10 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Mortgage

February 27th, 2017

Deciding to purchase a home is one of the most important financial decisions in an individual’s lifetime. While searching for the perfect home is the fun part, there are several steps to complete before evening beginning that search. What should you do before searching for homes online or taking any home tours? First and foremost, you should create a budget to determine what mortgage rate your budget can afford each month. Start by interviewing several mortgage lenders in your area. Determine their reputability through past reviews, and explain your financial situation – you’ll know when you’ve found the right one! The right lender will respect your financial situation and work hard to ensure you get the best rate. Once you have chosen a lender, he or she will run your credit and present you with options for what you qualify to borrow, your interest rate, and more! However, consider asking yourself these 10 questions before choosing a mortgage:

  1. What is the interest rate?
    • Your interest rate is determined by loan and your credit score. If you do not like the interest rate, consider cleaning up your credit score. A lower credit score may mean a lower interest rate.
  2. What is the monthly mortgage payment?
    • Ensure the monthly mortgage payment associated with your new home fits into your monthly budget. If it doesn’t, consider taking a smaller loan and purchasing a smaller home. You don’t want to risk your long-term or short-term financial goals.
  3. Is the mortgage fixed rate or an ARM?
    • A fixed rate mortgage remains the same for the duration of your loan, while an ARM (adjustable-rate mortgage) is an interest rate that changes at intervals after an initial period. An ARM is a good option if you are not thinking about staying in the home long-term, as this loan tends to have a lower interest rate at the beginning. However, be sure to ask what your interest rate will increase to after the initial period.
  4. What fees do I have to pay?
    • At closing, there is a one-time fee called “points.” Typically, for every point you pay your lender will decrease your interest rate by one percent. You can ask to pay zero at closing in exchange for a higher interest rate – be sure to ask your lender about this option.
  5. Does the loan have any prepayment penalties?
    • In some cases, you may have to pay a fee for making some extra mortgage payments to try to pay off your mortgage principal sooner. Be sure to ask your lender if your loan will have this fee.
  6. When can I lock in the interest rate and points? And, how much does this cost?
    • You may have the option to ask your lender to lock in an interest rate for a fee. This locked in interest rate will last for a certain amount of time. However, keep in mind, this could ensure that you benefit from a lower mortgage interest rate.
  7. What are the qualifying guidelines for this loan?
    • Ensure your lender explains all the guidelines for the loan before committing. These guidelines include, but are not limited to, the following: income, reserve requirements, sufficient funds for a down payment, closing costs, proof of income, and six-month of mortgage payments saved.
  8. What is the minimum down payment required for this loan?
    • The minimum down payment differs from loan to loan. However, most require a 20 percent down payment. If you do put down less than 10 percent, you will likely be required to pay a PMI (private mortgage insurance). However, if you qualify for an FHA loan, you can put down as little as 3.5 percent. Discuss these options with your lender before committing to a mortgage.
  9. Do I have to pay for mortgage insurance, and how much will this cost?
    • If you put down less than 20 percent, you will be required to pay mortgage insurance until your loan-to-value ratio is below 80 percent. A PMI (private mortgage insurance) can be spendy, around $100/month for every $100,000 borrowed.
  10. Do you have other mortgage products with lower rates? Can I qualify for these?
    • Ask you lender if they have any mortgage products with lower interest rates and if you can qualify for them. Chances are, your lender has already presented you with all the options. But, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Do you have any questions about the mortgage process? I know several lenders in the greater Austin area and would be happy to provide you with their information!



Prepare Your Home for a Spring Sale

February 14th, 2017

Are you considering selling your home this spring? If so, did you know that preparing your home for the spring market can make a huge difference? It’s true; a little preparation goes a long way with homebuyers! Preparing your home may increase its value and reduce its time on the market. How should you get your home ready for a spring sale? Here are a couple of tips to prepare your home for a spring sale:

