Why is Cold Springs a Hot Neighborhood in Leander TX?

What do you do if you work in central Austin, love the Leander ISD schools and want to buy a newly-built home with a budget of under $300,000? You move to Cold Springs!

Let’s take for example a buyer I am currently working with. This buyer’s criteria start with the sentence above. She wants to be able to jump on the 183A quickly for her commute to work, and not live too far north. We’ve made the Crystal Falls Parkway exit her northern boundary.

This buyer also needs four bedrooms and three full baths in a two-story home with at least 2,500 square feet. When you crunch all of her criteria together, Cold Springs in Leander seems to be the perfect (and quite possibly the only!) match.

First of all, the northern (not main) entrance to the community is less than a mile from the 183A. That’s quite an easy jump right onto the toll road! Using Google Maps, it should only take you 30 minutes to get to downtown Austin from Cold Springs…but I’d like to add at least another 15 minutes to that for traffic’s sake. With the sprawling growth of Austin, this is what I’d consider an “acceptable” commute.

Next, anyone driving the northern corridor of Cedar Park and Leander will certainly notice the abundance of new communities popping up in addition to the older, established communities. But, if you have the criteria above (4/3/2 with at least 2,500 square feet), you are going to have a difficult time getting in under $300,000…especially if you want an easy commute to central Austin.

Don’t get me wrong. You can find homes in this price range if you go north of Crystal Falls Parkway, like in Savanna Ranch and Summerlyn, or if you go further west of the 183A, like Crystal Falls and Vista Ridge. But, at this time, Cold Springs provides the easiest access to the toll road taking you south into Austin.

Pulte is the builder in Cold Springs, and they are building very beautiful homes! One of the things I like about Pulte is that they give more to their buyers in this price point than many other builders. Let’s say that they are in the higher-end of the mid-end builders. I especially like how they’ve polled homeowners on what they can do to make their homes better, and they have implemented suggestions like more open floor plans with more functionality.

Cold Springs also has a great community pool, playground with rock climbing wall, basketball court, picnic pavilion and trails.

With Parkside Elementary less than five miles to the community, and Stiles Middle School and Rouse High School less than two miles to the community, this is certainly a conveniently placed community in the Leander ISD.

So, if you are like the buyer I mentioned above and want a great house in an affordable budget in the Leander ISD, while at the same time having easy access to the toll road, call me so we can talk more about Cold Springs. As with any new home builder, you will appreciate having an experienced Realtor negotiating on your behalf when it comes to your biggest investment.

Here are the current MLS listings in Cold Springs.  Keep in mind that the builder only lists a small selection of their available homes on the MLS.  Call me today for more information about homes that meet your criteria.

  1. 4 beds, 2 baths
    Home size: 1,990 sq ft
    Lot size: 6,011 sqft
    Year built: 2013
  2. 4 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 3,369 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,280 sqft
    Year built: 2008
  3. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,567 sq ft
    Lot size: 7,318 sqft
    Year built: 2015
  4. 4 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 3,369 sq ft
    Lot size: 10,280 sqft
    Year built: 2008

See all Cold Springs MLS Listings.
(all data current as of 1/19/2018)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

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How Important Are School Districts When Buying a Home in Austin?

With almost every buyer we represent, the topic of school districts is brought up. I would say the time when it comes up the least is when a buyer is buying a condo in downtown Austin. So, just how important is this question exactly?

Very important.

Here’s why:

There are neighborhoods in Austin that are divided by public school boundaries. Homes on one side of the street will feed into one school district, and the houses on the other side will feed into another one! To further complicate things, the home that you buy needs to feed into the “preferred” district by the majority of home buyers in that area or else it could adversely affect your resale values. If you are contemplating buying a home right now in the Austin area, we hope that you have you put considerable thought into the school district and how it could affect your property values.

(The new 2014-2015 Austin School Ratings guide is now available on our Austin Home Search by School District page!)

