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Rebecca Shahan

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Bad Habits Austin Homeowners Need to Break Now

by Rebecca Shahan

Bad habits can be hard to break. It's so easy to start a bad habit since we may not realize it's bad in the first place. When it comes to owning a home in Austin, bad habits can be costly. Here's  a few habits that would be good to break.

Taking Long, Steamy Showers

Who doesn't love a long hot shower, especially after spending a relaxing day on Lake Travis? It may be good for your body, but long showers build up steam that is also great for mold and mildew. Make sure you run the exhaust fan or open a window during and after your shower. Every few months, make sure to scrub the grout.

Compulsively Buying Bargains

When it comes to household items, it's better not to go cheap. In fact, budget buys might cost you more in the long run. Those dollar paintbrushes may look like a good buy, but they will usually leave annoying streaks, requiring a costly do-over.

And when it comes to buying appliances, spend a little more — especially if you plan on selling your home soon.

Running a Half-Full Dishwasher

Sure, it's nice to have clean dishes every morning. But if you don't do a full load, you're wasting water.

It's true that dishwashers save more water than handwashing. Yet most machines will use the same amount of water no mater how full the load is. In the end, you're wasting water and can cost more on your utility bill.

Mega-Mulching

Don't go overboard with the mulch around your tree, as this can suffocate your tree, causing root rot and inviting invasive insects.

Your trees can add a lot of value to your home. Each one can add $2,000 or more to your home’s value while saving on energy costs. Protect your valuable trees by packing mulch loosely, letting water filter properly toward the trunk.

Going on a Remodeling Rampage

You don't need to launch into remodeling the moment you buy your home, unless it really needs it to be lived in. Take time once you move in to get to know your home and all of it's quirks before you renovate.

For example, lets say you remodel your kitchen, then discover the original layout would have worked better for parties. Or you pain a room your favorite color, only to discover that the natural light makes it not so much your favorite color.

Packratting

It's easy for things to pile up, especially in the garage or shed. There's always that "what if" when it comes to getting rid of things we don't use. Many people use a 6-month or 1-year rule - if you don't use an item in that time, ditch it.

Decluttering can seem like such an insurmountable goal — even though every jam-packed square foot is space you can’t enjoy.

If the task seems impossible, start small.

Just remember: Breaking habits takes time and patience. But it's worth it.

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.

Get Ready For Fun in Austin During April

by Rebecca Shahan

Now that Spring has finally arrived, it's time for the fun times to get underway this April in Austin and the surrounding area. Here's a few events coming up next month that are sure to put some spring in your step. Dance to live music, check out classic cars, discover new art, look at weird homes - there's so much to do in Austin this April!

Old Settler's Music Festival | 4/11/19 - 4/14/19
Tilmon, TX

Have a fun time camping and listening to live music at this signature music event, featuring Grammy-winning Americana. Local favorites and award-winning artists from around the world will perform acoustic jazz, bluegrass, and blues.

Lonestar Round Up | 4/12/19 - 4/13/19
Travis County Expo Center

Custom cars from all over the country converge at this huge outdoor car show and live music festival.

Art City Austin Festival | 4/12/19 - 4/14/19
Palmer Event Center

One of the city's favorite festivals brings together nearly 200 national artists, top local restaurants, two music stages and hands-on art activities.

Austin Reggae Fest | 4/19/19 - 4/21/19
Auditorium Shores

Raising money for the Capital Area Food Bank, Reggae Fest features three days of reggae, world and dub talent, along with more than 50 vendors selling food and arts & crafts. 

Weird Homes Tour | 4/20/19
Around Town

This annual event shows how we "Keep Austin Weird" with a selection of the most creative homes around town, as you meet the homeowners who keep our wacky culture thriving.

Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival | 4/24/19 - 4/27/19
The Paramount Theatre and other locations

Get a good laugh with some of the funniest, wittiest and oddest world-class comics from around the globe. National headliners, up-and-comers and local Austin-based comedians ensure three hilarious days of fun. 

Austin Food + Wine Festival | 4/26/19 - 4/28/19
Auditorium Shores and Republic Square Park

Pamper your palate in one of the hippest cities in the country at the Austin Food + Wine Festival. Join top chef talent, sommeliers and winemakers from across the nation and Austin's own acclaimed gourmet scene for an indulgent, three-day epicurean adventure unlike any other, topped off with live musical performances.

