Make Yourself At Home: To-Do’s for Moving In

Moving into a new home is a busy and exciting time. Here are some tips to help make you feel right at home:

Safety First

-Not sure that house key is one-of-a-kind? Don’t take a risk. Prevent unwanted guests and intruders by changing the locks. Also, make copies of important keys and give them to trusted friends and family members in case of an emergency or lock-out.

-Get to know the alarm system, if any. Read the manual, and reset passcodes as needed. If the house has no alarm, do internet research and ask neighbors about area crime and trusted alarm system companies.

-Reprogram the garage door opener. You can’t put a price on safe! Many remote controls have a button to reset the transmission code—check the directions or call the manufacturer.

-Smoke detectors should be placed every 15 feet within a home. Many older homes have only one, if any. Make sure each bedroom and every floor of your new home has at least one working smoke detector, and install more if needed. Play it extra safe, and install carbon monoxide detectors as well.

-Place a fire extinguisher on every floor of the house, and learn how to use it. Create a fire exit strategy (and other types of emergency plans, as needed) and go over it with every member of the household. If you have children, put emergency phone numbers near the main telephones for each level.

Get to Know Your Home

-Locate keys for any internal doors, especially to basements. Bedroom keys often are placed above the doorframe. Can’t find them? Talk to the previous owners.

-Locate the main circuit breaker and get to know the circuits in your home. If you don’t understand the labeling, recruit a friend or family member to test them out, and then re-label them.

-Locate the main water shut-off. In the event of a household flood, every second counts!

-Read instructions for the HVAC system. Change the filter, and set reminders for future filter changes. Frequent changes save energy and lengthen the life of your AC unit.

-Familiarize yourself with the sprinkler system, if the house has one. Read the manual, or contact the manufacturer for a new one. At minimum, learn the zones and basic use of the control box.

Green Things Up

-Count all the types of light bulbs your new home, and purchase energy-efficient replacements, indoor and outdoor. This could significantly lower your electricity bill.

-Consider installing low-flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads.

-Contact the city and ask about any incentive or rebate programs for energy-efficiency or water conservation improvements. These programs reward homeowners for updating HVAC systems and installing low-flow toilets, etc.

-Check and repair damaged window and door seals. This will keep the household from being as affected by outdoor air temperatures.

Welcome home!
Regent Property Group enjoys sharing these and other helpful household tips with homeowners. Searching for an Austin-area waterfront property for sale? The luxury REALTORS® at Regent Property Group support home-buyers every step of the way.

Looking To Relocate To Austin? The Numbers Are Encouraging

Relocating to Austin is a great idea, but don’t just take my word for it. Organizations from around the country are pointing out the virtues of living in Austin. These unbiased sources have their reasons for liking Austin so much, and they’re all solid ones.

Here now, in no particular order, are six recommendations for Austin:

The Business Journals Call Austin Best For Young Adults

The Business Journals says that there are three great location choices for graduates looking for work in this post-recession world: Washington, San Jose, California, and Austin. Because Austin has a booming technology industry and is expanding rapidly, things are good for all sorts of citizens. And it’s especially great, the research shows, for people just getting out of college and looking for entry-level jobs.

Austin Is Second Best-Performing Large City

Once again, Austin finds itself on a list with San Jose. This time, Austin rose from fourth place last year to second, being slightly bested by the California tech town. Ranking cities based on technology development, wage increases and job growth, Milken’s Annual Index of Best-Performing Large Cities examined stats from 2006 to 2011.

Austin Has 5th Healthiest Housing Market

Austin was one of four Texas cities that made Trulia’s list of places where the housing market is looking bright. The ranking was determined based on the real estate industry tracking website’s study of vacancy rate, foreclosure rate, home price stability and job growth rate. Like many cities, Austin is seeing rising home prices, but that wasn’t taken into consideration by this analysis.

