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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. 

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.

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.

Austin Home Remodeling Projects With Top-Dollar Returns

by Rebecca Shahan

Not every home improvement project brings the same return on the dollar. Certain improvements will yield a larger return when you sell your home.

Your home may be in the perfect location, with the right price and a perfect lot. But what about the house itself? Maybe not quite as perfect?

So where do you start in your improvement endeavors? How about with data? Data is that friend who tells you like it really is.

The “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS® has tons of data on how much improvements cost — and how much of those costs you can recoup.

Here are the best five home remodeling projects with equity-building might:

New Roof

If you find yourself sprinting for the buckets when it starts to sprinkle, getting a new roof should be your No. 1 to-do. Measuring rainfall from the indoors isn’t cool.

The cost: $7,500

The return: 109% at $8,150

Considering it’s what’s between you and the elements, it’s a no-brainer.

Not sure if you need a new roof? Signs you might include:

  • Shingles are missing, curling up, or covered in moss.
  • Gritty bits from the asphalt shingles are coming out the downspout.
  • The sun’s shining through your attic.
  • You notice stains on ceilings and walls.
  • Your energy bill is sky high.

Hardwood Floors

You flip on the TV to see that your fave home reno-ing duo is it at again, flipping a ranch that’s stuck in the ‘80s.

They make it to the living room, pull back the dingy carpet to reveal hardwood floors in great condition. They’re psyched — and for good reason.

Hardwood floors are a timeless classic. Refinishing is a no-brainer. Neither will you regret adding new hardwood floors if you have none.

The cost to refinish: $2,500

The return: 100% at $2,500

The cost to buy new: $5,500

The return: 91% at $5,000

New Garage Door

No surprise that a garage door replacement project made it onto this #winning list — a new garage door provides a big boost for your home’s curb appeal at a relatively modest cost.

The cost: $2,300 (for a two-door)

The return: 87% at $2,000

There are options galore, too. A host of factory-finish colors, wood-look embossed steel, and glass window insets are just some of the possibilities that’ll give your doors bankable personality.

Better Insulation

Insulation is tucked out of sight, so it’s often out of mind — that is, until you’re forced to wear your parka indoors because it’s sooo darn cold.

The cost: $2,100

The return: 76% at $1,600 (plus the added savings on heating and cooling costs!)

New Siding

In any color! And never paint again.

Those are two of the three benefits of vinyl siding. The third, of course, is your home’s value.

But if long-time homeowners look at you funny when you mention vinyl siding, just tell them that today’s vinyl is way better than what they remember because of fade-resistant finishes and transferable lifetime warranties.

The cost: $13,350

The return: 75% at $10,000

Want fiber-cement siding instead? It also shows a strong payback of 83%. Although it’s the pricier option — you’ll spend about $18,000 with a payback of about $15,000 — it has one thing vinyl still lacks — the perception of quality.

And quality matters. Quality is the one of the most important traits that home buyers focused on when house hunting.

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.

Staircase Makeovers That Most Any DIYer Can Tackle

by Rebecca Shahan

When it comes to DIY home improvement, usually the staircase gets overlooked. Yet if you take a second look at your stairs, you'll see that they can really make a difference in the appearance of your home.

What are some ways you can spruce up those old stairs and bring up the appeal to potential buyers?

These DIY staircase projects can get you started.

The Look of Tile Using Stencils

You can't beat the look and classic feel of black and white. And there's no material more dignified than tile.

You don't need to get a loan to cover each riser in custom tile. You can get some paint and a stencil for the same effect.

If you have a longer staircase, consider stenciling every other riser. You want to delight climbers, not make them dizzy.

A Pretty Pattern With Chalk Paint

A personalized staircase doesn't need to take over the interior design of the house.

You can use chalk paint to give your stairs a soft, subtle look. The pretty pattern is unique enough to feel custom, but the light colors and chalky finish prevent it from overpowering the room.

And here’s a tip for any time you’re painting a staircase: Consider leaving the banister unpainted for a nice pop of contrast.

