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I'm John Askins of Royce Realty in Houston, or text me directly at (832) on my blog I'll keep you updated on the latest trends and info about our local and state real estate market. Member - HAR Technology Advisory Group

Nearly 60 percent of real estate professionals say they've seen REO-related disputes have increased over the past three years. In the survey of real estate agents, brokers, attorneys, and educators, survey respondents said disclosure in these transactions remain a main culprit to problems, pointing to banks and listing brokers who sometimes fail to disclose known material defects about a property.  

Overall, the top three issues that cause the most disputes in a real estate transaction are dual agency, disclosure, and breach of fiduciary duty. 

Short sales, in particular, are causing more disputes in some of these areas, the survey found. Short sales are more commonly being listed in “as-is” condition, which has “resulted in a decline of quality of seller disclosures,” the survey notes. Another disclosure problem reported is the failure of listing agents to report that the property is or will soon be in a short sale situation.  

source:  Realty Times 


Supposed mail from the IRS referring to past due property taxes or a property tax lien is a scam, according to Kaufman County Tax Assessor-Collector Tonya Ratcliff.

Some area residents reported receiving paperwork claiming they owed a large sum in property taxes but would settle for a lesser amount. The letter “makes out like (the resident) has an IRS bill related to their property tax and they owe $30,000, but they’ll take $3,000,” Ratcliff said.

Notices regarding delinquent property taxes should only be coming from the county assessor-collector and the county’s delinquent tax firm, said Ratcliff.

source:  The Kaufman Herald


Existing single-family home sales in Texas had a 1 percent year-over-year increase last month while the median price jumped 8 percent.

According to February 2015 Texas MLS data, 17,986 homes were sold last month, roughly 100 more than in February 2014 but 2,600 more than in January 2015.

The median price was $187,200 compared with $174,100 a year ago and $179,000 in January.

Months' inventory was at 3.1 months. Texas Real Estate Center economists consider 6.5 months a balanced market.

February 2015 home sales data for most Texas MLSs are posted on the Center's website.

source:  Texas Real Estate Center 


Placemaking is an urban planning movement that seeks to improve and re-imagine public spaces in the community by investing in them and transforming them into areas of activity and connection for the neighborhood. Turning an empty lot into a farmer's market, for example, not only helps strengthen the community, it also makes the neighborhood more desirable for people to live and increases property value.

The National Association of REALTORS®' placemaking initiative is about involving associations and boards, and their members, in "transforming spaces that are unused or underused, such as vacant lots, to vibrant community gathering places," says Holly Moskerintz, Community Affairs Representative for NAR.

NAR even offers micro-grants to local associations to help them implement and maintain placemaking activities in their communities.

Here are five examples of placemaking initiatives that you can develop in your community:

Finding the Right Spot for a Community Garden

How do you bring together Burmese refugees with limited English skills and local residents? The Wilmington Regional Association of REALTORS® demonstrated that placemaking is about finding opportunities for neighborhoods to form cohesion—to "thrive together"—by planning the creation of community gardens in the Wilmington area. 

REALTORS in Action: Alley to Pedestrian Walkway Transformation

Fortville, Indiana has seen a "flourishing of new businesses" on its Main Street, which means traffic—foot traffic. Now, with the help of a placemaking micro-grant from the National Association of REALTORS, and the efforts of the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of REALTORS®, what was once an alley is set to become a pedestrian walkway and community destination.

The Power of Collaboration in a Rural Town

The small town of Richmond, Maine (population: just over 3,000) recently raised community funds for a new library. When those funds were depleted—and the library’s exterior still "bore the scars of construction"—they successfully applied for a placemaking grant with NAR. The result? An outdoor reading room and community garden.

19 Things to Do With a Roofless Building

Roofless buildings aren’t just eye-sores: they’re potential beer gardens. And coffee shops. And concert spaces.  These, and nineteen other ideas, stem from the placemaking concepts of "lighter, quicker, cheaper."

Transform Your Street, One Parking Space at a Time

"Parklets. 'Parks' in parking spaces. Taking away parking spaces to sit in the street." This is Seattle’s new placemaking program—and it’s in demand, according to Jennifer Wieland of the Seattle Department of Transportation, who has helped to implement five parklets around the city with another 10 in design and permitting.

source:  Spaces to Places


Americans still say they prefer home ownership over renting, according to a Fannie Mae national housing survey of more than 12,000 interviews. The study finds that the past housing and financial crisis has not been a big factor in Americans’ decisions to rent or buy.

"The nonfinancial benefits that people derive from the consumption of housing mitigate the negative financial experiences that many home owners have had," says Steve Deggendorf, one of the authors of the study.

Instead, “for a large number of people, emotions rule. We need to think about how they approach the housing decision and think about the kind of help that they may need [in the process].”

The researchers note that it’s important to help Americans take a more conscious approach in their home-buying decisions, assisting them to better balance their “wants” in a home with what they can actually afford. The researchers add that buyers' emotions often lead them to ignore their practical ability to buy a home at all.

"Our study shows that the negative housing events of the past few years have not discouraged people from wanting to own a home," according to the study. "Exposure to mortgage default, perceived home value appreciation/depreciation, and self-reported underwater status are not significant factors in the models in predicting individuals’ intentions to own a home for their next move."

