Category Archives: Personal
The federal reserve recently raised interest rates, and if you have an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM), it may be a good time to consider refinancing your home. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to whether your should refinance, so here are a few of the main considerations.
How long does your introductory rate last?
Most ARMs have a fixed rate for the beginning of the mortgage. This is an introductory period (usually 3-10 years) when your rate will remain constant before it can be adjusted. If you have several years left in your introductory period, you can monitor interest rates for a while before making a decision. But if the intro rate is ending soon, it’s a great time to explore refinancing at a fixed rate.
How long are you staying?
If you plan to sell your home soon—especially if you’re still on a fixed introductory rate—there’s not much motivation to refinance. But if you’ll be at your home indefinitely, you should consider your refinancing options. You could eliminate the stress of not knowing what your future mortgage rate and payments will be.
What’s your loan balance?
The change in your mortgage payment will of course be determined in part by your remaining balance. If you owe $100,000-$200,000, a new interest rate may not greatly affect your monthly payment. On the other hand, if you owe $500,000, a change in interest rate could lead to a much higher payment.
The previous items are just a few of the factors that should go into a decision about refinancing. Changes in income and your current credit score should also be considered, so be sure to weigh your options and make an educated decision.
Have questions? Send a message or feel free to comment.
Val J Aranda, REALTOR® & Certified Home Marketing Specialist
“Coaching first-time Texas Home Buyers and Sellers”
4007 McCullough Ave, Suite #477
San Antonio, TX 78212 | Call/Text Val: 210-378-5987
*I’m ALWAYS on-call*
I was “HIGH” for my fortieth birthday!
I feared turning forty. I was nervous about the number. I found myself dreading the journey over the hill instead of reflecting on the roads I had previously traveled.
To help cope with the “BIG 4-0,” I wanted to get high!
One of my birthday gifts was a road trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was time for the annual Hot Air Balloon Fiesta! It’s a whole different perspective when requesting “balloons” for your birthday! 🙂
The Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico is a two week ballooning event. Pilots and their “Balloon Chase Crew” participate every day (weather permitting).
Our first day on the balloon grounds was actually day nine of the event. My travel group (Blanca, her Aunt and Uncle) and I, were invited to be a part of this year’s Balloon Chase Crew for the Mad Hatter Balloon. This was the second time for Blanca and I, but for Aunt Karen and Uncle Richard, this was their very first time at the event.Being on the grounds, where all of the hot air balloons are, is a tremendous experience all by itself. But to be a part of a Balloon Chase Crew, is an experience that will stay stamped in your mind forever and ever!
The job of a Balloon Chase Crew consists of many duties. But for the most part, it’s to ensure the safety of the pilot and his/her aircraft. They help unload the balloon, unpack the balloon and set up the balloon. Once their pilot takes flight, the Crew hops into vehicles to follow the flight path. The high priority is to make sure the pilot is safe wherever he/she lands.
On our first day at the event, we arrived on the Balloon grounds by 6:00 AM. By 6:30 AM, the “Dawn Patrol” took flight to check the wind and weather conditions. Once they gave the “go ahead,” our pilot (among many) began instructing their crew to get their balloons ready for flight.
THE DAWN PATROL is a group of Balloons that go up first. Since the sun doesn’t peek over the mountains until about 7:00 AM, the balloons glow once the burners are ignited.
When the Dawn Patrol have their balloons inflated, an announcer will do a countdown from ten to one, and on “one,” all of the balloons will light up at the same time. It’s the most awesome sight to see!
After the Dawn Patrol gives the green light for the rest of the 500+ balloons, everyone hustles to get their balloons up in the air.
Most of the members of the Mad Hatter crew has been a part of the team for many years. So, we stood back and out of the way at first. Each crew member has their specific job and duty. Every part of the preparation is critical for a safe flight and landing.
Our pilot, Mike, was scheduled to be one of the first balloons to go up for the, “Mass Ascension.” So, once he took off, we had to leave, too. We had to follow his flight path and find out where he landed.
Hundreds of other crew members hit the road to chase after their pilots! It’s an adrenaline rush on the ground, can you imagine what it feels like in the air?
While chasing the balloon, we did get to see hundreds of other balloons up in the sky. We just missed out on watching them take off from the ground, which is okay. I was just hoping that Aunt Karen and Uncle Richard could witness the “Mass Ascension.” But again, it was a treat to even be a part of this experience.
We found Mike safe on the ground with his balloon still erected. We all jumped out of the trucks to help bring the balloon down and fold it back up. WHAT A JOB! That “envelope” (balloon) is extremely heavy!
