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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 improvement topics

Austin real estate blog
Appliance rebates: Saving money, saving energy

If you've been considering updating appliances within your home, the coming weeks may be the perfect time to act. The U.S. Department of Energy has allocated $23,341,000 to the state of Texas to support the Texas Trade Up Appliance Rebate Program. This program is designed to boost the Texas economy and energy conservation by encouraging consumers to replace outdated appliances with new, energy efficient, ENERGY STAR® or CEE qualified models.

Qualified consumers will be eligible to receive two appliance rebates and two recycling bonus rebates per household, granted the appliances are purchased from a Texas retail location or contractor. Beginning April 5, 2010, rebates may be reserved via phone or online registration. The rebates will apply only to appliances purchased from April 16 - 25, 2010.

For more information on qualification requirements, appliance categories and rebate amounts, visit Happy shopping!

Austin real estate blog
Six affordable ways to stage your home

Presenting an attractive home to potential buyers can greatly increase your chances of selling your house quickly. Try the following tips:

1. Float the furniture. Though it may seem natural to push furniture against the walls, try "floating" the furniture to make more intimate spaces for conversation. Lisa LaPorta, designer on HGTV's Designed to Sell, recommends visualizing a figure-eight or the letter H and placing furniture in that pattern. Just remember to create clear pathways for traffic to help the flow of the room.

2. Work those windows. Window dressings can serve as the perfect accent to any room. If the room is small, consider opaque curtains, which allow more light to shine through and give the room a bigger feel. If your windows are narrow, extend the curtain rods about a foot on each side to give an illusion of width. Remember that curtains featuring vertical patterns create an elongated effect; this style compliments most windows in a home.

3. Love that color. Painting is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to revive a home. Keep in mind that painting walls with a rich color can make the spaces more intimate, dramatic and cozy, while lighter, paler shades help rooms appear more spacious. When in doubt, go neutral.

4. Re-hang invisible art. Instead of hanging art along an invisible line encircling each room, consider hanging pieces in diagonal, triangular or vertical patterns. Michael Friedes, a stager with Nest Home Design, says this creates visual interest and can help direct the eye toward interesting features in a room, such as a bay window or high ceilings.

5. Accessorize in threes. When creating displays for table tops, shelves, walls and other spaces around your home, experts recommend accessorizing in odd numbers - especially groups of three-and grouping objects by unifying elements, such as color or texture. Display items of various heights and widths with the largest objects in the back.

6. Get some flower power. Seasonal flowers help a home appear fresh, clean and beautiful. Whether you showcase budding magnolia clippings in spring or holly branches in winter, there are beautiful arrangements to display in any season. You can't make mistakes when arranging flowers, so remember to get creative and have fun!

Know that your REALTOR® has a powerful network of industry professionals and can help find a professional stager to meet your needs, should you decide to go that route. For more tips on how to improve the appearance and increase the value of your Austin home, visit the "Consumer Tools" section of

Austin real estate blog
Austin’s top 10 home remodeling paybacks

If you’re debating whether to invest in home remodeling, consider this: On a national level, most remodeling projects that recouped the greatest percentage of cost in 2009 were exterior improvements that cost less than $15,000.

Results from the 2009 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report produced by Hanley Wood, LLC, show remodeling projects that boost curb appeal, increase energy efficiency and put the home in move-in condition have proved popular with buyers during trying economic times.

Nationwide the biggest returns were seen with the addition of a steel entry door (128.9 percent of costs recouped), upscale fiber-cement siding (83.6 percent of costs recouped) and a wooden deck (80.6 percent of costs recouped).

On a local level, Austin homeowners saw a return on their investments not only in smaller-scale exterior improvements, but in significant indoor renovations. What’s even better news for Central Texans is that Texas and other southwestern states outperform most of the nation in terms of remodeling costs recovered upon resale, according to the Cost vs. Value Report.

Below are some of the remodeling projects that yielded the biggest returns for Austin homeowners in 2009:

• Steel entry door replacement (120.7%)
• Attic bedroom remodel (97.4%)
• Basement remodel (92.0%)
• Vinyl window replacement (85.3%)
• Fiber-cement siding replacement (82.5%)
• Major kitchen remodel (81.3%)
• Grand Entrance (81.2%)
• Minor kitchen remodel (79.8%)
• Wood window replacement (79.3%)
• Foam-backed vinyl siding replacement (78.3%)

For more information on home remodeling, contact your Central Texas REALTOR®.

Austin real estate blog
Home selling in winter: Extra effort may be required

Selling a home can be more challenging during winter months — the lawn is brown, you have fewer daylight hours to show the home and the weather is often cold and rainy. Consider the following tips to help spark buyer interest:

1. Warm the room. Before potential buyers arrive, adjust the thermostat to a slightly warmer temperature. If you have a fireplace, turn it on to add ambience and additional light and warmth. Be sure, though, to never leave the house while the fireplace is still in use — you don’t want to risk a fire!

2. Make guests feel welcome. Setting the table with good china, silver and linens makes guests feel as if they’ve been invited to a party. Displaying warm holiday cookies or cider is another wonderful way to say "welcome".

3. Wash the windows. During winter you might not think of washing windows, but this can make a huge difference in the appearance of your home. Make sure you can proudly showcase sparkling window panes when opening the curtains.

4. Add a hint of home-cooking. The scent of chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon rolls, freshly baked bread, apple pie and vanilla is popular among homebuyers. Just remember: Unless you’re actually baking these goodies, keep the fragrance subtle — overusing candles and sprays can have a negative effect.

5. Keep the holiday spirit alive. When religious holidays end and most decorations come down, you can still use winter wreaths and arrangements to add color and maintain a festive flair.

REALTORS® know the best ways to effectively market homes, so be sure to contact a REALTOR® for all your home selling needs. Find a REALTOR® today on

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