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New Down Payment Programs What You Need to Know

 When: Saturday, August 23rd

Where: Kendall Neighborhood Library

609 N Eldridge Pkwy, Houston, TX 77077

Time: 10:30 am.  - Noon


Step by step home buying process

Types of down payment programs

How to qualify

Which Program is Right for You?

What you need to know about Escrow & closing cost

Getting pre-approved

Free Credit Analysis

Move into your new home before the end of the year

The district is advising property owners that Houston’s booming economy is going to have an impact on property values for 2014.

“Property values across most of the property types are increasing,” said Sands Stiefer, chief appraiser. The property types include residential, commercial (apartments, office buildings, retail, medical offices, hospitals, hotels, warehouses) and industrial (manufacturing, refineries and chemical plants).

“Many property owners will likely be looking at value increases this year, while taxing jurisdictions should expect to see increases in their taxable value base upwards of 5 percent or more this year,” Stiefer said. “The Harris County economy is improving overall, but it is not moving at the same rate throughout the entire county. There may be some neighborhoods with very active residential markets that will have larger value increases as warranted by market appreciation.”

Stiefer explained that the appraisal district is required by law to appraise all property at 100 percent of market value. The Texas Comptroller’s office measures the district’s success in a Property Value Study it conducts every two years. The latest study found that in 2013, the district achieved an overall median level of appraisal of 103 percent, with residential property appraised at a median level of 97 percent of market value, commercial real property appraised at a median of 101 percent and business personal property at 99 percent.

“The study found our values to be very uniform, with more than 85 percent of the property sampled having appraisal ratios within 10 percent of the median,” Stiefer said.

Specific information for the property types is below, and market area maps are available on the HCAD web site at www.hcad.org under “2014 Reappraisal Values.” Individual values of property also are available at www.hcad.org .


As a result of reappraisal, the total residential property base in Harris County will see a 15.5 percent increase in market value. However, the addition of new construction will result in a 16.6 percent overall value increase in the residential property category.

The homes priced $500,000 and up are driving the sales and these are occurring primarily in north and northwest sections of the county as well as inside The Loop. These categories of homes reported the highest sales volume and pricing increases. However, homes in all price ranges may see value increases.

Foreclosures have dropped from the double digits (19 percent in calendar year 2013) to under 10 percent this year, which is an indication of a normal economy.

Exemptions can provide significant relief for some taxpayers by reducing taxable value and tax levies. Residence homestead exemptions apply to most owner-occupied homes in Texas and are the most common type of exemption. Property owners should check their account online to make sure that all exemptions to which they are entitled are in place.


The multi-family market is growing as the economy spurs the need for new apartment construction. Increased market rents and higher occupancy will increase market values of multi-family housing 22 percent. Higher occupancies have decreased concession offerings and the rental rates have gone up 6.6 percent in 2013.

Office buildings and warehouses have also seen an increase in value with office buildings increasing in value by 17.8 percent and warehouses by 13.7 percent.

The retail market has also shown improvement over the past 12 months with a higher sales volume and a decline in available inventory combining to increase market values 18.5 percent.


Values of refineries and inventories are expected to be similar to 2013 values. There have been several announcements of increased chemical plant capacity or new unit construction, led by new construction by Exxon Mobil, Lyondell Bassell and Chevron Phillips, so values for most chemical facilities are expected to increase slightly this year. Inventory volumes at industrial facilities are expected to be near last year’s levels.


Property owners who receive their notices may begin the protest process immediately. While there is a protest form included in the packet, one of the fastest and easiest ways to do this is to use the district’s online iFile program which can be found at www.hcad.org/iFile.



When preparing to go on a listing appointment do you take the time to screen the seller to make sure he/she is really serious about selling their home? Yesterday I went on what I though was a listing appointment. It turned out to be anything but. I called the seller from my expired list and after briefly discussing my reason for calling, I ask for the appointment and received it.

 I thought I had taken all the necessary steps by providing the seller with a prelisting package before our schedule appointment. I went over my pricing strategy to make sure the home would be priced fair and effective.  I took the necessary steps to preview other homes within the area and within his price range.

