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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.

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Austin real estate blog
Is living in an HOA the right choice for you?

When conducting your home search, you may find that the house you're interested in is part of a homeowners association (HOA). For some homeowners, belonging to an HOA is desirable, while for others an HOA is seen as a nuisance. If you're unsure of what life in an HOA may entail, the following information can be of help.

What is an HOA?
In return for assessments paid by its members, an HOA typically works to ensure that deed restrictions are enforced, amenities and common areas are maintained and, most importantly, property values are protected. An HOA is governed by association by-laws, to which all HOA members must adhere.

An HOA has a Board, comprised mostly of residents in the neighborhood. The Board generally hires a property management company to handle enforcement and maintenance issues and may create subcommittees to help the HOA deliver a number of services to members—some of which would otherwise be handled by local governments, such as arranging for security and street maintenance. Board meetings are held regularly to discuss neighborhood developments and issues, and HOA members may attend to share their input, as well.

Moving into a neighborhood that is part of an HOA automatically makes you a member of their organization. However, a screening process, signed agreements to abide by the HOA's covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) and a fee are usually required before you are officially allowed to move in.

Why Some Homeowners Prefer HOAs
Many homeowners enjoy being a member of an HOA. Some neighborhoods that support HOAs may have amenities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, walking trails or other common areas for members to enjoy exclusively. An HOA can also help settle disputes between neighbors, acting as a third party in mediating the situation.

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of living in an HOA-governed neighborhood is that properties generally maintain their value quite well. This is due in large part to the fact that HOA's CC&Rs usually dictate that every house within the neighborhood have a consistent appearance. If your neighbor's house had overgrown grass or an unusual color scheme, it could detract from the value of your property, making it more difficult to sell should the situation arise; however, by mandating that all properties be well-kept, an HOA ensures that every house has equal opportunity to maintain its market value.

Why Some Homeowners Do Not Prefer HOAs
On the other hand, there are people who avoid living in a neighborhood managed by an HOA. Common complaints are often directed towards an HOA whose rules are viewed as too strict. For example, an HOA may enforce rules where flower pots must be a specific color or a dog must be a certain size or breed. Residents who wish to have more freedom regarding how their house looks may find HOA rules stifling. Failure to comply with HOA rules can lead to hefty fines and the possibility of being evicted or having a lien placed on your home.

Be aware that an HOA also has the authority to raise dues at any time without warning. This is usually done to fund new developments in the neighborhood or to compensate for increased costs of living. Some homeowners may find this frustrating, as they cannot anticipate how much their dues will cost for each pay period.

What Steps to Take Before Moving In
When considering moving into a neighborhood that is part an HOA, try to learn as much about the organization as possible. Find out what the CC&Rs dictate before you make the decision to move in, and determine whether you'll be able to follow them. You should also request to see the most recent minutes of the HOA's Board meetings for some insight into the HOA's budget and the frequency of changes made to dues.

Your lifestyle will likely determine your preference about living in an HOA-governed neighborhood. Always do your homework before moving in to make sure that the HOA will work with your goals and interests. For more information about HOAs in the Austin area, visit Austin City Connection or

Austin real estate blog
Can’t we all just get along? 3 tips for co-existing with neighbors

Congratulations! You have found a seemingly perfect neighborhood and just moved into your dream home. All seems well…until you begin to notice that the dog across the street barks all night long and the teenager next door likes to practice playing the drums at 5 a.m.

No matter where you live, you may occasionally be faced with a not-so-courteous neighbor. Below are some tips to help you deal with any issue in a good neighborly fashion.

Speak Up
The best solution for dealing with disruptive neighbors is to talk to them. If they are playing music too loudly, for example, let them know about it. A simple polite request to turn the volume down will usually solve the problem that very moment. The worst thing you can do when faced with a disturbance is to do nothing at all. If you don't voice your concerns, your neighbors may never realize they are bothering anyone.

When approaching others about an issue, it is important to be open to compromise. If they can't bear to discontinue their behavior, perhaps they'll be open to changing the day or time they engage in the activity so that it becomes less disruptive. By suggesting compromise to resolve an issue, you act as a friend trying to reach an agreement—not a stranger trying to mandate change.