An Eclectic Look With Real Tile

You can also use tile to give your stairs a great look and offer more durability.

Creating alternating sets of pattern and complementary colors on each riser makes for a one-of-a-kind staircase that’s anything but redundant. While trimming tile to fit stair risers might be above some DIYers’ pay grade, this personalized look could be worth flagging down an expert to pull off.

A Way to Show Off Your Reading Obsession

Have a specific obsession? Decals are a great way for your staircase to share your fandom.

Peel-and-stick decals can be customized with your choice of words or images. Bibliophiles can choose book titles like these, but thanks to the wide world of available decals, you can also find favorite sayings, patterns, characters. Just make sure not to do this if you plan on selling your home soon. This is for those of you who want to customize a home you plan to stay in for a while or just bought.

When working with decals, just make sure to read the fine print. These decals, for example, are just the lettering of the book titles, so painting the risers is a project you’d need to take on first.

A Stair Runner Out of Floor Runners

Standard stair runners are as snooze-worthy as the stairs they cover. Don’t settle if you can’t find one that makes your heart dance.

ouble-check you’ve picked a rug that’s narrower than your stairs. Rugs come in such a blinding variety of dimensions, it’s easy to pick the wrong one.

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.

Remove Wallpaper Without Removing Your Sanity

by Rebecca Shahan

Most people would do just about anything to avoid having to remove wallpaper. It's rarely a task that makes it to the top 10 "fun things to do" list.

But let's face it, when wallpaper needs to be removed, it's got to go. What are some ways to make sure that removing that dated wallpaper doesn't take your sanity with it?

Check to See If Your Walls Were Primed

Those who tell you they just ripped their wallpaper right off had the walls sealed with wallpaper primer. Hopefully your walls have the same preparation.

Priming was more common in the 1990s and prevented the wallpaper glue from soaking into the plaster and making the bond too tough.

You can check to see it your walls are primed by loosening a corner or seam with a putty knife and just pull. If it just comes off in a sheet, you're in luck!

With well-primed walls, dry stripping should work for the entire job and you could finish a room in a couple of hours at most.

Water Works Miracles

Thankfully, wallpaper glue is water based, so water works wonders in removing wallpaper if your walls aren't primed. It's a technique the pros use, it works so well.

Here’s what to do with water:

  • Score or perforate the paper and its backing in sections so water can soak through and loosen the glue. The pros recommend a scoring tool called the PaperTiger (under $20) because it doesn’t harm the wall.
  • Douse the perforated paper with hot water using a pump or compression sprayer. The big mistake most people make is using a regular old spray bottle or damp rag to wet the paper. This leads to hours of fruitless scraping because the paper and its backing don’t get sufficiently saturated. The sprayer, on the other hand, gives you the firepower to really soak the glue.
  • Let the paper soak for about 15 minutes and scrape it off with a putty knife.

It could take you six hours for an average room, but that’s way better than the days of effort it could take if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Avoid Chemical Strippers Because of the Fumes

Why do pros use chemical strippers if water works so well? Because it can dissolve glue faster than water. But the trade-off is the fumes. Plus, water is cheap, so it just makes more sense for DIY.

Don't Try the Fabric Softener Trick

Through the interweb grapevine, you may have heard that fabric softener (diluted with water) is a brag-worthy way to remove old wallpaper. But we couldn’t find a single expert who agrees.

Fabric softener just makes the process more complicated, smelly, and even messier than using just plain old water. You end up mixing glue with the chemicals from fabric softener. In addition, fabric softener may harm drywall.

So when it comes to removing wallpaper, the happiest journey (assuming your walls aren’t primed) involves water — and patience.

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.

Keep Home Improvements From Destroying Your Budget

by Rebecca Shahan

Owning a home is an investment that, as we all know, will need repairs and improvements as the years go by. Many people prepare for the mortgage payment and other costs, but sudden repairs can catch anyone off guard. In fact, around 31% of homeowners don't set aside enough for home repairs.

