When you are selling your home, you may be tempted to focus more on your home’s appearance than its condition…both are very important to home buyers! In Texas, a home inspection report “sticks” with the home for four years. That means that if you get a contract on your home, and the Buyers do inspections, and then back of of the deal (“exercise their Option”) due to repair issues, you will have to attach that inspection report to your Seller’s Disclosure to inform all potential buyers about the issues with the home. (This is Texas law.)
This means that you want to prepare your home in advance, so that very few items are listed on the inspection report!
So do the following items when listing your home for sale, and especially a few weeks before an inspection. These are the most common things that will be listed on an inspection report in the Katy and Sugar Land area. These are also the types of things that “kill deals” and cause Buyers to “exercise their Option” to cancel the contract. Smart home owners side-step these issues by resolving them in advance of listing their home.
#1 – Get the HVAC System Serviced
The number one issue with buying and selling a home in Texas is the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system. Home inspectors will test the cool air blowing inside the home and compare that to the outside temperature to find the “differential.” Even if you THINK the system is working properly, it probably isn’t good enough for an inspection report.
Generally speaking, you want an air differential of 16-20 degrees. Home inspectors will also do other items to inspect the HVAC system but they will VERY OFTEN recommend that a “qualified HVAC professional check the system.” To head that off at the pass, you should contact your A/C company and have them check the system first. Make sure they fix any issues and then write the temperature differential on the receipt. Also make sure they check the heating elements and specifically write the condition of the heating elements on the receipt. (Home inspectors are not allowed or qualified to open the furnace to check the heating elements.) You need written proof of these items for most buyers.
One thing to understand…if the outside temperature is 65 degrees, minus a 16 degree differential, that equals 49 degrees. Most ACs will not work under 55 degrees. So you can’t properly inspect the cooling capacity of an HVAC system when the outside temperature is below 72 degrees.
Providing a Residential Service Contract (“home warranty”) may help you resolve concerns about HVAC systems, but not always. It’s best to have the system serviced, and provide WRITTEN PROOF, ahead of time. Send a copy of the receipt to the Buyer’s agent before the home inspection, so they can give it to the home inspector.
#2 – Walk the Perimeter and Repair Cracks in Brick Mortar Joints
Potential foundation issues will scare buyers off faster than most anything else when buying a home (read details). Since we live in an area with expansive clay soil (which is susceptible to our frequent floods and droughts) it is common for the brick and mortar around the exterior of a home to crack…especially at bay window and wall joints. Cracks do not, necessarily, mean there is a problem with the foundation. Most exterior cracks in the mortar, and interior cracks in the sheetrock, are indicative of typical “settling” in our area. However, most buyers do not understand that and will just move on to the next available home…passing yours by.
If you have any concerns about your foundation, don’t ignore them and hope they will go undetected. Call a reputable foundation company and have them give you an estimate. Most of the time, there is no issue, so having that information in writing is beneficial.
Make sure you properly seal up cracks in mortar to prevent water and pest intrusion. But never DIY these repairs with stuff you can buy at Home Depot!! Hire professionals so the repairs will be invisible. Also repair interior cracks in ceilings and sheetrock, but again, hire a professional so they will be done properly. These repairs are relatively inexpensive and well worth the price if it prevents buyers from avoiding your property.
If you have a swimming pool, even if you think it is working properly, have it serviced and especially make sure the pool heater (if any) has the pilot light lit so it can be tested during an inspection. Make sure your “pool guy” writes the condition of the equipment on a receipt and keep it to provide to buyers. Also make sure the pool pump is clearly labeled, all switches for lights and water falls are labeled, and clearly label the GFCI outlet.
#4 – Get the Sprinkler System Serviced
Most buyers want to ensure that the sprinkler system works properly…especially the backflow device (which keeps yard contaminants out of the homes main water supply). Make sure that your sprinkler control box is clearly labeled for “which zone is which.” Example: Zone 1 = Front flower beds. Also attach a copy of your sprinkler’s instruction manual in a clear, plastic paper protector and staple or thumbtack by the control panel.
#5 – Replace Burned Out Light Bulbs (or Fix the Light Fixture)
If an inspector turns on a light and nothing happens, they don’t know if the bulb is burned out or if they fixture doesn’t work…so it will go on the inspection report. It’s easy enough to walk your house, including porches and garage, and make sure every single light bulb works. I recommend you use “bright white” (not daylight and not soft white) with the highest wattage allowed for the outlet.
Beware of using energy efficient “pinkish” light bulbs that take several minutes to warm up. Usually the buyer is ready to leave by the time those lights bulbs warm up, so the house looks too dark.
#6 – Ensure All Sink and Tub Drains Work Properly
Go through your home and make sure none of the drains are clogged up. Slow drains will go on an inspection report. While you’re at it, if you have a whirlpool tub, fill it up and pour 2 cups of bleach into the water and run for a few minutes to clean the jets internally. If you do’t use the whirlpool regularly, you may be surprised with the “black gunk” that will appear in the water!
A plumber recommended Thrift Drain Cleaner (buy on Amazon) to me and it works great! I use it to maintain the drains in my own home.
#7 – Repair All Leaky Faucets and Underneath Sinks
Check all the faucets and underneath all the sinks in the home to make sure there are no leaks. Hire a handyman or plumber (more expensive) to fix or replace leaky faucets and sinks. Also repair previous water damage (if any).
#8 – Get the Electrical Panel (Breaker Box) Up to Code
Electricity scares most people and electric codes change year to year. Just to be safe, have a qualified electrician check your electrical box/panel and make sure it will pass an inspection. Make sure the breakers are properly labeled. Also make sure there is easy access to the box and there are no wasps nests growing in or around it. (Yes, I’ve seen this!)
