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Nov. 2, 2023

The Time-Tested Tradition: Why We Have Daylight Saving Time

Twice a year, we embark on a quirky ritual that involves setting our clocks forward or backward by one hour. It's like we're playing an elaborate game of time-travel hopscotch. So, why do we do it? What's the reasoning behind this clock-jumping extravaganza? In this blog post, let's dive into the history of Daylight Saving Time (DST) while sprinkling in some humor, because, why not?

The Birth of Daylight Saving Time

So, who do we have to thank for this semi-annual clock-confusion ballet? Benjamin Franklin, of course! In 1784, he suggested that we could all benefit from a little extra daylight in the evening by moving the clocks forward. Although he didn't have Instagram back then, we can imagine him hashtagging it as #MoreSunsets, and maybe even posting a selfie with a kite.

The Energy Saving Argument

Daylight Saving Time was the brainchild of a time-traveling Ben Franklin. During World War I, nations realized they needed to conserve fuel. So, they decided to fool the clocks. "Hey, Mr. Clock, you're not hungry for coal anymore!" they exclaimed as they advanced the hours. It was like the clocks were on a diet, and they lost an hour.

The Energy Saving Argument: Does it really work? Well, if you ask your grandparents, they might say, "Back in my day, we saved so much energy that our toasters doubled as space heaters!" Today, though, it's a bit more complicated. With energy-efficient LEDs, Nest thermostats, and smart homes, the numbers don't add up quite the same. We've got Ben Franklin shaking his head, saying, "I should've invented the smartphone instead."

Economic and Social Benefits

Longer daylight hours mean more time for people to empty their wallets in retail stores. Retailers call it the "Glow-in-the-Dark Effect" because shoppers are more likely to buy things when they can actually see what they're purchasing. Plus, it's a scientific fact that ice cream tastes better when consumed outdoors in broad daylight.

Improved Mental and Physical Well-being

With DST comes more daylight for outdoor activities. And let's face it, even though we might grumble when we lose an hour of sleep, we all secretly relish the thought of more evenings spent frolicking outside. But don't forget the sunscreen, or you'll be telling people you turned a nice shade of "lobster red."

Challenges and Controversies

While Daylight Saving Time is all sunshine and rainbows, it's not without its hiccups. The time-shift can mess with our internal body clocks, leaving us all walking around like zombies for a week. 

Oh, and let's not forget the joy of dealing with time zone differences. "I'm calling the meeting at 2 PM... my time!" If you've ever scheduled a conference call with someone halfway around the world, you know the struggle is real.

Conclusion

Daylight Saving Time is like that oddball cousin who insists on bringing their pet ferret to family gatherings. We may not always understand it, and it might create chaos, but it's been with us for over a century. As we navigate the quirks and challenges of DST, we can't help but appreciate the extra daylight, sunny days, and the opportunity for a little laughter along the way. Whether you love it or loathe it, Daylight Saving Time is a time-honored tradition, and like a good comedy, it continues to bring smiles and occasional groans to our lives.

So this Saturday turn your clocks to "fall back" yet again.

 

 

Posted in Community News
Oct. 11, 2023

Part 3 Interview with Waco Mayor Dillon Meek

Oct. 10, 2023

Spotlight on Waco Episode 2 of Moment with the Mayor on Property Taxes

Oct. 6, 2023

Understanding the Benefits of Owning Your First Home

Are you considering buying your first home? If so, it can be helpful to know what led other people to make that decision. According to a recent survey of first-time homebuyers by PulteGroup:

“When asked why they purchased their first home recently, the answer was simple: because they wanted to. Either the desire to stop renting or recognition that homeownership is a smart financial investment was the main motivator for 72% of respondents.

While that survey looked specifically at first-time homebuyers buying newly built homes, the same sentiment is true for just about anyone buying their first home. Here’s a bit more information to help you think about those two benefits of homeownership to see if they’re a key factor for you too.

