Do you have a less-than-perfect credit score?

Laura Hill Local Katy Realty
Credit Score Chart

If you have a less-than-perfect credit score, how hard is it to get a mortgage these days? And what interest rate are you likely to pay?
Mortgage Hurdles
Getting a mortgage isn’t as easy as it was during the housing boom, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lenders reserve the best rates for borrowers with at least a 720 FICO score. But it’s possible, with a score in the 600’s, to secure a mortgage at a higher interest rate as long as the borrower has an otherwise solid portfolio. It helps to be buying in a neighborhood where prices have been relatively stable. Lenders are not eager to write loans for condos in South Florida or Las Vegas, said Keith Gumbinger, vice-president of mortgage and loan information publisher

When it comes to finding the right real estate agent, there is none better than a Realtor like Laura Hill at Laura Hill Realty.

How to Pay Off Your Mortgage Faster

Laura Hill Local Katy Realty
Can I pay off my mortgage early?
42% of Americans say that their mortgage is the debt they most want to eliminate.

A mortgage is often the largest debt that one undertakes & as a result, many homeowners look to pay it off as soon as they can. If you are fortunate enough to be 1 in 3 homeowners that own their home, then you have the opportunity to have a great deal of financial freedom which could lead you into buying an investment property, second home, a child’s college tuition, new automobiles, vacations, home improvements, stock investments, business investments or other wish list items.

Try one of these proven strategies to reduce your mortgage.
  • Refinance with a shorter-term mortgage
    Most 30 year mortgages can be reduced to 20, 15 or even 10 years. Of course the monthly payments will be higher, but the mortgage/loan is paid off much sooner saving you thousands of dollars.
  • Make bi-weekly mortgage payments
    Bi-weekly payments involve 26 half-payments each year instead of the standard 12 full payments. By making 13 full payments each year, you will pay down the principal sooner & reduce the amount of interest you will have to pay over the long run which will save you thousands of dollars.
  • Increase your mortgage payment
    You can also increase the amount you pay towards the principal of the payment each month. Most people have higher incomes for several years into their mortgage than they did when they first took it out. Keeping your payment on par with your increases of income will help reduce your mortgage amount tremendously & may reduce the amount of your monthly payments over time.
  • Make additional payments
    Try making extra payments when you can. If you have extra money anytime during the year, then put it toward your principal.
These are very good, proven methods to reduce and in many cases, dramatically change your mortgage payments to a lower dollar amount. One of the hardest aspects of these methods is to stay diligent, consistent, & disciplined & if you persevere, then you will find yourself in a big profit in just a short few years.
When it comes to finding the right real estate agent, there is none better than a Realtor like Laura Hill at Laura Hill Realty.

Flood Disaster Protection Act – Does this affect you?

Flood Disaster Protection Act - Does this affect you?
Flooding in Houston, Tx April 19, 2016

Flood Disaster Protection Act –
A photo from Houston back on April 19, 2016 shows flooding in a neighborhood due to heavy rainfall in just 2 days & we are reminded very quickly how things can dramatically change literally overnight.

Ok, I will apologize in advance for the history lesson, but its unfortunately necessary to understand how the Flood Disaster Protection Act affects all of us. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have maps that are updated as funds & data changes. Sometimes home owners do not know that their property may be in a flood zone, even before or after the purchase of their home. Flood zones can change on average about once every 3 – 5 years depending where your property is located and recent history of flooding in a specific area. Of course, this can affect the sale of your home tremendously in the listing price, insurance coverage amounts, as well as for the buyer in regard to any lending or mortgages that may need to occur.
The National Flood Insurance Act of 1968.
This created the Federal Insurance Administration & made flood insurance available for the first time as a separate coverage of your home & more importantly, affordable flood insurance for you. The Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 made the purchase of flood insurance mandatory for the protection of property located in Special Flood Hazard Areas. The creation of this Act resulted in the creation of the NFIP, National Flood Insurance Program, which enables property owners in participating communities to purchase insurance protection, administered by the government, against losses from flooding, and requires flood insurance for all loans or lines of credit that are secured by existing buildings, manufactured homes, or buildings under construction, that are located in a community that participates in the NFIP. Whew!!! Ok, so what does that mean for you?
It means this insurance is designed to provide an alternative to disaster assistance to meet the escalating costs of repairing damage to homes, commercial buildings & their contents caused by floods. As of April 2015, the program insured about 6.5 million homes, the majority of which were in Texas & Florida. Since the intended purpose of the NFIP program is to reduce the overall costs of floods & to lessen the blow to individuals hit by major floods, then in reality if your property is defined to be in a flood zone, you as a home owner have the option to purchase flood insurance at a much more affordable rate versus a private insurance company.
The bottom line is, as a home owner, you have the option of getting better affordable flood insurance if your property is in a flood zone.

