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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
How much should you charge for a rental property?

The Wall Street Journal’s real estate columnist June Fletcher suggests 1.1 percent of the home’s value up to about $100,000 or about $1,100 a month. After that demand and what the market will bear will affect values.

She points to rental sites as a good clue for someone setting prices, particularly, and Craigslist. She also recommends, which compares proposed rent with comparable rentals nearby.

For help calculating return on investment, try

source:  Wall Street Journal
As home owners look to rebuild from any powerful storm system, they may find a shortfall in adequate home insurance coverage to cover all of the damages, the USA Today reports. 

Most home owner insurance polices provide coverage for tornadoes, and home owners do not have to buy extra coverage like they do for earthquakes or floods.

However, research has shown that despite 96 percent of people having homeowners insurance, 64 percent of U.S. homes are undervalued for insurance purposes, according to research by Marshall & Swift.

While home values have decreased in many areas, many home owners did not think they still needed to upgrade their insurance. However, building costs in many areas have gone up, insurance experts note. 

Renters also may struggle. Only 43 percent of renters tend to have renter’s insurance, according to the Insurance Research Council.

In states declared disaster areas, the uninsured or under-insured could be eligible for federal aid, which is capped at about $30,000, but average payments tend to be much less. 

source:  USA Today

A series of mid-September rainstorms added about 20,000 acre-feet to the combined storage of lakes Buchanan and Travis, the region's water reservoirs. Lake Travis rose more than 2 feet, while Lake Buchanan rose a little more than half an inch.

The increase was welcome but relatively small, and it was not enough to make much difference in the severe drought gripping the region around the Highland Lakes.

Despite the rains, inflows - the amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes from rivers and streams - measured in September at four locations upstream of the lakes remained very low. September inflows were just 12,683 acre-feet, or 12.5 percent of the average for September.

Inflows have been at or near historic lows for an extended period of time during this drought:

  • When combined, September inflows from 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 are only slightly more than half of the historical September average of 101,418 acre-feet.
  • January through September 2014 inflows were about 165,000 acre-feet - the fourth lowest on record for that nine-month period.
  • Six of the 10 lowest annual inflows in history have occurred since 2006.

    • The lowest annual inflows in history occurred in 2011, with only 127,802 acre-feet, about 10 percent of the annual average.
    • The second lowest inflows in history were 215,138 acre-feet in 2013.
    • The third lowest inflows in history were 284,462 acre-feet in 2008.
    • The fourth lowest inflows in history were 285,229 acre-feet in 2006.
    • The sixth lowest inflows in history were 393,163 acre-feet in 2012.
    • The ninth lowest inflows in history were 499,732 acre-feet in 2009.

Combined storage in lakes Buchanan and Travis dropped from 709,070 acre-feet on Sept. 1 to 694,066 acre-feet on Oct. 9. Lakes Buchanan and Travis are about 34 percent of capacity.

Should combined storage drop below 600,000 acre-feet, or 30 percent of capacity, the LCRA Board of Directors will issue a Drought Worse Than the Drought of Record declaration. Following a state-approved plan, LCRA then would require cities, industries and other firm customers to reduce their water use by 20 percent from a baseline year, and would cut off all Highland Lakes water to interruptible customers.

Because of the mid-month rain and decrease in demand and evaporation this time of year, LCRA projects the earliest combined storage could drop below 600,000 acre-feet is next spring.

Though lake levels are low, the Highland Lakes are doing exactly what they were designed to do - capturing water when it rains to ensure the region has a reliable water supply during droughts such as this one.

Lakes Travis and Buchanan provide drinking water to more than a million people, and water to industries, businesses and the environment in the lower Colorado River basin.

LCRA has been working aggressively to conserve water and expand the water supply during the drought. With permission from the state, LCRA has cut off Highland Lakes water to most interruptible agricultural customers for three years in a row. LCRA also is requiring its firm customers to limit lawn and landscape watering to once a week in the communities they serve.

