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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.

April 2011

Austin real estate blog
Austin life
Outdoor adventure in Austin

The temperature in Austin is rising, which means that many Austinites will be spending more time outside soaking up the sun. If you're looking for some fun outdoor activities for you and your family, below are a few Austin hotspots to enjoy during the spring and summer months ahead.

Hamilton Pool - One of the oldest and most popular swimming holes in Texas, Hamilton Pool is about 30 miles southwest of Austin. Roughly 75,000 visitors come to Hamilton Pool each year for its hiking trails and 50 foot waterfall, which fills the swimming hole below. Weather and safety conditions permitting, Hamilton Pool is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.

Canoe/Kayak Rental - What better way to spend a sunny day than taking a peaceful boat ride across Lady Bird Lake or Lake Austin? Companies such as Austin Kayak, Rowing Dock and Zilker Park Boat Rental offer a variety of canoes and kayaks to rent at a daily rate. It's a great way to soak up some sun while enjoying Austin's natural beauty.

Mount Bonnell/Covert Park - Mount Bonnell has been a popular site for hiking fans in Austin since the 1850's. The trail is about 0.3 miles long and ends with a breathtaking view of Lake Austin at the peak of the mountain. The peak also features a man-made pavilion, perfect for afternoon picnics or resting after ascending the "100-step staircase." Like most parks in Austin, Mount Bonnell is open from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily.

Austin Segway Tours - If you're more of an urban explorer, perhaps a Segway tour will quench your thirst for adventure. Participants will discover many of Austin's defining locations while riding the two-wheeled, electric-powered vehicle. Visit the Texas State Capitol, Lady Bird Lake, the Congress Avenue "Bat Bridge" and other notable sites around downtown Austin. Companies that offer Segway tours in Austin include Segway Nation, SegCity and GlidingRevolution.

These are just some of the fun things you can do outdoors in the Austin area. For more great information, visit

Austin real estate blog
home buying, legal
8 steps to take before making an offer on a home

Buying a home is a multi-step process that involves many moving parts and a good amount of "up front" work. Though your personal circumstances may dictate how you go about the homebuying process, we've provided a general checklist of tasks that will likely need to be accomplished before you even make an offer on your dream home.

1. Check your credit score
Make a request to see your credit report and check it for inaccuracies. You'll want to correct any erroneous information before speaking with a mortgage lender. Mistakes in your credit report could reflect poorly on you, which in turn could have a negative impression on the lender.

2. Think about how much you want to spend each month
Outside of monthly expenses such as groceries and entertainment, you'll need to consider how much you are willing and able to put toward homeownership expenses, such as a mortgage, real estate taxes and insurance rates. Depending on where you live, you may also need to take an HOA fee into account. To get a feel for what mortgage amount may be within your budget, use the online mortgage calculator provided by

3. Decide how much you can put towards a down payment
Most down payments will be anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent of the home's selling price; however, you may be able to opt for a rate lower than 5 percent depending on which type of mortgage loan you go with.

4. Find a REALTOR®
Not only do REALTORS® know their markets and particular neighborhoods like the back of their hand, but they can also assist in negotiations and legal paperwork. Finding a REALTOR® to guide you through the home buying process can save you time, trouble and money. It's a good idea to interview your REALTOR® (or several REALTORS®) to make sure you find the real estate professional who is right for you.

5. Talk to a REALTOR® about your wants and needs in a home
Although you may have conducted a preliminary Austin real estate search to get an idea of where you might like to live and what home features you like, discussing your ideal home with your REALTOR® is very important. With this information, your REALTOR® will be better able to introduce to you to homes that meet your criteria, possibly within neighborhoods you may have never before considered as an option.

6. Find a mortgage lender
Banks and credit unions are common places to find a mortgage lender. You'll want to do some research to find a lender that can give you a good rate. Lenders can also help you determine what type of loan is right for you.

7. Get your paperwork in order for your lender
You'll likely need to provide personal documentation to your lender, such as your driver's license, employment information, pay stubs, recent tax returns and credit history. Make sure to confirm with your lender exactly what documents they need to see.

8. Find out how much money you qualify for
Banks use a certain percentage of your monthly income, as well as other factors, to determine what amount of money you are qualified to borrow and at what rate. Keep in mind that, once qualified, the mortgage rates you've been quoted may only be locked in for a certain period of time.

Once you've accomplished these steps, you'll be prepared to make an offer on a home and begin the most exciting part of your journey. Your REALTOR® will be there to offer his or her expertise, assist in the negotiating process and guide you through the closing process until you finally receive the keys to your new home. For more great tips on buying a home, visit our Consumer Tools section here at

Austin real estate blog
home improvement, home selling
Painting your home’s exterior: Are you up for the job?

Whether you're remodeling your home or preparing your home for resale, a new coat of paint on your home's exterior can work wonders. You can inexpensively add value to your home and make it more appealing to you, your family, guests and potential buyers. Below, we have listed some useful tips for executing a winning exterior paint project.

Note: Painting projects are challenging tasks. Executing your project properly will require a good amount of time, tools and likely some help from friends or family. If you feel you may not be able to accomplish this project, you should consider hiring a professional painter to get the job done.

