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The Most Important People You Need to Know When Buying a Home

by Rebecca Shahan

How do I get approved for a loan? Who will help me find the right home? Who can help me? Don’t panic! Here are the top four people you need to know when it comes to buying a home.

The Person Who Approves the Loan

One of the first people you’ll need to work with is a loan officer or lender. This is the person who helps you understand the ins and outs of getting a loan, as well as any requirements or conditions.

Before speaking with the loan officer, however, you may want to estimate what a monthly mortgage payment may look like, which you can do with a simple mortgage calculator. Your monthly payment will include homeowners insurance, property taxes paid into an escrow account, and, if you put down less than 20%, PMI or private mortgage insurance.

Remember: The bank will provide an initial number of what it thinks you can afford based on your gross monthly income. But it’s up to you to account for your own personal budget and living expenses.

Once you’ve spoken with the lender, it’s worthwhile to get a preapproval letter, which shows how much the bank would be willing to lend you based on your full financial picture. Without this letter, most sellers won't take you seriously and may not even accept your offer.

The Person Who Finds the Home

A real estate agent is usually the first person that most people speak to during the homebuying process. Before my husband and I moved to Tennessee, we contacted an agent who specializes in out-of-state relocations. She did an excellent job of searching for properties in Memphis that met our needs and even suggested a few that we wouldn’t otherwise have considered.

When you begin your home search, you might start with an online search. While these property listing sites provide formatted data on available properties, a REALTOR® will have access to the latest information and can provide any updates or correct misinformation found online.

A REALTOR® can work on your behalf or on behalf of the seller. When you’re buying a home, it’s important to work with a buyer’s agent, whose responsibility is to you, not the seller.

You should ask the agent all the questions that are important to you — how much other homes in the area recently sold for, how long those homes were on the market, and any other questions that might help you make an informed decision.

While we were searching for a home, we really wanted to get a sense for what types of events are held in the city as well as activities around the area, all the things that the REALTOR® had a great sense for.

The Person Who Inspects the Home

Once you have found a home, made an offer, and signed the contract to buy, it’s time to hire a home inspector. The contract will specify how many days you have to get the inspection. The home inspector will come to check things like structural integrity, plumbing, electrical systems, heating and cooling, the condition of windows, walls, door frames, ceilings, the attic — basically anything that can be seen without going into walls.

The Person Who Checks Ownership of the Home

The title officer or title company checks the ownership of the home to make sure there are no potential disputes with previous owners, and, ultimately, will issue title insurance for the property. This insurance protects you and the lender if there are claims or lawsuits against your ownership of the property.

Each person has a distinct role in the homebuying process and being informed about exactly what you need from them helps make the process run smoothly. The key is patience — it’s all worth it when you get the new keys to your home!

Visit our blog every week for more real estate advice for Austin and Lake Travis. Selling your home in Lake Travis or Austin? Get a FREE Home Evaluation of your home's value today!

Keep the Fun Going in Austin With These Events

by Rebecca Shahan

Get ready for more fun in Austin this month. There's no reason to let the Summer fun go just yet, especially with all the great events coming up. Here's a few events rounding out September in Austin.

Austin Margarita Festival
Sat, Sep 14, 12 – 8 PM
Austin American-Statesman

Austin Margarita Festival returns to the Austin American-Statesman with the city's best margarita makers competing for a Texas-style bragging rights to create an atmosphere unlike any other. Experience over 19 different margarita flavors, live bands, DJs, an expansive tequila tasting station, and more in downtown Austin.

Austin Oktoberfest 2019
Sat, Sep 28
Saengerrunde Bowling Alley

The Austin Saengerrunde will open its doors to the 7th Annual AustOberfest (Austin + Oktoberfest) celebrating Central Texas German heritage with German-style sausage, lots of bier, contest stage, bowling and live music. 

The Austin Flea at Radio, Coffee & Beer
Sun, Sep 15, 10 AM
Radio Coffee & Beer

The Flea features all local handmade items and vintage wares from some of Austin's most amazing and talented vendors. Find one-of-a-kind gifts for any occasion including jewelry, bath/body products, vintage, original artwork, paper goods, textiles, and more.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
Fri, Sep 13, 8:15 PM CDT
Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive In

Come watch the classic as it was intended, in a drive in! Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (8:15pm Show/7:30pm Gates) Sat Apr 6, 2019 8:15 pm - 10:25 pm

Pecan Street Festival
Sat, Sep 21 – Sun, Sep 22

Pecan Street Festival features a display of products such as craft, food, fantastic food, homemade cakes, biscuits, arts, crafts, goods and much more.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate advice for Austin and Lake Travis. Selling your home in Lake Travis or Austin? Get a FREE Home Evaluation of your home's value today!

