Do’s and Don’ts When You’re Shopping for a Home

OK, you’ve made the decision that  you’re going to buy a home–Congratulations!  Smart choice #1!

You’ve found a REALTOR® that you feel comfortable with to represent you and guide you through the process.  Smart choice #2!

Next step–get pre-approved for a mortgage loan.  Smart choice #3!  You’re on a roll here, so don’t mess it up now!  Follow these tips during the application process to make things go smoothly!

1.  DON’T apply for new credit of any kind!  Credit cards, car loans, furniture, major appliances, anything!

2.  DON’T close credit card accounts or consolidate accounts!

3. DON’T max out your credit cards!

4. DON’T co-sign for any loans (see #1!)

5. DO stay current on your payments–for everything!

6. DON’T quit or change jobs!

7. DON’T make any large purchases (car, furniture, appliances, computer, travel, etc.)

8. DON’T make any large deposits into your checking or savings accounts.

9. DO continue 1-8 until you have closed on the purchase of your home!

10. DO trust me on this!

Why is all this so important?  Good question!!  All these things impact your credit score, your credit-worthiness, and also your debt-to-income ratio. These are what can tip the scales in your favor or against you when qualifying for a mortgage.   They matter–a lot! And not only do lenders look at them when you initially apply, they also check again right before closing.  If there have been any major changes, you could find your loan in jeopardy!  This almost happened to one of my first buyers when she bought all new furniture before closing.  She used the money in her savings account to pay cash, the same money that had helped her qualify for her loan!

If you have chosen a smart REALTOR® and a reputable lender, they will tell you all of this.  PAY ATTENTION!  It really does matter!

Good luck and congratulations!  And if you’re in San Antonio, call me!  I’d love to help you find the perfect home for you!

All the best,

Sue Trautner, REALTOR®
PenFed Realty

Rent or Buy?

This is a big question!  There are no right or wrong answers–only what’s best for you in your current situation.  But, if you’re wrestling with that question and trying to make a decision, here are a couple of things to consider.  Knowledge is power, and the more you have, the better equipped you are to make a decision.

1. Mortgage rates are still very low, but are not likely to stay that way forever!

2. Inventory of available homes, at least in San Antonio, is good.

3. Average home price in San Antonio is $191,750, as of May, 2011 (latest stats available).  This represents a 5.6% increase from April, 2011.  Expect that to continue.

4. As home prices rise, even slowly, you may be able to afford less and less home.

5. If you’re currently renting or thinking about renting a home, keep this in mind–as a renter, you’re still a home buyer; you’re just buying for someone else!  Why not put your rent money toward purchasing your own home rather than your landlord’s?

6. Our market here in San Antonio is pretty balanced between sellers and buyers, with a slight tilt in favor of buyers.  Sellers are still willing to negotiate to help make a sale, so this is a good time to take advantage of that willingness.  It has not always been that way, and will not continue indefinitely!

7. When you’re ready to become a homeowner, call me!  Sue Trautner, 210-363-9282.



San Antonio Real Estate Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



San Antonio Real Estate Market Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Interest Rates–going up!

Maybe you heard on the news in the last couple of days that interest rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage have increased–rates are now over 5%.  Now, honestly, that’s still a really low rate, but it’s higher than it was 30 days ago.  And most of the lenders I talk to think it’s going to slowly continue to increase, at least for now.  This takes me back to a reminder from an earlier post–if you’re considering buying a home and you’re able to do so, this would be a good time to get serious about it!

Even if the home you find does not change price in the next 60-90 days (highly unlikely in San Antonio, if it’s still even available after that time!), your cost to purchase it is likely to increase, which might make it more difficult to qualify to buy it in the first place!   Of course, all this depends on your particular situation, but the general wisdom is that many potential homebuyers may be knocked out of the game, or bumped down to a lower price range.  That means their choices are more limited.

What does this mean in real numbers?  Here’s an example:

Let’s say your loan is for $170,000.
Nov  2010–interest rate is 4.17%        P&I (principal & interest) = $828.36/month
Today-  interest rate is 5.05%        P&I =   917.80/month
Difference                                                           $89.44/month

$89.44 per month more out of pocket/month = > $1000 per year = > $32,000 over the 30-year life of the loan!

Do you see what I mean about the cost of buying a home?   If you’re on the fence, time to get off!

