Mortgage Rates and Home Values

Click on the link below to read how some experts are predicting the impact of rising mortgage rates on home values.  Basically, as rates rise, and they are and probably will continue to during 2017, some buyers will be forced out of the market.  With fewer buyers, sellers may see a slowdown in activity when trying to sell their homes.  This could have the impact of slowing down appreciation in home values and prices.

Bottom line–if you’re thinking of selling, don’t wait to get  your home on the market!  Demand, at least in San Antonio, is strong right now, so take advantage of it and get in the game!

Call me for an analysis of your home in today’s market and to get the ball rolling!

Sue Trautner, BHHS PenFed Realty



Rental Market is Tight!

Are you thinking about renting?  If you’re not quite ready to commit to purchasing a home, renting may be an option for you.  If that’s the case, here’s a bit of advice–be ready to make a decision NOW!

The rental market in San Antonio and other cities is tight, tight, tight!  Homes in certain areas, in good condition, do not stay on the market very long these days.  If you’re out looking at homes to rent and you find one you like, be prepared to submit an application and the required fees immediately!  If you like it, I can almost guarantee that others do too!   You may be competing with other applicants for a particular home, so your credit, your rental history, your employment status and history, and other things may play a strong role in a landlord’s decision on whose application gets approved.

Before you start looking, get your records ready–pay stubs, employment verification, ID, etc.  Have money available for a money order, cashier’s check, or other certified funds.  If you have pets, take a picture and be prepared to submit that–some landlords are getting particular about what kinds of pets they’ll allow, which breeds, etc.

Keep in mind that all adults over 18 who will be living in the house need to submit a separate application, including the application fee.  Some landlords/property managers will give a fee concession to a married couple, but that’s an individual decision.  If you’re sharing with a roommate or someone who’s not your spouse, each person has to submit an application.  This includes adult kids who are still living at home.

If you’re working with a REALTOR®, and I hope you are, ask him or her to verify that the property is still available before you take your time and his or hers to go look.  As an agent, one of the biggest frustrations I encounter when showing homes is that the status has not been updated in the MLS.  A property shows as active, I show the home, the client wants to submit an application, and then we discover that there’s already an application in process.  Aarrgh!!  Sometimes no matter how hard I try to contact the listing agent, my calls are not returned so I have no way to know.  This seems to be especially true on weekends when most clients are available to look at homes!  It’s frustrating, so we just have to do the best we can, but ask  your REALTOR® to at least try to verify.

So, there are a few tips to make your rental search more productive.  There’s definitely competition out there!   Get yourself prepared and start your search!  Good luck!!

San Antonio Housing Forecast, 2012

I attended the San Antonio Board of Realtors’ annual Housing Forecast on Jan. 5 to hear what may be in store for us in the coming year.  We heard from County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Julian Castro.  Both had lots of positive things to say about San Antonio and what’s happening in and around the city.  Mayor Castro called this the Decade of Downtown.  Lots of development happening in the downtown and surrounding areas, in residential and commercial.  San Antonio has a growing young urban population who want to live near the urban center of town and want to be able to work and play nearby.

We also heard from the current and immediate past Presidents of the Greater San Antonio Builders’ Association.  Both shared that they expect housing starts to tick upward in 2012, although not to the levels we saw in years past.  Builders are seeing a lot of activity in the higher-end price ranges and in areas farther out, since many of the neighborhoods closer in to 1604 are built out and fewer lots are available.   Their development costs to bring new lots online have increased also and some of those increases are being passed along in the price of houses.  They said that they were finding it a little easier to obtain financing for spec houses than they’ve seen in the last few years.

San Antonio’s number of sales and median price has seen a slight increase in 2011 and we expect that to continue into 2012.

There is one part of the residential market that has seen dramatic increases and those increases are expected to continue through 2012 and likely beyond–the rental market.  There are several reasons for that increase.  Mortgage lending requirements continue to be strict and are making it difficult for first-time buyers to qualify for the loan they need to purchase a home.  Uncertainty in the job market may also be keeping some folks from making the commitment to buy a home.  For these reasons and other personal considerations, many are choosing to rent for now.  So what does that mean?  It’s a great time to invest in rental housing!  If you are looking for a place to invest that provides tax advantages and where your money can grow and the value of your investment will appreciate, and the cost of acquisition (mortgage rates) is at historic lows, this is the time to buy!

