Real Estate Word of the Day: Underwriting

Underwriting: When an individual or business entity seeks funding for a real estate project or purchase, the loan request is scrutinized by an underwriter to determine how much risk the lender is willing to accept. These underwriters are not to be confused with securities underwriters, who work to determine the offer price of financial instruments. Real estate underwriters take into consideration both the land and the borrower.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development defines underwriting as “the process of analyzing a loan application to determine the amount of risk involved in making the loan; it includes a review of the potential borrower’s credit history and a judgment of the property value.”

In most real estate loans, the property itself is used as collateral against the borrowed funds. Underwriters generally use a debt-service coverage ratio (DSCR) to determine if the property is able to redeem its own value. If so, the loan is a more secure proposition, and the loan request has a greater chance of being accepted.

3 Things a New Homeowner Should Know About Their Roof

As a brand new homeowner, your home is one of your biggest investments, and one of your biggest responsibilities. In order for the value of your home to increase, you will want to protect your investment with a well thought-out maintenance routine. While you probably won’t be spending every weekend washing the windows of this house you now own, you will probably want to come up with a plan for caring for your home so that it will remain an asset, rather than becoming a long-term liability.

This plan should not only include seasonal maintenance items, such as cleaning out gutters and trimming overhanging tree branches, but should also include a plan for how you are going to cover the costs of proactive repairs before aging portions of your home start screaming for your attention.

Since one of the biggest threats to a home is moisture, keeping precipitation out of your home is of utmost importance. Your roof, of course, is your first line of defense against water getting into your home. Today, we would like to discuss three things new homeowners should know about their roof.

1. Roofs Don’t Last Forever

The lifespan of a roof is typically 10 to 15 years. While home inspections are not required in most states, it is in a buyer’s best interest to have an inspection performed, because knowing the age and condition of a home’s roof can be helpful when putting in an offer for purchase. For example, if the existing roof is already nine years old, the buyer may be able to negotiate a few thousand dollars off of the asking price, due to the fact that the roof will soon need to be replaced. A home inspection will include details about the roof, including any soft spots that the inspector may notice. If the exact age of the roof is not recorded in the inspection, it is not out of line for a buyer to kindly, but firmly, press for this information.

2. Be Proactive With Known Deficiencies

It is in a new homeowner’s best interest to take care of issues with their roof as soon as deficiencies are noted. Procrastination is never an option, as a leaky roof will never repair itself. There are times, however, when it may appear that way. For example, if you should notice water dripping inside your home, and, during a rain shower several days later, notice that you no longer detect moisture in that same area, do not assume for a moment that the leak has been rectified. Sometimes, moisture from rain or another type of precipitation may be diverted from its point of entry to a second point of discovery.

It is also important to mention that just because you may notice water entering your residence at one location, does not necessarily mean that a leak exists in the roof directly above the area where moisture is detected. If moisture was able to get in once, and a repair has not been made, moisture is still able to gain entrance, even if its location in your home is seemingly unapparent.

3. Sometimes What Covers Your Home May Be Covered by a Warranty

If prior owners of your home recently had the roof replaced, that roof may be under a warranty that is transferable to future owners. If the roof is under a non-transferable warranty and a problem is noted before the sale is completed, the seller may be willing to use that warranty coverage to address any current concerns. If the warranty is transferable, be sure to obtain necessary paperwork and information from the seller.

To learn more about replacing the roof on your home, or for information about roof repair services, contact your local roofer.

Updating Your Kitchen on a Budget of $1,000 or Less

Do you want to give your kitchen a makeover without breaking the bank? You may have to skip the custom cabinetry, but a few key changes can make a huge difference. Here are five budget-friendly ideas to freshen up your kitchen:

1. Swap Out the Hardware

New hardware isn’t expensive, but it can make a big difference in the overall look of your kitchen. Kitchen hardware ranges from rustic to modern, so you won’t have a problem finding the perfect addition to your existing decor. When you go shopping, bring a current drawer pull to ensure your new pieces match the size of your old hardware.

2. Buy a New Faucet

A new faucet is an easy way to create a stunning focal point in your kitchen. Look for a finish and style that works well with your kitchen’s aesthetic. Also, for a simple installation, make sure your new fixture matches your existing faucet’s size and layout.

3. Try a Stainless Steel Laminate Backsplash

Many homeowners love the sleek, contemporary look of a stainless steel backsplash. Stainless steel laminate works with most kitchen styles and color schemes, and doesn’t cost a fortune to install.

4. Install a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans cool your kitchen while adding visual interest to the room. When you’re shopping for a new fan, look for an Energy Star-rated model. Energy-efficient fans can cut your summer cooling expenses by as much as 40 percent.