Austin Is Number 4 Best Home Market To Watch

According to a forecast by the Urban Land Institute, the Austin real estate market is the fourth most important market to watch in the near future. We came in just ahead of Houston and were preceded by San Francisco, New York City and our new best friend, San Jose. And predictions indicate that Austin will only grow in popularity, spelling good things for both residential and commercial real estate.

Austin Is Eighth Best City, According To Bloomberg 

In a late 2012 ranking of the 50 best American cities by Bloomberg Business Week, Austin ranked eighth. Reasons include the number of businesses and startups here, the internationally known festival scene and the decrease in the unemployment rate while household incomes rose. There are no major sports team here, Bloomberg pointed out, but every city has a minor flaw or two.

And More

One neighborhood in particular, East Austin, even ranked number seven on a Forbes list of Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods.

We could go on, but you get the idea. When organizations are looking to make lists of great American cities, Austin seems to always pop up. It’s because we have a great city that just keeps getting better.

Austin may not have set out to appear on every positive list in America, but it certainly seems to be showing up in all the right places. If you aren’t yet convinced that things are great in Austin, maybe one of these respected list-makers can help persuade you that there’s something special about Central Texas’ crowing jewel.

10 Quick Tips To Stage A Luxury Home

Staging a luxury home for sale involves paying attention to every little details of how others see the home to make sure it puts its best foot forward.

It isn’t dishonest or unethical in any way. It’s simply a process of removing distractions so the true beauty of the home can shine — without anything unpleasant or unnecessary detracting from it.

While some staging tasks can be accomplished in seconds and other take hours or days, there are many things you can start on now to make a luxury home more likely to sell. Here are 10 tips for effectively staging a luxury home:

1. Consider the approach. Remove untidiness outside a home and make sure that any gates, property walls and driveways are clean and easy to maneuver. A pothole hear the entrance gate or a security fence that’s damaged makes a bad impression from the start. Fix any issues outside before showing the home.

2. Take a tour through the house. Walk through each room as a potential buyer would when viewing the home. Note where the eye settles, then try to point out the best features of the room. If there aren’t any or they’re obscured, try to improve the room.

3. Get rid of interior clutter. Paperwork, collections and personal photos that are important to you are distractions to potential buyers. Clear these things away so potential buyers can easily imagine their property in your art niches and on your built-in bookshelves.

4. Reduce furniture. You should leave enough furniture in the home to help establish scale, but you don’t want to restrict traffic flow or inhibit a buyer’s imagination. Remove pieces that don’t support the overall style and look of luxury that you want to convey.

5. Give it a deep clean. This includes odor removal. Make the home seem sparkling fresh and clean — and as new as possible. Even older homes with great character need to be spotless, otherwise finicky buyers will be turned off. This matters just as much in luxury homes as for other houses because cleanliness establishes that the home has been well cared for.

6. Go neutral. If you’ll be painting or staging with rented or borrowed furniture, keep the color scheme neutral. This allows potential buyers to examine the house without being distracted by loud design elements. Light-colored floor coverings are great too.

7. Keep accessories to a minimum. Those little knickknacks that make a luxury house a home may not appeal to everyone, so keep them to a minimum. Use a few items to suggest how a space could be used, but keep them generic. When in doubt, decorate with simple green plants.

8. Clean up storage spaces. Garages, basements, attics and other major storages spaces shouldn’t be filled with your junk. Move your excess possessions to offsite storage, then clean up storage in and around the home to make it look large and promising.

9. Repair. Take the time to fix frayed carpet edges, sticky doors and cabinet hardware that doesn’t quite work right. The quaint little things that make your house unique will distract and displease buyers, so eliminate all problems, even if it costs a bit to accomplish.

10. Do it all again. Once everything has been done, check it again. Potential buyers come to a home to scrutinize it, so don’t let them find any flaws. If you don’t sell the home immediately, keep rechecking that things are as you want them and fix additional issues.

