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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
Neighborhood Watch programs keep Austin neighborhoods safe

Does your neighborhood have a Neighborhood Watch program? Crime prevention is a priority for many communities, as demonstrated earlier this month during Austin's National Night Out event. It's likely that many of the neighborhoods who participated in the event have crime prevention programs like a Neighborhood Watch, or perhaps formed one during the citywide event. Below, we have outlined the steps to take for creating one of these groups in your neighborhood.

Speak to your local law enforcement
It's possible that your neighborhood already has a Neighborhood Watch program. If you're not sure, your local law enforcement agency will be able to tell you if one already exists. If there's no program currently in place, you'll want to contact the agency when you begin organizing your group. You must have sponsorship of a law enforcement agency in order to make your Neighborhood Watch group official. These men and women will also be responsible for educating your group about crime prevention.

Rally your neighborhood
You can't fight off crime alone! Gather support from your neighbors in favor of creating a Neighborhood Watch program by suggesting the idea during an HOA or neighborhood association meeting. It's likely that the members of the board will agree with creating such a group.

If your neighborhood isn't governed by these types of associations, consider pitching the idea directly to your neighbors. Create a sign-up sheet and go door to door, asking your neighbors to provide their name, phone number and email address if they're interested in participating. You can use their contact information later to organize meetings.

Meet regularly and form a plan
Once your group has officially assembled, it's important to meet regularly. Plan monthly or bi-weekly meetings to stay on top of the most critical issues facing your neighborhood. Some Neighborhood Watch programs use text messaging and social media to communicate between members. These tools can be very useful in thwarting problems quickly.

Neighborhood Watch groups play a vital role in helping law enforcement reduce crime in our neighborhoods, which benefits Austin as a whole. For more information about Neighborhood Watch groups and how to start one of your own, visit

Austin real estate blog
Get your home ready for sale

When you're considering selling your home, you'll want to present your house in the best light possible. Of course, cleaning and organizing your house before showings is a must, but there are other steps to take before your home will be ready for a buyer to see it. Below, we have crafted a check-list that home sellers should review before putting a house on the market.

Get in touch with a REALTOR®
With a REALTOR® by your side, the home selling process will be much easier. Not only can they become a valuable partner, they can also offer sound advice for getting your home ready, especially when it's time for your first home showing. In addition, a REALTOR® can get your home listed, priced properly and marketed effectively.

Depersonalize your home
Perhaps the biggest hurdle you may face is removing any strong emotional attachment from your property. This is understandable, as it's likely that you've lived in the home for many years. However, when it comes to selling your home, you must see it as a house; a piece of property no different than a car or a piece of jewelry. Once you release the emotional attachment, the process of selling your home becomes much easier.

Stow away your belongings
Consider renting a storage unit and move some of your personal items from the home. Not only will this help potential buyers see the house as "their own," it will also take some of the sting out of getting rid of your former home, as your personal belongings will be out of sight and out of mind. You could also hold a yard sale or sell unneeded items on eBay or Craigslist.

Freshen up your home's exterior
The inside appearance of your home is important, but what about the outside? The exterior of your home is the first thing a potential buyer will see. Its condition will ultimately influence whether the buyer will want to step through the front door. One of the best ways to boost curb appeal is touching up your home's paint job. Other effective methods include regularly mowing your lawn and sweeping away debris in your driveway, as well as planting and maintaining flowers in your yard.

Consider having an inspection performed
Buyers typically have the house inspected before they finalize their decision to buy. However, it can be beneficial to have an inspection performed before you even put your home on the market. If there are any issues with your home, they can be identified and even repaired before your home is listed. This can help save time for both you and the buyer during the negotiation process. In any case, it's best to discuss with your REALTOR® whether you should have an inspection performed ahead of time.

By following these steps, you'll greatly improve your overall home selling experience. For more tips for successfully selling your home, visit

Austin real estate blog
Protect your roof from the elements

Your roof is arguably the most important part of your home. With the winter months quickly approaching, it's important to make sure your roof is in good condition. Cold weather can cause serious damage to your home if your roof isn't properly prepared. Below, we've provided a few tips for maximizing your roof's performance.

Inspect your roof for flaws or hire a professional
Perhaps the best way to keep your roof safe is to regularly check it for problems. Look for cracks or irregularities in shingles monthly, as these are common signs of a roof's natural wear and tear, as well as a possibility for needed repairs. Hiring a roof inspector is recommended because they can determine the exact condition of your roof.

Keep tree branches off your roof
Trees will probably present the biggest threat to your roof. While a tree falling on your roof would be a worst-case scenario, branches can be just as dangerous. The best way to prevent trees from damaging your roof is to plant them as far away from your home as possible. If this can't be done, make sure to prune any branches hanging above your roof, as they can scratch and damage your shingles over time.

Make sure your roof is insulated
Insulation helps your home in two ways. First, it prevents air leaks and helps to maintain a consistent temperature in your home. Secondly, it plays an important role in reinforcing your roof from winter weather. Proper insulation will ensure that warm air doesn't melt an iced-over roof, which can lead to ice dams.

Assess your roof for hail damage
Hail is a rare occurrence in Austin, but when it does happen, it can present a serious threat to your roof and home. While there is little you can do to stop hail from damaging your roof, it's important to check it after a hail storm for darkened spots or dimples on your shingles and aluminum siding. If you suspect hail damage, contact your insurance company.

By taking steps to prevent danger to your roof, you'll avoid making costly repairs or having to replace your roof altogether, which is an expensive endeavor. For more tips on keeping your roof in tact, visit

Austin real estate blog
Saving money on cooling costs

Although fall is finally upon us, we still haven't left the sweltering summer Texas heat behind. Unless you're taking proper action, it's likely that your electric bill is also feeling the heat. Below are a few tips to keep cool while lowering your electric bill.

Program your thermostat
Make sure to program your thermostat so that it's not cooling an empty house. If you work during the day, set your AC at a warm temperature until you get home. If you're gone an hour or longer on the weekends, raise your thermostat a few degrees. You can always cool your home down when you return.

Look for leaks around windows and doors
Air leaks in your home could be drastically increasing your energy bills. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends checking for leaks by using a smoke pen and watching where the smoke travels. If the smoke moves horizontally near windows, doors or other areas around your home, you may have found a leak. Caulking is the most common way to seal these types of leaks.

Check your air filters
Are your air filters dusty or malfunctioning? A dirty air filter can make your AC unit work twice as hard, which means energy is wasted and more money is spent on cooling expenses each month. Make sure to check your filters at least twice a year or even better, once a month, to ensure they are clean and working properly.

Block the sun
If you have windows located in direct sunlight, make sure to cover them with blinds or shades. Experts suggest that shading your home from the sun can reduce cooling costs by as much as 30 percent. Spend a day determining which windows get the most sunlight and adjust your blinds accordingly.

Lower your usage of heat-producing appliances
If possible, try to only use heat-producing appliances, such as your oven, dishwasher and dryer, at night. These appliances can increase your home's temperature, and put more pressure on your AC. However, if you use these appliances at night when temperatures are cooler, your AC won't have to work as hard.

Run your ceiling fans
Ceiling fans can eliminate the need for regular air conditioning. On its standard setting, a ceiling fan pushes air downwards, making the room and its occupants feel cooler. Keep in mind that ceiling fans only make you feel cooler - they don't actually cool the room. Try increasing the temperature of your thermostat while running your ceiling fan to stay cool without paying top dollar.

These are just a few of the ways you can beat the heat without breaking the bank. For more great tips for saving energy and keeping cool, visit

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