Category: Buyers

Holidays in December from around the world

I love that we live in an international city! We are exposed to all sorts of traditions and celebrations. I’m always curious and honored when invited to partake in these celebration. Here are a few that are celebrated in December. If you have one that I have missed, let me know. I’d love to learn about it. 

St. Nicholas Day December 6

A popular December holiday in many European countries, St. Nicholas Day, celebrates St. Nicholas of Myra, the man whose life inspired the tradition of Santa Claus and Father Christmas. He gave all of his money to the needy and was known for his compassion for children and all those in need. The holiday honors the man on the anniversary of his death, December 6, 343 A.D.

In the European countries of Germany and Poland, boys have traditionally dressed as bishops and begged alms for the poor. In Ukraine and Poland, children wait for St. Nicholas to come and to put a present under their pillows provided that the children were good during the year. Children who behaved badly may expect to find a twig or a piece of coal under their pillows. In the Netherlands, Dutch children put out a clog filled with hay and a carrot for Saint Nicholas’ horse.

Bodhi Day  (Rohastu) December 8th

Bodhi Day — or Rohatsu, as it’s known in Japan — commemorates the day in 596 BC that the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. According to tradition, the Buddha decided to sit under a pipul tree and meditate until he could discover the root of suffering, and how to liberate oneself from it.

It is celebrated by Buddhists all around the world. Some choose to celebrate the day by performing acts of kindness towards others, partaking in meditation, or chanting traditional Buddhist verses.

Buddhist homes, often have a fiscus tree displayed. On Bodhi Day, these trees are usually decorated with multi-colored lights, strung with beads to symbolize the way all things are united, and hung with three shiny ornaments to represent the Three Jewels – The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. A meal of rice and milk is also significant on this holiday, as according to Buddhist legend, this is what was offered to the Buddha upon his awakening under the Bodhi tree. Children often participate in baking heart-shaped cookies, modeled after the shape of the leaves of the Bodhi-tree.

St. Lucia Day December 13

To honor this third-century saint on December 13, many girls in Sweden dress up as “Lucia brides” in long white gowns with red sashes, and a wreath of burning candles on their heads. They wake up their families by singing songs and bringing them coffee and twisted saffron buns called “Lucia cats.”

Las Posadas December 16-24

Las Posadas is a nine-day celebration which originated in Spain, but is now mostly celebrated in Mexico, Guatemala, and in the Philippines. It begins on December 16th and ends on the night of December 24.

Las Posadas derives from the Spanish word posada (lodging, or accommodation) which, in this case refers to the inn from the Nativity story. It uses the plural form as the celebration lasts for a nine-day interval (called the novena), which represents the nine-month pregnancy of Mary.

The nine-day celebration often includes candle-lit processions re-enacting  journey through Bethlehem.  They then travel from house to house, re-enacting the journey of Mary and Joseph, until they reach a designated house where the celebration is being held that year.  The celebrations of Las Posadas wrap up on Christmas Eve with a large feast where a fruit punch is typically served (ponche navideno)

Hanukkah Dates vary 

Hanukkah (or Chanukah), also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday which celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar. On the Gregorian calendar, the eight days/nights fall on varying dates in between late November to late December. 

For each night of Hanukkah, one additional candle is lit, ending off with eight on the final night. The typical menorah/hanukiah consists of eight branches with an additional distinct branch in the middle. The extra light is called a shamash and is given a distinct location, usually above, or below the other eight. The purpose of the shamash is to have a light available for practical use, since it is forbidden to use the Hanukkah lights themselves for purposes other than publicizing and meditating upon Hanukkah.

It isn’t a holiday without food! Here are some traditional Hanukkah recipes

Soyal December 21-29

Soyal is the winter solstice celebration of the Hopi and Zuni Native American peoples. Participants for 9 days ceremonially bring the sun back from its long slumber, mark the beginning of another cycle of the Wheel of the Year

According to tradition, the kachinas (the spirits that guard over the people) come down from the mountains at the winter solstice. They remain with the people until the summer solstice. The Katsinam, which represent various beings, from animals to clouds, are messengers who send prayers for rain, bountiful harvests and a prosperous, healthy life for humankind. 

During Soyal, sacred rituals are performed in chambers, called kivas, and many ceremonies involving dancing and singing take place. During Soyal, stories are passed down from the elders to children in which they are taught important lessons.

The Hopi believe that everything that will occur during the year is arranged at Soyal.

