Update on Tax Prorations

Effective October 1, 2014,
the Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office
will begin sending out bills for the 2014 Property Taxes
All through the year when you close on a purchase or sale of real estate, differing amounts of funds are credited or debited to your account. This can make a big difference as to how much money you will need to bring to title at closing.
According to Alamo Title, beginning October 1st, title companies will begin collecting the taxes for the ENTIRE year from the Seller! The prorations on the HUD-1 settlement Statement will now “flip” from Buyer to Seller!
If a closing takes place on November 10, 2014, taxes will be collected from the Seller, and the HUD I will show a credit to the Seller from the Buyer from November 10th thru December 31st.  

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

Perfect Home for those Holiday Parties
and Celebrations of Special Events

Perfect move-in ready home which is set for entertaining. Open kitchen features gleaming granite counters, a cook's delight Wolf range, Subzero refrigerator and an expansive pantry to help keep you fully stocked. There is also a spacious utility room inside for extra storage. The spacious master suite is located downstairs and has a huge walk-in closet. The master bathroom includes separate vanities with lots of cabinet space, a deep soaking tub and separate oversized showed. The bedroom has direct access to the immaculate backyard and refreshing pool with water features. This home is ideally setup for outdoor and indoor entertaining with a wonderful flow.

The home also features two living areas and a formal dining area. The remaining  three bedrooms and three bathrooms are upstairs with a loft/study area. Total living space in this elegant home is over 3800 square feet. It can be yours for $1,195,000

Kitchens Can Sell or Sink Your Sale

The kitchen is the most important room to stage in your home. Potential home buyers will want to view it void of unnecessary counter top appliances and clutter. By showcasing your kitchen in the best possible light, you can potentially sell your home faster and increase the closing price.  Even in a slow real estate market, making your kitchen attractive to a buyer could make the difference.

Clean up the kitchen
Studies have shown that one of the dirtiest places in the home is the kitchen. Before you list, pull out those rubber gloves and give everything a good scrub so that the kitchen sparkles. Replace unsightly floor tiles, or in a worst-case scenario, consider a complete floor makeover. Pay special attention to the cabinetry; in older homes, it is common to see cracks in the beaded caulking between the ceiling and the trim above the cupboards. For less than $10, you can buy a pre-mixed tube of crack filler and make it look like new. Also, to give the kitchen an inexpensive facelift, consider replacing the fixtures – an affordable way to give doors and drawers a second wind.

Clutter is a kitchen killer
Kitchens are the focal point of almost every home. A great rule of thumb for the staging of a kitchen is to leave no more than two appliances on your counter. After you have uncluttered the kitchen counter, brighten and soften the space by adding some fresh fruit, new dishtowels, a cookbook, and plants or flowers.

Modernizing today will help you sell tomorrow
Modernizing your kitchen can help you sell your home for years to come. Renovating your kitchen now will let you enjoy new appliances while boosting the value of your home for the future. While you may want to take specific appliances with you, stainless steel can make almost any kitchen sing. Another way to add value to your kitchen is to install concealed appliances – hiding the dishwasher and fridge, for example, can really spice up your kitchen for buyers. Also popular are dual microwave/convection oven (prices can vary between $200 - $900 for higher-end stainless built-ins) – another appliance quickly becoming a staple in most modern kitchens.

If you can’t replace appliances, be sure to have them repaired and cleaned. It’s also a good idea to clean your fridge and stove, as buyers will almost always open oven and fridge doors.

Take the time to make sure all the existing light fixtures have working light bulbs. Make sure the blinds are open on all the windows and, if required, add a small table lamp or two to accent a dark corner.

… And the kitchen sink
Another kitchen remodeling idea is to upgrade your “sinkware.” New faucets, soap dispensers and sinks (whether you are re-glazing or replacing altogether) are affordable ways to give the kitchen an immediate facelift. Don’t forget, buyers love to turn on the kitchen faucet when touring a home.
The kitchen is the most important room and biggest selling feature in your house. Staging it properly can make every potential buyer say, “this could be my kitchen.”

Source: Better Homes & Gardens Greenhouse

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

7 Bedrooms, 7 Bathrooms

Sprawling, elegant home, nestled on 1.34 acres within the 1604 Loop. Though you're city close the parklike landscaping will make you feel like you're away from it all.

Upon entering the home, you'll be dazzled by the stunning marble and wood flooring in the spacious rooms. For your pleasure, there are two living rooms, two dining rooms, a study or off plus SEVEN bedrooms! The master suite features access to the patio and the master bath includes dual vanities, a separate shower, whirlpool tub and walk-in closet.

