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Avoiding Home Contractor Scams

by Rebecca Shahan

It happens all too often. A homeowner pays a contractor who seems legit to do a job, then they get short-changed on the work.

Most contractors can be trusted. But as with any profession, there are definitely some who spoil the whole batch. How can you tell if your contractor is scamming you? What can you do to protect yourself?

Don't Pay For the Whole Job Up Front

Let's say your contractor asks for money up front for materials. While it's fair to pay some money to get the job going, you should beware if they ask for more than 30% up front. Some dishonest contractors may just run off on you once they get the money, or just do a sloppy job, knowing you can't fire them since they have your money.

How to protect yourself: Never prepay more than $1,000 or 10% of the job total, whichever is less. That should be enough to establish that you’re a serious customer so the contractor can work you into his schedule.  That's the only valid point of paying up front. If your contractor needs to rent equipment, they should be able to do so on credit with their suppliers, provided the contractor really is the professional they profess to be.

"Trust Me"

If your contractor agrees to do what you need exact to your specs, along with other items, make sure it's in writing. Don't just go by a verbal agreement. If you don't get it all in writing, then a dishonest contractor may just start leaving things out. And there's really nothing you can do about it legally.

How to protect yourself: There isn't much you can do legally if you signed a contract that doesn't include all the details. Make sure you get all the details in writing. And if you need to add anything, make sure you initial each addition and have the contractor initial it as well.

"I Don’t Need to Pull a Permit"

Any significant amount of construction will require a permit. This will allow building officials to visit the site on occasion to make sure the work meets code.

An unlicensed contractor may try to get around this on smaller jobs by saying that the authorities won't notice. Yet on larger jobs, it's more likely that it will be noticed. So the contractor may ask you to get a a homeowner’s permit, an option available to do-it-yourselfers.

The problem with getting your own permit is that you will not only be lying to the authorities about who's doing the work, but it also makes you responsible if something goes awry. That means that you have to answer to the inspector instead of the contractor.

How to protect yourself: Always demand that the contractor get a building permit. Yes, it informs the local tax assessor about your upgrade, but it weeds out unlicensed contractors and gives you the added protection of an independent assessment of the work.

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.  

Is a Standby Generator Right For Your Home?

by Rebecca Shahan
 
Of course, such a device isn't cheap. Units range from around $2,500 and go as high as $15,000.

Here’s a few guidelines to help you decide if a standby generator is right for your home.

When Permanent Standby Makes Sense

A standby generator is like an insurance policy. You never know when or if it will be needed. So it depends on how much you can put up with and your budget.

Also, if you rely on medical equipment or work from home, having a backup will be even more important.

Assess Your Power Needs

Generators are rates according to how much wattage they produce. The larger the unit, the higher the price.

Wattage requirements also vary with each house. You can consult with your generator supplier or an electrician who can assess how much wattage your home needs. You can also do a ballpark assessment with and online calculator.

Next you need to decide what the generator will power. You can decide a minimum amount of needed items, such as AC, refrigerator, and a few lights and outlets. Or you can go with a maximum output generator that will power everything. For example, a 3,000-square-foot house might need as much as 25kW to 30kW.

You can also go with a newer options called a “load-management system." this is a system that can power everything, just not at the same time.

Consult the Right Professionals

Usually the generator supplier will set up your unit. this is the best option, since they already are familiar with the equipment. If you've purchased the unit online, then you can fire a plumber to connect the unit to the fuel source and an electrician to hook it into your house’s power supply.

Calculate Your Costs

On average an emergency panel unit of 7kW runs $2,500 to $4,500 installed, while a mid-size 17kW unit cost $4,000 to $10,000. A large-capacity 22kW to 45kW model costs from $9,000 to $15,000.

Fuel types also affect costs. You may need to add a gas line, or install a propane tank. Diesel units come with their own tanks, but diesel fuel is more costly and needs to be treated regularly so the engine doesn't clog.

Once you’re set up, you won’t have to worry about being stuck in the dark. What’s more, a standby generator can add to your home’s value, which should make you feel doubly warm all over.

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.  

Things New Homeowners Should Do ASAP

by Rebecca Shahan

You've done it! You've found the home of your dreams, and you can do whatever you want to with it. No more landlords - you make the decisions.

Of course, you want to be a homeowner with good habits, so that you get the best return on investment for all the years you live there. And the minute you move in is the time to start.

Here's a number of items you should take care of for when you move into your home.

