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As a buyer, you are entitled to know exactly what you are getting. Don’t take anything for granted, not even what you see or what the seller or listing agent tell you. A professional home inspection is something you MUST do, whether you are buying an existing home or a new one. An inspection is an opportunity to have an expert look closely at the property you are considering purchasing and getting both an oral and written opinion as to its condition.

Beforehand, make sure the report will be done by a professional organization, such as a local trade organization or a national trade organization such as ASHI (American Society of Home Inspection). Not only should you never skip an inspection, but also you should be present with the inspector during the inspection. This gives you a chance to ask questions about the property and get answers that are not biased. In addition, the oral comments are typically more revealing and detailed than what you will find on the written report. Once the inspection is complete, review the inspection report carefully.

You have to demand an inspection when you present your offer. It must be written in as a contingency. If you do not approve the inspection report, then do not buy the home. Most real estate contracts automatically provide an inspection contingency.

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas – “For me, every film should be a local film. No matter how big the budget, or how small the budget, you should have the locals involved.”

The 26th Annual Cinesol Film Festival returning to South Padre Island for two days of film screenings, featuring celebrity guest R.J. Mitte, famed for his role in the critically-acclaimed series, Breaking Bad.

Mitte’s grandparents are from Brownsville and he’s visited the South Texas city all throughout his childhood, making it all the more special to screen his new film, “Carol of the Bells” at the Cinesol festival.

“It’s such a warm and welcoming place here and it’s such an entity about Brownsville and all over this part of South Texas and it’s unique. There’s no other place like it in the world. I love coming down here I always love coming down here and it’s been a home to me,” said R.J. Mitte, Cinesol celebrity guest

His film, produced by Inclusion Films, is a company teaching filmmaking to the developmentally disabled, a cause close to Mitte. “They get to work on a full-feature film and kind of provide that hands-on experience working with leading professionals and learning students. And really trying to bridge that gap of knowledge.”

Cinesol Festival Director Henry Serrato has been involved in the festival since its second year and says that along with the advancement of technology, more people are turning to film making. This year 100 films were submitted, with 31 selected.

“People can shoot a film or a short on their phone. So we’ve seen technology make it accessible for filmmakers do more short films, so that means more films for us to watch and screen,” said Henry Serrato, Cinesol Festival Director.

Another film screened during Cinesol was “Ramona” a story shot in Brownsville about a woman reminiscing on her youth and struggles.

A producer of Ramona says he and others are working to build a strong film industry in the RGV.

“A lot of times in an area like this where incomes are lower they won’t see the opportunities to get into acting or get into working on crews. We want to create those opportunities locally for them and hopefully cultivate that even more,” said Roy De Los Santos-Cuellar, Founder of 6 Cats Production.

Cinesol continues into today with more film screenings and at 7 p.m., the winners of the 36-hour film race will be revealed.

by: Rocio Villalobos

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — The 26th annual Cinesol Film Festival happening at the South Padre Island Convention Center this Saturday and Sunday will feature an internationally known actor as celebrity guest.

R.J. Mitte, best known for his role as Walter “Flynn” White Jr. in the critically acclaimed AMC series “Breaking Bad” (2008-2013), will be on hand Saturday for a question-and-answer session related to the new film “Carol of the Bells,” which will be screened at the festival and in which Mitte plays Scott Johnson, a businessman and typical, stressed-out family man haunted by his past, hobbled by guilt and “somewhat broken,” Mitte explained in a phone interview with the Herald.

“It’s a Christmas film (but) not strictly a Christmas story,” he said. “No one’s really seen this story before. This isn’t like your typical Christmas feel-better movie.”

The film’s director is Joey Travolta, actor John Travolta’s older brother, who in 2007 founded Inclusion Films to teach filmmaking to children and adults with developmental disabilities. The company produced “Carol of the Bells,” three-quarters of the cast and crew of which are developmentally disabled, Mitte said. The actor has a mild form of cerebral palsy, which he had to exaggerate for “Breaking Bad.”

On day two of the festival, Mitte will lead a panel discussion on diversity and inclusion in the arts and media. He said there’s still much work to be done on that score, for disabled and non-disabled people alike, but that he’s glad he was given a chance to help influence attitudes about developmentally disabled people. Mitte called it “an honor and a great responsibility.”

“It’s a hard business,” he said. “The more you excel in it the harder it gets. I think Walt Jr. did have a hand in opening the door for perceptions and for how people are viewed, and what it means to see an accurate representation that you feel is relevant to the screen. It makes a difference. But we still have a long way to go. I’m very lucky for Walt Jr. and what Walt Jr. gave to me.”

