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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!

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!

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!

Keep Your Lake Travis Home Sale from Falling Apart

by Rebecca Shahan

Finding a buyer for your home in Lake Travis and Austin is just the beginning of the selling process. Now you need to make sure you keep that buyer happy until the sale closes.

Here are some mistakes to avoid to make sure you close the deal.

Mistake #1: Ignore Contingencies

Don't ignore the contract if it requires you to take care of something on the home before the sale. If a contingency requires you to make some repairs, don't do it on the cheap and expect it to go unnoticed.

Mistake #2: Don’t Bother to Fix Things That Break

Keep up your home during the selling process. If something breaks that was working when the buyer made their offer, they could notice it during the pre-closing walk-through. If the buyer thinks you aren't maintaining your home, it could end the deal.

Mistake #3: Get Lax About Deadlines

Deadlines are deadlines. Make sure you stick to all the deadlines.

Mistake #4: Refuse to Negotiate Any Further

After you negotiate a price, it's not uncommon for problems to be found during inspections that need to be fixed. Or the appraisal may be below what the offer is. You need to be able to negotiate further when issues arise, or the buyers may back out.

Mistake #5: Hide Liens from Buyers

If you have a lien on your home or have unpaid HOA fees, the buyer will find out during the title search. Those fees must be paid off for the deal to close. You could have the buyers pay those fees as part of the deal if you can't pay them. But if they aren't paid, the sale won't happen.

Selling your home in Lake Travis or Austin? Get a FREE Home Evaluation of your home's value today! And check back on our blog every week for more helpful articles about living in Lake Travis and Austin.

The 5 Most Important Home Closing Terms

by Rebecca Shahan
Buying a home can be a confusing process. This is especially true for first time buyers. All those words! But don't worry, that why you hire a professional to help you figure it all out. Still, there's some basic terms that you should familiarize yourself with, especially when closing a home sale.
 
Here's the 5 most important closing terms you should know.
  1. Down Payment Simply put, this is the amount of money you pay up front for a mortgage, just like buying a car. Most mortgage lenders require between 3% - 20% down payment. In the case of VA or government assisted loans, this amount can be less.
  2. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) – You may be required to pay for private mortgage insurance when you take out a loan if you put down less than 20%. PMI protects the lender in case you end up foreclosing on your home.
  3. Annual Percentage Rate (APR) – APR refers to the total cost of taking out a loan. It can include broker fees, interest rate, points, and others.
  4. Loan Estimate (LE) – A loan estimate deals with the estimated closing costs, along with the terms of the loan that you agreed to.
  5. Closing Costs – Closing costs are paid by both the buyer and seller. These costs can cover application fees, property fees, title examination, title insurance, attorney charges and settlement documents.

Of course, this only scratches the surface of what you should know about buying a home. 

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 Get Rid of Pet Smells to Help Sell Your Austin Home

by Rebecca Shahan

Pet odors can be a big turnoff for potential buyers in Austin and Lake Travis and could keep your home from selling. Ask your real estate agent or a friend if your home has a pet smell.

If your home does have a pet smell, here's what you can do:

Air Out Your House

This is easy enough. Just open all the windows when you clean to get in all that fresh air. If you have carpets, you will need to shampoo them or have them professionally cleaned.

Once the smell is gone, you'll have to keep on top of the smell until you sell you home. You may have to crate your dog more or keep them outside more often. Limit cats to one room if you can. Remove or replace pet bedding.

Scrub Thoroughly

Bare floors that are soiled by your furry friends can be scrubbed thoroughly with vinegar, wood floor cleaner, or an odor-neutralizing product, which you can purchase at a pet supply store for $10 to $25.

Try a 1:9 bleach-to-water solution on surfaces it won’t damage, like cement floors or walls.

For hard to clean stains, you may have to call in a professional. This may cost more, but it will be worth it when you sell your home.

Wash Your Drapes and Upholstery

Fabrics can really soak up odors. Clean all of your fabric window coverings and steam clean furniture.

Either buy a steam cleaner designed to remove pet hair for around $200 and do the job yourself, or pay a pro. You’ll spend about $40 for an upholstered chair, $100 for a sofa, and $7 for each dining room chair if a pro does your cleaning.

Clean Your Carpets

Carpets and rugs also hold in the odors. You can have a pro do it for you for the most effective results. A professional cleaner may try to sell you deodorizing treatments. You’ll know if you need to spend the extra money on those after the carpet dries and you have a friend perform a sniff test.

If this doesn't get rid of the odor, you may want to think about replacing the offending carpets and padding. And if you do replace them, remember to scrub the subfloor with vinegar or an odor-removing product. But if the smell is in the subfloor, you may even have to replace that as well.

