Benefits of Using a Real Estate Agent

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AVOID CLOSING PROBLEMS. Pitfalls can occur towards the end of a transaction. An agent can see that the completion of the transaction is smooth right through to signing the papers as well as advise as to any contractual changes which might be necessary prior to the closing. Your real estate agent will assist to ensure that all of the professionals involved in the transaction are staying on task and on timeline.

CODE EXPERTISE. Maybe you want to buy a home near a business district and turn the front into a store or perhaps you want to add an addition or build a backyard fence. Experienced real estate agents are familiar enough with local zoning ordinances to make sure you’re buying a property where the city allows it. If a house isn’t connected to the public sewer system, the real estate agent will make sure that is disclosed by the Seller to the Buyer within the inspection period.

PRICING EXPERTISE. Agents can provide all the data on local home sales and deliver in-depth knowledge regarding your purchase that comes from years of watching transactions close in the neighborhood.

UNEMOTIONAL NEGOTIATION. An agent can write requests objectively and submit them to the seller which saves you from getting overly emotional about the transaction. An agent can take the heat in difficult negotiations in a businesslike manner, negotiating all facets of the transaction in your best interest.

LOOKING FOR SOMETHING SPECIFIC? Aside from the technical aspects of a sale and the mistakes people can make in the paperwork, real estate agents know neighborhoods and houses inside and out. A real estate agent might just know exactly where to find the home you are looking for.

TACKLING THE PAPERWORK. A real estate transaction involves an extensive amount of paperwork. An Agent can properly prepare the necessary real estate purchase contract, disclosures and associated forms that are required to be fully executed by the buyer and seller. The odds of missing something, not initialing a page or failing to check a box, can substantially decrease when you’re working with a professional who knows the paperwork.

FINDING AVAILABLE HOMES. Homes for sale can be viewed on the Web. Often times, great properties are not widely publicized because Sellers have health or financial problems, divorce factors or choose not to advertise their sale during the holidays. Working with a Realtor® gives you access to homes you might otherwise miss seeing.

REQUESTING REPAIRS. Request for repairs can make or break a deal. The touchiest part of a real estate purchase often involves requesting repairs. An agent may be able to identify trouble that you may not see and recommend a good independent home inspector who can provide a detailed report on problems with the house. The agent will have a good sense of what’s reasonable to request and what’s excessive.

ETHICAL CONSIDERATION. Real estate agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) agree to abide by a code of ethics that requires Realtors® deal with all parties of a transaction honestly.

 

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Holly Schuler
VP, Business Development
Holly.Schuler@Title365.com
512.913.9098  :  Mobile

How to Spot a Lie

A Cornell University study reveals there are seven magic words that help reveal a lie.

 According to this video summary of the research, most people lie when speaking via telephone vs. communicating through email.

Also, according to the study, 14% of people will lie in email, 21% in a text message, 27% face-to-face, and 37% over the phone.

Because people are less likely to lie “on paper”, Richard Wiseman suggests the best thing to do is to say these 7 words, “Can you just email me about that?”

That doesn’t always translate in real estate negotiations since over 80% of communication is non-verbal so it certainly helps to have both.  If you’re looking for a Realtor who is not afraid to tell you the truth (to your face or in an email), contact Edwin Lui today!

Homestead Exemption in Central Texas

Filing for a homestead exemption is one of the easiest ways for home owners to save a little money on annual property taxes.  There is only one simple criteria to qualify for this tax exemption – you must claim the home as your primary residence.  You or your spouse cannot claim more than one exemption on another property in or outside of the state of Texas.  Filing for the exemption is easy.  Do not pay for this service (unless one of your hobbies includes lighting your fire place with dollar bills).

Fill out this homestead exemption application and drop it by your local appraisal district.

So what can you actually save by doing this?  In our example, we’ll calculate property taxes on a $200,000 home with and without a $15,000 exemption.

