Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In the Market for a Little Blue Box?

TIFFANY & COMPANY is coming to The Woodlands!!!!

Being built-out in the previous spot held by Z-Gallery in Market Street, we are going to have an alternative location to lay down some heavy-duty cash. Anybody know how much one of their little boxes is? Probably can't afford what goes in it but maybe I can just buy one of the pretty little blue boxes with it's tidy little bow. I could set it on the counter and each time I looked at it, I could imagine something special inside. Of course I would never open it....why spoil the fun. As long as it stayed closed, I could imagine it held a perfect, precisely cut diamond rind, or perhaps a stunning tennis bracelet. Maybe it could hold a gorgeous necklace absolutely dripping in diamonds. Heck....why not all 3 while I'm at it?!?!?!

HAPPY SHOPPING! Let me know what you got.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

TDHCA reduces rates to first-time homebuyers - YEA!

State housing agency offers lowest homebuyer interest rates in program history
Rates at 4.20% for unassisted loans, 4.95% for assisted loans with up to 5% of mortgage amount for down payment, closing cost assistance

(AUSTIN) — The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) today announced that it has reduced interest rates on mortgage loans offered through its Texas First Time Homebuyer Program to historically low levels, further opening the door to safe and responsible homeownership for qualifying low to moderate income Texans.

Interest rates on these 30-year, fixed rate mortgage loans have been set at either 4.20 percent or 4.95 percent, depending on which of two types of loans the borrower selects. Rates had previously been set at 4.99 percent or 5.74 percent, respectively. The assisted rate of 4.95 percent is available with funds for down payment and closing cost assistance, helping families overcome what are often the biggest obstacles to buying a home.

“TDHCA is extremely excited to be making what has always been a terrific offer for potential homebuyers even better,” said TDHCA Executive Director Michael Gerber. “Our partners in the Texas real estate and mortgage finance industries are a critical part of our success, helping raise awareness of this safe, reliable lending product. It is our hope that these historically low interest rates will allow more Texans to achieve the American Dream of homeownership.”

“Texas Realtors and the real estate community are extremely proud to work together with TDHCA and help market this truly wonderful program,” said Bill Jones, Chairman of the Board for the Texas Association of Realtors. “These low interest rates are sure to help thousands of families across the state buy their first home, and I urge all Texans ready to take this important step to contact a Texas Realtor and take advantage of this opportunity.”

Available funds are part of an unprecedented $500 million in mortgage revenue bond authority TDHCA announced last May, the single largest financing initiative for state homebuyer funds in the 27-year history of the program. Approximately $100 million in mortgage loan reservations have been made to date, and interest rates are typically reset on a monthly basis as market rates adjust.

Gerber explained that Texas First Time Homebuyer Program offers two types of loans at two different interest rates: assisted loans, which will feature the higher 4.95 percent rate but also offer down payment and closing cost assistance up to 5 percent of the mortgage amount in the form of a 30-year repayable second lien; and unassisted loans, at the lower 4.20 percent rate but with no additional assistance.

No monthly payments are due on the down payment portion of the assisted loan, he noted, and therefore will not be required to be included in the borrower’s debt-to-income-ratios. However, the loan is due and payable upon sale, refinance, or payoff of the original mortgage loan.

TDHCA’s First Time Homebuyer Program offers qualifying households who have not owned a home in the previous three years an opportunity to obtain reliable mortgage loans.

Eligible households can earn up to 115 percent of the area median family income, depending on the number of individuals living in the home, as long as all other program requirements are met.

Loans are available through the program’s network of over 55 participating lending institutions with more than 300 branches located throughout the state. Applicants must qualify under FHA, RHS, VA, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac guidelines.

Texans wanting additional information are encouraged to visit the Texas First Time Homebuyer Program Web site at or call 1-(800) 792-1119 to learn more about income and eligibility requirements, loan guidelines, or to find the nearest participating lender.

About The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is the state agency responsible for affordable housing, community and energy assistance programs, and colonia activities. The Department currently administers $2 billion through for-profit, nonprofit, and local government partnerships to deliver local housing and community-based opportunities and assistance to Texans in need.

Realtors’ perspective: Mortgage interest deduction in the crosshairs

Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 5:30 pm | Updated: 9:22 am, Thu Nov 18, 2010.

By MARGIE DORRANCE | 0 comments

One thing you can say for the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is that they definitely know how to get people’s attention.

Last week, the co-chairs of the bi-partisan deficit reduction panel released details of a preliminary draft report that is intended to identify policies to improve the country’s fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run.

The details of the draft report that were made public are being called a “trial balloon” by many since the final report will only include those ideas that are agreed upon by 14 out of the 18 members of the commission. That is a very high standard and means that there will likely be quite a few ideas that don’t make it in the final report, which is expected to be released on Dec. 1.

One topic for consideration in the draft report is the idea of lowering the cap on the mortgage interest deduction. Currently, people may deduct the interest they pay up to a total mortgage amount of $1 million. This deduction applies for combined mortgages on primary residences and second homes, up to the total $1 million limit. The proposal in the draft report would lower the limit for the mortgage interest deduction to $500,000 for the mortgage and would restrict it to only the primary residence.

To try to better explain: Now, if you have a $750,000 mortgage on your primary residence, a $500,000 mortgage on a second home and pay a total of $75,000 in interest on both properties, you can deduct only $60,000 of the interest, which is the interest paid on the first $1 million. Under the proposal, with the same terms, you would only be able to deduct $30,000, which is the interest on the first $500,000 of your mortgage on only your primary residence.

This would not be a stand-alone change, so obviously other changes might decrease or increase the net impact on your taxes. For example, other recommendations from the report include tripling the standard deduction to $15,000 for individuals ($30,000 for married couples), repealing the deduction of state and local taxes on your federal income tax return and establishing marginal tax rates of 15 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent.

To put this process in context, the last time a tax reform measure of this magnitude was enacted was in 1986, and it took about two years for it to make its way through Congress and the president, so I don’t expect swift action in this case either.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 62.3 percent of people living in our region own their home. That is quite a few people who benefit from the mortgage interest deduction. Nationwide, Americans will save $104 billion on their taxes in 2011 because of the mortgage interest deduction, according to the Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based research group.

