Thursday, December 31, 2009

The San Antonio Spurs Make the Alamo City Proud

The San Antonio Spurs make the Alamo City proud, once again!  Besides the four recent NBA championships, the Spurs lead the entire NBA in winning percentage from 2000 to 2009.  From Jeff McDonald and comes:

"This from the number crunchers at the Elias Sports Bureau ...
No team in the NBA won more regular-season games during the soon-to-be completed decade than the Spurs. Since Jan. 2, 2000 (there were no games on New Year's Day), the Spurs are 573-245, good for a winning percentage of .700. The next best team was the Dallas Mavericks, who were 561-260.

Here is the glance at the NBA standings for the decade of the Aughts:

.700 573 W, 245 L: SA

.683 561 W, 260 L: DAL

.646 530 W, 291 L: LAL

.600 493 W, 329 L: DET

.599 493 W, 330 L: PHO

.560 460 W, 362 L: UTA

.550 453 W, 370 L: SAC

.546 449 W, 373 L: HOU

.536 441 W, 381 L: BOS

.523 429 W, 392 L: IND

.515 422 W, 398 L: NO

.513 421 W, 400 L: ORL

.512 422 W, 402 L: POR

.510 417 W, 401 L: PHI

.506 415 W, 405 L: MIA

.496 409 W, 415 L: CLE

.496 409 W, 415 L: DEN

.491 405 W, 420 L: MIN

.481 395 W, 426 L: NJ

.453 371 W, 448 L: MIL

.452 371 W, 450 L: OKC

.450 370 W, 453 L: TOR

.417 342 W, 479 L: NY

.411 337 W, 483 L: WAS

.398 327 W, 495 L: CHI

.392 322 W, 500 L: GS

.385 316 W, 505 L: MEM

.380 312 W, 509 L: ATL

.378 310 W, 511 L: LAC

.355 156 W, 283 L: CHA"

It's nice being on top!  Thank you San Antonio Spurs!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Conflicting Reports on the Health of the San Antonio Real Estate Market

It seems we are getting conflicting reports on the health of the San Antonio, Tx real estate market.  In my blog on Dec. 11, 2009, San Antonio was named by Forbes magazine as one of the 10 best cities in the nation in regards to avoiding the foreclosure crisis in residential real estate. 

And yet, in today's local news, it was reported that the January, 2010 Bexar county auction of foreclosed real estate will hit record levels with 1,652 properties up for sale.  This follows a 20 year high foreclosure rate in 2009 of nearly 16,000 properties sold.  Most of those homes were purchased in 2004, 2005, and 2006 when adjustable-rate loans and interest-only loans were more common and the market was peaking.  Those loans are commonly fixed for the first five years before the rates start to change.  The recent increases in monthly payments are pushing some homeowners into foreclosure.

But the news isn't all bad.  Backing up the Forbes magazine statements, our underwater or negative-equity properties in San Antonio was about 9.9% compared to a national average of 23% as of September, 2009.   So it's bad, but not as bad as in some other locales.  We still have a lot to be thankful for in the San Antonio housing market this Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's Christmas Time on the San Antonio River!

It's Christmas time on the San Antonio River! 

Holiday Boat Caroling
Celebrations abound this month, leading up to Christmas.  From November 28th until December 20th, from 6:30 pm - 9:45 pm each evening, joyous caroling fills the evening air along the San Antonio River Walk as more than 185 school, church, company, and civic choral groups ring in the holidays by singing traditional carols on cruising boats. The eclectic mix of participants includes bell choirs, folk groups, Latino ensembles, and hearing impaired performers. Join visitors from around the world in impromptu sing-a-longs from the patios of River Walk restaurants.

Fiesta de las Luminarias
From Dec 4th through Dec. 20th, experience the holiday serenity of the River Walk as you stroll along the lush banks of the San Antonio River guided by more than 6,000 luminarias. Warmly glowing candles in sand filled bags line the walkways to symbolically mark the "lighting of the way" for Holy Family. This centuries old tradition begins at dusk Friday, Saturday & Sunday only.

