Tag: #alipalaciosrealtor

Annual review of your escrow account

What is escrow?

Your mortgage payment is made up of the following:

  • Part goes toward your mortgage to pay your principal and interest.
  • The other part goes into your escrow account for property taxes and insurance premiums (like homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance, or flood insurance).

When you purchase a home and put down less than 20%, the lender will requiere that you escrow your taxes and insurance. An account is opened at the time your home is purchased. The funds within the account are used to pay your property taxes and insurance premiums. These are paid by the lender directly using these funds. This typically helps the home owner because you don’t have to save for these funds separately.

In Texas we pay property taxes in arrears. In Jan of the current year, you are paying the past year’s property taxes. By “property taxes” I’m referring to property, School, MUD, LID and/or Drainage Taxes (not all applicable for all).  It might look something like the image below.

At the beginning of the year I’d suggest you do two things:

  1. Make sure that your taxes have been paid. Lenders make mistake and sometimes overlook a payment. Taxes are due by Jan 31st so make sure that the payment is applied before that date.
  2. Review your escrow account for errors, shortages and overages.

#1 Confirm Payment

Go into the jurisdiction’s website and make sure your balance is zero. If there is a balance owed make sure to follow up with your lender.

#2 Yearly escrow review

Property taxes and insurance premiums change over time. Most lenders will review your escrow account each year to make sure you’ll have enough to cover your expenses. To help with any unexpected increases, you need to keep a minimum balance in your account at all times. It’s normally calculated to not be more than 2 months of escrow payments (but this will vary by bank).

The lender will add your taxes and insurance and divide this amount by 12. This is the minimum amount you need in your escrow account. Normally the lender will want at least 2 month cushion to cover any potential increases in taxes or insurance. Most lender will send you an analyzes by mail or online.

Shortage

If you have an escrow shortage due to an increase in your taxes or insurance premiums, you are responsible for the difference. The bank will send you a notice stating the amount outstanding. It’ll be your choice how you handle it. You can either pay the entire shortage in one lump sum or you can choose to have the amount spread out over the coming year. This means if your shortage is $500, expect to pay an additional $41.67 each month the following year to make up the shortage. Your payment might also increase more as the lender increases the amount going into escrow to pay the next year’s taxes and insurance. In this example you might see an overall increase of approximately $80-100

Please note that if you choose to pay the total shortage in one lump sum, your payment will still increase to cover next year’s potential shortage.

Surplus

If you have too much money in your escrow account, you might get a refund check from the lender. This usually occurs when taxes go down or payments are overestimated. The lender will pay the appropriate amount to each jurisdiction. Whatever is left goes to you, minus their desired cushion. You should receive notice that you have an escrow surplus and will receive a check not long after that. If this doesn’t happen, contact the lender for further details.

Going Forward

The lender should repeats this process every year but don’t relay on the lender to foresee issues. Be proactive! Before May of every year you will get your proposed assessed value from the tax jurisdiction. Review these statements. Has it increased? decreased? How will this effect your escrow balance?

To avoid unpleasant surprises, pay attention to correspondence from your insurance company or taxing jurisdictions. If you’re aware that your payments will increase, you can put additional money towards your escrow each month to avoid a shortage. If you see that your payments will go down, you can contact your bank to try to decrease your monthly escrow payments.

You can ask your lender to analysis your escrow account at any point. You do not have to wait for them to schedule the review. Increases or decreases in your annual tax or insurance bills may cause your monthly mortgage amount to change.

You can (and should) protest your taxes. The protest deadline is May 31st of each year. The final amount is established by the final quarter of each year.

For more info: Tax Protest

Chewy Coconut Cookies

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cups salted butter, softened
  • ½ cups brown sugar
  • ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-½ cup shredded sweetened coconut

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the egg, mix well. Add the vanilla, mix well.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing well after each addition. Once all the flour is combined, add the shredded coconut and mix.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spoon 1 teaspoon of batter onto pans. Dough spreads while baking, so leave ample space between dough balls.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until edges are browned.

Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack.