Staging a luxury home for sale is just the same as staging any other home — except the stakes are higher. When buyers are expected to shell out hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, they have a right to expect perfection.

They won’t get perfection, of course, but if you stage your house carefully, you can eliminate distractions and help buyers see their dreams becoming a reality in the luxury home you’re selling.

10 Things You Should Know About Luxury Homes Before You Buy One

luxury home interior

Image courtesy of Steve Bennet

Buying a luxury home is a completely different process than buying a traditional home in a middle-class neighborhood. Then again, some of the same rules apply. But when more money and a bigger property are at stake, the risk and potential rewards get magnified.

If you keep these 10 things in mind when buying a luxury home, you’ll be in good shape. If you don’t, you could end up with a high-priced home that you can’t really live with.

1. It’s about more than bedrooms and bathrooms. Luxury homes come with a lifestyle attached. It’s a country-estate lifestyle or a gated-oasis lifestyle. Or it’s the lifestyle of someone who either wants seclusion or wants to show off. Be ready for what people will think about you — and for the realities of living in what some would call a mansion.

2. You should really keep your emotions in check. Whether it’s fear, guilt, excitement or greed, emotions aren’t the friend of a homebuyer. Look at tax implications of the home and other legal obligations, especially if your luxury home is a second residence. You need to balance emotions with what your business sense tells you.

3. Cash changes everything. If you can afford to make a cash deal, all the rules change. Cash talks in the luxury home market just as it does in many other kinds of transactions. Mortgage rates don’t matter, and proof of cash proves you’re serious about making a quick and simple deal.

4. You give up some things. If you move to a country estate or a gated home, you may have to give up walks around the neighborhood, chats over the back fence and perhaps quick trips to the corner store. And there’s almost never a McDonald’s around the corner from a luxury home.

5. Choosing a broker matters more. If you can afford a luxury home, you’re at the top of your game. Choose a broker who’s at the top of his or her game too. Select someone who knows the neighborhood and the market. And since you’ll be generating the agent a huge commission, expect to get some premium-level service in exchange.

6. You may have to prove you have money to even see any properties. Luxury home owners don’t like casual visitors, so you may have to prove you can afford the house before you even get a glimpse of it.

7. Laws aren’t the same everywhere. If you’re moving out of state, have your agent explain the buying process to you. It’s not the same everywhere, and big luxury home transactions may involve transfer taxes and disclosures that you haven’t dealt with before.

8. It’s best to consider a home’s relationship to your work. Settling for a small home near your work may give you a better quality of life than having to drive through rush hour to reach your oasis in an posh area.

9. You can change most things. You can put in a bigger pool, remove the dated décor and redo the landscaping. But if the house in an inconvenient, windy and isolated location, you can’t change that, so buy based on where a house is rather than just on how nice it is.

10. The basics still matter. A high price doesn’t always mean high quality. Check the energy efficiency, ventilation, structural integrity and foundation to make sure it’s a sound house.

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Why The Luxury Home Market Keeps Getting Better

A luxury home in a small town

A luxury home in a small town (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The luxury home market keeps getting better because the economy as a whole is getting better, but there are a few nuances and issues that make things look particularly rosy for those fortunate enough to participate in the luxury home market.

While average Americans may not realize just how hard the economic downturn that started in 2007 hit the richest people in the nation, the severe impact had been showing clearly in the luxury housing market until recently. Just a year ago, a large portion of the luxury homes on the market were still distress properties, especially in the hardest-hit cities.

Today, analysts suggest that there are now so few foreclosures i4n this class of homes that distressed properties aren’t really an issue anymore. Without foreclosed homes bringing th market down, price points can rise unimpeded.

Short sales are still an issue, but there any many fewer of those than just a year ago too.

No More Presidential Concerns

A quick Internet search is all it takes to reveal articles touting improvement in the luxury housing market in just about every city in America. Things are looking up in Miami, in Austin and in Dallas too. There are positive signs in the Midwest and in the Northeast.

