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Home Buying

The Basics of Buying a Home in Eight Step

For first-time home-buyers, the process of purchasing a home can be daunting and at times, confusing. Fortunately, an experienced realtor can help explain the process to you and guide you through the essential steps you need to take to purchase the home of your dreams. At Domain Realty Austin, our friendly and knowledgeable realtors have helped countless people just like you buy their first homes, so if you are considering purchasing a home in this great city, make sure that we are your first phone call. Since we strongly believe that an educated buyer is a happier buyer, we have prepared this list of eight fundamental steps that can serve as your “roadmap” to buying a home.

Step #1: Select Your Realtor

Choosing the right agent to represent you is the first (and arguably the most important) part of the home-buying process. Because this is likely the largest purchase you have ever made in your life, it is vital that you pick an agent that has the experience you need to help you through the process. An inexperienced or apathetic agent may not have the knowledge or experience to negotiate the best deal possible for you, and you may end up spending more than you need to. An experienced realtor with a strong knowledge in your particular market will likely be able to find you the right house, connect you with the right lender, and negotiate the right price for the home you want. In addition to market knowledge and negotiating skills, make sure the realtor you choose is someone who you trust and want to work with. The home-buying process can be a lengthy one, so select an agent that you can communicate with and has your best interests in mind at all times!

Step #2: Choose a Lender

The majority of people who are purchasing a home for the first time will need assistance from a lender. You can select a mortgage lender yourself, or your realtor may be able to guide you to a broker and title company that they recommend and have worked with in the past. The financial part of the process is often the scariest step for many buyers, but don’t worry, it is an essential step to take toward owning versus renting your home! When selecting a lender, look for one who offers you competitive rates and personalized customer service. When it comes to financing, you don’t want to be viewed as a number or a file; you want to know that your lender cares about you and is there for you when you have questions or concerns.

Step #3: Get Pre-Approved

It may seem like common sense, but many people don’t immediately understand the value of their lender’s pre-approval letter until they start searching for a home in earnest. After reviewing your application, your lender will issue a pre-approval letter letting you know how much financing you may qualify for. This amount will give you a good idea of what you can afford to spend on a home, which will weigh heavily on your home search. Remember to factor in costs like taxes, home insurance, HOA dues (if any), and utilities into your budget, and from there, you should have a reasonably good idea of what your price range is. Your pre-approval letter will also help show potential sellers that you will be able to qualify for a loan, which can help strengthen your offer if you choose to make an offer on a home.

Step #4: Create a Wish List

Once you have your pre-approval letter in hand, work with your realtor to create a “wish list” that outlines the things that are important to you in a home. You should discuss the area of town you would like to live in, neighborhoods that you prefer, school districts, and exterior and interior features including yard size, kitchen features, bath and shower preferences, and other “must-haves.” It is essential to set realistic expectations, but you can let your realtor know what your preferences are to give them a good idea of where to look and what to look for when generating your search list.

Step #5: Take a tour

Many home-buyers find the process of viewing homes to be one of the most fun parts of the buying process. You get to see homes within your price range and can imagine yourself living there. Make sure to take thorough notes on each house, and approach the process with a critical-yet-open mind. Keep in mind that minor cosmetic things can always be replaced or fixed, and sometimes you find the perfect home that is move-in-ready, and sometimes you find a gem that just needs a little polish!

Step #6: Make an Offer

Once you have found a home that you are in love with, it is time to make an offer! An experienced agent’s knowledge will come in handy at this stage, as you will likely have to negotiate and make a competitive offer, especially in a hot real estate market like Austin. Be aware that you may have to put down some earnest money that will go toward your down payment on the home, and you may want to factor in contingencies into the offer, including having the house inspected before finalizing the purchase.

Step #7: Do Your Due Diligence and Finalize Your Loan

Before closing on your home, it is vital that you have your home inspected to identify any potential issues. On the outside, the house may look perfect, but serious issues may be lurking within or underneath. These problems may include plumbing or wiring problems, or foundation problems that can be extremely costly. If your home inspector finds a problem, you may decide not to purchase the home, or you may wish to negotiate with the seller to repair the issue or lower the sale price of the house to cover the cost of the repairs. Once you are satisfied that the home is ready for purchase, you can finalize your loan with your lender. During this time, it is essential not to make any significant purchases (cars, furniture, expensive appliances) that may affect your credit.

Step #8: Close On Your New Home!

The final step to becoming a new homeowner is finalizing the purchase and closing on your home. The deed to the house will finally be transferred to you, and you will officially be the owner of the property. Depending on your specific transaction and the details of the contract, you will likely have quite a bit of paperwork to sign, but your agent and the title company’s closing agent will guide you through the process so that you know what you are signing and why. Once the paperwork is complete, the funds will be transferred from your lender to the seller, and you will get the keys to your new home!

Why Do So Many First-Time Buyers Choose Domain Realty?

First-time home-buyers are looking for an agent that has their best interests at heart. That’s why so many first-time buyers turn to us for help with the most significant purchase of their lives. We know the home-buying process, and we are experts in the Austin market. We work tirelessly on behalf of our clients to explain the process, find the right home for their needs and budget, and will negotiate firmly to get them the very best deal possible. We know that you have many choices when it comes to selecting an agent in Austin, so we strive always to distinguish ourselves from the rest. Call us at (512) 872-4211 to find out why we’re different.

Why Invest in Real Estate in Austin?