Owning property has been the cornerstone of American society and our economy for centuries. As someone said recently at an industry event, “I don’t think very many children dream about some day renting a home. There’s a reason why homeownership is called the American Dream.”

Thankfully, our local representatives in Congress know the importance of the mortgage interest deduction. Rep. John Culberson (R-District 7) who represents all the Examiner Newspapers distribution areas, told us, “The mortgage interest deduction is a valuable tool to assist homeowners through this recession. Preserving the mortgage interest deduction is essential to revitalizing the housing market, restoring our economy and protecting overburdened taxpayers.”

While there may be aspects of this draft proposal that we don’t like and some that we do, I think everyone agrees that we need to take steps to ensure our economic viability and stability. Owning a home has intrinsic value for the owner and provides stability for the neighborhood and society. We should be taking steps to encourage more people to purchase homes, not making it less desirable.

Realtors® believe that anyone who is able and willing to assume the responsibilities of owning a home should have the opportunity to pursue that dream. You can rest assured that we will be working with our public policy makers and industry leaders to ensure a model for responsible, sustainable homeownership, including keeping the mortgage interest deduction in place.

Dorrance is the 2010 Chair of the Board of the Houston Association of Realtors®, representing more than 25,000 members. She is also a principal at the Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan and has been in the real estate industry in Houston for more than 30 years.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Just a quick post to thank the wonderful residents of Crown Oaks in Montgomery, TX for an AWESOME Halloween. If you are looking for a family friendly neighborhood in which to raise your children, this one really takes the cake. Crown Oaks is a gated community with gorgeous homes on acreage lots and its families are "all about their children"!

My daughter and her husband chose this community in which to build their home when they 1st got married 9 years ago and have since been raising their 3 children there. It's become our family's Halloween tradition to start the day out early in the afternoon, munching on chile, tamles, hotdogs and other fallish foods. Then the kids dawn their costumes for the annual trek through the neighborhood and to the park.

Unlike other years when we rode on one of the many hayrides, this year we climbed into the bed of the pick-up with blankets and lawnchairs and crept through the streets towards the park. We passed numerous hayrides and golf carts, all festivly decorated for the event with flashing lights, goolish sounds coming from loud speakers and loaded down with kids in all sorts of attire. And it's not just the kids that get involved in dressing up as it is the scads of parents that joined in the fun.

One of the neighborhood parks was the setting for 'Trunk-R-Treating". It was awesome! Everyone joined in. Then after gathering all the candy these 3 kids could hawl, we made our way through the streets lined with homes decorated as spectacularly as they do for Christmas. So many families had set-up at the ends of their driveways with candy to give passers-by that not a stone was left unturned to make this night fun for not only little children but big kids like me. Thank you Crown Oaks for the part you played in making wonderful memories for our family. See ya next year!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Cupcakery Is Coming To Market Street - The Woodlands

From the Market Street FB Feed....Besides cooler weather, here's something to look forward to this Fall. The Cupcakery will open its first Houston location at Market Street - The Woodlands. Enjoy unique cupcake flavors like the "Trip to Graceland", a chunky peanut butter cake, layered with a light
banana cream frosting, rolled in applewood smoked baco...n, and drizzled
with honey. There goes the diet!!!!

Friday, July 30, 2010


Among other things, recent changes in the federal Truth in Lending Act and RESPA can slow the closing process. There is now a new HUD-1 form (Closing Statement)that title companies are getting used to which may add several more hours of document preparation. Their unfamiliarity and the fear of making a costly mistake in the Good Faith Estimate are sometimes prompting lenders to ask for closing cost information more than once and in several formats. Be sure to use an experienced title company who will more than likely have had more than enough transactions under their belt to have mastered the new documents.

Lending rules have also made it harder to close on time especially if circumstances change late in the deal. Amendments to the Truth in Lending Act require a 3-day disclosure period if a borrower decides to change the loan amount or anything else that might effect the interest rate. A change in loan amount could be due to an agreed upon amount off sales price in leiu of repairs. And changes of more than 0.125% in the APR immediately trigger another disclosure.

To avoid delays, work with knowledgable, seasoned professionals and avoid last minute changes whenever possible.

Don't Believe Everythig You Read!

There's always lots of emails circulating with false information out there. One in particular states that the healthcare bill contains a 4% tax on home sales. According to, the truth is that bill imposes a 3.8% Medicare tax for some high-income households that have "net investment income". The tax, which goes into effect in 2013, applies only to households with adjusted gross income of more than $250,000 ($200,000 for individuals). Also, since the capital gains rule is still in effect, the tax would be charged only on home-sale proceeds that exceed the exclusion amount of $500,000 ($250,000 for individuals). That's an amount that touches few households according to the publication by Erica Christoffer and Robert Freedman.

If you have any additional questions, call your CPA, Tax Advisor.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thinking About Remodeling?

Visit for more articles like this.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happy 4th of July, 2010 - Maybe a couple of days late but still sincere!

What a wonderful celebration Sunday night. It was our 4th year to attend The Woodlands' magnificent 4th of July fireworks display, and I swear it gets bigger and better every year! It's obvious no expense was spared and we sincerely thank the sponsors for providing us yet another year of spectacular celebrating. And a huge thank you to our law enforcement agency who have it down to a science. They were great directing traffic and people. And with literally thousands in attendance, I didn't see a single person misbehave.

We take our lawn chairs, our favorite adult beverage, cheese, crackers, fruit and this year I added sushi. We get there early to get "our spot" and then "people watch" before the main event begins because once it starts, all eyes are on the sky.

Now a little word to the wise if you've never been and think you can just waltz right onto the River Walk 30 minutes before it starts...think again. You'll find literally carloads of families, bumper-to-bumper on every street and shoulder-to-shoulder not only along the river, but on blankets on every strip of grass from Woodlands Parkway to Lake Woodlands, ontop of all the parking garages, in the Mall parking lot, up and down both sides of I-45 as well as packed in the shopping center parking lots in Oak Ridge.