Without Homestead Exemption:
Property value – $200,000
Property tax rate – 2.5%
Property taxes – $5,000 annually

With Homestead Exemption:
Property value – $200,000
Exemption value – $15,000
Taxable property value – $185,000
Property tax rate – 2.5%
Property taxes – $4,625 annually

Savings = $375/year (for doing close to nothing)

Other tax exemptions:

Age 65 or Older or Disabled Persons
Requirements:

  • owner must be 65 or older (surviving spouse must be 55 or older at time of death)
  • disabled person must meet the definition of disabled for the purpose of receiving disability insurance benefits under the Federal Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance Act

This exemption value can be an additional $10,000.  Taking our above example, the savings can be upped to $625/year.

Veterans
Requirements:

  • veteran who was disabled while serving in the U.S. armed forces or surviving spouse

Exemption values for disabled veterans vary depending on the disability rating of the veteran:

Disability Exemption
Disability Rating Exemption Amount Up To
10% to 29% $5,000 from the property’s value
30% to 49% $7,500 from the property’s value
50% to 69% $10,000 from the property’s value
70% to 100% $12,000 from the property’s value

These values can further give homeowners savings on their property taxes each year you qualify and you do not need to re-apply each year.

Have more questions regarding residence homestead exemption, 65 or older exemption, or veteran exemption?  Visit the Texas website here or contact me directly.

Your Guide to the Best Christmas Lights in Central Texas

One of my family’s favorite Christmas traditions is driving around looking at Christmas lights. I’ve compiled a list of some of the more extravagant displays around Central Texas from Fort Hood all the way down to San Marcos.

Be sure to check the links below before heading out, in case any of the schedules change.

North

Fort Hood

Nature in Lights, a Holiday Tradition

Enjoy the drive through over five and a half miles of holiday-inspired scenes. Like magic, BLORA is once again transformed into a winter wonderland for all to enjoy: kids and kids at heart

  • When: Until January 4, from 5:30-11 p.m.
  • Where: Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area
  • Cost: $7 per car

 

 

Georgetown

Christmas Stroll

Bring the family and walk through the many wonders of Whoo-Village, enjoy live entertainment, a special kids activity area, treats in the food court and browse more than 250 arts and crafts booths. Children will love the various FREE activities and rides and visiting with Santa. There’s even a parade on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. If you can’t visit during the stroll, stop by any evening to see the Downtown Square lit up for the season.

  • When: Friday, December 5, from 5-9 p.m. and Saturday, December 6, from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Where: Georgetown Square
  • Cost: Free

Spindler’s Family Light Show

Tune your car radio to 88.5 FM to listen to the music.

  • When: 6pm to 10:30pm
  • Where: 2441 Candle Ridge Trail
  • Cost: Free, but please bring an unwrapped gift for Brown Santa.

Harlien Family Christmas

Tune in to 94.1 while viewing 40,000 lights synchronized to 48 channels of animation. Multiple lit trees, arches, Christmas features, and Santa!!! This year will be the 20th year the Harlien Family has decorated their home to bring joy to neighborhood kids and families. Inspired by a wish granted to their dear friend’s son, this year the Harlien Family has chosen to raise $5,000 to adopt a family wish.

  • When: 6-10 p.m. on weekdays and 6-11 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
  • Where: 400 Liscio Cove. (For safety reasons, all guests are asked to enter Liscio Loop from Lancaster Drive & exit Liscio Loop at Champions.)
  • Cost: Free, but a donation to the Make a Wish Foundation is encouraged.

Shady Oak Christmas Display

The show lasts about an hour if you watch the whole thing, but each song averages around 6 minutes.

  • When: Visit the Facebook page for updates.
  • Where: 107 Shady Oak Drive
  • Cost: Free

 

 

Leander

Tree Lighting and Christmas Parade

Pictures with Santa, Holiday Hayrides, Yule Fire, Choral Performances, Christmas Parade, and Tree Lighting.

  • When: Saturday, December 6 at 5 p.m.
  • Where: City Hall, 200 West Willis St.
  • Cost: Free

 

 

Cedar Park

Anna Court Light Display

This Cedar Park cul-de-sac is decked out with thousands and thousands of festive lights. Tune your radio to 89.1 to listen to the music.

