Housing options for all

The first step is deciding on the kind of home you want – and the metroplex offers plenty to choose from like single-family homes high-rise downtown lofts garden homes condominiums and zero-lot line homes. Selecting the perfect home really comes down to individual choice and preference about the type of ownership and the style of home that will best suit an individual’s or family’s lifestyle.

Single-family homes garden homes and zero-lot line homes are built on individual lots – and the main difference is the size of the yard. Single-family homes typically have front and back yard areas while garden homes and zero lot line homes have little or no yard and therefore no yard maintenance.

Instead these homes offer owners small terraced areas or patios they can choose to landscape. Garden and zero lot line homes may be built within 10 feet of each other or within five feet of the lot line and often share a common fence. Two attached single-family homes on one lot are considered a duplex and give the owner the option to live in one half and rent the other.

Townhomes may be one-story structures depending on the lot size but are usually two-story homes constructed in rows to avoid a “bowling alley” feeling in the design. Usually townhomes share sidewalls with unobstructed front and back entries and small lawns or patios.

Condominiums and lofts offer even less outdoor upkeep. While the homeowner is responsible for indoor maintenance the exterior is the responsibility of a management company appointed by the homeowner’s association.  Condominiums are often gated communities with more homes on the lot while the homeowner’s association assures the property maintains its value. The difference between a loft and a condominium is that a loft is usually found in the downtown area as part of a high rise building while condos may be built on a regular lot and share a common wall similar to a duplex or an apartment.

Renting: Try before you buy

The idea of renting before committing to a home purchase makes good sense for newcomers who want to learn more about the Metroplex and the surrounding communities. Corporate housing gives renters unique living options and allows time to investigate different areas school districts and living options. There are several excellent sources to help unravel the intricacies of renting property in Texas.

The Texas Tenants Union in Dallas (214-823-2733) hosts free weekly workshops discussing tenants’ rights and provides written information counseling and referral services. Although located in Austin the Austin Tenants Council website offers detailed information about Texas property code and tenant-landlord information at www.housing-rights.org. You can also find more information from the Attorney General of Texas Office of Consumer Protection at 800-621-0508 or online at www.oag.state.tx.us.

Buying a home

Before settling on the home of your dreams it’s important for future homeowners to understand the basics of Texas real estate law. In Texas a homestead is defined as “the place of residence for a family or individual and is secure from forced sale by general creditors.” The Texas Constitution guarantees that the only way a person can lose his or her homestead rights is by death abandonment sale of property or foreclosure of a lien against the homestead.

There are two types of homesteads in Texas: urban and rural.  Most homeowners file for homestead exemption as a way to lower their taxes. To qualify for homestead exemption the owner must be living in the property by January 1 of that year. If a homeowner moves into the property on January 2 he or she cannot apply for homestead exemption until the following year. Once the homeowner files for a homestead exemption it is good for as long as the owner lives there and is using the property as his or her homestead. If a homeowner moves out of the property and rents it the homestead exemption is dismissed. Another interesting thing about the Texas homestead law is that if a property is purchased that has already has a homestead exemption the homestead exemption transfers to the new owner.

Get Expert Help

Finding a realtor and becoming educated about the Dallas/Fort Worth area and the amenities offered in the different neighborhoods and surrounding towns will go a long way toward making your house-hunting experience enjoyable.

Be sure to choose a realtor who knows the neighborhoods the schools the extracurricular activities and the tax bases of different school districts. A realtor will also be able to explain whether a home may be subject to certain legal rules and restrictions regarding the physical specifications of the home including later housing alterations you might make.

Find a realtor through recommendations from friends co-workers family or by contacting your local board of realtors to find a real estate professional in the area. With expert help you’ll be able to make a smart and informed decision about buying a home –  one of the most important investments you’ll ever make.

Be prepared

Whatever housing option you choose it’s critical to be prepared. If you’re buying double-check check your credit with credit reporting companies and correct any inconsistencies or errors before applying for a loan. All financing institutions use a scoring system derived from a combination file made up of reports provided by several credit reporting agencies. This gives a beacon score that determines your rate.

The typical entry for fairly good credit would be a score above 650 with 700 as an automatic approval. Mortgage brokers may work with borrowers and assist in correcting costly errors on their credit reports that could affect the final interest on the loan or even the loan approval.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies (Equifax Experian and TransUnion) to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months. Call 877-322-8228 or go to www.annualcreditreport.com to order.

Neighborhoods: Finding the place that’s right for you

Deciding where to live is ultimately a very personal decision. With the right relocation professionals a little imagination and a lot of legwork those new to the area will be able to find the neighborhood that suits them best.

The metroplex has 10 major metro areas and 12 counties. Counties include Collin Dallas Delta Denton Ellis Hunt Johnson Kaufman Parker Rockwall Tarrant and Wise and major metro areas include Dallas Fort Worth Arlington Plano Irving Garland Carrollton Denton McKinney and Richardson with many smaller communities in between.

While by no means comprehensive we’ve included sample neighborhoods in the largest counties to give you an overview of the area and an idea of what you might find in each area – like a neighborhood or a city’s personality and area amenities. For more detailed information check with your realtor.