Open House Today – Stewarts Forest – 4 Crag Ct. Conroe, TX. 77301

I am hosting an Open House Today in Stewarts Forest

Location: 4 Crag Ct. Conroe, TX. 77301

Time: 11am – 2pm.

MLS: 74922470

GORGEOUS TWO STORY HOME BY GRAND VIEW BUILDERS LOCATED IN THE MASTER PLANNED COMMUNITY OF STEWARTS FOREST WITH POOL, PARKS, TRAILS & OTHER AMENITIES. OPEN FLOOR PLAN, GREAT KITCHEN WITH GAS RANGE & GRANITE COUNTERS. FAMILY ROOM IS WARMLY INTEGRATED WITH KITCHEN FOR EASY ENTERTAINING. MASTER SUITE DOWN W/ DUAL SINKS, SEPARATE TUB & SHOWER. GAMEROOM PLUS ADDITIONAL BEDROOMS UP. JUST MINUTES FROM THE WOODLANDS & LAKE CONROE.

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Luxury Homes – How to Know whether it’s time to buy a home??

Nov. 28, 2011, 12:01 a.m. EST

How to know whether it’s time to buy a home

Six considerations for those weighing whether to rent or buy

By Amy Hoak, MarketWatch

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — As another year of the housing downturn ends, some are wondering if it finally is more advantageous to buy instead of rent, given discounted home prices and mortgage rates near historical lows.

The answer not only depends on where you live, but also your personal finances, the stability of your job and what you expect for home prices and rental rates in the years ahead.

Historically, renting has been the better choice, according to recent research.

Renting was the better move about 75% of the time, according to “Lessons from over 30 years of buy versus rent decisions: Is the American Dream always wise?,” a paper scheduled for publication next year.

The catch: Renters need to invest all the money they saved.

“We find that if people don’t invest the money, actually about 90% of the time, you’re better off buying,” said Eli Beracha of East Carolina University, who co-authored the paper with Ken H. Johnson of Florida International University.

That’s because for many Americans, their home has become a sort of forced savings account, allowing them to build savings through home equity.

That said, the case for buying a home is getting more compelling for many, according to the report, especially as monthly mortgage payments become more competitive with rental payments.

Here are six considerations for those weighing a decision to buy or rent.

1. Examine the housing market

One metric that housing analysts will look at to gauge housing affordability is the price-to-rent ratio. To calculate the ratio, the purchase price of a house is divided by 12 times the monthly rent of a comparable home, said Stan Humphries, chief economist for real-estate website Zillow.com.

Hard-hit markets like Detroit and Las Vegas have low median price-to-rent ratios of 5.6 and 8.1, respectively, according to Zillow data. At the other end of the list, it’s still expensive to buy in New York and Honolulu, with ratios of 16.1 and 17.6, respectively.

“There is no rent ratio that is the magic number,” said Christina Aragon, Rent.com’s director of strategy and consumer insights. But in general, “the higher the ratio is above 20, the more you’d need to see a spike in housing values to justify the price that you’re paying today. If the ratio is below 15, it might make sense to consider buying rather than renting,” she adds.

2. Consider additional costs

Remember, if you choose to buy a home, your mortgage payment may be the biggest cost each month — but it’s not the only one.

There are insurance and taxes to pay, as well as regular maintenance costs, said Richard Green, director of the University of Southern California’s Lusk Center for Real Estate.

3. Look into the future

After taking stock of what the housing market is like today, you have to do some predicting about what the local economy, including the housing market, will look like in the future, Aragon said.

Are jobs coming into the area, or are they leaving town? Is there enough demand for housing that prices will rise over the time you will live there?

Right now, housing prices are still falling, and rental prices are rising in many parts of the country. Nationwide, home prices were down 4.4% in September, compared with September 2010, Humphries said. Prices may drop another 3% to 5% before bottoming, he adds.

But rent isn’t getting cheaper. By the end of the year, rents will have risen 4% to 5% in 2011, he adds.

