The word vacation is unique. It makes people from all walks of life feel a sense of calm. Vacations are carefully planned with the intention to create memories and are a yearly tradition for many families or groups of friends. Whether you are planning a quick weekend getaway or a week away, beach lovers from near and far have discovered Galveston Island. The most important part of the vacation planning process is deciding where to stay and call “home.” The most common options available to the consumer are staying at a hotel or renting a condo or a home owned by an individual owner. Most of you reading this article have probably experienced a stay from a hotel type accommodation. A vacation rental property is usually discovered by searching the internet to locate properties based on your plan, such as the number of people you are planning to sleep or how many bedrooms and bathrooms you will require. Both of these options are ideal for parties of all sizes but do provide different experiences.

Hotels are the traditional choice when it comes to families and business professionals. Guests typically rely on the hotel to have a certain level of service and accommodations based on its reputation and/or rating. You can expect this type of property to have extensive reservation technology and resources, such as 24-hour reservation contacts available by phone and online booking. An additional convenience usually includes onsite staff offering varying levels of hospitality training and customer service. The property most likely will have amenities that could include an onsite restaurant, pool, fitness facility, business centers and complimentary Wi-Fi. Many people prefer a hotel property versus a vacation rental simply because of the 24-hour onsite front desk operations. Having a staffed front desk gives the guest a contact to either speak to in person or via the telephone any hour of the day or night. It is always nice to see a smiling face each morning as well. Hotels may prove to be a great fit for large parties traveling together looking for a central place to stay that provides easy coordination of island activities. For couples traveling alone, a hotel room may make more sense than a two-bedroom condo.

Vacation rental properties have changed the way consumers travel, especially larger families and groups, and has made a surge in popularity due to the advancements of technology, such as websites devoted to individual property owners marketing their property themselves, photography slide shows, online video and formation of vacation property management companies that market several properties for you to choose from based on your specific needs. Many second home property owners are now starting to offset monthly expenses on their investment while they wait to see how the real estate market unfolds over the next couple of years. Vacation rental properties can be a fun way to search for unique vacation accommodations. If you are lucky, you’ll find that perfect fit for your needs Galveston offers hundreds of properties in numerous locations on the island, each featuring unique bed configurations and services that can cater to any size family or business situation. The properties are usually thoughtfully decorated, furnished and photographed to cause the guest to inquire about that specific property. Guests can also expect to find that the properties are outfitted for to provide a home-away-from-home experience. Most vacation properties offer fully equipped kitchens, a washer and dryer, linens, toiletries and many have started going the extra mile to include complimentary Wife, beach towels, flat screen televisions with DVD players in every bedroom and much more. Unlike the hotel properties, most vacation rental properties don’t have someone by the phone 24 hours a day to take your call or make a reservation, but rest assured, you will get a call back and more than likely a customer service experience comparable to a professionally trained staff, just a bit different. Customer service based on an actual relationship created with either the homeowner himself or herself or the property manager entrusted by the property owner.
By the way, there are some great reasons to come to the island this fall and winter. This is also when a guest will see the best value regarding the cost of accommodations. I invite you to come and experience for yourself why the so-called ‘off season’ is my favorite time to be an islander!
Lyndsey Garza is a local real estate broker and vacation property manager who owns Pointe West Properties, a boutique real estate brokerage focused on vacation rentals and sales. The grand opening of their office will be this month at 3802 Cove View, Suite F, on the way to the west end of Galveston. She can be reached at 409-539-5030 and by email at lyndseygarza@hotmail.com. You can visit their website at www.pointewestvacationproperties.com.

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The ITEX Group is bringing historic preservation to the Jean Lafitte Hotel. Last month, government, community and business leaders gathered to celebrate the commencement of a new project in Galveston’s Stand Historic District. The ITEX Group has begun a privately funded major historic preservation and renovation project to transform the ten-story Jean Lafitte Hotel at 2101 Church Street (originally constructed in 1927) into apartments and commercial space. The hotel has been vacant for several years and sustained significant damage during Hurricane Ike.

Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski congratulated The ITEX Group by saying: “I know that you have worked very hard for more than two years to purchase the property, architecturally design this wonderful project to meet the renovation standards required for historic buildings and put together the necessary financing. This project will help bring people back to revitalize our downtown as we work to attract private investment and new attractions in the Strand Historic District.”
When construction is completed in approximately 12 months, 2101 Church Street Apartments will have 83 one and two-bedroom apartments. The modern loft design incorporates hardwood flooring, granite countertops, solid wood cabinets and ceramic tile. The structure will be eco-friendly with Energy Star rated appliances. We have worked closely on the design with the Galveston Historical Society to maintain the historic look and feel of the building. However, we have a few external amenities including a resort-style courtyard, pool and spa which the pirate Jean Lafitte didn’t have on his island.
The architectural design and engineering plans for 2101 Church Street Apartments were developed by Sigma Engineers. Financing includes a CDBG Disaster Recovery loan, FHA insured loan from Davis Penn, equity from the sale of historic tax credits and equity from The ITEX Group. As a condition of the financing, ITEX has agreed to lease 43 of the 83 units to persons earning 80 percent of the area median income [currently $52,800].

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By Lyndsey Garza

Wow! September is already here… summer is officially over. September is a month of transition and change for my family and I am sure many of you can agree. The early part of the month is a busy one for me.
Between trying to cram in a last minute weekend getaway with my family and handling sales calls from other families doing their last minute getaways to Pointe West here in Galveston and the Hollows on Lake Travis (the two resort communities in which I get to work!), I still need to find time for homework, schedules, making sure school uniforms are clean, and adjusting the kids to earlier bedtimes. School is officially be back in session, meaning Monday through Friday now are consumed with school, homework, sports, dance, and other extra-curricular activities. This transition from summer to fall also happens to be significant for my business and me.

Realtor.com just published a recent update on the status of the national real estate market that I felt was a very accurate depiction of what I am seeing and many of my fellow Galveston Realtors® are noticing Island wide. According the website, the past couple of months the number of home sales has been declining, contract cancellations have spiked unexpectedly, but the average sold price for a home is stabilizing, and even increasing slightly.

Many consumers simply see “declining” and “contract cancellations” and perceive these observations as negative. When I read that statement, I feel relieved and confident that while the real estate market looks to be making an upswing, the apparent stabilization of some local niche markets alone is enough good news for me!
Although the average numbers of transactions are declining, the sales prices are creeping up and helping values rise at a slow but steady pace. These trends tend to invoke a higher level of confidence in consumers considering a property purchase.

“Quality, not quantity” is a phrase that I feel describes our sales over the summer. Advice to sellers- if you can hang in there sit tight, work with a local Realtor® and keep an eye on values in your neighborhood. I see a light at the end of the tunnel. To all you buyers out there looking to purchase before the end of the year, work closely with your Galveston Realtor® begin your research.

Interest rates are predicted to go up by the end of the year and a good majority of the “pre-bubble” owners who were stretched too then have sold their properties if able or lost them in foreclosure. No buyer likes to pay more than the buyer that buys two months later, yet it’s always a good feeling to see an investment’s value begin to rise.

Enlist the help of a local Realtor® who specializes in your community to help you track sales even if you don’t plan on buying or selling right away.

The remainder of 2011 should be interesting to watch. Over the past three years almost every real estate contact I speak to asks if we have “hit rock bottom” or wonders if now is the time to become and seller or a buyer. This was always a tough one since I cannot predict the future. I have been wrong many times and thought that prices couldn’t go any lower. I love those questions lately.

Numbers, statistics, and their resulting trends don’t lie. These numbers also determine a property’s current value, not what you paid for it, or what other comparable properties are on the market for- these are still not sold and are not a valid depiction of what the TRUE value would be in a buyer’s mind.

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Galveston’s new Pelican Rest Marina Village celebrated completion of its much anticipated luxury marina last month. The marina, located on the north side of Offats Bayou, a long-standing natural yachting hub for Galveston, will be the newest and one of the most upscale in Texas.
Pelican Rest Marina, billed by the owner as the “Gateway to Galveston,” will be a part of a multi-use, high-end marina complex in the center of a growing and vibrant area in Galveston. The new marina will serve as a social and commercial hub and destination for boaters along the entire Gulf Coast.