One thing that slowed sales of expensive homes in 2012 was the presidential election. While those who don’t follow politics closely may find it surprising that uncertainty about who will guide the country for the next few years makes any difference at all, there were people on both sides of the political spectrum who were genuinely concerned that the wrong man would be elected president.

It happens every time there’s a hotly contested presidential election, including in 2008, according to experts.

With that issue now decided for four years, that factor is out of the mix, releasing the market from another potential concern.

So Much More

In many areas, there’s still a glut of luxury homes on the market, but that’s starting to clear. And that clearing is a good sign. Luxury home buyers who insist on a discounted property may still be able to find something to satisfy their needs, leaving premium homes that are just coming onto the market for buyer who are just entering it.

In some cases, homes are coming onto the market now because sellers are finally no longer underwater with their luxury home. In addition, their business interests have recovered to the point that they can afford the move up or the move to another city that they were planning before the economic downturn, creating more sellers and more buyers.

Luxury homebuyers choose their homes almost exclusively because of location, so that means the news is especially good for those who are selling in popular places. And because people have an increasing interest in walkable communities and neighborhood shops, buyers with money are also now considering nicer homes in traditional neighborhoods too, helping the overall real estate market.

It’s a rare moment when home-buying conditions are great and home-selling conditions are pretty good too. The luxury homes market is benefiting from this balance just as much as other housing markets — if not more. And all indicators point to even more improvement in the economy and even stronger home prices.

Is an Adjustable Rate Mortgage a Good Idea?

sasvings and mortgage

sasvings and mortgage (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

When you think of mortgages the first things you think about are both negative and positive connotations. Sometimes the word mortgage just sends people into frenzy because of the complexity behind it. Some of the more positive things that you might think of include home ownership, freedom, and a happy home. The negative connotations can be things like haggling over interest rates, choosing a lender, possible foreclosures, land and school taxes, a second mortgage to fix the house…the list goes on. Buying a luxury home can be a dream come true for many, but it can also be one of the biggest challenges that you’ve ever had to face.

Getting the Best Deal Possible on a Luxury Home

Choosing an interest rate and APR isn’t something that most people look forward to, but this can be a great opportunity for you to come prepared and get a great deal on your new luxury home. Be smart and do your research before meeting with your lender. There are two different types of loans if you exclude the reverse mortgage. They are (1) adjustable-rate mortgages and (2) fixed-rate mortgage. While both have their pros and cons, fixed rate mortgages are usually a better option for well-qualified buyers with decent credit. Adjustable rate mortgages offer the advantage of being more flexible. The adjustable rate can be compared to what some rental companies do. You’re put at one rate for a length of time, and when that cycle ends a new one begins. Say for instance you have a twenty-year loan, if you pay it off in five years the balance is notably different than making payments across the entire length of the loan.

Choosing the Right Mortgage Option for You


mortgage (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

Adjustable rate mortgages are good options for many luxury home buyers because they offer an incentive to pay off the loan quicker. It’s not for everyone though; some buyers may prefer the predictable stability that comes with a fixed rate mortgage. The fact of the matter is that if you’re only planning on making the minimum payments, then an adjustable rate mortgage probably isn’t for you. Adjustable mortgages add flexibility to the lending process and encourage incentives to luxury home buyers who can afford to make higher monthly payments. Although the housing and stock markets may remain bleak, owning a luxury home can provide peace of mind, comfort, security, and a sense of accomplishment. Not everyone has large amounts of cash on hand though, so be sure to choose wisely when selecting a mortgage type, and make sure that the payments fit with your long-term goals.

Don’t Let Lenders Push You Around

Remember that you are in control of the luxury home buying process. Never agree to or sign anything you’re not comfortable with. Signed contracts are legally binding and refinancing any home can be tricky. Just remember that a loan on a luxury home is completely different from a car loan. It’s run by the bank and there is no middleman. If you don’t pay the bank, they could end up owning your house (depending on your state laws). The dream of owning a house can be an amazing reality, if you make it one.