Come spend an evening on the Riverwalk with your whole family. It's Christmas Time on the San Antonio River!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A San Antonio Treasure - The Spanish Missions

A San Antonio Treasure, the Spanish Missions.  From the website, Las Misiones,

"The Old Spanish Missions of San Antonio are a chain of five colonial era compounds located in a southern line from the center of downtown San Antonio to the southern edge of the city. They were established in the 18th Century as an outreach of the Spanish Government and the Catholic Church. The Franciscan Fathers founded each mission to evangelize the regional natives, teach them skills to help them adopt to Spanish ways, and minister to their needs. Additionally, the effort was to make them active citizens of the Spanish province of Tejas. Military forces were often located in the vicinity of each mission to offer protection.

Four of the five original missions still function as active Catholic parish Churches. They serve both a stable population of parish members as well as many visitors who attend worship services. These are Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan and Espada. They are operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio as the Old Spanish Missions, Inc., an umbrella non-profit organization to provide for their care. The Archbishop of San Antonio appoints the Director of the Old Spanish Missions, who is responsible for the maintenance and restoration of the mission churches.

San Antonio de Valero, known as the Alamo, is owned by the State of Texas and operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. It does not function as an active parish church and is not part of the Old Spanish Missions, Inc."

If you are planning a visit to San Antonio, by all means visit the Alamo, but try to find time to also see one or more of the other missions, all just south of downtown San Antonio.  It's a treasure that's not as well known, but well worth the trip!

Friday, December 11, 2009

REALTOR® Magazine-Daily News-Cities Where Housing Is on the Mend

                           REALTOR® Magazine-Daily News-Cities Where Housing Is on the Mend
from Forbes Magazine, Dec. 9, 2009

No cities have totally avoided the foreclosure crisis, but some were able to sidestep the worst of it.  These markets are now recovering quickly....
  1. Harrisburg- Carlisle, Pa.
  2. Austin-Round Rock, Tx.
  3. Ogden-Clearfield, Ut.
  4. Buffalo, NY
  5. Knoxville, Tn.
  6. Raleigh, NC
  8. Syracuse, NY
  9. Salt Lake City, Ut.
Moline, Il tied with St. Louis, Mo, Wichita, Kansas and Rochester, NY

So, once again, San Antonio has made an appearance on a "good list" of cities.  Congrats to SA!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Are Homes in San Antonio Overpriced?

Are homes in San Antonio, Tx overpriced?  They are, according to an article yesterday from Forbes magazine, "Cities with the Most Overpriced Properties". 

According to Forbes, home owners in some parts of the country have clung tenaciously to their notions of the value of their homes, despite having no luck selling their properties.  Markets were ranked based on the ratio of the median initial list prices compared to the median list prices when the properties actually sold.  Also considered was how long the properties stayed on the market.  And finally, Forbes considered expert forecasts of price increases which were encouraging home owners to price their homes high.

The top 10 areas Forbes found with the most over-priced properties were:
  1. Orlando, Fla
  2. Miami - Ft. Lauderdale - Pompano Beach, Fla
  3. Jacksonville, Fla
  4. Baltimore - Towson, Md
  5. Chicago - Naperville - Joliet, Il
  7. Denver - Aurora, CO
  8. Tampa - St. Petersburg - Clearwater, Fla
  9. Indianapolis - Carmel, Indiana
  10. Austin - Round Rock, Tx
My take on this?  We do have a LOT of homes on the market in San Antonio.  Do I think a lot of them are over-priced?  Not really.  The market in San Antonio has only seen modest gains in the last 5 to 10 years, and our housing is already inexpensive compared to a large part of this country.  Should we expect to see prices come down in the near future?  I hope not, because that would wipe out the modest equity many people have in their homes.  San Antonio has a good solid economy, and our future looks bright!  Perhaps Forbes magazine needs to take a closer look.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Buyers, Considering the Move from Apartment Life to Home Ownership?

Buyers, are you thinking of losing the landlord, and owning your own home in San Antonio in the near future?  Are you considering a move from your nice newer apartment to an older, established neighborhood?  What adjustments can you expect in order to move into an affordable home? 

San Antonio is blessed with a lot of choices for first time buyers.  We still have builders actively constructing new homes, and a lot of them are in an affordable range for first time buyers.  But if a new home is not in your future, San Antonio has hundreds of neighborhoods in which you can find existing homes for sale that will be perfect for your first home.  But you may have to adjust your thinking a bit in what amenities you are looking for in a home.