Eeyore's Annual Birthday Party | 4/27/19
Pease Park

Live music, local beer, food, acrobats and costume contests surround this annual gathering of Austin's most eclectic locals. Eeyore's Birthday serves as fundraiser to benefit many local non-profits. 

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.
 

Everything to Know About the Pre-Approval Process

by Rebecca Shahan

No doubt, you've already hear about being "pre-approved" if you're planning on buying a home. Yet many people don't fully understand the process.

What is Pre-Approval?

In short, being pre-approved for a mortgage means that the lender decides if you're eligible for a loan and how much you can borrow. This decision is based on your finances and credit rating.

Why Do I Need to Get Pre-Approved?

Being pre-approved is necessary for a number of reasons. It gives you clearer picture of how much money you need to complete the buying process. The more you put down, the lower your monthly payments will be. You will also get a better idea of how much you can afford for the total price of the home.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that the loan product that a friend used will work the same for them. Even though that's a possibility, it's not safe to assume so. No two loans are alike, just as no two lives and circumstances are alike.

Loan products also have different costs, such as varying lender origination fees. Your loan officer can work with your to learn the costs of a loan and how the loan process works.  This will give you a good idea of what costs to expect.

Knowing these things will make you more comfortable when deciding on a home to buy. It also shows sellers that you're serious about making an offer, giving you an edge over buyers who haven't been pre-approved.

Getting Pre-Approved is Easy

Pre-approval is an easy process, so there's no reason not to do it. You just need to know how much money you make, assets, and debts.

What Will My Lender Need to Check During Pre-Approval?

  • Your credit score. Yes, your lender will then have to pull your credit. Don’t worry, pulling your score once shouldn’t affect your score. 
  • W2s or 1099s
  • Pay stubs
  • Tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Account statements
  • Your list of monthly expenses

Gathering all these documents can feel like busy work and is typically the hardest part for you.

If you want to have an idea of whether you’ll get pre-approved before choosing a lender, a good first step is finding out your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI. Your DTI ratio helps a lender understand how much of your monthly income goes to paying debt and what you have left after those debts are paid. You can calculate the ratio by dividing monthly debt payments by gross monthly income.

The lower your debt-to-income ratio is, the better. A lower DTI will make you seem less risky to lenders.

Although each loan product is different, most lenders would prefer your debt-to-income ratio to be at 36% or lower.

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.

Ways to Fool Burglars Into Thinking You’re Home

by Rebecca Shahan

So how do you make it look like someone is home all the time?

Light Up a Room (From the Road)

Turning lights on with a timer is nothing new. Your parents may have used those old light timers to do that. But now you can use an app, and you have to admit that's more fun. And you can program your lights to come on at more random times to make it more realistic.

Fake a TV Binge

Yes, it's the old trick of leaving the TV on. You can save the life of your TV by getting a little FakeTV gizmo that projects light onto the curtains for the same effect. The device works on a timer or light sensor to switch on when it gets dark.

Make Some Noise

Burglars are a jumpy lot, for good reason. If they hear sounds, they will usually split. So why not make some noise? Of course, you can get an app for that. You can play noises of vacuuming or other household activities. Just try to make it somewhat realistic. So in other words, don't play more than one or two sounds at once.

Try a No-Tech Technique

Not everything requires a gadget. Here are ways to up your home security without downloading a single app:

  • Hire a house sitter. Then someone will be home.
  • Ask friends, family, or neighbors to just be present on your property — use your patio, play in your yard, or bring in the mail.
  • Invite a neighbor to keep a car parked in your driveway. During the holidays, they may be happy if they need overflow for visitors.
  • Install a fake security camera for as low as $8. Burglars may not notice these fakes don’t have all the wiring necessary to be real. And their blinking red lights offer reasonable doubt.
  • Get a dog. A real dog. While you’re at work or running errands, nothing deters bad guys and gals like a barking, slobbery security guard. And when you go away, having a pet sitter stay can be as economical as some boarding facilities (especially if you have multiple dogs), and you’ll get the benefit of a human and canine sentinel.

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.

Austin Boasts the Sweetest Treats

by Rebecca Shahan

We all need to indulge our sweet tooth from time to time, or perhaps all the time. If you live in Austin or Lake Travis, you'll have no problem finding the right treat to satisfy any sweet craving. Here's a list of some of the sweetest places in Austin, just in time for Spring.