When it comes to finding the right real estate agent, there is none better than a Realtor like Laura Hill at Laura Hill Realty.

How to Get the Most Money for Your Home

A clean, tidy kitchen that sparkles always gets the buyers attention.
A beautiful, clean kitchen goes far with buyers.

A clean, neat house can add an additional $5,000- $20,000 to your asking price. Using this method we sold our house in 10 days. You want to know how to get the most money for your home, then keep reading.
As soon as you find out that you are moving, start getting rid of things you don’t need or use any more. It is ridiculous to move things that are never used to another house. They will merely clutter your space as they did before. Get rid of all of it!!!
1. To begin de-cluttering, start with one room or one cabinet at a time. Packing while carrying out your usual routine may make it easier. For example, pack the bathroom cabinet while the kids are in the tub or de-clutter a kitchen drawer while you are waiting for something to boil. You will be amazed how fast this method goes.

2. Get rid of anything that is broken, old or that you just don’t like. Hold a garage sale, it not only eliminates things, but can also provide a little cash. The goal is to eliminate clutter so don’t price your items to high! A good rule of thumb is 10%-25% of retail.

3. As you go from room to room de-cluttering, organize using three boxes: one for garage sale items, one for things to give away and one for trash. When you take a break from organizing, keep the three boxes set up in the utility room or garage so that when you find something laying around you can toss it in the appropriate box. Keep an extra large trash can set up in the house. You won’t have to empty the trash as often.

4. After thinning out your stuff go through each room. Start from the top of the room working down to the bottom by cleaning every hard surface. Besides polishing furniture, Windex all windows, mirrors, steam cleaning carpets and tile floors. Don’t forget bleaching light switches, plug outlets, base boards, door knobs, door frames.

Think of it this way, would you want to buy a home where you had to clean the previous owners mess. Give your buyers a home that has been care for!

Clutter is visually disturbing to potential buyers. One of the biggest reasons houses don’t sell is they are cluttered and/or dirty.
When you are trying to sell your house and you will be showing it to potential buyers, pack up things that you only use occasionally. Stack all your packed boxes in the garage or the corner of a room. This is NOT the time to make your house comfortable for you, but attractive to sell.

After you have de-cluttered, it is time to DEEP CLEAN.

KITCHEN – Clean the sink, stove and refrigerator. Don’t forget to clean the fronts of your cabinets. Wipe fingerprints off of everything, including walls and light switch plates. Remove as much as you can from the counter tops. Make sure that the space under your kitchen sink is clean because everyone always checks the plumbing under the sink. Sweep, mop the floor and empty the trash.

BEDROOMS – Make beds, pick up clothes, clear off dressers, end tables and other furniture. Dust, vacuum and make sure closets are uncluttered, neat and clean.

BATHROOM – Put away (meaning in a box or drawer out of site) all bathroom items including makeup, shampoos, baby toys and toiletries. Clean the sink, tub and toilet. One trick I learned while cleaning houses professionally was to take a soft cloth and dry everything well, to prevent water spots. It is especially important to shine the metal fixtures. Clean under the sink, empty the trash and wipe off light switch plates. Mop the floor. As in the kitchen, the less clutter you have, the better. Keep one nice set of towels handy that you can put out when you are showing the house.

LIVING ROOM – Remove all unnecessary items that are laying around on the furniture including toys, magazines and newspapers. Remove all pictures and accessories that are not adding to the decor of the room, either pack them or garage sale them. Dust (don’t forget to dust the pictures on the walls) and vacuum.

GARAGE – Don’t overlook the garage! Make sure things are neatly placed and sweep the floor. Place all items in boxes if you can. Neatly stacked boxes give a better impression than piles of stuff.

If your carpets are dirty be sure to either rent a carpet cleaner or have them professionally cleaned. Seeing all kinds of carpet stains from kids is a big turn off to potential buyers.


A beautiful clean room goes a far way for home buyers.
A bouquet of flowers and clean areas are a nice touch and a must for sellers.

Keep a basket in each room so that you can quickly throw things in it when you have to show your home. This is particularly useful if you have children and you usually have toys on the floor. Hide the basket in a closet or put it in your car as you leave before showing. Don’t leave open trash cans sitting around. No over flowing trash cans, or smells. Mostly on kitchen trash cans, make sure they are clean and shine.

Turn lights on in every room including the garage. This will make the house show better.

