Your Austin real estate blog
Thank you for visiting Homeowner Herald, the official blog of AustinHomeSearch.com, 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 field advantage: Five benefits of owning a home
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29, 2011
There's more to being a homeowner than just providing shelter to you and your family. Compared to renting, owning a home has proven to have many social, financial and psychological rewards. Below, we have outlined five great benefits strongly tied to homeownership.
1. Higher success rate in school
While renters tend to relocate more frequently, roughly half of homeowners in the U.S. stay in their homes for at least 10 years. This kind of stability allows young students a better chance for high academic achievement. In fact, students living in a home are 25 percent more likely to graduate from high school, according to statistics compiled by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).
2. Stronger communities
Homeowners care about the community and neighborhood in which they are living. Many tend to join or create neighborhood watch programs to keep their families safe and become members of neighborhood associations to organize family-friendly events. Because of this close connection with their community, homeowners are 15 percent more likely to vote and 11 percent more likely to know who represents them in Congress, based on a study by NAR.
3. Better connected families
Statistically, homeowners are more involved with their family than renters. They're 16 percent more likely to volunteer to coach their children's soccer or football games, become scout leaders and attend parent-teacher conferences. In addition, homeowners are less likely to have alcohol or substance abuse problems.
4. Healthier, happier lives
The step from renter to homeowner has proven to have psychological and physiological rewards. Homeowners report that they feel more satisfied with their lives, have higher self-esteem and more motivation to exercise and improve their diet. These mental and physical benefits are passed down to homeowners' children, as well. According to the NAR, children of homeowners are 20 percent less likely to become teenage mothers.
5. Improved economy
Being a homeowner provides big benefits to the economy. By purchasing a home, you're creating jobs for remodeling, plumbing, landscaping, pool-cleaning and real estate services, among others. HouseLogic.com reports that one purchase of a home puts about $60,000 into the nation's economy. In addition, a homeowner's net worth has shown to be approximately 46 times that of a renter.
These are just a handful of the social, economic and communal benefits that homeownership can provide to you. For more information about homeownership, talk to your Central Texas REALTOR®.
|Austin’s greatness is no secret
MONDAY, JUNE 20, 2011
Well, the secret's out. And it's been out for a while, we suppose. Local and national headlines that have included so many Austin accolades over the past months and years have only confirmed what Central Texans have known for quite some time: Austin is a great place to live! Below, we've outlined some of the latest recognition Austin has received.
- Forbes recently ranked the Austin metropolitan area as the No. 1 big city for jobs in the United States. On the same note, AOL.com listed Austin as the second best city to find a job on 2011, due in part to its low cost of living, thriving educational community and diverse talent pool.
- The Austin Business Journal placed Austin as the nation's leader for small business vitality, comparing population, employment and small-business growth to 100 other large metro areas.
- The Washington Post recently published and article highlighting Austin's unique culture. The author recounts his story of a weekend spent in Austin, reaffirming his belief that the Keep Austin Weird slogan still rings true today.
- The research firm Sperling's BestPlaces placed Austin as the No. 5 city "poised on the edge of greatness." The study highlights a city's accomplishments in fields such as sports, art, culture, music and population growth.
- The Business Journals reported that Austin had the fifth highest average salary in the southern region of the U.S., with employees earning an average of $45,180 according to data from 2009.
- In a survey published by RealAge, Austin was ranked as the third youngest city in America. This survey was based on "how old your body thinks you are," highlighting Austin's health-conscious culture and young-at-heart attitude.
You can expect to see even more praise for the Texas state capital as 2011 moves forward. To keep up with the latest Austin accolades, visit the Austin/Central Texas news section of AustinHomeSearch.com.
|The basics of homeowners insurance
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8, 2011
Buying a home will likely be the biggest investment you'll ever make in your life. With that said, it's important to keep your investment safe in case an unfortunate event occurs. Although you can legally own a home without homeowners insurance, chances are your mortgage lender will require you to purchase a policy. Below is a basic overview of homeowners insurance.
HOME INSURANCE TERMINOLOGY
Do the words "deductible" or "premium" make you draw a blank? The following is a brief glossary of terms commonly associated with homeowners insurance:
- A peril is a specific type of damage or loss defined in your insurance policy (such as fire, theft, hail, etc.).
