Posts Tagged Homes for Sale
Natural Foods: Eating up the Trends
Remember chia pets? Rinsing your hair with beer? Food that’s just food—no soy protein isolate, xanthan gum, red dye No. 40 or mystery ingredients from the Amazon rain forest?
Well, chia is back, big time (the seeds, not the pets). And so is regular old food. We recently spent hours plodding the floors—along with 60,000 others—at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, Calif., the biggest health food trade show in the world. The overarching theme we saw: What’s old is new again.
Your grandmother would recognize a lot of these hot trends: Foods produced by local farmers. Skin products with ingredients that aren’t nine syllables long or start with prefixes like dimethyl or phenol. Products for sale in packages that can be recycled or composted. (Compostable baby diapers, anyone?)
In years past, the exhibit hall brimmed with bottles of vitamin, mineral and herb supplements. Now the supplement segment has shrunk.
“There is growing distrust” of all things synthetic, says Carlotta Mast, an editor at New Hope Natural Media, the company based in Boulder, Colo., that produces the Expo. “That is driving the idea of ‘Just eat real food.’” She says the purification ethos extends to that shrunken supplement sector: The number of multi-nutrient formulas is shrinking, edged out by single-ingredient pills of vitamin D or omega-3s made from pond-scum algae.
Here’s what jumped out at us:
Coming up Coconuts
Coconut flavor was popular back when kitchen appliances were harvest gold and avocado green. Now it’s back. Among the many items we spotted: Jamaican musician Ziggy Marley’s Coco’Mon, a coconut cooking oil, one of many coconut-based products in his food line, Ziggy Marley Organics. Other companies are making coconut palm sugar, coconut water, dehydrated coconut to make your own coconut water at home (no Earth-unfriendly plastic bottles to recycle).
Natural products manufacturers want a piece of the grazing market. In place of the traditional NFL Sunday snacks of soda and cheese nachos, they are proffering more exotic flavored waters and chips. Some of our favorite beverages: mint-flavored water by Metromint and Blackwater—yes, it’s pitch black and tastes, well, like black water—from Vancouver-based Blackwater Innovations Corp. The water’s infused with fulvic acid, a supposed health-enhancer. (So clearly the miracle-supplement market isn’t stone cold dead.)
To go with those non-sodas? Sweet-potato chips, kale chips, bean chips, banana chips—anything-but-corn chips, in fact, as corn becomes a new devil of the health food world. Consumers want traditional foods like chips and crackers to snack on at home but would like to feel less guilty about eating them, says Heather Smith, a spokeswoman for New Hope Natural Media.
They’re salty. They’re crunchy! And the bean chips have a pleasing (truly) lingering mouth feel.
Corporate consciousness is a big selling point in the natural-products biz. Naked Pizza’s new frozen pizza not only has probiotics and agave fiber in its crust and zero sugar in its sauce, the box also comes from a manufacturer that uses only recycled materials.
And here’s an odd one: Recent University of California-Berkeley business grads Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora are selling a “Back to the Roots” kit to grow your own mushrooms. They drive around the Bay Area collecting used coffee grounds as the medium for growing the mushrooms in a box. (“We diverted 1 million pounds of coffee grounds last year,” Arora said, proudly.)
The same seedlings you spread on a clay figurine to make a green Shrek are now being used in food products because of the high levels of omega-3 fats they contain. We saw FruitChia bars, Mamma Chia beverages and Crunchy Flax With Chia cereal. One company is hedging its bets with Coconut Chia granola — that’s two trends rolled into one.
Natural Baby Foods
Today’s parents are passionate about their offspring learning to like fruits and vegetables. Businesses are responding. Plum Organics has grab-and-go fruit and vegetable squeeze packs of pureed food (such as a blend of blueberry, pear and purple carrot) that babies can drink or be spoon-fed from.
“It’s about introducing babies to flavors so they become foodies,” insists Katie Sobel, director of marketing and communication for Plum Organics. Not to say plug into the hottest health trends: Plum is infusing some of its products with Greek yogurt (more protein than regular yogurt) and ancient grains like quinoa (fewer food allergy issues and easier to digest).
