Texas Ren Faire: Medieval Action at the Sherwood Forest Faire

The Texas Renaissance Faire in McDade TX, off 290

Man wearing a medieval costume including furSewing Leather at the Texas Renaissance FaireIf you follow 290 from Austin towards Houston, eat a little BBQ in Elgin and load up on the water bottles and sun screen, you'll be ready for the Sherwood Forest Faire in McDade Texas (Bastrop County). The faire is open for one more weekend in 2011 - the weekend of April 2nd and 3rd. Check out the official site linked above for details. Oh, and be prepared to be hot, dusty and entertained.

Medieval Costumes, for Peasants to Royalty

We dragged three kids down to the sprawling Sherwood Forest Faire compound there last weekend and spent a few hours wandering around between little medieval shoppes selling fantastical medieval clothing such as corsets and renaissance shoes (leather, funky, some curled up toes!). The fascinating guy on the right said he made his whole medieval costume by himself, down to dyeing the sheep fur for his wrap. He graciously showed me the inside - stained with the colors of dye he experimented with until he got the color he wanted. Orlando had to drag me away - I coulda snapped photos of him all day long - he was holding up in the heat better than the rest of us, for sure.

Renaissance Leather Working

We were particularly fascinated by the quality of the leather wares, and the number of people skilled in the craft of sewing leather by hand into period renaissance costumes. One glorious vest was for sale for $550 and I envy the lucky man who gets to wear that home. The hands of the man working on the brown leather in the other photo were moving so fast it was hard to capture the skill of his leather sewing with the camera. In, out, up and down, around and around he just kept adding stitches as I snapped away. He said he's used to posing for photos, but that most people want pix of him, not pix of his hands!

Medieval Weaponry

Medieval Weaponry - knife sharpening at the ren faireOne BIG deal at the ren faire was medieval weaponry: knives, axes, bows and arrows. Anything that could be used to slay an enemy, fell your dinner, or pick the grit out from under your fingernails. The weaponry stuff was cool, as in, I wanted some, and so did the boys, apparently, since I had to drag them away from the shoppe selling knives, really really sharp knives. The kids had some fun at the archery area, making me wish I'd allocated more cash for the afternoon - good exercise, good fun, good experience all around.

Play Hard, No Electronics Allowed

In between gawking at the period wares, the kids played a few games like "stay on the log while slamming your sister with a pillow", and "who can make good on their boasting that they won't fall off the spinning rope ladder". Most of the games they played cost $2 or $3 but lasted a lot longer than typical carnival games and were far more physically involved, which is good for wearing out little boys.

Medieval Jousting

The final hit of the day was a little jousting fun between two knights. Mounted on huge horses, clad in medieval armor, these guys really know how to put on a show. The one in silver got knocked off in an early round and the act of getting him back on his horse was quite the spectacle - how would you climb back on loaded down with all that metal, a feathered helmet and cowboy boots? Medieval Jousting Games at the Texas Ren Faire in McDade The Sherwood Forest Faire compound will be hosting a Medieval Jousting Tournament on April 9th, 2011. That day isn't a "faire day" but the official web site says that some shoppes will be open and they'll have food and beverages. If you like period stuff, and want to spend some quality outdoor time, it's worth the drive down to McDade for an afternoon. They'll probably be packed this weekend, so get there early and save yourself a long schlepp across the dusty parking lot.

Texas Renaissance Faire Photos

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Shadow Inventory: What it Means for Texas Homeowners

Shadow Inventory: Defined

Shadow inventory is a real estate term that estimates:
  • the number of properties owned by banks, PLUS
  • the number of additional homes that have been foreclosed but are not yet on the market, PLUS
  • properties where the owners are behind on their payments and will probably end up in foreclosure.
  • As real estate professionals and homeowners we care about the numbers of properties in the housing shadow inventory because it gives an idea of the amount of time it might take before the housing market returns to "normal". I put that in quotes because we're not convinced that there IS such a thing as a normal real estate market anymore. (For a detailed look at how Selma Hepp, a Research Economist for NAR, the National Association of Realtors estimated the national shadow inventory, please see the in-depth article posted on NAR's Economists' Outlook website, State by State Estimate of Shadow Inventory.)

