Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Killer New Year's Party Ideas

 If you’re anything like us, you’re tired of the same old stuff for the New Year. Champagne, party poppers, and…champagne…and…champagne…and…er… lots of shouting. We can’t really think of any other traditions beside that, so we’re going to try ringing in the New Year an extra special way tonight. HERE ARE SOME IDEAS. Oh, sorry, we started the shouting there a bit prematurely.

1.    The Toast. For the most important part of the evening: the toast. We think it probably has to be easy and reminiscent of the champagne people are expecting when the clock strikes twelve, so here are a couple of recipes to try out.

Here’s one from famous lady Whitney Port:

(Photo Credit: Joe Scarnici/Getty(2))

Sunset Prosecco Float
2 small scoops blood orange sorbet (or flavor of your choosing)
About 4 oz. prosecco
Mint sprig
Using a melon baller, scoop the sorbet into a champagne flute.Top with prosecco, pouring slowly. Stir.
Garnish with a mint sprig.
Yield: Serves 1

And another one from The Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis; it received five stars and seems like a winner on account of its ability to be served in one huge batch so people can serve themselves throughout the evening willy-nilly:

(Photo Credit: Food Network)

Champagne Sangria:

Ingredients: 1 (750-ml) bottle Prosecco or French
Champagne, chilled

½ cup orange juice

2 cups Mint Simple Syrup

1 lemon, zested and thinly sliced

1 lime, zested and thinly sliced

½ cup sliced strawberries

5 fresh mint sprigs

Crushed ice


In a large pitcher, combine the Prosecco, orange juice, Mint Simple Syrup, lemon zest, and lime zest. Add the sliced strawberries, lemon slices, lime slices, and mint sprigs.
Fill glasses with crushed ice and pour the sangria over the top. Serve immediately.
Yield: 2 ½ cups

2.    The Grub. Have a midnight feast, because food! We think something quirky and fun like a baked potato bar or a shrimp cocktail station would be a rocking way to end 2014. Personally, there’s nothing like a surprise meal to make we (me, the author specifically) giddy with delight. Sometimes I remind myself of the lady in the pic below (from an SNL skit featuring Chris Farley).

3.    The Noise. You know what noisemaker would be better than one of those lame cone-shaped, metallic kazoos we normally blow into when the ball drops? Anything. Invite your guests to bring a crazy noisemaker of their choosing. For instance, vuvuzuelas.

(Photo Credit: Pennsylvania State University)

4.    The Game. Ask your guests to write predictions for 2015 onto a small piece of paper. Then put all of their papers into a hat, and going clockwise in a circle, have each guest draw one and try and guess whose fortune belongs to whom. When they mis-guess, it goes to the next person. If the person gets it right, they keep going until they guess wrong. Then it goes on to the next person, and so on. The person who guesses the most correctly wins a giant booby prize of your choosing. You can tally this total up by having people keep the ones they got right. This game can be outrageous or tame as you want it to be, or rather, as your guests are. So be prepared for some surprises along the way! But isn't that what the New Year has for us anyway? Great big ole surprises? That’s why we love it! That and it represents a fresh, clean slate for all of us.  

(Photo Credit: Knight Arts)

***Oh, and by the way…when y’all sleep off those killer party hangovers, and you feel like buying a house or selling one, give us a call! It’ll be time to get serious, but let’s start 2015 on a productive note, right?!!! 
Talk to you soon!***

(210) 566-6355

Monday, December 29, 2014

Real Estate Market Watch 2015


     The housing market has gained momentum throughout 2013 and 2014 and is continuing into the New Year according to®'s 2014 Housing Review, which suggests the boom is, "fueled by significant improvements in economic fundamentals, low mortgage rates, and compressed inventory". 

     That upswing is credited to a rise in jobs leading to an increase of the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) coupled with low rates, both of which have bolstered consumers' motivation to buy a home.

     That's wonderful news, but unfortunately the following factors still may make it a bit difficult for those first-time home-buyers to close on their loans in a timely manner, if at all. Depending on your financial situation, the process could also be a breeze. But keep these two items in mind to mentally prepare yourself for the journey of home-buying.

1. Strict Lenders: lenders are increasingly more tight-handed when it comes to granting home loans these days. But in 2015 those standards are predicted to loosen a bit, particularly in the areas of credit scores and debt ratios.

