And Now For Something A Little Different. And a Cat Video at the End.

I am so excited about a seminar I attended last night and you’ll never guess the topic… keeping a record of my life and possessions so that my heirs can step in and run the show in the event of my unexpected demise! (This includes everything about running a home, so it is a direct tie-in to the overall purpose of this real estate blog.)

Have you ever been so stressed that you almost can’t remember your current address and phone number? I have! My mind shoots straight back to an address from 3rd grade, or something useless like that. So, how in the world could I cope with the avalanche of information I need at hand in the case of a family death? And how could I expect my family to cope in the event of my death? I have bits and pieces of information all over the place, some online and some on paper!  Some is stored only in my head. Yikes! What a nightmare to leave my family. They would miss me and be angry with me all at the same time, right?

On a related note, a couple of days ago, it occurred to me that, since my spouse is away for a week, and I am doing all the cat duties by myself, what would happen to these little living creatures if I keel over and become non-functional while he’s gone???? I thought, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve got to have a plan! I have to write down every detail of cat care, cat medications, as well as cat-related chores. I have to write down how to run the two septic systems, the water softener, the HVAC, the potted plants, the swimming pool, the…… etc. I need to keep a notebook around here where close friends and family know to find it and access it in a mere 30 seconds to start up the routines and keep the place humming, if no one else is here to do it.”

WEBLAmy Praskac-8007-Edit

Amy Praskac

Voilá! Enter my friend, Amy Praskac, of On the Record Advance Planning, who conducted last night’s seminar. Yes, her workbook, available on Amazon or from her website, has a page for pets and their care! And an entire section entitled ‘Household Facts’!!!


Amy even recognizes what a daunting organizational task this is for most of us, and she provides a three-month calendar along with tips for scheduling this bear of a project to get it finished. Remember the goal? To create a smooth path, rather than a nightmarish chasm for your family and friends to traverse after you’re gone. (Must put that over my desk as a reminder.)



Here’s what the seminar provides me:

  1. Peace of mind for me, if my spouse dies before I do.
  2. Peace of mind for my spouse, if I die before he does.
  3. Reaaaalllly important: peace of mind for our kids, who would have to step in and take over immediately in the event that my husband and I are in an accident or something shocking like that.
  4. A concrete way to start these conversations with our children about funeral/burial plans, will and power of attorney documents, disbursal of personal possessions, whom to call, financial accounts.

We know from personal experience that this kind of planning is important for adults of any age. My sister-in-law died very suddenly and unexpectedly without a will, half-way across the country from us and from her parents when she was only 30, and getting her simple possessions and simple legal affairs wrapped up was anything but simple! Do your parents a favor- make a will and leave a record of everything they will need to know to pick up where you leave off.

And if you are a homeowner, seriously, how is anyone going to keep the place functional with running water and electricity, if you have not left them operating instructions? Somebody has to pay the gas bill to keep the gas turned on. Take it from me, if your heirs have to sell a house that has been neglected, even for a few months, it is much harder than if the house is in tip-top shape while waiting to go on the market! They will actually lose money if the house is neglected.

Contact Amy on her website if you want more information about the seminar. And contact me at 512-970-9121, if you need to sell a house. Let’s chat!

There is something unimaginably appealing about The Critical Information Workbook: Creating a Road Map for Your Family!


Fire Only Where You Want It


Don’t do what I do. Do what I say. We have lived in this house for over two years now and today we finally had a visit from the chimney sweep/dryer vent cleaning crew. Please, please, please have these people visit your previously-owned home immediately after you buy it.

Yes, we had a serious fire hazard situation with our dryer vent. Yes, it was preventable. Yes, we are lucky we didn’t burn down the house.

The vent for the dryer that travels through the wall, through the attic, and outside the rooftop vent pipe was packed, PACKED with lint. Extremely flammable stuff, lint is. The vent is clean now, and I expect it will take a much shorter time to dry that load of towels. My cleaning company says the dryer vent should be cleaned once a year. And they give us a discount if we make that next appointment in a timely fashion.

We have only built two fires in the fireplace since we’ve lived here; once, when a gang of bees audibly took up residence in the chimney. Smoked ’em right out, we did. The second fire was in December when we thought we’d do our S’mores indoors, rather than out. The rest of the time, I was waaaay too skeptical about the condition of the flue, chimney, and firebox to use it much until we had it inspected and cleaned.

Turns out, the fire system wasn’t bad. However, our grate is too low to the bricks on the bottom of the firebox- too low to get proper ventilation underneath to feed oxygen to the fire. Also, found out that, with our fireplace construction, nothing is supporting the bricks at the back of the firebox, so we can’t let logs fall and hit that wall, lest we crack the mortar and provide an avenue for fire to escape into the wall. So, need a new grate. And we know to be careful of the back wall.

Patty and Sam were extremely efficient, tidy, educational, well-mannered, and good natured (and Patty is a ‘cat person’!). Below is a photo of their family-run business card.



If I Could Give an A+ on Angie’s List…

My friend contacted me the other day with an interesting question. Could a double-deep residential lot be subdivided in an Austin neighborhood?

lot lines represented by food

Here’s the situation represented by food (bird’s eye view): the marshmallows are the approximate footprint of the current house; the spaghetti are lot lines, both lots belonging to one parcel; the chocolate, which may or may not have been nibbled, represents the street.

Is it possible to develop or sell the back lot?

City of Austin has a website to help answer such questions. But, it makes me cross-eyed. So, there is this really handy human interface called the Development Assistant Center that helps me keep my cool.

Friend and I took a field trip to the Development Assistant Center this morning, and we found the waiting area rather occupied. I had visions of a several-hour wait before we could be helped! Nope.

One relaxed conversation later, we were called into the office area of Michelle Casillas, a Senior Planner. She checked the zoning (single-family 3 in a “P” overlay). All lots must have access to a public street, yes? Well, this one only has access through the lot which fronts onto the street. That’s OK, IF… there are 20 feet of space between a structure and the side edge of the property for access to the back lot. (This stretch of 20-by-something land is called a ‘flag’.) 🇺🇸

This particular lot does not have enough width between the house and lot line for a flag. However, it might surprise you to know that, inside this particular zoning of SF3P, a duplex, or even a separate domicile can be built, IF both homes are in a condominium regime. The city has nothing to do with a condominium regime. You go to a development attorney to get that drawn up.

The field trip to the development office wasn’t entirely good news for my friend, but we were treated respectfully and served quickly and efficiently. A really nice experience.

If I could rate the City of Austin Development Assistant Center on Angie’s List, I would give it an A+. Thank you, city government.