    Shadow Inventory in Texas

    According to Hepp's analysis, Texas ranks at #5 in sheer (estimated) numbers of properties in the shadow inventory, coming in behind Florida, California, Illinois and New York and slightly ahead of New Jersey and Ohio. Hepp's report indicates that it may take as many as 11 months to clear Texas' shadow inventory, compared to a high of 51 months in New Jersey down to a low of 7 months in Nevada. Two other interesting points to note, taken from NAR's Mortgage Delinquencies by State Presentation (for 2010) is that in Texas, 1.9% of mortgage were in the foreclosure inventory for the 4th quarter of 2010 (below the median rate) and that 5.1% are considered to be seriously delinquent, which is also below the median.

    What does the Texas Shadow Inventory Mean to Texas Homeowners?

  • If you're planning to sell your home, you may be competing with properties that were foreclosed that are now on the market.
  • New foreclosures may hit the market after you list your home for sale.
  • Some of these homes are being sold by the bank, and some are being sold by investors who bought them at auction, fixed them up a bit and are hoping to make a return on their investment.
  • Investor-owned homes are usually priced to sell quickly, a little below actual market value.
  • Foreclosures being sold by banks are also frequently priced below market value.
  • What Can Texas Home Sellers Do?

    For your specific situation, your best bet is to talk to one or more knowledgeable Realtors who are very familiar with your local market. You will want to set aside several hour-long appointments with different agents so that you have time to review the numbers with them before selecting an agent to represent you if you decide to sell. Some markets in Central Texas are selling very well this spring, and yours might just happen to be one of them.In other words, the shadow inventory might not make much difference to your chances of selling your home at a decent price. Or, local foreclosures might be a serious problem in your area. How do you figure out which is which? If you are someone who likes to know hard numbers, some questions to ask might include:
  • What do you consider to be the local market area for my home (which neighborhoods, subdivisions, areas)?
  • How are homes selling in this area (for this first quarter of 2011, compared to the last 6 months of 2010)?
  • Specifically for homes that would be considered competition for YOUR home if you were to list it for sale:
  • How many comparable homes are currently for sale?
  • How many have sold in the last couple of months (3 months, 6 months) and how does this compare with the number of homes that sell in a typical month? (What you're asking about is the absorption rate and inventory. If 6 houses sold in the last 6 months and 3 are currently for sale, then your absorption rate is 1 home per month (6 in 6 months) and your area has 3 months of inventory. You care because if you want your home to be the one most likely to sell in a given month, it has to be the best one for the best price.)
  • Tell me about the foreclosures that are considered to be comparable to my property and how they might affect the ability of my house to sell quickly and for top dollar.
  • The agent you decide to work with will need to know and understand the answers to the above questions and should be able to explain the answers to you in simple terms. He or she should also be able to show you real numbers for how homes are selling in your area, and more specifically - homes that are similar to yours, so that you have an idea of how easily your home might sell (or not). [podcast]http://theappraisaliq.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Texas-Housing-Shadow-Inventory1.mp3[/podcast]

    Lockhart BBQ: Black’s BBQ is Worth the Drive

    Lockhart Texas BBQ is Famous, even for Texas BBQ

    (Here is the most recent post about real estate in Lockhart) Eating BBQ in Texas is like breathing: you just gotta do it, and do it a lot. Black's BBQ in Lockhart Texas: Outside at Night We wrote about the town of Lockhart Texas a few weeks ago but we ran out of time for shooting the town (meaning: we ran out of sunlight and the kids ran out of patience) so we decided to go back and finish the job. Ok, here is the real story: I needed more Black's BBQ, and I don't mean needed as in lowercase. I mean NEEDED Blacks BBQ as in NOW. If you know me, you know that means: load up the kids 'cause we're going on a road trip.

