How slowly do you want to sell your home?

I've never heard a homeowner say he wants to sell his home as slowly as possible. Yet some people make poor decisions that lead to their homes staying on the market much longer than average. In fact, there are a few homes in my neighborhood that have been for sale way longer than others nearby.

With each of those homes, my reaction was the same when I first saw the asking prices. Wow, can they really get that much? 

So far, the answer has been no. In the meantime, those sellers have been paying carrying costs for their homes … month after month after month.

How do you determine an asking price that's high enough to maximize your profit but not so unrealistically high that it will make your home harder to sell? A Texas REALTOR® can go over the numbers with you and explain how your home's value fits in to the current sales market.  

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How we support your real estate interests on all sides

In Lehman’s Terms

Sometimes I receive calls from people asking why we support certain candidates. Maybe the caller doesn’t agree with the candidate’s stance on an issue, or maybe it’s just because he's from a different political party.

Would you believe that I actually enjoy taking these calls?

They provide an ideal opportunity for me to explain how Texas REALTORS® select who will receive our support … and the answer is simple: We support those who support the Texas real estate industry.

There’s a process in place
Before a candidate receives our support, we want to know where he or she stands on private-property rights. Candidates at every level (locally and statewide) are thoroughly vetted by Texas REALTORS® through a questionnaire and interview process. Incumbents who are running are also vetted based on their voting record.

Because pro-real estate candidates span the political spectrum, it should be no surprise to learn that Texas REALTORS® are known for supporting people from both sides of the aisle. We like to say we belong to the REALTOR® Party.

We are always willing to have respectful discussion with people across party lines. In fact, a great example of this bipartisanship happened just a few days ago. 

What we did last week
During the 2016 Texas REALTORS® Conference in Galveston, we invited the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, Tom Mechler, and the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, Gilberto Hinojosa, to share their insights on a moderated panel.

They discussed their parties’ presidential candidates, voter turnout expectations, and down-ballot races, among other topics related to the November 8 election.

The panel was followed by our keynote speaker for the event: political consultant, media columnist, and TV producer Mark McKinnon. McKinnon has bipartisan experience advising both Democratic and Republican campaigns and is co-founder of No Labels, an organization dedicated to bipartisanship, political problem solving, and civil dialogue.

McKinnon offered a lesson in media literacy, helping Texas REALTORS® identify what makes political messages successful.

How does this benefit you?
Events like these are just one of the ways we help Texas REALTORS® enhance the services they provide to real estate consumers. I believe that part of our role as an association is to ensure Texas REALTORS® are plugged into the latest issues affecting real estate consumers.

In Lehman’s terms, I believe that more involved REALTORS® make for a better real estate industry. Give me a call if you ever have questions. I’ll be glad to talk about the great work Texas REALTORS® are doing for you.

Mark Lehman is vice president of Governmental Affairs for the Texas Association of REALTORS®. 

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What to know about buying new windows

Maybe you want to upgrade the windows in your house or the property you’re buying needs new ones. Where do you start?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with what’s available, but here are some tips to help you choose windows that will work best for your property or for your business with teh Glass Shop Fronts.

New window options

If the frame around the window is in good shape, you can replace just the window itself. This is commonly called a replacement window. Have the window installer take the measurements for you to get a good fit. But if the frame is badly damaged, both the window and the frame will need to be replaced so using aluminium windows is a good idea, see here to find more about this. This is sometimes called a construction window and is usually a more expensive option.

Energy-saving options

The energy characteristics of a window depend on the type of frame, the type of glazing, and the overall construction of the window. A good place to begin your search is with windows that meet Energy Star requirements. Energy Star is an Environmental Protection Agency program that promotes energy-efficient household products, including windows. The Energy Star program considers three measurements:

  • U-Factor. This measures the rate at which the window, which includes the frame and the glass, conducts heat. The lower the number, the less heat it conducts. The U-Factor for windows in northern climates is lower than those required in the South, where air-conditioning costs are the largest energy drains.
  • Solar heat gain coefficient. This measures a window’s ability to block unwanted heat from outside, both from direct sunlight and reflected sunlight. It’s a number between 0 and 1. The lower the number, the better the window is at blocking heat.
  • Air leakage. This measures the tightness of window construction and is signified by a number between 0.1 and 0.3. Energy Star windows must have a measurement equal to or less than 0.3.