The marina site, scoured by Hurricane Ike and left riddled with debris has been transformed into an inviting lush manicured and landscaped tropical showpiece with a wide variety of palms, tropical plants and flowers, a stunning new fountain and private pool and well laid hard-scape paths.
After only a few minutes on the site, visitors will be delighted with frequently visiting brown pelicans looking for fish, resting on pilings, or going for a leisurely flight around the bayou and understand how the owner’s coined the name.
Currently under construction, Pelican Rest Marina is a state-of-the-art concrete floating SHOREMASTER system that is designed to house 60’ and larger class fishing yachts. “From the beginning, the owner was clear…Build the best marina possible,” emphasizes Bryce Fisher, SHOREMASTER Regional Sales Manager.
SHOREMASTER, working with local marine engineer Marcus Michna, Principal and President of Shelmark Engineering, LLC, designed the marina to be functional for boats over 100’ with wide walkways and fingers, expantial room to maneuver within the marina footprint and overflow room for larger vessels on the perimeter.
Pelican Rest members and visitors have access to deep water slips and accommodations for mega yachts, transient dockage for overnight stays, an industry leading fire protection system, potable water and 30, 50, 100 and 200 amp electrical service. When completed, Pelican Rest Marina will be the most protected deep water marina in Texas.

As a “white-glove” marina, patrons will have access to all Marina Village facilities and a wide range of on-site services. The historical island landmark, Smitty’s is scheduled for upgrading and remodeling, and will be the on-site Marina Bait & Tackle facility that will provide fresh seafood, bait, ice and tackle and marina supplies. Land- and water-based shuttles will be available to ferry guests to Galveston hot spots, hotels and golf courses and Scholes International Airport at for private aircraft.
Pelican Rest clients can also take full advantage of VIP Vessel Concierge Services which include fuel and standard maintenance assistance, laundry, transportation, deliveries of provisions and Wi-Fi. Pelican Rest has a secure entrance, on-site security and ample parking for the marina and guests.
Pelican Rest Village will offer the finest in waterfront living. The luxurious tropical landscaped condos will have an awe-inspiring view along with the amenities of a restaurant and private pools. The Marina Village will have water sport rentals such as sailboats, jet skis, kayaks and small fishing boats.
Pelican Rest’s grand vision of a World Class Marina Facility will welcome Galveston residents and visitors as they arrive on the island. It will set the stage for what a coastal island community should and will be and will surely enhance the already charming island city.
For more information about Pelican Rest Marina, please call 409-744-2618, visit the website www.pelicanrestmarina.com or email info@pelicanrestmarina.com.

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By Lyndsey Garza

(Part 2 of 2 – Continued from May issue)

If you read my article published in May’s issue then you, as a faithful Islander reader, received the facts regarding the legislative processes that will need to occur in order to have the fate of gambling be decided upon by the residents of Texas in a popular vote. You also received the breakdown of how the legalized gaming supporters have proposed the state would distribute the millions’ of dollars worth of tax revenue received from casinos and slot machines. If you missed last month’s issue, or are picking up The Islander Magazine for the first time, you can find it on the publication’s website, www.theislandermagazine.com. This month, I am going to address the debate between pro-gaming and anti-gaming parties and my thoughts on the gaming debate and how it could affect Galveston Island’s economy.
Supporters of legalizing gaming within Texas have been at this for over 20 years. They recently caught the spotlight due to the Texas budget shortfall, which has been quoted anywhere from $15 to $27 billion dollars, depending upon who you talk to. As mentioned in my previous article, Texans generally do not want any kind of tax imposed upon them, whether it’s necessary to begin correcting this historical budget deficit or not. Our state is simply looking for other alternatives, and they just are not there.

The option that we are facing currently is to stop funding basic federal programs, such as education. (Because none of us are concerned about the options of education and grant/federal aid money that are and will be available for our children and grandchildren, right? That makes sense to go ahead and cut funds here in this account.) This is simply an option that I am not happy to watch unfold on the evening news. Katy ISD let go of teachers, mind you interrupted their classes, to let them know that they were expendable, then promptly replaced by a more cost effective replacement, the substitute. To that I say, “What?!”

Obviously, money is the driving benefit gaming supporters are focused on. The laws proposed often require steep taxes from the operators that purchase the licenses needed to run their establishment. The revenue that would be obtained from the patrons would provide even more cash that would benefit the state, as well as the local city and county the establishment was located in. Employment would increase in a 30-mile radius of any casino or slot location. Have you seen the amount of people needed to fully staff these resort casinos offering hotel rooms, food and beverage choices, entertainment through shows and concerts, janitorial and custodial needs, marketing and sales? I could go on and on.

These casinos are done in a grand fashion, also bringing construction back to the island, which in itself carries a lot of jobs and a pool of employees deeply hurt by the economy, who are ready to work! In response to the increased employment that would be brought to the area, I get a lot of replies about the low-middle income jobs that casinos tend to offer. People say, “These types of jobs will only attract low-average income families to populate the island, not a strong tax base.” The Island needs any major contributor to its employment options — period. After Ike, the island could only stand by and watch in horror as its number one employer, the University of Texas Medical Branch lay off over 3,000 people. This was a devastating economic blow to Galveston, the businesses that support the school, and the residents that owned those businesses. This was an economic hit felt by more than just those 3,000 UTMB employees. Also, I am shocked to hear that Galveston would suffer from a low-average income family living here. I think that most of the residents of the city that live here full time behind the Seawall are, quite frankly, those families. Why not get more job options that create proud residents who would be proactive in the future and stability of our truly vulnerable island? Much of the gaming tax revenue would also be put towards property tax relief for these proud, employed, home owning residents of Galveston. Why not just make life better?
Tourism, the number one industry on the island, would boom! Gaming would not take over what this island already has gained in the past century – the concept that Galveston Island is not just a tar covered beach, but a destination and second home haven for Houstonians. As an island, we already have so much to offer families, beach lovers, history buffs, nature lovers, art enthusiasts, and shopping addicts. There really is something for everyone here.

This increase in the tourism industry would positively impact many of our residents who own local businesses, as well as the true entrepreneurs amongst us. It would also attract the larger hotel and restaurant chains, looking to make money. These all need more employees! Other anti-gaming supporters speak about the moral dilemmas that would be then faced by the general population when gambling is legalized in an area. These moral dilemmas would include crime, drugs, and many other problems that Galveston has never experienced. Really? Crime is here; drugs have been and will continue to circulate throughout any community (yes, even Kingwood and Plano).

The increased amount of visitors will also be cause for a larger police and fire department to deal with these issues. I think we all can agree that these particular areas of the city have been victims of the pinch lately, and personally, I would prefer it if the city of Galveston could overstaff these positions, please?

Again, you will not find many other Islander lovers and supporters (BOI at heart) who want to see this Galveston grow and prosper more than I do. I am simply stating my opinions about a business decision that would impact our community, and what I see as a golden ticket. This island, despite change, will always have its problems, whether we vote them in or allow our elected officials to do their jobs making decisions. I am simply speaking the truth regarding the present state of the island’s economy, as well as the itching call for change that has caught my attention recently.
Well, in my opinion, at least.

Lyndsey Garza is a Galveston resident of 13 years, is the Director of Sales – Texas with Terramesa Resorts, a licensed Texas real estate broker and a provisional member of the Junior League of Galveston County. Please don’t hesitate to e-mail her with comments, questions, anything real estate related at lyndsey.garza@terramesaresorts.com. Additional information about the resort style communities she promotes and loves can be found on the following websites: Pointe West, Galveston Island – www.pointewestgalveston.com and The Hollows on Lake Travis – www.hollowslaketravis.com.

