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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 10 remodeling projects for Austin homes in 2011-2012

Is your Austin home in need of a new look for the new year? Check out the list below for remodeling projects that, according to the Remodeling 2011-12 Cost vs. Value Report (, will get you the largest returns on your investment.

  • Look up! Turn that musty, unfinished attic in your Austin home into a bedroom with a half-bath, maximize small spaces for closets, and you could get almost 83 percent of your investment value when you sell.
  • Get a facelift. Replace your garage door and you’ll be likely to see about three-quarters of a return on that green.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have a basement in your home, and you spend the money to remodel it, you could get the largest payback listed for Austin homeowners in the 2011-12 Cost vs. Value Report. The 83 percent return you could get on your investment is almost 20 percent more than most people living elsewhere in the nation are likely to see.
  • Switching out your old entry for a new steel front door gets you nearly 83 percent of your cost back. Finish the look with an antique-brass lockset to give your house both a secure feeling and fresh facade.
  • Central Texans care about commodes: put a full bath remodel on your list and you will enjoy your new porcelain tub, mirrored medicine cabinet, linen closet and cool ceramic tile floor before recouping about 73 percent of that investment when you sell.
  • Kick back and relax in your new family room. Add this feature where once there was only a crawlspace to your Austin home and you’ll be likely to see an over 70 percent return on your costs.
  • Siding is sweeping the nation! Folks everywhere recognize the value in brand new fiber-cement siding. This home improvement endeavor generally yields an 80 percent recoup of costs, both in Austin and across the country.
  • Get cookin’! Install energy-efficient appliances, get new laminate countertops, and apply a new coat of paint. Or go whole hog and upgrade to cherry cabinets, a built-in water filter on designer faucets and put in cork flooring. No matter the size of your budget, both major and minor kitchen remodels are good investments. Many Austin homeowners will see between a 73 and 76 percent return on their kitchen projects.
  • Outdoor living is just one of many reasons Austin is a great place to be. Invest in a wood deck and you may get over 75 percent of your costs back from the next person to enjoy your al fresco Austin retreat.

Let these projects and percentages make you thrilled to be a part of the Austin real estate community—the majority of these projects yield a 10 percent higher return on investment than is seen in the national average, according to the report.

For more information on the improvement projects right for your Austin home, talk to your Central Texas REALTOR®.

© 2011 Hanley Wood, LLC. Complete data from the Remodeling 2011-12 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at

Austin real estate blog
Home inspections: Frequently asked questions

Whether you’re in the process of buying or selling a home, the idea of getting a home inspection will likely come up. A home inspection involves an expert examining the condition of a house, checking for flaws in both the structure and the built-in systems. But are these inspections necessary? And what happens if a problem is found? We answer these questions and more below.

What does the home inspection cover?
A home inspection will examine the condition of items including the air conditioning and heating system, roof, foundation, ceilings, floors, walls, attic, basement, doors, windows and visible structure. Depending on the inspector, additional systems and features, such as swimming pools, will also be inspected.

Can I perform a home inspection myself?
Only a professional home inspector can perform an official examination. Although you may be well versed in home building and know key items to look for, a licensed inspector will have far more experience with the process, present an unbiased opinion and may identify issues you might not have considered.

Why should a home inspection be performed?
A home inspection will shed light on the current condition of a property, exposing any issues that may require routine maintenance or additional expense to resolve. Understanding the true state of a property is helpful for both the current homeowner, as well as those interested in buying the property.

Is a home inspection useful in the home buying/selling process?
Absolutely! A home inspection is a crucial part of the home buying and selling process. In most real estate transactions, the home buyer pays for the house to be inspected within a few days of signing a purchase agreement. However, as a seller, it’s not a bad idea to have an inspection performed before putting your home on the market, as the report could identify problems you need to disclose or repairs that could be made before your home is put up for sale. In addition, understanding the true condition of your home will help you and your REALTOR® determine a fair listing price.