And they come EARLY! I saw bar-b-q pits, tables, chairs, cots, even a few RV's! It was crazy! But crazy fun. And as in past years, by the time it's over and we're creeping 1-1/2 hours just to get out of the mall parking lot, I ask myself if I think we'll do it again next year and decide I would be crazy to do it again. But by July 3rd the following year, I'm busy getting my goodies together to keep the tradition going. Will we go again? We sure will!

COMING SOON! EarthQuest Resort

I've been telling folks it was coming for a couple of years now and it's finally coming to fruition! To be located between SH242 and FM 1485 on Highway 59 in Montgomery County, EarthQuest is coming to the East Montgomery County area. For much more information and a full description, log onto their website at Below is just a brief description of what EarthQuest Resort will have to offer.

The EarthQuest Resort is planned to be a family destination where guests of all ages and interests will have fun while exploring and learning about the wonders of our planet. Nestled in the beautiful rural landscape of East Montgomery County, Texas, this 500-acre, themed resort will pay homage to the Earth and all of its resources in a way that is entertaining, engaging, empowering and unique.

The project consists of an Eco-Resort with Hotel and Conference Center, a Theme Park with attractions and thrills based on the natural world, a Water Park based on the lost world of dinosaurs, a Family Entertainment Center, a Retail/ Dining/ Entertainment Promenade, and at the center of it all, the EarthQuest Institute, an innovative new education and research facility with hands-on exhibits dedicated to advancing our awareness and appreciation of the environment.

The EarthQuest Resort includes six major components:

EarthQuest Institute

The EarthQuest Institute is the fundamental heart of the EarthQuest Resort. It is a Not-For-Profit, scientific center for research and dissemination of information regarding our planet and the ways in which we can act to help provide the best possibilities for sustainable lifestyles.

Visitors will be able to participate in many interactive and hands-on activities that will help them understand the value of our natural resources, show cause and effect relationships and offer positive approaches to preserving many aspects of nature that we so deeply value.

EarthQuest Adventures Theme Park

EarthQuest Adventures Theme Park is an exhilarating new theme park filled with entertaining attractions that encourage us to explore and appreciate the amazing wonders of our planet. Rides, shows, and interactive experiences will engage the young and old alike, creating instant memories while sparking curiosity and inspiring further interest in protecting and preserving the earth.

Accessible on its own or in combination with other components of the EarthQuest Resort, a day at the EarthQuest Adventures Theme Park includes a visit to five themed zones, each focused on a different fundamental feature of the earth: Water, Land, Sky, Life and Pangaea (the ancient world). Attractions within the zones present a wide variety of thrills, challenges, and excitement, making the park a perfect family destination that will be popular for locals as well as tourists.

Cretaceous Cove Water Park

The whimsical idea of a retreating glacier when dinosaurs ruled the world creates the perfect setting for a themed water park filled with water slides, raft rides, wave pools, and other attractions. This highly imaginative and playfully immersive water park covers approximately 12 acres of themed attractions, all centered around a mountain of icy glacial fragments and the refreshingly cool run-off spilling down from its melting slopes.

The mix of attractions appeals to both active water enthusiasts and visitors who just want to relax and unwind. Unique dining and refreshment centers provide quick and easy access to fast food and snacks, and themed shops cater to the needs of regular visitors and first-time tourists.

Green Gadget Garage – A Family Entertainment Center

What do the scientists of an eco-friendly resort do with all their left-over stuff? In the spirit of “waste not-want not,” they recycle it, retool it and turn it into the foundation of a really cool and funky family entertainment center. All the classics are here – Go Karts, Mini Golf, Ferris Wheels, Soft Playgrounds, Arcade Games and more. But because they are built with recycled products they will have an innovative, homegrown and eclectic feel. And whenever possible, they will all utilize a variety of alternative power (solar power, wind power and people power).

EarthQuest Resort Hotel

Reconnect with yourself and with nature at the EarthQuest Resort Hotel and Tree Houses. Surrounded by lush waterfalls, natural woods, native plants and eco-friendly facilities, guests will have no trouble escaping the hustle-bustle of everyday life and finding the peace, serenity and inspiration this delightful resort has to offer.
Vacations and business gatherings alike will be exciting and memorable!

With a state-of-the-art conference center and first class amenities, EarthQuest will be a much sought-out destination for small business meetings, events and conferences. The Hotel will have a direct connection to the Conference Center and access to the associated amenities of the Institute. In addition, it will feature lush Forest Cabins and Tree House Suites.

Ecotourism Activities

Guests can celebrate the natural beauty of the property through low-impact activities such as horseback riding, hiking trails and kayaking on the creek. Rope-courses and zip-lines will add a more active and adventurous flavor to the menu, as well as bird watching and flora and fauna guided nature walks.

EarthWalk – Retail, Dining and Entertainment

When guests arrive at the EarthQuest Resort they’ll stroll first along a shady street filled with 60,000 sq. ft. of eco-friendly shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. This is EarthWalk, the gateway entrance to the Theme Park, Water Park, Family Entertainment Center, Institute and Hotel. It is the base camp from which we prepare for the journeys that lie ahead, and afterward relax and unwind from the day’s adventures.

Retail shops along EarthWalk’s main thoroughfare offer the finest in environmentally friendly goods: clothing, outdoor gear, and native crafts from around the world. Small pavilions and kiosks house changing displays and demonstrations from the EarthQuest Institute. Restaurants offer a rich range of international cuisine in themed settings and some of the food is grown using sustainable agricultural methods in selected areas of the EarthQuest Resort.

I'm so excited that these invisionaries chose our area for this unique blend of family entertainment. What a great area to live in!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Market Street Happenings for July 2010!

Carriage Rides at Market Street! - July 2

Independence Parade - July 3

Cars & Coffee for a Cause - July 4

Popular Children s Series - Peanut Butter & Jamm - Returns to Market Street July 10th-August 14th!

