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“10 Best Things about Palm Beach”

1. The Beach…duh!
Phipps Ocean Park, located on Ocean Boulevard, stretches along the striking South Florida coast.  The beach is a hot spot for locals and tourists alike, and it is easy to see why. Phipps Ocean Park is more than the typical Florida beach. There are playgrounds, tikki huts, barbeque pits, picnic tables and more.  The shallow crystal blue shoreline makes for a beautiful Florida day for snorkeling, surf fishing and swimming.

2. Town of Palm Beach Golf Course
The Town of Palm Beach Par 3 Golf Course is one of the most uniquely designed and prominent courses in Palm Beach, is open to the public and is set right in the intersection of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean — so close that if you swing too hard you might send your ball sailing off into the ocean.  The rolling green hills set the stage for the 18-hole course with sand dunes, palm trees, lagoons, and even wildlife as its natural obstacles.  Each and every hole captures the majestic beauty of the Palm Beach landscape.

3. The Flagler Museum
Built in the Gilded Age, the Flagler Museum, enriched with American history, is one of the most extraordinary displays of unending prosperity.  The classic white mansion located along the beautiful shorelines can only be compared to a historic monument in the ancient Roman Empire, and Henry Flagler and his partners, such as J.D. Rockefeller, who revolutionized economic progress in America, were the gladiators of their time. The inside of the mansion features colossal columns holding up soaring arched walkways and a sunroof that lets in the warm light of the Florida sun.  Tour the museum or join afternoon tea in the café and participate in the tradition of America’s wealthy society.

4. Breakers Hotel
Just one night in Palm Beach’s legendary hotel, The Breakers, is all it takes to experience the unparalleled luxury.  The hotel features two 18-hole golf courses, an ocean view fitness center, ½ mile of private beach, five swimming pools, 10 tennis courts and eight luxury restaurants.  Make sure to also visit the 20,000 square foot spa and book the Ocean Breeze treatment, a massage on a peaceful outdoor terrace with the sound of the waves to send you off into ultimate relaxation.  Whether it’s a week long vacation or just a day or night out, the 140 acre oceanfront resort has enough services and amenities to make you never want to hear the words “check out.”

5. Taverna Opa
The Taverna Opa in Palm Beach is the epicenter of the distinctive and exciting city nightlife.  The trendy restaurant and bar is alive with Greek lifestyle featuring authentic music, food, drink and culture.  In one sitting you will experience belly dancers dancing on tables and napkins tossed up into the air. This place is a nonstop celebration.  It is so much fun that before you know it, it could be you who ends up dancing on the table.

6. The Garden’s Mall
The Garden’s Mall, located in Palm Beach Gardens, is a heavenly haven for any type of shopper.  The upscale mall features an extensive collection, 160 to be exact, of fine specialty shops with a wide range of name brand retailers such as Chanel, Gucci, Ralph Lauren and high-end department stores like Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s. This Palm Beach prize can keep you and your wallet busy all day long.
7. Palm Beach Cardinals
The Palm Beach Cardinals, a 1-A minor league affiliate for the St. Louis Cardinals, provide outdoor fun during those hot summer nights.  Whether entertaining clients or just spending a night out with the family, the Palm Beach baseball games are exciting and affordable.  Who wouldn’t love great seats, cheap beer and some thrilling competitive baseball?

8. Palm Beach Confections
They might still have a perfect beach body but Palm Beach residents do indulge, and when they do, they go to the Palm Beach Confections to satisfy that aching sweet tooth.  Their handmade chocolates are a delight, and they feature one-of-a-kind specialties like the “Escargot” which is made of chewy butter caramel and vanilla dipped in milk or dark chocolate.  Escargot has never sounded so good!

9. Lake Worth Lagoon
Lake Worth Lagoon stretches all the way from Boyton up to North Palm Beach and is the best fishing spot in the area.  This lagoon is stocked with saltwater fish like snook, redfish, tarpon, jack crevalle, snapper and sea trout just to name a few.  Not all areas are fishing hot spots though. You might need to squeeze the secret out of the local anglers, if they’ll tell you.

