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How to Get Stains & Grease Off Walls

by Rebecca Shahan

You're getting ready to sell your home in Austin, and now you need to paint the walls and freshen up the place. But upon close inspection, you see all that grime and grease that's too tough to clean with a standard vinegar wash.

What are some ways to get rid of those grease stains, watermarks, and kids’ crayon and ink wall art?

Kitchen Grease on Walls

Kitchens are notorious for grease stains. It's almost impossible to keep grease of  the walls and cabinets. And of course, grease invites more dirt.

The solution is sitting right on your sink - dish soap.

For small stains, mix: 1/4 teaspoon of soap in a cup of warm water, and wipe. Rinse with clean water, and blot until dry. Clean stubborn grease stains with solution of 1/3 cup of white household vinegar with 2/3 cup of water.

Dirt and Grime Buildup

We don't need anything other than our own bodies to get oil on everything. We have it coming out of our finders all the time, and it builds up.

A wall eraser easily wipes away these stains. Wet the sponge and rub gently to avoid taking bits of paint off with the stain.

Or make your own homemade wall cleaning sponge:

  • 1 cup ammonia,
  • 1/2 cup white distilled or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • one gallon of warm water.

Wipe the solution over walls with a sponge (or cloth), and rinse with water.

Crayons

Here's another use for a wall eraser. But if that doesn't work, try this:

  • Rub marks with toothpaste (not gel).
  • Erase marks with an art gum or a pencil eraser; use a circular motion.
  • Swipe marks with baby wipes.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and scrub marks.

Permanent Marker

The word "permanent" certainly applies to markers. But you can still get rid of most of these marks.

Soak a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and dab the stain. Or spray marks with hairspray, then wipe drips.

Ink

An interesting way to get rid of ballpoint ink is with shaving cream. But you can also use nail polish remover, or dry-cleaning solvents. Make sure you open windows when using cleaning solvents and polish remover.

Mildew

Mildew is a fungus that eats soap scum and body oil. To remove from walls, spray with vinegar water: 1 tablespoon white vinegar to 1 quart water. Also, try an enzyme laundry detergent; follow the pre-treating directions on the label. Blot it on the stain, and then rinse thoroughly with water.

Water Stains

After you’ve solved the problem that caused the water stains, rinse with a solution of 1 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water to prevent mold and mildew from growing. Thoroughly dry with a hairdryer or fans. If bleaching doesn’t remove water stains, you’ll have to repaint. Prime the walls with a stain-killing primer.

Find the home of your dreams in Lake Travis and Austin with our home search tool. Make sure to visit our blog every week for more helpful real estate articles and Lake Travis news and activities.

Projects That Will Make Your Austin Backyard Staycation-Worthy

by Rebecca Shahan

Mow the grass, weed the garden, seal the deck, rake debris. You may spend plenty of time in your backyard in Lake Travis and Austin, but if it's all work and no fun, you may not be feeling the love for your home you once did.

Time for a second honeymoon with these ideas that'll turn your labor-loving yard into a leisure-loving one. Some will even enhance your home's value. Others, at least, won't ding it. (You definitely don't want to do that.)

Let the backyard staycations begin with these ideas:

Al-Fresco Dining

Ample, built-in seating and wood-fired pizza on-demand. And while wood-fired ovens are famous for pizza, this isn't a one-note investment: You can serve 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.

Pluck some veggies from some chic, metal raised beds (easy to maintain), prep them in an outdoor cooking island with a built-in grill (and green roof, which keeps it cooler underneath), 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 (rooms, really) almost always do. As do low-maintenance hardscaping features — like the patio. Raised steel garden beds, not so much, though.

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).

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. 

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. 

3 Solutions to Handle Outdoor Clutter

by Rebecca Shahan

It can be so easy to just toss any outdoor item in the garage and call it good.

But it may be time to think outside the garage. Here's some ways that you can reduce the clutter in your garage. It will help simplify your life, as well as help you sell your home for more.