Security & Safety

Make sure you take care of these items right away:

  • Change locks. Spares could be floating around anywhere.
  • Hide an extra key in a lockbox. Thieves look under flower pots.
  • Reset the key codes for garage doors, gates, etc. You never know who the former owners gave the code to.
  • Test fire and carbon monoxide detectors. The former owners may have tested them, but maybe not.
  • Check the temperature on your water heater to make sure the water isn't too hot. Manufacturers tend to set them high. 120 degrees is ideal.
  • Make sure the bulbs are good in all exterior lights.
  • Put a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and each additional floor.

Maintenance Planning

Set reminders in your calendar to take care of these basic maintenance tasks:

  • Clean out the dryer hose and vent yearly. Clogged hoses can lead to fires.
  • Change your HVAC filters at least once a season.
  • Schedule HVAC maintenance for spring and fall.
  • Clean your fridge coils at least once a year. Newer refrigerators have insulated coils, so they don't need cleaning.
  • Drain your water heater once a year.
  • Clean your gutters at least twice a year.
  • And if all items on your inspection report were not addressed, make a plan to fix them — before they become bigger and more expensive repairs.

Emergency Preparedness

An emergency is not the time to figure out how to handle an emergency. Plan now.

  • Locate the main water shut-off valve. Because busted pipes happen to almost every homeowner at least once.
  • Find the circuit box and label all circuit breakers.
  • Find the gas shut-off valve if you have gas.
  • Test the sump pump if you have one. Especially before the rainy season starts.
  • List emergency contacts:
    • Your utility companies
    • Your insurance agent
    • Plumber
    • Electrician

Assemble an emergency supply kit. Some key items are:

  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Non-perishable food and water
  • Blankets and warm clothing
  • A radio, TV, or cell phone with backup batteries

Home & Mortgage Documents

Just in case there's a dispute with your lender or neighbors, and to keep in mind due dates, make sure to keep these documents handy:

  • Lender contact information
  • Property survey
  • Inspection report
  • Final closing documents
  • Insurance documents

Set mortgage and other bills to auto-pay so you’re never late.

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.  

Extending The Lifespan Of Your Roof

by Rebecca Shahan

The lifespan of a roof is affected by the workmanship and materials, along with weather conditions. But there are steps you can take to keep your rood in good condition longer. The roof is a major part of your home, and keeping it in good shape will save money in more ways than just the roof itself.

Avoiding Common Maintenance Issues

Small problems left unchecked can threaten the lifespan of a roof.

Here are some of the most common issues:

  • Sagging or overloaded gutters. Leaves and debris build up over time and can cause them to sag. Clean them to avoid water damage to the deck board and the boards under the gutter line.
  • Unattended roof debris. Branches and debris can especially build up during storms. Clean these regularly to prevent rot and other damage.
  • Unknown rot or weak spots. Every few years, get up on the roof or hire a professional to check the roof's condition up close and fix any issues.

Good Ventilation

Your attic can also affect the life of a roof. Poor ventilation can lead to many problems.

During the summer, a poorly ventilated attic can reach up to 160 degrees. This hot air can get through your insulation and heat up the rest of the home. This also affects the shingles, effectively frying them and leading to decay.

Insulating the Attic

Good insulation in your attic is also important to prolonging your roof's life. Insulating your attic properly will reduce the heat transfer and reflect the radiant heat away from your roof and adding to it's lifespan.

Mold and Moss

If you find mold on your roof, you can easily clean it with a diluted bleach solution. But if you don't, it won't affect the life of your roof. On the other hand, moss can trap moisture and lead to rot, so make sure you remove moss as soon as possible.

Preparing For Damage

No matter what you do, any roof will be damaged over time. Damage can really add up during storms. If you keep on top of the smaller issues as they happen, it can lead to better protection during inclement weather.

You also don't need a ladder to inspect your roof, just a pair of binoculars. If you notice anything amiss like missing, curling, or buckling shingles, arrange for a professional once-over.

Maintaining your roof is easy with a proactive approach. With proper attention, you can enjoy your roof for years to come.

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.  

Have a Happy Thanksgiving in Austin, Texas

by Rebecca Shahan

I'd like to wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving. Here's a few tips for hosting the perfect Thanksgiving meal.

Keep it simple

Unless you're a 5-star chef, don't try to make every possible dish that you think would make a perfect Thanksgiving feast. The traditional basics - turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, and a simple vegetable dish such as string beans - will certainly fill everyone's plate. If nervous about cooking for guests, pick dishes that you’re comfortable making. If you’re trying something new, give it a practice run a few days before.

Go potluck

Why not ask a few family members to prepare a side dish, either beforehand or at your home? This will take some stress off of you and allow you to focus on the main course.

