Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The market looks GREAT in The Woodlands!

Sure, things are slowing down. After all, fall is here, school has started, and holidays are coming soon. But the real estate market in The Woodlands has remained stable over the past few years, and we are excited about the months coming up! If you're interested in what's happening in our local market, here's the information for you!! Scroll to the bottom of this first screen and click "full" (on the left bottom corner). Click "Escape" to return to this blog.

What is YOUR home worth?? If you live in The Woodlands/Spring/Houston area, email us at and we'll give you a report -- for FREE!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

What's Happening in The Woodlands - Fall, 2010

If you live in (or near) The Woodlands, Texas, you will want to print this terrific Fall Activity Guide!! If you do not live in The Woodlands ... well, why not? (We know a couple of good Realtors!! :)
Scroll to the bottom of this first screen and click "full" (on the left bottom corner). Click "Escape" to return to this blog.

Friday, July 30, 2010

It's in your best INTEREST to buy a home now!!

Mortgages are low .... CRAZY low!! It's unbelievable that not too many years ago we were bragging about rates below 10%. Just look at them now! The following is from Associated Press, July 29, 2010, 4:09 PM:

Mortgage rates hit low of 4.54 percent. Average rate for 30-year mortgage hit record low, but better rates exist for stellar borrowers

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mortgage rates are the most affordable in decades for those who can qualify for a loan.

For many, the opportunity to buy a home or refinance at this time is lost because of the tough economy and tight credit standards. But those who have secure jobs, superior credit and strong finances could do even better than the 4.54 average rate that Freddie Mac reported Thursday, according to experts.

The latest rate is the lowest for a 30-year fixed loan since Freddie began tracking rates in 1971. It also marks the fifth time in six weeks that the mortgage company has reported hitting a new average low.

Still, it's possible to get an even lower rate if a borrower contributes more than 20 percent to the downpayment or has impeccable credit.

"Scores matter," said Ritch Workman, co-owner of Workman Mortgage in Melbourne, Fla. He can offer a rate of 3.375 percent on a $200,000 Freddie Mac loan. The caveat: The borrower must put down 20 percent, have a credit score of 800 and pay $1,400 in add-on fees. ......

Sometimes the best rates are offered by community banks or credit unions. They keep mortgages on their books instead of selling them to investors, said Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst at Other times, bigger banks or smaller mortgage bankers have the best deals.

Keep in mind that rates fluctuate significantly, even within a day, like airfares on a travel site. And the key to finding the best rate is to shop around online and in person.

Either way, borrowers are getting good deals. The last time home loan rates were lower was during the 1950s, when most mortgages lasted just 20 or 25 years.

The rate on 15-year fixed loans, a popular choice for refinancing, also are the lowest on records dating back to 1991. That rate fell to 4 percent from 4.03 percent last week.

It's true! It really IS in your best interest to buy a home now!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

A REAL Italian restaurant!!

We confess - we owe thanks to a friend who found this treasure. Who would dream that you can find real Italian (Tuscan-style) food, prepared from scratch - even the pasta! - on the feeder road just outside The Woodlands?!? It's the Capri Pasta Restaurant. No, the prices aren't the cheapest, but we can guarantee you won't find this kind of cooking at any of the chains around here! You can see the menu, map, etc by going to .Give it a try - let us know what you think. Buon appetito!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You can SAVE MORE than the Tax Credit if You Buy NOW!!

Missing the tax credit deadline
might have seemed like a big mistake for some buyers,
but waiting might have been the smartest thing to do!

Who would have figured?!? Interest rates have fallen so dramatically since April 30th, that the typical buyer of a $350,000 home, financed with a $280,000 mortgage, would have saved a bundle by waiting until May!
At April's average rate of 5.34%, a home buyer would have locked in a 30-year fixed rate loan with a monthly payment of $1,561.82. The same borrower could have snagged a 30-year fixed rate loan at a rate of 4.625% in May, and paid $1,439.59 per month. That's a $1,467 annual savings. Over 30 years, it's a $44,003 savings, dwarfing the tax credit!

But why purchase now?
Because Mortgage Rates might not be low for long!

Signs of improving economic conditions (more consumers are paying their bills on time, past-due accounts at American Express declined 34% compared to a year ago, Target reported its lowest delinquency rate in two years during the 2nd quarter, and fewer banks reported tightening lending standards this month), could lead the Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke to raise key interest rates.

If you're in the market to buy or sell your home,
please contact us TODAY
while interest rates are still in your favor!