#9 – Lower the Soil/Mulch Level Around the Foundation
One of the most common items to go on an inspection report is that the soil/mulch line is too high around the foundation. Since termites are a problem in our area, and they build mud tubes along the foundation to get into the wood frame of the home, inspectors like to see 4 to 6 inches of foundation to ensure there are no termite tubes. If your soil or mulch is too high around the house, they can’t see the foundation and they will report it.
Hire your yard guys to rake back the soil and mulch from your foundation.
#10 – Fix Drainage and Gutter Issues
Home inspectors are very picky about possible drainage issues. Make sure your yard is properly graded to drain water within 24 hours. If you have spots that tend to “puddle” for more than a day, then have them filled-in or install a proper drain.
Also make sure your gutters are clear of debris. Home buyers don’t want to buy a home that needs a lot of attention like this and it’s easy enough for you to take care of before an inspection.
#11 – Repair and Paint Wood Rot & Caulk the Exterior Windows and Doors
Water is what typically damages a home. If you have any rotted wood around your home, have it replaced by a handyman. Also have a handyman or painter check every single exterior window and door of your home for separations and cracks and recaulk them as needed.
#12 – Repair Roof Leaks Properly and Repair Ceiling Damage As Well
No one wants to buy a house with a bad roof. Plus, if the roof is really bad, then the buyer may not be able to get home insurance, which means they will not be able to buy your home. (Lenders will not loan money to buy uninsurable homes.) So fix any known roof issues in advance and professionally repair interior damage (water spots on ceilings or walls).
#13 – Repair Broken Glass in Doors and Windows
No one wants to buy a home that has broken windows. Carefully walk your home and inspect each and every window and door and have all broken glass replaced. It’s usually relatively inexpensive to do this. Also make sure all doors and windows open and close and lock properly.
#14 – Label “Unusual” GFIC Outlets and Light Switches
A ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is the only protection device designed to protect people against electric shock from an electrical system. Most of the time, these outlets are obvious with Test and Reset buttons. However, you can connect a regular outlet to an outlet with a GFCI so that it is protected, but it will not be obvious to the inspector. So if you know you have some outlets like this, especially in the kitchen or bathrooms, then clearly label those outlets and specify the GFCI outlet they are tied to. This is something that inspectors can’t just “know” by looking at it, so they will mistakenly report this on an inspection report.
#15 – Ensure Accessibility to Attic Doors, Garage Doors, Sprinkler Panels, Etc.
A home inspector cannot inspect what they cannot get to and they will not move things to obtain access. So make sure that your garage is not so packed with stuff that the attic door (if any), breaker box, garage door openers, electrical breaker box, or sprinkler control panel is blocked. Make sure no car is in the garage, blocking an attic door as well.
#16 – Inspect the Stucco Exterior and Resolve All Issues
Many home owners love the look of stucco, but it is really a terrible substrate to use for homes in a moist and humid climate like Houston. If you have a home with stucco, make sure you maintain it properly (and annually) because moisture in walls can cause serious problems…including mold hazards. Before listing your stucco home, have it inspected by a professional stucco inspector and make all repairs in advance.
The highest repairs I have ever seen in my 10+ years as a real estate agent added up to $14,000 in stucco issues.
Checklist: Sixteen “Must Do” Items To Prepare Your Home for Inspections
Pricing a home is more complicated than simply comparing the list price to the sales price. Clients often ask me how much they should pay for a home, and I tell them, “It depends on how much it’s worth!” For example, if a house is listed at $450,000 and you get it at $400,000 that may seem like a good deal…but not if the market data says it’s only worth $350,000. (I’m using large numbers here to make the point.) Similarly, if a house is listed at $450,000 and you get it for $450,000, but the market data says it’s actually worth $500,000…then you got a good deal, even though you paid “full price.” See what I mean?
By the way…that new home specialist at the builder’s model home you like will tell you that the $440K model home was originally listed at $520K…sounds like a great deal, right? But they won’t tell you that the last five homes they sold, with that exact floorplan, had an average sales price of $400K. But I will! I’m looking out for you…not the builder.
Home Value Is Not About Price Per Square Foot
Pricing a home is complicated because real estate market data is changing every month…so home values are changing every month as well. In addition, there is not one price/sf price for an entire neighborhood. Smaller homes in the same neighborhood will typically have a higher price/sf than larger homes in the same neighborhood. Homes with swimming pools and waterview lots are generally worth more in the same neighborhood than homes that don’t have those features. Three-car garage homes are worth more than two-car garage homes in the same neighborhood.
Pricing a home correctly is complicated…you can’t just work off of averages or price/sf. There is no “Kelly Blue Book” value for homes! When determining the value of a home, you should compare at least three recently Sold price (not asking prices) for homes that are comparable to the house you want. Comparable means the houses are all within the same size-range (+/- 300sf), have a similar number of bedrooms and bathroom, have similar garage sizes, have similar types of amenities and lot types, etc. Usually you will not find three homes that are exactly the same as the subject property, so adjustments must be made to the prices, and then the adjusted prices are averaged out. This gives you a good idea of a home’s current market value. See the example below.
By the way, cosmetic items such as granite counter tops, hardwood floors, updated light fixtures, special colors of paint…those items do not add value to a home. Appraisers do not make adjustments for cosmetic items. Other items that buyers like, such as a new roof, new HVAC system, beautiful landscaping…those types of items are rarely adjusted either because appraisers (and buyers) expect the home to have a good roof and working HVAC system. Those items may help a home sell faster, but they do not usually add value on an appraiser’s report.
New Construction Homes Cost More Than Comparable Resale Homes
New construction homes in a neighborhood make pricing a home correctly more challenging. Technically speaking, investing in a home is very different from investing in an automobile. Homes and real estate are generally “appreciating assets” while cars are generally “depreciating assets.” However, trust me when I tell you that no home buyer on the planet is going to pay the same price for a “used” one-year old home when they can buy a “fresh,” brand-new, never lived in home…where they get to choose all the finishes (paint colors, floors, counter tops, cabinets, etc.). Buyers like that “new home smell” just the same as they like that “new car smell.” And they are willing to pay a premium for the “new home smell” just like they are willing to pay a premium for the “new car smell.”