Tuck Storage Under Your Deck

If you have a higher deck, you can use the space underneath for outdoor tools and equipment. You can also enclose it if it's not already enclosed and add doors to keep things out of view. It's a great way to get rid of garage clutter.

The thing to keep in mind is that this will protect your stuff from the sun, but not moisture. Make sure your items can handle a little moisture.

For a lower deck, you can use storage drawers instead.

This is a great way to store outdoor fun items such as pool equipment, yard games, and coolers, making it easy to grab what you need for summer fun.

Build a Fence With Built-Ins

A fence with built-ins is just like having an indoor wall with built-ins. And when you do this with a fence, you get more privacy, security, and storage - a 3-in one deal.

Add a Purpose-Built Shed

Think about what you need the most with outdoor storage, then build a shed to fir your purpose. A pre-fab shed may not be the best solution, and it could become another place where clutter builds up.

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. 

Attic & Basement Storage Ideas to Gain More Space

by Rebecca Shahan

Are you looking for more storage? Your basement or attic may be the ideal locations to create storage space. And more than just gaining space, you'll give your home more selling value.

Here's a a few ways you can get more storage in your home and free up space.

Conceal the Mess With Built-Ins

Built-in shelving is a great way to add more storage, and can be a DIY project. And if you don't feel like making them yourself, having a carpenter do it shouldn't break the bank.

Cover With a Curtain

If you don't have the time or money for built-ins, then you can use tubs or plastic containers. You can then keep them out of site by dividing a basement room in two with a curtain, giving a finished basement a dual purpose. It's also money-smart, because you'll get those finished-basement benefits without the wall-to-wall costs.

The key? Visual separation between the two. Science says clutter makes us anxious, so this basement storage idea suggests hiding the mess with a curtain. Choose a heavy curtain to keep out the basement chill.

Take Advantage of Rafter Space

Most people don't think about the rafters, but they can make for a smart storage solution. You can store lesser-used seasonal items on wall-to-wall shelves in the rafters. This will give you even more space for items you use more often.

Go Modular Beneath the Stairs

That behind-the-stairs space can be tricky to fill: nothing quite fits right. But this ingenious modular basement under stair storage idea fits any sloped space, no matter the size. Use wooden crates or build your own stacking boxes to fit all your storage needs.

Paint the back of the boxes to add color and interest, or to clarify whose stuff goes where. Bonus: If your kid knows the red-painted boxes are theirs, they'll be less likely to scatter stuff everywhere.

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.

Understanding Real Estate Representation

by Rebecca Shahan

You have choices when selecting representation in a real estate transaction. Here are five tips for understanding which type of legal relationship with a real estate professional, called an agency relationship, will best protect you when you buy or sell a home.

Buyer’s Agency

When you’re buying a home, you can hire an agent who represents only you, called an exclusive buyer’s representative or agent. A buyer's agent works in your best interest and owes you a fiduciary duty. You can pay your buyer’s agent yourself, or ask the seller, or the seller’s agent, to pay your agent a share of their sales commission.

If you’re selling your home and hiring an agent to list it exclusively, you’ve hired a selling representative - an agent who owes fiduciary duties to you. Typically, you pay a selling agent a commission at closing. Selling agents usually offer or agree to pay a portion of their sales commission to the buyer’s agent. If your seller’s agent brings in a buyer, your agent keeps the entire commission.

Disclosed Dual Agency

Agents and companies can represent both parties in a home sale as long as that relationship is fully disclosed. It’s called disclosed dual agency. Because dual agents represent both parties, they can’t be protective of and loyal to only you. Dual agents don’t owe all the traditional fiduciary duties to clients. Instead, they owe limited fiduciary duties to each party.

Why would you agree to dual agency? Suppose you want to buy a house that’s listed for sale by the same real estate brokerage where your buyer’s agent works. In that case, the real estate brokerage would be representing both you and the seller and you’d both have to agree to that.

Because there’s a potential for conflicts of interest with dual agency, all parties must give their informed consent. In many states, that consent must be in writing.

