Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market

What is a Seller’s Market?

     In real estate, we define a market by how many months of inventory is available to a buyer, i.e. if no new homes came on the market, how long would it take to sell what’s available now?  6 months of inventory is considered a balanced market.  More than 6 months = buyer’s market;  less than 6 months = seller’s market.

Each kind of market favors either buyers or sellers.  In a seller’s market, the advantage goes to the seller.


What does that mean for a buyer?

   Be prepared!  As a buyer in a seller’s market, you must do your homework, understand “the rules”, and be ready to make a decision and move forward!


Explain, please!

  1. Be prepared—before you start looking at houses, you need to know your numbers!  How much house can you afford?  How much are you actually willing to spend—they’re not necessarily the same!  How much cash do you have?  Will you be receiving gift monies?  The answers to these questions are best discussed in advance with a lender who can guide you to the best type of loan and pre-approve you for a purchase price that meets your needs and that you can qualify for.  ***Very important to do this in advance!***

   2.  Enlist the help of a professional, full-time REALTOR® who knows the market and can help you find the right home.   As a professional, he or she is much better qualified to give you advice, guide you through the steps, and help you through the process.  And a professional REALTOR® knows more than your friends, family, and what you’ve seen on HGTV, so listen to his or her advice.

  3.  Do your homework—now that you’ve determined what you can afford, decide where you want to live and make a list of your needs and wants in a home.  Where can you be flexible and what are the absolutes?  When do you need to move?  How much will you be putting down for Earnest Money? 

  4. “The rules”—unofficial.  Think of them as guidelines when you find the house you want.

            a. If you like a house, I can almost guarantee that other buyers do too!

            b. If you like it, and if you want it, make an offer—NOW!  This is why you do all that homework in advance! 

            c. Make your best offer!  In a seller’s market, low-ball offers are not taken seriously, especially when there are multiple offers to consider, and that is becoming more and more frequent, especially when inventory is tight as it is now in many areas!

            d. Remember that an offer is about more than just price.  There are other factors for a seller to consider, and often a lower price prevails if other terms are more favorable.  For example, can you accommodate a seller’s timetable for closing?  Are you asking the seller to contribute to closing costs, and if so, how much?  Are you requesting extensive repairs or allowances?   The more flexibility you have, the more favorable your offer will be, even if you don’t offer full price, but keep in mind what I said earlier about low-ball offers!


Bottom line for buyers—get your ducks in a row, be prepared, be flexible, and be ready to make  your best offer when you find the right house!  Thinking about it could mean someone else will get it—you snooze, you may lose!



Real Estate in San Antonio–HOT!!

You may have seen/read/heard that the housing market is improving in many parts of the country and how this is good for the economy.  It’s true!  I have friends all over the country who have had a rough last few years and who have seen a welcome turn-around in their areas.  In Texas, we did not experience the high highs nor the low lows that other markets did, but we have definitely had a slow-down in the last 3-4 years.

I’m here to tell you that all that’s changed!  The housing market in San Antonio and around the state has exploded!  Things have heated up and we are seeing a return to the days of the Seller’s market!  Prices are appreciating; mortgage rates are still low, but are beginning to inch up just a little; buyers are showing more confidence and are finally ready to buy; builders are building more; financing is available.  These are all good signs that the market is and has improved.  One of the most interesting things that has happened that is making the market move rapidly is low inventory of homes for sale.

In San Antonio, we have about 4-5 months of inventory.  Some areas have less than 2 months of inventory.  6 months is considered a balanced market.  More than 6 = buyer’s market; less than 6 = seller’s market.  We are now in a Seller’s market and buyers are figuring out that they no longer have the luxury of time and leverage.  I’ve been telling my active buyers that they need to come into the home search pre-approved for financing, with money in the bank, and ready to move quickly.  When they find the house they want, we need to submit an offer right away.

I have found, and many of my colleagues are also finding, that we are often in a multiple-offer situation.  As a buyer, what’s your best chance to get the home you want?  Be pre-approved first, be ready to go, and make your best offer first!  When sellers have several options, they’re not likely to play the game of “I start high, you start low, and we meet in the middle”.  A home that’s in good condition, and priced properly deserves a buyer’s best offer and there’s good reason to consider offering full price, if that full price is a fair market price.

The weather’s starting to warm up and the housing market is already hot!  Time to get off the fence and into the market.  If you’ve been waiting for everything to hit bottom, you’re too late–we’ve already done that and are back on the upswing!  It’s a great time to buy a home in San Antonio!