 In addition, I had all the necessary documents, including tax records, past sales, and comps, as part of my presentation on my Ipad. I also had a fully prepared market analysis to give to the seller. I arrived eight minutes early, ready to sell myself and my services. I knocked on the door, the owner came out, I introduce myself and was invited in. It was a stunning home, one of which the owner, it turned out had no intension of allowing anyone to sell.

 The owner was very upset with the first agent that listed his home because it did not sell.  I was not aware of this. For the six months the home was on the market, he said only two people came to view the home. The comps I did show the home was overpriced by $80,000.

 He wanted to sell the house himself, and decided that he would interview as many agents as possible within a given time, to collect data on how each would market the home, then used what he thought was the best marketing ideas to market and sell the home himself. Of course he did not share this information with me voluntarily.

 Something did not seem right based on the type of questions he was asking. I asked him if he had met with any other agents, he said yes, 15 of them.  I then ask what was it that he was looking for in an agent that none of the 15 had, that’s when he told me what he was doing.  I smiled, thanked him for his time, retrieved all my data, including the prelisting packet and walked out.

 Were there any way I could have avoided being number 16?  Once I got home I spend the rest of the evening making modification to my phone screening process. While I may not be able to eliminate all, I am pretty sure I can make it less likely to go on another appointment like that again.


New mortgage rules are pretty clear about what you have to do to convince a lender you’re a qualified mortgage borrower. Meant to measure your ability to repay, the new rules created a list of eight things lenders had to check to make sure you could repay your mortgage. Those protections help ensure we’re not going to see a repeat of the mortgage crisis any time soon. The new rules are also designed to reward banks for staying away from risky products like interest-only loans. But if you can’t meet any of the eight standards you’re going to find it harder to get a new mortgage or refinance your existing mortgage.

 The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® predicts the changes will slice about 5% to 7% of borrowers out of the market.  So, where do you turn if you’re in that 5% to 7% or you like your balloon loan and want to refinance into another balloon loan?

 The fine print in the new rules created some exemptions that you can use to try again if you don’t meet one or two of the eight qualified mortgage checks, or if you want to go with a loan product that the rules discourage lenders from making.

 Your State Housing Finance Authority

State Housing Finance Authorities specialize in helping first-time and low-to-moderate income homebuyers and homeowners. They’ll often give you a below-market interest rate or the option of putting down as little as 3%. In exchange, you’ll likely have to agree to complete a financial education course and prove every penny of your income. Historically, HFAs have had much lower rates of late payments and foreclosures than for-profit lenders, so they’re exempt from the rules.

 An Itty-Bitty Bank

Banks and credit unions that have less than $2 billion in assets and make 500 or fewer first mortgages don’t have to follow the same rules as larger lenders. That’s because they didn’t make the risky loans that led to high foreclosure rates during the mortgage crisis. Plus, they tend to hold on to the loans they make (rather than selling them to investors). That makes it easier for the bank to work with customers who run into financial trouble.

 Small lenders can charge higher fees and interest rates than big banks, which they need to do if you have a tiny loan amount, because some fees, like a title search, cost the same no matter how big or small your loan is. If, for example, you had a $20,000 mortgage, the fee cap would limit you to $1,000 in fees, which probably isn’t enough to cover a title search and appraisal. Although the bank would still earn interest on your loan, it would have to pay the fees for you — and no bank wants to do that.

 Some small lenders can still make balloon loans, where you owe one big payment at the end of your loan. A balloon loan has a lower monthly payment than a regular mortgage loan where each month you pay back some of the money you borrowed instead of just interest. The catch is that the small lender has to hold on to your loan for at least three years and can’t sell it into the secondary market.

So you’ve got to persuade the bank that your mortgage is a good investment. Small bankers can be very conservative lenders, which is another reason they didn’t end up with a lot of foreclosures on their hands during the real estate crisis. Right now, any lender who meets the size rule can use the small lender exemption. Starting Jan. 10, 2016, only small lenders in rural underserved areas will get to use the exemption, so don’t delay trying this avenue unless you live in a sparsely populated place.