The chef's kitchen included two stainless steel ovens and a warming drawer, five top gas cooking elements, three dishwashers, butlers pantry, wet bar with wine fridge. And if you're mobility challenged or have too many things to carry upstairs, there is also an elevator. All this in over 6600 square feet so you can really have your own space.

The entertainer's delight yard includes a large covered patio and sparkling pool and spa, plus there's a great playscape for the kiddies.

If this sounds like the home you've been dreaming of, it can be yours for a mere $875,000

                           For more details, contact me using the link to the right 

                                                 Christine Henderson
Changing Real Estate Dreams Into Reality Since 1985

Environmentally Conscious Choices: “Green” Mortgages Help Homebuyers Finance

By purchasing a home built to meet greater energy-efficiency standards or committing to make energy improvements to an existing home, you could qualify for an energy-efficient mortgage (EEM) – also known as a “green” mortgage – which can increase your borrowing power, yield certain discounts, or both. A more energy-efficient home also promises lower utility bills and less environmental impact, making green mortgages a win-win-win proposition.

What are Energy-Efficient Mortgages?

EEMs, or green mortgages as they are more commonly known, are centered on the idea that more energy-efficient homes will result in lower monthly utility bills. When calculating a borrower’s income-to-debt ratio, lenders factor these utility cost savings in as income, enabling potential homebuyers to borrow more toward more expensive homes.
EEMs also allow borrowers to fold the costs of planned energy improvements – from better insulation to a new furnace to solar panels – into the total mortgage amount. In fact, homebuyers can borrow up to 15 percent of the home’s value for such improvements, and the money is held in escrow for use as the improvements are made.
Green mortgages are actually nothing new. They’ve been around since the late 1970s, when then-President Jimmy Carter signed an executive order directing federally sponsored lenders to offer consumers incentives for energy-efficient homes. Today, the U.S. Federal Housing Authority spearheads the EEM initiative, insuring loans issued by FHA-backed lending institutions such as banks, savings and loans companies and mortgage firms. Amid the recent subprime mortgage crisis, lenders have begun to more proactively market the loans as a more secure way to qualify marginal borrowers.

Qualifying for a Green Mortgage

There are two main ways to qualify for a green mortgage. The first is by purchasing a newly constructed home built to higher energy-efficiency standards as verified by a third-party inspector. Homes certified  through the ENERGY STAR and LEED for Homes programs, for example, qualify. For homes that are not already part of these nationally recognized certification programs, buyers or sellers can enlist a home energy rater to inspect the home and issue a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) report verifying that minimum efficiency standards have been met.
In the case of existing homes for which buyers want to qualify for planned energy improvements, a home energy rater performs an inspection and issues a HERS report. In these cases, the report will forecast potential energy savings to be gained through recommended efficiency improvements, providing an estimate of what those improvements will cost. These figures are then used by the lender to calculate the additional loan amount that can be put into escrow to cover the improvement costs.
In both cases, the lender will approve a certified auditor to verify the home energy ratings. Improvements covered under the provisions of green mortgages can include – but are not limited to – carpeting, insulation, replacement windows, energy-efficient appliances, increased heating and cooling efficiency, solar panels, green roofs and more.

Demand for Green Mortgages Swells

According to Jeffrey Cole, founder of myenergyloan.com, consumer demand is driving for more green mortgages in both the residential and commercial sectors. Myenergyloan.com is an Atlanta-based green-lending program that provides closing-cost discounts and even lower interest rates to buyers of energy-efficient homes. Cole says that mortgage volume for green loans his company has issued has increased by 25 percent in the past year alone. In fact, he and a business partner in the process of raising $10 million to launch the first green real estate finance bank. 
Meanwhile, other countries are also joining the green-mortgage movement. According to a July 2009 article in London’s Financial Times, Britain’s government plans to offer lower-interest green mortgages to fund the installation of solar panels, wind turbines, and other energy-saving features in residential homes. Incentives including lower taxes may be used to encourage homeowners to take advantage of the new loans, which are part of an effort to cut carbon emissions in Britain 80 percent by 2050. Meanwhile, homeowners who don’t participate may face tax increases.
To learn more about green mortgages in the United States, consult the following links:
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development information on EEMs
See DOE/HUD Initiative on Energy Efficiency in Housing: A Federal Partnership, Program Summary Report  http://www.huduser.org/
Source:Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate 

Enhancing a Room's Focal Point

Like a fine painting, every room has a focal point. It’s the element that draws your eye first, and invites you for a closer look.
The focal point defines the room’s ambiance and underscores the room’s purpose. It makes you want to enter, and enjoy the room to sit and relax, study, watch videos, sleep, make conversation, play or whatever the room is designed to do.
By establishing what your focal point is going to be, you have an easier time decorating the rest of your room, because the other furnishings will fit around it.
For example, if you are creating a focal point with a fireplace and seating area, you can embellish the mantel with a small group of candles or collectibles. Your seating can be arranged to enjoy the fire in the winter, or you can replace the grate with fresh or dried flowers for the summer. 
If you want a warm, relaxing ambiance, add bookshelves and a luxurious lap throw draped on the arm of a chair or couch.  Use neutral paints and tones, small patterns or solids on furnishings, and decorate with prints of pastoral scenes or still life. Finish with a thick pile area rug, and you’ve completed a cozy den or study. 