If you’re in San Antonio, I would love to help you find a home!  Contact me at [email protected]  If you’re not in San Antonio, I’d be happy to help you find a REALTOR in your area–contact me at the same e-mail.

Take the plunge! It’s time to buy–NOW!

There’s one aspect of the home buying process that doesn’t get as much attention, but is critical to a homebuyer–the COST of buying a home.  Buyers typically focus on the price of the home they’re looking for without considering what it will cost them to purchase that home.   Sadly, some realtors also fail to advise and counsel their buyers on this important part of the purchase process, and that’s when unexpected surprises may turn up at closing time.   Many buyers, especially first-timers, fail to factor in the costs associated with obtaining a mortgage and all the other costs such as taxes, escrow, fees, etc. that come into play on the closing statement.

Some of these fees are fixed, some are not.  Some could be paid by the seller, some cannot.  This is why it is so important for you, the buyer, to compare lenders, insurance agents, etc.  Get at least two quotes and be sure you receive a Good Faith Estimate that details the estimated closing costs, fees, taxes, etc.  Your realtor should be able to refer you if you don’t know who to ask.

Remember to include Homeowner’s Association fees also, if the house you’re considering has a mandatory HOA.  Some subdivisions are subject to multiple HOA’s and these fees can add up!  There are always fees to transfer the property into a new owner’s name and these fees vary.  Then there are the annual assessments.  In a neighborhood with multiple HOA’s this can be a significant expense, so be sure you factor those fees into your budget as a cost not only of buying the home but of owning it, and eventually selling it.

Bottom line–these costs are not going away and they’re only going to increase.   If you’re considering/thinking about buying a home, it’s time to get in the game!   Activity in the San Antonio market is picking up.  Many of my realtor friends have said this is the busiest January they’ve ever had!   Mortgage rates are starting to slowly increase.  The longer you wait, the more it will cost you to buy a home, and the less home you’ll be able to buy for the same amount of money.

If  buying a home is part of your plan for 2011, start the process ASAP!  Buying a home is a different process today than it was  3-5 years ago. It takes time, it takes credit, and it takes money!  To make things happen smoothly it also takes the participation and cooperation of qualified professional realtors, lenders, escrow agents, and others.  Get started and good luck on your journey to homeownership!   I would love to be part of your team–give me a call or contact me at [email protected]

Sue Trautner
Certified Residential Specialist

Packing with Purpose and a Plan!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sue Trautner, REALTOR
Certified Residential Specialist

Mortgage rates–on the rise!

Are you thinking/dreaming of buying a home?  Time to get serious!  There are a lot of homeowner wanna-be’s out there who have been looking, thinking, waiting for the “right” moment, the perfect house, the lowest price, the interest rates to bottom out.  Well, rates have bottomed out and they’re on the rise!  My company’s in-house lender spoke to us yesterday to let us know thatinterest rates are steadily on the way up and will most likely continue that path.

Keep in mind–rates are still under 5% if you have good credit and slightly over that for some other loan packages.  Those are still amazing interest rates that can save you bundles of money over the life of your mortgage loan.  But they won’t stay this low forever!  Time to get serious about your intentions and make a decision!

Ask your real estate professional for a referral to a lender or lenders in your area.  Talk to them and find out what kind of programs they have that could work for your particular needs and circumstances.  And do some comparison shopping! But be sure you’re comparing apples to apples!

As a REALTOR, I’ve worked with clients who just cannot or will not make a decision.  They play the “what-if” game–what if something else comes along?  What if rates go lower?  What if I change my mind?  What if I could find something else for a lower price?  What if…?  What if…?   What if….?   Well, what if rates go higher?  What if the house you really like gets snatched up by someone else?  What if home prices go up?  What if you just got off the fence?  Either decide to buy and do it, or decide not to and move on!

Yoda said, “Do or do not–there is no try.”   Just do it!  You’ll be glad you did when you move into your very own home!

I’d love to help you if you’re in San Antonio–please contact me!


San Antonio Real Estate Market–How’s it Doing?

I get this question a lot!  From people I meet, non-Realtor friends, and Realtors from other areas that I see at conferences and other meetings.  Everyone wants to know–how’s your market in San Antonio?  The short answer is–it’s good!  Rates are at historic lows, there are homes available, sellers are motivated, and, most importantly, banks are lending!  If  you’re looking to purchase a home–as a primary residence or as an investment--now is the time!!