Again, think about cost-to-benefit. How much will you spend vs how much more you can get from the sale of your home.

Paint, Replace, or Seal Walls

If the smell is in the walls and can't be removed with cleaners, then it's time for a fresh coat of paint. Again, in extreme cases, you may have to replace the drywall or wood altogether.

On brick and cement, apply a sealant appropriate for the surface for $25 to $100. That may smother and seal in the odor, keeping it from reemerging.

Control Urine Smells

Indoor pee pads are really not a good idea to start with as far as controlling odors. But if you do use them, make sure you remove them every time Fido goes. And make sure you dispose of them in an outside container. Even if you have a clean one layed out, remove it before each showing.

Replace kitty litter daily, rather than scooping used litter clumps, and sweep up around the litter box. Hide the litter box before each showing.

These all may sound like drastic measures. But in the end, the extra steps will help sell you home faster and for more money.

 

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.

If you bought a house with no maintenance issues big or small, that would be one for the record books. In reality, most homeowners find a problem, quirk, shortcoming, whatever, within the first couple of months.

And if you’ve already settled in, getting answers to these key questions will help you get to work putting the shine on your castle. Ask the previous owner, your agent, and your new neighbors for helpful answers.

Has There Ever Been a Busted Pipe?

A broken pipe isn’t rare; in fact, water damage caused by a frozen or burst pipe is a leading cause of homeowners insurance claims, at around 22% of all home insurance losses, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

What bursts? Typically exposed water pipes in unheated basements and crawl spaces, along with exterior faucets.

Another prime suspect of water damage: old washing machine hoses.

A good inspector usually can tell if water damage has occurred, and any damage should be disclosed by the previous owner at the time of sale.

The big fallout from water damage is moisture problems you won’t see — behind drywall and trim — which can lead to mold. If you know there’s been a major leak, a mold remediation pro ($200 to $600) will tell you if mold is present and the steps required to remove it.

Any Infestations of Termites, Carpenter Ants, or Other Pests?

This should be disclosed by the previous owner at time of sale. But even if the owner dealt with a past infestation, that doesn’t mean the little buggers have been totally eliminated.

Whatever conditions made your house ripe for infestation in the first place — a slow leak under the house, soft rotting wood that attracts insects — may still be present. Plus, many infestations aren’t confined to one house. It may be a neighborhood-wide problem.

Be proactive, because the average cost of a termite extermination treatment around the perimeter of a 2,500-square-foot house is $1,700 to $3,200. Repairs to wooden framing, sheathing, and siding can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

What are Monthly Utility Costs?

You can’t get away from paying utilities, so know what your monthly budget is up against. Be sure to get an average cost — not the lowest monthly bill — and ask when peak months are.

While you’re at it, ask what kind of energy sources your house appliances use — gas, electric, propane, or a combination. That’ll help you understand where you might upgrade to energy-efficient appliances to save energy costs.

Remember that energy savings starts with the simplest of tasks, like sealing air leaks.

Has the Sewer Ever Backed Up?

As properties age and trees and other plants get bigger, roots find their way into sewer lines between a house and the street, causing clogs. It’s a mess for sure, and most homeowner insurance policies don’t cover damage from backed-up sewers.

Plan to have the sewer line cleared (about $150) every other year.

For $40 to $50 per year, you can add an endorsement to your insurance policy to cover damage from a backed-up sewer.

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.

More Reasons Why This Spring Is the Best Time to Sell Your Home

by Rebecca Shahan

Do you plan to sell your home this Spring in Austin or Lake Travis?  Typically, Spring is the best  time of year to sell a home. But this year it’s promising to be an even better time to sell.  There are factors happening in the Austin real estate scene that make this the case.  Here are the top 4 reasons why selling your home this Spring is such a great idea.

  1. Strong Demand

The National Association of Realtors Buyer Traffic Report indicates that buyer traffic is strong in Texas. Home buyers are ready to go and are buying homes right now.This means more competition to buy your home and possible more money in your pocket.

  1. Less Competition

Home inventory has been dropping for around the past 32 months. This is a good thing if you’ve been building equity in your home. But don’t count on this being the case for long. The average number of years that homeowners stayed in their homes has been around 9-10 years since 2011.This was due to the previous negative equity that kept many homeowners from selling.As values rise, more people will sell.So don’t wait too long or you could end up getting less for your home.

  1. The Process Will Be Quicker

The competition for buyers is real, and that means more buyers will be ready in advance to buy your home, including being pre-approved.Buyers are more likely to know what they want and how much they can spend, which really speeds up the process for everyone.

  1. Time to Move Up

Are you planning on moving into a better home?The good news is that higher priced homes are actually selling for less due to a higher inventory in the higher price ranges. So if you’re selling a starter home, your home will sell more quickly and you’ll be more likely to find a premium home.

