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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!

Have a Fun Labor Day Weekend in Austin

by Rebecca Shahan

Labor Day is just around the corner, and so is all the fun that comes with the holiday. If you live in or near Austin and Lake Travis, there's plenty of ways to bring in the unofficial end of summer. Here's a few events coming up this Labor Day weekend to put on your calendar.

Out Of Bounds Comedy Festival
8/27/19 - 9/2/19
Multiple Venues

The Out of Bounds Comedy Festival is a seven day live performance independent festival that showcases improv, sketch, stand-up and other acts leading up to Labor Day weekend. Check out some of the different shows at theaters across the city. This year’s festival hosts more than 500 performers in 180 shows.

Barracuda
8/31/19
PennyFest 2019

Don't miss this annual party at Barracuda celebrating the local music scene, featuring live music from local bands like Magna Carda, Ringo Deathstarr, TC Superstar and more.

ABGB's Sixth Anniversary Party
9/1/19
Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co.

Celebrate ABGB’s sixth anniversary on Sunday. Grab your fill of pizza and beer, listen to some local live music and get a slice of the birthday cake. This year, The Derailers and The Nightowls are performing, so kick back, relax and enjoy the show.

Cafe Josie
9/1/19
Labor Day Lawn Party

Close out the summer at Cafe Josie's family-friendly lawn party, featuring live music along with food and beverage specials.

Free First Sunday at the Bullock
9/1/19
Bullock Texas State History Museum

Enjoy free admission at the Bullock Museum all day during H-E-B Free First Sundays. Step into the world of nineteenth- and twentieth-century suffragists in Sister Suffragettes, celebrating the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment. Or, discover more than 150 years of western and science fiction history in Cowboys in Space and Fantastic Worlds, a journey through the history of westerns in science fiction.
 

Have a Happy Labor Day Weekend!

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!

Round Out Summer in Austin WIth These Top Attractions

by Rebecca Shahan

Looking for some more great ways to spend time with your family before summer ends? Austin is full of so many great things to do, it can be hard to pin down that perfect day out on the town. So here's a few ideas for some of the best ways to spend the day with your family in Austin.

Congress Bridge Bats

If you love bats, then this is the place to see them. The Congress Bridge is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America at an estimated 1.5 million bats.  Hot August nights bring them out into multiple columns, so now is the perfect time to view them. It's even more stunning to view them from a boat as they contrast against the evening sky. Or you can get even closer and watch them from the bridge.

Austin Duck Adventures

This is the only land and water tour in Austin, and it will give you great views of the Texas Capitol and then on to Lake Austin where you drive straight into the water and float around before heading back. 

The Escape Game

How good are you at breaking out of prison? Test your escape skills at the top escape room in Austin.Work together with your friends to complete the mission and escape from 5 different adventures - The Heist, Gold Rush, Playground, Classified, and Prison Break.

Austin Detours

This is a great way to explore your new city if you just bought a home here. This tour gives you the scoop on living life in Austin as a local. You'll also enjoy the Live Music Crawl that shows you why Austin earned the reputation as the "Live Music Capital of the World."

Austin Wine Tours

Visit select top vineyards for a great afternoon with friends as you discover why Austin wines are some of the best in the country.

Visit our blog every week for more things to do in Lake Travis and Austin. 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.

Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9

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