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Ways to Save for a Down Payment on Your First Home

by Rebecca Shahan

Buying your first home bring up all sorts of good feelings. But before you get there, you have to get through the daunting task of making sure you have enough for a down payment. You may have to come up with as much as 10% - 20% of the purchase price, which can be a large sum.

So now its time to get creative! Here's 3 creative ways you can put together the money you need faster than you may think.

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing has become a popular way for people to raise money for projects. Popular crowdsourcing sites such as Kickstarter have been used to fund all sorts of projects. So why not crowdsource your first home?

If you're getting married, for example, you can skip the traditional registry and use sites such as Feather the Nest and Hatch My House to raise your down payment. According to Hatch My House, they've helped home buyers raise more than $2 million for down payments.

Ask the Seller to Help (Really!)

Seller concessions are where the seller will work with you to reduce closing costs. If the seller wants to close the deal quickly, they may work with you in this way. The fewer the closing costs, the more money you can put toward your down payment.

You real estate agent may be able to help you negotiate a deal, such as 2% of the overall sales price in concessions to help with the closing costs.

There are, however, limits on concessions depending on the type of mortgage. For FHA mortgages, the cap is 6% of the sale price. For Fannie Mae-guaranteed loans, the caps vary between 3% and 9%, depending on the ratio between how much you put down and the amount you finance. Individual banks have varying caps on concessions.

Government Options

You can also look into programs through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, that help with down payments and closing costs. If you meet particular income requirements, you may qualify.

Your profession may also determine what programs are available through HUD. The Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program can help those who are law enforcement officers, firefighters, teachers, or EMTs.

If you're a veteran, the VA will guarantee part of a home loan through commercial lenders. In many cases, you don't need a down payment or private mortgage insurance, and it will help you secure a  competitive interest rate.

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.

Avoiding Home Contractor Scams

by Rebecca Shahan

It happens all too often. A homeowner pays a contractor who seems legit to do a job, then they get short-changed on the work.

Most contractors can be trusted. But as with any profession, there are definitely some who spoil the whole batch. How can you tell if your contractor is scamming you? What can you do to protect yourself?

Don't Pay For the Whole Job Up Front

Let's say your contractor asks for money up front for materials. While it's fair to pay some money to get the job going, you should beware if they ask for more than 30% up front. Some dishonest contractors may just run off on you once they get the money, or just do a sloppy job, knowing you can't fire them since they have your money.

How to protect yourself: Never prepay more than $1,000 or 10% of the job total, whichever is less. That should be enough to establish that you’re a serious customer so the contractor can work you into his schedule.  That's the only valid point of paying up front. If your contractor needs to rent equipment, they should be able to do so on credit with their suppliers, provided the contractor really is the professional they profess to be.

"Trust Me"

If your contractor agrees to do what you need exact to your specs, along with other items, make sure it's in writing. Don't just go by a verbal agreement. If you don't get it all in writing, then a dishonest contractor may just start leaving things out. And there's really nothing you can do about it legally.

How to protect yourself: There isn't much you can do legally if you signed a contract that doesn't include all the details. Make sure you get all the details in writing. And if you need to add anything, make sure you initial each addition and have the contractor initial it as well.

"I Don’t Need to Pull a Permit"

Any significant amount of construction will require a permit. This will allow building officials to visit the site on occasion to make sure the work meets code.

An unlicensed contractor may try to get around this on smaller jobs by saying that the authorities won't notice. Yet on larger jobs, it's more likely that it will be noticed. So the contractor may ask you to get a a homeowner’s permit, an option available to do-it-yourselfers.

The problem with getting your own permit is that you will not only be lying to the authorities about who's doing the work, but it also makes you responsible if something goes awry. That means that you have to answer to the inspector instead of the contractor.

How to protect yourself: Always demand that the contractor get a building permit. Yes, it informs the local tax assessor about your upgrade, but it weeds out unlicensed contractors and gives you the added protection of an independent assessment of the work.

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.  

Is a Standby Generator Right For Your Home?

by Rebecca Shahan
 
Of course, such a device isn't cheap. Units range from around $2,500 and go as high as $15,000.

Here’s a few guidelines to help you decide if a standby generator is right for your home.

When Permanent Standby Makes Sense

A standby generator is like an insurance policy. You never know when or if it will be needed. So it depends on how much you can put up with and your budget.

Also, if you rely on medical equipment or work from home, having a backup will be even more important.

Assess Your Power Needs

Generators are rates according to how much wattage they produce. The larger the unit, the higher the price.

Wattage requirements also vary with each house. You can consult with your generator supplier or an electrician who can assess how much wattage your home needs. You can also do a ballpark assessment with and online calculator.