2. Competition: there are a low number of homes out there to select form.

     Let's focus on the positive, buyers. The top five factors that will continue to work in your favor here. Keep in mind these are predictions, not assurances.

1. The economy is continually improving, contributing to buyer confidence in the single-family market.

2. Mortgage rates are low (below 5%) which again help first-time home buyers to get the best deal possible.

3. Price appreciation is getting back to normal (still rising, but more slowly) after 2012 and 2013 favored home sellers, inflating the value of their homes and lightening the pockets of many home-buyers.

4. Foreclosures and and short sales are decreasing; these are known as "distress sales" and are down about 30% around the beginning of January, 2015.

5. Investors are expected to slow down since distress sales are decreasing. This will result in less competition in the single-family market. 

     All of these items are great news for home buyers. That doesn't mean home buyers won't face their share of hurdles in the home-buying process. Strict credit standards, tight lending, low inventory, fewer first-time home buyers in the single-family market, historic numbers of renters by the droves, and the painfully slow process of building new homes are all factors that might weigh down the process in the coming year. 

    Here at The Claus Team, we like to show you the light at the end of the tunnel. So when we give you hypothetically "bad" news, we'll also give you the good. The bright side of these challenges is that the overall economy won't be negatively-impacted by careless lending and credit standards as it did in the early to mid-2000's, when consumers were placed in home loans disproportionate to their incomes. When lenders were loose (just one contributor among many other large-scale financial missteps), the national economy crashed. 

     One of the keys to preventing further consumer and national debt was forcing financial institutions and individuals to raise their lending standards. The challenges are a good thing when you take that bird's-eye perspective.

   This Calculated Risk chart shows the state of the housing market in 2015 according to some of the biggest financial, home-building, and real estate institutions in the United States.

    Looking to buy or sell a home in 2015? January is often a great month to start your search for the perfect home and the perfect Realtor. Call your friendly agents at the The Claus Team and we'll advise you on everything you need to know to get a head start on your buying or selling journey. (210) 566-6355


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas on the Riverwalk

Just look at how beautiful and colorful Christmas is on the San Antonio River Walk! It's open today and tonight and makes for a perfect family holiday stroll or a romantic Christmas date. We'll see you there! :) And as usual, Merry Christmas from the Claus Team!

(210) 566-6355

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ho, Ho, Ho!!!

Merry Christmas to all of you wonderful people--friends, family, clients, and colleagues! We pray that your holiday is full of peace, quietness of mind, joy, and goodwill. And spiked egg nog! :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

LEGOS at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens

Legos at San Antonio Botanical Garden

San Antonio Botanical Garden presents a LEGO exhibit featuring 27 sculptures made entirely out of LEGOS! The sculptures range in size, some of them only a few inches, and others eight feet. This might be a fun thing to do with the in-laws in town over the holidays! Here are the details:

The Address:
San Antonio Botanical Garden
555 Funston Place
San Antonio, TX 78209

Cost: $10 for Adults, $7 Kids, and free for children under 3

When: December 28, 9:00 am-5:00 pm

Monday, December 22, 2014

#TackyXmasLights and Your Legal Rights

My, oh my! The Claus Team did a Google search for
"tacky Christmas lights" and guess what we found? Here are just a few photos we came across:

First, we'd like to ask a few questions to all of our blog viewers: would any of these scenarios bother you? Have any of you experienced this with your neighbors? Please comment below and let us know your stories! We want to hear.

Second, all this brings to mind the legal aspect of this situation. Of course, we at the Claus Team are Realtors and so we are always considering homeowners' rights above all else. If you are finding your holiday spirit dampened by a sensory overload holiday experience, or are finding that a similar situation is adversely affecting your enjoyment of your own private property, you may need to read up on laws that protect you and your rights. Here are some options we suggest exploring.

Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&R) are laws and conditions usually found in your closing documents that relay your property-owner rights and limitations in a development or community. This includes rights and limitations for members of a Homeowners Association (HOA). As long as these guidelines are federally legal, they apply to you and your neighbors. Our advice to you if someone is taking "deck the halls" waaaay too seriously is to read up on your community or development's regulations to see if you can find reason to drop a complaint to your HOA to attempt to limit some of the madness.

Zoning ordinances and regulations may also help you in an over-zealous decorator situation. There should be a pertinent municipal code within these documents that addresses lighting or decorating. If a neighbor is found guilty of violating the ordinances or regulations, they may be issued a warning or a hefty fine (up to $2,000). Hopefully they don't let it get to this level. 