As the fourth largest city in Texas and 11th largest city in the nation, Austin has catapulted itself into one of the fastest growing and most desirable places to live in the country. From “best city to live in” to “best city to start a business in,” Austin routinely finds itself ranked amongst the top 10 cities in the country across a range of categories, and things don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

Along with one of the largest public universities in the country, Austin has recently become a thriving place for young professionals thanks to the influx of close to 4,000 technology companies—including Facebook, Apple, Google, and Dell—across the Austin area. In fact, a net 110 people currently move to Austin every day. With its diverse economy and young age demographic, Austin has experienced an explosion of great new restaurants, bars, and breweries all over town. And with the annual South by Southwest festival, Austin City Limits Music Festival, and identity as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin is more than just a great place to live, it’s a cultural destination.

At Domain Realty, we routinely meet and work with individuals and families who have recently moved to the area from within the state and around the country. So whether you’re looking for a home of your own or want to purchase a rental property and try your hand at being a landlord, we are dedicated to working round the clock to find you the perfect place. Our agents at Domain Realty call Austin home, and we couldn’t be more excited to help you one day call it home as well.

But if you’re still not convinced that Austin is the city for you, let’s look at a few reasons why you should pack up and make that move and finally call get that coveted identifier, “Austinite.”

Why You Should Purchase Now

When Austin cracked the top 10 on PwC US and the Urban Land Institute’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate report of hottest real estate markets five years ago, experts thought it was a fluke. They aren’t thinking that anymore. In 2016, Austin was No. 2 on the list, and in 2017 it took the top spot, making one thing clear, the secret is out!

“Austin’s rise to the top of the list signals the durability of the city’s long-term appeal to investors,” says Mitch Roschelle, PWC partner and real estate research leader. “Austin, along with many of this year’s top 10 cities, boasts attractive, niche neighborhoods and a vibrant, diverse economy.”

For potential investors this means one thing; the time to act is now. Austin experienced a 7.3 percent rise in home prices compared to the rest of the country over the last year. And while projections for the first half of 2018 may not set new records, the research team at Zillow predicts home prices will still rise 3 percent in the first half of 2018.

And while that growth closely mirrors the nation as a whole, there are a few factors specific to the Austin market that could persuade potential investors from buying sooner rather than later.

One of those is inventory. Reports from June 2017 said Austin currently has a 2.3-month supply of homes—compared to a 5.2 month supply five years ago. This below average supply homes compounded with the above-average rate of sales creates a squeeze on the number of homes available for purchase. That’s why you need an experienced and professional real estate team to help you find a house and close the deal quickly.

But fear not. The recent Emerging Trends in Real Estate report did say that “the housing market, both multifamily and single-family, appears to be making adjustments to match supply with the requirements and locations desired by the changing population base.”

Additionally, experts predict Austin home prices could continue to rise through 2018 and into the future. This continual appreciation in home value across the Austin area means buying a home will continue to be a sound investment for years and decades to come.

Up and Coming Neighborhoods

As much as we would like, finding and affording a home in Hyde Park, Tarrytown or Clarksville is near impossible. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some up-and-coming, off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods to invest in now. You just have to know where to look.

Allandale/Crestview/Wooten – Just north of Hyde Park and Rosedale, these neighborhoods make up the 78757 zip code and offer much more affordable and larger homes than the surrounding areas while still offering proximity to hip restaurants, bars, and public transportation. (Avg. price $350,000 to $450,000)

The Domain – North of Allandale and Crestview, The Domain area, is exploding thanks to the influx of shopping, restaurants, bars, and nightlife in the Rock Rose area. With access to Whole Foods, Topgolf, and some technology companies, it’s a great place to buy single-family homes at an affordable price. (Avg. price $300,000 to $350,000)

Westgate/South Manchaca – South of Highway 290 and east of Mopac, this area is close to the coveted 78704 zip code without the high prices. This area gets you home with bigger lots that are close to downtown, close to parks and other outdoor activities, and close to great restaurants. (Avg. price $350,000)

Windsor Park – If you’ve been in Austin the past couple years you’ve heard of Windsor Park/Mueller. Once the sight of Austin’s airport, it’s now a sprawling community with a new HEB grocery store, new restaurants, and a beautiful park. And while the homes are older, buyers get style and affordability. (Avg. price $350,000 to $400,000)
Contact Us

Whether you’re a first time home buyer or real estate veteran, purchasing a home in a new area can be a daunting and even confusing experience. Our team of experienced and professional realtors is passionate about finding our clients the perfect place to call home. At Domain Realty, we are experts in the Austin market and are here for all of your needs. Call us at (512) 872-4211 and speak with an agent today.

The Benefits of Buying a Home Versus Renting

Owning your own home has been an essential component of the American dream since its inception, but renters in Austin still ask the question, “What are the benefits of buying versus renting?” Certainly, renters enjoy some benefits, like not having to perform maintenance (other than basic upkeep and changing the air filters) and being able to change location at the end of their lease easily. Still, many renters say that their preference would be to put down roots and own their home. The flexibility of renting is often convenient, but the long-term benefits of owning the home ultimately tend to win this battle.

The Main Benefits of Homeownership

You are able to put down roots. When you own a home, you have a more significant investment in the community. If you don’t own the house, it is harder to connect with the neighborhood and truly feel like you are a part of it. Once you have purchased your property, you will likely take more pride in your home; it’s appearance and the neighborhood overall. You will probably connect with your neighbors and may seek to make long-term bonds with the others who also have invested in the community. Homeowners often feel a great sense of pride and community in their homes and neighborhood.

Homeownership is an investment in your future. As you pay off your mortgage and increase the equity in your home, you will find that your home is a “live-in” savings account. Over the lifetime of living in the house, you will be able to build wealth, and if it comes time to sell the home, you will be able to realize it’s real financial value.