10. Real Estate
Palm Beach Real Estate is a hot commodity attracting home buyers from all over the country and the world.  Palm Beach features thousands of beautiful luxury homes for any type of home buyer.  If you are interested in checking out available homes in the area, visit to get in touch with a local realtor today.

About Fite Shavell & Associates
Fite Shavell & Associates is a locally owned boutique real estate broker in Palm Beach, with national experience and a global approach to buying and selling residential real estate. Their unique approach combines the flexibility and traditional values of local leadership with decades of experience in a range of neighborhoods, property types and deal structures in some of the country’s most sought-after luxury real estate markets. Through a commitment to personalized service, expert guidance and absolute integrity in our professional actions, Fite Shavell & Associates places the customer’s needs first and creates a clear advantage for buyers and sellers within the markets they serve.

Media Contact:
Christina Berry
561.236.2431 Cell
561.655.6570 Office
561.655.6573 Fax

Buffington’s Guide to Living & Buying in Austin

Join local Austin homebuilder, Buffington Signature Homes, for a tour of the ins and outs of buying a new home in the capital city! Where to buy, what to look for, where it’s hot and where it’s cool!

There are lots of great places to live in Austin. Use these tips to find the perfect neighborhood and home for your lifestyle!

1. North, South, East & West—head any direction from downtown Austin and you’ll discover four distinctive areas of town, each with their own character and atmosphere.

  • North: North Austin and Round Rock are home to many of the region’s biggest employers, with great shopping, accessibility and family-friendly living.
  • South: The original home of “Keep Austin Weird”! South Austin offers a unique experience of the culture and style that made the city famous.
  • East: Enjoying a resurgence in economic development and investment, East Austin is home to great historical neighborhoods, arts and eateries.
  • West: As you head west, the city gives way to the Texas Hill Country. With grand hillside homes and nearby access to Lake Travis, life is good in the west.

2. Major Roads & Highways. Several major roads make getting around town a lot easier… unless you catch them at the wrong time.

  • I-35: The main North/South thoroughfare, I-35 bisects the city just east of Downtown. Connected to just about everything, but beware of rush hour traffic and backups.
  • Mopac / Loop 1: Also running North/South, Mopac loops west of downtown and can be faster and less congested than I-35.
  • 183/183-A: Running southeast to northwest, 183 takes you from the airport, north of Downtown into North Austin. From there, the 183-A toll road offers easy access from Cedar Park and Leander.
  • 290 / 71 / Ben White Blvd: Running East-West from the airport into the Hill Country, Ben White connect South Austin to I-35 and Mopac.

3. Schools. Austin area schools are consistently ranked among the best in the state and even the country. For the top rated public schools in the area, check out the Eanes School District in West Austin, and the Round Rock and Leander ISDs. There are also several highly-rated independent and church-affiliated private schools throughout the city.

4. Colleges & Universities. Austin is perhaps best known as the home of the University of Texas. UT sits right in the middle of the city, just north of the Capital, with nationally ranked undergraduate, graduate and adult education programs. Just south of the river, St. Edwards University is a private, Roman Catholic university known for quality liberal arts programs. Several Austin Community Collage campuses can be found throughout the city, offering quality undergraduate and adult programs, as well as Early College Start programs for high school students.

5. Live Music & Events. “The Live Music Capital of the World” is home to more than 200 live music venues and over 1,900 local musicians! On any given night, you can find incredible live music on the world-famous 6th Street or nearby in the Warehouse District, another growing entertainment area. Local favorites for live performances include Stubb’s BBQ, Auditorium Shores and the newly completed Austin Music Hall. You can also check out hundreds of local and national acts every spring at South by Southwest (SXSW) and at Austin City Limits Music Festival in late summer.