When You Buy a Home, You Have More Stability than When You Rent

You might want to stop renting because rents keep going up. If you’re a renter, that means there’s a chance your payment will increase each time you sign a new rental agreement or renew your current one.

On the other hand, when you buy your home with a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly housing payment is predictable over the length of that loan. This stability can give you a peace of mind that renting just can’t provide. Jeff Ostrowski, real estate journalist, breaks it down:

With a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly principal and interest payment is set for as long as you keep the loan. Sign a rental lease, however, and you could see your rent rise the following year, the year after that and so on.”

When You Buy a Home, You Grow Your Wealth as Home Values Climb

Beyond that, owning a home can also be a great long-term investment. While renting may be the more affordable option right now, it doesn’t provide an avenue for you to grow your wealth over time. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First Americanexplains that’s an important distinction to consider:

Given current dynamics, more young households may choose to rent in the near term as the cost to own, excluding house price appreciation, has unequivocally increased. Yet, accounting for house price appreciation in that cost of homeownership, whether to rent or buy will depend on where, and if, a home is likely to cost more or less in the near future.

Basically, renting doesn’t allow you to build equity. In contrast, homeownership can help you grow your net worth as your home’s value appreciates. That’s a significant perk you can’t get if you keep renting.

When you take that into account, it may make better financial sense to buy. Most experts project home prices will continue to appreciate over the next few years at a pace that’s more normal for the market. That means when you buy a home, not only are you investing in a place to live, but you’re also investing in your financial future. 

Bottom Line

If you're ready, it can be a smart move to buy your first home instead of renting. Let’s connect so you can stabilize your housing payment and start building wealth for your future.

Posted in Buying a Home
Sept. 13, 2023

Spotlight on Waco -September Episode #1 with the Mayor of Waco Dillon Meek

Aug. 17, 2023

People Want Less Expensive Homes – And Builders Are Responding

 

In today’s housing market, there are two main affordability challenges impacting buyers: mortgage rates that are higher than they’ve been the past couple of years, and rising home prices caused by low inventory. To overcome those challenges, many people are working with their agents to find less expensive homes. And with newly built homes making up a historically large percentage of the total available inventory today, that search often includes brand new homes.

People Are Spending Less on Newly Built Homes

The graph below uses the latest information from the Census to show, in June, more of the newly built home sales in this country were in lower price ranges than in 2022:Last year, only 58% of newly built home sales were less than $500,000. This June, that number was up to 65%. This means more people are buying less expensive newly built homes right now while affordability remains a challenge. 

Builders Are Offering Lower-Cost Options

Builders have picked up on this trend and are reacting accordingly. George Ratiu, Chief Economist at Keeping Current Mattersexplains:

“Builders are also responding to this shift by bringing slightly smaller homes to market in an effort to meet lower price points . . .”

New data from the Census further confirms this pattern – it shows the median sales price of newly built homes has dipped down in recent months (see graph below):And as Mikaela Arroyo, Director of the New Home Trends Institute at John Burns Real Estate Consultingsays, the builders who are most responsive to this trend are forming pathways to homeownership:

 “. . . it is creating opportunities for people to be able to afford an entry-level home in an area. . . . if you get that size down, that automatically will make it a more affordable home. The [builders] that are decreasing [size] the most are probably the ones that try to build more of an affordable product.”

 How an Agent Can Help

 Builders producing smaller, less expensive newly built homes give you more affordable options at a time when that’s really needed. If you’re hoping to buy a home soon, partner with a local real estate agent to find out what’s available in your area. An agent can help you look at newly built homes or ones under construction nearby. 

 

Bottom Line

 

If you’re having a hard time finding a home you like in your budget, let’s connect. You need a real estate professional who knows all about the latest inventory in our area, including homes still under construction or just built. That way you have an expert on your side who can provide information on builder reputations, builder contracts and negotiations, and more to help you with the homebuying process.

