Okay, so I’m a little slow to get excited by the latest architectural masterpiece to be erected in Dallas. Fact is, I have never understood opera as an art form or why it has such a tremendous following. So when the buzz surrounding the new Winspear Opera House began to sound, I placed all the hype on ignore. Wow, did I ever miss something great!
My wife is an enormous fan of the theater, so we celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary by attending South Pacific at the Winspear Opera House. The play was fabulous, the cast stellar, and the physical surroundings were absolutely extraordinary!! The exterior it is an impressive contemporary structure, but for my taste, it was the interior that took my breath away. The stacked vertical balconies are impressive and functional – there is no bad seat in this house. And the retractable chandelier is absolutely beautiful.
Arch Daily states “The new Winspear Opera House in Dallas redefines the essence of an opera house for the twenty first century, breaking down barriers to make opera more accessible for a wider audience. Responding to the Dallas climate, a generous solar canopy extends from the building, revealing below a fully glazed sixty foot high lobby. This establishes a direct relationship between inside and outside, enhancing transparency. Beneath the canopy, which forms an integral part of the environmental strategy – a shaded pedestrian plaza creates a major new public space for Dallas, defined by the masterplan for the Performing Arts District.”
If you have the opportunity to attend any performance at the Winspear Opera House, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity.
Over the course of the last year, I have noticed that my personal sales history shows that smaller homes are selling much faster than larger homes. I have seen a number of 3 bedroom, 2 bath homes sell in less than 30 days, even in this austere market. And these homes are selling for strong prices, several having appreciated in the last year. One of the small homes that I sold in 2009 set the mark for the highest price per square foot in its Plano neighborhood.
Across the nation, the strength of smaller size homes seems to be consistent. A USA Today article published this morning addresses this topic directly. The article quotes statistics from the National Association of Home Builders noting that this trend has not been overlooked by those who bring new product to the market. The median square footage of homes has dropped about 9%, from a peak of 2300 sq ft in the third quarter of 2006 to 2100 sq ft in the same period of 2009.
I believe there are a couple of factors that cause this trend to occur. First, the general strength of the economy has everyone scrutinizing expenditures, and people are beginning to realize that they can survive on less. The thought pattern goes something like this “We’d love to have the media room, but do I really need it? Perhaps now is not the time – we’ll get that in the next house.” Second, the strongest segment of the market is in first time home buyers. People are realizing that given price levels, interest rates and tax incentives, it make sense to buy a home rather than rent for those who can qualify for a mortgage. First time home buyers have not built up equity over the years and usually start by purchasing smaller homes. The combination of these occurrences leads to smaller homes outperforming larger homes in the current market.
So what’s the moral of the story? If you have been in your first home for the last several years, and are thinking that perhaps now is the time to move up, you couldn’t be more right. Your smaller starter home will yield the best price in the market, and the home that you purchase will likely be discounted from its level of the past couple of years. The market is taking shape to make now the best time to step into a larger home.
The Plano City Council is set to vote Monday on a $2 million economic incentive package to woo Pizza Hut from its current Addison headquarters location to a new facility to be developed in Plano. The new development would be part of the Legacy business park in West Plano.
Time for a move?
In my opinion, this is a great play by the city of Plano. Plano has done an exceptional job of attracting corporate headquarters to its fair city, and this is another shining opportunity. The Pizza Hut relocation comes complete with approximately 450 high paying jobs and will provide a boost to the Plano economy.
Even though the relocation distance from their current location on the Dallas North Tollway in Addison, the move to Plano should serve as a nice stimulus to property values in West Plano. The additional jobs will create additional residential housing demand in the neighborhoods in close proximity to the Legacy Business Park. The move will not happen immediately. The current lease on the Pizza Hut headquarters expires in 2010, and Pizza Hut will have to ready its new facility before making the move.
Kudos to the city of Plano who in the past year has attracted approximately 20 companies and over 4,500 new jobs in the midst of the largest economic downturn our country has faced in many decades. No recession in Plano – keep gowing!!
Did you notice the lack of the words “First Time” in the title. Here’s a little something for those of us who already own a piece of the American dream. If last year’s tax credit was enough to get first time buyers into the market, let’s hope that this stimulates things even more.
Congress and President Obama have seen fit to extend the Home Buyer Tax Credit into 2010, and they have significantly increased the scope of the incentive. It is now available to anyone homeowner who meets certain income guidelines and sells their home between Nov 7, 2009 and May 31, 2010. And the definition of sell is now translated as enter into a contract to sell by May 31, 2010 and close by Jul 31, 2010.
Homebuyer Tax Credit — Revised November 2009
Jan. 1 – Nov. 30, 2009 Rules As Enacted February 2009
Nov. 7 – Apr. 30, 2010 Rules As Enacted November 2009
First-time Buyer – Amount of Credit
$8,000 ($4,000 married filing separate)
$8,000 ($4,000 married filing separate)
First-time Buyer – Definition for Eligibility
May not have had an interest in a principal residence for 3 years prior to purchase
Current Homeowner – Amount of Credit
$6,500 ($3,250 married filing separate)
Effective Date – Current Owner
November 7, 2009
Current Homeowner – Definition for Eligibility
Must have used the home sold or being sold as a principal residence consecutively for 5 of the previous 8 years
Termination of Credit
Purchases after November 30, 2009.
