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Decision: Rent v. Buy May 11, 2010

Posted by S. in BRAC, HR Plan, Moving, Real Estate, Relocation, San Antonio Economy, San Antonio life, Tools, Transformation.
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Illustration by Sarah Samoraj

For all who plan on making the move out west to San Antonio, one thing is essential: finding a place to live.

Deciding whether to buy or rent may be easy to some, but not for all. Whichever you choose, here are some websites to help you and your Family   decide which route is best.

Here’s to your future life in San Antonio!

I don’t want to make the commitment of purchasing something until I become comfortable with the various neighborhoods and find out where I want to live.”

– Tamara Elston, Transition Center Program Manager, U.S. Army Installation Management Command

MSN Money Article

The Basics: Why it’s smarter to buy than rent


An online real estate site where you can search for homes for sale, find home prices, see home values, view recently sold homes and check mortgage rates.


This website serves as a guide for people planning to move to Texas.

[Moving to San Antonio] is a good opportunity for me to own a home.  … I think my quality of life will improve, definitely.  I’ll be able to do something in the afternoons besides go to bed.”

— Andrea Pratt, Human Resources Specialist, U.S. Army Installation Management Command (currently commutes about four hours a day to and from work)


A website allowing you to search apartment listings.


This website lists renters’ reviews on apartments.


A website that lists rental homes and apartments.


“Involved parents. Successful kids.” Learn about a school through parent ratings and reviews.


This site is designed around the needs of a relocating family with school-age children.  “Finding the right San Antonio schools in the right neighborhood has never been easier.”

San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department

This website lists parks and recreation places around San Antonio.


This site lists crimes such as robbery, burglary and theft by date, time and place.

Texas Department of Public Safety Sex Offender Database

This website allows searches for risk levels and addresses of sexual offenders in San Antonio and surrounding area neighborhoods.

DISCLAIMER: The Installation Management Command does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information contained on external linked websites. The appearance of external links does not constitute endorsement by the Installation Management Command, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense of the services or products offered on external sites. Links are provided solely for convenience.

Wall Street Journal: A Good Time to Buy? Yes March 31, 2010

Posted by Neal Snyder in Real Estate.
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A little stress relief for househunters in today’s economy — according to the Wall Street Journal’s real estate blog, homes are a good investment overall.

Many housing economists say that for borrowers who can get a mortgage and who have stable incomes, pulling the trigger on a house they like makes a lot of sense right now. (Of course, they also note that the days of buying high-end properties as high-yield investments are history, at least for the time being).

the headline goes on, “…but no need to rush.”

…the market is still oversupplied. And those who do make purchases need to be realistic about the potential for some future price declines.  … On the other hand, as mortgage rates are low for those who can get financing. “If you’re waiting because you think the price might get better, well, the mortgage rate could go in the wrong direction,” says John Burns, a real-estate consultant based in Irvine, Calif. He says it could be a good time to buy generally speaking in markets where values have returned to 2003 levels.

Based on the trends  HERE (House Almanac) and  HERE (Yahoo Real Estate – click “10 yr” on the market value graph) , even though values declined 2008-2009, San Antonio homes are worth far more than they were in 2003.

via A Good Time to Buy? Yes, But No Need to Rush – Developments – WSJ.

School surfing March 12, 2010

Posted by Neal Snyder in Real Estate, Relocation, San Antonio life.
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Got kids?  Want ’em to larn reel good?

In other words, how do you find the best public schools before you take that househunting trip?

San Antonio doesn’t make it easy. With 19 different school districts in Bexar County, quality necessarily varies. Finding the right situation takes a little research. Here’s one method:

