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Bernice Schaffer's Blog

By Bernice Schaffer | Agent in Austin, TX
  • Ratings of Programmable Thermostats

    Posted Under: General Area in Austin, Home Buying in Austin, Home Ownership in Austin  |  February 5, 2014 6:48 AM  |  298 views  |  No comments
    Do Programmable Thermostats Save Money? The short answer is yes. More precisely, they save families an average of $300 to $400 a year on energy costs. According to Energy Star, an average household spends close to $2,200 a year on energy bills, half of which goes towards heating and cooling empty and unused spaces. In other words, people are spending too much to heat and cool their homes, and are wasting energy in the process. If your energy bills are getting out of control, a simple programmable thermostat such as the Nest, the Hunter Touchscreen Max or the Honeywell Prestige Pro may save you thousands of dollars over the lifespan of your heating and cooling systems. TopTen Reviews rates ten of them for you.

  • Tips for Cleaning a Ceiling Fan & Ceiling Fan Maintenance

    Posted Under: General Area in Austin, Home Ownership in Austin  |  September 23, 2013 5:51 AM  |  451 views  |  1 comment
    Many of us in the summer hot zones seek to augment or reduce the load on our air conditioners with ceiling fans. Gil Schauer asks, “When is the last time you cleaned your ceiling fan? Like any other home appliance, regularly cleaning a ceiling fan is important to ensure optimal performance. Light maintenance such as replacing blades and keeping the ceiling fan from shaking, wobbling, or squeaking is necessary to keep the fan running smoothly. Cleaning fans properly also helps with longevity.”

    Cleaning a Ceiling Fan’s Blades

    There are several different ways to properly clean a ceiling fan’s blades:

    • Vacuuming the blades may be a quick way to deal with light dust that has accumulated on the blades. Use your vacuum’s brush attachment to carefully vacuum the top and bottom of each blade. If the blades have a thick layer of dust, follow up with a damp microfiber cloth and wipe the top and bottom of each blade. Place equal pressure on a damp cloth, folding the cloth over the blade from the center top and bottom. Slowly pull the cloth outward. Do not twist, lift, or pull down on the blades. Be gentle!
    • Rinse the cloth to ensure you are not just transferring dust from one blade to another. Using a feather duster or other type of dry duster after the blades have been dried can also be helpful. Whatever you do, be sure to use these techniques for cleaning a ceiling fan gently so you do not bend the blades, and never use an ammonia or bleach-based cleaner or any harsh cleaner on the blades. The finish can be damaged and warping may occur.
    • You can go a step further and remove the blades from the ceiling fan for a more thorough cleaning. This will also be helpful if you have to replace a bent or broken blade. You will need to locate the screws on the unit and, while holding it in place, unscrew the blade from the fan base. Carefully set the blade on a clean surface, taking into consideration which side is the top of the blade. Use the tips provided above for properly cleaning a ceiling fan’s blades and then replace the blades.

    These techniques can also be used to remove dust and debris from the base of the ceiling fan as well as the light fixtures.

    Mechanical Maintenance of Ceiling Fans

    We all know how annoying a noisy ceiling fan can be. Noisy fans are often caused by loose fittings such as screws on light fixtures or blades, and can be easily remedied by tightening the fixtures with a screwdriver. Noise can also come from inexpensive fans made with inferior metals which can cause a fan to warp and wear out with extended use. Premium ceiling fans are designed to run for many years, but if you do experience noise or shaking from your fan, tighten everything—all connections to the ceiling, the pole connected to the fan (set screws), blade holders connected to the motor, and blade screws connected to the blade holders.

    The accumulation of dust is a common concern for ceiling fans because it can create shaking or cause the motor to run too hot. One way to limit the dust is to periodically blow out any visible parts of the motor with a can of compressed air.

    Ceiling fans are not designed to be run on light dimmer switches, which can cause motor noise and limit the life of the fan. If you have already completed the installation, you can replace the dimmer switch with an on/off switch and use the pull chain to regulate the fan’s speeds. You can also purchase a quality motor speed selector switch which you can obtain from reputable ceiling fan stores.

  • May Lawn & Garden Care

    Posted Under: General Area in Austin  |  May 11, 2013 6:07 AM  |  278 views  |  No comments
    Lawn Care
    Hopefully you have applied the only application of fertilizer your lawn is going to need all year. Now it’s up to you or your lawn service to maintain your grass with a mowing every single week. Keep St. Augustine grass groomed to a height of 2 ½ to 3 inches tall. Other grasses have their own recommended cutting height. How do you tell your cutting height? Take a ruler to your grass just after mowing. Why so long? You want to retain water provided by nature (ha!) and from your once-a-week irrigation. Do allow your lawn clippings to fall back onto your lawn as they provide nutrients and also act as beneficial mulch.

    It’s time to feed all spring-blooming shrubs now that they have completed their show of color. You can use a 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer on most. Also shrubs like quince, azaleas and Texas mountain laurels could stand a light pruning to give them a better shape.

    Crape Myrtles
    Feed your crapes with ½ cup per square yard of 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer beneath their branch spread. If powdery mildew moves in on your crapes, there are numerous fungicides, both natural and synthetic, that are available to control the white blight. Care should be observed when using any fungicide. Natural fungicides such as Neem oil extract and Potassium bicarbonate has been shown to be effective when used correctly.

    Oak Trimming
    It’s still a bad time to consider pruning any oaks on your property. The danger of introducing oak wilt is not over until the peak heat of summer, so if you must prune oaks, it is only safe to start in July.

    Climbing roses and other roses that are one-time bloomers may be pruned after they have put on their show. Hopefully you already have all your roses on a feeding schedule of once every five to six weeks. That same good 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer that you used on your lawn and shrubs will fit the bill for roses too.