Cook turkey breasts separate from the legs

Turkeys are a challenge to cook as they don't cook uniformly. Breast meat cooks faster than the dark meat. If you don't care about breaking tradition, try cooking the turkey breasts and legs separately. Experiment with cooking the turkey legs in a slow cooker in olive oil. They’ll come out moist and delicious after six hours. And roast the turkey breast in the oven, just like any other type of roast.

Use a thermometer

A turkey is done cooking when it hits 135–140°F, whether that takes 10 or 30 minutes. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service advises cooking turkeys until the thermometer reads 165°F; this is the “instant kill” temperature for any bacteria that might be present. With care and proper hold times, you actually can safely cook turkey to lower temperatures to avoid potential dryness, but hold time becomes critical for proper pasteurization. Regardless, use a good digital probe thermometer to let you know when the turkey has reached temperature.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

 

Making Your Home Appeal to Younger Buyers

by Rebecca Shahan

According to the National Association of Realtors®, first time home homebuyers are about 31 years in age on average? So it makes sense that when you sell your home, it will no doubt be to someone younger. It's been getting easier for young families and professionals to buy a first home. When it comes to staging your home to sell in Beaufort County, you need to keep the younger buyers in mind. Just like the generations before them, this generation has their won unique needs and wants in a home. How can you make your home appeal to this growing market? Here's a few tips.

Open Floor Plans

Younger buyers no longer want the formal setting of a dining room for entertaining. They want a more open feel that make entertaining easier. Rooms that flow together are highly sought after.

Working From Home

First time buyers are more likely to be working from home. They need extra space for a home office, even if they work from home part-time.

Low Maintenance

Young buyers already have plenty of bills: cell phone bills, cable bills, car payments, student-loan debt and more. Therefore, many don't ant to spend extra on landscaping and other high maintenance features, or old appliances that will soon need upgrading. Make sure your home is ready to move in and doesn't need a lot of extras.

Use Neutral Colors

Buyers under 40 are not really into the gold or pink walls any more. Think about painting the walls a more neutral color.  This will allow potential buyers to envision their own accent colors and furniture to make it their own.

Open Up the Shower

Open showers are all the rage. Younger buyers aren't as attracted to the old tub and shower configuration. If you have it in your budget, consider remodeling your bath to include an open shower design.

White Cabinets

White or off-white cabinets not only brighten up the kitchen, but the younger buyers are more attracted to it.  They don't want to be reminded of mom's old dark cabinets. You might try Benjamin Moore's Advance paint, as it requires little prep work.

Stainless Steel Appliances

Old appliances can be a big turnoff for younger buyers. Many love stainless steel appliances, and for good reason. If you have it in your budget, consider updating your appliances if they look dated.

Updated Countertops

Young buyers really love granite and stone countertops.  But keep it simple. Don't go with busy designs. Black countertops or designs that are simple are the best.

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 Austin Events

by Rebecca Shahan

The fun never stops in Austin, especially as we head into the holiday season. There's plenty of great food, fantastic art, and fun times to be had as we round out the month in Austin. Here's a few events you can plan for.

11/16/18
James Beard Foundation's Taste America Culinary Tour

W Austin

For the first time in Austin, the James Beard Foundation's Taste America Culinary Tour comes to celebrate the best in Austin dining. The local winners and nominees of the James Beard award will prepare a dinner and host the evening's reception. This is one culinary event you won't want to miss.

11/22/18
Turkey Trot
The Long Center

Work up a healthy Thanksgiving appetite with ThunderCloud Subs' annual 5-mile run/1-mile walk. Compete with the best of Austin or bring the kids for a more relaxed holiday jog.

11/23/18-12/24/18
Blue Genie Art Bazaar

Blue Genie Art Bazaar - 6100 Airport Blvd.

This unique holiday art show has been held in Austin for more than 15 years, featuring handmade artwork and gifts from more than 200 local and regional artists. A portion of proceeds go to Make-A-Wish® Foundation.

11/24/18
Austin Area Jazz Festival

Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center

The Austin Area Jazz Fest is a celebration of music, culture, diversity and the arts. Set against the breathtaking Austin skyline, you can start your Thanksgiving weekend with entertainment from top-tier jazz musicians, be wowed by talented visual artists and enjoy an extraordinary VIP wine tasting experience.

11/24/18
Chuy's Christmas Parade

Congress Avenue

The whole family will enjoy this holiday parade featuring a procession of giant balloons, marching bands, vintage cars, celebrities and floats to bring in the season.

11/27/18
Driskill Holiday Tree Lighting

Driskill Hotel

Kick off your holiday celebrations at the Driskill Hotel, with the annual lighting of The Driskill tree accompanied by the beautiful sounds of holiday music and caroling. 