Ladies Night Out! RSVP Today - July 12

Market Street Day Knitters - July 1

Story Time at Borders - July 2

The Woodlands Songwriters Association - July 12

Literary Ladies Book Club - July 13

Cru ~ A Wine Bar
Girl's Night Out! Celebrate Women & Champagne! - July 1

Big Bottle Night Every Wednesday At Crú~A Wine Bar - July 7

Vueve Clicquot Wine Dinner at Cru - July 15

Reynolds Family Winery Winemaker Dinner at Cru - July 16

Langford Market
Meet the Artist Event at Langford Market - July 15

Luke’s Locker
Run The Woodlands - July 10

Run The Woodlands - July 24

Norton Ditto
Happy Hour and Sale at Norton Ditto - July 8

FREE "Flyfishing 101" at Orvis
July 3

Red Mango
Mango Monday at Red Mango

Sweet & Sassy
Sweet and Sassy Glam Week Summer Camp

Sweet and Sassy open at 7:30AM to get the girls sparkling and ready for the parade! Star Spangled package - July 3

Market Street-The Woodlands Presents The Return of its Popular Children’s Series Peanut Butter & Jamm!

Fashion Boutique Couture Lounge Signs Lease to Open at Market Street

Woodlands Wellness & Cosmetic Center - Summer Savings
THERMAGE 40% OFFThermage is the skin tightening procedure that smoothes, tightens and contours without surgery, injections or

Jamba Juice - Summer Feel Good Specials
See these awesome specials...

Bobby Chan - Join us for free wine and shopping at Bobby Chan!
Summer Sale continues through July with everything 30% off! Bobby Chan's offers free refreshments every

Aaron Brothers - Get a frame or canvas for a penny!
June 24th will be the first day of our Penny Sale. During the Penny Sale customers can purchase any frame or canvas and get a

Langford Market - Langford Market offers complimentary Personal Shoppers -Stop by for styling tips and ways to look your best!
Not everyone looks forward to swimsuit season, but we want to encourage you to focus on your whole ensemble.Try d

Eddie Bauer - Ultimate Summer Sale through July 11th at Eddie Bauer
These are the last days of the best prices of the season! Beginning, July 12th, we launch our Annual Gear event. A

Cos Bar - Special Beauty Events in July at Cos Bar
Make-up artist events: Artist, Sisley Regional - July, 3,10, 17, 24, 31 Treatment Thursdays: July 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 Foundati

Red Mango - Get your passport to FREE 16oz smoothies at Red Mango
Introducing new smoothies including boosts, fresh fruit and tea chillers! Stop by to pick up your Passport for free 16oz Smo

Sweet & Sassy - Fourth of July Specials - Sweet and Sassy will be open early to get the girls sparkling.
Two new fabulous parties just for summer- July only - Hawaiian beach party and the "So Sweet" party-call Swee

Sweet & Sassy - Glam Week Summer Camp
Different fun filled themes each day Monday-Friday, 10:30 - 2:30. July 19-25, and another session July 26-29. $185/wk, $40/da

Francesca’s Collections - Summer Sale at Francesca's Collections - Up to 75% off!

Dr. S. Bret Cope D.D.S. - Dr. Cope Gives Market Street Something to Smile About...

Norton Ditto - Summer Sale at Norton Ditto
Up to 30% discount on suits, sports coats, dress and casual slacks, long sleeve and short sleeve sport shirts, dress shirts,

Lilly Pulitzer - Lilly has Red, white, Blue & Pink Dresses!
Come to Lilly Pulitzer for your 4th of July attire. We have lots of Red, White, Blue and Pink dresses, skirts, tops and part

Em & Lee - Coupon for $10.00 during the month of July at Em & Lee
Great savings plus a coupon for $10.00!

Dionysus Salon-Spa - July is hot and steamy....and so is our hair!
July is hot and steamy....and so is our hair!!! Dionysus has several selections from Aveda to keep your hair tame and under c

LMD Boutique - Save 15% at LMD Boutique on 4th of July Weekend!
15% off throughout the store on July 3rd and 4th!

AVIA Boutique Hotel - Live music every week on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday
Featuring Ramon Torres and Anthony Caceres.

AVIA Boutique Hotel - Drink in the experience at the Avia Hotel. Happy Hour Specials!
Sunday - S.I.N. Industry Night $2.00 off beer + wines by the glass - 1/2 off libations Martini Mondays - Whether shaken or s

Great opportunities available at:
• Aaron Brothers
• Cru ~ A Wine Bar
• Luke s Locker
• Sweet & Sassy
See all Job Opportunities

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Buying a New Home from a Builder?

So you’re in the market for a new home and decide to go looking around to see what’s out there. If you are already working with a Realtor, be sure to register them with each builder before wandering around a single home. That way you’ll start off on the right foot with the builder and it will also send the builder the message that they can’t pull one over on you....and trust me, many will try. No matter how friendly the sales rep for the builder is, ultimately they will be looking after the interests of the one signing their paycheck and that’s not you. The same holds true with the builder’s superintendants and inspectors.

There are some wonderful builders out there who build really fine, quality homes. But you’ve got to keep in mind that there are many more unscrupulous ones as well. A home builder is only as good as his contractors, and construction workers tend to follow the money. The old saying, “Here today, gone tomorrow” can really be applied to building contractors. If a new subdivision opens up in the vicinity paying more money, you can bet a hungry contractor will pick up his hammer, nails, pipes and paint brushes and join his friends down the street.

So the first thing you need is your own advocate....someone who knows the ropes and will look after YOUR best interests. If you don’t have one, you need to hire a REALTOR. Why would you NOT, when you’re about to tie yourself to a mortgage for the next 30 years of your life while doling out thousands of dollars on the largest purchase you will more than likely ever make? And by the way, your Realtor’s commission is even paid by the builder! Builders like Realtors who bring them buyers so guess who benefits....YOU!

If you’re still waffling about a Realtor, consider the following:

Builders have their asking price just like an individual seller has a list price, and your Realtor can work alongside of you to negotiate the best deal possible. We've had alot of practice. We do it everyday. Another thing, builders may tell you that you have to use their lender, but that’s not true. You can use whomever you wish but many times the builder has worked out a deal with a particular lender to wave certain fees so using their lender is sometimes a good idea. Just make sure they are not making up the shortfall in additional or higher fees some place else. Shop around to make the best choice. Your Realtor can refer you to reputable lenders.