Gourdough's Big Fat Donuts

Located in a vintage Airstream on South 1st Street, they offer some the the largest donuts you'll find anywhere. And these donuts aren't just for dessert. They serve up donut sandwiches, donut burgers, donut entrees, and of course, the most amazing donuts you'll find anywhere. With names like "Black Out" and "Sin-A-Bomb", you know you're in for a treat you won't forget.

Amy's Ice Cream

Reviewers say that Amy's is the best ice cream in Austin, and with 13 locations in Austin, you won't have any trouble finding an Amy's near you. With an excellent variety of outstanding flavors and new items, there's every reason to keep coming back for a new taste.

Lick Honest Ice Creams

For a unique array of homemade ice cream flavors, Lick Honest is one of the best places for dessert in Austin. This ice cream restaurant is considered a bit more "hipster", with flavors that are a bit more subdued, so get ready for a unique ice cream experience.

Le Cafe Crepe

Crepe's are the perfect combination of a meal and dessert, all in one tasty thin wrapping. You'll find all kinds of flavor combinations, from the savory crepes with meats and cheeses, to the sweet crepes with Nutella, fruits, and all sorts of sweet flavors.

Hey Cupcake

It would seem that desserts taste better when served from an Airstream, because Hey Cupcake is also based in the ever iconic Airstream trailer. And of course, we can't leave the best cupcake makers in Austin off this list. 

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.

What Does Austin Homeowners Insurance Cover?

by Rebecca Shahan

Do you know what homeowner's insurance covers in Austin?

A basic homeowners insurance policy (called HO-1 in insurance lingo) covers your home and possessions if they’re damaged or destroyed by these things:

  • Fire
  • Lightning
  • Windstorm (unless you live in a hurricane zone)
  • Hail (not available everywhere)
  • Explosion
  • Riots
  • Civil commotion
  • Aircraft  (and things falling from aircraft)
  • Vehicles (and things thrown from vehicles)
  • Smoke
  • Vandalism (although some policies exclude this)
  • Malicious mischief
  • Theft

Upgraded Homeowners Insurance

An upgraded policy (called HO-2) adds protection to your home and possessions from even more perils. You get protection from everything on the HO-1 list (above) plus:

  • Falling objects
  • The weight of ice, snow, or sleet
  • Flooding from your appliances, plumbing, HVAC, or fire-protection sprinkler system
  • Damage to electrical parts caused by artificially generated electrical currents (such as a power surge not caused by lightning). But damaged electronics such as computers aren’t covered.
  • Glass breakage
  • Abrupt collapse (say from termite damage)

That same list applies to the homeowners insurance you buy for a condominium or co-op (except then it’s called HO-6 instead of HO-2).

With HO-1, HO-2, and HO-6, what you see is what you get.

Other Things Homeowners Insurance Covers

In addition to covering your home, homeowners insurance also covers four more things:

1. Your outbuildings, landscaping, and hardscaping. If you have outbuildings, landscaping, or hardscaping, your homeowners policy most likely covers those for up to 10% of your policy amount.

Sometimes policies exclude damage to outbuildings, landscaping, or hardscaping caused by a particular peril (like wind).

2. Damage or loss of your personal belongings. Your homeowners policy covers your family’s belongings, even when you take them out of the house. If your child heads to college with a laptop and it’s stolen, that’s probably covered by your homeowners insurance policy.

A home insurance policy covers a lot of your personal belongings, but not necessarily everything.

Replacement cost means that the insurance company will pay the full cost of replacing an item once you show a receipt. Cash value means the insurance company will issue you a check for the amount that the laptop or sofa would have been worth when it was stolen or destroyed.

3. Temporary living expenses if your home is so damaged you can’t live in it. When you can’t live in your home, your homeowners insurance covers your living expenses, including hotel bills and meals. But, you can’t live in the hotel forever and eat lobster every night on the insurance company’s tab. Your policy will have limits on how long you stay and how much you can spend.

4. Injuries or accidents at your house. Homeowners insurance coverage includes liability – meaning it covers you when you or your family members cause injuries or damage. This coverage also pays when your dog bites someone (medical payments) or someone falls and injures themselves.

Add an umbrella policy to boost your liability coverage into the millions.

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.

Deciding on Windows for your Austin Sunroom Addition

by Rebecca Shahan

The right windows are the key to an amazing sunroom. And when you plan a sunroom, you can expect to use quite a few windows, perhaps 20 or more. That means that you need to carefully chose the right style, material, and price point to keep within your budget.

Before you head on down to the showroom and look at the hundreds of options, there are a few big questions you can think about that will make the selection process easier.

