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Owners Newsletter – August 2018

“Success in business requires training and discipline and hard  work. But if you’re not frightened by these things, the opportunities are just as great today as they ever were.” –David Rockefeller

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – AUGUST 2018  

$350,000 – Number of jobs created in Texas in the past year, making Texas the top state for business in the nation according to a recent CNBC News article.

8,513 – Approximate number of Fort Hood soldiers deployed as of July 10, 2018, according to the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance.

500 – Approximate number of staff for the Army’s new Futures Command, a high-level headquarters that will be setting up shop in Austin and will be headed by a four-star general. Fifteen cities were being considered for the location, including Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Raleigh. The new command will aid in countering the growing threats from countries such as China and Russia.

112 FAHRENHEIT – Record high temperature recorded last month on the 23rd. We also experienced a record number of consecutive days at 105 degrees or above in July, and a total of twenty days at 100 degrees or above. By comparison, we had ninety days of triple digit heat in 2011.

INTEREST RATES – Still inching up. The current fixed rate on a conventional loan is now 4.75%. The VA and FHA 30-year fixed is now 4.375%.

7,403 – The number of tax exempt properties in Bell County in 2018. This is ten times the number of properties that were free from taxation in 2009 when homestead property taxes were eliminated for 100% disabled veterans. In 2011, the tax exemption was extended to the spouses of 100% disabled veterans. In addition to buying homes, veterans also buy land, which as of this year, has exempted $1.27 billion in land from taxation in Bell County. In 2009, $87.3 million of land was tax exempt. Property taxes are what fuel the government and fund valuable services. The huge number of tax exempt properties is creating a financial crisis for cities surrounding Fort Hood. Killeen, for example, is expected to lose an estimated $4.76 million next year from tax exempt properties. Of the 7,403 tax exempt homesteads in Bell County, 4,297 are located in Killeen.

David Gerke

Broker

Owners Newsletter – July 2018

“When neither their property nor their honor is touched, the majority of men live content.” -Niccolo Machiavelli

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – JULY 2018                    

DROUGHT – Bell County is once again experiencing drought conditions, which current commissioner, Tim Brown, considers dire and severe. We are experiencing a significant rain deficit presently, and for the last week of June, daytime temperatures were one hundred degrees or higher. July and August are typically our hottest months of the year, so it’s likely that conditions will remain hot and dry. Many lawns, trees, and shrubs will suffer under such conditions and some may not recover from a prolonged drought. Slab foundations and underground plumbing are also at risk as our caliche soil contracts from dehydration. If the soil beneath a home becomes too dry and contracts, it can cause the home’s foundation to shift, and damage to walls and ceilings may result. Slab leaks are a common problem in our area since the plumbing lines for most homes are buried under the foundation. In many instances, foundation damage and plumbing leaks do not occur until after the soil rehydrates and expands. We are reminding our renters of the importance of watering their yards and keeping the soil moist around their home’s foundation. As of now, most municipalities have implemented voluntary water conservation measures, which contrary to popular belief amongst some renters does not translate into a watering prohibition.

HOUSEHOLD LIFE EXPECTANCY – One of the many challenges of managing rental property is performing the resolution of security deposits, determining the chargeability of damages, and assigning the appropriate charge for items deemed tenant chargeable. Everything has a life expectancy, and renters and owners are often at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the estimated cost and the life expectancy of household items. We have encountered some renters that believe a full interior painting and complete carpet replacement should occur every time a renter vacates, which for some residents is a very convenient belief if they badly damaged their walls and flooring in twelve short months. On the other hand, some property owners have been shocked upon hearing the news that their eighteen-year old vinyl flooring needs to be changed out or that their twenty-year old water heater has finally died. The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) provides a useful and reliable life expectancy chart for most household items. Here are some examples:

Interior paint – 5 to 10 years                  Garbage disposal – 10 years

Microwave ovens – 11 years                   Carpet – 8 To 11 years

Garage door opener – 10 years             Toilets – 50 years

Central air conditioners – 15 years     Water heater – 15 years

It is important to note that these are averages. The life expectancy of household items can be more or less depending on use, quality, environmental conditions, etc.

SOLDIERS BACK HOME – More than 1,900 soldiers with Fort Hood’s 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, returned home earlier this month from their nine-month deployment in Europe. The soldiers deployed last October in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. 

