Fun & Functional: Gift ideas for new homeowners

Fun & Functional: Gift ideas for new homeowners

Gifts for new homeowners often fall into two categories: things they’d like, and things they need. It’s not unusual for people to move in with a slew of hand-me-down objects for cleaning and tools for light handiwork, which can simplify your gift-giving decision. But it’s a good bet they’ll find plenty of items they need to keep up with the demands of housework and home maintenance. Sometimes, a good plunger is worth its weight in artisanal chocolates.

DIY or Hire? The Answer for 3 Popular Remodeling Projects

With the high cost of remodeling, it’s no wonder that so many homeowners turn to DIY when it’s time to update. However, some renovations are over the average homeowner’s head. Here’s what you can do yourself and what you should save for the pros when it comes to three popular remodeling projects.

Are Expensive Foundation Piers Always Needed?

The slab that your house is sitting on is a massive concrete and rebar engineered structure.  The average size house may contain 60 to 80 cubic yards of concrete.  The piers that foundation repair companies use are comparable to pencils holding up your desk.  These foundation piers do work to level your house but my point is – whatever is causing your foundation to move, don’t you think that same force will eventually move those piers?  The answer is yes.

Sometimes the house is so far out of level that the appropriate fix is foundation piers.  Many homes that are for sale have been vacant for a while without the normal maintenance being done on the property.  It doesn’t take long for a small problem to become large if left unattended.  One house we looked at last week had foundation piers installed sometime in the past but was 8.9 inches out of level the day we inspected it!  That house needed a lot of piers just to bring it close to being level again.  But the owners will also need to address the issues causing that movement or a few years down the line, they may need to have more expensive foundation piers installed again.

What are the signs of foundation movement?  I think we have all seen the commercials on T.V.  Some of the signs are cracks in the sheetrock, cracks in the brick veneer.  Cracks in the concrete floor of the garage, cracks in the tile.  Doors and windows that don’t operate properly also can be caused by shifting in the foundation.  Be careful with doors and windows that don’t operate properly.  You don’t want egress problems in an emergency.

Power Tips
Save Money With 3-7pm Peak Power Tips

It’s nearing summer and the heat in Houston is only going to get worse. Here are some practical tips on how to save some cash during the peak energy periods of 3-7pm when electric companies typically charge higher rates for energy.

  • Save up to 20% by adjusting your AC, especially when you use a programmable thermostat
    • Set your AC 5° higher when you’re gone more than 4 hours.
    • Between 3 and 7 p.m., aim for 1-2° warmer than your final evening temperature. Try to keep it at 78° or higher.
    • Use fans to stay 4-6 degrees cooler.
    • Set the AC to cool down after 7 p.m.
  • Run your washer, dryer, or dishwasher in the morning before you leave for work or wait until after 7 p.m.
  • Save up to 10 watts of energy for every device you unplug. Unplugging just 6 devices that you normally leave plugged in can save up to $40 a year.
    • All electrical devices use some power when they’re turned off but still plugged in. They also generate heat.
    • Turn off and unplug appliances and cable boxes when not in use.
    • Unplug your phone charger and similar devices when charging is complete.
  • Use a timer to turn off lights and appliances when you’re away.
  • Use a microwave, outdoor grill, or slow cooker. In the summer, your stove and oven heat up the house. This makes your AC work harder.
  • Set your pool pump to run early in the morning or overnight.

Compare local power companies for the best rates.

April 2017 Houston Housing Market
Houston’s housing market increases in sales, prices and inventory in April

“The Houston real estate market had another strong showing in April among sales and rental properties alike, and as we had hoped, inventory levels got a healthy boost,” HAR Chair Cindy Hamann with Heritage Texas Properties said in a statement. “The latest Texas Workforce Commission employment update states that 13,300 jobs were created throughout greater Houston in March, the most since September 2015, so we remain optimistic about the local economy.”

Houston’s housing market saw another strong month in April, with prices hitting new records and inventory reaching its highest level since August.

Meanwhile, sales continued to increase year over year, according to the Houston Association of Realtors’ May 10 report.

Single-family home sales totaled 6,583 in April, up 3.1 percent from the same month a year earlier, and sales of all property types increased 4.2 percent to 8,014. Total dollar volume for all properties sold last month increased 8.1 percent to more than $2.2 billion.

Prices that single-family homes sold for also increased, with both the average and median prices hitting record highs for an April in Houston. The average increased 4.7 percent to $291,770, while the median was $228,000, up 4.6 percent year over year.