Don't Fight Fire with Fire
Being polite is critical. Greeting your neighbors with an angry attitude could escalate the issue and turn you into the annoying neighbor. If your neighbor reacts angrily to your request and proves impossible to talk to after various attempts on your part, it may be wise to seek the help of an outside authority, such as a landlord or even the police, depending on the severity of the disturbance. If you ever feel threatened by your neighbors after making a complaint, you should contact the police.

Do Your Homework Beforehand
Visiting a neighborhood during different times and days of the week before moving into it can help you avoid unpleasant surprises, as it will give you a deeper sense of the neighborhood's noise and activity level. Walking around the block—instead of driving—will allow you to better assess sights, sounds and smells, as well as talk to potential neighbors.

Remember that everyone has a different lifestyle, and what you consider inappropriate may seem completely normal to someone else. By doing your homework and working to peacefully co-exist with your neighbors, you all can enjoy your properties with little to no trouble at all!

Austin real estate blog
Finding the perfect home: Questions to ask yourself

When searching for a new home, it's important not only to look at your finances and the outward appearance of a home, but to think about the underlying factors that would make a home ideal for you. When looking at perspective homes in the Austin area, consider the following factors and ask yourself these questions:

Stay time. How long do I plan on residing in this house? Will this be a long-term investment? Do I see myself being able to live here for the amount of time I expect to stay?

Size. How many people will be living here? Is there enough space to store all belongings? Will I be able to maintain a house of this size now and in the future?

Floor plan. Is the overall layout of this house convenient for me? Are the features of this home, such as stairs, accommodating to any small children or elderly who may live here with me?

Structure. Have I had the home inspected and talked to the seller about past repairs and remodeling? Will any structural or mechanical maintenance be required? How long will necessary maintenance take to complete? Will this house remain sturdy during times of bad weather and everyday wear-and-tear?

Neighborhood. How safe is this neighborhood? Is this a high-traffic or high-noise area? How does neighborhood activity compare at different times of day? Is this home part of a Homeowners Association and, if so, what fees are required?

Community. Does this community offer easy access to grocery stores, places of worship, shopping centers and entertainment? How does this location affect my commute to work? Would I prefer to live in a quieter, more rural community?

Schools. Which school district does this home belong to? Are there any good private or parochial schools in the area?

Of course, there are many other issues to consider throughout the homebuying process. For a list of questions to ask yourself along each step of the way, consult this homebuying list prepared by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), or talk to your Central Texas REALTOR®.

Austin real estate blog
The MLS and your Austin home search
FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 2010

As a home buyer or seller, you may have heard of the "MLS" but have questions about what that term actually means. If that's the case, we're here to help! The following Q&A can help shed a little light on the subject.

1. What is the MLS?
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is database of property listings. Properties for sale are listed in the MLS by REALTORS®. REALTORS® are a valuable tool in your Austin home search because they have exclusive, direct access to the MLS, which provides them with full property descriptions, as well as additional details about each home, including security codes, tax data and historical information. Though online property searches available to the general public provide basic information about a home—such as the square footage and number of beds and baths—this is only a fraction of the details shown to REALTORS® via the MLS.

2. How does MLS listing content get online?
There are two ways MLS content is distributed online. First, real estate associations can feed property details from the MLS directly to their consumer websites. For example the property search data on comes directly from the Austin Board of REALTORS®' (ABoR) MLS.

Second, real estate associations offer tools that allow REALTORS® to feature property listings from the MLS on their personal websites, as well as send their listings to third party websites such as Tools provided by real estate associations are directly connected with the MLS; therefore, when they are used as the primary tool in sending listings to other sites, the property data distributed is correct and remains current. That said, third party sites receive data from a variety of other sources, some of which may not distribute information straight from the MLS.

3. Can I trust the information on any real estate agent's website?
Typically only REALTORS®, who can be distinguished by their membership in the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), can access the MLS. Therefore, property listings should be accurate if you are visiting a REALTOR®'s website.

4. Are all home search sites the same?
No! Home search sites hosted by real estate associations or by REALTORS® offer the most current and comprehensive property information because they receive data feeds directly from the MLS. Third party home search sites can feature some inaccurate or outdated information because they receive property data from many different sources, some of which do not pull their listings straight from the MLS. Finally, it nearly goes without saying that property listings found on websites such as should be viewed with the utmost caution, as there is no guarantee of accurate information or ethical conduct by those posting the listings.

Now that you know a little about the MLS and what makes one of the most trusted home search sites, contact a REALTOR® and start browsing for properties today!

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