Homeownership has tax advantages. For many people, the tax benefits associated with homeownership is reason enough for them to make the plunge. Homeowners are allowed to deduct their mortgage interest on their federal tax returns, as well as closing costs and property taxes. These savings can add up to thousands of dollars each year (especially in the beginning years when your mortgage payments are at their highest) that can be extremely beneficial.

Budget stability. Most renters have experienced the routine rent-hikes that seem to occur on a yearly basis. In Austin, especially, the cost of rent has soared in the past decade and renting is an increasingly expensive proposition. If you purchase a home with a fixed-rate mortgage, you can stabilize your budget, knowing that this payment will not change for the 15 or 30-year term of the loan.

Over time, buying is cheaper than renting. While your mortgage payment may be more than you pay in rent right now, over time with the changing rent prices, you may ultimately save money by buying a home. When you factor in the tax benefits, owning your home is usually cheaper in the long run than renting. Because the value of real estate tends to increase over time, the house that you purchased will likely be worth much more later on than it was when you first bought it!

Ready to Buy?

As a renter, you are used to the standard costs that are involved from the moment you find your place to the moment you move out of it: the application fee, the security deposit, the first month’s rent, the optional pet deposit, the monthly rent, the renters insurance, and the utilities. Buying a home is a different process and involves other fees. When you are ready to purchase a home, be sure to talk to your agent about:

  • Earnest Money: You the homeowner would pay the seller this deposit, which is placed in an escrow account
  • Down Payment: This is also a certain percentage of the purchase price.
  • Home Appraisal Fee: This must be paid before your home loan is approved.
  • Property Taxes: You must pay the seller upfront for the taxes they paid between the closing date and the end of the current tax period.
  • Homeowners Insurance: Paying the first year’s insurance early may be required by lenders.
  • Flood Insurance: Depending on where you live and if you live in the floodplain, you may be required to purchase flood insurance along with homeowners insurance (the latter does not include the former).

The following are the recurring costs that factor into owning a home:

  • Loan Payments: These, which vary depending on factors such as what kind of mortgage you have, are included in your monthly escrow payment.
  • Property Taxes: These, included in your monthly escrow payment, vary according to time and location.
  • Homeowners Insurance: This is also included in your monthly escrow payment.
  • Private Mortgage Insurance: This is required if your lender is private and if you only paid a certain percentage of your purchase price upfront.
  • Utilities: These include internet, cable, water, electric, gas, and trash.
  • Repairs & Upkeep: These may not be monthly recurring payments, but they are costs that will come up during your tenure as a homeowner. This includes painting and other home renovations, mowing your lawn, tending to your garden, and paying professionals to fix anything in your home that you cannot fix yourself.

Your Wants and Needs

The price of a home and all associated costs are only one part of home ownership. You must also consider the house itself: its appearance, its location, and its inhabitants — you and your loved ones. Consider your current wants and your current and future needs, factoring in marital status, family size, the number of children expected to live in the home, and the number of pets.

Are you single? Do you have a partner? Do you have a child or children, or are you currently expecting, or do you want children within the next few years? What do you value? These questions will help you determine your home size and location wants and needs. For example, if you have children, the school district and school a home is zoned to will factor into your decision making. Do you have an ailing parent that you would like to live closer to? A nearby neighborhood may be where you begin looking for a home. Would you prefer to have a short work commute? Seeking out a home that is an hour away from your office may not be the ideal route.

Once you have considered all of the things that matter to you and your family, discuss them with an agent that you trust. At Domain Realty Austin, our experienced Austin real estate agents are ready to help you leap from renting to owning your own home. We will help you find the perfect home that fits your needs and your budget, so why wait any longer? Contact us at (512) 872-4211 to talk to a member of our team and get started on your home search today!

Tips for Buying Your First Home as Newlyweds

After finding each other, planning and executing the perfect wedding, and merging your lives, the next step for newlyweds is preparing to buy their first home together. And while the long and arduous process of pulling off a dream wedding may have felt stressful at times, for many newlyweds, saving up for and purchasing their first home together is a whole new ballgame. Yes, budgeting, saving, and choosing the home that’s right for you is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. And while it’s essential to understand the significance and size of this purchase thoroughly, it shouldn’t deter you from approaching the process with optimism and excitement.

The real estate market is complicated and overwhelming at times, but with the right preparation and realtor, finding your dream home can be an enjoyable time and significant milestone in your marriage. From choosing the neighborhood to the number of bedrooms, and preparing financially, buying a home is a full-time job. So let’s look at a few ways to simplify the process and get you into your dream home faster than you ever imagined.

Prioritize for Your Life Right Now

When you start looking at different homes and what they have to offer, it’s easy to get swept up in the overall excitement and forget what you specifically wanted in a home in the first place. A house is no small purchase and buying one that isn’t right for your life could be a mistake you regret for years to come.

Before you talk with a realtor or step foot in a single home, sit down with your spouse and determine your priorities. At its basic level, this includes the size—how many bedrooms and bathrooms—and also location. Do you want to be close to your place of work for a short commute or would you rather be close to restaurants, bars, and nightlife? Are you planning on having kids one day? If so, maybe the priority is being in a good school district or area with a low crime rate.

Keep in mind that while you may be planning on starting a family in the future, you should buy a home that’s also the best choice for your current lifestyle and family size for the next five or six years. Purchasing a five-bedroom house in the suburbs because you plan on having three kids one day may seem like a responsible purchase, but the mortgage payments and cost of upkeep in the meantime could be financially straining, especially for a young married couple just starting out.