We all know a car loses value the minute you drive it off the car lot. Likewise, that a new construction home typically loses its value (at least in the short run) the minute that you move in. So do not compare new construction prices with a resale home prices when determining value.
And be prepared to sell your home for less than you paid for it if you bought it from a builder…at least until the builders move out of the neighborhood (and no new construction homes are available) or at least five years (or more) have passed since you bought it from the builder. It is almost impossible to compete on price with home builders when you are selling a resale home. They offer lots of “buyer incentives” to entice buyers to purchase…and they can offer a buyer something you can’t…a never-lived-in-home.
It can be hard to determine what new construction homes are selling for because builders do not always list them on the MLS. Since Texas is a non-disclose state, home builders can sell homes without ever reporting them to the MLS. This often conceals the fact that homes lose value after they are purchased by a builder.
I know that some home sellers think their home is “better than new” because they have done this and that to the home. Home sellers like to price a home based on new construction home prices. But just like a used car, a used home is not usually worth as much to a buyer as a new construction home.
Home Should Appraise for Sales Value
If you are like most home buyers, you are going to get a loan in order to buy a home. That means the lender’s appraiser is going to have a say in how much you can pay for a home. This is something that home buyers and sellers have to be reminded about. It really doesn’t matter if you are willing to pay $450,000 for a house if the lender’s appraiser says it’s only worth $420,000…unless you want to pay the $30,000 difference at Closing.
Remember that a lender is making an investment in you and your home when they loan you money to buy a house. They want to make sure the home is a good investment. They don’t want to invest more than the item is worth. Always keep this in mind when you are applying for a loan.
Always make sure you have a way to get out of the deal if the home doesn’t appraise for the sales price. That will give you leverage to renegotiate the price if the appraisal comes in too low. If you have a back-out addendum in place, and the appraisal comes in too low, then you have four options:
Get the Seller to come down in price to the appraised value
Meet the Seller somewhere in-between the sales price and the appraisal price (but you will have to pay your share of the difference at Closing)
Pay the difference between the sales price and the appraisal value at Closing…on top of your other down payment and Closing costs
Back out of the deal (but then you will not get back all the money you spend on inspections, appraisal, etc.)
Some people think they will be able to terminate a transaction if the appraisal comes in too low because they believe a lender will not approve the loan in that case. This is not, necessarily, true. If you have enough cash on hand to pay the difference, then the lender may still approve the loan.
Pricing a home based on the “tax rolls” and tax appraised values does not work in Texas. Tax appraised values are usually not accurate for market value in this state. Plus, Texas is a non-disclose state and only members of the MLS have actual sales data. And even Zillow only gives themselves 1-star on their Zestimate’s accuracy (see here).
There is a method for doing a proper Comparative Market Analysis for a home that is similar to how a lender’s appraiser is going to determine a home’s value. Hire an experienced agent who knows what they are doing!
As your Buyer’s Agent, when you find a home you want to make an offer on, I do a complete CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) and provide you with the data that I have, to determine the realistic and accurate price for a home. This method is similar to how lender’s appraisers value a home. That way you don’t find yourself wasting a lot of time on a home that will not appraise for sales price.
Often times a home is listed at a price that is considerably more than the CMA value. For example, a home that just hit the market may be listed at $550,000 and the CMA, which is based on comparable homes SOLD in the past six months) says it is only worth $500,000. But you, the Buyer, really want the house. What do you do? Well…
Neither the Buyer’s Agent or the Listing Agent can make a seller accept your reasonable offer. And if the house just hit the market, then it’s possible that the seller hasn’t “come to their senses” yet. Sometimes it takes time for a home seller to see that their home isn’t worth what they want for it. If the house sits on the market for months, then sellers either decide to lower the price (hopefully) or they take the home off the market, because they find out they can’t get what they want for it at the current time. (So they will wait.)
I have seen it time and again where a Buyer’s Agent shows the Listing Agent their data for the $500,000 offer and it doesn’t matter…until months go by. Then, eventually, the Seller finally sells the home at the price you offered (or lower)…after letting it sit on the market for 6 months. It is often the case that only TIME can motivate a seller to accept a reasonable offer.
So what do you do if you really want a house that is overpriced?
Do you have time to wait? If so, give it a month or two and hope that another buyer doesn’t beat you to it. If you don’t have time to wait, then move on and find another home.
Pay the higher price. Sometimes it is worth paying more for a house to get what you want, when you want it. And besides…paying a higher price helps raise the prices in the neighborhood…thereby increasing the value of your investment.
Take a risk and offer the price the seller will accept while hoping the appraisal will come in low so you can renegotiate. Use the lender’s appraisal as your “checks and balances” for the price. This strategy can only work if you have the right to back out of the transaction if the appraisal comes in low.
Sometimes an appraisal comes in much higher than what a Buyer’s Agent thinks the house will appraise for. This may be because the market has changed in the 4-6 weeks between the time the agent did the CMA and the time the appraisal is done..and more homes sold in that time. Or sometimes it seems that appraisers choose odd “Comparables” to make the appraisal come in higher (or lower). You just never know what a lender’s appraiser will do when valuing a home.
Negotiating Tips for Buyers
Here are some tips to help with negotiations:
Don’t let yourself “fall in love” with a house, making detailed plans for remodeling and decorating, before you have an executed contract. If you are emotionally attached to the home, then it will be harder for you to walk away from an over-priced home.
Don’t expect to get a seller to go down substantially in price when the house has only been on the market for a few weeks. Be willing to pay a reasonable price instead of getting a “killer deal” on a house that just hit the market.
