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An old favorite, Southern Living Magazine, has come up with a FANTASTIC summer guide for Austin!
It’s a cute read…so incredible that Austin is on EVERYONE’s radar these
days…Austin’s Summer Guide!

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Use this checklist from Trulia to make sure that all these needed tasks for your move are completed before the big day:

  • Hire a moving company

    Using recommendations from people you know and organizations like the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) and the Better Business Bureau, hire a moving company. Be sure to get competitive bids first. Look to hire a company six to eight weeks before your move.

  • Take inventory

    Make a list of the belongings you plan to move and their worth, to better track them.

  • Get additional insurance, if needed

    Look into how much insurance coverage your mover and your homeowner’s insurance company provide for your belongings during your move, and if need be, purchase additional insurance from your mover or from a third-party insurer.

  • Cut back

    The less stuff you own, the less you’ll have to move. Whittle away at your possessions through garage sales, online selling or by donating items to charity.

  • Get supplies

    Moving requires plenty of boxes, packing tape and protective packaging like bubble wrap or crumpled newspaper. Try to get used boxes and newspapers from friends and family and from local stores, and if you have to, buy fresh supplies. Don’t forget markers and labels to clearly identify what’s in which box.

  • Be organized

    Working several weeks before your move, map out which items will be moved to which room in your new place. Pack items according to in which room they’ll be placed. Pack heavier items first, placing lighter items on top. Pack breakables in their own boxes, clearly noting “fragile” on the box.

    Separate valuable items and important documents (e.g., jewelry, birth certificates, bank statements, etc.) and place in a fire-safe box. If you can, personally move them yourself.

    Pack items you’ll need right away in your new home (e.g., toiletry, medicines and clothing) in a separate box and make sure you can find it easily once you’ve relocated.

  • Stop services

    Set a date to have utilities and other services (cable, magazine subscriptions) terminated at your old place.

  • Start services

    Make preparations so that needed services (phone, cable, utilities, mail service) are up and running when you move into your new home. Register with or locate new doctors, schools, babysitters, etc., in your new location.

  • Notify

    Let the United States Postal Service, friends and family, schools, employer, your bank, your lender, your credit card company and other businesses who serve you know of your change of address.

  • Unpack

    If you have the time, give yourself at least a day or two to unpack and settle in to your new location before diving back into your job and daily routine.

 

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

Original Article by: Trulia

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Loan officers and mortgage brokers may have their own criteria, but you can generally expect to provide these papers.

If anything about refinancing your mortgage might be described as “fun,” it would have to be locking in your new lower interest rate. But once that’s done, you’ll have to deal with the decidedly not-fun part of gathering all the documentation you’ll need to support your refinance loan application.

To get started and stay organized, it helps to have a checklist of which documents you’ll need. While each loan officer or mortgage broker might have his own specific checklist, here’s a look at what you can generally expect:

Photo ID: Typically a driver’s license or passport, this document is used to confirm your name, identity and home address.

Pay stubs: You’ll need to produce your pay stubs from at least the past 30 days. If you don’t have your pay stubs, ask your employer’s payroll or personnel department to give you these documents, which must show your name, the name of your employer and your total year-to-date earnings, says Joe Metzler, mortgage specialist at Mortgages Unlimited in St. Paul, Minn.

Asset statements: Gather monthly or quarterly statements from your various asset accounts from the past two to three months. Asset accounts include checking, savings, investment and retirement-plan funds.

If you don’t have your statements handy, you can print them from most financial institutions’ websites, Metzler says. Each statement must include your name, the name of your financial institution and the beginning and ending account balances. A printout of your current transactions “usually does not work” for loan application purposes, Metzler warns. Rather, a true statement is required.

Documentation of deposits: You’ll need documentation that shows the source of any deposit of more than a nominal sum, other than payroll.

This relatively new requirement helps the lender figure out whether you have enough money from allowable sources for closing costs and reserves, says Joe Parsons, senior loan officer at PFS Funding, a mortgage company in Dublin, Calif.

W-2 tax forms for the past two years: If you’re self-employed, earn commission or tip income or own rental property, you’re going to need to produce federal income tax returns for the past two years. Self-employed borrowers might also be required to supply a K-1 tax form, which shows your percentage of ownership of your company. If you’re a substantial owner, you’ll also be asked to supply the company’s tax returns for the past two years.

If you don’t have your tax documents, ask your tax preparer to provide them to you or get copies from the IRS. Be sure to include all the pages and schedules, including the signature page.

A copy of your most recent mortgage statement.

A copy of the original promissory note for your existing mortgage: This relatively new requirement helps lenders ensure that your refinance will offer a legitimate benefit, Parsons says.