Prepare Financially

Being financially prepared is one of the most important aspects of buying a home, and depending on some factors, the most challenging. To purchase a home, you either have to buy it outright with cash or obtain a loan, also called a mortgage. To secure a mortgage, most lenders want a 20 percent down payment. However, depending on the institution and you and your spouse’s total debt load—combined debt including student loans, credit card payments, et al.—a couple with good credit can secure a loan with as little as three percent down.

Along with your credit score and down payment, a couple’s combined income will also determine whether or not they can obtain a mortgage and the total amount. For most couples, their mortgage payment is around a quarter of their income after taxes. Along with your monthly mortgage payment, it’s important also to be aware of closing costs, property taxes, insurance, and other expenses related to furnishing the home or basic upkeep in the first few months or years.

A few ways you and your spouse can be financially prepared when you find your dream home include:

  • Build up your credit through one or two credit cards, making sure to pay them off in full every month.
  • Work hard to pay down your debts, especially high-interest debts like credit cards.
  • Make a budget, stick to it, and save as much as you can for the down payment.
  • Speak with a mortgage consultant who can guide you through the qualifying process. The expert mortgage consultants at Great Hills Lending Group offer free consultations and can be reached at (512) 872-4211 or you can visit their website at

Saving for your down payment takes some sacrifice, but with a little planning and discipline, you and your spouse can be miles ahead of other couples in the home-buying process.

Communicate Every Step of the Way

Combined with everything else in your life, the home-buying process can take up most of your free time and put extra stress on your young marriage. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open, so you and your partner know each other’s expectations, concerns, and feelings every step of the way.

Make communication a priority before you even begin looking. Talk about the expectations you each have for the home as well sacrifices you need to make to save up. Then talk to each other through every phase of the buying process and be completely honest about your feelings.

Find an Experienced Realtor

Thanks to the internet, newlyweds can search hundreds of homes in their desired area from the comfort of their couch. And while this is an essential part of the process to get an idea of what you want, working with an experienced real estate agent makes your experience less stressful and more enjoyable. Real estate agents know the market and have access to in-depth data about neighborhoods, previous owners, and properties you can’t find anywhere else. From unsuccessful attempts to sell the home in the past to the market value of the area, all of this information helps real estate agents get you the best deal possible.

Along with their knowledge of the industry, they also help you search for homes you haven’t seen and negotiate prices, potentially saving you tens of thousands of dollars. Professional real estate agents can also handle the enormous amount of paperwork involved with buying a home, so you don’t have to worry.

At Domain Realty, we are passionate about helping newlyweds begin their life together in the home of their dreams. There’s nothing more comforting than walking in the door of a house you own, cooking dinner with your spouse in your kitchen, and making daily memories that will last a lifetime. Call Domain Realty today at (512) 872-4211 and get started with your search.

How to Buy a Home in Austin Without Overpaying

n a city like Austin where the median single-family home price continues to climb year over year while inventory remains relatively flat, buying a home you love and can afford is no small task. The median single-family home price in Austin rose to $367,701 in February, a 12.2 percent increase from the previous year. And while that’s great news for sellers, it puts more of a strain on buyers saving up for the home of their dreams. And the market doesn’t appear to be slowing down. After being named the number one city to live in the U.S. for the second year in a row by U.S. News and World Reports, the housing market is expected to be as competitive as ever over the next few years thanks to an increase in demand and a low number of available homes. For first-time homebuyers, this can be the perfect storm for overpaying for a home.

According to research, first-time home buyers typically spend on average $2,200, or 0.79 percent, more for their homes than experienced buyers. And while that doesn’t seem like a lot of money compared to the overall cost of the house, it can make a big difference in not going over your budget. The reason people are susceptible to overpaying for a home in a popular market is it can be tough to exercise discipline and stick to your budget. Keeping a level head and not being swayed by the frenzy of the market isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially if you’ve been looking for months and are growing impatient. Fortunately, there are ways to make sure you don’t overpay for a home, even in a hot market like Austin.

Avoid Open Houses

Many potential home buyers, especially first-time buyers, are under the impression that the only way you can view a house is by attending as many open houses as possible on a Saturday or Sunday. These showings aren’t mandatory and can lead to overpaying. The purpose of an open house is for the seller to get as many people interested in the property as possible, but the very nature of an open house makes buyers more competitive and more likely to overpay. Hearing a seller drop a line like, “there’s another couple here who’s interested,” can cause even the most frugal of people to up their offer price without thinking twice. Instead of attending open houses, ask for a private showing by speaking with your real estate agent so you can view the home without any distractions or over-the-top stagings that make the home look more desirable.

Patience is a Virtue

Good things come to those who wait and the same can be said for buying a home. Looking for and buying a home is a huge decision and when the process gets compressed into one or two weekends, financial mistakes happen. Ideally, you should spend months looking for a home to avoid overpaying. By staying patient and keeping a level head throughout the search, you can maintain control of the process as opposed to becoming reactive and desperate. Of course, there are some instances such as moving to a new city or going through a divorce that may affect one’s timeline. However, for many homebuyers, staying patient will help you avoid buyers remorse from overpaying or purchasing a home in an area you didn’t research or know anything about.

Part of staying patient and maintaining control is avoiding buyer fatigue. In a competitive market like Austin, potential buyers may spend months looking at homes, make multiple offers, and still come up empty. After a while, the homebuying process can leave you feeling exhausted and dejected, and that can put you at serious risk of overpaying. Whether you’ve lost two or three bidding wars with another buyer or didn’t get an offer in quick enough, buyer fatigue can lead to increasing your budget and overpaying. Consulting with an experienced real estate agent is important during this period. He or she can help you stay calm and also work to find you more options in up and coming areas you may not have considered.