Sales increased in all pricing segments $150,000 and above, with the biggest boost seen in the luxury segment. The number of homes sold in the $750,000-and-up segment jumped 15.8 percent, marking that segment’s sixth consecutive month of rising sales.

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Houston Home Value Estimates
Zillow and Trulia don’t trust their own home value estimates. Why should you?

It’s easy and maybe even fun to enter your address on a website and instantly receive a home value estimate of what your property is worth. But, just how accurate and reliable is data you’re receiving?

NOT AT ALL, say the major real estate websites. And the vast majority will highly recommend talking with a real estate professional.

“The Zestimate is not an appraisal and you won’t be able to use it in place of an appraisal, though you can certainly share it with real estate professionals. It is a computer-generated estimate of the worth of a house today, given the available data. Zillow does not offer the Zestimate as the basis of any specific real-estate-related financial transaction. Our data sources may be incomplete or incorrect; also, we have not physically inspected a specific home. Remember, the Zestimate is a starting point and does not consider all the market intricacies that can determine the actual price a house will sell for.”
“Is a Zestimate an appraisal?” at

“If you’re looking for a precise value for your home, or if you’re thinking of selling your home, we recommend you talk to a real estate professional. After all, our algorithms are smart, but we can’t know everything about your home’s features and location. Connect with real estate experts in your area.”

“We’re not suggesting that you use our home value estimate in lieu of an appraisal from a trained professional when selling, purchasing or refinancing, but it’s the perfect source when you just need a reasonable estimate and you don’t want to wait.”

“The data and valuations are provided as is without warranty or guarantee of any kind, either express or implied, including without limitation, any warranties of merchantability of fitness for a particular purpose. The existence of the subject property and the accuracy of the valuations are estimated based on available data and do not constitute an appraisal of the subject property and should not be relied upon in lieu of underwriting or an appraisal.”


For help with price, negotiations and other parts of your real estate transaction, a Houston REALTOR® is your best resource.

Request a Professional CMA


 Disclaimers accurate as of June 20, 2016
Seller’s Guide: How To Sell Quickly in a Competitive Market

We are all aware the process of buying or selling a home can prove to be time-consuming even though many people are looking to purchase homes. Finding the right person interested in your home can be a complicated process. With thousands of homes for sale in your area, there is always some stiff competition.

The fastest way to sell your home for top dollar is to advertise it as much as possible. A reputable real estate agent can help. He can show your home and attract buyers out there. However, he can’t make it sell. If you intend to sell it fast, you will need to get involved. Follow these five tips for a quick house sale and put the necessary effort, the chances are that you will be successful.

– Stage Your Home

Stage your home to sell it fast. Staged homes attract many buyers and make them feel at home away from home. Besides, stages homes are in excellent condition both inside and out, and are waiting for their new owners to move in anytime. Honestly, they are in high demand and don’t lie on the market for long at all, yet they cost a fortune.

– Use A Realtor To List Your Home

Apart from staging your home, it’s still entirely possible to sell it- and sell it fast. Use a Realtor to get your home out there to the market and expose it to potential buyers. A Realtor will list your home on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and let customers know that you are selling it. Without a doubt, you’ll sell it quick.

– Add Photos

When using a Realtor to list your home, it’s a must that you include winning photos of your home. They will let buyers know more about your property. Don’t forget that a picture is worth more than a thousand words. However, ensure that you only use high quality images. Photos only give you one chance to attract buyers. Never use low-quality images because they will make your house look ugly. Yes, you heard me right!

– Prepare Home For Sale

When selling your home, always ensure that the exterior is clean, the interior is in excellent condition, and the lawn is mowed. If you intend to stay there until it’s sold, you’ll need to ensure that the interior is staged as best as you can. It will give the buyer a nice feeling, so he’ll stay and stay for good. In fact, if your home is in tip top condition both inside and out, buyers will be interested to see it more.

– Use Social Media

Without any doubt, social media has the power to work wonders. In fact, most people have used it as a marketing strategy in almost all fields today. If you do some investigation, you will discover a way that you can use it to market your residential property. Next, use the right strategies to lure potential buyers.

Conclusion: Once a buyer is interested in seeing more of your home, perhaps you have found the individual who will purchase it. By keenly following these five tips for a quick house sale, you will be in a better position to land trust with the buyer which will help you sell your home fast.