  • When: Nightly until December 31st from 5:30-11:30pm
  • Where: 1321-1333 Anna Court
  • Cost: Free, but please bring a toy to donate to Blue Santa.

Holiday Tree Lighting and Santa’s Workshop

Over 60,000 lights will illuminate the largest Live Oak Tree in Cedar Park. Santa’s Workshop will kick off immediately following the tree lighting ceremony. Enjoy live music, free carriage rides, games and prizes, inflatables, photos with Santa, and arts & crafts projects. Bring the whole family for what promises to be a festive evening.

  • When: December 5, from 6:30-9 p.m.
  • Where: Heritage Oak Park, 875 Quest Parkway.
  • Cost: Free

Chinati Court

  • When: See the Facebook page for updates.
  • Where: Just off Sun Chase Blvd in the Ranch at Cypress Creek. Park on Sun Chase and walk, if you can. (Map)
  • Cost: Free but the neighborhood is a collection point for Brown Santa.

 

 

Round Rock

Rock’N Lights Holiday Light Tour

Come and experience the Rock’N Lights Holiday Light Tour at Old Settler’s Park, from the comfort of your car. With 2 million lights, the 1.5-mile path is the must-see event of the season.

  • When: December 1 to 30, starting at 6 p.m. (closing times vary)
  • Where: 4111 E. Old Settlers Blvd
  • Cost: $15 per family vehicle

Christmas Family Night

Watch as Main Street is illuminated and Santa arrives in his sleigh

  • When: Friday, December 5 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Where: Historic Downtown, Main Street.
  • Cost: Free

 

 

Pflugerville

Christmas Parade and Pfestival of Lights

The city’s Parks & Recreation Department joins forces with the Knights of Columbus this year and adds activities to the annual Christmas Parade. Blending the two events makes a larger, more fun holiday celebration for the community. The city will bring a stage with live performances from local elementary schools and dancers on the stage at 200 W. Main Street. There will be FREE arts and crafts activities for children, a bonfire, the traditional tree lighting, and photos with Santa Claus at the end of the parade.

  • When: Saturday, December 13, starting at 5:30 p.m. Activities until 8 p.m.
  • Where: The parade travels down Railroad Avenue to Main Street. (Parade route map.)
  • Cost: Donations for the Blue Santa program welcome.

 

 

North Austin

Holiday Light Shows at The Domain

Watch the holidays come to life with hourly lights show in Domain II. More than 82,000 lights and 2,200 strobes will dance to holiday music for the first 15 minutes of each hour.

  • When: Until December 31, hourly between 5 and 9 p.m.
  • Where: Domain II (mall map).
  • Cost: Free

Frozen Medley Christmas Light Show

Viewers can hear the songs from the house’s speakers or from their car radio by tuning in to 106.9 FM.

  • When: Nightly until New Year’s, from 5:30-9:45 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and from 5:30-10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
  • Where: 16412 Rockgate Dr., Austin (near Avery Ranch in Round Rock).
  • Cost: Free

Lanicek Family in Wells Branch

10,000+ lights programmed to 20 minutes of music.

  • When: Until January 3, from 6 – 10 p.m., weather permitting.
  • Where: 2207 Klattenhoff Drive
  • Cost: Free, but the house is a collection point for non-perishable food items for Saint Louis Catholic Church food pantry.

 

 

Central Austin

Mozart’s Coffee Roasters

15-minute light show at the top of each hour. Come drink some hot chocolate while you and your family enjoy the fun decorations and show, including the song “What Does the Fox Say” for the kids.

