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13101 Sinton Lane in Milwood | $239,000 | Austin Real Estate

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13101 Sinton Lane in Milwood

13101 Sinton Lane in Milwood

Could Optimism Be the Secret to Living a Longer, Happier Life?

Recent scientific research now confirms the secret ingredient to a longer life—an optimistic attitude.  And there’s even better news…anyone can learn to be more optimistic!

A 2004 Dutch study found that optimistic people live longer, in fact, almost 30% longer than pessimists. Scientists found an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and weakening of the immune system associated with pessimism.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic, reporting on a 30-year study found that optimistic people live about 19 percent longer than pessimists do.

These findings come from studying 839 people living in Minnesota. The researchers found people classified as “optimists” had significantly better survival rates. Optimists were less likely to develop depression, sought medical help when needed, and took better care of themselves.

So how can you become more optimistic?  Here are six tips for becoming a more optimistic person:

1.  Set Specific Goals. A study of self-made millionaires found they set goals and consistently take action.

2. Project A Cheerful Voice. Research has shown people feel the emotion they are acting. Use a positive voice.

3. Use Positive Language. Use upbeat words: opportunity, challenge, recharging, success, can do, solution.

4. Practice Good Posture. Optimists have good posture, stand tall, walk briskly, and take big steps.

5. Focus on Solutions. When a difficult situation comes up, focus on the solution, and put it into action.

6. Be A Role Model. When you act as a role model for your co-workers, employees, family, and friends, you’ll become more optimistic.

Just by applying these six steps to your life, you can change your thinking, and reduce your risk of physical illness and live a longer, and more fulfilling life.

Excerpted from my Service for Life!® monthly newsletter.

10 Ways to Bring Summer into Your Kitchen … On a Budget

There’s something irresistible about summertime…

summer umbrella

How can we spruce up our kitchen with some of that liquid sunshine without breaking the bank?

Check out these 10 tips that are sure to do the trick:

1.  Display your farmer’s market finds.  Fill a large bowl with deliciously-ripe tomatoes or a fun assortment of succulent nectarines and ripe peaches.  Stuff a glass iced tea pitcher with an armful of sunflowers.  Layer citrus fruit – think lemons, limes and oranges – in an elegant apothecary jar.

2.  Add an indoor-outdoor rug.  This brings the outside-in and adds great texture to a space.  It’s also resilient in high-traffic areas and resists spills and stains.

3.  Place palm fronds in an oversized vase or large glass jug.  They’re dramatic, add color and have a shelf-life much longer than flowers.

4.  Set up a kitchen bar.  The kitchen is the consummate gathering place… Add some libation to the mix.  Place the bottles in a simple and fresh serving tray.  Order customized styrofoam cups – my sister-in-law equips us with cups at her lake house that say, “What’s Said on the Dock, Stays on the Dock.”  Think fun; think lazy summer evenings.

5.  Paint a chalkboard wall.  It’s summer – let your creativity flow.  Use this for inspirational quotes, fave summer recipes and for your summer bucket list!

6.  Add portable tunes.  Don’t just whistle while you work, dance!  Tunes that move with you – think iPod dock with portable speakers for dining al fresco – should do just the trick.

7.  Pack away half of your dishes.  I love this – doesn’t it feel great to just de-clutter sometimes?  Shed some stoneware weight.  Pack away all but your most used dishes – make interiors of cabinets easier on the eyes.

8.  Put up open shelving or remove cupboard doors.  Lighten it and brighten it – give your kitchen a breezy, beach house feel.

9.  Create your “summer wardrobe of cookbooks.”  Swap out wintry, comfort food cookbooks – pack them in a labeled box where you can easily find them at the first sign of autumn – and zone in on your fun, fresh, summery cookbooks.  Display them, have fun with them and use them.

10.  Retool your breakfast nook with cool hues and versatile fabrics.  Think Caribbean blue-turquoise or pale blue seersucker in flexible, fade-resistant (and easy-to-clean) indoor-outdoor fabric.

There’s much fun to be had this summer… Make your kitchen one of your favorite places this year!