Our other speaker, economist Dr. Jim Gaines from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M, shared some stats with us and confirmed that Texas is the #1 state for job growth.  He also showed us some numbers and graphics that demonstrated the growth of urban areas in the state–the triangle that includes Dallas/Ft.Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio.  That’s where the population is going and that’s where the growth is.  Texas has changed over the last 10-20 years from a rural state into a young urban state.  We have a large percentage of immigrant population, primarily Hispanic, who bring their own vibrancy to our cities.

One thing we hear about in the media is the looming “shadow inventory” of foreclosed homes that are poised to hit the market.  We are expecting some of that here and when those homes do come on the market, they will put downward pressure on home prices and home values in the neighborhoods they’re in.   Thankfully, we don’t have the volume to deal with that other areas do, and we hope those homes will sell quickly when they do enter the market, but sellers will have to deal with the effects for awhile.

Dr. Gaines did also point out that for all the job growth and other positive indicators in Texas and San Antonio, we are not immune to the national and international economic trends.  He also stated that many economic factors are going nowhere until after the Presidential elections.  Everyone is waiting to see what’s going to happen before they make major moves to expand, hire, move, etc.  So, expect 2012 to be mostly more of the same from 2011, with slight increases.  Texas and SanAntonio have been fortunate to not have experienced the high highs followed by the low lows that other areas of the country have seen.  We are slow and steady and we are doing fine!

Here’s to a great 2012!


San Antonio housing market–strong and steady!

San Antonio Board of Realtors released stats for October, 2011 recently.  Here’s part of the report:

“The average sales price for single-family residential homes
registered at $182,304 in October 2011, while the month’s
median price was $149,500. Both figures are a one percent
decrease from October 2010.
“This is the only decline we’ve seen in prices all year,” says Angela
Shields, President and Chief Executive Officer of SABOR. “Over the
course of the year, our prices have shown an increase and those
figures are more depictive of the big picture.”
Year-to-date, the average price ($186,815) and median price
($152,400) have seen a one and two percent increase
Forbes Magazine recently named San Antonio the best city in the
nation for jobs, citing strong employee bases in a diverse roster of

In summary, the housing market in San Antonio remains strong and steady.  We have jobs and job growth here, we have a healthy 7-month inventory of unsold homes, builders are being conservative and replacing sold homes but not flooding the market with spec homes.  Interest rates are low, and we just got news that Congress has restored the FHA loan limits to their higher amounts, which is great news for San Antonio home buyers since many of our sales are done with FHA financing!

As the figures above indicate, average and median prices are down 1% in October from a year ago, but that is reflective of an overall increase in the number of home sales, and in more modest price ranges than just the upper end of the scale.

What does this mean for San Antonio home buyers and sellers?  It means that now is the time to get serious!   Indications are that foreclosed properties may be hitting the market in 2012 in greater numbers.  San Antonio has not had the number of foreclosures that other markets have suffered, but we do have some, and when large numbers come on the market, they tend to drive down prices for other homes.  So, if you’re selling your home, you should not wait to put it out there!  People do buy homes during the holidays, and those that are looking now are serious!   Be sure yours is available to potential buyers!

For home buyers, although interest rates remain very low, qualification for loans continues to be a challenge as loan requirements have tightened.  Other loan fees have also been added and/or raised, so the cost of borrowing has increased and indications are that that trend will continue.  So, if you’re thinking of buying and plan to finance the purchase, start the process now!  Waiting may end up costing you more!

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my tips and ideas with you!

All the best,
Sue Trautner

Rent or Buy?

This is a big question!  There are no right or wrong answers–only what’s best for you in your current situation.  But, if you’re wrestling with that question and trying to make a decision, here are a couple of things to consider.  Knowledge is power, and the more you have, the better equipped you are to make a decision.

1. Mortgage rates are still very low, but are not likely to stay that way forever!

2. Inventory of available homes, at least in San Antonio, is good.

3. Average home price in San Antonio is $191,750, as of May, 2011 (latest stats available).  This represents a 5.6% increase from April, 2011.  Expect that to continue.