In September, the LCRA Board authorized construction of the Lane City Reservoir Project in Wharton County. The reservoir is expected to be complete in 2017. The off-channel reservoir will add about 90,000 acre-feet of firm supply.

LCRA also is drilling groundwater wells on its property in Bastrop County.

source:  LCRA


Buyers needing financing for their home purchase often struggle to compete with other buyers willing to pay all cash to close the sale. All-cash buyers make up an large part of sales.

Some lenders are helping buyers better compete. Known as “pre-underwriting,” they’re putting loan applications through a more thorough venting process before the buyer even enters into a contract for a home, The New York Times reports.

For example, Luxury Mortgage in Stamford, Conn., has started pre-underwriting some of its clients. Unlike preapprovals for a specified loan amount, lenders take the approval a step further by thoroughly reviewing all documentation that would be required for a formal approval. This type of underwriting is being completed after a house is selected and an offer is accepted, but before the contract is in place.

Another lender – Mortgage Master in Walpole, Mass. – has also taken its preapproval process a step further. The lender says for some of its buyers it is verifying the same income and asset information upfront that it would typically do for a processed loan application. The aim is to put the borrower in the same position as a cash buyer, Paul Anastos, president of Mortgage Master, told The Times.

source:  New York Times


Although U.S. foreclosure activity may be declining, the problem is far from over. There have been over 5 million foreclosures since 2007, reports the Center for Responsible Lending, which estimates that between 3 million and 5 million more will occur over the next couple of years.

In 2003, one in 38 U.S. home owners were seriously delinquent on their mortgage payments or in foreclosure, but today those numbers are one in 10. Some of the consequences of foreclosures are obvious: family displacements, crime in vacant properties, ruined credit, and the loss of equity.

Other, less obvious consequences have emerged as well. About 8 million children could be affected, including kids of home owners and renters who were evicted due to a foreclosure. Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution calls these children the "invisible victims" of the foreclosure crisis, as foreclosures not only can cause emotional trauma, but also interfere with a child’s educational development.

Researchers also have found a connection between rising foreclosures and an increase in medical visits for mental health, such as anxiety, or preventable conditions such as high blood pressure.

And many communities are strapped because of a loss of property tax revenue caused by foreclosures, which can lead to cuts in services — including swimming pools, senior centers, and local law enforcement.

source:  MarketWatch

An increasing number of both public and private apartment complexes and condos are banning smoking, preventing people from lighting up anywhere, even in their own units.

The bans stem from nonsmokers’ concerns about second-hand smoke. Meanwhile, smokers argue that they should have the indisputable right to smoke in their own homes.

Property managers say properties that choose to go smoke-free have two options for dealing with long-time tenants who smoke. They can help them quit, or they can grandfather in those who currently live there.

The Center for Tobacco Regulation, Litigation and Advocacy will help landlords draft leases that include smoke-free clauses.

source: The Washington Post

More women are starting real estate companies than ever before.

Since 2002, the number of women-owned real estate firms has exceeded overall growth in the industry by an 11-point gap, bringing the total female-owned real estate companies from 504,014 in 2002 to 712,800 in 2014, according to the Womenable’s 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express OPEN, That’s the widest single-industry margin reported in the survey, which analyzes U.S. Census data.

Women-owned brokerages have also seen a nearly 30 percent increase in sales since 2002.

“The report clearly shows that women are choosing the path of entrepreneurship at record rates,” said Randi Schochet, Vice President, Brand Strategy and Activation, American Express OPEN.

And the trend transcends real estate, with the report showing that women now start 1,288 (net) new businesses per day in the U.S., which is double the rate from only three years ago. There are now more than 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., up from 8.6 million in 2013, and these businesses generate more than $1.4 trillion in revenues, employ 7.9 million people, and account for 30 percent of all enterprises, according the report.

“Imagine the economic impact if more of these new ventures were transformed into thriving businesses,” said Schochet.

How are women-owned businesses doing in your state?