 

VARIATIONS AND TIPS

  1. Add 1/2 cups of chopped pecans for a yummy variation
  2. Let cookie cool completely moving them off the pan. Cookies will be very softs right out of the oven
  3. You can make the batter in advance. Scoop into portions and freeze. You can take them from the freezer to the oven. You might need to add 1 more minute to the calling time. The cookie will last 2-3 months in the freezer.

Dumplings, dumplings and more dumplings

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound well-ground, fatty pork
  • 1 pound Napa cabbage, rough slices
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine or sherry
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • 1 package frozen or fresh dumpling wrappers
  • small bowl of water

DIRECTIONS

Pork filling:

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the cabbage; blanch until just wilted. Using a slotted spoon, remove cabbage to strainer set over a large bowl. Press down on cabbage to squeeze out all liquid. Transfer to cutting board; roughly chop. Combine onions and pork, add ginger, Add the soy sauce, cooking wine, sesame oil, salt, and pepper to the meat mixture. Stir in chopped cabbage until completely incorporated.

Dumplings:

Using a spoon, place one heaping tablespoon of dumpling filling in the center of the dumpling wrapper. Using your fingertip, wet the outer edge of the dumpling wrapper with water. Fold up the sides of the dumpling into a half-moon shape. Pinch the edges of the dough until completely sealed. Do not overfill the dumplings. If any filling comes out, remove some and seal the dumpling completely.

Cook:

Boiled dumplings: To cook the dumplings, gently lower them into a medium pot of boiling water and boil for approximately three to five minutes. They are done when the dumpling skins are translucent and the dumplings have been floating for about three minutes. Remove from pot carefully with a slotted spoon.

Pan fried dumpling: Add 2 tbsp o oil in a pan, add on layer of dumplings, fold side up. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover. Steam the dumplings for about 4 mins. Dumpling wrapper with be translucent. Uncover and continue cooking until all the water evaporates and the dumplings are golden brown on the bottom side.

Fried: Heat oil and fry each dumpling until golden brown.

Serve hot with your favorite dumpling sauce

 

VARIATION AND TIPS

  1. You can freeze dumplings raw for up to 2 month.
  2. Bacon Cheese Burger dumplings: for filling combine  2 cups medium shredded sharp Cheddar, 1/3 pound thin-cut cooked and chopped bacon, 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt, 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 large red onion, small diced, 8 ounces 80/20 ground beef. Serve with ketchup and mustard
  3. Shrimp and onion dumplings: for filling combine: 1 lb chopped deveined and cleaned shrimp,  3 sliced green onions, 1/4 tsp grated ginger, 1 clove grated garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons sesame oil.
  4. Buffalo Chicken dumplings: for filling combine 1 lb ground chicken, 1 cup of buffalo sauce, 1 cup grated colby cheese, 1/2 cup cream cheese, 1/4 cup blue cheese.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of chopped kimchi into the recipe above for pork and kimchi dumpling
  6. Simple dipping sauce: 4 tbsp Soy sauce, 1/8 tsp grated ginger, 1 tsp Sriracha sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil. Combine and serve with dumplings

You can fill these with anything! Share your filling ideas 🙂

Bolognese Sauce

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 1 medium celery rib, finely diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground veal or 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 5 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 cans of small diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
  • 1lb pasta

DIRECTIONS

Cook onions, celery, carrot, and garlic in oil. Use a 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add Beef and veal/pork and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps, until browned, about 6 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Cook for 4-5 minutes on low heat. Deglaze the pan with wine, water, add diced tomatoes, gently simmer, covered, until sauce is thickened, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Cook the pasta for 1 less minute than stated on package. Toss into sauce and finish cooking. If needed add a little pasta water into the mix. The sauce should evenly cover the pasta. Add grated parmesan cheese to taste and stir.

