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Archive Yearly Archives: 2007

Are Older Homes Really Built Better?

I really miss the old house we use to live in on Newning Street in Travis Heights, and the neighborhood. We lived there from 1991 to 1996, when S. Congress was still gritty and not yet “cool”. We certainly didn’t call it “SoCo”. It was still plain old South Austin and Travis Heights.

The home was built in the late 1800’s. We had no dishwasher, no disposal, no A/C, a dirt driveway, single pane windows, bad plumbing and wiring, and no Cable TV. BUT, it was a true vintage home with wood floors, high ceilings, great archetecture, great trees, great location and certain indescribable charms and nuances about it. Our youngest daughter was born at home there in the corner bedroom in 1996. After the second child, it got a bit rougher with no A/C, so we migrated further South to the Cherry Creek neighborhood, where we bought a more modern 1976 home with central A/C (and aluminum wiring).

We’ve subsequently lived in homes built in 1998, 1969, 2003 and now have now moved into another home we just completed this year.

While I miss the old Travis Heights charm and ambience, as a couple in our mid 40’s with school aged kids, Travis Heights and old houses just don’t fit into this phase of our lives, though we hold very fond memories of pushing the kid buggy through Stacy Park and swimming in the pool there. Would we trade in our modern brand new home for an old clunker in Travis Heights? Probably not while we still have kids at home. The old house had a lot of problems, and now that were are spoiled by living in an energy efficient home where everything functions properly, it’s going to be hard to ever go back to Old Time living again.

One of our inspectors, Bob Petersen, wrote an overview of the differences of older homes versus modern homes built today, which I share below.

By Bob Petersen
How many times have you heard ‘they don’t build ’em like they used to’? Why do people say this? Is it true? Absolutely NOT!

Besides a FEW things that were better with older homes (no ‘finger jointed’ studs or trim, better quality wood, no hollow doors or ‘pressboard’, better doorknobs and no computer controlled appliances), modern homes are much better in many ways. Here’s a partial list:

Roofing/Insulation: Before 1982 lasted maybe 15 years. Now roofs last a minimum of 20 and some are hail resistant. Older homes had little or no insulation; newer homes have lots of it & much better attic ventilation.
Read more …

Posted by Steve
9 years ago

Moving Tips: How to get a better price on existing services

We’re in the process of moving. I called Time Warner to move my internet service to my new address, but when they answered, I told them I want to cancel the internet service instead. I don’t want to cancel (though I truley was considering it), so why did I do this? To get connected to the customer “retention” department.

Why the retention department? Because they are the ones who are authorized to negotiate a better deal that the one I currently receive. If I simply move the service, they will keep charging me the same rate. But by telling them I need to cancel and that I’m thinking about switching to AT&T DSL, that results in my being transferred to the “retention” department, though they don’t say that.

Once the retention person has me on the line, it’s their job to talk me out of switching to DSL. It’s my job to play hard to get. End result, they talked me into staying and dropped my monthly bill from $44.95 to $34.95 for the next 12 months, at which time it will go back up. But I’ll take the $120, and I enjoyed dealing with the better trained, more knowledgeable customer service rep (they don’t put newbies in the retention department).

This works the same way with your cell phone provider. If you’ve completed your 1 or 2 year term and have no intention of switching providers any time soon, call in and tell them you need to cancel. You’ll be sent over to a retention specialist whose job it is to talk you out of canceling. In doing so, if you hold out long enough during the conversation, they will eventually offer you a pretty sweet deal, with a better plan and a free new phone. Several years ago, I had the monthly fee for my Pitney Bowes postal machine cut by more than 50% by making one of these calls.

These businesses know that it is far cheaper to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one. Wireless companies spend more than $600 per new customer acquired. If they can spend less than that to keep you, it makes good business sense.

Posted by Steve
9 years ago

Bush announces 5 year rate freeze – Texas borrowers in good shape

WASHINGTON (Associated Press, Real Estate Center) – President Bush announced this week plans for a five-year freeze on interest rates for subprime mortgages.

“We should not bail out lenders, real estate speculators or those who made the reckless decision to buy a home they knew they could never afford,” Bush said. “But there are some responsible homeowners who could avoid foreclosure with some assistance.”

Bush said 1.2 million people could be eligible for help. But only a fraction will be subject to the rate freeze. Others, he said, would get assistance in refinancing with their lenders and moving into loans secured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Dr. James Gaines, research economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, calls the plan a noble effort to find a way to keep homeowners in their homes but says the basic premise is shaky, and the details are sketchy.

