Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Extreme Dream Homes

Holy Real Estate! Some people aren't satisfied with your typical single-family dwelling, and that’s okay. Certain people thirst to put their own artisan touch on the architecture and design of the home. Sometimes they even take on a whole construction project with an ethereal vision of something they can truly call their own. Some of these projects are a little too intimidating for the likes of us, but we are glad they exist to charm us far beyond a state of tickled-pinkness! Here are three such projects.

1. Project 1-Le Manois Exquis

Once upon a time (November, 2013), an Australian couple pursued their life-long dreams by purchasing a mid-eighteenth-century French château (Château de Gudanes) nestled by the arms of the Pyrénées Mountains in Château-Verdun, France.

Craig and Karina Waters took on this daunting project out of love and determination, grasping tightly a vision of returning the greatness of what “has-been” to what “could-be”, or better, what “will-be” <(that’s us putting faith in their colossal vision).

Watch the charming video below to experience the conception of their journey. The video captures the magnetism and old-world beauty of the surrounding village, nature, and of course the chateau itself.

2. Project 2-Ye Olde Paper Mill

This one is from HGTV’s ‘Extreme Homes’. A young Holyoke, Mass., couple turns an Industrial-textile paper mill into a 10,000-square-foot home! Melissa and Rich Cooper got the home for a fraction of the price of a regular home in the area, so they spent the extra cash on a massive renovation-of-their-dreams.  

The two own their own masonry business, and so touches of their bricklaying expertise can be seen throughout the home. Melissa also had fun with some personal artwork on a couple of the walls and doors. We can’t find any photos of the project or the couple online, so please accept our apologies. 

Check this video out, the result is just as quirky and endearing as their personalities! 

3. Living the High Life
(  (Photo Credits: Blue Forest)

Brothers Andy and Simon Payne are have turned their boyhood adventures into a career with their England-based tree-house building business, ‘Blue Forest’. The two grew up in Kenya where nature was their playground. Now, they build tree houses for anyone, any age. If you've always wanted to live in a tree house as an adult, behold your builders!  (Well, if you don't mind travelling to the U.K. to get the process started).

The only problem we would have with this is fighting the squirrels, monkeys (depending on where you live), tree snakes, and birds for territory. Also, what happens if you fall down and break a limb, tree or otherwise? Would they have to send a MEDEVAC flight to save you? It all seems so dubious, but so exciting! Check out their video, featuring all sorts of high-life whimsy!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Tax Season: The Best Time to Be a Homeowner

Now that tax season is here, it’s time to rejoice, all ye homeowners! You have the freedom and (possibly) extra cash coming your way to afford cosmetics, furnishings, fixes, and renovations.

The key to this freedom and (possible) cash is filling out your itemized deductions under Schedule A in the dreaded 1040 long form, which can be found here.
If you pay property taxes under your local or state government, great news—you may deduct them and any real estate taxes you pay. Also, a portion of your monthly mortgage may be deducted on your tax return. The interest is what’s deductible. The requirement is that you must stay in that home for at least 14 days per year (or more than 10% of the days it’s rented annually). If you fail to meet this requirement, it may be that the IRS has classified your home as a rental property and not a second home. Even more rules apply if the latter is the case.

Points may also be deducted which are calculated based on IRS’ criteria, usually loan origination fees, loan discount, discount points, or maximum loan charges. The full amount of points gathered annually may not be deducted in the full amount, so be sure to check out the IRS’ guidelines on points.
Mortgage interest, discount points, and origination fees are called the “big 3” mortgage write-offs.


If you have a VA home loan, you may be eligible for different deductions found under IRS Publication 530.  For instance, you may be able to deduct interest through a VA cash-out refinance loan, which would enable vets with credit card debt to reduce their high interest to low-interest for their home loans. Vets benefit doubly from using this program because not only can they reduce their monthly payments, but they can also deduct the mortgage interest. Also, be sure to check out the rules for capital gains. Most married homeowners (filing jointly) can sell their home every two years tax-free. Since service members typically move every couple of years, this is a very handy thing to keep in mind for when you put that VA loan to use!

