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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.

Staging Tips That Will Have Buyers Falling in Love With your Austin Home

by Rebecca Shahan

Staging a home for sale is certainly an important step in making sure you get more money from the sale. But you need to make sure you do the right things to make the most difference.

It's going to take more than just running a vacuum to get buyers to love your property. You need to de-clutter, repair, update, and more. Here's a few things to focus on to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

Living Room

  • Aim for symmetry when placing smaller accents, such as a pillows and table lamps.
  • Add more light. Fashionable lamps will add both light and a decorative touch.
  • Keep the fireplace clean. Remove soot stains and replace the screen.
  • If you decide to use staging furniture or slip covers, go for lighter colors to give an airy, inviting feel.
  • Reduce the amount of furniture to open up space.
  • Add bright coordinated accessories such as throw blankets and access pillows for more color.
  • Play a slideshow of beautiful images on your TV.

Kitchen

  • Make sure the counters are clear except for a couple of decorative items, such as flowers or bowl of fresh fruit.
  • Just display one set of dishes, along with other kitchenware. Reduce all kitchenware and cupboards down to a minimum.
  • A fresh coat of paint and new hardware will freshen and modernize your cabinets.
  • Take a close look at your appliances. Will a good cleaning make them look new again? Or do they need replacing? You can also use stainless films to give them a stainless steel look.
  • remove all refrigerator magnets and clean the door handles.
  • Scrub dirt, grime, and stains from walls, cabinets, and back-splashes.
  • Clean cabinet interiors, especially under the sink.
  • Give the pantry a good cleaning and organizing. Leave some empty space to make it look bigger. You can also store items in decorative baskets and add some fancy jams or other upscale condiments.
  • Empty all trash cans and move them out of sight.

Bedrooms

  • Make bedrooms gender neutral. Buyers have different family needs, so will help them see the rooms more as they need them.
  • Store clothes that are not in season to create more closet space.
  • Replace those mismatched hangers with a nice set of wood hangers.
  • Store jewelry and other expensive personal items.
  • Consider giving extra bedrooms a new identity as a home office, sewing room, or another interesting function.
  • Remove televisions or video game consoles from bedrooms to depersonalize and create a serene setting.

Staging your home effectively and focusing on the items that matter can make a huge difference.

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.

5 Dos and Don't When Viewing Properties

by Rebecca Shahan

Touring a home can be a fun and exciting time. This is a new beginning for you and your family. There's a lot of things you need to take in and learn about the home's you're viewing.

There's more to viewing a home than just walking through it.  There's some things to remember when it comes to making mistakes that could upset the seller, and possibly cost you the purchase or hurt negotiations.

What are some ways you can stay on the seller's good side, while keeping focused on getting the most from your tour?

1. The fewer the better.

This isn't a party. Don't being a bunch of friends or relatives just to get their opinion. If they're purchasing a home with you, that's one thing. But sellers usually aren't too fond of large groups touring at once.

The more people you have with you on a tour, the bigger the chance of someone doing something that will upset the seller. Plus they can distract you from taking in important details about the property.

You should also try not to bring small children, as this too could be distracting, and possible cause problems with the seller.

If you absolutely need to bring other people with you on a showing, ask your agent beforehand.

2. You're being watched.

Sellers are usually curious about who's viewing their home, and for good reason. They still usually have possessions in the home they want to protect.  They also want to know what you're feeling are about the home. And that's easy enough to view with security cameras.

The rule of thumb is to just act as if the seller is a silent partner on the tour.  That should help you avoid doing or saying things that will negatively affect the sale if you decide to buy. Also keep in mind that the seller may not even be using a camera to watch you. They may be next door watching, or having a neighbor watching you.

3. Don't take photos

You may think that since everyone has a camera on their phone, that it's no big deal to snap photos on a home tour. But that's not so. You are on private property, and unless you've been given express permission by the seller, you should never take photos during a tour. It's an invasion of privacy and could also be against the law.

Just because the listing agent has taken photos and posted them online also does not make it OK for you to. The agent and seller have an agreement to take those photos, and they are approved by the seller before posting them online.

So if the seller allows you to take photos, don't post them on social media. You could hurt your negotiations and invade the seller's privacy. Wait until the house is yours and post all the photos your heart desires.

4. Do use your imagination.

Since most people don;t have the same tastes, you need to imagine how the home would look with your decorating tastes. Try to think of inexpensive ways to decorate it, such as painting and where you would locate your furniture.

Augmented reality (AR) apps on your phone are an ideal way of doing this, as they let you picture how the home would look if you buy it.

5. Don’t use the bathroom.

Would you want a bunch of strangers using your bathroom? It's fine to test fixtures and cabinets, but don't use the bathroom unless the seller says it's OK in advance.

Touring homes can be a fun and beneficial experience, as long as you mind your manners and show respect for the seller.

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 Save on Granite Countertops

by Rebecca Shahan

Granite countertops. They’re tough, stylish, low maintenance, and always a good choice. You really just can’t beat a granite countertop in your kitchen or bath. Some may feel that granite countertops are for upscale homes and out of their reach financially. The good news is that you don’t need to buy the most expensive granite to get outstanding results. Here’s what you should know about granite counters and how you can cut back the cost of installing one.