 

Posted in Real Estate News
April 21, 2023

Understanding Property Taxes in Texas

Property taxes are an important source of revenue for local governments in Texas. These taxes are used to fund a wide range of public services, including schools, roads, and public safety. In this blog post, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how property taxes work in the state of Texas. We will cover topics such as how the tax rate is set, who sets the tax rate, how the appraisal process works with the county appraisal office, when taxes are due, how the protest process works to protest your property taxes, and what are the different types of taxes that make up your total tax rate.

 

How the Tax Rate is Set

 

The tax rate for a particular property is calculated by multiplying the property's assessed value by the tax rate. The assessed value is determined by the county appraisal district, which is responsible for appraising all properties within its jurisdiction. The tax rate is set by each taxing entity that has the authority to tax the property.

 

There are two main types of taxing entities in Texas: school districts and local governments. School districts are responsible for funding public education, while local governments are responsible for providing other public services, such as police and fire protection, road maintenance, and trash collection.

 

Each taxing entity sets its own tax rate, which is expressed as a percentage of the property's assessed value. For example, if the assessed value of a property is $100,000 and the tax rate is 2%, the property owner would owe $2,000 in property taxes.

 

Who Sets the Tax Rate

 

The tax rate is set by each taxing entity that has the authority to tax the property. In most cases, this includes the local government and the school district. However, in some cases, other special taxing entities may also be involved, such as a municipal utility district or a hospital district.

 

The tax rate is set annually, usually in the late summer or early fall, and is based on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget is developed by each taxing entity and outlines the anticipated revenue and expenses for the upcoming year. The tax rate is then set at a level that will generate enough revenue to cover the expenses outlined in the budget.

 

How the Appraisal Process Works with the County Appraisal Office

 

The county appraisal district is responsible for appraising all properties within its jurisdiction. The appraisal process is used to determine the market value of the property, which is the price that the property would sell for if it were on the market.

 

The appraisal process begins with the appraisal district collecting information about the property, including its size, age, and condition. The district may also consider other factors, such as the property's location and any improvements that have been made to the property.

 

Based on this information, the appraisal district will assign a value to the property. This value is used to calculate the property's assessed value, which is the value that is used to determine the property tax bill.

 

When Taxes are Due

 

Property taxes are due on January 31st of each year.

 

How the Protest Process Works to Protest Your Property Taxes

 

Property owners who disagree with the assessed value of their property have the right to protest their property taxes. The protest process is a formal process that allows property owners to challenge the assessed value of their property and, in turn, the amount of property taxes they owe.

 

The protest process typically begins with the property owner filing a written protest with the county appraisal district. The deadline to file a protest is May 15th, or 30 days after the notice of assessed value is mailed to the property owner, whichever is later.

 

Once the protest is filed, the appraisal district will schedule a hearing to review the assessment of the property. The hearing will be conducted by an appraiser or appraisal review board, which is a group of citizens appointed by the county commissioners court.

 

At the hearing, the property owner will have the opportunity to present evidence to support their claim that the assessed value of their property is too high. This evidence may include recent sales of comparable properties, appraisals from independent appraisers, or other relevant information.

 

After considering all of the evidence, the appraiser or appraisal review board will make a decision on the assessed value of the property. If the property owner disagrees with the decision, they may appeal the decision to the state district court.

 

It is important to note that property owners who choose to protest their property taxes must do so in a timely manner and follow all of the procedural rules. Failure to do so may result in the property owner forfeiting their right to appeal the assessment.

 

What Are the Different Types of Taxes that Make Up Your Total Tax Rate

 

There are several different types of taxes that make up a property owner's total tax rate in Texas. These include:

 

School District Taxes: School districts are responsible for funding public education in Texas. The school district tax rate is set by the local school board and is based on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

 

City or County Taxes: City or county taxes are used to fund a wide range of public services, including police and fire protection, road maintenance, and trash collection. The tax rate for city or county taxes is set by the city council or county commissioners court, respectively.

 

MUD Taxes: Municipal utility districts (MUDs) are special taxing entities that are responsible for providing water, sewer, and other utility services to residents in unincorporated areas of the county. The tax rate for MUDs is set by the MUD board.

