Many homeowners are overlooking an opportunity to lower their property taxes by not challenging their tax assessment.  Property values have decreased in the past two to three years and the assessment may not reflect the current market value.

Deadlines are critical and if the challenge isn’t made in a timely fashion, the opportunity to lower the assessment can be lost for the year.  The deadline to file a protest with the Dallas Central Appraisal District is May 31, 2011.

The process for the challenge is relatively simple and can be done by a homeowner or by professional representation.  In some cases, if there is an obvious mistake, the state employee may be able to correct it without a hearing.

Check the property assessment record for common mistakes that can include the number of bedrooms, baths, lot size and square footage of the improvements.  Documentation is required to verify the errors.  If you have an appraisal, such as when you purchased the home, it can serve as proof of the discrepancy.

In other cases, a hearing is required before a panel of citizens who will listen to testimony from the taxpayer and a representative of the assessor’s office.  Based on the documentation presented, the panel will make a ruling to lower the value, make no change or in some cases, raise the valuation.

Recently closed comparables are the most common proof presented in a hearing.  Comparables should be similar in size, condition and location.  I’m can supply you with the comparables, filing deadlines and any other pertinent information you need to make a challenge. 

Lowering your assessment will result in lower property taxes and more money in your pocket.

If you’d like more information or help with lowering your assessment, give me a call.  I can always be reached at 214.563.2385 or via email at heather@heatherguildgroup.com.

During your house hunting trip, you see a couple of listings that are bank owned foreclosures, also known as REO (Real Estate Owned) properties.  These properties have been foreclosed upon through a process where they are offered on the county court house steps on the first Tuesday of each month by the trustee of the mortgage.  Most of these homes have a bid reserve, and if the reserve is not met, then the servicing lender takes the property back.  This is how a foreclosed property becomes a REO.  These REO homes are offered by local real estate agent for the servicing lender (Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, OneWest Bank, etc. and additionally, may have also been transferred to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or HUD).
There are three very important steps needed to make an offer and purchase a REO property.
Be Patient – all REO properties are managed by an REO asset manager, either an employee of the lender, or an asset management company employed by the lender.  Each asset manager handles anywhere between 300-600 active properties at a time.  Communicating with, submitting offers, getting questions answered, or amendments signed with an asset manager that has that many properties is much different than doing the same with an individual seller.  Unlike an individual seller, the REO listing agent can rarely pick up the phone and have a conversation about a property with the asset manager, much less go to their office and sit down in front of them.  All communication is usually documented in the lender’s online system with document upload available.  Additionally, the asset manager has authority to make decision up to a certain financial point, but if it goes beyond that, then they will have to send the file out to upper management or an outside investor for approval.  Once again, the person making the decisions in upper management or outside investor level is also working with hundreds upon hundreds of properties.
Submit offer and contract packages exactly and follow the seller’s offer instructions exactly – when making an offer or writing a contract package on a property that is owned by a financial institution, each institution has specific corporate policies and procedures about what much be included in an offer package or contract package.  It varies slightly from institution to institution.  Most REO listing agents post offer instructions in the multiple listing service with the property that is for sale.  These instructions should be followed completely and fully, as leaving just one thing out may disqualify your offer or cause your purchase contract to get kicked back from the seller.
Choose the correct mortgage lender and loan program – if you are getting a mortgage to purchase a REO property, most REO sellers will want to see a pre-approval letter from a “direct endorsement” lender stating that you have made loan application, and your credit file has been reviewed. 
A direct endorsement lender is a mortgage lender that originates and funds mortgage loans in-house, and is not brokering the loan to a wholesale lender.  A direct endorsement may sell the mortgage loan in the secondary market, after the loan has funded, and there has been a post closing underwriting review.  Always ask your mortgage loan officer if they are a direct endorsement lender, a mortgage bank or a mortgage broker.  If they are a mortgage broker, most REO sellers will not accept pre-approval letter from them.
Many REO sellers will require the buyer to make loan application with their own retail lending division.  For example, if you are purchasing a REO property owned by Bank of America, the seller will require that the buyer make loan application with Bank of America Home Loans.  The seller allows the buyer to close their loan with a lender of the buyer’s choosing, however, they want the additional loan application and pre-approval to ensure that the buyer is mortgage qualified from more than one source.
Many REO properties are in less than perfect condition, and most REO properties are offered in AS IS condition.  The seller will do no repairs to the property, and allow no repairs to be done to the property prior to closing.  Conventional loans have minimum property standards required to obtain a loan, such as structurally sound, no foundation problems that need correction, a roof that doesn’t leak, and no bacteria like substances growing.  Some conventional loan programs have more stringent property requirements.  FHA 203b and VA loans have a higher level of minimum property standards than a conventional loan.  In addition to the conventional loan requirements, FHA 203b and VA loans require that all mechanical/plumbing systems be tested and operational, and no safety/hazard conditions – i.e. broken glass, trip hazards, defective flooring, no flooring, no worn counter-tops, etc. 
If the property is in fair to poor condition, and the buyer needs mortgage money to purchase the property, then there are rehabilitation loan products available to them.  FHA 203k rehab loans is the most comprehensive loan product that allows property acquisition funds and rehab/remodel funds all in one loan with one closing.  Many lenders have a purchase plus loan product that allows for purchase plus cosmetic repairs after closing rolled into one mortgage loan, with one closing.

