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The Woodlands and Spring TX Real Estate Blog

Jutta "Utah" Burden


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 471

How about Leasing Your Home?

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

You’re thinking about selling your house, but you may not be quite ready to let it go, or, when you run the numbers, you may not be able to sell it for as much of a profit as you may want.

Have you considered leasing your home instead? Giving you the opportunity to buy another home and still retain ownership. You can own your home for five years, occupy the home for two years, rent it up to three years and then sell it without paying capital gains taxes.

Markets improve, often there aren't enough homes available for purchase in the areas where families want to live. Relocating families may have a home to sell in another area or they may simply want to try out your neighborhood before buying. They want to spend a year settling in and learning about the area.

The ideal time to lease your home is if you can rent it for more than you're paying in mortgage, taxes and insurance. You also need some savings that will cover months when the home isn't rented, as well as repairs that may come up.

If you want to buy another home, the debt on the home you already own won't count against you as much as you may think, and especially if you already have the home leased. The lender may add a couple months of mortgage debt to your overall debt picture to be on the safe side because many properties don't rent right away or there may be lag-time between renters. With good to great credit, you can get a low down-payment loan that doesn't require all your cash.

talk with a real estate professional To help you decide if leasing is a good idea He or she will have comparable for other rentals in the area, so you'll know how good the market is for homes like yours and how much you can expect to get for your home.

As the owner, you can decline a renter who does not have the credit rating, earnings, deposit money, or references that you require for a good renter. Your real estate broker can perform a number of background checks for you on potential renters including credit scores, rental and eviction history, criminal and sex offender checks, motor vehicle checks, and employment verification.

Your rental agreement should include penalties for late payments, as well as outline clear terms -- length of the lease, possession date for move-in; terms for extending the lease, fees for late payments, pets or no pets and so on. 

Be very clear about what the renter is responsible for doing this will prevent disputes over who pays utilities. Make sure the renter also pays one month's deposit so you can cover the costs of cleaning, repainting and other make-ready steps. Last but not the least make sure your renter has renter's insurance.

Staging Your Home For Sale During The Holidays

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

The holidays can be a hectic time even when you are not trying to sell your home, but having a property that needs to be staged during the holiday season can add an extra level of stress to anyone’s planning. Fortunately, there are a few ways to balance decorating for the holidays while keeping up with your home’s curb appeal.
Keeping the decorations neutral can help potential buyers imagine themselves spending the next holiday in your home, but completely over the top decorations can have the opposite effect, so try to strike a balance between festive and classy.
The first step to staging your home is to clean up.  This is true at any time of year – an uncluttered home will seem more spacious and inviting, but it is even more important when you are decorating for the holidays. While some tasteful decorating is definitely appropriate, adding a Christmas tree or a nativity scene to an already crowded room can easily overpower the space and make it seem un-welcoming. Cleaning out each room in your house before you start decorating can help to improve the look of your house as well as minimize the amount of sorting and cleaning you will have to do once the home is sold.
Once your house is cleaned up, it is time to choose the decorations. You will probably end up deciding to decorate less than you usually do – this is one case where less is more, but a few carefully chosen decorations can help strike up a festive atmosphere. Neutral winter decorations, like a wreath or a display of pine cones, can help to project the desired look without becoming too personal. Make sure that whatever decorations you choose to go with the existing decor in your home.
Choose decorations and placements that bring out your home’s best features. Any kind of festive decoration will draw eyes, so try to place your decorations on or near the best features of your home. If your living room is small, don't buy a Christmas tree that will dominate the space. You are trying to make your home seem as spacious as possible, so filling half the room with a Christmas tree might not help your case.
While you might want to decorate the exterior of your home, make sure you do not go too over the top with the lights. While some people love light-up reindeer, others might not. 

Know Your Expenses Before You Buy

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

For many, home ownership is still a dream. Moving from renting can seem like it’s an impossible mission. But if you plan ahead and carefully budget, the goal of home ownership can be yours.

When budgeting how much home you can afford, it’s important to understand and anticipate the costs of owning and maintaining a home. Here are a few things that some first-time buyers forget to include. 

Private Mortgage Insurance

This is added on to your mortgage when the down payment is less than 20 percent. You can buy a home with less money but you’ll pay the PMI which covers the lender should a home buyer default on the loan. As you build up equity, your PMI drops off.


Property taxes generate revenue for municipalities, counties, and schools. It’s an expense that can vary across the U.S. However, on average, it’s 1.38 percent of the home’s value. Back East tends to have the highest property taxes.