In a potpourri pot or pan, simmer some cinnamon with either or all of the following: ginger, nutmeg, or cloves. It is best to stay away from strong scented candles with berry, apple, peach or other similar smells because some people find these scents overpowering and unpleasant. Most people do however like the smell of baked goods, so smells like butter rum, hazelnut, sugar cookies would be nice in a warmer pot.

When it comes to finding the right real estate agent, there is none better than a Realtor like Laura Hill at Laura Hill Realtor. Look me up at, 832-771-1314.

Realtors’ Leader is Wary of Limited Inventory

Homes for sale Katy, Tx Sales Trend
Sales Trend Comparison Feb. 2013-14

According to Nancy Sarnoff, Houston Chronicle –, she explains how the chair of Houston’s realty association, describes the current housing picture. “Tight home supply lifts prices, but could slow sales,” the chairman of Houston Realty Association,, Chaille Ralph, warns. She goes on to say, “We still need inventory. That’s critical to see the market move.” The Houston Association of Realtors released its monthly report on the local housing market and the inventory, which is measured in months, fell to a new low in December & hasn’t budged since, putting shoppers at a disadvantage when negotiating to purchase homes in some areas.
Realtor Yau Tam, was representing a buyer recently who was one of multiple bidders on a property in Rice Military priced in the low $400,00’s. Her client got the home because she offered several thousand dollars more than the seller was asking & submitted a stack of bank statements “to show she was a slam-dunk for loan approval,” Tam said. “Even homes in the low $100,000 are getting multiple offers & are very competitive to buy,” she said.
The Houston area has had a 2.6-month supply of inventory since the end of last year, meaning it would take that long to sell all the homes on the market based on recent activity, according to the association. Six months of inventory is considered a healthy market where neither buyer nor seller has the upper hand. Pending sales, an indicator of future activity, totaled 3,777 at the end of February, a 2.6 decline compared to last year. That leads Ralph to believe the pace of sales will slow. But even if the market retreats, she said, it’s not for lack of demand. “There are plenty of buyers out there that are trying to compete,” she said.
Buyers closed on 4,765 single-family homes in February. That’s an 8.3 increase over the same month a year ago 7 the 33rd straight monthly increase. The overall low supply, coupled with an increase in the number of high-end properties trading hands, propelled the prices of Houston’s median & average homes.
The median price – the figure at which half the homes sold for more & half for less – was up 11.7% to $181,500 in February, while the average price jumped 12,5% to $247,534, according to the association’s data, which is based on properties sold through the Multiple Listing Service, which tracks sales activity in Harris, Fort Bend, & Montgomery counties, as well as parts of Brazoria, Galveston, Waller & Wharton counties.

When it comes to finding the right real estate agent, there is none better than a Realtor like Laura Hill at Laura Hill Realtor. Look me up at, 832-771-1314.

Energy Corridor creeping west into Katy, Tx

Homes for sale Katy, Tx
Growth in Katy, Tx continues to increase

According to Meredith Mohr, a writer for the Community Impact Newspaper,, with new buildings or expansions in the area from at least six oil & gas drilling support companies, many are looking to the Katy portion of Fort Bend, Harris & Waller counties as the logical extension of Houston’s “Energy Corridor.” City & county officials hope to turn such development into a well-oiled machine as it edges farther into the once wide-open farmland.
The last 5 years, in particular, have seen significant growth with the opening of facilities by Newpark Drilling Fluids, Weatherford, Hampco Services, Welltec, Schlumberger subsidiaries Dyna-Drill & Schlumberger High Efficiency, among others.
For the Woodlands-based Newpark Resources,, which completed a 106,000-square foot facility off of Mason Road in June, construction of its new three-story building was an opportunity to capitalize on the growth of the Katy area, said John Beltz, director of marketing for the company’s Katy operation.
“People want to come here & oil is king,” Beltz said. “We wanted to be a part of that combination in the rapidly growing west.” The company uses about 37,000 square feet of its facility as lab space, featuring a state-of-the-art down-hole drilling simulator & other tools for fluids analysis. “We wanted to stay in the Katy area because it seemed like a central place for many of our employees,” Beltz said. “The other reason is Katy is just exploding with opportunity,” he said. “People are seeing it as one of the best places to live.”
Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack said circumstances for Katy right now make it a natural place for growth like this. “I-10 & Hwy. 99 run right through Katy, there is the Metro Park & Ride service, & Terry Hershey Hike & Bike Park,” he said. “These are all things that attract growth.”
Supporting Population
Companies considering a move to the area are also eyeing the growing workforce. According to the Katy Economic Development Council, the Katy labor shed – workers employed within a 30-minute drive tops 1 million people. The EDC expects the labor shed numbers to rise to by about 11% in the next 5 years. Low interest rates for homes are spurring growth too. “Take a look at the interstate & the traffic out there every morning & afternoon,” Radack said. “There are more people, more neighborhoods, more communities growing. It’s really a boomtown out here.”