 

Hospital District Taxes: Hospital districts are responsible for funding hospitals and other healthcare facilities in Texas. The tax rate for hospital districts is set by the hospital district board.

 

Conclusion

 

In conclusion, property taxes are an important source of revenue for local governments in Texas. The tax rate for a particular property is calculated by multiplying the property's assessed value by the tax rate, which is set by each taxing entity that has the authority to tax the property. The assessed value is determined by the county appraisal district, which is responsible for appraising all properties within its jurisdiction. Property owners who disagree with the assessed value of their property have the right to protest their property taxes. The protest process is a formal process that allows property owners to challenge the assessed value of their property and, in turn, the amount of property taxes they owe. Finally, there are several different types of taxes that make up a property owner's total tax rate in Texas, including school district taxes, city or county taxes, MUD taxes, and hospital district taxes.

 

Helpful Resources for Further Reading

 

Comptroller of Public Accounts: The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts website provides a detailed guide on how property taxes work in Texas. It includes information on tax rates, appraisals, payment options, and the protest process. The website also includes a FAQ section that answers many common questions about property taxes in Texas.

 

Texas Appraisal Districts: Each county in Texas has an appraisal district that is responsible for determining property values for tax purposes. Many of these districts have websites that provide information on the appraisal process, as well as contact information for the district's staff. Homeowners can use these websites to find out more about their property's assessed value and to file a protest if necessary.

 

As always, reach out to us if we can assist you in any way.  Whether you choose to protest taxes on your own or choose to hire a professional service, we would be happy to help!

 

Links:

 

https://comptroller.texas.gov/taxes/property-tax/

https://mclennancad.org/

 

 

Posted in Homeownership
April 20, 2023

What will a lender need from me to get pre-approved on a loan?

When you're in the market to purchase a home, one of the first steps you'll want to take is to obtain a pre-approval for a home loan. A pre-approval is a letter from a lender that states that you are qualified to borrow a certain amount of money to purchase a home. Having a pre-approval letter in hand can give you a competitive advantage when making an offer on a home, as it shows that you are a serious buyer who has already been vetted by a lender. So, what does a lender require in order to issue a pre-approval for a home loan? Let's take a closer look.

 

Credit Score and History

One of the first things a lender will look at when determining whether to issue a pre-approval is your credit score and history. Your credit score is a numerical representation of your creditworthiness, and it ranges from 300 to 850. The higher your score, the better your chances of being approved for a loan. Lenders will also look at your credit history to see how you have managed your debts in the past. They will look for things like missed payments, late payments, and delinquent accounts.

 

Income and Employment History

Lenders want to know that you have a stable source of income and that you will be able to make your monthly mortgage payments. They will ask for documentation of your income, such as pay stubs and tax returns, to verify that you have a steady income stream. They will also look at your employment history to see how long you have been with your current employer and whether you have a history of changing jobs frequently.

 

Debt-to-Income Ratio

Lenders will also look at your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), which is the amount of debt you have compared to your income. They will add up all of your monthly debt payments, including things like credit card payments, car payments, and student loan payments, and divide that by your monthly income. This will give them a percentage that represents your DTI. Lenders typically want to see a DTI of 43% or less.

 

Assets and Liabilities

Lenders will also want to see a list of your assets and liabilities. This includes things like your savings accounts, investment accounts, and any property you own. They will also look at your liabilities, such as credit card balances and outstanding loans.

 

Property Information

In order to issue a pre-approval, lenders will also need information about the property you are interested in purchasing. They will want to know the address, the purchase price, and the estimated value of the property. They will also want to know if there are any liens or judgments against the property.

 

Once a lender has reviewed all of this information, they will be able to issue a pre-approval letter that states the maximum amount of money they are willing to lend you to purchase a home. Keep in mind that a pre-approval is not a guarantee of a loan, but it can give you a good idea of how much you can afford to spend on a home.