HOA Fees

Homeowners’ Association fees (HOA) can add several hundred dollars to your monthly household expenses. These HOAs help to maintain common areas, typically within condominium complexes. They also govern what can be done to the unit and the surrounding area. While there is an up side to HOAs, some buyers prefer to have more freedom over their property, perhaps, until the neighbor paints his house turquoise with red accents.

Homeowner’s insurance

Lenders require homeowner’s insurance on your property. The amount you’ll pay depends on many variables including: where you live, the age, type, size of your home. For example, older homes can cost more to insure due to the fact that they may require more repairs than newer homes. Also, high-hazard areas can cost more to insure and some insurance companies may not offer an insurance policy for your home, if you’re in a high-risk area.

Utilities and appliances

These areas can be overlooked because, often, when people are renting the appliances are taken care of. When you own your own home, be sure to consider expenses such as the water heater or dishwasher breaking down. While, you can’t exactly figure out when an appliance is going to quit working, you can set a monthly allowance aside to start establishing a household repair fund. Just don’t touch the account or when you really need it, you’ll find it’s not there for you.

Inspections, appraisals, and closing costs

Many buyers understand they will have closing costs but they fail to budget for other items such as a home inspection. Sometimes inspections are paid for by the seller but it’s usually the buyer who pays for the inspection. And, even if the homeowner recently had a home inspection and has the report, a buyer still might want to pay for an inspector to have another look to compare the findings.

Depending on the home, there may also be other inspections such as for lead paint, pests or radon gas.

While the extra expenses do add up quickly, if you carefully budget and plan ahead, the goal of home ownership is achievable and very satisfying.



Realtors An Invaluable Resource

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Realtors An Invaluable Resource

Realtors in Magnolia Texas can be an invaluable resource throughout the real estate property hunting process. First time homebuyers may be tempted to stray on their own without a realtor in Magnolia Texas, relying on online resources to view and select properties to visit. Though this is most definitely a great resource for prospective real estate buyers, nothing can top the expertise of a professional realtor in the home buying process. Realtors in Magnolia Texas specialize in dealing on a daily basis with the issues that come along with the property hunting business. Realtors know what properties are priced reasonably and where a diamond in the rough can be found. When it comes to the real estate purchasing business, realtors are the experts that everyone should consult. No prospective buyer should be deceived by the idea that they can find everything that they need to know online. You simply cannot get the same valuable advice that realtors can provide from an online listing service. Seek out the assistance of a realtor if you are considering purchasing a home in the near future. You will be glad you did.

Local Realtors in Magnolia Texas

Local realtors in Magnolia Texas have looked at properties in the exact same areas that you are considering buying in. However, unlike you, realtors have the knowledge of the average pricing of the homes in that area. While the figures that you find on online listing services can tell you how a seller’s asking price compares to the asking price of other sellers in that area, it cannot provide you with background information as to whether any of these asking prices are realistic to what homes in that area have historically sold for. Realtors dealing in the local market can let you know when a price is outrageously priced compared to the listings in that area that have sold recently. Realtors can help you to make the personal decision as to whether or not the asking price on a home is reasonable, but also whether or not that asking price is negotiable. Negotiating the price on a home is tricky business. However, it is tricky business that realtors encounter on a daily basis. Do not attempt to do the job of a realtor and negotiate your own deal. Without background information on the pricing of homes in that area, you are clueless as to the reasonability of the sticker price on the property you are considering purchasing without realtors.

Identifying Red Flag Issues

Realtors can also assist homebuyers in identifying red flag issues with a listing that may have gone unnoticed because of a bargain asking price. No one wants to be fooled by a seller in Magnolia Texas who is hiding issues with a property that will soon cost them a sizeable amount of money. Realtors assist prospective buyers in noticing issues that may not be noticeable to an untrained eye. Once again, this is a profession. Realtors see issues with listings on a daily basis. Realtors can identify the trends in these issues and then are quick to spot them out when they see them in a different property. Do not let your naivety allow you to purchase a bargain priced home simply because you think that you can get it quickly and cheaply. Have a realtor take you on a tour of this home and take a look at some common issues that may incur hidden costs. You will be thankful that you identified any issues before closing a deal with a seller so that you can negotiate those values into the closing costs. However, if you do not have the assistance of a realtor, you may not identify the issue before closing and you may end up footing the bill yourself.