And when these new developments comes in, take advantage of the expertise and experience of Laura Hill, Realtor. If you want to find the right real estate agent, there is none better than a Realtor like Laura Hill at Re/Max Cinco Ranch. Look me up at, 832-771-1314.

Home sales in Katy Tx & the Houston area still move at fast pace.

Homes for sale Katy, Tx Trends
Houston Area Home Sales & Price Trends for 2012-2013

According to Nancy Sarnoff from the Houston Chronicle,, home sales in katy, tx and the Houston area continues to favor sellers, but the area’s buying frenzy could be starting to slow a bit. While the number of housing contracts set to close at the end of last month was up over the previous year, an indication of future sales, the increase was much smaller than in previous months, a report shows. “The frantic pace is down maybe a notch,” said Beth Wolff, chairman & CEO of Beth Wolff Realtors, To be sure, the fast pace of sales hasn’t gone away. Home sales across the area jumped 16.2 % in August & the supply of homes for sale remains low, according to the Houston Association of Realtors,, which released its monthly housing report Tuesday. Buyers closed on 7,504 single-family homes last month, marking a strong end to the summer selling season.
Properties selling from $250,000 through the millions saw the greatest increase in sales volume, pushing the overall median price of a Houston-area home to $186,200. Houston’s inventory of available homes dipped to 3.3 months in August, meaning it would take that long to sell all the homes on the market based on recent activity. The number of available properties, at the end of August declined 18.9 % to 32,834.
Builders are ramping up new-home development, which should help ease the limited supply that’s been heating up the market. And rising mortgage rates are likely to affect activity as well. “When rates go up, it really cuts a lot of people out of the market, especially if the are pushing their incomes to buy the most house that they can get,” said Evert Crawford of Crawford Realty Advisors, a research and consulting firm. Rates on a 30-year mortgage averaged 4.57 % in the latest weekly survey from Freddie Mac, That’s more than a full percentage point higher that it was in May.
In the short term, rising rates may be enticing more buyers to jump into the market while they can still afford to buy. Danny Frank, the association’s chairman, said the summer selling season has been unlike any he’s ever seen. “It’s difficult to say exactly when Houston’s boiling real estate market will begin to cool down,” Frank said in the housing report.

Grand Parkway Construction Progresses

Sections A-I2
Grand Parkway Segments

According to Carrie Taylor from the Community Impact Newspaper,, states that by December, drivers will be able to use another portion of Houston’s newest toll road on the Grand Parkway. Segment E, 185-mile loop around Houston, of the Grand Parkway will cover the area north of I-10 to Hwy. 290. Farther north, construction began in July on Segments F1 & F2, which will extend from Hwy. 290 to I-45 in Harris & Montgomery counties. The three segments are expected to improve mobility for Houston residents & open new development opportunities in the Katy area.
“I view the Grand Parkway as a game changer for the entire north side of the Katy area – in Fort Bend & Harris counties,” said Roger Hord, president & CEO of the West Houston Association, “That area hasn’t had great access until now, & entities like Katy ISD,,  have not had the opportunity to expand on the north side until now. Segment E will change that picture.
Development catalyst
Katy area officials say the Grand Parkway will act as a catalyst for growth in all sectors, specifically in north Katy which suffers from a lack of access. “It is my opinion that we will see development that will take place all throughout the Katy area,” Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner,, Steve Radick said. “It is going to be a boom town.” There are multiple commercial & retail projects in the works near Segment E, but many are in their infant stages of tenant negotiations, including a more than 300-acre mixed-use development by NewQuest Properties,, at Morton Ranch & Clay roads. “We are working on securing our first big anchors for the retail portion as well as other commercial tenants,” said Jeff Hayes with NewQuest. Residential projects are also expected to appear soon, & Katy ISD is preparing to acquire sites for future schools, district land planner Peter McElwain said. “We knew the Grand Parkway would be a catalyst for increased residential growth,” he said. “As developers work on their plans, we work with them to identify where schools need to be.”
Segment E Details
Segment E will feature 2 main-lane toll plazas & multiple tolled on & off ramps, with an average toll price of $1.40 on main lanes & a variable rate from 35 to 71 cents on ramps, TxDOT spokeswoman Raquelle Lewis said. Those prices also apply to Segments F1 & F2. Drivers on the Grand Parkway will pass through main lane toll plazas every four to seven miles. The currently established rates will go into effete in October 2013. Toll rates are subject change & will be reevaluated every October. Segments E, F1, F2 & G of the Grand Parkway will not have parallel feeder roads, which places more importance on the location of exits. On Segment E, there will be 10 intersections along the toll road from which drivers can exit & enter the freeway, aside from I-10 & Hwy. 290. Franz, Morton, Clay and FM 529 are the only existing roadway that will connect with Segment E.
And when this new development comes in take advantage of the expertise and experience of Laura Hill, Realtor. If you want to find the right real estate agent, there is none better than a Realtor like Laura Hill at Laura Hill Realtor. Look me up at, 832-771-1314.

