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Finding the perfect Summer Camp just got easier. See below a full list of 2013 Sumer camps around the Austin area.  Find a more exciting, and memorable Camp experience this year for your kiddos.

 

General Camps

AUSTIN CHILDREN’S MUSEUM     Sign up for a half-day or full-day camp with themes ranging from dinosaurs to engineering to outer space. Ages 4-10. May 28-Aug. 16. Austin Children’s Museum, 201 Colorado, 472-2499 x201. $155-295. www.austinkids.org
BLUEBONNET SCHOOL     Indoor and outdoor play and instruction abound at these camps featuring water fun, field trips, learning, sports, and specialized activities on demand. Ages 5-11.      June 10-Aug. 22.      10321 Boulder Ln., 331-9009.  $205.  www.bluebonnetschool.com
CAMP FIRE ADVENTURE CAMP     Kids get out of the house and into the great outdoors as they hike, swim, pitch tents, and generally commune with nature. Ages 8-12.          June 10-July 26.      Asbury Methodist Church, 1605 E. 38½, 349-2111.  $300.  www.camp-fire.org
CAMP INDIGO     Help your kids find their inner creative spirit through nature hikes, dance, drama, yoga, and more. Ages 5-12.          July 17-28.      Austin Discovery School, 8509 FM 969 #200, 476-8884.  $300.  www.amalafoundation.org
CAMP IOS     The Inside Outside School will inundate kids with crafts, games, art, music, cooking, and even a few farm animals. Long story short? Your kids won’t be bored. Ages 5-12.      July 1-Aug. 2.      5530 Killingsworth Ln., Pflugerville, 512/251-1109.  $500.  www.insideoutsideschool.org
CHAMPION KIDS DAY OUT     Three days a week for four hour each, the kids get into all the usual camp-related shenanigans. Ages 3-8.      Hope Presbyterian Church, 11512 Olson, 258-9117.  $100.  www.championkids.co
EANES COMMUNITY EDUCATION     Play in the pool, practice your sport of choice, make a robot or a film, or try one the myriad other camps offered by your local school district. Ages 1-13.      June 3-Aug. 2.    732-9022.  $130-425.  www.eanesisd.net
EARTH NATIVE WILDERNESS SCHOOL     Learn all about the natural world of Central Texas through exploration and games. The older kids get into some Hunger Games-style survival techniques (without all the killing, of course) at the overnight camp. Ages 6-17.      June 10-Aug. 9.    299-8870.  $195-245 ($595, overnight camp).  www.earthnativeschool.com
GIRLSTART CAMPS     Choose one of the weeklong camps and learn about the ocean, explore engineering, or even create their own commercials and apps. Ages 9-13.      June 10-Aug. 8.    916-4775.  $300.  www.girlstart.org
GROWIN’ TOGETHER HANDS-ON CAMP     If your kid is a day-tripper, likes to dig in the dirt, likes to document things on film, or save the planet, these folks have a camp for them. Ages 5-14.          June 17-July 26.  $195-295.  www.growintogether.org
IQUEST GLOBAL ENRICHMENT CENTER Honestly, these guys win for widest variety of topics covered: comic books, Mandarin, philosophy, SAT prep, code-breaking, fashion design, etc. Seriously, etc. Ages 4-12.      June 17-Aug. 16.      5145 RR 620 N., 922-3236.  $250-450.  www.iquestaustin.com
JCC SUMMER CAMPS     Your kid has myriad camps to choose from at the Jewish Community Center with no shortage of arts, crafts, sports, field trips, swimming, sports and then some. Go online for a complete list of camps and prices. Ages 3-15.      Dell Jewish Community Center, 7300 Hart, 735-8050.    www.shalomaustin.org
LES EXPLORERS     Get immersed in French or Spanish language and culture. Kids learn about foreign lands from native-speaking instructors in these half- or full-day camps. Ages 3-12.          June 10-July 19.      Austin International School, 4001 Adelphi, 331-7806 x6.  $370-560 for two-week sessions.  www.austininternationalschool.org
SHERWOOD FOREST CAMP     Learn archery, blacksmithing, leatherworking, sword play, and other renaissance activities while you spend the night in tents. Don’t worry the showers and bathrooms are modern. Ages 7-15.      July 7-27.      Sherwood Forest Faire, 1883 Old Hwy. 20.  $795.  www.sherwoodforestfaire.com
SOLEIL SCHOOL     Each camp focuses on a different educational subject. All the hands-on activities and games make sure your kids won’t confuse it with summer school. Ages 5-10.      July 8-26.      Stunt Ranch, 13317 Fitzhugh.  $185.  www.soleilschool.com
SON-SATIONAL SUMMER CAMP     The Sunrise Neighborhood Youth Program makes it 16 years with all the usual fun and games that any good camp should.          4430 Manchaca, 444-3326.  $105.  www.sunriseaustin.org
SPILLED MILK SOCIAL CLUB     If your kid’s creativity isn’t fostered after all of the theater, music, dance, visual art, creative writing, fashion, crafting, video, gardening, cooking, and graphic design then you might want to check for a pulse. Ages 5-12.      June 10-Aug. 23.      Austin Recreation Center, 1301 Shoal Creek Blvd, 317-6408.  $225.  www.spilledmilksocialclub.com
YOUTH ARTS SAFARI     Choose one of the full-day camps that focus on the African influence on our culture. Kids enjoy field trips, events, and a show-and-tell with parents at week’s end. Ages 6-12.      July 29-Aug. 16.      Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina, 974-4926.  $100.  carver.museum@austintexas.gov
YPW CAMPS     Whether your kid is a linguist, artist, explorer, adventurer, or scientist, YPW has a camp to suit your needs. Go online for a complete list of camps. Ages 3-12.    329-5611.  $200 and up.  www.ypwkids.com
Art & Music Camps
ABRAKADOODLE     However your kid might express his or her arty side, this series of camps has everything you might need, in locations all over town. Camps last from one day to a week and have themes like pirates, safari, bugs, fashion, the Wild West, and more. Go online for a complete schedule. Ages 3-12.      June 10-Aug. 8.    380-7555.  $124-165.  www.abrakadoodle.com
ART & POTTERY CAMPS     Three levels of ceramics classes for the little sculptor. Ages 5-16.      June 10-Aug. 9.      1000 Payton Gin Ste. M, 416-2447.  $165.  www.paintme-pottery.com
ART AMORE     Weeklong camps and specialty workshops show kids the world of visual art from comic books to the great masterpieces. Ages 3-16.      June 10-Aug. 15.      6507 Jester, 983-7022.  $75-225.  www.artamoreaustin.com
ART GARAGE     hosts a variety of camps that will fuel the inner artist including pottery, jewelery, tie-dye, and drawing for the younguns. Camps have themes including Harry Potter, fashion, and others. Ages 4-12.      July 6-Aug. 23, 10am-2pm.      11190 Circle Dr. #202, 852-9900.  $139-219.  www.theartgarageaustin.com
ART PLUS ACADEMY     Little kids spark their creativity with half-days of drawing, painting, sculpture, and more. Slightly older artists can focus on their passions, be it watercolor, portraits, or just exploring the right side of the brain. Ages 4-17.      June 3-Aug. 23.      Art Plus Academy, 8650 Spicewood Springs Rd. #201, 415-8267.  $190.  www.artplusacademy.com
ART SCHOOL AT AMOA-ARTHOUSE     With hundreds of classes, the budding artist in the family should be able to find something that gets his or her creative juices flowing. They offer everything from art safaris and dinosaur sculptures to Photoshop and flying clay. Ages 4-16.      June 1-Aug. 26.      AMOA-Arthouse at Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th, 323-6380.  $99-334.  www.amoa-arthouse.org
BAND AID SCHOOL OF MUSIC     Two weeks is all it takes to turn your singer, guitarist, bass player, drummer, or keyboardist into a band member ready for the stage or in their own video. What’s more, kids will do more than just cover classic rock tunes, but learn to compose their own jams. Beginners and experienced players are invited. Ages 8-18.      June 10-July 19.      Riverbend Student Center, 4214 Capital of TX Hwy. N., 698-8227.  $500 for two weeks.  www.bandaidschoolofmusic.com
CAMP DUB     Little Dr. Dres and David Guettas can learn the art of the turntables and/or production techniques from beat matching to song arrangement. Ages 12-17.      June 10-Aug. 1.      906 E. Fifth, 600.2144.  $425.  www.dubacademy.com
CREATIVE EXPRESSIONS     Expand your kids artistic horizon with painting, drawing, mosaics, music instruction, and more. Ages 7-14.      June 17-Aug. 23.      4410 Maybelle, 374-9250.  $165-250.  www.creativexpress.weebly.com
EASELY AMUSED     Choose one of the three-day camps that explore fashion design and rock star accouterments. Ages 6-12.      June 11-July 27.      2324 S. Lamar.  $80.  www.easelyamused.com
GIRLS ROCK CAMP     empowers girls with the DIY spirit. Campers learn to do it themselves: play instruments, form bands, and write songs. They also learn the history of women who rock, as well as DJing, blogging, and more. It all ends with a bang as campers rock out live for a cheering crowd. Ages 10-18.      June 17-Aug. 9.  $365.  www.girlsrockaustin.org
JUBILATE CHOIR CAMP     If your kids have a hankering to be heard why not channel that with lessons in vocal tone, harmony, and rhythm? We’re not sure how religious the content will be, but we were sold with the mention of beginner handbell instruction. Ages 7-11.      Aug. 5-9.      First Baptist Church of Austin, 901 Trinity, 476-2625.  $125.  www.fbcaustin.org
LONE STAR SCHOOL OF MUSIC     puts the twang and bang into the summer with weeklong sessions for future superstars. Guitarists, keyboardists, vocalists, and drummers are placed in bands based on their ages and abilities and showcase their skills with a concert. Rockers between the ages of 6 and 10 have morning sessions ($200) and older kids up to 16 rock all day ($345).          June 10-Aug. 2.      Lone Star School of Music, 4301 W. William Cannon, 712-5187.    www.lonestarschoolofmusic.com
MAKE YOUR MARK ART CAMP     Local artists help cultivate your child’s  budding creativity. Ages 10-14.      July 15-Aug. 2.      Griffin School, 5001 Evans, 454-5797.  $500.  www.studiogriffin.org
MOSAIC ART CAMP     Spend a week learning the art of mosaics, starting with a ceremonial plate smashing and ending with a completed creation. Play and pool time also included. Ages 7-18.      803 Herndon, 436-8710.  $275.  www.hollibrownmosaics.com
ORPHEUS ACADEMY OF MUSIC     Singers, violinists, guitar amateurs and prodigies, and other young instrumentalists can begin their musical journey or hone their craft at one of several camps this academy offers. Ages 5-16.      June 10-Aug. 16.    231-8999.  $250.  www.orpheusacademy.com
ROCK CAMP USA     offers performance-oriented instruction and lets kids pick their own material to play. Campers have two-weeks to form bands, rehearse, record a CD, and play live with an audience at the end of their journey. Ages 8-19.      June 17-Aug. 4.      Austin School of Music, 2428-B W. Ben White; 13945 Hwy. 183 N., 476-7666.  $470-850.  www.rockcampusa.com
SACRED ARTS STUDIO CAMP     If your kid just needs a little push to unleash the inner artist, surely one of the camps here has a focus that will spark some creativity. Themes include skateboard art, superheroes, fashion, and bugs. Ages 4-12.      June 10-Aug. 16.      6001 W. William Cannon Dr. #305, 584-8061.  $135.  www.sacredartsstudioandgallery.com
UKULELE CAMPS     Elementary teacher and musician extraordinaire Kevin Carroll offers several session teaching the kid-sized guitar and the art of songcraft for various age groups. Ages 7-18.      June 10-21.    739-5946.  $395.  www.edukecation.org
VOCAL ZONE VOICE CAMP     Future American Idols and singers-in-the-making get their introduction to technique and performance at these weeklong vocal camps. Sessions culminate with solo recitals. Ages 7-17.          June 10-Aug. 9.    989-7464.  $200.  www.vocalzonevoicestudios.com
Theatre/Dance Camps
AUSTIN CHILDREN’S THEATER     introduces campers to both the technical and artistic aspects of the performing arts with a show for families at the end. Weeklong themed camps include topics such as musicals, comedy, stage combat (awesome), and screen acting. Ages 5-10.          June 10-Aug. 23.      6100 Berkman, 927-6633.  $225-250.  www.actpresents.org
BROADWAY KIDS CAMP     Get your children ready for the stage with one of Ballet Austin’s weeklong, half-day courses in dance, acting, and singing with a performance at the end of the camp. Ages 5-10.      June 17-Aug. 23.      Butler Dance Education Center, 501 W. Third, 476-9151.  $265.  www.balletaustin.org
CREATIVE ACTION SUMMER CAMP     Various locations and varied themes, but all the camps promise to be fun, educational, and character building.          June 10-Aug. 2.    442-8773.  $150-325.  www.creativeaction.org
DANCERS WORKSHOP     The young-uns can test out their feet with half- and full-day camps with princess and pirates themes. Move experienced dancers should register for their summer intensives in ballet, hip-hop, and more. Ages 2-16.      June 17-Aug. 9.      11150 Research Blvd. #205, 349-7197.  $175-325.  www.dancersworkshopaustin.com
FANTASTIC MAGIC CAMP     One and two-week sessions give kids magic instruction from the pros. What could be better to satisfy the bug for trickery and illusion? Prepare for puppetry, ventriloquism, storytelling, and, of course, magic. Ages 5-12.      June 3-Aug. 23.    850-4677.  $250-495.  www.magiccamp.com
GO DANCE CAMPS     Younguns learn the basics of communicating and growing through dance. Older kids learn to step with a partner with a So You Think You Can Dance style showcase at the end of the week. Ages 6-17.      June 24-Aug. 2.      Go Dance, 2525 W. Anderson, 339-9391.  $195.  www.godancestudio.com
HIDEOUT IMPROV CAMP     This Austin troupe has been entertaining kids with its improv for a while, and now the troupe shares its comedic skills with the audience. Spend a week gaining confidence onstage before you have to be off-the-cuff funny in a show at the end of the week. Ages 5-17.      June 17-Aug. 16.      The Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress, 971-3311.  $275 ($175, half-day camps).  www.hideouttheatre.com
KIDSACTING     KidsActing has a slew of single- and multiweek, prekindergarten and high school, half-day and full-day camps all over and around town to keep your little thespian occupied. Go online for a complete list of dates, times, and prices. Ages 4-19.          June 10-Aug. 23.    836-5437.  $225-325.  www.kidsactingstudio.com
MOVE YOUR TALE     Learn to use theatre, dance, creative movement, and more to help create and perform a story. The folks from ColdTowne Theater offer a different focus for different age groups each week. Ages 4-17.      June 17-Aug. 19.    809-0017.  $165-250.  www.moveyourtale.com
OPERA ODYSSEY     Beginners and more experienced kids join forces to produce an opera from costumes to sets and, of course, to the singing, acting, and directing. Ages 8-12.      July 29-Aug. 16.      Austin Lyric Opera, 3009 Industrial Terrace #100.  $650.  www.operaodyssey.weebly.com
PAIYH DANCE STUDIOS CAMPS & INTENSIVE     The younger kids can choose a theme from hip-hop to Jedi Knights and dance and play their way through it. For the serious dancer over the age of 9 there are intensive courses. Ages 3-18.      June 10-Aug. 23.      PAIYH Dance Studios, 13420 Galleria Circle Ste. A-116, Bee Cave, 512/291-2179.  $320-1,080.  www.putartinyourheart.com
PERFORMING ARTS CAMP     One session for the tiny tikes and one for the maturing dancer but both teach the dance basics with a little theatre mixed in for good measure. Ages 2-12.      June 10-14.      Balance Dance Studios, 4544 S. Lamar #200, 215-8727.  $200-300.  www.balancedancestudios.com
SCOTTISH RITE THEATRE CAMP     Four different weeklong crash courses in staging a play explore the worlds of theatre, music, puppets, and other fun onstage. Ages 6-11.      June 17-Aug. 9.      Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th, 472-5436.  $325.  www.srct.org
SKY CAMP AERIAL & CIRCUS ARTS     Kids and teens can find out just what their bodies can do as they learn the art of trapeze, juggling, clowning, hooping, and more with the pros at Sky Candy. Ages 6-17.      July 8-Aug. 16.      507 Calles #117, 800-4998.  $350.  www.skycandyaustin.com
SOLE SONGS DANCE ACADEMY     Camps of various lengths cover styles of dance from hip-hop to ballet. Ages 3-16.      June 10-Aug. 22.      6507 Jester, 343-7732.  $70-270.  www.solesongsdanceacademy.com
SOUL 2 SOLE DANCE     Each week has a different theme but kids looking to improve their technique, balance, rhythm, and choreography can’t lose. Ages 4-18.      June 10-July 19.      Soul 2 Sole Dance Academy, 8708 S. Congress #530, 917-1518.  $150.  www.soul2soleaustin.com
ST. MICHAEL’S ACADEMY THEATER CAMPS     It only takes a week to get the youngsters familiarized with the world of theatre and acting our fairy tales. Older kids take on the Bard himself. Ages 8-13.          June 17-28.      Saint Michael’s Academy, 3000 Barton Creek Blvd., 328-2323 x320.  $150-250.  iklousia@smca.com
SYNERGY DANCE STUDIO CAMPS     The focus is going to be on getting the kids to move to the music, but there will be various art projects for when the feet get tired. Does your kid already know a step ball change from a shuffle ball change? Then one of the studio’s intensives might be more their speed. Ages 2-16.      June 3-Aug. 17.      Synergy Dance Studio, 3425 Bee Caves Rd, 327-4130.  $119-364.  www.synergydancestudio.com
TAL LOSTRACCO’S THEATRE CAMP     is a two-week, overnight intensive camp for high schoolers looking for across-the-board training in theatre arts. Acting, singing, and dance classes are taught by professionals in the respective fields. Ages 15-18.      July 6-20.      Southwestern University, 1001 E. University AveGeorgetown, 966-7847.  $1,450.  www.talscamp.com
TAPESTRY DANCE CAMPS     Whether it’s tap, jazz, modern, ballet, choreography, or African dance, the pros at Tapestry Dance have a class for it. Weeklong camps for beginners as well as intensives for those looking to step their game up. Ages 3-18      June 3-Aug. 9.    474-9846.  $250-750.  www.tapestry.org
TEXARTS SUMMER INTENSIVES     Whether you’re ready to commit to three weeks of singing and dancing or just looking for a weeklong camp, TexARTS has it. The intensives for ages 7 and older cover stage productions from beginning to the final performances. Choose to either perform a musical production or pirouette in the ballet intensive. The minicamps are for ages 2-14 and cover all the artistic bases.          June 10-Aug. 16.      TexARTS, 2300 Lohmans Spur, 852-9079 x104.  $850-1,350, intensives; $150-350, minicamps.  www.tex-arts.org
TEXAS MUSICAL THEATRE WORKSHOP     UT’s Department of Theatre and Dance is looking for 100 high schoolers looking to make musical theatre a career. This three-week, overnight camp features Tony and Oscar nominated guest teachers. Ages 15-18.      June 9-29.    471-3721.  $3,000.  www.texasmusicaltheatreworkshop.com
TEXAS PTA CAMP JUST IMAGINE     From costumes to lighting your kids will be rehearsing, producing, and performing Disney’s Jungle Book onstage. Ages 5-10.    476-6769.  $140.  www.txpta.org
ZACH THEATRE CAMPS     The venerable South Austin theatre hosts weeklong sessions all summer. There are themed weekly variety camps, advanced musical theatre workshops, and teen actor intensives. Ages 3-18.      June 10-Aug. 19.      Zach Theatre, 1421 W. Riverside, 476-0594 x236; 1510 Toomey, 476-0594 x236.  $95-350.  www.zachtheatre.org
Instructional Camps
ABACUS BRAIN GYM     These weeklong, half- and full-day camps are for the little geniuses in your clan. There, they learn the ancient art of the abacus in addition to maximize their brain power for life in general. Ages 5-11.      June 10-Aug. 16.    775-0454.  $175-295.  www.abacusbraingym.com
AFF FILM CAMP     Now in its eleventh year, the Austin Film Festival’s summer camp season has classes for the aspiring screenwriter, filmmaker, or animator. Kids receive hands-on instruction from industry professionals. Ages 9-18.      June 17-Aug. 2.      St. Austin Catholic School, 1911 San Antonio St., 478-4795.  $170-390.  www.austinfilmfestival.com
AFS FILMMAKING CAMP     The Austin Film Society sponsors these weeklong camps that give your kids the hands-on techniques to make short digital films and animation. Go from idea to final edit, and premiere the films for family and friends at the end of the week. Ages 9-18.      June 10-July 26.      Austin Studios, 1901 E. 51st, 322-0145.  $325 ($275, members).  www.austinfilm.org
ASOF FILM CAMP     Enroll in one of Austin School of Film’s two-week classes in digital filmmaking, editing, or animation. Half- and full-day sessions are available. Ages 9-17.      June 17-28 & July 8-19.    236-8877.  $395-670.  classes@austinfilmschool.orgwww.austinfilmschool.org
ASPIRE KIDS     Get building and adventuring with a mixture of math and science exploration and a few field trips thrown in. Kids will also build robots using LEGOs.          8863 Anderson Mill Rd. #119, 250-9006.  $295.  www.aspirekidsaustin.com
AUSTIN FILM & ARTS ACADEMY     Four- and eight-day courses get the kids in the scene and learning about everything from screen acting to sound effects to animation. Ages 7-17.      June 10-Aug. 1.    537-1151.  $250-485.  www.austinfilmacademy.com
BADGERDOG CREATIVE WRITING CAMP     Badgerdog provides three-week writing workshops led by some of Austin’s finest authors. Hone poetry, prose, and playwriting skills and add work to the anthology, which is released at a camp-concluding party. Ages 9-18.    542-0076.  $450.  csailer@austinlibrary.orgwww.austinlibrary.org
BRIGHT HORIZONS     Is your kid going stir crazy. Get the little ones out of the house and into the indoor and outdoor play areas. Perfect for working parents. Ages 5-6.      6111 Davis, 301-9449.    www.brighthorizons.com
CAMP INVENTION     The little MacGyver in the brood learns to create, construct, upcycle, repurpose, and explore at one of these camps scattered throughout Austin and the Hill Country.        800/968-4332.    www.campinvention.org
CAMP VAMONOS     Themed camps throughout the summer have all the fun kids could want including field trips and tons of hands-on play and learning, only it’s in Spanish and English. Ages 5-11.          June 10-Aug. 16.    453-8382.  $155.  megarito@juno.comwww.campvamonos.com
CLEAN CREEK CAMP     Register early for one of three camps for parents and their children. Explore Austin’s creeks and aquifer together, and come away with a new respect for our local waterways. A parent must attend. Ages 9-13.      June 10-July 18.    974-3540.  Free.  www.austintexas.gov
COMPUTER CAMP     Four sessions with 16 slots each teach kids 3D animation, game design, or website building depending on what your little nerd is into. “Nerd” is a compliment these days. Ages 10-17.      June 24-July 12.      10435 Burnet Rd. #104, 610-7600.  $800.  www.the-learning-pad.com
CURIOUS EINSTEIN     Kids will become little geniuses over the course of a week as they explore computers math, science, and creative writing. And it wouldn’t be camp without play time. Ages 8-12.      June 3-Aug. 12.      Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church, 3315 El Salido PkwyCedar Park, 512/808-0103; 3315 El SalidoCedar Park, 512/808-0103.  $300.  www.curiouseinstein.com
FAMIGO TECH CAMP     Interactive learning and games are the focus at these weeklong sessions featuring explorations of nature, math, science, fitness, language arts, and more. Ages 7-11.      June 10-28.  $250.  www.famigo.com
FRENCH IMMERSION CAMPS     If you can’t get your kids all the way to France, at least get them out of the house and immersed in the language. Courses for beginners and intermediate Francophiles available. Ages 3-15.      June 3-July 26.      11607 N. Lamar, 339-6000.  $250.  www.austinfrenchforkids.org
GLOBAL YOUTH PEACE SUMMIT     More than 70 international, refugee, immigrant, and local youth gather to learn what it means to be a peaceful leader in a global community. Get them changing the world now before they’re jaded. Ages 13-18.      Aug. 12-18.      John Knox Ranch, 1661 John Knox Rd., Fischer, 512/476-8884.  $700.  www.amalafoundation.org
GREEN GATE FARMS CAMP     Five themed sessions cover farm life from the animals to building small structures and getting handy with cooking and crafts. Ages 5-12.          June 17-july 12.      8310 Canoga, 484-2746.  $350.  www.newfarminstitute.org
HISTORY LAB     Take a trip back in time to when Texas was the frontier. All aspects of old-timey life are explored and tailored to a young eye, including fashion, livestock, food, music, parties, and more. Ages 6-11.      July 15-19.      French Legation Museum, 802 San Marcos St, 472-8180.  $200.  www.frenchlegationmuseum.org
IYOUTH MEDIA CAMPS     Three weeklong camps show the visually inclined kid you know how to direct or film or edit for TV and film. Ages 11-18.      June 25-July 20.      1143 Northwestern, 478-8600 x12.  $300.  www.channelaustin.org
LIVE THE LANGUAGE IMMERSION CAMP     These two-week, half-day camps are for the beginner to intermediate French or Spanish speaker. Draw, sing, act, and learn just like other camps, but do it in another language. Ages 5-14.    762-4907.  $200-550.  www.livethelanguage.org
MACC SUMMER CAMPS     Learn about the culture of Mexico past and present with one of these two-week camps covering the various regions of our neighbor to the south. Ages 5-12.      June 17-Aug. 9.      Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River, 974-3785.  $300 per two-week session.  www.maccaustin.org
MAD SCIENCE CAMP     Little Mr. Wizards explore the world of hands-on science. Kids follow their own interests and design their own projects in one of several themes including rockets and the fine art of spying. There are camp locations in, around, and outside of town. Ages 4-12.      June 3-Aug. 23.    892-1143.  $160-290.  www.madscience.org
MARIPOSAS SPANISH IMMERSION CAMP     Sports, art, and other activities in Spanish, naturally. Ages 3-8.      June 24-July 19.      Mariposas Spanish School, 3407 Red River.  $195-250.  www.mariposasspanish.com
MOOLAH U     Why not give your kid a dose of fiscal reality this summer? Expect it to be a little bit more fun than that, because the kids keep any money they earn over the course of the week. Campers develop a business plan, weigh the costs, execute the plan, and keep the excess dough. Ages 8-16.    443-8851.  $300-330.  www.moolahu.com
NEW MEDIA ARTA CAMPS     This local nonprofit has eight-day, hands-on courses for young adults with disabilities. Three camps cover topics such as digital media, music production, and theatre. Ages 15-18.      June 10-July 18.      AGE Center, 3710 Cedar, 454-9912.  $350.  www.vsatx.org
RTF MEDIA CAMPS     Teens will learn film from the opening credits to “The End” this summer as they write, edit, direct, and shoot animated or live action shorts with the guidance of UT’s acclaimed Radio-Television-Film faculty. Ages 13-18.      UT campus, 471-6617.  $345-1,100.  rtf.utexas.edu
STEM INNOVATION CAMPS     Robotics? Video-game design? If your kid likes to be hands-on with tech, choose from one of six camps being offered with the help of Skillpoint Alliance. Ages 6-14.      June 10-July 26.    323-6773 x115.  $325.  www.stemcamps.org
SUMMER SAFARI SCIENCE CAMP     Kids aren’t going to want to learn science during the summer months unless it’s fun and interactive. Done and done. Ages 4-11      June 25-July 25.      Peace Lutheran Church, 10625 FM 620 N., 577-1744.  $160.  www.keepaustinsmart.com
YOUTH SPIN MUSIC JOURNALISM     Get some broadcast and journalism training for this youth-produced radio show on KOOP. The program consists of commentaries, interviews, music, and more, and you can be a part of it. Ages 10-14.      June 10-28.      Griffin School, 5001 Evans, 454-5797.  $500.  youthspinatx@gmail.com
Sports Camps
AIKIDO CAMP     No experience is necessary to learn the basics of Aikido. It’s not all big pants and grunting though, campers learn about Japanese culture including calligraphy, history, and origami. Ages 8-17.      June 10-July 19.      5501 N. Lamar Ste. C-111, 658-5321.  $345.  www.austinaikido.org
ALL-STAR SPORTS CAMP     Want your kids playing sports and running obstacle courses but worried they will pass out from the heat? The massive indoor facility lets you rest easy. Ages 5-14.      June 10-Aug. 23.    280-2244.  $170, half-day; $270, full-day.  www.allstarsportscamp.org
AUSTIN TOROS BASKETBALL CAMP     Your third to ninth grader could very well be pump-faking, fading away, and giving & going before summer’s end under the tutelage of your favorite local semipro basketball squad. Cost includes admission to one of the team’s games.          Thu., May  9.      Brushy Creek Park, 3300 Brushy Creek RdCedar Park, 512/236-8333.  $249.  www.austintoros.com
BEE CAVE RIDING CENTER     English and Western riding instruction as well as the occasional non-horse-related activity (arts, crafts, etc.) all culminate in an end-of-the-week showcase. Ages 6-16.      June 17-Aug. 16.      15740 Hamilton Pool Rd., 632-7433.  $400.  www.ridinghorses.com
GIRL POWER KARATE CAMP     Learn traditional Japanese martial arts, self-defense, self-discipline, and self-confidence. Take a break periodically to play outside and do arts & crafts. Ages 6-12.      June 17-21.      Sun Dragon Martial Arts and Self Defense, 4534 West Gate  #101, 416-9735.  $200.  www.sundragon.org
GIRLS’ LACROSSE     The folks at Texas Play Hard are ready to help your beginner or aspiring collegiate player improve her skills on the field. Full-day, half-day, and overnight camps are available. Ages 9-18.      June 10-13.    496-1808.  $250-650.  www.texasplayhard.com
HOOP ZONE SKILLS CAMP     Experienced coaches get the kids working on the fundamentals of basketball (i.e., ball-handling, shooting form, etc.) with a bit of fun thrown in for … uh … fun. Ages 8-18.      June 10-Aug. 2.      Hoop Zone, 826 Rutland, 317-0937.  $150.  www.hoop-zone.org
ICON AMATEUR SPORTS FOOTBALL CAMP     Learn the mental and physical skills needed to succeed on the gridiron. There are only two sessions, so register online before they fill up. Ages 13-18.      June 3-13.      Barton and Jaycee Fields, , 876-6765.  $125.  www.iconsports.eventpages.org
JUNIOR GOLF ACADEMY     Get the kids hitting the links early so they can go pro by the age of 18. Or maybe just let them have fun learning to golf. Whatever. Ages 5-18.      June 10-21.      Hancock Golf Course, 811 E. 41st, 453-0276.  $110-125.  www.austinpubliclinks.com
LE STUDIO CAMP     Cheer, dance, theatre, fitness? What can’t the toned folks of Le Studio teach your kids? Ages 3-18.      9070 Research Blvd. #105, 276.5215.  $250.  www.lestudiodoor.com
LIFE KI-DO KARATE CAMP     Participate in either of two series of classes that put the “kid” back in “ki-do.” Participants learn more than just self-defense; they learn interpersonal skills and how to react to strangers and bullies. Ages 5-12.      June 10-Aug. 23.      3636 Bee Caves Rd. #212, 327-2900.  $165-205.  www.lifekido.com
MU SOOL WON MARTIAL ARTS     It’s more than just kicking, kids learn team-building, gymnastics, nonviolent bully protection, and more. Ages 5-13.      June 10-Aug. 23.      1901 W. William Cannon Dr. #121, 299-1873.  $185.  www.mswsouthaustin.com
ROUND ROCK EXPRESS BASEBALL CAMP     gets the kids excited about America’s pastime with training on the majestic Dell Diamond. The four-day camp offers half-day, full-day, and overnight options. Ages 6-16.          June 10-Aug. 1.    512/238-2214.  $200-500.  www.roundrockexpress.com
TEAM HANDBALL CAMP     Racquets are for wimps. Learn the basics and maybe even a few pro moves from the experts. Ages 11-17.      Aug. 5-9.      Austin Sports Center, 425 Woodward, 512/522-4552.  $275.  www.atxteamhandball.com
TRIATHLON CAMPS     Can’t get your kid out of the water, off the bike, to stop running around? Maybe this weeklong camp consisting of all three will tire them out. Ages 7-16.      June 17-28.      St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, 2900 Bunny Run, 327-1213.  $295.  www.fitfickers.com
UT SPORTS CAMPS     Who knew the University of Texas had a sports program? Get in on the action with one of the many camps being offered, including soccer, baseball, basketball, football, golf, sports medicine, rowing, diving, tennis, volleyball, swimming, track, lacrosse, ultimate disc, and more. Go online for more info.    www.texassports.com,               www.utrecsports.org
Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

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Where smoke and swagger meet urban ethnic style with a twang.

Star Tastemaker
Tyson Cole of Uchi and Uchiko, who shook the scene with his landlocked sushi mecca andhas launched talent such as Top Chef contestant Paul Qui, whose first                                    solo venture, qui, opens in Austin this month.

Best Bites
Brisket ($10/plate) with espresso BBQ sauce at Franklin Barbecue; Hill Country Board (pain au levain, sausage, venison pâté infused with Real Ale Brewing Company’s Sisyphus barley-wine ale, pickled vegetables, and house mustard; $15) from Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden; Laura Sawicki’s Miso-White Chocolate Semifreddo ($9) with crispy rice, coconut sticky rice, and mango sorbet at Sway.

Nightcap
A Joe Buck (corn whiskey, Dijon syrup, lemon juice, and ginger beer; $12) at Midnight Cowboy.

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Story by Paula Disbrowe

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As the stumbling retailer tries to rebuild ties to shoppers, it has a massive employee morale problem to deal with as well.

Under ousted chief executive Ron Johnson, J.C. Penney (JCP -1.47%) had a massive housecleaning, sweeping away thousands of  jobs as it eliminated popular clothing lines like St. John’s Bay.

 

Now, returning CEO Myron Ullman has a knotty problem on his hands: how to revive those brands with a company suffering from deep morale problems and an employee base that has shrunk by 23%, reports The Wall Street Journal.

 

When Johnson completed his first full fiscal year on the job, Penney employed only 116,000 people, down from its recent historic level of 150,000, according to the report.

 

While the ex-CEO argued that the job cuts were needed to boost Penney’s financial performance, the opposite resulted: Loyal customers fled, with many angered at his decision to dump St. John’s Bay. Sales plunged 25% last year.

 

St. John’s Bay may have been a linchpin leading to Johnson’s failure. MSN moneyNOW readers often cited the disappearance of the casual-wear clothing line as the reason they abandoned Penney stores.

 

“If JC Penney brings back the brands that they ditched, St. John’s Bay women’s jeans for instance, I will think about shopping there again……but not until then,” one reader wrote on Thursday.

 

And it turns out that Penney is planning on bringing back the clothing line, which had brought in annual sales of a billion dollars, The Journal notes.

 

Why would Johnson single-handedly get rid of a brand that racked up such huge sales? The former Apple executive wanted to “de-frump” the stores and instead brought in edgier designers such as Cynthia Rowley. The problem, though, was that Penney customers had been happy with those comfortable clothing lines. Feeling alienated, many of them swore off shopping at the retailer.

 

Johnson misunderstood the store’s customer base, which tends to be older than 55. One-third of its customers earn less than $35,000 a year, according to BloombergBusinesswee​k. Getting rid of coupons also alienated his price-conscious customers.

 

Penney plans to return coupon advertising to newspapers, activist investor William Ackman said on Thursday, according to Bloomberg. The company needs to “calm the vendors,” he added.

 

But what to do about those morale problems? According to The Journal, the layoffs weren’t pretty. Because Penney didn’t have enough staff to cut people in face-to-face meetings, groups of employees were ushered into Penney’s auditorium to hear the news. Sometimes more than 100 people were fired at once, the story notes.

 

With Ullman’s plan to bring back St. John’s Bay, he might be taking one step toward dealing with his alienated customer base. And getting rid of Johnson was likely a big boost to internal morale. According to the New York Post, clapping and laughing erupted last Monday at an employee meeting when word of his ouster was announced.

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Aimee Picchi

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When we were building our new construction home, the driveway almost seemed like an afterthought. With everything else so close to being finished, we walked around with a can of orange spray paint imagining the ideal path from the street to our garage doors.

So, if not in our experience, then generally speaking, the driveway occupies an important place in overall home and property design. When planning your driveway, there are several things to consider:

Budget
Sometimes money plays a big role in decision-making on materials. As you are thinking about budget, be sure to factor in the varying long-term costs associated with different types of driveways. While a paver driveway carries relatively high upfront costs, maintaining one isn’t expensive. Gravel, on the other hand, is perhaps the least expensive to install but requires the sort of regular maintenance that doesn’t come cheap. Before deciding on a material, make sure you understand what the driveway’s total cost will be over its anticipated lifetime.

Curb appeal
As viewed from the street, your driveway can make a big impression on the look of your house. And certain materials complement certain architectural styles more than others. A gravel driveway would make a nice visual accompaniment to a farmhouse cottage, whereas a herringbone-pattern brick driveway would better suit a colonial-style residence. In short, think about what your choice of driveway will add to, or take away from, curb appeal.

Climate
Some driveway materials may not be appropriate for the climate where you live. For instance, asphalt endures freeze-thaw cycles better than concrete. And heavy rainfalls can negatively affect driveway surfaces that are more prone to erosion, such as gravel and pea stone. Snow, humidity, rainfall and temperature changes are all factors that ought to influence your final decision. Do your homework.

Maintenance
Each material has its own maintenance requirements. For instance, asphalt requires resealing every three to five years. If you live in a place where plowing snow is necessary, a gravel drive will require replacement of moved material each spring. Is the maintenance required of a given material such that you can do it yourself, or will you need to contract someone to handle the work? A smart driveway design will take these questions into account.

Durability
What kind of traffic will your driveway be getting? Will there be lots of heavy trucks on it, or just passenger cars? Some materials are durable, others more finicky. And what’s the grade like? Gravel and pea-stone drives with a pitch are prone to erosion. Also, how long will the driveway be expected to last — 20 years? 40 years? And what kind of maintenance is required to maximize lifespan?

Whatever material you decide to use for your driveway, make sure you take time to lay it out right. If you’ll need space for guests to park, make sure to allow for that.

Once the rough grading is done, take a test drive into the garage from the street (and back the other way) to make sure it tracks comfortably for your biggest vehicle. You don’t want to swipe off your side-view mirror!

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.468.5753

Original Article By: Jennifer Noonan of BobVila.com

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Here’s just how seriously you should take the radiation emanating from your granite counters, among other potential home hazards.

Every now and then a news report gets people worked up about hidden dangers lurking in their homes. Should you be afraid that the radiation coming from your granite countertop or the flame retardants in your furniture are trying to kill you?

Granite countertops
A beautiful granite countertop can make any kitchen pop. Yet every once in a while people go into panic mode, freaking out about the fact that granite is a rock that can have some radioactive elements and could potentially give off radon, which can be harmful in high concentrations. But while the very mention of the word radiation is enough to stoke fears, you don’t really need to worry about this one. The EPA says that radon is more likely to come into your house from the soil than from your kitchen counters (and granite isn’t a very porous stone to begin with, meaning it doesn’t give out as much radiation as others).

Furthermore, any buildup of radon in the kitchen or bathroom is unlikely, as those rooms tend to have good ventilation systems. “It is extremely unlikely that granite countertops in homes could increase the radiation dose above the normal, natural background dose that comes from soil and rocks,” the EPA says.
Fear rating: Extremely low
Precautions: Be more worried about legitimate dangers in the kitchen, such as food safety and keeping sharp objects and cleaning solutions away from kids.

Particleboard and formaldehyde

Particleboard-based furniture may be great for furnishing your place on a budget. But pressed wood products such as particleboard tend to contain formaldehyde resins in the adhesives that hold the wood particles together. Formaldehyde is a surprisingly common volatile chemical, but it’s definitely not good for you. Luckily, good ventilation and keeping heat and humidity to a minimum can reduce the amount of formaldehyde released from furniture.

Fear Rating: Low
Precautions: Check what kind of adhesives furniture manufacturers used to make your products. Since the 1980s, when the EPA restricted the maximum allowable formaldehyde emissions from this kind of furniture, many companies have made efforts to substantially reduce the amount of the chemical in their production.

Flame retardants

A recent study found that 85% of couches tested in California contained flame retardants that have not been evaluated for human safety.

Couches in California are required to have flame-retardant properties, but some scientists worry that the chemicals used to prevent flaming sofas might be linked to hormone disruption, cancer and neurological issues — not to mention that these flame retardants aren’t necessarily present at levels in which they are effective at fire prevention.

No decisive link to health problems has been proved. The problem is that the replacements for pentabromodiphenyl ether, which the EPA banned from new products after 2005, haven’t been fully tested, according to study author Heather Stapleton of Duke University. Stapleton says that she and her colleagues are pursuing long-term health studies. The presence of these chemicals in the air outside the couch is worrying — especially as the same kinds of foam are currently used in baby mattresses and supplies.

Look for a label that mentions Technical Bulletin 117 — if it’s there then your couch probably has flame retardants. If it’s not, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t flame retardants, it just means that you don’t know for certain.
Fear rating: Medium
Precautions: Stapleton says that people worried about the dust should wash their hands frequently, especially before eating, to reduce chances of ingesting any toxic chemicals. Removing dust by cleaning regularly can help, too, but Stapleton cautions that vacuuming and dusting can cause some particles to become airborne.

 

Microwaves

Microwaves have been in our homes long enough to inspire lots of fear mongering, worries and urban legends. Rumors that microwaving plastic will poison your food, or that the radiation will disrupt pacemakers, have been around for years. According to the FDA, most of this is nonsense. No, you shouldn’t use some plastics in the microwave — because they could melt —but you can solve that problem by checking the bottom of the package to see what’s allowed; if the item is microwave-safe, there is sometimes a symbol (a box with wavy lines inside it) that indicates it is safe for microwave use. Pacemakers used to be affected by microwaves, but are now shielded. And you’re not going to get radiation injuries from a microwave; it just isn’t powerful enough to do any damage.

Interestingly, the FDA does warn about erupting hot water. Apparently, heating water in a clean cup for a long time can cause the water to get superheated. It reaches temperatures above the boiling point without the distinctive bubbling of a rolling boil. When anything is added to the water, or it is shaken, then it can erupt, causing burns.
Fear Rating: Medium
Precautions: Check labels, and don’t heat that cup of water for tea for too long.

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Mary Beth Griggs of Popular Mechanics

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How much will the first pope to retire from the job in nearly 600 years collect each month?

What kind of retirement package do you give to someone who’s spent 60-plus years on the job, including almost eight as chief executive? If you’re the Roman Catholic Church, and that someone is Pope Benedict XVI (the once and future Joseph Ratzinger), you give him a monthly pension worth 2,500 euros, or about $3,340.

The Italian newspaper La Stampa broke the story this week, reporting that the 85-year-old Benedict — the first pope in nearly 600 years to retire from office — will receive the pension that the church typically offers to retired bishops. (Don’t speak Italian? Neither do I: Britain’s Independent has the story here.)

 

Coincidentally, the pope’s pension is almost identical to the maximum Social Security benefit a U.S. retiree could earn if she retired this year — $3,350 a month, according to the Social Security Administration’s benefits calculator. To receive a check that size, that hypothetical retiree would need to retire at age 70 or later after having earned the taxable maximum salary throughout her career — the equivalent of $113,700 this year.

 

Of course, most of Benedict’s personal expenses, from food to gardening, will be covered by the Vatican for the rest of his life, so his pension is mostly play money. (Alas: no grandkids to visit.)

 

The pot could get sweeter, too, according to La Stampa: If Benedict’s successor awards him the status of emeritus cardinal — not out of the question, since Ratzinger held various cardinal titles before being elected pope — his pension could double.

 

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Matthew Heimer at  MarketWatch.

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A study of 300,000 real estate listings finds some phrases can work wonders when it comes to attracting potential buyers.

Want to sell your home? A survey suggests that certain phrases and buzzwords in real-estate ads help move some properties faster — and that those terms can vary depending on where you live and the neighborhood price range.
A study by Point2Homes.com of 300,000 real estate listings made last year found certain words or phrases highlighting a property’s attributes and upgrades “seem to carry a special weight with people looking for a home.”

 

Certain terms were universally popular. As you might expect, “beautiful” was the most frequently used word in overall real estate listings, followed by “hardwood floors” and “stainless-steel appliances.”

 

But the study found a localized popularity of some terms or phrases, depending on the region.

 

People looking for homes on the West Coast reportedly had a preference for “beautiful” homes with “mountain views” or “ocean views” — as well as “gated communities.”

 

But East Coast home seekers were attracted by places listed as ready to “move right in,” “renovated” and with “gleaming hardwood floors.”

 

In the Midwest, terms like “spacious living room,” “attached garage” and “plenty of storage” were big sellers for listings — while Southern real estate listings that featured a “tennis court,” “high ceilings” and “community pool” also did well.

 

Point2Homes also looked at descriptions of homes in New York City that sold faster than the 180-day average for that market. And given the Big Apple’s cramped living spaces, it’s not too surprising that some top words and phrases for NYC real-estate listings included  “closet space,” “city views,” “soaking tub,” “sunny,” “open kitchen,” “oversized windows” and “elegant.”

 

As any professional writer will tell you, a good description can be worth its weight in gold. Elaine Clayman, managing director with the venerable luxury real-estate firm Brown Harris Stevens, says creative use of language can certainly attract consumers and help sell homes faster. “Soaking tub is more inviting than bath tub, for example,” she notes. “Private storage is also more compelling than public storage.”

 

And there are certain terms that can help boost potential sales for homes listed at $500,000 and above. “Private” is a very popular adjective in those listings, along with “well-maintained” and a “covered front porch.”

 

There are some interesting variations as well when you get into the so-called luxury ($1 million to $5 million) and mega-luxury ($5 million and over) ranges. Luxury homes reportedly do well when they’re advertised as having “ocean views,” a “guest house” and a “media room.”  But people considering mega-luxury properties were attracted to homes featuring “a pool house,” “a wine room” and “a home theater.”

 

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Bruce Kennedy

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Solo women are the second-largest group of home purchasers. Their wants and needs are helping to shape the real-estate market.

Kishia S. Ward wasn’t looking for the home of her dreams when she bought her two-bedroom, 2½-bath townhouse. The 25-year-old student and former business analyst wanted a place “not so much to live in forever but as an investment property, something temporary that, later on when I get married and have a family, I can rent out.”

Single female homebuyers such as Ward are a powerhouse group in the real-estate market. In 2011, when Ward bought her home, three of her female friends, also singles in their 20s, also purchased homes. Single women — a group that includes the divorced, never married and widowed — make roughly one in five home purchases annually, according to the National Association of Realtors, second only to married couples, who are about two-thirds of the market.

It wasn’t always this way. In the 1970s, “it was very difficult for a single woman to get a credit card, much less a mortgage,” says Walter Molony, spokesman for the NAR.

In 1981, when the NAR started watching, single women and single men each made about 10% of home purchases. Purchases by single men have stayed steady. Single women, however, pulled ahead in the late ’80s, when women grew as a presence in the workforce and social change put pressure on lenders.

Single women’s market share reached 20% in 1985 and hovered there until recession and tight credit pulled it down to 16% in 2012. Unmarried couples make 8% of purchases.

Finally, recognition
Although single women are getting more recognition in the real-estate market, some experts say that many bankers, mortgage brokers, builders and real-estate agents fail to understand their distinct needs and shopping habits.

Jeanie Douthitt, a real-estate agent in Plano, Texas, specializes in helping single women buy and sell homes. Her experiences and her friends’ stories showed her that solo women often weren’t served well in the market. “We all, at the end of the day, had the same experience, and it was not good,” says Douthitt, owner of Smart Women Buy Homes. Her team includes a title agent and mortgage broker, and they all focus on educating clients.

Douthitt tells how one friend, a mother and capable 20-year IBM executive, struggled when she tried buying a home in 2004 after inheriting money. The woman visited a property for sale and encountered the homeowner, who asked, “Honey, do you think you can afford this?”

“He assumed that because I was a single woman I couldn’t afford it,” the friend told Douthitt. “If it was the last house on earth I wouldn’t have bought it.”

Douthitt says many women, accomplished in other realms, feel slightly intimidated by real estate and mortgages. She felt much the same in 1988, when, as a single mother, she bought her first home. She didn’t know how to find out what she could afford to spend. “Do I find the house first?” she wondered. “Or do I have to get a mortgage first?” Now she helps clients get qualified for a mortgage first, so they know what price home they’re qualified to buy.

What women want
While researching her book, “Own It! The Ups and Downs of Homebuying for Women Who Go It Alone,” Jennifer Musselman met many single female homebuyers and owners who confessed that they felt overwhelmed by shopping alone for a home and mortgage. “Women, generally speaking, always thought that home purchasing would be something we would do with someone else, as part of a relationship,” Musselman says.

This emphasis on relationships shapes many women’s approach to homebuying, Douthitt says. Often, for example, they need to develop a relationship with an agent before they feel comfortable asking questions.

“Women want a relationship,” Douthitt says. “They want that trust and respect on both sides. Men are more transactional. They just want to go get it.”

Her female buyers often need more time than men do to make a decision. They do lots of research. Agents who don’t understand this get frustrated and mistake women’s penchant for collaboration for indecisiveness, she says.

Before Ward engaged a real-estate agent, she did lots of research online to learn which neighborhoods fit her requirements, but her agent wouldn’t listen. She didn’t seem to take her seriously. “I don’t know if it was because I was a woman or because I was young,” she says. She moved on to another agent who was more attentive.

Single buyers — women in particular — like to recruit friends and family to help them decide. “Single women don’t have a spouse to bounce the decision around with,” Douthitt points out. One buyer wanted Douthitt to meet her mom, her dad, her pastor and her brother from California before she could commit to a purchase.

 

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Marilyn Lewis of MSN Real Estate

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There are steps you can take now to substantially increase your Social Security payments during retirement.

The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retiree in 2013 is estimated at $1,261, according to the Social Security Administration. That’s just $15,132 a year — for many people, hardly enough to live on.

 

Hopefully when you reach retirement, you’ll have a nice nest egg to offset hurdles like vanishing pensions and unpredictable stock market returns. But either way, there are certain actions you can take today to boost your Social Security payments during retirement, and they can add up to thousands of extra dollars in your golden years.

13 ways to get more Social Security

There are steps you can take now to substantially increase your Social Security payments during retirement.

By Stacy Johnson Jan 18, 2013 5:29PM

This post comes from Renee Morad at partner site Money Talks News.

 

Money Talks News logoThe average monthly Social Security benefit for a retiree in 2013 is estimated at $1,261, according to the Social Security Administration. That’s just $15,132 a year — for many people, hardly enough to live on.

 

Hopefully when you reach retirement, you’ll have a nice nest egg to offset hurdles like vanishing pensions and unpredictable stock market returns. But either way, there are certain actions you can take today to boost your Social Security payments during retirement, and they can add up to thousands of extra dollars in your golden years.

 

Here are 13 things you can think about today to increase your Social Security payments during retirement:

 

1. Work at least 35 years

Social Security benefits are calculated based on your 35 highest-earning working years. If you work fewer years, you’ll have years with zero income averaged in, which will lower your payout.

 

2. Ask for a raise

If you experience a jump in salary, you’ll likely boost your future earning potential and may see an increase in your Social Security payments down the road because, as we just explained, Social Security takes into account the 35 top-earning years of your career.

 

3. Take a second job

The same logic applies: If you earn more each year, you’ll likely increase the amount you get in Social Security when you retire.

4. Wait until full retirement age to claim Social Security

You can begin collecting Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but you might not want to: Your benefit will be reduced by 25% for life. To get your full payment, wait until you reach full retirement age — 66 for anyone born between 1943 and 1954. For those born from 1955 to 1959, the age gradually rises toward 67. For those born in 1960, it’s 67.

 

5. Better yet, wait until age 70

If you can afford to wait until age 70 to claim Social Security benefits, it’ll pay off. Thanks to what the Social Security Administration calls “delayed retirement credits,” benefits increase 8% each year you delay tapping into Social Security — up until age 70. So waiting until you reach 70 means about a third more income for life.

 

When considering this strategy, it’s particularly beneficial for the higher-earning spouse in a marriage to hold out until age 70 to increase the total benefits the couple will receive throughout their lifetimes. In the event that the spouse with the higher benefit passes away, the surviving spouse will receive the higher payment.

 

If you took benefits early and regret the move, it might not be too late to fix it. Under limited circumstances, you may be able to repay all the benefits you received so far and restart them at a higher level based on your age. For more details, check out this page on the SSA website.

 

6. Use online tools

If you’re unsure about the best time to claim benefits based on your individual budget, health, life expectancy, or other factors, use online resources to help you decide. A good place to start is SocialSecurity.gov/M​yStatement, where you’ll get your personalized statement. This estimates what your benefits will be at age 62, at full retirement age, or at age 70.

 

Once you get estimates for both you and, if applicable, your spouse, there are other online tools that compare your benefits under various scenarios to help you determine the best claiming strategy. Consider AARP’s Social Security benefits calculator.

 

7. Claim spousal benefits

If you’re married, you have a choice: You can either take the benefit based on your work history, or half your spouse’s benefit. So if your spouse earned a lot more than you did, and has a higher benefit as a result, compare and see which will pay the most.

 

You can also claim Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse’s work record if you were married for at least 10 years. Doing so doesn’t reduce your former spouse’s check or otherwise impact him or her. In fact, he or she need never know you applied.

 

8. Taking early retirement? Beware of outside income

If you start taking benefits before reaching your full retirement age, employment elsewhere can reduce your Social Security checks.

 

For example, say you started taking Social Security in 2012 at age 62 and your full retirement age is 66. For 2012, your benefit would be reduced by $1 for every $2 you earned in gross wages or net self-employment income above $14,640.

 

If you reached full retirement age in 2012, you could have earned up to $38,880 prior to the month you turned 66. More than that, and your benefit would be reduced by $1 for every $3 you earned.

 

After you reach full retirement age, you get your full benefit no matter how much you earn.

 

9. Claim twice

Let’s say the husband is 66 and the wife is 62. If the husband files for benefits, the wife could opt for half her husband’s benefit, while still earning money and letting her benefit grow. She can drop the spousal benefit and file for benefits based on her own work record whenever she wants. If she waits until age 70, she’ll have the maximum benefit using her own history.

 

There are lots of strategies like this to maximize Social Security. As you approach retirement age, be sure and do lots of reading. This article from Kiplinger is a good place to start.

 

10. Benefits for your kids

When you start collecting Social Security benefits, unmarried dependent children under age 18 may qualify to receive benefits worth up to half of your full retirement benefit amount. This can include a biological child, adopted child, stepchild or dependent grandchild. He or she may also get benefits at age 18 or 19 as a full-time student (no higher than grade 12) or 18 or older if the individual has a disability that began before age 22.

 

11. Plan ahead for taxes

If the sum of your adjusted gross income, nontaxable interest income, and half your 2012 Social Security benefits exceeds $34,000 — or $44,000 for couples — up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable.

 

There’s not much you can do about this, but there are a few strategies that might work. For example, if you earn interest from taxable savings and don’t need the income, you could transfer those savings into a tax-deferred investment, like an annuity.

 

12. Do your due diligence

Read your Social Security statements to be sure everything has been reported correctly. Although inaccuracies are uncommon, some scenarios, such as a name change, lend themselves to a greater chance of error.

 

13. Clear your debts

Your Social Security benefits are protected from most debt collections, but they can be taken for federal taxes, federal student loan balances and child support or alimony. Clearing these debts will leave your Social Security benefits untouched.

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Stacy Johnson

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Most taxpayers can begin filing their federal income tax returns, and many can file for free through the agency’s Free File program.

Have you filed your 2012 tax return yet? Millions already have filed today.

 

Like racers in the starting blocks, these taxpayers have been poised to send their returns to the Internal Revenue Service for weeks, but had to wait.

 

Because Congress waited until Jan. 1 to approve the American Tax Relief Act, which includes many provisions affecting 2012 tax returns, the IRS needed time to get forms and instructions updated and its computers reprogrammed.

 

The IRS is ready to take returns from most (but not all) taxpayers today. It’s now accepting returns that are filed the old-fashioned way, filled out paper and snail-mailed in, as well as electronic filings.

 

And the tax agency’s Free File option also is open for business.

 

Free File 2013

 

Free File first appeared on the tax-filing scene 10 years ago. Now it is old hat.

 

Sure, there are some tweaks each year. But basically, the filing routine is the same. A group of commercial tax preparation software companies, known as the Free File Alliance, agrees to make a version of their software available to eligible taxpayers via the IRS Free File site.

You can use the IRS Free File program to prepare and file your taxes this year at no cost (just in case you thought the name Free File was just a catchy alliterative title) if your adjusted gross income is $57,000 or less. This income threshold applies to all filing statuses.

 

And you have 15 tax software companies from which to choose. Or you can use the Help Me Find a Free File Company IRS search tool to determine which one best fits your filing needs.

 

Fillable forms for free

 

If you make too much money to qualify for Free File this year, the IRS is once again offering Free Fillable Forms.

 

These are online versions of the most commonly used IRS tax forms. Instead of buying and loading tax software onto your personal computer, you simply open up the forms you need, enter your tax information and e-file the documents at no charge.

 

But since it’s just forms, not software, you get only basic calculations of the data you enter on the forms. You must know what goes where. And you must transfer any amounts to other forms as needed.

 

Still, it is free.

 

So if your return isn’t too complicated, and you’re comfortable filling out the forms, they may be just the ticket this tax season.

 

Happy filing!

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: MSN Money partner

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