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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
Understanding paint: Choosing the right paint for the job

Did you know that painting is one of the most inexpensive ways to increase the value of your home? Whether you're planning to revitalize a single room or the entire exterior, below are some important questions to consider when deciding on the paint you'll use for your project.

What type of paint should I use?
Professional painters use either oil-based paints or latex-based paints. The differences between the two types vary greatly. For example, oil-based paints are more difficult to work with, but they usually won't require a second coat. Latex-based paints are smoother and easier to work with, but will often require a second or third coat before the job is finished. It's best to speak with a painting professional to decide which type of paint is best suited for your project.

You'll also need to consider the type of finish, or sheen, you want your paint to have. A paint's finish can directly affect the paints appearance and durability. Below is a list of the different kinds of paint finish and their characteristics:

  • Flat - Flat finish smoothes the appearance of walls and siding and is ideal for interior painting projects such as bedrooms or living rooms. This finish is also adept at hiding surface imperfections.
  • Satin - Satin finish is fantastic for interior rooms that are occupied frequently, such as bedrooms or hallways. This finish is very similar to flat finishes, but with a hint of gloss.
  • Gloss - Gloss finish has a shiny, reflective appearance and is designed for wood surfaces such as doors or cabinets.
  • Semi-Gloss - Semi-gloss finish works well in areas that are regularly cleaned, such as a bathroom or kitchen. As the name implies, semi-gloss creates a less reflective surface than a gloss finish.
  • High Gloss - High gloss finish has more shine and reflection than any other finish. This is typically used for exterior projects such as front doors. However, it may not be the best choice if there are noticeable flaws on the surface you are painting on.

What color of paint should I choose?
Choosing the right color of paint is often the most challenging part of the project. Different colors can produce drastically different "moods" in a room, and deciding which feel you want to convey is important.

Colors can be divided into two categories: warm or cool. Warm colors include shades of yellow, orange and red and typically have an energizing effect on the viewer. Cool colors include shades of blue, green and purple and typically have a relaxing effect on the viewer.

An easy way to decide on a paint color is by matching or accenting the color of the wall paper, furniture, carpeting or other décor in the room. If possible, bring in samples of the carpet and fabrics used in the room to a paint store. They can use these samples to determine which colors might work best on your walls.

Keep in mind that paint color may look different on a sample strip than it will on your walls. The lighting in a room, whether it's natural or artificial, can completely transform a color's hue and appearance. Consider bringing home some paint color samples and applying them to a portion of the surface you wish to paint. This way, you can test out your color choices using the lighting in your own home.

Major painting stores, such as Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore, have created "color visualizers" on their websites that allows you to test your favorite colors virtually before you actually apply them.

What is primer and when should I use it?
Paint primer helps protect the surface you are painting on and helps paint form a stronger adhesion after it has been applied, which reduces the chance of peeling or cracking.

Primer comes in a variety of types, corresponding with a variety of surfaces. There are primers for wood, concrete, aluminum and drywall surfaces, as well as variations in these categories to provide smoother appearances or increased protection.

Generally speaking, surfaces that are permeable and/or uneven should always be coated with primer before the actual painting begins. Wood surfaces commonly require a coat of primer, as they are usually exposed to the elements and retain moisture well. Using primer on other surfaces such as metals or plastics can help protect the surface itself. For exterior paint projects, the use of primer is essential, as your surface will be exposed to the elements and will need as much protection as possible.

Having a basic understanding of paint and primer before beginning your project will reduce the need for touch ups further down the road. For more tips on preparing for your painting project, talk to a painting professional near you.

Austin real estate blog
Thwarting thieves: Protecting your home from burglary

The FBI states that a home is burglarized every 15 seconds. Even in the nicest neighborhoods, a home burglary can occur at any time. Thankfully, home burglary is one of the most preventable crimes in the country. Below, we have listed a number of ways to help keep your home and your family safe.

Lock up
Installing locks in your home is the most common method used in preventing home burglaries. Installing a lock on your front and back doors should be your first priority, as burglars prefer entering homes through doorways. Experts recommend using a deadbolt lock to secure your doors. A high quality deadbolt lock is difficult to break and often has mechanisms to prevent lock picking.

Exterior doors aren't the only point of entry for a burglar. You should install locks on your windows, as well. There are many different types of window locks available, from pin locks to bolt locks and keyed locks, all of which provide additional security. If your windows are near a locked door, consider installing shatterproof glass in the window so that burglars cannot break the glass and unlock the door by reaching inside.

It's absolutely imperative that you lock your doors and windows anytime you leave your home. Even if you're only gone for a few minutes, that's all the time a burglar needs to gain entry into your home. Make it a habit to ensure all of your windows and doors are locked before you leave your home. Furthermore, its best that spare keys be given to a trusted neighbor instead of being placed under doormats, in mailboxes or other areas outside your home.

Create the illusion of occupancy
Not surprisingly, the majority of home break-ins occur when the owner is not home. Therefore, one of the best methods in preventing a break-in is creating the illusion that your home is occupied at all times.

Whether you're going out for dinner or leaving town for a few days, turn on some lights in your home before you leave. Lamps near your front door or lights in your bedroom are common signals that your home is occupied. You can also buy automatic timers to turn on your lights, or use motion detecting lights to deter intruders.

Avoid advertising
Never make it obvious that your home has something of value to steal. Did you just buy a new HD TV? Throw the box away in a black garbage bag instead of leaving it out next to your trash bin. Otherwise, you are practically advertising to thieves that an HD TV is inside, ready for the taking.

Sound the alarm
Another common method to deter home burglary is installing an electronic home security system. A home security system typically includes a control panel, keypad and an alarm that sounds when a door is opened or a window is broken (as long as the system is activated). Other home security systems can feature motion detectors or closed circuit televisions with cameras.

Depending on the service provider, a security system could be monitored. This means that if the alarm goes off, the service provider is automatically notified after a certain period of time passes. Then, they attempt to reach the homeowner by telephone. If they cannot reach the homeowner, or a password is not provided, the security system will call the police.

These are just a handful of things you can do to help prevent your home from being burglarized. For more tips, visit the website for the National Crime Prevention Council.

Austin real estate blog
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
Save time and money on your utilities with CentralTexasConnect

Whether you're buying your first home or moving to a new neighborhood, you will have to consider the utilities your home will need. Does your house use both gas and electricity? Would you prefer satellite television or digital cable? Perhaps the most important question is: how much will all of these utilities cost?

The Austin Board of REALTORS® and White FenceTM have teamed up to help ease the burden of connecting home utilities by introducing CentralTexasConnect. This free online service allows you to compare prices of several essential home utilities, such as phones, television, Internet, gas and electricity, and connect them directly through the CentralTexasConnect website.

CentralTexasConnect also provides listings for a variety of home services, such as carpet cleaners, maid services, home security and much more, all in one convenient location. Using a secure search engine, you can enter your home address and zip code to let CentralTexasConnect find the best home service and utility deals being offered in your neighborhood.

Ready to start saving time and money? Visit as today.

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