If neither of these options have been helpful to you, you may consider filing a private nuisance claim. This is intense and may require an attorney. These cases require a lot of detail on the part of the plaintiff, so be sure you have all your facts straight before approaching the judge if you should want to pursue this type of legal action.

We sincerely hope your holiday is full of joy, peace, and goodwill toward men. If you have any questions of any sort about this blog post or anything having to do with Real Estate, we invite you to give us a call at The Claus Team, (210) 566-6355. Our agents are eager to speak with you and find you the answers you're looking for.

Have a wonderful week, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Top 10 Things to do in San Antonio for the Holidays

Hey, fellow San Antonians, looking for festive things to do from now until Christmas? Here is the Claus Team's list of top things to do. 

1. Light the Way, now through Jan. 6
Nearly a million lights decorate the University of Incarnate Word campus for this festival, from now until January 6. Check out this aerial photo of the campus. Isn't it gorgeous?

The University of the Incarnate Word, 4301 Broadway, San Antonio, Texas 78209

2. The Valero Alamo Bowl, Jan. 2
Come cheer on the Big 12 and Pac-12's number-one teams from two premiere conferences. The Valero Alamo Bowl features some of ESPN's most popular bowl games ever. They have sold out the last six out of eight years. GET YOUR POPCORN READY!

100 Montana Street, San Antonio, TX 78203

3. Hecho a Mano, now through Jan. 4
Get a taste of traditional and contemporary Latino culture in San Antonio by this new boutique and picking up some authentic, unique gifts at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.

723 South Brazos Street, San Antonio, TX 78207 

4. Fiesta de Navidad, Dec. 19-Dec. 20
What a beautiful way to celebrate a traditional Christmas story AND San Antonio-Latino-Spanish culture! Here you'll be able to see the one-of-a-kind Pastorla Folklorica, a fun take on a time-honored version of the Nativity story. Members of the Guadalupe Dance Company will perform flamenco and folklorico dances. Tickets are only $10.

1301 Guadalupe, San Antonio, TX 78207

5. Seaworld San Antonio-now through Jan. 2
Shamu performs his "Christmas Miracles", Elmo makes a special "Christmas Wish", and the dolphins put on a spectacular show! Sit back in the stands, get cozy with your family, and watch with cocoa and candy-canes in-hand. Afterward, you can take in the awe and splendor of the Christmas lights around the facility.

10500 Seaworld Dr., San Antonio, TX, 78251

6. Christmas at the Caverns, now through Dec. 23
After you take in the lighted view of the park, spelunk your way down to their underground Christmas shows, Caroling at the Caverns, and Journey to Bethlehem. There's also a charming Christmas village, singing cowboys, s'mores, zip lines, and more! 

26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Road, San Antonio, TX 78266

7. Morgan's Wonderland, now through Dec. 23
In this wintry 25-acre park, take your picture with Santa, pet some animals at the petting zoo, and get your Ferris wheel on! Do you think there might be real reindeer at the petting zoo? We want to find out!

5223 David Edwards Drive, San Antonio, TX 78233

8. Six Flags Fiesta Texas, now through Jan. 4
Hop off that Ferris wheel at Morgan's Wonderland and hop ON to a super scary roller coaster! Many a thrilling ride and tasty treat await you here, including Santa at his castle and a show called the "Majesty of Christmas". 

170000 IH West, San Antonio, TX 78257

9. New Year's Celebrate San Antonio, Dec. 31
Experience how San Antonians ring in the New Year with food, music, and a fireworks show that'll knock your Santa hat off.

San Antonio River Walk

10. Santa's Ranch, now through Jan. 3
Show the kids where Santa stays when he visits Texas. There are about a mile of amazing Christmas scenes to see with over a million spectacular lights. 

9561 I-35 North, New Braunfels, TX 78130

Thursday, December 18, 2014

10 Quick Ideas to Fix-up Your Tired Guest Room

Merry Christmas, y'all! I don't know about you, but we are busy preparing for a whole gang to come over to our house for some celebrating. We've been thinking about ways to spruce up the home quickly before the herd shows up at our doorstep. We figure the guest room is the perfect spot to zero-in on. We need to follow some of our own advice here! :)

Okay, this is something we ALWAYS say, but it ALWAYS works! I mean, just look at how fresh, clean, and calming the room looks in this home after a few coats of light blue against a white trim. It's glorious! It makes the room look new again, and personally, we love the smell of new paint (to a point). Consider relatively neutral colors like this one to serve as the perfect canvas for a colorful theme, a zany comforter set, or some bright works of art. That way, if you get tired of them in the future, you don't have to paint an entire wall, you just have to switch out the decor!