Stay in Control of Your Emotions

As humans, we’re conditioned to put a lot of pressure and emotion into big life decisions and larger purchases. From our first car to our first paycheck, these milestones are signs of growing up and becoming an adult. The same happens when buying a home. It’s an emotional process, and first-time home buyers can especially be susceptible to letting their hearts and not their heads drive their decisions. Falling in love with a home early in the buying process and the excitement of seeing oneself moving in and decorating it can increase the chance of overlooking potential negatives and inevitably overpaying. If you feel yourself becoming attached to a home, make a pros and cons list for different properties, or bring along a parent or friend who can objectively assess the home. In the end, as a homebuyer, you have to be willing to stick to your budget and walk away, even if it hurts.

Contact Domain Realty Today

Buying a home is a big decision that can affect your life for years to come. And while we know it can be an exciting and emotional process, it’s important to do your research, stay patient, and work with an experienced real estate agent who can help you every step of the way. At Domain Realty, our agents excel at helping Austinites find their perfect home. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or looking to upgrade, contact an experienced Austin real estate agent today by calling Domain Realty at (512) 872-4211.

Top School Districts in the Austin Area

The laundry list of priorities to consider when looking for and buying a house can be long and detailed, from its proximity to great restaurants and nightlife to the size of the backyard or number of bedrooms. It’s easy to be conscious of cosmetic and short-term details, but there are other factors you should think about if you want to make the best choice for you and your family. One often overlooked aspect of the home-buying process is what school district the house is in. The location of your home in relation to public schools could have a significant impact on your child’s friends, education, and future.

Even if you don’t plan on having kids anytime soon or at all, buying a home in an excellent school district can put you in a better position to sell your home in the future. That’s because homes in good school districts typically hold their value better than homes in inferior districts. Fortunately for homebuyers, Austin has some excellent and highly-rated schools all over the city. Let’s take a look at some of the best ones so you can make a more informed purchasing decision.

Eanes ISD

Not only is Eanes ISD considered one of the top districts in the Austin area but it’s regarded as the second best school district in the entire state of Texas. Located west of Austin in the beauty of the Hill Country, Eanes ISD spans 31.2 square miles including parts of West Austin, Rollingwood, and West Lakes Hills. With almost 8,000 students across nine schools, Eanes ISD is considered one of the best in the Austin area. It has a 13:1 student-to-teacher ratio and stellar test scores with 96 percent of students proficient in math and 97 percent proficient in reading. Along with six elementary schools and two middle schools, Eanes ISD is home to Westlake High School that boasts a 96 percent graduation rate and a 1340 average SAT score.

Eanes ISD isn’t just an excellent district for students and parents but teachers as well. If you or your partner are educators, Eanes ISD ranks third on the list of districts with best teachers in Texas and sixth on the list of best places to teach in the state.

Lake Travis ISD

Like Eanes ISD, Lake Travis ISD finds itself on the top ten list of best school districts in Texas coming in at No. 9. Located in Southwest Austin and Northwest Austin, Lake Travis ISD has 8,200 students across nine campuses and is located near the iconic and always beautiful Lake Travis. Thanks to its 16:1 student-to-teacher ratio, aggressive class schedule, and an array of course options, 92 percent of Lake Travis ISD students are proficient in math and reading. Hundreds of graduating students attend some of the best universities in the state including The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, and Rice University.

Students are also given the opportunity to pick an Institute of Study and spend time engaging and studying specific subjects to prepare themselves for the future. This includes Science and Medicine, Veterinary and Agricultural Science, Math, Engineering and Architecture, Business, Finance and Marketing, Humanities, Technology and Communications, and Fine Arts. Lake Travis High School is are also one of 30 schools in the country that offers High School of Business programs to educate and nurture students interested in an MBA. Along with talented and caring teachers, Lake Travis ISD alumni praise the campuses and the opportunities that they have been afforded due to their fantastic education.

Leander ISD

While the majority of this district lies in Williamson County, a small portion of the No. 17 school district in Texas sits in Northwest Travis County. With 42 campuses and over 38,000 students, Leander is one of the most popular and fastest growing districts in the area. With a 95 percent graduation rate, Leander prides itself on continuingly improving its curriculum, encouraging parent and community involvement at all schools, and preparing students to be successful and compassionate people in the real world.

Along with a 15:1 student-to-teacher ratio and impressive test scores in math and reading, Leander fares better than the other two districts in terms of diversity, having students across a wide range of ethnic and economic backgrounds. Students in Leander ISD will attend either Vandegrift, Cedar Park, Vista Ridge, Leander, Rouse or New Hope High School.

Austin ISD

Sprawling across all of the greater Austin areas, Austin ISD is the largest school district in Austin with 84,564 students attending 81 elementary schools, 20 middle schools, and 21 high schools. With a student-to-teacher ratio well below the state average, three-quarters of all AISD students are proficient in math and reading.

Along with traditional high schools, AISD also has an elite, public, magnet school. The Liberal Arts and Science Academy is the top public high school in Texas as well as the No. 1 public high school for teachers and No. 1 college prep public high school with 99 percent of all students proficient in math and reading.

Honorable Mentions

While the city of Austin has a number of great choices for public school districts, the surrounding area is also flush with highly-rated districts. Some of those districts outside Austin include:

  • Dripping Springs ISD (No. 53 district in Texas)
  • Round Rock ISD (No. 204 district in Texas)
  • Georgetown ISD (No. 352 district in Texas)
  • Pflugerville ISD (No. 386 district in Texas)

At Domain Realty, our realtors have experience finding homes for young families or for couples looking to start a family. We know how important quality school districts are for a child’s future and promise to find you a home in a district you love. To talk with a Domain Realty agent, contact us today at (512) 872-4211 and take the first step in finding your dream home in the perfect school district.