  • Need to update
For example, older existing homes may be not as new as your present apartment, and may have a kitchen or a bathroom that is in need of updating.  You may have to eventually invest money in newer appliances, or countertops to get the look you like. 

  • Smaller rooms
Also, the room sizes may not be exactly what you have now.  Even though the home will most likely have more square feet than your apartment, some of the rooms may be smaller in an existing home, depending upon the age of the home.

  • Less Open Floor Plan
The older homes may have dark paneled walls and standard 8 foot ceiling heights, and seem less bright than a newer home.  The floor plan in an older home may be more closed off or choppy, compared to a newer open plan.  The closets may be smaller, especially in the master bedroom than today's standards.

So why "settle" for an older home?  Look at the advantages.  There's a lot to be said for moving into an established neighborhood.  The area usually has a reputation for it's schools, crime rate, neighborhood associations, and the older areas are closer in to town usually, which makes for a shorter commute to work.  Also, the lots are generally larger and have mature trees and landscapes that give the homes a warm, lived in look.  You have more distance between your home and your neighbor's. 

Don't forget that your first home will probably be your smallest and will most likely have less features than your future homes, but you have to start somewhere to get the process going.  And what better time than now!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

San Antonio - A City of Sharing at Thanksgiving

In retrospect, it was a usual Thanksgiving Day in San Antonio.  Across the city, families gathered to cook, eat, watch football, and visit with their loved ones.  And as usual, there were two wonderful programs at work in San Antonio to help those who might not have that Ozzie and Harriet Thanksgiving Day experience.

Raul Jiminez Thanksgiving Dinner
First is the annual Raul Jiminez Thanksgiving Dinner.  The dinner began as an annual affair in 1972 when restauranteur Raul Jiminez served 200 Senior Citizens in the parking lot of his Ft. Worth  factory.  Several years later he moved the dinner to San Antonio, his home and headquarters of his business.  Over the years it has grown, and now feeds 25,000 diners, both seniors and anyone needing a Thanksgiving dinner.  This year was the 30th anniversary, and the work is carried on by the late Jiminez's daughter, Patricia Jiminez, along with about 400 volunteers, mostly from the San Antonio area.  Their motto is that no one is turned away, and everyone is welcome.  Taking place at the San Antonio Convention Center downtown, they served about 450 turkeys with about 1800 pounds of dressing.

Operation Homecoming
The second program that highlights the generosity of the San Antonio residents is the Operation Homecoming which is now in its 35th year, and one of the largest and oldest programs in the United States of it's kind.  Operation Homecoming places thousands of local airmen and soldiers from Lackland Air Force Base and Fort Sam Houston (Army) into local homes for Thanksgiving Day.  The troops are picked up by their host families early in the day, and become family for a day!  They enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, a little football, and a chance to get to see a little more of San Antonio, before being returned to the base or fort in the early evening.  We've hosted several years in the past and found it a most rewarding experience meeting young men and women from all over the US who are very grateful to be in a home when they are away from home.

San Antonio is truly a wonderful place to live!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

San Antonio Unaffected by the Recession?

Some US cities with stable housing and diversified employment have been virtually untouched by the current recession.  In these cities, home prices have not fluctuated wildly, and that spared them from the devastating effects of lost jobs and foreclosures.  To identify these cities, Forbes magazine ranked the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas by employment rates, the conventional home mortgage price index, and the average days on the market for properties currently for sale, and this is the list they came up with:
  1. Omaha/Council Bluffs, Neb.
  2. San Antonio, Texas
  3. Austin - Round Rock, Texas
  4. Pittsburgh, Pa
  5. Harrisburg - Carlisle, Pa
  6. Dallas - Ft. Worth, Texas
  7. Rochester, NY
  8. Houston, Texas
  9. Raleigh - Cary, NC
  10. Baton Rouge, La
So the San Antonio real estate market has defiitely slowed during this recession, but we have fared very well compared with other areas of the country.  Texas in general ranks high, with four major metropolitan areas in the top 10 of the Forbes list. 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sellers, Your Kitchen IS the Heart of Your Home!

An appealing, workable kitchen is near the top of most buyers' list of priorities when house-hunting.  It is the room that gets the most scrutiny, and can make or break a sale.  So what can you do if you don't have the open kitchen, the stainless appliances or the granite countertops?  These 10 tips should get you started.

