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Central Texas storms in late October added more than 134,000 acre-feet to the combined storage in the Highland Lakes, moving lakes Travis and Buchanan near their highest levels since the flooding Memorial Day weekend rains.

Although much of the October rain fell downstream of the Highland Lakes, Lake Travis still rose more than 5 feet, while Lake Buchanan rose more than 2 feet from late October through early November.

“This year has been one of extremes,” said John Hofmann, LCRA executive vice president of Water. “We had extremely low inflows the first part of the year, then record rainfall over the Memorial Day weekend. We were concerned about a return to the dry weather pattern after those rains, and that’s exactly what happened. We had a drier-than-normal summer, then over two rainy weekends in October we gained a significant amount of water in the lakes. We’re hopeful we’ll see more rain in the near future – although we would prefer not to have any more damaging flood events.

“The lakes are in much better shape than they were earlier this year,’’ Hofmann said. “In addition, we are moving into the time of year when water use declines, and we don’t lose as much water to evaporation.”

October inflows to the Highland Lakes totaled 41,702 acre-feet – about 35 percent of the monthly average. The inflows don’t take into account rain that falls directly over the lakes. Inflows are the amount of water flowing into the Highland Lakes estimated from measurements at four gauges upstream of the lakes. An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons.

The Highland Lakes capture water when it rains to ensure the region has a reliable water supply during dry times. Lakes Travis and Buchanan provide drinking water for more than a million people and water to industries, businesses, the environment and agriculture in the lower Colorado River basin.

Lake levels have risen dramatically since the beginning of 2015. As of Nov. 5, Lake Travis was more than 47 feet higher than on Jan. 1, while Lake Buchanan was about 21 feet higher.

LCRA manages lakes Travis and Buchanan under a state-approved Water Management Plan. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved an updated plan on Nov. 4. The updated plan better protects the water supply for firm customers – mainly cities and industrial users – and enables LCRA to more quickly adapt its operations as drought conditions change.

LCRA is committed to increasing the water supply for the region and is building the first significant new water supply reservoir in the lower Colorado River basin in decades. The Lane City Reservoir is the first project that will enable LCRA to capture and store significant amounts of water downstream of the Highland Lakes near the Texas Gulf Coast. The reservoir could add up to 90,000 acre-feet per year to LCRA’s water inventory and is expected to be completed in 2018. The new reservoir will help reduce the amount of water that otherwise would be required to be released from the Highland Lakes.

LCRA also is exploring integrated water strategies for Central Texas, including using surface water, treated effluent and groundwater.

source:  LCRA


In the multiple green real estate sessions at the recent REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Diego, most presenters and panelists agreed on the trends and techniques that will help home owners create healthier, more efficient living spaces. Here are a few points about this growing niche that you might not already know.

Roland Macias, a senior loan consultant specializing in energy efficiency mortgages at in Cerritos, Calif., said he sees often agents getting leads based on their green expertise.

Most people think of solar panels and new windows first when it comes to energy-efficient upgrades, but those are actually some of the last items they should consider.

James Mitchell, GREEN, CEO of Renewablue said buyers are drawn to solar panels because they are a visual cue to the rest of the neighborhood that the home owner cares about the environment. But he pointed out that adding solar panels to an inefficient building doesn’t reduce the amount of energy being used; it simply means the energy is coming from the sun instead of oil or coal. Instead, he suggests power strips and high-efficiency lighting as a better place to start saving energy.

Some in the appraisal and lending worlds have been slow to translate both consumers’ willingness to pay more for green features and the impact of energy savings on lowering the cost of home ownership. But several panelists agreed that the data supporting such assertions is nearing a tipping point. In particular, Hartman noted a recent Rocky Mountain Institute study that found a 5.9 percent increase in property values thanks to green features. But Craig Foley, e-PRO, GREEN, managing partner and energy consultant for inCharge Energy LLC, said that in areas such as his where customers pay a premium for energy, the payoff can be even greater.

“We know now that for every dollar invested in home energy improvements, it's putting three dollars in consumers' pockets,” he said. “Every one dollar of annual energy savings translates to $15 to $20 at the point of sale.”

Bookmark the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency website to access a search of what’s available in your area.

source:  REALTOR® Magazine


A survey by AARP has found that 33 percent of adults older than 45 have modified their homes to allow them to age comfortably in place.

Aging-in-place modifications can include:

· Decorative grab bars in showers

· Step-free entrances

· Levered door handles

· Raised electrical outlets

· Bathrooms that can accommodate wheelchairs

· Widened doorways to accommodate walkers

· Higher toilets

Mike Leary, founder of Rochester, N.Y., firm Access Lifts & Ramps, says business is brisk and he expects it to continue to grow. "If my kids stay in the business, they'll be the ones to make out well," Leary says. "They'll be taking care of me. I'm in the middle of the Baby Boomers."

source: USA Today 


Marianne Cusato, designer and author of Just the Right Home, has spent years talking to home owners about their homes and recently talked with BUILDER online about a common topic: buyer’s remorse.