Once the balloon is packed in the bag, they bounce the bag three times and then sit on it to get the air out. VERY FUNNY TO WATCH!
And this was just the FIRST day! Day two gets better!
After a short debate on whether or not to participate a second time, we decided to go again. After all, that’s why we were here!
We met the Chase Crew at 6:00 AM and made our way onto the Balloon Grounds one more time. This was day ten of the event… the FINAL day… our Pilot’s last flight before he retires and sells the balloon.
We made it in time to watch the Dawn Patrol, again…
The glowing balloons is my favorite part. I can’t get enough of it!
After the Dawn Patrol went up, they gave another, “all clear,” and the cycle started all over again. This time; however, we told a friend that we’d prefer to stay on the event grounds. We didn’t want to miss the Mass Ascension. We opted to stay behind when the Chase Crew had to leave.
One by one, each balloon inflated and balloons began to fly in the sky. There were almost 600 balloons registered for the event.
The colors, the sizes, the shapes, the sounds around us, the cold brisk air, the excitement…
…this time I had a small feeling it could be my turn to go up. In the pit of my stomach, I felt that this could be my lucky day. Since we were fairly new to the group, I knew my chances were slim. But I still had that gut feeling.
We watched the balloons all around us and took tons of photos. Although pictures can’t truly capture the glorious scene around us, we still tried to capture every breathtaking moment.
There was one moment we didn’t catch on camera… The moment I stood in the middle of the balloons with Blanca, Aunt Karen and Uncle Richard next to me. The moment when I got a tap on my shoulder. I turned around, and it was the Pilot’s wife, Cindy. Cindy told me, “Stay close. For your fortieth birthday, you’re going up!”
O-M-G! My heart fluttered, my hands began to shake, I got weak in the knees and I grinned from ear to ear.
What a fabulous surprise! What a treat! What a moment to remember! What a moment to remember that I was afraid of heights! OOPS! Who cares?!? I’m going up, up and away!
I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy to have loved ones around me, but I sure did wish my parents were there to see me go up. As soon as I landed, I sent them a text with a photo, but I know it’s not the same.
While our balloon was getting ready, we watched the other Balloons going up all around us. I was so nervous. I wanted to take photos of balloons I hadn’t seen before, but I did what I was told… I DIDN’T MOVE. I stayed close to the Gondola (the basket). I WAS NOT GOING TO MISS MY RIDE!
I might look calm here, but I’m shaking in my sneakers!
My darling Blanca began to tear up. She was so happy for me. I had so many emotions filling my shaking body, but I didn’t want to break down crying. I have a hard time taking pictures with watery eyes! 🙂
I was ALMOST on cloud 9!
…and before I knew it… I was lifting off!
My birthday wish came true! I took so many photos while I was up in the air. By the time I took a second look down to find my peeps, they were too tiny! It was then when I realized how high I really was. I kept my eyes on the balloons around us. And I survived. THIS WAS ONE OF THE BEST BIRTHDAYS EVERY! Freakin’ forty is not so bad, after all!
(Here’s a snapshot of what the inside of the gondola looks like.)
The pilot found a safe landing site. The other passenger and I hopped out of the gondola. The pilot, with the help of strangers, got the balloon safe on the ground.
I remained weak in the knees… I was high as a kite! What a day.
SAFE LANDING CELEBRATION…
After our ride, we headed back to the Balloon grounds. I, along with the other first-time flyers, was asked to kneel in front of the pilot. There was a drinking cup in front of each of us.
The pilot told a story about how Hot Air Balloons came to be…
Once upon a time (and of course, I can’t remember word for word, so bear with me)…
In a bar, a group of men sat at a table in front of a fireplace. One flicked a piece of paper into the fire and they noticed that the piece of paper floated in the air above the flames. Curious, they did it again, but with more than one tiny piece of paper. And again, the papers floated above the flames.
“Hmmm…” they thought. “Let’s get an envelope and set it in the fire to see if it floats.” Of course, the flames were not what made the paper ascend. The paper caught fire. They realized it was the heat. So, they did it on a larger scale. They made a larger envelope and used more heat and lo and behold, the envelope floated away.
On an ever grander scale, they designed an envelope… the first hot air balloon. The burner created enough heat for the balloon to travel quite a distance. BUT… as the balloon floated overhead, the villagers, who had no idea what was going on, saw this “thing” flying with fire blowing and they thought it was a dragon. So when the balloon landed, they ran to the “dragon” and killed it with their pitch forks! The balloonists would find their balloons ripped to shreds.