 A Government-Guaranteed Loan

The new rules set a clear line for how much of your income, max, you should be using for debt: 43%. If you’re above that limit because you have too much debt or not enough income, there’s a work-around. You can go over the 43% limit if your loan is guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration, the VA, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural housing loan program.

 Community Development Nonprofits

Nonprofit lenders who work with low- and moderate-income borrowers don’t have to follow the new mortgage rules. As long as they don’t make more than 200 loans a year, they can create special loan programs to help the people in their community.

Community Development Financial Institutions set up shop in areas undergoing revitalization. They target a particular community for assistance, including homebuyer incentives. CDFI lenders also don’t have to follow the new mortgage rules.

 Homeownership Preservation and Foreclosure Prevention Programs

If you’re underwater on your mortgage, meaning you owe more than your home is worth, you can still get a loan from a foreclosure prevention program or a homeownership stabilization organization. Because these groups have a history of knowing how to help troubled homeowners, they don’t have to follow the new mortgage rules.

 A Safer Loan

If you’re in a dangerous, unfair loan right now and you want to refinance into a safer loan, your lender doesn’t have to follow the eight standards when it gives you a better loan. There’s an exemption from the ability to repay standards when a lender is moving a borrower out of:

·         An adjustable-rate mortgage that’s about to adjust to a much higher payment.

·         An interest-only loan.

·         A loan with negative amortization (meaning the amount you owe can go up even if you make all your payments).

·         Your new standard loan: Has to have a fixed rate for the first five years.

·         Must lower your monthly payment.

·         Can’t have fees of more than 3% of the amount you’re borrowing.

 A Work-Around

If you’re rich enough that your bank has assigned you a personal wealth manager, that’s the person to talk to when it’s time to refinance. Your bank will want to keep you as a customer and will find a work-around to fund your loan. For example, if you’re using more than 43% of your income for debt but you can show you have millions in assets, your personal banker will make the case that you’re quite able to repay your mortgage even though you don’t meet the debt-to-income rule.

 Another Kind of Loan

The new mortgage rules don’t apply to all loans. It specifically doesn’t include:

·         Open-ended loans.

·         Timeshare loans.

·         Reverse mortgages.

·         Temporary loans, including bridge and construction, and the construction phase of construction-to-permanent loans.

·         Loans from the bank of Mom and Dad.

·         If one of those types of loans will work instead of a mortgage, you won’t have to meet the new mortgage rules.

Diana Walton
Diana Walton Properties
Keller Williams memorial
First Time Home Buyers & VA Specialist


The average annual increase of 3.9% is outpacing inflation and income growth. Will renters be priced out of many cities?  It's no secret renters have been feeling the crunch of a competitive rental market for a few years now. If it seems like rent increases have been unusually high this year, though, that's because they have been.

 In June, the real-estate data firm Trulia analyzed the rent prices in 25 of the largest rental markets in the United States. What Trulia found is an average annual increase of 3.9%. This is a huge increase when compared with inflation. And, generally speaking, incomes are not keeping pace with rent increases, putting renters in an even tighter position.

 According to Trulia, the five least-affordable rental markets in the country are New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. In these cities, rents often make up half or more of a renter's average monthly wage.

 The cities that experienced the highest rent hikes for 2012-13 were Houston, Miami, Boston, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., and San Diego. Some cities, such as Houston, already had lower rents than the national average for major cities, whereas in others the increases came on top of already higher-than-average rates. For instance, Boston — already one of the most expensive cities in the country — saw a 5.5% increase in rents this year.

 It would seem the recent rent increases are an enduring ripple effect of the foreclosure epidemic that catalyzed the Great Recession, flooding the market with prospective renters. At the same time, the gradual economic recovery has resulted in rising employment rates. With a shortage of available rentals, landlords are in the enviable position of being able to name their price and have their pick among tenants willing to pay it.

 In their most recent survey, the apartment-research firm RealFacts found not only that rents are up nationwide in 39 of the 41 markets analyzed but that these increases also occurred even in cities that are building rental units at a precipitous pace.

