With Labor Day fast approaching and pre-season football in its
third week, I am beginning to set my sights on all things relating to FALL including
cooler temperatures. But for the past 64 days, there’s no mistaking, summer is
still around and temperatures have been anything but cool. With the absence of
rain and triple digit temperatures wreaking havoc on everything from our local crops
to our electricity usage plus the looming dangers of wildfires, this drought has certainly
taken its toll on the soil conditions in our region and the effects it has on the
foundation of our homes.

In areas where the ground is black and clay-like, known as
expansive soils, the lack of water and moisture can cause cracks the size of
small craters in the soil even under a foundation. Therefore, it is critical
that a homeowners maintain a constant moisture level around the perimeter of their
homes. Before we discuss the ramifications and remedies of such adverse conditions,
let’s talk more about the soil conditions.

Our local area soils are referred to as shrink-swell soils; those that can experience changes in volume up to 30% or more. Expansive soils “heave” during periods of high moisture levels when the ground is saturated causing “lifting” in various parts of a
foundation. The opposite conditions are known as falling soils which result
in the “collapse” of soils. Both of these conditions can lead to structural settlement and potential damage to a foundation.

What we are experiencing here in the North Texas region are drought conditions
resulting from unusually high temperatures for unusually long periods of time
with little to no rainfall. Even our area lakes and the real estate surrounding
them are suffering to extreme proportions.

How does a homeowner protect the integrity of their foundation in these volatile conditions, you ask?

This is what I have learned over the course of my years as a Realtor and Homeowner:

  • Proper drainage is paramount around the perimeter of your home. Directing rain water away from the home is crucial to prevent problems.
  • The usage of downspouts and proper grading to allow natural flow of water away from the foundation will help to prevent water from pooling along the foundation.
  • Because of the seasonal changes in moisture level with dryer conditions throughout the summer months,   a good year-round watering program is recommended. This would include a steady light soaking around the perimeter 2-3 ft. from the foundation, which will help to maintain a consistent moisture level and ward off any potential problems.
  • It is important periodically to check the soil conditions around the foundation for preventative measures. You never know if a plumbing leak under the foundation is the root of the problem.
  • Roots can actually be the “root” of major problems. Landscaping around your home should be kept under control because it is their very roots that absorb all the water available around the foundation. On new construction homes, builders often install a landscaping package of sizeable shrubs that have a tendency to grow out of control without proper pruning and attention by the homeowner.
  • Same holds true for trees planted too close to the house. A good rule of thumb is to plant a tree away from the foundation the distance of its potential height.  Tree roots have been the culprit of major damage resulting in extensive foundation repair. If you have purchased a pre-owned home with trees close to the house, there are preventative measures you can take to remedy the situation.

Homeownership is the American Dream, and now more affordable than ever, but with that comes responsibility and maintenance. Monitoring your moisture level around your foundation is one way which can save you money in the long run. And remember if you own a home in the North Texas Region there is no escaping the perils of Mother Nature and how that will affect your foundation and your wallet. Consult with a foundation repair expert for professional advice.

Posted by: lauriemah09 | June 7, 2011

Understanding a Real Estate Closing

How often do you find yourself sitting at a closing table getting ready to sign your life away with the purchase of your new home?  Perhaps  once or twice in your lifetime, maybe more?  With the  average span of seven plus years in between the purchase and sale of your home, coupled with the plethora of paperwork  that comes along with the complexity of a real estate transaction you may be apprehensive upon entering the doors of the Title Company. I’m here to help explain the process and ease the anxiety for those who find themselves pen in hand at the closing table.

With a seasoned Realtor by your side, and a team of experts associated with that Realtor, you should sit comfortably knowing that they’ve all done their job to help make it a smooth transaction, yet with much diligence things can still go wrong. With so many variables and people involved in the process, it takes a team effort all doing their part and staying on top of things to see it through to the end.

It all begins once you’ve signed and executed your purchase contract for your dream home. Some Realtors, including myself, may have a relationship with a title company that will open title when they take a listing in order to ensure all obstacles are resolved prior to the house going under contract. What are some of the hurdles they look for? Beginning with the contract, it is the responsibility of your agent to ensure updated promulgated forms are being used and fully completed and signed.