Prepare your home for a Spring Sale Checklist - Michelle Busby


  • Keep your landscaping well-manicured and grass cut
  • Remove all yard clutter and unnecessary items
  • Apply fresh stain or paint to wooden fences and decks
  • Paint the front door and add pops of color using seasonal plants in pots
  • Sweep, power wash, and add a new mat to the front porch
  • Weed and add fresh mulch to garden beds
  • Add freshly-planted flowers to gardens
  • Power wash and/or paint the exterior
  • Wash all windows, interior and exterior
  • Clean gutters and downspouts; ensure all downspouts are securely attached
  • Ensure the key and lockset on all doors operate smoothly and properly


  • Remove excessive wall art, furniture, and personal items
  • Clean, touch-up, and/or paint walls and ceilings
  • Shampoo carpets and deep-clean hard surface flooring
  • Clean and organize cabinets and closets
  • Consider a temporary storage unit for unneeded items
  • Repair all plumbing leaks, including faucets and drain traps
  • Clean all light fixtures and ceiling fans
  • Consider purchasing fresh covers, pillow covers, and decorative pillows for beds
  • Buy fresh decorative towels for the kitchen and bathrooms
  • Buy fresh rugs for entryways, bathrooms, and kitchen
  • Place fragrant soaps in bathrooms

Click here for a printable checklist.

Would you like assistance preparing your home for the market? Give me a call; I would love to help in any way I can!

Or, if you just have questions, I’m here for you as well!

Filing Your 2016 Homestead Exemption

January 26th, 2017

It’s that time of year again…tax season. I know this is usually one of the most dreadful times of year – but, I’m here to help. By filing your homestead exemption, eligible Texas homeowners can save a percentage or dollar amount on their property taxes. How does it work? Here’s a roadmap to help you through the process:

homestead exemption

Who is Eligible for a Homestead Exemption?

Your home must meet the following requirements to qualify for a homestead exemption:

  • You must own you home on January 1.
  • The home must be your principal residence on January 1.

Also, it is vital that you update your address on your driver’s license and with the tax assessor/collector in your area. The address on your driver’s license or identification card MUST match the homestead exemption address.

The form and additional information must be filed by April 30th (of this year) to qualify.

Do ALL Homes Qualify?

No. Only a home used as your principal residence qualifies for the exemption. Your home must meet this definition of a residence homestead: The home’s owner must be an individual (i.e. not a corporation or other business entity) and use the home as his or her primary residential on January 1 of the tax year. If you are age 65 or older, the January 1 ownership and residency are not required.

How Does the Exemption Work?

A homestead exemption removes part of your home’s value from taxation, therefore lowering your property taxes. For example, if your home is appraised at $100,000, and you qualify for a $25,000 exemption, you will pay school taxes on the home as if it was worth only $75,000.

What Homestead Exemptions are Available?

The following homestead exemptions are available to you:

  • School taxes – All residence homestead owners may receive a $25,000 homestead exemption from their home’s value for school taxes
  • County taxes – If your county collects a special tax for roads or flood control, you may receive a residence exemption of $3,000 for county taxes.

Of course, check with your county for specifics.

How to Apply?

  • Complete Application
    • File an application with your county of residence. Married individuals should only list one person as the primary homeowner. If you are 65 years of age or older, or have a disability, make sure to follow your specific instructions.
  • Include Residency Proof Documents
    • Make sure you proof of residency documents match the information on your homestead exemption application (mainly the address).
  • Submit Application
    • You can mail, fax or hand deliver the application to your county’s appraisal office. Be sure to submit the form by April 30th to qualify for the exemption.

Homestead Exemption Forms (By County)

Travis County

Williamson County

Hays County 

Burnet County

Lampasas County 

When your homestead exemption is accepted, you do not have to apply again for the following tax year. Your homestead exemption will last as long as you live in that residence.

Do you have any questions about the homestead exemption process? I would be happy to provide guidance. Contact me anytime.

How to Sell Your Home in 2017

January 13th, 2017

A new year always brings about a little uncertainty, especially with the housing market. Interest rates are nudging upward, and potential policy changes may affect the real estate market this year. So, whether you’re a veteran or a rookie in the home selling process, here are a couple of tips on how to sell your home in 2017:

sell your home

Patience is Key – Don’t panic if your home doesn’t get any hits during its first week on the market. While several markets around the country see lots of action, the national average for a home on the market is around 50 days.

