Guest blog by  Meghan Wells, Co-Founder, Love-A-Bull.

Once in awhile, if you’re lucky, you meet someone who wants to make the world a better place by working everyday to help others.  And then, these people inspire you to do the same.  I learned of Laurie Loew and Give Realty several years ago, when Laurie’s clients, Ethan and Emilie Sonne, chose Love-A-Bull to be the beneficiary of Give Realty’s commission program to help nonprofits.  As Love-A-Bull is so dependent on its donations to continue funding its basic services and programs, I knew the tremendous value that this contribution would make in the lives of the pitties and owners who we serve.

Pittie Pride Parade photoBy working to provide education, advocacy and rescue programs, Love-A-Bull strives to improve the lives and image of “pit bull” type dogs and their guardians.  Since 2008, our 100% volunteer-run organization has provided free training classes to several hundred individuals and families, started one of the nation’s first all-pittie therapy dog programs, rescued and rehomed pitties from the streets, shelters, and abuse/neglect situations, fought for equal treatment and against breed discriminatory legislation for dogs in our own community and nationwide, hosted one of the country’s largest annual “Pittie Pride” festivals featuring celebrities who help spread awareness of our shared desire to make life better for pittie dogs and their families, and worked with countless individuals in need of our assistance.  Love-A-Bull wants everyone to realize that all block-headed dogs who get lumped into the “pit bull” label are worthy of being loved and viewed as the faithful four-legged family members that thousands of responsible guardians hold dear.  My own (now, nearly 12-year old) rescue dog, May, was the first one to prove that message to me – and soon after I adopted her, Love-A-Bull took shape.

Remembering the support that the organization had received from Give Realty in that past, I naturally sought Laurie’s help when my fiancé, David, and I were in the midst of combining our households (selling our individual homes and buying a new house together).  She was the perfect combination of listener, field expert, advocate, and cheerleader for our house selling and buying process.  If you’ve been on that real estate roller coaster (especially the crazy one here in Austin), you know how important a realtor with those qualities can be!  But, what was even more satisfying than signing that last closing document was the knowledge that with our own homestead journey complete, we would be helping Love-A-Bull continue its journey to grow and expand through Give Realty’s donation.

Donation Give RealtyIn the past several years, Give Realty has given close to $8000 to Love-A-Bull, through commissions and contests.  That large chunk of change helps funds critical veterinary treatment for Adopt-A-Bulls with medical needs, supplies and resources for our community outreach efforts (tent events, spay/neuter assistance, housing resources, etc.), training class gear, and a whole slew of other organizational needs.   And we couldn’t do it without the help of community partners like Give Realty and Laurie Loew, who truly care about the causes they support and the ways in which their donation is improving life in the long-term for so many.  It is not exaggerating to say that that many human and canine lives were permanently changed for the better through this generous gift.

Thank you for the donation and the inspiration, Laurie!  Love-A-Bull is grateful for your giving, and we hope to keep this wonderful relationship going (and giving) strong for years to come.

May and Meghan (photo by Jennifer Hayes)Meghan Wells became interested in advocacy when she adopted her rescue dog, May in 2005. She joined a local Pit Bull Meetup group to meet other pit bull owners who took a monthly “fun walk” around downtown. Upon learning more about proposed breed-specific legislation and finding that many policymakers and reporters had very little accurate information about pit bulls, she got more involved in trying to effect change. Meghan joined forces with Lydia Zaidman, another active Meetup member, to transform the group into a vehicle to change minds and fight negative stereotypes. In 2008, they founded Love-A-Bull, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

As a founding board member of the 100% volunteer-run organization, she maintains a leadership role with education and outreach efforts, including conference workshops, community resource fairs, interviews and research projects, and partnerships to spread awareness of Love-A-Bull’s mission and goals. Meghan and May are proud to have participated in Love-A-Bull’s free training program, and May is a Canine Good Citizen. When she’s not working on behalf of Love-A-Bull, she spends most of her time advocating for artists with the City of Austin’s Art in Public Places Program, enjoying the new house with her husband David and May’s “sister,” Zeta, and continuing to find new things to love about Austin.

Home Warranties Q&A

Guest blog by Home Warranty of America.

Today we’re going to answer a few basic questions about home warranties.

1) What is a home warranty?
A home warranty covers costly home repairs and replacements of major appliances and systems due to normal wear and tear.

If a covered system or appliance breaks down or malfunctions, an authorized technician will be dispatched to the home, with a small trade call fee (typically between $50-$100) to diagnose and approve the service request. This saves the homeowner the time and trouble of researching and contacting various service vendors on their own in a time of stress and urgency.

A home warranty also protects the homeowner with set coverage costs so there is not a large, unexpected expense when an inconvenient repair is needed.

When a home warranty is understood and utilized for its intended purposes, it can be the easiest way to save on home repairs and reduce the extra stress that comes with buying or selling a home.

2) How is a home warranty different from homeowner’s insurance?
Home insurance and home warranties are both designed to help you in the event that you experience loss or damage to your home and/or your belongings.

A typical home insurance policy covers many things including the structure of your home, personal belongings, and other structures on your property if damage or loss is caused by a covered peril.