  • Get familiar with the workings of a school evaluation service like Great Schools (http://www.greatschools.org/). This site takes test scores and parent input to rate schools on a 1-10 scale. One can find ratings by school, and learn what schools are close to a particular location.  One of the many demographic maps on Cyberhomes (http://www.cyberhomes.com/maps.aspx) uses Great Schools data to match school ratings with ZIP Codes, helping you visualize where the good schools are — click on Neighborhood Characteristics, select school ratings, then zoom in on San Antonio.
  • Determine how much weight you want to give school quality against other factors, such as commute, house size, or crime characteristics. Cyberhomes has maps for those.
  • Get to know the names of the schools within the ZIP codes you are interested in, and double-check them on the school rating site. Keep in mind, the post office doesn’t usually talk to the committee drawing the school boundaries.
  • After selecting a house, but before making an offer, check the school boundaries one more time – is the school correct? Frequently, the school on the real estate listing does not correlate with school system information. Most district Web sites offer ways to pinpoint the school serving a particular street or address (here’s a list of San Antonio district sites). For instance, the North East Independent School District offers this service, where users can enter the street of a prospective residence and get the names of the relevant elementary, middle and high schools. It might be smart to check this information and correlate it with Great Schools before committing to a residence.

In San Antonio, if you do your research, it’s easy to find an affordable home where schools are well above average not only for Texas, but for the country.

Ratings are not the only indicators of school quality, and education is not the only factor in choosing where to live. Note also. boundaries, teachers and administrators change.  But when schools are a consideration, and you can’t audit the classse in person, knowing the rating removes a measure of anxiety as you relocate your family.

*Mention of commercial Web sites does not constitute endorsement by the DoD. All opinions are strictly personal and do not reflect the position of IMCOM, the Army or the Department of Defense.

“Land-Office business” March 8, 2010

Posted by Neal Snyder in Real Estate, Relocation, San Antonio Economy.
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Growing up with Texas on my mother’s side, I learned to say, “They’re doing land-office business,” when something was popular or selling well. It was a reference to the Oklahoma Land Rushes, when settlers literally raced to claim their homesteads. 

The thousands of civilian transfers, strong economy, mild climate and extended $8,000 tax rebate seem to have created a small land rush around IMCOM’s new headquarters. More than 160 homes sold in one day during my recent househunting trip. Homes we’d been watching online for months started leaving the inventory as we shopped. Fortunately, we found a large, comfortable place within easy commuting distance of Fort Sam. But it might be worthwhile, if you’re planning to go to San Antonio, to consider the land rush, schedule a househunting trip and stake your claim as soon as you can.

Yet another good reason to move… December 4, 2009

Posted by imcomtransformation in Moving, Real Estate, Relocation.
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Home buyer tax credit extended
The $8,000 federal homebuyer tax credit was set to expire on Nov. 30, but President Barack Obama recently signed the Workers, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act, which extended the tax credit to those who purchase a home or have one under contract to April 30, 2010.
Obama signed the new law on Nov. 6. It goes into effect immediately.
The $8,000 tax credit is still for first-time homebuyers or for those who have not owned a home in three or more years. The new law expands the program to include homeowners who have owned a home for five or more years, and qualifies them for up to $6,500 in tax rebates.
The law also extends unemployment insurance for up to20 additional weeks. It extends the Economic Recovery Act small-business tax cuts for an additional year and expands the act’s reach to larger businesses.
The extension of the homebuyer’s tax credit is good news for local Realtors who have reported an increase in sales in the region, primarily by first-time homebuyers.
“What I have seen is a lot of use (of the $8,000 tax credit) in the under-$200,000 market,” said Mark Dingeldein, a Realtor with ERA D Lee Edwards Realty. “It has been very popular and successful.
I’ve probably worked with five different people that have used that.”
By Eric J Weilbacher,
The Herald-Zeitung
Excerpted from San Antonio Roundup Newsletter, published by Barbara Morgan, D’Ann Harper Realtors, Web site, barbmorgan.com.

Texas Veterans Land Board September 2, 2009

Posted by imcomtransformation in Moving, Real Estate, Relocation, San Antonio Economy.
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Check out this opportunity for veterans relocating in Texas…
History of Texas Veterans Programs
Texas, unlike many other states, has been historically a “cash poor” but “land rich” state. Since the days of the Texas Republic, Texas has given its veterans land in recognition of their military service. In the days of Sam Houston, that debt for service was paid to Texas veterans in grants of land. Following World War II, this tradition was continued with the creation of the Texas Veterans Land Board (VLB) in 1946 to administer a new program which would provide low-interest, long-term loans to Texas veterans for the purchase of land.