Competitive Price – The hot real estate market coupled with the low inventory across the country may prompt you to price your home at a price higher than it’s worth…do not fall for this! Listen to your agent and set you home listing price at a competitive rate in your market.

Consider the Latest Technology – Technology is constantly improving the way processes are completed. Make sure you are up-to-date with the latest technology. Currently, 3-D virtual reality tours make a home stand out. Also, look into drone technology – it’s gaining popularity! For more information on drone technology in real estate, click here.

In addition to these technologies, make sure you choose a real estate agent who utilizes several communication mediums to market your property to the full extent. In specific, ensure they use social media channels to market your property.

Highlight Listing Photos – Hire a professional photographer to capture the listing photos of your home. The first place a buyer will see your home is on the Internet! Hiring a professional photographer will help ensure that the photos of your listing stand out among the rest.

Tip-Top Shape – Before your home hits the market, consider reducing the clutter and unnecessary items. Realistically, your home should be nearly bare bones – just furniture and light decorative touches. Also, consider deep-cleaning the house – both inside, and out.

Agent Expertise – Your real estate agent is the expert when it comes to preparing your home for the market, determining market price, etc. Listening to your agent may help ensure that your home sells quickly and closer to asking value. They’re there to help you – try to remember that!

Weigh Costs of Improvements – Weigh the cost of renovations carefully with the value once the project is complete. While improvements and repairs may make your home sell faster and for a better value, you don’t want to finish a home renovation and then realize you lost money! So, map out the project first and determine if it’s realistic before you decide to tackle it!

While uncertainty is unavoidable, one thing is for sure: real estate is one of the best ways to build foundational, long-term wealth. If you have any questions about how to sell your home in the greater Austin area market, contact me anytime. I am always here for you. Contact me at  512-699-3425 or Michelle@CTXPG.com.





2017 Real Estate Market Predictions

December 19th, 2016

Predicting what will come in the next year, is just that – a prediction. The future is never set in stone. And, this is no more true than with with the nation’s real estate market. While we can predict and foresee what we think will happen, the real estate market can change on the drop of a dime. And, a new President makes it even harder to determine what will occur in the real estate market in the coming year. None the less, here are eight 2017 real estate market predictions:

2017 real estate market predictions

2017 Real Estate Market Predictions

Big Buyers – Millennials and Baby Boomers

  • Millennials – With the oldest Millennials in their mid-30s, we will start to see a trend of Millennials getting married, having children, and purchasing their first home.
  • Baby Boomers – As Baby Boomers reach their late 60s, many will look to move for their retirement years. Unlike past years when Boomers would move to warmer climate locations like Arizona and Florida, experts predict that more Boomers will choose to move closer to their family.

Slight Increase in Home Values – In 2016, national home values rose by about 4.8 percent. Experts predict that home values will continue to grow in 2017, but slightly less than in 2016. The increase in home values in 2017 is predicted to be around 3.6 percent.

Move to Suburbs for Affordability – After the market crash of 2008, many were able to move back to the city and take advantage of lower housing prices than before. However, with the market finally stabilizing, experts predict we will see a trend of individuals moving out of the city to the suburbs for more affordable housing options.

New Home Build Price Increase– With a shortage of labor in the construction industry, experts predict the value of new home builds will increase in 2017. This lack of labor is forcing builders to pay higher wages to employees to be competitive.

Millennials Settle Down in Midwest – Experts predict that more Millennials will decide to stay and settle down in the Midwest. Predicted favorite spots include Madison, Wisconsin; Columbus, Ohio; Omaha, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. While experts do predict more Millennials to settle down in the Midwest, they do not foresee an increase in Millennials moving to those cities.

West Coast Prices Continue Upward Trend – The West Coast states are already some of the most expensive states in the country, and it looks like they’ll continue their upward trend in 2017. Why are the West Coast states the place to be? Where there is job growth, there is an increase in population! Since the 2008 recession, the Western States have seen the most significant job growth, and most have been outperforming the Eastern States.

Improved Rental Affordability – According to Zillow, rental rates are predicted to increase by only 1.5 percent in 2017. This decrease in the increase of rental prices is the result of an increased supply of apartment buildings and rental units around the country.