“Financial surprises are at the heart of most regrets,” Cusato says. “Hidden expenses beyond the monthly mortgage are typically to blame for the surprises. The expense of commuting, heating and cooling, and general maintenance can add up fast.”

She cites a recent Chase Bank survey that 56 percent of recent buyers said they wish they had more information about the financial aspects before buying a home. Thirty-four percent of buyers said owning a home was a lot more expensive than they had thought. What’s more, 80 percent of the buyers said they thought they were buying a move-in ready home, but 76 percent said they had already renovated or were planning to renovate soon.

Real estate professionals and builders can help to offer cost-per-month information, such as helping the buyer find out how much it will cost to heat and cool a home and maintain the yard, to help avoid financial surprises, Cusato suggests.

Another common cause of buyer remorse, which often occurs during the house hunt: confusing dreams with expectations.

“A dream is the vision; expectations are the strings we put on that vision,” Cusato says. “For instance, you might dream of having a big yard; that's fine. The trouble comes when you expect that your kids will spend time playing in that yard. The pitfall comes when you are frustrated mowing and paying to maintain that yard that your kids don't go in because they never have the time.”

For a home owner to be happy in the end, the ultimate home they choose must strike a balance among function, layout, location, and cost, Cusato says.

Also, “your buyers or tenants must love the place,” Cusato says. “Balancing in all three [function, cost, and delight] requires trade-offs and a true understanding of not just your clients' wants and needs but also what they are willing to sacrifice and what they are willing to pay for.”

source:  BUILDER Online


With recent headlines focusing on data breaches at big-box retailers such as Home Depot and Target, you may think hackers are after only large-scale businesses. But that’s what scammers want you to think — because then you won’t see them coming.

“Small businesses have become the low-hanging fruit for hackers,” said Melanie Wyne, NAR’s senior policy representative on technology issues, during the Risk Management Forum at the recent 2015 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Diego.

She cited several reasons small business owners should have a data security policy.

  1. Financial harm. If you have to notify clients of a data breach, you could instantly lose a swath of your customer base. A large corporation like Target can weather such a backlash. You can’t.
  2. Legal risk. Many states uphold customers’ rights to file class-action lawsuits against businesses that don’t protect their data. Attorneys general can file lawsuits for the same reason.
  3. Reputational ruin. Millennials are savvy about the risks of living a digital life, and they want to work with pros who make that a priority. If you don’t, you could close yourself off to a large share of potential clients.

“Big data would have you believe privacy is dead, but it’s not,” said Darity Wesley, an attorney with Lotus Law Center in La Mesa, Calif.

A data security program starts with first making sure paper files in your office are secure. Then it moves online. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • If you write down passwords, keep them on you. Don’t leave a Post-It note with your password stuck to the back of your keyboard.
  • Get your head out of the cloud. Consider storing your most sensitive data on your own server rather than in the cloud, which comprises remote servers that you have no control over.
  • Put extra encryption protection on your e-mail accounts. Even big e-mail providers like AOL, Gmail, and Outlook are vulnerable to hackers.
  • Research the vendors you use. Check their FAQs and terms of use to see what level of data protection they provide.

source:  REALTOR® Magazine


How is the apartment market faring in your area?

Apartment Market Data Research Services LLC has released September 2015 data for most Texas cities.

Click to see the full September 2015 Texas Multihousing Market Conditions Report, which includes data from areas across Texas.

source:  Apartment MarketData Research Services LLC


The price of insuring a property can raise the cost of ownership significantly.

There are various factors that affect the cost of insuring a home:

· Location. A home near a fire hydrant or protected by a professional fire department, as opposed to volunteers, will cost less to insure.

· History of claims. Previous claims push up the cost of insurance. Ask the seller to provide a home’s insurance claims history report. This information is available from the sources:
The CLUE report can be purchased at:
The A-Plus report is available at:

· Need flood or earthquake insurance? Policies for both of these perils are sold separately and can be pricey.

· How old are the systems? Electrical and plumbing systems that are less than 10 years old cost less to insure.

source: Associated Press 


The ideal city for families with kids boasts top-rated schools, a large number of parks, affordable housing options, and a great network of support, according to a recent study from Overland Park, Kan. tops their list as the best city to raise a family.

In ranking the best cities for families, used data from the U.S. Census Bureau to find the places with a high number of children but low concentration of children living in poverty. They also factored in consumer spending data, the quality of schools including high school graduation rates, and the amount and quality of local parks and activities geared towards young children. The overall quality of life including the cost of living, length of the average commute, and the crime rate were also considered.

"Parents agonize over where to raise their children – I know I did," says Livability editor Matt Carmichael. "We want to make that decision a little easier. These 10 cities would all be fine candidates."