During your house hunting trip, you see a couple of listings that are bank owned foreclosures, also known as REO (Real Estate Owned) properties.  These properties have been foreclosed upon through a process where they are offered on the county court house steps on the first Tuesday of each month by the trustee of the mortgage.  Most of these homes have a bid reserve, and if the reserve is not met, then the servicing lender takes the property back.  This is how a foreclosed property becomes a REO.  These REO homes are offered by local real estate agent for the servicing lender (Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, OneWest Bank, etc. and additionally, may have also been transferred to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or HUD).
There are three very important steps needed to make an offer and purchase a REO property.
Be Patient – all REO properties are managed by an REO asset manager, either an employee of the lender, or an asset management company employed by the lender.  Each asset manager handles anywhere between 300-600 active properties at a time.  Communicating with, submitting offers, getting questions answered, or amendments signed with an asset manager that has that many properties is much different than doing the same with an individual seller.  Unlike an individual seller, the REO listing agent can rarely pick up the phone and have a conversation about a property with the asset manager, much less go to their office and sit down in front of them.  All communication is usually documented in the lender’s online system with document upload available.  Additionally, the asset manager has authority to make decision up to a certain financial point, but if it goes beyond that, then they will have to send the file out to upper management or an outside investor for approval.  Once again, the person making the decisions in upper management or outside investor level is also working with hundreds upon hundreds of properties.
Submit offer and contract packages exactly and follow the seller’s offer instructions exactly – when making an offer or writing a contract package on a property that is owned by a financial institution, each institution has specific corporate policies and procedures about what much be included in an offer package or contract package.  It varies slightly from institution to institution.  Most REO listing agents post offer instructions in the multiple listing service with the property that is for sale.  These instructions should be followed completely and fully, as leaving just one thing out may disqualify your offer or cause your purchase contract to get kicked back from the seller.
Choose the correct mortgage lender and loan program – if you are getting a mortgage to purchase a REO property, most REO sellers will want to see a pre-approval letter from a “direct endorsement” lender stating that you have made loan application, and your credit file has been reviewed. 
A direct endorsement lender is a mortgage lender that originates and funds mortgage loans in-house, and is not brokering the loan to a wholesale lender.  A direct endorsement may sell the mortgage loan in the secondary market, after the loan has funded, and there has been a post closing underwriting review.  Always ask your mortgage loan officer if they are a direct endorsement lender, a mortgage bank or a mortgage broker.  If they are a mortgage broker, most REO sellers will not accept pre-approval letter from them.
Many REO sellers will require the buyer to make loan application with their own retail lending division.  For example, if you are purchasing a REO property owned by Bank of America, the seller will require that the buyer make loan application with Bank of America Home Loans.  The seller allows the buyer to close their loan with a lender of the buyer’s choosing, however, they want the additional loan application and pre-approval to ensure that the buyer is mortgage qualified from more than one source.
Many REO properties are in less than perfect condition, and most REO properties are offered in AS IS condition.  The seller will do no repairs to the property, and allow no repairs to be done to the property prior to closing.  Conventional loans have minimum property standards required to obtain a loan, such as structurally sound, no foundation problems that need correction, a roof that doesn’t leak, and no bacteria like substances growing.  Some conventional loan programs have more stringent property requirements.  FHA 203b and VA loans have a higher level of minimum property standards than a conventional loan.  In addition to the conventional loan requirements, FHA 203b and VA loans require that all mechanical/plumbing systems be tested and operational, and no safety/hazard conditions – i.e. broken glass, trip hazards, defective flooring, no flooring, no worn counter-tops, etc. 
If the property is in fair to poor condition, and the buyer needs mortgage money to purchase the property, then there are rehabilitation loan products available to them.  FHA 203k rehab loans is the most comprehensive loan product that allows property acquisition funds and rehab/remodel funds all in one loan with one closing.  Many lenders have a purchase plus loan product that allows for purchase plus cosmetic repairs after closing rolled into one mortgage loan, with one closing.