5. Think Outside the Box

Don’t be afraid to get creative if you’re working with a limited budget. Repaint or refinish your old cabinets for an entirely new aesthetic. Or, update your lighting fixtures with stylish, modern replacements.

You don’t need to spend big bucks to give your kitchen a fresh and inviting look. With some strategic shopping and a few DIY tricks, you can give your kitchen a brand new look without breaking the bank.

Hurricane Preparedness & Evacuation Information

Here are some helpful hints needed to be prepared before and during a storm as well as the evacuation routes by zip codes following on the next page.

Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility. What would you do if basic services – water, gas, electricity or telephones – were cut off? Relief workers cannot reach everyone right away.Therefore, prepare before disaster strikes. You and your family will cope best by preparing for a hurricane before a storm is in the Gulf of Mexico. One way to prepare is by assembling a disaster supply kit. Once a storm is in the Gulf, you may not have time to stop or search for supplies or you may have difficulty finding needed items. However, if you have gathered your supplies in advance, your family can endure an evacuation or home confinement.

  • Water – At least a 5 to 7 day supply (One gallon per person per day)
  • Food – At least a 5 to 7 day supply of nonperishable food (Change out stored water and food supplies every six months).
  • First Aid Kit
  • Flashlight with Extra Batteries
  • Battery Powered Radio
  • Medications & Special Items (pain relievers, diapers, etc.)
  • Tools & Supplies
  • Sanitation (toilet paper, personal hygiene items, etc.)
  • Change of Clothes & Bedding
  • Cash
  • Important Family Documents (birth certificates, insurance/bank account info, etc.)
  • Food, Water, and Medicine for your Pets
  • Kennels or Crates for pets

Evacuation Tips

  • If you evacuate, remember to take your disaster supply kit with you on the road.
  • During hurricane season (6/1 – 11/30), keep at least half a tank of gas in your car at all times.
  • Rethink your needs every year and update your kit as your household changes.

Here is a link to a map of evacuation zip-zones for Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, Harris and Matagorda counties.



August Home Maintenance Tips

  • Inspect Garden Hoses
    • Hook up your hoses and check for leaks. Fix a single puncture in a hose by cutting out the damaged section and rejoining the hose with a coupling fitting, which you can pick up at the hardware store for about $1.50. Also replace damaged hose ends.
  • Get Your Attic Set for Summer
    • Stay comfortable and keep cooling costs in check by making sure that soffit, gable and ridge vents are not blocked. Insulation should cover the entire attic floor; add new material or reposition existing insulation as needed. If your attic is equipped with a thermostat-controlled exhaust fan, test it by blowing heated air from a blow-dryer onto the thermostat unit. If the fan doesn’t come on when the thermostat housing is warm to the touch, you need a new thermostat.
  • Bee-Proof Your House
    • Stop bees, wasps and hornets from setting up new nests in your home by sealing gaps in siding, trim and other exterior surfaces. Wasps prefer cave areas, and there’s little you can do to prevent their nesting. However, spritzing a developing nest with soapy water will usually send the insects elsewhere. The same strategy will work on in-ground yellow jacket and bumblebee nests. But think twice before you eliminate nests in remote corners of your yard; wasps and hornets kill tremendous numbers of caterpillars and other less desirable insects.
  • Clean Out Air Conditioners
    • If you haven’t used your air conditioner yet, check it out before the really hot weather hits. Clean dust, insects and other debris from grillwork areas and from cooling fins. Replace dirty filters. Dislodge cocoons and larvae from between fins with a wood or plastic (non metal) paint-stirring stick. Turn on the united and test its effectiveness. Get any problems fixed before your repairman is overbooked with work.
  • Don’t Forget the Garage Floor
    • You may not need to tackle all three of these tasks for your garage floor – cleaning, repairing and painting – but at least one deserves to be on your to-do list. Use a stiff-bristled broom followed by a shop vacuum to rid the floor of debris and dust. To remove oil and grease, try a degreasing cleaner that can be found at auto-supply shops, hardware stores and home centers. Repair cracks with a high-strength patching mortar. Many companies make special concrete-floor paint that offers good resistance to abrasion and staining.
  • Repair Split Siding
    • Inspect siding for cracks and splits. For a crack or split more than 2 ft. long, replace the entire board. To repair a shorter crack or split, pry it open with a slotted screwdriver and fill with exterior-grade, water-resistant glue. After boring two pilot holes in the face of siding, close the crack by pushing up on the bottom edge of the siding and driving in galvanizing ring-shank siding nails. Wipe off excess glue with a damp cloth.

