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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
Austin life
South by Southwest: 25 years strong

If it's March in Austin, then residents know that nearly 30,000 people from Austin and all over the world will be flocking downtown for the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conferences and festivals. This year's SXSW will run from March 11 - 20, with events scheduled from the early morning until well into the night throughout the festival's ten-day run. Below is a rundown of the festival's three components.

Now in its 25th year, the SXSW music festival continues to serve as a springboard for independent artists to share their creative works with music lovers and record labels alike.

SXSW's music festival does more than just showcase local talent - the event draws bands from all across the globe. Canja Rave, a rock group from Porto Alegre, Brazil, was met with an enthusiastic crowd during their performance at SXSW in 2010. The band felt that the best part of SXSW is "the cultural diversity and the interest of the public in meeting new artists, no matter how big they are."

Aside from concerts, SXSW also has musically themed exhibitions, such as the Texas Guitar Show. Free to the public, this event features thousands of guitar enthusiasts looking to buy, sell, trade or have their guitars appraised.

The film component of SXSW allows independent filmmakers to screen their art to an audience consisting of movie-buffs, industry bigwigs and other independent filmmakers. It also includes a film conference that allows filmmakers to sit in on discussion groups about the latest trends in the movie industry and network with fellow professionals.

Many critically acclaimed movies have premiered at the SXSW film festival. For example, Kathryn Bigelow's film The Hurt Locker captivated audiences at the 2009 SXSW film festival. Since then, the film went on to win six Academy Awards and earned Bigelow the distinct honor of being the first woman to receive the Best Director award.

SXSW also features an interactive component that showcases the latest technology innovations, such as mobile phone developments and new video games.

This component is a hub for presentations, discussion groups and workshops covering a variety of topics, from environmental issues to business applications. Many famous individuals have spoken at SXSW Interactive, including Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and Al Franken, a famous writer, radio personality and currently a United States Senator.

One of the most popular events of SXSW Interactive is the ScreenBurn Arcade, where visitors can try out the latest video game demos and mingle with some of the industry's top developers and publishers. Best of all, it's completely free!

Registration badges are required to attend most of SXSW's events, which can be purchased at SXSW's website. However, there are several free events to choose from as well, from film screenings to music concerts and much more.

Austin real estate blog
home selling
Seller beware: Four myths surrounding FSBO homes

Are you familiar with the acronym "FSBO?" This stands for "For Sale By Owner" and indicates that a property listing is not represented by a REALTOR®. Some sellers prefer to sell properties on their own, usually because they believe they will save money by doing so. However, there are many risks that come with selling a property without professional assistance. Below, we address four myths about being a do-it-yourself seller.

Myth #1 - More people are selling their homes by themselves these days.

Actually, it's quite the opposite. According to buyer and seller data collected by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), the number of people who sold homes on their own has decreased by nearly 50 percent in the last 19 years. In 2010, less than 10 percent of U.S. home sales were sold by the owners themselves, while 88 percent of U.S. home sales were sold with professional assistance.

Myth #2 - A home doesn't need to be listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to sell.

While it's true that a home need not be listed on the Multiple Listing Service to sell, it certainly helps. Having your home listed on the MLS by your REALTOR® exposes it to a vast network of REALTORS® who conduct daily property searches on behalf of their clients. In addition, property listings on the MLS can easily be featured on the personal websites of REALTORS® and pushed to websites such as and This exposure-in addition to the other ways a REALTOR® may market your home-can go a long way in getting your home sold.

Myth #3 - It's easier for homeowners to "sell" potential buyers on their homes when they conduct home showings themselves.

Not exactly. Research shows that buyers often feel intimidated when the owner is present during a showing, as they may feel uncomfortable expressing their opinions of the home in front of the owner. Also keep in mind that selling a house is a time-consuming venture. One must make sure that the home is repaired and ready for showings, as well as be available to show the home to potential buyers. Most people simply do not have the time to manage all of this on their own.

Myth #4 - Aside from setting a price, there's really not that much that goes into selling a home.

Not true. Home sale transactions are a complicated process with many different facets to cover before the sale can be completed. For instance, not only would you need to set an appropriate price for your home and negotiate offers submitted by potential buyers, but draft a solid contract, as well. One small oversight when writing or signing the necessary legal documents could lead to lawsuits and other complications after the sale closes. By working with a REALTOR®, you can rest knowing that your best interests are protected.

If you're still convinced that selling your home on your own is the right way to go, consider this: Data shows that home sellers with professional representation typically achieve about 40 percent more for their homes. Knowing this, why wouldn't you want to work with a REALTOR® to sell your home? Get in touch with a REALTOR® today by visiting our "Find a REALTOR®" section here at

Austin real estate blog
home improvement
Backyard buffet: Growing your own vegetable garden

Have you ever considered growing your own vegetable garden? Not only does planting a garden make your home more attractive, it's also a great stress reliever and a rewarding project, as you can grow your own food right in your backyard.

Texas has one of the best climates in the country for gardens and several different types of soil, allowing us to grow a vast selection of different crops throughout a given year. Below, we have listed a few handy tips to help you get your Central Texas garden started.

