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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
House cleaning: Five tips to help get you started

The time for spring cleaning is here and, for some homeowners, it can be an overwhelming event. However, with a little help from your family and some careful planning, your cleaning session can be less stressful and more successful. Below, we have listed five tips to make cleaning your home a more positive and productive experience.

1. Create a game plan
Before you even grab your mop and bucket, it's a good idea to come up with a game plan. Go through your house with a notepad and pen and take note of the areas that need attention. Write down what needs to be fixed and how you plan to do so. Then, prioritize your list based on which areas need the most work.

2. Set a schedule
Discuss what you want to accomplish with your family and what days would best suit everyone involved. Perhaps you'll want to put in a couple of hours of work each day. Or, it might be better to set aside a weekend or two for taking care of business. Make sure everyone in your family agrees to a set time and will dedicate that period to cleaning and organizing.

3. Break big projects into smaller tasks
Trying to take care of every problem in one go will likely leave you exhausted and overwhelmed. If you have a big problem area that needs attention, break the clean-up into manageable parts - whether by areas or objects in the room, or by the cleaning methods involved.

For example, if your bedroom needs to be de-cluttered, divide the room by the areas that need attention. You could spend one session reorganizing your drawers and another session cleaning out your closet. Once the room has been organized, you might tackle specific cleaning activities (such as vacuuming, dusting, etc.).

4. Secure supplies
You'll want to make sure you have everything you need before you get started. The last thing you want is to start cleaning, only to realize you don't have any sponges or toilet bowl cleaner. Making a trip to the store in the middle of a project to get necessary items can slow your momentum and make the project take longer than expected.

5. Have some fun
Even though the task will take time and energy, that doesn't mean it has to be boring! While cleaning, turn on some music that everyone can enjoy. Take regularly scheduled breaks so you and your family can rest and regain some strength. When a task is completed, reward yourself and your helpers by going out for dinner or staying in and watching a movie.

With a solid game plan for big cleaning projects, you'll not only find that more can be accomplished in shorter time, but the whole event becomes much less stressful. For more great tips on cleaning and organizing your home, visit

Austin real estate blog
Backyard swimming pool: Is it the right choice for you?

For some homeowners, having an in-ground pool in their backyard is essential; it keeps them cool during the warmer months and provides a great location for parties and social gatherings. For others, however, a pool is seen as a money drainer that only serves to increase living expenses. If you're thinking about buying a home with a pool or installing a pool in your backyard, ask yourself the following questions.

How will a pool affect the value of my home?
Recent studies have shown that a backyard swimming pool can increase the value of your home, depending on the area in which you live. In Texas, the study found that a pool can increase a home's value by as much as 13 percent. Of course, speaking with a REALTOR® will help you best determine how a pool may affect your home's value.

Will buyers be interested in my home if I own a pool?
It's important to keep in mind that a backyard pool can be a deal breaker for some buyers. If buyers have young children, for example, they may feel a pool is a safety hazard. For others, however, a pool might be exactly what they're looking for. If your neighborhood doesn't have a community pool, your home may be more appealing if there's a private pool in the backyard.

Do I have the time and money to put into maintenance?
If you do decide to own a swimming pool, make sure you're prepared to maintain it. You'll need to keep the PH levels of the pool in balance and perform regular chemical treatments to ensure algae and bacteria don't develop. According to the Wall Street Journal, pool owners may need to budget $3,000 to $5,000 each year for general maintenance and repairs. Some repairs, such as resurfacing the tiles and plaster, can cost as much as $10,000.

Is it worth the cost?
Pool installations generally cost anywhere between $25,000 and $50,000. Even though you will likely find someone interested in owning your home, experts suggest that you won't recoup the cost of installing a backyard swimming pool.

Nevertheless, you may find that the expenses are worth it. Homeowners with a pool can take refreshing dips in the water when Texas temperatures climb up to 100 degrees or more. A pool can also provide a great backdrop for a house party, where guests can go swimming or simply relax outside enjoying the sights and sounds of the water.

Buying and maintaining a pool is expensive, but it can be a rewarding experience for you and your family. Be sure to discuss with your REALTOR® whether owning a swimming pool is the right choice for you.

Austin real estate blog
Painting your home’s exterior: Are you up for the job?

Whether you're remodeling your home or preparing your home for resale, a new coat of paint on your home's exterior can work wonders. You can inexpensively add value to your home and make it more appealing to you, your family, guests and potential buyers. Below, we have listed some useful tips for executing a winning exterior paint project.

Note: Painting projects are challenging tasks. Executing your project properly will require a good amount of time, tools and likely some help from friends or family. If you feel you may not be able to accomplish this project, you should consider hiring a professional painter to get the job done.