If you need specific guidance on filing your tax return, contact a tax advisor or read up on the regulations in IRS Publication 936, which can be found here. Or, if you have any questions at all pertaining to this blog or anything else, please give us a call at (210) 566-6355. We can't guarantee we'll have the answer to questions like, "who was the speaker of the house in 1932?" or, "how does the theory of relativity apply to space travel?", but we'll definitely be able to help you with your real estate needs! We value all of you, and good luck on your taxes this year! Happy filing! :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

San Antonio Restaurant Week!

This week we get to gratify our rumbling tummies at our favorite fancy-schmancy San Antonio Restaurants for RESTAURANT WEEK (featuring fixed-price rates for top-tier meals!) It’s a way for us to celebrate San Antonio culture and culinary expertise affordably.

For Tier-1 service, it’s $15 for lunch and $35 for dinner
For Tier-2 service, it’s $10 for lunch and $25 for dinner

We know that reservations aren't required, but definitely seem to be a good idea on account of how many people are excited to devour some good eats.

A major plus for joining in on all the fun is that some of your money will go to a good, charitable cause. For every $1 and $2 spent at participating restaurants, they will donate to Culinaria and its select charity groups. That sounds like a wonderful excuse to grossly overeat splurge a little on gourmet grub to us!

Culinaria is a non-profit organization geared toward bettering San Antonio and making it a popular, worldwide wine-and-food go-to destination. The program provides aid and education for San Antonio chefs during times of personal hardship through their Chefs 4 Chefs program. Its next big push to benefit San Antonio is its Culinaria Urban Farm, which will promote a nutritionally-dense farm-to-table diet and will highlight the importance of serving locally-grown produce in restaurants throughout the city.

(Photo Credit: Biga on the Banks, San Antonio)

This week we plan on trying Biga on the Bank’s 11-spiced Texas Axis venison and grilled Bandera quail featuring a goat cheese tart, chestnuts, Brussels sprouts, apricot, sultana cinnamon chutney, and juniper sauce for dinner. For dessert, we would like to try Restaurant Gwendolyn’s apple pie rose water creme anglaise topped with brandy ice cream.

(Photo Credit: Restaurant Gwendolyn, San Antonio)

OMG our mouths are absolutely watering! (Where is that measly stick of cheese I packed for snack this morning? Maybe that will satisfy me until then? Maybe?). Likely not.

The following are the participating restaurants:

Antler’s Lodge
La Frite
Arcade Midtown Kitchen
Liberty Bar
Little Rhein Steakhouse
Bavarian Brauhaus
Biga on the Banks
Market on Houston
Max’s Wine Dive
Mellow Mushroom
Bob’s Steak and Chop House
Boardwalk Bistro
Morton’s The Steakhouse
Boiler House
Oaks Crossing Bistro and Bar
Paloma Blanca
Perry’s Steak and Grille
Brio Tuscan Grille
Restaurant Gwendolyn
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Speisen European Cuisine
Cover 3
Stella Public House
El Machito
Thai Topaz
Esquire Tavern
Tre Trattoria Alamo Heights
Fig Tree Restaurant
Tui Steppi’s Osteria
Grey Moss Inn
Tuk Tuk Tap Room
Wildfish Seafood Grille
Zinc Bistro & Bar
Zocca Cuisine D’Italia
La Foccacia Italian Grill

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

5 Projects That Up Value of Your Home

Projects That Up Value of Your Home

Remodeling and fixing-up your home can be a way to boost the value of your home. But it's important that whatever you do to your home, you end up getting your money's worth out of it. The 2015 Remodeling Cost vs Value Report explains that exterior projects and smaller projects had the best bang-for-your-buck this year.

It can be a very overwhelming prospect to decide what to do and what not to do, but luckily the experts here at the Claus Team can help you out. The first thing we will say is that curb appeal is always important to buyers searching for homes. It's the first thing buyers see and the thing that leaves the most lasting impression when they're done viewing your home. For instance, do you have a crumbling retaining wall that is barely holding up, like the one in this photo? Although it can be a big project with tractors and lots of digging, it will be worth it in the long run when it comes to selling your home to at least repair a shoddy retaining wall.

