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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!

Important Repairs to Make Before Selling Your Home

by Rebecca Shahan

As a smart home seller, you want to make sure your home is in the best shape possible. On the other hand, you don't want to spend too much on improvements and make less of a profit when you sell your home. You need to concentrate on making the most important repairs to make sure your home sells for a higher price.


What repairs should you make when you sell your home?

Fix Damaged Flooring

When flooring wears out, it can really detract from the appeal of an otherwise fine home. Bad flooring might even turn some buyers away right off the bat. So if your flooring is showing signs of age or damage, the easy fix is to replace or repair it.

Refinishing hardwood floors may be expensive, around $3000, but you will make that up in the sale.

You should also replace old flooring for new hardwood. Expect to spend about $5,000. But you will get back about 90% when you sell your home. Even if you can't afford these fixes, any amount of flooring repair will help.

Fix Water Stains

Even if you've learned to deal with any plumbing issues, most buyer's won't. Water stains are a tell-tale sign of plumbing problems.

Hire a good plumber to look for leaks and drainage issues. No matter what you spend, it will be cheaper than losing a sale.

Erase Pet Damage

Did your (sort of) darling kitten scratch your bedroom door? Fix the damage before listing your home. Otherwise, buyers may consider the scuffs a canary in the coal mine.

Refinishing a door costs between $100 and $215 (or less, if you're willing to DIY). Replacing pet-damaged carpeting or hardwood may be a bigger job than buffing out some scuffs — but it's worth the cash.

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

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.

Now that you've bought the perfect home in Lake Travis, you no doubt want to get the most of your new home. If you have a back yard, you have a perfect place to spend time relaxing and enjoying your home.

What are some ways you can make your back yard a place to unwind and enjoy the great outdoors?

Let the backyard staycations begin with these ideas:

Al-Fresco Dining

A wood-fired oven is a great way to cook up a fresh meal in your back yard. You might think it's only for pizza, but you can cook up any meat, veggie, or bread, making this a full-on outdoor oven. Low-maintenance hardscaping means you can focus on your party, instead of mowing grass.

You can grow some veggies in your garden and prep them in an outdoor cooking island with a built-in grill and treat yourself to the freshest cuisine around for your backyard staycation.

Even better, since the entire ground area is pea gravel, you can spend less time mowing and more time dining.

But does it add value? Outdoor living and cooking spaces almost always add value. As do low-maintenance hardscaping features — like the patio.

An Outdoor Room Just for Leisure

Spend Saturday afternoon napping in your outdoor space — not laboring over it. Easy-care plants look lush with minimal intervention, including ground cover and stone to replace grass.

Install horizontal privacy fencing, and you're ready for one legendary siesta (adorable dog recommended, but not required).

But does it add value? See above about outdoor rooms (and the lovely plants definitely boost it, too). Win-win.

A Yard for Playing

You don't have to give up playing in the backyard just because you're an adult. Make your yard a grown-up rec center with a fire pit and bocce ball court (or cornhole, ladder ball, even giant Jenga).

Wood-paneled privacy fencing elevates the adults-only aesthetic, and low-maintenance gravel keeps the focus on fun instead of maintenance.

But does it add value? Seriously doubt it (except for the fence). But it's your yard. Remember, joy is an ROI of a different sort. Plus, the court is easy enough to erase with some basic landscaping (always a good value add).

Looking to buy a home in Lake Travis and Austin? Our home search tool can help you find the perfect home for sale. And check back on our blog every week for more helpful articles about living in Lake Travis and Austin.

Tips on Selling Your Home to Younger Buyers

by Rebecca Shahan

More and more these days, younger home buyers are hitting the market.  Young professionals and families are finding more options for helping them buy a home.  As such, when you sell your home, you need to keep this younger audience in mind.  It's highly likely that when you sell your home, it will be to someone younger than 40. How can you make your home appeal to this growing market?  Here's a few tips.