Why Can’t I Get a Mortgage?

As you begin the process of looking for and buying a home, one of the most important criteria is knowing what you can afford. That means you need to apply and be approved for a mortgage. A mortgage is a loan from a bank or mortgage lender that helps you finance the purchase of a home. With the house or property acting as collateral, the lender loans you a sum of money, known as the principal, that you then pay back on a monthly basis along with interest, taxes, and insurance. And unless you have a reserve of cash laying around to pay for the home outright, your ability to purchase a home hinges on being approved for a mortgage.

It’s important to know upfront how much you can borrow to avoid wasting time looking at homes that may be out of your price range. It can lead to a lot of disappointment when you find the home of your dreams only to find out you don’t qualify for a sufficient mortgage. Unfortunately, many first-time homebuyers make this mistake because they don’t know what goes into a lender’s decision.

Whether you’re just starting the home buying process or have been looking for months and were recently turned down for a mortgage, don’t fret! The mortgage lending professionals at Great Hills Lending Group may be able to help you. By increasing your knowledge of the process, you can improve your chance of getting a mortgage in the future. Below are a few reasons you might be turned down for a mortgage.

Your Credit Score Isn’t Great

One of the most significant factors in getting approved for a mortgage is the buyer’s credit score. Not only does your credit score determine whether you can get a mortgage, but also how high the interest rate will be, how much down payment is required, and the amount of mortgage insurance required. How high this score needs to be will vary from lender to lender, but there are a few universal truths to keep in mind.

A common misconception is that lenders will only check one credit score. The truth is, mortgage lenders pull your credit score from all three credit bureaus and use the middle one to determine whether or not you can get a mortgage. Your credit score can also vary over the course of the month depending on a number of factors such as your credit card balance. To be approved for a mortgage, you typically need at least a 620 credit score across the board and a 20 percent down payment. Be aware of your credit score before applying for a mortgage, and if it’s low, take steps to improve it.

Employment History

Unless you’ve been gifted a large sum of money through inheritance or you won the lottery, you need a steady income to pay your monthly mortgage payment. Lenders like to see a stable employment history without long gaps between jobs, so they know you will have the money each month to make your payments. Like credit scores, employment history requirements vary from lender to lender, but generally, it’s good to have a consistent work history. And while many people believe you have to have a two-year employment history to apply for a mortgage, this isn’t always the case. Some red flags for lenders include a six-month gap in employment, a change in career fields, and a wide range of weekly hours worked.

If you do have a gap in employment, it isn’t the end of the world, especially if you have a good reason for the inconsistency. This includes unforeseen circumstances such as family-related emergencies, maternity leave, or an illness that kept you from working. If you are currently without work, focus on finding a job and staying at it for at least six months before you begin thinking about applying for a mortgage.

You Have Too Much Debt

While debt is often a helpful means of advancing your life, too much bad debt can negatively impact your chances of getting a mortgage. Lenders call this the debt-to-income ratio, and each mortgage has different standards and guidelines for the amount of debt the borrower can carry. Fortunately, you can be proactive about this by being aware of how much debt you have and managing it properly. Because a mortgage is a loan against your income, a good rule of thumb is that debt payments should be about five percent of your monthly income. Anything more can negatively impact how much you can borrow for a mortgage.
You Don’t Have Enough for a Down Payment

The down payment is a lump sum that you pay when you first buy your home. The amount you need will vary from lender to lender and also depends on your credit score. While it’s ideal to make a 20 percent down payment, some loans only require 3.5 percent. However, be aware that along with the down payment, you will also need to pay closing costs, which are typically around three percent of the total cost for a home under $500,000. If you don’t have the money for a down payment, dedicate the next year to cutting costs and saving where you can.

Call Domain Realty Today

t Domain Realty, we are passionate about helping people find the home of their dreams. Along with our partners at Great Hills Lending Group, we will help you through every step of the purchasing process and answer any questions you have about obtaining a mortgage. To speak with an Austin real estate professional, call us today at (512) 872-4211 and get started.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Vacation Home

As spring gives way to summer, many people become infatuated with the idea of buying a vacation home near the beach, on the lake, or in a state or city with a much cooler climate to escape the unrelenting July and August heat. There are a lot of benefits to owning a vacation home from having a place to escape the stresses and realities of everyday life for a long weekend, to renting it out during peak seasons for some extra cash. But with this long list of benefits, there are also a few things you should consider and know before the point of purchase to ensure you are happy with your decision for years to come.

If you are currently thinking about purchasing a vacation home, you’re not alone. There were an estimated 1.13 million vacation homes sold in the United States in 2014 with vacation home sales making up over a fifth of all residential home purchases. And while it certainly is a good time to be in the market for a second home thanks to low-interest rates and a solid economy, the key to making the best decision isn’t always a matter of money but experience and knowledge. Whether you’re an older adult on the verge of retiring and settling somewhere with a warmer climate or looking to invest in a long-term vacation home near the beach, it’s important to go into the buying process with realistic expectations and with the help of a professional.

What are you really buying the home for?

Real estate experts around the country all warn potential buyers that before buying a vacation home you should think about what it’s going to primarily be used for and make sure you’re buying for the right reason. Whether for pleasure, a source of income or long-term investment, be realistic about your expectations and buy for the right reason. A 2017 survey from The Wall Street Journal says 42 percent of vacation home purchases are for personal and family use and experts seem to agree that this is the best reason to buy a second home. That’s because predicting a consistent and robust source of income from renting the home isn’t a guarantee. Rental income should be looked at as a secondary source of income and one of the many benefits of buying the home, but not the number one reason.