(Becomes April 30, 2010 on November 7, 2009)
Purchases after April 30, 2010
Binding Contract Rule
So long as a written binding contract to purchase is in effect on April 30, 2010, the purchaser will have until July 1, 2010 to close
Income Limits (Note: Increased income limits are effective as of November 7, 2009)
$75,000 – single
$150,000 – married
Additional $20,000 phase out
$125,000 – single
$225,000 – married
Additional $20,000 phase out
Limitation on Cost of Purchased Home
November 7, 2009
Purchase by a Dependent
November 7, 2009
Purchaser must attach documentation of purchase to tax return
Source: National Association of Realtors
The tax credit to existing homeowners is up to $6,500, so if you were thinking about upgrading the homestead, now is definitely the time to act. Low interest rates, great buys available in the market, and a tax credit to boot – it’s the “perfect storm” for making the move to the larger house, or the incentive to finally downsize into the cozy home, depending on your vantage point of life.
In upcoming posts, I’ll examine some financial strategies for accessing this tax credit during the course of your transaction. Stay tuned…
As 2009 draws to a close, I am wondering how well the first time home buyer tax credit worked this year. Rather than simply speculate, I will look to market numbers to answer the question. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), first time home buyers accounted for 47 percent of all real estate transactions that were completed thus far in 2009. That figure represents an all time high percentage of first time home buyers, eclipsing the mark of 41 percent that was seen last year and the previous record high of 44 percent in 1991.
Paul Bishop, NAR Vice President of Research notes, “It’s interesting to note the last cyclical peak of first-time home buyers was during the last noteworthy economic downturn, with first-time buyers starting the chain reaction that led the nation out of recession.” Well, I’m all for pulling out of the recession, so I sure hope that an upward trend of home sales continues in 2010.
In addition to the tax credit received by first time home buyers in 2009, there were additional factors that contributed to the increase in the number of first time home buyers. Interest rates were phenomenally low throughout the year. I would hope that they remain low through the next year, but prolonged periods of interest rates this low have not often been observed in our economic history. Additionally, home prices in many areas fell during the past year. So, bottom line, there was a product “on sale” with very cheap financing that someone (Uncle Sam) was paying the consumer to buy. Sounds like a good recipe for success. To those first time home buyers who purchased a home in 2009, congratulations! To find out if, and how much, tax credit you received, click here.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, I believe that now is an excellent time for first time home buyers in Dallas to enter the market. Many entry level homes are available at great prices in Dallas, especially if you are a first time home buyer that can do a few repairs. The number of foreclosure properties in Dallas is increasing, but these properties frequently come with a few warts. Given that the last occupant could not afford the mortgage, it is likely that they could not afford to keep up with repairs either. However, with a little TLC, Dallas homes can be spectacular again. They are all at a discount price for first time home buyers in Dallas.
So how do you go about buying a home in Dallas as a first time home buyer? How do you know if you are getting a good deal? How do you get it financed? How does the closing process actually work? How do I obtain good advice when being a first time home buyer? All of these are great questions, and the answer to most of them is “don’t do what I did when I was a first time home buyer in Dallas.” Here’s my story…
Young and relatively new to Dallas, I was ready to be a first time home buyer. A US Navy officer at the time, I knew that I could obtain financing through the VA and have little out of pocket cost. I walked into a local real estate office in and announced that I was ready to be a first time home buyer in Dallas. I was soon signing a long term representation agreement with an agent that turned out not to know very much. It was up to me to figure things out, and I made some rather large mistakes (bought a house about 300 yards from the Dallas county line. Had I crossed over the line, taxes and car insurance would have been significantly cheaper).
So here are my recommendations to any first time home buyers . First, work with a seasoned agent or broker that has years rather than minutes of experience about Dallas real estate. Get to know them before signing a long term agreement, and then only sign an agreement if you have a way out. Don’t get yourself tied up for six months. Good agents will always have clauses that will release you from the agreement. Also, if you are a first time home buyer in Dallas make sure that you really trust the person you are working with. Watch the way that they present information and ask questions until you can determine whether or not they seem knowledgeable and trustworthy. If you can get a reference from a friend, do so. If the references you use are provided by the agent, ask them hard questions.
Second, if you are a first time home buyer in Dallas get yourself qualified for a mortgage before you start a serious search. This will let you know what you can afford. No sense looking at $750,000 homes if you only qualify for a $200,000 mortgage as a first time home buyer. When it comes time to make an offer, you are going to have to prove to the seller that you can obtain financing before they will accept the offer. Going through the qualification process early as a first time home buyer in Dallas will help throughout the process.
Finally, think about the things that are really important to your life, and find a home near them. Being a first time home buyer, I purchased in the outer Dallas suburbs, but my life never moved out there. All of our friends and social events were in Dallas. Being a first time home buyer, I could have afforded to pay a higher mortgage in exchange for the fuel and wear and tear that I put on my cars.