6. Parks & Lakes. The city’s parks, greenbelts and lakes offer endless possibilities for outdoor fun. Barton Springs is a popular attraction, at an average temperature of 68° year round! Lady Bird Lake and Lake Travis offer great places for boating and skiing, and miles of hike & bike trails throughout the city are perfect for exercise and leisure. The most popular outdoor destination is Zilker Park, located along the south shore of Lady Bird Lake. Zilker Park is home to a popular dog park, the famous Barton Springs Pool as well as one of the largest trailheads leading into the Barton Creek greenbelt.

7. Sports. Great sports action is never far away, with UT athletics throughout the school year, as well as the Austin Aztex USL soccer team and the Round Rock Express baseball team, affiliate of the Houston Astros! Coming in 2009 or 2010, the Texas Stars AHL hockey team will hit the ice in Cedar Park as the top affiliate of the Dallas Stars NHL franchise.

8. Temperature & Climate. Bring your sunscreen! Austin averages 300 days of sunshine per year, with hot summers and mild winters. The coldest month in Austin is typically January, with overnight lows averaging 40°. In the summers, late July and August are typically the hottest, with average daytime temperatures in the mid to upper 90s.

9. Shopping. Key shopping centers for the area include Southpark Meadows and Barton Creek Mall in South Austin, La Frontera and the Round Rock Premium Outlets in Round Rock, as well as Lakeline Mall and the new 1890 Ranch in Cedar Park. For great local boutiques and arts, check out the great clothing and vintage stores on South Congress, as well as “The Drag” on Guadalupe near the UT campus.

10. Dining. Whatever kind of food or atmosphere you’re in the mood for, there are great places to eat all over the city. Find your own favorite neighborhood eatery or look for local favorites scattered across town, like Chuy’s Tex-Mex, Gumbo’s Louisiana Style Cafe, Austin Java, Amy’s Ice Cream and Rudy’s Country Store & BBQ.

Buffington Signature Homes is locally owned and operated in Austin, proudly building new homes in the most sought-after communities in South Austin, Round Rock and Cedar Park. Dedicated to building homes that will last a lifetime, Buffington combines innovative floor plans, skilled craftsmanship and an exceptional buying experience to deliver homes that each and every customer is proud to live in.

Stucco Homes: Efficient, Durable and Beautiful

One of the most common, traditional building styles is greatly misunderstood. Stucco, a material that is similar to plastering, has become an efficient, durable process that is prevalent in the United States. Because stucco looks similar to adobe, it tends to be most popular in states that are highly-influenced by Spanish and Mexican architecture. This includes Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Florida.

Example of an Exterior Stucco wall

Example of an Exterior Stucco wall

Many people think of stucco as being the poor man’s brick thinking that it is only used by those who cannot afford a better building material. This simply is not true. Some of the most beautiful and luxurious homes and hotels are being built with stucco. It gives an Old World look to the building while also making it cozy.

Stucco homes are prevalent in Tuscan-style designs as well as Spanish Mission architecture and some homeowners choose to use it just for one or two rooms rather than an entire structure. If you want a certain feel for your kitchen or basement, stucco can add a definite flair to your room.

What is stucco?

Stucco is not only an architectural style, but also the name of the material that is used in the creation of this style. It is made by combining Portland cement with water. Lime is sometimes added to strengthen the substance. Pigments can be added to create a wide variety of colors.

What do stucco homes look like?

When most people think of stucco, they picture a home in the poorer parts of Mexico that has a crumbling look on the walls. This is considered stucco, but there are many other buildings that use it as well.

Stucco can be applied to several architectural styles. It works best with the Tuscan- or Spanish Mission-styled architecture, but doesn’t have to stop there. You may have been to a French restaurant recently where it looked like half of a brick wall had fallen off. This rustic look that is so popular in restaurants and kitchens is referred to as stucco.

How is stucco created?

Example of an Interior Stucco wall

Example of an Interior Stucco wall

Stucco is a three-step process and is applied to a wood or stone structure. If it is a wood structure, then an additional step of applying a lath (a wire mesh) to the wall needs to happen before the stucco so that it has a way to cling to the structure.