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.  
 

Are Smart Home Devices For You?

by Rebecca Shahan

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.  

Furniture Arrangement Do's and Don'ts

by Rebecca Shahan

Today more than ever, getting a professional look in your home is essential for great interior design. To that end, there are do's and don'ts when it comes to making the right impression with your home furnishing.

Dos

Plush Pillows

Pillows are a simple and inexpensive place to start. Find decorative pillows that are soft and plush.  Down filled pillows will add a wow factor to any room. You can determine how your pillows will shape up by giving them a karate chop to the top edge to make them look less "blocky."

Space Around Your Furniture

Leaving space around your furniture makes your room look more inviting. You can create a more conversational space by placing furniture away from the wall, if possible. The best placement for this is between 4-8 feet from the wall.

The Right Light

Chose lights that are sized appropriately for the room. A light should adorn the room, like a fine piece of of jewelry will enhance a dress. buying the right lights will evoke the desired feel for a room.

Paint Colors Enhance the Look of a Room

Using the right paint color can make or break a room. You might ask a professional to help you find a color that brings out the best in your room.

An Appropriately-Sized Area Rug

The right area rug can bring your furniture together in a cohesive group. You should make sure your rug is at least large enough for the front legs of each piece of furniture in the grouping.

Don’ts

Over-Matching Furniture and Textiles

You should avoid over-matching furniture and textiles. Instead, try to make them relate. Chose pieces that have something in common, such as mood, material, history, color, motif or style.

Skimping on Drapery

When it comes to drapes, less is not more. It's recommended you should use fabric that's up to 3 times the width of your window. If you have fixed side panels, use fabric that's twice as wide as the window.

Isolate Rooms

Rooms should flow together. You can get this effect by linking adjacent spaces. Once way to do this is by carrying over an accent color or repeat a pattern from room to room.

Stopping Before the Layering Phase

This is another area where you can go overboard with matching. For example, if you have a patterned headboard in your room, you can repeat the pattern or color, but not both. Keep it subtle.

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.  

How to Fix Pet Damage

by Rebecca Shahan

As much as we love our furry companions, we don't love the damage they can cause to our home. Even if you take every precaution, there's always going to be some marks left behind from our pets. If you plan to sell your home in Beaufort County, or just want to keep it in top shape, there are ways to keep on top of damage that happens over time with pets. Here's a few tips that can help repair costly damage.

Wood Flooring

Hardwood floors are usually sealed with polyurethane that can be a barrier for stains, but that seal can't completely protect against urine stains or scratches.

For light scratches, you can cover those with a stain-filled marker. Deeper scratches will need to be filled with a wood filler and sanded down.

When you re-stain the damaged area, start with the lightest stain you can, let it dry, then stain again until it matches the surrounding area. For larger areas that have scratch damage, you can sand the whole area and re-stain it, making sure to match the rest of the floor.

Repairing urine damage can be more difficult, due to the discoloration and smell. For lighter stained floors, sand the area and clean it with wood bleach, then refinish the area. For darker urine stains, you may have to replace the boards if you can't scrub it out.

Walls

Wall damage can be fixed, depending on the type of wall covering. If you have wallpaper, you may not be able to fix damaged areas as easily without replacing or removing the wallpaper altogether.

If you have sheet rock or paneling damage, you can fix these more easily. Sand the damaged area to remove any debris and make the surface smooth. Fill in any holes with spackle, using several layers depending on the level of damage. Make sure you let each layer dry completely before applying a new one. You can use a hair dryer to speed up the drying. Once you have area repaired, you can then cover it with primer and paint it.

Furniture

Sometimes dogs confuse wood furniture for chew toys. To fix wood damage, start by prepping the area by using a utility knife to score it with hatch marks, scraping away any frayed edges sticking out. Then use a bit of auto-body filler to fill in the damage. Apply the filler, let it dry a bit, then slice off the excess and reshape it. Sand it smooth once it dries completely.

Then you can mix colors of acrylic paint and coat the are with 2 -3 layers, giving it a wood grain appearance. Then cover with clear coat and rub gently with steel wool to give it the right level of shine.

The Yard

Lawns can be damaged by the nitrogen in dog waste. Watering your lawn regularly will help keep urine from soaking in.

The nitrogen in your dog's waste can cause quite a bit of damage to a lawn. You can reduce that damage by regularly watering the lawn to keep urine from soaking in. Raking your lawn in the Spring to remove debris and waste can also help. Sprinkle grass seed over areas that look bad.

If you follow these simple tips, you can keep you pet damage to a minimum and keep everyone happy.

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 175