Additionally, it can be dangerous to purchase a home thinking rental income will cover the mortgage and expenses. Housing markets fluctuate and relying on renting it out to make the purchase worthwhile can lead to disappointment in the future. The same goes for buying the home strictly as an investment or to turn a profit in the future. Pick a home in a location you enjoy visiting and treat any additional benefits such as long or short-term rental income as a bonus, not the primary reason for purchasing.

Be patient

Like any big purchase, it can be easy to get impatient and be so blinded by the desire to own a vacation home that you end up rushing into the decision without considering every detail. One of these details is location. Even if you aren’t using the home primarily for rental income or as an investment, the home’s location is still important. If the home is truly a second home and not a vacation home yet, an area that’s good for business will give you more options for renting it out and potentially making some extra money to cover costs and a portion of the mortgage.

Fifty-seven percent of vacation homes are on the beachfront or lakefront properties, but there can be major differences in the home’s value based on where they’re located near the body of water. Pay attention to construction in the are. If there is a lot, the location may be gaining popularity and will be a desirable place for years to come. Other location-based factors to consider are the view, distance to the nearest town, restaurants, and other amenities, as well as distance from your primary home. The average vacation home is 200 miles from the primary home, meaning you may have to spend money on a property manager and cleaning service or spend your free time driving back and forth to take care of the home, do chores, and make repairs. By considering these additional costs—both in dollars and in time—you can make sure you don’t regret your purchase years down the road.

Know the rules and be aware of hidden costs

Before buying a vacation home, it’s essential to do your research on the neighborhood and any restrictions or rules for renting out your property. Homebuyers who have never purchased or invested in a vacation home may be surprised or blindsided by local government or homeowners association rules putting restrictions on renting out the property. In some cases, there may be limits on when the property can be rented, for how long, and using pre-approved or specific programs and rental companies to do business.

Additionally, you need to be aware of all costs, not just the mortgage and utilities, to make sure you can afford the home. You may also have to pay HOA or condo fees as well as property taxes, insurance costs, and the thousands of dollars in furnishing the home for yourselves and your potential renters. Remember, there’s no guarantee that the demand for your area will always be there and the amount you can earn in rent or appreciation may fluctuate from year to year.

Contact Us

The Austin area is a great destination for primary homes as well as vacation homes. From the appeal of a thriving and lively city to the proximity to the scenic hill country, Austin is an ideal place to invest in a vacation home when you want to escape the realities of life. At Domain Realty, our team of Austin real estate experts is dedicated to guiding you through the home buying process to help you secure the vacation home of your dreams. To speak with an Austin real estate expert, contact us today by calling (512) 872-4211.

Austin Real Estate Housing Market Forecast

It’s no secret that the Austin housing market has been experiencing a boom like never before, especially for sellers. Similar to past years, 2018 is shaping up to be another record-breaking year thanks to strong demand for homes due to a job and population growth, continual rise in home prices, and a short supply of labor and lots. In fact, according to Dr. James Gaines, Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University’s chief economist, Austin’s growth will be “phenomenal, more than doubling in the next 40 years.” A lot of this comes from the daily influx of people into the city—150 per day—who all need a place to live. But with only a 2.1-month inventory of homes in the Austin area, competition for homes is driving prices up or keeping them high with no end in sight.

What specifically is driving this increase in the number jobs, population (currently 31st largest in the country), and the demand for housing? One reason is the increasing number of technology-related companies moving to Austin over the past decade. The Central Texas area has added on average 27,300 jobs annually over the last decade, and a significant amount of those jobs have been with tech companies like Google, Facebook, Indeed, and HomeAway. And as more people move to Austin to fill these jobs, the demand for housing continues. Housing market expert Eldon Rude spoke at an event sponsored by the Home Builders Associations of Greater Austin at the end of 2017 and said the demand for housing has sent the area’s median home price up 45 percent over the past five years and “despite the significant price increases people are continuing to buy.”

Like clockwork, the Austin housing market sets new records every single year and 2017 was no different. The Austin Board of Realtors reported that the number of pre-owned homes sold and the median sale price of around $300,000 was an all-time high—the seventh year in a row the numbers surpassed the previous year’s. Along with pre-owned homes, builders started construction on 16,000 new homes in 2017, the highest in over ten years.

“They know that fuel for the market is in the $200,000 to $300,000 price range. As a result, lots and homes are getting smaller, and attached housing is gaining a foothold in the market,” Vaike O’Grady, Austin regional director for Metrostudy told the Austin American-Statesman.

These trends don’t appear to be changing anytime soon, and despite a shortage in supply and increase in demand and prices, 2018 is looking to be more of the same for the Austin and Central Texas area. And while it’s impossible to predict with certainty how the market will behave for the second half of the year, here are a few predictions based on real estate and housing experts.

Home Prices Will Slow but Still Increase

Experts predict Austin will remain a seller’s market which means home prices will continue to rise through the rest of the year. Fortunately, inventory levels are also expected to increase meaning home prices may slow compared with the past five years. This means a four to six percent increase in home prices instead of the eight percent Austinites are used to seeing. And while some experts believe affordability will continue to be a challenge for many potential home buyers whose wages remain stagnant, affordability is still more favorable in Austin than compared with big cities in the rest of the country. For home buyers, this means you’ll have a few more options when shopping compared to years in the past.