  • When: Every night from 6 p.m. to midnight
  • Where: 3825 Lake Austin Blvd.
  • Cost: Free

Zilker Holiday Tree

The Zilker Tree stands 155 feet tall and is composed of 39 streamers, each holding 81 multicolored, 25-watt bulbs, totaling 3,309 lights. At the top of the tree, a double star measures 10 feet from point to point. The double star displays 150 frosted bulbs. This unique spiral pattern of lights was created by City of Austin electricians. At its circumference, the tree measures 380 feet. The diameter is 120 feet. The base of the tree is made up of 19 utility poles, each 14 feet tall, arranged in a circle around the Moonlight Tower. Go take a spin under the tree and buy some kettle corn from one of the onsite vendors. REMINDER: December 7-21 the area roads will be closed as thousands visit the Trail of Lights. If you are planning to visit the Holiday Tree itself, make sure to plan around those nights!

  • When: Until December 31, from 6 p.m. to midnight.
  • Where: Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd.
  • Cost: Free

Lighting of the Capitol Tree

The fun starts at 6 p.m. when crowds gather on the south steps of the Capitol to sing the songs of the season with John Aielli, host of the long-running show “Eklektikos” on KUTX 98.9. As the clock strikes 7 p.m., the crowd begins the countdown to the lighting of the Capitol tree, featuring a programmed light show at the top and bottom of every hour, set to holiday songs of local Austin musicians. From 7 to 9 p.m. Congress Ave. will be abuzz with holiday cheer during the Downtown Stroll. Shops, restaurants, galleries and museums will be open late and will feature special activities and offers.

  • When: Saturday, December 6 at 6 p.m.
  • Where: Texas State Capitol, Congress Avenue & 11th Street.
  • Cost: Free

Trail of Lights

To get a sneak peek of the Trail, join the two-mile Fun Run on Saturday, December 6, 7-10 p.m., rain or shine ($20 for adults; $10 for kids).

  • When: December 7-21, from 7-10 p.m.
  • Where: Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd.
  • Cost: Admission to the Trail of Lights is FREE on Opening Night (December 7) and on Monday to Thursday nights. Admission is also FREE for kids under 12 every night. Admission for adults (age 12+) is $3 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (excluding Opening Night). With the purchase of a ZiP Pass for $15, trail-goers can enter the Trail early, starting at 6:15 p.m. on most nights. Shuttle tickets cost $5/person on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights ($4 on weeknights) and provide admission into the Trail of Lights (no additional gate admission ticket is required). Lap children ride free. Zilker Parking Passes are $15. All passes can be purchased online in advance.

Luminations at Wildflower Center

Enjoy Luminations, a Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center holiday tradition. Make plans to visit the lighted gardens, filled with thousands of luminarias and twinkle lights. In addition to the beautiful holiday lighting, there will be hot chocolate and food for sale, plus children’s activities and musical acts throughout both evenings. Kids can get a hug from Frosty the Snowman and make crafts in the Visitors Gallery.

  • When: Saturday and Sunday, December 13 and 14, from 6-9 p.m.
  • Where: 4801 La Crosse Avenue
  • Cost: Admission is FREE with two canned food items for the Capital Area Food Bank.

 

 

South

Buda

Trail of Lights

Get in the holiday mood by strolling through the park and enjoying the lights! FREE shuttle parking is available at Cabela’s. No parking is permitted in the park. Walk in visitors are welcome and may bring leashed pets. The trail is approximately 1/2 mile long. No pets are allowed on shuttle buses. Hot beverages and concessions will be available for purchase.

  • When: December 12 -13 and 18 – 21, from 6 – 10 p.m
  • Where: Historic Stagecoach Park, 880 Main Street, Buda.
  • Cost: Free

 

 

San Marcos

Sights & Sounds of Christmas

Come out for free Santa photos, holiday performances, ice skating, enjoy festival foods, holiday gift shops, laser light show, free petting zoo, pony rides, carnival, town of Bethlehem, 5K Run, Kids 1K Run. Want to volunteer and get free entry? You can do that too!

  • When: December 3 to 6, from 5 – 11 p.m.
  • Where: San Marcos Plaza Park.
  • Cost: –13 and up is $5; kids 12 and under are FREE.

East

Bastrop

River of Lights

The River of Lights features 120 lighted displays and music. The trail continues all the way down the Lower Colorado River to Ferry Park, about a half mile.