2. Consider ways to update your headboard, (or just get a new one!)

A headboard can bring your guest room to luxury hotel status, stat! The one in the above photo is so beautiful, adding the perfect touch of modern art with its sharp angles and sloping curves along with a dramatic teal-and-turquoise pop of color. The rest of the room is relatively neutral, with subtle hints of tranquil blues scattered about. On a side note, the colors of this room complement the loads of natural light spilling in. How heavenly!

3. Liven up your end tables

All it usually takes is a coat of paint or some varnish, but refreshing your tired end tables will add sophistication to the entire room. Or, you could go to one of our favorite inexpensive places in town, At-Home, and pick up a few silver-and-glass or brightly-painted wood end tables for relatively few bucks. Either way, it's a win.

4. Switch our your bedding

The bed is the central focus of the room. It's important that your guest bed says, "Come hither, and lay your weary body upon me for a deep and peaceful respite from traveling life" instead of, "You might want to inspect the covers for bed bugs before you dive in". Therefore, it's all about the bedding. Just think of all the wonderful hotel rooms you stayed in. Remember how fresh and clean and smooth the covers were, with many layers to could peel off or add on depending on how high you blasted the air conditioning that night? Remember how plush and deep the pillows were, and how everything always seemed clean and new? That's how your guest bed should be. 

5. Lampshade makeover

Oh, what a difference a little color and texture can make in a room! A teensy little lamp, or its lampshade, can make or break a room. Here's proof right here in this photo. Are we even looking at the same lamp here? And guess what? It was probably pretty inexpensive to buy a can of spray paint and a new lampshade!

6. Get all artsy

Behold, the transformative properties of artwork! Without anything on the walls, this room would still be cute, but it wouldn't be "wow". It's important to note the symmetry and attention to eye-levelness of the art. Oftentimes, it's a good idea to balance the works on the walls on a focal feature, like the window here, with two small identical works of art on either side, level to each other. The painting above the bed is balanced on the headboard, which is centered on the wall. A touch of texture and zaniness is added with the hanging lamp in the center of the room. It all works beautifully together. 

7. Accessorize away

Like we mentioned in the first point, a neutral wall can give birth to the most perfect backdrop on which to lavish art and colorful accessories, if that floats your boat. Of course, subtle and tame accessories can be just as lovely. Go nuts if you want. Or don't. Or go nuts. 

8. Freshen with flowers
Who doesn't enjoy the intoxicating fragrance of fresh blooms? It reminds one of the season of rebirth and excitement, Spring. It's quite a gracious way to welcome guests and tell them that they're important to you. 

9. Cable-up

Many people enjoy settling down at night with the dull hum of a television show or movie. Since guests are already out of their element staying in a strange place, make sure they have access to these types of comforts. Place a television with a DVD player on a stand in front of the bed, and bonus points if you run cable to your guest room! 

10. Clean like there's no tomorrow

That's it. Just dust, sweep, mop, polish, and spritz some smell-good stuff around the room. It's the final touch to your complete guest bedroom mini-reno. Happy decorating! :)

And remember, we're always here to help or give you more fabulous tips for your home! Call the Claus Team at (210) 566-6355 any time! And visit our website to view current listings and more. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The 12 Days of Christmas Home Improvement

In Just 12 Days, Improve Your Home

Just like the crazy-lovable families from National Lampoon's A Christmas Vacation or A Christmas Story, our friends and family are on their way, ready to throw some chestnuts on the open fire, sing Jingle Bells to their hearts’ content, and drink too much egg nog (the real kind). Do you have your home all spiffy and ready for their arrival? Here are some great things to do (and you can even turn it into a song that sounds something like the Twelve Days of Christmas, if you’d like!)

Day 1: Deck the halls with lights (LED will save you money!)

Nothing says, “The holidays are here” like outdoor lights on your home. If you would rather have a professional hang your lights for you, San Antonio General Contractors has a wonderful website for estimating the costs on your home. They range anywhere from about $150 to about $1,000, depending on the extravagance you’re going for.