Pelican Rest Luxury Marina Slated for Summer 2011 Opening

A destination point for summer season 2011; Galveston’s new Pelican Rest Marina Village will celebrate completion of its much anticipated luxury marina. The marina, located on the north side of Offats Bayou, a long-standing natural yachting hub for Galveston, will be the newest and one of the most upscale in Texas.
Pelican Rest Marina, billed by the owner as the “Gateway to Galveston,” will be a part of a multi-use, high-end marina complex in the center of a growing and vibrant area in Galveston. The new marina will serve as a social and commercial hub and destination for boaters along the entire Gulf Coast.

The marina site, scoured by Hurricane Ike and left riddled with debris has been transformed into an inviting lush manicured and landscaped tropical showpiece with a wide variety of palms, tropical plants and flowers, a stunning new fountain and private pool and well laid hard-scape paths.
After only a few minutes on the site, visitors will be delighted with frequently visiting brown pelicans looking for fish, resting on pilings, or going for a leisurely flight around the bayou and understand how the owner’s coined the name.
Currently under construction, Pelican Rest Marina is a state-of-the-art concrete floating SHOREMASTER system that is designed to house 60’ and larger class fishing yachts. “From the beginning, the owner was clear…Build the best marina possible,” emphasizes Bryce Fisher, SHOREMASTER Regional Sales Manager.
SHOREMASTER, working with local marine engineer Marcus Michna, Principal and President of Shelmark Engineering, LLC, designed the marina to be functional for boats over 100’ with wide walkways and fingers, expantial room to maneuver within the marina footprint and overflow room for larger vessels on the perimeter.

Pelican Rest members and visitors have access to deep water slips and accommodations for mega yachts, transient dockage for overnight stays, an industry leading fire protection system, potable water and 30, 50, 100 and 200 amp electrical service. When completed, Pelican Rest Marina will be the most protected deep water marina in Texas.
As a “white-glove” marina, patrons will have access to all Marina Village facilities and a wide range of on-site services. The historical island landmark, Smitty’s is scheduled for upgrading and remodeling, and will be the on-site Marina Bait & Tackle facility that will provide fresh seafood, bait, ice and tackle and marina supplies. Land- and water-based shuttles will be available to ferry guests to Galveston hot spots, hotels and golf courses and Scholes International Airport at for private aircraft.
Pelican Rest clients can also take full advantage of VIP Vessel Concierge Services which include fuel and standard maintenance assistance, laundry, transportation, deliveries of provisions and Wi-Fi. Pelican Rest has a secure entrance, on-site security and ample parking for the marina and guests.

Pelican Rest Village will offer the finest in waterfront living. The luxurious tropical landscaped condos will have an awe-inspiring view along with the amenities of a restaurant and private pools. The Marina Village will have water sport rentals such as sailboats, jet skis, kayaks and small fishing boats.
Pelican Rest’s grand vision of a World Class Marina Facility will welcome Galveston residents and visitors as they arrive on the island. It will set the stage for what a coastal island community should and will be and will surely enhance the already charming island city.
For more information about Pelican Rest Marina, please call 409-744-2618, visit the website www.pelicanrestmarina.com or email info@pelicanrestmarina.com.

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Story By Lyndsey Garza

If you read my article published in May’s issue, then you as a faithful Islander reader received the facts regarding the legislative processes that will need to occur in order to have the fate of gambling be decided upon by the residents of Texas in a popular vote. You also received the breakdown of how the legalized gaming supporters have proposed the state would distribute the millions of dollars worth of tax revenue received from casinos and slot machines. If you missed last month’s issue, or are picking up The Islander Magazine for the first time, you can find it on the publication’s website: www.theislandermagazine.com. This month, I am going to address the debate between pro-gaming and anti-gaming parties and my thoughts on how it could affect Galveston Island’s economy.

Supporters of legalizing gaming within Texas have been at this for over 20 years. They recently have been able to catch the spotlight due to the Texas budget shortfall, which has been quoted anywhere from $15 to $27 billion dollars, depending upon who you talk to. As mentioned in my previous article, Texans generally do not want any kind of tax imposed upon them, whether it’s necessary to begin correcting this historical budget deficit or not. Our state is simply looking for other alternatives, and they just are not there. The option that we are facing currently is to stop funding basic federal programs, such as education (because none of us are concerned about the options of education and grant/federal aid money that are and will be available for our children and grandchildren, right? That makes sense to go ahead and cut funds here in this account.).
Ummm…wrong. This is simply an option that I am not happy to watch unfold on the evening news. Katy ISD let go of teachers, mind you interrupted their classes, to let them know that they were expendable, then promptly replaced by a more cost effective replacement, the substitute. What?! Obviously, money is the driving benefit gaming supporters are focused on. The laws proposed to be implemented with the legalization of gaming often require steep taxes from the operators that purchase the licenses needed to run their establishment. The revenue that would be obtained from the patrons would provide even more cash that would benefit the state, as well as the local city and county the establishment was located in. Employment would increase in a 30-mile radius of any casino or slot location. Have you seen the amount of people needed to fully staff these resort casinos offering hotel rooms, food and beverage choices, entertainment through shows and concerts, janitorial and custodial needs, marketing and sales? I could go on and on. These casinos are done in a grand fashion, also bringing construction back to the island, which in itself carries a lot of jobs and a pool of employees deeply hurt by the economy and ready to work. In response to the increased employment that would bring to the area, I get a lot of replies about the low-middle income jobs that casinos tend to offer. People say, “These types of jobs will only attract low-average income families to populate the island, not a strong tax base.”
The island needs any major contributor to its employment options, period. After Ike, the island could only stand by and watch in horror as its number one employer, the University of Texas Medical Branch lay off over 3,000 people. This was a devastating economic blow to the island, its businesses that support the school, and the residents that owned those businesses. This hit was felt by many more than just 3,000 UTMB employees. Also, I am shocked to hear that Galveston would suffer from a low-average income family living here. I think that most of the residents of the city that reside here full time behind the Seawall quite frankly are those families. Why not get more job options that create proud residents who would be proactive in the future and stability of our truly vulnerable island? Much of the gaming tax revenue would also be put towards property tax relief for these proud, employed, home-owning residents of Galveston. Why not just make life better?
Tourism, the number one industry on the island, would boom. Gaming would not take over what this island already has gained in the past century — the concept that Galveston Island is not just a tar covered beach, but is a destination and second home haven for Houstonians. As an island, we already have so much to offer families, beach lovers, history buffs, nature lovers, art enthusiasts, shopping addicts; there really is something for everyone on the island. This increase in the tourism industry would positively impact many of our residents who own local businesses, as well as the true entrepreneurs amongst us. It would also attract the larger hotel and restaurant chains, looking to make money. These all need more employees. Other anti-gaming supporters speak about the moral dilemmas that would be faced by the general population when gambling is legalized in an area. These moral dilemmas would include crime, drugs and many other problems that Galveston has never experienced. Really? Crime is here, drugs have been and will continue to circulate throughout any community (yes, even Kingwood and Plano). The increased amount of visitors will also be cause for a larger police and fire department to deal with these issues. I think we all can agree that these particular areas of the city have been victims of the pinch lately. Personally, I would prefer it if the City of Galveston could overstaff these positions, please?
Again, you will not find many other Islander lovers and supporters (BOI at heart) who want to see this island grow and prosper more than I do. I am simply stating my opinions about a business decision that would impact our community, and what I see as a golden ticket. This island, despite change, will always have its problems, whether we vote them in or allow our elected officials to do their jobs making decisions. I am simply speaking the truth regarding the present state of the island’s economy, as well as the itching call for change that has caught my attention recently. Well, in my opinion, at least.

