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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.
|Three great reasons to buy a home
THURSDAY, MARCH 31, 2011
Buying your first home is an exciting endeavor. You can feel a sense of pride in knowing that the property belongs to you, and so long as you abide by zoning laws and potential HOA regulations, you're free to remodel your home's interior, exterior and yard however you'd like. But did you know that there are financial benefits to owning a home, as well? Below we have listed three great reasons you should buy a home in 2011.
1. Homeowners are eligible for many different tax deductions.
There are a multitude of tax deductions available to homeowners. For example, when it comes to monthly mortgage payments, most homeowners can deduct real estate taxes actually paid to the taxing authority, interest that qualifies as home mortgage interest and mortgage insurance premiums.
Although homeowners are required to pay property taxes, these, too, are tax deductible. HouseLogic.com lists a number of ways to become eligible for property tax breaks, including the installation of energy efficient appliances, having veteran's status or using your property as your primary living space.
2. Owning a home is a fantastic investment opportunity.
In most cases, homebuyers aren't just purchasing a place to live; they're purchasing a property that can be sold for profit later down the road. Unlike renting, owning the property allows you to benefit from its increase in value, which is likely to happen over time.
Homeownership is especially advantageous in a market like Austin, where home prices generally appreciate at a steady rate. For example, the average Central Texas home purchased in 2004 appreciated 23 percent by the time it was sold six years later in 2010 (which is the average period of time Texan's spend in one home).
3. The cost of buying a home can be lower than renting a home or apartment.
Sometimes, buying a home is more affordable than renting. One way to determine if this is true in your case is by calculating a home's price-to-rent ratio. Some websites, such as Realtor.com, have created their own virtual price-to-rent calculators that will verify this ratio for you.
When calculating your price-to-rent ratio, keep in mind that changing markets can cause fluctuations in rental prices. And while rental rates can fluctuate, mortgage payments generally stay the same, depending on what type of loan you have. For Central Texans, economic experts predict that rental rates will steadily increase during 2011. "With increasing rent, renters will have to decide whether to keep paying rent or buy a home," said Eldon Rude, director of the Austin market at Metrostudy.
These are just a few of the reasons why buying a home can be a smart choice. For more great reasons to become a home owner, speak with a REALTOR® by visiting our Find a REALTOR® section here at AustinHomeSearch.com.
|Credibility: Five ways to keep a good credit score
WEDENSDAY, MARCH 23, 2011
Do you know what your current credit score is? Maintaining a good credit score is challenging work, but it's important to keep your score as high as possible. Failure to do so can make acquiring loans difficult or expensive, and can limit your ability to make important purchases, such as a car or a home. Fortunately, there are many ways to improve your credit score. Below, we have listed five tips to keep your credit in good standing.
1. Obtain a copy of your credit report and check it for errors
Your credit report is maintained by three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®. By law, you can request to see your credit report for free once a year. Subsequent requests are allowed, but doing so will require a fee.
The safest way to make this request is by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the only website that is officially sponsored by the three major credit reporting agencies. Once you have received a copy of your credit report, check it for any errors or inaccuracies. If such problems exist, correcting them will immediately improve your credit score.
2. Pay your bills and monthly payments on time
Paying your bills on time may seem like a no-brainer, but doing so is more important than you may think. In fact, your payment history accounts for 35 percent of your credit score, according to the Fair Isaac Corporation. Late or missed payments can deduct as much as 100 points off your score. Remind yourself of when payments are due by marking your calendars with due dates. Some banks may even offer programs that send monthly reminders to your e-mail, mailbox or cell phone.
3. Keep your credit card balance low
Lenders love to see a card holder whose credit balance is much lower than their credit limit. This is known as your debt-to-credit ratio. Experts recommend that you try to spend no more than 30 percent of your credit limit each month. Not only will it make it easier to pay off, but it will show the lender that you are financially responsible, which in turn will increase your credit score. If possible, increase your credit limit on your card so that your debt-to-credit ratio is even lower.
4. Whenever possible, keep your credit cards open
The Fair Isaac Corporation states that your credit history represents 15 percent of your credit score. The longer you have owned a credit card, the longer your credit history will be. Lenders like to see that you are experienced using credit and are much more comfortable lending to a loyal customer. Even if you don't use it very often, keep your old credit cards open as long as you can.
5. Refrain from applying for loans or new credit lines too quickly
The frequency at which you apply for a loan or a new credit card can negatively affect your credit score. This could give off the impression that you are desperate for money, which could mark you as a risk in the eyes of a lender. Each time you apply for a loan or a new card, the action is recorded on your credit report. Try to keep these actions to a minimum.
These are just some of the steps you can take to improve your credit score. For more information about credit scores and how you can improve your rating, visit MyFICO.com.
|Understanding paint: Choosing the right paint for the job
THURSDAY, MARCH 10, 2011
Did you know that painting is one of the most inexpensive ways to increase the value of your home? Whether you're planning to revitalize a single room or the entire exterior, below are some important questions to consider when deciding on the paint you'll use for your project.
What type of paint should I use?
Professional painters use either oil-based paints or latex-based paints. The differences between the two types vary greatly. For example, oil-based paints are more difficult to work with, but they usually won't require a second coat. Latex-based paints are smoother and easier to work with, but will often require a second or third coat before the job is finished. It's best to speak with a painting professional to decide which type of paint is best suited for your project.