(Photo Credit: A Pinch of Vintage)

Another great way to spend money and recoup that money is to replace your door with a steel door. In fact, says that switching to a steel door in the front can recoup the cost of the door by "101.8 percent" upon resale. Steel doors are markedly less expensive than their wood and fiberglass counterparts, save on energy expenses, last longer, and require the few repairs.

A wood deck is another fantastic investment, if done right. It adds a tremendous amount of living space while upping the aesthetic view of your home. The return-on-investment according to House Logic is about 80.5 percent upon resale

(Photo Credit: Long Island Decks)

Closely behind wood decks in terms of return, is an attic conversion project. It adds extra space and could potentially attract buyers who want a guest room or a bonus office. An attic room can be completely charming and a welcoming break from symmetry, community with roommates, and boring, square walls. Unless you're into that sort of thing

(Photo Credit: Tyrone Attic Stairs)

A very smart way to upgrade the appearance of your home is to replace the garage doors. It's a simple project and adds tremendous curb appeal. Check out the before-and-after photo below. The new garage doors are an indubitable improvement from the ones before, and they add so much modernity to the house itself! Plus, the projected return-on-investment is about 82.5% according to Home Logic.

(Photo Credit: Alpha One Door Systems)

New windows will also up the value of your home and return the cost upon resale, especially if they're energy-efficient. Below are some impressive examples from Snyder Windows of how windows can totally change the appearance of the home. It can take the exterior from drab to fab in no time! Home Logic says that the expected return for the investment from this project is about 77.5 percent for "midrange vinyl" windows, and about 78.8 percent for "midrange wood" replacement windows.

(Photo Credit: Snyder Windows)

If you're ever curious about what you're planning to do to your home is really a good investment for you, please call our experts at The Claus Team. We are always standing by to answer your questions, give you advice, support you, and of course, help you purchase or sell a home. We aren't just Realtors, we are long-term friends eager to see you succeed and make the best choices for you and your family, so please keep us on speed dial! We look forward to the call! :) (210) 566-6355.

Monday, January 12, 2015

New FHA Rate Cuts Costing Homebuyers?

Remember our December 29, 2014 blog about the state of the 2015 Real Estate market? We told you the forecasts for 2015 were looking relatively bright and sunny, “fueled by significant improvements in economic fundamentals, low mortgage rates, and compressed inventory”, according to®’s 2014 Housing Review. 

We also said a rise in jobs has led to an increase of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and rates are at an all-time low, increasing consumer motivation to buy a home. Things were looking swell for cash-strapped millennial homebuyers. One of the biggest challenges for them and all potential home buyers would have been the competition since the availability of homes is somewhat scarce in early 2015.

Well, now we can add a new complication for these young borrowers to the mix. Although the following plan presents fewer challenges for home buyers in general, it may be a hardship for them. President Obama announced a “3% down loan program” in December that will challenge homebuyers even more. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will cut its mortgage insurance premiums on its loans from 1.35% to 0.85% for new borrowers electing the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage beginning January 26.  This change is now predicted to bring in more than 250,000 new homebuyers to the closing table.

The FHA’s new program is reportedly an attempt to restore the market to a state in which buyers are no longer paying inordinate annual fees. Previously, the average homebuyer has had to fork over an average of $1,600 a year, a dollar amount significantly higher than seen before the nation’s economic crisis.  The new program is expected to now save buyers an average of $900. By reducing premiums, saving consumers money, and reducing stringent lending standards, the FHA hopes to (somewhat) restore the normalcy of yesteryear to consumers searching for a new home.

This may be bad news for cash-poor millennials, who were expected to flood the home-buying market this year per this year’s market forecast. With a 3-3.5% down payment required, their options appear somewhat limited. Should they elect to do the lower-rate FHA loan and pay 1.75% mortgage insurance up-front as well as their 0.85% premiums for 30 years? Or do they choose one of Freddie Mac’s or Fannie Mae’s 3% down payment loan, in which they would need stellar credit? If they choose either one of these, borrowers will still be required to purchase mortgage insurance until the equity in their home is up to 20%. Plenty of cash up-front as well as a good credit score will behoove them in the home-buying process.