Information above from Informa Research Services (5/26/10), Bloomberb, Bob Willis and Anthony Feld (5/28/10), and provided through Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taxes have been going .... DOWN!! (in The Woodlands, Texas)

The Woodlands Township collects an ad valorem property tax to provide important community services to cover public safety, fire protection, environmental services, parks, pathways, pools, covenant administration, etc. The former Community Associations of The Woodlands for many years collected "assessment fees" which were not tax deductable. Now that the Community Associations of The Woodlands and the former Town Center Improvement District have created The Woodlands Township (in hopes of becoming a city in a few years), assessments have been replaced with an ad valorem property tax. And guess what .... take a look at the chart .... taxes have gone steadily D-O-w-n!
Values are steady. Taxes are lower.
We are soooooooo lucky to be living in The Woodlands!!
For an up-close look at this graph, please click onto the link below:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Woodlands Real Estate Market is THRIVING!

How is the Market? Well, if you live in The Woodlands, Texas, it's GREAT! Comparing this year to two years ago, there is very little difference. Take a look at these recent Market Reports! (To enlarge, go to "Memo" (bottom left), then "View Full Screen")

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Eagles in The Woodlands 2010!

Once again, the eagles in The Woodlands raised two young'uns successfully. (That's ten times in eleven years!) It is SO important that these birds be watched discretely from a distance, or they will move and this lovely wooded area will be developed into business and homes. Here are some photos from the few times we checked on them this year. (Be sure to check on "FULL" at bottom left to enlarge!)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What are YOU Looking for in a REALTOR??

As REALTORS, we believe that our business is NOT about company awards or even selling a house. It’s about your family, your community and your life, and we will endeavor to provide you with excellent service, innovative marketing, and communication along the way! (To enlarge, click on "full" at the bottom left of the photo.)

Whether buying or selling a home, certain factors will always affect VALUE!

LOCATION - Nothing impacts value more than location. The local school system - the condition of neighboring homes - recent sales in the neighborhood - number of foreclosures and rentals - the reputation of the area - whether the home backs to the forest, a shopping area or a lake - can all affect the value of your home.

FLOOR PLAN - Some designs sell better than others. Currently, more “open” designs, studies, no formal living rooms, and master bedrooms downstairs are popular.

FEATURES - Certain features are preferred. The number and size of bedrooms and closets are important items. Extra space in the garage can make a difference. Sometimes the updating of a kitchen or bathroom can be the deciding factor.

CLEANLINESS and CONDITION - “Move in” condition sells! Most buyers don’t want to clean up or fix up a home after they buy it. Properties that are clean and well maintained ALWAYS sell quicker and for more money than others, including those offering a decorating or carpet “allowance.”

Sunday, February 28, 2010

An Irrepressible Bird - the Carolina Wren!

Who IS that loud bird singing even in the early morning before daylight?!? It's the tiny, irrepressible Carolina Wren that we have building a nest in our flower pot! We love these birds. They have a song that is ridiculously loud for such a small bird, and everytime we think we know all of their songs, they come up with another one! I like the "cherry cherry cherry" song , but they have as many as 40 versions, and (if you irritate them) one of the nastiest versions of the "raspberries" you've ever heard!

These birds are about 5-1/2 inches long with a cocked tail and a long, slightly curved bill. They are very inquisitive, checking out every nook and corner for bugs and spiders. The Carolina Wrens mate for life, and stay together throughout the year on permanent territories. Don't bother offering them a birdhouse, however. They'll ignore it for a potted plant or a barbecue grill or (as friends discovered) the back of your camper or car! They build a nest that looks like a little cave out of grasses and grass fibers; the eggs hatch in 2 weeks, and the babies leave the nest in another two weeks. Cheerful little fellows, even in the rain, they bring sunshine to our lives!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"How's the real estate market?" - Our charts tell the story!

If you live in the Houston area (or even if you don't!) here's a fantastic site you'll want to make a favorite! Click on How's the Market in MY area? It shows average sold prices, average list-to-sold, average price per square foot ..... and on and on! You can make it specific to your own zip code or your own town. And more than that ... it automatically updates every month!!

This page comes up already set for "The Woodlands," but you can change that to your own zip code at the top. (Tip: To scroll down, use your "page down" key.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Market Report - 2010 - The Woodlands

The Real Estate Market in The Woodlands has continued to thrive and (with springtime) will be picking up! Buyers are viewing homes, and folks are getting houses ready to put on the market. In January, there were only 3 fewer contracts written than in January 2009.
With the possibility of higher mortgage rates, an end-of-April time limit on the Homebuyer/Homeseller Tax Credits, and leases about to expire, the next few months will be brisk. Now is definitely the time to make a move -- and we're ready to help! Call or email us any time!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Waxwings have arrived!!

