Debbi Hester El Paso Real Estate Thu, 29 Feb 2024 20:10:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Debbi Hester 32 32 Downsizing in Retirement: Expenses They Didn’t Expect Thu, 29 Feb 2024 18:09:16 +0000 – New York Times

Louise Angel Kiss and her husband, Charles, lived in their four-bedroom, split-level house in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, Washington, for 40 years. Their two daughters had moved away long ago, and the couple decided they’d had enough of the stairs and the hassles and costs of upkeep. Like many older homeowners, they decided to downsize.

In 2018, the couple chose a two-bedroom unit at a continuing care retirement community in nearby Issaquah, which would provide assisted living and nursing care if they needed it.

“We had our bubble of security and safety,” said Louise Kiss, 81, a travel agent. Charles Kiss, 86, sold a dry cleaning business years ago.

During the process, however, the couple discovered what many prospective downsizers do: more expenses and headaches than they’d anticipated.

Despite the hot Seattle-area housing market, their house did not sell until they spent US$20,000 to remove the popcorn ceilings and renovate the kitchen. The delay in getting money from the sale forced them to take out a bridge loan to pay the community’s hefty entrance fee on their new apartment.

“We were not happy we had to go through all that,” Louise Kiss said. “If I were advising someone who is downsizing – make sure you have all your ducks in a row and are prepared for any contingencies.”

Like the Kisses, Dale and Marian Boyd were in for a surprise when they put their four-bedroom ranch house in Newnan, Georgia, up for sale a year ago. The couple were asking top dollar and figured they would have time to look for a new place before their house sold. It sold in one day.

Two weeks later, they placed much of their furniture in storage and moved to a rental house, where they lived for nine months, at US$2,000 a month. In the meantime, they signed a contract for a house that had not yet been built. They moved into it in July.

“We got caught with our pants down,” said Dale Boyd, 75, who owns a plumbing contracting business. “We had not decided where we wanted to live yet.”

Get real on housing costs

One way to avoid such surprises is to thoroughly check out the housing market before putting out the “For Sale” sign. Older homeowners should consult with several real estate agents and appraisers to get a realistic picture of what their house might sell for and what smaller homes might cost.

This is particularly important to do right now. Though local markets differ, empty nesters hoping to make a killing on the sale of the family home may be disappointed. Rising mortgage rates and a declining stock market are making it more difficult for younger home-seekers with families to afford the down payment and monthly payments for a large, pricey home, said Kari Haas, a real estate broker in Bellevue who helped the Kisses sell their house.

One often overlooked line item for sellers: closing costs, which could reach between 8% and 10% of the sales price, according to the real estate website Zillow. Those typically include a 6% real estate agent commission, though sellers could try to negotiate a reduction to that charge. Moving costs and home staging, such as new paint, floors or remodeling, will also eat into profits.

Mike Robinson, a real estate agent in Peachtree City, Georgia, outside Atlanta, said homebuyers who planned to move into condominiums or independent homes in planned 55-plus retirement communities also needed to budget for monthly fees. These homeowners association fees pay for security, grounds maintenance, and amenities such as pools and fitness rooms. They are generally not tax-deductible and can range from US$100 to more than US$1,000 a month.

Buyers should be sure to ask what the fees cover. In some communities, for instance, they do not cover lawn care or parking.

Robinson, who is Dale Boyd’s brother-in-law and helped with the sale of his house, also said retirees should take a close look at a potential destination’s taxes. States vary on how they tax retirement income, and property taxes differ by locality. Even if your new house is smaller than your old one, your property taxes may not drop, depending on the new home’s value and its tax rate.

“If you’re turning 65 in our area, you could save a considerable amount on property taxes,” said Robinson, referring to his county’s income-based partial tax exemption for seniors.

If your house has appreciated significantly over the years, capital gains taxes could crimp cash proceeds from a sale. Homeowners who have owned and lived in their home for at least two of the five years before the sale could owe capital gains tax on any profit above US$250,000 for singles and US$500,000 for joint filers. Widows and widowers may be eligible for the US$500,000 exclusion if they sell within two years of a spouse’s death and have not remarried at the time of the sale.

Louise Kiss said she and her husband had paid capital gains tax on the sale of their home. On top of that, the money they earned from the sale beyond US$500,000 drove up their income-related monthly Medicare premiums for the year. And because their premiums are deducted from their Social Security payments, they received smaller monthly benefits. “That really hurt,” she said.