Don’t low-ball a house in a HOT market when you may get in a competitive situation with other buyers. Be willing to pay a reasonable price (or slightly more) because other buyers will be willing to do so.
There is a funny saying in real estate: “You can’t fix stupid.” That’s just an irreverent way of saying that your Buyer’s Agent can’t prevent other buyers from overpaying for a home. Cash buyers commonly pay way too much for a home because they don’t have a lender’s appraisal holding them back. And you don’t know what the other buyer’s circumstances and motivation are…maybe they are too desperate to be conservative about price.
Always consider your “next best alternative” when making pricing decisions. If you are desperate to get a home because you have to move in six weeks, and you have been looking for several months without finding anything else that you like, then be willing to pay more to get what you want. Likewise, if you are not being forced to move in a short-time frame, or you have seen lots of other homes that you like, then you can be “stricter” with the price you pay for a house.
Do not take the CMA value of a home and then subtract from it all the cosmetic changes (paint, flooring, landscaping, pool, etc.) that you want to make to the home. It doesn’t work that way. Cosmetic items do not, generally, effect the value/price of a home.
Remember that both CMAs and Appraisals are opinions of market value. If you have three different appraisers do an appraisal on the same home at the same time, you will probably end up with three, different values.
Always remember that the price you pay effects the prices in the neighborhood where you are buying and investing. Driving too hard a bargain on your future home can have a negative impact on your home’s value too.
How’s the Katy Real Estate Market in 2022?
Get the Report!
Ten-year trend of median sales prices by ZIP Code and neighborhood…so you have a baseline in determining a home value.
Ten-year trend of sales volume by ZIP Code and neighborhood…so you can see which are the most popular neighborhoods.
Ten-year trend of median Days on Market by ZIP Code and neighborhood…so you can see how long it takes to sell a home in each area.
List of the most popular neighborhoods in the Katy area…see what neighborhoods are HOT!
List of the neighborhoods by price (high to low) in the Katy area.
Detailed market data on the most popular Katy neighborhoods
The real estate market is constantly changing. The way we determine the type of real estate market we’re in (Buyer’s Market vs. Seller’s Market) is based on the amount of Inventory (homes available for sale) currently available. Six months of inventory is usually considered “equilibrium” —neither a Seller’s or Buyer’s Market. A Buyer’s Market is considered to be 7 months or more of inventory. This is where the demand for homes is somewhat less than the supply of homes and when Buyers may have more control over house prices than Sellers. A Seller’s Market is considered to be 5 months or less of inventory. This is where the demand for homes is somewhat greater than the supply of homes and when Sellers may have more control over house prices than Buyers.
Months of Inventory
Months of Inventory refers to the number of months it would take to sell all of the currently listed homes on the market, with no new homes being added. This may also be called the “Absorption Rate” because it is the rate in which houses are “absorbed” in the current market. Generally speaking, if Inventory is greater than 6 months, then it is a “Buyers Market,” and if Inventory is less than 6 months, then it is a “Sellers Market.”
Months of Inventory =
# Active on the Market
(# Sold in Past 12 mths ¸ 12 mths)
Cumulative Days On Market
How long it takes to sell homes can be a good indicator for “how’s the market”? The longer it takes to sell homes, on average, the slower the market. So if the cumulative number of Days on Market is increasing, then the market may be slowing down, and if CDOM is decreasing, then the market may be speeding up.
“Days on Market” refers to the days a specific home listing has been on the MLS. If the real estate agent Terminates the listing and then relists it with a new MLS number, then the DOM resets. However, the Cumulative Days On Market should show the total Days on Market for that particular home, regardless of the number of time it is terminated and relisted by one or more real estate agents.
Keep in mind that areas with lower-priced homes will usually sell faster than luxury-priced areas, because the more affordable the home’s price, the larger the number of potential buyers, and the quicker it can sell.
Median Price is not the same as the Average Price; it is the middle point for real estate prices. The Median Price is the price in the middle of all the sales prices for a certain time-period, with exactly half of the houses priced for less and half priced for more.
It is generally believed that the Median Price is the best indicator for market activity because it is less affected by abnormally low prices or high prices (which skew the Average Price).
Overall Real Estate Market Data for 2021
The following data is for single-family properties Sold from January 1 to December 31, 2021. Keep in mind that # Active fluctuates daily and this report was put together in January 2022. The CDOM is the Median “Cumulative Days on Market.”
Months of Inventory*
*Severe Housing Shortage: We should have 3-6 Months of Inventory in most of our Katy neighborhoods. With less than 1 Month of Inventory, we are is a HOT “Sellers Market” and buyers will have to pay top-dollar and request very little extra costs in order to “win” in a multi-offer situations. Make sure you line up a Strong Pre-APPROVAL letter with a good lender as part of your offer package.
Katy Real Estate Market Report 2022
The Katy Real Estate Market changes every month. To see recent data on the 10-year price trends, Days on Market, sales volume, months of inventory, and more, then DOWNLOAD the FREE Katy Real Estate Market Report!
This information is not available on this website.
Please forgive me when I look up a lot as I think of how to say what I want to say. I’m a Realtor, not a professional videographer! ;-D
Hey! My name is Sheila Cox, a Katy real estate agent. I have lived in this area since 1998…starting in Upper Kirby, then Westchase, then Sugar Land, Richmond, and now Katy. So I guess you can say I know the area. I wrote every word and took every local photo and video that you see on this website…so I hope that proves that I’m the local area expert. 😀
I have been a real estate agent since 2009 and I really enjoy the complexity of this business. I’m one of those “think outside of the box” problem-solvers that my clients find invaluable when problems crop up in the real estate transaction. (If you have ever bought or sold a house before, you know what I mean.) Before I became a Katy real estate agent, I worked as an instructional designer, corporate trainer, and tech writer in the software industry. That’s how I learned to do websites!