Increase in Mortgage Rates – Since the 2008 recession, the country has seen some of the lowest mortgage rates in history…and even more than that, the low levels stuck around for several years. However, this looks to change in 2017. As the market normalizes, mortgage rates will start to increase. So, if you’re considering purchasing a home in the next year, act now when mortgage rates are lower!

Remember, these are just predictions for the upcoming year. It is uncertain what the real estate market will do in 2017 – we will just have to wait and see!

Do you have any questions about the real estate market in Austin? Give me a call. I would love to answer any questions you may have.




An Austin Holiday

December 14th, 2016

With Austin illuminated for the holiday season, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year! Do you have any festive holiday plans this year? If you don’t or you’re looking for some new events and activities to fill in the gaps, here are some of my favorite Austin holiday events in and around the area:

Austin Holiday


Austin Holiday Events:

Zilker Park Trail of Lights

  • December 10 – December 23
  • Zilker Park – Downtown Austin

Zilker Park’s Trail of Lights is Austin’s largest holiday light display! Go online and purchase your tickets (and parking pass) early to skip the line! It could save you 20 minutes! Hot cocoa and snacks are available for purchase in the park!

Rock’N Lights Holiday Light Tour 

  • November 28 – December 26
  • Round Rock, TX

Rock’N Lights is a drive-through light show that features thousands of sparkling lights. The light show starts at Old Setters Park (4111 E. Old Settlers Blvd.) and ends at Christmas Towne (Hwy. 79). Times vary by the day – visit the website for more information!

Holiday Lights & Ice

  • December 16 – January 1
  • Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa

Omni Barton Creek’s annual Holiday Lights & Ice event benefits the Central and South Texas Make-A-Wish Foundation. The event features ice skating, s’mores, games, twinkling lights (over 200,000 lights), and more!

Santa’s Ranch

  • November 4 – January 3
  • New Braunfels, TX

Come out to Santa’s Ranch and enjoy one of the best holiday light displays in the state! You’ll drive through over a mile of winding country roads while taking in the beautiful lights and animated Christmas displays. Hot cocoa, kettle corn, and snacks are available for purchase. Tickets are 28 + tax per vehicle.

The Nutcracker at the Ballet Austin

  • December 3 – 23
  • The Long Center – Downtown Austin

Austin’s rendition of The Nutcracker is the longest-running production of The Nutcracker in Texas! Celebrating 54 years, this is a must-see event for the entire family!

Armadillo Christmas Bazaar

  • December 14 – 24
  • Palmer Events Center

Hot music, fine art, and cold beer make the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar the place to be during the holiday season. The Bazaar is two events in one: an art fair and music festival! Shop local arts and crafts while listening to some music!


I hope everyone has the merriest of celebrations this holiday season!

Do you have any questions about the Austin area? I love my community and would love to answer any questions you may have!



Top 28 Holiday Events in Austin & Central Texas

Stage Your Home for a Holiday Sale

November 23rd, 2016

Are you considering listing your home this holiday season? The holidays provide the perfect opportunity to place your home on the market. If you’re looking to sell your home, you can have the best of both worlds – list your home while it’s dolled up for the holiday season. As a rule of thumb, be prudent when decorating for the holidays while your home is for sale. Take a look at these ways to stage your home for a holiday sale without making it look like Santa’s workshop:

holiday sale

Outside Holiday Décor – While it may be tradition, forego the inflatable snowman or Santa Claus when your home is on the market. Stick to the traditional string lights that draw attention to your home’s architectural details. What makes your home unique? If the prominent feature of your home is the trees outside, consider wrapping them with string lights to make them a focal point. As an extra touch, add a Christmas-themed wreath to the front door. Nothing says, “welcome to our home” more than a seasonal and tasteful wreath on the front door.

Inside Holiday Décor –Your Christmas tree, decorated like it is every year, provides a beautiful, homey touch to any house during the holiday season. What is your home’s selling feature? If it’s the front entrance with the prominent staircase, consider adding some lit garland and bows. Or, if it’s the fireplace, add some decorations to make it stand out from the rest of the living room. Traditional ideas: nativity scene, wreath above the mantel, mason jars filled with poinsettias and ornaments, or a lit strand of garland.

