Harris County Plans 19-acre Park in Atascocita

Harris County Precinct 2 Purchased 19 acres in February to Create a Nature-themed Park in Atascocita.

Harris County purchased 19 acres to create a new park in Atascocita.

By Christopher Shelton

Harris County Precinct 2 purchased 19 acres in February to create a nature-themed park in Atascocita.

The property is located just south of the intersection of West Lake Houston and Will Clayton parkways and has a natural 2-acre pond on it. The county spent $4.3 million on the land purchase.

The new park allows the county to preserve green space in an area that is experiencing explosive growth, said Jeremy Phillips, Harris County Precinct 2 senior director of infrastructure.

“We tear down trees all the time for roads. Now we get to save a few and maybe plant a few,” Phillips said.

Harris County will begin construction on the $3.2 million Phase I early in 2018, Phillips said. This initial project will include a parking lot and walking trails, he said.

The park could include several trails, a boardwalk over the lake and meeting space in a clubhouse. However, Precinct 2 is soliciting community feedback during the design process.

“Our initial effort is to get something that’s a little bit different than just an athletic park or your standard playground equipment,” Phillips said.“It may be a multi-phase approach… but we’re committed to developing this.”

Looking to move to the Atascocita area?

Contact Sheryl Powell – Your Happy REALTOR

JLA Realty – 281-753-0425

Veterans Day 2016

Veterans Day 2016

veterans-day-images-freeOriginally, Veterans Day was called “Armistice Day,” and the date was chosen to commemorate the signing of the armistice with Germany that ended hostilities during World War I.

The armistice, signed on November 11th, 1918, did not officially end that war, however. That came on June 28th, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. On the other hand, since the U.S. never signed the Treaty of Versailles like the other Allies, one could say that for the U.S. at least, the November 11th armistice really did end the war.

At first, the focus of Armistice Day was on the veterans of World War I, though it was always meant to honor all veterans of foreign wars, who risked their lives on the battle field to secure the freedoms of all Americans. Over time, with the passing away of the World War I generation and the coming of new conflicts during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, the focus on the 1918 Armistice was lost and the name of the holiday was changed. Additionally, today, Veterans Day is generally regarded as honoring all those who ever served in the U.S. Armed Force rather than only those who actually fought in a war.

In 1919, the first celebration of Armistice Day took place, with Britain and the Allied nations of World War I all observing the day. Business as usual was briefly interrupted at 11am, the time when the armistice was signed with Germany. There were also parades and patriotic gatherings, and red poppies were put on display in many British Commonwealth countries.

Another development took place in 1926, when Congress finally decided to declare that World War I was over. It was odd for this recognition of an existing reality to come seven years late, but without the U.S. agreeing to the Treaty of Versailles, there had been no official end to the war. Congress also made November 11th a day of prayer and thanksgiving and expressed a desire that the U.S. flag be on display during this day and that special ceremonies be held.

Finally, in 1938, Armistice Day became a permanent, official public holiday. Eerily enough, the holiday designed to honor World War I veterans became official only a few years before World War II arrived. The next stage in the history of Veterans Day came in 1954, when it received its present name. Congress made the change when pressed to do so by various private veterans organizations.

A debacle involving Veterans Day came in 1971, when Congress changed the date from November 11th to the fourth Monday in October. This led to chaos because many states refused to recognize the change. Some would be celebrating in November while others did so in October, and the resistance to the date change never broke down. Finally, the date was changed back to November 11th beginning in 1978.

Another interesting Veterans Day “conflict” involves a matter of grammar and spelling. Today, many people spell the holiday as “Veterans’ Day,” but the official government-approved spelling is “Veterans Day.“ The explanation given is that the adjectival spelling instead of the possessive-case spelling shows that the holiday is about honoring veterans rather than a day that belongs to them.

Many observe Veterans Day by simply flying the U.S. flag at their house, having a picnic or cook out with friends and family, and watching war movies or other patriotic programming on TV. Many also donate to veterans’ causes and show appreciation to veterans they meet or are already acquainted with, and some veterans will don their military uniforms on this day, making themselves “easy to spot.”