Getting ready for your project
First, you'll need to ensure you have all the tools and materials needed to get the job done. Below are some of the tools and materials you will need and what they do:

  • Caulk - Caulk is a sealant designed to fill in cracks and holes in the surface you plan on painting. It can also be used to prevent insects and air from entering your home from the outside.
  • Paint brushes - The most recognizable tool for painting, paint brushes are fantastic for smaller areas and touch ups to larger areas. These tools are precise and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Paint rollers - Paint rollers are much larger than paint brushes and can easily cover large areas with paint. This will probably be the tool you'll be using the most for your exterior paint project.
  • Power washer - This tool uses high-pressure water to blast dirt, chalk, dust and mold off the surface you wish you paint on, creating a clean, smooth surface for your project.
  • Primer - Primer is used to prepare the surface for the painting job itself, providing a layer of protection and a stronger adhesive bond for the paint.
  • Scraper - As the name implies, scrapers are used to scrape off old paint from a surface, especially paint that is cracking or peeling.
  • Step ladder - A ladder will help you reach every inch of the surface you wish to paint.

Naturally, you'll also need paint to complete your project. There are many different kinds of paint to choose from, each designed for specific surfaces or areas. Determining what kind of paint you need is a crucial step to take before you get your project off the ground.

You'll also need to determine how much paint your project will call for. Some paint stores, such as Sherwin-Williams, provide Paint Calculators on their websites to help you decide exactly how much paint you'll need.

Surface inspections and preparations
Once you've gathered all the tools you need, your next step should be inspecting the condition of the surface you're planning to paint on.

Make sure that the surface is as clean as possible before any primer, caulk or paint is applied. A common method to accomplish this is by using a power washer. However, you must be cautious when using a power washer. The water pressure is high enough to cause damage to your exterior surfaces, not to mention severe injuries to any person caught in the spray.

You'll also want to check for signs of peeling and cracks on the old paint's surface. If such signs exist, use some sandpaper and a scraper to remove these problem areas.

Note: If your home was built before 1978, it's possible that your home was painted using lead-based paint. If this is the case, there are health concerns you should consider before scraping or sanding. You may need to speak to a contractor and have them remove the paint before you continue with your project.

Now that your surface is clean and problem-free, you are ready to begin painting. First, you'll need to apply primer to the surface you wish to paint on. Depending on the material the surface is made of, a specific type of primer may be needed. Primer is used the same way paint is used - by using a paint brush or paint roller and applying it to the surface.

Once you have covered your surface with primer, let it dry completely before you begin applying paint. Start at the top of your surface and work your way downward using the paint roller, then touch up the application with your paint brush. If you need to apply a second coat, start with the roller again and finish with the brush.

You've just read some of the basics of accomplishing an exterior painting project. For specific tips on getting your painting job done right, visit or, or talk to a painting professional near you.

Austin real estate blog
home improvement
Three alarms your home shouldn’t be without

Although we never plan on a house fire or burglary to occur, the risk of these hazards is always present. One of the best ways to help prevent unexpected disasters from harming your home and your family is to install detectors that will alert you at the first sign of danger. Below, we have listed three life-saving alarms every home should have.

Smoke detectors
Smoke detectors are one of your best defenses against house fires. The U.S. Fire Administration states that you should install smoke detectors on every floor of your home. Furthermore, smoke detectors should be in multiple areas: inside and outside of bedrooms, in laundry rooms, near furnaces and other areas where fires could start.

It's absolutely vital that you inspect your smoke detectors every month. Smoke detectors typically have a test button that will sound the alarm when pressed. If the alarm does not sound during the test, you should replace the detector's battery. Most modern smoke detectors will chirp when the batteries are running low, reminding you to replace them.

It's also important to discuss an escape plan with your family. Choose a location outside of your home for your family to meet in the event of a fire and make sure that each member of your family has a way to escape your home from every room.

Carbon Monoxide detectors
Carbon monoxide (or CO) is an odorless and invisible gas usually emitted from gas stoves, furnaces, water heaters and cars. This gas is poisonous and can be lethal at certain levels.

CO detectors are essential in preventing carbon monoxide poisoning in your home. In the event that your CO detector sounds its alarm, have your family evacuate the house and check for symptoms of CO poisoning, such as dizziness, chest pains, nausea and headaches.

If you or your family members exhibit any of these signs, dial 911. If you don't exhibit any of these signs, turn off your appliances, open your windows to ventilate your home and call a professional to determine the levels of CO in your home.

Home security systems
As well as protecting your family from hazards inside your home, you should also consider the dangers potentially lurking outside - namely, burglars.

A home burglary can occur at any time of day. Among other measures, you can reduce the chance that your home will be burglarized by installing a home security system. Studies have shown that homes without a security system are three times as likely to be burglarized than a home with a security system in place.

Home security systems vary in their designs. Some may be motion based while others rely on door/window sensors or security cameras. It's important to determine which security system will best suit your house. For example, if you have a pet that roams around your house at night, a motion detection security system may not be the best choice for your home.

If you arrive home and your house appears to have been burglarized, leave the premises immediately and dial 911 on a cell phone or a neighbor's phone. Do not attempt to investigate your home, as the intruder could still be inside. You also do not want to tamper with the crime scene before police officers arrive.

These are just a few helpful tips for keeping you, your family and your home safe. For more safety tips concerning fires, carbon monoxide and other hazards, visit the websites for the U.S. Fire Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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