The best time to sell your home in Austin and Lake Travis is now.  Rebecca Shahan has been helping people buy their homes in Lake Travis and Austin for years. She can help you make the right choice in a home if you do decide it's time to move. Call today at 512-657-4467. Or search for a home online with our convenient home search tool.

Spring is a Great Time to Buy a Home in Lake Travis

by Rebecca Shahan

Reasons to buy a homenow in Austin and Lake travisAre you thinking about whether Spring is the right time to buy a new home in Lake Travis, Austin, or the surrounding areas? If so, here's some great reasons why now is a good time to buy a home instead of waiting.

Prices Will Continue to Rise

According to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports, home prices have continued to increase by 6.6% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 4.3% over the next year.

The bottom in home prices in Austin has come to pass. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting to buy a home in Texas just doesn't make sense.

Mortgage Interest Rates Are Projected to Increase

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage hovered close to 4.0% in 2017. And according to experts, that rate will continue to rise. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the National Association of Realtors all agree that rates will increase by nearly a full percentage point by this time next year.

Higher mortgage rates means higher mortgage payments. You likely want to avoid that from happening.

Either Way, You Are Paying a Mortgage

Many renters are afraid to take on a mortgage. The thing to remember is that you are paying a mortgage when you rent, it's just someone else's.  

Having a mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. when you rent, it's your landlord is the person with that equity.

It’s Time to Move on with Your Life

There are two things that determine the cost of a home: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. Both of those factors are rising. Would you still wait if they weren't?

Examine the real reasons you want to wait. Are you doing fine where you are living now?  Or do you need to have a better place for your children? Maybe safety is a concern.  Maybe now is the right time to buy.

Rebecca Shahan has been helping people buy their homes in Lake Travis and Austin for years. She can help you make the right choice in a home if you do decide it's time to move. Call today at 512-657-4467. Or search for a home online with our convenient home search tool.

11 Steps to Owning Your First Home

by Rebecca Shahan

Are you getting ready to buy your first home in Austin or Lake Travis?  If so, it’s certainly an exciting time for you. It’s easy to get lost in all the emotions and happenings. The trick is to not let yourself get swept away in the process.  But don’t worry, if you keep on track, you can successfully buy your first home in Austin and come out on top.  What are the steps involved, and how can you successfully complete them all so that you find the house of your dreams in Austin and the surrounding communities?

Here are the 11 steps that you need to follow.

  1. Do Your Homework
    Buying a home is without a doubt the biggest financial decision you’ll likely make in your life. You’ll need to consider factors such as price, housing type, neighborhood, school districts, and more. You can complete this worksheet to help you figure all these items out. Make sure to fill it out with everyone who’s involved in the process so that everyone has the same goals in mind.
  2. Start Shopping for Homes in Austin
    Now that you know what you're looking for, start looking for listings online.  Here's a great tool for finding the ideal home in Austin and surrounding communities.
  3. Find a Great Agent
    Rebecca Shahan is ready to help you find the perfect first home and help you through the process of finding the perfect home in Austin and Lake Travis.
  4. Choose a Lender
    Now it’s time to find the right mortgage lender. Your lender will be working closely with you throughout the process, so it’s important to find one that understands your goals and needs.
  5. Pick a Loan
    Your lender will work with you to determine the right mortgage to fit your financial needs.  You'll need to provide proof of income, employment, and other details.
  6. Look at Homes
    Here comes the fun part of the process! Rebecca Shahan can help you find homes in in Austin and the surrounding areas in Texas that fit your budget and the needs you determined in step 1.
  7. Make an Offer
    Now that you’ve located the home you want in Austin, then you make the offer.  Rebecca can help you decide how much you want to pay, along with contingencies that both parties can agree on.
  8. Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate
    This is where you work out the deal for your new home.  But watch out that you don’t get carried away by emotions because you want the house. Some sellers may just accept your offer, but some may make a counter-offer.  Your agent will work with you to decide what to do.
  9. Inspect the Home
    When an offer is accepted, then you'll sign a contract that will no doubt include a home inspection contingency.  At this point you'll hire a licensed home inspector to look for needed repairs. If major repairs are needed, then the seller will be asked to make those repairs.
  10. Appraisal
    Your lender needs to determine if the home is worth enough to cover the mortgage.
  11. Close the Deal
    You’re almost there! You just need to sign the final paperwork to finish the deal.  Now it’s time to get moved into your first home!

Rebecca Shahan has been helping people buy their first home in in Austin for years. She can help you through all of these steps to guide you to owning your first home in in Austin. Call her today at 512-657-4467.

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