On a personal note, I have a teenage daughter who is my pride and joy. She is a “band geek” (saxophone and oboe) at the awesome Seven Lakes High School and will graduate in 2022. We enjoy going for walks around our Katy neighborhood with our little Rat Terrier/Dachshund mix “Darla” and visiting Galveston Island. I enjoy Live Music (especially Classic Rock!), healthy green-living, beaches/oceans, reading biographies and historical fiction, Tex-Mex food, college and professional football, and helping other real estate agents improve their business skills (see my book on Amazon). I was voted “Wittiest” of my Senior class in high school (a hundred years ago) so I have a fun sense of humor and speak sarcasm fluently (but not when on the job). 😀
Hiring the right real estate agent is very important, but you need someone that has more than “personality” going for them. This is (probably) your largest financial investment, so please consider these five important reasons why you should work with me:
Even though I have a fun, upbeat personality, I am also smart and analytical…so I can help pinpoint PROs and CONs of homes and situations in a way that truly helps you “cut to the chase” and make the wisest decisions and solve problems quickly.
Because I am analytical, I provide you with important data that you can’t get online…to help with pricing decisions. I hate to say it, but most agents have no idea how to pull all the data, reports, charts, and stats that I will provide you. My goal is to ensure that you always get a good deal in your real estate transaction.
Since I have lived in this area since 1998, I really know the area and can listen to your needs and help you narrow your options so you can focus the best neighborhoods to meet your specifications.
I take my “fiduciary duty” to you very seriously and I’m always looking out for your best interest. You can be sure that I am on your side and that I “have your back.”
I’ve selling real estate since 2009. My expertise and knowledge will be invaluable to you when challenges pop up in the process. Plus, my expertise enables me to make the process as smooth as possible for you…providing you with the help and guidance you need along the way.
Why You Should Hire Me
Candid Advice—I promise to give you candid advice on all homes and areas so you can make the best decisions. I won’t ignore potential defects that can cost you money, or effect your resale value, in the future. My job is to protect you from defective homes as much as possible while helping you make a sound financial investment. (Read client testimonials)
Local Area Expertise—This isn’t just my business…it’s where I work and live (for 20 years) so I really know the area. I will help you narrow your options and find the best neighborhood for you based on your specifications. For long-term resale value, the neighborhood you choose is just as important as the home you buy. (Download my Ultimate Katy Guide)
Great Data—I will give you the most in-depth data you have ever seen…to help you make the wisest decisions. This includes a professional CMA when you are ready to purchase a specific home…so you don’t pay too much. Plus, my proprietary House Report (see sample) includes the data and information you need to ensure that you are making great home purchase. (Also see Pricing a Home Correctly)
Best Home Searches—Yes, you can search on your own, but no other home search available can filter down to the school level…and filter out the subdivisions that may be known to flood. Tell me exactly what you want, and I can narrow down your options better than any search you have access to. (Request a Custom Search)
Video Walkthroughs—If you or your spouse lives out of the state or country, then you will enjoy my detailed video walkthroughs. I have sold multiple homes to out-of-area clients “sight unseen” by providing High Definition video walkthroughs of potential homes. My videos show front and back yards, closets, pantries, laundry rooms, and garage…as well as the entire home. (Sample)
Easier Process—Moving your family (and possibly changing jobs) is stressful enough. I’m your transaction manager and will guide you, step-by-step, through the process so you never miss an important deadline. I assist with inspections, repair negotiations, home warranties, HOA compliance inspections, hazard insurance, surveys, appraisals, title commitment, home warranties, title company, and more. (View helpful videos on my YouTube channel)
Network of Experts—My network of experts can make your transition to the area as smooth as possible. Need a painter, electrician, mover, insurance company, etc.? I can help!
How I Work to Protect Home Buyers
As a Katy real estate agent, my job isn’t “just” helping you find a house to buy…I’m helping you buy a home. There are over 100 tasks that I perform for you during the purchasing process. I’m looking out for you every step of the way and keeping my eye on the listing agent, the seller, the builder (if applicable), the lender, the inspector, and the title company. I’m on your side because I’m YOUR agent. I help with price analysis and negotiations, legal paperwork, inspections, repair negotiations, home warranties, HOA compliance inspections, hazard insurance, surveys, appraisals, title commitment, home warranties, and more. I have the expertise to help solve complicated problems that often occur in the process. Real estate is a huge financial and legal commitment. Don’t you deserve to have a Five-Star real estate agent on your side?
Take a look at a sample House Report that I do for my clients. This is the extra “due diligence” I do for you, to make sure that you are getting a great home. This is when I triple-check the home’s taxes, schools, aerial maps, sex offenders in the area, flood zones, etc. NO other agent in the world does this! Check out p. 27 regarding the sample Flood Map info I provide.
Don’t take my word for it. I have received the Five-Star Real Estate Agent award for the past TEN YEARS because of my client satisfaction ratings.
Will Prior Foundation Repairs Effect a Home’s Resale Value?
In Texas, there is a saying that all houses here either have foundation repairs or will need them in the future. That’s because the soil in most parts of Texas is an “expansive soil” that significantly expands and contracts based on the level of moisture in it. And since Texas is known for either droughts or floods…our soil tends to expand and contract a lot.
That is why it is very important for homeowners to keep the soil around their home evenly watered. Water in the soil provides pressure to support the home. During a drought, the lack of moisture may cause a foundation to sag. Simply watering the soil can often push a slightly sagging foundation back up…no kidding!
Does having a prior foundation repair on a home effect the resale value? That’s a controversial question with no “scientific” data to prove one opinion or another. Some say that as long as the repair is done by a reputable foundation company and has a transferable lifetime warranty…no problem. It may even be considered a positive feature of the home, since the cost of the repair has been covered by a prior owner.