Since its inception, more than 120,000 Texas veterans have taken advantage of this self-supporting program without costing the taxpayers a single penny. The program is funded by issuing bonds authorized by the voters; the bonds, as well as the cost of administering the program, are paid for by the veterans who participate in the program.

In 1983, the Legislature created the Veterans Housing Assistance Program to assist Texas veterans in purchasing a home. Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment authorizing the issuance of bonds to fund the program.

In 1986, the VLB expanded the Veterans Housing Assistance Program, adding the Veterans Home Improvement Program to provide below-market interest rate loans to qualified Texas veterans for home repairs and improvements to their existing homes.

CARE Office opens to help with change June 18, 2009

Posted by imcomtransformation in Change Management, Real Estate.
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IMCOM headquarters has established an office for transitioning employees to get personal advice and answers to questions that might not be addressed through the Transition web site or town hall meetings.

Called the CARE Office (Comprehensive Assistance for Realigning Employees), it is a collaboration between the IMCOM MSO, EEO, and the DA CPAC. The office is in Room 8034 on the Taylor Building 8th Floor, and you can stop in, or call or email for an appointment with a specialist best suited to address your specific issues. Signs are up in the elevator lobby and elsewhere on the 8th floor to point the way.

The mission of the CARE Office is to be a one-stop shop for assistance for those who are and those who are not relocating to Fort Sam Houston.

“We recognize that sometimes you don’t want to or can’t get answers to all of your questions via the internet or a town hall meeting,” said Chris Brandstrup, the MSO proponent for the CARE Office. “We want to be able to provide you brochures on San Antonio, refer you to job vacancies in the DC Metro area, discuss retirement options, or just help you talk through whatever is on your mind.”

The CARE Office is part of a service that IMCOM leadership has established to help employees manage the changes underway. As an option, employees with questions or issues can simply use the phone or email to get answers that might not be available elsewhere.

Chris Brandstrup is in MSO, and he can be reached at 703-602-2117. The email address will be activated Monday, 22 June.

Why the Texas housing market is strong April 20, 2009

Posted by imcomtransformation in Real Estate.
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Strong, diverse economy: Texas is strong in industries that are still growing (such as professional and business services, education and health services, government) and has the second largest economy in the nation by DGP, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Healthy job market: Texas’ unemployment rate consistently remained well below the national average for all of 2008, and is currently the 16th lowest in the United States, despite having one of the largest populations.

Top state to relocate: According to Allied Van Lines’ 41st annual Magnet States Report, Texas is the number 1 destination state for residential relocation for the 4th year in a row. New data from the US Census Bureau confirms that Texas gained more residents (484,000) between July 2007 and July 2008 than any other state.

Texas real estate remains a strong long-term investment: The average sales price of a home in Texas increased $15,200 from January 2004 to January 2008. Over the same four-year period, the median sales price in Texas increased $10,900.

Texas has a balanced market: At the end of 2008, Texas had 6.4 months inventory of homes for sale. Economists at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University say that approximately 6 1/2 months of inventory is a balanced market, when homes are selling and prices continue to increase at a moderate pace.

Steady, positive price appreciation: Unlike states such as California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona that experienced dramatic spikes in home prices in years past, home prices in Texas have appreciated steadily. That’s one reason the state hasn’t seen the dramatic drops in value. In fact, home-price appreciation in Texas has not fallen below zero in the last 16 years.

Texas homes are more affordable: According to the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Texas homes are substantially more affordable than national averages. Using the correlation between home values and personal salaries, the typical Teas family can purchase a median –priced home for twice the median household income in Texas. In contrast, the typical US household requires three times the annual household income to purchase a median-priced home.

Lowest mortgage interest rates in history: As part of efforts to stimulate the US housing market, the Federal Reserve has decreased interest rates to some of the lowest in history. According to Freddie Mac, on March 27, 2009, the rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.85 percent, the lowest since the organization started tracking rates in 1971.

First-time homebuyer incentives: Most first-time homebuyers can now qualify for an $8,000 income tax credit on the purchase of a first home that does not require repayment.

Most borrowers are approved: Despite perceptions to the contrary, research by the National Association of REALTORS indicates that 91 percent of buyers in Texas were not rejected by lenders in 2008.

Contributed by Barbara Morgan, bmorgan@cbharper.com