Hacks to Make House Cleaning Faster

by Rebecca Shahan

Having a clean home is essential to selling your home. The cleaner your home is, the better chance you have of selling it faster and for more money. But it can be hard to stay on top cleaning your home. The little things add up over time. Stained porcelain, carpets, and stinky appliances all hurt your home's market value in the end.

The trick is to keep is simple. Get your house put back together with these house-cleaning hacks. No trip to the hardware store needed. You've already got what you need with these quick-and-easy house-cleaning tips.

Kitty Litter for Oil Spills

This old trick is a sure way to soak up oil in the garage. Buy the cheapest clay kitty litter you can find (the fancy stuff won't do any better for this trick).

Pour a thick layer on the stain, then walk on it to crush it into the oil. Let it sit for 30 minutes, and then sweep it up. Now your garage floor will be ready to show potential buyers.

Nail Polish to Stop Rust Rings

Those notorious rust rings will really detract from the beauty of your porcelain sink. So if your metal cans of shaving cream leave orange rings on your sinks or bathtubs, paint the bottoms with clear nail polish. Now when you put down the can, there's a layer of protection between it and the surface.

Vinegar for Hard Water Spots

Hard water spots can be, well, hard to get rid of, even with regular cleaning. White vinegar to the rescue! Douse a rag, then wipe the stains away. If the stains persist, let the rag sit directly on them for several minutes, then buff the area with a clean, dry towel.

Alcohol to Remove Nail Polish from Carpet

Spilling nail polish on the carpet has sent many a homeowner into a panic. Don't seat it. Some rubbing alcohol and a microfiber cloth will do the trick.

Rubber Gloves for Pet Hair

If you're tired of finding pet hair on carpet and upholstery, here's a fast, green fix. Run a rubber glove over the material. The glove creates static, so the hair clings, instantly transferring from the fibers to the latex. Wash off the glove, and use again it every time things get hairy.

Toothpaste to Fill Small Holes in Walls

Need a super quick way to repair small holes (less than 1/4 inch) in the wall? Fill them with toothpaste. Smooth it on with a putty knife (a wooden ruler or playing card works, too), and rinse it with a damp cloth to remove the excess. Then paint over the toothpaste — or, if you're lucky, your toothpaste might actually blend with your wall color.

Lemon for Stained, Stinky Microwaves

Lemons. We love them in lemonade and Sidecars. But they also cut stinky, burned-on food in microwaves.

Here's the trick: Pour half a cup of water into a bowl. Slice a lemon in half, and squeeze the juice into the water. Then drop the lemon into the bowl. Microwave for three minutes, let stand for five. Remove the bowl, and wipe down the microwave. So easy!

Visit our blog every week for more real estate advice for Austin and Lake Travis. Selling your home in Lake Travis or Austin? Get a FREE Home Evaluation of your home's value today!

How to Cool a Room Without AC

by Rebecca Shahan

Summer is not quite over, and not every home owner has AC. And if you do have AC in your home in Austin, you probably want to save on energy costs.

Keeping out the sun will help keep your home cooler and save money.

Her's a few tips that will help.

Close the drapes: Line them with light-colored fabric that reflects the sun, and close them during the hottest part of the day. Let them pillow onto the floor to block air movement.

Add awnings: Install them on south- and west-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain by up to 77%, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Make your own by tacking up sheets outside your windows and draping the ends over a railing or lawn chair.

Install shutters: Interior and exterior shutters not only reduce heat gain and loss, but they also add security and protect against bad weather. Interior shutters with adjustable slats let you control how much sun you let in.

Apply high-reflectivity window film: Install energy-saving window films on east- and west-facing windows, which will keep you cool in summer, but let in warming sun in the winter. Mirror-like films are more effective than colored transparent films.

Open Those Windows

Be sure to open windows when the outside temperature is lower than the inside. Cool air helps lower the temps of everything - walls, floors, furniture - that will absorb heat as temps rise, helping inside air say cooler longer.

To create cross-ventilation, open windows on opposite sides of the house. Good ventilation helps reduce VOCs and prevents mold.

Turn Up Fans

Portable fans: At night, place fans in open windows to move cool air. In the day, put fans where you feel their cooling breezes (moving air evaporates perspiration and lowers your body temperature). To get extra cool, place glasses or bowls of ice water in front of fans, which will chill the moving air.

