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Great info for central Texas home owners

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Spring in Texas: Bulbs blooming. Hail pounding your roof. There’s nothing quite like that helpless, sinking feeling of wondering how many thousands of dollars you’ll be out or worrying about what’s happening to the new home you’re trying to buy.

Know what to do when hail and your roof meet

Understand your insurance policy and research roofing contractors before you need them.
By Judy Wiley – Special to The Austin American-Statesman

Spring in Texas: Bulbs blooming. Hail pounding your roof. There’s nothing quite like that helpless, sinking feeling of wondering how many thousands of dollars you’ll be out or worrying about what’s happening to the new home you’re trying to buy.

Unfortunately, no preventive measures exist to protect a roof. Even pricey high-impact shingles aren’t an absolute guarantee. But the people you might soon be dealing with — contractors, home inspectors and insurers — can offer insight into what to look for after a storm, how to deal with the damage and what steps to take toward getting it fixed.

“There are two ways people generally know they need a new roof,” says Gary Loyd, area manager and Central Texas division president for M & M Roofing, Siding and Windows. “Water leaking in the house, or everybody else in the neighborhood is getting a new roof.” If you’ve been out of town and hear roofers pounding away all around you after you get home, it’s wise to find out what the weather was like while you were gone and take a look at your property.

Just standing outside and looking at the roof won’t do much good, and neither will climbing up for a closer inspection unless the damage is severe, or you’re a roofer. A roof can be damaged to the point of needing replacement without appearing ruined to an untrained eye, Loyd says.

Contractors and insurance companies differ on exactly which expert to call. Loyd says some insurance companies will increase premiums if a claim is filed even if the adjuster doesn’t find damage.

Patti Kelly, a spokeswoman for State Farm Insurance in Austin, says that’s not the case for her company. The best solution: Call your insurer to find out about its policy so you’ll know what to do after a storm.

Another tip: Loyd suggests finding a good roofing contractor through the Better Business Bureau or references before you need one, so you’ll be ready to go when a catastrophe occurs. Having to screen contractors is a headache you don’t need if you already have a leaky roof.

A hailstorm doesn’t necessarily mean a new roof. Loyd says a lot of factors come into play. Older roofs typically sustain more damage. He notes that a roof covered in 20-year shingles that are 15 years old is more likely to develop problems than one covered in 30-year shingles last week.

In Texas, he says the lifespan of roofs is typically a little shorter than the year rating suggests. “With a three-tab, 20-year shingle, they’re lucky to get 15-16 years out of it,” he says. Thirty-year shingles last 22-24 years, 40-year shingles last about 33-34 years, he says.

Of course, the price goes up with the longevity, and it also rises depending on the cost of petroleum. Shingles are priced by the square, which is 10 feet by 10 feet, or 100 square feet. Three or four years ago, they ran about $45 a square for a 30-year shingle, Loyd says, and using middle-of-the-road shingles, a typical roof replacement was $3,500 to $5,000. Today, he says few roofs can be replaced for less than $10,000 to $12,000, with the price per square at $88-$90.

Impact-resistant shingles, which are designed to fare best of all in a hailstorm, run about $100 a square and up. Impact-resistant shingles might have a warranty of 30 to 50 years, and some carry lifetime warranties. Some insurance companies offer discounts to homeowners if they use Class 4 impact-resistant shingles, the highest rating.

If you’re looking at buying a new home, a home inspector can tell you what’s up there and what shape it’s in. Kenneth Larson of Austin Structural Inspections says he looks at whether the type of shingle is appropriate for the structure of the roof. He also checks for water damage in the attic and looks for hail damage.

Here are more tips from Kelly and Loyd on how to prepare for hail season:

– Have your roof checked for a few things that might be likely to fail and cause a leak, says Loyd, such as the caulk around plumbing vents. Also, he says, in the Texas heat, nails tend to back out a little from expansion and contraction, so finding popped nails and replacing any loose shingles could prevent a leak waiting to happen.

– Kelly says to review your insurance coverage and make sure it’s adequate. Make sure your company’s phone number is in a safe place.

– If damage occurs, she says to make any temporary repairs that can be made safely — covering a leak with a tarp, for example — to protect your belongings from further damage. Save receipts.

– An inventory of your belongings before they’re damaged is important for insurance replacement purposes. Videotape them and write down serial numbers. Keep any receipts for possessions.

– Go over your property and make a list of everything you want the adjuster to see, Kelly says.

– If you have to stay elsewhere, make sure to keep receipts for that as well.

Wiley, Judy “Know what to do when hail and your roof meet”
Special to The Austin American-Statesman. Published 8:37 a.m. Saturday, April 3, 2010.
http://www.statesman.com/business/real-estate/know-what-to-do-when-hail-and-your-516828.html

Tax Credits set to expire. What’s next?

