Mobile Apps for Homeowners

Mobile Apps for Homeowners

 

Here are some of my favorite mobile apps for homeowners.

Keller Williams Home Search Mobile App

 

This is a great mobile app for homeowners.   The homekeepr app is integrated into the application.  Users can search for rentals, open houses and homes for sale by either a map view or a list view.  The app also has a mortgage calculator, the ability to save searches and to contact your realtor within the application.   Download the  free Keller Williams App/

Homekeepr 

 

To get started answer 10 simple questions so the homekeepr app will learn about the specifics of your home.   The app then develops a list of recommended local service providers to help you do routine maintenance or for emergencies.  The app also sends  customized list of home maintenance reminders to help you take care of it.

My Measures Pro

 

My Measures Pro is designed for storing and sharing object dimensions.  This is a great mobile app for homeowners to take with them as they view homes.  Just snap a photo and then add the dimensions, arrows, and detailed notes if you like.  Organize projects into files, share or export into Dropbox or Google Drive.

Laser Level for Walls and Surfaces

 

Laser Level for Walls and Surfaces is a virtual laser level that overlays a level crosshair on top of your iPhone’s camera viewfinder!  You can see if objects are level, from a distance because the crosshair stays level regardless of how you tilt the phone. Just drag the red crosshair to move it where you want in the viewfinder. When the level is right the crosshair will change to green.

No matter from what angle you are looking, you can easily calibrate the app and use it further.

RoomScan Pro

 

RoomScan Pro draws a floor plans all by itself.  Touch each wall with your phone.  Each room is automatically connected together to create a plan of the whole floor.   Save your floor plan to the Camera Roll (no charge) or export to other formats like PDF, DXF for AutoCAD and SketchUp.  There is a nominal fee for advanced export options but not for saving as an image.   Add notes and photos to the floor plans – RoomScan can even take photos automatically and place them in the correct position on the plan.   Well worth the $4.99 for the pro version.

HomeAdvisor

 

Select a project category that best matches your home repair or improvement need.  Answer a few important questions to ensure the ability to match you to the right pro for your job.  HomeAdvisor has over 85,000 service professionals specializing in over 500 categories.    There is also a  DYI library and a cost estimator.   Get Homeadvisor here.

Home Design 3D

 

With Home Design 3D, designing and changing your home has never been so intuitive and quick. Whether you want to redecorate, redesign or create the home of your dreams, Home Design 3D is the perfect app for you!  Over 800 objects and unlimited customization.

 

Houzz Interior Design Ideas

 

Find products, ideas, contractors  or share advice and ideas to help you make your home improvement dream a reality.  Visit the  Houzz website.

 

Tapeulator: Tape Measure Calculator

 

Trying to build something and can’t quickly add together 46 11/16″ to 34 1/2″? Have you ever been hanging picture and need to find the center of the wall that measures 54 13/16″?Tapeulator to the rescue!!Tapeulator can help you by visually showing you your result on a measuring tape. You can add, subtract, multiple, and divide any two measurements with ease!  $2.99 on iTunes.

 

Wayfair

 

I have become a little obsessed with the Wayfair app.  Great photos, easy to set up files and over 7 million home products.

Brightnest

 

Brightnest is another great mobile app for homeowners.  Keep your home in great shape without breaking a sweat! BrightNest will help you tackle important home tasks with easy-to-follow instructions, a personal schedule and helpful reminders. From basic maintenance to cleaning tricks to home decor ideas, we deliver everything you need to shape up your home and simplify your life.

 

Still looking for a home?  Check out these great mobile apps for homebuyers.

 

 

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What is a Texas Homestead Exemption?

What is a Texas Homestead Exemption?

 

In a nutshell, a Texas homestead exemption saves homeowners money on their property taxes. A Texas Homestead is a legal status for real property created by the constitution. A homestead generally consists of the home, fixtures and land that a person occupies as a residence and it can be either separate or community property.  There is no requirement to file anything of record to establish a homestead in Texas.    However, a homeowner will need to file an Application for Residential  Texas Homestead Exemption to take advantage a reduction in property taxes.

Background on Texas Homestead Exemption

 

One of the many reasons that I love being a Texan is because of the strong property owners rights that we have in our great state.   One of these protections is the Texas Homestead Law which began in 1839.   So many of the original settlers in Texas were pursued by creditors and this law protected their property by making it exempt from certain creditors claims.