Excerpted from Budget Decorator: 16 Ways to Bring Summer Into Your Kitchen

7 Ways to Make Your Offer Irresistible to Sellers

You’ve found your dream home.  How do you set your offer apart from other homebuyers?

highland horizon front

1.  Cash is king.  With less contingencies and potential “weirdness” during the escrow period, home sellers love the CASH word.  If you need to finance your purchase, your lender will require an appraisal.  If the appraisal comes back below the sales price, this spells uncertainty for the seller.  Cash = less risk for the seller and could shorten the escrow period; both are plusses.  If it’s in the cards for you to pay cash, this will make your offer supremely attractive.

2.  Get pre-approved.  If cash isn’t in the cards, go shopping when you know “the money’s in the mortgage bank/brokerage.”  Have your pre-approval letter from a mortgage company and the direct contact information of your loan officer in hand – this means you’ve done your homework.  That’s something for a seller to smile about.

3.  Put your best foot forward.  You may only have one shot to show your aces, your best foot, your best price for the home.  Don’t expect the seller to counter multiple offers for “highest and best,” because they may not – they may simply accept the best offer that’s on their coffee table.  Ensure the one that’s accepted is yours.

4.  Put your earnest money to work.  1% of the purchase price is customary for earnest money in my market (Austin/Round Rock, TX)… But what if you doubled that?  Shelling a hefty earnest money deposit demonstrates that you’re serious about the property.  If you withdraw from the contract during the inspection period (as long as you’re not in default of the contract in any way), you’re entitled to receive your earnest monies back.

5.  Penny for your thoughts.  Write a love letter.  Not even kidding.  Pen why you love the seller’s home… How you can see your family growing there, how the backyard inspires your love for the outdoors.  Lay it on the line.  Chances are, the seller will identify with why you’ve fallen in love with their home.  This adds an emotional component to your offer.

6.  Get in the seller’s head.  Ask your agent to find out what makes the seller tick… Are they building a home and need a leaseback after closing?  Do they get a discount from a certain title company?  Is there a particular date that they’d like to close escrow?  Make it about them, and you’ll make your offer more attractive – show you care and make it easy for the seller to accept your offer over anyone else’s.

7.  Ask that your agent present your offer to the listing agent in person.  In our digital world, this adds one more touch point, one more emotional component to your offer.  The listing agent will be advising the seller, and getting that agent in your corner is a great way to get your offer noticed.  Presenting an offer in person also a bit “old school” and is rarely done these days; in-person makes an impression.  It makes your offer stand out.

Sellers are people, just like you.  Put yourself in their shoes, see things through their eyes and you’re on your way to making your home purchase a win-win.

19 Essential Tools for Homeowners

Bust out that tool belt and get ready to fill it with these must-have tools for homeowners… Designed to make any honey-do list easier-simpler-faster.  🙂

1. Philips screwdriver.  It’s a common denominator of almost any toolbox, the Philips (or X-shaped ) screwdriver is the master assembler (or dessembler – technical term, here) for almost any project.

2. Flathead screwdriver.  AKA – straight screwdriver.  Most light plate covers put these to use, among a plethora of other fixtures around the home.  Having the correct size flathead will also make a difference in your handy projects (think small, medium, large).

3. Tape measures.  You giggle, but I’m serious.  Not one, but two.  Why?  Well, one is always hiding – or out of reach, or lost, or grew legs and simply walked off.  Trust me, you want 2 tape measures, just to be safe.

4. Level.  Ever hung a picture without one?  I have and it’s no bueno.  Trust me, get a level – it simply takes the guesswork out of hanging artwork and photographs.

5. Utility knife.  From opening moving boxes to trimming edges of carpet, the utility knife will make your life so much easier.

6. Hammer.  The crown-jewel of all tools!  Your best quality hammers will be long and light-weight – they’re a solid investment.

7. Putty knife.  Spread putty, paste or spackel.  Scrape dry glues and paints.  Equip yourself with a 1 1/2 inch (measured by the blade length) for scraping and a 5-6 inch for spreading.

8. Assorted pliers.  Two rank in the must-have category:  needle nose and channel locks.  Think of the needle nose plier as the household version of tweezers – pulling stuff out of small spaces (along with an array of other uses).  The channel locks are multi-use pliers that expand and contract for nearly any type of job (they’re a plumber’s best friend, Jake says).