However, millennials aside, the FHA’s new 3-3.5% down home loan program could lift barriers for home buyers in general. Of course, there are naysayers who claim this could lead to another huge bailout for the mortgage industry, but that remains to be seen. For now, most homebuyers  can enjoy the lower rates.  

Whoever you are--millennials, rookie home-buyers, retirees--it doesn't matter--we can help put you in the home you've always imagined yourself in (or help you sell the one you're tired of!). Call us today and get a free market analysis or home value analysis. (210) 566-6355. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Top 5 Things To Do in San Antonio January 2015

Things to Do in San Antonio This Month

1. San Antonio Cocktail Conference/ &25-$275
Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015-Sunday, Jan 18, 2015

(Photo Credit:

The San Antonio Cocktail Conference is one of the Best Cocktail Festivals in the United States, according to Fodor’s Travel. The city’s best cocktail connoisseurs and bartenders get together for guided tastings and cocktail parties as well as educational seminaries. Much of the proceeds go to charity.

2. Martin Luther King, Jr. March and Rally
Monday, January 19, 2015, 10am
Martin Luther King Academy
3501 MLK Drive, San Antonio

(Photo Credit:

Join the march in honor of the nation’s most respected leader of civil rights. The march begins at the Martin Luther King Academy and will end at Pittman-Sullivan Park. More than 100,000 adults and children are expected to show up to the event.

3.  Amazing Scavenger Hunt Adventure-San Antonio/ $9-$20
Monday, Dec. 1, 2014-Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Starts at Emily Morgan Hotel
705 E. Houston, San Antonio, Texas 78205

(Photo Credit:  

4. Dia De Los Muertos Art Exhibition
Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014-Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015
10am to 5 pm Tuesday-Sunday
Educational & Cultural Arts Center
101 S. Santa Rosa, San Antonio, Texas 78207

Texas A&M presents a Day of the Dead art exhibition in the Educational & Cultural Arts Center.

5. SeaWorld San Antonio Opens for 2015 Season

Jan. 31

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How Cultures Influenced the Design of Texas Homes

(Photo Credit:

I haven’t always lived in Texas. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Denver, accustomed to small, single-family ranches of wood and brick. Rarely did I see a Spanish roof or adobe, or a house exterior of pure stone. Once I moved to Texas, I noticed the state’s affinity for these types of materials. I assumed Texans’ love for stone and rustic design stemmed from its natural landscape…semi-desert, rock-and-clay, a landscape of many natural tones. But the truth is, home design and architecture in Texas is attributed to its many cultural influences, in addition to its natural landscape.

Rustic-Cowboy, Mexico and South America Influence on Homes (1519-1700s):

Vaqueros came from Mexico and South America after the Spanish established cattle ranches there.  The vaqueros migrated throughout the United States and South America all the way to Argentina. Landowners even taught Native Americans to cattle ranch on horseback. The practice and profession spread to the Southwest and was hugely popular by the turn of the 19th Century. Today, many Texas homes take on a rustic rancher feel, as a throwback to the archaic American cowboy with lasso in-hand. Cabins, rugged wood, animal skins and mounted heads paired with Native American rugs and adobe inspiration is common in many Texas homes.

Spanish-Inspired or Native American-Inspired Homes (1682-1835):
 After all, the first smatterings of architecture in the state were Spanish Roman-Catholic Missions as Spaniards strategically placed them throughout the state to bring Christianity to Native Americans. These missions were responsible for securing Spanish territory in Texas along with forts and pueblos. They became the signature look of Texas.  Today, many homes reflect details of Spanish-style Missions.

 (Photo Credit: Architecture Digest, Lance Armstrong’s Austin Home)

Perhaps Texas homes made out of Adobe and natural stone slabs can, in part, be attributed to its rich culture of Native Americans. At least four Native American cultures existed throughout Texas when the first European settlers laid claim to territories there, including the Coahuiltecan, Karankawan, Trans-Pecos, Jumanos and the Patarabueyes peoples lived in adobe and mud-plastered homes in villages or pueblos. In North Texas, another culture erected structures similar to those seen commonly in New Mexico and Arizona, layering adobe and slabs of stone.