The  homestead law was also a  protection for the settlers’s wives  in the event the man of the house was stupid enough to gamble away his property or get killed.  The families of a deceased breadwinner were secure in their home(stead) and could not be removed because of some improper or manufactured claim of debt or be forced to sell because of non-payment of a debt other than taxes or mortgage on the property.

In Texas law, a “homestead” refers to the special protection given to the home of a family or a single adult from the owner’s creditors, the right of occupancy given to a surviving spouse, minor children, and unmarried children of a deceased owner, and favorable tax treatment accorded to the owner.   Initially these laws  were so strong that it made it difficult for Texans to obtain mortgages so the law has been amended through the years.   The definition of a “homestead” has changed throughout the years but the principle has remained the same.

Primary Features of Texas Homestead Exemption

 

1.  They prevent the forced sale of a home to meet the demands of creditors (however, in most cases homestead exemptions do not apply to forced sales to satisfy mortgages, mechanics liens, or sales to pay property taxes);

2.  They provide the surviving spouse with shelter;

3.  They provide an exemption from property taxes which can be applied to a home.

4.  Homeowner may only protect one property as a “homestead.

Current Texas Homestead Exemptions

 

In  2015, the mandatory residence homestead exemption for school districts increased and the school district tax ceiling will decrease. School districts, cities and counties will be prohibited from repealing or reducing a local option percentage residence homestead exemption adopted for the 2014 tax year until 2020.    The basic homestead exemption is now $25,000 from it was at $15,000.

 

School districts are required to offer an additional $10,000 exemption on residence homesteads to persons age 65 or older or disabled. Any taxing unit, including a city, county, school district or special district, has the option of offering a separate exemption of $3,000.

 

Texas law provides partial exemptions for any property owned by disabled veterans and surviving spouses and children of deceased disabled veterans.  The amount of exemption is deter­mined according to percentage of service-connected disability.

 

Texas Politics - Homestead on the Range

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Home Buyer Strategies in a Multiple Offer World

 

Let’s face it.   Being a buyer or a buyer’s agent in today’s sellers market is not for the weak in mind or spirit. Often new listings will have multiple offers within hours of hitting the market.   Many buyers will make offers on several different properties before finally securing the one that becomes their home.

The Collin County area is one of the hottest growth areas in the nation.   According to Collin County government website, over 60 families are moving into our area every day.   According to the multiple listing service there are approximately 24 to 50 new listings a day in Collin County.   Major corporations like Toyota are relocating to the area and bringing thousands of employees with them. So it is easy to understand why there are many more buyers than there are sellers.

I have helped hundreds of buyers and sellers through the years and I have a few strategies to help buyers win offers in a multiple offer situation.

Home Buyer Strategies to Consider

Finding the Right Home

I think it is important for buyers to have a clear vision of their “must haves” and their “wish list”.   Must haves are things that are non-negotiable.   For instance, if a buyer “must have” a master on the first floor of the home then it is best not to look at homes outside of that criteria.  If a buyer decides to look outside of their “must-have” criteria they take a huge risk. While they are looking at homes that will not work someone is looking at and buying the home that will work.   The less “must-haves” a buyer has the more options are available.

Buyers Must Have a Strong Approval Letter

I recommend that buyers meet with a lender before they even look at their first home.   It is important to understand how money is required down, how much the buyer closing costs are and what the loan requirements will be.   Make sure that the lender has pulled a credit report and can state in the letter that the buyer is credit qualified.   Buyers will be competing against other buyers and many of them will be paying cash for the home or be putting down very large down payments.   It is important that the buyer’s lender clearly communicate the buyer’s ability to qualify for the loan.   As an agent, I ask my clients to provide a recent pre-approval letter from the lender prior to looking at homes. If a buyer is paying cash then it is critical to have the proof of funds before making any offers.

Be Flexible

If a buyer really wants a home then it is important to present a clean offer without a lot of special requests.    Before putting additional requests into the offer, ask yourself if you are willing to lose the home if the seller doesn’t agree to repaint the secondary bedroom or steam clean the carpets?   If you must have the carpets cleaned or you will not buy the home then by all means put that in the offer. Just be aware that the seller may pass on your offer and go with the one where they don’t have to do anything extra.