Mitte has been busy since “Breaking Bad.” Besides to “Carol of the Bells,” recent projects include roles in “Now Apocalypse” on Starz cable network and “Standing Up for Sunny,” a film by Australian director Steven Vindler. This is Mitte’s first visit to Cinesol, a festival he said he’s been aware of for some time but has been prevented from attending due to a packed schedule.

All told, the festival will screen 31 independent films over two days, including three features, five documentaries and 23 shorts. International offerings will include films from France, Malaysia and Spain. Cinesol will also feature screenings from the Texas Filmmakers Showcase, and on Sunday, screenings and awards from the 14th annual Cinesol 36-Hour Film Race.

Steve Clark

In order to get the highest price in the shortest time, you need to know how to market your home. The better you market your home, the more offers you will get. And the more offers you get, the more choices you have to get the price and terms you want.

The most important factor of marketing your home is pricing it right. Your price should be adjusted to reflect the market and your property’s worth. The key is to get as many people as possible checking out your fairly priced property. If your property is not priced fairly, there will be no buyers because your price is set too high.

Another important factor is the condition of your home. Make sure that your home looks ready to be sold. Fix any defects (peeling or faded paint, cracks, stains, etc.) Condition alone can sometimes prompt fast buying decisions. Not only should you fix any defects, but consider upgrading your home by making major repairs and cosmetic improvements before selling. A nice looking home triggers the emotional response that can lead to a financial response.

Learn how to negotiate the best terms for all parties involved. Terms are another factor that may be adjusted to attract buyers. If you insist on getting your asking price, think of what you can offer to the buyers. For example, improvements you’ve made or even offering seller financing at a lower than market interest rate on a portion of the sale price. Convince them why they should be paying the price you have set.

Lastly, get the buzz out about your home. List your house with a hot agent that ensures your house is listed on the MLS and on the Internet. On your own, get the word out. It should always be visible to passersby that your house is for sale, whether it is through signs, local advertisements or you telling friends, family, and acquaintances.

An increase in foreclosure rates will inevitably bring with it an increase in short sales. But what is a short sale?

A short sale happens when you sell your house for less than your remaining mortgage balance, the proceeds of which go to the lender and in return the lender forgives the remaining balance. Selling your home as a short sale is one way to avoid foreclosure.

As a general rule, lenders lose money when they foreclose on a property. Consequently, they would rather not have to foreclose if it can be avoided. A short sale represents an opportunity to cut their losses because a short sale usually allows them to recoup more of the cost of the loan than a foreclosure process would.

However, don’t think that a short sale is an easy thing to accomplish. In order to get permission for a short sale, you must provide documentation showing a genuine financial hardship. And don’t think that the decision for accepting a short sale is solely in the hands of the lender. Sure the lender must first agree, but this is not the final word. If there is mortgage insurance involved, this company also gets input on the decision. If there is an investor backing the mortgage, they also get input as to whether to accept a short sale.

The transaction process for a short sale can be rather cumbersome as well, whether you’re on the buying or selling side. Many short sales fail due to additional demands by the lender, such as requiring the broker to reduce his or her commission and/or that the seller signs a document requiring him or her to pay back the shortfall.

If you’re on the selling side of a short sale, consider having your agent or other experienced professional negotiate with your lender for a better deal. And remember, if the lender does accept a short sale and forgives part of your debt, that is considered taxable income and you must declare it as such to the IRS.

It used to be that buyers could go house shopping and when they have found their dream home, then they go to get pre-approved. However, in today’s market, that has proven to be one of the least effective methods in landing the dream home.

Most lenders can pre-qualify you for a mortgage over the phone. Based on general questions about your income, debt, assets, and credit history, lenders can estimate how much mortgage you qualify for. However, being pre-qualified and pre-approved are different things. Pre-approval means that you have applied for a mortgage; you have filled out the mortgage application, received your credit report, and verified your employment, assets, etc. When you are pre-approved, you know exactly what the maximum loan amount will be.

A pre-qualified letter is not verified and in essence, does not count for much if you are competing with other buyers who are pre-approved. When you are pre-approved, you and the seller know exactly how much house you can afford. It gives you credibility as an interested buyer and lets the seller know immediately that you will qualify for a loan to buy their property.