Rising Interest Rates

Despite rising home prices and increased competition, one reprieve for many first-time home buyers over the past few years has been lower mortgage interest rates. Experts predict that interest rates may rise moderately (.5 to 1 percent) toward the end of the year, sending first-time home buyers outside the city and into the suburbs. One percent may not sound like a lot, but for every one percent interest rate increase on a 30-year fixed mortgage, you lose 10 percent buying power. This means you’d have to buy a home that is 10 percent less to have the same mortgage payment. Rising interest rates will make it harder for many buyers to qualify for a mortgage, discouraging renters from taking the plunge and also preventing some home buyers interested in purchasing larger, more expensive homes.

Millennials Will Be Primary Buyers

Usually the subject of negative headlines, millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) now make up the largest group of home buyers across the nation, including Austin. With the median resident age currently 32.7 years in Austin, this younger population is a huge driver of the market moving through 2018 and into the future. From house style to proximity to restaurants, parks, nightlife, and other amenities to fit the millennial lifestyle, homes in East Austin, Central Austin and other popular areas of town will continue to be in demand.

Overall, 2018 is still an excellent time for buyers looking to enter the market for the first time. Yes, home prices are rising, and it’s currently a seller’s market, but the prices are rising at a much slower pace than past years meaning the market may start to stabilize. And with the threat of interest rates increasing throughout the year, it may be the right time to take advantage of current rates by purchasing your first home or upgrading to a larger space.

Whatever your goals, you need the help of an experienced and qualified real estate professional to find the perfect home and guide you through the home buying process. At Domain Realty, we go to work every day because we’re passionate about helping Austinites find a house they can call their own. To start your home buying process today, contact the Austin real estate professionals of Domain Realty by calling (512) 872-4211.

What is an HOA and What Are the Benefits

If you’re currently looking for a home to buy or even doing research about the home buying process it doesn’t take long to learn there are a lot of additional costs and potential fees. For people looking at a condo, townhouse, or regular home in a neighborhood or development that shares a common area such as a swimming pool or security gate, these services are typically maintained by an HOA or homeowner’s association. If you choose to purchase a property in a community with an HOA, you automatically become a member of the homeowner’s association and will have to sign a contract with the HOA agreeing that you’ll obey rules and regulations and pay regular dues. This is mandatory, meaning that if your development has an HOA and you want to buy a home there, you are required to join and pay monthly or yearly dues.

The purpose of an HOA is simple; to make sure your community and neighborhood not only looks its best at all times but that it also runs smoothly without problems or unnecessary drama. And for homes or condos in a subdivision that shares a community swimming pool, gym, or park, the HOA makes sure that issues are resolved and that repairs are promptly made. For example, a homeowner’s association will ensure the grass is cut, and trees are trimmed in shared spaces and will also make sure the swimming pool is clean and working properly. HOAs are becoming more popular across the country. In fact, only one percent of Americans lived in a community with an HOA in 1970. Today, the Foundation for Community Association Research found that one in four Americans have an HOA.

The Cost of an HOA

Similar to being a member of a gym or country club, homeowners have to pay monthly or yearly fees to cover the cost of maintenance and other expenses the HOA handles. Fees vary from state to state and are different for each community, but a typical single-family home pays between $200 and $300 a month. In some cases, these fees can be lower if your home is small or the services are limited.

For example, if your community doesn’t have a swimming pool or other facility that’s expensive to maintain, the fees can be much lower. Fees will be higher for a family of four living in a four-bedroom house than a single person. These fees are also used to build up an emergency fund to have cash saved for expensive projects like repairing or replacing roofs, flooring, elevators, and water heaters.

Advantages of an HOA

If you’re a homeowner paying fees and facing potential consequences for violating their HOA contract, you may want to know the advantages of living in a neighborhood with an HOA. By balancing restrictions with benefits, there are many positives to this arrangement. When all homeowners follow the rules a community can avoid many problems that are common in cities across the country such as a neighbor who doesn’t take care of his or her yard, stray cats and dogs running around, and trash or debris piling up on curbs and sidewalks.

In some instances, being in a homeowner’s association can ensure your property retains its value or even increases in value over time. When a neighborhood is appropriately cared for and looks beautiful, it can be attractive to potential buyers if you ever plan on selling. Additionally, an HOA gives you and your family access to many amenities that other people don’t have or have to install themselves like a swimming pool, golf course, gym, tennis court, and dog park. And with regular meetings, you can voice your opinions and your votes on how your neighborhood operates.

What You Can Expect from an HOA

It’s also important to understand the politics of your HOA. Every HOA has a board that’s made up of homeowners in the community. These individuals are usually elected by the community and attend all meetings to discuss any issues or make any decisions that involve the entire neighborhood or community. These meetings are also where members vote on approving any large expenditures.

Like any governing body, the HOA only works when all of its members follow the rules and do their best to keep their homes looking pristine. After purchasing a home and moving in, homeowners will then receive a copy of the neighborhood rules. This document is known as “covenants, conditions, and restrictions” or CC&R and homeowners are required to sign it, assuring the HOA they will follow the guidelines and understand the consequences if they don’t. CC&Rs can contain many regulations from what kind of mailbox you can have to how often you have to mow your yard and even what breed of dog you can own.

Violating your HOA rules or failing to make payments comes with consequences. These vary in severity depending on your community. First-time offenses typically warrant a warning but subsequent violations could be severe including eviction or even foreclosing on your property. When purchasing a home, it’s incredibly important to understand the HOA rules and guidelines before making a decision.

Contact Domain Realty Today

Going through the home buying process without the help of an experienced and knowledgeable realtor can be a disheartening and stressful experience. From knowing the best areas in town, finding the best deal, and talking you through every detail of your HOA contract, the Austin real estate professionals at Domain Realty are here to help seamlessly get you into the home of your dreams. To get started, contact us today by calling (512) 872-4211.