The first layer applied to the building, called a scratch coat, usually consists of cement and sand. It is applied with a brush.

The second layer, called the brown or leveling coat, usually consists of cement, sand and lime. It is leveled and scraped smooth. It needs to dry for 7-10 days before the third coat can be applied.

The final layer (third coat) is referred to as the finishing coat. There are three different kinds of finishing coats:

A color coat is colored sand, cement and lime finish that is applied directly to the brown coat. The builder can use a trowel to create various designs or they can spread it smooth. It can have various colors and using coarser or finer sands can change the consistencies.

An acrylic finish can be applied in a traditional stucco manner and has a long-lasting quality. It also comes in a variety of colors.

Hard coating is the final style of stucco, but it is not recommended. It is very heavy and hard to repair. If you see a home from the 60s or 70s that has glass, rocks, bottles, etc. embedded in the wall, then you are looking a hard coating stucco finish.

About Stucco-style

Stucco buildings have been around far longer than you think. They originated in ancient times with Greek and Roman cultures that created stucco surfaces to paint beautiful frescoes. These surfaces were made by combining gypsum, marble dust and glue.

During the Age of Renaissance, stucco techniques were honed by the Italians and spread throughout Europe becoming one of the most common building materials. It wasn’t until the late-1800s that builders and masons stopped using lime-based stucco in lieu of the newly popular Portland cement. This cement made stucco a harder, more durable material.

Stucco gained acceptance in the United States in the 19th century and the word was commonly used at this time to describe exterior plastering. When the Spanish Colonial Revival-style building became so popular in the early 20th century, stucco gained a permanent foothold on US architecture and is still highly popular today.

Historians believe that there are a couple of reasons why stucco became so popular.

  • Stucco is a fairly inexpensive material.
  • A good artisan could use stucco to emulate fine stonework and patterns.
  • It is a good weather repellant, withstanding bad weather better than many other materials.

If you love the look and feel of a Spanish home, then you should consider using stucco to create you next dream home. A new stucco home has many benefits to the homeowner, as well as having an Old World feel, without having antique building materials that are unstable. It truly is a “dream come true” when you walk into your new home for the very first time.

Famous Stucco Buildings

  • Great Pyramid of Giza (Egypt)
  • The Alamo (San Antonio, TX)
  • Uzer (Sumerian city from 4,000 BC)
  • Dana House (Yale University)

For a photo gallery of some great stucco homes in Georgetown, TX, visit the great people at Jeff Watson Homes. Jeff specializes in stucco home building and also Tuscany design.

Local Builders Continue Success in Troubled National Markets

Greater flexibility, area expertise and traditional customer service drive sales for one Austin builder

It seems like every week brings more headlines of bursting real estate bubbles and national homebuilders posting significant losses. Despite the shaky ground in many areas across the country, Austin’s real estate market is holding steady, thanks in part to a foundation of superior local homebuilders. While the number of home sales nationally continues to slide, Austin has shown a month-to-month increase so far this year. In total 12,072 homes were sold in the first six months of 2008, with a single-month high of 2,410 homes sold in June. In that time, the average sales price in Austin has actually increased over last year, in part because of the quality of new homes on the market.

One such local builder is Buffington Signature Homes. The company is the newest venture from long-time Austin builder and investor, Tom Buffington, whose list of credentials includes Buffington Capital, a leading area acquisition and development company, and Buffington Homes, which became the second largest builder in Austin before being sold to a national firm in the late 1990s.

Today, Buffington Signature Homes represents a shift back to the roots of Austin homebuilding, with a locally-owned, locally-managed company that specializes in building distinctive communities throughout the Austin area. Many of the national volume builders are pulling back their productions throughout the region, allowing companies like Buffington to step in and hand-pick prime locations in the best communities.

