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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.

Home buyer topics

Austin real estate blog
Neighborhood Watch programs keep Austin neighborhoods safe

Does your neighborhood have a Neighborhood Watch program? Crime prevention is a priority for many communities, as demonstrated earlier this month during Austin's National Night Out event. It's likely that many of the neighborhoods who participated in the event have crime prevention programs like a Neighborhood Watch, or perhaps formed one during the citywide event. Below, we have outlined the steps to take for creating one of these groups in your neighborhood.

Speak to your local law enforcement
It's possible that your neighborhood already has a Neighborhood Watch program. If you're not sure, your local law enforcement agency will be able to tell you if one already exists. If there's no program currently in place, you'll want to contact the agency when you begin organizing your group. You must have sponsorship of a law enforcement agency in order to make your Neighborhood Watch group official. These men and women will also be responsible for educating your group about crime prevention.

Rally your neighborhood
You can't fight off crime alone! Gather support from your neighbors in favor of creating a Neighborhood Watch program by suggesting the idea during an HOA or neighborhood association meeting. It's likely that the members of the board will agree with creating such a group.

If your neighborhood isn't governed by these types of associations, consider pitching the idea directly to your neighbors. Create a sign-up sheet and go door to door, asking your neighbors to provide their name, phone number and email address if they're interested in participating. You can use their contact information later to organize meetings.

Meet regularly and form a plan
Once your group has officially assembled, it's important to meet regularly. Plan monthly or bi-weekly meetings to stay on top of the most critical issues facing your neighborhood. Some Neighborhood Watch programs use text messaging and social media to communicate between members. These tools can be very useful in thwarting problems quickly.

Neighborhood Watch groups play a vital role in helping law enforcement reduce crime in our neighborhoods, which benefits Austin as a whole. For more information about Neighborhood Watch groups and how to start one of your own, visit

Austin real estate blog
Are your neighbors hurting your home’s value?

It's one thing to have to deal with noisy neighbors; it's another if their antics lower your home's value. Issues such as unusual paint color or a broken-down car sitting in their yard could reduce your sale price by as much as 10 percent.

It's possible your neighbors are unaware of how their behavior is affecting the neighborhood. Try approaching them directly but pleasantly, and strike up a conversation. Explain that you're planning to sell your home soon and that the condition of their house might affect your chances. Be sure to offer your assistance in fixing the problem; this will likely help resolve the issue more quickly and perhaps earn you some new friends in the process.

If your neighbors are consistently unavailable or unapproachable, voicing your concerns to another party may be your best bet. If, for example, the neighbors are renting their home, you could discuss the issue with their landlord. Or, if your neighborhood is governed by a homeowner's association, the problem could be presented at a meeting. As a last resort, consider speaking with a REALTOR® or a city representative to see if they can step in to resolve the dilemma.

If all else fails, the best you can do is make your home stand out above the rest. Touch up your home, make repairs and boost curb appeal as much as possible. Your home can still sell despite the conditions of a neighbor's house. Get in touch with a REALTOR® to determine how to best approach the situation.

Austin real estate blog
Central Texas wildfires impact Austin area residents

Drawing national attention, Central Texas continues to battle a relentless outbreak of wildfires, including the Bastrop County fire, which has already consumed more homes than any single fire in Texas history. Residents living in Bastrop, Leander, the Steiner Ranch community and many other areas across Central Texas have been affected, with at least 34,000 acres of land lost to the fires and more than 4,000 residents being forced to evacuate their homes.

Residents facing evacuation
As fires continue to burn throughout Central Texas, containment efforts continue. If your neighborhood is ordered to evacuate due to the wildfires, be prepared to bring food, fresh water, extra clothes, phone chargers and other important items with you as you follow the evacuation route set by authorities.

Home buyers and sellers
This morning, Judith Bundschuh, Chairman of the Austin Board of REALTORS®, spoke with KVUE News about the wildfire outbreak. Bundschuh recommended that homeowners and potential buyers contact their lender and insurance provider to get a sense of how the disaster affects their situation. Bundschuh also mentioned that those in the home search process may face limited access to some neighborhoods.

Those looking to help
Your Central Texas REALTORS® have been lending a helping hand since the onset of this disaster, collecting donations to help those who have been displaced by the wildfires. For more information on donations and drop-off locations in the Austin area, visit the Texas Wildfire Relief Fund's website

Austin real estate blog
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

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