4. As home prices rise, even slowly, you may be able to afford less and less home.

5. If you’re currently renting or thinking about renting a home, keep this in mind–as a renter, you’re still a home buyer; you’re just buying for someone else!  Why not put your rent money toward purchasing your own home rather than your landlord’s?

6. Our market here in San Antonio is pretty balanced between sellers and buyers, with a slight tilt in favor of buyers.  Sellers are still willing to negotiate to help make a sale, so this is a good time to take advantage of that willingness.  It has not always been that way, and will not continue indefinitely!

7. When you’re ready to become a homeowner, call me!  Sue Trautner, 210-363-9282.



San Antonio won the BRAC lottery!

For any community that has a military base, the letters B R A C are very scary!  They can mean base closings, job losses, related business closings, loss of city revenue, and all manner of  things that most city leaders don’t want to have to contemplate, much less deal with!

2005 saw some BRAC activity (Base Realignment and Closing).   San Antonio went through the pain when Kelly AFB was closed.  With Ft. Sam Houston, Lackland AFB, and Randolph AFB all here, we worried about what might happen.  Something happened all right–San Antonio won the BRAC lottery!!

I attended a program last week put on by our San Antonio Board of Realtors.  Our speaker, Chief Master Sergeant Kevin Lambing, USAF, gave us an update on progress of the Medical Education and Training Campus that’s currently in progress here.

The military is currently in the middle of approximately $3 billion in construction projects going on at Ft. Sam Houston and the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC).  These projects include new construction as well as renovations to existing buildings.  When all is complete, 81,000 personnel will have come into town and 18,100 jobs will have been created!  All this in support of the creation of the Military Medical Center.  Going forward, all military medical personnel will be trained here at BAMC–from all branches of the military.

We will have a Medical Education and Training Campus with 8000 students by September, graduating 24,000 students a year to work in the medical field as support staff in all specialities and all branches of the military.  The Center will include 1400 instructors.  It is the largest educational consolidation in U.S. military history!

Ft. Sam will also be home to the Battlefield Health and Trauma Institute.

In all, there will be 42 new facilities built around BAMC–all state-of-the-art in everything, approximately 2.6 million square feet of space!

These military medical personnel are the best at what they do!  They care for soldiers wounded in battle and get them home safely.  Did you know that if field personnel can get a wounded soldier to a field hospital alive, he or she has a 98% chance of survival?  I call those pretty darn good odds!

Of course, Ft. Sam is already home to the Center for the Intrepid, which helps severely wounded soldiers recover and resume their lives.  It’s also home to a remarkable facility called the Warrior and Family Support Center, which assists the wounded soldiers and their families in adjusting to their new normals.  It also provides a place to relax and get away from all the rehab and just enjoy themselves.  One of the organizations I’m involved with–the Texas Chapter of Certified Residential Specialists–raises funds for this Center so we can stock their kitchen and provide other things to help them just be who they are–young men and women!

The courage and dedication of our military folks and their families is always inspiring.  I’m glad to see some of my tax dollars being spent to support them and train them to help their fellow military brothers and sisters!

Sticker shock, part 2

At the end of the day, I’ve decided that most decisions come down to 2 things–time or money.  Spend one and save the other.  We all have our own priorities about which is more valuable in any particular decision-making process.  In my earlier post on Sticker Shock, the priority is money, so the tips I shared were more about spending some extra time on tasks in order to save some money.  Today’s tips continue that “investment strategy”.  Plus, they encourage and enable you to “go green” in small ways and reduce your “footprint”.  So here are some more tips you probably already know, but may not be doing!

