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McCourt Real Estate Blog

I was watching television this morning as our local weather experts shared that we are again having a triple-digit week.  In fact, today, is supposed to be a record breaker in the Permian Basin as we break our record of 103 degrees today!

What's funny is that humidity in our area is also high...something extremely unusual for the dry West Texas weather.

This blog is designed to present actionable tid-bits that makes your life better, saves you money, brighten your day and delivers valuable info.

When we're talking "triple digit" weather, I know that lowering your air conditioning cost has to be somewhere on your mind. 

The muggy summer heat can make air conditioning a very welcome treat but you could get burned once you see your next electric bill. Living comfortably inside an air conditioned house has its own downside - an increased monthly electrical consumption. You can decrease your air conditioner's work load - as well as your monthly power bill - by lowering the humidity level in your home which your air conditioner would otherwise do.

The air conditioner's two-way cooling process

An air conditioning unit delivers comfortably cool air in your home through two processes:

• By lowering the air temperature

• By taking out humidity from the air inside your home. Cold air cannot tolerate high humidity levels, unlike warm air.

Humidity of 30 to 50% level in the air makes it feel more refreshing. During the hot summer months, the air inside your house can carry humidity level of 80% or higher. This causes you to feel uncomfortably hot and sticky. On the other hand, bringing down the humidity level produces cooler air.

Decrease the humidity inside your home

There are several small ways you can bring down the humidity level inside your home. Added up, they can dramatically cut the cost of your electric bill. Here are some cool steps you can use.

• Always keep your doors and windows shut, especially on sweltering hot weather. Keep going in and out of the room at a minimum because humidity comes every time a door is opened.

• Install exhaust fans in "moist" areas of your house like the bathroom, laundry room and kitchen. They will blow humid air outside your home and thus free the air conditioner from doing the job.

• See to it that your clothes dryer vent is directed towards the outside so that any moisture coming from the dryer doesn't raise the humidity level inside.

• Check all the plumbing inside your house for any drips or leaks. If you find them, repair them at once. Water from the leaks eventually evaporates and can increase the moisture level inside.

• Go outside and check if any water from outdoor is making its way in through your walls. Also ensure that drainpipes and downspouts are directing water away from your house.

• Cook according to the weather you're having. On hot days, don't raise the temperature inside your house further by boiling water in the kitchen.

• Take your houseplants out during the summer to decrease the humidity in your home. Plants give off moisture through their leaves and inside your house.

Get a dehumidifier

Home dehumidifiers are sold for just $100 to $300 and perform a terrific job of removing moisture from the air inside. A small dehumidifier can take 10 quarts of water from the air everyday while a bigger model can extract over 25 quarts in a day.

An energy-saving dehumidifier with an Energy Star seal consumes way less electricity than an air conditioning unit.

Lowering the level of humidity inside your home is no assurance that you won't need to use your air conditioner again. If you do turn it on, there's still one thing you can be sure of. Lower the level of humidity inside your house and your electrical bills will follow suit.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Benedict_Yossarian

Posted in:General
Posted by Caren McCourt-Crane on January 4th, 2022 3:25 PM
Greetings! Looks like there are 461 single-family homes for sale in Midland today.  A year or so ago there were only about 265 homes for sale, so the market is more balanced now.  We still need more homes, and more affordable homes, but Midland builders are stepping up to the plate, and other builders are coming in from out of town to help us. In the meantime more people than ever are moving to Midland, and the Permian Basin economy is strong, so most Midlanders are prospering.  We will talk more in the coming days about the housing market, and about whether your home is still acting as a tidy little savings account for you.  Hope you are cozy in front of your fireplace for the evening. Be safe on the roads and careful in the parking lots tomorrow! Happy Thanksgiving!
Posted in:General
Posted by Caren McCourt-Crane on January 4th, 2022 3:25 PM
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This year, many Texas families have put major purchases and cash outlays on hold, waiting for more positive economic signs – or at least an upward, consistent move in the stock market – to make big-ticket decisions. Real estate investments still make sense, although some of the rules have changed. 

A friend of mine, whose two daughters are grown and gone, would like to remodel a home in the neighborhood, sell his present residence, and then move in to the remodel. He’s uncomfortable investing a ton of dollars on the remodel that he may need for day-to-day expenses, and he’s afraid there’s already too much inventory now on the market to list his home for sale. 