Magnolia Texas Realtors

Realtors are professionals whose advise is extremely valuable to the prospective homebuyer IN Magnolia Texas. Whether it is dealing with the sticker price of a home or the condition of a home that is going cheap, realtors have the expertise to assist you in assessing the situation with a level head.


by Jutta "Utah" Burden

How to Find Great Homes for Sale in the Woodlands, Spring and Magnolia

When you are house-hunting with kids in the ever-changing landscape of the real estate world of homes for sale in the Woodlands, comfort and security should always take precedence over other aspects, such as a big backyard or modern amenities like dishwashers and microwaves. What should be far more important is the neighborhood your children will be growing up in and the services that are nearby, most importantly the school.

All of this can be extremely stressful for most parents, but this article will help to alleviate your stress and give you a good starting point from which to start looking for homes for sale in the Woodlands.

1. Start at the bottom. The most important thing for your child is the school that they attend; your house should always be within the schools area. Keep in mind that your children's education will have a significant effect on their future, which means that it would be best for you to pick the schools you’re interested in and then aim to find homes for sale in the Woodlands near that area.

2. Tour the grounds. Before you commit to the school you’ve picked, it’s always a good idea to have a look around the campus of the prospective schools. Taking your child along will also give them an idea of which school they would like to go to and often enough, the deciding factor that determines which house you pick is based on which school you pick.

3. The area. It’s always a good idea to get a feel for the area before you move in. Take a weekend to go look around the areas that you’re interested in and get a hands on feel for the area. Pay attention to cleanliness, the state of the buildings, and the types of homes you’ll be near, is everything neat and tidy? All of these factors will help keep your houses value up.

Learning the area where your child could be growing up is of crucial importance, so take a wander through on a school afternoon to see the environment your child will be living in, as well. Are there other kids playing in driveways that could be potential friends for your child? And last but not least, make it a point to come back at night; this will help you to get a truer feel for the neighborhood. Is it full of loud parties, hooligans and drugs? Does there seem to be an inordinate amount of activity going on, with people walking the streets, or loitering on street corners? Or is it a quiet peaceful area where you can raise your child in peace?

Despite your stringent screening process, (which is entirely necessary) there will still be an abundance of homes for sale in the Woodlands within your price range. At this point, it all comes down to personal preference. Review all the information you’ve gathered in order to decide which neighborhood is best to raise a child in. After all, your child's happiness - and your own - are paramount to create a happy home.

Must-watch Items on Your Credit Report

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Must-watch Items on Your Credit Report


So you have just received your credit report and your score has dropped. Why? There are different items on your credit score that can affect your score negatively. Make sure you keep an eye on the following four must-watch items on your credit report to maintain a good score.
First, you can receive a free credit report once every year from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. You can order yours online from or by calling 877-322-8228. (Other sites may advertise free credit reports, but the fine print often requires you to buy a product or service.) Some credit card companies also provide a free FICO credit report, and there are sites such as where you can view your score for free as well.
Must-watch items
Late payments. Late payments and delinquencies have a huge impact on your credit score. They make up 35 percent of your entire FICO score. If you see marks that bills have been paid 30, 60, 90 or 120 days late, that is extremely damaging to your score. The other important factor is the timeline of how late your payment was and how long ago you made this mistake. The later your payment is, the more it negatively affects your score. The more time that has passed since the late payment, the less it affects your score.
Collections. Any collections activity on your report will go against your score. If you have had an account or bill that has gone to a collections agency, you are probably aware of it, but in some cases you may not be. There are certain situations where you may not be aware of collections action, such as if you didn't pay the last utility bill after you moved and the collection agency couldn't locate you. If you see a mark on your report that is not related to you, you can dispute it and have it removed. Any collections item can stay on your report for seven years, but the longer it has been on your report, the less it affects your score.
Active accounts. An easy way to detect identity fraud is to look for accounts on your credit report that you didn't open. If you have closed an account, it will reflect that on your credit report and you will be able to verify the date you closed it. If an account is shown as open but you have closed it, reach out to the issuer to find out why it is still active.
High debt-to-credit limit ratio. Credit score companies will look at how you utilize your credit cards by comparing the balance on one revolving account with the available credit from the lender. You want to keep your ratio under 10 percent. For example, if your credit card has a limit of $5,000 and you have a $1,000 balance on it, the ratio is 20 percent. If you are running a balance of $7,000-$8,000 on a credit card with a $10,000 limit, it will really negatively affect your score. It is even worse to have high running balances on several cards.
What items do you watch for most on your credit report?


credits to Homeactions

Budget-friendly Curb Appeal Upgrades

by Jutta "Utah" Burden


Budget-friendly Curb Appeal Upgrades


Curb appeal is the first impression that any potential buyer receives, so you should ensure that the front of your home, from the curb to the facade of the house itself, is in the best shape it can be in — even if you don't have the budget to splurge on huge upgrades and services. 

