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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.

Legal topics

Austin real estate blog
New HUD rule expands protections to LGBT individuals

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced recently that new regulations have been put in place to ensure equal housing opportunities for those who may previously have been discriminated against due to sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or marital status.

The final rule, effective March 5, 2012, will affect several programs that fall under HUD’s directive, including Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance programs and community development programs. This rule was proposed in late January after HUD was advised that lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT) individuals and families who were otherwise qualified for HUD-assisted or –insured housing were not receiving equal access.

Going forward, the owners and operators of such housing will be prohibited from denying housing based on an applicant’s LGBT status. Furthermore, inquiries regarding sexual orientation or gender identity will be prohibited. “The proposed rule clarified that families, who are otherwise eligible for HUD programs, may not be excluded because one or more members of the family may be LGBT or perceived to be LGBT.” Furthering housing equality is a priority to HUD because it is the Nation’s only agency that “is charged with promoting the federal goal of providing decent housing and a suitable living environment for all.”

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) worked closely with HUD throughout the development of this rule and will remain involved to ensure its successful implementation and that LGBT renters and homebuyers are aware of these new protections. 

Austin real estate blog
Six ways to avoid foreclosure

No homeowner wants to think about the possibility of losing their home, but foreclosure can become a reality if you fall behind on your monthly mortgage payments. Whether you're dealing with foreclosure now or worried about impending financial hardship, it's crucial to remain calm and tackle the issue as soon as possible. Below, we've provided tips to help you keep foreclosure at bay.

1. Speak to your lender immediately
If for any reason you suspect you might miss a house payment, you should notify your lender right away. Lenders often have programs that can assist you in dealing with economic issues. Explain to your lender why you're missing your payment and how long you expect the situation to last.

2. Read any mail or notices sent by your lender
It's usually in your lender's best interest to help you keep your house. In the event of a financial issue, you'll likely receive mail from your lender detailing options they provide to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. Make sure you're opening and reading these messages to stay on top of the situation.

3. Know your mortgage rights
It's a good idea to know how foreclosures are handled in the State of Texas. More importantly, you should know how your lender will respond in the event that you miss mortgage payments, so review your loan documents carefully.

4. Develop a stronger budget
When faced with the possibility of foreclosure, saving money should be a priority. Examine your monthly spending habits and see if there are any areas in which you can make cuts, such as entertainment, dining out and monthly subscriptions or memberships.

5. Use your assets to your advantage
Do you have any valuables you could sell to help make your mortgage payment? This could include jewelry, additional vehicles or other expensive purchases. Alternatively, perhaps someone in the family could take on a second or part-time job. Any money you can put towards your payment will help your situation.

6. Avoid falling for foreclosure prevention company scams
Though they may provide sound advice, enlisting the help of a foreclosure prevention company may only further your debt, as they often charge a hefty fee to provide you with answers. It's best to speak with your lender or an HUD-Approved Housing Counselor to help get yourself back on your feet.

Unexpected disasters can make monthly house payments difficult, but remember that you are not alone. There are many resources you can call upon to help you solve your dilemma. For more information about avoiding foreclosure, visit

Austin real estate blog
New changes to Austin’s energy efficiency ordinance

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®.

Austin real estate blog
REALTORS® rally at Capitol to protect homeowners’ interests
THURSDAY, MAY 26, 2011

On April 12th, over 2,000 Texas REALTORS® convened at the state Capitol to participate in the 2011 Texas Legislative Hill Visits. REALTORS® met with State Representatives Donna Howard and Paul Workman, staff members for Representatives Dawnna Dukes, Elliott Naishtat, Eddie Rodriguez and Mark Strama, as well as Senator Kirk Watson, to discuss bills supporting real estate professionals and homeowners alike. Below, we have summarized three specific issues discussed during the 82nd Legislative Session and how they affect homeowners.

1. TREC: Self-Directed, Semi-Independent Status
The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) requires real estate agents and brokers to be well educated and licensed to perform their duties. HB 1680 and SB 1000 would grant TREC self-directed, semi-independent status, allowing the Commission to retain the licensing fees it collects. With more funding, TREC would have a stronger impact on the real estate community, which would allow real estate professionals to provide higher quality services to their clients.

2. Private Transfer Fees
Certain developers can impose private transfer fees on a property. This means that if a homeowner wanted to sell their home, they would be required to pay a fee to the developers before closing. HB 8 and SB 1459 would make private transfer fees illegal in the state of Texas. Dwight Hale, Chairman of the Texas association of REALTORS®, stated that, "These fees are scams that decrease affordability and serve no public purpose."

3. TREC Housekeeping Priorities
Customers take comfort in knowing they are working with the best in the business, and the real estate industry is no exception. SB 747 intends to change the education and licensing requirements for real estate professionals, holding them to a higher standard. Changes include increasing the years of experience required before a real estate agent may become a broker and making a real estate license mandatory for individuals who accept deposits or rent.

The aforementioned bills are supported by both the Austin Board of REALTORS® and the Texas Association of REALTORS®. These bills would help further REALTORS®' efforts to protect private property rights and the interests of Texas homeowners. You can check on the current status of these bills by visiting the Texas Legislature's website and entering the bill number in the search engine provided.

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