Greek, Colonial, and Victorian Anglo Influence on Homes: (1700s-1900s)

As more and more Europeans settled in Texas, more Catholic and Episcopal churches popped up throughout the state. Tall, angular steeples and high arches brought a gothic-Greek style into Texas architecture.  Anglos began to build public squares and communities, building structures multiple stories high with many European touches, such as French doors and brick-and-stone patterns.

And of course, Texans caught the Victorian-era bug after the civil war until the turn of the 19th century. This explains the many historical buildings established in many Texas towns. Victorians were very detailed and opulent in their architectural styles, preferring asymmetry and an overall balance rather than logic of layout or simplicity. Today, many Texas cities preserve their historical structures as a valuable part of their culture.

(Photo Credit:, Gainesville, TX Victorian Home)

(Photo Credit:, a Colonial-Style Brick-and-Column Home in Houston, TX)

(Photo Credit: Exotic Excess, A $6.2-mil Greek Revival Home in Dallas, TX)

Many homes in Texas are a nod to these influences in its diverse and rich history. New construction often mimics these gorgeous details, sometimes finding a unique amalgam of all these styles. So, when you see one of our homes for sale, look for the hints of cultural influences we’ve just discussed, and see if you notice! For instance, do you see the tiniest touches of Spanish-Colonial and Native American influence in this Garden Ridge home?

(Photo Credit:, 24719 Creek Loop, San Antonio, 78266)

And notice the classical Greek and colonial details of this San Antonio home for sale. The style also combines Spanish and Native American inspiration, along with complimenting the natural landscape of the land with the layers of natural white stone in the yard. Beautiful!

(Photo Credit:, 863 Fawnway, San Antonio, 78260)

(Data and dates taken from the Texas Historical Association, Architecture as well as

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Is Marriage Before Mortgage Still a Thing?

Marriage Before it necessary?
The Claus Team has come across some very interesting statistics in 2015 that suggest things are really starting to change in Real Estate. Of course, we have noticed in our own day-to-day business that families have changed quite a bit since starting out in Real Estate in the early-nineties. And of course, the market continually changes. Society changes. Everything changes! Marriage before mortgage used to be the only option.

Life used to go like this: once upon a time, you graduated high school, you got married, you bought a house, and you immediately began to have children. At least, that’s the experience I recall with my own grandparents, who at 18 got their diplomas, got married, bought a house, and got pregnant with their first child (out of four subsequent children), all in the same year. That was in 1951, when marriage was a prerequisite of a mortgage. Nowadays, things are drastically different than they were in the “good ole days”.

An influx of young people are pursuing mortgages in 2015 despite being unmarried, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. Roommates, same-sex partners and unmarried couples are occupying the housing market increasingly more these days, says Harvard University’s Joint Center for Hope researcher Rachel Drew. Along with this upward trend, is a downward trend of married-couple mortgages.

A 2014 study by real estate website Redfin revealed that some couples are finding it more prudent to take the money they’ve earned and put it toward a down payment on a home, foregoing a wedding or a honeymoon.

That doesn’t mean marriage isn’t still a big factor in today’s real estate market. The link is clear, as a large part of the housing market is still occupied by married couples. It just means that number is continuing to decrease as newer generations take hold of the market.

(Photo Credit: L.A. Times, 2015)

What do y’all think of the mortgage-marriage concept? Do you think it’s a good thing to be married before buying a home, do you think it’s bad, or does it matter to you either way? We’d love to start up a good conversation and hear what you think. Post away in the comments box below!

Oh, and one more thing. Married, unmarried, or between a marriage, we are always here to help you out in all things Real Estate. Just give us a call and we can discuss things like when to put your home on a market, what type of home you’re looking for, or give you a current market analysis. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Source: “Many Buyers No Longer See Marriage as Prerequisite to a Mortgage,” Los Angeles Times (Jan. 2, 2015)

Friday, January 2, 2015

The best New Year's Resolution: Save $ for a Home

How prepared are you financially to save up for a home? Either way, doing so could use a little drive and focus in the form of goal-setting. Fortunately, this is the perfect time of year to do just that! Consider making your number one New Year's resolution to save up money for your home's down payment. 

