Lichman Group

Articles Tagged "Steiner Ranch"

September
7

Inexpensive Home Security Upgrades

Home Security Upgrades

When you think of home security upgrades, you may think of expensive security systems. Many upgrades, however, are very affordable and will help your family and belongings stay safer. In many cases, you'll even be able to do the work yourself.

Our real estate agents share the following inexpensive home security upgrades that can make your home safer:  

  • Smart outdoor lighting
    Motion-activated LED lights for the exterior of your home can help shine a spotlight on any potential unwanted visitors. Use this feature for floodlights, step lights, and path lights, and consider buying ones that will send you an alert when motion is detected.

  • Upgraded door locks
    Upgrade the locks on the doors that lead to the outside of your home, and while you're at it, buy a better strike plate (the metal that's on the doorpost). Look for one that has holes for up to six screws, and when you attach it, use three-inch screws. These improvements will make it more difficult for a thief to kick your door in.

  • A safe for valuables
    If you have valuables that are small in size, such as expensive jewelry, a safe provides an extra level of security against thieves. You can get a basic one for around $100, with options such as fire protection raising the price. Bolt your safe to the floor using the holes provided inside in most models and hide it in the back of the closet. If you choose a wall safe, you can mount it inside a wall and cover it with a picture.

  • Foot locks for patio doors 
    Standard patio door locks are easy for a burglar to pick. To make it more difficult for intruders to gain access to your home in this way, add a foot lock. They utilize a bolt that fits into a grommet that holds the door secure, and they're easy to install using a drill.

  • Window stops  
    Window stops prevent windows from being opened more than six inches. This makes it impossible for burglars to raise your windows and climb into your home. Since they open six inches, however, you'll still be able to raise your windows enough to get some fresh air and ventilation inside your home.

  • Tamper-proof shed hinges
    If you have a shed with a standard hinge and a door that swings outward, it's easy for thieves to pop the pins, remove the door, and steal valuable property like lawnmowers and tools. To prevent this buy and install a security hinge that comes with tamper-proof pins and a locking tab.

  • Home security system  
    Wireless security cameras can help monitor your home and provide an extra layer of protection. Consider buying a system that has built-in sensors that are triggered by motion and trigger an alarm. An alert is then sent to your smartphone, and a video clip of the incident is uploaded to the Cloud.

  • Wide-angle door viewer  
    Entry doors don't usually come equipped with peepholes, and if they do, they're usually quite small. This makes it easy for potential intruders to hide out of view and also distorts images, making it hard to identify exactly who's at your door. Install a wide-angle door viewer so the images will be clearer and a burglar won't be able to simply step to the side to remain undiscovered.

Contact us to find out more about home security upgrades and to visit Round Rock homes for sale. If finding a home with some of these features is a priority, we'll help you identify ones that meet your criteria.

August
16

What First-Time Buyers Need to Know About Credit Scores

Round Rock Credit Score

Your credit score is an important piece of financial information that influences your ability to purchase a home. Credit scores range from 300 to 850, with 850 being the best possible score. 

Our real estate agents know that lenders will use your credit score when determining whether to approve your mortgage application. Here are a few things you should know about your credit score and homeownership as you prepare to buy your first home. 

  1. There's a Wide Variation in Acceptable Credit Scores
    The required credit score to purchase a home depends on the mortgage that you intend to use. For example, if you're applying for a conventional home loan, you'll likely need a credit score of at least 620. However, if you're interested in a jumbo home loan (a mortgage that exceeds conforming loan limits), it's best to have a credit score of 700 or higher. Some loans are ideal for buyers with less than stellar credit. An FHA loan has a minimum credit score requirement of 500. You'll need to make a 10 percent down payment if your credit score is between 500 and 579. For borrowers with credit scores of 580 or higher, FHA loans permit a down payment as low as 3.5 percent of the home's purchase price. USDA and VA mortgage programs don't have a specified minimum credit score. Instead, the lenders who issue these loans are permitted to set their own requirements. Generally, to qualify for a USDA or VA mortgage, you'll want a minimum credit score of 640. 
  1. Your Credit Score Affects Your Interest Rate and Loan Costs
    Your lender will use your credit score (along with other financial information, like your debt to income ratio and employment status) to decide what interest rate to offer for your loan. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate. A lower interest rate can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage. Many lenders also use your credit score when determining the costs associated with a mortgage. For example, buyers with higher credit scores are offered lower PMI (private mortgage insurance) rates. They may also qualify for mortgage programs with minimal mortgage points or lower loan costs. 
  1. There are Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Credit
    Before you start attending showings for Round Rock homes for sale, it's best to take steps to ensure your credit is at its best. Start by making all of your loan payments on time. If you've had late payments in the past, the effects of those late payments will decrease over time. Check the balances on your credit cards. If you're utilizing more than 30 percent of your available credit, pay them down, so your utilization is under the 30 percent mark. Ideally, do this for each card and for your credit card balance as a whole. For example, if you have a $4,000 balance on one card with a $10,000 limit, pay the balance down, so it's less than $3,000. If you have a card with a $2,000 balance and $10,000 credit limit and another with a $5,000 balance with a $10,000 limit, focus on paying the second card down, so it's less $3,000. Thoroughly review your credit reports and dispute any information that's incorrect. If you only have one type of debt on your credit report, consider opening another product to diversify your credit usage. For example, if you only have credit cards, take out an installment loan (and vice versa). 