Getting ready for your project
First, you'll need to ensure you have all the tools and materials needed to get the job done. Below are some of the tools and materials you will need and what they do:

  • Caulk - Caulk is a sealant designed to fill in cracks and holes in the surface you plan on painting. It can also be used to prevent insects and air from entering your home from the outside.
  • Paint brushes - The most recognizable tool for painting, paint brushes are fantastic for smaller areas and touch ups to larger areas. These tools are precise and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Paint rollers - Paint rollers are much larger than paint brushes and can easily cover large areas with paint. This will probably be the tool you'll be using the most for your exterior paint project.
  • Power washer - This tool uses high-pressure water to blast dirt, chalk, dust and mold off the surface you wish you paint on, creating a clean, smooth surface for your project.
  • Primer - Primer is used to prepare the surface for the painting job itself, providing a layer of protection and a stronger adhesive bond for the paint.
  • Scraper - As the name implies, scrapers are used to scrape off old paint from a surface, especially paint that is cracking or peeling.
  • Step ladder - A ladder will help you reach every inch of the surface you wish to paint.

Naturally, you'll also need paint to complete your project. There are many different kinds of paint to choose from, each designed for specific surfaces or areas. Determining what kind of paint you need is a crucial step to take before you get your project off the ground.

You'll also need to determine how much paint your project will call for. Some paint stores, such as Sherwin-Williams, provide Paint Calculators on their websites to help you decide exactly how much paint you'll need.

Surface inspections and preparations
Once you've gathered all the tools you need, your next step should be inspecting the condition of the surface you're planning to paint on.

Make sure that the surface is as clean as possible before any primer, caulk or paint is applied. A common method to accomplish this is by using a power washer. However, you must be cautious when using a power washer. The water pressure is high enough to cause damage to your exterior surfaces, not to mention severe injuries to any person caught in the spray.

You'll also want to check for signs of peeling and cracks on the old paint's surface. If such signs exist, use some sandpaper and a scraper to remove these problem areas.

Note: If your home was built before 1978, it's possible that your home was painted using lead-based paint. If this is the case, there are health concerns you should consider before scraping or sanding. You may need to speak to a contractor and have them remove the paint before you continue with your project.

Now that your surface is clean and problem-free, you are ready to begin painting. First, you'll need to apply primer to the surface you wish to paint on. Depending on the material the surface is made of, a specific type of primer may be needed. Primer is used the same way paint is used - by using a paint brush or paint roller and applying it to the surface.

Once you have covered your surface with primer, let it dry completely before you begin applying paint. Start at the top of your surface and work your way downward using the paint roller, then touch up the application with your paint brush. If you need to apply a second coat, start with the roller again and finish with the brush.

You've just read some of the basics of accomplishing an exterior painting project. For specific tips on getting your painting job done right, visit or, or talk to a painting professional near you.

Austin real estate blog
Three alarms your home shouldn’t be without

Although we never plan on a house fire or burglary to occur, the risk of these hazards is always present. One of the best ways to help prevent unexpected disasters from harming your home and your family is to install detectors that will alert you at the first sign of danger. Below, we have listed three life-saving alarms every home should have.

Smoke detectors
Smoke detectors are one of your best defenses against house fires. The U.S. Fire Administration states that you should install smoke detectors on every floor of your home. Furthermore, smoke detectors should be in multiple areas: inside and outside of bedrooms, in laundry rooms, near furnaces and other areas where fires could start.

It's absolutely vital that you inspect your smoke detectors every month. Smoke detectors typically have a test button that will sound the alarm when pressed. If the alarm does not sound during the test, you should replace the detector's battery. Most modern smoke detectors will chirp when the batteries are running low, reminding you to replace them.

It's also important to discuss an escape plan with your family. Choose a location outside of your home for your family to meet in the event of a fire and make sure that each member of your family has a way to escape your home from every room.

Carbon Monoxide detectors
Carbon monoxide (or CO) is an odorless and invisible gas usually emitted from gas stoves, furnaces, water heaters and cars. This gas is poisonous and can be lethal at certain levels.

CO detectors are essential in preventing carbon monoxide poisoning in your home. In the event that your CO detector sounds its alarm, have your family evacuate the house and check for symptoms of CO poisoning, such as dizziness, chest pains, nausea and headaches.

If you or your family members exhibit any of these signs, dial 911. If you don't exhibit any of these signs, turn off your appliances, open your windows to ventilate your home and call a professional to determine the levels of CO in your home.

Home security systems
As well as protecting your family from hazards inside your home, you should also consider the dangers potentially lurking outside - namely, burglars.

A home burglary can occur at any time of day. Among other measures, you can reduce the chance that your home will be burglarized by installing a home security system. Studies have shown that homes without a security system are three times as likely to be burglarized than a home with a security system in place.

Home security systems vary in their designs. Some may be motion based while others rely on door/window sensors or security cameras. It's important to determine which security system will best suit your house. For example, if you have a pet that roams around your house at night, a motion detection security system may not be the best choice for your home.

If you arrive home and your house appears to have been burglarized, leave the premises immediately and dial 911 on a cell phone or a neighbor's phone. Do not attempt to investigate your home, as the intruder could still be inside. You also do not want to tamper with the crime scene before police officers arrive.

These are just a few helpful tips for keeping you, your family and your home safe. For more safety tips concerning fires, carbon monoxide and other hazards, visit the websites for the U.S. Fire Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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