4. Look into your personal future, too

Before buying, decide how long you plan to live in the home. If you plan to stay there for 10 years, a drop in value a year after you move in could be balanced out by many more years of price appreciation.

If you plan to live in the home less than five years, you may be better off signing a lease, Humphries said.

5. Consider your personal finances

Assess whether you have the down payment — and if that down payment would wipe out savings you might need for a rainy day, Aragon said. “Does having that burden of a mortgage mean you can’t do things that are important for your lifestyle like take a vacation or go out to dinner?,” she asked.

These days more than ever, potential homeowners need to consider the stability of their jobs before they take on a mortgage. Also being able to move when you have an opportunity to advance your career may be a compelling reason to rent.

6. Think about opportunity costs

Shelling out 20% for a down payment has its consequences. That money — as well as any money you save by renting instead of buying — could be diverted to another investment vehicle.

“The down payment that you’ve lost might have been in the bank earning interest or in a brokerage account,” said Johnson, who added that if you’re a great saver, you might be better off renting.

 
 
 

Luxury Market: Area job numbers look good, but is it really a boom?

By L.M. SIXEL, HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Updated 11:56 p.m., Friday, November 18, 2011 
The economy may be rough in other parts of the U.S., but in Houston it’s looking more and more like it’s taking off.

A state agency reported on Friday that Houston-area employers created 79,500 jobs over the past year, including robust gains in the oil and gas industry, manufacturing and health care.

“That is getting close to what you can say is a boom,” said Barton Smith, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Houston.

Smith is skeptical, however, that the area is picking up steam as quickly as the 3.1 percent year-over-year increase the Texas Workforce Commission reported. That would be the fastest job growth since February 2008 – before the economic downturn took hold – when the annual job growth was 3.5 percent.

Just last month, the commission reported that Houston was growing at an annual rate of 2.6 percent, adding 66,300 new jobs from September 2010 to September 2011.

Patrick Jankowski, the vice president of research for the Greater Houston Partnership, agrees that the October number represents a big jump. He said it also jibes with what he’s hearing from business leaders.

They’re starting to use the word “hot” in describing the local economy, Jankowski said, and they’re getting anxious about filling openings.

“There is a sense of urgency,” he said.

Recruiting from outside

Typically, oil and gas companies have three years from the time they sign a lease to start drilling for oil and gas on private land, he said. They’ve got acreage tied up, and they want to get moving on it.

But many can’t find enough engineers, accountants and geologists, and they’re starting to recruit people from outside the region, Jankowski said.

Demand also is strong in health care. The Methodist Hospital System has about 500 job openings a month, said Willie French, director of talent acquisition. About two-thirds are for clinical positions including registered nurses, physicians and a wide range of licensed therapists.

The number of new positions is up about 5 percent this year compared to 2010, said French. He attributes the growth to Methodist’s expansion of women’s medical services at its Willowbrook hospital location, new operating room space in Sugar Land and new hospital near Katy.

Not everyone convinced

The population is aging and needs more medical care, more people are moving to Houston and breakthroughs in medical technology and treatments have spurred demand, he said.

Despite the anecdotal reports of growth, Smith questions whether Houston has suddenly become such a huge job creator. Nearly a third of the most recent spate of new jobs – a total of 23,300 – were created last month alone, according to the Workforce Commission.

Yet some of the details don’t seem to add up, Smith said.

The financial sector has been hurting, but two-thirds of its annual employment gains occurred last month, according to the data.

Retailers saw half of their annual job gains last month, and Smith said he can’t understand why that would take place in October.

Other economic data for October that might provide more context isn’t available yet, he added.

“I wish I could give you great insight but I can’t,” he said. He noted that in the past, government statisticians have tried to correct data errors by stacking up several months of job growth – or loss – into one month’s data.

Jobs data defended

According to commission spokeswoman Lisa Givens, however, the employment gains in finance and retail don’t appear out of line based on previous years.

And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provides the estimates, doesn’t revise data by adding it to a month in which it doesn’t belong.