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Story By Lyndsey Garza

Since I moved to the Island 13 years ago, every year I would hear talk of casinos coming to Galveston, but I really did not start paying attention to the speculations and opinions from fellow islanders until about five years ago when I started my career in real estate. As each year passed, more and more clients would ask me what I knew about the controversial issue and what impact it would have on the City of Galveston. It seems that this became a popular debate and ‘what-if’ scenario for island property owners since 2009.
After the painful year Galveston experienced in 2008 due to Hurricane Ike’s wrath as well as the temporary closing of UTMB, one of the island’s major sectors of the economy, laying off over 3,000 employees, more and more people seemed to support the idea of expanded legalized gambling in Texas. Many people see it as the only way for Galveston to get back to the “glory days” and get back on its feet. It’s not only Galveston. And it’s not because of Ike. The state of Texas is experiencing a historic budget deficit of an estimated $11 billion. Texas legislators are looking at various cuts in other important government sectors, such as education, instead of slapping a higher tax bill into our laps. Within the past few years, the environment has improved for proponents of expanded legal gambling in other states that ended up adopting legalized gambling as a way to overcome budget pitfalls. It seems financial despair has had an effect on some lawmakers’ stance on adopting expanded gaming. So far this year, I feel like there is a story in the paper at least three times a week addressing the controversy and updating island residents on the saga that never gets resolved. And, with each new session, our elected officials seem to start the whole process over again. In order to come up with my own stance,
I researched the facts. I wanted to have the information to share with clients, or have the ability to provide them with Internet resources when asked, “When is gambling coming?” As a realtor, I take a lot of pride in the value I place on being ethical with my clients, so having documented facts from the state’s government website to discuss makes me a lot more comfortable. I do, however, have my own opinion as an individual and would like to share some things that I learned and read that helped me reach my position on this controversial topic.
I was quite aware of the fact that the states bordering Texas all offer gambling, especially since I am one of those Texans that looks forward to that trip across the state line to the casino to play three-card poker, Texas Hold ‘Em, and of course, Wheel of Fortune! What I was not aware of was that 32 states have casinos, and every state other than Utah and Hawaii has some form of legal gambling. (Although while doing my research, I did see an article published last week that Hawaii may be changing their minds on this as well.) Americans, especially Texans, are ready to play. Money spent, or lost, by Americans has more than doubled since 1995, growing from $16 billion to $33 billion in 2010. Tax revenue projections brought in by expanded legalized gambling in Texas reach as high as $4.5 billion. There is also a push for electronic gaming and slot machines to be added to state racetracks. Reports have estimated that by adding these gaming devices, an additional $1 billion revenue can be generated for the state.
It is starting to look like gambling’s best bet may be the support from the House of Representatives if the issue can make it to a public vote. Rep. Craig Eiland (D) Galveston, Sen. Rodney Ellis (Houston), and Rep. Jose Mendez (D) San Antonio, presented a joint resolution to the House supporting expanding legalized gambling. (HJR 112) The main call to action within this joint resolution proposes creating a constitutional amendment that would allow the creation of the Texas Gaming Commission. This commission would be responsible for authorizing and regulating slot machines and casino table games. This resolution would also create the Texas casino and slot gaming fund into which all revenue collected by the state due to expanded gambling would be deposited. The governor would also be required to appoint the members of the Texas Gaming Commission by January 1, 2012. Individuals that would serve on this commission will be asked to adopt the rules necessary to be in the position to begin running casinos and slot machine establishments by March 1, 2012. Apparently, up to six to seven casino gaming licenses could be issued to ‘destination areas’ within Texas, and up to two more casino licenses could be issued to development projects on Gulf islands that meet the requirement of having had at least 1,000 guest rooms for visitors as of January 1 of this year. (Hmm…wonder where they could be talking about?)
From what I have read, one of the most positive things expanded legalized gambling can bring to an area is money, which is what our state, including our island, is in dire need of. Gambling laws often require steep taxes from their operators, which end up funding much-needed services within the state, county and especially the municipality the casinos and slot machine establishments are located. Let’s look at the numbers proposed:
Application fee for an owner’s casino license = $50M
Application fee for a slot machine establishment = $25M
Tax taken from general gaming revenue in casinos = 15%
Tax taken from slot machine income at a racetrack = 35%
That’s quite a bit of money collected by the Gaming Commission, even right up front. This is how the joint resolution suggests the revenue be dispersed:
1/30th of taxes collected would go to the municipality (city)
1/30th of taxes collected would go to the county (1/15th if no municipality)
1/20th of general revenue collected would be contributed to a compulsive gambling program
1/30th of general revenue collected would go to the Gaming Commission to investigate and prosecute gambling offenses
Remaining gaming tax revenue would be directed towards property tax relief across the state by lowering the homeowner’s property taxes and providing additional financial aid for higher education students
The great part of creating a constitutional amendment is that it would not require a signature from the governor. Because the resolutions propose constitutional amendments, a two-thirds “yes” vote by the Texas House would be required before moving to the Texas Senate where a two-thirds “yes” vote would also be needed. If the Senate approves the House resolutions without amendment, the proposed constitutional amendment would be presented to Texas voters at the next statewide election, as early as November 2011.
This is part one of a two-part series. Look for part two in next month’s Islander.
References:
San Angelo Standard Times “Gambling: The Real Deal or the Devil?” Kiah Collier April 22, 2011, www.parade.com 2007 edition = May 20, 2007, “Is Gambling Good for America?”, www.texastribune.org “In Texas, Gambling’s Odds Have Improved,” February 25, 2011, Ross Ramsey & Fiscal Notes, 82nd Legislative Regular Session – HJR 112 March 28, 2011
Lyndsey Garza is a Galveston resident of 13 years, is the Director of Sales – Texas with Terramesa Resorts, a licensed Texas real estate broker and a provisional member of the Junior League of Galveston County. Please don’t hesitate to e-mail her with comments, questions, anything real estate related at lyndsey.garza@terramesaresorts.com. Additional information about the resort style communities she promotes and loves can be found on the following websites: Pointe West, Galveston Island – www.pointewestgalveston.com and The Hollows on Lake Travis – www.hollowslaketravis.com.

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Story By Lyndsey Garza

Welcome back to the Galveston Island we all know and love, with the reviving sunshine and nice coastal breezes! Thank you visitors and second homeowners for returning each year around the same predictable time, spring break! Spring break has been socially accepted here on the island as the beginning of the season. The two weekends and week that makeup Galveston’s spring break provide us locals will go through for the next six months. I have to admit, I do not like the traffic, crazy jaywalkers running across the Seawall with no shoes on back to their hotels, waits at restaurants, and how it suddenly becomes difficult and time consuming to go anywhere on the Strand or Seawall.
I would like to take this time to say, “Thank you, island visitors and tourists” for allowing us Galvestonians to benefit in various economic ways as a result of your love and appreciation for this little island we call home. These visitors and tourists are where our new Galveston property owners come from, as well as providing the majority of our city’s tax money. As Texans are known for their pride, I am sure that local residents other than me appreciate the financial means that the tourism industry absorbs during the season. The tourism industry plays a vital role on our island. Also, thank you to the same group for your support for over two years now, during our community’s effort to get past the trauma and damage we all experienced to some level after Hurricane Ike paid our town a visit almost three years ago. Even though I drive the Seawall on a daily basis, I find myself still in awe of how quickly and efficiently this town came together to revive and rebuild. Look at how fabulous Galveston Island looks! I know everyone reading this article has to be impressed with our community’s tenacity and determination.
Welcome back to Galveston, tourists and potential property owners! This is the Galveston you know and love, and with your consistent support, I see nothing but upward potential for Galveston Island. Trust me, we have missed you guys!
I have decided to take this opportunity of writing the real estate update article to educate you on various areas and communities on the Island that many of you may not be familiar with. For the next few issues, I will focus on two communities that have been receiving a lot of attention in the real estate world. This article will introduce you to the eastern-most Galveston high rise community, Palisade Palms, as well as the western-most resort community, Pointe West.