“The remodel may be closer,” he confides. “There are a lot of people out there now willing to work for a lot less than they were two years ago. If the drop in labor costs reaches a point that it equals what some of my investments have lost, it’s close to a wash. I might as well do it.” 

Borrowers who currently own their home typically have three options when they decide to purchase a new principal residence. They can sell the current residence and pay off the outstanding mortgage, make the property into a second home, or convert the property to an investment property. In the past two years, more people have been unable to sell and have been forced to consider the two other options.

However, unless you have a lot of cash, those two options are not as easy to execute as they once were. To ensure that borrowers have sufficient equity and/or reserves to support both the existing financing and the new mortgage being originated, Fannie Mae is updating the policies for qualifying borrowers purchasing a new principal residence and converting their existing principal residence to a second home or investment property. 

Perhaps the most stringent new rule requires borrowers to have a reserve amount set aside equal to six months of principal, interest, taxes, and insurance (PITI) payments on both homes when converting the primary residence to a rental or a second home. Previous guidelines did not include reserves on both homes. 

Lenders do have some leeway in the case of a second-home conversion. Lenders may consider reducing reserves of no fewer than two months for both properties if there is documented equity of at least 30% in the existing property. The value can be derived from an appraisal, automated valuation model (AVM), or broker price opinion (BPO), minus outstanding liens. The previous guidelines did not include a required equity percentage. 

If the owner wishes to convert the primary residence to a second home, the current and the proposed mortgage payments must be used to qualify the borrower for the new transaction. 

If the current residence is converted to an investment property, Fannie Mae will continue to permit up to 75% of the rental income to be used to offset the mortgage payment. Again, the new twist is the needed documented equity of at least 30% in the existing property. The rental income must be documented with a copy of the fully executed lease agreement, and the receipt of a security deposit from the tenant and deposit into the borrower’s account. If the 30% equity in the property cannot be documented, rental income may not be used to offset the mortgage payment. 

If the current principal residence is a pending sale, but the transaction will not be closed (with title transfer to a new owner) prior to the new transaction, both the current and the proposed mortgage payments must be used to qualify the borrower for the new transaction. This sometimes happens unexpectedly when an escrow is delayed or when an employee is transferred to a new location and buys a new home before the previous home sells. 

Who can afford to pay cash for an additional home without first selling their primary residence? Surprisingly, more than four out of 10 investment buyers and more than three in 10 vacation-home buyers paid cash for their properties; with large percentages indicating that portfolio diversification was a factor in their purchase decision, according to recent study by the National Association of REALTORS®. 

Posted in:General
Posted by Caren McCourt-Crane on April 17th, 2010 12:15 PM
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I'm surprised when I hear local Realtors who do not know all of the educational institutions in the community that they work.  In our Midland community, it's important for any Realtor to know what the ATC is (Advanced Technology Center --not an alternative school as some have described it); the Carver Center, the Magnet schools along with having a really good understanding of the school district's ratings and service improvement plan.

There's so much to think about when you're purchasing residential real estate and even your home.  With the 2009-2010 school year fast approaching, I hoped it might be helpful to you to talk about what to look for from schools and neighborhoods and you look to buy, sell or invest.

Remember, the world wide web is now at your service.  The city websites can give you valauble information regarding school district boundaries, businesses, parks, and upcoming developments or decisions.  State registries, like the sex offender's registry, are also helpful as you look at neighborhoods to move to or even invest in with rental property.

Look at curriculum. School curriculum and their afterschool or extracurricular activities all influence "quality of life" for your community.  If you are moving for your family or just looking at investing in property, it is important to know what the "quality of life" value is of the area.  Schools, parks and museums all play a big part in that and are often the information sought by companies researching a move to an area.

Review near by gyms, grocery stores, and banks as they are also top of mind services that people seek in communities. 

Ask, is there a neighborhood watch in the area?  Review crime statistics to familiarize yourself with the area. And, a good Realtor can also help you know the area 'like a local'.

Posted in:General
Posted by Caren McCourt-Crane on August 7th, 2009 10:20 AM

Everyone, it seems, has jumped onto the Facebook craze. After all, who can miss out on the over 250 million people there.  Anyone with a website would be dense not to go where the people are - no better way to make connections and gain traffic to your site and listings.