These are the 10 best cities for children:

  1. Overland Park, Kan.
  2. Plano, Texas.
  3. Holland, Mich.
  4. Carmel, Ind.
  5. Leesburg, Va.
  6. Chandler, Ariz.
  7. Naperville, Ill.
  8. Bentonville, Ark.
  9. Rockville, Md/
  10. St. George, Utah.



Home sales are expected to increase to 5.5 million units from 5.3 million next year as job creation and other economic fundamentals remain strong, but longer-term prospects for home ownership face head winds if younger households continue to find it difficult to buy.

The U.S. economy grew by 2.1 percent this year, job creation hit a strong 2.4 million, wages are rising modestly, and interest rates remain at historic lows. These are all positives for housing, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun told thousands of REALTORS® attending a residential housing outlook forum at the recent 2015 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Diego.

But it’s mainly existing home owners who are benefiting, because the growing economy and persistent shortages of for-sale housing are driving up their equity gains and making it easier for them to become move-up buyers and buyers of vacation and investment property. Appreciation reached 6 percent this year and is expected to be 5 percent next year.

For the 88-million-strong millennial generation, the oldest of which is 34 years old, the combination of high appreciation, low inventories, and continuing tight credit conditions is making home ownership a stretch few can afford. As a result, first-timers made up only 32 percent of buyers this year, down from 50 percent in 2010.

Yun predicts the relatively good economy will encourage a growing number of these young people to start households, but many of them will not be home owners. “As they’re coming out of their parents’ basement, they will be renters,” he says.

Rental housing is already seeing high increases in annual rent rates because of the large demand, so as more in the millennial generation form households, the trend in rental rate increases will continue, which could help fuel inflation even as energy prices stay down. Should inflation rise, short-term interest rates could rise as well, as could long-term mortgage rates, which would put another hurdle in front of younger buyers.

On the plus side, lenders are starting to loosen credit restrictions and there could be further loosening in the years ahead as lenders, credit rating agencies, and financial regulators adjust credit policies to accommodate the credit profiles of younger households.

For next year, Yun is forecasting about 6.25 million new and existing home sales, 1.4 million housing starts, 5 percent median home price growth, and an average mortgage interest rate of 4.5 percent, up from 3.8 percent this year.

source:  REALTOR® Magazine


At the recent REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Diego, lenders and government officials on a panel called “Commercial Lending and Financing: The Ever-Changing Landscape” discussed trends in policy and technology that could change the way deals are funded in the near future. Here are three predictions to watch for.

More Complete Data

Elizabeth Braman, CCIM, chief production officer at real estate crowdfunding platform, predicted that over the next five or so years, the increase in the amount of available data will make the capital acquisition process more responsive to the needs of borrowers and lenders alike. On the micro level, she said it’ll be easier for borrowers to provide data to lenders, because much of it will be coming directly from sources such as the IRS (which is already already working on an API to make data export easier) or commercial transaction databases such as CoStar. But she also added that big data can help lenders predict trend lines for future valuation purposes, rather than relying strictly on appraisals, which tend to use backward-looking data to determine value.

“That’s where big data gets really exciting,” she said. Appraisers “are only looking at a limited data set. That’s what they’re limited to and the regulations prohibit them from being forward-looking… There’s going to be a lot more predictive analysis.”

But the panel also cautioned against security risks related to increased data in the commercial lending sphere.

“It is a risk no matter where you put it on the Internet… I don’t think anything is 100 percent bullet proof,” said District Director of the U. S. Small Business Administration’s San Diego District Office Ruben Garcia. The panel agreed that there will come a day when the entire commercial process is executed online, and Garcia encouraged individuals to do what they can to mitigate, rather than trying to eliminate, risk. “Be careful. Don’t put anything out there that’s not required.”

More Lending Options

Projects in first-tier markets that are building or redeveloping Class A commercial space don’t have the funding issues that Class B and C properties in less popular cities might face. But both of the crowdfunding companies present on the panel said they are happy to be involved in such deals.

“We definitely play in the B and C space,” Braman said, noting that such investments often offer a higher yield for her company. She added that they’re more concerned with whether or not the people behind the deal are market experts who can accurately predict how a development will shake out in the long run. “We look for the guy or the gal who has a deep market knowledge and who knows how to execute on a business plan.”

Kevin Arrabacca, chief investment officer at Asset Avenue, a crowdfunding platform based in Los Angeles, agreed:It's more about the quality of the borrower. It’s the borrower who’s paying back the loan, not the real estate.”

Growth in the Small Business Environment

Garcia said there may be more opportunity in the office sector coming soon due to what he sees as a growing interest in entrepreneurship across the country.

“I know the rest of your REALTOR® friends believe the American dream is owning your own home,” he said with a smile. “But I think in the 21st century the American dream will be running a business andowning your own home.”

source:  REALTOR® Magazine