In preparation for the kachinas’ arrival, the Hopi make prayer sticks to bless and purify the community, including their homes, animals and plants.

Yalda December 21

Yalda, or Sab-e-Yalda, meaning “birth”, in Persian is an Iranian festival celebrated on the longest and darkest night of the year. It is celebrated in the night between the last day of the ninth month (Azar) and the first day of the tenth month (Dae) of the Iranian civil calendar, which corresponds to the night of December 20th or 21st each year.

Friends and family gather together to eat, drink and read poetry until late into the night. Fruits and nuts are staple items. Pomegranates and watermelons are particularly significant as the red colour symbolizes the crimson hues of dawn and the glow of life.

Food plays a central role in the present-day form of the celebrations. Here is one of my favorite recipes.

Dongzhi December 21

Dongzhi literally means “the extreme of winter” and is one of the most important festivals celebrated by Chinese and other East Asian cultures during the winter solstice.

The origins of this festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in.

Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One activity that occurs during these get-togethers (especially in the southern parts of China) is the making and eating of rice balls, which symbolize reunion. Other dishes include dumplings, mutton soup, rice cake and red bean sticky rice. 

In Taiwan, many people take invigorating tonic foods during this particular winter festival. To the Taiwanese, winter is a time when most physical activities should be limited and you should eat well to nourish your body. 

Kwanzaa Decemer 26-January 1st

Kwanzaa is a week-long African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated December 26 to January 1st every year, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. It is based on seven core principles based on African Heritage.  The holiday was created by Maulana Karenga, and was first celebrated in 1966–1967.

Kwanzaa builds on the five fundamental activities of Continental African “first fruit” celebrations: in-gathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment, and celebration.

Gifts are given mainly to children, and usually include a book and a heritage symbol. The book is to emphasize the African value and tradition of learning. The colors of Kwanzaa are black, red and green and are often utilized in decorations for Kwanzaa. Decorations include symbolic items such as: Mazao, the crops (fruits, nuts, and vegetables), Mkeka: Place Mat, Vibunzi: Ear of Corn, Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles, Kinara: The Candleholder, Kikombe Cha Umoja: The Unity Cup, and Zawadi: Gifts

Christmas December 25

In the Christian faith, Christmas is the historical celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether celebrated for this religious reason or solely as a cultural celebration, Christmas traditions vary around the world. While Americans celebrate with Christmas trees and visits from Santa Claus, In Australia they might decorate a “Christmas Bush,” a native Australian tree with small green leaves and flowers that turn red during the summer.

In England, Christmas traditions are similar to those in the United States, but instead of leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus, children leave mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas. In Iceland, capital city Reykjavik turns into a winter wonderland with its Christmas market and for the children, there is not one but thirteen Santas, known as Yule Lads. One arrives each night in the thirteen days before Christmas, leaving small gifts in shoes left in window sills. 

Boxing Day December 26

Boxing Day takes place on December 26. Only celebrated in a few countries, the holiday originated in the United Kingdom during the Middle Ages. It was the day when the alms box, collection boxes for the poor often kept in churches, were opened and their content distributed, a tradition that still happens in some areas. It was also the day servants were traditionally given the day off to celebrate Christmas with their families.

Boxing Day has now become a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, among other countries. In England, soccer matches and horse races often take place on Boxing Day. The Irish refer to the holiday as St. Stephen’s Day, and they have their own tradition called hunting the wren, in which boys fasten a fake wren to a pole and parade it through town. The Bahamas celebrate Boxing Day with a street parade and festival called Junkanoo. 

Ōmisoka December 31

Ōmisoka, New Year’s Eve, is considered the second-most important day in Japanese tradition as it is the final day of the old year and the eve of New Year’s Day, the most important day of the year. Families gather on Ōmisoka for one last time in the old year to have a bowl of toshikoshi-soba or toshikoshi-udon, a tradition based on eating the long noodles to cross over from one year to the next.

At midnight, many visit shrines or temples for Hatsumōde. Shinto shrines prepare amazake to pass out to crowds and most Buddhist temples have large cast bells that are struck once for each of the 108 earthly desires believed to cause human suffering. 

New Year December 31

In many places people stay up late to see the old year out and the new year in. Almost everywhere in the world fireworks are set off, church bells ring, horns toot, whistles blow, sirens shriek. It’s a time to bring in the new year.

In Ecuador, families dress a straw man in old clothes on December 31. The straw man represents the old year. The family members make a will for the straw man that lists all of their faults. At midnight, they burn the straw man, in hopes that their faults will disappear with him.