For starters
First off, you'll need to create a site in your backyard for your garden to grow. Ideally, your garden site will have full sunlight, deep soil that drains well and a nearby water source. If it's your first time, you should start with a smaller sized garden. It will be easier to manage as you learn the ins and outs of gardening.

You'll also need a good set of gardening tools. Gardening tools come in many different sizes and designs to suit just about every project. The following is a list of tools that many gardeners find useful:

  • Trowels, spades and shovels - These tools are used for digging holes, planting new seeds and transplanting crops from one section of a garden to another. They vary in shape and size to accommodate a variety of different digging tasks.
  • Cultivators and garden forks - Smaller cousins of the pitchfork, cultivators and garden forks are used to loosen soil and remove unwanted materials in your garden, such as weeds or small stones in your soil.
  • Pruners - Pruners come into the equation once your crops are ready to be harvested. When your vegetables are ripe and ready to eat, you'll use your pruners to remove them from their vines.

What should I plant?
The answer largely depends on what vegetables you and your family likes. Thankfully, Texas is capable of growing many different types of vegetables. Perhaps the most popular garden vegetable in Texas is the tomato, as it is an easy crop to grow and can be used in many different dishes.

The answer also depends on the size of your garden. Crops such as broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and onions are best suited for smaller gardens, while crops such as okra, potatoes, cucumbers and pumpkins require larger gardens to ensure they have enough space to grow.

If you're wondering what specific crops you can plant in Austin, the Aggie Horticulture network at Texas A&M has created two useful documents that list the types of vegetables that can be grown in Travis county and the ideal months to plant them.

Managing your garden
Once you know what vegetables you want to plant, you'll need to develop a game plan for your garden to ensure that your crops grow properly. Test the soil to make sure that its PH levels are adequate for growing, and plan to recheck it at least every three years. You can find do-it-yourself PH testing kits in any garden supply store. Typical crops do well in soil with a PH level between 6.0 and 7.0.

You'll also need to use the right type of fertilizer for both your crops and the soil you are working with. Experts recommend mixing in fertilizer with your soil before you actually plant your crops. Depending on what you are growing, additional doses of fertilizer may be needed as your plants grow and develop. For Central Texans specifically, organic fertilizers are recommended to enrich our heavy clay soil.

Where you plant your crops is also important. Vegetables that will sprout high off the ground, such as corn stalks, should be planted on the northernmost side of your garden. This prevents these tall crops from blocking sunlight to your smaller vegetables.

These are just some of the basics of planting your own garden. Properly developing a backyard garden requires dedication and following a regular schedule of watering, pest control and weed maintenance. However, when managed properly, your backyard garden will reward you with freshly grown vegetables and a sense of pride knowing that you cultivated them yourself. For more great tips on starting a garden in Central Texas, visit Texas A&M's Aggie Horticulture website.

Austin real estate blog
markets/economy, home buying, home selling
Austin’s 2010 housing market: A year in review

The Austin Board of REALTORS® recently released its Multiple Listing Service (MLS) report for December of 2010, concluding their analysis of the Austin housing market this past year. So how did Austin real estate perform in 2010?

Austin home sales posted year-over-year increases during the first half of 2010, with the biggest upsurges occurring in March, April and May (with increases of 27 percent, 31 percent and 24 percent respectively). John Horton, 2010 Chairman of the Austin Board of REALTORS®, explained that the substantial increase in sales during this period was likely due to the expiration of the homebuyer tax credits on April 30.

Horton noted that "we have the unique situation of the homebuyer tax credits that inspired many buyers to purchase homes sooner than usual. Thus, it's more meaningful to evaluate our market from a year-to-date perspective, instead of month-to-month, to gain a clear picture."

Overall, a total of 17,905 single-family homes were sold in Austin in 2010, a five percent decrease compared to 2009. Homes in Austin took an average of 77 days to sell, which is two percent less than the amount of time it took in 2009. The median price of Austin real estate remained stable, averaging at $193,520 for the year, a three percent increase from 2009.

The Austin market also remained healthy in regards to its housing inventory. The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M states that 6.5 months of inventory indicates a healthy market, with anything above 6.5 considered a "buyer's market" and anything below considered a "seller's market." Austin's month's supply of inventory ranged from 5.4 to 7.3 in 2010, while national housing inventory ranged from 6.9 to 11.9.

Heading into 2011, Austin appears to be on the road to economic recovery. Last month, attendees of the 2011 Housing Forecast co-hosted by the Austin Board of REALTORS® and the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin gained some insight into the future of Austin's housing market and economy.

Eldon Rude, Director of the Austin Market for Metrostudy and one of the speakers at the housing forecast, predicted that slowed home construction, as well as increasing apartment occupancy and rental rates would help Austin's housing market, noting that "with increasing rent, renters will have to decide whether to keep paying rent or buy a home." Rude believes that home pricing pressure, job growth and consumer confidence will help put Austin's economy back on track in 2011 and into 2012.

To learn more about real estate predictions for the coming year, watch our 2011 Market Forecast video. This video features a summary of the topics discussed at the 2011 Housing Forecast, including future trends and challenges facing the Austin real estate industry.

Statistics from the December 2010 MLS report can be found in our Austin Real Estate Report section. Be sure to check in each month as we evaluate Austin's housing market throughout 2011.

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