The key to this ability is the leadership team’s unprecedented knowledge of the Austin area and eye for the factors that make a community succeed. “There’s a big difference between market research and market expertise,” explained James Giddens, President of Buffington Signature Homes. “Lots of communities look good on paper, but it takes an understanding of local tastes, needs and lifestyles to know which ones will truly succeed.”

The same holds true for home designs. While many volume builders simply rearrange layouts or change the exterior colors from location to location, Buffington’s design team carefully crafted each floor plan to best suit the needs and style of the Austin market. As those styles and needs change, the company can also adapt more quickly to better meet their customer’s expectations.

“Since all of our communities are within a few minutes drive of our corporate offices, the leadership team has a much better understanding of how our products are selling and what our customers think about their homes,” said Grant Whittenberger, Vice President of Sales for Buffington Signature Homes. “If there’s any problem with a design or feature, we can correct it immediately to ensure that our customers remain satisfied. And if one design is particularly successful, we can find out why and develop new designs that will appeal to our clients for the same reasons.”

This flexibility is another key factor in Buffington Signature Homes’ continued growth. A recent report indicates that the price of building materials increased by more than 10% from 2007 to 2008, with no signs of slowing. The flexibility to change designs and features or to develop relationships with new vendors, allows Buffington to maintain prices in a volatile market. Additionally, most of those materials come from vendors right here in Austin, so customers aren’t footing the bill for the shipping company’s diesel.

In their effort to keep costs as low as possible, many volume builders use a practice called “value engineering.” More often than not, that’s a nice way of saying “cutting corners.” But Buffington’s homes utilize quality materials and traditional building practices that were phased out by most national builders long ago. Each home features engineered foundations and frames, as well as full wind-bracing and half-inch OSB wrapping to protect against cracking walls and sticking doors or windows. The roofs are all traditionally framed and the interiors feature deep floor trusses. The three-quarter-inch sub-flooring is attached with screws and glue to create incredibly solid floors that are less likely to squeak or bounce.

“The key is to make sure we do it right the first time,” explains Whittenberger. “A little extra work during the construction stage means less work for us in the long run and less daily maintenance for our customers after they move in. Most of our leadership team has worked with the national firms, so we understand where their processes fall short. We spent a lot of time on product development, making sure our designs and our features picked up where the others guys left off.”

As part of that commitment to quality, every Buffington Signature Home comes with something they call Signature Features: more than 90 high-end fixtures, finishes and features that are included standard in every home. Signature Features include a 3rd car garage (homesite permitting), island kitchens with granite countertops and custom cabinets, rounded corners, energy efficient appliances, covered patios and fully sodded yards, all standard in the price of the home. Customers can also choose from a collection of Signature Options, optional designs and features to further personalize their homes.

And there’s one more factor that’s often overlooked by the national builders: the importance of community interaction. More than simple advertising or branding, local builders are active members of their community. From the ball fields to school activities, Buffington Signature Homes strives to help the community organizations around them.

“Obviously, when you work for a company, you’re invested in its success,” said Whittenberger, “but since we live here, we’re also invested in the success of the community and the city. That makes a big difference in the way a company operates.”

Buffington Signature Homes currently offers homes in several highly sought-after communities in the Austin area: Silver Leaf, located just off Gattis School Road in Round Rock; Forest Oaks, located near 183A and 1431 in Cedar Park; and two premier South Austin communities, The Bridges at Bear Creek and Southpark Meadows. Later this year, Buffington will also launch sales in Teravista, located in Round Rock, and Belterra, located just minutes west of Austin on US-290.

For more information on Buffington Signature Homes, visit or stop by their model homes in Silver Leaf or Forest Oaks.