Designated Agency

A form of disclosed dual agency, “designated agency” allows two different agents within a single firm to represent the buyer and seller in the same transaction. To avoid conflicts that can arise with dual agency, some managing brokers designate or appoint agents in their company to represent only sellers, or only buyers. But that isn't required for designated agency. A designated, or appointed, agent will give you full representation and represent your best interests.

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.

Hiring the right real estate agent makes all the difference in a successful real estate transaction in Lake Travis and Austin.

You also need to understand who's side an agent is on when you buy or sell a home and move towards closing.

There are a number of ways agents may represent clients.

By knowing where your agent’s loyalties lie, you’ll know what you can tell her and what you can’t. If, for example, you’re dealing with an agent who doesn’t represent you but is representing the sellers of a home you want to buy, you won’t want to tell her how high you’re willing to go on the price.

No matter what form of representation you agree to, or where you live, watch out for your own interests and understand the six ways brokers and agents represent clients below.

Buyer’s Agency

Do you want the agent to represent you and only you when you buy a home so that all the information you share with her is confidential? Opt for an exclusive buyer’s agent.

Who pays the buyer’s agent? Surprisingly, even if you hire a buyer’s agent, you can still ask the sellers to pay his fee. You can pay your buyer’s agent yourself, or ask the seller (or the seller’s agent) to pay your agent a share of their sales commission.

Seller’s or Listing Agency

An exclusive seller’s agent represents only the sellers, not the buyers. If your exclusive seller’s agent finds a buyer for your home, he may have another agent - maybe even a co-worker from the same brokerage - represent the buyer in your transaction. In some cases the buyer may have no agent at all. Your exclusive seller’s agent is loyal only to you, so it’s OK to discuss strategy with him.

Who pays the seller’s agent? The seller pays a commission to the seller’s agent from the proceeds of the sale. The seller’s agent may, and often does, share the commission with the homebuyer’s agent.

Dual Agency

In many states, agents can represent both the buyer and seller. These dual agents seek to bring both sides together. They can’t do something that’s only good for you and not for the other side.

A dual agent situation often arises when one agent represents the buyers and the sellers of the same home. The agent must disclose the relationship and, in many states, you must agree in writing to such dual representation because of the potential for conflicts of interest. While dual agents have an obligation not to share any confidential information of a client without their permission, be sure to inform the agent that the information is confidential and know that any non-confidential information may be shared with the people on the other side of the transaction.

Who pays the dual agent? Usually the seller pays the commission.

Designated or Appointed Agency

What happens when the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent both work for the same broker?

To make sure both sides of the home sale are treated fairly in this situation, some brokers designate an agent in their company to represent only the buyers and another to represent only the sellers. A designated agent or appointed agent will be loyal to you and only you. The strategy helps avoid a dual agency situation.

Who pays the designated agents? The sellers pay the commission and the designated agents share it.

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.

Fire Pit or Money Pit? Ways to Avoid Overspending

by Rebecca Shahan

Indoor evenings on the couch are so last season. Relaxing around a fire and under the Austin night sky is the place for a perfect night. But a built-in fire pit can cost as much as $4,500 installed. That’s a pricey upgrade.

With these money-saving tips, you can build a fire pit for your home for less than a grand, and still have a fabulous one:

Choose Wood Instead of Gas

Gas fire pits are more expensive because you’ll have to hire a plumber to run the gas line and an electrician to power the pit.

A wood fire pit has none of that cost, which will run at least several hundred dollars. Besides, who doesn’t love the smokey ambiance of a wood fire?

If You Want Gas, Put It Close to Your House

OK, not everyone loves an ashy, smoky fire pit. If you do want the simplicity of gas, you can get it most cheaply by keeping that gas line as short as possible.

The farther from your house that plumber has to run the gas line, the longer he’ll be there. And the longer he’s there, the more it will cost. And remember the electrician you’re going to pay to run wires to power the automatic starter? Same thing.

Skip the Built-In Seating

Those stone benches in a semicircle around a flaming fire pit look like money. That’s because they’re made of it.

Built-in benches that will seat six people with a comfortable amount of personal space can cost as much — or more — as the fire pit itself.

