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Making Your Home Smart is Easy

by Rebecca Shahan

If you plan on selling your older home, no doubt you want to find easy ways to bring it up to date. One easy way to do that is with smart home devices.  Most of them are easy to install and relatively inexpensive. Today's smart home technology adds convenient features and security to any home, without the need for extensive modifications.

As shown in the infographic, there are plenty of ways to make your home smarter. Some ways are easier and more affordable than others, but all of them make life safer and more convenient. And this is what buyers are looking for more than ever in a home. Smart technology adds value to your home, just like cosmetic upgrades. And the good news is that these upgrades are easy and inexpensive.

Even if you don't plan to sell your home soon, adding smart technology is still a great idea. Here's a few smart ways to update your home.

Smart Thermostats

Those old dial thermostats can really detract from the feeling that a home is up to date. If you still have those old thermostats, updating them to smart thermostats is a great investment. Smart thermostats show the buyer that you're interested in the functionality of your air conditioning. 

Smart thermostats also include energy saving features that can save on energy bills, which is a great selling point. Being able to control them with a smart phone is also becoming a desired feature. And for those concerned about the environment, smart thermostats help HVAC efficiency.

Smart Lighting

Smart lighting is probably the easiest smart devices to install. If you can screw in a light bulb, you've got this. And they make a huge difference to the feel of your rooms. Smart bulbs have almost limitless combinations of colors and brightness, allowing you to change the environment in an instant. 

This is also handy for showings. Each room can have a tailored lighting scheme that matches the use of the room, making it even more enticing to buyers. And you can use mart lighting in porch lights that are set to turn on at specific times.

Security Systems

Smart home security has made securing your home more affordable and convenient. Installing smart home security devices is much easier than old security systems, especially with WI-FI cameras and battery powered devices.

If you don't feel like installing your own sensors or cameras, some cable companies such as Comcast offer smart security packages along with professional installation. These systems offer the option of multiple cameras and 24/7 recording, all controlled from your smart device or on their website. Adding cameras, either with a service or simply tied to your smart device, can add convenience as well as security, as you can monitor areas of your home, including the front door.

You don't have to break the bank to make your home a smart home. If you do plan to sell your home, it can be worth the investment.  If you don't plan to sell your home, it can make your life more convenient and safe.  Either way, smarter is better.

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.  

Check Out This Creative Way to Save For a Down Payment

by Rebecca Shahan

Many first time buyers struggle with saving enough for a down payment. But one creative way to save that money is gaining traction - crowd sourcing. It's a great way to let friends and relatives help you buy your first home.

Here's how it works. When a young couple gets married, they ask their wedding guests to contribute to their “Down Payment Fund" instead of buying them traditional gifts.  Many new couples already live together and have what they need to furnish a home. So now they just need the home.

Think about it.  Most weddings average about 120 guests in attendance who buy a gift. If the average gift is $186, the newlywed couple would now have over $22,000 to use for a down payment! Of course this is just an example.  The figures could vary greatly.  But it would still go long way to help with a down payment. Plus the givers know that the money is going toward a worthy cause.

And as you've probably already guessed, there are services set up right now to facilitate this new trend, such as HomeFundMe. These services will allow anyone in the fundraiser's circle to contribute. The ones contributing can even decide if the gift will be ‘conditional’ or ‘non-conditional’ on the beneficiary buying a home.

A recent Wall Street Journal article reports, “about 400 borrowers have used HomeFundMe to help buy homes since the program launched in October and on average, they raise about $2,500.” According to the article, these funds are used by the borrower along with their own savings to help them reach the down payment.

In addition, more programs are available to first-time buyers that lets people put down as little as 3%, such as with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan programs. Also, FHA programs require as little as 3.5%, and VA Loans are often approved with 0% down!

The days of paying 20% down for a new home are a thing of the past. So it's time to get creative if you need help saving for your down payment.

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 Fun Continues In Austin This September

by Rebecca Shahan

Summer may be coming to a close in Austin, but that doesn't mean the fun has to end. There's plenty of good times in store in Austin during September (and the tail end of August).  Let's see what fun we have in store for the coming month.

8/25/18
Quesoff
The Mohawk

Celebrate all things melted cheese as the annual Quesoff returns to the Mohawk. You can indulge in melted cheese from 30 vendors that include restaurants, top chefs, home-cooks, and neighbors competing in 4 categories - Meaty, Spicy, Veggie and Wild Card. $5 admission includes a bag of chips to taste the best melted cheese in Austin.

8/26/18
Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival 
Fiesta Gardens

Eat the heat to beat the heat! The Austin Chronicle hosts one of the largest hot sauce festivals in the world. Feel the heat!

9/7/18 - 9/9/18
Waterloo Music Festival
Carson Creek Ranch

Celebrate the roots of Austin's music culture with this independent music festival. You'll enjoy three days of nationally known jam bands along with the finest music acts in Austin.