  1. Avoid clutter!  Clean the counters of small appliances and other things to maximize the appearance of limited workspace.
  2. Check the area around your sink, and put away soaps, cleansers, etc.
  3. Sinks, appliances and counters should be sparkling clean.  (Yes, clean the oven!)
  4. Clean off the top of the refrigerator.  Put items that need to be stored there in baskets or bowls to neaten up.
  5. Stage the kitchen with an open cookbook, or a colorful fruit basket.
  6. Create aromas that remind the buyers of a kitchen: cookies baking, bread baking or fruit pies baking.
  7. During the hot summer, display a bowl of lemons or limes for their pleasant aroma.
  8. Clean and organize all the kitchen storage areas so the areas appear larger.
  9. Look critically at your kitchen window treatments and clean or update.
  10. Set the table with bright placemats and a nice centerpiece.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Buyers, San Antonio Home Foundations Require Special Care!

Clay Soil
If you're about to purchase a home in San Antonio, you should know that our local soils are not the best for keeping a foundation from moving.  We have expansive clay soil, which means that the soil expands or contracts as it's moisture content changes.  So during our recent 20 month drought, the soils contracted, or shrank, and then in October - November when we got over 11" of rain, the soils swelled. 

Too Much Rain
The swelling of the soil can cause a foundation to rise, and then fall again when the soil dries out.  The key to keeping the foundation healthy is to keep the moisture content evenly distributed around all sides of the home.  That means, when it rains, the water needs to drain AWAY from the slab, not towards the slab.  You never want to allow water to puddle anywhere around your foundation.  Adding gutters is one way to aid in proper drainage.

Not Enough Rain
It also means that during dry times you need to add moisture to the soil around the perimeter of your home to equalize the moisture that's underneath the slab where it does not dry out as fast. A sign that the soil is too dry is that it will start to pull away from the foundation. Recommendations are for at least 1" per week around all 4 sides of your home, and lots of folks in San Antonio use the soaker hoses to accomplish this if they do not have a sprinkler system. 

San Antonio homes that have concrete foundations are carefully engineered to endure our less than desirable soil, but without proper care, it can cost thousands of dollars to get broken slabs repaired.  Ask your home inspector to show you any areas of concern on the foundation when you are considering a home purchase.

Monday, November 16, 2009

San Antonio gets $20 Million Boost over the Weekend

The second annual Rock 'N' Roll Marathon in San Antonio took place yesterday, and by all accounts, was a rousing success.  There were more than 32,000 registered for the marathon and half marathon, and nearly 3/4 of those were from outside our area, some from around the world.   In fact, the winners were from Kenya, and Russia.  Also, this was a remarkable increase of over 2,000 from last year's inaugural race. 

City officials estimate the visitors spent more than $20,000,000 on hotels, restaurants, transportation and souvenirs while in town.  Not bad for one weekend! 

San Antonio continues to weather the economic storms with our strong tourism business, and our military presence.  So, what does this have to do with real estate in San Antonio?  A lot of folks in town make their living supporting the tourism industry,  and therefore can afford to buy homes, and make payments on those homes, so our foreclosure rates are very low compared to a lot of places.  Our numerous military homeowners do not live in fear of being laid off as many do in private business, so they are free to purchase homes or "move up" to nicer homes.  San Antonio's economic mix of military and tourism is working very well during this troubling time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head -- The End of the Drought in San Antonio

After enduring an almost two year drought, the rains came to San Antonio in October and early November.  We've picked up about 11 inches of rain in the last few weeks, and our "dead" grass and landscape plantings are coming back to life.  It feels almost like Spring with our wetter weather and cooler temperatures. 

San Antonio's drinking water supply is mainly from the Edwards Aquifer, an enormous underground cavern that holds millions of gallons of water that has been filtered through the layers of limestone beneath our soil.  When the area is suffering through a drought, the level of the water in the aquifer goes down, and we are put on watering restrictions until the levels come back up. 

This week we saw the last restriction lifted and we now have the ability to water our yards when we want to, as long as it is within 8 pm at night until 10 am in the mornings. Previously we were limited further with less hours, and we could only water one day per week. We almost reached the next level where we would have been able to water only one day every two weeks.  That doesn't sound too bad until you realize we had about 60 days this summer where our temperatures topped out over 100 degrees, and at the same time had virtually NO RAIN. Some homeowners lost not only plants and shrubs, but also large trees due to lack of water.

