Bigger is Better According to Homebuyers

Recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau show both the median and average size of a new single-family homes built in 2013 hit a new all time high of 2,384 and 2,598 square feet, respectively.

Other highlights of the Census Bureau’s survey show the 569,000 single-family homes completed in 2013 include the following:
  • 518,000 had air-conditioning.
  • 59,000 had two or fewer bedrooms and 251,000 had four bedrooms or more.
  • 27,000 had one and one-half bathrooms or less, whereas 188,000 homes had three or more bathrooms.
  • 166,000 had a full or partial basement, while 91,000 had a crawl space, and 312,000 had a slab or other type of foundation.
  • 305,000 had two or more stories.
  • 333,000 had a forced-air furnace and 216,000 had a heat pump as the primary heating system.
  • 347,000 had a heating system powered by gas and 214,000 had a heating system powered by electricity.
The average single-family house completed was 2,598 square feet.
Of the 307,000 multifamily units started in 2013, 23,000 were age-restricted.
Of the 195,000 multifamily units completed in 2013:
  • 14,000 were age-restricted.
  • 129,000 were heated with electricity and 64,000 were heated with gas.
  • 91,000 had two or more bathrooms.
  • 79,000 had one bedroom and 27,000 had three or more bedrooms.
The average square footage of multifamily units built for rent was 1,082.
Of the 10,000 multifamily buildings completed in 2013:
  • 5,000 had one or two floors.
  • 6,000 used electricity as the primary heating fuel.
Of the 429,000 single-family homes sold in 2013:
  • 120,000 used vinyl siding as the principle type of exterior wall material, while only 12,000 used wood.
  • 300,000 had 2-car garages, whereas 98,000 had garages for three cars or more.
  • 207,000 had one fireplace and 20,000 had two or more fireplaces.

Luxury Living in South Texas: This Week's Featured Listing From My Office

This Isn't Your Granddad's
Hunting Lodge Getaway

This stunning log home is handcrafted and fully scribed using Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir. It is designed for year round living or if you want a private weekend retreat. It is situated on 2 acres and has a wrap around covered patio to take advantage of the most amazing views of downtown San Antonio you could ever expect to see. The rooms are open and spacious with a blend of rustic charm and up-to-date luxury to make everyone feel at home. If you can be there year round, there are detached caretaker's quarters. This is one of the most unique homes you'll ever see in South Texas! It can be yours for only $850,000.

What to Do With a Damaged Smart Phone?

You can make some fixes on your own, or sell it for cash.
By Cameron Huddleston,

What to Do With a Damaged Smart Phone? - You can make some fixes on your own, or sell it for cash. - By Cameron Huddleston,
How can you break your smart phone? Let me count the ways. It could fall out of your pocket as you lean over to pick up something. You could accidentally run over it with your car. Your dog could use it as a chew toy. Or it could slip from your wet hands as you play Candy Crush while taking a bath and sink to the bottom of the tub — which actually happened to one of the respondents in a recent survey by electronics trade-in site Gazelle about how consumers break their phones.

Unfortunately, the limited warranties that come with Apple and Samsung phones don't cover this sort of damage. But you don't have to write off your broken phone as a total loss.

You may be able to fix your phone and avoid shelling out big bucks for a new one. Note: Before attempting any repairs, contact the manufacturer to confirm that the damage isn't covered so you don't void your warranty by tampering with your phone. Or you could sell it at an electronics trade-in site for cash to help offset the cost of a new phone.

Repair a broken screen. Clear packing tape is a quick, inexpensive fix to hold your screen together until you can get a replacement screen, says Gazelle senior tech analyst Alyssa Voorhis. Just don't handle the phone with your bare hands if there are loose shards of glass. You can find replacement screens on for $50 or more and fix it yourself. My husband used a YouTube video to walk him through the replacement of his Samsung Galaxy phone screen, which he says wasn't easy but certainly doable.

Dry out a water-damaged phone. If you drop your phone in water, pull it out as quickly as possible and turn it off so it doesn't short circuit, Voorhis says. Take the battery out of Android and Blackberry phones; do a hard shutdown on iPhones. Remove the memory card and shake the water out of your device. Then place it in instant rice, crystallized cat litter or silica gel in a sealed container for 48 hours, Voorhis says. After you charge it, the phone should work again.