Using Neutral Colors

The younger crowd is no longer into the gold or pink walls you painted 10 years ago.  Paint the walls a more neutral color.  This will allow potential buyers to envision their own accent colors and furniture to make it their own.

White Cabinets

White or off-white cabinets appeal more to buyers under 40.  They don't want to be reminded of the dark cabinets of yesteryear.  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.

Sell your home in Lake Travis and Austin fast! Start by getting a FREE home valuation. And check back on our blog every week for more helpful articles about living in Lake Travis and Austin.

Lawn Care Tips for the Heat of the Summer

by Rebecca Shahan

We all know how hot it can get in the summer, with July generally being the hottest month. Keeping your lawn looking good during the summer can be a challenge, but with some simple tips, you can beat the heat on your landscaping.

Here are three tasks to help your yard and home keep their good looks:

Mow High

Longer grass provides more shade for the ground, which helps your lawn retain precious water. It also saves time since you have to mow it less.

Raise your mower blade by 3 inches or higher for cool-season lawns, and 2 to 3 inches for warm-season varieties.

And leave the clippings: they'll help keep grass cool and fed. Plus you'll save money by not buying commercial fertilizers.

Remove Damaged Branches

Make sure that you don't have any diseased or dead branches that can break off during a summer storm and damage your home.

Top Off Mulch

A little extra mulch around trees and shrubs will keep them healthy and lush by helping roots retain moisture during hot summer days. It's worth the extra effort because your trees add value to your home while cutting cooling costs.

Water Wisely

Lawns need about an inch of water and more if the heat is severe. Water deeply and less frequently to encourage drought-tolerant roots. And water early in the day to reduce evaporation.

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. 

Getting the Most Curb Appeal For Your Lake Travis Home

by Rebecca Shahan

If you plan to sell your home in Lake Travis or Austin, you're going to have competition, so you need all the edge you can get. 

What do buyers see first when they come to your home for sale? Obviously, the outside. And how your home looks from the curb can make ore break a sale.

What are some affordable and simple ways you can spice up your curb appeal?

Replace Old Hardware

Replace old hardware, such as door knobs and house numbers, with fresh new fixtures.

Makeover the Mailbox

If your mailbox is next to your home (not across the street), then you can spruce it up to compliments your home. Pick a box that reflects your home's trimmings. You can paint the post or surround it with flowers.

Add Planters

Place various potted plants on the front steps and patio accentuate you garden.

Outdoor Lighting

To add a little appeal to your home, you can add low voltage lighting along the walkways for a little flare.

Reveal the Architecture

Don't go overboard with plants and landscaping that can hide your home. Keep your landscaping back from the home to let it shine.

Pressure Wash the Exterior

This is a quick and easy makeover that will make your home shine.. A pressure washer can be rented at most hardware and home improvement stores, and are easy to operate.

Display a Wreath

Welcome buyers with a beautiful seasonal wreath on the front door.

Lay Out a Path

You can use river stones to make a curved pathway and add unique flair to your yard.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

A fresh coat of paint can liven up any home, especially if the current coat is fading or chipped, or the color is outdated.

Add Window Boxes and Shutters

Adding colorful shutters with window boxes with matching paint will liven up any exterior. You can also plant colorful flowers to make it stand out even more.

Line Up the Porch Chairs

If you have a porch large enough for a few chairs, make sure they're lined up. If you don't have matching porch chairs, it would be worth investing in a set.

These are just a few ways you can spice up the exterior of your home and drive a higher price on your home for sale.

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.

How to Seal the Deal When Closing Your Home

by Rebecca Shahan

This is the moment you've worked for. It's time to close the deal on your new home. The home you've been wanting is almost yours, and the keys are nearly in your hands.

As you cross the finish line, what are some things to consider?

What Does "Closing" Mean?

Closing simply means that you sign the final paperwork that gets you the keys to your new home.