In particular, Seattle experienced a large rent increase this past year despite a projection that 12,000 rental units will be added to the market by the end of the year. Portland, which also experienced an impressive increase in average annual rents, did so even as 4,000 units were added in the city. In fact, Portland saw its occupancy rate jump a full percent this past year. San Francisco, which has also added thousands of units recently, saw an occupancy rate increase of 1.2%.

 "So far, it appears aggressive rent hikes and new construction hasn't had a negative impact on occupancy rates," according to the RealFacts report.

 Though there seem to be no signs of rent increases slowing down, the report warned that the market will soon become oversupplied: The increased availability of new rentals, coupled with the rise in interest rates, will eventually lead to a downturn in the rental market.

 Additionally, more people will turn to buying as an affordable alternative. That's because even though home prices rose 7% in the past year, outpacing rent increases, the gap between buying and renting is still quite large.

 Forbes reported this year that buying is much more affordable than renting in all of the 100 largest metro areas in the nation. According to mortgage lender Freddie Mac, buying is an average of 41% cheaper than renting nationwide.

 But buying is only slightly cheaper in some cities and drastically cheaper in others. For example, buying is 19% cheaper than renting in San Francisco but 70% cheaper in Detroit. In New York, buying has remained 26% cheaper for the past couple of years.

 Despite the regional fluctuations in price, though, it looks as though buying will be the cheaper option for some time to come no matter where you live. That is because 30-year fixed rates on home purchases would need to reach 10.5% to become the more expensive option. The rate is at 4.4%, as of the week of Aug. 14.

  RealFacts predicts that in 2014 or 2015, rent rates will begin to stall as the rate of homeowners rise and renters decline.

 Until then, renters will have to grit their teeth and wait it out — or start shopping around for their own home.



Trap #1: Line 6 - real estate taxes

 Your monthly mortgage payment often includes money for a tax escrow, from which the lender pays your local real estate taxes. The money you send the bank may be more than what the bank pays for your taxes, says Julian Block, a tax attorney and author of Julian Block’s Home Seller’s Guide to Tax Savings. That will lead you to putting the wrong number on Schedule A.


Your monthly payment to the lender: $2,000 for mortgage + $500 escrow for taxes

Your annual property tax bill: $5,500

 Now do the math:

Your bank received $6,000 for real estate taxes, but only paid $5,500. It may keep the extra $500 to apply to the next tax bill or refund it to you at some point, but meanwhile, you’re making a mistake if you enter $6,000 on Schedule A.

Instead, take the number from Form 1098—which your bank sends you each year—that shows the actual taxes paid.

 Trap #2: Line 6 - tax calculations for recent buyers and sellers

 If you bought or sold a home in the middle of 2012, figuring out what to put on line 6 of your Schedule A Form is tricky.

 Don’t simply enter the number from your property tax bill on line 6 as you would if you owned the house the whole year. If you bought or sold a house in midyear, you should instead use the property tax amount listed on your HUD-1 closing statement, says Phil Marti, a retired IRS official.

 Here’s why: Generally, depending on the local tax cycle, either the seller gives the buyer money to pay the taxes when they come due or, if the seller has already paid taxes, the buyer reimburses the seller at closing. Those taxes are deductible that year, but won’t be reflected on your property tax bill

 Trap #3: Line 10 - properly deducting points

 You can deduct points paid on a refinance, but not all at once, says David Sands, a CPA with Buchbinder Tunick & Co LLP. Rather, you deduct them over the life of your loan. So if you paid $1,000 in points for a 10-year refinance, you’re entitled to deduct only $100 per year on your Schedule A Form

 Trap #4: Line 10 - HELOC limits

 If you took out a home equity line of credit (HELOC), you can generally deduct the interest on it only up to $100,000 of debt each year, says Matthew Lender, a CPA with EisnerLubin LLP.

