2012 appears to be more encouraging on the home front!

If you recall, last year FHA, in all its wisdom, announced intentions to drastically reduce the maximum seller concessions from 6% to 3%. Not good news for buyers, sellers or the industry in general. So many transactions rely on FHA and seller contributions, and couldn’t happen without them.
Well the troops mobilized with voices from lenders, Realtors, builders and consumers, and HUD wants you to know they’re listening. The details haven’t been finalized, but word is out that there will be higher seller concessions allowed than originally proposed. They’re talking between 4 and 5% rather than 3%. Stay tuned for the formal announcement intended to offer a good compromise for continued recovery of our fragile economy, and protection for the FHA insurance fund.
More good news yesterday from the Federal Reserve. They plan on expanding the time frame to keep the prime rate very low, through at least the end of 2014!  (Thanks to my colleague, Joan Rogliano in Colorado for sharing this with me!)
What does this mean for you?  If you’re thinking about buying, rates are low, homes are available, and rents are probably going to increase, so it’s time to get serious!  If you’re going to put your home on the market, be prepared for the possibility that a buyer may request your help with closing costs.  Remember–your goal is to sell your home, and if this is what it takes, then get in the game!
In San Antonio, we are pretty evenly balanced between sellers and buyers with approximately 6.5 months of inventory; our market is stable, so don’t hesitate to jump in!

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

San Antonio Real Estate Update

Well, it seems I’ve broken the first rule of blogging–being consistent with posting!  April’s been a crazy month, but it’s over now so back to business!  Did you watch the royal wedding?  I thought it was beautiful and memorable, but I’ve seen/heard enough already!

How about an update on what’s happening in the San Antonio real estate market?  It’s good news!  These figures come from the San Antonio Board of Realtors and are compiled from our Multiple Listing Service reports.  The latest figures available are from March–April will be out soon. As of the end of the 1st quarter of 2011, we’ve seen sales of 3,575 homes.  This is a slight decrease from the same period of 2010, but the decrease is due mostly to the fact that during this same period last year, buyers were taking advantage of the tax credit, which is no longer available.  Sales from this first quarter exceeded the same period in 2009, so that’s good news!

More good news–our average price for a single-family home is up 4% to $180,443.  Median price of a home is also up 4% to $148,000.  This reflects what has proven to be one of the strengths of the San Antonio market–slow and steady appreciation without all the high highs followed by the low lows experienced in other areas. We continue to buck the national trend which is seeing a decrease in home prices in many areas.

We currently have 8 months of inventory.  6 months is considered a balanced market, so we’re still in a buyer’s market, but not in the extreme.

Interest rates continue to stay low so this is still a wonderful time to consider becoming a homeowner.  Prospective buyers still have to qualify and lenders have tightened their qualifications, but if you have good credit, there are lenders out there who will work with you to help you get into a home.  Contact me–I’m happy to direct you to someone who can help you line up financing.

We’re moving into our busy spring and summer season, so if you’ve been thinking about selling, this is the time to get serious about it.  Please contact me for an analysis of your home and how to get it ready for the market.  Buyers are waiting for you!

We’re so lucky to live in the beautiful city of San Antonio!  If you’re not here, you should be!  If you are, lucky you!  Hope you have a wonderful May!



Home Sellers, a picture is worth 1000 words!

Are you selling your home?  Is it currently on the market?  Are you working with a realtor?  If so, then your home is most likely featured on several websites.  Question for you–have you looked at your house online?

Statistics show that over 85% of buyers start their home searches online.  Before they ever even think about contacting a realtor, they’re out there, searching and looking online for homes in neighborhoods they like, in a price range they’re comfortable with, with amenities that they want.  Are they finding your home, Mr. and Mrs. Seller?  And if they are, what are they seeing?

This question comes out of a conversation I had with several other realtors about property photos online.  We were all talking about our frustration when we’re searching our MLS for properties to show our buyer clients.  We enter our clients’ search criteria–price, neighborhood, sq. ft., bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.–and pull up a list of homes that meet the criteria.  We then start looking at individual listings and almost always we find at least one, sometimes more, that have no photo or maybe just 1 or 2 photos.  Arrrgh!!

MLS systems vary from association to association.  The San Antonio Board of Realtors MLS allows us to include up to 25 pictures per listing, and our MLS rules state that every listing must include at least 1 current photo.  That photo must be a true representation of the property.  So, Mr. & Mrs. Seller, why does your property only have 3-4 pictures?

Buyers always like to see photos of the inside of a home, particularly the kitchen, bathroom(s), and living area(s).  So, do your property photos include these rooms?  And how do they look?   Do they look dark and gloomy like this one? 