“They can look at the mortgage statement, but most lenders want to see the promissory note, too,” he says. “It’s not a big deal, but it adds more time to the process.” If you don’t have these documents, call your loan servicer and request copies of them.

Phone bill: A copy of a recent home or cellphone bill, showing your name and address.

Some lenders have added this requirement to find out whether you occupy your home as your principal residence, says Kirk Chivas, chief operating officer at First Commerce Financial in Wixom, Mich.

Divorce decree: If you got divorced within the past two years or want to use the alimony or child support you receive toward qualifying income, you’ll need to present a copy of your divorce decree.

Proof of attendance: If you’re a first-time homebuyer who has taken advantage of some state or county homebuyer assistance programs, you are required to attend first-time homebuyer education classes. You must show proof of your attendance.

You’ll probably notice that this list is “significantly more comprehensive than it was even a year ago,” Chivas says. Still, the requirements can be met if you keep track of what you need and what you’ve already supplied.

One final tip: Be sure to submit only complete and legible documents. Also, when your lender asks for multiple documents, submit all of them at once. This way, it’s easier to keep track of what you have and haven’t provided your lender.

 

 

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

Original Article by: Marcie Geffner of HSH.com

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Winter gardening makes for a much sweeter spring. Here are the best ways to protect plants from the cold — inside or out.

 

Gardening, in January? Absolutely.

There are still lots of things you can plant, and you can start the new year on the right foot by doing timeless chores that will add to your garden’s health as spring approaches

Everything you accomplish now will make spring that much sweeter.

Trees and shrubs
This month’s tree and shrub tasks are all about planting, pruning and protecting.

  • If you live in a place that has mild winters, you can still plant trees of all kinds: fruit trees, shade trees and flowering trees; and choosing them is fun now, since nurseries tend to add their new selections in January.
  • On a day when temperatures are below freezing, plant new evergreens, rose bushes and deciduous shrubs.
  • While you shouldn’t prune flowering trees until after they’ve bloomed, you can now prune most shrubs and deciduous shade trees.
  • When you notice new buds on deciduous trees, possibly late this month or in early February, give them their third and last shot of dormant spray — follow the label’s instructions and avoid spraying on days that are windy, rainy or below freezing.
  • Keep up with raking; fallen leaves can do heavy damage if left to smother grass.
  • If you have snowfall, knock snow off the branches of evergreens and fine-branched deciduous trees using an upward motion to keep limbs from breaking — don’t risk the benign fluffy stuff turning into ice overnight. If breakage does occur, prune broken branches.

Winterizing
With winter in full force, there are several things you can do to protect challenged plants, trees, shrubs and even birds.

Don’t haul that Christmas tree out to the curb just yet: Its branches can be used to protect tender plants and even root vegetables and perennials or to form a wind or sun shield for shrubs such as azaleas, rhododendrons, holly and boxwood. Or the full tree can be staked near a feeder to shield birds from cold. (Place far enough away to avoid accidents with cats.)

If you live in an area that has heavy winters and you haven’t yet wrapped newly planted trees or thin-barked trees such as maple, ash, mountain ash and linden, do so now. Wrap from the base upward to repel moisture.

Keep protecting tender plants against freezes by covering them with burlap or other cloth supported by a perimeter of stakes; just don’t let the cloth touch the leafy parts.

Houseplants
Winter houseplant care is more about attentive restraint than high maintenance.

  • When you water, which should be minimal during the winter, do it just enough so that water saturates the soil and comes through the drainage holes; at this time of year, plants left in standing water can suffer root damage.
  • Turn plants every two weeks for balanced foliage as they seek sunlight.
  • Check for pests in the greenhouse and on houseplants; treat with organic products so kids and pets aren’t endangered.
  • Hold off on transplanting those plants whose roots are potbound.
  • On nights that are extremely cold, be sure to draw the curtains or blinds of plant windows.

Wouldn’t it be nice if birds ate slugs for a living? If you’re a feeder of birds, don’t stop now — during this month they’ll need all the help they can get, and it needn’t be fancy. Birds will likely find any station above snow level, from old logs to carpet scraps.

Every slug you catch before it reproduces can spare you from facing several more generations. (And you thought rabbits were prolific.)

Maintenance
Take this chance to get sleek for spring. No, not to buff up for your getaway swimwear — you know, the fun stuff. Machines. Tools.

  • Any machine repair you have done now will spare you spring headaches — or at least a long wait in the queue that begins to form in February. Consider mowers, chain saws and other power tools.
  • Clean, sharpen and oil hand tools, from clippers to shovels.

Perennials
Even after the holidays, the catalog season continues.