Get cash for your broken phone. If your service provider won't give you credit for a broken phone toward the purchase of a new phone, you can sell it at an electronics trade-in site. You won't get as much from these sites for a damaged phone as you would for one in working condition, but you might be surprised how much you actually can get.

For example, Gazelle will pay $125 for a broken iPhone 5S (as long as it's still recognizable as a phone), versus up to $370 for one in good condition. It will pay $50 for a broken Galaxy S4, versus up to $193 for one in good condition. The highest price listed recently on USell, which shows the best offers from a network of buyers, for a broken iPhone 5S was $152 and $60.80 for a Galaxy S4. BuyMyTronics and NextWorth also buy broken smart phones.

Because the amount you can get for your broken phone varies from site to site, it pays to check several to find the best offer. All of the sites listed above provide free shipping and pay by check or through PayPal. Gazelle also offers the option to receive an Amazon gift card. NextWorth gives you the option to take items to one of its partner stores, such as Target, and get store credit or a gift card. And BuyMyTronics will let you donate the amount you're offered for your device to a charity of your choice.

Kiplinger LogoReprinted with permission. All Contents ©2014 The Kiplinger Washington Editors.

Luxury Living in South Texas: This Week's Featured Listing From My Office

Summer Time and the Living is Easy
This lovely one Story, contemporary home glistens with hardwood floors in the high traffic public areas for easy maintenance. The open floor plan is bathed in natural light. The main living room features a fireplace and opens to the extended outer home that boasts a large living area, outdoor kitchen and sparkling pool. There are two interior dining areas that make it easy to entertain. The master suite is to die for with tons of built-ins, 2 huge closets and an exercise room.  The house includes 4 bedrooms,  4.5 baths, 3 living rooms in over 4100 sq.ft. If this sounds like the lifestyle for you, make it your own for only $699,000

Texas Leads the Nation for Positive Equity

In the first quarter, Texas had the highest percentage of mortgaged residential properties in an equity position at 96.7 percent, followed by Montana (96.3 percent), Alaska (95.7 percent), North Dakota (95.7 percent) and Hawaii (95.6 percent) according to the latest report from CoreLogic.

CoreLogic said more than 300,000 homes returned to positive equity in the first quarter of 2014, bringing the total number of mortgaged residential properties with equity to more than 43 million. The CoreLogic analysis indicates that approximately 6.3 million homes, or 12.7 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage, were still in negative equity as of Q1 2014 compared to 6.6 million homes, or 13.4 percent for Q4 2013*. As a year-over-year comparison, the negative equity share was 20.2 percent, or 9.8 million homes, in Q1 2013.

Negative equity, often referred to as “underwater” or “upside down,” means that borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Negative equity can occur because of a decline in value, an increase in mortgage debt or a combination of both.

For the homes in negative equity status, the national aggregate value of negative equity was $383.7 billion at the end of Q1 2014, down $16.9 billion from approximately $400 billion in the fourth quarter 2013.

Of the 43 million residential properties with equity, approximately 10 million have less than 20-percent equity. Borrowers with less than 20-percent equity, referred to as “under-equitied,” may have a more difficult time refinancing their existing home or obtaining new financing to sell and buy another home due to underwriting constraints. Under-equitied mortgages accounted for 20.6 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage nationwide in Q1 2014, with more than 1.5 million residential properties at less than 5-percent equity, referred to as near-negative equity. Properties that are near-negative equity are considered at risk if home prices fall.

“Despite the massive improvement in prices and reduction in negative equity over the last few years, many borrowers still lack sufficient equity to move and purchase a home,” said Sam Khater, deputy chief economist for CoreLogic. “One in five borrowers have less than 10 percent equity in their property, which is not enough to cover the down payment and additional costs associated with a conventional mortgage.”

“Prices continue to rise across most of the country and significantly fewer borrowers are underwater today compared to last year,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “An additional rise in home prices of 5 percent, which we are projecting will occur over the next 12 months, will lift another 1.2 million properties out of the negative equity trap.”
Source: Real Estate Economy Watch

Luxury Living in South Texas: This Week's Featured Listing From My Office

Give me land, lots of land
How about having your own 18 acre spread?
It can be yours with this beautiful 4 bedroom home. Other amenities include a sparkling pool, waterfall & pond plus a 5000 sq.ft. warehouse. 

Hundreds of trees dot the acreage plus there's a garden, animal pen and sports play area.

If you need that extra space for horses, cattle, boats, RVs or cars -- you've got it here!