Palisade Palms
Palisade Palms is the premier luxury beachfront condominium development in Texas, on Galveston Island’s east end. Palisade Palms consists of two 28-story tall towers, making it the tallest structure in Galveston. With expansive beach views and luxurious interiors, this building suits everyone’s needs. Resort style pool, state of the art fitness center, tennis, game room, 24-hour concierge service, and party areas mean there is always something to do. From bay units to penthouses with expansive balconies, every view is breathtaking. Enjoy the sun rise and set over the sparkling Gulf of Mexico. Watch the ships roll in and out, and dolphins play. All this, right in your front yard. Most condo projects on the island force you to cross the Seawall in order to access the beach. At Palisade, you are on the beach. One unique fact about this particular part of the island, is that the beaches are actually growing. Engineered with hurricanes in mind, you can rest well.
Palisade Palms is experiencing strong sales, and the consumer desire is just as present today as it was in pre-development. Although it is the largest condo project on the Texas coast, very few units are available for purchase.
Eaton Realty extends the invitation to anyone wanting a tour of the property, for either purchase or vacation/long term rental. This is a place where family memories can be made on the beach, while also providing all the creature comforts one could ask for. If you want the best of the best, this is the opportunity you cannot pass up. Contact Eaton Realty at 409-996-9999.

Pointe West
Pointe West was designed as a 1,000-acre traditional master planned resort community, boasting six miles of water frontage consisting of the Gulf side beachfront and Galveston Bay. The idea of buying a lifestyle, rather than just a piece of property, continues to lure buyers looking for that perfect place to create family memories. The amenities that Pointe West offers have made the development well known. The central area of the development is a fabulous Gulf-front Beach Club that offers extensive recreational activities, such as swimming in the infinity edge pool, sunbathing and relaxing in the provided chairs and cabanas, playing a competitive ping pong game on the pool deck, working out at the fully equipped fitness center, and eating a meal from Breeze’s, Pointe West’s casual restaurant. The on-site hospitality group is also located here, and features professionally managed vacation rentals, and an activities staff who create weekend plans such as kids’ movie nights, bicycle tours, crabbing, arts & crafts, and live bands with drink specials at Topsider’s, their open air bar. There is an additional pool located on the bayside of the resort for guests and owners to enjoy as well!
The number of contracts and sales of homes through March have been increasing. There is demand and desire for information on available properties at Pointe West. There are three property types available at the resort to choose from: single family homes — both custom built and the beachside cottages, custom home sites on the beachside and bayside ready to be built on, and the easy lock and leave lifestyle of the two- and three-bedroom condos scattered throughout the resort. If you are looking for that perfect beach property that allows everyone in the family to enjoy themselves, make sure to consider Pointe West.
Contact Galveston Real Estate Resource’s Pointe West specialists at 409-515-0716 or 409-515-1412. For information on booking a vacation rental, contact Pointe West general manager, Patrick Cummins at 409-632-0616. This information may also be found at www.pointewestgalveston.com.

Galveston’s Version of March Madness
Whew! How about that Spring Break we just enjoyed? It’s been a busy month for Galveston realtors: writing offers, working with buyers, showing property, answering phone calls, replying to the e-mails.
I have a small inkling we are going to have a fabulous time this summer. Since I was too busy with work or spending time with my fabulous family and friends, I missed a lot of NCAA tournament games.
I am willing to put my money on an increased number of closing and pending properties statistics in my May article. We will bring those May flowers with regards to Galveston real estate, as the popular saying goes.

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Popular single-story home as well as family home with large backyard available!

Knock off the icicles and let the sun shine – Spring on Galveston Island is here! The big Mardi Gras weekend ushers in an exciting time on Galveston Island! And with the arrival of the new season, Evia is ready to welcome new homeowners with the completion of the first homes in the Curiosity Cove Collection!
The popular single-story Finley and spacious Saint Claire offer a charming setting along Curiosity Cove with spacious front porch spaces and the design characteristics that buyers have come to expect in Evia – owners will experience the charm and character of a historic home while enjoying the conveniences and efficiencies in a new home. So, buyers will have a “new ‘old home!” These homes will be ready for immediate occupancy in March and April so the new owners can begin to enjoy an island lifestyle!

Evia is a tribute to the historic neighborhoods throughout Galveston Island and other historic cities like New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah. Classical, Victorian and Craftsman architectural styles are featured throughout Evia with community elements that beckon people to become neighbors in this island community. The Village Pool and Cabana as well as Curiosity Cove, the children’s park, incorporates the traditional sense of “neighborhood” for those who live in and visit Evia. With the spring warmth and fresh blossoms on the flowers throughout the community, it is the ideal time to get out and about in Evia’s natural setting.
Although Evia offers many attractive attributes, it will always be known as the only new community that did not sustain any flood water during Hurricane Ike due to Evia’s protection by the Seawall and the elevation of the community.
“This is a perfect time to buy a new home in Evia,” comments Billy Sullivan, one of the Evia developers. “We were so thankful to have minimal damage and no flooding during the hurricane a few years ago so new owners will know that the Seawall protection and planning for the community were done with their investment in mind. Although that is important to consider, there is no place on Galveston Island that can offer the lifestyle that we have in Evia.”
Evia enjoys a wonderful partnership with The House Company, Joe Tramonte Realty and Sand N Sea Properties. There are a variety of homes available in the community, with sizes ranging from 2,000 square feet all the way to 4,000 square feet. All of the homes are ready for any new owners to enjoy for the spring and summer season!
In addition to the single-family homes, the Town Cottages (townhomes) in Evia are situated with spectacular views of The Moody Gardens Golf Course. Owners enjoy the convenience of a “maintenance-free home” where the association cares for everything on the exterior of the home, including the required property, flood and windstorm insurance. The homes are between 2,000 and 2,300 and offer 3 bedrooms with a ground-floor master suite and two-car garage with private back or side yards.
Sugar Bean Coffee and Cream , the neighborhood coffee house and gelato café, can be found in the Village Center and is open daily. It offers a variety of coffees, teas, fruit smoothies, authentic Italian gelato, beer and wine and fresh-baked breakfast items! In addition, Sugar Bean is available for private events such as weddings or baby showers, group training and meetings. Sugar Bean Coffee and Cream can be reached at 409-974-4473.
For information on Evia, contact 409-744-5555 or log on to www.eviagalveston.com. The Evia Information Center is open every afternoon and is located at 13 Evia Main. Travel on Seawall Boulevard to 89th Street and take a right. Travel to Stewart Road and take a left. Evia is located by taking 99th Street from Stewart Road and traveling straight to the main entrance across from the Moody Gardens Golf Course on Galveston Island.

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If you are anything like me, when it comes to making those new year resolutions, you have the intention of starting when you hop out of bed (or lay in bed recovering from the night before) on January 1st. Well, sometimes the best of plans get delayed due to hectic schedules, fear of failure or change, or just the fact that we are creatures of habit. Due to the fact that I am just starting to implement my resolutions a month later than planned, I feel that February is not too late to consider a few new ones, especially if you are trying to sell your property in this buyer’s market. Here are a few tips (straight from the buyers mouths) to make your resolution focused on getting that property sold!

1. Ensure the photographs of your property are enticing and will catch the buyers attention.

I would feel confident stating that 99% of buyers look online before even reaching out to a Realtor® for further information or assistance. The top reason they are online is to look at listing photos of a property. If your property does not look good online, there is a high probability they will eliminate it from contention. Most buyers will consider or reject a property based only on how the property looks online.

The photographs should be high quality and clear. I am amazed at some of the fuzzy, distorted images that are used to market some properties. Make sure that the rooms appear as bright and spacious as possible. Pull up the blinds (especially if you have views that are desirable) and let natural light illuminate the area.

2. Be realistic about the listing price you decide to market the property at.

The bad news for sellers is there is a lot of inventory on the market AND the power at the negotiating table is in buyer’s court. There is a lot of emotion involved in selling your property. Trust me, I know. There has been a couple of times when selling my own properties within the past year, I have had to call my business partner to help me keep my emotions out of the equation, even though I am a real estate professional myself.

A good Realtor should provide you, as the seller, with a high, average, and a median value of comparable properties that have sold in the past few months. Maybe interviewing a few agents who specialize in your neighborhood so that you can ensure you receive a true reflection of your property’s current value from a few credible sources would be a good idea, especially if you are not familiar with Galveston’s current market. If there happen to be open houses in your neighborhood, go and see what your competition is, or will be. Price it right from the beginning.