Yet, there are many who do it wrong. First, they try to make their agency or association a "person" by typing in the first word of their company under "first name" and so on.  Not only is it a waste it's in violation of Facebook's terms of service so they can delete you (and your many contacts) at any time.

Second, they don't use the Facebook business pages they use groups.  Groups have limitations and I'd like to know who at their company or agency is going to make the decision as to "who is in and who is out" when they reach their limits.

Lastly, you don't get the great demographic info that Facebook business pages freely provide.

It's one of those things I call a no-brainer.

Yet, in a time and town, when there are still agents who email blast (spam!) everyone under the sun - it's no wonder that mastering Facebook is elusive to them.

Now, here's someone who is doing this well and I'm sharing with you part of the blog post and the link from theKBuzz....

So when my wife and I recently bought a house and needed to sell our current home, I turned to the first logical choice: Facebook! Now my wife wanted to get a realtor, and so we do have one in reserve. I have nothing against realtors - in fact, we’re happy to have not only friends who are realtors but clients. I just figured, we talk about how useful Facebook is for so many organizations and situations, why not try it to sell our house?

So, we set up a Fan Page 2 days ago - and used easy Facebook Notes to explain all about the house and area, uploaded lots of photos of the house and videos of the house, and used Facebook Events to create an open house for this weekend. I invited my friends to fan the Page, and took out separate, hypertargeted Facebook ads targeting young NYC couples and also folks 64+, because our community and house is perfectly suited for both. We quickly got to 100 fans and reserved a vanity URL, so now people can easily spread the word by sending their friends to http://Facebook.com/BuyMyHouse. Finally, I offered an incentive of $2,000 to anyone on Facebook who refers a friend who ends up buying the house. This move, while definitely increasing virality of the Page, may bring up some legal issues, so I quickly changed the offer to include a $2,000 donation to the referrer’s favorite non-profit.

For the rest of the story, visit here:  http://blog.thekbuzz.com/2009/07/im-selling-my-houseon-facebook-of-course.html

What's so good for Realtors in West Texas is that we "do Facebook right" (along with many other marketing practices) so you get the most pleasure and profit for you and your clients.

If you ever want to talk to an upbeat, web savvy, networking, people focused agency - stop on by!

Posted in:General
Posted by Caren McCourt-Crane on July 31st, 2009 2:35 PM
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Real estate brokers act primarily as intermediaries, or go-betweens between sellers and buyers of real estate and prime properties, as well finds owners who wish to sell and clients who wish to buy. Real estate agents do not work in exactly the same manner.

The most important attribute of an agent, or broker, is that he/she has deep and well-informed connections to the real estate industry. The broker is expected know the market comprehensively, and provide information on previous sales, current real estate listings, have an effective and workable marketing plan, and at least a number of solid references. It is also imperative to look for a real estate agent that is honest, assertive, and one that fully understands the needs of buyers and sellers.

Real estate brokers and their salespersons in the United States, where they are generally called real estate agents, assist home or property sellers in marketing their assets and selling it for the best possible premium price, and on the best terms.

When acting as a buyer's agent, with a signed or verbal agreement, these individuals assist buyers by helping them purchase property for the lowest possible price under the best terms, and gain a commission after a sale has been concluded. Without a signed agreement however, brokers may assist buyers in the acquisition of property but still represent the seller and the seller's interests. Here's a short comparison of what exactly differs a salesperson, from a licensed broker.

Real estate salesperson:

A person first becomes licensed to become a real estate agent whenever one obtains a real estate salesperson's license from the state in which he/she chooses to practice his craft. For the person to obtain a license, the potential candidate must take specific subjects and required course work, and then must pass a state licensure exam on real estate law and practice. Salespersons should must then be associated with, and act under the authority of a licensed real estate broker

Real estate broker:

After gaining quite a number of years of experience in real estate sales, a salesperson may decide to ramp up and be licensed as a real estate broker. For one to become a full-pledged broker, more course work and a state licensure exam on real estate law must first be passed. When a person obtains a broker's license, a real estate agent may continue to work for another broker in a similar capacity as before, usually referred to as a broker associate or associate broker, or open up his/her own brokerage and hire other salespersons.

How should you choose a good real estate broker?