Is your kitchen counter full of clutter?  Are there dishes and/or food all over them?  How about the TV?  Did your realtor take a picture of the living room with your TV on in living color?  And the bathroom–are there towels on the floor or is your laundry basket visible?    In the words of one of my clients who saw pictures like these–“Ewwwww!!”  At the very least, your home should be neat and tidy for photos, not like this one:

Has your home been on the market for awhile?  You’re not alone!  Most homes for sale are taking longer to find a buyer and when they go under contract, buyers are finding the loan approval process taking longer to complete.  And if a bank sale is involved, even longer!  The point is–if your home and its photos have been out there more than30-45 days, take another look.   As the season is changing, the exterior may be looking different now, hopefully for the better!  Pictures taken when leaves are off the trees and yards/landscape are brown should be refreshed to show your home to best advantage.  And, if your home’s photos were first taken during the holidays when you had a Christmas tree in the living area, change the photo!!  NOW!  Do you really want to make such a bold statement about how long your home has been for sale???  That information is readily available to other realtors, but you don’t have to make it so easy for the public to figure out!

I could go on and on.  The point I’m getting at, for all you sellers out there, is that you need to be aware of how your home is being presented online.  Ask your realtor for a preview of the online photos and comments he/she is going to post.  Look at the pictures with a buyer’s eyes.  If you were looking online at your house, would you be interested in learning more about it? If not, then ask your realtor to make some changes.  Digital photos can be cropped, lightened, enlarged, and tweaked any number of ways these days.  But sometimes, new photos are necessary.  Maybe it was a gray day when those exterior pictures were taken, or maybe you didn’t realize that the room would look so dark, or that your dog was in the way.  Most Realtors are not professional photographers.  We do our best, but we don’t always have the most sophisticated equipment or the skills to figure out the best angles.  But there are some things even a non-professional should know better than to include in property photos–like this picture that has the realtor in the picture taking the picture!  Flash!!

Remember what your mom used to say–You never get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression!  Be sure your home’s first impression is a good one!

San Antonio Real Estate Market Update

The San Antonio Board of Realtors has released MLS statistics for February, 2011, and it’s good news for San Antonio! Stats show that the average price for a single-family home in San Antonio in February, 2011 was $179,035.  This represents a 5% increase over the same month last year!  This shows the strength and affordability of San Antonio’s housing market.  While many markets are still experiencing a decrease in home prices, which are way higher than this to begin with, our market continues its steady growth. And with an average home price below $180,000, San Antonio remains among the most stable and affordable places to buy a home.

Interest rates are still low.  Combine low interest rates, available inventory, affordable prices, a stable market, and job growth driving economic recovery in the area and you have a combination that cannot be beat for buying a home!  Owning a home is still part of the American dream, and 85% of the population views it favorably, according to the National Association of Realtors.  It’s the key for most families to building personal wealth.  Most folks who do not currently own a home aspire to do so at some point.

If you’re one of those who does not currently own a home but would like to, I strongly encourage you to see if this is the right time for you to make that move.  The cost to purchase a home is low right now.  There are options available for homebuyers.  If you’re a teacher, police officer, firefighter, military, a doctor, there are additional programs available to you.  If you have good credit but not a lot of cash, there are down payment assistance programs and other grants available through the city, state, and some federal programs.  If you have steady employment but have some credit issues, there are programs out there that can assist you too.

Bottom line–this is a good time to buy a home. If you have the will (and a job), there’s probably a way!  Talk to a real estate professional and a professional mortgage broker.  Let them help you–help is out there! And don’t wait–the process takes time, and the longer you wait to get started on the road to homeownership, the greater the chance that things will change and costs will increase.  That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be out of the game, but it may limit your options and choices.

Want to see what some of your options and choices might be?  Check out my website at www.SueTrautner.com and see what home prices are currently in the areas you’re interested in.  If you’re in the San Antonio area, contact me and I’ll help you get moving!  If not, contact me anyway, and I’ll put you in touch with someone in your area who can help you–I know great realtors all over the country!

If you own a home and need to or want to sell, there are tips for you on my website as well.  Our market is active and buyers are out there looking! Call me and I’ll be happy to discuss how to position your home so you can get it sold and get your move on as well!

We are so lucky to be in San Antonio!  Take advantage of our great real estate market in our great city!  Call me if/when I can help you!



San Antonio home sellers–5 things to think about NOW!

Are you “thinking about” selling your home?  Are you waiting for a sign that the time is right?  Well, to quote Bill Engvall, here’s your sign!  Actually, here are 5 signs why you should get your home on the market NOW!