Ceiling fans: For maximum cooling effect, make sure ceiling fans spin in the direction that pushes air down, rather than sucks it up. Be sure to turn off fans when you’re not in the room, because fan motors give off heat, too.

Whole house fans: A whole-house fan ($1,000 to $1,600, including install) exhausts hot inside air out through roof vents. Make sure your windows are open when you run a whole-house fan.

Power Down Appliances

You’ll save money and reduce heat output by turning off appliances you’re not using, particularly your computer and television. Powering down multiple appliances is easier if you connect them to the same power strip.

Don’t use heat and steam-generating appliances - ranges, ovens, washers, dryers - during the hottest part of the day. In fact, take advantage of the heat by drying clothes outside on a line.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate advice for Austin and Lake Travis. Selling your home in Lake Travis or Austin? Get a FREE Home Evaluation of your home's value today!

Money-Saving Household Habits

by Rebecca Shahan

Now that you've bought your home, you no doubt want to make sure all your finances are in line. When it comes to energy costs, it can be easy to spend too much, as all the little ways to lose energy in a home can add up.

How can you save energy in your home without making any major changes to your new home?

Keep Your Fridge Full

Keeping your fridge full is a great way to save energy. Not only do you have more food, but when solid items are close together, they retain the cold air better, saving energy.

Leaving town for awhile and fridge is empty? Fill voids in the fridge or freezer with water bottles.

Switch Your Bulbs to LEDs

It's no secret that LED bulbs are extremely energy efficient. If you haven't already, get rid of those old incandescent bulbs and replace them with LEDs. They last up to 15-20 times longer, and can save up to $75 a year in energy.

Use Power Strips

Electronics can suck power even when you turn them off. If you plug them into a power strip, you can turn the power off to those appliances and save more energy. Plus you can protect your expensive equipment from power surges.

Use a Toaster Oven When Possible

Toaster ovens use 50% to 70% less energy than a full-size oven.

Set Your Water Heater to 120 Degrees

Hot water heaters are usually set at the factory higher than what you need. You can save 3% - 5% for every 10 degrees you lower the temp setting.

Insulate Your Water Heater

An insulating water hearer jacket can cost only $30 and save 7% to 16% off your water heating costs for the year. Follow the manufacturer's directions to avoid creating a fire hazard.

Wash Clothes in Cold Water

Just switching from hot to warm water will cut every load's energy use in half, and you'll reap even more savings taking the temp down to cold. And don't worry: Your clothes will get just as clean from cold water, thanks to the efficiency of today's detergents (except in the case of sickness; you'll want hot water and bleach then).

Use the Right Dryer Cycle

If you're using a high-heat setting for each load, you could be using more energy than you need. Almost all fabrics can be dried with a lower heat setting, such as the permanent press setting. It uses less energy and has the added bonus of extending the life of your fabrics. Save the higher heat for items such as sheets and towels.

Use Homemade Cleaners

Many commercial products rely on baking soda or vinegar for their cleaning power, so why not make your own? Most homemade cleaners cost less than $1.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate advice for Austin and Lake Travis. Selling your home in Lake Travis or Austin? Get a FREE Home Evaluation of your home's value today!

Have a Fun Labor Day Weekend in Austin

by Rebecca Shahan

Labor Day is just around the corner, and so is all the fun that comes with the holiday. If you live in or near Austin and Lake Travis, there's plenty of ways to bring in the unofficial end of summer. Here's a few events coming up this Labor Day weekend to put on your calendar.

Out Of Bounds Comedy Festival
8/27/19 - 9/2/19
Multiple Venues

The Out of Bounds Comedy Festival is a seven day live performance independent festival that showcases improv, sketch, stand-up and other acts leading up to Labor Day weekend. Check out some of the different shows at theaters across the city. This year’s festival hosts more than 500 performers in 180 shows.

Barracuda
8/31/19
PennyFest 2019

Don't miss this annual party at Barracuda celebrating the local music scene, featuring live music from local bands like Magna Carda, Ringo Deathstarr, TC Superstar and more.

ABGB's Sixth Anniversary Party
9/1/19
Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co.

Celebrate ABGB’s sixth anniversary on Sunday. Grab your fill of pizza and beer, listen to some local live music and get a slice of the birthday cake. This year, The Derailers and The Nightowls are performing, so kick back, relax and enjoy the show.