So… one day, after a successful flight, the balloonists decided to offer the villagers champagne as a token of good faith. They hoped that the champagne toast would prevent the villagers from attacking the “dragon.” It worked. Ever since (and even until now), when a pilot has a safe landing, they share a toast with their crew.
As the pilot shared this story, someone began pouring champagne into our cups. The pilot went on to say that the drink is not only to celebrate the safe landing, but to wish good luck for the next flight. He told us we had to bend over, while kneeling, and take our cup by our mouth. We were to slowly lift our heads and take the drink without spilling one drop. The success of the next flight relied on our successful drink. I’m competitive.
We all bent over and placed our mouths on the cups. We slowly raised our heads and drank our champagne as everyone cheered us on. On my left side, I heard spills. I thought to myself, “HA! Someone couldn’t do it.” And I continued to drink. Little did I know… the people behind us began pouring champagne on our heads! I almost drowned! LOL (no, really). It was funny and such a weird feeling.
Yes, and I’m wearing my brand spanking new Dallas Cowboy Jersey!
Oh, what an experience! It was better than I could ever imagine!
A shout out to John Rodriguez (the hook-up in Albuquerque) who took really good care of us. John is a long-time friend of Blanca’s. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have had this opportunity!
John, thank you for everything you did for all of us! And thank you for my surprise birthday cake! My, oh, my… you outdid yourself, my friend.
Blanca, thank you for the things you did behind my back to make this happen! 🙂
Uncle Richard and Aunt Kina, thank you for joining us on this once-in-a-life-time experience!
During our first face-to-face meeting, my buyer looked me straight in the eye and stated, “Val, I watch those Home Shows, and the REALTOR® always shows a house above the buyer’s price range.” Showing frustration, she asked, “Why do they do that?” Noticing that her guard was slightly elevated, I explained (for one), that’s the type of show it is. Second, oftentimes a buyer doesn’t realize the value of a property. A buyer thinks that the home of their dreams will be priced lower than the market currently asks for. It’s not that the Agent is trying to up-sell, most of the time we’re having to show a more realistic picture of the market.
FOR SALE (example): Green Acres home with 2500 square feet, tile floors in the island kitchen, new stainless steel appliances, wood floors in the living room, Jacuzzi tub in the owner’s bathroom, fireplace in the formal living room, vaulted ceiling in the formal dining room, four extra large bedrooms, backyard deck and patio, newer roof, newer A/C and a lot size close to 1/2 an acre… ALL FOR JUST $500 A MONTH!
WAIT. What? Are you serious? Shoot, if that was the case, we’d all submit offers! I don’t know what kind of market you live in (as you’re reading this), but I can almost bet that the house that fits that property description would sell for far more than $500 a month. Wouldn’t you agree?
SO, HERE’S WHAT HAPPENS…
A buyer creates a budget and a wish list. Let’s say a buyer wants a 2000 square foot home with three-bedrooms and a monthly payment of $900.00. Here in San Antonio, TX, a $900.00 monthly mortgage might be a home priced around $100,000 (depending on taxes, insurance, interest rate, etc…). And, just like the rest of us, the buyer wants to find the perfect, move-in ready home (no hammers required).
*APPLYING BRAKES* Let’s just stop right there. From experience (and from extensive market knowledge), I can tell you that a 2000 square foot home with three bedrooms, in pristine condition and priced at $100,000 would be hard (and maybe impossible) to find (in our market). If I find that size home priced at $100,000, it may need extensive repairs, or a garage might be converted, or it might not be in the buyer’s preferred area. In short, this is when “dreams” and “reality” separates.
NOTE: Out of curiosity, I just did a quick search for a 2000 square foot, three- bedroom home, in San Antonio, TX priced at $100,000 and there is only ONE for sale.
SO, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
As a representative of any Buyer in a similar situation, I would have to explain that the home the buyer wants and/or needs may cost him/her more than he/she planned. Again, it’s not an up-sell. I’m not thinking about, “higher commission.” That is not ethical, and that is not how I conduct business. I think about the buyer’s needs, and I’ll show him/her how much he/she would have to spend to get exactly what he/she wants.
For this scenario, if I bump up the sales price by $10,000 to $110,000 (roughly $70 more a month), I now have 10 more homes I can show. (That is a true number. I just checked MLS.)
NOW, GOING BACK TO MY CLIENT WHO WATCHES HOME SHOWS…
When I explained how the “house” usually doesn’t match a buyer’s “budget,” my client still stood firm on her ground and instructed me NOT to show her houses over her budget. I agreed to her instructions, since she is my client. But I already knew, that the criteria would eventually change.