Spring has sprung and so have the “For Sale Signs” in the front yards of homes across the state. The 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month are some of my favorites because I’m able to tour new homes to the market in East Dallas. My tour this week included a very well-priced Craftsman located in the sought after neighborhood of Munger Place; which is part of the Swiss Avenue Historic District. This home has the type of curb appeal you see on TV and a wraparound covered front porch that would put anyone in the mood for a porch swing and a cold glass of iced tea.  The 2nd home was a built in 1999 in accordance with the Swiss Avenue Historic District guidelines, and reflects the architecture of the neighborhood perfectly. The custom Euro-style interior features a versatile floor plan with bedrooms on each floor. My next stop in North Ridge Estates was a hit as well. The home I toured here is in a neighborhood that is going for through a soft gentrification. I say soft because the neighborhood never dropped into disrepair, it’s just a new group of home owners that are moving in, adding-on, updating and starting over. The last two homes were very close to White Rock Lake in the neighborhoods of Gaston Place & Lakeshore Hills. These neighborhoods are walking distance to the Lakewood Country Club, Whole Foods and White Rock Lake. I loved the location and potential of the lot at The Gaston Place home but inside the design selects were too specific or completely missing and unfortunately, it only had a 1 car garage. Amazingly, the last one we toured in Lakeshore Hills is being sold as an investment, meaning the home is in average to poor condition and is being marketed to custom builders for lot value. What an opportunity for someone to make their own statement on a property. 

Thanks for reading by blog, I love sharing my stories with you. If you would like more specific information about one of the homes I mentioned, email me at heather@heatherguildgroup.com and I’ll be happy to send it to you. If you’d like a sign in your own front yard I’ll be happy to talk to you about that too!
Visit my website at http://www.heatherguildgroup.com/ to find more about Real Estate!
Considering buying or selling a home, but wondering how the current buyer’s market affects that decision? 
We all hear the term “buyer’s market” bandied about on news programs and in the media, but what does it really mean?   Typically, a buyer’s market refers to a 7-8+ month supply of available homes.  Making the assumption that homes continue to sell at the current rate and assuming that no new homes come on the market, it would then take 7-8 months for ALL of the homes on the market to sell.   Historically, this large of an inventory has shown that the supply of homes outweighs the demand for homes. 
So, what do you need to know to take advantage of this market regardless of whether you need to buy or sell?
Most importantly, everyone must realize that even though there may be a lot of homes on the market, the percentage of well-maintained, move-in ready homes is low.  I recently toured 15 properties with a client.  Of those, only one was occupied and/or had furniture in it.  Buyers, if you want to buy one of these homes, you need to be prepared to make an offer.   Don’t wait or someone else will buy it.  Want to buy one of the vacant properties?  Be prepared to find a laundry list of maintenance items that need to addressed on the inspection report.  After all, if the homeowner couldn’t afford their mortgage, they probably weren’t servicing their HVAC on a regular basis.  Sellers, make your home move-in ready for the next buyer.  Do an inspection prior to putting it on the market and fix the items on the report.  Declutter and stage your home so that it looks large and welcoming.  These efforts will be well worth your time and money. 
If you’d like more tips on taking advantage of this market, don’t hesitate to give me a call.  I’m here to help you with your home buying, selling or investment needs.
Considering buying or selling a home, but wondering how the current buyer’s market affects that decision? 
We all hear the term “buyer’s market” bandied about on news programs and in the media, but what does it really mean?   Typically, a buyer’s market refers to a 7-8+ month supply of available homes.  Making the assumption that homes continue to sell at the current rate and assuming that no new homes come on the market, it would then take 7-8 months for ALL of the homes on the market to sell.   Historically, this large of an inventory has shown that the supply of homes outweighs the demand for homes. 
So, what do you need to know to take advantage of this market regardless of whether you need to buy or sell?
Most importantly, everyone must realize that even though there may be a lot of homes on the market, the percentage of well-maintained, move-in ready homes is low.  I recently toured 15 properties with a client.  Of those, only one was occupied and/or had furniture in it.  Buyers, if you want to buy one of these homes, you need to be prepared to make an offer.   Don’t wait or someone else will buy it.  Want to buy one of the vacant properties?  Be prepared to find a laundry list of maintenance items that need to addressed on the inspection report.  After all, if the homeowner couldn’t afford their mortgage, they probably weren’t servicing their HVAC on a regular basis.  Sellers, make your home move-in ready for the next buyer.  Do an inspection prior to putting it on the market and fix the items on the report.  Declutter and stage your home so that it looks large and welcoming.  These efforts will be well worth your time and money. 
If you’d like more tips on taking advantage of this market, don’t hesitate to give me a call.  I’m here to help you with your home buying, selling or investment needs.