Instead, 33 percent of current renters say demographics like employment, age, income and marital status are important drivers for them on whether they will continue to rent or purchase a home. Only 25 percent of those surveyed cited financial attitudes as having an impact on their next housing decision.

source:  HousingWire


First-time home buyers still make up a big chunk of home buyers. So what are their top priorities when shopping for a home? recently featured “must-haves” for first-time home buyers. Here are a few top priorities:  

Affordable price. "Unlike a trade-up buyer, they don't have any equity to roll into the purchase of their next home, so coming up with a down payment and the financial aspects of buying a home is the first concern," says Paul Bishop, vice president of research for the National Association of REALTORS®. Fortunately, home affordability is at one of its highest in years and a large inventory of homes on the market provides plenty of options, which is helping first-time buyers find a good home at a great price.

Room to grow. Ken Shuman, spokesman, says that first-time home buyers often find its smart to search for a first home that not only accommodates their needs now but one that can accommodate them in 10 years, too. Space to accommodate growing families will likely be a higher priority than upgrades, such as granite countertops, Shuman says. 

Turnkey. Surveys have recently shown first-time home buyers showing a preference for homes that are in move-in condition and in stable neighborhoods, rather than fixer uppers in depressed neighborhoods. In evaluating whether a home has been well-maintained, MacDonald suggests watching for such things as rotten trim on the exterior, dirty air-return ducts or a dirty filter in the HVAC system, or a damaged roof or gutters. 


25 has determined the current top 20 U.S. housing markets, and Waco sits at the top of the list, followed immediately by Dallas.

Analysts with the website used last month's housing data to compile the list, examining the median age of February housing inventory as well as traffic on

Writes Jonathan Rienstra on CultureMapAustin, "Active Waco listings on are viewed, on average, 335 times — the highest in the country. Dallas comes in second, at 219 pageviews per active listing. To put that in perspective, the national average is 73 pageviews per active listing.

"The median age of housing inventory in Dallas-Fort Worth is 62 days. That’s the best in Texas — and 41 days shorter than the national average of 103. Although Waco doesn’t appear in the top 20 on that list, it earns the title as hottest projected market because of online activity."

No other Texas cities landed in the top 20. 



As housing inventories remain constrained in many markets, some buyers may face increased competition and more bidding wars heading into the spring-selling season.

The real estate brokerage Redfin reports in its latest housing report that bidding wars are already elevated in places like Oakland, Calif. Oakland had six weeks of inventory, but with buyer demand strong, many homes for sale landed in multiple-offer situations, the brokerage reports.

“It’s not uncommon to see 15 to 25 offers in some of the more desirable places in Oakland, and for homes to sell 35 percent above the list price or even more,” says Tom Hendershot, a Redfin real estate professional.

Supplies are also tight, with less than three month’s supply in markets like Boulder, Colo.; Denver; Seattle; and Dallas, according to Redfin’s analysis.

Inventory of homes for sale fell in January, decreasing 6.7 percent month-over-month and 8.7 percent year-over-year, according to a January National Housing Trend report released by®, which tracks price and inventory fluctuations in 200 markets.

About 80 percent of the housing markets tracked saw a drop in inventory levels, the report showed.

Inventories have had some of the steepest year-over-year declines in Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev. (down 37%); Key West, Fla. (-36%); Colorado Springs, Colo. (-36%); Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla. (-35%); and Columbus, Ohio (-35%).

source:  Redfin Blog and REALTOR® Magazine Daily News


Home owners may find higher electricity costs are taking a bigger chunk from their wallet. The average price of electricity to residential customers reached its highest point in May than in the past two years, increasing 3.4 percent year-over-year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In May 2012, customers were paying an average of 11.90-cents per Kilowatthour nationally. Flash-forward to today, customers are now paying 12.84-cents per Kilowatthour.

The New England region has seen some of the largest price increases year-over-year. Prices in the region have soared 11.31 percent in the past year. The Middle Atlantic had the second highest year-over-year increases at a 5.53 percent increase.

The seven most expensive states for electricity costs are:

  • Hawaii
  • New York
  • Connecticut
  • Alaska
  • Vermont
  • Rhode Island
  • New Hampshire

Meanwhile, in these seven states you can expect to pay some of the lowest costs for electricity:

  • Washington
  • Idaho
  • West Virginia
  • North Dakota
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Montana

source:  BUILDER online


The next generation of home buyers say they will move to the suburbs if it means they can find quality schools there, according to a newly released survey by®.

In fact, millennials – the generation born between 1980 and 2000 – are less likely than other generations to compromise on school districts when in house-hunting mode, the survey revealed. Fifty-two percent of millennials said school districts are a deal-breaker in their home search, compared to 31 percent of all buyers, the survey found.  

“Local schools are clearly more important to specific population segments—such as today’s millennials, who either have or are planning to have children,” says Jonathan Smoke,®’s chief economist. “High-ranking schools can have a positive impact on home values over time as new families pay a premium for access to better schools.”

The majority of buyers who are using®’s search-by-school web tool to find school information while looking up homes for-sale online are researching elementary schools in particular, according to®. “This indicates the majority of people who research good schools either have young children or expect to start a family when they buy their next home,”® notes.

The® survey also notes that the 10 cities where people research the most school information on its site are located in affordable, suburban communities, outside of large urban areas. Those top 10 cities in June were:

  • Bethel, N.C.
  • Gadsden, Ala.
  • Agoura, Calif. (near Los Angeles)
  • Kensington, Md. (near Washington, D.C.)
  • Greenwood Village, Colo. (near Denver)
  • Greenacres, Fla. (near West Palm Beach)
  • Watauga, Texas (near Fort Worth)
  • La Crescent, Minn.
  • North Hollywood, Calif. (near Los Angeles)
  • Fairburn, Ga. (near Atlanta)