What are some steps you can take to make sure you're ready for your next repair job or improvement project?

1. Always have a plan

Since there's many items on your to-do list as a homeowner, then logically you should make a real to-do list on paper or spreadsheet program to keep track of it all. Keep track of your regular maintenance items, such as filter replacements and gutter cleaning, as well as projects you want to take care of in the near future. Then make a list of larger updates you would like to do eventually.

Doing this will not only help you remember regular items to keep up, but you can prioritize repairs that will save money down the road. This list will also come in handy when you want to look back at repairs on particular items over the years to see if they justify replacement. And when you go to sell your home, the buyer will appreciate knowing when those items were taken care of.

2. Add to your emergency fund

Setting aside money for repairs is always a good idea, especially if you don't live in a new home. Having an emergency fund can help you take care of unexpected situations, or if you lose income. And you don't have to aim for the stars to start with. Setting aside as much as you can will add up over the months and years. There are also apps for your phone that can help set money aside.

3. Act quickly when it comes to repairs

Take care of a repair as soon as it pops up. Don't wait for the problem to get worse. For example, a leaky faucet can rot the subfloor. Fixing a faucet is far easier than replacing a floor.

4. Know your financing options

Sometimes a repair may exceed your cash on hand. Make a plan to take care of these larger repairs, such as borrowing from a bank or family member. Home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) are also financing options.

5. Consider doing it yourself

Younger homeowners tend to do projects themselves rather than hiring a pro. This can save hundreds on a project. But there's a risk in making huge mistakes that can cost more in the end. Make sure you can handle a project before you DIY.

6. If you go pro, do your research

There's nothing wrong with hiring a pro. But make sure that you research the pros in your area and get several estimates. Ask questions, such as how they intend to do the job, what the estimated timeline is, whether they’re insured and how much experience they have with projects like yours. Don’t simply go with the cheapest contractor to save Money. Yes, they could be the best person for the job, or you may wind up spending more to fix their mistakes.

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.

Extending The Lifespan Of Your Roof

by Rebecca Shahan

The lifespan of a roof is affected by the workmanship and materials, along with weather conditions. But there are steps you can take to keep your rood in good condition longer. The roof is a major part of your home, and keeping it in good shape will save money in more ways than just the roof itself.

Avoiding Common Maintenance Issues

Small problems left unchecked can threaten the lifespan of a roof.

Here are some of the most common issues:

  • Sagging or overloaded gutters. Leaves and debris build up over time and can cause them to sag. Clean them to avoid water damage to the deck board and the boards under the gutter line.
  • Unattended roof debris. Branches and debris can especially build up during storms. Clean these regularly to prevent rot and other damage.
  • Unknown rot or weak spots. Every few years, get up on the roof or hire a professional to check the roof's condition up close and fix any issues.

Good Ventilation

Your attic can also affect the life of a roof. Poor ventilation can lead to many problems.

During the summer, a poorly ventilated attic can reach up to 160 degrees. This hot air can get through your insulation and heat up the rest of the home. This also affects the shingles, effectively frying them and leading to decay.

Insulating the Attic

Good insulation in your attic is also important to prolonging your roof's life. Insulating your attic properly will reduce the heat transfer and reflect the radiant heat away from your roof and adding to it's lifespan.

Mold and Moss

If you find mold on your roof, you can easily clean it with a diluted bleach solution. But if you don't, it won't affect the life of your roof. On the other hand, moss can trap moisture and lead to rot, so make sure you remove moss as soon as possible.

Preparing For Damage

No matter what you do, any roof will be damaged over time. Damage can really add up during storms. If you keep on top of the smaller issues as they happen, it can lead to better protection during inclement weather.

You also don't need a ladder to inspect your roof, just a pair of binoculars. If you notice anything amiss like missing, curling, or buckling shingles, arrange for a professional once-over.

Maintaining your roof is easy with a proactive approach. With proper attention, you can enjoy your roof for years to come.

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.  

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