San Antonio real estate has not suffered from the extremes that other areas are struggling with.  We did not have the tremendous spikes in property values/prices a few years ago, and consequently, we have not suffered the devastating loss of value those areas have.  We’ve always had, and continue to have, slow and steady appreciation and growth.  Compared to the bubble years of 2006-07, things are a little slower–prices are down a bit from those years (in some neighborhoods) and homes are taking a bit longer to sell.  Lending requirements have tightened up a lot which has made loan approval more challenging for some buyers and knocked some out of the running altogether.  We have seen foreclosures and short sales and they continue to be part of our market, but not nearly to the degree that some areas are experiencing.

San Antonio is growing and jobs are here! Jobs drives real estate drives retail!

There are more hoops to jump through to get from  contract to closing these days.  So what does that mean for you, Mr. and Mrs. Buyer or Seller?  In my opinion, it is more critical than ever that you have a good REALTOR working on your behalf to help you purchase or sell a home!  And not just anyone who says they are!

Just because someone’s been a REALTOR for many years doesn’t necessarily mean he/she is current with the latest technologies, market information, etc.  And just because someone is relatively new in real estate and may not have closed lots of transactions doesn’t necessarily mean he/she is still “wet behind the ears”!   Ask questions and expect straight answers.  The real estate professional you select to represent you should be someone you have absolute trust and confidence in, not just someone you saw in an ad.  He/She will be helping you with your most important financial decisions, so there needs to be trust on both sides.

If you’re in the San Antonio area and would like more specific information on your neighborhood or one you’re interested in, please contact me and I’ll be happy to  answer questions, provide market information, or help you any way I can.  And if you’re not in San Antonio, I’d love to refer you to a colleague in your local area–I have contacts all over the United States.

Enjoy your day and the season!

All the best,


First Time Home Buyer? Do your “home”work!

Are you thinking about buying your first home?  Congratulations!!  It’s an exciting thing to think about, but if you’ve never done it before, it can be a bit overwhelming and intimidating!  There’s a lot to consider and there will be a lot of hoops to jump through before you get the keys to your very own home.  But, with planning, determination, and most importantly, guidance from a professional REALTOR and a reputable lender, you can do it and the process can be smooth and relatively easy

Probably the first thing you’ll think of is jumping on the internet and looking at homes!!  What fun!  So many choices!  Where to begin??

First order of business:  Do your “home”work!

Are you really ready to buy a home?  Unless you plan to pay cash for a home, you’ll need to qualify for a mortgage loan.  Talk to a mortgage lender and find out if you have what it takes to be approved for a loan.  And, just exactly what does it take to get that approval?  The answer depends on your particular circumstances, but here’s a quick list of what a lender is looking for, in very basic terms:

1. A history of financial responsibility–i.e. your credit score.  How much debt do you have?  How are you handling it?  Do you pay your bills on time?  Do you have a good rental payment history?

2. An ability to repay the loan–your income/employment history.  Are  you employed?  Self-employed?  How much money do you make?  How long have you been at your current job?  How many jobs have you had?  Do you have a stable “work history”?

3.  “Skin in the game”–how much money do you have for a down payment on a house?   Do you have savings?  How much?  How long?  Are you getting help from family members?  How much?  Will it be a gift or will you have to pay it back?  How long have you had it?

If you have “issues” with any of these items, you may not be ready to buy a home right away.  Talk to a mortgage lender and find out what you need to do to get yourself  “in shape” for the homebuying process.  If you need to work some things out, now’s the time to  begin that shape-up so you’ll be fit and ready to go for the springtime busy season!   Lending rules have changed.  They’re a lot tighter now than just a couple of years ago.  And they’re changing all the time!   My recommendation?  Find a lender in your local area who’s familiar with the market where you are and knows the loan programs that are available in your market.  If you don’t have a lender, your real estate professional likely knows several he or she can recommend.

Getting pre-approved gives you the peace of mind to know that when you find the home you want, you can actually buy it!   Owning a home is a big step.  Do your “home”work and you’ll be ready for it!  And if you have questions or need some help, please contact me!

Good luck!

Sue Trautner, REALTOR