Four ideas on what to do in the U.S. on Veterans Day are:

  • Attend, or at least watch on television, the Veterans Day commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA. You can watch the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. You may also wish to respectfully walk through the cemetery, where over 40,000 veterans and their families are buried.
  • Watch America’s Parade, originally “the Veterans Day Parade,” in New York City. This is the largest Veterans Day parade in the country, bringing in around 25,000 attendees each year. It is held in Manhattan and has been running since 1919. There are also some other large parades to attend, including the biggest one west of the Mississippi River in Albany, Oregon, and there are many smaller parades as well.
  • Tour the memorials and monuments in Washington, D.C., that are related in some way to veterans. There are too many to list, but look for the DC War Memorial, which honors local World War I veterans, the National World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
  • Spend the day, or part of it, volunteering at a local VA hospital or even just chatting with veterans who are there as patients. Many VAs will have special lunches on Veterans Day for the veterans, and they welcome volunteers to help prepare the meal.

Veterans Day is an important time to remember those who risked their lives to defend the freedom of others, and you will find there are many festive and patriotic activities to take part.

View More: http://mariovilledaphotography.pass.us/powell Sheryl Powell, Your Happy Realtor, BELIEVES in GIVING BACK to Veterans!

If you are a Veteran and you are looking to buy, sell or lease contact Sheryl Powell for her Military Appreciation Program.

 

Sheryl Powell – Realtor – JLA Realty.  Sheryl can be reached at 281-753-0425 or you can email her at sherylpowellrealtor@outlook.com.

Don’t Be One of Those Homeowners Who Goes Over Budget on a Remodel

Don’t Be One of Those Homeowners Who Goes Over Budget on a Remodel

By: Alaina Tweddale

‘Home renovations on a budget’ isn’t an oxymoron. It can be done with these 5 tips.

When Kelly Whalen demolished her built-in bookshelves as part of a living room DIY, she found it gave the room some much-needed space. Unfortunately, she also found a hidden subfloor made from asbestos(!) tiles. She hadn’t budgeted for a new subfloor — or for the removal of a toxic substance. Yikes.
And there were more surprises. “When we pulled up the tiling, we found we also had to pull out two layers of wall paneling just to get to the edges of the room,” says the Exton, Penn., native. The paneling fix led to a need for new insulation and drywall. What started as a small project quickly ballooned — and so did Whalen’s expenses.

Almost four out of 10 homeowners go over budget when doing a remodel, according to a 2014 report from home improvement site Houzz. Another stat that’ll make you think: Only one in five comes in under budget. Protect your bottom line with these five tips:

1.  Reconsider DIY

DIY is cheaper, right? Not necessarily, says Philadelphia-based interior architecture and design expert Glenna Stone. Depending on the project, amateurs beware.

“If you don’t have the expertise, you could end up paying between 10% and 40% more,” Stone says.

Why? While your DIY labor is technically free, your lack of know-how can be costly.

And then there’s hiring and scheduling. A task like moving a wall could mean hiring an engineer and an architect, not to mention coordinating permits. A general contractor knows who’ll do the best work for the best price, and they’ll know when to schedule them to avoid wasting dollars on inefficient use of time.

“If the plumber comes out before you’re ready for him, they’ll charge you for that visit, and then to come out again,” says Stone.

Finally, a contractor is more likely to get it right the first time. There’s nothing like having to buy stuff twice because you messed up. Stone recommends hiring a general contractor for most medium- to large-scale jobs.

Takeaway: Don’t DIY unless you really know what you’re doing. Mistakes cost more than hiring a pro the first time.

Related: Best Money-Saving DIY Projects — and Tips for Doing Them Right

2.  Hire the Right Experts

If you decide to forgo the general contractor route and hire individual workers yourself, it’s best to get at least three quotes for each service performed. Talking to professionals isn’t just about finding the most competitive price. It’s also an opportunity to figure out what services each individual contractor includes within his fee.

In fact, the least expensive contractor may be a warning sign for inferior construction quality or subpar building materials. A bid worth reviewing should include a line item for every charge.

“‘Everything’ means every detail, from [the] exact kind of sink fixture to brand of roof shingles,” says Dean Bennett, president of Dean Bennett Design and Construction in Castle Rock, Colo. Even the color of the outlets in each room should be included in the bid, he adds.

Takeaway: The more detail that’s in the bid, the more likely you’ll come in on budget.