9. Adjustable crescent wrench.  A screw is built into the head of the wrench, and turning it adjusts the size of the opening – allowing it to fit almost any hexagonal nut.  Attempting to turn a nut with pliers just strips the edges – making it even more difficult to get a good grip when tightening or loosening.  That’s where the crescent wrench kicks in…

10. Wire stripper.  Most helpful in making electrical connections, this tool has a blade for cutting wire to the appropriate length and several notches for scoring the insulation around wires of varying sizes, which can then be pulled off.  Wire needs to be exposed without plastic coating in order to make electrical connections.  [ZAP!]  Just kidding… 🙂

11. Allen key (aka Hex key tool).  Any assemble-it-yourself furniture will require one of these puppies.  These are hexagonal sockets and multiple key sockets can be purchased separately, or you can find the whole kit-and-kaboodle with multiple sizes in one handy, connected tool.

12. Power drill.  Save your hand and wrists from turning screw after screw.  Invest in a power drill.  It adapts to drill bits to bore holes, along with every kind of screw-head bit, making larger projects go faster (and with less elbow grease).  Tip: stop the drill when the fastener is tight so that you don’t strip the screw head.  And invest in a good model; this isn’t a tool to buy cheaply.

13. Electrical cord.  Think rugged, well-insulated and appropriate for indoor-outdoor use (i.e. big orange cord).  It will help extend your reach in so many ways (I’m infamous for confiscating our universal garage cord during the holidays for our exterior twinkle lights:).

14. C-clamp.  This tool holds pieces of wood, metal or plastic together when you need to glue, file or saw them.  Make sure to use a thin shim between the clamp and the object you’re working on in order to prevent the clamp from marring the surface.

15. Flashlight.  Maglites are my fave, simply for their durability.  Store it where you can locate it easily, in a pinch.

16. Ladder.  Explore some of the metal fold-able ladders that are out now; easy to store and easy to use.  And be very careful when using one.

17. Duct tape.  Seriously.  Does this need explanation?

18. Quality paint brush.  Don’t buy cheap – just don’t. You’ll want a brush that has high-end bristles.  And ensure that you take good care of your brush – thoroughly wash it – immediately – after use.  You never know when your paint will need a little touch-up.

19. Tunes.  Never go without good music.  It makes each job, task, chore just a little bit easier, a tad more bearable and a smidge faster.

And, although I’ve been banned from assembling anything – EVER – in our household (long story), these tools of the trade are Jake Kaasch-recommended and -approved.  With his construction background and his amazing ability to keep our house in-check, I’d say you’re safe.  He’s my resident expert.

Happy home-owning!

5 Simple Fire Safety Tips for Your Home

Dramatically reduce your family’s risk by following these five simple safety tips:

  1. Make sure your house number is visible from the street so emergency vehicles can find you.  Consider using oversized reflective or illuminated numbers at the curb, preferably next to your mailbox.
  2. Install smoke detectors in places where they will activate in time for you to save yourself and your family.  This is usually within a foot of the ceiling.  Ensure that you test them monthly by pressing the “test” button, and replace batteries at least once per year.  Don’t rely on the alarm to make an intermittent beep to change batteries.
  3. Create a fire escape plan with an emergency route for each family member’s bedroom.  I can’t express how critically important this step is… If bedrooms are on the second floor, purchase a simple chain ladder for escape from windows.  Arrange for a safe family meeting place outside the home in the event fire strikes.  This way, you can account for each family member instantly.
  4. Place an adequately sized fire extinguisher near the kitchen area of your home.  Also, place one at the opposite end of the home.  Most homes use undersized extinguishers.  Even if a small fire breaks out, you will want all the suppression you can get.
  5. Remove all weeds, tree branches, leaves and litter away from the perimeter of your home.  Put a screen on your fireplace and keep it closed at all times.  It’s best to sleep with your bedrooms door closed to give yourself more time to escape in case of fire.  And teach your children what to do if their clothes catch fire:  Stop, Drop, and Roll.

Excerpted from my monthly Service for Life!© client newsletter.

11 Tips to Create that Perfect Outdoor Living Space

It ranks as one of the must-have’s for homebuyers these days:  the outdoor living “room.”  Peek at these simple 11 ways to perfect your space.