Next you need to decide what the generator will power. You can decide a minimum amount of needed items, such as AC, refrigerator, and a few lights and outlets. Or you can go with a maximum output generator that will power everything. For example, a 3,000-square-foot house might need as much as 25kW to 30kW.

You can also go with a newer options called a “load-management system." this is a system that can power everything, just not at the same time.

Consult the Right Professionals

Usually the generator supplier will set up your unit. this is the best option, since they already are familiar with the equipment. If you've purchased the unit online, then you can fire a plumber to connect the unit to the fuel source and an electrician to hook it into your house’s power supply.

Calculate Your Costs

On average an emergency panel unit of 7kW runs $2,500 to $4,500 installed, while a mid-size 17kW unit cost $4,000 to $10,000. A large-capacity 22kW to 45kW model costs from $9,000 to $15,000.

Fuel types also affect costs. You may need to add a gas line, or install a propane tank. Diesel units come with their own tanks, but diesel fuel is more costly and needs to be treated regularly so the engine doesn't clog.

Once you’re set up, you won’t have to worry about being stuck in the dark. What’s more, a standby generator can add to your home’s value, which should make you feel doubly warm all over.

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.  

Things New Homeowners Should Do ASAP

by Rebecca Shahan

You've done it! You've found the home of your dreams, and you can do whatever you want to with it. No more landlords - you make the decisions.

Of course, you want to be a homeowner with good habits, so that you get the best return on investment for all the years you live there. And the minute you move in is the time to start.

Here's a number of items you should take care of for when you move into your home.

Security & Safety

Make sure you take care of these items right away:

  • Change locks. Spares could be floating around anywhere.
  • Hide an extra key in a lockbox. Thieves look under flower pots.
  • Reset the key codes for garage doors, gates, etc. You never know who the former owners gave the code to.
  • Test fire and carbon monoxide detectors. The former owners may have tested them, but maybe not.
  • Check the temperature on your water heater to make sure the water isn't too hot. Manufacturers tend to set them high. 120 degrees is ideal.
  • Make sure the bulbs are good in all exterior lights.
  • Put a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and each additional floor.

Maintenance Planning

Set reminders in your calendar to take care of these basic maintenance tasks:

  • Clean out the dryer hose and vent yearly. Clogged hoses can lead to fires.
  • Change your HVAC filters at least once a season.
  • Schedule HVAC maintenance for spring and fall.
  • Clean your fridge coils at least once a year. Newer refrigerators have insulated coils, so they don't need cleaning.
  • Drain your water heater once a year.
  • Clean your gutters at least twice a year.
  • And if all items on your inspection report were not addressed, make a plan to fix them — before they become bigger and more expensive repairs.

Emergency Preparedness

An emergency is not the time to figure out how to handle an emergency. Plan now.

  • Locate the main water shut-off valve. Because busted pipes happen to almost every homeowner at least once.
  • Find the circuit box and label all circuit breakers.
  • Find the gas shut-off valve if you have gas.
  • Test the sump pump if you have one. Especially before the rainy season starts.
  • List emergency contacts:
    • Your utility companies
    • Your insurance agent
    • Plumber
    • Electrician

Assemble an emergency supply kit. Some key items are:

  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Non-perishable food and water
  • Blankets and warm clothing
  • A radio, TV, or cell phone with backup batteries

Home & Mortgage Documents

Just in case there's a dispute with your lender or neighbors, and to keep in mind due dates, make sure to keep these documents handy:

  • Lender contact information
  • Property survey
  • Inspection report
  • Final closing documents
  • Insurance documents

Set mortgage and other bills to auto-pay so you’re never late.

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.  

Are Smart Home Devices For You?

by Rebecca Shahan

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 Fix Pet Damage

by Rebecca Shahan

As much as we love our furry companions, we don't love the damage they can cause to our home. Even if you take every precaution, there's always going to be some marks left behind from our pets. If you plan to sell your home in Beaufort County, or just want to keep it in top shape, there are ways to keep on top of damage that happens over time with pets. Here's a few tips that can help repair costly damage.

Wood Flooring

Hardwood floors are usually sealed with polyurethane that can be a barrier for stains, but that seal can't completely protect against urine stains or scratches.

For light scratches, you can cover those with a stain-filled marker. Deeper scratches will need to be filled with a wood filler and sanded down.

When you re-stain the damaged area, start with the lightest stain you can, let it dry, then stain again until it matches the surrounding area. For larger areas that have scratch damage, you can sand the whole area and re-stain it, making sure to match the rest of the floor.

Repairing urine damage can be more difficult, due to the discoloration and smell. For lighter stained floors, sand the area and clean it with wood bleach, then refinish the area. For darker urine stains, you may have to replace the boards if you can't scrub it out.