Day 2: Clean the fireplace (to prepare for Santa’s arrival)

When it’s "BRRRRRR" outside, the fireplace is a staple in your home. Nothing feels as good as lazing around on big comfy furniture, bare feet exposed to the heat radiating off a crackly fire.  However, before you use your fireplace, make sure it's hazard-free. Since you last used it, ash might have built up, which can ignite fires in the top of the chimney. So, now's a good time to look for a chimney sweep to do the dirty work for you.  They'll also be able to assess any possible structural damage in the chimney or fireplace that need to be addressed.

Day 3: Weatherstrip the doors and windows
You want your family and friends to be nice and cozy when they’re sitting in your home, kicking up their feet with a big foamy mug of hot chocolate by the nice, clean fireplace. If they are sitting near a poorly-insulated window and feel a draft, it might put a damper on the whole toasty experience. What’s more is that the heater might be working overtime to compensate for the heat escaping through the cracks throughout the house. That’s money down-the-drain. Just go around your home and hand-test the doors and windows for leaks, then weather-strip them if they need it. Problem solved.

Day 4: Test your plumbing
Once and a while it’s a good idea to hire a local plumber to perform a check-up on the pipes in your home, especially when the weather presents freezing temperatures that could cause them to burst. When your ninety-eight-year-old Aunt Gladys stays over for the holidays, the last thing you want is for her to have to wheel down the hall (or down some stairs) to use the bathroom. This situation is not something anyone wants to face when there’s so much joy and merriment to be had. The plumber can recommend any fixes, including insulating pipes to keep them from freezing if it’s really cold. Aunt Gladys will thank you!

Day 5: Inspect your furnace filter and clean if applicable
This is actually required once a month, but let’s face it—not many of us do that. The cleaning ensures that the hot air circulates easily through the vents and ducts throughout your home. If the filter gets too dirty, the furnace has to strain to do its job, which will reflect in your utility bill. The job is too easy and saves you too much money in the long run, so it’s a good idea to go ahead and knock it out. Replacing your furnace is waaaaay more expensive.

Day 6: Check out your insulation
Is your insulation clean, dry, and free of pests? If so, great! If not, it might have formed small holes that jeopardize its ability to protect your home from the elements. Just like a dirty furnace, this can also raise your utility bill. Hopefully, the issues are minor or none at all, or else you might have to hire a home insulation contractor to lay down some fresh, clean insulation.

Day 7: Have your home inspected
The aforementioned are all small problems, and mostly easy-to-fix. However, if you want to see if your home has bigger issues that are more difficult to spot, hire a home inspector. Depending on whether or not there are any issues, the inspection could take a few hours, so prepare yourself for that reality, sit back, and make yourself some iced tea while he or she does their investigative work.

Day 8: Fix anything the home inspection finds
We certainly hope you’re in the clear of any issues, including pests, draining issues, leaks, wiring or electrical problems, mold, water pressure issues, cracks in the foundation, or more (broken leg lamps?), once you get that inspection done. But it will be important to your home in the long run to fix these issues, all of which could become major issues in the future if not remedied now.

Day 9: Install a new thermostat.
Remember our post a few days back about changing your old wired thermostat to a top-of-the-line wireless one? Yeah, we still mean it. It will not only look better and function fabulously, but it will also save you on your utility bill. 

Day 10: Paint the walls, stand back and marvel
Remember the time you decided to paint your walls, and you and your family stood back in awe of how beautiful and refreshing it turned out? Try a serene blue paired with stark-white trim, to give a clean and spacious impression of the room. There's plenty to choose from! Plus, there’s nothing like the smell of fresh paint to make you feel like you’re living in the lap of luxury and newness. It will be the perfect backdrop for a beautifully-lit Christmas tree.

Day 11: Don we now our cleaning aprons
You know the drill on this one. Put on those aprons and rubber gloves, grab a bucket and a scrub brush, some cleaning sprays, and get down and dirty. Make that home sparkle! Sure, your Uncle Larry is going to end up getting crumbs all over the living room and splaying his clothes all over the guest room, but we’ll worry about that when the time comes. For now, it’s your time to reveal the glory and beauty of your newish home. Call it your Christmas present to yourself!

Day 12: Organize your stuff
Now is the perfect opportunity for you to do all the Pinterest organization projects you’ve been admiring. Label and arrange your medicine cabinet, or get color-coordinated baskets and decals that make your utility closet look like the cleanest, most stylish on the block. Your whispering in-laws will be impressed/threatened by your freakish attention to detail.