NOTE: If you need some brick or mortar repair in the Sugar Land area, contact JQ Brick at 713-253-5092…they do excellent work at very reasonable prices.
These kinds of cracks do not necessarily mean there are foundation issues…bricks and mortar crack very easily.
They do need to be resealed, however, with mortar (not caulk) to prevent water penetration into the side walls.
Call JQ Brick at 713-253-5092.
Others know that inexperienced home buyers may be scared of purchasing a home with prior foundation repairs…and will not even give such a home a second glance. So, by reducing the number of prospective buyers for a home this way, it could have a negative impact on the price per square foot that home can command. That would suggest that a home buyer should not pay a neighborhood’s top price/square foot for a home with prior foundation repairs…unless there are other special features that significantly override the foundation issues.
Before a home owner puts a brick home on the market to sell in the Katy TX area, a thorough inspection on the exterior of the home should be performed. All the walls should be checked for cracks along mortar lines and brick. The lintels above windows and doors should be checked for rust. Make sure that you look behind hard-to-see areas covered with bushes as well.
These kinds of cracks do not necessarily mean there are foundation issues…bricks and mortar crack very easily. They do need to be resealed, however, with mortar (not caulk) to prevent water penetration into the side walls. Call JQ Brick at 713-253-5092.
If you find any cracked brick or mortar, or rusted lintels, requiring brick repairs, then call a brick restoration company to have them repaired before you put the house on the market. If a potential home buyer sees these kinds of cracks, it may scare him away before he takes a serious look at the home. Or, if the cracks are found during an inspection, it can kill the deal. These brick repairs are relatively inexpensive (usually around $500 or less) and need to be done whether you sell or not…to prevent water penetration into the side walls.
Cracks in bricks and mortar may indicate foundation issues, but they definitely do not mean that the foundation definitely has problems. I’ve seen homes with cracks running the entire length of the home that did not require foundation repairs even after inspections by several foundation repair companies. However, most home buyers are not foundation experts and automatically think there are foundation problems when they see cracks in the walls…and move on to the next house to consider buying.
In Texas, there is a saying that all houses here either have foundation repairs or will need them in the future. That’s because the soil in most parts of Texas is an “expansive soil” that significantly expands and contracts based on the level of moisture in it. And since Texas is known for either droughts or floods…our soil tends to expand and contract a lot…causing the need for brick repairs on a regular basis.
That is why it is very important for homeowners to keep the soil around their home evenly watered. Water in the soil provides pressure to support the home. During a drought, the lack of moisture may cause a foundation to sag. Simply watering the soil can often push a slightly sagging foundation back up…no kidding!
When a REALTOR wants to show your home to a client, she will contact the Centralized Showing Service. They will, in turn, contact you to confirm the day and time. If the requested appointment is not a good time for you, offer an alternate time that is…but keep it as close to the requested time as possible.
Keep in mind that showing appointments are unpredictable. Most agents will set a window to show your home between, for example, 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. This means you should be out of the home by 12:55 and don’t return until 2:45. Due to the day’s showing schedule, the REALTOR and clients may not arrive at the home until 2:15 p.m.—which is why an appointment “window” is set.
Unfortunately, sometimes the REALTOR will have to cancel the appointment at the last minute…or sometimes they don’t show up at all. Remember that this is may be because the clients (potential Buyers) have either changed their mind or already decided on another home.
About 15 to 30 minutes before you need to leave your home for a showing appointment, do the following:
Make sure the temperature of the house is comfortable: cool in summer and warm in winter.
Many people are allergic to certain scents and deodorizers, so don’t spray the air or plug-in air fresheners.
Open all the window coverings to let in light.
For windows that show undesirable outdoor scenery, such as a dilapidated fence or a nearby structure that obstructs views, keep blinds partially closed.
Turn on every light in the house, including closet lights.
Put animals in crates in a safe, but out-of-the-way place such as a laundry room or garage. Some people are afraid of dogs and/or cats. Cover animal cages if possible…especially reptiles, snakes, and rodents.
Turn off TV.
If the house is wired for sound, leave classical music playing but very softly.
Make sure you leave house brochures on the dining room table or another place pre-determined by your REALTOR.
Leave the house. Don’t set the alarm unless you have left instructions with your REALTOR or the Centralized Showing Service.
NOTE: If you bump into the REALTOR and Buyer on the way out, be friendly and cordial, but do not stay.
After an appointment, I will follow-up with the showing agent to obtain feedback for you. This may take a few days, so please be patient. Generally I send weekly reports to keep you up-to-date.
The bottom line: No one knows an area better than a local, experienced real estate agent. Don’t gamble your biggest investment on automated Internet data.
It’s Not All About the ZIP Code…Or Shouldn’t Be
I love the Internet and I’m an information junkie, but I am constantly amazed at how WRONG the real estate info presented on the internet is for my area: Katy TX. Katy is a large city (population 250,000+) located in in Fort Bend County, just west of Houston TX. Like all cities of its size…some parts are very different than other parts…it is not completely homogeneous. Furthermore, it consists of multiple ZIP Codes: 77450, 77494, 77493, and 77449. And, Katy is adjacent to Houston, Fulshear, and Richmond as well. So you can live in the Katy area but technically have a Houston address.
What really “bugs” me about the data available on the Internet is that most websites use ZIP Codes to determine demographics and “city data.” But you can’t do that accurately in Katy since it has multiple ZIP Codes. And to complicate matters, Katy is divided into multiple master planned neighborhoods and each of those may be split into multiple subdivisions. For example, Cinco Ranch consists of over 50 subdivisions. So you can have multiple neighborhoods and subdivisions within the same ZIP Code, but let me assure you that the demographics and average income for homes in Avalon Seven Meadows is drastically different than those in Falcon Landing (two subdivisions in the same ZIP Code).