    Black's Barbecue

    This time, we only took a few photos of the jail in Lockhart on the way in to town, and spent the rest of the evening hanging around Black's at the edge of downtown. It was a Saturday evening and the crowd surged in and out like a well-choreographed dance. The barbecue and sides line moved quickly and everyone seemed to know exactly what they wanted. We waved a few groups around us because we wanted it all, since we'd only managed to try a third of it on the first round. A few regulars realized we were new at this and pointed out their favorites on the line. That is one of the things we LOVE about Texas - good old fashioned hospitality and what you'd expect from a BBQ joint that has been in the same family since 1932. My youngest son kept trying to grab the jello, so we sent him and our older son into the dining room to grab a table. We'd regale you with the tale of what we ate, but that would be too easy. You need to go and try if for yourself. The brisket is melty meat and heaven and the turkey is the juiciest we've ever had, anywhere.
    Black's Barbecue 215 North Main Street Lockhart, TX (512) 398-2712

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    Fence Value and the Running Joke

    How Much is a $5000 Fence Worth?

    Yes, you read that right. A $5000 fence is very unlikely to be worth $5000.

    Fence Cost does not equal Fence Value

    Most home improvement projects don't return 100% on the investment. Maybe one would if you did all of the work yourself, and used materials left over from another job, but that is not often what happens. After a homeowner spends money on an improvement, they hope, or really really hope, that the cost of the improvement, i.e. the value of the fabulous thing they installed, is actually the same as or more than the cost of the improvement. Let's talk about a theoretical home improvement situation. If you were appraising (as an appraiser), or listing for sale (as an agent), or buying a home (as a buyer) with a brand new $5000 fence, would you consider the fence to be worth $5000? I would say probably not. You might think it was worth something, but in part that depends on what the fence replaced - an old rotting one that was the neighborhood eyesore? A brand new cedar fence with a custom gate, installed by the developer as an upgrade for clients that couldn't close? Did it enclose only part of the yard and block the greenbelt view enjoyed by other homeowners? What is that fence value, to you? We call this a running joke because most of us fall prey to this, in our own home improvements. We upgrade from a serviceable thing to a fancier thing and really really hope that when we go to sell, the buyers, and the real estate agent and the appraiser will value it as much as we do. In real life, that is almost never the case. So, if you really want that $5000 fence, put it in because you LOVE it, not because you think you'll get your money back. And please, don't hassle the real estate agent that tells you it doesn't make your $135,000 house worth $140,000, and don't give the appraiser a hard time, either. Both of those professionals have to rely on what the market will pay for an improvement of the kind you put in, and if the market doesn't value it, it doesn't really matter what it cost. Is this fence value $5000?

    Austin Condo Mortgage: Not Your Typical Home Loan

    Condo Loans and Condo Financing - Tougher to Get?

    Yes. A condo loan requires both the buyer and the condo association to qualify. Even a highly qualified buyer may not be able to purchase a condo, if the condo development is not as financially stable as a lender requires.

    Some Austin Condos Won't Qualify

    Austin has a lot of condos, including older developments and newer ones dotting the downtown skyline. In August of 2010, the Austin Business Journal reported on the failure of the Pecan Place Condominiums near 183 and Texas 45 in Northwest Austin. Half of the 29 townhouse condos had sold but the remaining ones were in various states of completion. Other developments have also made the news, in different stages of failure or distress. In situations like those, even if a borrower had really really wanted to buy one of the condos, condo financing would have been impossible to obtain - the financial health of the developments was not ok. Other condo developments, of course, are doing just fine. Make sure you know which is which when you go shopping for a condo so your condo mortgage will be less likely to stall the deal. FHA loans for condos are also different from regular home loans, or non-FHA condo mortgages.

    Work with an Experienced Lender for Your Condo Mortgage

    Condo development in Austin TexasBecause a condominium loan is more complicated, make sure that both you real estate agent and your mortgage broker or bank are experienced in the ins and outs of condo financing. Qualify real estate agent and mortgage professional by asking questions like these (and take notes!):
    1. How many years have you been in this business? 2. How many condos have you sold? (Or, how many condo loans have you done?) 3. Are you familiar with this particular development? What can you tell me that you think I need to know? 4. Can you describe the condo financing and condo buying process and how it is different than the home buying process? 5. How will you make sure we have good communication about my purchase? 6. How many units are rentals and how many are owner-occupied? Does that make a difference in whether or not I can get a condo loan? 7. What are the fees in addition to my condo mortgage payments that I will have to pay (upfront fees, on-going or monthly fees)? 8. If you don't understand any of the answers, ask them to explain their answers and keep asking questions until you're sure you understand!