What a smorgasbord. Just as well: A late afternoon energy shot gave us the strength to make another pass across the 24,300-square-foot exhibit floor. The yoga drink Bikram Balance, a blend of fruits and vegetables, aims to restore electrolytes after you bow and murmur “namaste.” Fruitasia, a new fruit-and-veggie energy shot, is touted as having three servings of vegetables and two servngs of fruit in 3 fluid ounces.
Some of the big fads are continuing strong. Probiotics are booming; gluten-free is growing; the Greek economy may be tanking, but Greek yogurt is making plenty of money for some businesses over here.
Real Estate sales around and especially on Lake Conroe, has remained steady with no significant increase in sales from prior periods. With the lake being over 8 feet low and all the talk about The Woodlands and city of Houston needing water from Lake Conroe, the sales have not decreased much, but has not improved much either with the improved economy in Montgomery County.
I have heard many people express that the Lake will always be at low levels now that the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) has recently adopted regulations giving all large groundwater users in Montgomery County until January 1, 2016, to reduce their consumption of groundwater by 30%. In able to meet this requirement, a pipeline system is being constructed to The Woodlands and other areas allowing them to use water from Lake Conroe. But most people do not know the affect this will have on Lake Conroe and they assume the Lake will always be low. The facts are below:
1.) On average, Lake Conroe releases 7 feet of water each year from the dam because of too much rain.
2.) The LSGCD’s proposal to use water from Lake Conroe would only take 1 foot of water per year for the years 2016-2025, 2 feet for the years 2026-2035, 3 feet for the years 2036-2045 and 4 feet for the years 2046-2055.
Therefore, the public will not notice the difference in lake levels at all unless there is an extreme drought as we just went through. Even with that drought, the Lake has already come up over 5 feet from a low of over 8 feet in just a couple of months. For more information on the affect of the LSGCD’s proposal on Lake Conroe, visit the San Jacinto River Authority website at sjra.net.
While the lake was low, the Lake Conroe Association along with the family that owns EZ Boat Storage & Valet Launch and the Palms Marina pooled private funds to embark on a stump cutting project to eliminate the stumps in the main body of the lake (not the tributaries, shorelines or fingers that feed the lake). This project covered an area from the dam on the south end all the way north to the southern point of Cape Malibu or approximately 2.5 miles north of the FM 1097 bridge (see attached map). This project is complete and it can be stated that virtually all stumps visible at the 192.68 MSL lake level have been cut. There were approximately 400 stumps targeted and they were all cut approximately 8 feet below the 192.68 MSL level. The stumps were not removed from the lake as approximately 95% of the stumps sunk to the bottom of the lake providing an enhanced fishing habitat. Lake Conroe is a safer and more navigable lake because of the support of the Lake Conroe Association, San Jacinto River Authority, Texas Parks & Wildlife, Texas Black Bass United and the Texas B.A.S.S. Federation. The map below is an approximate outline showing where the lake is stump free.
Lake Conroe will always be a great recreational lake and will continue to prosper for many years to come. So please let the naysayers know that the Lake will remain a great and even safer lake in the years to come.
As most of you know, ExxonMobil is constructing several office buildings on a 385 acre tract of land just south of The Woodlands. It is located in Harris County bordering Montgomery County. Currently, they plan on moving all their employees in the Houston area from Greenspoint, downtown Houston and West Houston, totaling approximately 8,000-9,000 employees to the newly constructed campus style setting of office buildings.
Construction has already begun and they plan to relocate employees in 2014 and be complete by 2015. They could still relocate many more employees from their Fairfax, Virginia location and their California office. They are still studying the viability of relocating the out of state employees, but many insiders believe this will eventually happen.
What does this mean to Montgomery County? This is the biggest consolidation in the country in many years and it is happening in our own back yard. Many and probably most of these employees from West Houston, downtown and possibly even Greenspoint will find a new or existing home close to work, and Montgomery County is right next door. The Woodlands area will benefit most, but many will want to enjoy the Conroe/Montgomery/Willis/Lake Conroe area lifestyle with it only being a 5-20 minute drive to work. Some will seek to relocate soon, others when the actual move occurs, and some years after relocating. So, the real estate market is going to finally get some good news that it has not had in several years. I believe the employees will gradually begin to move into the area in the next couple of years and increase significantly when they actually move to their new location. If ExxonMobil announces that they will transfer employees to the new office complex from Fairfax, Virginia and California, that would be icing on the cake.