With these easy and cost-effective suggestions, you can improve the curb appeal of your home, while giving yourself a lovelier residence to enjoy right now.

Paint your front door
Giving your front door a fresh coat of paint can do wonders for the overall appeal of your house. Make sure that it's a color that contrasts with the color of the main body of the house, so that it pops out more than it would otherwise. This makes a home feel more welcoming, not to mention more stylish and appealing.

Spice up your front porch
After painting your door, don't neglect your front porch! Add small, inexpensive luxuries like metal house numbers or other decorations. Make sure everything is spotless as well. Sparkling windows and a freshly swept porch make for a more welcoming home, and a more welcoming home often sells far more easily.

Get your lawn in order
Tidying up your lawn is a given. Making sure it's spick-and-span, regardless of the season, is a great way to improve your curb appeal without spending much money — or any money at all! An unkempt lawn can make the house seem less appealing overall, so before showings, make sure your lawn has been mowed and edged for a more professional appearance. Also try to ensure that weeds are pulled. The healthier the lawn looks, the healthier the house looks.

Plant flowers
Having a garden with flowers can really make a home stick out in a buyer's mind. The pops of color can improve even the most immaculately manicured lawn, and a healthy garden can make any house feel more welcoming to anyone possibly looking to buy a home. It's an inexpensive way to improve your home's overall aesthetic, and can also give you a brand-new hobby.

Hose off the front of your home and sidewalks

No need to buy a pressure washer — your standard garden hose is usually sufficient to get most of the gunk and grime off your house. You want your house to be as clean as possible for potential buyers and guests.

Touch up your driveway
Repairing the cracks in your driveway can go a long way toward making your house more accessible in the mind of a buyer. Even superficial flaws such as driveway cracks can really sour someone's opinion of an otherwise beautiful house. And a smoother driveway is easier on your car's tires and suspension.


credits to HomeActions

The Value of a Competitive Market Analysis

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

The Value of a Competitive Market Analysis

Sellers have a tremendous opportunity to reach a wide audience of potential buyers.

It is important that sellers consult with a knowledgeable professional . Each buyer is looking for a home with the best combination of price, location, condition, and amenities. Ask your agent to compile a new CMA with the most recent market statistics available. Pay special attention to pending and closed sales in the last 60-90 days, and review market trends for homes in your price range and area. Statistics tell us that pricing your home competitively from the beginning will lead to a faster sale, and net you more money in the long run.


How to Stop Paying Rent Forever... And Own a Home of Your Own!

by Jutta "Utah" Burden


Paying rent is like pouring money down the drain. But it's true, buying a home can be a "hair-raising" experience.. It can be a roller coaster of emotions... finding the right place.... securing the loan._ moving in. And if you're like most of us, your home will be your largest investment The emotions over such a large and personal purchase can often cloud good business judgment..
Many home buyers do very little research before "diving in" and investing their hard-earned money. Before doing that, it make sense to be as informed as possible. That's what this report is all about.. It's designed to help you avoid 10 common, critical mistakes many home buyers make. If you follow these 10 suggestions, with the help of the right real estate professional, you'll stop paying rent and make a good sound business decision that you'll be happy and proud of for years to come.

1. Inspect, Inspect and Inspect- Go over the inspection report with a fine tooth comb. Make sure the report was done by a professional organization. For condo purchases, go over the by-laws, and association fees. Don't take anything for granted.... inspect everything!

2. Imagine the Property Vacant- Your furnishings and decorations will be the ones fining this new residence.. Don't be swayed by beautiful furniture .„. it leaves with the owner..

3, Income Plus Lifestyle Equals Mortgage Payment- Sit down with a competent real estate professional and honestly discuss your income level and living expenses. Take into account future considerations like: children, add-ons, amenities or fix-ups.. Your dream home is certainly worth a sacrifice but don't mortgage your entire future..

4. View Several Homes- See at least 3-5 properties Don't move on the first property you see but...... don't move too slowly either. With your agent's help, you'll be able to view enough properties to get a good overall perspective of your market.. And when you find the right property, all the legwork will be worth it.