Walls

Wall damage can be fixed, depending on the type of wall covering. If you have wallpaper, you may not be able to fix damaged areas as easily without replacing or removing the wallpaper altogether.

If you have sheet rock or paneling damage, you can fix these more easily. Sand the damaged area to remove any debris and make the surface smooth. Fill in any holes with spackle, using several layers depending on the level of damage. Make sure you let each layer dry completely before applying a new one. You can use a hair dryer to speed up the drying. Once you have area repaired, you can then cover it with primer and paint it.

Furniture

Sometimes dogs confuse wood furniture for chew toys. To fix wood damage, start by prepping the area by using a utility knife to score it with hatch marks, scraping away any frayed edges sticking out. Then use a bit of auto-body filler to fill in the damage. Apply the filler, let it dry a bit, then slice off the excess and reshape it. Sand it smooth once it dries completely.

Then you can mix colors of acrylic paint and coat the are with 2 -3 layers, giving it a wood grain appearance. Then cover with clear coat and rub gently with steel wool to give it the right level of shine.

The Yard

Lawns can be damaged by the nitrogen in dog waste. Watering your lawn regularly will help keep urine from soaking in.

The nitrogen in your dog's waste can cause quite a bit of damage to a lawn. You can reduce that damage by regularly watering the lawn to keep urine from soaking in. Raking your lawn in the Spring to remove debris and waste can also help. Sprinkle grass seed over areas that look bad.

If you follow these simple tips, you can keep you pet damage to a minimum and keep everyone happy.

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 Keep Your Home Pest Free

by Rebecca Shahan

Pest control can be a costly endeavor. Once pests make your home their home, it can take a great deal of effort and money to get rid of them. But as they say, and ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You can save money and keep your home free of pests if you take some preventative measures.

Here's a few tips to help you repel pests and save money on pest control. The goals are to reduce the amount of pests that can feed and breed inside your home, and eliminating conditions in your home that invite them in the first place.

Plants and Mulch

Don't let pests build a bridge to your home. Keep the shrubs and branches trimmed back from the house. Try not to lay wood mulch and pine straw near the foundation as this also makes a great home for pests. Use rock or stone, which is less attractive to pests.

Doors and Windows

Cracked or warped doors and windows are vulnerable to pests. Inspect doors and window and repair anything that is warped or broken, along with fixing ripped screens. Use a screen mesh sizes of at least 200 holes per inch to keep out pests.

Cracks and Gaps

Check the foundation and other areas of the house for gaps and cracks. Check the foundation, loose siding, missing roof shingles and anywhere pests can enter. Seal and openings with copper mesh, coarse steel wool, sheet metal or mortar. Try not to use caulk, as many pests can chew through it.

Trash and Litter

Pests love trash. If your trash isn't sealed, it can be a perfect breeding ground for insects and mice. Also keep the area around trash cans clear of debris. Make sure to keep your yard and outside areas free of litter, weeds, and standing water.

Drains

Gunk and debris can accumulate in drains and make a great place pests, especially small flies, to breed. Inspect all of your drains to make sure they're clear.

Stored Foods

Make sure to seal opened food. If you can't completely close a food container or bag, such as bread, put it in a resealable bag. Dispose of old or out of date food, and make sure to use older food first. This will reduce the chance of attracting pantry pests.

Cleanliness

Keeping your home clean is not only better for your health in general, it will also reduce the attraction for pests.

It may not be possible to make a home 100% pest proof, but if you follow these tips, you can reduce the chances of having to eliminate pest problems in the future.

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.  

Home Repairs You Should Never Do Yourself

by Rebecca Shahan

Owning a home can be a pain at times. Home repairs can be expensive and at times, highly inconvenient. It might seem like a good idea to do a DIY on that annoying repair, but some fixes are better left to the pros. Here's a few examples for you to consider.

Electrical Repairs

Electrical repairs are at the top of the list. You might think calling in your relative or friend who's a "great handyman" to do the repair for you, but often that can cause more problems or dangers than it will solve. Electricians can be expensive, but that is because they've spent many years studying and training to get the job done safely for you and them.

Basement Makeover

A basement renovation might seem like a dream come true to a DIYer, but the basement is a very important part of a homes structure and mistakes, some possibly fatal, could occur. Even if it isn't fatal, it could wind up costing you far more than you bargained for.

Fun with Plumbing

Plumbing issues. Not a whole lot of fun to deal with one every day, leaving you tempted to take care of it yourself. You might think too, that plumbing, along with simple electrical repairs will be a walk in the park, but a fix done wrong can cause serious damage. To your home and wallet. So try calling a plumber. Why else are there at least a dozen in every town?