The country is divided into four climate zones—see the image below—each with different requirements. Find the requirements for your county here.

If the windows in your home or a home you’re going to buy need to be replaced, consider energy-efficient models. You’ll save money in the long run with a lower energy bill.

Fran J. Donegan writes on home improvement for Home Depot. He’s a longtime DIY author and has written several books, including Paint Your Home. To review a number of window installation options, you can visit

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5 ways to tell if the house you’re touring will need new windows

New windows are an expensive investment, easily costing $300 to $1,000 per window, and most homebuyers don’t factor in window costs when searching for a new home. However, if you’re aware of what to look for when touring a home, you can spot windows that may need repair or replacement while is easier for flooring as you can get an epoxy resin flooring company to help you. Here are things to pay attention to:

1. Windows that are difficult to open and close. You might not be able to test every window in the house, but try some out. If you are unsure, you can ask permission.

2. Damage to window frames. Look for signs of water damage, rotted wood, or recently made repairs, both inside and outside.

3. Missing hardware. Most hardware can be replaced, including cranks for casement windows, but if the hardware is missing, it could be a sign that the window does not work properly.

4. Foggy double-pane windows. Condensation between the panes of glass means the seal has been broken and the energy efficiency of the window has been compromised.

5. Single-pane windows. This is a sign that the windows are fairly old and not very energy efficient. New double-pane windows are much more energy efficient.

Consider future maintenance when surveying the windows. Wood windows need to be scraped and painted every few years. If new windows are an option, there are number of low-maintenance models available, including vinyl, fiberglass, and composite, as well as wood windows where the wood is exposed inside but covered with vinyl or aluminum outside to protect it from the elements.

If you get to the stage of the buying process where you visit the property with a home inspector, point out any concerns you have.

While you may not have planned to spend money for window fixes as a new homeowner, you’ll benefit in the long run by having a more energy-efficient home.

Fran J. Donegan writes on home improvement for Home Depot. Fran is a longtime DIY author and has written several books, including Paint Your Home. To review a number of window installation options, you can visit

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Do some laws do more harm than good?

In Lehman’s Terms

I saw a driver run a red light recently and it got me thinking about laws. There are laws that benefit our society, and laws that arguably do more harm than good.

But what about laws that are just unnecessary?

These unnecessary laws often seem to be among the most intrusive into our daily lives and lead to a lack of trust in our government. Nowhere is this truer than in Washington, D.C., where our federal government has reached new lows in public confidence.

Laws with consequences
Most unnecessary laws can be classified into a category I call the Laws of Unintended Consequences.

Every day, private citizens must attempt to live and do business in a system that is fraught with layers upon layers of legislation that was passed with the best of intentions but ultimately collapsed thanks to unintended consequences.

A great example of this was the attempt by Congress to respond to the 2008 financial crisis with the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

An attempt at reform
Dodd-Frank was a quick-fix congressional action designed to rein in Wall Street and squelch the actions of unscrupulous lenders to protect the consumer—certainly an honorable goal. 

Except that the act created a bureaucratic quagmire of governmental regulations that add considerable cost to real estate transactions, delay closings, and prevent qualified homebuyers from obtaining the American Dream of homeownership.

The regulatory authority of Dodd-Frank was ultimately turned over to half a dozen federal agencies and led to the creation of two new agencies, one of which is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

As an example of the challenges Dodd-Frank created, a CFPB initiative implemented last year has made it difficult for real estate professionals to obtain copies of their clients’ closing documents. This is a common practice that enables real estate agents and brokers to answer clients’ questions and look out for their best interests. After much lengthy outcry by real estate professionals and consumers, the CFPB is now considering reversing course and proposing updates to this unnecessary rule.     

This relatively new agency has far-reaching supervisory powers over most financial institutions. And for the first time in history, a federal agency now has jurisdiction over many non-banking financial companies, including mortgage companies. To me, the worst part of the CFPB is that it operates outside the purview of Congress. 

In Lehman’s terms, this means Congress created a superagency with significant enforcement powers to levy fines and penalties, but Congress has no oversight over the CFPB’s actions. 