In addition to being pre-approved, it’s important to be pre-approved with a legitimate lender. Legitimate lenders include: banks, mortgage bankers, credit unions, savings and loan associations, mortgage brokers, and online lenders.

Some lenders to avoid: those who lose a form or misplace a file, those who gather information from you in an unorganized manner, those who are not informed about interest rates, points or costs, and those who cannot provide you with the right information.

With the housing bubble burst and the subprime mortgage crisis, millions of homeowners found themselves unable to make their mortgage payments. Many found themselves owing more on the house than the home was worth. Many just walked away from their homes. As a result of these complicated issues, millions of homes were foreclosed.

While this isn’t the only reason for which homes are foreclosed, it has been a widespread one. With all the foreclosed properties, there has also been extensive interest in buying these properties at a bargain price.

It is true that foreclosed properties can be priced at a significant discount, but they are also a much riskier investment. Before making an offer on a foreclosed property, do your due diligence.

Things you must do before buying a foreclosure:

It is also important to consider that there are different types of foreclosure properties and each type comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. The different types of foreclosure purchases are:

  1. Pre-foreclosure
  2. Auction
  3. Real Estate Owned (REO), also called “bank owned”

Pre-Foreclosure

A pre-foreclosure is when you buy the home directly from the homeowner, before the bank officially forecloses. This type of purchase does not require as much capital as other foreclosures. Also, since you are purchasing straight from the homeowner, you will be able to gather all of the necessary information, such as inspection reports, title information, etc. that may not be available with other foreclosure properties. Once you take over the mortgage, you will be responsible for all future payments as well as any overdue back payments.

Auction

A foreclosure property will usually end up at an auction. Real estate auction practices vary by state but common practice is for the auction to be held on courthouse steps, in front of the foreclosed home, or at the county clerk’s office.

Real estate auctions offer the best chance for a great deal but also hold the greatest risk. Auction properties are sold as is, with no opportunity for potential buyers to perform inspections. When buying a home at auction, the buyer must pay cash, usually a cashier’s check. It is also possible that there may still be tenants living in the home. In such a case, you would be responsible for the often costly eviction process.

REO

Once a foreclosure has gone to auction and failed to sell, it becomes a Real Estate Owned, or bank owned, property. Most homes do not sell at auction, most fail to even get any bids.

An REO property is the least likely of the foreclosure properties to represent a bargain, but it is also the least risky. The property can be fully inspected, any title issues can be found and dealt with, and the sale can be subject to a mortgage. REO properties also tend to be in better condition than other foreclosure properties.

Another thing to keep in mind when purchasing a foreclosure is that some states have a redemption period that allows the original owner to buy back the property by paying the remaining balance owed. You may be able to have this redemption period waived, so check the state laws on this topic before purchasing.

Still interested in buying a foreclosure property? If so, always do your research before purchasing!

Cameron County has received over $1.5 million in grant money from the Texas General Land Office for several coastal county projects.

The money will come from the GLO’s Coastal Erosion Planning Response Act and Coastal Management Program, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. said in a press release.

The grant will help fund projects at Adolph Thomae Jr. Park, North Cameron County Beach Nourishment Phase, Children’s Beach Shoreline Restoration Project, and Cameron County Beach Access No. 3.

“Special thanks to the Texas General Land Office for their partnership on these Coastal Projects,” Treviño said. “These projects will assist with improving public beach access at Cameron County Beach Access No. 3 and most importantly protecting our shorelines at Adolph Thomae Jr. County Park and County beaches on South Padre Island from eroding.”

Cameron County has received over $1.5 million in grant money from the Texas General Land Office for several coastal county projects.

The money will come from the GLO’s Coastal Erosion Planning Response Act and Coastal Management Program, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. said in a press release.

The grant will help fund projects at Adolph Thomae Jr. Park, North Cameron County Beach Nourishment Phase, Children’s Beach Shoreline Restoration Project, and Cameron County Beach Access No. 3.

“Special thanks to the Texas General Land Office for their partnership on these Coastal Projects,” Treviño said. “These projects will assist with improving public beach access at Cameron County Beach Access No. 3 and most importantly protecting our shorelines at Adolph Thomae Jr. County Park and County beaches on South Padre Island from eroding.”

Laura Martinez

It looks like the Port of Brownsville may get that steel mill it’s been wanting.

David Stickler, CEO of Arkansas-based Big River Steel, was quoted in a June 5 article in metals trade publication Fastmarkets AMM saying that the company is spending time, money and effort toward construction of a mill in the southern United States, “with the most focus currently on the Port of Brownsville.”