Givens emphasized that the estimates are preliminary and subject to revision when more data is received.

Another factor is that local monthly data is not adjusted for normal seasonal fluctuations and consequently, employment totals can swing wildly from one month to another.

“We won’t know until we get November and December data to determine if this is a one-month fluke,” said Smith.

City jobless rate 8.1%

The jobless rate in the Houston area – which is not seasonally adjusted – dipped to 8.1 percent in October from 8.6 percent in September.

The statewide unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in October, down from 8.5 percent in September, the commission reported.

That statewide data, which is seasonally adjusted, comes from a survey of households.

 

lm.sixel@chron.com

Luxury on Lake Conroe – Preparing Your Home for the Thanksgiving Holidays and Showings

Everyone has their favorite time of year, the holiday they love most, the season they can’t wait to experience. I love Fall; it is by far my favorite time of year.  I welcome the brisk weather, changing leaves, and most important to me, Thanksgiving. I embrace the holiday with open arms because it is one of the few times of year my family is together.

I do not host turkey day but I can appreciate the madness of what hosting such a holiday can mean for some. Especially if you are also in the midst of trying to sell your home. Prepping for Thanksgiving AND keeping your home clean and welcome for buyers? What a task!

Hosting such a holiday can be as exciting and daunting as showing your home to prospective buyers. Exciting to think you might have an interested party, daunting to think you don’t. How about tackling both challenges together? If you are currently selling your home and have taken on the task of hosting family or friends for this year’s Thanksgiving celebration, take a look at these ideas to warm up your home, making it welcome for any crowd.

 

●      Clean up and de-clutter!  What better time to go through old things and clean up the house for the New Year. Consider this: if you haven’t used it in over a year, you probably don’t need it.

 

●      Simplify and change. Can you revisit and possibly redecorate a wall of family photos by framing recent artwork done by your child? Or change a wall of frames by adding a new splash of paint, making an accent wall standout on its own.

 

●      Create a welcoming ‘Fall’ entryway. When people enter your home, the first space they see should be beautiful and inviting. Flowers and plants can help create a warm fall arrangement that is both natural and elegant.

 

●      Create a custom greeting using a homemade or store bought chalkboard, placed on a table or hung by the front door. Add a welcome note or mere reminder notes for your family.

 

●      Family fun that is functional. Get the family together for an art project and put together your own seasonal decor.

 

●      Bring the outside in. Use items from your own backyard! Gather pinecones and leaves that fall into your yard as part of your decor. Fill a clear vase or bowl with pretty leaves; leave cones on entry table or make as a centerpiece.

 

●      Set the mood. Buy seasonal candles and light during the day- keeps your home smelling good and feeling cozy. Candles also add a nice warm appeal to family as well as prospective buyers.

 

●      Bake! Whether from a mix or from scratch, homemade cookies or breads bring sensational smells into your home. Also add to your Thanksgiving menu or welcome treats to potential buyers. So many holiday recipes to choose from now too!

 

Tackling both Thanksgiving and keeping your home ‘buyer’ ready can be tough. However, the tips here will not only be fun for the family, it can also force you to re-invent areas in your home that need a little TLC. For more ideas on how to prep your home for the upcoming holiday, as well as potential buyers, check out home improvement magazines or Websites like www.houzz.com. Good luck!

Author: Deb Rabin

Luxury- Lake Conroe…. How Appraisals are Derailing Home Sales

 

Three months ago, real estate agent Gary Rogers says he was conducting a fairly routine home sale. Then he received the home appraisal’s report, which valued the three-bedroom colonial in Waltham, Mass., at $430,000, rather than the $448,000 selling price the buyer and seller had agreed to. Unless the buyer agreed to put up more money, or the seller to lower the price, the deal was off. Fortunately, after nearly two weeks, Rogers says the two sides agreed to meet in the middle.