This relocation will also bring many new restaurants, retail and service companies to the area. You will see many new residential developments begin construction in the area trying to capture all these new homeowners. Springwoods Village has already begun planning the development of an 1,800 acre residential development next to ExxonMobil.
Bottom line. Montgomery County got the best economic news than any other county or city in the country. With the growth in the Oil and Gas industry in Houston, the widening of I-45, the completion of the Grand Parkway from FM 249 to I-45, Montgomery County has a great future ahead with the already plentiful resources it has to offer such as Lake Conroe, the abundance of land for development, and the quality of life Montgomery County offers.
With only a couple of weeks remaining before income taxes are due, many home owners may be appreciating the value of home ownership just a bit more as they take advantage of the tax benefits of owning a home.
A number of tax deductions and credits are still available for home owners; these include deductions – with specific limits – for mortgage interest and capital gains on home sales, credits for certain energy-efficient home improvements, and tax credits for purchase of a home last year.
Ninety-one percent of homeowners who claim the mortgage interest deduction earn less than $200,000 a year, and the ability to deduct the interest paid on a mortgage can mean significant savings at tax time. For example, a family who bought a home in 2010 with a $200,000, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, assuming an interest rate of 4.5 percent, could save nearly $3,500 in federal taxes when they file this year.
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer tax information company, suggests these 12 ways to save on your tax return:
If you bought a home last year, you may benefit from a refundable first-time homebuyers’ credit of 10% of the purchase price of a new home—up to $8,000. The credit is available for homes purchased before October 1, 2010 and you must have entered into a binding agreement to buy the home before May 1, 2010. You can’t have had an ownership interest in a principal residence during the three years before the purchase.
A refundable repeat homebuyers’ credit is available if you entered a contract to buy a home by April 30, 2010 and closed on the sale of the home before October 1, 2010. The credit is 10% of the purchase price with a limit of $6,500. To claim the credit, you have to have owned and used the same home as a principal residence for five straight years within a time period that may go back a maximum of eight years. You also must be at least 18 years old and your home purchase price must be under $800,000.
You can exclude up to $250,000 of gain on the sale of your home (up to $500,000 for joint filers) if you have owned and lived in the home as your principal residence for two out of the five years prior to the sale, although a partial exclusion may be available for sales due to a change of employment, health, or unforeseen circumstances. The periods of ownership and occupancy do not have to be identical.
You can take the interest on your mortgage indebtedness of up to $1 million as an itemized deduction. The interest can be on your principal residence and one additional residence.
For ordinary income purposes, up to $100,000 in home-equity loan interest can also be deducted. In regards to the alternative minimum tax, interest on home-equity loans is deductible only if the loan is used to acquire, build, or substantially improve a home.
The points you paid on a mortgage loan you used to buy or improve your principal residence are deductible in the year you paid them, as long as the points represent a customary practice in your area. Points paid on a refinancing loan must be deducted over the term of the loan.
Through 2010, you can deduct mortgage insurance premiums as mortgage interest. However, the mortgage insurance had to be originally acquired on or after January 1, 2007.
You can take the state and local property taxes you pay as an itemized deduction. An option to take up to $500 ($1,000 for joint filers) as an additional standard deduction for real estate taxes expired at the end of 2009 and is not available for 2010.
If you rented your home for fewer than 15 days during the year, you don’t have to include that rental income in your gross income, but you can’t deduct any expenses related to the rental either.
If your lender forgave your mortgage debt of up to $2 million on your principal residence, as in a write-down or foreclosure, the transaction won’t be treated as “cancellation of debt income.” This special relief is temporary and is available for six years, retroactively for taxpayers filing amended returns, from January 1, 2007 through the end of 2011.
If you own a home and installed qualifying energy-efficient fixtures or systems by December 31, 2010, you may claim a 30% tax credit—up to a maximum of $1,500 for both the 2009 and 2010 tax years. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created energy tax credits for installing insulation, energy-efficient exterior windows or doors, heat pumps, furnaces, central air conditioners, or water pumps.