BRS is in the process of doubling the capacity of its existing steel mill, in Osceola, Ark., and is evaluating sites for a second mill in order to grow its business serving Mexico’s vehicle manufacturing sector. In a Nov. 7, 2018, AMM article, Stickler confirmed that Brownsville was a contender but said BRS was also considering other Gulf coast sites for a high-tech, $1.6 billion mill.

In April 2018, the Brownsville Navigation District Commission approved a lease option agreement with BRS on up to 800 acres of port land, and the company signed an extension on that option agreement this April.

Stickler said in the most recent AMM article that the company had secured contracts with three major automakers — he didn’t say which ones — and is planning to add a fourth in the near future.

BMW opened a new plant in Mexico this month. Audi, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen also have plants there, as do General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, which have been building cars in Mexico since the 1930s. Manufacturer demand for flat-rolled steel continues to grow in Mexico.

Meanwhile, BRS is forging ahead with a second mill against a backdrop of dramatically fluctuating steel prices since its Osceola operations began in 2017, and despite whatever the Trump administration does related to tariffs. The new plant would support about 500 full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $75,000.

Steve Tyndal, Port of Brownsville senior director of marketing and business development, said Stickler took part in the port’s May 23 Workforce Summit, attended by roughly 60 stakeholders, including representatives from the three proposed liquefied natural gas projects at the port.

“This is another reassuring example of Big River Steel’s continuing interest in the Port of Brownsville,” Tyndal said.

Port officials are in regular communication with BRS about the project, which would provide “significant economic and job opportunities across the Rio Grande Valley, as well as further diversifying the port’s commercial foundation,” he said.

BND Chairman John Reed said Stickler was “very involved” in the summit, which also drew state officials with the Texas Workforce Commission.

“I will say that we are continually visiting with and speaking to Mr. Stickler and working very hard towards having Big River Steel open in Brownsville,” he said.

Kevin Shuba, CEO of OmniTRAX, which is in charge of marketing and developing the port’s industrial park and operating the Brownsville & Rio Grande International Railroad, said the potential economic impact of a BRS steel mill in Brownsville was obvious from the first conversation with the Arkansas-based company.

“Together with our local and state partners, we are collaboratively working to put the final pieces in place that hopefully enables a favorable decision by Big River Steel to bring a new, high technology steel mill to Brownsville, Texas,” he said.

BY STEVE CLARK STAFF WRITER

Andrew Canon had just been named the first executive director of the Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, and his bosses were already giving him a hard time.

“We have no November meeting,” Canon said at this week’s board meeting, citing the Council of Governments schedule that the recently created MPO follows. “I believe our next board meeting will actually be Dec. 11, since we follow the COG schedule.”

“For your first action as director,” said Pharr Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, who chairs the board of the Valley MPO, “is to take a month off?”

“No, sir,” Canon said. And Canon, Hernandez and the officials from across South Texas in the Ken Jones Board Room this week at the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council in Weslaco broke out into laughter.

The officials named Canon, the former Hidalgo County MPO director, the executive director of the newly formed MPO, which is responsible for securing money available to the state for transportation planning and construction in urbanized areas across Texas. The MPOs in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio have for years received the most funding due to their size as, by far, the largest MPOs in the state.

But over the summer, with the merger of the Brownsville MPO, Harlingen-San Benito MPO and Hidalgo County MPO, officials believe the new Valley MPO will fight for the same funding as the four largest MPOs. Officials said the new MPO will represent a region of more than 1 million people, as opposed to three separate organizations representing smaller slivers. Officials have projected hundreds of millions in additional funds that could be available to Valley transportation projects.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez emphasized this point in June when Gov. Greg Abbott signed the only still-blank signature line to complete the authorization for the merger.

“The creation of this merger will bring access to transportation dollars to access our traffic congestion and our growth,” Cortez said.

Officials were happy with Canon’s long tenure heading the Hidalgo County MPO and rewarded him with the job running the transportation organization covering the entire Valley.

“My job as executive director is to build regional collaboration on projects benefiting all of our residents,” Canon said in an interview after being named director. “Now, it’s not about what’s best for Harlingen, or Brownsville or McAllen. There are projects in Cameron County that affect people in Hidalgo County when they’re driving to the island, or projects in Hidalgo County that affect people when they’re driving to McAllen.

“This is an organization that will put forth the best projects for the region.”

BY MITCHELL FERMAN STAFF WRITER