Related: How Do I Know If I Can Trust a Contractor?

3.  Map Out the Project Step by Step (So You Don’t Miss Anything)

So, you’re planning to put up a backsplash. What do you need to put into your budget? The tile and adhesive, right? And that’s about it?

Try again. Big project or small, the more detailed your plan, the better prepared you’ll be for both the expected and unexpected costs that can (more like will) arise.

When estimating the cost of your project, consider the large expenses, like that tile and adhesive, but also remember the little items like sales tax, delivery charges, shipping charges, the float, caulking, cleaning materials, and more. For bigger projects, you’ll need to estimate engineering costs, interest costs, permit fees, and sewer and water tap fees, says Bennett. The more you can plan to expect, the better.

Takeaway: Don’t forget the “small” costs. Like pennies, they might not seem like much at first, but they sure do add up.

4.  Know Where You’re Willing to Cut Corners — and Where You’re Going to Invest

Before setting a project budget, consider what features are most important to you. When it comes to allocating funds, ancillary desires should take second place to your overall project goals.

If, for example, your primary goal is to expand your cabinet space, how vital are custom cabinets or high-end finishes to that goal? “If you’re … OK with using stock sizes, you can save about 20% to 30% on your budget,” says Stone. So if your bottom line is to increase kitchen storage space, stay on budget by sticking with stock cabinets instead of paying more for custom.

On the flip side, if your goal is to gain more glam than storage space, custom cabinets may be where you want to splurge.

Takeaway: Let your goals drive your budget decisions.

5.  Pad Your Budget

“For any large renovation, you have to plan for the unexpected,” says Stone. You could open a wall and find electrical work needs to be done. You could find that your chosen tile is on back order and your second choice comes at a higher cost. Stone suggests building a 10% buffer into the budget. Some experts suggest more — up to 25% for those with older homes. According to Stone, that cash cushion is used more often than not.

When the unexpected does arise, it can pay to keep a level head. “Even if you feel pressed for time, give yourself at least 24 hours to make an unexpected decision,” says Stone. When people are reaching their threshold for how long and to what degree they’ve had their house torn apart, “they rush into a decision,” she says. “They regret it almost 100% of the time.”

Takeaway: Pad your budget for the unexpected — and don’t rush decisions.

Evaluate Your House for a Deck

Evaluate Your House for a Deck

By: Dave Toht

Here’s how to plan a new deck that suits your property, meets your budget, and offers the best return on your investment.

In the summertime when the living is easy, there’s nothing quite like a deck for cooking out, entertaining, or simply relaxing. In addition to boosting outdoor living space, a deck can be an asset when you sell your home.

More good news: Decks add living space at a fraction of the cost of fully enclosed living area. You’ll pay $25 to $35 per square foot for a pro-built deck compared to $100 to $250 per square foot for an enclosed addition.

If you’re a determined DIYer, plan on spending three to four weekends building a 14-foot-by-18-foot deck yourself. If you choose this route, consider buying a ready-made deck plan. Or, put to use one of the many websites with interactive design aids, such as Lowe’s Deck Designer (registration required), and Deckorators.

Planning a successful deck requires careful consideration of your site, your budget, and the features you should — or shouldn’t — include. Here are some planning priorities to bear in mind.

Deciding on the Site and Size

Your deck will be a popular place, so give careful thought to where it should be located. Begin by working out how to access it from the house. The ever-handy back door to the kitchen probably won’t do the job; it will force traffic toward the cooking area, making a shambles of any large-group entertaining. A better solution is a French door or slider that gives primary access from a living room, dining room, or family room while being handy to the kitchen. If the doorway can also be positioned to offer an expansive view, all the better.

Next, make sure the deck neither swamps your yard, nor becomes lost in it. Your local codes may set standards for how much of your lot can be occupied by a deck, and how close a deck can be to your lot line. Check these limitations early in your planning with your city or county building department.

Decide where to locate stairways off the deck so they provide unobtrusive access to the backyard. Also consider the path of the sun and the location of shade trees; sunlight may be pleasant in the morning but unbearable later in the day — having a shade tree to the west of your deck will help block the harsh late-day sun. Work out how to preserve your privacy and how to screen your deck from prevailing winds.