Buy in bulk. If you shop at Sam’s Costco, or other big warehouses, it’s easy–that’s all they offer you!  But even in your regular grocery store, you can take advantage of sales, coupons, and other promotions and stock up on non-perishable items when they’re on sale.  The trick is having space to store the extras until you need them!  So maybe that’s a project for a weekend–to clear out some space in a closet or your pantry to store extra canned goods, paper goods, school supplies, gift wrap, greeting cards, stamps, whatever.   Think of the time that can save you when you’re not having to make a desperation run to the store for something

Buy in season. Thanks to the food industry, we can buy pretty much whatever produce we want all year long.  But prices certainly go up when you’re buying “summer fruit” in the winter.  If you buy what’s seasonally grown, it’s fresher and cheaper.  This is easy to do if you take advantage of  local Farmer’s markets in your area.  The Pearl Farmer’s Market in San Antonio is a favorite of mine and is getting more popular by the week!  They’ve even added a Wednesday market to meet the demand.  Check it out or find one near you.  You’ll help local farmers, get the freshest food for your table, and avoid a lot of the pesticides and other chemicals that are used to preserve what you find at the grocery store.  And locally grown usually just tastes better too!

Grow your own and do what your grandma (or great-grandma) did. You can’t get much fresher than picking tomatoes or squash or cucumbers or whatever from your own  garden!  Even if your garden is small and/or grown in pots, you’re likely to have more than you can use right away.  So grow it and “put it up” like our grandmothers (or great-grandmothers) did.  You can freeze it, dry it, can it, dehydrate it.  Or you can buy in bulk when things are on sale or in good supply at the farmers’ market and do the same thing.  A friend of mine has a peach tree in her backyard.  Last summer, it produced over 50 pounds of delicious peaches!  She and her husband made peach butter and peach preserves, they froze peaches, ate peaches, gave away peaches all summer long!  I still have 2 baggies of frozen peaches from what she gave me.  And the tree’s in bloom again!

Clean green. You can save big here!  White vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, borax–these are just some of the things you can use to clean your house that will save you money and help the environment.  They will also reduce your family’s exposure to chemicals and other substances that can trigger allergies and can potentially cause harm to the environment.  There are lots of articles on the internet about how to “clean green”.  The supplies you need are inexpensive and go a long way.  Plus, they do the job. sometimes even better than commercial cleaners!  I find that running a bottle of vinegar through a cycle in my coffee maker works better and cheaper than the “coffee maker cleaners” I’ve used in the past.  And it doesn’t take any more time to use than the ones in a package.  What’s not to like?

So there you have some ideas to help control that sticker shock when you check out at the grocery store!  I hope you find some ideas that you can put into practice and that will work for you and your family!  Good luck, and let me know what other ideas you have–I’d love to share!




Sticker shock at the grocery store!

I’m an empty nester.  I love being an empty nester!  Life is a lot less frantic as an empty nester.  I have fond memories of the years when my nest was full, but absolutely an empty nest = a more relaxed lifestyle!  I don’t have to cook 3 meals a day for a family of 6 any more.  So, you’d think that I wouldn’t need to buy as much at the grocery store and that my monthly expenses would be way down in that category, right?  Wrong!!  I’m always shocked when my tab rings up in the $80-100 range each week (depending on whether or not I’m getting paper goods and other non-food items).   How does that keep happening???  Food prices are up so that’s part of it, and I do indulge in a few things I don’t really need, so that’s part of it too.  But every time I get that total, I wonder how much higher would that number would be if I was still feeding a family???  Yikes!

If you’re having that sticker shock too when you go to the grocery store, here are a few tips that might help trim that total a little bit.  You probably already know all these, but maybe you’re not really doing them (like me!)  Hope you find something that’s useful!

1. Make a plan and a list before you go!This tip helps tremendously!  It will save you not only money when you shop, but the most precious thing of all–your time!  One of my daughters has done this faithfully for years, and she’s told me what a stress-reliever it is to know what’s for dinner before she leaves the house in the morning!  If something needs to thaw, it comes out of the freezer and into the fridge the night before.  If meat needs to marinate, it does so all day.  There’s no mad scramble when everyone gets home and kids need to do homework, and everyone’s tired, and everyone’s hungry, and everything’s crazy!  Whoever’s in charge of dinner can get things going quickly and get dinner ready so that everyone can get on with their evening activities.  No scrambling to throw something together with whatever’s in the fridge/pantry–the decisions have been made and all necessary ingredients have been purchased and are ready to go!