So, things are looking up... more chances for rain this weekend!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Five Home Staging Myths

Are you selling your home?  You are obviously still the owner until the house sells, but when it is listed, it becomes "inventory" and should be viewed as a house and not a home.  You've probably heard about staging your home to make it more attractive to buyers.  There are professional home stagers in San Antonio you can hire, and even if you don't hire a pro, you can get great staging hints from your Realtor.  But today we'll talk about the 5 biggest myths surrounding staging a home for sale.

  • I don't need to stage my home, buyers can see past my stuff.  Actually, NO they can't.  Most buyers cannot imagine their stuff in a home that is cluttered with the seller's possessions.  We tell our sellers that every box of clutter they remove from the home puts $$ back into their pockets at closing.

  • The original (and expensive) features of my home add value.  Those 30 year old drapes and 20 year old wallpapers do not add value to today's buyers.  If a home is not vintage, meaning it is less than 50 years old, and it has not been updated, then the buyers won't pay for dated fixtures, even if they were expensive "in their day".
  • My home isn't expensive enough to pay for staging. On the contrary, all homes need to present themselves in the best way possible. Take a look at your competition in the price bracket, and figure out what you need to do to make your home stand out. Staging can be just as important in a smaller home as it is in a larger home.
  • Empty rooms look bigger.  Not usually!  When you are trying to sell an empty home, it is very hard to help buyers see how a room is used, and what fits in that room.  A few rented or borrowed pieces of furniture can define a space for the buyer.  Conversely, in a really large open room, buyers can sometimes have a problem when a room is empty because the room looks TOO large!
  • "It's really a bedroom, but we're using it as a gym."  If it's a three bedroom home, but only two rooms have beds, buyers will sometimes question whether the third room would work as a bedroom or not.  For the sake of the time you have your home on the market, put the gym out in the garage, and give the bedroom it's real purpose. 

Buyers need to be able to picture themselves living in your home, so the house needs to look like they could bring all their stuff and move right in.  Staging simply means improving your home's appearance in order to appeal to the widest segment of the potential buyers.  The way you decorate your home to SELL may be quite different from the way you decorate to DWELL!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Buyers, Are You Ready to Buy a Home?

With the incentives offered by our government, in San Antonio we've seen a lot of younger, first time buyers out looking for a home to purchase.  Some have found their dream home and are enjoying their new lives as homeowners.  Others have decided they were just not ready to make such a big decision, even with the incentive dangled in front of them.  So, how do you know if you are ready for home ownership or not?  One way is to prepare!  Here are 10 guidlines to follow before jumping into action:

  1. Decide what you can afford.  Generally, you can afford a home equal in value to between 2 and 3 times your gross income.
  2. Develop your home wish list.  Then, prioritize the features on your list.
  3. Select where you want to live.  Decide on three or four neighborhoods you'd like to live in, taking into account the distance from work, recreational facilities, schools, etc.
  4. Start saving.  Do you have enough money saved to qualify for a mortgage and cover your down payment and closing costs?  Closing costs average between 2 and 7 percent of the home's price.
  5. Get your credit in order.  Obtain a copy of your credit report to make sure it is accurate, and to correct any errors immediately.  A credit report provides a history of your credit, bad debts, and any late or slow payments.
  6. Determine your mortgage qualifications.  Talk to a lender to find out how much mortgage you can qualify for, and what type of mortgage is best for your particular situation.
  7. Get pre-approved.  Organize the documents the lender will need for the pre-approval.  Such things as W-2's, copies of pay stubs, account numbers, and bank statements are usually required.
  8. Look for other sources of help with the down payment.  If you are short of cash for the closing costs, check to see if you qualify for any special mortgage or down payment assistance program.  Or, if you have an IRA account, you can use the money you've saved to buy your first home without paying a penalty for early withdrawl.  Also, ask family members for assistance to get you going.
  9. Calculate the costs of homeownership.  This should include property taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities, and HOA feew, if applicable.
  10. Contact a Realtor.  An experienced Realtor can help make your purchase a smooth process from start to finish.
Coming Soon in San Antonio....
This Friday, November 6 at 6:00 p.m. - 11 p.m.
And Saturday, November 7 from noon - 11 p.m.
And Sunday, November 8 from noon - 6 p.m.

