Giving Kids

Adults often pose the question "What is Santa Clause bringing you for Christmas?" to my very priveledged preschooler. She is quick to answer - spouting off a detailed list of many fantastic toys. It never crosses her mind that other children (and pets for that matter) are not blessed with the same loving, bountiful home life as she. While trying to instill compassion and giving in my daughter, I have been seeking out simple, easy ways around town where my daughter can give to others not quite as fortunate as herself. Here are a few ideas I came up with.

Donations to the Homeless Animals. Townlake Animal Shelter accepts lots of in-kind donations including food, toys, blankets, and towels. Since the baby doll blankets were really accumulating around my house anyway, we decided to take a tall stack of them down to the shelter. This was a double wammy act of kindness as it also teaches appreciation for her own dog who could also use additional love and kisses around here.

Pull Tabs for Ronald McDonald House. Let your Coc-a-cola and beer drinking go to a good cause this month (and every month) while your kids collect pull tabs for RMDH. RMDH provides housing for out of town families whose children are receiving medical treatment at local medical facilities. The pull tabs are recycled and proceeds go to RMDH in continuing their efforts. Pull tabs can be dropped off at the Ronald McDonald House in the new Mueller development - 1315 Barbara Jordan Blvd.

Good ol' Goodwill Donations. My little girl and I sort through toys and throw the ones she wants to give away into a box. Even when she struggles internally to let go of a particular toy, I see the compassion in her eyes as she reflects on the little girl or boy who needs it worse than her. We go drop them off at the Goodwill together. When you buy or donate to Goodwill you are contributing to Goodwill's mission of preparing individuals for job success.

If you think of any other ways kids can give of themselves, please feel free to send a comment.


Condo Projects that Look/Act Like Houses in Central Austin?

$325K Watson St. - near Crestview Station

Wondering about the large number of 2 unit detached condo projects in Central Austin. These are new construction properties that look like single family homes, but that are technically classified and sold as condominiums. This is happening quite a bit in Central Austin where land is becoming increasingly scarce and builders buy one full size lot, tear down the existing structure and put two, even bigger properties on the lot. The builder may subdivide the lot and classify the dwellings as single family homes, however, sometimes the lot size is too small to qualify the dwelling as a single family home. In addition, even if the lot is big enough to qualify as a single family home, the builder has to go through a public hearing to subdivide the property and may be met with adversity from neighbors and neighborhood associations in some of these older Austin neighborhoods. In this case, the builder may prefer to create a condo project, which is just a administrative legal process.

These properties can be wonderful: exquisitely designed, well constructed, close to downtown, well priced, etc. Overall, precisely what you are looking for in a new home. However, before you buy, there are a couple of things to know about these properties before you consider buying one.

1. Mandatory COA: Even though there are just 2 units, there will have to be a COA, which is a legal entity. The COA should have a budget that pays for common grounds liability insurance and tax preparation, at minimum. Be sure that the money you are paying to the COA goes to something of value. As one of the owners, you will be an officer in the COA and have 50% voting rights. If you and your neighbor do not agree on something 100%, then nothing happens. Either everyone agrees or disagrees.

2. Perceived Market Value: Most home buyers are searching for "houses" to buy and therefore, there is a lower perceived value in a condo vs. a single family home. This may be a problem when you go to resell your property. It will actually be listed as a "condo" in the MLS and may not even pop up in potential home buyers' searches.

3. Condo Financing: The underwriting requirements for financing a condominium is changing and financing is getting tougher to obtain as time goes on. Some federally backed loan programs will not finance a condo project that is not at least 50% owner occupied. If your neighboring condo is owned by an investor, it may be difficult for you to find a buyer who can buy your condo with conventional financing when you go to resell.

Some additional condo projects in Central Austin:
$399K Alegria St. - Crestview Area

$325K 2nd St - East Austin

$275K Stacy Ln - 78704

Alyson Fox @ Kick Pleat Tonight

This evening from 5 - 7 pm I am heading over with two girlfriends to a special Alyson Fox event at lovable neighborhood boutique - Kick Pleat on 12th and Lamar,near Clarkesville. On sale will be limited edition Alyson Fox prints from $50 - $75. Oh -- and Kick Pleat will be on sale! 15% off of everything.

Alyson Fox, multi-talented Austin artist...with a seemingly endless capability to create marvelously chic "stuff" including: illustrations, textiles, photographs, and clothes...will have on sale this evening a collection of prints, ideal for framing for yourself or for gifts.