Serve with more parmesan cheese 🙂

 

VARIATIONS AND TIPS

  1. Sauce may be made 3 days in advance, cooled before you refrigerate. You can also freeze the sauce (no pasta) for up to 2 months.
  2. This same sauce can be used for lasagna, so yummy!
  3. Add chili spices (2 tbsp chili powder and 1 tbsp cumin) and 1 can of beans to make a great chili.  Serve with corn bread or fritos. Top with cheddar cheese and onions

Pecan and Dulce de Leche Pancakes

Makes approximately 12 6in pancakes

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups buttermilk (or regular milk with 2 tbsp of white vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tablespoons dulce de leche
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely ground (not chopped)
  • 1 cup Candied Pecans rough chop
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

Service with dulce de leche on top

DIRECTIONS

Mix all the ingredients through the ladies pecans together until smooth. Melt a little butter in a sauce pan, medium heat, pour a ladle full of batter into the pan. Cook on one side until all bubbles have popped, flip pancake. Cook for 1 min or until golden brown. Repeat until all the batter is all used. Keep warm. Serve with dulce de leche or butter and maple syrup.

 

VARIATIONS AND TIPS

  1. Looking for just regular buttermilk pancakes? Remove the dulce de leche and pecans
  2. Have extra pancakes? freeze then individually and heat then up as needed in the microwave.

 

Asian Style Pork Belly

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 lbs pork belly, cut in 1 in pieces
  • 1/2 cup Chinese rice wine
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (whole)
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 bunch Green onions (sliced)

Serve with steamed white rice

DIRECTIONS

Brown the pork belly pieces in small batches (do not crowd the pan) until brown. I used an electric pressure cooker, the sauté function. Once all pieces have been browned add them back to the pot and toss in all the rest of the ingredients except the green onions. Add 2/3 cup water. Cover the pressure cooker and set for stew setting.

Once the setting is complete, uncover the pressure cooker and turn the sauté function back on. Cook until the sauce reduces and becomes as thick has honey. Stir several time so that the pork is even coated.

VARIATIONS

  1. I make a cuban style pork belly. Pork is cut into 1in pieces and browned as stated above. Add the pork back into the pan with 1/2 cup orange juice, the juice of 1 lime, 5 cloves of garlic, 3 packages of saloon Goya, 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1 small sliced onion, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper. Once the pork is cooked in the pressure cooker you will once again open the pot and set it to sauté. Cook until the pork is dark brown, stir often.

Italian style burgers

Makes 4 patties

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb beef or turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of Italian style bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 tbsp tomato pesto (or sun-dried tomato pesto)
  • 1 cup grated cheese (I’ve used parmesan, provolone, mozzarella or a combination of these)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 buns
  • 1 tomato sliced
  • 1 small red onion sliced
  • Green leaf lettuce or arugula
  • Pesto or basil leaves (optional)
  • 4 cheese slices – Mozzarella or provolone

DIRECTIONS

Mix ground meat with egg, bread crumbs, garlic salt, tomato pesto, grated cheese and black pepper. Mix well and found 4 patties. Heat a sauce pan with olive oil, place patties in pan and cook for 5 minutes on each side or until done to taste. Add sliced cheese and cook until melted. Toast buns, add condiments as desired. Enjoy!

VARIATIONS

  1. This same mixture can be turned into a meatloaf. Mix the same ingredients and top with a 1 cup of ketchup or tomato sauce. Place in greased loaf pan. Cook for 30 mins or until done. Serve with parmesan potatoes!
  2. This same mixture makes amazing meatballs. Mix the same ingredients and form 16 small meatballs. Brown the meat balls in olive oil and add your favorite spaghetti sauce.

 

 

Butter Pecan Cookies

I used a 1 in scoop and this recipe made 60 small cookies. If you use a larger scoop you will need to make cooking adjustments. See below.

Ingredients:

2 cups pecan halves, finely chopped

2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 and 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 sticks (8 ounces) salted butter + 2 tablespoons of salted butter

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature

32 pecan halves, for decoration (optional)

 

Directions:

  • Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in chopped pecans and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Set aside until needed.
  • In a large bowl combine flour, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda; whisk well, set aside until needed.
  • Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat; continue cooking, stirring often, until golden brown (light caramel color). Add browned butter  into a large, heatproof mixing bowl. Add in both sugars and whisk well to combine. I mixed it for about 2 mins so the mixture would cool slightly. Add in vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating until eggs are just combined.
  • Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour, stirring until just combined. Fold in the buttered pecans.
  • Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

To Bake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Scoop 3 tablespoon sized rounds of dough onto the prepared sheet, leaving 2 inches in between each cookie for spreading. Firmly press a pecan half on top of each ball of cookie dough, if desired, then bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes, or until edges are set and the center is still a little jiggly. Allow cookies to cool on the pan for 15 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining cookie dough.