Austin Provides Former New Yorkers A Better Lifestyle

austin is better

Courtesy of Modern Relics

New Yorkers young and old are leaving the fast-paced lifestyle and high costs of the Big Apple in favor of what Austinites might call a more sensible way of life. New statistics show a jump in the number of New York residents who are moving to Texas cities, including Austin.

The numbers are admittedly modest, but the statistics show a significant rise. While a number of things account for New Yorkers wanting to move to Austin, the city’s established reputation as a fun and funky place and its growing reputation for a higher than average quality of life are among them.

The Money Factor

In 2005, IRS data showed that 328 New Yorkers moved to Texas, some of those to Austin. In 2010, the number was 643, according to research compiled by the Center for an Urban Future — a nearly 100 percent jump. More specifically, the number of Brooklyn residents who moved to Austin jumped from 83 in 2005 to 224 in 2010.

Austin Jobs

Courtesy of Fleur Design

Experts agree that the migration comes down to money and other quality of life issues. Some come for jobs — something Austin has and New York doesn’t at the moment. When they get here, they discover that their New York savings goes much farther toward the home of their dreams than it would have in their home state.

Also, larger homes are available here at reasonable prices. That includes homes with large yards. Even better, they find that everything from clothing to groceries and theatre tickets to baseball game admission is less expensive too.

The Quality Of Life Factor

While many of them probably expect that Texas is a cultural void, they find high-quality musicals, plays and other performing arts productions as well as the live music and fun nightlife that Austin is known for.

The culture here isn’t exactly like New York, and that makes for a nice change in some people’s eyes.

Some people also find that living in Austin rather than in New York is less complicated. Driving is almost impossible there, neighbors are always close by and winter storms further complicate everything.

In Austin, the weather is more agreeable for many — with freezes relatively uncommon and snow storms too rare to mention. Summers can get hot, but New York summers are hot too.

Life’s Better Here

About 60 percent of the New York residents who moved between 2000 and 2009 moved to a southern state, according to one study.

In other studies, people have listed high taxes, the high cost of living and problems finding jobs in New York as reasons to head for something different. One moving company study recently showed that New Yorkers are the fourth likeliest of all Americans to move out of state in 2013.

Although it’s too soon to tell if it’s made any impact, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott has also run ads in New York encouraging citizens to move to Texas for greater personal liberties protection.

Depending on who you ask, leaving New York for Austin is either about escaping or arriving.

While getting away from cold weather, high housing and living costs and a confining metropolis are great reasons to leave the East Coast, the same things that attract others to Austin make it a magnet for those seeking a higher quality of life outside the confines of America’s biggest city.

Are Austin Home Selling Prices Rising Too High?

It’s no secret that Austin home prices are higher than comparable homes in other Texas cities, and that sounds like great news if you want to sell a home in this area. Buyers here must be willing to pay more than those in other cities so they can live, work and enjoy the most vibrant and interesting city in Texas, right?

But are home prices now rising so high that it’s impossible to sell a home at the current market value?

You Could Get Lucky

For some buyers, there’s no such thing as too much to pay. That’s because the price a buyer is willing to pay sometimes depends more on subjective personal criteria than on objective financial information. Some buyers may find your home absolutely perfect for them and be willing to pay as much as necessary to acquire it.

The right buyer might be willing to outbid three or four other buyers because of your home’s easy access to Mopac, its proximity to their new employer or the funky vibe of your close-in neighborhood. If you find a buyer like that, house price trends and market analyses don’t matter. You’ll sell high, and everyone will be satisfied.

Some buyers are willing to put a little more money at risk on a house that could decline in value or at least fail to increase in value so they can have the right home — if their mortgage lenders will let them. But how many buyers are there like that? And how likely is it you’ll get connected with one?