  • Start planning your spring garden now by making a map of your garden, including what you’d like to plant where, with seed and bulb catalogs by your side for inspiration.
  • Clear away mulch from winter-blooming bulbs.
  • Dig up and divide winter-blooming bulbs after they’ve flowered.
  • In mild climates, you may still be able to plant hyacinths, tulips, daffodils and crocuses.
  • If an unexpected warm streak fools bulbs into thinking it’s springtime, help protect them with an extra light layer of mulch.

Weeding
It’s a nasty job, but unless your garden is buried under snow, somebody has to do it. Too bad weeds don’t take winter vacations.

  • Many weeds are still merrily going through their flowering and seeding cycle even in January. Uproot them before seeds spread to spare yourself weeding future generations.

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

Original Article by: Sally Anderson of MSN Real Estate

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Outside, you’ll need to check gutters and problem tree limbs. Indoors, you’ll want to tend to your large appliances and tackle overflowing closets.

November is a good month to move some maintenance efforts indoors. This month also provides an opportunity to see if your hard work during earlier months paid off — nothing tests waterproofing efforts like a hard November rain.

Maintain large appliances
As the holiday season begins, make sure your appliances are prepared for the demands you will place on them.

Pull your refrigerator from the wall and clean the condenser coils in back with a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment. Also, vacuum dust from the front lower grille and clean the drip pan and the drain leading to it, if your unit has one.

Clean the oven and stove drip pans on your electric range. Clean the surface burner on your gas stove to ensure proper flame level.

De-stench your in-sink garbage disposal by packing it with ice cubes and 1/4 cup of baking soda; then turn it on. After the ice-grinding noise stops, pour a kettle full of boiling water into the sink.

Check the dishwasher strainer and washer arm; clean if necessary.

Clean and maintain closets
Go to your closets and perform these two simple tests: Can you see floor space, and can you easily close the door? If the answer to either one of these questions is no, clean your closet. Cramped closets can provide haven for pests, too-full racks can break free from walls, and sliding doors can be derailed by too much stuff. Add compartments and hanging racks at different levels to make better use of space.

Maintain woodwork
November is a good month to repair and reglue woodwork, because indoor air is at its driest. If you are regluing wobbly dining room chairs, clamp during drying by wrapping a rope tightly around the perimeter of the legs. Be sure to protect wood surfaces with cardboard before tightening rope. Try using toothpaste on white water stains on wood surfaces. Once the stain is removed, polish with furniture polish. Use paste wax and elbow grease to put a new sheen on wood furniture.

Clear leaves from gutters
Cleaning gutters is a slimy job, but the task will protect your siding and basement from expensive water damage. Don long rubber gloves, grab a gallon bucket and scoop leaves into the bucket by hand. Trying to use a garden trowel or other device just makes the task more cumbersome and can damage gutters. Blast the scum from the bottom of the gutter with a hose equipped with a pressure nozzle. If it doesn’t drain well, feed your running hose up the pipe to knock loose the clog. Dump the contents of the bucket on your compost pile and pat yourself on the back for a dirty job well done.

Speaking of leaves …
Check some other places where accumulated leaves can be a problem. If leaves are piled in the valleys of your roof, they can retain water and initiate leaks. Walk your property with a shovel and clear drainage ditches and culverts of leaf buildup. Also, a moderate amount of leaves on a lawn can provide a natural mulch, but if large amounts are left to soak up winter rains, they will smother the grass beneath them.

Have problem trees trimmed
Now that you’ve cleaned your gutters, you know which trees are dumping leaves on your roof, shading it enough to encourage moss, and close enough to cause serious damage should they lose a branch in a storm. Trees are dormant this time of the year and can withstand extensive pruning. Decide which ones need cutting back and hire a professional to do the job. This is not a do-it-yourself task if the trees you are looking at are high enough to affect your roof. Trimming large trees is a dangerous job that should be left to an expert.

Maintain moisture
Heaters, especially forced air and wood stoves, can rob a home of humidity. A touch of moisture in the air makes heated air feel warmer, so you can keep the heat at a slightly lower temperature if your humidity is balanced. If your woodwork is cracking or your skin seems excessively dry, you need more moisture in your home. A furnace-mounted humidifier is likely the answer if your home has central forced-air heat and other measures don’t moisten things up. If you have a wood stove, put a nonwhistling teakettle on it and add water regularly (check it daily to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated). If you prefer not to go by feel, buy an inexpensive instrument called a hygrometer that measures humidity.

Maintain pools down south
For most of the country, pools are out of sight and out of mind during November. But if you live in sunny southern climes, this month marks the beginning of the dry season and the time to begin any pool maintenance job that requires emptying the pool. If a pool is emptied when groundwater levels are high, it can “float” and damage itself. So if you’re fortunate enough to live in a place where you can actually enjoy your pool in December, consider having major maintenance like replastering done this time of year.