Typically, these are the scenarios that buyers fall into regarding their importance of schools:

a) The buyer care very much about school district, whether it is for the ratings or because they want their kids to be enrolled at a specific school. Our search will almost always be narrowed down right away by school district or even a single school by name. Sometimes getting into a particular school is more important to them than the finish-outs in a home!

b) The buyer doesn’t care about school districts at all because they do not have children that will attend. We quickly educate them about why the school district needs to be important to them because of resale value.

c) Buyer is buying a second home here in Austin. They don’t plan to live here year-round, so they will not have children going to school. However, they are concerned about the school district for two reasons: they could potentially move here full-time one day and regardless, there’s the resale value issue.  With so many of Austin’s neighborhoods going through a transitional period (older homes being bulldozed and newer ones replacing them), it is important to know more about the schools then just being in the “trendy” hot new location.

There are so many factors involved with choosing the right home in Austin besides just the school districts: a few of which include crime stat information, proximity to shopping, medical facilities, infrastructure, and so much more. It is vitally important for you to have someone representing your best interests that can help paint the full picture for you. Call me today and I will help get you started in the right direction!

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4 Tips to Save Thousands When Selling Your Austin Home

Your home is probably the biggest purchase that you’ve ever made in Austin; you make it your own, become emotionally invested, and you build equity in it.   Hopefully after a few years, you are able to move up using that equity to purchase a bigger home, or a home in your dream neighborhood.  Inevitably when it’s time to sell, you’ll want to get as much money for your home as possible.  When you’re ready to contact a Realtor to market your Austin home, but before the professional pictures are taken and the virtual tour is created, you’ll want to keep the following list in mind to potentially save thousands of dollars:

1.       Clutter will consume your equity.

2.       Cleanliness will increase your equity.

3.       Paint will cost less than your first price reduction.

4.       Fresh carpet will make your home feel new and less lived in.

Let’s look at how these simple fixes can create excitement among home buyers, and how they can help to get you top dollar in a highly aggressive market.

  • Clutter will consume your equity—buyers can’t see through your stuff.  As soon as you decide to list your home, start packing up the non-essentials.  Clear off your counter tops of all unnecessary appliances (yes, even your coffee maker should be put up when selling your home) and if necessary, rent a small storage unit to store your excess items in.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a potential buyer to see a home, and the seller hasn’t de-cluttered or they have, and they’ve put it all in the garage…potential buyers see a small garage with a home that doesn’t have ample storage space!  Clean it up and clear it out to increase your homes appeal.
  • Cleanliness will increase your equity—a dirty home will cost you money.  Buyers don’t like to walk into a house that is dusty, dirty, or has an odor.  Remember, when you decide to sell, you have to decide to detach yourself from the property.  Keep it clean and orderly; make sure that there are no dirty dishes, dirty clothes, dirty litter boxes, and unkempt yards.  Clean the gutters and trim the shrubs; make your home pristine to the point that it looks unlived in!

Bonus Tip: Hire a cleaning crew—This can save you time and for a little bit of money, add hundreds to your bottom line.  A professional cleaning crew is an investment that is well worth the money spent.  Have a crew come in to do a make ready, and once they are done, keep it that way throughout the sale of your home.

  • Paint will cost less than your first price reduction—Neutral, neutral, neutral!  Fresh paint goes a long way in making a home feel newer and worth more.  You may love that fuchsia wall, but a majority of buyers won’t; don’t give them a reason to offer you less!  While you’re at it, make sure that you have the front door and trim-work spruced up…remember, it’s the first thing a home buyer will notice.
  • Fresh carpet will make your home feel new and less lived in—Buyers want move in ready.  They don’t want to think about having to change carpet, but if they do, they will certainly offer you less!  If you invest in new carpet, you can almost guarantee a 100% return on that investment and then some.  I once had a seller that insisted their carpet didn’t need replacing, and we languished on the market for weeks.  Finally he relented and put in 2,500.00 of new carpet…within 5 days of the new carpet, we had an offer on the property that was 5,000.00 over asking price!

Wondering what else you can do to add value to your home easily?  Call me today to find out how!  When you hire me and Team Ensor Realtors, together we will help you earn top-dollar for your home; we provide a professional home stager who will walk your home and help you figure out what needs done to increase value.  Check out our sell a home page to learn more about our home selling program and how we can help you sell your Austin home faster and for more money!

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Austin MLS FAQ: What Do The Property Status Abbreviations Mean?