Those in Hong Kong pray to the gods and ghosts of their ancestors, asking that they will fulfill wishes for the next year. Priests read aloud the names of every living person at the celebration and attach a list of the names to a paper horse and set it on fire. The smoke carries the names up to the gods and the living will be remembered.

Three Kings Day January 3

Although this holiday is not in December, it’s part of the December holidays. At the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas comes a day called the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. This holiday is celebrated as the day the three wise men first saw baby Jesus and brought him gifts. On this day in Spain and Mexico, many children get their Christmas presents. In Puerto Rico, before children go to sleep on January 5, they leave a box with hay under their beds so the kings will leave good presents. In France, a delicious King cake is baked. Bakers will hide a coin, jewel, or little toy inside.

Do you celebrate a holiday I have not listed? Let me know, I would love to share.

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Prefabricated Homes – Modular, Manufactured and Mobile Homes

“Prefabricated” homes can refer to buildings built in components or panels that are transported to a homesite. Most people think mobile homes when their hear the word “prefabricated” home, this isn’t the case. Let’s explore these options and their pros and cons.

Modular Homes

Modular homes are created in sections, and then transported to the home site for construction and installation, think puzzle. These are typically installed and treated like a regular house, for financing, appraisal and construction purposes, and are usually the most expensive of the three. Although the sections of the house are prefabricated, the sections, or modules, are put together at the construction much like a typical home.

How can you recognize a modular home? Every modular home should have a small metal tag on the outside of each section, or in kitchen cabinets and bedroom closets.

Since modular homes are typically built using the same materials as traditional stick-built homes, it stands to reason that they will last as long as these homes.

Sample Modular Home Source
Sample Modular Home Clayton
Sample Modular Home Method Homes


  • Modular home construction tends to be more exact than on site built homes
  • These can be as large or as small as you choose.
  • There are many different style to choose from
  • Built in a weather controlled enviorment (not exposed to rain)
  • Can be constructed quickly
  • In most cases a municipality cannot differentiate between a modular home and a site-built home.
  • Manufacturers can purchase materials in bulk which will reduce overall cost
  • More financing options available


  • In most cases the home needs to be approved by city zoning and subdivision restrictions
  • You will need to already own the land where the home will be assembled
  • In most cases, the company will need to be paid in full before they start construction (this can be financed)
  • Not all mortgage lenders have knowledge in this area so finance may take longer
  • There may still be neighborhoods or municipalities that will not allow you to build a modular home
  • Perceived lower value by public may caused you issues once you are ready to resell
  • It is difficult to make changes once fabrication has started
  • When you buy a modular home, you may need to hire someone to assemble the prefabricated parts and take care of plumbing and electricity.
  • The home site (land) needs to be level and cleared of trees and wires to accommodate a large crane. The foundation must be poured perfect to fix the modular pieces
  • Prices can be deceiving because you will have to add land costs, assembling, hookups, transportation, driveway cost, etc.
  • Careful handling of the modular components while in transit is required. Sheetrock stress cracks are common.

How are modular homes built?

Manufactured or Mobile Homes

I’ve grouped these two together because there are a lot of similarities but please note that there are difference as well that I will note below.

Manufactured homes and mobile homes, or trailers, are built on wheels, and can be pulled by a vehicle. They are considered to be personal property, and are licensed by the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. They must be built to the DMV code, and pass inspection for licensing. 

Manufactured homes and mobile homes are different but they have lots of similarities. The HUD code, enacted in 1976, is really what makes a manufactured home fundamentally different from a mobile home. Some elements remain the same—for instance, they’re still built off site and then assembled on site on a rectangular chassis rather than a permanent foundation. Wheels, hitch and axles are removed on site when the home is attached to the land. Typically Manufactured homes are intended to just be moved once; whereas mobile homes can be moved several times. 

Once the land has been prepared and the foundation completed, the home may be delivered. At this point you will need electrical service. The home must be closed up as soon as it’s delivered so it won’t be damaged. This is called the finish work and it includes things like installation of roofing shingles, attaching exterior siding, construction on decks and porches, checking for leaks, etc. This will require the hiring of different contractors and good weather. 

Manufactured homes must have “HUD tags” to meet most mortgage lending guidelines. These tags, or more properly, certifications, state that the manufacturer complies with safety standards created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. A HUD tag ensures the home meets safety and livability standards, so it’s a good thing to have.