San Antonio Real Estate Market


The chart above shows how inventory/availablilty of homes impacts pricing.   In San Antonio, we have about a 5-6 months supply of homes for sale right now.  We’re in a steady market, but signs are pointing to a slight turn to the sellers’ market we experienced in 2006-07.  Interest rates are still low and will likely remain so for the rest of 2013, but we’re expecting them to start moving up in 2014.  All of my colleagues and I are seeing homes that are in good condition, and positioned properly in the market, sell quickly and for close to asking price.

What does that mean for you if you’re looking to purchase a home this spring?  It means you need to start your search by getting pre-approved for a mortgage.  Then, when you find the home you want, be prepared to make an offer, and make it a reasonable one!  If  you like a home, I can almost guarantee that someone else likes it too.  “Thinking it over” for too long will likely mean you’ll be looking for something else!

What about if you’re thinking of selling your home?  Fix it up, get it ready, and then price it right!  And be prepared to move!  See the paragraph above!

Good luck and enjoy the process!  Contact me if you need help!

Sue Trautner, CRS
[email protected]
(graphic courtesy of Keeping Current Matters)


Decorating Kids’ Rooms

Kids today have eclectic tastes, heavily influenced by popular media and their friends.  Kids want the latest and greatest and most popular, just like we all do!  Their tastes are reflected in what they wear, what they watch and listen to, and in their personal spaces–their rooms!  As parents, we want our kids to have a space that they enjoy spending time in for homework, play, and sleep.  But, let’s face it–kids’tastes change frequently!  What’s in and hot today can easily be out and totally uncool in a few months !  And who among us has time or funds to be constantly updating and redecorating kids’ rooms all the time?  Not many!

So how can you keep your child’s room interesting, fun, and current for him or her without breaking the bank?  Here are a few ideas!

1. Paint is your friend!  Whether it’s an entire room or maybe just an accent wall, a fresh coat of paint in a new trendy color can transform a room for a modest investment of time, effort, and money.  Older kids can even help with the job!  Home stores have sales and that’s a great time to pick a new color.  Inexpensive throw pillows or a new bedspread, maybe some new posters, can carry on the new color scheme and are easily replaced when a new color beckons.  Be sure to keep some extra when you re-paint for touch-ups.

2. Be cautious about doing an entire bedroom in a theme around a character or something else that’s popular right now.  As kids grow, their favorites change, and when they move up to middle school, they’re not going to want a themed bedroom around something that was popular a couple of years ago!  Trust me on this one!!

3. For furniture or other larger items, garage sales, consignment shops, online sales such as eBay, are great sources for gently used furniture that can be refinished, painted, or brought up-to-date in other ways.  New hardware can be transformative.  Plus, it’s a great way to recycle by finding new uses for old furniture pieces.

4. Shelves and bookcases are handy and useful to provide a place for kids to display their current favorite items, books, collections, etc.  They can be arranged and decorated in a variety of ways and will be useful for many years for kids of all ages.  The possibilities here are endless for cost, decorating, uses, all the way to college age!  I love the component units that can be assembled one way for now then reconfigured later for a new wall or a different room.  There are so many options!

Some of these ideas are just as handy for other rooms in your home as well.  Need some ideas?  Check out Pinterest!  People post all kinds of things and ideas there.  Need a dresser or some shelving?  Check on eBay to see what someone else doesn’t need any more.  I sold a very nice computer armoire on eBay a few months ago.  The piece was just too big for my current space, but it worked perfectly for someone else who bought it and came to pick it up.  She’s thrilled with her new desk and I love my new space and smaller desk!

Good luck with your redecorating!  What a fun project for you and your child to work on together!


Setting the “Stage” to Sell Your Home

It’s been proven that “staging” a home when selling can improve its appeal to potential buyers.   But what if you’re still living in your home while it’s on the market?  How can you “stage” a home to look appealing to buyers while you still have to make it work for your family and your life?   Model homes look like model homes because they don’t have to adapt to everyday living!  So what if instead of “staging” your home–which kind of implies a false setting–you make some changes that will present a lifestyle that buyers are looking for?  As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, so let’s talk about a few details that can create a positive impression without undue inconvenience.