If this sounds like what you are looking for in your next home, it can be yours for $958,000

Pending Sales and New Construction on the Rise

Homebuying Season Begins with a Buzz - Pending Sales and New Construction on the Rise
In early May, the National Association of REALTORS® reported that the volume of purchase contracts signed for existing homes rose 3.4 percent in March. That was more than the 1 percent increase forecasted by economists who were surveyed by The Wall Street Journal, and the first piece of U.S. economic data that suggests a post-winter rebound in the housing market is on its way.

Home sales perked up after suffering in recent months from unusually harsh winter weather, higher prices, and higher home loan rates—on less available inventory.

"A sizeable increase in purchase applications likely reflected the impact of lower mortgage rates, as well as continued growth in the job market, as confirmed by the early May employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics," according to the Mortgage Banker Association's Chief Economist.

Gains were broad across the nation with sales rising in the south, west and northeast, while they fell slightly in the midwest. This was the biggest rise in almost three years for sales of previously owned homes.

Pending Sales and New Construction on the Rise
Stronger pending home sales hint at a resurgence in housing market momentum during the typically busier spring buying season, when many families prefer to make a move to a new school district by the end of the summer. Pending home sales are generally a better gauge of market conditions than other indicators because they portend future closings.

The news is welcome following March's sales of new homes, which the Commerce Department said account for a much smaller portion of the overall market and tumbled 14.5 percent to their lowest level since last July.

Economists expect some pent-up demand for housing will emerge now that the weather has improved. While inventory has been a concern, builders are ramping up home construction which should ease supply bottlenecks in the market and help lower prices. Builders started construction on more new homes for the second straight month in March, the Commerce Department reported in early May.

Luxury Living in South Texas: This Week's Featured Listing From My Office

A truly remarkable home. This is estate living in the heart of the city. Holding court on a six acre manicured lot, the grounds boast two lakes, gazebo and a sparkling pool for those outdoor get-togethers with family and friends.

The house opens from a massive great room with floor to ceiling windows that capture the ambiance of natural light. Everything is included here -- there's a game room, media Room and a loft for quiet conversation or meditation.

The western wing is ideal for entertaining while opposite side lays the “master wing” where you can get away from the crowds. Total living area is over 10,000 square feet.

For guests who come to stay, there is a two bedroom pool/guest house plus a five car garage. And you know you can't handle this on your own, so there is a caretaker's   residence on the grounds as well  to handle the 6 acre property.

Does this sound like your style of living? If it does, it can be yours for a mere $2,595,000

To Remodel or not to Remodel

According to remodelers who answered special questions on NAHB’s Remodeling Market Index (RMI) survey for the 1st quarter of 2014, a simple “desire for better/newer amenities” ranked as the number one reason customers choose to remodel their homes. On a scale of 1 to 5 (where 1 indicates never or almost never, and 5 is very often), the average remodeler’s response was 4.3.

“Desire for better/newer amenities” edged out the second place “need to repair/replace old components” by one tenth of a point. These traditional market drivers were the only reasons to remodel with an average rating above 4.0. Another fairly traditional reason, “desire/need for more space” came in third at 3.7.

Reasons to remodel that are of special interest to particular stakeholders—like aging in place and energy efficiency—were further down the list, with average responses near the 3.0 center of the scale. Relatively low average ratings for increasing the home’s investment value or preparing it for a sale continue to support the idea that owners are more likely to remodel for themselves than for future owners. Getting a property ready for a distressed sale scored a particularly low 1.3 (very near the
minimum possible 1.0).
At the margin, of course, less common reasons to remodel can still fuel an increase in activity if they are on the rise. However, this is only the second time we’ve asked the “reasons to remodel” question on the RMI survey (the first being in the first quarter of 2012), and most of the answers on average changed very little in the intervening two years. Indeed, the average rating for 9 of the 12 categories changed by one tenth of a point or less.
One exception was an increase from 2.8 to 3.0 in the “desire to be able to age in place,” something many observers were probably expecting given the aging population. “Desire/need for more space” also increased two tenths of a point. “Desire for better/newer amenities” posted the largest gain, going from 4.0 to 4.3. A rise in remodeling projects motivated by desire for more space or better amenities is consistent with the general housing market recovery that many experts expect to continue.
This is the second item we’ve posted in May in recognition of National Home Remodeling Month. The first was on the most common types of remodeling projects..
Source: NAHB - Eye on Housing