  • When: December 6-31, from 6-9 p.m.
  • Where: Fisherman’s Park, 1200 Willow St.
  • Cost: Free

 

 

West

Dripping Springs

Christmas on Mercer Street

The public is invited to attend the day-long festival on Mercer Street, hosted by the City of Dripping Springs and the Dripping Springs Lions Club. The charming downtown setting of Mercer Street will be transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with lights, holiday decorations, festive music, fire pits for warmth and plenty of holiday cheer. Photos with Santa, train rides, pony rides and a variety of arts, crafts and specialty food and drink booths will be in full swing. The highlight of the evening will be the annual lighting of the Christmas Tree at the Triangle, located at Hwy. 290 and RR 12. At sunset, attendees are invited to gather for the illumination of the tree, showing off its twinkling lights, and joining in festive songs. This year features a special High Steppers performance, in addition to multiple choirs from local Dripping Springs churches and schools. Hot chocolate and coffee will be available for all to enjoy.

  • When: Saturday, December 6, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Where: Mercer Street, Downtown Dripping Springs
  • Cost: Free

 

 

Wimberley

The EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens Trail of Lights

Stroll a walking path with more than 100 lighted exhibits created by local businesses, churches, organizations and families. Roast a marshmallow at the yule log and listen to live entertainment on most nights. See the schedule of when Santa will be in his house.

  • When: Until December 31, from 6–9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and from 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • Where: EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens, 1101 FM 2325
  • Cost: Free

 

 

Gruene

Town Lighting

Watch as Cowboy Kringle rides into town on horseback and lights Gruene for the holidays. Celebrating with live musical performances with festival food and wine available for purchase. Afterwards, get some holiday shopping done at Gruene’s 30+ stores and cozy up to a fireplace for dinner at the Gristmill.

  • When: Saturday, December 6, from 5-6:30 p.m.
  • Where: Downtown Gruene
  • Cost: Free

 

 

Johnson City

Lights Spectacular, Hill Country Style

This holiday season, bring your family to enjoy the magic and beauty of over two million LED lights spread over a mile-long drive through light display. To book a hayride through the lights for your family or group this Christmas season, or if you have any questions, call 512-955-1706.

  • When: Until January 1, from 6-11 p.m
  • Where: 1 mile outside of Johnson City, on Hwy 281.
  • Cost: Free but donations are accepted to help keep the display burning bright!

Toungate Klub Kringle

Come out to see a brand new show, with more lights and new songs!

  • When: Starting December 6 at 8:30 p.m.
  • Where: 2305 Arroyo Grande
  • Cost: Free

Reposting a great article concerning MUDs

Municipal utility districts continue to grow outside Round Rock; annexation unlikely

As a matter of necessity, the employees of the Round Rock Public Library have become experts on city residency laws.

That is because with increasing frequency the city’s librarians have found themselves informing first-time visitors that they are not actually residents of the city of Round Rock but instead reside within a municipal utility district, or MUD. The discrepancy in addresses not only affects people’s ability to gain a free library card, but also the property taxes they pay, the fire and police services they receive and in which elections they are allowed to participate.

“We have a lot of people … who don’t know they are purchasing a house in a MUD or understand what a municipal utility district is,” Round Rock Library Director Michelle Cervantes said.

There are approximately 37,000 people living in the 13 MUDs that lie within the city of Round Rock’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ—unincorporated areas the city holds the rights to annex but is under no obligation to do so.

Those living within the MUDs share the same Round Rock mailing address as the city’s residents but are excluded from municipal services such as police, fire department and water services as well as street maintenance. If a family living in a MUD wishes to obtain a city of Round Rock library card, the family is required to pay a $40 annual fee—a service that is free for city residents—and if the family uses a city pool or signs up for a parks and recreation program, it pays nonresident rates.

Another surprise to many new MUD residents comes in the form of taxes. Because MUDs fund and maintain their own water and wastewater infrastructures, their property tax rates can more than double Round Rock’s. In addition, MUD residents must also pay a Williamson County emergency services district tax for fire protection, and in some cases, separate homeowners association fees for parks and pools maintenance.