Gas Appliances

When it comes to gas appliances it could literally be an explosive situation if an appliance is not fixed and reconnected correctly during a repair. Similar to electrical repairs, if not done right, you could cause a leak, which could create major health problems and even a fire or explosion in your home or worse. So when it come to your gas appliances, don't DIY. Call a professional.

When it comes to health, safety and caring for your home, erring on the side of caution is always the best option.

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.  

Prepare Your Garden For Winter

by Rebecca Shahan

When it comes to keeping your house looking good, your garden is an important factor, and fall can be a particularly messy season. There are many things to consider when preparing your garden for fall. Here are a few tips to get things started.
 
 Removing Dead Plants
 
 Start with removing plants that are infested with bugs and disease. You don't want these problems festering over the winter. It is not recommended to dump these plants into the compost pile. If you're able, burn them, or bag them for trash.
 
 Trim Your Perennials
 
 When trimming your perennials, try not to cut them down further than 4-6 inches. As well, don't cut them before the first frost, and the plant is dead for the season, so that the energy stored up in the stalks can flow back down to the main root system, where is stays until the spring.
 
 Leave the Pretty Plants
 
 If you don't want your garden to look barren during the winter, leave plants that look pretty and will stay stable through the winter as they are. They could also prove to be important to next years critters such as butterfly eggs and early bird nests. 

Remove Messy Leaves

 
 Not only will your yard and garden look better without a layer of leaves, but it will also help keep your plants healthier and safe from rotting and harboring bugs and disease. Make sure to remove all the weeds too, before the ground gets to hard to work with.

Putting Down Compost Cover
 
 Keeping your ground healthy with a layer of compost is one way to ensure your plants are a happy and that your garden stays looking great. Putting down a layer of compost up to 6 inches will help the ground replenish necessary nutrients. a good choice for compost is composted manure or something with a balance of green and brown matter.
 

With these tips in mind enjoy your time in the garden!

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 Avoid Damage During Moving Day

by Rebecca Shahan

Most people imagine moving day with plenty of furniture disasters. They probably imagine damage to a piece of furniture that is special.

As unpleasant as that sounds, the damage could be much worse! When moving, you can inflict damage to your furniture – not to mention the walls and doorways of your new home – if you or the movers aren’t careful. But don’t worry – we have some helpful suggestions! Read on for the best ways to avoid damage to both your furniture and your new home during your move.

Protecting Your Furniture

Wrap your furniture in moving blankets, which will prevent nicks and scratches to your furniture (and walls) during your move. Better yet, you can easily stack furniture (like chairs) that are wrapped in blankets on top of one another without worrying about the furniture getting scratched.

You can use sofa covers to protect your furniture, which are fitted exactly to the size of the piece of furniture. Sofa covers, however, do tend to be more expensive than moving blankets.

Dissemble whatever pieces of furniture that you can, and make sure to keep track of the pieces that are needed to put it back together. Smaller items will be easier to move and least likely to scratch walls or door frames.

Flooring

Carpet film protector – think of it like clear plastic sheeting – is one of your best bet if you want to protect your flooring during a move. Carpet film protector, however, is not cheap, so be sure to check out a few more budget-friendly tips below.

Keep it cheap, and place carpet runners, throw sheets, large pieces of flattened cardboard paper or flattened cardboard boxes along your floor. It’ll make protecting your flooring so much easier!

Place felt pads on the bottom of chairs, sofas, and table legs. This way, you’ll still be able to move your furniture around without any of the heavy lifting.

Pro-tip: If it’s raining on moving day, make sure to not pack up your welcome mat! That way, your movers can wipe off their shoes before entering your home (and not dirty up the carpet in the process).

Walls

Certain corners in your home will most likely receive higher traffic than others – install corner guards to prevent furniture from getting caught on the corners.

Cover the walls with drop cloths to prevent scratches, holes, or dings from other pieces of furniture. You can even stick flattened cardboard to the wall and attach the cardboard with painter’s tape (which won’t peel the paint off the walls).

Door Frames

Best rule to follow: Measure twice, move once! Measure the piece of furniture beforehand to make sure that the doorway is wide enough to fit the piece of furniture that's being moved. Believe us, you’ll prevent a lot of nicks, scrape,  and scratches in the process.

Banisters and Railings

Banisters and railings are commonly in high-traffic areas and are very likely to get bumped or dinged. To help avoid damage, wrap the entire banister in bubble wrap, or even attach flattened cardboard to the top of the banister.

So, there you have it! With a a little bit of extra effort, your move should go more smoothly – and with minimal damage to your furniture and your new 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.  

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 20