2. Do your own prep work! It’s tempting to purchase  fruits and veggies already peeled and cut; or to buy meats already prepared to just heat up; or to get prepared foods from the deli or chef’s case.  Sometimes that’s a necessary solution in a real time crunch.  But if you do that on a regular basis, you’re really paying a lot for someone else to do the work.  It’s pretty easy to peel and chop your own onions, cut up a whole chicken instead of paying a premium for boneless chicken breasts, or doubling a recipe and freezing the extras for another day.  The savings add up!

3. Do your own cooking! Cooking from scratch seems to be almost a lost art!  Most people (and I’m guilty of this too!) “assemble” a meal, they don’t really cook it.  Cooking involves taking food from the raw state to the serving.  Re-heating something, cooking a frozen entree, opening a can, or putting together some combination of the preceeding, is not cooking, it’s assembling!  Learn to cook and do it on a regular basis.  Not only is it more economical (fast food may be fast, but it’s not cheap!), it’s potentially healthier (if you’re not frying everything!).  When you cook from scratch, you control what goes into the meal you serve and you can do it without all the chemicals and additives that pre-prepared food contains.  It’s not hard to do–can you read?  Then you can follow a recipe!  Try it sometime!  Here’s an easy one to get you started:

Slow-Roasted Garlic and Lemon Chicken (adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe)–this one is good to make when you have time and then use extra chicken for other meals:

1 whole chicken, cut up–leave skin on
1 head garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves
2 unwaxed lemons, cut into chunky eighths
small handful fresh thyme (or use dried)
3 T. olive oil
1/2-1/3 c. white wine (I buy those 4-packs of small bottles and use 1 whole bottle)
pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 300.  Put chicken pieces into a roasting pan.  Add garlic cloves, lemon chunks, and thyme; add oil and mix everything together.  Spread misture out, making sure chicken pieces are skin-side up.  Sprinkle wine over all and grind pepper over.  Cover lightly with foil and bake for 2 hours.

Remove foil from pan.  Increase oven temp to 400 and cook uncovered for another 30-45 minutes until skin is golden brown.  Serve from the pan.  Chicken will be super tender and juicy, falling off the bone.  Use leftovers for soup, casseroles, or other recipes.  Be sure to use good lemons and fresh garlic for best flavor and wonderful aroma!


I have a couple more tips, but I’ll save them for next time!   Try these and see if they make a difference when you check out.  I’m going to–I’ll let you know if I see a difference!



For History Buffs–like me!

I was a history major in college–many years ago!  Didn’t start out with that intention, but the very first class I attended as a freshman was American History and the professor was so engaging, I was hooked!   History, I have found, is an interesting and important subject.  And there are two noteworthy “anniversaries” of historical events happening this year!

First, did you know that 2011 is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War?  I studied a lot about the Civil War because it was the specialty of that professor I liked so much.  The Civil War was a landmark event in our country’s history and its effects and aftermath are still being felt 150 years later.

Second, and of even greater significance here in Texas and San Antonio, 2011 is the 175th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo!!   Texas is the only state that has been an independent “country” of its own prior to joining the United States.  Did you realize that our state constitution allows for the possibility of reclaiming that independence?  Gov. Perry rattles that chain every now and then, but I don’t think he’ll actually do it!   But, if you’re in San Antonio, look for some activity at the Alamo–March 6–Remember the Alamo!!

Coming up in early April–Fiesta San Antonio!!  Fiesta commemorates the Battle of San Jacinto, where Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836–it’s a 10-day citywide party!!  More about that later!

San Antonio job market looking good for 2011!

Job growth is what drives the housing market.  When jobs are available and new ones are being created or brought in, people buy homes!  So, it stands to reason that cities with jobs have a stable housing market.  Here’s a quote from former San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros:

“We should do very well this year,” Cisneros said. “San Antonio is one of the hottest cities out there. San Antonio is enjoying the highest profile it has ever had.”

I love to see things like this!  And I love to see this information getting out to the public.  San Antonio is a great place to be right now.  It’s always been great, but the word is getting  around and folks are starting to really pay attention!  And our growth is the good kind–sustainable, diverse, and steady.  No rocket rides that zoom to the top and fall back down.  One foot in front of the other, eyes on the goal, and getting there day by day, year by year.  And now, it’s being noticed!
So, jobs are coming into San Antonio, the Spurs are winning, it’s all good!  I love living in San Antonio!