The St. George Maronite Catholic Community will host a Lebanese Festival to share the beautiful heritage of the Lebanese tradition with San Antonio and surrounding communities at-large. This promises to be a fun-filled family cultural celebration showcasing the Lebanese of San Antonio and the rich heritage that has been preserved since the Lebanese first immigrated in the 1880’s. Visitors will enjoy authentic Lebanese food, indoor stage performances by the Lebanese dance troupe, learn how to Dabke (the traditional folk dance of Lebanon), enjoy Friday and Saturday evening performances featuring a live band and so much more! New this year…. Relax in our ‘Oasis section’ featuring Lebanese hors d’ oeuvres and imported beer and wine!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sellers, can a home be TOO clean?

In short, no.  If your home is on the market, it should be CLEAN!  A home that is clean and neat on the interior sells faster and for more money than a home that is not.  And that's the plain and simple truth.  So if you are selling your home, don't forget...
  • Clean light switch plates and trim around the doors.

  • Clean carpets and remove all spots (or replace).

  • Get rid of cobwebs and dust in corners, ceilings, baseboards and around light fixtures.

  • Wipe hand prints off walls, doors and mirrors.

  • Make sure tile and vinyl floors are washed and shiny clean.

  • Kitchen counters and sink should be clean and clear.

  • Bathroom sinks, counters and toilet should be clean and smell fresh.

  •  Re-caulk around bathtubs, re-grout showers as necessary to look clean.

  • Clean windows and make them sparkle! (Open the drapes and let the light in.)

  • Clean the stove and oven.  Buyers don't want to clean up your mess! 

If you've done all these items, and you still have a little time and energy left, look at your closets and garage.  The more you straighten them, the better a buyer can picture their own things in your house.  To get top dollar for your home, cleanliness is godliness!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Home Inspection - A Buyer's Best Friend (and Seller's too?)

In San Antonio, after a buyer has contracted with a seller to purchase their home, there's usually an option period during which the buyer can hire a home inspector to inspect the home.  During that period, the buyer has three options.  They can terminate the contract for any reason, or re-negotiate with the seller to do repairs or lower the price based upon what the inspector finds.  And, of course, the buyer can continue with the purchase without any further negotiations.

Sellers sometimes are alarmed at how "picky" the inspectors are, but it is actually to the seller's benefit for the inspector to identify problems with the home.  Just because a problem is not identified prior to the sale does not necessarily mean that the seller is no longer responsible.  So, the better the disclosure on the inspector's report, the better the seller is protected.

So what do the home inspectors look for?  They look for items that are in need of repair, and also inform the buyer when the current building codes have not been met in an older structure.  They check the overall structure of the home, such as the foundation and roof structure. 

The home inspectors also look at the exterior of the home, including siding, trim, drainage, windows, doors, decks and balconies. The inspectors normally will walk the roof to check it's condition and probable age, and look for any signs of poor drainage, leaks, damaged shingles, or problems with the chimneys or gutters.

Inside the home, the inspection includes the plumbing system, the electrical system, the heating and air conditioning systems, the hot water heater and the fireplaces. Kitchen appliances that are built-in are checked for proper operation, like the stove/oven, dishwasher and microwave oven.  Ceilings and floors, stairways and railings, and interior doors are inspected.  In the garage the inspector will check the operation of the garage door opening system.  If the home is built with crawlspaces underneath, the inspector will check that area of the home.
So, as a buyer, it is money well spent to have the home inspected.  It is also helpful for the buyers to be present at the inspection so the inspector can "de-brief" there on the spot and show you the items he is putting on the written report. 
If you are working with a Realtor in the purchase of your next home, ask your Realtor to recommend several inspectors they are familiar with, or if you are purchasing a home in the San Antonio area, contact SATAREI , the San Antonio Texas Association of Real Estate Inspectors to hire your next home inspector.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

10 Ways to Give Your Home's Exterior A Facelift

Saavy sellers know that a buyer's first impression can make or break a sale. So in this buyer's market, how can a seller make their home more inviting?