HUD stated that based to today’s building standards a manufactured home can last 30-55 years if properly maintained.

how to buy a mobile manufactured home

There are several rules you must follow to convert a manufactured home that is considered personal property or real property.

How are mobile homes converted from a “car” to a house?

Sample Manufactured Home Source
Sample Manufactured Home Source
Sample Manufactured Home Sunshine Homes


  • These homes can be placed on owned or leased land
  • Less expense overall
  • If you own the land, you might be able to use the land as collateral for the home
  • Quick built time and installation
  • They can be attached to land and made permanent
  • Potentially lower tax bills


  • Manufactured homes are considered mobile homes until they are fixed to land. See restrictions with the DMV
  • You can move them from one location to another and moving these can cause financing issued
  • Local laws may restrict movement and installation
  • Utility services are required and can be costly if not available
  • Foundations are not always needed
  • Check deed restrictions because many will restrict Mobile/manufactured homes even if they are permanently placed onto the land
  • Financing is limited and restricted. They are typically financed as personal property and land is consider “real” property. Few real estate lenders will finance mobile homes built before 1976. Financing limitations.
  • Mobile homes tend to depreciate like vehicles, not increase like traditional housing
  • Land preparation will add to the overall cost
  • Perceived lower values from public
  • Interest rates are typically higher than mortgage rates because loans for movable property are riskier for lenders
Sample Mobile Home Source

Mobile home loan Info

Mobile home loan Facts

Homesite development checklist

Land and Home Expense Planner


Your Home, Your Rules – Showing your Home during the Conoravirus outbreak

Speak to your Real Estate agent about possible changes/rules that you can implement to make your property tours safer.

These restrictions may reduce the number of visits but it will assure you that those that do tour your property are serious buyers.

1. Have your listing agent request a copy of the buyer’s pre-qualification in advance. If they are not pre-qualified they shouldn’t be touring your property.

2. Have your agent use the following form to at least ask if the parties that will tour your property have symptoms.

3. Have all persons entering your home remove their shoes 👞👡 right outside your home. Add a note to your front door requesting this just in case the buyer’s agent forgets to tell their client.

4. Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily (e.g., tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles).

5. Consider offering hand sanitizer by the front door. Add a note asking those entering to please use the sanitizer before they tour your home.

6. Speak to your agent about offering a video tour of your property. Sometimes a video with answer the questions buyers have about your property and they might rule it out based on further details. The truth is that your home is not for everyone. Let’s limit the tours to the ones that really are interested.

🗣This works both ways, if you as the seller are feeling ill please speak to your listing agent about canceling all showings until further notice.

We all have to do our part to help stop the spread!

COVID-19 Addendum provides for a 30-day extension of the closing date

My job as a Real Estate Agent is to protect my buyers and sellers during the buying and selling process. 🌟 We have seen many delays in the home selling/buying process. 🌟 These delays have caused extensions in closing dates. It’s very important to protect your interests. The Realtor Organization has created a form that will cover you should you need an extension due to the COVID19 outbreak. Ask your agent about this form. Read it and see if you feel you’d like it included in your offer/contract.

The 30-day extension under the addendum is available if the delay in closing is due to a quarantine or closure that affects the buyer, seller, or other service provider, including, but not limited to, a title company, lender, inspector, or appraiser.

Please note that any date extensions must be approved by sellers and buyers alike. If one party does not agree, you will have a problem.

Does it Freeze?

With all us buying more than usual these days we might find ourselves throwing food away that will be expiring soon or getting a little too ripe. There are ways to minimize waste and save some of these items. You can save this food with a little prep and freezer space. Below you will find a list of items that freeze very well.

Freezing Instructions


Almost all produce can be frozen.  Here are some that freeze particularly well.  See link below for instructions. I typically diced up the produce before I freeze. This is great for produce that is getting a little too ripe.

Here is a list of produce the freezes the best

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado (peeled, sliced or pureed with a little lemon/lime juice, perfect for guacamole)
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Grapes
  • Greens (including spinach, kale and collards)
  • Green beans
  • Mangos
  • Melon (cut in chunks)
  • Mushrooms (whole or sliced)
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Peaches (peeled, sliced)
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Pineapple (chunks)
  • Potatoes (cooked or raw)
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash (summer squash, zucchini, and all winter squashes)
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet potatoes (cooked or raw)
  • Tomato (I dice the tomatoes before freezing and used them in cooked meals)

Produce that freezes but don’t hold up as well

  • Cabbage (will be soggy once it unthaws but it can be used in cooked dishes)
  • Celery (same as cabbage)
  • Garlic (frozen in oil works best)
  • Herbs I blend the herbs with water or oil and pour the mixture into ice cube trays to freeze. Ginger works really well in this manner.
  • Overripe bananas, peeled and diced (great for smoothies, sorbets and baking)
  • Apples (treat with a little lemon juice, great for baking. You can also make apple sauce and freeze it in this manner)

Don’t like plain water?