9/20/18 - 9/27/18
Fantastic Fest 
Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas 

Horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and action fans unite for the largest genre film festival in the nation. Or just come if you love a great movie!

9/22/18 - 9/23/18
Fall Pecan Street Festival 
Sixth Street Austin 

Come to Sixth Street in Austin to enjoy arts and crafts from over 300 artisan vendors from all over the world. Admission is free!

9/29/18
Texas Craft Brewers Festival 
Fiesta Gardens

Craft beer lovers come together for this annual event featuring the best Texas craft beer. This is the largest beer festival for and by Texas Brewers. 

9/29/18
Austin Oktoberfest
Scholz Garten

Celebrate the 6th annual Austin Oktoberfest at Scholz Garten with the oldest continuously operating tavern in the state, the Austin Saengerrunde.  Come enjoy beer, sausage, live music and bowling as you celebrate German heritage in Texas.

There's plenty of great things to do in Austin and Lake Travis. Check back on our blog for more reasons to buy your next home in Lake Travis and Austin. 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.​

Get Ready For Your Next Move

by Rebecca Shahan

Congratulations on buying your new home! It;s time to get moving. Now what?

It's OK to feel overwhelmed. Most people do. So where do you begin?

This is a big change in your life. It's a chance to start new and live in a home that reflects who you are now. Now you can clear your life of the things that no longer matter. Plus, clearing out things you don't need makes packing much easier.

So how do you go about cleansing your life of the unnecessary things?

Go Big

One way to sort things out is to use bright sticky notes and color code the the largest items in your home. Go room by room and place the sticky notes according to a color scheme like this one:

  • Hot Pink: Donate or sell immediately
  • Neon Green: Keeping it
  • Bright Yellow: Maybe keep it. Consider offering it to family members, donating, or selling.

The Pink Items Have to Go

Take photos of these items and sell them on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.  the move them to the garage or a room to get them out of the way.

You can also arrange with a charity to have them picked up. And if you can't move them or you can't find a charity to pick them up, put them up for free on Craigslist or Facebook. They will go fast this way.

Where to Put the Green Items

Make sure the items you want to keep fit in the new home. You can create a floorplan on grid paper, or use an app or program. Then measure the items and place them on the plan for their intended rooms to find the best arrangement. Then if it doesn't fit on the plan, you can do away with it.  Plus, you'll be able to know exactly where the furniture needs to be moved to in the new home, saving time and effort.

Yellow Items

Once you've dealt with the pink and green items, you can decide on the yellow items.  Use your floorplan and see where or if they fit in the new home. Don't crowd them in. Open spaces actually create a feeling of luxury.

Smaller Items

The smaller things come next. Go room by room, one room at a time. It's best to start with the things you love and want to keep. The you have the items left over that you can sell or donate.

Make sure to do all of this as far in advance of your move as possible. There's no time to waste. This is a great time to simplify and make way for the next chapter in your life.

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.  

DIY Projects Your Dogs Will Love

by Rebecca Shahan

Are you looking for creative ways to make your furry friends more comfortable, as well as make your home more appealing? This can be a bit of a challenge, but with these clever DIY projects, you can do it. Plus you don;t have to spend a ton of money to make them. Check out these fun DIY projects.

The Kitchen

1. If you enjoy having your dogs eat in the kitchen with the family, then this custom eating station is an ideal kitchen feature. You can find instructions to make your own.

Built-In-Dog-Bowls

2. Dog crates can take up space, especially with large dogs.  Here's a great way to make cabinet space for you, and a space for your dog crates. Click here to see how to make your own.

Custom-Cabinets

The Mudroom

3. Here's a great way to make a safe and relaxing place for Fido. This "dog cave" is the perfect hideout for your dogs to plan their next adventure.  You can make one like this by Titus Built.

Custom-Built-In-Dog-Bed

4. Tired of dog bowls being kicked around or moved, or just getting in the way? You can make a csutom eating station to keep their bowls together and off the floor, as well as store food. You can build one like this one found on HGTV.com.

Pet-Feeding-Station

5. If you love to re-purpose old furniture, this project is perfect. You can convert an old dresser into this creative eating station, designed for those who have both cats and dogs. The dogs can get to their food, but they can't reach the cat food at the top. The DIY project to make one is here.

DIY-Pet-Feeding-Station

The Laundry Room

6. Taking your dog to get cleaned can be such a chore. Why not build your own dog washing station? When you're done, you can just throw the towels in the wash. Here's a DIY by A Concord Carpenter on how you can build your own dog washing station.

Dog-Wash-Station

7. Ditch that ugly dog food bag and make a nice drawer container. Follow these steps to make your own pull out drawer storage bin.

Dog-Food-Cabinet-Storage

 

Join us every week for more real estate tips and great reasons to buy your next home in 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.  

Real Estate Myths Revealed

by Rebecca Shahan

Real Estate Myths RevealedReal estate is one of those professions where many people think they know all that's involved. Millions of people have bought or sold a home in their lifetime, and this may make them feel as if they're an expert. But no matter how much you know, times change, and so do the rules and the way things work in the industry. This can lead to inaccurate information being spread about how the real estate industry works.