1. Fire it up. From bonfires on camping excursions to an excuse to curl up with a book on a rainy day, a source of fire  is a draw. If you can afford the full-sized version of an outdoor fireplace – do it.  It’s a great investment for your outdoor entertaining space – it’s got wow factor. If that’s not in the cards, a fire pit is a great (and economical) alternative.  Always check local building codes for fire-safety and placement regulations first.

2. Get your focal on.  Well-designed indoor rooms have focal points; why wouldn’t you want similar style in your favorite outdoor space?  Think artwork, a water feature or a piece of furniture with zest… Give your guests’ eyes something to land on.

3. Save me a seat.  Benches, chairs, loungers, puffy floor pillows, and even pint-sized stools… Offer a fun array of places to gather and sit – for both adults and kids.  Tip: don’t overwhelm the space and traffic patterns by including too many pieces.

Comfy seats and an inviting space on this year's GoodLife Team Modern Home Tour!

Comfy seats and an inviting space on this year’s GoodLife Team Modern Home Tour!

4. Make it pop.  This is the out-of-doors – make it fun, make it colorful.  Scour flea markets and garage sales for durable pieces of artwork or furniture that you can inexpensively refinish, paint and revitalize to fit the vision of your space.  Tip:  keep your decorating in-kind with the style of your outdoor living area.

5. Add some curiosity.  Paths and curving walkways to an adjoining garden or a secluded bench encourages exploration and discovery.  Add this charm factor if you’ve got the space.

6. Zone it.  In a large, open space, it takes a smidge of clever to establish variety of use, along with a sense of continuity.  Think of it this way:  perhaps you have an outdoor dining space that borders your cozy fireplace sitting area:  How will you zone the spaces?  How will they co-exist without walls?  Use rugs, varying textures or oversized planters and flower pots to designate where the spaces change.  How do you want traffic to flow between spaces?  Sometimes walkways are natural, seamless – and free – dividers.

I loved how this Lake Austin waterfront gave perimeter to outdoor space with stretched awnings!

I loved how this Lake Austin waterfront gave perimeter to outdoor space with stretched awnings!

7. Privacy please.  You may want part of your outdoor space to be a bit more private.  Utilize shrubs or dwarf trees to add texture; creeping vines on a trellis are elegant, and all of the above add the privacy element inexpensively.  I’ve always been a fan of tasteful outdoor floor-to-ceiling drapery sets – they add sophistication, the feeling of a resort and flexibility to your space.

8. Game on!  Sports fans, mount that flat screen in the covered area of your outdoor living area and create a whole new following in your sphere of friends.  Game day will never be the same.

9. Multiple personalities.  This year, you love turquoise.  Next year, it’s stripes.  Pick timeless and reliable furniture, but give yourself the ability to change your accent pieces on a whim.  Purchase fun throws, pillows and slip covers on sale at your fave store – think end-of-season or off-season for the best values.  Find fun fabric on discount, and sew your own pillows.  Sky’s the limit on this – refresh, reuse and re-purpose accents.  Tip:  for pieces that will be in direct sun exposure, ensure that you choose outdoor fabrics to prevent undue wear, tear and fading.

Flexibility and fun is key - from one of my sold West Round Rock homes!

Flexibility and fun is key – from one of my sold West Round Rock homes!

10. Connectivity.  How’s your hustle and flow?  Ensure that your indoor space connects seamlessly to your outdoor space.  This invites your guests (and you!) out to enjoy more of the great outdoors.  Make it easy to get out and enjoy.

A Davenport home in West Austin - loved how the outdoor living room flowed to the pool area!

A Davenport home in West Austin – loved how the outdoor living room flowed to the pool area!

11. Play it up.  Find fun artwork to hang.  Adorn tables with colorful vases stuffed with fresh flowers.  Hang wall containers with trailing plants or annuals.  Freshen between seasons and use colors indicative of the time of year.  Add splashes of color – think pots, decor, and complimentary pieces of furniture.  Tip:  you don’t need to buy fun items at full-price… Try garage sales, discount stores and even flea markets to find exceptional values.

A house I showed on Lake Austin - I loved their covered, outdoor "bedroom" - surfer-style - so creative and fun!

A house I showed on Lake Austin – I loved their covered, outdoor “bedroom” – surfer-style – so creative and fun!

Welcome to the joy of outdoor living… And a phenomenal way to add appeal to your home.  🙂

Excerpted from: bhg.com.

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