Here are some examples that “bug” me. I’m using information for the nearby Sugar Land TX area, but you get the idea…
At the time the above data was posted on the Internet, I checked the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database which reported a median list price at $329,000…not $349,440 (as shown above). And besides that…I assure you that we have many subdivisions in Katy where you can purchase a home for much less than that price! Or much more! So what’s the point of this information? And the “median” for 77478 is probably not accurate for a specific home in a specific subdivision.
NOTE: Home prices are a constantly moving target…even within the same subdivision. The averages, medians, and such change monthly…depending on current market activity. You have to evaluate the value of a home at the time you are making a purchase. (Which is one of the main services that a real estate agent should provide.) Home appraisals are professional opinions only and are typically only considered accurate for six months.
Neighborhoods Need to Be Properly Defined
At least NeighborhoodScout is trying to look at the neighborhood level (see below)…but they fail miserably. The sections they have segmented are not actual Sugar Land neighborhoods…some sections contain multiple neighborhoods…so the data can’t be applicable for a specific home or subdivision. For example, if you click the area that is supposed to be for Telfair, you will see it includes part of First Colony and those subdivisions are zoned to different schools than Telfair. (And trust me when I tell you that schools are one of the most important variables in determining home values in our area!)
Inaccurate Data Misleads People
Here’s my least favorite source of data (city-data)…notice they report only 9 registered sex offenders in all of 77479. We wish!
FamilyWatchDog reports and maps 64 (unfortunately)!
I REALLY don’t like most of the info on city-data because it reports information from any unknowledgeable “joe” who wants to put it up there. For example, I searched for “telfair sugar land demographics” on Google and the top entry was a city-data thread. In it, various and misleading demographics were reported…
Not accurate at all!
FBISD also consists of Houston addresses…not at all accurate stats for Sugar Land.
I think the City of Sugar Land has the best info on actual demographics for the city…they are getting it from the census data.
Each Neighborhood and Subdivision is Unique
The hard fact is that you can’t really get accurate census type data at the neighborhood or subdivision level. Relying on the data for an entire ZIP Code in our area may be very misleading when it comes to the neighbors you will eventually live next to. The best alternative is to look at the demographics for the Katy schools to which a home is zoned.
Only an Experienced Local Real Estate Agent Can Narrow and Focus Your Search
So if you are a home buyer in the Katy area, you really need the guided expertise of a local real estate agent you can trust to help you buy a home in the RIGHT neighborhood at the RIGHT price. No online searches available to the general public–including HAR.com, Trulia, Zillow, Homes.com–none of them will allow you to do the complicated and focused searches that a real estate agent can perform. Today (March 1, 2018) there are approximately 1291 active listings in Katy reported on the MLS. Do you want to sort through all of them or do you want to focus on the top 50 that most closely match your requirements?
Most Online Real Estate Pricing Data is Not Entirely Accurate and Should Not Be Relied Upon
Let me add that Texas is one of the few non-disclose states. That means that real estate data is not public information…so the online companies like Zillow and Trulia don’t have access to real data. They use tax appraisal values which are usually lower than actual home values. So don’t rely on them! And since online companies can’t get the real MLS data, they report erroneous information. Here’s an example…
Here’s the data reported on Redfin on October 15, 2013…which says it is for the last 90 days and focused on one of our most popular neighborhoods: Telfair.
I ran the sales history on the MLS for the last 90 days, and got the following data.
The top box is for Active Listings and the bottom box is for Sold properties.
So let’s look at the differences…
Median List Price
Median $/Sq Ft
List = $143.68 but
Sold = $133.28!
Avg # Offers
No way to know!
Avg Down Payment
No way to know!
# Sold Homes
My first complaint is that two reported variables are almost impossible to determine: Avg # Offers and Avg Down Payment.Agents do not report the number of offers on a home. They only have to report an offer when it is accepted and goes “Option Pending” or “Pending” (and sometimes they don’t even do that.) So that variable is completely unreliable and shouldn’t be reported at all.
The Avg Down Payment bothers me too. Agents are supposed to report that number at Closing (when a house sells), but you would have to look at every single transaction (54 over the past 90 days) to record those numbers. I don’t see how Redfin could automate that for every neighborhood…so I don’t trust that number either.
Notice the Median List Price is off by $4,500 and the # Sold Homes is off by 12.5 percent. Also, they report the Median $/SqFt for List Price only…but notice that the SOLD SalesPrice$/SqFt is $10.40 less! So if a buyer used the number Redfin reported to price a 3000sf home, that could have led to the buyer overpaying by $31,200!
NOTE: It really doesn’t matter what the median list price is for a neighborhood…only the sales price should be used to price a home you want to purchase.
And then that gets me into a price discussion which is too complicated to address here. But let me point out that this the median SalesPrice/SqFt and the house you may want to buy could be an above-average home or a below-average home. Do you want to pay the average price for a below-average home? Do you think a seller will accept an average price for an above-average home? The best way to get an accurate view of the value of a specific home at a certain time is to hire a professional appraiser or to engage a really good real estate agent. Not all real estate agents are good at pricing homes…you need a PRO!
Even Zillow Admits They Are Not That Accurate in the Houston Area
One of the questions that I’m frequently asked is, “Who pays the real estate commission in Texas for a real estate transaction?” That’s a good question! Here’s the answer. Please not that the sales commission is NEGOTIATED (not always 6%) between the Seller and the Listing Broker BEFORE the house even “hits” the market.
Typically, real estate sales commissions are paid at the closing table. The title company disburses two checks out of the seller’s proceeds from the sale: one to the listing broker (such as a RE/MAX or Coldwell Banker) and one to the Buyer’s broker (in our case, Keller Williams Southwest). Then the Seller’s broker splits their sales commission with the Seller’s agent (also known as, the Listing Agent). And the Buyer’s broker splits their sales commission with the Buyer’s agent (Sheila Cox)–after deducting certain transaction costs, such as “Errors and Omissions Insurance.”