- A premium is the price of coverage for a particular type of peril. Premiums are often set for a specific period of time.
- A claim is a request to the insurance company to be reimbursed for lost or damaged property.
- A deductible is the amount of money you must pay to a loss before any payment is due from your insurance company.
- Replacement cost is the amount of money required to fix or rebuild your home in the event of a disaster.
- Deprecation refers to the decrease in value of your home due to damage or natural wear and tear.
- Actual cash value takes the replacement cost of your property and subtracts deprecation.
Didn't find the term you were looking for? The Texas Department of Insurance provides a comprehensive glossary of home insurance terms to help you understand what's defined in your policy.
TEXAS INSURANCE POLICIES
Unlike most states, Texas has its own brand of insurance policies. The following is a list of home insurance policies offered in Texas:
1. HO-A policy - The HO-A policy is the cheapest policy for which you can apply. It offers coverage for a very limited and specific amount of perils. If you choose this policy, be sure to read the document carefully so you understand exactly what is (and isn't) covered. HO-A policies only offer actual cash value coverage.
2. HO-B policy - The HO-B policy offers coverage for most perils that can affect your property, which are specifically noted on the document. Keep in mind that some Texas insurance companies do not offer HO-B policies.
3. HO-A amended policy - HO-A amended policies offer a middle-ground option between the HO-A policy and the HO-B policy. In other words, you'll get more coverage out of an HO-A amended policy than a standard HO-A policy, but less coverage than an HO-B policy. As with the other two policies, perils covered by HO-A amended policies are specifically defined in the document.
4. HO-C policy - HO-C covers "open perils," meaning that it provides coverage for any type of damage or loss to your property (as long as it isn't specifically excluded in your document). Because of this, HO-C policies tend to be the most expensive of all the policies provided by Texas insurance companies.
Note: HO-A, HO-B and HO-C policies are considered "standardized." This means that each policy must use the same terminology and provide the same coverage, regardless of which insurance provider you choose. The HO-A amended policy, however, is not standardized.
TYPES OF COVERAGE
A typical Texas homeowners insurance policy will provide the following types of coverage:
1. Dwelling Coverage (Coverage A) covers damage affecting the structure of your home. This type of coverage can be purchased as a stand-alone policy (also known as a Dwelling Policy).
2. Other Structure Coverage (Coverage B) covers damage affecting structures not attached to your home, such as a tool shed, guest house or detached garage.
3. Personal Property Coverage (Coverage C) covers damaged or stolen personal belongings in your home, such as jewelry, furniture or home appliances.
4. Loss of Use Coverage (Coverage D) covers your living expenses in the event that your home becomes temporarily uninhabitable. These can include hotel charges, restaurant bills and car storage.
5. Personal Liability Coverage (Coverage E) reimburses you in the event that you are liable for a nonresident who is injured on your property. It also covers damage caused to a nonresident's personal property while on your property.
It's important to note that homeowners insurance policies will vary from person to person, based on the size, age and location of your home, as well as other factors. For more information about Texas homeowners insurance, visit the website for the Texas Department of Insurance.
|New changes to Austin’s energy efficiency ordinance
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1, 2011
In June 2009, the Austin City Council approved the Energy Conservation Audit Disclosure (ECAD) Ordinance. The aim of this ordinance was to make Austin homes more energy efficient, and it required some homeowners serviced by Austin Energy to have an energy audit performed on their home prior to selling. To date, more than 4,000 energy audits have been conducted on homes in Austin.
Recently, changes have been made to the ECAD Ordinance (effective May 2, 2011). Below is a rundown of the recent changes that affect residential properties.
- Austin homeowners affected by the ECAD Ordinance must disclose energy audit results to a potential buyer no later than three days prior to the end of the option period defined in the sales contract. In the event that an option period is not available, the results must be disclosed before the sales contract is executed.
- Condominiums are now subject to the ECAD Ordinance.
- Multifamily properties whose energy usage is above 150 percent of the average usage for similar communities are required to reduce their energy consumption by 20 percent. In addition, it must be disclosed to potential tenants that the property uses a higher amount of energy than comparable properties.
Want to know whether you qualify for an energy audit? Visit Austin Energy's ECAD Audit Self Check page and fill out the form provided. For more information about the ECAD Ordinance and how it may affect you, talk to your Central Texas REALTOR®.