1. Trim the shrubs so they don't block windows or the architectural details of the home.

2. Put a pot of bright flowers on the front porch.

3. Install new doorknobs on the front entry door, and paint or stain the door if it doesn't look fresh.
4. Buy a new doormat for the front door.

5. Edge and mow the grass, even around walks and trees.
6. Upgrade the outside lighting fixtures.

7. Clean windows, inside and out. Sweep the front porch.
8. Polish or replace the house numbers.

9. Keep garden tools and hoses out of sight.
10. Place a seasonal wreath on the front door.

Your home only gets one chance to make a first impression, so make it a great one!

Friday, October 23, 2009

San Antonio Neighborhoods, Old and New - Part 10: Hollywood Park

My home, Hollywood Park

I've saved my home, Hollywood Park, for the 10th and last subdivision in my series on "San Antonio Neighborhoods, Old and New".  We have lived in Hollywood Park since 1995, and have sold over 85 Hollywood Park homes.  While Steve and I sell real estate all over the San Antonio area, we specialize in  Hollywood Park, called one of the "Top 100 Best Places to Raise Your Family" in the US!  The friendly small town atmosphere, and nice blend of "old-timers" and young families make Hollywood Park an ideal place to live.  Having on-site police and fire departments and a low crime rate are an added bonus.

The Town of Hollywood Park was incorporated December 7, 1955, and is a quiet, suburban community located in the north-central San Antonio area, just inside Loop 1604, at the Highway 281 interchange. It is bound by Loop 1604 to the north, Mecca Drive to the south, Blanco Road to the west and San Pedro Avenue to the east.   Hollywood Park is a diverse mix of residents, including businessmen, young families and retirees.  Some of the hallmarks of Hollywood Park include quiet streets, oak trees, deer,  and large family homes with large lots.  Currently there are approximately 3000 residents in about 1300 homes.

Hollywood Park was originally a rural community that has seen a steady increase in population because of its close proximity to San Antonio.  Hollywood Park still offers quiet, country living with the conveniences of the city nearby. This township is a popular choice for families looking for a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Hollywood Park real estate consists mainly of single family homes with a nice mix of architecture and builders sitting on ½ to 1 acre lots.

Two garden home areas, the Gardens of Hollywood Park, and the Enclave of Hollywood Park, were developed in the last 20 years, and provide alternatives to buyers who want the neighborhood amenities without the responsibilites of maintaining a large residential lot.

Hollywood Park Real Estate....

Currently there are over 25 homes on the market in Hollywood Park, ranging from the high $190's to over $400K.  In the last 12 months, sales have remained strong with 43 closed sales.  Prices vary greatly according to age of home, lot size, condition of the home and location within the Park.  Sales ranged from $158,000 to $500,000, and from $65 to $155 per square foot.  Sold homes were from approximately 1600 square feet to 5000 square feet, and were from 55 years old to new construction.

Life in Hollywood Park...
There is an active voluntary HOA that puts on activities for Hollywood Park residents, like the annual 4th of July Parade and Picnic, the annual Halloween Party, special beginning and end of school Free Swim nights at the township's pool, and an annual Tamalada dinner honoring residents who are new to the neighborhood.  Also available are opportunities to participate in the Woman's Club, Garden Club, Swim Team, and many other fine organizations that bring residents together to make Hollywood Park an outstanding place to live!

For more information on Hollywood Park, contact Steve and Barbara Linick at


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

San Antonio Neighborhoods, Old and New - Part 9: Downtown Condos

Having folks live in a downtown San Antonio condo is a relatively new thing for us.  We've long been known for our nightlife on the Riverwalk, and the great hotels that tourists enjoy, but nobody wanted to LIVE downtown.... until recently. 

San Antonio's small downtown is full of hotels, restaurants and bars, surrounding the River Walk. The river is scarcely 50 feet across, but its banks are lined with stores, restaurants and nightclubs. A 1939 WPA project, the River Walk, developed at a time when riverbanks were avoided rather than embraced  and it became the precursor to urban entertainment zones such as Baltimore's Inner Harbor. A second 2-mile section has just opened, which brings the total River Walk to 4 miles.  So for downtown condo dwellers, the River Walk is an entertainment dream just a short walk away.