According to a 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers survey, thirty-seven percent of homebuyers claim it only took them six months or less to save up money for the purchase of a home. The rest took between a year to a year-and-a-half. So it's feasible to complete this goal successfully by the end of the year, at least. The national median average for the down payment required from first-time buyers is 6-percent. For repeat buyers it's 13-percent. Most people expect that number to be egregiously higher than it is. In fact, that number is quite often over-estimated. So again, it's very possible to save up enough money for the down payment within a limited amount of time. Will you have to sacrifice money in your budget and forego certain luxuries? Probably, but maybe not as much as you would expect. Here are some tips on how to save. 

1. Create a budget (be honest and realistic about your needs vs. expenditures vs. savings) 

2. Don't touch your savings (make a rule to keep hands off until it's time to make that "down payment" withdrawal) 

3. Set up automatic savings deposits (do this through your employer's payroll so it gets subtracted from your paycheck before it hits your main bank account) 

 4. Save all "unexpected" incoming funds (anything surplus that you didn't expect, including bonuses and tax refunds, sweep away into that quarantined savings account) 

5. Don't focus on the little ways to save; focus on the doozies. (it's easier and faster to focus on your largest expenditures, such as ways to cut down on utilities, than switching to mayonnaise sandwiches from your usual egg salad, for instance) 

6. Downsize (is there a way to move into a one-bedroom instead of a two, and save in the process? can you make your coffee at home instead of getting one every morning in the drive-thru?) 

7. Save less for retirement (now is the time to stop focusing on that matching 401-k and focus on short-term savings to quickly save the amount you need for your down payment) 

8. Enlist the help of a support network (tell your in-laws you won't be meeting them at restaurants for dinner anymore, or very often. Tell your friends your savings goals and allow them to support you along the way) 

9. Reward yourself in the midst of the process (if, for example, you have cut out going out to dinner from your monthly budget, consider fixing a fancy meal at home once a week. You don't want to be miserable, right?) So, in a nutshell, simply create a budget, hands off the savings, and make sure you're not completely overdoing the saving. The number-one reason New Year's resolutions often fail is because the goal is too lofty and unrealistic. Don't make that mistake with this one, especially since it is of critical importance for one buying a home in the near future. Make sure you give yourself plenty of breathing room, and in the meantime, happy home-hunting! 

Consider allowing the Claus Team to be alongside you in the process. We are here around-the-clock to provide you guidance, support, and show you the homes you have your eye on. Our New Year's resolution is to continue to provide you excellent service, and place you in the home of your dreams. We are a team of patient, friendly counselors ready to meet and exceed your expectations! Call us today and get a free estimate on your home or market analysis. We look forward to the call!

(Photo Credit: Jeanine and Brad Claus)

The Claus Team 
(210) 566-6355 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year from the Claus Team!

So ^this^ YouTube video is so cool! It features New Year's 2015 celebrations from all over the world, starting in London. It makes us excited to ring in the new year here in San Antonio, Texas! We'll show the world how it's done, right?

2014 was a wonderful year for the Claus Team. We met some clients we truly enjoyed and formed life-long friendships with. We hope your year was just as good, and if it wasn't (bummer!), we hope 2015 will be full of opportunity, friendships, love, joy, and success! We measure success in terms of how happy our clients are with our services and our relationship, and it'll always be a goal in the forefront of our minds, no matter how "well" y'all tell us we're doing! There really is no point in which one has arrived when it comes to doing business, after all, true?

Therefore, this new year, we resolve to continue to be the best Realtors we can be. We promise to work as hard as we can to put you in the home you deserve. We will continue to strive for the best and beyond in 2015. But for tonight, we'll party like it's 2014 with the rest of you! Cheers to a fresh start, and to you, who get the credit for our continued success. Thank you, we appreciate you, and party on!