Think Local

To recoup a good portion of your investment, your deck needs to be right for your market. Appraiser Dick Koestner of Davenport, Iowa, recommends the simply checking out other decks in your area. “Don’t make it too extreme [compared with] what’s typical in your market,” he counsels. “Definitely don’t make it less than what is expected in the market.”

Koestner also emphasizes the importance of obeying local codes. “A lot of potential purchasers are having a home inspection done,” he says. “If the home inspector finds the deck isn’t built to code, most of the purchasers are saying, ‘Hey, fix it.’”

He emphasizes that codes exist not just to preserve property values, but promote safety. For example, railing balusters spaced too far apart can constitute a falling hazard for small children (most codes stipulate 4-inch maximum gap). In addition, a deck inadequately attached to the house can collapse, often during a party when the structure is loaded with the extra weight of many people, creating mayhem like something out of the Poseidon Adventure. So get a permit from your building department and follow their requirements.

Of course, by dint of taking out a building permit your tax assessment will rise, but only to the extent that the value of your property is increased. The effect should be minimal: Decks are considered an outdoor improvement much like a new driveway or upgraded landscaping, not additional living space.

Looking Good

Although it’s hard to put a dollar value on aesthetics, looks count. Give thought to how the deck will meld with the architecture of your house. Railings offer a good opportunity to pull in color and detail that complements your home. Consider how the deck fits in with your backyard; it should make a smooth transition from the house to the landscape.

Garage Organization Ideas for Under $50

Garage Organization Ideas for Under $50

By: Jan Soults Walker

If clutter trumps cars in your garage, get organized (and make room for your vehicles) with these smart garage storage solutions, each costing less than $50.

Bikes, Skates, and Other Wheels

Bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and rollerblades — wheeled belongings can get underfoot and land you on your assets or bang up the car. Protect your paint job (not to mention your backside) with these wily storage solutions for your garage.

  • Hoist bicycles to the rafters with a rope-and-pulley system (starting around $40) that makes it easy to raise the bike and lock safely in place. When you’re ready to ride, release the lock and lower your bike to the garage floor. You’ll need an hour or two and basic tools to secure the pair of pulleys to ceiling joists and thread the ropes. (Similar hoists are available for kayaks or small boats; starting around $25.)
  • Avoid unintentional skateboard “tricks” with a specially designed wall rack that makes it easy for kids to hang up helmets and skateboards together; starting around $20. Secure this one to wall joists in less than an hour.
  • Keep scooters and bikes out of the way with tool hooks installed on a length of 1-by-6-inch lumber. You’ll pay $3 for each pair of vinyl-coated screw-in tool hooks and $1 per foot for lumber. You’ll need only an hour or two to secure the lumber to wall joists and screw the hooks into place along the board.

Sporting Goods

Active pursuits require a lot of gear that ends up in the garage. These organizers help tidy up all those sports balls, rackets, bats, gloves, clubs, fishing rods, and other outdoor fun-related goodies.

  • Bring together balls and bats on a convenient wire rack equipped with hangers that hold gloves too; starting around $35.
  • To keep your garage organization from going downhill, stash two pairs of snow skis, poles, and boots in one handy steel ski rack; $45. Securing this rack to wall studs helps it hold the weight of the equipment. If you can’t position it on studs, use wall anchors for a secure installation. You can do the task with or without anchors in an hour or two.
  • Make a port for your fishing rods by suspending two wire shelves from your garage ceiling about 5 feet apart, then threading the rods through the openings. Use shelves left over from a project or purchase a 4-foot-by-16-inch vinyl-coated wire shelf for less than $9, and saw it in half crosswise (or clip with bolt cutters) to make two 2-foot shelves. Snip additional wires where you need wider slots to accept pole handles or reels.

Tools

With a little imagination, you won’t need specially designed storage to organize your tools.

  • Conveniently hang wrenches and bungee cords using an ordinary vinyl-coated wire tie-and-belt rack, available at big box stores; $8.
  • Metal tools cling to a magnetized rail, keeping items in view and easy to retrieve; starting around $30. Simply screw the rail to wall studs to safely hold the weight of the tools (it’s an idea you may be drawn to.)
  • Cushion and protect tools by padding your toolbox drawers with a soft, non-slip liner. The open-weave design keeps moisture away and prevents tools from rolling around. Enough material to line eight average-size drawers is $15. Just cut the liner to length to fit and slip it into the drawer.
  • Organize small items — such as pencils, box cutters, and tape measures — by stashing them in electrical junction boxes; about $2 each (free if you have spares). Purchase a variety of sizes and shapes and secure them to studs or pegboard.