The Hidden Perks of Leasing an Apartment in Houston

Although you may possibly believe there is much more to gain in buying real estate property, there are gains to renting apartments as an alternative. Renting as an alternative to buying might allow you to save cash on rent, which you can then put away for a future purchase on a home. You may also manage money on things like maintenance and have the capacity to experience free amenities that you wouldn’t otherwise receive by owning a home.

Stashing Money by Renting

You may have overheard criticism about renting apartments on the grounds that rental payments do not advance the renter in terms of equity on the property they are subletting. But the truth is, moderate rent payments are many times the most effective way to save up on funds you can later use to make your first installment on a property. Actually, there are a lot of property owners who would not have been able to buy their house without originally renting at some point in their lives.

Although your rental space is probably much more compact than the nest you would like to buy in the future, this also means that your monthly rent in an apartment will be much more economical than your mortgage. Hence, renting gives you the perfect opportunity to save now and reduce your cost down the road.

Renting Demands Less Maintenance

Renting is also a convenience when it comes to the upkeep you are obligated to look after as a renter. For most apartments, the renter is expected to do very little maintenance to their property beyond basic tasks like changing out light bulbs. Other more difficult tasks, like patching up leaks or unclogging drains, are generally the job of dedicated maintenance workers.

Further, any common area that is put to use by other people in your rental community is typically maintained by apartment staff too.

The Strengths of Amenities

One of the best rewards to renting is the amenities that are offered to users of apartment communities. These might incorporate everything from the use of an apartment pool or workout center to having access to meeting rooms and theaters. The majority of the time, the renter remits no additional cost to take pleasure in these amenities, and they enable you to enjoy privileges you might not otherwise have the ability to afford if you owned a home.

Finding a property on the market with all of these amenities might be really tough at any given time, and finding one would probably limit your choices in houses substantially. It is also likely that a home with all of the luxuries you might find at an apartment would be astonishingly high priced.

As a renter, you can examine many apartments to figure out which communities deliver the amenities you want. And, once you live there, you can probably enjoy all of them at no extra cost to you. While the rent may be highest at an apartment complex with a ton of amenities, many communities include so many luxuries, there is little reason to purchase recreation outside your own space.

Top Five Ways to Sell Your House Fast

With the economy and the housing market so uncertain, selling a house has become very difficult for most. The people with nice houses in the best parts of town are even having some difficulty finding qualified buyers.

If that is the case, you can imagine how difficult it will be for those that have properties that need repairs, have tenants, are behind on payments, are in less than desirable areas, have inherited properties, are out of town, etc. If you need to sell fast, you are going to face a challenge. It’s not all doom and gloom though. Here are five ways to help sell your house fast, even in this market.

1. Real Estate Investors – The fastest way to sell your house is to sell to a real estate investor. Investors typically advertise using the “We Buy Houses” slogan. Investors are able to pay cash for houses, which provides many benefits to home sellers. Traditional buyers need bank financing to purchase their house. The buyers typically have to jump through a lot of hoops to get qualified and close the loan. This takes lots of time. You also have to consider that as the housing bubble has burst, banks have become super conservative and many buyers that used to be able to qualify, no longer do. Paying cash allows investors to close within 3 days if necessary. Most investors buy houses ‘As-Is’ which allows sellers to avoid costly repairs and concerns over problems with their properties. If you truly want to sell your house fast, call a local real estate investor.

2. Realtors – You can list your house for sell with a Realtor and still have a chance of selling fast. The trick is to find a go-getter that will be proactive in selling your house. Many times, Realtors will just list your house in the multiple listing services and not do much else. You will just have to hope you get lucky and have a qualified buyer find your house listing and want to buy your house. In today’s market, this could take 6 to 9 months or even longer.

3. Yard Signs – Another option is to sell yourself, or For Sale By Owner, using yard signs. This method of selling will work if you put in a lot of work. You will need to put a “For Sale By Owner” sign in your front yard. It is very important to also put direction signs (signs with a large arrow on them) at the cross streets near your house and at the entrances of your neighbourhood. This will allow you attract more potential buyers. Just as with Realtors, you will have to hope a qualified buyer comes along quickly.

4. Newspaper – You can also place an ad in your local newspaper classifieds. This does not just mean your main local paper, but also the local free papers. You will have to do all of the showings and qualifying and wait for the right buyer. To sell your house fast, consider using all of your local newspapers.

5. Online Classifieds – This is a relatively new way to sell your house. You can post free ads on sites like or There are a lot of buyers looking for houses online these days. This will help your chances of finding a qualified buyer quickly.

If you need to sell your house fast, you have many options available to you. You can try many in conjunction with each other to increase your odds of selling quickly.