How efficient do you want to go?

Most modern windows are double-paned and range from $700-$1000 each. These windows have a low-emissivity coating that helps block heat from entering in the summer and escaping in the winter. But you can even get more efficient windows.

Triple-paned windows are filled with argon gas for more insulation, but they can cost as much as $500 more per window.

How should they open?

One of the great things about a sun room is to enjoy the fresh air on nice days. How your windows operate will determine how easy it will be to let that fresh air flow.

There are the five basic window types:

  • Fixed windows ($250 to $750 each) don’t open, and are typically used in solarium-style sunrooms (where the walls are made entirely of glass) or high up the wall in standard sunrooms, where you can’t reach them anyway.
  • Slider windows ($500 to $750) consist of two sash (framed panes) that move side to side, one in front of the other.
  • Casement windows ($250 to $500) are hinged on one side and open out when you turn a hand crank. That means you’re able to open the entire window, unlike sliders and double-hungs, which can only be half open. Still, when opened, casements can obstruct the yard—and the crank systems on lower-end units tend to break after a few years, says Annapolis, Md., home inspector Jim Rooney.
  • Awning windows ($250 to $500) are like casements turned on their sides, so the hinges are on top—and the window becomes a rain shield when open. They’re typically used high up in the room to allow warm air to escape.

What material do you want?

You’ll also want to consider what your windows will be constructed from—a decision that’ll dictate not only how they look, but how much maintenance they need.

  • Vinyl windows ($300 to $800) never need painting on the inside or out. They’re economical, come in white and a handful of other colors, and look good on a simple home. For an upscale house, though, vinyl can look a bit incongruous.
  • Wood windows ($400 to $1,000) offer a traditional, high-end appearance and can be painted to match the interior and exterior trim of your sunroom.
  • Clad windows ($500 to $1,200) are made from wood but are covered with vinyl or aluminum on the outside. That “cladding” is available in a range of colors and never needs painting, so you get the look of wood on the inside with a low-maintenance of a paint-free exterior.

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.

Upcoming Events in Austin

by Rebecca Shahan

March has arrived and it's time to bring in the Spring season with some fun events in Austin this month. Here's a few of the fun and exciting events we have to look forward to.

3/8/19 - 3/17/19
SXSW® Music, Film and Interactive Conference and Festival
Various Locations

Hosted by the Austin Convention Center and more than 50 venues, noted filmmakers, musicians, and multimedia artists from around the world will come together to showcase music, film and interactive media during this internationally-recognized event.

3/16/19 - 3/30/19
Rodeo Austin
Travis County Expo Center

The Rodeo Austin is one of the premier events in Austin, featuring Pro rodeo events, daily concerts, livestock show and more. It's a great time for the whole family.

3/17/19
St. Patrick's Day Festival
Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms

​Celebrates all things Irish at this annual family-friendly festival. Come enjoy authentic Celtic music and dancers, Irish language workshops, the finest Irish imports and plenty of good craic.

3/27/19 - 3/30/19
Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays 
Mike A. Myers Stadium

The premier track & field event brings together the best high school, college and professional athletes from Texas, the U.S. and the world. 

3/27/19 - 3/31/19
World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play
Austin Country Club

With a rare, match-play format consisting of the top 64 players in the Official World Golf Rankings, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play field consists of the very best players from around the world and is one of the most elite and exciting tournaments on golf’s calendar.

3/29/19 - 3/30/19
Austin Urban Music Festival
Auditorium Shores

More than 15,000 music revelers converge on Auditorium Shores at Lady Bird Lake to enjoy Austin's only music festival focused on R&B, neo-soul and hip hop music.3/31/19

3/31/19
90th ABC Kite Fest
Zilker Park

The nation's oldest kite festival features hundreds of kites in the air and is free to attend for people of all ages; complete with kite flying contests, food, games and more.

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.

 

Converting a Garage Into a Living Space: Your Family vs. Your Car

by Rebecca Shahan

Need to add more room to your home without adding onto your existing structure? Your garage may be the answer. Converting your garage into a livable area can add around 600 sq ft for a 2-car garage. On the up side, it will cost less than an addition. But the down side is your car may suffer.

What Does It Cost?

Converting a garage has the benefit of the existing structure. So it will cost about half of an all-new addition. You can expect to pay between $20,000 to $50,000 on a 2-car garage, depending on features. Want a bathroom as well? Add another $15,000 to $25,000.