The Forest Oaks Sales Center
1200 Shiloh St.
Cedar Park, TX 78613

Silver Leaf Sales Center
209 Aspen Trail
Round Rock, TX 78664

Hours of Operation
Monday – Thursday & Saturday, 10am to 7pm
Friday & Sunday, 11am to 7pm

About Buffington Signature Homes
Buffington Signature Homes is dedicated to building homes that will last a lifetime. A locally owned company with a wealth of experience, Buffington Signature Homes combines innovative floor plans, skilled craftsmanship and an exceptional buying experience to deliver homes with value that each and every customer is proud to live in. Proudly building fine communities and new homes in South Austin, Round Rock and Cedar Park.  Home prices vary per community, from the $210’s to the mid $300’s, ranging in size from 2000 to 3700 sq ft with new plans in development to go over 4000 sq ft.

Media Contact:
Grant Whittenberger
Vice President of Sales & Marketing

Wrong. It’s Actually a Great Time to Buy a New Home, Right Now.

by Grant Whittenberger

Across the nation, headlines continue to paint a gloomy picture of the current real estate market. Experts speak out in despair about mortgage rates, housing markets and foreclosures. And while much of what they say is true, the slowing market offers a silver lining for many potential homebuyers.

“A down market can offer plenty of benefits to homebuyers,” explains Grant Whittenberger, Vice President of Sales for Buffington Signature Homes. “With low interest rates, higher rents and lots of great homes to choose from, it’s actually a great time to consider buying a new home in Austin.”

To help potential buyers understand how they can benefit from the current market, Mr. Whittenberger shared these important factors that could make it the perfect time to buy a home.

Increasing Rent
With more people moving out of their homes and more potential homebuyers opting to wait, renters find themselves facing fewer options and higher prices for apartments and leases. Apartment complexes, rental agencies and rental property owners are facing higher costs for maintenance and upkeep, forcing a rise in their rates across the country. As rental rates continue to climb, the price stability of a fixed mortgage payment becomes a much more attractive option.

Low Interest Rates
Interest rates are still at near-record lows, making monthly mortgage payments considerably lower than what they would have been in the height of the real estate boom. And despite tighter standards on lending practices and requirements, lenders are still eager to work with buyers who have good credit. First-time homebuyers today can lock-in at considerably lower rates than those who bought in a few years ago, and existing homeowners can move up to a bigger or better home with substantially lower interest costs.

Competitive Prices
Many production builders are facing a surplus of inventory homes with a declining number of potential buyers, and they are cutting prices in response. “The last few years saw home prices rise at their fastest pace in history,” explains Whittenberger, “and it didn’t take long before they reached levels that a lot of buyers couldn’t afford. As builders adjust to the current market, prices are returning to normal levels and many new buyers have a chance to enter the market again.”

Great Selection
Along with lower prices, an overabundance of homes on the market can also provide buyers with plenty of opportunities to shop around for the perfect home. New community developments have been popping up throughout the region, with great new homes in Austin, as well as Round Rock and Cedar Park, offering buyers more choices than ever before. Buffington’s newest communities include Silver Leaf in Round Rock, Forest Oaks in Cedar Park, as well as two premier South Austin communities, The Bridges at Bear Creek and Southpark Meadows. The wide variety of homesites and options available in these communities means any buyer can find a home that fits their unique style and needs.

Energy Efficiency & Innovative Features
Every year new developments in appliances, construction techniques and green technologies help make homes use less water, gas and electricity. “New efficient construction techniques and Energy Star appliances help Buffington’s homes significantly reduce your monthly utility bills, potentially knocking hundreds of dollars off of your expenses,” explains Whittenberger. “We’ve also designed our homes around the way people live today, with contemporary features like additional wiring for internet and cable, specially-designed computer spaces and pre-wired setups for HDTVs.”

Investment & Appreciation
Despite the ups and downs, there is virtually no other investment or purchase that carries the same track record for value appreciation as homeownership. On the national level, home appreciation has historically risen 5 to 6 percent each year. And from 1991 to 2007 the median price of a new home rose from $120,000 to $246,900, more than doubling in value. Compared with the drastic potential for loss in the stock market, investing in a home is safe and profitable.