David Gerke

Broker

 

Owners Newsletter – May 2018

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – MAY 2018 

“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.”-Kahlil Gibran     

TROOP MOVEMENTS – The Army is considering converting its 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division (currently based at Fort Carson, CO) from an Infantry Brigade Combat Team to an Armored Brigade Combat Team. If this comes to fruition, both Fort Hood and Fort Bliss, Texas, are in the running to be considered for the Armored Brigade Combat Team’s new home. If Fort Hood is selected, the brigade would add an additional 4,000 plus soldiers and their families to our area.

NEW BRIGADE COMING TO FT. HOOD – The Department of the Army recently announced that the 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade will be stationed at Fort Hood. The brigade will add an additional 800 soldiers to the post’s present assigned strength of approximately 36,000 soldiers.

MOST PATRIOTIC – Killeen was just named the most patriotic city in Texas by Insurify, an on-line insurance shopping platform. Killeen was awarded this title for having the highest percentage of past and present military service members of any other community in Texas.

100th ANNIVERSARY – Fort Hood’s III Corps marked its 100th anniversary this month. The Corps was created on May 16, 1918, during World War I.

INTEREST RATES – Rates continue to inch higher. The current fixed interest rate on a thirty-year conventional loan is 4.75%. The current fixed interest rate on a thirty-year VA loan is 4.375%, and the current rate for a thirty-year FHA loan is 4.5%.

AREA SALES – According to information provided by the Real Estate Center at Texas A & M, Killeen, Copperas Cove, and Harker Heights had 269 combined home sales of listed properties last month and a combined inventory of listings of 692 residential properties. By city, Killeen had 162 sold listings in April, with an average sales price of $137,350 and a median sales price of $125,500. Harker Heights had 39 sold listings with an average sales price of $208,612 and a median sales price of $207,450. Copperas Cove had 68 sold listings with an average sales price of $129,338 and a median sales price of $130,450.

RENTAL TRAFFIC – Demand for rental housing remains high. We ended the month of April with 99% of our rental inventory occupied. We leased eighteen single-family homes last month and four apartments, and successfully renewed the leases of thirty existing renters. We are off to a good start to the summer!

David Gerke

Broker

Owners Newsletter – April 2018

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – APRIL 2018

“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” -Friedrich Nietzsche 

DEPLOYMENTS – Fort Hood’s 3rd Cavalry Regiment will be deploying approximately 4,000 soldiers to Iraq in the coming weeks in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Another 3,500 soldiers with Fort Hood’s 1st Armored Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, will also be deploying to Germany in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

RENTAL MARKET – We are keeping a watchful eye on the housing market to see if the sizable upcoming deployments have any impact on rental market. Thus far, troop rotations to and from Fort Hood haven’t showed any signs of slowing demand for rental housing. We leased thirty-two properties last month (twenty-nine single family homes and three apartments) and ended the month of March with an overall occupancy rate of 99%.

MORTGAGE RATES – Mortgage interest rates continue to climb and are now at highs not seen since 2014. Presently, the 30-year fixed rate on a conventional loan is 4.625 %. The current rate for 30-year fixed rate VA and FHA loans is 4.25%. In spite of the increases, the current rates are still relatively low, making now a good time to consider making a real estate purchase or perhaps refinancing an existing mortgage.

TOP 100 – Killeen, Texas was recently ranked among one of the country’s top 125 places to live in a recent US News & World Report study. Killeen was ranked 90th out of 125 metro areas in the United States based on quality of life, job market, and other factors such as low cost of living and shorter commute times. Austin, Texas came in at the #1 spot, San Antonio at #14, and Dallas Fort Worth at #18. More information on the study can be found at https://realestate.usnews.com/places/methodology.

KILLEEN RANKED #1 – In a recent study by the Urban Institute, an independent research group, Killeen ranked #1 in the United States with the smallest gap between black and white homeowners. The study looked at 100 cities in the nation with the largest number of black households. The black homeownership rate in Killeen is 48.5%. Information on the study can be found at https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/mapping-black-homeownership-gap.