In the past, appraisals rarely disrupted a home sale. But realtors and housing experts say new requirements and a difficult housing market are doing just that. Year-to-date through September, one third of realtors have said appraisals resulted in buyers and sellers delaying or canceling contracts or renegotiating to a lower sales price, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s up from 29% in all of 2010 and up from less than 10% prior to 2009.

Indeed, lenders say they’re requiring more thorough home appraisals. Appraisers determine the value of a home largely by reviewing the prices at which similar homes nearby sold for in recent months. During the housing boom, appraisers could cite as few as three recently sold homes; today, lenders are often requiring two to three times that, says David Stevens, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association. To meet that quota, appraisers say they sometimes have to use homes that aren’t similar and may be foreclosures or short sales, though they are taking into account what this property would have sold for if it wasn’t a distressed sale, says a spokesman for the Appraisal Institute, an association of real estate appraisers. “Appraisers have become much more cautious,” says Jack McCabe, an independent housing analyst in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

To be sure, a more thorough appraisal process does have its benefits. It lets a buyer know whether they’re offering too much to buy a particular home. “For buyers, the appraisal is a check and balance — it’s there to ensure the buyer isn’t overpaying and the lender isn’t over-lending,” says McCabe.

How Appraisals Are Derailing Home Sales

2:23In the past, appraisals rarely disrupted a home sale. But realtors and housing experts say new requirements and a difficult housing market are doing just that. AnnaMaria Andriotis has details on Lunch Break.

It may also make houses cheaper for buyers — though not without more hassle. If the appraisal value comes in below the agreed buying price, the lender will typically offer a smaller mortgage. For example, on the house that Rogers sold, the buyer would have gotten a mortgage for $358,400, or 80% of $448,000. But when the appraisal value came in at $430,000, the lender adjusted the mortgage amount to 80% of the appraisal figure, or $344,000. The contract the buyer and the seller had signed, however, stated the higher buying price of $448,000, and the buyer (and potentially the seller) had the option to decide if they wanted to make up the $18,000 difference.

Typical solutions include having the buyer paying that difference out of pocket or the seller lowering his price — or both. And sellers often do lower their prices: For example, during the three months ending September, 13% of realtors reported contracts were renegotiated to a lower sales price, compared to 10% who said contracts were canceled and the 8% who said contracts were delayed, according to the NAR.

Here are ways to make the process easier, say experts, and how to deal with complications.

How sellers can prepare:

Before putting their home on the market, sellers should research what similar homes near them are selling for by looking at online listings, visiting open houses and speaking with realtors, says Rogers. “It’s always good to get more than one opinion,” he says. They can also ask for their own home appraisal, which could give them a sense of how close (or far off) the figures are. The cost of an appraisal varies but typically ranges from $250 to $600.

How buyers can protect themselves:

When buyers make an offer, they should include statements in the contract guaranteeing they’ll receive their initial down payment (typically 3% to 5% of the agreed buying price of the home) back if full mortgage financing doesn’t come through for the agreed price or the appraisal value is below the offer that’s in the contract, says McCabe. Separately, the buyer (who’s required to pay for the home appraisal) should ask for the appraisal report and look at what properties the appraiser used as comparisons, says Rogers. It should, he says, include homes that are in the same neighborhood and the same style. In other words, a colonial home shouldn’t be compared to a ranch.

What to do if appraisal value comes in below the purchase price:

In this situation, experts say buyers have several options. If they’re no longer interested in the home, they can walk away. (However, without a contingency clause — see previous section — they risk losing their initial down payment.) But if they still intend to buy the house and they can prove the report excluded similar, nearby properties or had some other issue, they can appeal or ask their lender for a second appraisal.

If those strategies don’t work, the buyer and the seller can consider working out an agreement on their own. Lastly, to report a problem with an appraiser, consumers can contact their state’s appraisal board.

Luxury in Texas – Texas is Named Best Business Climate by Site SelectionMagazine

Texas has the best 2011 business climate in the U.S., according to Site Selection magazine.

The Lone Star State beat out North Carolina, which has held the No. 1 spot for the past 10 years.