Cafe Josie
9/1/19
Labor Day Lawn Party

Close out the summer at Cafe Josie's family-friendly lawn party, featuring live music along with food and beverage specials.

Free First Sunday at the Bullock
9/1/19
Bullock Texas State History Museum

Enjoy free admission at the Bullock Museum all day during H-E-B Free First Sundays. Step into the world of nineteenth- and twentieth-century suffragists in Sister Suffragettes, celebrating the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment. Or, discover more than 150 years of western and science fiction history in Cowboys in Space and Fantastic Worlds, a journey through the history of westerns in science fiction.
 

Have a Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Visit our blog every week for more real estate advice for Austin and Lake Travis. Selling your home in Lake Travis or Austin? Get a FREE Home Evaluation of your home's value today!

How To Cope with Rising Home Prices in Austin

by Rebecca Shahan

Real estate prices in the Austin market are expected to rise at a steady pace throughout 2019. If you're considering moving to Austin or Lake Travis, there are a few creative ways to cope with rising housing costs and get into your dream home sooner rather than later.

Consider Nearby or Adjacent ZIP Codes

The old adage in real estate is “location, location, location,” but often the location is the very thing that makes certain ZIP codes so pricey. When looking into a desirable area, consider the nearby or adjacent neighborhoods to scout for more affordable finds. The good news is that if your house is near a pricier area, home prices are expected to remain strong or even rise as demand for the area increases.

Purchase a Foreclosure or Fixer-Upper

After my own disaster of a renovation, I know better than to think home makeover projects are as easy as they look on HGTV. Still, purchasing a foreclosure or home that needs a little work is a smart move if you want to buy into a more expensive neighborhood and stay in your price range.

Fixer-uppers can yield significant discounts in major urban areas, as much as 40% to 50%, according to research conducted by realtor.com, but inventory may be low, and the competition may be fierce.

Consider a Roommate

If you can afford a home but are concerned about what the monthly payment will do to your lifestyle (and budget) consider renting out rooms in your house to a long-term roommate or on housing-share apps.

This way, your housing payment gets covered and any extra can go toward paying down the mortgage, paying off student loans, or maintaining your lifestyle.

Try a Starter Home Before Thinking of a Forever Home

Think about what you really need in a first-home purchase as opposed to what you fantasize about having. With so many first-time buyers now delaying home ownership until their early 30’s (when a family and kids comes along), many skip the notion of the starter home and leap right into the forever home - often at a cost.

Starting small allows buyers to start putting housing payments into equity, not rent. Should property values rise, after a few years a buyer would then be able to upgrade into something bigger or more practical for their lifestyle.

Also keep in mind that just because you qualify for a loan amount, it doesn’t mean you have to borrow the maximum. When shopping for homes, be sure to find something that sits comfortably in your budget once you factor in insurance, taxes, home maintenance, and even discretionary funds.

While these tips may not land a first-time buyer in their ideal neighborhood straight away, equity (the amount of your house that you “own”)  builds over time and works in favor of the buyer. Remember: With time and patience, many may be able to cash in on the equity in their first home and move into their ideal square footage or location.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate advice for Austin and Lake Travis. Selling your home in Lake Travis or Austin? Get a FREE Home Evaluation of your home's value today!

5 Signs You’re Ready to Buy a Vacation Home in Lake Travis

by Rebecca Shahan

Do you enjoy vacationing? If you find yourself vacationing in Lake Travis or Austin more than a few times a year, maybe it's time to think about buying a vacation home and renting it out when you're not using it. But how can you be sure you're ready to take on this investment?  Here's 5 indicators that will show if you're ready to buy a vacation home.

You Can Afford It

Well, this seems obvious. But it's a deeper factor that needs to be honestly analyzed. The last thing you want is to be swimming in debt when you're trying to make the most of your new vacation home.

The purchase price of the home is only one part of the whole cost of owning a vacation home. Just consider the expenses you pay now on your primary home - utility bills, maintenance fees, insurance, HOA fees, etc.

Here are a few questions to decide if you have enough money in the bank for your vacation home:

  • Do you have at least 3-6 months of take home pay in emergency savings?
  • Can you make down payment of up to 20%?
  • Are you planning to set aside money for your kids to go to college?
  • Will you be able to save for retirement?
  • Is your existing home paid off?
  • What is the return on investment for this home if you rent it out?
  • How does it fit into your long-term investment goals? 