“For the most part, the homeowners and borrowers likely to benefit from the interest rate freeze are the very same people who would have the best chance of renegotiating their loans with the lender in the first place — a borrower with a relatively sound credit rating and a history of making payments who simply needs a little help to keep from going into full default,” Gaines said.

Bush’s announcement followed news from the Mortgage Bankers Association that the percentage of mortgages that started the foreclosure process during the third quarter jumped to 0.78 percent, a record high. In addition, the delinquency rate for all mortgages climbed to 5.59 percent during the third quarter, the highest since 1986.

Gaines said Texas borrowers — even subprime borrowers — are in better shape than those in the seven states dominating the delinquency and foreclosure statistics, because home prices here continue to rise, making selling or refinancing a viable alternative.

Posted by Steve
10 years ago

ABJ: Centex pulls out of 1,400-home project

Looks like Austin is seeing some contraction in the new home inventory, which is a good thing, at least for now. The fact that Centex is backing out of a 1400 home project tells us more about the national housing market, and the financial problems of the large production builders than is does Austin’s market. Yes, we are experiencing a breather right now in Austin as inventory has risen and sales have slowed. But prices are still rising and all of our economic news is solid. Nevertheless, reslae owners looking to sell should be thankful that builders are pulling back some, as it means less compitition for resale homes.

Austin Business Journal
A plan that would have brought 1,400 new homes to northern Travis County has been eliminated as problems in the national housing sector force one of the region’s biggest builders to cut back on its projects.

Centex Homes has decided not to close on 465 acres of the 750-acre Pearson Ranch near Parmer Lane and State Highway 45. The company, which had announced plans in February to develop a 1,400-home community on the tract, said in a statement it would not close on the purchase of the land after a strategic review of projects companywide.

“While nationally many housing markets have experienced extreme shifts, Austin continues to remain in healthy standing with positive employment growth and supply and demand dynamics staying balanced by industry standards to date,” the company said in a statement, adding that it would continue to invest in future and existing communities around Central Texas that better align with Centex’s long-term objectives.

Like many national homebuilders, Dallas-based Centex has been trimming staff and delaying projects across the country amid the decline in the housing markets.

Posted by Steve
10 years ago

Survey says what we already know

This news snippet below is from the Texas A&M Real Estate Center email newsletter. It’s a survey of Houston home sellers and buyers, but the same results would be found if they did the survey in Austin.

The big news?…“Houstonians shopping for a home look for quality neighborhoods, good schools and short commutes to their jobs.” Earth shattering news, right? Whomever commissioned the survey could have just given the money to me and I would have told them that. Nevertheless, there is some interesting info in the survey results.

HOUSTON (Houston Chronicle) – A new survey commissioned by the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) is helping assess the area’s current and future housing market.

According to the survey, which explores the changing habits of local sellers and their buyers, Houstonians shopping for a home look for quality neighborhoods, good schools and short commutes to their jobs.

The survey also showed that Internet use is on the rise, with 72 percent of the respondents who used a real estate agent reporting they searched online before deciding to buy. Local buyers reported using har.com as part of their search more than any other website.

Seventy-two percent of home sellers surveyed were represented by an agent. While 64 percent of the buyers said they used an agent, those who did not said it was because they bought from a friend or relative, were contacted by the seller directly, or did not want to deal with an agent or pay a commission.
Read more …

Posted by Steve
10 years ago

Forbes: Top-10 Best Performing Housing Markets includes Austin

Looks like Austin is still comparatively right up there in the top 10 cities. The following is from Forbes Magazine.

Top-10 Best Performing Housing Markets
As anybody who has ever sold real estate knows, there are no national markets, only local markets. The adage holds true when you look at the condition of the real estate business nationwide. Business may be tough in many places, but it’s not tough all over.

In Salt Lake City, Charlotte, N.C., and San Jose, Calif., prices have climbed relentlessly.
In the Northeast, the biggest gainers are the gritty cities of Buffalo, N.Y., Pittsburgh, Pa., and Philadelphia.
In the West, business is brisk in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

Here are the top 10 best performing housing markets, according to Forbes magazine, their third quarter median home sale prices and the percentage that prices have risen compared to third quarter 2006.

Salt Lake City; Median Home Sale Price: $246,700; Percent Change: 14.1 percent
Charlotte, N.C., $220,000, 11 percent
San Jose, Calif., $852,500, 9.4 percent
San Francisco, $825,400, 8.6 percent
Raleigh, N.C., $229,500, 7.5 percent
Austin, $188,200, 7.2 percent
Pittsburgh, $127,700, 6.1 percent
Seattle, $394,700, 6 percent
San Antonio, $154,700, 5.7 percent
Portland, Ore., $299,700, 5.2 percent

Posted by Steve
10 years ago