Some of these “details” may involve some investment of time and money up front, but they will pay dividends down the road by making your home appealing and memorable.  There are really 3 things that sell a home:  correct pricing/placement in the market, good marketing of the home, and a well-prepared, detailed home.    Your real estate professional can and should be the expert for the first two, but the third one is in  your hands,  Mr. Homeowner!  So how can you boost the appeal of your home?  Here are 5 things that are at the top of a buyer’s list:

1. Curb Appeal.  The first thing a buyer sees.  People do judge a book by its cover, so yours should be appealing and well-maintained.  You don’t have to have a lush landscape, but a trimmed and neat yard, some seasonal color, and a freshly painted front door with a neat front porch will invite buyers to come inside.

2. First Impressions–now that you’ve gotten them to the front door, make that first impression when they open the door a memorable one!   Welcome visitors inside with a clean, decluttered entry.  If possible, add a mirror so buyers can literally “see” themselves in your home.  Fresh flowers or a nice plant create warmth, and remember to appeal to the sense of smell also with a subtle air freshener.  Consider a natural scent such as cinnamon or vanilla.  Stay away from strong florals.  All these small tricks involve minimal expense and trouble for you, but create a welcoming feeling for a buyer.

3. Kitchen–kitchens sell homes.  That’s a fact.  And updated, clean kitchens are a must in today’s competitive market.  It goes without saying that  your kitchen should be clean and clutter-free.  Take all the artwork and magnets off your fridge.  Put away all the counter clutter.  Clean out your pantry, drawers, and cabinets inside to give the impression of plenty of storage–buyers will open them so be sure they’re neat and tidy.  Appliances should be clean inside and out.  If your kitchen is dated and you prefer not to invest in a total kitchen makeover, consider small changes like updated cabinet hardware and/or a new kitchen faucet.  These will help make your kitchen look modern and more up-to-date and do not involve major expense or work.

4. Bathrooms–another place where updating makes a difference.  Updating fixtures and hardware works well here as well as in the kitchen.  These small additions give a buyer a feeling of being “move-in ready”, even if they may want to do some more serious updating down the road.  Bathrooms are more of a “personal space” than perhaps any other room in the house, so de-personalize as much as possible by removing counter clutter and other personal items.  Put away your cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, and potions so that the room looks more spacious and also so buyers don’t feel like they’re invading your personal space.

5. Furniture placement.  Remove some larger pieces that are just occupying space.  Open the room and make sure that furniture placement improves flow rather than impedes it.  By editing down your furniture and accessories, you help buyers picture their own things in a room.  Put away or pack up pictures, personal items, collections, etc.  You’ll have to do it eventually anyway, so do it now and make your home more appealing.  You want buyers to be looking at your home, not your personal belongings!
Most buyers today are looking for a home that suits their lifestyle and that is ready to go.  Many do not have the time, money, or expertise to invest in expensive fix-ups before they move in, so even if those things are in the plans for the future, they want something they can live with right away.  If you have strong colors in every room, consider toning them down with a fresh coat of paint in a more neutral color.   Create a neutral palette so that buyers can adapt your home to their own lifestyles.

By investing a little time and a little money in some or all of these details, you’ll improve your chances for finding that buyer quickly and getting your home sold for the best possible price!

Good luck!


Summer time = be-safe-time!

Welcome to good ol’ summertime!  Although it’s now “official” since we had our longest day of the year last week, it’s been summer in San Antonio for awhile now, and the dog days are just getting started!  We all like to relax and enjoy some leisure time, but this is not the time to be lax on safety!  Of course,  we all are on guard about water safety, sunscreen, staying hydrated, and all the other things concerning our physical safety and that of our families!  But have you considered your financial safety?

Summer time means vacation for many folks and that puts travelers at increased risk.  Traveling means shopping, eating out, checking into hotels, and these are the locations thieves frequent to steal your personal information!  Here are some tips to remember so you’ll stay safe as you vacation and relax this summer:

Before you go:  Don’t post your travel plans on Facebook and social media sites–no need to advertise to thieves that your home is unoccupied for days!  And stop mail and newspaper delivery or arrange for a friend or neighbor to pick up for you so it’s not obvious to casual observers that no one’s home!   You might want to consider notifying your bank and credit card companies about your plans or set up alerts for unusual or excessive charges.  Also arrange for yard maintenance while you’re gone, including watering if you don’t want to come home to a brown yard!

What to take/not to take:  Travel light!  Do not carry all your credit cards.  Leave your social security card at home (safe and secure of course!).  Make copies of your passport and other travel documents.  Store phone numbers for your credit/debit card companies on your smartphone in case your wallet or purse is stolen.