Highest and Best

It is imperative that the buyer put in their highest and best offer when making an offer in a multiple offer situation because there may not be another opportunity to increase or change their offer.   I advise my clients to make the offer so that if they found out later that the winning offer was only $100 more than theirs that they are okay because they know that they went as high as they were willing to go.

How High is too High?

Sometimes buyers will get into bidding wars and will make offers on homes that are way over the current market value of the home.   Some buyers really want a particular home and are willing to pay more to secure it.   I advice my buyer clients of the current market value so that they can make an informed decision before making the offer.   Some sellers will ask that the buyer will agree to move forward on the sale regardless of what the appraised value of the home is. The buyer should be clear about what this means to the buyer. This means that the buyer will be paying cash for any differences between the sales price and the appraised price.

What Do Sellers Want?

I found that most sellers want to be confident that the buyer will close on the home when they said they would.   That is why a strong letter from the lender is so important.   Sellers want to get at least their asking price. It surprises me when a buyer wants to make an offer lower than the asking price when there are multiple offers on the property.   Overpriced homes generally do not receive multiple offers. If the home has multiple offers then it is priced well.

 

What Realtors Can and Cannot Do

Agents cannot control the market. We only interpret and explain the market so that buyers and sellers can make informed decisions.   Sometimes it’s a buyer’s market. Sometimes it’s a seller’s market.   It is never both at the same time.   Agents have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients. My job is to find out what my clients want and do my best to help them get it. We are required to be honest, fair, competent, and loyal to our clients. Sometimes this means that I have to say things to my clients that they may not want to hear regarding the current market conditions.   Sometimes this means that I remind buyers that a “win” isn’t always getting the best “deal” in terms of price.   Very often a “win” is being able to close on home with one or two of your “must-haves” with a historically low interest rate in a very high demand market.

Types of Home Insurance

Types of Home Insurance

 

There three types of home insurance to know about insurance when buying a home.

Title Insurance

 

Title insurance comes in two varieties: a lender’s policy and an owner’s policy. If you take out a mortgage to purchase the home, your lender will require that you purchase a lender’s policy to.  This policy protects the lender from anyone else who believes they have a claim against the property.

Your mortgage lender will require  title insurance when you buy or refinance a home.   Either the buyer or the seller can pay for this policy in Texas. This policy protects the lender´s investment by paying the mortgage (loan amount) if a title defect voids your title.

When you buy a house, the title company also issues an owner´s policy, unless you reject it in writing.  The owner´s title policy protects you against the covered risks set out in the policy.  The price of a “mortgagee” title policy, which protects the lender, is part of the closing costs on your real estate deal.   Most home closings in Texas will completed at the office of a title insurance agent.

Important note:  You are not required to use a title company selected by the builder, real estate agent or mortgage lender.  The issuance of either policy is based on research of the property’s title, or the “chain of title” to insure that the property does not have any “clouds”.

Should any problems (clouds) be found on the title, they will need to be remedied before the purchase can be completed.

Once the policy is in place, the lender (and you, if you purchase an owner’s policy) is insured against unknown heirs coming forward claiming ownership, forged signatures on the deed, mistakes in the public records, and other hidden hazards.

Homeowners Insurance

 

Homeowners insurance is also referred to as hazard insurance.  If you take out a mortgage to purchase the home the lender will require that you purchase homeowners insurance.

Types of coverage will vary but most policies will cover the basics: fire damage or loss, theft, wind damage, hail damage, and vandalism.  Flood and earthquake damage are usually not covered but there may be supplemental insurance that you can purchase to cover these hazards.

Private Mortgage Insurance

 

PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) is required of borrowers whose down payment is less than 20 percent.  If there wasn’t any PMI available,  then every  borrower would be required to put down a minimum of 20%.   Since lenders consider borrowers who put down less than 20% a higher risk, the lender needs assurance that it will get its money should the borrower default on the loan.  PMI is paid as part of the monthly house payment.

Conventional loan borrowers can request a cancellation of the private mortgage insurance once the loan balance reaches 80 percent of the original value of the home.  Borrowers with an FHA-backed loan, who put down less than 10 %,  are stuck into paying mortgage insurance premiums for the life of the loan.  Borrowers who pay more than 10 percent, but less than 20 percent, can cancel the mortgage insurance in 11 years.

The best people to speak with if you have questions about any type of insurance required during the home-purchase process are your lawyer, your real estate agent and your insurance agent.