There are three great programs run by federal government that allow first time home buyers to buy a house with little to no money out of pocket. FHA loans are available through the Dept of Housing and Urban Development. The Veteran’s Administration offers US military veterans a $0 out of pocket opportunity and The The US Department of Agriculture sponsors Rural Housing Service Loans.
There is an existing bike trail that circles White Rock Lake in east Dallas. This trail extends north from the lake along White Rock Creek all the way to LBJ Freeway and Hillcrest Road. The Santa Fe Trail has recently been improved. White Rock Lake is now linked by a bike trail all the way to Fair Park (be forewarned, the Santa Fe Trail ends in a cluster of warehouse buildings about a block from the entrance to Fair Park). Here’s some additional info on the Santa Fe Trail
There’s a lot of talk regarding the purchase of foreclosure properties in the news right now, but exactly what does it take to purchase a foreclosure property? And how does this process differ from just buying a house that is listed for sale through a real estate company? This post will explain some of the basics behind the foreclosure process, and the risk/reward associated with purchasing in each phase.
This is the first phase of the foreclosure process. This period begins as the lender sends a Notice of Default to the homeowner. This is a legal document that informs the home owner that they are in default of the terms of their loan agreement and that the lender may elect to pursue foreclosure. At least 60 days must pass between this notice and the event where a public auction for the property is held. The Notice of Default is a legal, filed document and is accessible through public records search.
The Notice of Default is followed by a legal document called a Lis Pendens. This is the legal filing of the lender’s intent to foreclose. This is the point in the process where the government has recently contemplated placing a 90 day delay in the foreclosure process to allow the homeowner to recover before the foreclosure process continues. Again, this document must be filed and is available through public records search.
During the period of Pre-foreclosure, you must deal directly with the home owner (or their real estate agent). It is during this period that a “short sale” may occur. A short sale is the sale of the property for a price less than what is owed to the lender. The lender must approve the short sale, and although a cumbersome process, it can lead to the purchase of the property at a great price.
If the homeowner is unable to reach agreement with the lender for either a restructured loan or a short sale, the next step in the process is Foreclosure, which begins with a public auction. The property is held for auction on the “courthouse steps” on the first Tuesday of the month. This is a sealed bid auction process, and the property is sold to the highest bidder. The lender will usually submit a bid for the amount still owed on the mortgage, and is frequently the highest bidder.
This can be a great event for someone to purchase a property at a highly discounted price, but comes with significant risk. In most cases, access to the interior of the property is not possible, which greatly limits the buyer’s inspection of the property prior to purchase. This is also a cash sale, so unless you are able to write a check for the property, it may not be a feasible purchase point.
Following the auction, the lender frequently walks away with the property. The lender will then take the property to market, frequently through a real estate broker. In the MLS system, these properties are noted as foreclosure sales. The purchase of these properties works very much like the purchase of any other property for sale in the MLS, with a couple of distinct exceptions. First, these properties are usually sold on an “As Is” basis, meaning that no repairs are performed by the Seller (now the lender). Also, since the Seller has never occupied the home, it is impossible for them to provide an accurate disclosure about the properties history, so they don’t. It becomes incumbent on the Buyer to have the property inspected to determine it condition, and to make an offer appropriate to the physical condition of the property.
Buying foreclosure property can be a great way to obtain a home that has instant equity, but there are a number of heightened risks along the way. I strongly encourage you to seek the opinions of professionals in this process, it will make the whole process much easier, and the final outcome much more pleasurable.
Read national newspapers or listen to national evening news on any channel, and you’ll hear that real estate markets are in turmoil across the country. But in Dallas, we have fared better than most. In some areas the real estate markets are depressed, especially in the southern suburbs. But north Dallas real estate continues to see a good market. In fact, the Park Cities and northeast Dallas neighborhoods like Lake Highlands are actually seeing price appreciation.
Across the Dallas Fort Worth area, the number of sales transactions is significantly decreased from a year ago. It seems that only people who really need to sell their house (corporate relocation, divorce, etc) are placing it on the real estate market. The number of active buyers is also quite low. So if you possess the ability to obtain a loan, and are interested in purchasing a home, it’s a great time to buy a home in Dallas. With few other buyers in the Dallas real estate market, those who need to sell their homes are quite happy to see you. This is beginning to translate into improved negotiating posture for the buyer.
In the right part of town, the picture is not absolutely bleak for home sellers. Real estate in outstanding condition is few and far between, and is still commanding an increasing price in north Dallas and the Park Cities. The time to sell a home is rising, and on average has crested 3 months in Dallas. If you need to sell your home, make sure you bring it to the real estate market in the best possible condition. Clean the closets, paint the room that you’ve been neglecting, and get the yard cleaned up (yes, that means bagging up all of the leaves that have been around since autumn). Present your home well, and it may just sell quicker than you think, and for very close to the asking price.
For answers to specific buying or selling questions in the current Dallas real estate market conditions, feel free to call me.