As an Austin Texas Realtor, I get the opportunity to work with the MLS on a daily basis. As in all industries, we real estate agents have our own jargon.  Recently, I had a client ask me what all the letters next to listings that I’ve sent her mean, and it dawned on me that if one client had that question, how many others did, but didn’t ask?  I’m going to break down what the status letters mean in the MLS for all of you potential home buyers out there.

A – Active:  A property that is marked as Active in the MLS means that it is on the market, offered for sale, and has no pending or contingent contracts.

AC – Active Contingent:  The property has a contract on it; however, the contract is contingent upon certain criteria being met.  Most often, a contingency is in place because the potential buyer of the property has to first sell their current home in order to proceed with the purchase of the new home.  The property is still on the market.  If you choose to submit a contract on an Active Contingent property, and that contract is accepted by the seller, the primary buyer has a short window of opportunity to remove the contingency or they can terminate the contract.  If they choose to terminate the contract or are unable to remove the contingency, your contract becomes the primary contract.

PB – Pending & Taking Backups:  The property that is listed as PB is under contract, but the seller is still interested in receiving other offers in case the primary offer falls through.  Usually a contract in Pending Backups status is one that is still in its option period.  If you submit an offer on a PB property and your offer is accepted, you will be placed into a backup position…if the primary buyer cancels, your contract moves to the front of the line.

P – Pending:  This property is under contract and is most likely outside of its option period.  If the buyer cancels the contract outside of the option period, they will most likely lose their earnest money, therefore, most contracts that are in Pending status are likely to make it to closing.

W – Withdrawn:  A home with a status of Withdrawn is removed from the market, but still shows in the MLS.  The owner has decided to withdraw, however, the expiration of the listing hasn’t occurred, so technically speaking, the Realtor still has the listing, however it has been taken out of the MLS database.

C – Cancelled:  The listing has been terminated by the Realtor and is no longer available on the market.  It has been removed from the MLS database.

E – Expired:  When a home is listed with a Realtor, it is listed for a certain time frame.  Once that time frame is up, the listing becomes expired unless the sellers agree to an extension.  Sometimes the home will be relisted with the same Realtor, a different Realtor, or taken off of the market entirely.

S – Sold:  The property has gone through the entire escrow process and is no longer available.

Looking for an Austin Texas Realtor specializing in assisting home buyers? 

Call me today to see how I can help you make your real estate dreams a reality; I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the home buying process.

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How the Texas Drought is Affecting Lake Travis Area Home Sales

Austin continually makes national news with our outstanding job and housing market. But there is another thing on the national radar – the drought in Texas. My out-of-state buyers are always posing the question, “How are the lake levels affecting the market in Austin?”

Unfortunately, I have yet to find that magic crystal ball to tell me the future of our lakes. However, I did compare the U.S. Drought Map of Texas for the current week to a blog on our site that featured the Texas drought map from September 2011.  The 2011 map has Texas painted in deep red – which means exceptional drought. Today’s map is much nicer looking with whites and yellows and very little red. The areas by Lake Travis are colored to resemble moderate to severe drought (which sound much better than extreme to exceptional drought!). So, it does seem as though the drought is getting better (we’ve had some nice rains since the summer that I believe has really helped).

Jan 2014 - Texas Drought Map

Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

This tells us not how the drought is affecting the market, but that the drought is better than fall of 2011. So, when I start to talk numbers next, we have a better picture in mind for comparison sake.

For those statistics, I am going to focus on two MLS areas: LN and LS (think Lake Travis North, Lake Travis South). I am focusing on Lake Travis, because this is where I sell more homes, as compared to Lake Buchanan or LBJ; and because Lake Austin is not affected by drastically changing levels.

Area LS includes the popular cities Lakeway and Bee Cave and area LN includes Jonestown and Lago Vista. Due to LS being closer to Austin and having more subdivisions/population than LN, you will see the sales data coming in higher for area LS.

With this in mind, the following chart shows you the average sales price fluctuations from a five year period in these two areas (2013 information not included).

MLS Area2008/20092009/20102010/20112011/20125 Yr Change
LS-7.20%-1.2%3.23%4.88%-.73%
LN-3.67%23.33%-6.62%-10.73%-.97%

Chart is taken from statistics provided by Austin Title.