Improving cash flow

Many downsizers expect to improve their retirement income stream if their new home costs less than what their old house sells for. Lower utility costs, insurance and property taxes – as well as investment returns on the proceeds – can also improve the bottom line. Though a certified financial planner can help run the numbers, you can get some idea of the benefits by plugging your data into the move-or-stay-put calculator of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

You can use the same calculator if you are thinking of renting rather than buying after selling your house.

“If you don’t want any home maintenance, renting may make sense,” Kennedy said. And because closing costs can be steep, renting also may be a good option for downsizers who expect to move again within several years, she said.

Despite their unexpected costs, Louise and Charles Kiss improved their cash flow after they sold their house. With the proceeds of the house sale, the couple were able to repay the bridge loan for the upfront entrance fee at a retirement community called Timber Ridge at Talus and invest the balance, about $250,000, in US Treasury bonds. They cover the monthly fee and other expenses with interest on those bonds, retirement savings, Social Security benefits, Louise Kiss’ income as a travel agent and a pension she receives as a retired nurse for the state medical system.

The couple have few additional expenses beyond groceries, the occasional cruise and dinners out with friends. The community’s monthly fee covers utilities, maintenance, weekly apartment cleaning, and many meals and amenities. They have gone from two cars to one, saving on insurance, gas and repairs. If the spouses need transportation at the same time, the retirement community provides a free ride service.

Beyond finances

For the Kisses and the Boyds, the lifestyle their new homes would provide was as important as any financial consideration.

Retirees who are looking to shrink their square footage should carefully consider the kind of life they want to lead, said Andrew Carle, the lead instructor of a graduate curriculum in senior housing administration at Georgetown University.

“Plan it the way you plan a lot of things in life,” Carle said. “Do you want to be near the grandkids? Do you like the neighborhood you’re in? What are your interests and hobbies?” He said retirees should also consider their health needs for the next five or 10 years before deciding on a new place.

The Boyds sold their house for about US$500,000 and bought the new one for US$450,000 with cash from the sale’s proceeds. A US$300 monthly fee covers lawn care and access to a clubhouse with a fitness room, tennis courts and a pool.

“We moved for location and lifestyle, rather than finances,” Dale Boyd said. “We wanted proximity to our kids and our friends and the neighborhood we lived in for many years.” Their son, daughter and five grandchildren live nearby.

As for the Kisses, finding a place that could attend to future health issues was paramount. So was social interaction with other residents, including Louise Kiss’ sister, who lives in the complex. Kiss, who is now the social chairwoman for her floor, recently organized a summer social on the patio with hamburgers, ice cream and “the whole works.”

“At the beginning, I had to get used to the fact that the place was so much smaller,” she said. “But I would walk to the lobby or the library or the rec room and hear a lecture in the auditorium, and I was fine.”

Courtesy of: The New York Times –

EPWater ready to welcome full river season Thu, 29 Feb 2024 17:37:37 +0000 For the first time in years, El Paso Water will welcome a full river season beginning March 8 when Elephant Butte Reservoir opens its gates.
Not since 2009, have we been close to the 60,000 acre feet of water expected this year. The scheduled allotment this year dwarfs 2023’s 38,500 acre feet.
With Elephant Butte at 25% capacity, we are expecting the river season to flow through October – a full 30 weeks. This is welcome news after enduring years of severely reduced river water supply and drought cycles – such as 2021’s short 10-week season and 2013’s 12 weeks.
Our water supply
When it’s plentiful, river water can account for nearly half our water supply. During an abundant season like this one, our community’s river water supply is dependent on bountiful snowpack from Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. The snowmelt flows downstream into Elephant Butte Reservoir, where it is held in storage.
Compared to previous recent February volumes when Elephant Butte capacity was about 6%, current conditions are favorable, showing the benefits of a strong El Niño weather pattern over the winter.
Because of EPWater’s diverse water supply, we have weathered many brief river water seasons, choked off by severe drought cycles. For many years, water reuse has been an effective water management strategy. Reclaimed water is a valuable resource for industry and the irrigation of parks, golf courses and a cemetery. Additionally, we treat reclaimed water to drinking water standards to replenish the Hueco Bolson aquifer.
We count on our world-renowned Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant, which has helped us meet our city’s water needs in times of drought or freeze. With an expansion underway, the world’s largest inland desalination plant will increase production from 27.5 million gallons of fresh water per day to 33.5 MGD.
Conservation continues to be an important tool to reduce demand. We rely on our attentive customers to be prudent as temperatures climb. We encourage watering smarter and sticking to our time-of-day watering schedule.
At our plants
As water slowly trickles into dry riverbeds, we anticipate that river water will flow into our system for treatment around March 14. Our two plants that take in river water – the Robertson/Umbenhauer and Jonathan Rogers – are ready for the season, as well as their hard-working teams. Both plants will benefit from recent maintenance projects. System improvements, such as large valve replacements in waterlines – will also help us move water around the city more efficiently from our plants.
Right in time for river season, our plant teams will also benefit from a recent partnership with the Success Through Technology Education Foundation, Western Tech and the non-profit Trust for the Americas to prepare candidates with introductory skills for jobs in water and wastewater plants.
Select students who graduate from the program March 4 may advance to apprenticeships as Utility Plant Technician Trainees and eventually may secure a plant operator position. Graduates from the first cohort focusing on wastewater have begun their careers at all four of our wastewater plants.
We are ready for the 2024 river season but will meet it with cautious optimism. Because the next drought is always around the corner, we take nothing for granted in the Chihuahuan Desert and have learned to go with the ebb and flow of drought.
Our water supply planning process extends decade after decade into our city’s future. EPWater is well prepared to take on drought with sustainable options that will enable our community to thrive.
There’s one ‘lucky’ group of homeowners in America’s housing market, says a Zillow economist Thu, 29 Feb 2024 17:28:43 +0000