Yard and Garden Gear

Rakes, ladders, clippers, shovels, and sprays — a host of supplies keep your yard and garden looking lush and well-cared-for, but your garage? Not so much. Keep your garden and landscaping tools organized with these novel storage solutions.

  • Transform an old cabinet into a nifty garage storage unit on wheels. Hunt down an old four-drawer filing cabinet for a few dollars at a garage sale. Remove the drawers, turn it on its backside, and use a couple afternoons to apply paint and pegboard sides. Less than $25.
  • Hold heavy tools, long-handled implements, ladders, and more. Long steel rails with extruded holes mount high on the garage wall and secure to studs. Arrange a series of hooks and pegs on the rail to hang big tools. Two 48-inch rails sell for $22.
  • Secure a wooden pallet to wall studs to create a pocket for holding long-handled garden tools. To find free wooden pallets, check with local businesses as well as online classifieds, such as Craigslist. Cost: Free.
  • Keep bottles of fertilizers, repellants, and lubricants upright and easy to retrieve. A can rack ($15) prevents cans and bottles from tumbling off shelves.

 

Here’s Why You Should Totally Snoop When House Hunting

Here’s Why You Should Totally Snoop When House Hunting

By: Jamie Wiebe

This house-hunting checklist gives you carte blanche (well, almost) when viewing potential homes.

Ah, house hunting. It may technically be shopping, but it can feel more like breaking and entering. Even though you know the seller wants you there, does anyone really want you traipsing through their bedroom? Or looking through their closet? Or digging around in their basement? Awwwwkward.

But here’s something that should feel weirder: buying a home without knowing absolutely everything you can about it. The only way to avoid the second awkwardness is to face the first head on. When you’re house hunting, don’t think of poking around in someone else’s home as nosiness. It’s a smart, must-do investigation.

Here are six things you should absolutely do when viewing a home — no matter how awkward it feels.

1.  Soak in the Bathroom

Home buyers tend to peer into the bathroom for as long as they’d want a stranger to examine theirs: not long at all. But this isn’t the time to be quick.  Take a long, close perusal of the water closet.

Flush the toilet to find any backups in the system, and turn on the faucets to check the water pressure. Besides being annoying during showers, low pressure can indicate problems with the plumbing.

“Water pressure can really cause headaches down the line if you don’t dig in before you make an offer,” says Myler.

But always, always check with your agent first. In some markets, or with some sellers, it’s considered impolite to actually use the toilet.

Or, if the owners already have moved, the water may be turned off. And that could be, ummm, awkward.

2.  Dig Around in the Closets

OK, don’t actually go through the owner’s stuff, but take a close look to assess how much storage space there is, and decide if it’ll meet your needs.

“People don’t like to open closets because they think it’s rude, but if you’re buying the house, it’s one of the biggest investments,” says Myler. “You want to make sure there’s enough room for everything you need.”

Before you step foot in a single house, take inventory of your current storage space, and know how much you’d like your next home to have.

3.  Poke Around the Attic and Basement

Don’t just stick your head inside and call it good. Give the basement and attic a thorough investigation. If there are belongings piled against the wall, request they be moved before a second viewing.

“I get very nervous when I see a packed basement and stuff against the wall,” says Kyle Alfriend, lead agent of The Alfriend Group in Dublin, Ohio.

That’s because hidden walls and ceilings can conceal water damage, including peeling or discolored paint, rotting wooden accents, or a white, chalky substance on the wall, which indicates water intrusion.

As for the attic, a quick glance should tell you what you need to know. Are there rat droppings? Molding wood? Or is it generally clean, even if dusty? BYO flashlight for an enlightened examination.

4.  Meet the Neighbors

Sorry, introverts. There’s no better way to get a read on the neighborhood than by directly asking the actual neighbors. Pop by their home and strike up a chat.