What All Does It Involve?

Don't go thinking that converting a garage is a cheap project. A quality conversion may take 4-6 weeks and include:

  • Raising the floor height to allow for insulation over the concrete slab
  • Fully insulating walls and ceiling
  • Providing heating and cooling for the space, either by tying into the house’s main system or adding an independent one, such as a ductless mini-split system
  • An electrical service upgrade to accommodate the larger load
  • Opening up the partition wall between your house and the garage to create an open floor plan
  • Replacing garage doors with fully insulated stud walls
  • Adding windows and doors

How Do You Make Look Like It Was Always a Living Space?

If you go to the trouble of converting your garage, you may not want people asking "wasn't this a garage once?" You need to eliminate any evidence of the old garage door openings, install plenty of windows, and perhaps add rooftop design elements, such as dormer windows.

An architect can help you add design elements. Expect to pay $50 to $150 per hour for the services of a registered architect, or 5% to 20% of the cost of the whole project.

What’s the Downside?

The downside is where you now park your car(s). If you never parked them in the garage to start with, then great. But if you did, then you should look at the risks of parking outside, such as potential weather damage or theft. You may also lose storage for landscaping tools and lawnmowers. For that purpose, you might think about adding a shed for lawn tools.

What Are the Alternatives?

What about your basement, if you have one? If it's full height, then remodeling it will cost the same as a garage, and you won't give up your parking and tool storage.

Another approach is to leave the garage parking intact, and add new living space above it. It’s rare for a garage roof to be able to accommodate a full second story, so this project typically involves tearing off the existing roof, beefing up the garage’s structure, and then building the new space over it. But that can be a lot more work, and can cost much more.

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.

Cleaning Your Attic: What You Can’t See Can Hurt You

by Rebecca Shahan

Why should you clean your attic? Maybe it's unfinished and just used for storage, so you don't need to keep it clean, or so you think.

But dirt is dirt, and all that dust, dander, and mold can add up and irritate your lungs, and possibly make you sick. These allergens come into the rest of the house through ceiling hatches, doors, recessed lights, and heating and cooling systems (especially if they’re located in your attic).

Cleaning your attic will also let you put some great ideas to work to get more from this often neglected space.

Here's some helpful tips to get that attic clean and being a more useful space.

Attic Cleaning Basics

  • Dust walls, window frames, and rafters with an electrostatically charged cloth (think Swiffer) or duster, which grab twice as much dust as cotton cloths. Don’t forget to dust exposed roof trusses, attic fan blades, light bulbs, fixtures, hatches, and door frames.
  • Vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter vacuum cleaner, which channels all vacuumed air through a filter designed to remove even microscopic particles. A less expensive choice: Install a top-quality, high-efficiency filter bag in your vacuum.
  • Line shop vacuums with a plastic bag, which traps irritants and makes debris disposal easy.
  • Wear a National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) mask, which filters a high percentage of airborne particles.
  • If you suffer from asthma and allergies, hire a professional to remove the debris. There's no reason to risk your life. A clean attic is even more important for your health, but the cleaning process can be even more risky if you deal with asthma and allergies. A professional can remove that risk and make your attic a safer place for you.

Keeping Irritants Out of Your Attic

Preventing mold growth and sealing out insects and vermin helps reduce irritants in your attic.

Mold: Moisture can leak into your attic from a number of sources, such as roof leaks and old caulking. After a big storm, inspect your roof for missing shingles and fix any missing or broken ones immediately.

Don’t bother buying a home mold test kit, which may register mold spores that are constantly in the air anyway. If you suspect mold, or can see a mold-covered area that’s larger than about 10 sq. ft., call a certified indoor air quality professional to evaluate your situation.

Dust: Many of those tiny dust mites you see floating around are really dust mite particles, roach parts, and vermin dander made of dried saliva, urine, and feces.

These dust proteins can trigger allergic reactions, so search for tiny cracks and openings in your roof, walls, and windows where vermin and insects can enter. Seal attic air leaks with caulk and polyurethane foam, and repair any holes in attic ventilation screens that are under the eaves and in gable ends.

Check back on our blog twice a week for more real estate news, ideas, and local events in Austin and Lake Travis. You can search for the perfect home on our website using our powerful home search tools. You can also get free listing alerts of homes as they hit the market at WelcomeToLakeTravis.com. And you can always feel free to call us at 512-657-4467​ to talk to an experienced agent today.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 205