 For example, if you have a HELOC for $200,000, the bank will send you Form 1098 for interest paid on $200,000. But you can deduct only the interest paid on $100,000. If you just pull the number off Form 1098, you’ll deduct more than you’re entitled to

 Trap #5: line 13 - Private mortgage insurance

 You can deduct PMI on your Schedule A Form, as long as you started paying the insurance after Dec. 31, 2006. Congress renewed the PMI deduction for 2012 and 2013 for people making less than $110,000.

 Since you’re thinking about it, this is also a good time to review your PMI: You might be able to cancel your PMI altogether because you’ve had a change in loan-to-value status.

 Trap #6: line 20 - casualty and theft losses

 You can deduct part or all of losses caused by theft, vandalism, fire, or similar causes, as well as corrosive drywall, but the process isn’t always obvious or simple:

Only deduct losses that are greater than 10% of your adjusted gross income (line 38 of Form 1040).

Fill out Form 4684, which involves complex calculations for the cost basis and fair market value.  This form gives you the number you need for line 20.

 Bottom line on line 20: If you’ve got extensive losses, it’s best to consult a tax pro. “I wouldn’t do it myself, and I’ve been dealing with taxes for 40 years,” says former IRS official Marti.


This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn’t be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice


Diana Walton

Diana Walton Properties

Champion Real Estate Group

First Time Home Buyer & VA Specialist



Last month your credit score was 735. You checked it again this morning, and it’s 20 points lower. What’s up?

 It could be any combination of factors. There are different credit scoring models used, and they can weigh factors differently to determine your score. But these are five of the most common reasons you could experience a dip in your score:

 Late credit card or loan payment

 Your payment history has a significant impact on your credit score, accounting for about 31 percent of your total rating. If your make a credit card or loan payment more than 30 past its due date, this information will likely show up on your credit report, which could cause your credit score to drop. Anything 30 days or more late matters, and 60 or 90 days late matters even more.

 Larger than normal credit purchases

 Another key factor in calculating your credit score is your credit utilization ratio. In simpler terms: How much of your credit are you using in relation to your total available credit? In general, the lower this ratio, the better your credit score will be. If you’ve been using more of your available credit lately, you may see a drop in your credit score. If a creditor lowers your credit limit, it may also change your credit utilization ratio and impact your score.

 An unpaid account goes to collection

 In order to maintain a good credit score, you need to pay all your accounts — not just credit cards and loans — in a timely manner. Late payments to medical facilities, student loans and utilities can be sent to a collection agency, which could in turn show up in your credit report.

 You applied for a credit card

 When you apply for credit, you give lenders the OK to ask, or “inquire,” for a copy of your credit report. This is known as a hard inquiry on your credit. When the information on your credit report indicates that you’ve applied for multiple new credit lines over a short period of time, your credit score may be lowered as a result.

 You closed a credit card account

 Canceling a credit card could be a good idea if it eliminates the temptation to charge more than you should. But by closing an old or unused account, you are wiping away some of your available credit, thus increasing your credit utilization ratio. As a result, your credit score may drop. Also, the length of time you’ve had accounts open shows that you have a solid payment history, so that could be another reason to keep that card you’ve had awhile open (as long as you’re paying it on time).

source:experian consumer service

Diana Walton

Diana Walton Properties

Champion Real Estate Group

First Time Home Buyer & VA Specialist




Children do better at school when their family moves from renting to home ownership.

 Becoming a homeowner makes families smarter, happier, healthier, and richer, according to a survey of Habitat for Humanity Canada homeowners by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

 Habitat homeowners contribute 500 hours of sweat equity toward the purchase of their home and in exchange receive interest-free mortgages with no downpayment. CMHC surveyed more than 300 Habitat homeowners and found, across the board, the homeowners reported improvement in their children’s well-being and school performance including:

Higher grades

Increased enjoyment of school

Better attendance

Higher participation rates in sports, music and arts, and volunteering

 The respondents also reported other gains:

89% said their family life improved.

78% said their own health and their family’s health was better.

58% reported they were better off financially.

25% had spouses who entered the workforce.

17% returned to school, and 21.5% did something else to upgrade their skills.


Diana Walton

Diana Walton Properties

Champion Real Estate Group

First Time Home Buyer Specialist