Costs

You can pay anywhere from $2000 - $4500 for a granite countertop. Granite is usually priced by the square foot. This price usually includes delivery, installation, and simple edge finishes.  You will of course pay more if you need extra features such as decorative edge treatments and cutouts for sinks or stove tops, along with plumbing hookups and disposal of your old countertop.

The grade of the countertop will affect the price as well and is based on stone availability, color, shipping and distinctiveness.  Grade doesn’t always reveal the granite’s overall quality.

Saving Money

1. Shop around

Shopping around is a huge way to save money and potentially save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Compare big box stores, design studios, granite fabricators, and companies that specialize in prefabricated granite counters. Always hire an established company that’s insured. Compare online reviews and talk to family or friends who have had granite installed. When you chose two or three companies, make sure to visit each one so you can talk about the project and see examples of their work.

2. Buy the sink and faucet separately

Buying the sink, faucet and any plumbing separately lets you get the lowest prices on each item.

3. Use a remnant

You may be able to find discounts on smaller pieces of stone left over from other projects.

4. Go prefab

Prefabricated counters are already cut and polished, and are great for simple counters that don’t need many cuts.

5. Have the installer do final measurements

Make sure the installer takes the final measurements and make a template which the final estimate will be based on. This will avoid making expensive mistakes.

Adding a granite countertop is a great way to make your home look better and raise the resale value of your 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.  

5 Reasons Not to FSBO

by Rebecca Shahan

In the modern real estate market, as home prices rise and inventory is lower, some home sellers might consider trying to sell their home on their own, which is referred to as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO). If you plan to sell your home, should you sell it on your own?

Here are the top five reasons why selling as a FSBO is not a good idea:

1. Exposure to Prospective Buyers

Do you have a marketing strategy and network that will expose your home to the widest market? Putting up an ad on Craigslist or Facebook doesn’t count. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote your home and expose it to a nationwide network. Do you?

2. Results Come from the Internet

Where did buyers find the home they actually purchased?

49% on the internet

31% from a Real Estate Agent

7% from a yard sign

1% from newspapers

Putting a sign on the front lawn and putting up an ad in the paper are the least effective means of selling a home these days. Having a strong internet strategy is crucial.

3. There Are Too Many People to Negotiate With

Here is a list of some of the people with whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to For Sale by Owner:

The buyer who wants the best deal possible

The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer

The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)

The home inspection companies, which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house

The appraiser if there is a question of value

4. FSBOing Has Become More And More Difficult

There is a ton of paperwork when it comes to selling a home, due to industry disclosures and regulations having become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people who sell as FSBO has dropped from 19% to 8% over the last 20+ years.

5. You Net More Money When Using an Agent

It may seem as if you’re saving money by selling your home on your own because you’re not paying the seller’s commission. But the fact is that the seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.

A study by Collateral Analytics revealed that people who sell as FSBOs don’t actually save anything, and in some cases, may be costing themselves more. One of the main reasons for the price difference at the time of sale is:

“Properties listed with a broker that is a member of the local MLS will be listed online with all other participating broker websites, marketing the home to a much larger buyer population. And those MLS properties generally offer compensation to agents who represent buyers, incentivizing them to show and sell the property and again potentially enlarging the buyer pool.”

Using an agent will expose your home to more buyers, and as such the greater the chances are that there could be a bidding war. The study showed that the difference in price between comparable homes of size and location is currently at an average of 6% this year.

Why would you choose to list on your own and manage the entire transaction when you can hire an agent and not have to pay anything more? 

If you decide to use an agent to sell your home, we would be happy to work with you to get the highest price possible for your home for sale in Lake Travis, Lakeway, and Austin.

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.  

The Steps to a Succesful Home Inspection

by Rebecca Shahan

Steps to having a succesful home inspectionOf all the parts of the home selling and buying process, the home inspection is certainly one of the most important steps.  A home inspection is really important, as it will determine the condition of the home and could save you quite a great deal of money as a home buyer. And if you are selling a home in Austin, then it can give you time to make the needed repairs to get the most money you can from the sale. A home inspection will also give valuable insight into potential problems in the future.

What are some important things to consider when getting a home inspection?

  1. Research the Inspector

A costly mistake that people make is hiring the first inspector they find or is recommended. As with any service, it’s important to research who you hire, as it can make all the difference in the end. You need an inspector who will make sure you understand the issues and will be thorough.

Here are some important questions to ask a potential inspector:

  • How long have you been inspecting homes professionally?
  • How many home inspections have you performed in your career?
  • What are your qualifications, certifications and training?
  • What did you do for work before you were a home inspector? (Preferably, you want someone who was a contractor or builder.)

Also, is the inspector keeping current in their education? They need to be up to date so that you get the best and most current information possible.

  1. Be There During the Inspection

Being present during the inspection may seem excessive or not needed, but that’s not the case.  A good inspector will welcome your presence. And simply reading the report doesn’t always reveal all that needs repairing.  Seeing the issues in person and having the home inspector explain them will be far more helpful.  Even though an inspection may take a few hours, it will be well worth your time, as it could save you a great deal of money.

  1. Get a Presale Inspection

If you’re selling your home, you may think you can leave the inspection to the home buyer. Here’s the issue with that plan. If the buyer’s inspection reveals repairs that are needed to make the sale, you won’t have as much time to make the needed repairs. But if your home is inspected before you put it on the market, you’ll have more time to make needed repairs and will have more control over the costs.

A good home inspection is crucial to buying a home, so make sure you find the best inspector you can.

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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