 

David Gerke

Broker

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – MARCH 2018

“With most men, unbelief in one thing springs from blind belief in another.”   Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – MARCH 2018

A/C CHECKS AND SERVICING – We have started our annual servicing of air conditioning units for those owners that have requested this preventative maintenance. The service includes checking the wiring, housing, and fan relay of the inside unit. The fan motor, housing, blower wheels, air filter, thermostat, plenum, attic ducts, evaporator coils, and drain lines are also checked. The outside unit coils, wiring, fan motor, blades, Freon level, and pressure are checked as well. The cost of this service is $65.00 plus tax and does not include parts should a repair be necessary. If you wish to have your property added to our list, please e-mail our maintenance department at repairs@HunterRentals.com

IMPORTANCE OF THIS SERVICE – Barring a roof replacement, your property’s central air system is the single most expensive aspect of the dwelling. With proper maintenance, the average life span of a residential air conditioning system is eight to twelve years. New systems have been costing property owners $4,000 and up. Lack of maintenance is the number one cause of system failure. Even if your renters replace their air filter monthly and maintain a very clean home, it is absolutely worth the cost to have a trained technician inspect and service the system prior to the intense Texas summer heat kicking in.

DEPLOYMENTS – Approximately 3,500 soldiers from Fort Hood’s 1st Armored Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, will be deploying this spring to Germany in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

RENTAL TRAFFIC – We leased twenty-six single-family homes in February and seven apartments. We ended the month with 98% of our houses occupied and with 99.9% of our apartments occupied. We have already rented more properties this month than in February. Presently, we have only four vacant houses, two duplexes, and two apartments available. The Fort Hood area housing market can be quite fluid and go from feast to famine in a relatively short amount of time, but it has been more than fifteen years since we have experienced such high occupancy levels. As is almost always the case, there are multiple factors impacting the current market. There are now fewer homes for sale in the area, so demand for rental housing has subsequently increased. Interest rates have been on the rise, and every time mortgage rates tick up, it reduces the numbers of potential buyers. These would-be buyers will then likely resign to renting. The Texas population continues to be on the rise, and Bell County has seen its share of growth. Many of the new arrivals to our area work elsewhere in areas between Austin. Georgetown, Round Rock, etc.

David Gerke

Broker

Owners Newsletter – February 2018

“When everyone is against you, it means you are absolutely wrong–or absolutely right.”    -Albert Guinon

OWNERS NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 2018                       

INTEREST RATES – As the economy continues to pick up steam, mortgage interest rates have also been on the increase. One month ago, the fixed interest rate on a 30-year conventional loan was 4.25%. Today, the rate is 4.5%. The VA fixed interest rate on a 30-year loan was 3.75% last month, but is presently 4.125%. It is widely anticipated that mortgage interest rates will continue to rise. If you’ve been toying with the idea of refinancing your current mortgage or purchasing a new home or investment property, now is a good time to revisit those plans and take advantage of what are still historically low interest rates. A shrinking existing home inventory and rising interest rates have spurred many lenders into loosening up their qualifying requirements as a preemptive move to maintain and/or increase customer levels. Lenders do not want to lose business, so easier qualifying requirements translate into less money down for purchasers in many cases.

RETURNING SOLDIERS – This month marks the return of approximately 3,500 soldiers with Fort Hood’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team from their nine-month deployment in South Korea. Several hundred soldiers have already arrived back at Fort Hood with the remainder of the unit expected to make their return in the coming weeks.

RENTAL TRAFFIC – January was a busy month. We rented forty-two properties last month consisting of thirty-five single-family houses and seven apartments. We ended January with 98% of our houses rented and 99% of our multi-family properties occupied. Steady demand for rental housing has continued into this month as soldiers return to Fort Hood from their deployments as well as families utilizing their tax refunds to move.

INSURANCE – Please take a few minutes this month to review your existing homeowners insurance policy. Do you have adequate coverage on your investment property? Are you paying too much? Your investment property may not be located in a flood plain, but does your existing coverage protect you against flash flooding or run-off resulting from new construction? What about sudden and accidental water discharge, foundation, or back-up of sewer drain lines and seepage? Does your current policy protect you against dog bite claims? More than one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims are the result of dog bites and canine related injuries. Toby Brooks (toby.brooks@goosehead.com) is an agency owner with Goosehead Insurance and an expert on all matters related to property insurance. Give Toby a call (254-721-8104) or e-mail him if you have insurance questions. Toby will work hard to find you the best policy and can save you money in most cases.