December 2013 numbers are not yet out, but from my calculations, it looks like we are going to roughly see a -1.01 change in average sales price in LS and a .84 change in LN from 2012/2013. These 2012/2013 numbers are less drastic than most of the past five year comparisons, which shows us a less volatile market over the span of these two years.

Without overloading you with numbers, the 2012 average sales price in area LS was $453,375 and the average in LN was $239,183. If you are a ‘numbers-person’, email me and I can send you more data!

I am still just giving you background data and have not yet made my point! When someone asks me what the lake levels are doing to property values, I have to answer their question with a question.

Are they looking specifically for something that is lakefront? If the answer is yes, then OF COURSE the levels are going to affect price. No one wants to pay top dollar for a dried up dock with no guarantee that they will ever have a true lakefront again. Have we seen this drought happen twice over the last twenty years with lake levels returning: yes. Is it safe to assume lake levels will return again one day: um, yes. But no one knows when and I’m not one to bank your large investment on this assumption. When is it a good idea to invest in a lakeless-lakefront: NOW when the property values are lower due to the lack of water. Moral of the story: if you are looking for a good investment then go for it. If you will be broken-hearted if you cannot swim off your back porch this summer, you may want to look elsewhere.

If they are not looking for a lakefront property, but want to be in the vicinity of a lake/like the lifestyle that the areas offer, then I have to break the question down again into the different areas: LN & LS.  With area LN you are further from Austin, so people tend to want that true lake living with actual water. Therefore, the lake levels will affect property values more heavily in area LN. When the lake dries up, there are fewer things to do in this area. If you are looking for a long term investment or simply want to be far away from the city and aren’t tied too much to having high lake levels, this move is for you.

I took this picture August 2013 from The Oasis -- a popular entertainment complex consisting of numerous shops, boutiques and restaurants on the South shores of Lake Travis.
I took this picture August 2013 from The Oasis — a popular entertainment complex consisting of numerous shops, boutiques and restaurants on the South shores of Lake Travis.

I believe area LS is quite the opposite. While still a 30-45 minute drive to downtown Austin, people love that they are not too far from the city. The excellent Lake Travis ISD is another incentive for buyers. Communities like Ladera and Rough Hollow are popping up and selling well in this area. Lakeway is one of the most desirable areas with its variety of homes and low taxes. People like moving to this area not just because of the lake, but because of the lifestyle, schools, amenities (think golf, Hill Country Galleria) and there is growth. So, would I say lake levels are affecting this area to someone who is not specifically looking for a lakefront property: no! I believe that as area LS grows, it will only get more desirable regardless of lake levels.

All in all, you have to know your buying needs and the right Realtor to match them up to the best house and area for you. I’d be happy to share more details about the numbers (I tried not to bore you too much in this blog with those!). Don’t hesitate to call or email any time to discuss.

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Lakeview at Steiner Ranch Home Sales Begin on January 24, 2014!

We just learned some exciting details about the newest section of Steiner RanchLakeview at Steiner Ranch.  This enclave of homes consists of 55 lots off of Steiner Ranch Blvd, many of which will have amazing views of Hill Country sunsets or of Lake Travis (or both!)

What Are The Best Homesites in Lakeview at Steiner Ranch?

From the sitemap photos attached (that we were provided from a marketing email we received directly from Taylor Morrison), it looks like there will be 11 lots that will likely be in the highest of demand (Lots 1-11), followed secondly by a select few lots (Lots 49-55.)

To be among the first to purchase in Lakeview at Steiner Ranch, Taylor Morrison has established a three-tier format that rewards the most qualified buyers with the best access to available home sites.

Here’s the scoop:

  • On January 24, 2014 at 2pm, buyers that are willing to put down 100% of the base price (excluding options and upgrades) in cash can have their pick from any of the available 55 lots.
  • On January 25, 2014 at 10am, buyers that are willing to put 20% down on the base price of a home to-be-built can choose from any of the remaining lots that didn’t sell on the previous day.
  • On January 26, 2014 at 12pm and from that point until sales are completed, buyers that are willing to put 10% down on the base price of a home can make a selection from any of the other home sites that didn’t sell during the previous two sales periods.