First SignInterest rates are going up! I talked about this in a previous post a couple of days ago.  What does that mean for you, the seller?  It means that potential buyers now have higher costs to purchase a home and that these costs may impact their ability to qualify for a mortgage.  This could also get some buyers off the fence–that’s a good thing for now, but if rates keep going up, you may see fewer qualified buyers, which will have a negative impact on home prices.

Sign #2:  The home you want to buy is cheaper now than it will be later! When you get your current home sold, then you’ll be the buyer–see sign #1!!  Your cost to buy will go up, even if prices come down a little, and that will affect what you’re able to buy as well!

Third Sign:  The “season” has already started! We’ve always thought of the “spring season” as the time when more homes come on the market and more buyers are out looking.  Buyers are out there NOW!  Many of my real estate colleagues have had their busiest January and February ever, and it shows no sign of letting up.  Don’t you want to have your home on the market while buyers are actively searching?

#4:  Inventory will increase when spring comes! See #3–most folks are still waiting for the “spring season”.  When it comes, they’ll put their houses on the market and your competition will increase dramatically!

Sign #5:  We’re not out of the foreclosure woods just yet! San Antonio has not seen the huge numbers that other markets have had with foreclosures, but we have had our share, and there are more coming.  It’s hard to compete with a home that’s similar to yours in size, age, style, location, etc. when the competition is priced at loan value and yours is priced at market value !   And, foreclosure listings in your neighborhood or nearby cause a downward pressure on sellers like you when pricing your home.  Best to get in the game and sell your home before more of these properties show up to compete with you!

We’ve been and continue to be lucky here in San Antonio.  Our market is stable and steady, job growth is good, and the outlook is generally positive.  But we still are affected by national trends such as rising interest rates, tighter credit, stricter loan qualifications, etc.  No one can say for sure what’s going to happen with these trends or what else may come along that will affect housing.  If you’ve been “thinking about” selling your home, or waiting for the “right time”, then your waiting and thinking may be over.  Everyone’s particular situation is different, so why not sit down with a real estate professional and let him or her help you decide what’s best for you and your family? 

After all the crazy weather we’ve had the last couple of weeks, it almost feels like spring outside right now!  Call me and let’s sell your home!


Packing with Purpose and a Plan!

If a move is in your future, there’s no time like the present to start packing!  Sellers, you need to declutter and clean out anyway, so might as well get started!  Buyers, you have to pack up and get ready to move, so why not start now and make the process easier?  I’m going to share a few tips I learned over many years of moving from house to house–I was married to a custom home builder and we moved a lot!

Tip #1–Get Real! Moving costs money and takes time.  More stuff to move = more $ and more time to pack, move, unpack.  So get real–unless it’s a priceless family heirloom, if you haven’t used/worn/looked at something in the past year in your current home, odds are you won’t use/wear/look at it in your new one!  Get rid of it!  Sell it, donate it, give it to your kids/grandkids, toss it, but don’t take it with you.  This is even more important if you’re downsizing!

Tip #2–Plan Ahead! By starting early, you have the luxury of time–to think and plan.  I have found this to be one of the biggest time- and sanity-savers of all!  Take time to really study your new space and think about what’s going to go where.  Just because you’ve used a piece of furniture in a certain room in your current home doesn’t mean it has to be in that same room in your new home.  Example:  I lived in a lovely home with 2 living areas.  My formal living room had a sofa with 2 end tables.  Moved to a home with only 1 living area.  Sofa went to my daughter, end tables now in use in guest bedroom as night tables.  Keep what  you love the most and decide where to use it.

Tip #3–Pack Smart! Again, think about where things are going to go.  Pack your boxes for where you’ll be unpacking them.  And label them for the room they’re going into.  Be sure to label on the side of the box so if you have stacks, you can still see where to unpack.  I always used my linens to help wrap breakables.  Wrap your dishes in sheets and towels to protect them and keep them clean.  Oh, and see Tip #1!!

Tip #4–Pack a “need right away” box (or boxes)! Be sure you have at least 1 box that is packed with what you’re going to need to “set up house” on the first day.  Some dishes (could be disposable), glasses, silverware, cleaning supplies, bathroom necessities, sheets, towels, clean clothes, pet supplies, etc. to get you through the first couple of days before you get all unpacked.  If you’re moving long distance, you may get to your new home before the movers do, so bring what you’ll need to tide you over.  And, of course, be sure you carry your valuables, important papers, medications, etc. with you.  And be sure you’re prepared to pay the movers with certified funds if that’s what they require.  Never hurts to have some cash with you also for those unexpected expenses.