A home warranty, on the other hand, offers repairs and replacements for your home appliances and systems that fail due to normal wear and tear. A home warranty is a contract, not a policy.

3)Why should someone purchase a home warranty? Is it worth it?
A home warranty can protect your home and budget from unexpected repair costs. Take a look at this comparison chart of common home repairs with and without a home warranty:


 4) What types of things are covered under the average home warranty?
A typical home warranty covers a home’s vital systems such as heating system/furnace, air conditioning system/cooler, water heater and kitchen appliances. There are many additional items that are frequently covered, such as door bells, ceiling fans, fire alarms, etc. Most home warranty plans offer a base coverage plan and a more inclusive and comprehensive premium plan at a higher cost, as well as optional coverage items that can be added to either plan a la carte.

5) Who normally purchases the home warranty, the home buyer or seller?
This is a case by case basis. A home seller may choose to add a home warranty as a gift to the home buyer. HWA offers free Seller’s Coverage in most states for sellers to cover their home in the listing period to make their home more attractive to prospective home buyers in a competitive market. At HWA, the Seller’s Coverage converts to a full 13-months of coverage for the home buyer at the homes closing.

A buyer may choose to add a home warranty for peace of mind. A buyer may prefer to select the home warranty company themselves rather than have the Seller make the decision. Or, if no home warranty is offered, a home owner may elect to add the home warranty themselves.

6) How long does the warranty last? Can I renew it?
Typical home warranties cover a home for a year. HWA offers 13-months of full home warranty coverage on all of our real estate plans. All home warranties are eligible and encouraged to be renewed.

PrintAt Home Warranty of America, Inc. we have built our business on simplifying the lives of our customers and helping them immediately, in a time of great need and uncertainty. We strive to always offer our customers fast, easy solutions with excellent service technicians. You are looking for value for your money, and we believe we provide high value and protection against the high costs of home and appliance repair.

Maintaining a High Value for Remodels

Finished bathroom 1Guest blog by Reflections Remodeling.

When remodeling, homeowners have a specific vision for how they’d like to see their living space realized. Whether it’s a practical upgrade to newer, more efficient appliances or fixtures, a single-room makeover, or a whole-house renovation, keeping an eye toward resale value is always a good idea. Commonly, clients will pay for exorbitant construction or unnecessary upgrades in the hope that they can recoup that cost when they sell their home. The sad truth is that a buyer often doesn’t see certain remodels as being worth the original amount, and the seller has to accept an offer that only pays a fraction of that remodeling cost. Here are some tips to help maintain a high value for the remodel, especially when the time comes to place a home on the market.

1) Be cautious of the word “addition.” Though additions do increase the square-footage of the home, they tend to be money sinks that, depending on the project, can range from tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands, and which, at resale, deliver only cents on those dollars. Even a small bathroom addition, with standard materials, will require a foundation, framing, new walls, insulation, wiring and plumbing. Larger additions, for instance a custom garage, sunroom or bedroom suite, might perfectly accommodate your specific needs, but might be viewed as impractical or unnecessary to a potential buyer.

Instead, get estimates for remodeling the space you have. While a single- or multi-room renovation will still cost up front, these fixes retain their value to buyers better than most additions. Good remodelers will be able to personalize your rooms while maintaining resalable value in them.

2) Efficiency is profit. There are several relatively small projects that not only remain attractive to buyers down the road, but that also start saving you money immediately after they’re completed. Does your home seem drafty? Install high performance double- or triple-paned windows in place of old single-paned. Include wireless lighting and thermostats along with the windows and watch your energy expenditure stabilize. Trying to stay drought conscious? Replace standard toilets with low-flow toilets and add a high-efficiency water heater. Enjoy the sun? Solar technology continues to improve and drop in price. Most general contractors can complete any of these improvements in about a week. And, to sweeten the deal, a vast majority of them net tax rebates at the end of the year.

3) Start small. Unless you’re looking for an entirely different floor plan, upgrading just a few things about a single room can drastically increase its appeal. If a bathroom feels too small, think about switching out the vanity for a pedestal sink, or adding a tubular skylight into the ceiling for more natural light and the feeling of more space. Does the kitchen feel outdated? Instead of knocking out walls, start by upgrading your appliances and retrofitting the cabinet and drawer hardware. After that, maybe you just need a new counter top and tiled backsplash to complete the look you were after, without breaking your bank.

Your home is an investment that should be a return in the future. By starting with these tips before you remodel, there’s no reason it shouldn’t. Remember, these are general tips; research your specific area to better understand the trends and needs for your home.

RR-logo-webReflections Remodeling is a woman-owned construction company serving Austin and the surrounding areas. Since 2010, we have been providing beautiful, professional remodels, renovations and repairs. Whether implementing a whole-house makeover, or installing a light fixture, Reflections takes pride in competent, budget-minded craftsmanship.

Owners Joy and Charlie Groves are the ladies behind Reflections’ quality standard. Joy can be found at job sites, where she gets her hands dirty as the General Contractor and Manager of On-Site operations. Charlie keeps jobs running smoothly behind-the-scenes, as Office Manager. Together, these women are changing the face of home remodeling, looking to reflect your vision, one project at a time.