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How to Determine the Value of a View

How to Determine the Value of a View

What is the Value of a View

How do you determine the value of a view?   If everything  but the location is identical.   Which one has the higher resale value?

When valuing two similar pieces of property, location, location, location, is king and everything else is secondary.

While it’s seems simple to say that the home with the awesome view is “worth more” than the home without one, there are no simple rules on how much value the view adds to the home..

Agents and Appraisers Role in Determining the Value of the View

Naturally, Real estate professionals have different opinions on this. Some agents claim that there is no premium for a view while others say that an amazing  view can add up to 15 percent to the value of the home  when compared against similar homes without the view.

A study  conducted by researchers Mauricio Rodriguez and C.F. Sirmans and  published by Texas Christian University shows that a view adds between 5 to 8 percent to the market value of a home.

The Appraisal Institute gives professional appraisers very vague guidance  when valuing a property and  considering the view.  Appraisers are instructed to give value to the view but the institute doesn’t tell them how to arrive at that value.

What about the views that are not so great?   A view of  garbage dump across the street will certainly drag down the value of the property but by how much?

Value of the View is Determined by Location

Is what you’re seeing out the window located close or far away? Patrick Brown and Beverly McCabe, in a report prepared for the American Appraisal Institute, claim that a close-up view is worth more than a faraway view. For instance, an ocean view right outside your window is  worth more than an ocean view located several miles away.

A view from the back of a house influences the home’s value more than a view from the front according to the research.

This is because  most people there time in the back of the home  and almost no one spends much time in the front of a house.   Some would give a view from the front almost no value.

The additional value is added if the view is from areas of the home that are used the most, such as the master bedroom, dining room and kitchen.

Value of View

After spending years studying the subject of the value of a view in newly constructed homes, Ernest V. Siracusa, a Southern California real estate market analyst,  has come up with a range to measure the value added for different types of views and view orientations. It runs from 1 percent to 2.5 percent for a home overlooking open space to 15 to 20 percent for an unobstructed water view.

Mr. Siracusa believes that  if that view is of the ocean, the value of the  home may increase up to 30 percent more than similar homes without the view.

We do not have any ocean views in Collin County.  However, we do have amazing views of lakes, trees, parks, golf courses and other natural amenities.  These views are valuable.  It’s important to spend the time to assess the value of the view so that home sellers and buyers know what the true market value of the property is.

 

Great Mobile Apps for Home Buyers

Great Mobile Apps for Home Buyers

Here is a list of some great mobile apps for home buyers.

1.  My Measures & Dimensions  (apple and android)  measures anything.  No more forgetting the measuring tape to see if that piece of furniture will actually fit.    There is a free version and a “pro” version.

2. GreatSchools Finder   Search the latest school information for more than 125,000 K-12 schools in the U.S., including public, public charter, and private schools.

3. HUD Homes  The database of liquidation properties, real estate listings, and homes for sale offered on the HUD Homes app consists of Government foreclosures for sale, known as HUD properties.

4.  realtor.com   Arm yourself with the most accurate real estate app for homes for sale and apartments for rent.  This app is the only app to get real estate property listings sourced directly from over 800 MLS’s-90% of listings refreshed every 15 minutes.

5.  Home Buying Power  A Buy Power calculator to help you determine your price range for your house search based on your income, desired monthly payment, or down payment when a minimum down payment is limiting your purchase power.

6.  Photo Measures Lite  Whenever you need to save dimensions, sizes, angles or write down a detail you need to remember, Photo Measures will help you to be more efficient and more accurate. Take some photos and note down the dimensions on the photos to remember the exact layout, and to make sure that everything will fit easily.

7.  Crumb Tracks  Taking photos and video during your home buying process is a great way to remember what you saw and communicate to your realtor your likes and dislikes. Create a file for each property and store details such as address, asking price, SF, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, garage spaces, etc. Within each file, there are sections to store photos, video and make notes.

8.  KW Realty Home Search     Find nearby rentals, open houses and other information by using a list or map search.  Other features include any easy loan application and one push click to contact your agent by text or email.  The app also has a mortgage calculator, Homekeepr and the ability to save searches and properties.

9.  Mortgage Calculator by Quicken Loans  The mobile app for homebuyers features four different calculators: Purchase calculator, Re-finance calculator, Home Affordability Calculator and an Amortization Calculator.

 

After you purchase your home, you will want to check out these great mobile apps for homeowners.

 

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