It’s a twofer: Not only might you get valuable information about the area — from the noisy bar on the street behind you to eager babysitters on the block — but paying attention to their attitude speaks volumes about your potential relationship with your maybe-neighbors. Do they seem excited to meet you? Or are they standoffish?

“It’s not what they answer, but how they answer that will be very illuminating,” says Myler.

5.  Be an Amateur Investigator

Anything seem fishy? Take your suspicions to city hall. If there are additions, pull the permits or get help from your buyer’s agent. You certainly don’t want to be responsible for tearing out that beautiful porch because the previous owners didn’t comply with the law.

Also, check the certificate of occupancy and any easements — especially if you’re hoping to make any major changes. Both are public record. An easement simply gives someone the right to use property they don’t own. Often that other someone is your local government that needs it for public services, such as water.

Myler remembers a friend who purchased a home with the goal of building a pool, only to find out an easement for the sewer line cut directly through the middle of the yard.

Another common use is a shared driveway, such as when one homeowner has to pass through another homeowner’s property to reach their home.

6.  Ask Questions

If your sleuthing finds something concerning, don’t panic.

“Many times, there’s stuff that, at first glance, is real scary,” says Alfriend. “Often people will write off a house without digging into it, but there’s usually a perfectly logical, understandable reason, and it’s not a problem.”

Say you find a gaping hole in the drywall. It might be a huge red flag — or they might have rambunctious kids they absolutely plan to clean up after.

“Boys can wrestle and put a foot through the thing, and it’s 30 minutes before a showing,” Alfriend says. There’s not much the sellers can do at that point.

With any problem, your first step is simple: Ask.

Quick Ways to Make Some Shade

Quick Ways to Make Some Shade, But Don’t Forget: Trees Are Best

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

If you prefer a drier cool, as opposed to the misters we mentioned yesterday, read on to find some quick ways to make some shade. Plus, get some tips on getting shade with some quick-growing trees.

Immediate relief

Umbrellas, awnings, and quick-assembly patio tents are quick, although sometimes costly, methods of creating shade instantly.

The ubiquitous patio umbrella—found even in grocery stores for $30—can either stand alone upright or offset, or slip into a hole in your patio table.

Choose an umbrella that tilts, so you can block the sun at any angle. Or get one that’s fabulous, like Frontgate’s Rimbou Lotus Shade, which looks like a giant palm frond. (Cost: $1,795.)

Retractable awnings, a permanent feature of older southern homes, are traditional shade makers for outdoor areas up to 12 feet from your house. Motorized awnings take the fuss out of opening and closing. Depending on size and what kind of bells and whistles they come with, awnings typically cost from $400 to $3,000.

Portable awnings are my favorite, because they make shade wherever, not just areas close to the house. SunSetter’s Large Oasis Freestanding Awning, measuring 16 ft. by 10 ft., can provide 160 sq. ft. of shade. (Cost: $1,549 manual; $2,099 motorized.)

A cloth gazebo (aka patio tent or canopy) is another option that’s great for entertaining. You can go simple and inexpensive ($50 for Target’s Outdoor Patio Pariesienne Gazebo Canopy, though online reviews indicate you get what you pay for). Or you can step it up with the Garden Oasis Lighted Gazebo, complete with lights and netting for $700 at Sears.

Long-term re-leaf

Growing shade trees is the greenest—and slowest—way to block the sun on patios and decks. There’s nothing as cool as sitting under the shade of an old oak tree.

If you can’t wait 20 years for a little shade, plant a quick-growing variety which, in tree language, means it grows a couple of feet or more each year. You can rush the process by paying more and buying big trees, and you’ll see a return on your investment. Here are some species to consider.

  • American Elm: (Zones 2-9) Grows rapidly up to 100 feet tall and 120 feet wide. Adapts to varied climates and soil conditions.
  • October Glory Red Maple: (Zones 4-9) Provides a 35-foot spread and grows to 40 feet high.
  • Sawtooth Oak: (Zones 4-9) Dark green summer foliage turns yellow to brown in fall. Wildlife will love its acorns.
  • Chinese Pistache: (Zones 6-9) Wonderful wide canopy and grows in all but the coldest zones.
  • Natchez Crape Myrtle: (Zones 7-10) Lots of long-blooming white flowers and cinnamon-colored bark.