Some Realtors tend to have a strategy which includes scheduled price reductions until an offer is received. This strategy can be a powerful one, keeping the listing on the “hot list” to catch other Realtor’s attention. As always, there can be a negative to this strategy, depending on the property, as some buyers will assume that there is something wrong with your property if they see constant price reductions. “Testing the waters” with a high listing price is a big no-no in my book…this can be deadly and will result in no one considering your property as a possibility. I know it’s hard, but if you are a true seller, leave your emotions at the door and be realistic!

3. Provide your Realtor with as much information up front as possible.

After signing a listing agreement and committing to help you sell your home, a Realtor® should ask you for a list of items. These items will differ depending upon the type of property you own. If you presented a seller’s disclosure to fill out, make sure to be honest and as detailed as you can be when filling this out. Your Realtor® can not fill this out for you, or help you fill this out.

You may also be asked to provide average utility bills for the past 6 months, a survey and elevation certificated of the property, insurance costs associated with owning the home, past inspections, and rental statistics for the past 12 months (if marketing the home/condo as a second home or vacation rental).

Buyers will ask for this information if they are interested, and the faster we can get this information into their hands, the faster they will be able to make a decision on whether or not to submit an offer.

4. Listing early in the year does not make you look desperate.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, home buyers are browsing the internet now for their home they intend to buy this year. Usually, this will start happening after the craziness of the holidays is over. My phone has begun to ring earlier this year with people starting their search now, but planning on pulling the trigger in the Spring.

If you have priced it correctly, there is not a “bad” time to put your home on the market. In my business, a second home purchase is an incredibly emotional decision for buyers and one they do not have to do.

Many second home buyers start their research 3 to 6 months before even contacting a Realtor®. I cannot tell you enough how important good online presence is in such a technologically dominated world.

5. Start your Spring cleaning NOW! Make your property as friendly to show as possible.

Been there, done that. This is sometimes the worst part of selling a home, keeping it clean and having strangers in your home. It can feel very invasive & is tough to do, especially if you are occupying the home and you have children.

I have 3 young ones myself and this was one of the biggest challenges that I faced when selling my West End home last year, especially when it was being marketed as a second home! Forget the expensive “staging” – here are some tips to help make your home look fabulous!

Rent a storage facility for extra stuff… this will make the garage appear larger, the closets look more roomy, and just plain feels good. Anything that you forgot you owned or haven’t used in a year, donate to a charity or throw away. No hoarding allowed!

Buyers will open your cabinets, drawers, and closets. Make sure they look organized and roomy as possible.

Curb appeal is important if applicable. Make sure your landscaping looks clean, the lawn is mowed, the front entrance is inviting, etc.

Make sure your property smells good. Pet odors, cooking odors, and the musty odor that will take over your property if it is vacant, will turn off buyers immediately.

Galveston Island Residential Sales Highlights

NEVER SAY NO TO A SHOWING!

The buyer will find another property they like during their day looking at the other competition out there. Always be ready to show… wake up in the morning with the idea that someone is coming that morning to look.

If you start out (or make it a point to start now) as a seller who has priced the property correctly and have it in the best shape possible, you are giving yourself an advantage over the other sellers out there.

The first month your property is on the market is the most crucial time – this is when you typically will get the most interest from buyers and attention from other Realtors® that represent buyers.

In order to be a successful seller in 2011, I suggest following these tips to get the property sold as quickly as possible. Don’t let it linger on the market and become stale. If you are looking to sell your property, do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or if you would like some advice. Here’s to a prosperous 2011 Galveston Island real estate season!

Lyndsey Garza is a Galveston resident of 13 years, a real estate agent with Galveston Real Estate Resource, LLC, and a provisional member of the Junior League of Galveston County. Additional market information is available on her brokerages’ consumer friendly websites: www.homesofgalveston.com, www.condosofgalveston.com, and www.pointewestrealestate.com. You can reach her directly at lyndsey@condosofgalveston.com.

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Evia has started construction of the Curiosity Cove Collection and great progress has been made in the newest enclave of this island community. The Islander talked with Billy Sullivan, one of the developers of Evia, to find out more about these new homes and their inspiration for this unique neighborhood on Galveston Island.

The Islander: Billy, it is exciting to see new construction taking place in Evia. Tell us about these homes and why you decided to build in Curiosity Cove.

Billy Sullivan: We have been looking forward to the Curiosity Cove Collection and feel that 2011 is going to be a great year in Evia and Galveston Island. We’ve had people asking us to build more of these homes because similar styles in Evia have been so popular. Although the recent economic climate has been difficult, we continue to see great interest from people wanting to move to the island and live in a community where they can create a lifestyle.

Look for the homes in Curiosity Cove Collection to be ready by spring.

The Islander: What are some of the features in the homes of the Curiosity Cove Collection?

Billy Sullivan: We always say that we build “new ‘old homes’” because of the quality of finishing and craftsmanship and the conveniences and efficiencies found in new construction. Hardwood floors, granite countertops, spacious living and dining spaces, large master suites – these are the elements that are featured in Curiosity Cove and, quite frankly, what people have come to expect in Evia. They will also have two-car garages and great back yard spaces while owners can also enjoy a view of Curiosity Cove, our community park, from their front porches.

One of these new homes is our highly sought-after Finley plan, which is a single-story home. It is almost impossible to find single-story new construction on Galveston Island and people constantly ask for this plan. The next is the Saint Claire which was one of our popular townhomes floor plans that has been converted into a freestanding home. It offers a large living and dining space with a study and ground floor master suite in addition to a large game room/study space and two additional bedrooms on the second floor. And the closet space in the Saint Claire is incredible. Both of these homes will be completed in early spring and we will continue construction as the year moves along.

The Islander: We’ve been to Evia and know about the community but will you tell Islander readers about your inspiration for the community?

Billy Sullivan: Galveston Island is our home and has been for seven generations of our family. Galveston is who we are and where we will always be. When we started to envision Evia, we wanted to create a community that would appeal to people who wanted a great neighborhood with parks, kids on bicycles, and walks around the lake and dinner parties at their neighbors. We have always loved the architecture that you see in cities of the south; while our father is from Galveston, our mother grew up in New Orleans and we loved to travel to Georgia and South Carolina. So, we combined the two elements – architectural appeal and sense of community. We have Sugar Bean Coffee and Cream in the Village Center, the Evia Pool and Cabana for our owners and their guests and a variety of public spaces throughout. Evia is a traditional neighborhood district and we thought this new urbanism-inspired community would be a perfect fit for Galveston Island.

Join The Islander next month as we continue our conversation and discuss how Evia was the only new community on Galveston Island that did not have any flood water during Hurricane Ike in 2008.

For information on Evia, contact 409-744-5555 or log on to www.eviagalveston.com. The Evia Information Center is open every afternoon and is located at 13 Evia Main. Travel on Seawall Boulevard to 89 Street and take a right. Travel to Stewart Road and take a left. Evia is located by taking 99 Street from Stewart Road and traveling straight to the main entrance across from the Moody Gardens Golf Course on Galveston Island.

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One of the new homes in Evia’s Curiosity Cove Collection. This home could be yours by Spring Break.

As Galveston Island rings in 2011, Evia will be welcoming new homeowners to the Curiosity Cove Collection, a sought-after enclave in the only new community protected by the Galveston Seawall. The homes in Curiosity Cove will reflect the same quaint architectural styles that are popular in the island community.

“There is nothing better than new homes under construction,” explains Billy Sullivan of Evia Partners, LP. “We are so excited to have these new homes because they appeal to so many who would like to call Evia ‘home’.”

The Curiosity Cove Collection offers a single-story floor plan as well as homes between 2,000 and 2,300 square feet. All of the plans offer three bedrooms with a ground-floor master suite and two-car garage with fenced backyards. Buyers currently have the ability to choose all of the selections and customize their new home to their specifications.

The quality and craftsmanship of the Curiosity Cove Collection are typical of homes in Evia, offering granite countertops, wood floors, luxurious master suites and open floor plans which are perfect for entertaining. The homes are painted with a coastal color palate to appeal to those who make Galveston Island and Evia their home.