Most lawmakers agree that Dodd-Frank went too far and has actually hurt some of the consumers it was trying to help. Unfortunately, any repeal or reform efforts have been thwarted by congressional gridlock and partisan bickering.

Fixing—and avoiding—the problem
The Laws of Unintended Consequences are not limited to the federal government. 

Just like at the federal level, repealing a state law is a difficult—if not impossible—proposition. The solution is something Texas lawmakers discovered decades ago, and no matter how much our state changes, lawmakers haven’t compromised this basic premise of lawmaking: The best way to avoid unintended consequences of laws is to not pass those laws in the first place.

Texas does this by avoiding knee-jerk reactions to isolated and often minor events. Most state legislatures have followed the federal government model and now meet on an annual and almost full-time basis.

The Texas Legislature meets only for 140 days every two years. This gives lawmakers plenty of time before session to slowly and deliberatively consider legislative intent of laws and the consequences of their actions.

This system works, and it’s what makes Texas the free-enterprise envy of the nation. That is an intended consequence to be proud of.

Mark Lehman is vice president of Governmental Affairs for the Texas Association of REALTORS®. 

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These loan programs can help you buy and renovate that fixer-upper

It's tough out there right now for first-time homebuyers. Even though home sales are rising, the share of first-time buyers fell in 2015, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®. Part of that is the difficulty of saving for a downpayment and strict financing requirements, but in many areas, the inventory of appealing, entry-level homes is limited.

Where there is a dearth of updated or move-in-ready homes for first-time buyers, some will consider buying a fixer-upper. If that's you, make sure you know what your options are for financing the purchase and renovation of your first home. While using a traditional mortgage to purchase the home and financing the renovation separately is an option, there are loan products that combine the cost of the home and the renovation in one payment.

The Federal Housing Administration's 203(k) program allows homebuyers to finance $5,000 to $35,000 in renovation costs as part of their mortgage. Many of the same rules and restrictions that apply to typical FHA-insured single-family residential mortgages also apply to 203(k) loans, but there may be more fees charged by the lender for additional services that are part of the 203(k) process. The value of the property must fall within FHA limits for the area, as well. With this program, the money is held in an escrow account and released as the work is completed. Like other FHA products, insurance is required throughout the life of the loan. Interested buyers can find a lender using HUD's online tool.

While the 203(k) program is limited to primary residences, FannieMae's HomeStyle Renovation mortgages can be used for one-unit second homes or investment properties. HomeStyle mortgages are more like traditional mortgage products in terms of requirements for downpayments and private mortgage insurance, where mortgage insurance can be dropped after a set amount of equity in the home is reached. The amount buyers can borrow through the HomeStyle program depends on either the post-renovation value of the home as determined by an appraiser or the purchase price plus renovation costs, whichever is lesser. HomeStyle loans are also subject to conventional mortgage limits. Unlike the 203(k) program, there is no online tool to find a lender that deals in HomeStyle mortgages.

Work with your lender and your Texas REALTOR® to get the property that's right for you. 

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How to increase your chances of getting the home you want

People from all walks of life want to move to Texas. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the state is home to five of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, and the two largest metro areas in Texas gained more residents in the past year than any other metro area in the country.

What does that mean for homebuyers? Competition. One way to increase your chances of getting the home you want is to know the mortgage process.

Understanding different loan types and terms

With loans, there is no right or wrong choice. Instead, look at each option as good, better, or best. You need to work with a lender who can explain all your options and the anticipated outcomes before you make a final decision. The lender should identify your wants and needs and educate you on what’s available.

Mortgage rates have been near or at all-time lows, so see if you can lock in that low interest rate for the term of the loan—regardless of whether it’s a 15-, 20-, or 30-year mortgage. If your lender suggests an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), make sure you known how the “adjustable” component affects the loan. ARMs have benefits, but the overall savings on an ARM are not usually significant enough to offset the risk of mortgage-rate uncertainty. You could also save money by selecting a shorter term, such as a 15-year mortgage, but the payments will be higher.

You’ve identified the best loan … now what?