STEPPING OUTSIDE THE BOX…
When I work out game plans with my Buyer-clients, I try to prepare them for things to come. Almost every buyer (especially first-timers) will go through similar experiences during their buying process. The most common experience I witness is their first step out of their comfort zone. It’s when the light bulb goes on over their head… The ol’ “AHA” moment! After touring a few homes, my clients can walk into a house and get a real feel for it’s true value. That’s when they gain leverage and that’s when they know they’re ready to make an offer.
We all have a budget when we shop, it doesn’t matter what we’re shopping for. At some point; however, we’ll realize we might have to pay just a little bit more to get exactly what we want. And we’ll gladly pay it because it’s worth it to us.
SO, WHAT HAPPENED TO MY CLIENT?
After touring almost every house within her budget, she asked me to increase the search price. During the first round of tours with the new “budget,” we found the perfect home. And because she loved the house so much, she offered the seller just a little bit more to make sure she got it! Oh, and all of her closing costs will be paid, too!
Dream come true? Yes. To her it is, and that’s all that matters.
CASE CLOSED. 🙂
I just wanted to thank everyone who spent time with me during my birthday weekend, even if it was just over the phone/facebook. We all have our own thoughts about turning 40 and we’ve all handled it (or are handling it) differently. I realized I spent (and wasted) some of my 39th year worrying about the stroke of midnight, which would bring in my 5th decade. This year, as I shared moments with my best friends as they turned 40, I had the opportunity to prepare myself for my turn.
I know 40 is just a number, and when I look in the rear-view mirror of my life, I see that I’ve lived and am living a life that is better than my dreams. I’m where I want to be and I’m surrounded by family and friends who I love, admire and cherish.
Growing up, all I had were my parents and brothers (which is not a complaint). But, being raised in a military household, I moved from state to state every three years or so. Because of that, I feel I lost out on “growing up” with someone, with friends.
Today, I’m focusing on my last 25 years. Twenty-five years ago, we moved to San Antonio and planted our roots here. Twenty-five years ago, I met kids in the 8th grade who would end up being part of my “life support.”
I was raised with the idea of “family first” and that I really shouldn’t rely on friends. But I have to say I broke the rule, and I do rely on friends on occasion. I rely on them to fill my house with laughter, I rely on them to listen when I have a story to share, I rely on them to offer advice when I don’t have the courage to ask for it, and I rely on them to set me straight if I need direction.
Yes, I have my family to fulfill the same requests, and they do it whole-heartedly. My family IS my #1. But during my childhood, when I had to leave friends behind, I was left with small voids in my heart. Today, as I look through some photos, I’m seeing the faces who’ve filled those voids over the years. My heart is whole.
This post is my Thank You card to YOU, my dearest family and friends. Thank you for sticking with me. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your acceptance, love and thoughtfulness. Thank you for your inspiration. Thank you for your support. Thank you for the laughs, happy tears and the shoulders to cry on.
Mom and Dad, thank you for everything you did to make my 40th birthday so special! My Coca-Cola party was something I’ll never forget! Thank you for the midnight coffee, breakfast and dessert, too. Every moment I have with you is a treasure… just for me.
The eight hours of baking after a week of 24/7 on-call hours, is a gift all by itself. You amaze me. Thank you for being by my side for the last 13 years. You’ve been my rock when I fall into sinking sand.
To my brothers (Andy, Eric and Diamond)… thank you for the birthday songs over the phone. Yes, I admit, I look forward to those calls every year. I don’t care how old I am… I need those calls from you.
To my BSF, Laura… Thank you for every little thing you do for me. Nothing you do goes unnoticed. You’ve come around during moments I needed someone (without realizing it)… with a simple text, a Facebook post, a card, an unexpected gift… You’ve always been there for me. I’m grateful for you.
Favorite Aunt Kina and Favorite Uncle Richard… *whistling with four fingers in the air* I love you guys! I know, down deep in my heart, that without our weekly adventures with you, we might have taken a little longer to recover from heart-break. I CAN’T WAIT FOR OUR NEXT ADVENTURE!
And last, but not least, Rachel… We can always count on you to support us. You’ve been a very important part of my life. You’ve stood by us when others turned their backs. You’ve thrown out a rope when we couldn’t reach the top. Thank you for taking me in with open arms. Thank you for your unconditional love.
I have so many other family members and friends I’m grateful for. I could spend all day sharing some stories. Please know you are all in my thoughts. Every person I’ve met throughout my life has helped me get to where I am today. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and I have you ALL to thank for it!
May God bless you all.