The magazine’s selection was based on factors including a survey of corporate real estate executives, a tax climate analysis and the state’s performance on a database that tracks new business activity. Executives who participated in the survey ranked Texas the best state for business based on its lack of red tape, financial assistance and government cooperation with businesses.

The list of the states with the top 10 business climates in the U.S. is published in the November issue of Site Selection magazine. Other top states include Georgia in the No. 2 position and North Carolina in the No. 3 position.

To learn more about how Texas is fostering its booming business climate, view Grow Texas, a Texas Business Journals special section about recent economic progress in the state’s four major metropolitan areas: Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

Houston home sales rise, break price record

The sales of Houston single-family homes rose in September by 16.9 percent, marking the fourth consecutive quarter for increased sales.

A total of 4,635 single-family homes sold in September, compared to 3,965 homes sold the same time a year before, according to multiple listing service data analyzed by the Houston Association of Realtors.

The median single-family home price last month was $157,500 — the highest median price ever recorded for a September in Houston, HAR reported. That’s 1.6 percent higher than the $155,000 median sales price in September 2010.

The Houston market has 6.8 months’ worth of inventory, the lowest level since May 2010.

The inventory figure means it would take 6.8 months to sell all of the single-family homes on the market based on recent sales activity. Six months’ worth of inventory is reflective of a healthy market.

The inventory amount dropped 11 percent last month in comparison to the 7.7 months’ worth of inventory recorded last September.

“The combination of increased closed and pending sales, fewer active listings and strong pricing suggests that we are entering the fall home-buying season on strong footing,” Carlos Bujosa, HAR chairman and vice president at Transwestern, said in a statement.

Total property sales increased 15.9 percent when comparing Septembers. A total of 5,469 properties valued at $1.1 billion sold last month.

Townhouse and condominium rentals increased by 30 percent year over year, while single-family home rentals rose 17.4 percent.

Harris County foreclosures take major dip

A total of 883 commercial and residential properties in Harris County were foreclosed on at the Oct. 4 foreclosure auction, down more than 30 percent from the number of foreclosures in October 2010.

The year-to-date foreclosure numbers also are down significantly from last year, according to statistics provided by Foreclosure Information & Listing Service Inc.

A total of 8,851 properties have been foreclosed on so far this year, down near 25 percent from the 11,770 foreclosures that occurred from January to October 2010.

The number of properties posted for foreclosure also is lower when comparing October to October. A total of 3,221 properties were posted for foreclosure this month — a 20 percent drop from the 4,035 properties posted in October 2010, reported Foreclosure Information.

Houston taking more water from Lake Conroe

The City of Houston started taking 15 million more gallons a day from Lake Conroe this weekend to help meet water demands during the drought.

The move increases the amount of water released from Lake Conroe into Lake Houston to 165 million gallons per day.

The city expects Lake Conroe’s levels to drop by about six inches.

Because Lake Houston is smaller and more shallow, it is expected to rise 1 foot.

However, the San Jacinto River Authority, which operates the lakes, estimates Lake Conroe’s levels will drop by up to 1.5-feet a month.

According to the authority’s Lake Conroe division’s website, the lake is currently at 194.32 feet above mean sea level, about 6.7 feet below its normal level of 201 feet.

They city funded construction of both lakes decades ago on the San Jacinto River to secure the city’s water supply. Lake Houston, covering 12,000 acres in northeast Harris County, began operations in 1953, followed by the 21,000-acre Lake Conroe in Montgomery County in 1973.

Lake Conroe is used to hold water in reserve until Lake Houston’s water plant needs it.

City officials say the higher release will likely be in effect through the end of the year, despite recent rains. However the rain did saturate soil along the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston, and cooler temperatures mean less evaporation, so more of the water released will actually reach and stay in Lake Houston.

Meanwhile, mandated water conservations in Houston continues with lawn watering restricted to twice a week before 10 a.m. and after 8 p.m.

Residents must also repair all detectable leaks on their property within 72 hours of discovery.