Frozen Ice cubes with produce and/or herbs are a great option to flavor water and keeps your beverage cool.

Grains and Nuts

These items last much longer in the freezer due to the higher fat content. In fact, the fats will go rancid much quicker at room temperature.

  • Nuts (this also includes nut flours)
  • Seeds
  • Flours

Baked Goods and Dough

Most baked goods will freeze really well.


  • Biscuits
  • Brownies
  • Cakes (frosted or unfrosted)
  • Crackers (saltines remain perfectly fresh once opened)
  • Tortillas
  • Muffins
  • Cookies (cookies or raw in small balls)
  • Sweet breads like banana bread
  • Donuts
  • Pie (no meringue topped pies)
  • Yeast breads

Most unbaked good will freeze well but it should be portioned in advance.

Cookies: I used a small scoop to portion the cookies and I freeze them in scoops. They can be taken from the freezer to the oven. No need to unthaw.

Yeast Dough: It’s best to pre-portion before you freeze if they will be rolls. If it’s a loaf, leave it whole.

Sweet dough: Cake batters can be frozen. It will need to be unthawed before it’s baked.

Pie crust: freeze very well whole or blind baked.



Raw: Most meats can be frozen in its raw state. Unthawed and cooked as usual.

Cooked: Cooked meats freeze very well. I typically portion the cooked meats into individual portions and take them out as needed. These work great in casseroles.

Cooked or Raw Bacon: Bacon freezes well both raw and frozen. In its raw form, I normally diced it up before I freeze. This makes it super easy to take out only what you need for a recipe.

Other Items

  • Wine: Do you have left over wine? If so freeze it in ice cube trays. These cubes can be put into cooked dishes.
  • Sauces: Most sauces can be frozen and unthawed when ready to use. Think: tomato sauce, pesto, gravy, glazes, etc. Creamed based sauces don’t do well in the freezer.
  • Cooked Pasta: Place the pasta in a large freezer baggie and flatten it out before freezing. Unthaw as needed.
  • Casseroles: Almost all casseroles can be prepped in advance and frozen in an oven safe container. Think: Enchiladas, Lasagna, King Ranch Casserole, etc.
  • Fried foods can be frozen after they are fried. It’s best to reheats these in the oven to get them crispy.
  • Rice can be frozen and microwaved when ready to eat. Add a little water to create some steam.
  • Butter freezes perfectly. Just unthaw as needed. The high fat content makes this product last longer frozen
  • Block Cheeses freeze very well and last much longer in the freezer. It’s also a little easier to grate when it’s slightly frozen. Hard or semi hard cheese freeze better than softer cheeses like fresh mozzarella.
  • Eggs will freeze well separated and wished together. It’s best to portion the eggs out before you freeze so it’s easier to use in the future. These are best unthawed and used in baked good.
  • Citrus juice can be frozen in ice cube trays to later be used in recipes or drinks. The zest can be frozen as well to be used in future recipes.
  • Milk may become grainy after frozen and unthawed so it’s best for cooking and baking rather than drinking. Freeze in ice cube tray, for easy use in the future. Make sure to thaw the milk in the refrigerator.
  • Yogurt freezes well but the texture changes a bit once it’s unthawed. Eat it frozen for a cold treat.
  • Cooked beans freeze perfectly
  • Soups, stews and chili freezes very well once cooked.
  • When prepping for a meal, freeze the produce straps and meat bones for future stock preparation.

Deferred Mortgage Payments and Foreclosures

As the number of coronavirus cases in the US rise, many will find themselves unemployed or with cut hours. Yet your expenses have gone up due to unforeseen purchases. This can easily lead to financial struggles. Normally our largest expense is our mortgage payment so if we can find assistance here, it can be a relief.

There is a lot of information out there on mortgage forbearance/deferrals and foreclosures. Some of this information only applies to certain loans so make sure you ask questions before you agree to anything. Don’t assume that the bank will automatically stop payments or foreclosures. They won’t.

