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Your Austin real estate blog

Thank you for visiting Homeowner Herald, the official blog of, providing valuable information for both home buyers and sellers. Follow us on Twitter or check in each week for new posts on topics ranging from holiday decorating to the economy to moving into your new home. This blog is maintained by the Austin Board of REALTORS®. If you’d like to suggest a blog topic, contact the ABoR Marketing Department.


Austin real estate blog
home buying, legal
Six ways to avoid foreclosure

No homeowner wants to think about the possibility of losing their home, but foreclosure can become a reality if you fall behind on your monthly mortgage payments. Whether you're dealing with foreclosure now or worried about impending financial hardship, it's crucial to remain calm and tackle the issue as soon as possible. Below, we've provided tips to help you keep foreclosure at bay.

1. Speak to your lender immediately
If for any reason you suspect you might miss a house payment, you should notify your lender right away. Lenders often have programs that can assist you in dealing with economic issues. Explain to your lender why you're missing your payment and how long you expect the situation to last.

2. Read any mail or notices sent by your lender
It's usually in your lender's best interest to help you keep your house. In the event of a financial issue, you'll likely receive mail from your lender detailing options they provide to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. Make sure you're opening and reading these messages to stay on top of the situation.

3. Know your mortgage rights
It's a good idea to know how foreclosures are handled in the State of Texas. More importantly, you should know how your lender will respond in the event that you miss mortgage payments, so review your loan documents carefully.

4. Develop a stronger budget
When faced with the possibility of foreclosure, saving money should be a priority. Examine your monthly spending habits and see if there are any areas in which you can make cuts, such as entertainment, dining out and monthly subscriptions or memberships.

5. Use your assets to your advantage
Do you have any valuables you could sell to help make your mortgage payment? This could include jewelry, additional vehicles or other expensive purchases. Alternatively, perhaps someone in the family could take on a second or part-time job. Any money you can put towards your payment will help your situation.

6. Avoid falling for foreclosure prevention company scams
Though they may provide sound advice, enlisting the help of a foreclosure prevention company may only further your debt, as they often charge a hefty fee to provide you with answers. It's best to speak with your lender or an HUD-Approved Housing Counselor to help get yourself back on your feet.

Unexpected disasters can make monthly house payments difficult, but remember that you are not alone. There are many resources you can call upon to help you solve your dilemma. For more information about avoiding foreclosure, visit

Austin real estate blog
home improvement, home buying
Housing considerations for pet owners

For some owners a house just isn't a home without a cat or dog. Regardless of the pet you have, it's helpful to decorate and design with your pet in mind, as you'll want to make sure you can provide a safe and suitable environment for your animal companion.

Animal accommodations
When looking into a new house (or new pet), you'll want to make sure your home will suit your pet's needs. For instance, will your backyard be big enough for your dog to play and get exercise? The age of your pet may also factor into your housing decision. A home with a steep staircase, for example, may not be ideal for an older or arthritic pet who's not as nimble as he used to be.

You should also take into account the neighborhood in which you're looking to live. Would you and your pet be safe if you were to take her for a walk? Would your pet be in danger of heavy traffic if he got loose from your home? If you're worried that your pet may not be safe in a particular neighborhood, reconsider living in that area. If you cannot change your environment, you may need to take additional steps to help ensure your pet's well-being.

Cosmetic conservation
If your pet spends the majority of its time indoors, there are a number of things you can do to help protect your home from damage. To prevent your floor from scratches or stains, install pet-friendly flooring such as hardwood or linoleum. If you still want a softer feel under your feet, consider using inexpensive area throw rugs, particularly those that are machine washable. An expendable rug comes in handy in the event that your pet has an "accident."

Most pet owners are familiar with the seemingly never ending amount of pet hair on their clothes and furniture. Some experts suggest matching the color of your furniture with that of your pet's fur to hide the hair that accumulates. Additionally, you might use slipcovers made out of the fabric that you can wash on a regular basis. Some pet owners find that furniture covered in leather is easy to wipe and doesn't absorb stains or smells like other materials (just remember that leather is not immune to scratches from pet's claws!).

By taking proper precautionary measures, you can make your home both safe and enjoyable for you and your pet. For more tips about making your home accommodating for your pet, visit

Austin real estate blog
home buying, home selling
Moving with children: Tips to help ease their transition

You're probably excited about moving into a new Austin home, but how do your children feel? The moving process can add stress into a young child's life, so it's important to sit down with your children and discuss the move with them. An in-depth discussion about the event can help turn an anxious child into a diligent moving assistant!

Perhaps the biggest concern on your children's mind is the idea that their life is about to be changed dramatically. They may feel that they're losing their friends or losing the comfort of their home. Addressing these concerns early on is crucial. Allow your children to voice their opinions and be prepared to answer them. Reassure them that they'll still be able to talk to their friends via e-mail or phone, as well as meet with each other in person if you haven't moved too far away.

One great way to alleviate your children's stress is by getting them involved in the process. For example: when you arrive in the new home, have your children decide how their bedroom will look. Let them choose where furniture will go and where posters or pictures will be hung. Even before you arrive, have them sort out their things and help pack them away into boxes. The more involved your children feel, the more excited they'll become about the move.

For younger children, seeing their favorite toys or stuffed animals being packed away can create a sense of unease. Be sure to explain to your children that these items are coming with you and that they'll be kept safe during the move. If possible, try to unpack these items immediately upon arriving at your new home. This way, your children will feel more comfortable in their new surroundings.