If the home is still under construction, visit it regularly, every step of the way. Once the walls are up, you can’t see what’s behind them. Your Realtor can be your other set of eyes. And take pictures! At the very least, it’ll be fun to have a collection of photos of your new home from start to finish.

Hire an inspector. Again, the builder has more than likely had inspections done at various times throughout the building process but you need an inspector who is not being paid by the builder to look after YOUR interests. Afterall, an inspector is beholding to the one who signs his paycheck. And don’t fall for the “you don’t need an inspector because we use city inspectors" line. Again, hire and PAY for your own, independent inspector. Your Realtor will have a list of reputable inspectors to chose from. Oh, and make sure ALL appliances are installed and utilities are on prior to the inspection.

Your Realtor will negotiate repairs for you. Just because it’s a brand new home doesn’t mean everything will be in working order. I’ve seen plumbing fixtures installed backwards (hot where cold should be and vice-versa) and electrical circuits not color coded properly. I’ve seen pin-sized holes in pipes that if not caught, could have caused mold at the very least. I’ve seen drainage issues and roof issues and so many other things that were caught by our own independent inspectors. An agent friend of mine even had an inspector find a beam missing in the attic. A structural engineer had to be called in. Negotiate the repairs and then by all means....PERFORM A FINAL WALK-THROUGH PRIOR TO CLOSING. I can't stress this enough.

Once you sign on the bottom line and the money funds, the house AND ITS PROBLEMS become yours! And no one is slower at handling fixes than a builder who has already closed on a home. Keep in mind that holding off a closing is much less costly for you than going through it with the promise the builder will make good on something not done. If you hold off the closing until the house is as you expect it, the builder will be forced to get on the ball and get things done because he doesn’t want another month of interest to pay.

I prefer to take my buyers to the house a few hours prior to closing, provided they’ve been stopping by periodically to monitor the progress so there are no surprises.



Received this late last night after posting my venting blog about the National Flood Insurance Program.


From: NAR (National Association of Realtors)Government Affairs
RE: Tax Credit Closing Date Extension/Flood Insurance Extension
DATE: 30 June 2010

After a close brush with the deadline, Congress has passed an extension of the Homebuyer Tax Credit closing deadline,the Homebuyer Assistance and Improvement Act(H.R. 5623). The extension applies only to transactions that have ratified contracts in place as of April 30, 2010 that have not yet closed. The new closing deadline legislation designed to create a seamless extension for eligible transactions is now September 30, 2010. There will be no gap between June 30and the date the President signs the bill into law.

NAR worked closely with Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to enact this important legislation. Extending the Tax Credit Closing deadline will help provide additional stability to real estate markets across the nation. For additional information on the extension visit

Additionally, the United States Senate has passed the National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act of 2010,(H.R. 5569) extending the National Flood Insurance Program until September 30, 2010. This will allow transactions to move forward. The bill is retroactive and covers the lapse period from June 1, 2010 to the date of enactment of the extension. For more information on the flood insurance program visit

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Flood Insurance Drowning in Government Bureaucracy

If you’ve watched the news over the past several weeks and seen some of your neighbors across the nation watch in horror as their homes literally washed away in a flood, it may have gotten you to thinking that now might be the time to purchase flood insurance. Or perhaps you HAVE flood insurance, but it's up for renewal. Afterall, you don’t have to live in a flood plain to get flooded, just look at what happened when Tropical Storm Allison blew through a few years ago. Or even more recent, the havoc caused by Hurricane Ike’s torrential downpours. If you picked up the phone to call your trusty insurance agent you were no doubt surprised to hear the voice on the other end tell you in so many words, “Sorry. There IS no flood insurance right now.”

Read on for the latest update regarding flood insurance and our government at work for us: From the Insurance Journal – National News dated June 30th, 2010


The future of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) remains in limbo even as Hurricane Alex makes its way to the Texas coast today. Washington lobbyists say a vote could come today but if that doesn’t happen, it could be until July 12th or thereafter before another vote is possible since Congress will not be around during the July 4th holiday.

The NFIP expired on June 1st, the official day of hurricane season. Since then, flooding has occurred in several states. On June 23rd, the House of Representatives passed another temporary extension of the NFIP, good through September 30, 2010, but the Senate has failed to take action so far.

Even if the Senate passed an NFIP extension, a flood insurance policy normally does not go into effect for 30 days after the policy is purchased, further underscoring the importance of renewing the program as quickly as possible, says the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The NAIC has sent a letter to House and Senate leaders urging immediate action to extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). In a letter, regulators stressed that timing is negatively affecting consumers.

“As state regulators, we are deeply concerned with the impact the nearly month-long lapse has caused for consumers and future flood victims across the country,” said Jane C. Cline, NAIC president and West Virginia Insurance Commissioner. “It is imperative that Congress act quickly to extend the program so that consumers can protect themselves.”

Blain Rethmeier, senior vice president for public affairs for the American Insurance Association, says right now the future of the NFIP remains in limbo with no clear legislative path for a retroactive extension of the program.

“There is a slim chance the Senate will have an opportunity to pass the short term extension, but with Senator Byrd’s funeral, it looks unlikely,” Rethmeier said. “We very well could go into July 4th recess without any resolution.”

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana brought the NFIP extension through September 30th to the Senate floor for unanimous consent yesterday, according to Matt Brady, director of media relations for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos. (NAMIC). But Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois objected and offered the “extenders” bill, legislation that would extend the program through the end of the year but also includes other provisions that have drawn objections for increasing the budget deficit, according to Brady. Brady said Sen. Vitter then objected to the extender’s bill.

“It’s possible that it could be brought to the floor for unanimous consent again today,” Brady said, but cautioned that if nothing happens today, the Senate would be less likely to take action tomorrow because of the memorial service planned for the late Sen. Robert Byrd. “They’re also out all next week, so if they adjourn without extending the program nothing can happen until July 12th or 13th at a minimum.”

