Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Brewsday: The Blind Pig

Sorry that I missed last Brewsday....I thought I had scheduled a post and it turns out I forgot the all-important "save" button. And Brewsday on a Friday? That sir, is craziness.

Anyway, Mr. Mayo and I went to a new pub on Lower Greenville a couple of weeks ago called The Blind Pig over by the new Trader Joe's. The specialize in brews and in-house made sausages and other pub foods.

When we got there, I promptly ordered the house beer, the Franconia Meäzen, which Franconia only makes for The Blind Pig. It was a pretty tasty beer..medium-bodied and incredibly drinkable. You could order a whole liter for a pretty decent price. Their beer list was OK...not the biggest I've seen, but they had enough craft beer to keep us happy.
Franconia Meäzen
One of the best things that they have poutine menu. For those of you unfamiliar, poutine is a Canadian dish of french fried covered in gravy and cheese curds. It's not healthy, but it's one of my favorite things to eat. And at the Blind Pig, they have some pretty decadent selections. Mr. Mayo and I got the duck poutine...french fries fried in duck fat, covered in duck gravy with duck confit, cheese curds, and (why not?) a duck egg. And if you're feeling particularly fancy, you can add foie gras for $10 extra. We figured this dish was already rich enough.
Duck Poutine
We also tried two of their sampler boards. One had fresh potato chips with goat cheese and pickles. And you're thinking, "Pickles? That seems unappetizing." Nope. There was probably about 7 different kinds of pickles...from cucumbers to my personal favorite, shallots.
Chips and pickled veggies
The last thing we ordered was their sausage sampler...they make a bunch of sausages in-house and we can get a tray with three different types. We had a brisket sausage (my fav), a bacon bratwurst, and a spicy Italian sausage. On the menu, they even had a veggie sausage that I wanted to try but it wasn't on our sampler.
Brisket sausage=awesome sauce
It was a little pricey and everything was kind of rich, but over all it was worth it. The beer list was pretty good, food excellent, and they have a pretty big covered patio area if al fresco is your type of thing. I highly recommend trying this place.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ask an Agent: Why is my rent going up?

It's the middle of the month, so we sent out lease renewals. One of the biggest questions I've been getting the last couple days is, "Why is my rent going up?" A lot of tenants believe that if they pay on time and aren't too much of a bother, their rent will stay the same. There are a couple other factors at play though:

  1. Property taxes: Property taxes are based on the appraised value of the property, so when home prices go up so do property taxes. The market in Texas (especially Dallas) is red-hot right now, meaning a lot of counties are increasing the amount they are charging home owners for taxes. Increased taxes=increased expense, and that gets passed onto tenants.
  2. Insurance: Insurance is another item that increases with property values. Since most insurances cover "replacement value" (how much it will cost to rebuild the house in case it is destroyed completely), the yearly premium goes up when the market does.
  3. Market influences: We have seen rents go up in neighborhoods by as much as $150 a month. While we usually do not want to raise good tenants to market value, we sometimes have to close the gap between market value and what the tenant is currently paying. Also, the vacancy rates are extremely low, meaning owner are having no problems finding new tenants.
There are some items you can do as the tenant to decrease a rent jump. The biggest thing is call your landlord and speak with them. Most of the time, owners would rather keep a good tenant than pay vacancy costs. Some of the items tenants can offer to do to bring down the rent is sign a longer lease or offer to pay for an improvement.

Want some more information on the current landlord's market? Read this article at MSN.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

An explanation of the TAR Residential Lease

If you are renting a house in Texas, most likely you will be signing the TAR lease.

For agent and property managers who have drawn a million leases, they are pretty familiar with the form and what terms are set out. For renters who maybe read a lease every year or so it's a much more daunting task.

This video was put out by the Texas Association of REALTORS® (TAR) explaining the lease paragraph by paragraph. ALWAYS read your lease before signing and if you have any questions, contact your attorney.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ask an Agent: Property Management Costs

What my company mostly does is manage properties. We started with my broker's 27 personal rental properties and today we manage about 110. I've worked there for almost 5 years, so I've seen it all from awesome tenants who leave the property better than when they found it, to people leaving dead animals at move out. It gets...interesting...sometimes.

If you have that great tenant that never moves and calls in one repair request a year, this post is not for you. You can just go here. If you have 5 or more units, people calling an emailing all the time with repair requests, or trouble tenants who don't pay, you probably have wondered, "How much does a property manager cost?"

At North Texas Homes, it's one month's rent to find the tenant. We just don't throw it into the MLS and wait though. That price includes advertising on other internet sites, showings, fielding calls from interested folks, tenant screening (credit, criminal background, landlord reference, and employment verification), drawing the lease, and collecting the deposit. And since it's the in MLS, part of that one month's rent goes to paying the other real estate agent.

On a monthly basis, the charge is 10% of the collected rents up to $125. So for a $600 per month rental, the charge is $60. For a $1400 a month rental, it's only $125. We collect rents, take all repair requests (we even have an after hours emergency hotline that's available 24/7), collect late fees, and if we have to, evict. If your tenant is not paying or the property is vacant, you DO NOT pay the monthly fee.

But what about renewals? And repairs? It depends on your contract, but most of owners only pay $75 if a tenant renews. And repairs, we don't mark up. We do hold a reserve of $300 for little repairs that come up, like a clogged sink. Anything over $300, we call the owner first.

Did I cover everything? Any other questions about costs of a property manager and what we'll do? Feel free to ask!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Ready to sell?

My husband and I are big Dave Ramsey fans, so of course I follow his Facebook page. Today they posted article about getting ready to sell your house. Since the market in Dallas is so hot right now, a lot of people have been asking about selling so I thought I'd share his advice.

First you need to ask yourself if you're ready financially. That means knowing how much equity you have in your house. Equity is how much you think you can get for your house minus what you still owe on your mortgage. A couple years ago, a lot of properties were "underwater" or had negative equity, meaning they owed more on their houses than what they were worth. Now prices are climbing and you may have a good amount left over if you decide to sell and pay off your mortgage. Also, you need to make sure you can afford the down payment and closing on your new home.

You also need to check if you're emotionally ready. Remember how stressful it was buying your current home? Selling is just as stressful. There's papers to sign, repairs to get done, and you need to keep your home in showing condition. And if you are buying a new home at the same time, it's double the stress.

If you are thinking of selling, see what other homes in your neighborhood have sold for by using a market snapshot.

Is it time to sell your house?