After all the boxes are inside, it's a good idea to hook up familiar items such as your television or musical devices (radios, iPod players, etc.) and have these things running while you unpack the rest of the boxes. These familiar items will help create a sense of security and comfort for your family as you continue unpacking the rest of your belongings.

Moving doesn't have to be stressful. With the right attitude, your whole family can contribute to the process and finish the event quickly and efficiently. For more information about moving with children, visit

Austin real estate blog
markets/economy, home buying, home selling
2011 Austin real estate market: Second quarter review

Home prices in Austin remained stable during the second quarter of 2011. Compared to the previous year, the median price of Austin homes rose three percent in April and four percent in May, finishing with a median price of $205,000 by the end of June. In addition, June saw an increase of Austin home sales, nine percent more than June of 2010.

During the first half of the year, a total of 9,299 homes were sold in Austin, five percent fewer than the same period in 2010. However, pending sales, which indicate the number of sales likely to close in the next month, were higher in the second quarter when compared to 2010, with a 53 percent increase in May and a 31 percent increase in June.

Austin homes spent an average of 88 days on market (DOM) in April, 81 days in May and 75 days in June, marking the shortest DOM figures since the Fall of 2010. While these numbers indicate that Austin real estate spent more time on market than during the same period one year ago, they were the lowest DOM figures seen in Austin since September 2010.

"Looking at the results, it's encouraging to see that the demand for homes is strong and that Austin-area homes continue to hold their value," said Judith Bundschuh, Chairman of the Austin Board of REALTORS®. "The increase in pending sales…coupled with stable prices and stronger sales [in June], are encouraging signs that the market is returning to a pre-recession seasonal cycle."

For more information about the Austin real estate market and how it may affect you, contact your Central Texas REALTOR®.

Austin real estate blog
home improvement
Help your yard beat the heat with xeriscaping

Texas is currently in the midst of a statewide drought, leaving much of our landscape brown and dry. But don't worry! It's possible to have a healthy and attractive yard that doesn't require large amounts of water. Among other methods, xeriscaping is a great way to save water at your Austin home. Below we have outlined the basics of xeriscaping.

Defining "xeric"
The term "xeric" is adopted from the Greek word "xeros," meaning "dry." Xeric plants, by their design, can survive with very little water intake and adapt to extremely dry environments. Because of this, xeric plants are often labeled "drought resistant." Lawns and gardens using xeric plants can use up to 50 percent less water.

The Seven Principles of Xeriscaping
In 1981, Denver Water coined the term "xeriscape," which refers to a landscape requiring little to no water. It was in Denver, Colorado that the Seven Principles of Xeriscaping were devised. The seven principles are as follows:

1. Planning and design
As with any gardening project, creating a game plan for your xeriscape is essential. First off, you'll want to create a diagram which designates where the xeric plants will go-will they be in your front yard, or out near your pool? Will they become part of a garden? You'll also need to consider how your xeriscape will be used. Will your children be playing in the area? Aside from water conservation, will it be used for aesthetic appeal?

2. Soil amendment
The type of soil you use is critical to success. Experts suggest that amending soil, or adding a couple inches of organic material six inches deep, will help it better retain water and support xeric plants. It's important to note that non-native plants often require soil amendment while native plants usually do not. Some plants, such as cacti or succulent plants, require gravel soil as opposed to organic compost, so make sure your plants are in the environment that's right for them.

3. Efficient irrigation
Because water conservation is the goal, you'll want to ensure you're watering your plants efficiently and effectively. Infrequent but deep watering is the key to sustaining xeric plants. Whether you water by hand, install an automatic sprinkler system or use drip-irrigation, it's best to release big drops of water close to the ground to reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation or run-off.

4. Plant zoning
In both landscaping and gardening, where you put your plants is crucial, as different plants have specific sun and air requirements. Examine your yard to determine what areas get the most sun during the day. It's a good idea to group plants together by water and sun requirements. Plants that use more water than others should be placed behind plants that require more sunlight.

5. Mulching
Adding mulch to your xeric garden brings a variety of benefits. Mulch reduces evaporation and can deter weed growth. Both organic mulch (e.g. wood and bark chips) and inorganic mulch (e.g. small rocks or gravel) can be used. Organic mulch has the advantage of providing nutrients to the soil and your plants, as well as offering protection against the elements. Inorganic mulch, on the other hand, will not decompose, meaning you won't have to replace it often. Inorganic mulch works well in windy areas but shouldn't be placed close to your home, as it can retain and radiate heat fairly well.

6. Turf Alternatives
Turf such as Kentucky bluegrass, while attractive, requires a substantial amount of water. Therefore, consider replacing your turf with a drought-tolerant species such as Bermuda, buffalo or Zoysia grass. Another way to cut down on watering is to reduce the grassy areas in your lawn. This can be accomplished, for example, by expanding landscaping, installing a patio or widening walkways. Less grass requires less water.

7. Maintenance
Maintaining your xeriscape is fairly easy but, nevertheless, important. You'll need to prune dead stems, cut grass to a three-inch height and apply organic pest control for the best results. Remember to check your irrigation system each month to adjust watering settings and try to maintain about two to four inches of mulch for maximum water efficiency. With proper mulching, weeds should sprout infrequently.

By following these seven principles, your xeriscape should thrive in even the harshest drought conditions. For a list of xeric plants you can plant in Central Texas, visit the City of Austin's Xeriscape Plant List.

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