The program has been unable to issue new or renewal policies since it was shut down May 31st, although it is still paying claims. It is the fourth time in the past year that the program has been interrupted due to the failure of Congress to reauthorize it for an extended period.

Yep....our government at work for us. Bless their hearts.

Bad Home Warranty Experience

As a Realtor, I generally refer clients to 3 vendors in any particular category. 3 Lendors, 3 insurance companies, 3 painters, and so on. That way they can make their own choice who to go with. Same true with Home Warranty Companies. But 9 times out of 10, they figure the company I have personally must be the best, after all if it's good enough for me, it's gotta be good enough for them. NOT SO!

I'm only in my 2nd year with Old Republic Home Warranty but have referred them to clients for years. Since my rep left (who was wonderful), all they want is my payment. I've been trying to get my washing machine fixed for months. And my oven that I called in was flat denied stating it was due to "excessive force". Give me a break!

Mine's a long story but in short, they will find any excuse not to take care of something and I think their contractors work with them because otherwise, they wouldn't have any customers. They are THAT bad. I would like to hear from anyone else if you've had a similar experience with YOUR home warranty company. And if you're happy with yours, I would like to hear that too. I'm canceling my contract and shopping around.

Oh, and if you happen to be one of the powers that be with ORHW and are reading this...then good. Maybe I've finally gotten someone's attention. Nothing else has worked!

Just Who Are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

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Deer Overruning Your Neighborhood?

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Energy Tax Credits - Beware of False Promises!!!!

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Tax Tips For Planning Your 2010 Tax Return

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The Possible Costs of Renting Your House Out

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How Foresclosures Can Affect Your Credit Scores

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Do You Scour the Sex Offender Registries?

As a Real Estate professional, I’m often asked about the probability of a particular neighborhood’s housing of registered sex offenders. The concern is the same as mine, and rightly so. We want our children and families as safe as possible. I often refer these families to one of several sex offender registries. There is a growing number of Web sites that make it simple and easy to find out how many registered sex offenders live in a given area. Many of the Web sites are a result of Megan’s Law which went into effect in 1996 requiring states to make information on registered sex offenders public. Web sites such as Family Watchdog ( and the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Public Website ( are free while some mobile apps can cost a few dollars.

What concerns this writer is how diluted the list has become. Round-the-clock media coverage of high profile abductions and murders have contributed to a general sense that society has run amok, when in fact violent crime rates in most areas are generally lower now than they’ve been since the 1970s, according to Lenore Skenazy, author of "Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry" (Jossey-Bass, 2009).

According to Skenazy, the number of people registered as sex offenders has been exploding for 15 years, and not because of the escalation of high-risk perpetrators. She notes that while there are still plenty of creepy criminals on state registries, the MAIN reason the list has grown so large is because we’ve “dumbed-down” the notion of what constitutes a sex offender.

Did you know that a person can wind up on the registry for urinating public, visiting a prostitute or in 32 states, taking part in the silly prank of streaking? I sure didn’t. But perhaps the most problematic group of “sex offenders” according to Skenazy is TEENS. Teen boys getting caught having sex with their girlfriends, and more times than not, consensually. In Texas alone, 4,000 registrants ended up on the list as juveniles. And in Georgia, it was found that less than 1% defined as “predators” were actually considered driven by compulsion to commit sex crimes.

Skenazy states that adding to the registries to “keep our children safe,” they’d likely be safer if registries were smaller and more meaningful. She further argues sex offender registries contribute to an irrational fear of “stranger danger” when in fact nearly 90% of all crimes against children are committed by a family member or other people they know, according to David Finkelhor, who directs the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

So what is a concerned parent or Realtor to do? I know I’ll continue checking out the Web sites myself and when asked, I’ll refer them to my clients. After all it only takes one individual to cause real fear in a community. I guess it really is better to FEEL safe than BE sorry.

Housing Shortage in the Cards?

In the current market, the idea of a housing shortage may be hard to accept. There are simply too many For Sale signs and delinquent mortgages threatening to turn into foreclosures to make a housing shortage seem like a serious possibility. But the big drop in home construction over the past few years suggests that it COULD become a real issue.

Home builders must add 1.6 to 1.7 million housing units each year to accommodate typical U.S. population increases and replace demolished homes. During the boom years of 2003 to 2006, production far exceeded the historical average, with builders producing a cumulative surplus of 1.3 million units.

That overproduction remained hidden, though, because investors flush with easy money were gobbling up property. Once the easy money dried up and prices headed down, investors were forced to dump properties. Today, there might be as many as 700,000 empty units ABOVE normal levels.

Still, the great underproduction in the past three years is an issue that will need to be reconciled, especially if the trend continues. Once we start seeing new household formation again, a housing shortage is something we won’t be able to dismiss too quickly.

(June 2010) Lawrence Chun, Chief Economist of the National Association of Realtors

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Negotiate Your Best House Buy

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Priorities to Consider When Negotiating Repairs (For Buyers)

I always stress the importance for Buyers to attend the inspection of a home they plan to purchase. Doing so enables them to be shown specific items of importance and allows them to ask questions of the inspector. The following information is coming straight from the horse's mouth (so-to-speak), a REAL inspector...and a very thorough one I might add. Please read on....

In the words of Glenn Wharten, Texas Inspection Partners: It happens during nearly every inspection. The buyer will ask me if the seller “has to” repair a particular item or they will ask which items they should ask the seller to repair. Repair negotiations are of course, the responsibility of the buyer’s agent. The agent however, is not supposed to be making value judgments in regard to repairs. It therefore falls to the inspector to give every buyer some level of guidance as to how to set priorities among all of the items found.

I first advise buyers that much of the repair negotiation process rests on the seller’s attitude towards the process. If the seller believes he “took a bath” or is financially stressed, he may have little interest in conducting repairs. At the other end of the spectrum is the seller that thinks he did well during initial negotiations or earnestly wants to leave the home in a tidy manner. The normal scenario tends to be somewhere in the middle of these extremes.