The Issue Of Affordability

There are a number of positive economic signs working to bring up housing prices in Travis County, including new employers coming into the area and a still-inadequate supply of existing homes for sale. This upward trend has been happening to some degree since the city first started its recovery from the economic downturn, but the market has shown particular strength in the last year.

In some cities around the country, there’s an issue with house prices rising more quickly than income levels. This declining affordability of homes is actually a positive sign for the economy in many ways, but it means fewer people are in a position to afford each house on the market, and that means fewer offers and more homes going unsold. This will inevitable lead to lower home prices in these areas in the long run.

But that’s not what we’re seeing in Austin. This is a growing city with lots of people moving to the area and a relatively limited supply of homes on the market. That means each home may get multiple bids, driving prices up.

It’s A Confusing Market

If you’re selling a home in Austin today, the market may be confusing to you. That’s because it’s an improving market. Some statistics indicate that home prices in the area are more comparable to those in other Texas cities than most think, but there’s still a perception that Austin home prices are too high.

Additionally, it isn’t known exactly how money those new employees who are moving to the area for jobs that haven’t been created yet will make, so you can’t be sure how much they can afford.

But this much is certain: Your Austin home is worth more today than it was even a year ago. And to those homebuyers who really like it, it’s worth even more than that. Just be aware there’s a danger of overpricing your home for this still-recovering market, and be willing to come down if you don’t get a bite right away.

Relocating to Austin in 2013? Here’s what to Expect

Austin Texas Lake Front

Austin Texas Lake Front (Photo credit: StuSeeger)

The annual spring and summer upswing in Austin real estate is already underway, so if you plan to relocate to the Travis County area sooner, it’s time to get in line. There are lots of people buying at this time of year and many other positive signs for the market as well. That means home inventories could get snapped up quickly, causing a price increase for whatever’s left.

Simply put, there may be no better time to move to Austin than right now.

The Austin real estate market stayed strong through the recent fall and winter, and the numbers from January are very positive too. All indications are that this year will be the best in the region for home sales since the downturn began in 2006. Before this busy season gets too far along, however, let’s pause for a moment and take a look back at what’s been happening with the Austin housing and job market. We also have some predictions for what’s to come.

More than 65,000 people moved to Austin in 2012. Our healthy and active job market takes credit for much of that migration. Unemployment numbers remain at only about 5 percent. In fact, more than 26,000 new jobs — mostly in healthcare and education — were added to the job base last year.

In addition, big and established companies like General Motors and Apple have announced plans to bring even more jobs to Travis County in the coming months. Austin voters took a positive step, too, when they invested in their infrastructure and at the same time created jobs by voting in favor of a new University of Texas Medical Branch campus.

These and other positive signs meant big growth for the real estate market in 2012. New home construction and available housing inventories are now playing catch up to keep on pace with the strong demand for homes in Austin.

But what does all this mean for the rest of 2013?

Experts expect that more than 16,000 new housing opportunities will be added to Austin this year, and about 30,000 jobs are coming to the city too. Apple’s new facility in Austin will add at least 10,000 jobs, plus Samsung, Visa and other companies are expected to bring work as well.

Image of Austin, Texas

Image of Austin, Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Inventories are catching up with demand, but people continue to move to Austin. That surely means prices will rise through the summer and into the usually slower fall and winter months of 2013.

Last year set the stage for growth and started a positive trend that’s expected to continue through this year. Today, Austin’s real estate market is considerably stronger than it was at this time last year. That’s good for the industry, but it means the most attractive window of opportunity for moving to the city could be coming to a close.

If you want to buy a home in Austin, now’s the time to do it. We recommend you start on the pathway to purchasing your Austin home now — before prices rise any further. If you wait, you’ll pay more and perhaps have fewer homes from which to choose.

Contact us now if you’re ready to jump into the Austin housing market while the best deals are still available to you.