Six resin Adirondack chairs can cost as little as $120. Plus, chairs are easier on your butt as well as your wallet.

Don't Do Custom Anything

You can have a fire pit designed just for you. But unless you’re a trust-funder or just like spending money like one, stick with a contractor’s standard build. Most offer prefab, modular units that cost at least half as much as a custom build.

Go With a Paver Patio

Flagstone gives you the natural beauty of real stone, but it costs $15 to $20 per square foot. Unless you’re making a one-person pit, that will add up. A paver patio looks manufactured, but it costs $6 to $10 per square foot.

Choose a Decomposed Granite Patio (It's the Cheapest!) It looks like sand. It isn’t fancy. But it’s cheap. A pro can lay this stuff for as little as $2 a square foot.

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.

New or Redo Your Kitchen Cabinets: Options and Costs

by Rebecca Shahan

If you plan to sell your home, you may be considering home improvement projects that can increase the value of your home. Your kitchen is a great place to start.

Refacing kitchen cabinets can make a huge difference in the appeal of your kitchen. Refacing your kitchen cabinets includes covering the exposed frames with a thin veneer of real wood or plastic laminate.

Doors and drawer fronts are replaced to match or complement the new veneer. New hinges, knobs, pulls, and molding complete the transformation.

What are Your Refacing Options?

The options are limitless when it comes to the finished look of your cabinets. You can buy veneers in a wide range of colors, patterns, textures, grains, and more, which you can mix or match to get a relatively low-cost kitchen facelift.

  • Rigid thermofoil (RTF) doors, which feature a durable plastic coating over fiberboard, are an affordable alternative to wood or laminate doors.
  • Plastic laminates come in hundreds of colors and patterns, are durable and moisture-resistant, and are reasonably priced. You can pick matching or contrasting laminates for your doors and drawer fronts.
  • Real wood veneers include many standard species, such as oak, cherry, and maple, and you also can choose from an array of stain colors. Wood veneers are the most expensive option. Wood must be carefully sealed to protect against moisture.

You can further customize and update the look of your cabinets with new kitchen cabinet hardware.

What Does Refacing Cost?

A professional cabinet refacing for a typical 10-foot-by-12-foot kitchen starts at around $1,000 to $3,000 for laminate. Expect to pay $2,500 to $6,000 for real wood veneer. Costs can rise to $7,000 to $9,000 or more for a large project with high-quality wood veneer.

Finishing the project with new hardware (pulls, knobs, hinges) runs $2 to $4 per piece, up to $20 to $50 each for high-end hardware.

In comparison, completely replacing old kitchen cabinets with new cabinets starts at $4,000 to $5,000 and up for stock cabinets; $8,000 to $10,000 for semi-custom cabinets; $16,000 to $20,000 and up for custom-made cabinetry.

How Do I Know If My Cabinets are Good For Refacing?

If your existing cabinet boxes are sound and in good shape, then they should be able to refaced. But if they have water damage, are warped, or have broken frames, refacing is not a good idea.

How are They Installed?

A professional installer will measure your cabinets to see how much veneer is required and how much hardware is needed.

When all the materials are in hand, your installer will remove the old cabinet door and drawer fronts, and prepare the surface of the cabinet boxes by washing the exteriors with a degreaser and lightly sanding the finish. Any significant flaws in the surface should be repaired or filled to ensure a smooth, secure fit for the new veneer.

The installer will apply the veneer to the cabinet faces and any exposed cabinet ends, then mount the new doors, drawer fronts, and hardware. The process typically takes two to four days.

Can I Do Kitchen Cabinet Refacing Myself?

Detailed instructions and adhesive-backed veneers make cabinet refacing a feasible do-it-yourself project.

If you have extra time, patience, the necessary veneering tools, and a knack for precision, you can save money by tackling kitchen cabinet refacing on your own.

If you opt to do your own kitchen cabinet refacing, you’ll spend about $200 to $500 on average for materials. Specialized tools (rollers, blades, irons) add $5 to $60 to the cost.

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 51

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