While you’re traveling:  Use only secure internet connections in hotels and other public places.  If you must use public Wi-Fi or computers, do not access financial information or other personal sites on these unsecured connections.   If you’re carrying valuables, lock them up in the hotel safe.  That includes your passport, jewelry, electronics, other important documents.   Keep all your receipts.

When you return:  Cross check your receipts against your bank and credit card statements.  Remember to start your mail and newspaper deliveries back up!   Enjoy the memories you made with your family and friends and start planning for next year!



It’s a Great Feeling!

Today I helped a buyer complete the purchase of a new home.  It was one of the craziest, came-out-of-nowhere, down-to-the-wire transactions I’ve ever done.  And at the end of the day, it was one of the most satisfying!

This buyer called in to the office when I was on floor duty 3 weeks ago.  She called about a house she saw with one of our company signs in the yard.  After I told her the price, number of bedrooms, etc., she wanted to go see it that afternoon because she was looking for a house she could afford that would allow her girls to stay in their same schools.  But when I tried to schedule the showing, I was informed that no showings were allowed–turns out the home had tenants who vacated in the middle of the night and left the house completely trashed!  The listing agent wanted to get it cleaned up and cleaned out before she let anyone in to see it.

That wasn’t going to work for this buyer–she needed to see it NOW, and I needed to show it now before leaving town!  We worked it out and I took her to see it.  It was a real mess!  One of the worst I’ve seen!  But the buyer was not deterred!  She wanted this house!  We made an offer, negotiated the terms, and it was accepted!  I leave town for 12 days!

While I was gone, the financing she was pre-approved for fell through.  Sent her to another lender.  He got her approved, but for a different kind of loan.  Then, because of her particular financial circumstances, the lender declared that she had to close the transaction by the end of May or she couldn’t qualify!  More negotiations, more paperwork revisions, more signatures required.  All this being done over the phone, long distance!  The lender assured me that he could get the job done in 2 weeks–keep in mind that most loan approvals and underwriting are taking 30-45 days!

Got inspections done, reviewed the report on my iPad, negotiated a repair to be done by seller.   Ordered appraisal.  Got back to town after 12 days, everything progressing, closing set for May 29.

Noon on May 29–paperwork from lender not ready, move closing to May 30.  Amendment required to extend closing; Amendment prepared, drove across town for signature, sent to listing agent for sellers, finally got it back with all parties’ approval by 9:30 pm!

May 30, closed late in the afternoon, waited over an hour for funding approval, finally got it!

Buyer gets the keys to her new home!!  She’s so excited and so are her girls!   Warm fuzzies all around!

I so love helping someone find and purchase a home!  And when that buyer has to overcome obstacles but is so determined to do so and I get to be a small part of that process, it’s just the best feeling ever!

There’s no place like home!!

Boomerangs and Sandwiches

I just read an article that got me thinking–about families and changes.  You’re probably familiar with the description of “boomerang kids”–the adult kids who go off to school or to pursue a career, and then, for whatever reason, boomerang back to live with mom and dad.  Well, according to this article, there’s a new set of boomerangs starting to  emerge–boomerang moms (or dads)!  These new boomerangers are helping make their kids into the sandwich generation–sandwiched in between caring for their own children and their aging parents.  It’s something that all of you in your 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s should think about and possibly plan for.





The Boomer generation (I’m in there) has just started hitting 65–the first wave hit that milestone in 2011.  Boomers are one of the largest demographic groups, and we have set trends and been agents of change all our lives.  Most boomers are living longer, in better health, and are more active than our own parents and grandparents were at our age.  But as we age, time will catch up with us, eventually!  Boomer parents may reach a point where they need help around the house, have ongoing health issues, or want to be near to family.  There are also financial issues to consider, as cost of living and medical care increases.

One solution–let your boomer parents boomerang back to live with you!  A multi-generational household can be a benefit for all the generations.  Certainly there will be things to discuss, guidelines and boundaries to establish, finances to work out.  But it’s certainly an option that should be considered as parents age.  I hope it’s something that can at least be discussed among all the parties involved.  I think it’s worth the effort.  If everyone is willing to be flexible and seek solutions, it will be life-changing for all involved.