Notes

  • If using a 2in scoop, the cookies will take about 9-10 mins to cook
  • I scoop all the cookies and freeze the balls of dough. This way I can bake a few batches as needed. If frozen you might have to bake the cookies for an addition 2 mins.
  • Cookies will stay fresh for 3 days when stored in an airtight container.

Cuban Pork Fricassee

Ingredients

1 – 1 1/2 lbs of pork ribeye (cut in chunks)

1 large onion

1 large green pepper

1 small can roasted red pepper or pimentos

6 cloves of garlic

3 packs of Goya sazon

2-3 tbsp garlic salt

2 cups red wine

1 can diced tomatoes

1 small can tomato sauce

1/3 cup capers

1/2 cup green olives with pimentos

3 red potatoes (large dice)

salt/pepper to taste

1/2 cup Olive oil

 

Directions

Season the pork with salt, pepper, garlic power and 2 packs of Goya seasoning. Heat a large stew pan and add olive oil to coat the bottom. Brown the pork in batches. Do not crowd the pan. Remove from pan as browned. Once all the pork has been browned, set aside. Add a little more oil and throw in the onions, peppers and garlic. Sauté until tender. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Cook for 3 mins. Add red wine, the last Goya season pack, olives, capers and pork. Add 1 cup of water. Cook pork until tender, about 1 1/2 hours on low.

Add potatoes and cook until tender. Serve over white rice.

Variations: you can make this same dish with chicken instead of pork. Everything else stays exactly the same.

‘Tis the Season: 5 Reasons Why Winter is a Great Time to Buy or Sell a Home

It’s a common misconception that you shouldn’t try to buy or sell a home during the fall and winter months.

This is generally considered the “offseason” in real estate. Many sellers mistakenly believe that the cold weather will keep buyers away and that no one is looking over the holidays. Unfortunately, many real estate professionals perpetuate this myth by advising their clients to “wait until the spring” to list their home.

The truth is, homes are bought and sold year round. And while the market is typically quieter during the fall and winter, savvy buyers and sellers know how to use this slow down to their advantage. In fact, depending on your circumstances, now may be the ideal time for you to purchase or list a home.

If you’re in the market to buy or sell, there’s no need to wait for the spring. Read on to discover the top five reasons that it can pay to buy or sell a home during the offseason! 

  1. LESS COMPETITION

What’s the number one reason to buy or sell a home during the offseason? Less competition!

This can be particularly beneficial if you’re a seller. Come spring, a huge wave of new listings will hit the market. But if you list now, you will have fewer comparable homes with which to compete.

In the spring and summer months, it can be difficult for your property to stand out in a crowded market. You may end up with a surplus of homes for sale in your neighborhood. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see multiple listings on a single street during the peak selling season.

Inventory in the fall and winter months, however, can be significantly lower. That means your home will not only receive more attention from buyers, but you may also gain the upper hand in your negotiations. In fact, research found that homes listed in the winter are nine percent more likely to sell, and sellers net more above asking price in the winter than any other time of year.1

Buyers also have a lot to love about the real estate offseason. While some buyers need to move during the winter, many bargain hunters search this time of year in hopes of scoring a great deal.

Smart buyers will continue to scan the market during the fall and winter for hidden gems that pop up during the offseason. There are always highly motivated sellers who need to sell quickly. And with less competition to bid against you, you’re in a better position to negotiate a great price. If you’ve been looking for a good deal on a home or investment property, now may be the best time to look!

So while a “slow market” may scare off some buyers and sellers, it can actually be the perfect time of year for you to list or purchase a home. While the rest of the market is hibernating until spring, take advantage of this opportunity to get a jump start on your competition!