Tax Incentives
Added to the increased value of your home each year, significant tax incentives are in place to make owning (and eventually selling) that home more affordable. In most instances, any money you spend on interest and property taxes can be fully deducted from your income, saving thousands on taxes. Collectively, homeowners save almost $100 billion on mortgage interest and property deductions each year. And when it comes time to sell you home, more tax breaks help to ensure you make the most of your home’s appreciation.

The Economy in Austin & Texas
Despite the national downturn in the housing market, the economy in Austin and throughout Texas has remained comparatively strong. Thanks to Austin’s thriving business and technology industries, and large defense and oil industry influences across Texas, the housing market has remained relatively insulated from the extreme highs and lows found in other areas. In fact, Entrepreneur magazine recently placed the Austin/Killeen/Round Rock area at the top of its “Best Places to Buy” list, citing low prices and high job growth as key indicators. While that may insulate the market from the extreme low prices found in other parts of the country, it also means your home will likely be a more secure investment with a greater resale potential.

The time is NOW
Production builders continue to adjust their business to meet the conditions of the market, cutting back on their new supply of homes and cutting prices on their existing inventory. Many experts believe the production and inventory of homes on the market will return to normal levels by later this year. “Then the opportunity will be gone,” says Whittenberger. “As builders adjust the market, there are great chances for buyers to come out ahead, but once the adjustment is over, most of those chances will have passed.”

For those hoping to “time the market” and make the most of current conditions: The time is NOW.

For more information on the best new homes in South Austin, Round Rock, and Cedar Park, visit

About Buffington Signature Homes
Buffington Signature Homes is dedicated to building homes that will last a lifetime. A locally owned company with a wealth of experience, Buffington Signature Homes combines innovative floor plans, skilled craftsmanship and an exceptional buying experience to deliver homes with value that each and every customer is proud to live in. Proudly building fine communities and new homes in South Austin, Round Rock and Cedar Park. Home prices vary per community, from the $210’s to the mid $300’s, ranging in size from 2000 to 3700 sq ft with new plans in development to go over 4000 sq ft.

Media Contact:
Grant Whittenberger
Vice President of Sales & Marketing

Expert Advice on Making Your Move-Up Home Purchase a Success

by Grant Whittenberger

Buffington Signature Homes offers expert advice how to move up the right way.

Many factors can lead a homeowner to decide it’s time to move from their current home to a new one. Some move-up buyers have growing families that require additional living space and more bedrooms. Others may have been first-time homebuyers with limited budgets who now have money and equity to put towards the home they wanted all along. Still others may be hoping to move to a different part of town or a newer neighborhood. Whatever your reason for joining the ranks of “move-up homebuyers,” there are plenty of important factors to consider before moving on to your new home.

With the help of one local Austin homebuilder, we’ve put together a list of tips to ensure your move-up purchase is a success. Buffington Signature Homes is the newest homebuilding venture from veteran Austin builder and developer, Tom Buffington. The company currently builds in two of the area’s premier communities; Silver Leaf in Round Rock and Forest Oaks in Cedar Park. In the mid-May, Buffington will begin offering homes in South Austin at The Bridges at Bear Creek and Southpark Meadows. If you’re in the market to move-up or move-down, consider these important tips to ensure you get the home you deserve.

Selling Your Current Home
Before you can begin to seriously think about the home you want, it helps begin by focusing on the home you already own. How much is it worth? How much would you sell it for? In this process, an experienced real estate agent can be your best ally. Some agents specialize in helping move-up buyers sell their current home and find their new one at the same time. In fact, Buffington Signature Homes works with one of Austin’s premier realtors, Kevin Elliott of Keller Williams’ Home Resource Group.  “Buyers probably have a quasi-accurate assessment of what their home is worth.  I start off by talking about what separates their home from your competition,” says Kevin.  “Just like not all builders are the same, not all realtors are the same.  In the Austin area, the ‘average’ realtor sells less than 7 homes per year, our team of experienced agents averages over 35 homes per year.”