If you feel that making your mortgage payment will be an issue, contact your lender sooner than later. They may offer a mortgage forbearance or deferral BUT BEFORE YOU APPLY/AGREE MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THE TERMS.

A mortgage forbearance or deferral could allow homeowners to skip a few mortgage payments so that you can use your current funds on other unforeseen expenses until you return to work. This all sounds great, right!? Ask for details.

Most lenders will accumulate the skipped payments for a period of time and they will be all due once the period ends. Some lenders expect a lump-sum payment, while others offer repayment plans added to your normal mortgage payment.

We saw this happen after Harvey. Some of us contacted our lenders after Harvey and were offers a forbearance/deferral as a solution. Some of these same people were surprised to find out that after the 3-4 months of forbearance/deferral they owed 3-4 months of mortgage payments all at one time! I personally don’t feel that this is a solution. In fact, in most cases it makes matters worse.

When I hear the word deferral, I incorrectly assume that the payments are simply tacked onto the end of the loan. Although some lender did this, most did not. So ask before you agree to this assistance.


Another question to ask your lender is how your escrow will be handled. Normally part of your monthly payment will be deposited into your escrow account. This account will then pay for your insurance and taxes. What happens if you don’t make a payment for several months? Your escrow account will be short and you will get a large bill come the end of the year.

Mortgage Modification

A better option might be a mortgage modification. Normally a modification will allow you to skip a few payments and they will be added to the end of the loan or the mortgage balance is altered so that the payments are divided amoung the remaining months. Every bank does this different so ask for details.


President Donald Trump recently stated that the Department of Housing and Urban Development will suspend “all foreclosures and evictions” for a period of time. All single-family borrowers with a FHA-insured mortgage are eligible. What does this mean? It means that not all mortgage holders will fall in this suspension. It depends on the type of loan you have. If you are behind on your payments, call you lender and see if you qualify. Don’t assume you qualify. The foreclosure process in Texas is quick. Its best to speak to your lender as soon as possible. 

Helpful links:

HUD Guidelines of foreclosures and evictions (FHA loans)

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

VA Loans

Federal Housing Finance Agency

Bank of America

Wells Fargo

Chase Bank

Short Term Rental Scams

When people hear Airbnb, HomeAway or VRBO, they think vacation. These services connect homeowners who want to rent out a room or their entire house or apartment with travelers who want an alternative to hotel chains.

These short term rentals are used for many other reasons. They are temporary homes between selling and buying a home. They are temporary homes for business trips. They are used as temporary housing for college students.

These types of rentals can also be found on Craig’s list, facebook market page, other social media, etc.

In the last few years there has been a rise in cases of fraud.

Let review some of the most common scams:

  • Fake Rental – One scheme known as take the money and run occurs when a fraudster creates a fake vacation rental listing or website to get money from unaware victims. The pictures are usually stollen from other sites and the property they are advertising doesn’t usually exist. The fraudster will typically ask you to pay the first and last day or sometimes the stay in full. Once they receive the funds they tend to disappear. Usually the victim will not find out they were scammed until they show up at the property (or lack of property).
  • Bait and switch – Another scam is the bait and switch. In this scam, the fraudster shows unavailable properties to lure the would-be renter to a less-desirable property. This is sometimes done in a sneaky way. You may not even know you’ve been scammed.
    • Imagine that the short-term rental owner calls you the day of check-in. You are informed that the previous guest had flushed something down the toilet, which had left the unit flooded with water. He offers you another unit in the mean time and they will let you know when the flooded unit is available (which is probably never). This other unit is usually not the same quality.
  • Price jacking – You get to the property and it’s the property you expected but you are asked to pay more at the last minute. They may push you to pay by turning on the home’s WIFI, turn off the lights, etc.

In 2019, the median loss of victims who reported rental scams to Scam Tracker was $996. The Apartment List survey found that the median loss was $400, but one in three victims lost more than $1,000.