US home sales may have plunged, but homeowners who are downsizing could still be striking the lottery on the back of strong price gains, an economist told MarketWatch on Wednesday.

“The reason why I say lucky is because what happened over the last three years was stunning and, in some ways, was a bit like winning the lottery,” Skylar Olsen, the chief economist at real estate company Zillow, told MarketWatch.

For context, the value of the US housing market has surged about 50% from the pre-pandemic days in January 2020 to nearly $52 trillion now, Zillow reported Tuesday.

California is the US’s most valuable housing market, Zillow says. The state’s housing market is now worth over $10 trillion — nearly 20% of the national total. Other top US housing markets by value in the Zillow report include Florida, New York, Texas, and New Jersey.

The median price of an existing home in the US rose nearly 53% from $266,300 in January 2020 to $407,100 in August 2023, the National Association of Realtors found. Higher home prices and mortgage rates have hit home sales, which have plunged to about 4 million homes a year, down from about 6.6 million a year in late 2020, NAR reported.

But thanks to the stunning price appreciation, some people may be able to cash out and downgrade to a smaller home without taking on debt.

Zillow’s Olsen added to MarketWatch that the “luckiest” home seller would be someone who can afford their next home without taking on a mortgage.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, older homeowners are more likely to be mortgage-free. Nearly 78% of those who owned their homes free and clear in 2021 were people aged 55 and older, the most recent data available from the US Census Bureau showed.

Research from the NAR released in March indicated boomers aged 58 to 76 were leading the way in selling and buying homes. 

In 2022, 52% of home sellers were boomers — up from 42% in 2021, the NAR suggested. They were also the biggest buyers of homes, snapping up 39% of all homes in 2022 — up from 29% in 2021.

Rising home prices and strong demand from boomers meant many millennials had been squeezed out of the homebuyers market, Insider reported in April.

Just 28% of home buyers in 2022 were millennials — a sharp decrease from 43% in the previous year.

‘In Order To Live’ – A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom Tue, 27 Feb 2024 16:16:30 +0000

A free event hosted by the Center for Free Enterprise on the UTEP campus. On Thursday, March 28 from 3:30-5 PM, we are hosting Yeonmi Park, North Korean defector author of “In Order to Live.”  If you are planning to attend, please RSVP so we can keep track of parking needs and room capacity.


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Open House January 12, 2023 Fri, 06 Jan 2023 20:51:51 +0000

Gated luxury estate near El Paso Country Club! Wed, 21 Dec 2022 19:14:42 +0000

ATX in El Paso! Fri, 11 Nov 2022 16:10:17 +0000

Westside New Construction! Tue, 08 Nov 2022 17:43:58 +0000

September 23 & 24, 2022 Van Cliburn Gold Medalist Yunchan Lim Fri, 23 Sep 2022 17:02:46 +0000 EL PASO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Bohuslav Rattay, Conductor

September 23 & 24, 2022
Van Cliburn Gold Medalist
Yunchan Lim

Karim Al-Zand The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad
Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5, op. 73 “Emperor”
Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade, op. 35

“Lim’s dazzling playing in the finale of the Rachmaninoff, which transfixed the audience in Bass Hall, inspired Alsop and the orchestra to heights unsurpassed in any of the other performances. The applause that followed was endless: a star had emerged before our eyes.” – Seen and Heard International

Learn more about Yunchan Lim

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Join “Opening Notes” with Nathan Black, 6:30pm Philanthropy Theatre prior to each
classical concert for insights on the evening’s program.