You’ve picked the loan product, but don’t jump into the home search yet. First, seek preapproval for the loan. Remember, competition is fierce, and working with a lender to underwrite your file for preapproval will allow you to quickly submit a concrete offer. This is a competitive edge because it shaves weeks off the processing time, which is appealing for the seller.

In addition to getting preapproved for your loan, another way to make your transaction go smoothly is to work with a REALTOR®. No one understands your real estate market or the process of buying property as well as your Texas REALTOR®.

Don’t forget to enjoy the experience

The homebuying experience is sometimes described as confusing and stressful. It should really be one of the most exciting times in your life. Make no mistake, the process can be overwhelming, but that does not mean it can’t be enjoyable. Work with trusted partners that will educate you and make this a memorable event and provide a sense of accomplishment that comes from realizing the American dream of homeownership.

A native Texan, Jason Dickson is Texas regional manager for Churchill Mortgage, a prominent and financially sound leader in the mortgage industry, providing conventional, FHA, VA, and USDA residential mortgages across 36 states.

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Do you know what the presidential candidates have in common?

In Lehman's Terms

Do you know which major party's presidential nominee supports homeownership?

That’s a trick question—they both do. But you wouldn’t know it after listening to their nomination-acceptance speeches during the national conventions. We usually expect presidential candidates to highlight policies that support housing or real estate in those speeches. For the first time in recent memory, however, neither candidate for president of the United States even mentioned housing or real estate.

I find this especially interesting in light of a recent poll by Make Room—a national organization dedicated to renters—in which 76% of Americans who are likely to vote in the 2016 presidential election said they’re more likely to support candidates who make housing affordability a focus of their campaigns.

A missed opportunity?

During the conventions, each party received four days of primetime coverage on major TV networks, round-the-clock cable news reporting, and scrutiny on social media like never before. With this kind of attention, you’d think the voting public would come away from the conventions with a true understanding of the candidates, including their stances on housing-related public policies.

Well … not so much.

Luckily, you can find a candidate's positions in other places.

Where to find what they didn’t say

The candidates’ position papers on their official websites address a wide range of public policy matters, but neither specifically mentions housing or real estate—despite the fact that real estate is a leading indicator of the strength of most of our local, state, and national economies.

So about the only avenue left to see where the candidates stand on real estate is their respective party platforms, adopted at each convention. One industry expert who compared the respective party platforms found that both support policies to help more Americans become homeowners and policies that help current homeowners protect their investments.

The common ground of homeownership

In Lehman’s terms, it should be no surprise to see similarities between the parties’ platforms on homeownership. This remains an issue that transcends party lines at every level. A great example is the recent passage of the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act. This important real estate bill was signed into law by the president on August 5 after receiving unanimous approval in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate—a rare feat in D.C.

Elected officials generally work together when it comes to helping Americans achieve the goal of owning their own home … even if they don’t want to admit they agree on national TV.

Mark Lehman is vice president of Governmental Affairs at the Texas Association of REALTORS®.

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Can you trust online price estimates for your home?

Have you ever entered your address into a website that claims it will tell you how much your property is worth right now? And have you ever been shocked at the number it calculates? As it turns out, many of those websites don’t have access to important information about your property and instead use data that might not be so accurate. In fact, these popular websites explain the limitations with their own data in their disclaimers—which you can read for yourself in this free flier.

A Texas REALTOR® is the best source for real estate information online or in person, especially when it comes to helping you determine how much your home is worth. They also have a lot of other useful advice about buying, selling, or leasing property in Texas, and they’ve shared some of it for this free guide, Now that’s a smart move. Check it out and then contact a Texas REALTOR® for more useful—and accurate—information.

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Learn from others’ homebuying and selling mistakes

Sometimes it's better to learn from other people's experiences than your own … especially when it comes to mistakes. You get the benefits of wisdom without paying the price of failure.

Texas REALTORS® are offering that type of opportunity with a free 14-page download filled with valuable tips for homebuyers and sellers. This guide includes advice from REALTORS® and lists dozens of expensive mistakes they've seen people make. You can learn which remodeling projects have the highest return on investment, what the most important activities are before putting your home on the market, a list of common steps in purchasing a home, and more.

Of course, working in person with a Texas REALTOR® is the best way to proceed with any real estate transaction. In the meantime, check out this free guide titled Now that's a smart move

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