You've Done the Research

Visiting and living in a place can be two different things.  Take time to understand the surrounding area and what it has to offer. You should also visit during different times of the year to get a feel for what it's like to live here. You should also think about the long term and short term factors of buying a seasonal home, especially if you plan to be staying here a lot.

You Know the Market

Knowing whats happening in the housing market will help you be able to buy your vacation home at the right time. Seasonal demand can affect home prices, so keeping up with the local  home market will help you make the best decision.

You've Made a Plan

Do you know exactly how you want to use your vacation home? Do you plan to rent it out when you're not using it? If so, you need to consider advertising and logistics. You'll need to come up with a rental agreement and payment method for renters.  You may also want to hire someone to keep the home clean and keep an eye on the home. A property management can be helpful, but they often charge as much as 50% of the rental cost.

You Know How Much Taxes Will Be

Rental income is included in both state and federal returns. Have you determined how much those taxes will cost?

Buying a vacation home is a serious investment. But if you have these five factors in line, you can make that investment with more confidence and success.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate advice for Austin and Lake Travis. Selling your home in Lake Travis or Austin? Get a FREE Home Evaluation of your home's value today!

Should You Use a Storage Unit When You Moving in Lake Travis?

by Rebecca Shahan

Many people chose to use a storage unit when they move. There are definitely advantages to using storage a storage unit when you buy a home. But is it always the right solution?

Moving is a time of transitions and new beginnings. It's a chance to weed out the things you no longer need in your life. That way you don't have to move as much, saving money and time.

Yet you may not have the time to comb through every possession. If time is of the essence, then you may just have to get the job done and turn to using a storage unit.

Here's a few things to think about when considering if storage is a good option to help you in the moving process.

Advantages of Using Storage

  1. Pack up all the things you don't need now.
  2. Staging your home will be more simple.
  3. You home will look larger, adding to selling appeal.
  4. Personal items will be out of sight from buyers.
  5. Out of sight, out of mind.
  6. You can sort all your items later.
  7. You can decide what furniture works best in your new home and decide what to keep after you move.

Disadvantages of Using Storage

  1. Another expense.
  2. You'll have to handle everything twice, which is more work.
  3. Not all units guarantee your items will be safe, so you may need additional insurance.
  4. Storing items can lead to delayed decisions about what stays and what goes.
  5. You may end up storing things you don't need, and paying monthly fees for those items.
  6. It's hard to reach items in the back of a full unit.

Portable Storage Units

What about portable storage? Portable storage units are becoming quite popular. PODS is the most popular portable storage company and was the first. The main advantage is that you can keep the unit at your home, giving you more time to load it. Then the unit is delivered to your new house. Some units are also designed to be long-term storage at a warehouse or at your home.

The advantage of portable storage is that you can pack and unpack everything in one go, eliminating the need to haul your things to a storage facility, then back again to the new home.

Moving is hard work for sure.  But with careful planning and good use of storage, you can make the process go more smoothly.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate advice for Austin and Lake Travis. Selling your home in Lake Travis or Austin? Get a FREE Home Evaluation of your home's value today!

Round Out Summer in Austin WIth These Top Attractions

by Rebecca Shahan

Looking for some more great ways to spend time with your family before summer ends? Austin is full of so many great things to do, it can be hard to pin down that perfect day out on the town. So here's a few ideas for some of the best ways to spend the day with your family in Austin.

Congress Bridge Bats

If you love bats, then this is the place to see them. The Congress Bridge is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America at an estimated 1.5 million bats.  Hot August nights bring them out into multiple columns, so now is the perfect time to view them. It's even more stunning to view them from a boat as they contrast against the evening sky. Or you can get even closer and watch them from the bridge.

Austin Duck Adventures

This is the only land and water tour in Austin, and it will give you great views of the Texas Capitol and then on to Lake Austin where you drive straight into the water and float around before heading back. 

The Escape Game

How good are you at breaking out of prison? Test your escape skills at the top escape room in Austin.Work together with your friends to complete the mission and escape from 5 different adventures - The Heist, Gold Rush, Playground, Classified, and Prison Break.

Austin Detours

This is a great way to explore your new city if you just bought a home here. This tour gives you the scoop on living life in Austin as a local. You'll also enjoy the Live Music Crawl that shows you why Austin earned the reputation as the "Live Music Capital of the World."

Austin Wine Tours

Visit select top vineyards for a great afternoon with friends as you discover why Austin wines are some of the best in the country.

Visit our blog every week for more things to do in Lake Travis and Austin. Selling your home in Lake Travis or Austin? Get a FREE Home Evaluation of your home's value today! 

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