  1. EVERYONE’S MORE MOTIVATED

During the spring and summer, you’re likely to encounter “lookie-loo” buyers who are just testing the waters and unrealistic sellers who are holding out for a better offer. But the serious buyers and sellers stay active during the cold weather and holiday season, often because they need to move quickly. In fact, research shows that homes listed in the winter sell faster than any other time of year.1

January and February are peak job hiring months, which brings a surge of buyers who need to relocate quickly to start a new job.2And of course life changes like retirement, marriage, divorce, and new babies come year round. While families often find it more convenient to move during the summer when school is out, the reality is that many don’t have the option to wait. According to the National Association of Realtors, 55 percent of all buyers purchased their home at the time they did because “it was just the right time,” not because of seasonal factors.3

If you prefer to deal with serious, highly-motivated buyers and sellers who want to act fast and don’t want to waste your time, then the offseason may be the perfect real estate season for you.

  1. GREATER PERSONAL ATTENTION

Another key benefit to buying and selling in the offseason is the increased personal attention you’ll receive.

While we strive to provide unparalleled client service throughout the year, we simply have more time available for each individual client during slower periods. Similarly, we find the other real estate professionals in our network—including title agents, inspectors, appraisers, insurance agents, and loan officers—are able to respond faster and provide more time and attention during the offseason than they are during the busy spring and summer months. The result is a quicker and more streamlined closing process for all involved.

  1. COST SAVINGS

Clients who move during the offseason often report significant cost savings. Moving costs may be discounted by 15 percent or more during the winter months, and moving companies can typically offer more flexibility in their scheduling.4

Home renovations and repairs can also be less expensive in the offseason.5 Whether you’re fixing up your property prior to listing it or remodeling your new home before moving in, contractors and service providers who are hungry for business are often willing to work for a discount this time of year. If you wait until the spring and summer, you may be forced to pay a premium.

Home stagers and decorators are also more likely to negotiate their fees during the winter. And you can often score great deals on new furniture and decor during the holiday sales.

Whether you’re buying or selling, count cost savings as another compelling reason to consider an offseason move.

  1. EASIER TO MAINTAIN CURB APPEAL

Finally, listing your home during the fall and winter offers one key—but often overlooked—advantage: less lawn maintenance!

Good curb appeal is crucial when selling your home. According to a recent report by the National Association of Realtors, 44 percent of home buyers drove by a property after viewing it online but did NOT go inside for a walkthrough.6That means if your curb appeal is lacking, buyers may never make it through the door.

If you list your home during the peak of the selling season, we will generally advise you to implement a frequent schedule of mowing, edging, watering, weeding, and trimming shrubs and hedges. You’ll probably want to plant flowers, as well, to brighten your exterior. After all, a lush landscape is a key element in attracting spring and summer buyers.

If you list in the offseason, however, your lawn maintenance list is significantly reduced. While we do recommend that our sellers keep their exterior clean, tidy, and free of leaves, snow, and ice, you will probably spend much less time on outdoor maintenance during the winter than you would if you listed your home in the summer.

ARE YOU READY TO MAKE YOUR MOVE?

Now that you know all the great reasons to buy or sell a home in the offseason, it’s time to decide whether you’re ready to make your move.

Every client’s circumstances are unique. Whether you needto move quickly or you simply wantto take advantages of all benefits this season has to offer, it’s a great time to enter the market.

Give us a call today to schedule a FREE consultation … and you could be ringing in the New Year in your new home!

 

 

Sources:

  1. Redfin –
    https://www.redfin.com/blog/2013/12/why-winter-is-the-hottest-time-to-sell-your-home.html#.VjKYm2SrTKI
  2. Top Resume –
    https://www.topresume.com/career-advice/the-best-times-of-the-year-to-job-search
  3. National Association of Realtors –
    https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/highlights-from-the-profile-of-home-buyers-and-sellers
  4. Angie’s List –
    https://www.angieslist.com/articles/why-winter-can-be-best-time-move.htm
  5. Build Direct –
    https://www.builddirect.com/blog/the-best-times-of-the-year-to-get-deals-on-home-remodels/
  6. National Association of Realtors –
    https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/reports/2017/2017-home-buyer-and-seller-generational-trends-03-07-2017.pdf