What crashed through our yard today with more commotion and noise than New Orleans' Bourbon street after the Super Bowl? Was louder? possibly more drunk? left a bigger mess? and was decorated with Mardi Gras mask and colors?!? It was the handsome and very social Cedar Waxwing! Within half-an-hour, they stripped our berry-laden yaupon (leaving quite a mess of dark splats all over the biketrail!) with much chatter and congeniality, even happily sharing with the (equally messy) robins that appeared with them. It's a great sign of springtime soon to come!!

HOUSTON - It's the place to be!!

Let's live it up, Houston and The Woodlands! This is one of the best places to live - play - and work!! We don't have 3 feet of snow at our doorstep when we wake up in the morning, nor 2 feet of mud in our houses. We have low unemployment, low housing prices, wonderful medical facilities both in Houston and in The Woodlands, great cultural events. Take a look at this video!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

THE EASIEST Crockpot recipe EVER!!

Too busy during the holidays to cook? Try this one!
In your crockpot, mix 1 can of cranberry sauce (with berries) with 1 envelope dry onion soup. Add an uncooked pot roast, covering partially with the sauce. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes. Preparation time: 1 minute!! YUM!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

WAKE UP! Find a Home!! The Home Buyer Tax Credit changed and extended !!

WAKE UP! Find a home!! The First-time Home buyer Tax Credit has not only been extended, but it can now apply to current homeowners as well!

Deadline: A sales contract must be in place by April 30, 2010 - but homeowners have an additional 60 days to close.

Dollar Amount and Eligibility: Up to $8,000 for "first-time" home buyers (those who have not owned a home for 3 years prior to the purchase)
--OR --
Up to $6,500 for current homeowners who have lived in their current residence for 5 consecutive years and are purchasing their next property.

Income Cap: $125,000 (individual), $225,000 (married couples). Increases in the cap make the measure available to a broader group of clients.

Purchase Price: $800,000 or less

Repayment Requirement: Must live in the home for 3 years, or be required to repay the credit.

Documentation Required: Taxpayers must submit a copy of the HUD-1 settlement statement and IRS Form 5405 to claim either the first-time home buyer tax credit of the repeat home buyer tax credit.

Who qualifies: Persons who are claimed as dependents by a taxpayer or who are under age 18 do not qualify. Home purchases from relatives of the taxpayer or the taxpayer's spouse do not qualify. Married couples are not eligible to claim the first-time home buyer tax credit if either spouse has previously owned a home. They may, however, qualify for the repeat home buyer tax credit.

Note: there are special benefits for military personnel, members of the Foreign Service and the intelligence community.

Thinking of buying a home? What on earth are you waiting for??? Give us a call (713-857-5080) -- we're here to help you!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

YUMMY Corn Casserole!!

My brother brought this by our campsite a few weeks ago, and I thought I would share it! Talk about easy ..... and good!!

2 cans whole kernal corn, drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2 cup chopped onions
Put corn in casserole dish. Mix all other ingredients and pour over the corn.

Topping for casserole - Mix:
1 stack club crackers, crumbled
1 stick butter, melted

Bake for 30-45 minutes (till bubbling) at 325 degrees.

This is pretty much an off-the-shelf, pop-in-the-oven, add-a-few-pounds dish. How much simpler can you get?!? (If you're on a diet, let someone else in the family cook it and forget that you've read the recipe. It's Jean's no-guilt suggestion for the month!)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

COMING SOON!! Oktoberfest in The Woodlands!!

It's autumn leaves, family fun and oom-pa-pa time!! A great time for EVERYone at The Woodlands' September 26-27 "Oktoberfest" !!! For complete information (food - fun - facts!) check out their website:!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Woodlands -- the process of becoming a CITY!!

Moving from being a subdivision of Houston, to a township, and eventually (with voter approval) to a city, takes a great deal of careful planning and great leadership, both of which The Woodlands has always had!

The Woodlands Township Board of Driectors has approved a $78 million operating budget for 2010. Great news: this budget includes a $2.5 million increase in spending for an enhanced community policing program, provided through the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office. This will include the hiring of 22 new personnel!

No longer will we have Homeowner's Association fees but, rather, a Township TAX (a bonus when it comes to IRS write-offs!) There will be one difference: All taxes up until now have been paid in arrears (i.e. we pay our 2009 taxes at the end of the year 2009). The Township tax will be paid in advance (i.e., when it arrives in 2009, we will be paying for 2010 services). The rate set for 2010 is 32.8 cents per $100 tax appraisal evaluation.