Please note that practically all real estate agents are independent contractors…not employees of the broker. In fact, real estate agents are usually required to pay certain fees to their broker for the privilege to work at that brokerage. Plus all expenses, including gas and mileage for taking you on home tours, refreshments on tours, paper and ink for contracts, phone fees, computer fees, etc. are paid by the individual agent and are not reimbursed.
So how do I earn the sales commission? I have a very detailed “To Do List for Buyer Clients” that has over 100 tasks that I may perform for you…and only one task is “Show properties until one is found.” So even if I show you 30 houses, that only represents one of the line items on my To Do list! Trust me when I say that there is a lot more to my job than “just showing houses.” I’m looking out for you every step of the way and keeping my eye on the Listing Agent, the Seller, the builder (if applicable), the lender, the inspector, the title company…I’m always watching out for you because I’m your agent.
Now you need to understand one more important thing:
___ Did your agent provide all the other necessary disclosures, notices, and the Buyer’s Representation Agreement to you before showing you houses? Be careful! You don’t want to find out after-the-fact that your agent actually represents the Seller.
___ Does your agent provide a detailed 18+ page house report on a home (see my sample), before you make the offer, to ensure that you know what you are buying before you make the purchase? This report should include information on the home’s price history, comparable sales numbers, school ratings, flood plain, tax info, environmental hazards (if any), near-by sex offenders (if any) at a minimum.
___ Can your agent effectively explain the HOA maintenance fees, MUD and LID taxes, compliance certificate requirements, amenities, property tax rates, school performance ratings, and other important information for the neighborhoods you are looking at?
___ Does your agent know how to provide you with an accurate CMA (price analysis) on a home before you make an offer? Is he or she committed to helping you get the right price or does the agent just want you to buy the highest priced home you can afford? (See “How to Price a Home Correctly“)
___ Does your agent point out possible defects of homes when you tour them or does your agent always seem to overlook the obvious problems of a home and try to convince you that they don’t matter? (Check my client satisfaction rating.)
___ Does your agent actually show you homes or does he or she expect you to drive the neighborhood on your own and then contact the listing agent directly to let you see the house? A dedicated agent wants to be with you every step of the way.
___ Has your agent set up a customized automatic home search for you that is pulled directly form the local MLS? Or are you still trying to find homes on your own using the limited online search Websites available in your area? These programs (such as Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, and Homes.com) can be outdated very quickly showing contract-pending homes as “active.”
___ Does your agent use an online paperwork system where you can e-sign documents instead of having to fax and scan them (which is sometimes challenging and time-consuming)? What if your spouse is still back home in another state or country? You need to be able to e-sign!
___ Does your agent work to negotiate a residential service contract (aka, home warranty) in the deal or provide one for you to protect you from too many future home repairs?
___ Does your agent have at least a 4.5 star client satisfaction rating with the local board of area Realtors? What’s your agent’s YELP rating, Homes.com endorsements, Angie’s List reviews, and so on?
___ Does your agent have 20 years experience? (Trick question.) IT DOESN’T NECESSARILY MATTER! There are terrible agents with 30+ years of experience who even have a broker’s license. And there are outstanding agents with only a couple of years experience. Time does not equal quality in this business. Time cannot guarantee attitude, dedication, integrity, intelligence, or commitment to customer service. Check their satisfaction rating...this is a free service for all members of the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR). If your agent hasn’t signed up, maybe they have something to hide.
Does My Real Estate Agent Represent Me or the Seller?
When I bought my first house in the mid 1990s, Texas was kind of a “Buyer Beware” state. In fact, a home Buyer could spend weeks looking for a home with a real estate agent, telling her secret information (like how much you were willing to pay for a house), not knowing that everything you told that real estate agent would be told to the Seller because the real estate agent was actually representing the Seller–not you (the Buyer)!
Here’s what you need to know…
Unless you have a written agreement with a real estate agent, all Texas agents are always representing the Seller–typically known as the “subagent.” That is how agency works in Texas. This can be confusing for home Buyers, so the Texas Real Estate Commission wants you to know about brokerage services, who represents whom, and intermediary agency, BEFORE you start working with an agent...not only is it the law, it’s also for your protection! (Read TREC’s Information About Brokerage Services.)
NOTE Finding out “your agent” is actually representing the Seller after you’ve found the house you want to buy is NOT a good thing! If an agent doesn’t give you the Information About Brokerage Services form UP FRONT (before showing you houses), then you are dealing with someone who is unprofessional and not following the law.
Another fact that you need to know is that Texas is a dual-agency state…meaning that a real estate broker (such as Keller Williams Southwest) can represent both the Buyer (you) and the Seller (them) in a the same transaction. This is called “intermediary agency.” These visual aids will help you to understand…
In this case, you are represented by Keller Williams Southwest (KWSW) while buying a house listed by another broker, such as a RE/MAX or a Coldwell Banker. This is not an intermediary agency since KWSW is only representing you.
In this case, KWSW is representing both you and the Seller…because the house that you are buying is listed with KWSW but with a different agent. However, you have an appointed agent (Sheila Cox) and the Seller has an appointed agent (Unknown) and both agents have to maintain their duty of confidentiality. So I am not allowed to share your private information with the other agent. This situation may occur frequently with large brokerages who have lots of listings, such as KWSW.
This situation may only occur if both the Seller and the Buyer agree to it in writing. In this situation, you are buying a house that I have listed for one of my other clients. I would be representing both you and the Seller, so my fiduciary responsibilities would be limited. Frankly, I don’t work these types of deals. If you wanted to buy one of my listings, then I would step back and find another real estate agent to be your appointed agent…so you would still have full representation.
Now you need to understand two more important things: