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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Realtor Finds Unwanted Guests in Home

by Michael Scheffe | March 4th, 2011

This story from KRQE News, Channel 13 in Albuquerque, NM…

It’s hard enough selling houses in Albuquerque these days. Now local realtors have to contend with vacant properties becoming “love shacks”. “AWKWARD!”

Realtor finds unwanted guests in home:

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Most Cost Effective Home Improvements? Exterior.

by Michael Scheffe | December 16th, 2010

 The 2010-11 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report  is out.  And this year Realtors rated exterior improvement projects among the most cost-effective, demonstrating that curb appeal is still king when it comes to resale time.  In fact, nine of the top 10 most cost-effective projects on the list are exterior projects.

The report compares construction costs with resale values for 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels and replacements in 80 markets across the country.  Recognizing that housing trends are different as you travel across the country,the report divides the country into regions and reports the data separately for each region.  The on-line version of the new report allows you to select the region of the country and major metropolitan area you’re near for the most relevant information.

According to the report, replacing a front door returns the most money, with an estimated 102.1% of cost recouped upon resale.  It it is also the only project in this year’s report that is expected to return more than the cost. 

A mid-range garage door replacement, a new addition to the report this year, is expected to recoup 83.9% of its cost.  Both projects are small investments that cost little more than $1,200 each, on average.  The Realtors surveyed identified these two door replacements as projects that can significantly improve a home’s curb appeal. 

A great description of these projects and their costs can be found on the National Association of Realtors’ website.

Posted in: Uncategorized | 3,937 Comments »

Hiking In And Around Austin: Pedernales Falls State Park

by celeste.nunn | July 29th, 2010

Ahhh…a lovely summer day at a local state park, hiking a bucolic walking/equestrian trail near the crystal clear Pedernales River. Cheap entertainment, too, at only $5 per person daily admittance fee (campers pay $20/night for sites containing electric and water hookups at this popular ranger-staffed park.) Sounds great, doesn’t it? We thought so, and thus, set off for Pedernales Falls State Park, just east of Johnson City in Blanco County. So begins another hiking adventure…

Getting there? As with our last hike, getting there was a bit of a haul. We like water on our mid-summer hikes, which usually entails a bit of a drive out west. This particular park is actually located in Blanco County, which is a bit of a drive but also very scenic and easy to find. From Austin, you’ll travel west on Highway 290; after nearly 30 miles turn right on RM 3232. Continue north until 3232 dead ends in a “T.” The entrance to Pedernales Falls State Park is to the right off of FM 2766. The ranger station for paying park entrance fees and collecting a map of the park is a bit less than 3 miles north of the park entrance. The trail to Pedernales Falls itself is a short (>1 mile) trail, and there are also two longer trails: an approximately 4 mile unnamed loop, which is reached by crossing the Pedernales River at Trammel Crossing, or the 7+ mile Wolf Mountain Trail. We opted for the 4 mile loop, and so made our way down the hill past the ranger station, then bore to the right, parking near campsites 33-34, where the trailhead began. River access is clearly marked and the trail was quite simple to find.

When did we go? On a Saturday morning around 8:00 AM. It was slightly overcast and quite muggy when we set out; the sun came out later in the day and it was starting to swelter when we arrived back at the car about an hour and 45 minutes later.

Pros: Well-populated but still remote feeling park and trails; proximity to Pedernales River & Falls; trails can be used for hiking, biking, and equestrian purposes. Crossing the river was a “pro” to me on a hot summer day, but if wet shoes aren’t your thing, be advised that the crossing is unavoidable if you want to do the 4 mile loop–and you have to cross right at the beginning of your hike as well as the end. Smart hikers (or at least those with more time to spare than we) will bring bathing suits and a picnic and enjoy lunch on the riverbank, followed by a cooling dip prior to heading home.

Cons: One word…horseflies. Hundreds! Both seasoned hikers, my hiking buddy and I douse ourselves with bug spray before every hike. Me, Off! with DEET, and she, an herbal spray from Whole Foods that smells much better. However, neither spray worked to deter the horseflies from landing on us at every opportune moment (pretty much any time we were standing still.) I have to say that her natural bug spray actually did better than mine; the flies landed on her but did not bite, whereas I was covered in painful bites at the end of the hike. It was so bad that my hiking partner actually gave her bug spray to a family with children that we passed on our descent; they didn’t have any spray and she feared that the kids would get eaten up! My warning to you: avoid humid summer days or pack your herbal bug spray…hers had citronella and a few other pungent herbs, which I’m guessing must taste really bad to horseflies! Another quick note that may be a “con” to some: the 4 mile loop is pretty strenuous if you take the right leg of the loop as opposed to the left. More uphill climbing and very few truly level spots. This was great for my Saturday hard exercise; but if you’re looking for a relatively easy, scenic hike, you might try the short hike to park’s namesake falls, or if your knees can’t do inclines, perhaps try the longer but more level Wolf Mountain Trail, both within the parkgrounds.

Summary: We won’t be doing this one mid-summer again due to the horseflies. However, this is definitely a park that has lots to offer and we plan to make another excursion out here soon to explore the falls and the Wolf Mountain Trail.

Posted in: Uncategorized | 5,297 Comments »

What Home Buyers Want and How You Can Make it Happen

by awhittenberger | February 26th, 2010

In a recent study of home buyer preferences conducted by Avid Ratings Co., we learned a lot about what today’s new home buyer is looking for.  How does this relate to properly packaging, marketing and staging an existing home when going on the market? First of all, we can probably assume that these preferences would be applicable to those purchasing pre-owned homes as well.  Since the definition of staging includes “preparing a property to appeal to the most number of buyers as possible” and this study shows us what most buyers are looking for, BINGO…we’ve got the ingredients for our action plan right before our eyes. Thanks to this study, we know where focusing our attention will yield the best ROI when staging a home to sell. Ready to get started?

First let’s take a look at the Top Features Buyers Want in a New Home:

1. Large kitchens with an island.

2. Energy-efficient appliances and high-efficiency insulation and windows. (These were the most sought-after “green” features from buyers.)

3. Home office or study

4. Main-floor master suite

5. Outdoor living room

6. Ceiling fans

7. Master suite soaker tubs and oversize showers with seating areas

8. Stone and brick exteriors

9. Community landscaping with walking paths and playgrounds.

In this blog series, we’re going to dig a little deeper and see how we can take this helpful information, and use it to help us in staging a pre-owned home. After all, you’ve got to be able to compete with new homes and well as other pre-owned homes if you’re putting your home on the market. This is a beauty contest you won’t want to lose!

Stay tuned for our next blog entry where we’ll discuss Item #1: Buyers want to see large kitchens with an island…

In the meantime, do you have a staging or design dilemma? Log on to and Ask Dr. Dotty the Design Therapist. We’ll be sure to answer your question in an upcoming blog entry!

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How the Newly-Expanded Tax Credit Works for Existing Homeowners

by Michael Scheffe | November 17th, 2009

Here is a quick and excellent explanantion of the newly expanded Homebuyer Tax Credit that now applies to Exisiting Homeowners in addition to 1st-timers.

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Fall Injury Edition: Or, Boot is Beautiful

by celeste.nunn | November 17th, 2009

bootMy wardrobe has a stylish new addition…the lovely robotic-looking boot you see at left (insert your best Transformers, Lego, or skiing joke here.) Yes, I’m injured; I was walking my dog on Saturday when I fell into a booby trap. Well, OK, it was a hole–but a deep, grass-covered, perfectly foot-sized hole! I heard (and felt) two pops, and then I was on the ground, fully expecting a broken ankle. However, after dusting myself off, I realized that the damage wasn’t as bad as I’d initially thought, and I misguidedly tried to “walk it off”–that is, until a misstep onto the outside of my foot induced nausea.

I practiced the RICE method over the weekend (for you non-athletes, that’s Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and on Monday I saw the very nice, super-professional, accommodating folks at Texas Orthopedics (who, by the way, got me in within about 4 hours’ notice and out in 40 minutes, almost none of which was spent waiting alone in a diagnostic room) and was diagnosed with an inversion sprain and subsequently fitted with the aforementioned robo-boot.

As my husband can heartily attest, I am a terrible patient. In fact, you might call me an impatient, because I’m sick of this boot already. However, this being the season of giving thanks, I’m trying to keep my mind on the positive, and I figured what better way to do that than publicly? So here goes…my list of “boot benefits.”

It’s a conversation starter. Everyone, from neighbors to agents in our office, to the cashier at HEB who always rings me up, wants to know what happened. Although initially this was a little disconcerting, I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to meet and greet a whole bunch of people I didn’t know, or didn’t know well, with the boot as conversational fodder. Who knew that an injury would make me so approachable?

It’s a good deterrent to holiday indulgence. As you may know from my previous posts, I love the outdoors, and hiking is one of my favorite ways to exercise. This boot will prevent that for 3 weeks, and I have to be careful on the ankle for an additional couple of months, so that doesn’t bode well for strenuous hikes this winter. Therefore, I can’t justify that extra slice of pecan pie or spoonful of mashed potatoes (or tankard of eggnog, for that matter!) by saying I will exercise harder later. Darn it! But also, way to avoid the seemingly inevitable holiday scale creep.

The sympathy factor. Chivalry abounds, it seems…being the independent woman of the 21st century that I clearly am, I certainly don’t expect special treatment from the opposite sex. Except, of course, when I’m injured and therefore at a distinct disadvantage. Want to open that door for me? Thank you kindly.

And the whole less fortunate thing… Speaking of holidays, it’s a great time to remember, injured or not, that I’m very lucky to have a job with a great company, and insurance to help with the costs of the robo-boot. So what if I have to clump around for a few weeks, dogged at the heels, literally, by the rasp of Velcro? Really, who am I to complain? Except about the unfashionable ensembles I may have to sport in the weeks to come…I reserve the right to be a baby about that.

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