Nationally, the number of women-owned companies has increased by 68 percent since 1997 – that’s 1-1/2 times the national average. Focusing on this growing market segment could be a smart move for commercial real estate practitioners in the following five states, which have seen the fastest growth in female-owned business since 1997:

  • Georgia: + 118%
  • Texas: + 98%
  • North Carolina: + 91%
  • Nevada: + 91%
  • Mississippi: + 81%

The five states with the lowest growth in women-owned firms between 1997 and 2014 are:

  • Alaska: + 11%
  • West Virginia: + 23%
  • Iowa: + 23%
  • Kansas: + 30%
  • Vermont: +30%

In what cities do women-owned businesses have the most economic clout?

Looking at the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the country, these five cities came out on top with the highest growth in women-owned companies, their revenue, and employment numbers since 2002:

  • San Antonio
  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Houston
  • Portland, Ore.

Download the full 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.

source:  The 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report and  American Express OPEN

Luxury ski homes have seen prices rise by nearly 6 percent over the last year, as they’re increasingly being courted by the wealthy’s top 1 percent.

Knight Frank’s annual Prime Ski Property Index, which tracks prices across 20 of the top resorts in the world, recorded a 5.9 percent uptick for the year ending in June. Overall, North America saw the biggest price jumps for luxury ski homes, which rose by 13.3 percent on average, while Europe’s ski homes’ saw a much more modest average growth of 1 percent in that period.

Broken out more, however, homes in New Zealand’s Queenstown were the price champs, reporting the largest price rises at 24.8 percent. In the U.S., Aspen, Colo., grabbed the second spot for largest price rises in the luxury ski home market, with homes seeing a 20.7 percent year-over-year increase.

Some millionaires are also showing more interest in renting rather than buying their luxury ski chalet.

"The rise of the 'super-chalet' as a rental option is a recent phenomenon," according to Knight Frank. "Some are 800 square meters or larger and located in unrivaled positions in the top resorts such as Courchevel [in France]." For example, rental properties with 14-week stays there have been shown to return a gross investment yield of 6.7 percent over the last year.

source:  CNBC 


The fall housing market isn’t known for being as robust as the spring market, but there are different motivations that tend to attract consumers during this season, experts say.

"We've observed in seasonal household buyer patterns that there is a higher ratio of first-time buyers and childless couples in the fall," says Walter Molony, economic issues media manager at the National Association of REALTORS®. "Families with children time their purchase based on school-year considerations, so they peak in the spring and summer.”

According to an ERA Real Estate survey, based on 30,000 of its broker and agents, about 20 percent of buyers are emotionally driven in the fall to purchase a house so that they can be in a new home by the holidays. Ten percent are motivated by tax benefits.

Sellers in the fall tend to be highly motivated too and face less competition, says Shaun White, vice president for corporate communications for RE/MAX LLC in Denver, Colo.

"Some sellers will opt to lower their price in the fall because they're afraid of missing the boat and being stuck trying to sell during the holidays," says White. "Buyer traffic drops in the fall, too, so buyers may have less competition as well as better prices. You find motivated sellers and motivated buyers in the fall, especially as you get closer to the holidays.”

In some areas of the country, such as in Arizona and Florida, the prime selling season doesn’t even begin until the fall as snowbirds come in from the cooler climates looking for new homes, White says.



A report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy reveals that transit quality ranks third in predicting the success of transit-oriented development.

Government intervention is the most important factor, according to the report, which showed that TOD was successful when local governments rezoned a corridor to promote mixed-use development, created a comprehensive plan for the area, sought investors, marketed the program, and provided financial incentives, among other things.

Land potential, including regional market strength and corridor quality, also ranked higher than transit quality. Thus, cities seeking TOD investments should consider transit quality only after developing a robust government intervention plan and identifying a corridor with great potential, and they should be aware that light rail, bus-rapid transit, and streetcars had similar TOD investment outcomes.

source:  The Atlantic Cities