Remember, it’s easy to go overboard when it comes to Christmas decorations. But, a little can go a long way! Tastefully stage your home to highlight the holiday season.

Do you have any questions about holiday home staging? Give me a call. I would love to help in any way I can.

An Austin Thanksgiving

November 14th, 2016

Can you believe it’s already November? Do you know what that means? It’s almost Thanksgiving! It’s time for the season of giving thanks for the things you have in your life, eating copious amounts of turkey and Thanksgiving pecan pie, watching professional football, taking afternoon naps, and, for some, participating in this year’s Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot! Thanksgiving is one of the best times of year! And, living in the Austin area, we are lucky to have so many great events and restaurants to enjoy during this fantastic holiday season! Take a look at some of the events happening around the Austin area this Thanksgiving:


26th Annual Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot: Thursday, November 24, 2016

  • What better way to get in the spirit of the holiday than starting your Thanksgiving Day off with a 5-mile or one-mile run with the proceeds benefitting the Caritas of Austin! The 26th Annual Turkey Trot will start at The Long Center.

Operation Turkey: Thursday, November 24, 2016

  • Are you in the giving spirit? Well, what better way to give back to the Austin community than to volunteer to help prepare and distribute holiday meals to those in need on Thanksgiving Day? Go to the Operation Turkey website for more information on this fantastic giveback program.

Thanksgiving at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines: Thursday, November 24, 2016

  • Not in the mood to cook a Thanksgiving meal this year? Well, the Hyatt Regency at Lost Pines has a Thanksgiving Buffet that is perfect for you! Their Thanksgiving buffet features all the holiday items you could want, plus more! Take a look here for more information about their Thanksgiving buffet.

Would your Thanksgiving holiday be complete without a little pecan pie? I don’t think so! Check out these outstanding pecan pie locations throughout the Austin area:

Thanksgiving pecan pie

Upper Crust Bakery

  • Location: 4503 Burnet Road
  • Features a soft crust with velvety custard filling.

Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery

  • Location: 411 E. 43rd Street
  • Features an abundance of nuts over creamy filling.

Flightpath Coffee House

  • Location: 5011 Duval Street
  • Features a crunchy and salty crust!

Tiny Pies

  • Locations: 5035 Burnet Road #100 and 2032 S. Lamar Blvd.
  • Pre-order your Thanksgiving Pie by November 16th!
  • Tiny pies with a bold taste!


  • Location: 208 W. 4th Street
  • Features a fantastic pecan pie tart with ice cream on the side.

Are your taste buds tingling yet? I know mine are! Which location is on your list for this holiday season?

I wish you and your family a fantastic and joyful Thanksgiving Day!

Do you have any questions about the Austin area? I love this incredible city and would love to answer any questions you may have!



7 Thanksgiving Events in Austin, TX: 2016

5 Places That Serve Outstanding Pecan Pie in Austin

Austin’s Best Trick-or-Treating Neighborhoods

October 28th, 2016

What do you think of when you think of Halloween? Pumpkins, costumes, haunted houses and trick-or-treating? Of course! That’s what Halloween is all about…at least since the 1950’s. But, Halloween hasn’t always been considered this family-friendly kid-centric holiday. What is the true history behind this holiday we call Halloween? Take a look at this short video from the History Channel to discover the history of Halloween.

Since our version of Halloween consists of dressing up in a costume and trick-or-treating around your neighborhood, let’s take a look at some of the best trick-or-treating locations Austin has to offer! Take a look:

  1. Highland Lakes
  2. Canyonwood
  3. Belvedere
  4. Ledge Stone
  5. Knollwood
  6. Preswyck Hills
  7. Ladera
  8. Crested Butte Hillside
  9. Scenic Brook West
  10. Woodhaven

These rankings are based on Nextdoor’s (the social network for neighborhoods) research of neighborhoods around the Austin area. Of course, your neighborhood will have trick-or-treating – these neighborhoods were just ranked the best in the area! Curious what your neighborhood looks like for trick-or-treating this year? Take a look at Nextdoor’s treat map here!

