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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!

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!

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!

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. 

Summertime is well underway, and now is a great time to take care of some home maintenance tasks while the days are longer. This is especially important if you plan to sell your home soon in Lake Travis and Austin.

#1 Update Outdoor Lighting

You're probably not too concerned about the shorter winter days yet when it gets dark at 4:30. But now is a great time to add to your outdoor lighting or update landscaping lighting.

The most energy efficient way to go is solar lighting, which is perfect for summer.

LED bulbs last up to five times longer and also use less energy than comparable bulbs.

#2 Clean Your House's Siding

Did you know that well-maintained siding can last for decades? Sometimes it can last up to 50 years. To make it last that long, it needs to be cleaned, which you can do with a long-handled, soft-bristled brush.

Start at the bottom of the house and work up, rinsing completely before it dries. That's how you avoid streaks. This will also add curb appeal to your home if you plan to sell it soon.

#3 Focus on Your Foundation

Inspecting your home during the summer is a good idea. You need to look for signs of trouble, such as crumbling mortar, cracks in the stucco, or persistently damp spots (especially under faucets). Then call a pro to fix any outstanding issues now, before it becomes an emergency later. And keep in mind that when you sell your home, an inspector will find these issues and it could affect the asking price. Taking care of issues now will help you get more from selling your home.

#4 Seal Your Driveway Asphalt

Your driveway takes a daily beating. Weather, sunlight, cars, bikes, and foot traffic – all of these deteriorate the asphalt. Help it last by sealing it. Tip: The temperature must be 50 degrees or higher for the sealer to stick, making summer best for this easy, cost-effective job.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate advice and local Lake Travis articles. 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.

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.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 59

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