This is a very unique and new method of selling home sites that we’ve seen in Austin, and is a giant testament to how strong home sales are in Austin right now.  The builder feels that demand will be substantial enough that they can reward all-cash buyers with their pick of the litter.  This is a smart move by the builder, because they can then use these sales toward appraisal valuations.  Since they were all-cash, they can be fairly certain that these sales will set the bar for the future sales in this new phase of Steiner Ranch.

If you would like to learn more about Lakeview at Steiner Ranch, call us today. We are here to help you with choosing the best lot possible, in selecting the best bang-for-your-buck upgrades and which ones to avoid, and by representing your best interests all the way through the home buying process.  We have helped many buyers of new homes in the greater Austin area, and we are residents of Steiner Ranch so we know this community explicitly.  Contact us today so we can discuss a winning strategy before the sales begin!

Lakeview at Steiner Ranch - Map of Available Home Sites

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How We Sell Austin TX Homes During the “Slower” Winter Market

It’s no secret that the Austin Real Estate market is hot, we have a shortage of housing inventory and an abundance of new Austinites moving in daily. Those two facts paired together equal a booming housing market and a surging economy for us here in Central Texas. But even with a market as hot as ours, it tends to slow down in the winter months. The question is what can you do to quickly sell your Austin home in the colder, winter months?

Expose your home to every buyer in Austin Texas

Just because there aren’t as many buyers in the winter months as there are in spring and summer, buyers are out there. As a professional Realtor, I and Team Ensor aggressively market your home to every potential buyer we can find using our extensive marketing plan. We utilize social media, print media, professional photography, online tours, and more. Getting your home in front of as many people is the first key — it’s much more than just a sign in the yard!

Make sure that the price is right

This is probably one of the most important aspects of selling your home…price it to high, and it will sit there getting stale…price it to low and people will think that there is something wrong with it. Our job is to help you find the perfect sweet spot for your home. We will do a comprehensive Market Analysis that is customized to your specific home and neighborhood to determine what the fair market price is. We do our homework so that you don’t have to.

Price it too high, and it will sit there getting stale. Price it too low and people will think that there is something wrong with it. Our job is to help you find the perfect sweet spot for your home.

Make it easy to show

If a buyer can’t see it, they won’t buy it. Make sure that you are giving access to your home to as many people that call on it. It can be a major inconvenience to have people wanting to wander through your home, to always have to keep it in showing condition, but it will pay off. I always advise my clients to “just say yes” when it comes to the question “Is your home available to be shown?”

Turn on lights, remove pets, and make the temperature comfortable

You’ll want to make sure that your home is bright and inviting…and this starts at the front door. Turn on all lights, including the porch light. Also, people want to see themselves living in your home, so take the dog with you if you can, and make sure the litter box is clean and concealed. Lastly, you want the potential buyer to stay as long as possible…the longer they are in the home, the better attached they may become, so make sure that if it’s a cold day, you’ve got the heat set to a comfortable setting, maybe a fire in the fireplace.

Offer incentives

Incentives work especially well in a lower priced neighborhood; buyers can be enticed with closing costs paid, mortgage rate buy downs, refrigerators, and washer/dryers. Contact me today to find out the specifics of incentives and if they could be used as part of a strategy to sell your home.

Check out our website to find out why our homes sell faster and for higher prices than other listings in the Austin area. Call me today to set up your free consultation.

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FAQ on Homestead Exemptions for Travis, Hays and Williamson County (Austin, Texas)

It’s that time of year…time to start thinking about taxes, and time to make sure you have your homestead exemption filed with your appraisal district. The homestead exemption in Texas is a benefit that is part of owning your home, and here are the top questions that get asked.

[EDIT 1/3/2018 : Updated with information for 2017/2018 Homestead Exemptions]

Do I qualify for the Homestead Exemption?

As a general rule, to qualify for a homestead exemption, you must own your home and it must be your principal place of residence on January 1st of the year you file.  So, if you purchased your home in 2017, you have until April 30th, 2018, to apply for the 2018 homestead exemption.