“When you buy a home in a utility district, you actually get a form that is called a notice of disclosure, [that informs people they are living in a MUD]” said Mike Petter, general manager for the Brushy Creek MUD.

“But the reality is it is one of [approximately] 40 forms you sign when you close on your property. So people move in and they look at the mailing address that says Round Rock, and they assume that is where they live. The reality is that is just where the post office is.”

Defining a MUD

By its most basic definition, a MUD is a funding mechanism used to spur residential development.

Created by either the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality or by an act of the Texas Legislature, MUDs are technically state-regulated water districts. Individual MUDs are overseen by an elected board of directors that is responsible for the management, finances and policies within the MUD’s defined area.

“When these MUDs are created, they issue debt to help develop their own infrastructure,” Round Rock Finance Director Cheryl Delaney said. “They are their own taxing entity. They usually provide their own water, wastewater and solid waste services. They are kind of like a mini city themselves.”

The advantage of MUDs for developers lies in the districts’ ability to take on debt by issuing bonds. The bonds allow developers to pass on the cost of building road and water infrastructure to the future homeowners, who pay off the MUD’s bond debt with property tax revenue.

Cities such as Round Rock also benefit from the residential populations MUDs bring into their immediate area. Essentially, MUD residents help build up the city’s commercial property and sales tax bases by providing a workforce and consumers while at the same time saving the city the cost of funding police, fire and municipal services to new neighborhoods.

“The common knowledge is that cities typically lose money on rooftops,” said Mike Freeman, owner of Mike Freeman Properties, a Round Rock real estate firm. “If any development wants to happen outside [the city limits], it’s pretty much going to need to be a MUD.”

Benefits of a MUD

There are approximately 15,000 people residing within the Brushy Creek MUD in Round Rock’s southwestern ETJ. Founded in 1977, Brushy Creek’s board of directors has injected millions of dollars into the district’s parks, recreation and infrastructure.

Rebecca Tullos, a Brushy Creek resident since 1992, has served on the board of directors off and on for 10 years and as board president since 2012. Tullos believes some of the advantages of living in a MUD include a closer-knit community and greater access to parks and recreation.

“The quality of life for our residents is at the top of the list of goals for the board of directors,” Tullos said.

Williamson County Commissioner Lisa Birkman is also a resident of Brushy Creek and formerly served on the district’s board of directors.

“Generally speaking, it’s a great place to raise your kids,” she said. “Usually the MUDs are a little more affluent neighborhoods with really nice homes and a good quality of life for living here.”

By financing MUDs’ infrastructure through bonds, developers are also able to lower housing costs by avoiding the impact fees cities charge for new construction. Homeowners are also usually allowed to use their MUD property tax payments as a deduction on their federal income taxes.

Enforcement

As a county commissioner representing many of the MUDs in Round Rock’s unincorporated areas, Birkman said she often deals with residents frustrated with the lack of regulations in the districts. Birkman has dealt with a wide range of complaints, ranging from semitrailers being parked on residential streets to the use of fireworks to poorly maintained yards and houses. In most cases, however, the county is limited in its ability to act on residential complaints in the unincorporated areas.

“State laws are written to give certain protections for neighborhoods in cities, not [in ETJs],” Birkman said. “If you live in many places in Texas where [land] is unincorporated, it is just farmland and rural, so those restrictions aren’t needed. But we are under different circumstances in a MUD.”

For most residents living in MUDs, their ability to uphold standards in their neighborhood is limited to whether they belong to a homeowners association, or HOA. As opposed to city ordinances, which carry police authority, however, an HOA’s powers are limited to fines and warning letters.

“You don’t have police power with an HOA,” Freeman said. “With the city of Round Rock, if I try to park my car on the grass, they drive by and write me a ticket and tell me to move my car. In an HOA, they notify [residents] and tell them they have a time period to rectify the situation.”

Annexation

While the residents and leadership of the MUDs surrounding Round Rock have worked in different ways to improve their amenities and quality of life, many recognize there would be advantages to being annexed into the city of Round Rock.

