Find the latest information about getting your home ready to sell, market reports, and what steps you need to take to buy a home.

Feb. 10, 2021

DeSoto Home Buyer Program

The DeSoto Homebuyer's Assistance Program provides down payment and closing cost assistance to low-income first-time homebuyers.  The program is intended to stabilize neighborhoods and provide affordable owner housing opportunities for DeSoto families.  

DeSoto Home Buyers Program

Posted in Buyer Resources
Feb. 4, 2021

Texas tenants behind on rent will soon be able to seek aid from $1.3 billion assistance program

By Juan Pablo Garnham
@TexasTribune

The Texas Tribune, texastribune.org
February 3, 2021

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State officials plan to roll out a $1.3 billion rental assistance program for Texans struggling to keep up with housing payments during a shaky economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The new program comes after a separate state initiative was criticized for its limited scope and because many landlords declined to participate.

More than 1.6 million Texans had little or no confidence in being able to pay next month’s rent, according to a January survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Assistance for the new program will only be available to households that make no more than 80% of the area’s median income, which varies by county and by the number of members in a household. In 2020, for example, the threshold for a family of four in the Houston area was around $63,000.

The new program, which is expected to start in two weeks, will help with up to 15 months of rent, both for past or future payments. According to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, around 80,000 households will be able to receive assistance. Both landlords and tenants will be able to apply. Once the program is running, the payments could take up to two weeks to reach the tenants or landlords if the paperwork is filed correctly, said Brooke Boston, deputy executive director of programs at the agency.

TDHCA will be providing updates on how to apply in the upcoming weeks through their website and a mailing list.

The program comes after renters have spent months depending on local funds and nonprofit organizations for rental assistance. Many of those programs were quickly depleted.

In October, the state created a separate pilot program for assistance in 19 counties. This initiative, called the Eviction Diversion Program, has been available for tenants in specific county courts when they were going through the eviction process. To get the funds, landlords would have to agree to participate in the initiative in front of the justice of peace.

“My general impression is that it is not working very well, and that’s primarily because landlords are not interested in participating in the program,” said Matt García, staff attorney for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, last week. “Oftentimes the justice of the peace asks both parties if they are interested and landlords don’t want to, and it ends the conversation there.

That program dedicated $3.3 million to pay up to six months of rent for tenants. As of Dec. 31, it had distributed $1.3 million among 235 households across the state, although TDHCA officials say that most funds are already committed by now. Since the first round has been mostly depleted, TDHCA has already announced a second round of more than $36 million in rental assistance that will be distributed through 45 cities and counties.

Housing advocates not only criticized this limited coverage, but also that the first round of funds required the landlord’s approval.

García said that out of all his eviction cases, no tenants have been able to receive the funds.

“And I do this full time,” he said.

TDHCA now hopes to provide help before eviction proceedings begin.

“It was kind of a last minute Hail Mary to help somebody out, but it's better to get rental assistance early on,” said Bobby Wilkinson, executive director of the TDHCA. “We hope to catch as many people as possible before they ever get to that stage with our [new] statewide rental assistance program, but we're going to keep some of that money for the people that fall through the cracks.”

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, which is providing funds for the new program, it only applies to rental units and tenants have to show that they have qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced financial hardships due to COVID-19. Applicants also have to demonstrate that they are in risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

“It does sound promising,” said David Mintz, vice president of government affairs for the Texas Apartment Association, which represents landlords across the state. “We are hopeful that this is going to help fill part of the need that is out there.”

Housing advocates, which have warned about the challenges of previous programs, also cheered the creation of the new program.

“I think it’s fantastic. We are finally getting a rental assistance program to the scale and the magnitude of the crisis,” said Eli Barrish, policy analyst at the housing advocacy organization Texas Housers. “The biggest issue of the previous program is that it was so little money. We finally have something that is equal to the task.”

TDHCA will centralize the application process through a website and a call center. One concern is that high demand could overwhelm the call center and website, like what has happened with unemployment benefits throughout the pandemic.

Bobby Wilkinson, from TDHCA, said that the agency is working to be ready, and that the call center will have a capacity of “a few hundred” workers.

“I would say to [tenants] be patient, help is coming, work with your landlords. And to landlords, I would say don't file evictions, work with your tenant and apply for this new source of money to make yourself full,” Wilkinson said. “You'll get some back rent and some rent looking forward. This is going to be a good tool to help everybody.”

Advocates, though, still worry about renters who don’t have reliable internet access.

“There needs to be ways to access the program other than the online portal, because of the digital divide. We also need it to be language accessible,” Barrish said. “It’s incredibly important that this happens quickly.”

TDHCA spokeswoman Kristina Tirloni said people without internet access can also apply over the phone.

“For those with technological challenges, call center staff will be available via phone to help with the application process,” she said in an email.

Information about how to apply and who is eligible will be available in Spanish, and the agency is looking to provide it in other languages like Mandarin and Vietnamese.

Tirloni said TDHCA will also advertise the program and work with organizations like the Texas Affiliation of Affordable Housing Providers to get the word out to potential beneficiaries.

But it is not yet clear if the website will be fully translated. The agency said they are still working on such details with their vendor. Translation services also will be available for people who speak other languages through the call center.

Tirloni said that the agency will gather racial and income data that would allow them to evaluate the programs' reach.

But Barrish is concerned that Black and Latino Texans will face a difficult time accessing the program, just as they have experienced challenges accessing vaccines.

“We need to make sure that the same doesn't happen with rent relief,” Barrish said.

