Planning Your Move
Relocating to a new home can be one of the most stressful situations in life. Whether moving across town or across the nation, preparation and organization can make all the difference. First, decide to use a professional moving company or make it a do-it-yourself (DIY) move.
For a DIY move, consider distance, labor help and the costs to rent the moving van, gas, lodging during the move and insurance. A transportable storage unit can bridge a professional and DIY move. When the unit is delivered to your residence, you load and secure it for transport and then unload it at your new residence.
Whatever the method, be sure to obtain as many quotes from professional movers as possible as well as cost estimates for a DIY move. Next, compare the costs involved for each type of move, weighing the stress and physical exertion involved.
Buying Versus Renting
The decision to buy or rent is the most important step in your relocation process. Purchasing a home entails a long-term emotional and financial commitment with various pluses and minuses attached. The advantages include the possibility of building equity and the freedom to design and decorate your property or landscape. And don’t forget the tax benefits.
Disadvantages involve upkeep, property taxes and fluctuating property value.
Renting, on the other hand, makes moving easier and someone else maintains the property. Amenities, such as laundry rooms, exercise rooms, swimming pools and tennis courts, vary from one rental complex to another. The main disadvantage is loss of control over the residence. Some complexes, for example, restrict or prohibit pets and personal touches such as painting. And the landlord or property managers can also raise the rent with proper notice. Before determining your best option, account for all of your needs, review your financial situation and research your options thoroughly.
Buying a Home
Taylor County is located in West Texas. Abilene, the county seat and most populous city in the county, has come a long way from a cattle-shipping prairie town to a metropolis on the plains. Today, it is the geographic center of the world’s largest free trade zone.
Tour through Taylor County and you will find 65 historical markers, such as the Butterfield Mail and Stage Line and the Mexican-American Americanization School, established by the Taylor County Historical Commission to chronicle the rich history of this region.
Though the majority of Taylor County (population, 131,506) residents live in Abilene (population, 117,063), the surrounding communities have plenty to offer for those who aren’t the city dweller type.
Enlist the help of a reputable real estate agent to help you sort through the area’s diverse home options. The Abilene Association of Realtors is a central source of local real estate information and services. Its members can provide expertise and professional services for those interested in purchasing a new home. Visit www.abileneaor.com for more information.
Buying a home is a complex process and, as the recent housing crisis demonstrated, requires a thorough education on the part of the buyer. First, fully understand your financial position — credit score, available savings, monthly income and expenditures. Subtracting your expenditures from your income, for instance, will yield the amount you can afford for housing.
Be sure to account for all insurance costs associated with owning a home, possible homeowner association fees and property taxes in your monthly expenditures. According to www.ginniemae.gov, loan program rules vary on the percentage of your income used for housing related expenses. Most conventional loans allow 28 percent, with FHA at 29 percent and VA at 41 percent. Above all, avoid any advice about “affordable mortgages” from a real estate agent or a mortgage lender, rely instead on your own budgetary review to determine monthly housing expenses.
Next, research the different types of home loans to determine the right fit for your financial situation. The two main types of mortgages are fixed-rate and adjustable-rate (ARM). A fixed rate loan offers one interest rate for the life of the loan, which means the same monthly payment.
The adjustable-rate loan generally starts with a fixed rate but after the introductory period the rate will adjust periodically based on fluctuations in the interest rate. The fixed-rate loan offers stability to long-term homeowners. The ARM saves money in the short run as the initial interest rate is typically lower than a fixed-rate mortgage. Once the initial period ends, the ARM rate will rise and fall at predetermined intervals stated in the terms of the loan, sometimes above the rate for a fixed-rate mortgage. This mortgage favors short-term homeowners. For a thorough explanation of these and variations of these mortgages, be sure to discuss your options with a lending professional. A preapproved loan before starting your search for a home can determine your spending limits and signal any potential issues in the way of receiving a loan.
Knowing your monthly budget and the amount of your loan are invaluable during the next phase, especially finding the answers to questions before the hunt for a home begins. First, determine your home preferences. Do single family houses, condos, town homes and duplexes fit your needs and budget? Do you prefer a new home, an existing home or to build one? Though new homes generally cost more, existing homes may come with maintenance issues and renovation costs. What is the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you’d like? Do you want an attached garage? Will you live in the city, a suburb or in the country? How close to work, school, shopping or public transportation do you want to be? Answers to the majority of these questions will greatly assist your search and the next stage — hiring a real estate agent.