The city of Round Rock, however, has never annexed a MUD, and if it were ever to do so it would require a significant analysis of the costs and benefits of what could be gained by adding hundreds, if not thousands, of new rooftops to the city.

The obstacles to annexation for MUDs are numerous.

For one, MUDs are built on debt used to pay for their infrastructure. If the city were to annex a MUD, state law mandates the city would also assume any debt the district was carrying. There are also the additional factors of the city taking on the financial burden of maintaining any parks and recreation systems the respective MUDs have created. Finally, the city would have to consider the cost of the additional police and fire services.

Much of the costs for maintaining these services within the city of Round Rock are offset by commercial property and sales taxes. MUDs, however, typically contain little to no commercial properties.

The Teravista communities are divided into three MUDs—two located within Round Rock’s northern ETJ and one within Georgetown’s ETJ. Founded in 1998, the districts’ management has developed a long-term strategy it believes could one day help the chance of its residents being annexed. In Teravista, all of the costs of building and maintaining the pools, parks and golf course are funded by the HOA, not the MUD, as is the case in Brushy Creek.

“Where it makes it sometimes challenging for cities to annex districts is when districts get a little bit convoluted with the recreation stuff,” said Rainer Ficken, senior project manager for Newland Communities, the developer for Teravista. “That is why we purposely keep [Teravista MUDs] focused only on providing the water and wastewater and drainage infrastructure.

“Long term, when the city does enter the point they would want to annex that area, they are truly just annexing the utilities. … The city is not taking over any of the swimming pools or open space or amenities.”

Before considering annexing a MUD, the city of Round Rock will also have to determine the costs and benefits to the residents already living within the city’s limits. For a MUD such as Brushy Creek, which currently carries a debt of more than $40 million and an annual operating budget of $11 million, the chances of annexation are “zero,” Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw said.

“It boils down to the dollars-and-cents discussion,” he said. “If you bring [MUDs] in and the services and debt far outweigh the revenue, then it is the rest of the city that is having to make up the difference, and that is not fair to them.”

by 

August 1, 2013

MOVING CHECKLIST 15 Frequently Forgotten Things

1. High quality garbage bags for packing and trash.

2. Packing tape dispenser and durable packing tape.

3. More storage boxes than you think you’ll need.

4. Plain newspaper and plastic grocery bags for breakables.

5. Permanent marker for labeling every box and wrapped item. Label EVERYTHING.

6. Dish soap and a sponge (or dishwasher detergent) to rewash any dishes that got dusty or dirty during the move.

7. Doormat to cut down on dirt being tracked in.

8. Rags and a bucket for immediate cleaning of your furniture, cabinets, floors, and surfaces.

9. Bottled water and a cooler with ice for you and your movers. Trail mix is a great snack to have on hand too!

10. Bathroom supplies for one bathroom: toilet paper, hand towels, and soap.

11. A bag or suitcase of toiletries and everyday highly used items. (Toothbrush, hairbrush, contact solution)

12. Small supply of plastic utensils, paper plates, and napkins.

13. Pet owners: a few meals’ worth of pet food in separate plastic baggies.

14. A shower curtain liner.

15. Light bulbs or a floor lamp if your new home doesn’t have ceiling fixtures.

 

Thank you Hometalk for this great checklist!

 

Don’t Get a Ticket!

See if you know the answers to these five questions about Texas traffic laws.

  1. True or false     It’s OK to use the center turn lanes for merging into traffic.
  2. True or false     You’re allowed to turn left on red.
  3. True or false    If you get a speeding ticket in Louisiana, it won’t be reported in Texas.
  4. True or false    Texas law prohibits parking within 30 ft. of the approach to a stop sign.
  5. True or false     Red-light cameras can also be used to enforce other types of traffic violations.