  • Let’s share the winnings: This is typically a scam targeting the short term rental owner. They will ask the owner to charge a certain amount for a room they never plan on using. In exchange they want the owner to give them 1/2 of the amount charged. If you receive a check that’s for more than the specified amount, return it. Do not deposit it. 
  • Cancelled Booking – The victim will receive an email stating that the home or home is not longer available due to renovations or repairs. You are informed that you will get a refund (which never happens).
  • No showings but give me more info – If you ask to see the property and they either tell you no or they book a tour but end up canceling. At times they will ask you to fill out an application with tons of personal info before they allow you to see the property. They might asked to run a credit check before they show you the property—they might say the property is so popular that they are only entertaining serious inquiries or a similar excuse. Red Flag.
  • Home for Rent – Longer term rentals also experience fraud. Fraudsters will use homes that are currently up for sale (and vacant) and they will list them for rent; normally using the same pictures. Sometimes they even gain access to the home and have copies of the keys. They will collect the security deposit and 1st rent, have them sign a lease, and give the victims the keys. It all looks legit until someone shows up to tour the home and realized that there is someone already living in it!
  • Rent-to-Own – I know this is appealing to some renters but the fact is that there is a lot of fraud in this area. This can be legally done by signing a rental agreement with an option to purchase.
Sample Fraud Communication
  • You owe me money! – On occasions the fraudster (property owner) will contact you after the fact and request that you pay a certain amount for repairs. Take photos and video of a property when they arrive and when they leave.
  • Room for Rent/fraudster tenant – There are fraudsters that are renting rooms in vacant homes or homes that they might have rented legitimately but have stop making payments on their rent. Normally they will try to rent every room in the home within a short period by offering an amazing rate. They will take a deposit and the month’s rent in advance. Shortly after they disappear.
  • No Credit Check – If someone is willing to rent you a home or a room for a period of time, wouldn’t they be concerned about your credit or criminal history? Red flag.
  • You can pay the rest later – If the property owner tells you that you can pay a portion of your security deposit now and the rest later, be careful. This is a way to establish trust and they may only be seeking to steal the first part of the payment.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Reverse image search – If you search the images and you find that they are stock pictures or they belong to another listing, this should be a BIG red flag.
  • Contact number – Search for the property owner’s telephone number. If it turns out to be a google number, this might be an issue. Not to say that all google numbers belong to fraudsters but I’d be on high alert.
  • Map the address – Map the address and make sure there is a property located at that address. Does the home match those in the picture?
  • Read reviews – A lot of times just reading the reviews will cause red flags. Do the good reviews sound strange? Do they use the same wording you found in the ad?
  • Cancellation Alerts – Are there multiple cancellation alerts on a property? Red Flag.
  • Price too good to be true? – It probably is. Red Flag. A guest offering to pay extra for a week because they love your place? Scam! A single traveler renting your five-bedroom house for themselves? Scam! Trust your instinct.
  • Payments – Is the host asking you to take their business off the official site? Red flag. All communications and payments should be handled through the site. If they ask for a money order or wire, backoff and report them.
  • Website – before making a payment look at the website address. Sometimes you are sent a link to an “airbnb” like site but the web address is not correct. vs.

  • Owner Search – Search for the property’s owner. Make sure that the person that you are dealing with is the owner.  It will not hurt to ask for documentation to prove the identity of the person you are dealing with. If you find the property is owned by a company, call the company and see what you can find out.
  • Few or no reviews – Red Flag
  • Lease – You are asked to sign a lease before you are able to see the place/room.

More info/Sources:

Information about Brokerage Services – IABS form

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to give the following information about brokerage services to prospective buyers, tenants, sellers and landlords. 

In essence, we have to disclose who we represent in a transaction upon the first contact with a party or a licensee representing another party. There are different types of representation that we will explain below.

Real Estate License Holders Explained

  • The Broker – Brokers are more experienced and qualified and can work as independent agents or have other agents work for them. A broker, on the other hand, owns a brokerage and employs real estate agents (or may not). A broker generally has more training than an agent and handles some of the more technical parts of a transaction.
  • A Real Estate Agent – Real estate agents are licensed to facilitate real estate transactions, are paid commissions for their sales, and work for brokerages. They cannot work independently. A real estate agent is an industry professional who serves as the facilitator of real estate transactions. Everything that a Real Estate Agent completes, they do so on behalf of the broker.
  • REALTOR® – Realtors are part of the National Association of Realtors, a trade organization, and can hold any position within the real estate industry.
  • Seller’s Agents, commonly called “listing brokers” or “listing agents”, are contracted by owners to assist with marketing property for sale and/or lease.
  • Buyer’s Agents are brokers or salespersons who assist buyers by helping them purchase property.
  • Dual Agents help both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction. In Texas law does not permit dual agency. A license holder may not represent both principals as a dual agent under the revisions to TRELA. Under the current law, a broker must agree to act as an intermediary in accordance with the statute if the broker agrees to represent more than one party in a transaction. 
  • Intermediary – a person who acts as a link between people in order to try to bring about an agreement or reconciliation; a mediator. When the same brokerage represents the buyer and the seller, the broker must act as an intermediary and a sales rep will be assigned for each party. The broker will be neutral.
  • Subagent – This is an agent that represents a buyer without and buyer’s representation agreement.