To prepare for repair negotiations you need to accept two facts. First, a seller will not repair the entire list. The simple explanation that I use is that you have to accept that there is a normal level of wear and tear on any home. Secondly, the buyer must make a serious decision about what he is unwilling to accept and what he can do himself. Homeownership is a responsibility; it comes with an obligation to conduct upkeep. Items found by the inspector that fall into the normal upkeep category are poor choices for repair negotiations.

Finally, consideration must be given to the buyer’s personal situation. Factor in buyer skill set, the age of the new occupants and any mobility issues with the new occupants. Priorities 1 through 3 (below) can routinely become part of a negotiating process, while 4 normally does not. This is what I give to my buyers:

Priority 1: Safety - Repair any item that can be construed as harmful if not fixed. Opinions on what is a safety issue will vary. Good examples include GFCI repair or the replacement of a copper gas line.

Priority 2: Structure - Repair any item, which causes a weakening of the structure or opens the structure up to environmental damage. Rotted wood, plumbing leaks or ineffective flashing.

Priority 3. Mechanicals - Repair any mechanical or appliance needed for home comfort or functionality. AC or heat, which is not working.

Priority 4. Routine Repairs - Items that are part of a normal maintenance program but need attention now. Caulk repair around windows, trimming vegetation.

See who's coming to Dosey Doe's!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 - EZRA CHARLES 8:00 PM $40 Dinner
He is firmly rooted in every type of music that ever came out of Texas; Boogie-Woogie, Swing, Rockabilly, and Blues. Famous for his flashy piano antics and girls in the horn section, Ezra spends the evening talking & playing with host Kyle Hutton for this recorded for radio event.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 - MARK CHESTNUTT 8:00 PM $70 Dinner
With one of “the” voices in Country music, Mark is the heir apparent to both of
the Georges! Success came early in the ‘90s and continues as he is always on top of the charts & winning awards. Mark spends the evening talking & playing with host Kyle Hutton for this recorded for radio event.


Looking for something FUN to do?

Crú in The Woodlands is featuring live jazz, spectacular wine country cuisine, artisan cheeses, wood-fired pizzas and nightly seasonal Chef Specials. Each night their in-house wine specialist will select and open a rare large format bottle to offer by the glass at exceptional value for your enjoyment.

Friday, June 18, 2010

There's much more here than beer!

Coming to Town Green Park on The Woodlands Waterway - 2010 Oktoberfest!

September 24th - 26th
Times: Fri: 5-9pm | Sat: 12-9pm | Sun: 12-6pm
Cost: Children under 10 - $Free | Adults and Children 10 and up - $10.00

2010 Entertainment Schedule coming soon!

Food & Drinks There will be much authentic German food to be sampled including:
•bratwurst•sauerkraut•strudel•a wide variety of other tastes

Also, two-fisted Oktoberfest pretzels will tempt the taste buds of festival goers.

Oktoberfest 2010 beer mugs and Bavarian souvenirs will also be for sale in the festival's craft vendor fair.

All proceeds will go directly to The Woodlands Rotary Club Foundation raising funds for student scholarships benefitting local students and their families.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Many of us have been very concerned about the implementation of federal legislation known as the SAFE Act that would severely limit an individual’s ability to seller finance their property in Texas.

We are working on numerous regulatory and legislative solutions to this affront to private-property owners, and have some good news to report. At our urging, the chief regulator over the SAFE Act in Texas, the commissioner of the Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending, has taken significant steps to allow Texas property owners to continue to seller finance up to five transactions in a 12-month period.

More specifically, the commissioner has delayed the implementation of the SAFE Act requirement for licensure in seller-financed transactions in Texas until August 31. This will give us time to implement regulatory and legislative changes during the coming months. For now it is important for you to know that the long-standing law of allowing a Texas seller to finance up to five transactions in a consecutive 12-month period is still in effect and the Texas Association of REALTORS® will continue to work at the federal and state level to see that this is a permanent solution.

Finally, this action would not have happened if not for the thousands of Texas REALTORS® who participated in our grassroots efforts to correct this abuse to private-property owners in Texas.

Information provided by Governmental Affairs, The Texas Association of Realtors, Bill Jones, 2010 Chairman of the Board
Home Buyer Tax Credits Brought to you by the National Association of Home Builders
Special Rules for Members of the Military, the Foreign Service
and the Intelligence Community:

Congress has acknowledged the unique circumstances affecting members of the military, the foreign service and the intelligence community by making the following exceptions that apply to both the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers and the $6,500 tax credit for repeat home buyers.

Exemption From Tax Credit Recapture Rules

Typically, homes that are sold or that cease to be used as a principal residence within three years of the initial purchase are subject to recapture of the tax credit. However, qualified service members who sell or move from a tax credit home within three years of the initial purchase due to official extended duty are exempt from the recapture rule.

Extension of Tax Credit Deadlines

The home buyer tax credit is available for qualified purchases with a binding sales contract in place on or before April 30, 2010 and closed by June 30, 2010. However, for qualified service members who are ordered on a period of official extended duty, these dates are extended for one year. For these home buyers, the tax credit applies to sales with a binding sales contract in place on or before April 30, 2011 and closed by June 30, 2011.

A person who is forced to return to the U.S. for medical reasons before completing an assignment of at least 90 days of qualified official extended duty outside of the United States may qualify for the one-year extension.


“Qualified service member” means a member of the uniformed services of the U.S military, a member of the Foreign Service of the U.S., or an employee of the intelligence community.

“Official extended duty” means any period of extended duty outside of the United States for at least 90 days during the period beginning after December 31, 2008 and ending before May 1, 2010.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Certified International Real Estate Specialist!

I.R.E.S. stands for International Real Estate Specialist. It is a certification program that educates agents on how to sell properties to buyers coming from other countries; market our local listings in other states and countries; and sell properties located around the world to our local buyers. It is a society of agents working together to promote our listings not only in the state where we hold our licenses, but also in other states as well as internationally.

I can actually sell you a golf course property in Las Vegas or a castle in Spain!