I think this trend will start to be reflected in housing.  I think we’ll be seeing more homes being built or remodeled with additional “master” bedrooms that have a separate bath.  More universal design and 1-story living areas will be popular.  You’ll see more adaptations for limited mobility, safety, comfort, and ease of use.   Many cities, San Antonio among them, are seeing a renewed interest in older neighborhoods that are closer to the city–a move back from the suburbs.  I think this trend will continue so that transportation options are available for family members who may not need to/want to/ be able to drive but who need to/want to be close to medical facilities, entertainment, services.  It will be interesting to see how these trends develop over the next years.

What are your thoughts on this topic?   Are you “sandwiched”?  Will you be a “boomerang”?  Do you need to adjust your living space?



For Home Sellers–How to Turn Off Your Buyers!

Are you selling your home?   It can be a daunting task in today’s market!  So many things to do, so many things to take into consideration!  There’s a lot of competition out there.  In many markets (although not as much in San Antonio), buyers are in the driver’s seat!  You have to work hard to attract them to your house when everyone else is doing the same thing!  So, you certainly don’t want to do all that work and then turn them off!  Here are 3 things many sellers do that turn buyers away.  If you’re guilty, then change what you’re doing!

1. Hanging around when buyers are trying to view your home.  These days, smart buyers do their homework in advance before they go out to actually look at a home.  If you’ve made their list of homes to view, congratulations!  Now get out of the way so they can see it!  When you, the seller, are present in the home–even if you’re off in your study or outside on the back porch–it intrudes on the buyer and his agent.  You’re in their “space” so to speak.  They won’t be comfortable opening cabinets or closets, discussing the home, taking their time to look.  And when you’re there, it’s hard for them to envision themselves there–your presence says it’s your home; the idea is for them to think of it as their home, and that won’t happen if they know you’re lurking around, so get out!  Take a walk, visit a neighbor, or just get in the car and go park a couple of blocks away and read a book or make some phone calls.  Just physically leave!

2. Showing a messy house.   This is hard–I know, I’ve done it!  After all, you, the seller, are still living in your house!  And if you have a family and/or pets living with you, it’s even more challenging!  But, again, you have lots of competition for those buyers.  Keeping things clean and straight is not fun, but it’s absolutely necessary!  You have to get up every morning believing that today may be the day that the right person comes to see your house!  You have to be ready for him/her.  As a Realtor, I’ve seen some things that first make me shudder, then make me wonder if these people are serious about selling their house!  In a word, ewwww!  Don’t be that seller!

3. Overpricing your house.   This is the big one!  These days, you have to be competitively priced just to get them to consider looking at your home.  And if they do, you better deliver the value they expect for what you’re asking!   Buyers have a lot of challenges in today’s market to qualify for and obtain financing.  If your home is overpriced for its size, location, and condition, they’ll just check it off their list and move on the the next one.   You’re out of the running before they even see it.

Don’t make these mistakes!  If you’re ready to sell your home, there are lots of good reasons to do so, but I strongly recommend that you talk to a real estate professional and let them guide you around these common errors!  If you’re in San Antonio, call me (210-363-9282)–together, we can make it happen!

Wishing you success!

Sue Trautner

Risk Determines Rate

Regardless of what a lender quotes on mortgage rates, the actual rate paid by a borrower is based on a number of variables. Lenders determine whether to loan money and at what rate based on the risk involved with the transaction.

Factors that increase the risk that the loan will be repaid will proportionately increase the interest rate charged to the borrower. If the risk becomes too high, the loan will not be approved.

  • Loan amounts – conventional loans for more than the conforming limits set by Fannie Mae are considered jumbo loans and generally have a higher interest rate.
  • FICO score – the lowest interest rate is reserved for the highest credit scores; the lower the score, the higher the rate borrower will pay.
  • Occupancy – borrowers occupying a home as their principal residence are considered a better loan risk than second homes and investment properties.
  • Loan purpose – purchase transactions generally have the lowest interest rate while refinancing a home is generally higher.
  • Debt-to-Income ratio – a borrower’s monthly liabilities divided by their gross monthly income develops a ratio that helps lenders to assess the borrower’s ability to repay the mortgage.
  • Loan-to-Value ratio – the lower the percentage of the loan to the appraised value of the property will generally lower the interest rate.
Any combination of these factors could limit a borrower’s ability to secure a mortgage at the rate initially quoted. Being pre-approved by a trusted mortgage professional is the best way to know what rate you can expect to pay. Please call me–I will be happy to refer you to several of my favorite mortgage professionals so that you  can talk to someone who can help you and give you sound advice.