According to analysts and industry insiders, most home buyers ask friends, relatives, and business associates who have recently bought a house in the area for their recommendations and suggestions. A number of buyers use newspaper advertisements, or simply visit an established realty office.

Some people yet find an agent at an open house. To be sure you find a good agent, interview several real estate brokers from different firms to find out one you're comfortable with. It's like doing comparison shopping. Find out if the agents are familiar with the location you are interested in, how long they have worked in that area, and whether they specialize in a particular type of house or price range.

To be safe, you could try to go with a local broker. They can better serve your needs, are familiar with the local market conditions, knows what the local prices are, and what's hot or not in your community.

Real Estate Press - http://realestatepress.org

Posted in:General
Posted by Caren McCourt-Crane on July 26th, 2009 11:59 PM

This year, many Texas families have put major purchases and cash outlays on hold, waiting for more positive economic signs – or at least an upward, consistent move in the stock market – to make big-ticket decisions. Real estate investments still make sense, although some of the rules have changed.

A friend of mine, whose two daughters are grown and gone, would like to remodel a home in the neighborhood, sell his present residence, and then move in to the remodel. He’s uncomfortable investing a ton of dollars on the remodel that he may need for day-to-day expenses, and he’s afraid there’s already too much inventory now on the market to list his home for sale.

“The remodel may be closer,” he confides. “There are a lot of people out there now willing to work for a lot less than they were two years ago. If the drop in labor costs reaches a point that it equals what some of my investments have lost, it’s close to a wash. I might as well do it.”

Borrowers who currently own their home typically have three options when they decide to purchase a new principal residence. They can sell the current residence and pay off the outstanding mortgage, make the property into a second home, or convert the property to an investment property. In the past two years, more people have been unable to sell and have been forced to consider the two other options.

However, unless you have a lot of cash, those two options are not as easy to execute as they once were. To ensure that borrowers have sufficient equity and/or reserves to support both the existing financing and the new mortgage being originated, Fannie Mae is updating the policies for qualifying borrowers purchasing a new principal residence and converting their existing principal residence to a second home or investment property.

Perhaps the most stringent new rule requires borrowers to have a reserve amount set aside equal to six months of principal, interest, taxes, and insurance (PITI) payments on both homes when converting the primary residence to a rental or a second home. Previous guidelines did not include reserves on both homes.

Lenders do have some leeway in the case of a second-home conversion. Lenders may consider reducing reserves of no fewer than two months for both properties if there is documented equity of at least 30% in the existing property. The value can be derived from an appraisal, automated valuation model (AVM), or broker price opinion (BPO), minus outstanding liens. The previous guidelines did not include a required equity percentage.

If the owner wishes to convert the primary residence to a second home, the current and the proposed mortgage payments must be used to qualify the borrower for the new transaction.

If the current residence is converted to an investment property, Fannie Mae will continue to permit up to 75% of the rental income to be used to offset the mortgage payment. Again, the new twist is the needed documented equity of at least 30% in the existing property. The rental income must be documented with a copy of the fully executed lease agreement, and the receipt of a security deposit from the tenant and deposit into the borrower’s account. If the 30% equity in the property cannot be documented, rental income may not be used to offset the mortgage payment.

If the current principal residence is a pending sale, but the transaction will not be closed (with title transfer to a new owner) prior to the new transaction, both the current and the proposed mortgage payments must be used to qualify the borrower for the new transaction. This sometimes happens unexpectedly when an escrow is delayed or when an employee is transferred to a new location and buys a new home before the previous home sells.

Who can afford to pay cash for an additional home without first selling their primary residence? Surprisingly, more than four out of 10 investment buyers and more than three in 10 vacation-home buyers paid cash for their properties; with large percentages indicating that portfolio diversification was a factor in their purchase decision, according to recent study by the National Association of REALTORS®.

All cash for real estate? I guess this is finally proof that somebody thinks it’s a good idea.

By Tom Kelly

Posted in:General
Posted by Caren McCourt-Crane on July 17th, 2009 4:21 PM
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Here are McCourt Real Estate we are a bunch of dreamers and more.  We go past the point of being all about just daydreaming and put action behind our dreams.  We are visionaries and we support positive focused, active dreamers who come and join our team.

We were the first to bring you the 360 Virtual Tour.  Now, watch as we dream a little more, looking to the Netherlands on the possibilities of Real Estate.