David Gerke

Broker

Owners Newsletter – January 2018

“Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think.”-Niels Bohr

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – JANUARY 2018  

DEEP FREEZE – Temperatures here in Central Texas dropped below the freezing mark beginning Sunday, December 30th, and did not rise above freezing until Wednesday, January 3rd. During that time period, temperatures fell into the low 20s at night and generally remained in the upper 20s during the day with periodic snow showers. We began notifying all of our renters last week of the coming cold front and gave them instructions on how to prepare and take preventative freeze measures in order to minimize property damage. A few properties did experience frozen and burst water lines.

Some effects of the hard freeze will not be known until this coming spring. Sustained hard freezing temperatures will often kill St. Augustine grass root systems and severely burn or kill many varieties of plants and shrubs that might otherwise handle brief drops in temperatures below the freezing mark.

YEAR-END STATEMENTS – Year-end summary statements and IRS 1099 forms were both e-mailed and posted to owners’ on-line accounts on January 1st .

MORTGAGE COMPANY DATA – At some point between last month and this March, your mortgage company will furnish you with a copy of your escrow accounting showing expenditures for taxes, insurance, and interest for the year 2017. This information is provided by the mortgage company for your tax filing. When filing your taxes, you should also include any receipts for personal expenditures you had, such as costs associated with travel to visit your property in 2017.

INTEREST RATES – Rates continue to remain low. The current interest rate on a 30-year conventional loan is about 4.125%. The VA rate on a 30-year note is 3.625% and 3.75% for FHA loans. The rates are lower on 15 and 20-year notes. Now is still a great time to purchase real estate or refinance.

6,700 – Approximate number (20%) of Fort Hood soldiers currently deployed around the world.

28.3 MILLION – Current population in Texas after gaining 400,000 new residents last year according to the Census Bureau. Texas had the seventh fastest growth rate in the country in 2017.

2017 – Killeen’s deadliest year in over twenty years with 21 homicides. The Killeen Police Department has sought assistance from the Justice Department in an effort to formulate a crime reduction strategy.

David Gerke

Broker

Owners Newsletter – December 2017

He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is
the cemetery.” – Harold Wilson

OWNERS NEWSLETTER – DECEMBER 2017

WINTERIZATIONS – With temperatures forecast to dip into the 20s over the holiday weekend, we moved forward with winterizing all of our vacant properties last Friday. We will continue to winterize properties as they become vacant in advance of freezing temperatures expected in the coming ten days. The winterization process includes draining all plumbing lines, covering all exterior water faucets with insulated covers, and applying nontoxic and environmentally safe anti-freeze in all drains throughout the dwelling. The cost of winterizing is $45 plus materials. Once a property has re-rented, the cost of de-winterizing is $35.

RENTAL TRAFFIC – In spite of the many soldiers deployed away from Ft. Hood, we successfully leased twenty-five properties in November. Of those properties we rented, nineteen were single family houses and six were apartments. We ended last month with 97% of our single-family houses occupied and 99% of our duplexes and townhouses occupied, respectively. We also renewed the leases of twenty-five of our existing renters. One noticeable change we have observed this year is an increase in the number of non-military families that are renting from our office. Historically, 95% of our renters were military. Presently, we estimate that approximately 30% of our current renters are non-military.

WWW.HUNTERRENTALS.COM – On December 21st, our new web site went live. With our new property management software, properties we advertise on our website are also listed on hundreds of other listing sites. Prospective renters can now apply to rent via their smart phones. Although our thorough screening and qualifying of  prospective renters has always been fast, the credit reports and criminal background checks of applicants can now be completed in minutes. Renters can now pay their rent on line with zero transaction fees, pay by credit card, or pay by cash in their local CVS or 7 – Eleven store.

$70 MILLION – With President Trump’s recent signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, Fort Hood is set to receive close to $70 million in funding. From that amount, $37 million will be used to complete renovations on the 1st Cavalry Division’s headquarters building. The remaining funds will be used to construct motor pools and make repairs and renovations to barracks. The act also provides a 2.4% pay increase for soldiers.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS – From the entire staff here at Hunter Rentals, we wish you a safe and blessed holiday season. We sincerely appreciate your faith, support, and patronage. Best wishes for a happy and successful New Year!

David Gerke
Broker