  1. False. The center turn lane is reserved for left turns and is not to be used as a waiting area to merge onto a roadway.
  2. True. If the intersecting streets are both one-way streets and a left turn is permissible, you may turn left on a red light after coming to a stop.
  3. False. Texas and 44 other states, including all states bordering Texas, are part of the Driver License Compact. Members of this group pass along information about a non-resident’s traffic violations to the driver’s home state.
  4. True.
  5. False.

 

SOURCES: Texas Driver’s Handbook, Texas Department of Transportation, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators

 

3 Reasons Buyers, Sellers Need a Realtor

BMO Harris Bank recently conducted a survey finding that about 47% of home owners said they could sell a home without the help of a real estate agent, and 59% said they likely could purchase a home on their own. Not surprisingly, 75% of respondents also said they ended up using a real estate professional when it came down to it. Here’s why:

http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2014/07/15/3-reasons-buyers-sellers-need-you?om_rid=AACLKS&om_mid=_BTxWUcB87PzUZ2&om_ntype=RMODaily

How Buyers Can Annoy Sellers

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Bankrate.com recently highlighted several ways that home buyers have been annoying some sellers recently, including:

  • Disrespectful house visitors: Some buyers may not be respectful when touring a home, letting their child run wild or bounce on the furniture, cranking up the heat and air conditioning, or even using the restroom. Lisa Ramsey, a real estate professional with the The Ramsey Group, says it’s up to the real estate agents to lay down some house rules when the seller isn’t there. “I tell buyers, ‘Let’s just pretend we’re walking into the White House.” She’ll also talk to her buyers “about the trend of sellers putting [microphones and] cameras in the home. … I go into every house assuming there’s a recording device in the house. We’re not going to talk money or strategy in the house.”
  • Submitting a long list of defects: Ron Phipps, principal with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., and a former president of the National Association of REALTORS®, says that buyers are doing themselves a disservice when submitting an offer with a long list of what’s wrong with the house. It makes sellers question why the buyers would want this place. Instead, Phipps recommends a gentler approach: Submit a list of comparables with the offer as well as a personal letter where buyers introduce themselves and explain why they want the house. In the letter, they can mention two or three of the major issues with the house while keeping it neutral and referencing third-party, empirical sources.
  • Too many visits: After buyers have committed to purchase a home, they want to make lots of visits to their future home, bringing the decorators, architects as well and entire family with them, says Mike Lubin, associate broker for Brown Harris Stevens in New York. The sellers may find the constant visits disruptive, however, as they’re busy packing and possibly doing repairs to meet a deadline. Lubin says a possible compromise could be to have the buyer arrange a visit while the inspector is present as well as another visit during the final walkthrough before closing.
  • Renegotiation: Buyers may agree on the price but then repeatedly demand concessions and discounts. The home inspection can be a culprit. For example, buyers may realize the furnace has about five good years left and then make a demand for a new furnace or monetary equivalent. “A realistic buyer knows everything’s not going to be perfect,” says Matt Laricy, managing partner with Americorp Real Estate in Chicago. But signed contracts don’t often stop a buyer from trying to renegotiate, Laricy adds. Buyers may say the market has changed or that they’ve overpaid or they may even suffer from buyer’s remorse, he says. “It’s extremely awkward,” Lubin says. “It’s violating the terms of the contract, and it’s insulting.”

Source: “8 Ways that Homebuyers Annoy Sellers,” Bankrate.com (April 2014)

Texas-Sized Housing Boom

The Texas A&M Real Estate Center reports a huge increase in home values and bidding wars in Houston and Dallas.  Over 15% median price increases in Dallas and 14% in Houston represent the highest year over year increases in over a decade.  Although it doesn’t mention anything about Austin, we’ve had our own share of bidding wars and multiple offers for the better half of 2013 and still going on in many pocket neighborhoods.

A hot real estate market can be a difficult ocean for both sellers and buyers alike to navigate so if you need an experienced and savvy real estate agent to sell or purchase a home in a hot market, give me a call.

Source: http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2013/10/10/everything-including-housing-boom-bigger-in-texas?om_rid=AACLKS&om_mid=_BSVxHPB81u25$z&om_ntype=RMODaily

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