Check your sump pump
Some unfinished basements in wet areas have sump pumps installed. These pumps switch on automatically when groundwater levels rise, eliminating basement water before it becomes a problem. If you have one, make sure it is in good working order before the rainy season starts.

Buy foam-cup covers for outdoor faucets
Be prepared to protect your spigots when the weather gets chilly and flirts with going below the freezing level. The foam cups are commonly sold at hardware stores and provide a cheap insurance policy that will help keep exposed pipes from freezing.

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

Original Article by: Anne Erickson of MSN Real Estate

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Moving day is a giant logistical hassle, but a missed detail can make it much worse.

 

Moving day is a giant logistical hassle before you get to the minutiae. A missed detail just makes it that much worse.

Renting a truck, hiring movers and getting stuff packed up and out of the house are the relatively easy portions of the move. Only when you get second notices forwarded to your new address or the lights cut off as you’re packing up the old place do you realize how much the little things add up.

In the interest of saving readers some hassle while they plan to ship out, we contacted the American Moving and Storage Association and asked about common oversights that people made while planning long or involved moves. The following 10 items are usually the easiest to overlook and the toughest to just shove into a garbage bag with the contents of the junk drawer at the last minute.

1. Your local government
If you don’t have a driveway for a moving truck to pull into or a storage container to be dropped in, chances are you need to put it on the street. If that’s the case, in some places you’re going to need a permit. To get that permit, you’re going to need some sort of proof that the company you’re working with is insured or bonded with the local government. That’s the case in Massachusetts, Florida and elsewhere. It can really put a crimp in your moving plans if you don’t check first and your belongings end up in the impound lot.

2. Your hidden belongings
It seems pretty obvious, but taking another few sweeps around the house can help you avoid leaving grandma’s china to the new tenants or going without holiday decorations for a season or so. AMSA spokesman John Bisey says the easiest items to forget are those tucked away in crawl spaces, attics and built-in cabinets. If there’s a spot in your house or apartment that’s out of sight, chances are that’s where your last box full of stuff is coming from.

3. Your items on loan
Wondering where your reciprocating saw or popcorn maker got off to? Check in with the neighbors. The AMSA says items lent to neighbors, family or friends tend to cause customers the greatest headaches once they realize they’re gone. Take a quick inventory and make some rounds at the going-away party.

4. Your sleeping arrangements
So you’ve packed up the truck or container and are ready to take off in the morning. That’s great, but where are you going to sleep tonight? The first night at the new destination isn’t that big of a problem, as you’ll get to your bed eventually, but the last night after the big load-up can be tough if you don’t pack the bed last or plan to stay with someone else.

5. Your records
It’s a lot easier to do things electronically these days, but that’s not always the case with medical, dental or school records. Sometimes it’s just easier to keep these things on hand, so try to get copies from everyone as soon as you’re ready to pack them up. Once you have them, keep them all in the same place so they’re easy to refer to once you’re setting up your new home.

6. Your heat and lights
If you don’t turn the electricity, gas or oil heat on, nobody’s going to do it for you. The AMSA advises turning off all utilities two to three days after you load out and turning them on at the new place two to three days before you move in. It’s not great to get a bill for lights that someone else is using forwarded to the address you’re already being charged for. Speaking of forwarding …

7. Your mail
Oh yeah, you’re going to want to check in with the Postal Service and make sure it knows you’re leaving. It will forward mail to your new address only if you check with it in advance, and even then it’s not permanent. Forwarding basically gives you a couple of months to change your mailing address with various institutions. At some point, that yellow forwarding label will stop appearing.

8. Your insurance
“Be careful when referring to ‘insurance,'” Bisey says. “Very few movers offer true insurance, which is regulated by the states and is offered by an insurance agent.”

The best you can get from the movers themselves is valuation protection, which covers only a percentage of what your goods are worth. In May, a federal regulation took effect requiring interstate movers to include the cost of full-value protection in their initial written estimate. This should give consumers some second thoughts about choosing the minimal valuation option, which is only 60 cents per pound.

9. Your paid labor
If you tip someone for carrying a tray of food to you, you may want to consider tipping the people who just lugged a dresser to your fourth-floor walk-up. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about this, but if you’re not at least offering some water afterward, you have no sense of empathy whatsoever.

10. Your mess
Whether there are a few nail holes left in the walls where your family photos once hung or a huge paint spot in the closet from when you knocked over a gallon of Periwinkle Blue, it’s usually in your best interest to take care of it immediately. Your security deposit or even a sale could hang in the balance.

“I think the last-minute repairs and/or fix-ups are legit,” Bisey says, “especially when, for example, a large piece of furniture is moved away, revealing a problem with the floor or wall it was hiding.”

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

Original Article by: Jason Notte of TheStreet

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