Are you looking for a unique activity for this Halloween? Well, Austin has no shortage of spooky and fun activities for this Halloweekend and into Halloween. Take a look at some of the best in Austin:


Also, we all know Halloween would be incomplete without a few blood pumping spooky and frightening haunted house visits. Here is a list of some of the Austin area’s best haunted houses!

Trick-or-treating, Halloween events throughout the Austin area, and haunted houses? This Halloween looks to be one for the ages! I hope everyone has a spooktacular Halloweekend and Halloween.

Do you have any questions about the Austin real estate market? I love our wacky and weird community and would love to answer any questions you may have. Give me a call anytime.



Top 10 best Austin neighborhoods for Trick-or-Treating

6 Pumpkin Patches around Austin

October 7th, 2016

Nothing says fall more than hayrides, corn mazes, farm animals, and of course, pumpkins! Fall wouldn’t be the same without the countless pumpkin patches to visit in and around the Austin area – and as Austinites, we have so many it can be hard to decide which one to visit. Some of you may already have a favorite pumpkin patch that you visit every year; but, if you’re new to the Austin area, or if you’re just looking for a new pumpkin patch to explore, below are a couple of my favorites in the Austin area. Better yet, these pumpkin patches have more than just pumpkins – most have fall festivals that run into November! From corn mazes to hayrides to even some with live music, the pumpkin patches below provide fun fall activities for the entire family:


Red Barn Garden Center

Location: 12881 Pond Springs Road, Austin, TX 78729

Pumpkin Patch is open daily during business hours

Red Barn’s Annual Pumpkinfest: October 15th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Sweet Berry Farms

Location: 1801 FM 1980, Marble Falls, TX 78654

Hours: Monday to Saturday (excluding Wednesdays) from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from September 24th to November 6th!

Harvest the Fall Fun: There is no entrance or parking fee for the festival, you just pay for each event you choose. On the weekends in October, the Pumpkin Grille provides food for purchase.


Texas Big Worm Pumpkin Patch

Location: 4625 TX-29, Bertram, TX 78605

Hours: Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Fun of Fall: Admission to the farm is free but you pay for activities. Food and beverages are available for purchase. A big grill, serving hamburgers, sausage wraps, grilled cheese, etc., is open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Barton Hill Farms

Location: 1115 Farm to Market 969, Bastrop, TX 78602

Hours: Open Weekends from September 24th to November 13th (Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

The Fall Festival: Tickets to this fall festival cost $14/person (0-2 year-olds are free). Purchasing a ticket gets you access to all fall activities on the farm. Purchase your tickets online to save $1.


Evergreen Farms Christmas Tree

Location: 242 Monkey Road, Elgin, TX 78621

Hours: They are open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. all October.

Pumpkin Hunt: Hosted every weekend in October. Fall activities for this event require a $2.50 ticket. In addition, pumpkins of all sizes are available for purchase.


Elgin Christmas Tree Farm

Location: 120 Natures Way, Elgin, TX 78621

Hours: Open at 10 a.m. Monday to Saturday and noon on Sundays

Pumpkin Festival: October 15th – 16th and 22nd – 23rd, Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays from 12 to 5 p.m. Admission price is $7 for kids 2-12 and $9 for ages 13 and up. Parents can enjoy live music while kids enjoy the fall activities.


Did you find the perfect pumpkin to carve into this year’s Halloween Jack-O-Lantern? For your reference, here is a link with several pumpkin carving patterns and stencils.

After spending the time carving your pumpkin it can be extremely disappointing for it to rot before Halloween. So, after carving, spray all the carved areas of the pumpkin with a bleach solution (1 tablespoon of bleach per quart of water). Allow the bleach to penetrate the pumpkin and let dry for approximately 20 minutes. Once dry, rub all the carved areas with petroleum jelly. Applying the bleach and petroleum jelly will help keep your pumpkin from rotting before Halloween. And, as an extra precautionary measure, always keep your pumpkin out of direct sunlight.

Do you have a favorite Austin area pumpkin patch that isn’t on this list? Let me know! I would love to add it to my list next year!

I hope you have a fun and festive fall season! And, happy carving!