Monthly Archives: June 2009

Take a Close Look at Green Cleaning Products.

Koi FishGreen housekeeping methods and cleaning products are components of maintaining a green lifestyle.  However, did you know that no standards exist for labeling a cleaning product as green?  Or that there are no requirements for disclosing all product ingredients?  And that unlike food products, the order of ingredients listed doesn’t necessarily represent relative amounts? 

“Greenwashing” is the practice of making green claims without verifiable positive effect on the environment.

Avoid cleaning products with vague, generic descriptions that leave room for interpretation.  For example:

  • “Natural” – May actually include petroleum, toxic, and synthetic substances as some naturally occurring substances are highly toxic.
  • “Safe” – Does this mean it’s safe for the environment and human health?
  • “Biodegradable” – Is it the product or the package or both that will break down naturally?  How long will this take?
  • “Eco-friendly” – Does this mean it’s made from plants?  Or that it’s recyclable or has less packaging?

Without formal standardization, these organizations are taking matters into their own hands and certifying cleaning and other products claiming to be green:

  • Green Seal  www.greenseal.org   Certifies and tests products.
  • EPA- Design for the Environment – www.epa.gov/dfe  Recognizes companies that commit to the use of safer ingredients.

Personally, I don’t want to find out that something I was doing to save the environment and be eco-conscious has actually had the opposite effect.  I’m taking a closer look at my choices for household cleaning products.

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Update on Selling our Home.

Our home’s been on the market now for 23 days.  We’ve had five showings – less than we expected – but since our home is located in Southwest Austin, things are not as “hot” as central Austin.   We’re following the advice that we’ve been giving clients for years:

1- Price your home competitively and be ready to lower the price.  There is no stigma attached to lowering the price of your home – as long as you do it without much fanfare.  Make sure to get comments from Realtors® and buyers about the price and any improvements you can make and adjust the price within 10-14 days if this is what the initial feedback says.  And keep adjusting the price every 3 to 4 weeks if you want to sell.

2- Use Feng Shui Staging to ensure your house feels comfortable, attractive, and welcoming.  I’m using every Feng Shui staging technique I’ve been taught to ensure that people have a terrific experience when they view our home.  See if the photos above and below translate into a comfortable, inviting experience for you.

 

breakfast areamaster bath w orange towelsLiving-Kitchen Top View

3-  Engage all of the buyer’s senses.  I play soft relaxing music, set out snacks and bottled water, spritz the house with a quality air freshener such as cinnamon/ylang-ylang or bake a refrigerated pastry, clean the house well and ensure every detail (down to the crease in the bed-skirt) is in order, place stuffed animals on the bed, soft pillows on the couch, and whimsical accessories here-and-there for people to pick up out of curiosity. 

And probably the most important advice we’ve had to take for ourselves– Disengage from all the things you love about the house and think SHOULD be valuable in a buyer’s eyes and instead look at what John and Sue buyer feel is important — price, location, neighborhood, and how it suits their family, not yours!

Green Remodeling Saves You Green.

back patioThe median age of residential housing units in the US is twenty-five years old.  Homes are aging and ripe for renovation.

In Austin I’m seeing a trend towards remodeling or renovating rather than selling and purchasing a new home.   Austin is blessed with having one of the healthiest real estate markets in the country, yet homes sales in areas outside of central Austin have slowed down and there’s a surplus of  homes for sale in central locations.  I think renovating is a good idea if you want to stay in your home for at least three more years, want to increase energy efficiency, and you can withstand the stress of having various contractors in your home to do the work.  Here in Austin, remodeling using green practices is a great way to get rebates from the city and to increase your energy efficiency.

Ways to incorporate green practices in your remodeling plans include:

  • ENERGY STAR windows and skylights
  • Formaldehyde-free, high R-value insulation
  • Whole-house fan
  • Installation of recycled-content flooring
  • On-demand hot water heater
  • Painting with no-VOC paints
  • Landscaping with indigenous plants
  • Shade trees according to passive design principles
  • High efficiency heating and cooling system
  • High efficiency toilets

Now is a great time to “go green” and save money on energy bills,  increase your enjoyment of your home and add value to your home.