Are you ready to buy your first home? Contact us today to start your search!

July
5

Is it Time to Update Your Driveway?

Driveway Tips

An aging, cracking, or crumbling driveway is a problem that will gradually get worse the longer you wait to fix it. It's an eyesore that tanks your curb appeal and can also detract from your home's value. Sprucing up your driveway will protect your investment in your home, and you may be able to get the money back when you sell. Here are a few driveway improvement tips from our real estate agents.

  1. Add Lighting
    If your problem isn't a broken driveway but just a boring one, you can make the old seem new by adding some cool new features such as lighting. Round Rock homes for sale that offer lighting alongside the driveways offer instant class and curb appeal. Solar-powered lights are fairly inexpensive, or spring for an electrician and get the system wired up so that you can control the lights with a switch or put them on a motion sensor.

  2. Use Bricks or Pavers
    Another perfect upgrade for a boring driveway is a border. Use bricks or pavers to create an attractive border along the edges of your driveway. As an added bonus, the border creates a segway into your landscaping and may even serve to hold back dirt, mulch, and overly enthusiastic plants. Stepping stones and crushed rock set alongside your driveway can also boost curb appeal, not to mention provide a pathway for visitors to travel on the way to your front door.

  3. Repair Minor Damage
    Sometimes the damage to your driveway is minor, and you can get away with just doing a few repairs to preserve the original driveway. If you're unsure whether your driveway can be repaired, it's best to contact a driveway paving contractor and get an expert opinion. If you're planning on selling your home, you'll probably want to spend the least amount of money that will produce a return on your home's value, so sometimes repairs can be cost-effective.

  4. Cover with Stamped Texture
    If you don't like the look of a patched or repaired driveway, there are various ways to cover the imperfections and make your driveway look new again. One way is by covering it with a spray treatment and adding texture. The result can be attractive and classy and gives the driveway a newer, more upscale look without redoing the entire thing.

  5. Add a New Layer of Concrete or Asphalt
    If your driveway is damaged beyond repair, the easiest way to get a whole new driveway is by patching any cracks or breaks and adding a layer of concrete or asphalt on top of the original one. This is easier and less expensive than bulldozing everything and starting over. You can even add on to your driveway while you're at it, widening or adding a parking area or turnaround since the new pavement will match.

One of the first things someone sees when arriving at your home is your driveway, making it a crucial part of your curb appeal. An attractive driveway is as much a part of that first impression as your landscaping or your front door. For more ideas on how to improve curb appeal, contact us today.

June
21

Raised Bed Gardening: Tips to Get Started

Garden Bed Tips

There are few projects as satisfying as growing your own food, and raised garden beds allow everyone to do that, even in a minimal amount of space. Our real estate agents can show you some exciting Round Rock homes for sale to house the garden you have wanted. With a little patience and a few simple steps, you'll soon be enjoying your own fresh produce, and nothing tastes better than the vegetables that come fresh from your own garden.

  • Select the Container
    If you don't want to invest in expensive materials, consider materials you may already have or can easily acquire. Many people start with wooden pallets. Almost any container will do. A galvanized horse trough will work well, even if it has a few leaks and is no longer good for the purpose intended. If you want multiple beds that are all uniform, pre-made kits are easy to find at home and garden stores, some of which are on wheels so that you can optimize the sunlight. 
  • Chose the Location
    Select a spot with the proper amount of sun for the crop you are planting. Tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash, and cucumbers thrive in full sun for the entire day. Root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, and beets, need about half a day of sunshine to thrive. For shadier spots, plant leafy greens, such as kale and spinach. Take the time to do a little sun mapping before planting for the best results. Choose carefully because once you fill the bed with soil, it will be difficult, if not impossible to move, unless it is on wheels. 
  • Determine Watering System
    You may enjoy watering with a hose the old-fashioned way, or you might want to consider an efficient drip irrigation system. You can run a line directly from your water tap or rain barrel to allow you to water quickly and easily by simply turning a spigot. 
  • Fill the Container with Soil
    One of the advantages of a raised garden bed is that you won't need to worry about digging, rocky ground, or nutrient-poor ground. You won't find an article on raised garden beds that doesn't emphasize the importance of using the highest quality of soil your budget will allow. When purchasing garden soil by the bag, select products that support organic vegetables, after you fill the container about three-fourths full, top it off with compost. If you don't already have a compost pile, you can buy it at garden centers. This combination is important to fill your garden with rich nutrients and to hold moisture. To determine the amount of soil you will need, several suppliers offer online calculators that are very helpful.
  • Plant Your Crops
    Of course, you'll have done your homework long before this point and decided what crops to plant and when to plant them. If you're planting from seeds, you may have already started germinating them inside and have seedlings ready to place in the garden. You'll have learned that Round Rock has a growing zone designation of 8. Many vegetables should be started indoors in mid-February to avoid frost. For later planting, consider transplanting seedling tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, fresh herbs, and more from your favorite garden center. The optimal growing season in this area runs from April 1st to December 1st. 