 

In conclusion, obtaining a pre-approval for a home loan requires a thorough review of your financial history and current situation. By understanding what lenders are looking for, you can prepare the necessary documentation and increase your chances of getting approved for a loan. If you're ready to start the process of obtaining a pre-approval for a home loan, contact us to let us connect you with a reputable and world class lender in the Waco area.

Posted in Buying a Home
April 18, 2023

What is an amortization schedule?

An amortization schedule is a table that shows the breakdown of each payment on a loan, including the amount of principal and interest paid, as well as the remaining balance on the loan after each payment is made. This type of schedule is commonly used with home loans to help borrowers understand how their payments are applied to the loan balance over time.

 

When you take out a home loan, your lender will calculate your monthly payments based on the loan amount, interest rate, and loan term. Each payment is composed of two parts: principal and interest. The principal portion of the payment goes toward paying down the amount you borrowed, while the interest portion goes to the lender as compensation for lending you the money.

 

In the early years of a home loan, the majority of the payment goes toward paying the interest, with only a small amount going toward paying down the principal. As time goes on and more payments are made, the amount of the payment that goes toward the principal increases, and the amount that goes toward the interest decreases.

 

An amortization schedule shows how each payment is divided between principal and interest, and how much of the principal balance remains after each payment is made. The schedule also shows the total interest paid over the life of the loan.

 

For example, if you have a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for $300,000 at 4% interest, your monthly payment would be $1,432.25. In the first payment, $1,200 goes toward interest, while only $232.25 goes toward the principal. By the 12th payment, the amount going toward the principal has increased to $294.21, with $1,138.04 going toward interest. Over time, the amount going toward the principal continues to increase until the loan is fully paid off.

 

An amortization schedule is helpful because it allows borrowers to see how their payments are applied to the loan balance over time, and how much interest they will pay over the life of the loan. This information can be useful when deciding on a loan, as it helps borrowers understand the total cost of borrowing and how long it will take to pay off the loan.

 

Overall, an amortization schedule is an important tool for understanding how home loans work and can help borrowers make informed decisions about their borrowing options

Posted in Buying a Home
April 14, 2023

What is a short sale and how do you purchase one?

A short sale is a real estate transaction in which the seller is unable to pay off their mortgage, and the lender agrees to accept less than the full amount owed in order to avoid foreclosure. In a short sale, the seller's lender agrees to release their mortgage lien on the property and accept the proceeds from the sale, even though the amount may be less than what is owed on the loan.

 

If you are interested in purchasing a home being sold as a short sale, here are the steps you need to take:

 

Find a real estate agent experienced in short sales: It's important to work with an agent who has experience with short sales, as the process can be more complex than a traditional sale.

 

Obtain pre-approval for a mortgage: Before you begin looking at short sale properties, you should obtain pre-approval for a mortgage. This will give you an idea of how much you can afford to spend on a home and will also make you a more attractive buyer to the seller's lender.

 

Identify potential short sale properties: Your real estate agent can help you identify properties that are being sold as short sales. These properties are typically listed as such on real estate websites.

 

Conduct a thorough inspection of the property: It's important to conduct a thorough inspection of the property before making an offer. Short sale properties are often sold as-is, so it's important to know what repairs and upgrades will be necessary.

 

Submit an offer to the seller's lender: If you decide to move forward with purchasing a short sale property, your real estate agent will submit an offer to the seller's lender. The offer will include the purchase price, the terms of the sale, and any contingencies.

 

Wait for approval from the seller's lender: Once the offer is submitted, you will need to wait for approval from the seller's lender. This can take several weeks or even months, as the lender will need to review the offer and determine whether to accept it.

 

Complete the transaction: If the lender approves the offer, you can move forward with the transaction. You will need to sign a purchase agreement, provide a down payment, and complete all necessary paperwork.

 

It's important to note that purchasing a home being sold as a short sale can be a lengthy and complex process. The seller's lender has the final say in whether or not to accept the offer, and they may require additional documentation or negotiations before approving the sale. However, for buyers who are willing to be patient and navigate the process, short sales can provide an opportunity to purchase a home at a discounted price.