The ideal agent will help find your ideal home and guide you through the purchase process. First, interview potential candidates to ensure they understand your needs, know your home buying preferences and neighborhoods and are readily accessible. You can find many local real estate agents in the yellow pages of this guide.
Once you have found the right home, have it inspected and have your offer accepted, initiate a purchase contract. This document should detail the final terms for the purchase of your home, including a description of the property, the price, the closing date and an estimate of closing costs. The contract also includes the standard clauses that specify the broker’s commission, inspection results and payment agreements for unforeseen damage and details of the closing documents. Closing day ends your home-buying experience. Once you’ve signed all the documents, paid the closing and secured the keys, you now own a home. The escrow company, attorney or title company will record the sale with the county.
Renting a Home
Much like purchasing a home, finding suitable rental housing begins with knowing your finances and monthly budget. And like purchasing a home, be sure to answer the related questions before your quest begins. What type of rental best fits your needs: single-family home, condo, townhome or apartment? Do you want a roommate? How many bedrooms and bathrooms will you need? What about a garage? Do you prefer to live in the city, a suburb or in the country? Would you rather be close to work, school, shopping or public transportation? Are there specific must-have amenities like an exercise room, swimming pool or tennis courts? Knowing the answers beforehand will narrow the next stage — the actual search.
For starters, check this guide’s yellow pages or the Internet. Most online sites, such as www.rent.com and www.apartmentguide.com provide detailed information, photos of the properties and search engines based on price, location and number of bedrooms. Many sites also offer rent specials and availability of units.
Property management companies and real estate offices will be more than glad to help you find a house, condo or townhome. Or simply drive around the preferred neighborhoods and maybe snag an unadvertised rental. A network of local friends and relatives can also help.
Before deciding, you should learn as much as you can about your potential new home. Here are a few things to consider:
Understand the total financial commitment. What are the costs of deposits and application fees? Are utilities included in the rent? How much is a typical monthly summer and winter utility bill? Will the rent increase when the lease expires? Is a pet deposit required? Also, determine the cost of renter’s insurance and any effects on your automobile insurance, which are often based on location.
Interview the management staff or property management company. If in a complex, are they located on site? How quickly do they respond to issues? What kind of issues are they working on?
Talk to nearby tenants or potential neighbors, if interested in an apartment or condo complex. What do they like best and least about living there? What is the parking situation? How are the noise levels both inside and outside?
Visit the neighborhood during the times that you would usually be home. How is the traffic around the area? Note the parking and noise conditions.
Ask for references to check a property management company’s past performance. Was the staff responsive when called?
Were there any issues in returning a security deposit in a timely manner?
Check with the local sheriff’s office or police department for the crime rate in the neighborhood.
Review any association rules to be sure you can live within their guidelines.
Read the lease carefully before signing it. Do a thorough walkthrough of the residence and note issues with the property on the lease or a separate document. Be sure to have a member of the property management staff sign and date the document to ensure you don’t have to pay for damages you were not responsible for.
Make sure the lease specifies the length of the term with a start and end date, the monthly rent and when it is due, deposits and amounts paid. The lease should also detail the amount of notice required before moving out, the condition of the rental after moving out and the amount of time to expect the return of deposits.
Taylor County Communities
Abilene is the county seat of Taylor County. With a population of more than 117,000, it is where the majority of people in Taylor County reside. Located near the geographic center of the state, Abilene is the center of a 22-county area known as Big Country. It is a regional center for commerce, industry and education.
The city retains a strong western legacy even as the downtown area is experiencing a steady growth of cultural, shopping and dining attractions along historic Cypress Street.
Abilene prides itself on a good relationship with Dyess Air Force Base and its thousands of personnel.
Thirteen miles southwest of Abilene, at the intersection of Farm roads 89 and 1235, this incorporated community was founded in 1857 as the only town in Taylor County. Buffalo Gap was the county seat until Abilene was established. The town has established itself today as an old-time cultural and commercial center.
The Windmill City is 15 minutes west of Abilene on Interstate 20. Merkel prides itself on its family atmosphere and small-town Texas friendliness. Founded in the early 1880s, farming and ranching were primary economic factors in Merkel’s development. Agriculture still plays a significant role in the town’s economy, and residents also work in oil-production jobs and military-support jobs at Dyess Air Force Base.
AEP Texas 877-373-4858
Ambit Energy 877-282-6248
First Choice Power 866-469-2464
Green Mountain Energy 866-280-3603
Taylor Electric Cooperative 325-793-8500
Atmos Energy 888-286-6700
City of Abilene Water Utilities
City of Abilene Solid Waste