Amazing, right? If you're involved in real estate and don't feel you're at a place where dreaming's encouraged...then stop in for a glass of tea and see McCourt Real Estate!

Posted in:General
Posted by Caren McCourt-Crane on June 27th, 2009 2:38 PM
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Yesterday at 5:24 p.m. I was pulling out of the Kohl's parking lot (or attempting to) onto the feeder road to the loop and I had to just stop.  The line on the feeder road backed up far back along the feeder road itself and there was a line on the exit ramp of the loop that continued onto the loop itself. 

I just had to stop for a moment to think - there's a lot of people in Midland.

In fact, if you would like to see the plan of development that the City of Midland has mapped out.  You can find it here.

So, as we grow and grow - how do you as a current resident navigate our community's growth spurt and most specifically our traffic growth?

1-  Give yourself enough time to get where you're going.

The truth is with our growth in Midland we can't make it across town in seven minutes flat.  It takes longer now.  And, even we are no traffic metropolis like Houston or Austin, it's often too long for native Midlanders!  Give yourself time.  If you will, you'll find that your mind becomes open to trying new routes and your patience grows.

2 - Bring something in the car to listen to.

Anything to listen to and to keep your mind focused will help you in the long run.  I've always been a long time proponent of "auto university".  In our busy word, those books on tapes can do wonders for you in town driving.  Even if they put you to sleep for long trips, for in town driving you'll find them soothing.

3 - Take a moment to wind down before headed home.

I know that most of us travel at the speed of light and that's still not fast enough!  But, think about slowing down your mind before you drive off at the end of the day.  Many times we take our work home with us and carry it in our minds forever.  If you take the time to slow your mind down before driving, you'll be safer for your self and be a nicer person when you arrive at your final destination.

I know I'm wanting you to stick around and be here enjoying Midland's great growth with us!

 

Posted in:General
Posted by Caren McCourt-Crane on June 19th, 2009 1:46 PM

Everyone's talking about "going green".  And, I'm excited to say that Midland College will soon offer a class about "How to Go Green for Your Business".  So, I thought I would give some helpful hints on how to "Go Green for Your Home" without having to do a redesign.

The Not So Cheap:

5) Install new energy efficient appliances. A typical home's electricity bill is $100 per month. The EPA estimates that approximately 18% of a home's energy usage comes from appliances. Installing new energy efficient appliances use 25% less energy then a 10 year old appliance. In more real terms that means a home can save at least $5 a month from installing new energy efficient appliances. For Realtors, you won't be able to sell your clients on replacing appliances based solely on monthly energy savings, but it can certainly be part of your sales strategy.....in addition to adding to the aesthetic value of the home.

4) If installing new hardwood floors, opt for Bamboo. Why do you ask.....simply put Bamboo grows to its full size in about 4 years while other woods used for flooring take approximately 75 years.

3) Insulate your home again(especially good for homes built before 1960)....although an initial cost outlay it can save you 20% on your monthly gas/electric bills. Check to see if your home has attic insulation as most do not-this is a great place to start!

2) Save water by installing tank-less hot water heaters, aerators on sinks and low flow toilets.

1) Install solar panels on the roof. Yes it is by far the most expensive option-but how would $5 electric bills for life sound? Additionally if federal law begins to require power companies to pay for excess electricity your clients could be receiving a monthly check from the power company. I would also advise you to look into both state and local resources for financing. For example San Diego now offers 0% loans for solar installations in addition to the generous tax breaks from both the state of California and the federal government.

The Cheap Ways:

5) Replace all regular light bulbs with incandescent bulbs. The average incandescent bulb saves about $30 in energy over it's lifetime.

4) Plant a tree, or two and a herb garden if the backyard allows.

3) Lower your hot water temp to 120 degrees from the standard 140.

2) Install efficient shower heads. The average efficient shower heads saves a family $21 a year on average in water bills.

1) Use surge protectors(attached to outlets that turn on/off as you enter rooms) to turn off all appliances when they are not being used. Approximately 15% of all power consumed in the United States is used by appliances when they are not being used. Does that big screen TV really need to be generating a bigger electricity bill all day while you're at work?

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Mark_Aselstine

Posted in:General
Posted by Caren McCourt-Crane on June 12th, 2009 1:23 PM

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