The process really begins when you sign a purchase and sale agreement, which specifies the closing date. It usually takes about 4 - 6 weeks from the signing date to closing date. During this time, purchasing funds are held in escrow, where your money is safe until the deal is officially done.

What's a Closing Disclosure?

A Closing Disclosure, or CD, is provided by the lender at least three days before settlement. The CD discloses you final loan terms and closing costs.

The reason for this step is to make sure there's no surprises during the final closing. You should let your lender and title company know right away if there's a significant discrepancy between the Loan Estimate and CD. Depending on what the underlying issue is, the closing has to stop and a new closing disclosure must be sent out with a new three-day review period.

The main things that can't change between by the time you get the Closing Disclosure is the interest rate and lender fees. Some items can change by only 10% (fees paid to local government to record the mortgage might be one); and others can change without limit, like prepaid interest, because it can’t be predicted at the start of the loan process.

When Will the Final Walk-Through Happen?

Usually within 24 hours of the settlement, you and your agent will do a walk-through of the home, making sure any repair work that the seller agreed to make has been completed.

If any repair work is missed, your agent will contact the listing agent and, in most cases, negotiate to get the seller to compensate you at closing, This will usually be in the form of a personal check for the costs of fixing the problems yourself.

Worst-case scenario: You have to delay closing to resolve problems. In the unlikely event that happens, your agent will help you address the issue.

How Much Will I Pay for Closing Costs?

Closing costs can be frustrating for home buyers, as there can be unexpected surprises.

Costs are split between you and the seller, but as the buyer you’ll cover the lion’s share. You can generally expect your closing costs to be 3% to 4% of the home’s sales price. So, on a $300,000 home, you can pay anywhere from $9,000 to $12,000 in closing costs. (Meanwhile, the seller typically pays closing costs of 1% to 3% of the sales price.)

You can try to predict closing costs with calculators which lets you plug in your mortgage details to get a rough estimate of what your costs will be.

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.

Tricks for Hosting a Great Open House in Austin

by Rebecca Shahan
 
An open house is also a chance for the seller to throw the doors open and dazzle buyers, to make them fall in love with their lovely home.

What are some ways you can make your open house a hit with buyers?

Time It Right

Typically, agents will hold open houses for about 2-3 hours, between 11 am - 5pm on the weekend. This is a time when buyers are more flexible, since many don't work on the weekend. Just make sure to avoid holding an open house on a holiday, during a big community event, or on Super Bowl Sunday or another big game day.

Let Your Agent Take the Lead

Your real estate agent plays two roles during an open house. For you, they direct the open house and give you instructions on how to prepare for the big day. For buyers, they're the host, making guests feel welcome and showing off the features of your home.

Your job is to make your house look like a million bucks — or more like $300,000, depending on your price range.

The job of your agent is to take care of the rest. That will include:

  • Staging your home, or recommending a reputable stager that you can hire
  • Hosting the open house
  • Communicating with home buyers and buyers’ agents
  • Receiving feedback during the open house and communicating that feedback to you

Your agent will also recommend that you leave while they show off your house to strangers. Why should you follow that advice? Because it makes good business sense for you.

  1. A home owner’s presence can make it awkward for the buyer. Buyers want to make assessments on their own, without worrying about how the seller might react or try to influence them.
  2. Buyers may have trouble picturing themselves living in the house when the owner is right there, say, serving lemonade in the kitchen.
  3. Sometimes sellers say too much. You might point out something that you think is a nice feature or amenity of your home, when it’s something that might turn off a buyer. You might blurt out something that could tip your negotiating hand, like how motivated you are to sell, or that you always wanted to update the retro kitchen, but just never got around to it.

The last things you want buyers to think after the open house is, “This place needs work,” or “This seller is desperate — I have the upper hand.” So, let your agent take the lead. This won’t be their first rodeo. They know the nuanced ways to show your home in its best light so that buyers will be dazzled. They also know how to strategically answer questions from buyers to help set you up for success later, during negotiation.

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.

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