For more information, please visit

Friday, August 28, 2009

New TRAFFIC Laws for Texas!

Effective September 1st, Texas has some new laws! Here are just a few for drivers:

(1) ALL occupants of a passenger vehicle (designed to carry 15 or fewer passengers), no matter their age or where they are seated, are to be secured by a safety belt.

(2) Any child younger than 8 years of age (unless taller than 4 feet, 9 inches) must be restrained in an approved child passenger safety seat.

(3) Where posted, it is illegal to use a wireless communication device in a school zone unless the vehicle is stopped or a hands-free device is used.

There are many changes that affect motorcycles, driving, driver licenses, concealed handguns, etc. For more information and details, please go to

Unfortunately, we might wish that ignorance is bliss, but tis NOT folly to be wise!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

When it rains, it pours .... Yellow-crowned Night Herons!!

Ah, sweet rain. Rain that pours water in ditches that suddenly erupt with the bleets of a million tiny frogs ...... and the strikingly handsome Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Yesterday (while other hikers passed by without a notice) I watched a family of three of these gorgeous birds in the nearby ditch, undoubtedly fishing for crayfish, minnows, perhaps a grasshopper or frog in the now-still waters. This may be called a "night" heron, but he forages for food both day and night. Even so, the bird's slow movement and shyness make it a difficult bird to spot.

This group of three (two mature birds and an immature in the middle) was undoubtedly a family unit (mom, pop and kiddo). Both the male and female build the nest, incubate the eggs, and care for and feed the chicks.

You can recognize the Yellow-crowned Night Heron by its very striking appearance. It's a stocky wadding bird, about 24 inches in length. It has a slate-gray body, a black head with a white streak on the side of the face, and a yellowish-white crown. In breeding season, you will see a yellow plume of feathers on its head. It has large red eyes, a black bill, yellow-to-orange legs. Males and females look alike. The immature bird is a mottled gray-brown.
Alas, it's sound is a loud harsh squawk. Like people, some birds are better off not saying a word!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First-time Homebuyer Tax Credit

One of the BEST things our government has done lately has been to create the $8000 tax credit for "first-time" homebuyers!! The rules are simple. If you have not owned a home for at least three years, you just might be eligible for this. You'll have to hurry, though. It won't last much longer (you must move into your new home by December 1st, 2009), and it means MONEY in your POCKET !!

Just click onto the link below (the information is almost shorter than the link!!), and tap the sidebar arrow to scroll down. Quick and easy! Then give us a call (281-467-8827). We've already saved money for several clients this year, and we can do it for you!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mortgage Payments & Taxes - Change is a-comin'!!

As The Woodlands strives toward becoming a city and starting this year, you will no longer receive a separate fee for the Homeowner's Association. When your tax bill for 2009 arrives in October, it will include the new Woodlands Township ad valorem property tax that will be used to fund the 2010 community services previously handled by the Community Associations of The Woodlands.

How will this affect your taxes?

If you have NOT been escrowing (for insurance, taxes and Association fees), then you will receive one less bill, and you will see that the Montgomery County tax statement includes this Woodlands Township ad valorem property tax.

If your mortgage company HAS been escrowing for your Association fee, they will no longer be receiving that as a separate bill, but will see it included in the county tax statement. There may be some adjustment in your monthly bill due to this.

BE AWARE, however, that if your mortgage company escrows for taxes and insurance but NOT Association fees (very common!), the fund may not have sufficient funds to pay all of the annual taxes now due. Your current escrow account will now have to pay The Woodlands ad valorem tax, but it did not previously cover Association fees, which the tax is replacing. In this case, the mortgage company will pay the amount due, but your escrow account may end up short at the end of the year. Please contact your mortgage company if you think that this may affect you!

The great news is that what used to be a non-tax-deductable fee has now become a tax - deductable on your income tax!

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Woodlands is growing ...and....stretching!!

The Woodlands is a fantastic planned community, one of the very best in the nation! And soon (hopefully) we will call ourselves a "city." As we grow, however, many changes have to be made so that traffic will continue to flow well . Our friend, Randy Scott, wrote a full article on the road expansion plans for this area. We invite you to visit his blog (below) for his commentary on the Master Plan for Mobility in The Woodlands. The Woodlands is growing!!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Summer Tanager summers in The Woodlands!!