Currently there are about 1500 agents from many different states and countries in this global network of Real Estate professionals. The magazine, Castles and Estates which is a high-end publication and the website is now available to help me to promote my listings world-wide.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Woodlands presents the return of its popular, month-long Spring Concert Series every Thursday

THE WOODLANDS, TX (March 31, 2010) - Market Street - The Woodlands presents the return of its popular, month-long Spring Concert Series every Thursday from 6:30 – 8:30 pm, May 6 - June 17, as some of the area’s hottest musical talents perform right in Market Street’s Central Park. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and unwind to the live music sounds from renowned local artists such as Ezra Charles & The Texas Band, Cecille “La Diabla” & Rainel Pino’s Orquesta, the Level One Band and so much more!
Scheduled performers include:

May 6 Ezra Charles & The Texas Band
May 13 Cecille “La Diabla” & Rainel Pino’s Orqeusta

May 20 Level One Band
May 27 Joseph Vincelli

June 3 Mike Reed Band
June 10 Joe Carmouche Band

June 17 Mambo Jazz Kings

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

5 Tips For Going Green

Eco-friendly. Carbon footprint. Global warming. Energy-efficient. These catch phrases have become part of our lexicon as we’ve become more aware of our impact on the environment and our role in protecting it. As a homeowner, there are some simple, inexpensive steps you can take to make your home energy-efficient. Get started on the road to being “green” with these five tips:

1. Change Your Light Bulbs

By replacing just five incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, you can save $100 per year on electric bills while using up to 75 percent less energy and removing greenhouse gases from the environment.

2. Buy ENERGY STAR® Appliances

ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances, such as refrigerators, washers and air conditioners, meet a higher level of energy efficiency set by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy than standard models. According to ENERGY STAR, if just one in 10 homes used ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances, the impact could be compared to planting 1.7 million new acres of trees. And, switching to these appliances is not only good for the environment, but easy on your pocketbook. Although these appliances may costs more, you can reduce your energy bill by $80 per year.

3. Seal Up

Cracks and air leaks represent cash seeping from your doors and windows. Get rid of air leaks in doors, windows and other areas by caulking gaps and cracks. This will help decrease your heating and air conditioning bill. But make sure you use silicone sealants. Acrylic caulk tends to shrink, while silicone sealants are waterproof and won’t shrink or crack, creating less waste.

4. Use Less Water

Did you know that roughly 60 percent of a home's water consumption takes place in the bathroom, according to the California Urban Water Conservation Council? The largest culprit is the toilet, which accounts for 27 percent of your household supply every year. By installing low-flow toilets, showerheads and faucets, you can save thousands of gallons of water each year. In addition, replace leaky fixtures. That slow-dripping faucet can waste as much as 2,400 gallons of water per year.

5. Adjust the Thermostat

When adjusting your home’s thermostat, the rule of thumb should be: turn up the dial in the summer and down in the winter. Lowering the temperature by just one degree will reduce your electrical costs. And if you use a programmable thermostat, you can program your air-conditioning and heating systems to reduce output while no one is at home or at night while you sleep. Ceiling fans are also helpful in circulating the air to keep the room cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Going green doesn’t have to be overwhelming or costly. By making just a few small changes within your home, you can help decrease energy consumption and help make the world a “greener” place.


Strongest sales volume continues among homes priced from $250K and above

HOUSTON — (April 20, 2010) — The rapidly approaching April 30 federal homebuyer tax credit apparently inspired Houston-area consumers to house shop, as sales of single-family homes throughout the Houston market rose in March with the strongest sales volume continuing in the upper housing segments. Prices of single-family homes also continued their months-long appreciation.

The rapidly approaching April 30 federal homebuyer tax credit apparently inspired Houston-area consumers to house shop, as sales of single-family homes throughout the Houston market rose in March with the strongest sales volume continuing in the upper housing segments. Prices of single-family homes also continued their months-long appreciation.

Overall March sales of single-family homes across greater Houston climbed 10.8 percent compared to March 2009, according to the latest monthly data compiled by the Houston Association of Realtors® (HAR). All single-family home pricing segments except the under-$80,000 market experienced gains, with the sharpest increases in homes priced from $250,000 and above. Sales of all property types rose 14.5 percent in March on a year-over-year basis.

The average price of a single-family home appreciated for the sixth straight month, reaching $212,403, up 10.2 percent versus March 2009. That represents the highest pricing level for a March in Houston. At $154,250, the March single-family home median price—the figure at which half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less—rose 6.4 percent from one year earlier. That represents the 11th consecutive monthly increase in median price and is the highest dollar figure for a March in Houston.

Foreclosure property sales reported in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) fell by 14.1 percent in March compared to one year earlier. The median price of March foreclosure sales rose 4.2 percent to $87,500 on a year-over-year basis.

Sales of all property types in Houston for March totaled 5,758, up 14.5 percent compared to March 2009. Total dollar volume for properties sold during the month was $1.2 billion versus $938 million one year earlier, representing a 24.2 percent increase.

“Local mortgage lenders I have spoken with estimate that between 50 to 65 percent of their recent business is related to the first-time homebuyer tax credit,” said Margie Dorrance, HAR chair and principal at Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan. “Homebuyers are nearly out of time to take advantage of the credit since a contract must be in the title company by midnight on April 30, although closing can take place as late as June 30.”

March Monthly Market Comparison
The month of March brought Houston’s overall housing market positive results when all listing categories are compared to March of 2009. Total property sales, total dollar volume and both median and average single-family home sales prices all increased on a year-over-year basis.

The number of available properties, or active listings, at the end of March rose 7.1 percent from March 2009 to 49,030. That represents 2,372 more active listings than one month earlier, in February 2010, and is widely thought to reflect increased activity stemming from the homebuyer tax credit.

Month-end pending sales for March—those listings expected to close within the next 30 days—totaled 4,242, up 14.3 percent from last year. The months inventory of single-family homes for March stretched slightly to 6.7 months compared to 6.1 months one year earlier, but remains better than the national months inventory of single-family homes of 8.6 months, reported by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).