Disclosure: Texas Affiliation of Affordable Housing Providers (TAAHP) has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

"Texas tenants behind on rent will soon be able to seek aid from $1.3 billion assistance program" was first published at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/03/texas-rent-assistance-evictions-help/ by The Texas Tribune. The Texas Tribune is proud to celebrate 10 years of exceptional journalism for an exceptional state.

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The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Feb. 2, 2021

How Much Mortgage Can You Actually Afford?

Buying a home is a big decision.  As home prices escalate, many buyers are spending more than they should on their home purchase.  This is especially true in North Texas where prices are being driven by demand and a shortage of supply. 

Unless you want to work to pay your mortgage, the rule of thumb is that mortgage payments, including property taxes and insurance, should be no more than 28 percent of your gross income.  Conservative money managers recommend spending no more than 25 percent.  

 

In real world numbers, here’s how this works.  A buyer who makes $60,000 annually would be able to afford $1,400 a month in monthly mortgage payments.  The monthly payment is figured by calculating $60,000 times 28 percent and then dividing that number by 12.

 

For borrowers with additional debts like student loans, credit cards, and car notes, lenders generally want the total debts not to exceed 36 percent of gross income.

 

If that same buyer had $20,000 in other debts like a car note or student loans, then the total outgo should be no more than $1,800 in monthly payments.  So, if car and student loan payments are $400 and $200, respectively, then the total amount of the mortgage payment shouldn’t exceed $1,200 a month.

 

Homeownership builds wealth, so if you’re wondering whether to buy the new car or buy the new house, smart money managers and your favorite Realtor would tell you to buy the new home.

 

Buying a home shouldn’t add stress to your life. Buy smart, use a Realtor.

Posted in Buyer Resources
Feb. 1, 2020

11 Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Entrance for Under $100

11 Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Entrance for Under $100

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: Cara Greenberg
Published: November 05, 2012


Wouldn't it be nice to approach your home's entrance with a grin instead of a grimace? Take our tips for beating a clear, safe, and stylish path to your front door.

First impressions count -- not just for your friends, relatives, and the UPS guy, but for yourself. Whether it's on an urban stoop or a Victorian front porch, your front door and the area leading up to it should extend a warm welcome to all comers -- and needn't cost a bundle.

Here's what you can do to make welcoming happen on the cheap.

#1 Get Rid of Overgrowth The path to your front door should be at least 3 feet wide so people can walk shoulder-to-shoulder, with an unobstructed view and no stumbling hazards. So get out those loppers and cut back any overhanging branches or encroaching shrubs.

#2 Light the Pathway
Landscape lighting makes it easy to get around at night. Solar-powered LED lights you can just stick in the ground, requiring no wiring, are surprisingly inexpensive. We found 8 packs for under $60 online.

#3 Paint Your Door
Borrow inspiration from London's lovely row houses, whose owners assert their individuality by painting their doors in high-gloss colors. The reflective sheen of a royal blue, deep green, crimson, or whatever color you like will ensure your house stands out from the pack. 

#4 Add a Door With Glass
A door with lots of glass is a plus for letting light into the front hall -- but if you also want privacy and a bit of decor, check out decorative window film. It's removable and re-positionable, and comes in innumerable styles and motifs. Pricing depends on size and design; many available for under $30.  A way to get the look of stained glass without doing custom work or buying a whole new door: Mount a decorative panel on the inside of the door behind an existing glass insert, $92 for an Arts and Crafts-style panel 20-inches-high by 11-inches-wide.

#5 Replace Door Hardware
While you're at it, polish up the handle on the big front door. Or better yet, replace it with a shiny new brass lockset with a secure deadbolt. Available for about $60.

#6 Add a Knocker
Doorbells may be the norm, but a hefty knocker is a classic that will never run out of battery life, and another opportunity to express yourself.

#7 Plant Evergreens
Boxwoods are always tidy-looking, the definition of easy upkeep. A pair on either side of the door is traditional, but a singleton is good, too. About $25 at garden centers. In cold climates, make sure pots are frost-proof (polyethylene urns and boxes mimic terracotta and wood to perfection).

#8 Make Your House Numbers Stand Out
Is your house number clearly visible? That's of prime importance if you want your guests to arrive and your pizza to be hot. Stick-on vinyl numbers in a variety of fonts make it easy, starting at about $4 per digit.

#9 A Nice Door Mat
A hardworking mat for wiping muddy feet is a must. A thick coir mat can be had at the hardware store for less than $20. Even fancier varieties can be found well under $50.

#10 Porch Lights
Fumbling for keys in the dark isn't fun. Consider doubling up on porch lights with a pair of lanterns, one on each side of the door, for symmetry and twice the illumination. Many mounted lights are available well under $100.

#11 A New Mailbox
Mailboxes run the gamut from kitschy roadside novelties masquerading as dogs, fish, or what-have-you to sober black lockboxes mounted alongside the front door. Whichever way you go, make sure yours is standing or hanging straight, with a secure closure, and no dings or dents. The mail carrier will thank you.

Posted in Market Report
Jan. 23, 2020

Curious About Local Real Estate?

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Curious about local real estate? So are we! Every month we review trends in our real estate market and consider the number of homes on the market in each price tier, the amount of time particular homes have been listed for sale, specific neighborhood trends, the median price and square footage of each home sold and so much more. We’d love to invite you to do the same!

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We can definitely fill you in on details that are not listed on the report and help you determine the best home for you. If you are wondering if now is the time to sell, please try out our INSTANT home value tool. You’ll get an estimate on the value of your property in today’s market. Either way, we hope to hear from you soon as you get to know our neighborhoods and local real estate market better.

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