What IS that bird in your backyard?? (It's 6.7" long, smaller than an American Robin, but look at that huge beak!) Well, by golly, might be a Summer Tanager. Take a close look .... If it's a bright red bird with NO other colors, it's the striking male Summer Tanager. If it's a dull yellow bird, with some olive green wash on the sides, and grayish-brown wings, it is (alas) the female. The immature bird looks like the adult female, but (as you can see in our third photo), the young male can have a pretty splotched appearance with oranges and reds. He can be very colorful!!

The Summer Tanager is a bee and wasp specialist. It catches the bee in flight and kills it by beating it against a branch. Before it eats the bee, however, the tanager removes the stinger by rubbing it on a branch. The tanager eats bee and wasp larvae as well. Bee keepers hate them, but they can sure keep our wasp population down!

These birds have a pretty whistle with short pauses. Usually one set has something that sounds like "peanut-butter." And their call is a clicking "pit-i-tuck." Personally, it's a lot easier to identify these birds by their appearance on a birdbath than by listening for "peanut-butter" in the treetops, but often that's the only way you would know that they're around!
We have these beautiful birds in The Woodlands during the summer.
Enjoy them - enjoy their beauty - enjoy their song!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Strike Up the Band!! The Woodlands is ranked #14!!

It's true! We've been telling you all along, but Forbes now agrees!!

They have ranked The Woodlands as #14 in their list of the

Top 25 Best Places to Move in America!!

Forbes chose suburbs near major corporate plants and offices with populations exceeding 25,000. They looked at how many people in each town were born out of state or abroad, who had moved to town from a great distance away within one to five years, and who had moved for a job. They also considered population growth, family income, professional and executive employment, and the price, size and age of the homes. Added to that were reports of moving van companies, enrollment changes in schools, the proximity of multinational companies.

Tell your friends - tell your relatives - tell your company!! We have miles and miles of hike-bike trails, pools, trees, lakes, restaurants, nature. When it's time for a move, call us and head for The Woodlands, Texas. We'd love to help them find that special home!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

New Rating for our FIRE Department!!

The Woodlands Fire Department has a new rating ("ISO 2") which means your homeowner insurance premiums may be decreased. In the whole nation, only 0.1% have an ISO 1 rating; only 0.7% are rated ISO 2. This rating will last for ten years. Be sure to notify your insurance company!!

So when you go by a fire station, stop by and thank them for their service.

Not only do they save lives,
but they save you

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Restaurant Review - Thai Cottage in The Woodlands

So I admit it. Our friend suggested that we dine at the new Thai Cottage (off of Hwy 242, near I-45). Mike grumbled ("I don't like Thai food!"), but agreed to join us. We had a wonderful dinner!! The atmosphere was very pleasant, the service fine, and the food that we ordered came quickly and was delicious! Was it highly seasoned? No, not ours, but we could have asked for more heat -- all the way up to five levels!

For the record, we ordered two appetizers ("Crispy Twin Rolls and "Sa-Te Chicken"). The (egg)rolls were very fresh. The chicken was dry - we would suggest something else. But our main entrees themselves were delightful -- three dishes that combined well on our plates: the chicken with peanut sauce, the garlic fish fillet, and the seafood "Double Pleasure."

Would we go there again? Absolutely! Would Mike go there again? You bet! Give it a try and report back!!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Selling you home?? LESS is Definitely MORE!!

When you are planning to sell your house, it's important that the buyers be able to "see" your home as their home. How can you do this? First of all, you need to ....


Clean out closets, pick up clutter, hide those treasured family photos too. Why? Besides making the home feel more spacious, it's easier for buyers to envision themselves and their own family photos in the house.

  • Pack away special collections usually displayed in cabinets and hutches, and move a few pieces of furniture into storage. This will help buyers to better see where their own furniture might go.
  • Keep the house clean every minute it's on the market. This takes great effort, but the buyer may need to see your home within 20 minutes, and you'll be ready!
Tone down your creativity!
  • You like your house to "say something" about your personality. Well, it's time to tone it down! Buy some neutral paint to cover those red or lime-green walls. All buyers are comfortable with neutral colors.
  • Does the buyer remember your home or your decorations? If you've got an Italian fresco on a living room wall that stops people in their tracks, they may lose sight of the rest of the home's wonderful features.

Remember, by "paring down" and organizing, you're ensuring that your home will appeal to the greatest number of potential buyers, and you'll be ahead of the game when it comes to packing up and moving out!

Ask us, your Realtors, if the house looks cluttered or if any colors are too bright.
We know what detracts a buyer. We've sold a lot of houses!!