Discounts on Insurance Policies?

Does it seem that some people are able to get discounts on everything?

There are a few tricks to get better rates on insurance. Insurance companies study the statistics of the general population to try and find indicators of clients that will not generate claims.

What are the companies looking for in a client?

There is some good news! Insurance companies prefer couples over singles. Service careers also are given a discount with many insurance carriers: military, police officers, fire fighters, educators and medical staff. Ask your insurance agent if you are eligible for any discount based on your employment. You will have to provide a copy of a license or employment ID to qualify but some companies give as much as a 10% discount.

Another area that indicates a responsible insured is education level. Any completed education above a high school diploma can help reduce your rate. Trade schools, junior college, bachelor’s degrees, masters and doctorate degrees all qualify for discounts and preferred rates. If you belong to any group, professional organization, or credit union many companies will offer an association discount.

You may be thinking – I do not fit any of those categories. There are other ways so don’t give up. Have you been in the same area for several years? Companies look for people who do not move constantly because it shows stability.

Another way to receive a discount is to either pay the policy in full in advance or put your payments on automatic payments with a bank account or a credit card.

What is an insurance score?

This leads to credit scores and how they can help you. There is an insurance score that is different from your credit score. Your Insurance score looks at your insurance history. Have you had continuous coverage? What is your driving record like? How many claims have you filed, and have you missed any payments? Another rating factor is how many people are on your policies. Believe it or not, the more people the cheaper the policy (per person)!

Young drivers are killer on the cost of an auto policy, however there are ways to soften the blow. All young drivers should complete a driving course taught by a local driving school. Parent taught students pay more for insurance! A young driver should be in an older vehicle and limit their driving to a defined area. The driving telematic devices that are installed in the car to track driving habits are also a way to gain a substantial discount if you are a good driver consistently over time.

Rates do not improve for younger drivers until about the age of 25. The idea that boys cost more than girls is not true anymore.

Do you have questions or would you like a quote for coverage? Just ask! You will find my contact info below.

Blog Contributor

Karen Tannery 

Account Executive


Home Insurance Deductibles and Gambling Bets

Some people look for ways to keep their home insurance costs low. There are ways to do this wisely and other ways are just foolish. A deductible is the amount of money you pay before your insurance company will pay. For the example, the average home is around $250,000. (hypothetically) and a 1% deductible is $2,500 for any claim, 2% would be $5,000 and 5% would be $12,500. What is your gambling tolerance level?

Most people want a low to medium risk – the 1% to 3% deductible range. The cost difference in most homes is minor for the deductible difference. Yes, the higher the deductible the lower the premium, but before you go straight to the 5% or higher deductible look at the cost savings. It is usually not worth the return over about 3%.

It is usually not worth the return over about 3%.

If you are a young couple with little money just feeling lucky to get into a house – keep your deductibles low so that if anything does happen it will not be catastrophic to your family. Older couples who have a little more financial reserve might consider a slightly higher deductible because they could afford to take a hit financially if something happens to their home. You alone know your financial situation.

The “average roof” on our “average home” is about $20,000. So, if you get hit in a hailstorm and you need a new roof what are you comfortable paying out of pocket? Percentages based on your coverage A of $250,000- 1% at $2,500, 2% at 5,000, 3% at $7,500 or higher?

In Texas, most policies have two deductibles: Wind/Hail and All Other deductibles. The Wind/Hail covers damage to your home by weather – wind, storms and hail. This is the most commonly used coverage. It is also the most expensive of the coverages. If you can afford to pay a higher deductible, this is one place you can choose to have a higher deductible for a lower rate.

The downside is that if you need to use your coverage, the cost out of your pocket will be higher. Another consideration is the All Other Perils deductible to reduce the overall cost. This is a much lower impact to the overall cost of the policy. However, selecting a higher deductible will help lower the premium slightly. This deductible is used for theft, fire, and water claims – anything but storm damage. Assess your own financial situation and carefully review the differences in premiums to find the best balance for yourself.

Do you have questions about coverage or would you like to receive a free quote? Contact me at the info below.

Blog Contributor

Karen Tannery 

Account Executive