Tag Archives: Austin

Survival Guide for your next move. Don’t leave home without it!

Welcome MatI’ve just moved. In 100+ degree heat here in Austin, Texas.  Although this is not my first move, I seem to have forgotten or perhaps never had a list of  ways to survive a move. I went through lots of challenges including; a buyer that had second thoughts about buying my home and postponed the closing to the eleventh hour; 30 hours spent trying to get my phone lines functional;  sore back, wrists, legs; losing my dogs for two hours; losing my temper and my sense of humor at the same time; and of course, losing sleep.

Here’s my Survival Guide for getting through your next move easier.

  1. ENSURE that you have lots to eat and drink at your old home and your new.  Easy, grab-able nutritious treats like breakfast bars, trail-mix, apples, bananas, raisins, pretzels and oatmeal cookies work well.
  2. YOU KNOW the last bit of stuff left after the movers leave your old house that you’ll just swing by and pick up?  Don’t underestimate how much stuff you may have left.   And check the movers before they leave your home for the last time to ensure they don’t anything you wanted them to move!
  3. GIVE yourself at least twice the amount of time you think it will take to contact phone, cable, electricity, etc.  Don’t plan anything else the least bit taxing around the times you’ll need to interact with these folks.
  4. IF your friends say “If you need anything just call”  take them up on that. 
  5. DON’T isolate.  Have contact with other people other than your partner and your service providers.
  6. THROW away things you don’t need (before you move) but if don’t have time, don’t stress about it, know that you can get rid of things as you unpack.
  7. AS MUCH as possible, plan time segments to work and to rest or play.  Don’t try to get everything unpacked and put away in three days! 
  8. REMEMBER the concept of  balance.  Take care of yourself emotionally, physically, and probably most important, spiritually.
  9. IF you’re having “one of those days or one of those hours” try to dig deep and find your sense of humor
  10. AND don’t buy a lot of new furniture and accessories until you have unpacked and lived in the house longer than a few days.

Do I really need a receipt for a pack of gum?

New ImageI’m noticing myself getting increasing irritated at having to tell cashiers at grocery stores and convenience stores “I don’t want the receipt.”   Is it just me that thinks in this debit-card, eco-conscious world it’s time to rethink the idea of giving out paper receipts for a bottle of water and pack of gum?  Or for a burger from the drive-through? 

Cashiers usually plop the receipt in my hand along with my change or hold it out for me to retrieve.  I then have to figure out where to put it in order to put my change back into your wallet.  I can throw it into my already unorganized purse, toss it onto the floorboard of my car, or find a trash can and immediately throw it away.  Granted, it doesn’t take much effort to do any of these things, but when I’m having a particularly busy day, even the simple task of dealing with the receipt feels like a major annyonance.

In these days of credit and debit cards a purchase will automatically be reflected in your monthly statement so you don’t need to diligently bring your receipts home and keep them safe.  With all the recent eco-conscious programs – particularly in Austin – why do we need to waste paper on printing out a receipt for a pack of gum and a bottle of water?  Don’t get me wrong, I still want receipts for non-perishable big-ticket items in case I need to return something.  But it feels impractical and grossly out-dated to keep handing out receipts that (I think) in most cases are simply thrown away.

 Am I the only one that’s having a problem with this?  Does this bother you? I’d love to know what you do with your receipts.

Get greener with these inexpensive home projects.

FrontWho isn’t aware of the influence of green movement today? Green is a term widely used to describe buildings designed and constructed with minimal negative impact to the environment and with an emphasis on conservation of resources, energy efficiency, and healthful interior spaces.  In Austin, you can’t escape news stories about the latest green initiatives.  And with the current economy, it makes sense to save on energy efficiency by using green ideas to trim energy bills.

Here are a few inexpensive green home projects which might perk your interest in going greener.

  1. Clean your refrigerator coils.

  2. Replace weatherstripping.

  3. Install a programmable thermostat.

  4. Insulate hot-water pipes.

  5. Install a clothes-line.

  6. A tube-type skylight.

  7. Install a recirculating pump under your sink.

The Green Home Guide Web site www.greenhomeguide.org is a valuable resource if you’re interested in green remodeling.  Taking small steps which are practical to your household is a balanced way to implement green in your home today.

Getting Real when Selling your Home.

Sold SignHome Sellers in the current Austin real estate market are having to face the reality of a market that’s great for buyers, but difficult for sellers.  Homes are selling, but the sales prices are lower than in previous years.  I’m in the unique position of being a Realtor® and selling my own home so I can relate to the challenges my clients are facing.

The things I recently accepted about my own selling situation were:  improvements I put in weren’t valued as much as I thought they were going to be; I was not going to realize the profit anticipated when I bought the home; and recent sales in the neighborhood indicated a down-shifting market so my sales price had to be in line with comparable properties.

For me, and any home seller right now, ignoring the following facts will only add to your stress of selling and will probably delay getting it sold.

  • First, I had to wrap my mind around the fact that it’s a buyer’s market which means, quite simply, there’s a surplus of homes on the market and the best-priced home is going to get sold.
  • Second, the improvements and features that I put into the home don’t necessarily bring any increase in sales price in this market.  Unfortunately, potential buyers may not value custom tile or landscaping as much as you do; however, the good news is that more amenities and features in a home can lead to a quicker sale and help your home stand out from the competition. 
  • Third, no amount of Staging will guarantee you the sales price you want.  I’m an ardent practitioner of Staging and Feng Shui Real Estate. Using these techniques will help you sell your home and distance it from the competition, but they won’t help much if your home is over-priced. 
  • Fourth, if you decide to accept an offer lower than what you had hoped for, don’t think of the buyer as the enemy.  Try to work all issues out amicably and don’t make it a war.  Be grateful for the offer and that you are selling your home in this market and create a transaction grounded on goodwill.
  • If you hire a Realtor® to sell your home,  follow the advice given.  Don’t confer with neighbor’s, coworkers, relatives, or anyone else that isn’t an active Realtor® in the current market in Austin, Texas.  The fewer opinions you have flowing into your stream of thought the better. 

A previous client hired my company to sell her home.  I meticulously staged it, marketed it, and gave her my recommendations for the listing price.  She didn’t follow my price recommendation, her mother rearranged all my staging, and she conferred with everyone she knew about what to do to sell her house – which ultimately made her fearful to take any action.  After 100 days (the longest time it’s ever taken for me to sell a house), we received a workable offer and the house sold.  But what could have been a relatively easy process turned into daily stress for over three months with the end result no better than if all that second-guessing had not been done.

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!

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.

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.