Is there a fee to submit an application for the Homestead Exemption?

NO! Despite several dubious businesses that send out “official-looking” documentation stating that you need to pay them a fee in order to obtain your homestead exemption, it is 100% completely free for you to download the form and submit it. Please do not pay anyone to do this!

Will the Homestead Exemption protect me in case of a lawsuit?

There are 2 laws in Texas that designate a homestead; these are the tax code and the property code. The tax code offers homeowners a way to reduce their local property taxes; the property code allows homeowners to designate their homesteads in order to protect them from forced sales by creditors.

How much will the Homestead Exemption save me?

The homestead exemption removes part of the value of your property from taxation and therefore lowers your tax bill. Travis county currently offers a 20% reduction for homesteaders…let’s look at an example:

Let’s say that the county has arbitrarily appraised your home at $200,000. You reside in Travis County so you qualify for a 20% reduction, which is equal to $40,000. The taxable value of your property is therefore $160,000 and that is the number that your taxes will be based on.  Your total amount of savings is going to be dependent on the taxing unit.

How do I apply for the Homestead Exemption?

If your home is in Travis County, you may receive a homestead exemption form by calling 512-834-9138, or you may go to the Travis Count Appraisal District and download the form from their website. Alternatively, here is a downloadable copy of the TCAD Homestead Exemption form for the 2018 tax year:

50-114_HomesteadExemptionForm_rev-3-17-28-2

Despite several dubious businesses that send out “official-looking” documentation stating that you need to pay them a fee in order to obtain your homestead exemption, it is 100% completely free for you to download the form and submit it.

Does my Homestead Exemption ever expire?

You only need to fill out the exemption form one time, unless it is requested by the chief appraiser. Homestead exemptions renew automatically annually.

What if I own a home in another county besides Travis in the Austin area, like Williamson or Hays County?

You’ll have to visit the respective county’s appraisal district website and complete the process. Williamson County, for example, is now offering the ability to submit a homestead exemption form online:

https://www.wcad.org/online-exemption-information/

For those of you living in Dripping Springs and certain annexed areas in southwest Austin, here is the link for Hays County Appraisal District’s website:

https://www.hayscad.com/

As your Austin Real Estate expert, I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have regarding the homestead exemption, as well as any real estate related questions.

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5 Smart Tips on Surviving Winter in Austin Texas

It’s cold; I mean, not cold enough to be setting any records here in Austin, but it’s definitely cold…and even though we are just days away from a warm front, there’s sure to be another arctic blast coming our way before we can breathe easy and enjoy our summer! In the spirit of sharing the warmth, because let’s be honest, no one likes the cold, I’ve compiled a list of winterizing tips for your most important asset: your home!

1. Leave your faucets drip.
Nothing is as inconvenient, let alone as potentially harmful, to you and your house, than a frozen set of pipes. If you turn on your faucets to a slow drip, you’ll help to avoid this icy situation. If you’re unfortunate enough to have already gotten frozen pipes, you can use a hair dryer to warm them, and then wrap them with a towel to insulate from the cold once the water starts flowing again.

2. Open under sink cabinets at night.
It gets coldest as the sun sets, and the most vulnerable spot for your pipes are under your sink, away from insulation, and no heat source. Help the heat to get in but opening your cabinets, this will allow air to circulate around the space and in addition to your dripping faucets, should ward off the specter of frozen pipes.

Tip: Remember to move household chemicals if you store them under your sink, especially if you have small children or pets that could get into them!

3. Switch the direction of your ceiling fan.
This is something that I do every time the weather starts to get cold. Most people only use their ceiling fans in the summer to circulate the cold air, but here is why you should be using it in the winter too: hot air rises…if you switch the rotation (check your manufacturers website for specifics) you’ll be pushing the hot air back down to where it is needed. Why pay to heat the ceiling?

4. Open/close blinds.
If it’s sunny, you want to let as much natural light in as possible to help heat the house, however cold it is outside…but as soon as the sun starts to go down, shut the blinds; you’ll trap the heat in, and lock the cold out, plus, it makes the day a little cheerier with the sunshine beaming in!