A separate 30% credit is available to homeowners who installed alternative energy equipment such as fuel cells, solar water heaters, solar electric equipment, small wind energy projects, or geothermal heat pumps. Although the tax credit is more likely to apply for businesses, it’s also available for homeowners.
So, if you own a home, sold a home or purchased a home last year, be sure and get with your accountant on the proper deductions that are available to homewoners.
As of February 9, 2011, there were only 191 New Homes for sale in the Conroe, Willis, and Montgomery area compared to 1,110 resale homes. That means only 15% of the homes on the market are New Homes.
There are many Buyers who only want new homes and are not able to find them due to the lack of inventory. The lack of new homes will probably continue for awhile as lenders are still wary of making loans to Builders to construct new homes.
This lack of new home inventory is good for the resale market since Buyers are not able to find a new home that fits their needs. Therefore, Sellers today need to tap into this market by updating and making there home feel like a new home.
Your home will have a much better chance of selling by painting the home inside and outside, replacing old carpet, updating the kitchen and replacing the roof if needed and more importantly keeping the house in great shape and very clean. The expense of doing this should be able to be recovered by an increase in the sales price of the home.
You should also de-clutter the home, keep the yard and landscaping well maintained, have the exterior of house powered washed and throw away any items laying around outside that is no longer needed.
By making your home look and feel new, you will attract all resale buyers and buyers who are looking for a new or almost new home. A lot of Buyers want to just move in and enjoy there home and not have to remodel, update and clean a home.
Consult with your Realtor before making any changes in your home and listen to their opinions and suggestions on what they feel should be done in order to sell your home quickly and at the highest price.
The chart below is a 3 year history of the number of home sales that have occurred in Conroe, Montgomery, Willis as well as all 3 areas combined. As you can see, 2008 was the high, 2010 the low but the decline was less than the previous year. The number of sales were down 8% from 2008 to 2009 but only 1.3% down from 2009 to 2010. These numbers show that the market is beginning to stabilize and 2011 will determine whether the market is getting better or remaining sluggish. I believe 2011 will show an increase over 2010 even though there are no tax incentives in 2011 as there were at the end of 2009 and the first half of 2010. If 2011 remains the same as 2010 or increases any, it will signal that the market is stabilizing.
This second chart illustrates the price per square foot that homes were selling for the past 3 years. Overall the prices have remained steady. The Montgomery and Willis areas have a higher square foot price than Conroe since most of Lake Conroe area subdivisions are located in these 2 areas. Overall, the Conroe/Lake Conroe area has been very fortunate that the values of their homes have not decreased as the rest of the nation.
The average Months on Market (number of months it would take to sell all homes currently listed) for Montgomery County in 2010 was 7 months, which indicates a Buyer’s market. Normally that number is between 5 and 6 months. If you break it down by price range, the number of months is as follows:
$100,000 – $200,000 6.5 months
$200,000 – $500,000 8.25 months
$500,000 – $1,000,000 14.0 months
Over $1,000,000 21.6 months
Overall, it is still a Buyer’s market even though the sale prices have remained basically unchanged. To have your home stand out more than the other homes on the market, Sellers need to have their home in great condition, priced right and always ready for showings.
Remember, if you are considering selling your home, this is the best time of year to put your home on the market. March through August are highest selling months of the year. So if you are interested in selling your home, please give me a call for a free market analysis. Whether you are buying or selling, let me put my expertise to work for you. I look forward to giving you outstanding service.
The existing single-family home sales in Montgomery County fell for a second consecutive month, but year-to-date sales remained ahead of the curve, according to the figures released by the Houston Association of Realtors.
Meanwhile, foreclosures were up – both for the month of September and year-to-date.
Countywide sales were 475 in August, which was a 9.4 percent decline when compared to sales of 524 for the same month in 2009. However, that was better than the 19.3 percent sales decline in July – the first drop-off after five consecutive months of increased sales.
Pending sales of 354 for August were just 2.7 percent behind the pending sales figures of 364 for August of 2009.
“Those are not scary numbers,” said Realtor Amy Smythe Harris, of Realty Associates. “If I had seen (closed sales) around 300, iit would have caused me to worry.