Tip #5–Keep a positive attitude! Moving can be stressful–things happen, no matter how well prepared you think you are. You gotta roll with the punches! Years ago, when we moved to San Antonio, I remember following my husband in the car while he drove a U-Haul truck containing all our worldly possessions.  All the way from Houston to San Antonio, I looked at the back of that truck where it said, “Adventure in Moving”.  It was an adventure all right!  Not my favorite kind, but it all turned out for the best!  And besides, we all need a few good “war stories” to share with friends!

So, prepare, plan, pack with purpose, and embrace the experience!  And have fun setting up your new household and starting a new chapter!  Good luck!!

(P.S.  Need a good realtor to help you with selling and/or buying?  Call me!  210-363-9282!)

Sue Trautner, REALTOR
Certified Residential Specialist

The Price is Right, right?

What’s the #1 seller-controlled attribute that determines a home’s “sell-a-bility”?  Price!   The first thing I learned as a new Realtor was that there are 4 things that sell a home:  location, price, condition, and terms.  The seller controls 3 of those and all can be addressed by the price.  Price trumps all!   So, time to play The Price is Right!  But only if you’re in it to win it–i.e. sell your home!

If you, the seller, are not willing to be realistic on pricing your home to sell, then you’re not really a seller.  That’s fine, but don’t expect your real estate professional to pull a rabbit out of his or her hat and find the magic buyer who’s going to buy your home!  And don’t be upset if your realtor is not willing to spend outrageous sums marketing your home when there’s little to no chance that those expenses will be recouped by the sale of your home.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating–when you put your home on the market, it becomes a product in the marketplace.  You, the seller, must be able to put aside your emotional attachment to your home and view it as a buyer will.  As with any product, you must be competitive in price to get a serious buyer interested in even looking.  Remember the quote in my previous post?  “It’s a price war to the door…”   If your home is overpriced, then buyers who may be interested won’t even look and those looking in the price range you set will not see your home as comparable to others in that price range.  Either way, you lose!

Setting a realistic and appropriate price is what a good realtor does well.  We know the market, we can show you what comparable homes in your neighborhood have sold for, and we know what today’s buyers are looking for and what they’re willing to pay extra for–or not!

If it’s been several years since you sold a home, things have changed a lot!  If you bought at the top of the market, you may not be able to get back what you put in.  Sorry, but that’s today’s reality.  We may not ever get back to the way things were a few years ago, so if you’re holding out for that, time to go to Plan B!

Good luck!  Home sales are going up, but price is still king!  2011 is looking to be a good year in San Antonio.  Contact me (click on Contact tab at the top) if I can help you with buying or selling your home!

Sue Trautner, CRS

Smart Home Fix-ups for Sellers

If you’re going to put your home on the market in the next few weeks/months, here are a few easy fix-ups that will make your home more attractive to buyers.  Note:  these things will make your home more “sellable”, not necessarily more “valuable”! There’s a difference!

Curb Appeal:  yard mowed, trees trimmed.  Add some mulch to planting beds.  Plant some seasonal color.  Power wash sidewalks, driveways and keep them clear of clutter.  Wash windows and make the front entry attractive with a clean front door–repaint if necessary–and fresh hardware.  Make sure door locks work smoothly and doorbell is in good working order.  Clean or replace outdoor light fixtures.  And all this for both front and back yards!

Interior:  Clean, clean, clean and declutter!  Organize closets and cabinets–remove excess.  If you have too much or oversized furniture, remove it.  Clear clutter from kitchen/bathroom countertops.  Wash windows and let in light.  Remove personal photos and other mementos from walls, displays, etc.  Neutralize extreme decor/wall colors.  Remove pet odors!

Consider having a prelisting inspection by a licensed inspector.  This will reveal possible issues that may be of concern to a buyer and allow you to take care of minor things in advance.  NOTE:  some states (Texas!) require sellers to disclose any inspection reports to buyers, so if you have one, you’ll have to let a buyer see it.

Repairs:  take care of as many minor repairs as possible.  Dripping faucets, sticking doors/windows, minor paint touch-ups, cleaning carpets, etc. will make your home more attractive and not raise buyer red flags.  If major repairs are needed, either take care of them, or be prepared to address them with your list price or a possible price adjustment during contract negotiations.

Bottom line–“It’s a price war to the door, and a beauty contest inside”.  Buyers are still calling the shots, so sellers have to be competitive in price, terms, and condition.   Start your preparation now and you’ll be ready when the sign goes up in your yard!  Good luck!

Sue Trautner
Certified Residential Specialist