5. Insulate around doors and windows.
Check all of your doors and windows to make sure that they aren’t letting any cold air in and hot air out…this is a huge source of thrown away money not only when it’s hot, but when it’s cold. If you feel a draft, get weather stripping and seal around your doors and windows…you’ll notice a big difference in your electric bill, I can almost say with certainty!

Bundle up and keep warm…after all, it’s Texas, and before you know it, we’ll be wishing for cooler weather!

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Relocating to Austin Texas? Here’s Some Helpful Tips

By now, it seems as if everyone has heard of Austin Texas.  Last year, Austin topped all of the demographic charts: fastest job growth, highest real estate appreciation, most jobs added per-capita, tallest cowboy boots (not really…I’m just checking to see if you’re still paying attention. But you get the idea!)

With the massive influx of people coming to Austin, we have been truly blessed to be in the real estate profession.  We have made many friends that are brand new to Austin that found us through internet searches on finding Austin homes.  Looking back at 2013, I’ve compiled a small list of tips that might help you think about which part of Austin you should consider when choosing your next neighborhood.

Look Into Your Past To Find The Future

Since we moved here in 2004 from Arizona, we have lived in 3 different homes.  Each time we moved, we were certain that we were in our home-for-life.  The problem with picking your home-for-life is that it usually is your home-for-life-as-you-know-it-right-now.  Life changes.  And with that, so does the priorities surrounding your living arrangements.  When comparing Austin neighborhoods, some are geared toward families and some are geared toward stumbling home from the plethora of neighborhood pubs within walking distance.  What might be fun for you today or tomorrow might change a few years from now, so be sure to take that into consideration before you make a costly purchasing mistake.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t purchase a condo downtown — quite the contrary — just be sure that you are doing it for the right reasons.

To Rent or To Buy, That is the Question

This is the biggest question that we find with newcomers to Austin.  They are truly conflicted as to what they should do: rent for a while or buy right away.  On one hand, they would like to rent a place to get the lay-of-the-land and figure out where they want to eventually buy a home.  On the other hand, where they could now afford to purchase might be well out of their price range in a few years (especially if last year is any indicator of future appreciation levels.)  The best advice that we can offer in situations like this is to take a moment and evaluate yourself.  If you are someone who likes to live by the seat of your pants and bounce around, then renting is definitely the right decision for you.  If you are more of a person who craves a sense of community and consistency in your life, then perhaps buying right away is the right decision.  This is why it is imperative to find a Realtor who knows the neighborhoods well and to help you with making these difficult decisions.

Make a List of Must-Haves and Wants

We often find that people’s criteria changes rapidly once we take them around and show them how far their money will go toward a new home.  Many newcomers will say something like “we want top tier schools, close to downtown, with a private yard, at least ____ square feet, __ bedrooms and under $___k.”  Through the education of seeing homes first-hand and what homes are selling for, we often find that those criteria of “wants” usually get adjusted into “needs”.  The best tip is to have realistic expectations; let us show you the market and the available homes in your price range before you make a hard and fast list.  We are expert negotiators and will get you the best price when purchasing, but at the same time be prepared for a little bit of sticker shock in the prime Austin real estate markets.

Austin Median Housing Price is $235,000.  Oh Really??

Many recent headlines say slightly misleading things to newcomers to Austin.  For example, people coming from Los Angeles or other affluent markets on a job transfer to Austin might see the headlines that say the median price for Austin homes is around $235,000.  However, once they come here and look around at the available homes based on their expectations, needs and wants, they are quickly grounded.  What they might think is a “median home” in their mind might actually equate to a luxury home in Austin that averages in the $600k’s.  The reason for this is not false reporting by the news agencies:  the problem is that Austin real estate is grouped into what’s called an MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area.)  The Austin MSA encompasses five counties: Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson.  Downtown Austin and much of “Austin proper” is in Travis County.  Prices are much higher in Travis County compared to those other four counties.  As a result, the statistics tend to be a little skewed when it comes to median pricing.

Rest assured: there is a perfect home for you in Austin, and we are here to help you find it. You’ve come to the right place to give yourself a head start on finding your next home in Austin.  Check out some available properties by using our Austin home search, and let us know when you have any questions.  We look forward to welcoming you to our wonderful city of Austin!

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