A Few Suggestions to Help Prevent Summer Electric Bill Shock.

community poolIt’s hot! With temperatures close to 100 degrees, there’s no doubt that summer has begun in Austin, Texas. And since summer in Austin lasts through September, it pays to look at options to create a more energy efficient home and saving on your electric bills.

Before you experience the shock of your next electric bill, know that you DO have options for getting your energy expense under control. There are a lot of ways, big and small, to save money on energy bills and every little bit counts. Personally, I think the most effective energy-saving step you could make is to pack up and leave town for a month but if you can’t do that here are a handful of inexpensive suggestions encouraged by Austin Energy.

1. If you have central air conditioning, don’t close vents in unused rooms. This could increase pressure and cause leaks in your ducts.

2. Shade outside air conditioning units. A/C units shaded by trees or other means work more efficiently and use up to 10% less electricity.

3. Clean your AC’s condenser/evaporator coils at the beginning of the season. Clean coils lower your energy costs, extend the unit’s life and provide cleaner air to breathe. The fin coils on the outside AC can actually be washed with a hose.

4. Get your AC checked. Dust on AC coils reduces the cooling effect as air passes over the coils, causing the unit to run longer than necessary.

5. Keep debris and high grass away from the condenser. These obstacles block the airflow to the unit which makes the condenser work harder and run longer.

6. Manage temperature settings. Set your thermostat at 78 degrees or higher in the summer. Each degree cooler than 78 increases your energy use by 6-8%. For example, setting your thermostat at 72 in the summer could increase energy use by up to 40%.

7. Repair ductwork. Ducts in the average home leak 25-30% of air conditioning. Austin Energy will do a duct test for a reasonable $50 to see if your air conditioning ducts are leaking.

We’re fortunate to live in a city that is committed to Green Living and Energy Efficiency. There’s a wealth of information available to you to help take control of your electric bills. A good place to start is at http://www.austinenergy.com for information including rebates and loans to help you cope with the summer heat in Texas.

Flow, Balance, and Energy will Sell A Home.

Patio-Deck

Three simple Feng Shui principles to follow when selling your home:

1 – Create FLOW by de-cluttering each area.

2-  Create BALANCE through furniture and

accessory arrangement.

                                                     3-  Create ENERGY by using vibrant colors

and dynamic accessories.

Keeping these principles in mind when preparing your home for sale go a long way to making a great first impression and helping a buyers feel comfortable in the home.  If a buyers feels comfortable and relaxed, they’ll feel good about the home.  That is the first big step towards making a sale.

                                                     See more photos at http://5816sunset.com

My Job is to Help Home Sellers and Now I am One.

Buy our home in Austin!

We decided to be proactive about our finances and decided that selling our home was the best solution to our current economic state.  My partner David never really felt like our three-year old home was “home.”   I did, but I also succumbed to the facts about how much money we were spending versus how much we were earning.  In light of the recent real estate downmarket it seemed like in an instant we went from having lots of business to almost no business.  I’d been hearing about how bad things were in other places and how little business other Realtors®  had but that was not our situation at all until it was our situation.  Along with last year’s dramatic stock market losses we suddenly found ourselves in a pickle neither of us planned for.

It was a  tough two weeks of physical labor and 15-hour days spent decluttering, moving furniture, cleaning, packing, and even holding a garage sale (which I vow never to do again) to ensure that our home was balanced, beautiful, and shining.  As the echo of  the mantra I use with clients rang in my ears….you only have ten seconds to create a great first impression, I looked for every detail in my home that I could improve upon.  Since my job is selling other people’s homes and staging them using Feng Shui, I wanted to use every staging idea I had and implement every Feng Shui treatment I knew.

That part is done.  Our home went on the market four days ago.  I expected to have at least one call by now but it’s been very quiet. Looks like we’ll get to experience first-had what other sellers in Austin and lots of places are seeing which is a scarcity of buyers.  Hmm… maybe tomorrow?  Now my mantra is… it only takes one person to buy your home.   I’ll keep you posted.