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Amy and Jason Rask now own their first house, thanks to a federal tax credit for homebuyers.

Clock ticking on homebuyer tax credits

Austin market will keep rebounding even after credits expire, economist predicts.
By Shonda Novak – The Austin American-Statesman

Amy and Jason Rask now own their first house, thanks to a federal tax credit for homebuyers.

The Rasks paid $136,000 for a two-story house in Round Rock with three bedrooms and a swimming pool. A neighborhood playground backs up to their backyard, and their daughter Ava, 11/2, attends the Montessori school down the street.

“We’re very proud of it,” Amy Rask said. “Had the tax credit not been available, we would never have considered shopping for a home at this stage. The tax credit was our primary motivating factor.”

Last week, Amy Rask said, they received their tax refund check from the Internal Revenue Service for about $8,900, which included the $8,000 credit for first-time buyers.

But time is running out for buyers to take advantage of the credit. They must have a house under contract by April 30 and close by June 30 to qualify.

First-time buyers may qualify for up to $8,000, and move-up buyers could get as much as $6,500.

The tax credit began being offered in January 2009 for first-time buyers only. Congress extended it last fall and added people who already own homes. There’s no talk of another extension.

But even without the credit, the local housing market should be able to stand on its own, experts say.

Credit’s local impact

“The Texas economy is slowly rebounding from the recession, and Austin’s housing market should benefit as the employment situation improves,” said D’Ann Peterson, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “It may be a bumpy and slow recovery, but it does appear to be a recovery, and that is a good sign.”

Dominique Davalos, an agent with JB Goodwin Realtors, said that “between the Austin market strengthening and the seasonal increase that occurs every year at this time, our sales should be able to remain steady or even grow.”

The first incarnation of the credit helped catapult hundreds of thousands of first-time buyers into the market across the country. In Central Texas, there’s evidence the second version could be helping, too. Pending sales in February — those scheduled to close this month — were up 24 percent from a year ago, according to the Austin Board of Realtors.

However, local mortgage consultant Kenton Brown thinks that increase is due mostly to low mortgage interest rates, improved optimism about the economy and an earlier-than-usual boost from the spring buying season.

“I don’t know that the second-time credit has made that much of an impact,” said Brown, the vice president of Sente Mortgage , an Austin-based mortgage banker. “Some are taking advantage of it, but it’s not the prime mover.”

Brown said the first-time buyer credit did have a “trickle-up” effect, stimulating enough activity for existing homeowners to be able to move up.

Helen Edwards, president and chief operating officer for the Austin region of Coldwell Banker United, also said that “the primary reason for home-selling/buying decisions remains centered around ‘life events’ and not the tax credit.”

In addition, concern about whether mortgage interest rates, now hovering around 5 percent, will rise as the economy recovers “also has some buyers making a decision to move forward now,” she said.

But Davalos said the tax credit was “definitely” the impetus to buy for some of her clients — such as Jay Moeller, drummer for the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Moeller’s pending purchase of a $140,000 foreclosure home on a quarter-acre in East Austin was spurred by the credit, Davalos said.

Pushing sales forward

The Rasks had been renting a three-bedroom condominium in Pflugerville last year when the tax credit launched their home search earlier than they had planned.

“We wanted a house” but were “a good way” from saving enough for a down payment, Amy Rask said, but when they heard about the tax credit, “it definitely made us ready.”

Amy, 28, is the research manager at the Media Panel, a research firm that conducts pilot testing for television shows for major TV networks. Jason, 27, is a security officer at the University of Texas.

Amy Rask said she and her husband plan to use part of their tax-credit refund to repay her parents, who helped with the down payment, and save the rest for a kitchen renovation and other work.

Peterson, with the Federal Reserve, said she expects sales will be “pushed forward” as the tax-credit expiration date approaches.

Last fall, Peterson said the first-time buyer credit was probably the main driver behind a 38 percent increase in Austin-area home sales in October, noting that “we may be accelerating sales that would have occurred in the spring.”

However, both before and after the credit ends, “the figures will be murky as to what the true level of demand is,” Peterson said.

What happens in the coming months will be more telling of the health of the local market, she said, as well as other Texas markets and the nation .

“In Austin, sales are up from year-ago levels, and the inventory is not out of line. Plus job growth has picked up, and that does bode well for the future,” Peterson said.

Novak, Shonda “Clock ticking on homebuyer tax credits”
The Austin American-Statesman.
http://www.statesman.com/business/real-estate/clock-ticking-on-homebuyer-tax-credits-489593.html

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