Evia was the only new community that did not sustain any flood water from Hurricane Ike due to its protection by the Seawall and the elevation of the community. The community is a tribute to the historic neighborhoods throughout Galveston Island and other historic cities like New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah. The Village Pool and Cabana as well as Curiosity Cove, the children’s park, incorporates the traditional sense of ‘neighborhood’ for those who live in and visit Evia.

Sugar Bean Coffee and Cream, the neighborhood coffee house and gelato café, can be found in the Village Center and is open daily. Sugar Bean offers a variety of coffees, teas, fruit smoothies, authentic Italian gelato, beer, wine and fresh-baked breakfast items. In addition, Sugar Bean is available for private events such as weddings or baby showers, group training and meetings. Sugar Bean Coffee and Cream can be reached by calling 409-974-4473.

Evia is proud to work in conjunction with the real estate professionals at The House Company, Joe Tramonte Realty and Sand N Sea Properties. Each weekend, people can visit various open houses ranging from 2,000 square feet all the way to 4,000 square feet. All of these homes are ready for the new owners to enjoy. Visitors are invited to walk through the streets of Evia and enjoy the natural amenities available in the community while gaining a true appreciation for island living.

For information on Evia, please call 409-744-5555 or log on to www.eviagalveston.com. The Evia Information Center is open every afternoon and is located at 13 Evia Main, across from the Moody Gardens Golf Course on Galveston Island.

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Story & Photos By Lyndsey Garza

Before 2008, I had heard of foreclosure sales happening in other areas of the nation on the morning news before heading to the office. As a fairly new agent coming straight from a prominent developer handling their sales, I will admit that I knew nothing about these situations, other than the owner wasn’t paying their monthly mortgage. I had never even shown a foreclosed property, much less spoken with a buyer about one. The market had started to decrease a bit, but life was still great as a Galveston Island Realtor®. The foreclosures that began slashing property values had not invaded our little paradise. Yet.

Wow, did I learn some quick lessons on selling and buying distressed properties in early 2009. Let me just throw a couple of words/phrases out there: short sales, asset manager, tons of scary pro-seller documents to show your clients, no seller’s disclosure. Wait, did I mention short sale? And don’t forget the addendum from the seller that technically overrides the Texas Real Estate Commission contract that was used to submit the offer. What? All of a sudden part of my day had been devoted to calling mortgage companies. I rarely called my mortgage company myself, but never on behalf of someone that I had never officially met in person and was granted access to all of their financial information per the borrower’s permission. In the fourth quarter of this year, an estimated 60 percent of my business was representing sellers aiming for the short sale and mostly, representing and guiding my clients in buying a foreclosed property.

There has been a lot of media directed towards the number of foreclosed properties available, the government bailing out irresponsible companies, decreased property values and how this affects the housing market as a whole. Quite frankly, it’s confusing and then the government changes their mind or implements a new rule or stipulation for the buyer. I would like to share some of the knowledge and experience I have learned during the past two years and inform you as a consumer.

Foreclosure: a legal proceeding that bars or extinguishes a mortgagor’s right of redeeming a mortgaged estate. [1]

Short sale: a sale of real estate in which the sale proceeds fall short of the balance owed on the property’s loan. [2] It often occurs when a borrower cannot pay the mortgage loan on their property, but the lender decides that selling the property at a moderate loss is better than pressing the borrower. Both parties consent to the short sale process, because it allows them to avoid foreclosure.

Robo-signing: a term used by consumer advocates to describe the robotic process of the mass production of false and forged execution of mortgage assignments, satisfactions, affidavits and other legal documents related to mortgage foreclosures and legal matters being created by persons without knowledge of the facts being attested to. It also includes accusations of notary fraud wherein the notaries pre- and/or post-notarize the affidavits and signatures of so-called robo-signers.[3]

I thought providing the definitions of the two main types of distressed sales you hear about would be helpful since they are confused frequently. I find that an estimated 75 percent of my customers and potential buyers either have no idea how a short sale works or are misinformed regarding various steps of the process. This article is going to focus on foreclosures since short sales are very different transactions.

Galveston Real Estate Statistics - Nov 2010

Why buy a foreclosure? There are many pros associated with the purchase of a foreclosed property. Let’s take them one at a time:

• Low price. Foreclosed properties tend to typically sell for five to ten percent less than the current market value, sometimes even discounted more in distressed areas.

• Buyer will obtain a clear title. REO properties (real estate owned by lenders or government) will provide a clear title to the buyer at closing. Buyer will not assume mortgage, liens or back taxes.

• Advantageous ventures as a possibility. Properties can be purchased for a great value, used as rental properties, and then sold when the market picks up.

• Normal escrow time for closing. REO sales usually close in a normal escrow period of time. This typically ranges from 30 – 45 days.

• Get that ‘honey do’ list ready. If a little remodeling and home improvement projects don’t scare you, this can be a great way to build value in a damaged or vandalized property.

• Inspections can be done. REO properties will allow for the buyers to perform thorough inspections on the property within a pre-determined amount of time after contract is accepted by both parties and executed. This is a great reassurance to anyone purchasing a foreclosed property.

• No move-in delays. Foreclosed properties are vacant, so if all is well, the property can be put to use after closing documents are signed and the file has funded.

• Lower closing costs and flexible financing. These incentives are sometimes offered to buyers buying their primary residence.

Why purchasing a foreclosure doesn’t fit everyone’s agenda:

• Banks typically won’t do any repairs. Buyer will be purchasing the property ‘as-is’ or in its current condition (pending buyer’s approval of inspection, of course, if property is a REO).

• Condition of property. This should always be a concern. Lucky buyers can end up with a property in great condition, while other properties run the risk of having being vandalized, vengeful previous owners taking fixtures, and appliances missing. Always consider the hidden costs that may exist in purchasing new appliances, ceiling fans, etc. I have even seen a home so ravaged by the previous owners that the copper wiring was stripped out of the walls!!

• Banks will not supply property disclosures. As in a “typical” real estate transaction that you may have experienced, the buyer will not receive a seller’s disclosure of property document. Generally, these banks have never even seen the property or know any history regarding the property’s previous use. Inspections usually calm nerves due to this concern.

• Banks require additional paperwork. As I mentioned previously, the bank will provide additional paperwork required for the buyer to sign and agree to. These documents are very seller-biased, but if there are concerns, an attorney can review them. (They are getting very used to seeing them and most are very similar.)

• Full cooperation from buyer who must also be very patient. After submitting an offer on a foreclosed property, the waiting game begins. I have received communications as soon as the same day, and have also waited for a bank’s response for up to a week. Remember, this is simply a business transaction to the seller – there are no emotions in play here. Ironically, after waiting patiently for the seller’s response, the buyer and their Realtor® must jump when they say jump. Once the offer becomes an executed contract, the clock starts ticking. Title companies usually expect earnest money in the form of a cashier’s check sent out overnight!

Research, Representation, and Preparation = Success in Purchasing Foreclosures

If a buyer is considering looking at a foreclosure or purchasing a foreclosed property, three things should be done to make the transaction as easy and stress-free as possible:

• Research. Buyers need to do their own research to make sure they are educated for their own comfort level. If you know others that have purchased a foreclosed property, ask them about how their experience was.

• Representation. Make sure that you are working with a Realtor® that has experience negotiating and closing foreclosures to guide you through the process. This agent’s job is to represent your best interests before, during, and after the transaction. Be sure to have buyer’s representation & leave the work to us Realtors®. The bank pays your agent at closing, so why would you not make sure you have an experienced agent on your side?

• Preparation. As I mentioned above, make sure that you have all of your ducks in a row so that you are prepared to “jump” once the bank has accepted your offer. Your Realtor® should be a huge help here, but be prepared to go ahead and get a pre-qualification letter from a lender if financing, proof of funds if paying cash, and be ready to run out to the bank for that cashier’s check and then straight over to FedEx!

Happy New Year! Freddie Mac seems to think so.

I would also like to share Freddie Mac’s thoughts regarding what we should expect out of the real estate market in 2011. Freddie Mac analysts point to five features that they believe will likely characterize the 2011 housing and mortgage markets.

