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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
Top ten remodeling paybacks of 2010

When considering a remodeling project, cost is definitely an important factor. However, you must also consider whether a remodeling project will retain its value if you decide to sell your home.

Recently, Remodeling Magazine and REALTOR® Magazine published their annual Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report for 2010, which takes 35 common remodeling projects and estimates the average recouped cost for each project in 80 cities across the United States. Although these itemized estimates are based on hypothetical projects for an average American home, they are helpful in providing an overview of remodeling costs.

On a national level, the report indicates that the largest percentage of recouped costs derived from such projects as steel entry door replacement (102.1 percent of costs returned), garage door replacement (83.9 percent of costs returned) and wooden deck additions (72.8 percent of costs returned). Many of the highest financial returns were seen from projects where building costs were less than $15,000.

On a local level, estimated recouped costs were much greater than most cities in the nation, according to the report. Below are the top ten remodeling projects that yielded the highest returns for homeowners in Austin, Texas in 2010:

  • Steel entry door replacement (116.6 percent)
  • Garage door replacement (98.7 percent)
  • Basement remodel (84.3 percent)
  • Attic bedroom (78.3 percent)
  • Wooden window Replacement (76.9 percent)
  • Vinyl siding replacement (75.5 percent)
  • Minor kitchen remodel (74.2 percent)
  • Major kitchen remodel (73.8 percent)
  • Wooden deck addition (72.8 percent)
  • Vinyl window replacement (71.5 percent)

Keep in mind that these numbers are just estimates and that every home is different; the cost of a new kitchen in one home could cost significantly less than the same project in another home, for example. We encourage you to talk to your Central Texas REALTOR®, as he or she can help you determine how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to remodeling your home.

Austin real estate blog
Resolve to be more energy efficient in 2011

Do you have any New Year's resolutions for 2011? Maybe you have vowed to get more exercise or spend more time volunteering. Why not also make 2011 the year you cut down on living expenses and help the environment by making smarter, energy-saving decisions at home? Below, we have listed five actions you might consider adding to your 2011 "to do" list.

Evaluate your heating and cooling system
Did you know that a home's heating and cooling system typically accounts for about 43 percent of the monthly energy bill? Perhaps it's time to re-evaluate your setup. Though there are a few items on the general maintenance checklist you may be able to do yourself, it's best to have a contractor thoroughly inspect your system.

Use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)
Have you noticed your friends using "curly cue"–shaped light bulbs in their home? These are called compact fluorescent light bulbs, also known as CFLs. Their unique design uses about 75 percent less energy and can last 10 times longer than a typical light bulb. Why not add them to your shopping list today?

Replace your air filters
An unclean air filter forces your air conditioning system to work harder, which means more energy is required to adjust your home's temperature. Check your air filters once a month, and replace them as soon as possible when they are dirty. Mark monthly reminders to check your filters on your 2011 calendar so that you won't forget this important task.

Wash your clothing in cold water
Begin thinking twice before you dial up the settings for your weekly loads of laundry. Whenever possible, use cold water to wash your clothing. Cold water uses less than half of the energy that warm or hot water uses during a normal cycle. Also, remember to wash full loads to ensure water isn't wasted.

Turn off the lights when not in use
You may have heard this advice for years now, but there's a reason for that. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that lighting accounts for about 11 percent of an average household's energy bill. Get serious about turning off the lights when you leave a room and make this practice a habit.

These are just a handful of simple steps you can take immediately to begin lowering your energy consumption. There are many ways to save energy in your home, from changing old habits to installing eco-friendly appliances. For more great tips about saving energy, visit or Have a Happy New Year!

Austin real estate blog
Save some green by going green

This past spring, more than 28,000 eligible Texans who purchased ENERGY STAR® rated appliances received rebates through the Texas Trade Up Appliance Rebate Program. The program was designed to encourage Texans to switch to green-powered appliances.

With the winter months upon us, homeowners will have another opportunity to save money by going green. Through the Texas Appliance Mail-in Rebate Program, qualified individuals can receive a rebate of up to $1,000 by replacing an old appliance with one that's more energy efficient. To qualify, you must purchase an ENERGY STAR® rated appliance from a Texas retailer on or after December 20 and install it in your Texas home. Eligible appliances include some air conditioners, clothes and dish washers, freezers, refrigerators, water heaters and heat pumps.

These rebates will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis and will last as long as funds are available. Keep in mind that certain restrictions may apply, depending on specific factors such as participation in the previous appliance rebate program.

For more information about the Texas Appliance Mail-In Rebate Program and to see if you qualify, visit

Austin real estate blog
Home remodeling: Where to begin?

Even if you've found your dream home, you may feel the need to remodel certain areas within your home as time goes on. Perhaps you need to upgrade the kitchen cabinets for a more modern feel. Maybe a room needs to be added to accommodate a growing family. No matter what your situation may be, the following tips can help get your remodeling project off the ground.

You can't execute a successful remodeling project without knowing what you want. First, identify the part of your home that you would like to change and how. Next, visit home improvement stores and look through their choices for tiling, ceiling fixtures, brick or whatever might be involved in your remodeling plans.

Record which items catch your eye so you can show them to a contractor later. It's a good idea to remain open to and consider different styles or brands of each item, as this can help you stay within budget down the road. As many home improvement stores have websites, you'll be able to show your contractor the specific products you have in mind when meeting with him or her.

Talk to a Professional
Remodeling contractors are invaluable in helping you plan out your goals realistically. After asking friends or family for recommendations and conducting your own research regarding contractor credentials, get in touch with several different contractors to discuss your wish list and show them what ideas you have in mind. Ask each contractor for a written bid so you can gauge the price range of your project.

Don't be hasty to pick the lowest bid offered. Contractors who offer bids significantly lower than others may be expecting to charge you additional fees later in the process or may have missed a portion of your request. Also, keep in mind that some contractors may charge higher fees for a higher level of service. When it comes to expectations, it's important that both you and your contractor are on the same page.

Sign a Contract
Whether you hire a professional contractor or ask your neighbor for help, having a written agreement for your remodeling project is essential. This document usually includes start and completion dates, a description of what products and services are to be provided by the contractor, payment terms and the consequences of contract violation. All of the parties involved in the remodeling project should sign the contract before the project begins.

Seeking the services of a legal consultant, such as an attorney, before the contract is finalized can ultimately help save you time, trouble and money. An attorney can scan the document for any problem spots or loopholes that may cause conflict down the line. If possible, you may request that the attorney write the contract him/herself.

Remodeling can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also be a hectic one. By getting the crucial steps right, you can ensure that your remodeling project will run as smoothly as possible. For more remodeling information and tips, visit

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