    Watch for aphids, thrips, red spider mites, caterpillars (may get a lot this spring!), white fly, leaf rollers and scale. Before resorting to a chemical spray to eliminate pests found on plants, fill a spray bottle with the ratio of 2 tablespoons liquid dish soap (not Dawn, but Ivory) to 1 gallon of
    water. Shake well and spray the mixture onto leaves from above and especially from below. If this first organic method does not eliminate your pests, then you may have to resort to a commercial product.

    Outdoor Plants
    May is a good time to plant caladium bulbs or nursery-started caladiums. The soil is finally warm enough for them. Caladiums will do well in the shade and away from where deer might discover them. Annuals like begonias, impatiens, and coleus may all be planted in the shade. If you already have chrysanthemums and fall asters in your garden, start pinching them back for bushier plants and more blooms in the fall.

    House Plants
    It’s getting to that time of year to repot crowded houseplants. You may even wish for many of them to go out onto your deck or patio under a shade tree for the summer. Don’t subject them to a full blast of the Texas sun as they probably won’t handle it.

  • Best & Worst Scents for Your Open House

    Posted Under: General Area in Austin, Home Selling in Austin  |  May 1, 2013 6:20 AM  |  327 views  |  No comments
    If your open house routine involves fresh-baked cookies, then we have some disappointing news to share. A recent study suggests, “Complex scents [i.e. baked goods, potpourri, etc.], even if they’re pleasant, can be a distraction because some people subconsciously dedicate time and energy to figuring out what the aroma is.” So, before you cook up another batch, learn more about the best scents for your open house.
  • February 2013 Area Market Statistics

    Posted Under: General Area in Austin, Home Buying in Austin, Home Selling in Austin  |  March 20, 2013 3:41 PM  |  360 views  |  No comments

    Area Market Statistics




    Austin-area home sales up 26 percent in February, median price up seven percent

    Austin Board of REALTORS® releases real estate statistics for February 2013

     AUSTIN, Texas – March 20, 2013 – The Austin real estate market continued to gain steam in February, according to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) report released today by the Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR). As cited in the report, the volume of home sales in Austin outpaced last year significantly and the price for Austin-area homes continued to rise.

    According to the report, 1,626 single-family homes were sold in the Austin area in February 2013, which is 26 percent more than February 2012, and the total dollar volume of single-family properties sold was $430,324,152, or 32 percent higher than the same month last year.

    Cathy Coneway, 2013 Chairman of the Austin Board of REALTORS®, explained, “Strong demand for Austin homes continues, but the number of listings on the market remains consistent. This has led to steady increases in price while keeping housing inventory at record lows.”

    In February 2013, the median price for Austin-area homes increased to $208,500, which is seven percent more than the same month in 2012. Additionally, the market featured 2.6 months of inventory in February 2013, which is 1.6 months less than February 2012.

    The market also featured one percent more new listings, 25 percent fewer active listings and 15 percent more pending sales in February 2013 compared to the prior year. On average, homes spent 71 days on the market, which is a decrease of 15 days from one year prior.

    February 2013 Statistics

    • 1,626 – Single-family homes sold, 26 percent more than February 2012.
    • $208,500 – Median price for single-family homes, seven percent more than February 2012.
    • 71 – Average number of days single-family homes spent on the market, 15 days fewer than February 2012.
    • 2,574 – New single-family home listings on the market, one percent more than February 2012.
    • 5,121 – Active single-family home listings on the market, 25 percent fewer than February 2012.
    • 2,223 – Pending sales for single-family homes, 15 percent more than February 2012.
    • 2.6 – Months of inventory* of single-family homes, 1.6 months less than February 2012.
    • $430,324,152 – Total dollar volume of single-family properties sold, 32 percent more than February 2012.

    The following sections describe trends in other sectors of the Austin real estate market.

    Townhouses & Condominiums
    The volume of townhouses and condominiums (condos) purchased in the Austin area in February 2013 was 169, which is 31 percent more than February 2012. In the same time period, the median price for condos was $187,000, which is nine percent more than the same month of the prior year. When compared to February 2012, these properties spent 27 percent less time on the market, or an average of 67 days.

    In February 2013, a total of 1,160 properties were leased in Austin, which is five percent more than February 2012. The median price for Austin-area leases was $1,320, which is six percent more than the same month of the prior year.

    The Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR) is a non-profit, voluntary organization dedicated to educating and supporting Central Texas REALTORS®. ABoR proudly serves nearly 9,000 members, promotes private property rights, and provides accurate, comprehensive property listing information for the Greater Austin area.

    Home sales statistics are released by ABoR on a monthly basis. For more information, please contact the ABoR Marketing Department at marketing@abor.com or 512-454-7636. Visit AustinHomeSearch.com, a public resource on Austin real estate, for the latest news on the local housing market.

    * The inventory of homes for a market is measured in months, which is defined as the number of active listings divided by the average sales per month of the prior 12 months. The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University cites that 6.5 months of inventory represents a market in which supply and demand for homes is balanced.














    ABOR Residential Sales Reports for FEB. 2013:


    February By MLS Area: https://www.abor.com/news_media/statistics/reports/AreaMarketUpdates/2013/Feb13.pdf

    February MLS by Region:   https://www.abor.com/news_media/statistics/reports/RegionMarketUpdates/2013/Feb13.pdf


     MLS Indicators for Feb. 2013:


    Market Residential Sales Report: https://www.abor.com/news_media/statistics/reports/MonthlyIndicators/2013/MarketReports/Feb13.pdf

    Housing Supply Overview: https://www.abor.com/news_media/statistics/reports/MonthlyIndicators/2013/HousingSupply/Feb13.pdf
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