• Low mortgage rates.

• Prices have hit bottom. House prices are likely to begin a gradual, but sustained recovery in the second half of 2011.

• Housing will remain affordable. With affordability high, many first-time buyers will be attracted to the housing market in the New Year, likely translating into more home sales in 2011 than in 2010.

• Refinances will dwindle. Many eligible borrowers have already refinanced and the federal Making Home Affordable refinance program is expiring on June 30. While fixed-rate loans are likely to remain low, they will move up gradually, making it even less likely that refinances will be attractive to most home owners.

• Delinquency rates will decline. Based on the last several business cycles, the share of loans that are 90 or more days delinquent or in foreclosure proceedings — known as the “seriously delinquent rate” — generally crests within a year of the start of the recovery in payroll employment, and this economic recovery appears to fit within that pattern. Payrolls began to rise last January, and by the spring the seriously delinquent rate had begun to fall.

Source: Freddie Mac (12/09/2010)

I am always looking for topics to write about, please feel free to e-mail me with any suggestions. Also, if you would like to see an additional area/neighborhood of the island included in the statistics I provide, please let me know.

I would also like to extend a thank you to the Sand N’ Sea real estate office, located in Pirates Beach, for the Galveston 2010 third quarter statistics used in December’s issue. Happy New Year and I hope all of us islanders (and islanders at heart) have a prosperous and joyful 2011.

Lyndsey Garza is a Galveston resident and real estate agent with Galveston Real Estate Resource, LLC. She can be reached at lyndsey@condosofgalveston.com

Sources: [1] Merriam – Webster Dictionary, [2] Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary, [3] www.time.com.

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Story & Photos By Lyndsey Garza

After living on the island for 13 years, I can say without a doubt that the last three months of the year are my favorite months to be an islander. With the unpredictable weather, I can enjoy the bay while getting a suntan with my family on our boat. Two days later, I can be bundled up in a jacket and pull on my boots to head out to show properties to potential buyers.

Although Galveston seems to slow down during the week, these months are also filled with fabulous fall events, such as the Lone Star Biker Rally, Octoberfest, Artwalks, Dickens on the Strand and the Moody Gardens Festival of Lights. Even though the beaches have a little more room, the visitors are still here. They are simply enjoying and discovering Galveston’s other attractions, which are starting to gain as much popularity as the well-known summer destinations.

How does this apply to real estate? From my experience as a realtor who specializes in the second home market, more people are falling in love with Galveston for more than the lure of sand between their toes. These same people are also seeing the incredible opportunity in purchasing property on the island.

How can you blame them with amazing prices and enticing interest rates for both primary and second homes, and the inventory they have to choose from?

In my opinion, the buyers are holding the cards, even though prices appear to be stabilizing. You hear a lot of news regarding how stringent lenders have become, but this also provides opportunities for investors who aren’t happy with the return on their money in the bank.

There is a large long-term rental market in Galveston due to our student population and hard-working families who can’t meet lender guidelines. Match this with some distressed sellers and Ike-damaged homes still available, and it’s a no-brainer if they are looking for a three- to five-year investment.

We also had a quiet hurricane season. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the excuse, “I am going to wait until after September, then consider purchasing.” I just smile, because as we all know, September rolls around every year. The Gulf’s lack of activity this year simply increased consumer confidence. For those second home buyers, the vulnerability of the ‘vacation-rental-dollar-dependent sellers’ also provides the buyers with a little more muscle at the negotiation table.

I have always said that September through April are my busiest, most productive, months while most people call this period Galveston’s ‘off season’ market. I am already seeing an increase in business and calls in my office, and I look forward to showing these statistics off in next month’s article, which will highlight November and December’s actual real estate sales and statistics

Let’s see what has gotten the current Galveston Island real estate market to where it is as of today. I am going to compare the sales during the first three quarters of the year (January – August) of 2008, 2009 and 2010.

(January – August) of 2008, 2009 and 2010.

I am looking forward to watching the activity of real estate in the next five months on the island. I know that when I am out showing property to clients looking at an empty beach, and feel that brisk north wind gust that makes me shiver, I will simply smile and paint the picture of Galveston’s summers that I know my clients will be enjoying in a few months. Galveston’s ‘off season’ market? I think not.

Lyndsey Garza is a Galveston resident and real estate agent with Galveston Real Estate Resource, LLC. Additional market information is available on her brokerages’ consumer friendly websites: www.homesofgalveston.com, www.condosofgalveston.com, and www.pointewestrealestate.com. You can reach her directly at lyndsey@condosofgalveston.com.

Remember, these 2008 sales numbers occurred in a time period I like to refer to as ‘pre-Ike’ and ‘pre-economic meltdown.’ There are some trends in the table above worth noting:

– West Galveston Island property sales have almost doubled since 2009 and are creeping back to 2008 levels.

– East end historical properties and Campeche Cove real estate are also close to 2008 levels.

– Downtown loft sales are having a slow recovery – numbers not far off from 2009 statistics.

– Pirates Beach and its neighboring communities are hot. Sales in this area have more than doubled as compared to 2009 levels.

– Areas to watch: Only two areas have surpassed their 2008 number of sold transactions, the west end resort community of Pointe West and the east end resort market. The success on the east end is primarily due to the popularity of Palisade Palms, the luxurious high-rise condo development. Both developments have aggressively priced properties, allowing buyers to own property at a serious discount, as compared to the developer pre-construction pricing in place two to three years ago.

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Welcome home island lovers. As the Galveston Historical Foundation kicks off the holiday season with Dickens Evening on the Strand, Evia welcomes residents and visitors to Galveston Island. Evia stands as a traditional neighborhood district where neighbors walk along the sidewalks to meet their friends in the Village Center and gather in their homes to celebrate this special time of year.

“The holiday season is very special on Galveston Island with Dickens Evening on the Strand, Moody Gardens’ Festival of Lights and many other holiday celebrations,” explains Billy Sullivan of Evia Partners, LP. “Evia is proud to participate in the holiday season with many of our residents volunteering to help their island neighbors through the Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army and many other civic organizations that Galveston is fortunate to have.”

Evia stands as a tribute to the historic neighborhoods throughout Galveston Island and other historic cities like New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah. The community did not sustain any floodwater during Hurricane Ike due to its protection by the Seawall and the elevation of the community. The Village Pool and Cabana as well as Curiosity Cove, the children’s park, incorporates the traditional sense of ‘neighborhood’ for those who live in and visit Evia.

The Curiosity Cove Collection will begin in December with the creation of new homes along the park. These homes will offer single-story floor plans in addition to homes up to 2,300 square feet.

All offer ground-floor master suites and private yards. Buyers currently have the ability to choose all of the selections and customize their new home to their specifications.

Sullivan continues, “These quaint, free-standing homes are situated upon Curiosity Cove and have a great view of the park from their front porches. They will offer a nice atmosphere as neighbors treat the park as an extension of their front yard. They are brightly painted and are great tributes to the creations seen throughout the Garden District in New Orleans.”

Each weekend, people can visit various open houses, ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 square feet. These architectural creations have been designed to reflect the architecture that has appealed to so many who visit and want to call Evia home. All of these homes are ready for the new owners to enjoy.

Sugar Bean Coffee and Cream, the neighborhood coffee house and gelato café, can be found in the Village Center and is open daily. Sugar Bean offers a variety of coffees, teas, fruit smoothies, authentic Italian gelato, beer and wine and fresh-baked breakfast items. Sugar Bean is available for private events such as wedding or baby showers, group training sessions and meetings. Sugar Bean Coffee and Cream can be reached by calling 409-974-4473.

For information on Evia, call 409-744-5555 or log on to www.eviagalveston.com.

The Evia Information Center is open every afternoon and is located at 13 Evia Main. Travel on Seawall Boulevard to 89 Street and take a right. Travel to Stewart Road and take a left. Evia is located by taking 99 Street from Stewart Road and traveling straight to the main entrance across from the Moody Gardens Golf Course on Galveston Island.

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