1.  Camp Street Lofts

Except for a few newly constructed buildings, many of the condo units are new inside, but have historic exteriors.  One such building is the Camp Street Lofts, which is a candy factory built in 1926 converted to 20 units that range from 1900 square feet ot 3800 square feet.  The units were developed as a shell with ductwork, plumbing and wiring and the buyer then will finish out the space.  Units available there currently range from $235,000 for a 2000+ square foot condo to $549,000 for a larger 2400+ square foot unit.

2. Vidorra

A newly built downtown condo, Vidorra, is comprised of one, two and three-bedroom luxury condominium units, along with town homes that are adjacent to the twin 20 story towers. In-house features include  efficient floor plans, high ceilings,attached garage parking, a business and fitness center, swimming pools and sundecks. The Vidorra is located at 235 Center Street, just north of Sunset Station  and showcases a nice blend of contemporary and traditional architecture with sensational, panoramic city views.  Currently available are nine units ranging from $269,900 to $625,000.

3. The Andalusia

Also recently constructed, the Andalusia, at 221 Lexington,  has 20 units, some of which include lofts, and there's a rooftop deck with a great view. These are among the newest lofts downtown, and each contains hardwood floors, one to three bedrooms, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.  Prices on the currently available units run   from $139,950 to $289,000, and the units range from just over 600 square feet to almost 1200 square feet. From here you can walk to the Riverwalk or the Majestic Theater to catch dinner and a show.

4. La Cascada

La Cascada, is a 12 story high rise condo with 46 units located at 230 Dwyer Ave, on the Riverwalk.  The building features a   fitness center, business center, multiple balconies and a rooftop pool and spa make home a fabulous alternative to going out. Inside each residence, you'll find hardwoods, granites, tile and marble finishes. separate tubs and walk-in showers in large bath areas, and walk-in closets. The building also features private, gated parking and a lobby staff to help maintain your privacy. And nearby is Hippos, a convenient small grocery / deli.  Prices on the La Cascada units range from just over $400,000 to almost $900,000, and all are between 2000 square feet and 3000 square feet.

5. Travis Park Lofts

The Travis Park Lofts are located smack dab in the middle of downtown San Antonio at 214 E. Travis.  This condo building includes 17 units with features such as exposed ceilings, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, stained concrete floors, and open floor plans. The Travis Park Lofts are popular among San Antonio professionals, young families and empty nesters.  Currently available are six units from just under $200,000 to $340,000.

For more information on living in downtown San Antonio, or for specific info on available units, contact me at 210-884-2572.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

San Antonio Neighborhoods, Old and New - Part 8: Sonoma Ranch

Continuing my journey through some of San Antonio's interesting neighborhoods, today we'll explore Sonoma Ranch,  a neighborhood in picturesque Helotes, and one of the newer master planned communities in the San Antonio area.  Sonoma Ranch is located just outside Loop 1604 on Kyle Seale Blvd., and was developed in 2000 on the site of the Kyle Seale Ranch.  The homes in this gated community are set upon normal residential lots to lots of one to three acres which are considered estate homes. Prices range from the entry level homes in the high $100's to Estate homes over $700,000.  Sonoma Ranch also boasts wonderful community amenities, including three swimming pools, a clubhouse, playgrounds, and tennis and basketball courts.    

Location, Location, Location....
Sonoma Ranch is convenient to major highways, Loop 1604 and IH 10, as well as the major shopping areas at The Rim and La Cantera Mall.  The local university, The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is about three miles away.  The Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme park is about five miles away, and Sea World San Antonio is about twelve miles away. 

The nearby town of Helotes, known as a friendly place where the Texas Hill Country begins, was originally a small stagecoach stop between San Antonio and Bandera. Today, the community, nestled within the scenic hills, is quiet and fun-filled, a place where small town tranquility and family-oriented activities are enjoyed throughout the year.

One local business, Floore Country Store, gained fame as the place where country-western singer and songwriter Willie Nelson got his start, and where he occasionally returns to perform.

Sonoma Ranch real estate...
It's been a busy year in Sonoma Ranch so far.  There are 70 homes on the market currently, ranging from $179,900 to $782,500.  There are 15 homes under contract, and thus far in 2009 there have been 105 homes sold in the community.  Those sold homes ranged from $150,000 to $700,000.  To find out more specifics about homes available in the area, you can contact me