Make Your Backyard a Bug-Free Zone

Depending on where you live in the United States, mosquitos will either be a usual nuisance this summer or a potential carrier of the Zika virus. Either way, keeping mosquitos at bay is essential to creating a safer summer for you and your family.

We all know the importance of removing any standing water from around the yard. Making it a habit to walk around your property right after rainfall to dump water from flower pot stands, fire pits, bird baths, kid’s toys, and so on, does help. But while many mosquito-repellent strategies exist, most fail once a mosquito gets the whiff of a human nearby (they are attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale). And once they find us, few things are likely to deter them. So what are the effective, safe-for-all steps you can take to help make your backyard bug free?

Blow Them Away
The best low-tech solution to keep mosquitos from bugging you is to move an indoor fan outside during the evening. Not only are mosquitos inept fliers, but a 2003 study showed that wind thwarts a mosquito’s landing capabilities. If they can’t land on you, they can’t bite you. Simply point the fan toward your seating areas in the backyard and stay put– at least during dusk.

For a more long-term solution, install a ceiling fan anywhere you like to sit when outdoors: on your porch, over a covered patio, or in a gazebo. Search “outdoor ceiling fans” on Pinterest for inspiration. You can also Google “wall mount outdoor fan” for fans that you can place discreetly yet strategically to help keep mosquitos from making an easy landing on your arm.

Try Yellow Lights
Replace outdoor lighting fixtures with yellow bug lights, or for a few dollars more, with warm-colored LED bulbs. Why LEDs? While a recent study found both types of bulbs were effective at attracting fewer mosquitos and other insects, surprisingly, the warmer colored LEDs were also effective in attracting fewer earwigs and stink bugs — a bonus by any measure. LEDs also last for years making them less expensive in the long term. To shop for the correct, warm-colored LEDs for outdoor lights, however, remember that lumen (lm) matters more than wattage (W), the warmer (yellower) the LED light, to have more brightness at night, LEDs in the 16-20 W range may be the happy medium between seeing well and keeping bugs away. Ask your hardware store expert for advice, though, as other factors, such as dimmer capabilities and bulb-encased light fixtures impact how long an LED bulb lasts.

Remove Their Habitat
It’s your habitat, not theirs, so keep it that way by following these five simple yet effective deterrents:

  • Keep your pool covered when not in use
  • Trim back any heavy vegetation areas and low-hanging foliage
  • Pick up decaying fruit and other yard debris from ground
  • Mow your lawn weekly and eliminate any tall weeds
  • Clear rain gutters and downspouts

Repel Them with Non-Toxic Sprays and Oils
Toxic chemicals work but that’s hardly healthy for us. The most effective non-toxic repellents that are safe for people and pets include:

  • The long-held and still true use of citronella oil (outdoors only folks)
  • Conceal Candles, which contain a botanical that inhibits a mosquito’s ability to smell
  • Yard sprays made with neem oil
  • Liquid garlic sprays (it seems mosquitos and vampires hate garlic)
  • Food-grade diatomaceous earth spray (safe for use in koi and ornamental ponds)

No single solution has yet been found to completely protect you and your family from mosquitos, but following these steps can help eliminate opportunities for those little skeeters to make your backyard their home.

A Note on Zika in the U.S.
As June 2016 drew to a close, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had not reported any known locally acquired cases of Zika in any U.S. states — all the reported cases in the U.S. have been travel-associated infections to date. However, the CDC has compiled a map that shows their estimated range in the U.S. for the type of mosquito (Aedes aegypti) that carries the virus. While not a precise mapping of Zika’s potential to spread, if you live in the lower half of the U.S., it can be helpful to take simple precautions, including those outlined in this post.

Housing Market Trends of 2016

  • Growing rental rates and moderate home price growth should mean more people look to buy in 2016.
  • Mortgage rates will rise, which should also boost numbers of buyers.

These are the two most important housing market trends in 2016. The pattern seen in 2015 was largely characterized by a white-hot rental market, and if this continues, more households will likely choose to rent over buy.

Demand for for-sale properties will grow and continue to largely consist of older millennials (ages 25-34). This demographic has potential to claim a third of the properties sold in 2016. Generation X could also be big factor in home sales this year, as this demographic is in prime earning years and experiencing better economic circumstances, which include more relocations and finding better neighborhoods for their families.

Supply will also improve as a result additional growth in construction, particularly in single-family homes.The growth will be in more affordable price points, which will help bring down average home prices and average size of new homes.

Mortgage rates should begin their long-anticipated ascent as the Federal Reserve attempts to influence rates up without negatively affecting economic growth.

The final key trend is that rents will rise more rapidly than prices, adding to the already burdensome level of rents that exist in more than 85% of the markets in the country. In the near term, this reinforces the consumer’s decision to buy.