Are you ready to start looking for a place to plant your own raised vegetable garden? Contact us today to arrange a tour. 

March
1

DIY Tips for Designing a Home Library

Home Library Tips

If you've always dreamed of having a home library to house your favorite novels, you can turn this dream into reality with some careful planning. Our real estate agents know that you don't need an entire room to create a gorgeous home library; instead, scour your home for unused or underused areas that will make a lovely home for your books. Here are some tips to follow when designing your home library. 

  1. Make the Library Work for Your Lifestyle
    While there's nothing wrong with the serenity of a conventionally quiet library, this simply isn't compatible with every household. One of the top benefits of a home library is that you can adapt it to your lifestyle. Maybe you have children who love to read, solve puzzles, and play board games. Set your home library up so that your children's reading materials are easily accessible; add a few kid-friendly chairs and tables so they have their own space. Or, maybe you know that you'll use your home library in between at-home work sessions. You might set-up your library in your home office so that you can take advantage of short breaks to enjoy a new book or reread an old masterpiece.
  1. Add Layers of Lighting
    Your home library is one area where you don't want a lot of direct natural light, as sunlight can damage the delicate pages of your books. Instead, incorporate multiple layers of lighting to ensure you have ample illumination for your reading and research. Start by adding ambient lighting that reaches the entire room; recessed lighting and lighting fixtures are two alternatives for whole-room illumination. Then, add accent lighting around the various spaces of your home library. For example, you might add track lighting around your bookcases. Next, incorporate task lights into your home library. This includes items like desk lamps and floor lamps. Whenever possible, opt for lighting that's dimmable so you can adjust the lights to your needs. 
  1. Use Space-Efficient Book Storage
    When space is a concern, maximize storage for your books by choosing shelves that utilize frequently unused areas. Corner shelving units are one solution, as are vertical bookcases that extend to your home's ceiling. Make sure to invest in a sturdy step stool so that you can easily reach the books on the top shelves.
  1. Check the Weight Limits for Your Floors
    Before your start setting up your shelves and books, confirm that your floors are capable of supporting the additional weight of a lot of books. Books are heavy, and if you store a lot of them in a concentrated area, it can put additional stress on the floor. If your floors can't support the additional weight as-is, a contractor can reinforce them by adding additional plywood or beams. When you add your home to the inventory of Round Rock homes for sale, you'll know that you completed the project correctly. 
  1. Add Decorative Pieces
    Make sure to add a few decorative items so that your home library reflects your tastes. A few framed photos, attractive bookends, pottery, or interesting sculptures can all add individuality to your new space. 

Want a property with more space for your home library? Contact us today to get started!

February
15

Is it Time for a Kitchen Upgrade?

Austin Kitchen Updates

When it comes to upgrades and renovations, the kitchen is one that's almost guaranteed to pay off when you sell your home. But how do you know your kitchen is dated enough that you'll benefit from updating? Here are a few indicators our real estate agents say mean the house is past due for kitchen renovations.

  1. Your appliances don't match.
    When a house is first built, or a kitchen is first renovated, all the appliances typically match, if not by brand, then at least in appearance. As they get older and start to go out, they typically get replaced with whatever can be found to fit and at a good price. The result is that after a while, a kitchen may end up with three or four appliances of varying styles and ages. If this describes your kitchen, most likely everything else is old enough that it's time to just upgrade it all.

  2. Your kitchen has a recognizable vintage.
    If guests tend to say things like, "Hey, this kitchen looks just like where I grew up!" when they come over, it's a sure sign that it's time for renovations. A few vintage touches can be a stylistic choice, but outdated kitchens just look old.

  3. There's visible damage.
    As kitchens get older, things break. The tile develops cracks, the linoleum begins to chip and peel, and appliances start showing wear. Appliances may stop working as well, too, or develop quirks as they age. Pretend you're touring Georgetown homes for sale and look at your kitchen the way a stranger would. If you see a bunch of tiny indicators of age, it's time to update.

  4. The layout is counterintuitive.
    The way we live and cook has changed, and so has kitchen design. Kitchens of the past tend to be counterintuitive in design, perhaps because they lacked design elements such as islands or conveniences such as pull-out cabinet drawers to help you better utilize and access your storage space. If preparing a meal is a hassle, it could be that your kitchen needs updates that will make the process more streamlined.

  5. The lighting is terrible.
    Another universal in dated kitchens is horrible lighting. Most older kitchens have only overhead lighting, with the only task lighting being the hood light over the stove. Good lighting is a huge selling point of any kitchen, though, so even just updating the lighting and appliances can go a long way toward improving your kitchen. Use the opportunity to light up your workspaces better with focused task lighting, such as under cabinet lighting.

Why waste your time cooking in a dark, cluttered, and outdated kitchen when cooking could be a pleasant experience with the right updates? Plus, updating your kitchen can add significant value before listing your home among the Round Rock homes for sale. For more advice on what updates you should do before selling your home, contact us today.

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