What makes a good focal point?

A good focal point attracts attention.
Focal points are either created for you by the room’s architecture, or you have to create one yourself, but the idea is to make the room enjoyable to use. 
The room may have an organic feature that you can enhance, such as a bay window with a beautiful view.  A picture window can be enhanced with window seats with colors like blue or green to bring the indoors inside the room.

How to create a focal point

Some rooms simply don’t have an outstanding architectural feature, so you have to create your own focal point.
There are several tricks of the trade to create a focal point – size, color, light, and curiosity. 
Size: Large items attract interest. Start by putting the largest piece of furniture against the largest wall to help traffic flow.
A bed is a natural focal point for a bedroom, and a sofa is great focal point for a living room or den. Rugs also command attention and anchor the décor, so they make great focal points, too.
Color: You can influence mood and behavior with color. A contrasting wall color behind your sofa or bed is an excellent way to create a focal point. You can also use small intense colors on accessories such as pillows to direct the eye to a seating area and focal point. But a little goes a long way - color that is too intense can repel as well as attract.
Light: Your eye travels easily to where it can see the best. Lighting is essential to giving attention to the main area of the room, such as a chandelier over a dining area. You can also arrange lights to dim or brighten depending on whether you want the ambiance to be lively or intimate.
Curiosity: Curiosity makes you want to want to learn. A collection, a great piece of art, a humorous slogan on a pillow, or an unusual piece of furniture all invite conversation, which is a wonderful way to use a focal point. 
Is it possible to have more than one focal point in a room? Yes, if your room is designed for more than one purpose, such as a living-dining combination room, or a bedroom with a sitting area, you will need a focal point for each area to distinguish it from the rest of the room and to define its purpose.
Just make sure the focal points agree that both sides of the room are equally formal or informal, and in the same decorative theme as the rest of the room.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate

Xeriscape to Save on Water Bills

In many parts of the country, such as Southern California and the Southwest, green lawns of grass are not indigenous to the region, requiring copious amounts of water to keep them looking their best.
Non-native landscaping contributes to water shortage in some areas, requiring watering restrictions. The problem is so great in Los Angeles that approximately 40% of the city’s water usage is for watering lawns.
The L.A. Department of Water and Power has begun a “cash for grass” program. The Residential Drought Resistant Landscape Incentive Program, pays homeowners $1.00 per square foot of turf they replace with less thirsty alternatives. See: http://www.ladwp.com
Water shortages are growing. Nevada’s Lake Mead has reportedly dropped 28 feet in the last two years, and could be completely dry by 2021, reports Earthfirst.com, http://www.earthfirst.com.   
Xeriscaping is simply creating a landscape that features native plants that don’t require extra watering and are capable of withstanding drought conditions.
How can homeowners help? By adopting a concept called Xeriscaping.
While the look of a xeriscaped garden or yard of cacti and hardy shrubs is very different from St.Augustine or Bermuda grass, landscapers are creating attractive arrangements that demand less water. Additional benefits are less maintenance, fewer pests, and less fertilizer. 
Grasses, plants and flowers that are “native” to your area can grow on the typical annual rainfall, without additional watering needed.
To start a xeriscape of your own, group plants and flowers with similar watering requirements in zones, so that any watering you need to do becomes more efficient. Add mulch to accent the plants and flowers, as well as to provide a healthy root environment, which also reduces the need for extra watering. 
As water resources diminish, xeriscaping is becoming increasingly popular, even in high-end communities such as the gated community of Santa Luz in San Diego.  The homeowners association requires that all landscaping is xeriscaped using plants native to California only.
The key to a successful xeriscape is the same as any other landscape: paying attention to the site’s shape, size, slope, sun, shade, and other conditions.

 Your goal is create a “compatible alliance among the garden, landscape, and natural world,” writes Gayle Weinstein, author of the Xeriscape Handbook.
No matter what part of the country you live in, you can adopt the principals of xeriscaping to create a more natural landscape for your home.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate