Existing Homes Sales Report

TEXAS’ EXISTING HOME SALES UP 4 PERCENT

COLLEGE STATION (Real Estate Center) – Sales of existing single-family Texas homes in December were up 4 percent from a year ago, according to the most recent Multiple Listing Services (MLS) data compiled by the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University.

More than 16,500 homes were sold, data showed. The median home price was $150,700, about the same as a year ago, and the state’s overall inventory was at six months.

December 2011 MLS data for many Texas cities are available on the Center’s website. Here is a sampling (data current as of Jan. 30, 2012):

Sales Change from
Last Year
Median
Price
Change from
Last Year
Months’
Inventory
Austin 1,738 up 11% $188,200 down 2% 4.2
Beaumont 151 up 2% $114,000 down 14% 11.1
Brownsville 39 down 33% $86,800 down 22% 12.4
Dallas 3,315 up 3% $162,800 up 1% 4.7
El Paso 420 down 9% $97,900 down 27% 7
Fort Worth 645 up 5% $112,500 down 6% 5.2
Houston 5,048 up 7% $160,400 up 2% 5.9
Midland 134 up 17% $184,000 down 1% 3.3
San Antonio 1,393 up 3% $148,400 down 6% 6.6
Sherman-
Denison
84 up 22% $96,700 up 3% 8.8
Temple-
Belton
115 up 4% $120,700 down 13% 7.9
Tyler 198 down 5% $130,800 up 1% 11.4
Victoria 74 up 37% $131,100 down 2% 3.8
Waco 153 up 2% $116,200 down 1% 9
Wichita
Falls
81 down 31% $102,300 down 9% 7.6
Texas 16,505 up 4% $150,700 no change 6

Official Online Services of the State of Texas

Checkout the Online Services of the State of Texas Website

by Randy Watson

I drove by the DPS Licensing office yesterday and there was a line out the door and around the building. Luckily, I didn’t have to get my driver’s license renewed, but what if I did? Could I renew my license on line? Hopefully, so… I wouldn’t want to wait in line at the Driver’s License Bureau if I didn’t have to.

So, I did a quick check online to find out what all can be done.  This is just a sampling of what you can do online at the Official Website of the State of Texas … but, here is some of the more popular tasks you can do on the Official State of Texas Website. Need to renew your Texas CHL or Concealed Handgun License, renew your Physicians license, renew your RN license, renew your insurance agent license, pay the CHIP enrollment fee, pay your Houston Traffic fines, pay your Mesquite water bill or order a birth certificate.

More and more people are finding the State of Texas websites. Check out some of the many things that other Texans are doing at texas.gov.As of Saturday, January 28, 2012, here are some statistics:

1920 Texans ordered a driver record online yesterday
P.S. I am sure that there are lots of other services that you can use the State of Texas website for as well… such as paying business/sales taxes. Data collected from the Official Website of the State of Texas.

Crossword Puzzle 1

SATXBlog Crossword Puzzle #1

 Crossword Puzzle #1 by Myles Mellor
Print and Solve the Crossword Puzzle. We also have a daily interactive crosswords puzzle, too!

Across

1. 60s rock group, with Corner
5. Slight
9. Partition
14. Lion's beard?
15. Type of insurance for owners
16. Pointed arch
17. Nose out
18. Tapi endings
19. Rich tapestry
20. Place for pessimists
23. Virgo mo.
24. Cries at a circus
25. Keen
28. Swimmer's gear
30. Banned pesticide, for short
32. "Star-Spangled Banner" preposition
33. Tongue
35. Conundrum
37. Invest in a risky fashion
40. Witch
41. Bean
42. Greyhound, e.g.
43. Magazine revenue source
44. Come back again
48. Go up and down
51. Supporting
52. Grassy area
53. Investing term that came from poker  
57. Salad oil holder
59. Old audio system
60. Horse course
61. Where to get a fast buck?
62. Fall locale
63. Anatomical network
64. Experiments
65. Used to be
66. Four's inferior

 

Down

1. Cells in the sea?
2. Improvised
3. Captivate
4. At no point in time, contraction
5. Native American people
6. Scottish water areas
7. Mosque V.I.P.
8. City in Arizona
9. Drenches
10. Wading bird
11. Great musicians
12. "Desperate Housewives" actress, first name
13. Court matter
21. A chemical salt
22. Deserter
26. Romeo or Juliet
27. Blunder
29. Distinctive flair
30. Beach sights
31. Angry outburst
34. Investor's alternative
35. Inquisitive people
36. Look at flirtatiously
37. Constant
38. Flower starts
39. Belladonna poison
40. ABC's rival
43. Amazement
45. Plant
46. Fertility goddess
47. American sharpshooter
49. Driving hazard
50. Common carriers
51. Flute player
54. Consider, with on
55. Cover up
56. Legal wrong
57. PC component, for short
58. Delicacy

 

Click for the Answer to Today’s Crosswords Puzzle #1. | Press Here to PRINT

San Antonio Spring Vegetable Garden Prepping

Never Too Early Garden Start

in the spring to begin reviving the garden.

 

But if I knew then what I know now about the topsoil in the yard around my San Antonio home, when I first moved in, I would have hired someone to come in with a small bull-dozer and scrape off the top few inches of topsoil. Then I would have had a third of it put back into place, and mixed with another generous third of sand and a final generous third of well-rotted compost.

This is what I have finished up with in most of those places where I have plants growing, by the way – doing it at the very start would have saved a lot of time and trouble. The prevailing topsoil around my neighborhood is clay – splendid for making adobe bricks from. It’s dense, heavy and soggy when wet, and as dense as a conblock brick when dried out. With a pick and a shovel you can plant things in it – but getting them to thrive and grow is another thing entirely.

In any event, one either has to amend the soil considerably – or just say the heck with it and plant things in pots. Growing things in pots has the advantage of being able to move them around, to arrange for best effect – rather like trying out various bits of furniture inside the house.

Anyway, last summer’s project to revive the garden is continuing – it’s not at all too early to begin planting a vegetable garden. We went out to the San Antonio home of Antique Rose Emporium on Evans Road and invested $20 or so in leafy vegetable starts: lettuce and mizuna, red sorrel, bok choy and spinach, and so on. I had excellent results a few years ago, growing salad greens from seed (in pots, of course!). It was really nice to be able to go out with a pair of kitchen scissors and harvest a few leaves of mache or baby romaine for a fresh salad.

This is just a start; we have three huge grow-boxes on hand, and will use them for more vegetables, later in the spring. I finally took a close look at them, for the first time that my daughter brought them home. Now we know why they were in the trash – someone had drilled drain holes along the bottom, which I suspect pretty much destroyed their usefulness. Ah well, this is what duct-tape and plastic cement were invented for.

So much for using them to for the salad greens; I just hauled out an assortment of good-sized pots from the vast collection, filled with potting soil plus a peppering of fertilizer … and there we are, all lined up along the south-facing wall of our San Antonio home. This is prime gardening territory, as far as my yard goes: it gets sunlight most of the day – when the sun is shining, of course – and is sheltered from winds. So far this year, we haven’t lost anything to cold winter weather. I actually believe that my yard remains about ten degrees warmer than the forecast winter low temperatures.

Eventually, this area will be wall to wall vegetables, just as the frame for the topsy-turvys will be. That’s how I’ll be spending the next couple of weekends – what about you?

 

 

Texas Oil Number One Job Producer Last Year

OIL INDUSTRY BOOSTS TEXAS JOB GROWTH

COLLEGE STATION (Real Estate Center) – Texas’ mining and logging industry ranked first in job creation in the past year, followed by the professional and business services industry, and the leisure and hospitality industry, according to the latest Monthly Review of the Texas Economy.

Overall, the state’s economy gained 205,100 nonagricultural jobs from December 2010 to December 2011, an annual growth rate of 2 percent compared with 1.3 percent for the United States. The state’s nongovernment sector added 261,200 jobs, an annual growth rate of 3 percent compared with 1.8 percent for the nation’s private sector.

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 8.3 percent to 7.8 percent while the nation’s rate decreased from 9.4 percent to 8.5 percent.

All Texas industries except the information industry, construction industry, and the state’s government sector had more jobs in December 2011 than in December 2010.

All Texas metro areas except Abilene, Wichita Falls, College Station-Bryan, Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, Brownsville-Harlingen and Beaumont-Port Arthur had more jobs in December 2011 than in December 2010. Laredo ranked first in job creation followed by Corpus Christi, Victoria, Lubbock, Midland and Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown.

The state’s actual unemployment rate in December 2011 was 7.2 percent. Midland had the lowest unemployment rate followed by Amarillo, Odessa, Lubbock, College Station and San Angelo.

MAARs Wants Pizza in San Antonio

MAARs Pizza Restaurant Review-2 Thumbs Up!

by Celia Hayes

Well actually, MAARs doesn’t want pizza – they actually want you to want their pizza. The Red Hat Ladies group that we belong to tries to rotate around to various local restaurants in the north-east quadrant of San Antonio. We have a monthly dinner event once a month; nothing fancy or expensive, just good eating for a reasonable price. We swap gifts now and again, and dress up for Halloween, all good fun. My daughter insists that I need a social life with real people off the internet now and again, and since it was her birthday month, and since the birthday celebrant gets to pick the restaurant for that month, my daughter opted for pizza at MAAR’s Pizza.

It’s right around the corner from where we live, in a building at the end of humongous strip mall at the corner of O’Conner and Nacogdoches which has been a restaurant of some sort for as long as we have been living here. When we first moved it, it was Salsalito, but they soon moved across the street and up a block or two into splendid new digs of their own, then it was something else, and then Pizza Bella, and – hopefully finally – it has become a family pizza place. Family in both senses of the word; family run, and catering to families … of which on a recent Saturday afternoon there were a good many. There was even a birthday party going on in the corner … and on Tuesdays they have a karaoke night. When we go past in the evening, the joint seems to be jumping, every night. Which is all to the good; too many restaurants simply can’t make it past the three-year mark, and it is not a good sign for a location when eateries open and close with the regularity of clams at high and low tide. There was a time when we began to think the building on Nacodoches which now houses the Checkers Diner was cursed, as nothing until they took it over seemed to last for long there.

The menu at MAAR’s Pizza is simple and uncomplicated; pizza and various combinations of bread-dough, red Italian tomato sauce and all of the ingredients customary to pizza. Oh, and fried dill pickle slices, which came sizzling-hot and crispy on the outside, tart and sour on the inside. The pizzas at MAAR’s come in every size from 8-inch, all the way up to something that looks like a wagon-wheel and sends the waiter staggering out from the kitchen under the sheer weight of it all. The proportions of everything else are generous, also. It’s a rare customer who doesn’t leave with a go-box containing the leftovers. Which are even pretty good when warmed over – the ultimate test of good food. And the wait-staff is attentive in a way that would do credit to a white tablecloth, fine china and silverware sort of place.

You simply can’t miss the building, driving up Nacogdoches between O’Connor and Judson. The outside – and the inside as well – is adorned with lots of murals in a cheerfully colorful UFO and space-alien motif, although I did wonder why a multi-tentacled space critter would have a belly-button. Eh – maybe it’s where he put the marinara sauce when he wanted to eat Italian cheese breadsticks in bed.

San Antonio Home Sales 2011 Overall Market Report

Overall 2011 San Antonio Home Sales Show Stability

by Randy Watson

The San Antonio Board of Realtors summarizes the 2011 San Antonio real estate market, stating that 2011 ended on a slow and steady note, but like the old adage says, “slow and steady wins the race”, and it looks like San Antonio is doing just fine.

The year to date median sales price of San Antonio home sales increased over 2010, up very slightly 1% to $152,000. The total number of sales for 2011 was 17,914, no change from 2010. The 2011 average sales price for a San Antonio home, sold at $185,516. No change from the 2010 average home price.

Mayor Castro expects San Antonio to create more jobs than any other Texas city. Angela Shields, President and CEO of SABOR said, “With no tax incentives, 2011 was San Antonio’s year to prove just how stable it is. Consistency in the real estate market is key to a city’s strength and San Antonio is a city that shows that time and time again.”

Reference: SABOR Press Release

Hanging Gardens of Spring Creek Forest

The Splendid Hanging Gardens of Spring Creek Forest

by Celia Hayes

As the backyard of my Spring Creek Forest home is small, I must make the absolute most of it when it comes to plants both ornamental and vegetable. Space is at a premium, and those places which offer a favorable exposure to maximum sunlight are at even more of a premium. The back yard of our Spring Creek Forest home looks to the west south, but half of it is shaded by a very large mulberry tree planted by the original owner … and a couple of Carolina laurel-cherry trees that planted themselves. There are only about three places in the back yard which get hours of afternoon sun – and I can only hang so many topsy-turvy planters and hanging pots from the edge of the back porch, which gets the best of it.

The other place is from the outer edge of the mulberry tree – and most of the limbs of it are too far from the ground to suspend much from. We wrote off using that space until we saw something in the back yard of one of our neighbors – a long 2×4 beam hung by chains from a pair of stout limbs, with a row of hooks set into the bottom surface, and a number of topsy-turvies. A light went on – why didn’t we do that? And better yet – make it a double-decker, with a second beam suspended below the first!

As soon as we could afford it, we hurried off to Lowe’s for the necessary materials: one 14’ 2×4, which they very kindly cut into equal 7’ lengths, the hardware, two lengths of vinyl tubing, and four lengths of chain – also cut to length for us. I guesstimated that 2 lengths of 4’ chain and 2 of 5’ would be sufficient to hang our vertical garden from the boughs of the mulberry tree and leave enough room for plants in the turvy to grow. We could have done with less, but having the longer lengths makes it possible to adjust and even move the hanging frame higher in the tree. Six threaded eyebolts with nuts, a packet of stout s-hooks, another of screw-hooks and two quick links completed the list of necessary materials.

The only tools needed were a drill and a length of kitchen string. It went together in about twenty minutes. I drilled a hole about six inches from the end of each beam, and two more in what would be the top beam about eighteen inches in. The eye-bolts for the inner set of holes in the top beam went in with the eye up, and those in the outer went in, eye-down. Then I drilled a series of smaller, starter-holes on the lower side of each beam for the screw-hooks, and my daughter brought around the ladder.

The string? That was to attach to the end of the longer length of chain, and draw it through the length of tubing, to pad the chain where it went over the tree limb. If I was old-school thrifty like my father and grandfather, I could have used a length of old garden hose for this. So we looped the chains over two adjacent limbs, secured the end of the chain to itself with the quick-links. Then we attached the top beam eye-bolts to the chain with s-hooks, and then used the shorter chains to attach the lower beam. All the extra lengths of chain made it possible to adjust it all to hang level. The empty topsy-turvy’s fit perfectly, although I think we will have to do some adjustment, once we plant them with tomatoes for the new season. It will make a hanging divider of plants, once spring comes. The only downside, as far as we can see is that in a high wind, we’ll need hard-hats to venture out there.

Spurs Lead Division but Manu Out with Broken Hand

Spurs Lead Division; Ginobili Out with Broken Hand

by Randy Watson

The good news for Spurs’ fans is that, due in part to an underperforming division as a whole, the Spurs are in first place in the Southwest division. The bad news is that Manu Ginobili broke his hand in the recent loss to Minnesota, and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. In this year’s condensed season, that comes as very bad news to a team made up of aging veterans and many untested younger players.

There is no way to sugarcoat the loss of the Spurs most dynamic playmaker and emotional leader. Ginobili is the best defender on the team, and the player that makes the Spurs’ pick and roll work efficiently. Without him, untested or role wing players like James Anderson, Daniel Green, and Gary Neal will have to step up their games and fill in. Ginobili’s absence will give these players the opportunity to mature—hopefully quickly—and gain some needed experience for the playoffs. Playing without him, however, places a heavier burden on the rest of the team than Coach Popovich surely wants.

Although early in the season, none of the other teams in the division seem to be off to particularly good starts either. The defending champion Mavericks have struggled out of the gate, perhaps from a championship hangover, perhaps from some chemistry issues from new personnel. The other teams in the division do not seem capable of mounting a challenge to San Antonio and Dallas, so hopefully the Spurs can manage to win enough games in Ginobili’s absence to hang around for his return and then make a push into the playoffs.

For what it’s worth, the Spurs are among the highest scoring teams in the league, ranking 9th with 99 points per game. They are 13th in points allowed, giving up 94.4.

Coming up, the Spurs take on the mediocre Golden State Warriors, the defending champion Mavs, and the high-scoring Nuggets, so it will be interesting for Spurs’ fans to see what direction the team takes with #20 out of the line-up.

Looking Ahead to 2012

 Looking Ahead – 2012

by Celia Hayes

It’s axiomatic that the year seems to fly faster, the older you get. Someone explained it to me, thusly: the year is merely a portion of your total life. When you are four years old, a single year is a whole quarter of your entire life. By the time you are forty, that year is only one-fortieth of your entire life. This makes sense, if you don’t think too hard about it. But 2011 was a year of events, portents and wonders. Sometimes I felt as if we were skidding from one extreme to the other, in between every kind of loss and gain imaginable, both personal and professional. We lost my father, for one – the day after Christmas, 2010 – and I spent a month in California early in the year, helping my mother adjust.

I had a book to launch early in the year, and another to finish in time to launch at the New Braunfels Christmas Market, so spent many hours slaving over a hot computer. I severed a professional relationship with one publisher, and moved over to another, smaller and local publisher. This which meant doing a second edition of a third book many, many months before I had expected to do so. I took on a number of paying projects as a free-lance writer during 2011, some of which did rather well. Between, the freelancing, my books and partnership in the local business that publishes them, I didn’t need to take on a job such as I had to take some years ago, in a telephone call center – and I probably won’t need to do so in 2012.

A bitter freeze last just after I came back from California pretty well demolished just about all of the tender garden plants and hanging baskets: but over the summer we worked to revive it all – and wonder of wonders, I finally managed to grow tomatoes. We found three grow-boxes put out for bulk trash – and we have ambitions for growing even more in them, come this spring.

At long last, I paid off a long-time debt in 2011. Another long-time debt will finally be paid off in April. Of course, the mortgage on my San Antonio home still has another eight years to run – but 17 years ago when I made the leap from renting to owning, I took good note of the conventional advice – that paying for a place to live ought to consume absolutely no more than a quarter of your income – and shopped accordingly. I bought only as much house as that one-quarter of my military pay and allowances would absorb.

My daughter brought another cat home, in January: the Moo-Cat, so-called because she is brown and white. Poor Moo is elderly, half-blind and not terribly social, but she has adjusted to the point where she will tolerate the presence of two of the other staid and elderly cats. And in September, we found ourselves another dog; a Maltese-poodle mix what my daughter also found, running loose in a neighborhood where no one recognized him. We thought sure that he had escaped from a fond and indulgent owner and returning him would be a piece of cake – but no, he was never claimed and so he is mine, now. We named the little lost dog, Connor, mostly because we found him near O’Connor Road.

The Christmas ornaments on the outside of the house were taken down this weekend; we’re ready to face the New Year – with good cheer and high hopes.