What are some of the most common real estate myths?

Real Estate Agents are Paid a Salary

Many people don't know that all the money a real estate agent makes is based on the sale of a home.  There's no underlying salary being paid to them, except in rare cases.  People assume that since agents have the money to look nice and host events that they have a steady income.

The case is that agents pay for all of these things out of their own pocket. They will make about the same amount on the sale of a house no matter how much they spend on marketing and so forth. They may spend their time going through hundreds of messages and emails, doing research and giving advice, making many trips to the property for showings, and so on.

Of course, this is all part of being a real estate agent.  The more time and effort an agent puts into helping clients, the more chance they have of selling a home.  But they only make that money IF the home sells.

A Home Can Pass or Fail Inspection

A home inspection is meant to ascertain the condition of a home. It's not some test that you pass or fail. The inspection reveals if there are problems that need to be addressed when the home is purchased, along with a summary of the age of key systems.

Zillow and Trulia Know Everything

Zillow and Trulia certainly have their place in looking for a new home. These websites are useful for getting a good idea of the lay of the home and neighborhood.  But they don't know everything.  That's why talking to a local agent is important.

For example, a Zillow Zestimate does not give the exat value of your home, just an estimate. In fact, even the CEO of Zillow, Spencer Rascoff, sold his home for 40 percent less than the Zestimate showed in 2016.

It's Better to Price High

Overpricing does not help you get the price you want. Sellers want to protect their asking price, so they try to price it higher thinking that it will protect them from selling too low.

What really happens is that the home doesn't sell at all, or takes much longer to sell. You end up chasing away prospective buyers, as they may not even want to look at the house at all. Remember that many people look for homes using a maximum price range on the internet, so your home may not show up in their search at all if you price it too high.

Of course there's many other myths about real estate that can be clarified. Join us every week to learn more about how the real estate industry works. 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 Pros and Cons of Using a Storage Unit When Moving

by Rebecca Shahan

Let's face it, moving is never easy. Not only do you have to move, but make the home ready for showing. But you can make the process go more smoothly with careful planning.  Part of that planning is to decide if using storage can help. This is something many people do to help with this process. But is using a storage unit always the solution?

There's no better time to clean out your clutter when you move. You can dispense of your items in a variety of ways - selling, donating, disposing, or recycling. But doing this takes time.

Do you have enough time to go through everything?  Sometimes you just need to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Here's a few things to consider when moving to help you decide if storage is the right choice for you.

Advantages of Using Storage

  1. Pack up all the things you don't need now.
  2. Staging your home will be more easy.
  3. Will give your home more room.
  4. Keep personal items out of sight.
  5. Out of sight, out of mind.
  6. You can take care of sorting items later after you move.
  7. You can decide what furniture works best in your new home after you move.

Disadvantages of Using Storage

  1. Another expense. If you miss a payment, you can lose all of your items.
  2. More work handling everything twice.
  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

Potable storage is a great alternative that offers convenient benefits. PODS is the first and best known portable storage company., but other companies have caught on.

The main advantage of portable storage units is the ability to keep them at your house and pack them as you go.  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.

Another great 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.

Yes, moving is a tough process. But with careful planning and good use of storage, you can make the process go more smoothly.

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.  

Will Your Next Home Be Printed?

by Rebecca Shahan

It's getting to the point these days where you can print just about anything on a 3D printer.  So it was really only a matter of time before the day came when you can print a home. That day is now. In France, the first livable 4 bed 1,022 sq ft home was built for about $230,000. This was 20% cheaper than building a similar home with conventional materials and methods.

In the Netherlands, the Eindhoven University of Technology has had plans for the last 5 years to build a whole 3D printed home community that would be rented. The homes will consist of single story bungalows and multi-level homes. The first homes will be printed in 2019.

Since other countries have already used and proven this construction technique, it is definitely on it's way to the US. 3D homes could really have a big impact for the better on the real estate industry.

What's even more appealing about this new technology is the amazing speed at which homes can be built. They say Rome wasn't built in a day. But that's because they didn't have 3D printed homes. A construction company in the US called Sunconomy partnered with a Russian 3D printer company in 2016 to build homes in just a day.  And right here in Austin, a startup called ICON builds 800 sq ft homes in only 24 hours for only $4000! Compare this to the average of 6 months to build a traditional home.

3D printed homes have the obvious benefit of being more affordable to construct. And as the technology becomes more popular, the cost of using 3D construction printers will continue to fall. When you compare 3D printing with the costs of material and labor for building a traditional home, the affordability becomes even more apparent.

There's no better time for this new technology than now. To build homes more quickly and affordably could be just the solution the real estate industry is seeking. This is especially true in areas that are facing housing shortages.  ICON is already looking to partner with Fannie Mae and FEMA to print homes for low income families and to ease the housing crisis.

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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