“The market was hot and heavy the first half of the year, and now it’s become slower and steady. We’re not that far off from last year.”
From a year-to-date perspective, total sales of 3,852 are five percent above 2009 (3,670). The current total dollar volume of $939.35 million is running 6.1 percent ahead from this point a year ago.
Homes are on the market an average eight days less than in 2009 (80 compared to 88).
Gail Cain, of Keller Williams Realty Conroe, agrees that everything is not “gloom and doom.” Interest rates are low, and the influx of new industries and the rise of construction along FM 3083 and North Loop 336 are reasons why Montgomery County is still the place to live, she said.
“We have more savvy buyers out in the market,” said Cain, who was named Best Realtor in The Courier’s 2010 Best of Montgomery County.
In the short-term, Cain expects homes in the $125,000 to $200,000 price range to attract both first-time buyers and those “empty-nesters” looking to downsize.
“It’s a changing of the market,” she said.
Realtor Marion Franke, of the Franke Team, said the disappearance of federal tax incentives has put a crimp in sales the past two months. Waterfront sales between $500,000-$700,000 in the Lake Conroe area have stalled, but residential properties below $250,000 and over $1 million are showing positive signs.
“It’s an odd market right now,” she said. “I think a lot of people are waiting to see what happens after the November elections.”
August sales made a drastic dip of 29.1 percent in the Lake Conroe and Montgomery areas. There were only 83 closed sales, 34 fewer than in August 2009 and a sign of a “soft” second home market, Smythe Harris said.
“Lender restrictions are tight right now,” she said. “It mirrors a national trend.”
The New Caney/Porter area is one area bucking the trend, where sales increased for a second month in a row. There were 37 sales last month compared to 30 in August 2009, for a 23.3 percent increase.
Foreclosures in Montgomery County reached 154 in September, according to Foreclosure Information & Listing Service, Inc., of The Woodlands. That’s 17.5 percent more than in August (131).
For the year, the county has had 1,312 foreclosures, compared to 1,090 through September in 2090.
Not all foreclosures are steals, Cain said. Banks think they have the homes priced correctly and are less willing to negotiate.
“It takes so much patience,” Banks said, adding that “we haven’t hit the bottom of the foreclosure market.”
Here’s a look at how the county’s four real estate areas fared in August:
On a month-to-month comparison, The Woodlands/Magnolia area was the one area in the county to see an increase in the median price of homes – a healthy 9.8 percent surge to $258,000. Year-to-date, the median price held steady at $215,000.
The median price is the amount paid where half of the properties in a specific area sell for less and the other half sell for more.
There were 289 sales in August, 5.2 percent below the 305 that sold in August 2009. Total dollar volume increased 5.1 percent to $94.5 million in August.
Although sales dipped slightly in August (66 compared to 72 in August 2009), pending sales increased 17.8 percent (53 to 45).
Year-to-date, Conroe area sales are 16 percent ahead of 2009’s pace, while the median price ($112,750) and average price ($138,071) of homes are each about three percent above last year’s numbers.
The median price of homes in the Lake Conroe area fell from $196,000 in August 2009 to $171,250 last month. There were 1,007 new listings in August, 19.5 percent more than the same month a year (843).
While the monthly median and average price of homes took double-digit percentage hits in August, year-to-date numbers remain strong across the board.
Sales for the year are up 28.6 percent (364 vs. 283). Total dollar volume of $60.19 million is 32 percent above $45.61 million at that same point in 2009. Homes are on the market for only 78 days, compared to 97 days in 2009.
Trulia.com, has become a top site for home buyers, sellers and renters. It closed 2010 as one of the fastest-growing sites in the real estate category. Fortified by product introductions and user-experience enhancements for consumers and real estate professionals alike, Trulia experienced unprecedented traffic growth and gained the most market share of all leading national real estate sites.
More than 89 million unique visitors accounted for more than 570 million property views that Trulia.com received in 2010. Mobile searches grew by approximately 400% and now account for more than 10% of overall traffic and more than 15% of weekend traffic. As a direct result of expanded consumer engagement, leads sent by Trulia to industry professionals have more than doubled in the past year. In addition to using Trulia to find homes and gather insights about neighborhoods, consumers used Trulia in 2010 to engage with more than 500,000 real estate professionals in the Trulia Voices community.