You'll also need to consider the type of finish, or sheen, you want your paint to have. A paint's finish can directly affect the paints appearance and durability. Below is a list of the different kinds of paint finish and their characteristics:
- Flat - Flat finish smoothes the appearance of walls and siding and is ideal for interior painting projects such as bedrooms or living rooms. This finish is also adept at hiding surface imperfections.
- Satin - Satin finish is fantastic for interior rooms that are occupied frequently, such as bedrooms or hallways. This finish is very similar to flat finishes, but with a hint of gloss.
- Gloss - Gloss finish has a shiny, reflective appearance and is designed for wood surfaces such as doors or cabinets.
- Semi-Gloss - Semi-gloss finish works well in areas that are regularly cleaned, such as a bathroom or kitchen. As the name implies, semi-gloss creates a less reflective surface than a gloss finish.
- High Gloss - High gloss finish has more shine and reflection than any other finish. This is typically used for exterior projects such as front doors. However, it may not be the best choice if there are noticeable flaws on the surface you are painting on.
What color of paint should I choose?
Choosing the right color of paint is often the most challenging part of the project. Different colors can produce drastically different "moods" in a room, and deciding which feel you want to convey is important.
Colors can be divided into two categories: warm or cool. Warm colors include shades of yellow, orange and red and typically have an energizing effect on the viewer. Cool colors include shades of blue, green and purple and typically have a relaxing effect on the viewer.
An easy way to decide on a paint color is by matching or accenting the color of the wall paper, furniture, carpeting or other décor in the room. If possible, bring in samples of the carpet and fabrics used in the room to a paint store. They can use these samples to determine which colors might work best on your walls.
Keep in mind that paint color may look different on a sample strip than it will on your walls. The lighting in a room, whether it's natural or artificial, can completely transform a color's hue and appearance. Consider bringing home some paint color samples and applying them to a portion of the surface you wish to paint. This way, you can test out your color choices using the lighting in your own home.
Major painting stores, such as Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore, have created "color visualizers" on their websites that allows you to test your favorite colors virtually before you actually apply them.
What is primer and when should I use it?
Paint primer helps protect the surface you are painting on and helps paint form a stronger adhesion after it has been applied, which reduces the chance of peeling or cracking.
Primer comes in a variety of types, corresponding with a variety of surfaces. There are primers for wood, concrete, aluminum and drywall surfaces, as well as variations in these categories to provide smoother appearances or increased protection.
Generally speaking, surfaces that are permeable and/or uneven should always be coated with primer before the actual painting begins. Wood surfaces commonly require a coat of primer, as they are usually exposed to the elements and retain moisture well. Using primer on other surfaces such as metals or plastics can help protect the surface itself. For exterior paint projects, the use of primer is essential, as your surface will be exposed to the elements and will need as much protection as possible.
Having a basic understanding of paint and primer before beginning your project will reduce the need for touch ups further down the road. For more tips on preparing for your painting project, talk to a painting professional near you.
|Thwarting thieves: Protecting your home from burglary
THURSDAY, MARCH 3, 2011
The FBI states that a home is burglarized every 15 seconds. Even in the nicest neighborhoods, a home burglary can occur at any time. Thankfully, home burglary is one of the most preventable crimes in the country. Below, we have listed a number of ways to help keep your home and your family safe.
Installing locks in your home is the most common method used in preventing home burglaries. Installing a lock on your front and back doors should be your first priority, as burglars prefer entering homes through doorways. Experts recommend using a deadbolt lock to secure your doors. A high quality deadbolt lock is difficult to break and often has mechanisms to prevent lock picking.
Exterior doors aren't the only point of entry for a burglar. You should install locks on your windows, as well. There are many different types of window locks available, from pin locks to bolt locks and keyed locks, all of which provide additional security. If your windows are near a locked door, consider installing shatterproof glass in the window so that burglars cannot break the glass and unlock the door by reaching inside.
It's absolutely imperative that you lock your doors and windows anytime you leave your home. Even if you're only gone for a few minutes, that's all the time a burglar needs to gain entry into your home. Make it a habit to ensure all of your windows and doors are locked before you leave your home. Furthermore, its best that spare keys be given to a trusted neighbor instead of being placed under doormats, in mailboxes or other areas outside your home.
Create the illusion of occupancy
Not surprisingly, the majority of home break-ins occur when the owner is not home. Therefore, one of the best methods in preventing a break-in is creating the illusion that your home is occupied at all times.
Whether you're going out for dinner or leaving town for a few days, turn on some lights in your home before you leave. Lamps near your front door or lights in your bedroom are common signals that your home is occupied. You can also buy automatic timers to turn on your lights, or use motion detecting lights to deter intruders.
Never make it obvious that your home has something of value to steal. Did you just buy a new HD TV? Throw the box away in a black garbage bag instead of leaving it out next to your trash bin. Otherwise, you are practically advertising to thieves that an HD TV is inside, ready for the taking.
Sound the alarm
Another common method to deter home burglary is installing an electronic home security system. A home security system typically includes a control panel, keypad and an alarm that sounds when a door is opened or a window is broken (as long as the system is activated). Other home security systems can feature motion detectors or closed circuit televisions with cameras.
Depending on the service provider, a security system could be monitored. This means that if the alarm goes off, the service provider is automatically notified after a certain period of time passes. Then, they attempt to reach the homeowner by telephone. If they cannot reach the homeowner, or a password is not provided, the security system will call the police.
These are just a handful of things you can do to help prevent your home from being burglarized. For more tips, visit the website for the National Crime Prevention Council.