Bechtel decides to stay on Post Oak

Bechtel decides to stay on Post Oak
Bechtel decides to stay on Post Oak.

According to Nancy Sarnoff at the Houston Chronicle,, Bechtel,, major office tenant in the Galleria area, has renewed its lease in Lakes on Post Oak.
Bechtel’s decision to stay put was a significant win for the property owners because the company could have decided to relocate to one of several office buildings under development in the Houston area. “Retaining Bechtel was an important objective of our firm,” said managing partner Tom Crocker of Crocker Partners, which owns the campus-like office complex near Richmond & Post Oak Boulevard with Five Mile Capital.
As part of the transaction, the landlord will make improvements to Bechtel’s main building, 3000 Post Oak, & build a parking garage to accommodate the company’s employees. The new garage will replace on older 2-story structure. The 3 building 1.2 million square foot Lakes on Post Oak complex also includes 3040 & 3050 Post Oak Blvd. The development, on 23 acres, is 93% leased. Bechtel signed a lease for 565,916 square feet.
Ziegler Cooper,, is providing architectural services & Balfour Beatty,, will construct the parking garage. Bechtel is an engineering, procurement & construction company headquartered in San Francisco. It has oil, gas & chemical operations in Houston. When it comes to finding the right real estate agent, there is none better than a Realtor like Laura Hill at Laura Hill Realtor. Look me up at, 832-771-1314.

Google search online announces major changes

Google Logo
Google search online improves its tools in a big way.

According to James Temple,, Google,, will announce powerful new tools this week, from the Google search engine giant, that will allow users to interact with its products more like they would a personal assistant, as the company continues to redefines the meaning of online search. In the days ahead, most U.S. consumers will be able to use the standard search engine on any device to pull up details about their flights, reservations, appointments & photos from their Gmail, Google Calendar, Google+ and Google Drive accounts with simple spoken or typed terms such as: “What are my plans for tomorrow?” “is my flight on time?”” or “When will my package arrive?” In other words, users will be able to sidestep the annoying task of digging around for flight numbers, tracking information, and venturing off to a third-party site to check for the latest updates.
Perfect Search Engine
The latest features from the Google search engine giant represent another step along the lengthy & winding path to chief executive Larry Page’s ultimate vision of a “perfect search engine.” The Mountain View, California company has been pouring resources into voice recognition & so-called natural language processing, and steadily improving accuracy. Voice in particular is a critical component of the company’s plans for improving the experience on smartphones, as well as emerging technology with increasingly small screens like the Google Glass eyewear & any smart watches that might or might not be in the works. And the conception of search has evolved from fishing around for information with a few keywords to getting the data we need in more natural ways, such as asking questions in full sentences.
But the bigger leap is that an increasingly accurate understanding of information is allowing Google to take steps on our behalf: running flight, tracking & reservation details through separate databases – sometimes its own, something on the pubic Web – to provide useful results, increasingly even without us having to ask. For example, the company’s search app for mobile devices can already serve up Google Now “cards” that tell you when it’s time to get moving for a meeting, based on a entry in your Gmail calendar, the current location of your smartphone & real-time congestion along the route.
Google’s search has largely been about matching up the keywords typed in queries – meaningless strings of letters to an algorithm – to other appearances of that same string online. “Our goal is to be able to map everything & to be able to understand the semantics of Web pages,” said Tamar Yehoshoua, a director focused on search at Google.
Voice Advance
Ever since Google released its latest Android mobile operating system, Jelly Bean, it also flipped the switch on a new, state-of-the-art approach to voice recognition called “deep learning.” One of the key forces driving Google’s efforts in voice is the accelerating shift toward mobile computing. Voice is a far faster way of inputting queries when the alternative is your thumbs. More than that, voice is simply a more natural way of interacting than through standard inventions like the keyboard and mouse. Google appears to be accommodating our way of communicating instead of forcing us to comply with theirs.
When it comes to finding the right real estate agent, there is none better than a Realtor like Laura Hill at Laura Hill Realtor. Look me up at, 832-771-1314.