First item of importance  to note on the contract would be the parties to the contract…who are they and are they the only one with legal capacity to buy or sell the property? Are there any implications with ownership, i.e. deceased spouse, divorce,  probate of a will, power of attorney, etc.?

Next, would be the property that is being conveyed particularly the legal description and everything associated with it including the complete description and location. Complications can arise with surveys, easements, home owners associations, type of ownership, leases, taxes, insurance claims, exemptions, liens….these are all items of importance which should be addressed both by your real estate agent as well as the Title Company.

Which brings us to the ever-perplexing title commitment, the commitment to issue title insurance on the property? It is the instrument that reveals all the aforementioned issues that could throw up roadblocks on the road to a smooth closing. That is why it is so important for you to discuss the contents of this document with your real estate agent and or escrow agent at the Title Company as soon as you receive it.

 If you are the seller, it is important to read over, understand, and answer any topics noted on Schedule C of the commitment which discusses such things as mortgage payoff, taxes or liens on the property and marital status.  As the buyer in the transaction you will want to read and understand topics particularly the “exceptions” noted in Schedule B; these items include exceptions to the title that are not covered by the title insurance, as well as, easements and survey issues. Schedule A of the Title Commitment states the  who, what, where and how much information about the subject property, i.e. current owner, legal description of property and balance of note on property. Lastly, Schedule D states the disclosures from the title company and its attorneys as to what their premium is that they will be collecting. It will also disclose the cost of the title policy which is set by the state based on sales price. In addition, the mortgage co.’s amount and any endorsements they may have. Keep in mind the buyer’s lender will be acutely interested in reviewing the commitment particularly Schedule C to make sure there are no defects as this could cause delays in the closing if they need to satisfy or correct any defects.


After the title commitment has been addressed and any issues resolved, it is now up to the lender to keep things moving toward the closing with the ordering of the appraisal and satisfying any other underwriting guidelines. Once at the closing table, there are numerous and possibly duplicate copies of documents to sign and resign particularly for the buyer if they are borrowing money to purchase the home. These are all standard documents, provided by the Title Company and your lender that a good escrow officer will be able to give you a thorough explanation of each form.  With the last stroke of the pen, the only thing left to do is wait for the loan to fund and to collect your keys to your new home.  


Posted by: lauriemah09 | January 24, 2009

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog! Happy New Year….Gong Hay Fat Choy, the Chinese New Year Greeting! I love the new year….it is an opportunity for change, for new beginnings, to start fresh with a clean slate, whether it be a new business plan, a new diet, or a new way of life, you name it, you can do it, if you put your mind to it.

For me it is a new approach to doing business,  starting with this thing called blogging. A sign of the times,  change is coming, it’s here,  we can’t stay stuck in our old ways if we want to succeed in life and business.I love the phrase-“just do it!”

Here goes…Today, I ‘m writing  to share with interested readers information about a not so small town of Ennis, Texas, population fast approaching 20,000, located 32 miles south of Dallas on the way to Houston, approximately 191 mile commute. Ennis has been my home for eight years now and I love it! After getting into real estate four years ago, I have learned so much more about this former railroad town,  known for it’s Bluebonnets and Czech heritage. What makes Ennis a desirable destination for folks wanting to escape the city life and taxes of “Big D”, is it’s small town charm, and convenience to Dallas among other things. Unlike the northern suburbs of Plano, Richardson, Frisco and the like, despite their close proximity, where your commute time is determined by the number of times you have to sit through a traffic light or how easily and timely you can maneuver through the congested  highways, Ennis is an easy 32 mile drive where one can set the cruise control on 63 and enjoy the ride  for a good 20 minutes until you reach downtown Dallas.

Not only is the commute better than tolerable, but the real estate is worth noting. One can get a lot for their money in Ennis with golf course executive homes,  beautiful country estates, some built on one of the highest ridges in the county overlooking the downtown Dallas skyline, and gated communities lined with quality custom homes built by some of the finest home builders from Ellis County and Highland Park. Oh, Did I mention a 25 mile shoreline recreational lake nearby? I have much more to share about Ennis and what it has to offer, so check back often.  To Learn more from Laurie about all aspects of real estate  in Ennis, Ellis, Dallas County and everything in between contact me or visit my website at http://www.LaurieMah.com.

Remember…Ideas won’t work unless you do!