorite HOMEboy” on Facebook.

I plan on using my Facebook page for “micro-blogging” and posting links, short updates, local listings/real estate deals and other helpful information to my “fans.”  One of the nice things about my Facebook page is that I can talk “real estate” with people who have signed up to hear about it and not blast my information to just anyone.  Please join the discussion anytime and feel free to ask questions yourself.  I would love to have some interaction with my readers!

If you haven’t joined Facebook revolution yet, you might as well do it now:)  As far as privacy is concerned, nobody can see your profile and personal information without first being approved by you.  I think it’s a great social networking site, that will be sticking around for a long time and provides a great way to connect with the people you really want to.  What do you think?  Do you have a facebook profile yet or do you think this is just a fad that will go away?

I hope you’ll check out my Facebook page, and if you find it to be helpful, sign up as a fan!

~your favorite HOMEboy

The best of both worlds: Modern home in Downtown Georgetown Texas

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Downtown Georgetown Texas Real Estate – Typically characterized with words such as “highly appreciating,” “charming homes,” “desireable location,” and “older homes.”  Well, the developer on this street took advantage of some lots on the outskirts of Downtown and changed the perception that a highly appreciating area with close proximity to major conveniences had to consist soley of old homes.  Enter the homes on 19th street.  They are all recently built and have all of the same advantages of living in downtown without the headache of renovating a home from the 1920’s.

At just over 1300 SF and priced at $122,000, this home is an affordable way for somebody to experience downtown living, without needing a trust fund to update the entire home.  Walking distance to Southwestern University and Annie Purl Elementary, check out the pictures and video below:

Looking for information on Georgetown Texas Homes For Sale? Visit my website or call me anytime!! Want the latest updates on Georgetown Texas Real Estate, news and latest developments? Sign up for the blog by clicking the link below:

414 W. Esparada – Serenada in Georgetown

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Serenada in Georgetown, TXThis home sits on just over .5 an acre and has an incredible amount of trees that shade it from the sun all day long.  It is 1989 SF and priced at just $190,000 with 3 Br/2Ba/Study and Formal Dining.

Most of the yards available on the market in Serenada at the time of this post are about 1/3 of an acre, so this lot is larger than most of what you will find.  The only lot I could find larger in this neighborhood was a home priced at over $100,000 more!

One thing you need to watch out for in these older homes are the upgrades and renovations that the previous owners have done.  Typically, these are very sloppy upgrades done by “handy man” uncles in exchange for free pizza and a beer.  Fortunately for you, everything in this home has been tastefully updated and the owners have a record of every professional vendor, the price paid and the phone number for every major renovation done to the home since 1996! A total of over $50,000 has been invested in this home since then.  They even hired professionals to clean their windows!  No “spotty” workmanship here…pun intended.

Check out the pictures to see for yourself:

Looking for information on Georgetown Texas Homes For Sale? Visit my website or call me anytime!! Want the latest updates on Georgetown Texas Real Estate, news and latest developments? Sign up for the blog by clicking the link below:

The Importance of Home Lighting when Selling Your Home

quoizel-chastain-tiffany-table-lampimgqzqz4882_lWhen it comes to selling your home, there are few things as important as home staging. By presenting your home in the most appealing way possible, you can greatly increase your odds of attracting potential buyers.

There are many different ways that you can utilize home staging in today’s real estate market, through the use of elements as simple as home lighting. By creating the right lighting scheme in your home you can be sure that you’re making a great first impression on any and all prospective buyers.

The key to creating the perfect lighting scheme in your home is by finding the right balance. You want to make sure that your home is not too dim, but by the same token you also don’t want your lighting to be too harsh. The best way to achieve a good balance is through a combination of different lighting sources. By pairing table and floor lamps with your overhead lighting, you can create the warming glow that you need to achieve an inviting atmosphere that best showcases your home.

Natural light is another element that should be utilized when lighting for home staging. Keep the curtains opened to let sunlight 102808_light01shine in and do your best to keep your windows clean. Natural light has a calming effect and helps create a more upbeat and positive atmosphere that is great for keeping spirits high. If you happen to have a dimmer switch installed, then you can slowly raise the brightness level of the room as the sun goes down. This way you can keep a well balanced lighting scheme throughout the day and well into the evening.

While a well lit interior is very important, you must consider the exterior lights of your home as well. By using exterior flood lights you can shine a spotlight on your home which will help it stand out against the dark backdrop. Lighting your home’s exterior will also make it easier to find at night. You don’t want potential buyers to drive past your house simply because they can’t see your address number. You should also make sure your entrance way is well lit to help guide your visitors to the front door. The more comfortable your prospective buyers are, the better your chances of selling your home.

Looking for information on Georgetown Texas Homes For Sale? Visit my website or call me anytime!! Want the latest updates on Georgetown Texas Real Estate, news and latest developments? Sign up for the blog by clicking the link below:

Going, going….gone? – Summercrest in Georgetown, TX

Summercrest in Georgetown Texas

Just listed a home on 2323 Rockledge and I have an offer in 2 days!  Home isn’t completely under contract, so if you’re interested, you can still make a backup offer for yourself!

What makes the home so appealing is that it is very well staged and the owner took great care of it.  It’s a clean home with granite countertops and a wooden staircase.  The backyard has a nice shed and stone patio, in addition to an enclosed patio (which is hard to find in this neighborhood).  It’s priced at $175,000 for 2630 SF, so if you want to make this home yours, make sure you see it before it goes!

More pics below:

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