For many people, preparing their house for sale means just dusting, vacuuming and mopping. In other words, they are selling their house as-is. A couple of things will almost certainly happen:
- The house could possibly linger on the market for months until the seller lowers the listing price, or worse, it never gets sold.
- The offers, if any, reflect the as-is condition of the house, which is usually much lower than the listing price.
- The sellers get frustrated because they are getting offers from bargain hunters who are looking for a cheap house to fix them up themselves.
You don’t want this to happen to you. Your goal is to sell your house as quickly and as profitably as possible.
Preparing your house for sale is a four-step plan designed to maximize the value of your house. Below explains the importance of decluttering, repairing, cleaning and revitalizing. Each step builds on the other to turn your home into the desirable home that buyers look for in any market condition.
In real estate, buyers buy space. The more space you are able to show, whether it is living or storage space, the more you’ll be able to sell for. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Most people are pack rats. Rooms have too much furniture and you’ll find stuff overflowing in every nook and cranny. There’s little space for walking sometimes, much less for living.
Decluttering is the process of reclaiming the space in your house from years of collecting and storing. Don’t expect the buyers to ignore all this and imagine your house in its clutter-free state. Buyers sometimes see dozens of houses in one day and their brains are overtaxed. Declutter so the buyers can see your house, not your mess.
Buyers expect a trouble-free home. They want to buy a house, move in and start enjoying it right away. They don’t want to waste time and money fixing up the place. If you don’t repair your house, it will be seen as a fixer-upper and you will not be able to attract the right kind of buyers, nor will you get the price you want for it.
Buyers, in an effort to protect themselves, will always inflate the actual cost of the repair. A simple fix that might cost you a hundred dollars now could cost a thousand dollars once the buyer has seized upon it.
Cleaning your house for sale goes well beyond dusting, mopping and vacuuming. You must clean it like you mean it. You must minutely examine every square inch of your house and restore it to near-new condition. Consider the harsh reality, if something appears dirty or smells bad to you, it will appear dirty and smell to the buyers!
The good news is that, as you’ve decluttered your house, you will find cleaning not nearly as laborious.
An advantage of a well-cared-for house is that you’re less likely to receive a low offer. When buyers can’t find faults they focus less on how much money they can squeeze out of you and start thinking how the house is perfect for them.
If you don’t have the time to clean then you should hire a professional. It’s a smart investment.
Once you have decluttered, done all the necessary repairs, and cleaned your house inside and out. Believe it or not, you are already ahead of most other people who are putting their houses on the market.
Now the chance your house will sell is much higher than it once was, but you might not get the best price. The reason is that buyers, realistically or not, expect your house to be in good repair and clean to begin with. How can it be anything else? To make them pay top dollars you need to wow them. You need to revitalize your house.
Revitalizing is not remodeling, which is usually expensive and delays the selling of your house. While remodeling has its place, it’s not always practical like they make it out on home and garden TV shows. Rather, focus on small, inexpensive improvements that yield big results.
Bombard the buyers with nice imageries of your house, inside and outside. You want them to linger as long as possible. The longer they stay, the stronger the emotional bond becomes. Once they connect at this level, an offer isn’t far off.
Revitalizing starts with improving your curb appeal, follow up with lighting, and painting.
You’ve decluttered, repaired, cleaned, revitalized, and your house looks fabulous. Now you want to keep it that way while you’re trying to sell it. This is another challenge onto itself.
To prevent the house from drifting back to its prelisting state after all your hard work and to reduce the amount of maintenance while the house is on the market, you should declare some rooms off-limit from every day use. For example, if you have three or four bathrooms in your house, pick two that your family can use and close the doors on the rest. Perhaps you have a family room and a living room, use one only and bar the other from use. Then of course there’s the dining room and the kitchen. Maybe you could choose to eat in the kitchen from now on leaving the dining room untouched.
You’ll need to dust the undisturbed rooms once in a while but you can see
how this strategy ensures your house is always ready for showing with minimal
Sometimes professional staging is necessary in order to put your home’s best features in the forefront. Ask your Realtor for his/her opinion as to whetheror not you should have your home professionally staged prior to listing it for sale.