Note: In accordance with Austin’s ECAD Ordinance, some Austin home sellers are required to have an energy audit performed on their home before selling their property. This process is separate from the home inspection.

What if the inspection reveals problems?
It’s common for home inspections to reveal minor issues in most properties—these are generally no cause for concern and can be easily resolved. However, if major problems are found, the buyer and seller will likely need to negotiate whether and when these problems will be fixed and who will pay for them. The seller may need to adjust the purchase price or contract conditions in the event that this occurs.

For more information about inspections and how they may affect your home buying or selling process, contact your Central Texas REALTOR®.

Austin real estate blog
Holiday home decorating safety tips

‘Tis the season for festive decorating in neighborhoods all across Austin! Households will be stringing up lights, decorating trees and lighting candles. However you choose to decorate your Austin home, make sure you’re taking precautions to avoid any fire or electrical hazards. Below, we have laid out some basic, but important, holiday decorating safety tips.

Holiday lights
As with any electrical fixture, make sure that your lights are in good condition before plugging them in. If you find any cracked light sets or loose, exposed wires, buy a new set. Whether you’re purchasing new lights or reusing old sets, it’s a good idea to check for a tag indicating that they’ve have been approved by an inspection company. Finally, always make sure you turn off your lights when you’re away from home or asleep.

Festive trees
If you plan on decorating a tree, make sure that it doesn’t present a fire hazard. Keep the tree away from space heaters, a fireplace or anything that generates heat. A good rule of thumb is to place the tree three feet away from these items. Keeping your holiday tree fresh will help you avoid most, if not all, fire hazards that a holiday tree presents. Alternatively, if you’re using an artificial tree, make sure it’s flame resistant. In any case, verify that your tree is sturdy and balanced so that it doesn’t fall down.

Seasonal decorations
This time of year often calls for the use of candles as decorations. Make sure your candles are in stable holders and out of reach from pets and children. As always, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on the flame and to extinguish it when it’s no longer in use. Some households use flameless electronic candles as an alternative to avoid the fire hazards that traditional candles present. For other decorations such as ornaments or tinsel, only use those that are made with non-flammable materials.

By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that your holiday season is safe and fun. For more holiday decorating safety tips, visit these websites for the U.S. Fire Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Austin real estate blog
Saving money on heating costs

With temperatures finally starting to drop in the Texas capital, more Austinites are wearing sweaters and coats for the first time in several months. Though homeowners throughout Austin may still be cooling their homes, soon they'll want to keep the heat inside as much as possible. Below we've listed ways to stay cozy without breaking the bank.

Keep your coats on
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to stay warm during the winter months is by wearing your winter gear indoors. This will keep you from raising your thermostat to a higher temperature and save money on heating costs. Wrapping up in blankets while sitting on the couch or in your favorite chair will also keep you warm.

Program your thermostat
A couple months ago, we mentioned that programming your thermostat can help save on cooling costs. The same method applies for heating! While you're at work or out of the house for more than an hour, make sure you set your AC to a cooler temperature. As with cooling, you can always readjust the settings when you've returned home. Some thermostats can be programmed to heat only specific rooms in your home, which helps keep you comfortable without consuming extra energy.

Use a space heater
If you'd rather not run your heater at all, you could make use of a space heater. These devices are particularly useful when the house is less occupied. If you're migrating from one room to another, simply bring the space heater with you. You can also help keep the heat in one room by closing off doors and vents in rooms not being used. In any case, always keep the space heater away from drapes and other flammable objects.

Prevent hot air from escaping
It's possible that hot air is escaping through your attic, fireplace or even small cracks in your windows and doors. It's a good idea to have these items inspected before the cold weather arrives to see if any leaks exist. Many of these leaks can be fixed using plastic sheeting, tape, caulk or silicon. Insulating your home can also help prevent air leaks.

For more tips about reducing your Austin home's heating costs, visit

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