5.  Utilize Your Team- By aligning yourself with the right real estate professional, you'll have an entire team working for you, Top real estate professionals have lenders, title reps, inspection teams - an entire group of trained professionals making the whole buying experience simple and easy for you..


6.  Check out all your costs and expenses before you sign: utilities, taxes, insurance, maintenance and homeowner dues, if applicable.. Make sure all utilities are on (gas, electricity, and water), so you can inspect everything in working order Ask lots of questions and be very detail conscious.


7.  Do a Final Walk-Through- Visit the property after all the furnishings have been moved out to be sure there are no surprises Be absolutely positive the property was left exactly as you had agreed upon in the contract. Many times, things are unintentionally overlooked that could have been spotted in a final walk- through.


8.  Plan For Flexibility- Closing dates are not written in stone.. Allow for contingencies and have a back-up plan. If you or the sellers need a little more time to conclude the final agreement, don't let these delays upset or frustrate you.. These types of circumstances are not uncommon in a real estate transaction.

9.      If It's Not In Writing, It Doesn't Exist- All promises and discussions are to be in writing. Don't make any assumptions or believe any assurances. Even the best intentions can be misinterpreted. Have your real estate professional keep an ongoing log (in writing) of all discussions, and get the seller's written approval for all agreements.


10.   Loyalty Breeds Loyalty- Be open, honest and up-front with your team.. Bad feelings and disloyalty will cause headaches, delays or may even keep you from getting into the home you worked so hard to locate. Take the time to select the right team in the beginning and your first home purchase will be a simple, easy and profitable experience you'll have fond memories of.. for years to come.

Go ahead, pick up the phone and give me a call.. I'd love to hear from you!
Check out homes for sale in The Woodlands and surrounding area at

Is Buying a Bank Owned Property Right for You?

by Jutta "Utah" Burden


Buying a bank owned property (REO) in The Woodlands/Montgomery County is an opportunity to buy real estate at a discounted price.  However, REO’s are not for everyone, especially if you are looking for a turnkey property with little or no rehabbing.  Most REO’s need rehabbing, and some need major repairs.  If you do find the right Woodlands/Montgomery County REO property, then there are a few things that you should be aware of before you purchase:


·        REO’s are sold in an “as is” condition. Banks generally will not do any repairs to the homes.  In addition, banks are not required to provide buyers with a statutory disclosure statement. 


·        Banks are usually very slow in getting back to buyer’s offers.   Expect at least a week or longer before you get a response. This delay could cause you to lose an opportunity to purchase another bank owned property or short sale.  So you need to be patient.


·        Verify if there are any other offers on the bank owned property you are interested in. Your Realtor can find out this information for you.  It is common to find multiple offers on bank owned houses.  Multiple offers drive the purchase price up because buyers are competing for the same property.


·        You must submit a pre-qualified letter from your lender stating that you are qualified to purchase the house. If you are paying cash, then be prepared to show proof of funds.


·        Cash offers have a stronger chance of being accepted than offers with financing contingencies, especially if there are multiple offers.


·        Keep in mind if you ask for any seller concessions such as closing costs you may lose your REO to another bidder if there are multiple offers.  Banks will counter out the concessions or they won’t respond to your offer at all. Most banks expect the buyer to pay the customary closing costs.  


·        Always negotiate a physical inspection contingency and a loan contingency if you need to obtain financing in your contract.


·        Be prepared to deliver an earnest money deposit. The amount varies. Many banks require payment in the form of a cashier’s check to be deposited with the escrow holder upon acceptance of the offer.


·        You have the right to inspect the property and cancel the contract should the inspection reveal that the property needs major repairs or is not in a physical condition that is acceptable to you.


·        You are entitled to receive title insurance insuring that the property has clear title and is free of any encumbrances. 


·        Bank owned homes are usually not very well maintained and sometimes have been stripped of everything including counter tops, appliances, toilets, cupboards, etc. by angry former owners who lost their homes.  Some bank owned homes are major fixers. While others may only need new paint and carpet.


·        Since bank owned houses are vacant, banks like to close quickly- usually between 30-45 days.  Be sure to have your financing available if you are obtaining a loan.


Many first time home buyers and investors are choosing to buy bank foreclosures because the prices are affordable and typically below market. When the real estate market bounces back, you will already have built in equity in your property.  You will need to factor in any rehab costs so make sure that your budget allows for this.


It is critical to work with a buyer's agent who specializes in the purchase and sale of REO and foreclosure properties in The Woodlands or surrounding Spring and Magnolia areas to help guide you through REO home buying process. 




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