“People coming to see your home may have no imagination, no time and not much extra money,” says Grant Whittenberger, VP of Sales for Buffington Signature Homes.  “Image is everything.  In the buyer’s mind, what they see is what they get.  This is why Model Homes are always in such great shape.  No buyer is going to pay top dollar for a home that looks like it is in need of repair, updating, even just a good cleaning—that’s why the home you are selling must be in the best shape possible if you want the best price possible.”

Figuring Out Your Budget
Your real estate agent can provide an accurate estimate of how much your current home will sell for. Combined with your current spending and savings, you should use this information to develop a clear idea of the budget for your new home. Once you’ve established your budget, you can begin looking for builders with homes in your price range. It’s important to find a builder that specializes in your particular price range, because they should have the most experience in building homes at the best quality possible while still remaining within your budget.

Choosing What’s Most Important
Now it’s time to begin looking at houses. With a wide range of options in your new home’s location, size, layout and features, figuring our what’s most important to you and your family can help simplify the process. Narrowing your search to a few key areas of interest will help ensure you’re happy in your decision to move up.

The Location
For many people, the decision to move is essentially about the location. New communities and retail centers are cropping up in great areas all over the Austin area, and new roads are providing better access to work, recreation and entertainment. If you’re looking for a new home in a prime location, Buffington Signature Homes currently offers homes and homesites in Silver Leaf, one of Round Rock’s premier new home communities, and Forest Oaks, located just off the 183A Toll Road in Cedar Park. Later this month, they will also begin offering homes in The Bridges at Bear Creek and Southpark Meadows in South Austin.

The Living Space
While some buyers are focused on the location, others are more concerned with life inside their home. One of the most common reasons a buyer seeks to move up is the need for more space. Whether it’s additional rooms, a bigger kitchen or more family gathering space, additional square footage can make a big difference. But it’s not always about the numbers. Effective use of space in a home’s layout and design can make a big difference in how “livable” your home feels. Buffington’s innovative floorplans utilize additional spaces in useful ways, like setting aside areas for desks so that the spare bedroom doesn’t have to double as the computer room.

Quality of Construction
It’s always a good idea to remember that the most important features of your new home might be the ones you can’t see. Learn as much as you can about each builder’s construction standards and materials, and beware of discount builders that use shortcuts or inferior materials to cut costs. Every Buffington home is built to the highest quality standards, with engineered frames and foundations, traditionally framed roofs and detailed construction standards for flooring and walls. Ensuring your home is built to these quality standards can help protect your investment and virtually eliminate day-to-day maintenance.

Features and Finishes
Of course, when comes to a new home, what’s on the outside can mean just as much as what’s inside the walls. Another important point of comparison is in each builder’s standard features and finishes for their homes. Different homes can include a range of features from big to small, like appliances, window treatments or high-end plumbing and lighting fixtures. While some builders pass on the additional cost of  these “luxuries” to their customers, more than 90 high-end finishing touches, called Signature Features, come standard in every Buffington home.

Building vs. Existing Inventory
In many of the area’s premier communities, you’ll also have the option of buying a home from your builder’s existing inventory or building one for yourself. Each of these options can have benefits for different buyers. Of course, building your home from the ground up offers the opportunity to select the site, design and features that best fit your needs. Buffington offers a selection of innovative floorplans and prime homesites in their communities, as well as an additional Signature Options, or special features that their customers can choose to further personalize their new home. However, if you’re a little more flexible in your tastes or if you’ve found the perfect home on the perfect lot already, buying a home from your builder’s existing inventory has its advantages. Inventory homes are typically less expensive than customized or specially designed homes. Plus, when you buy a model that’s already completed, you can start the move-in process right away! Buffington Signature Homes currently offers a great selection of homes in Silver Creek and Forest Oaks.

These are just a few of the details to consider when you’re ready to move up to the new home of your dreams. For more information on moving up to a Buffington Signature Home, go to or visit the Silver Leaf Sales Center at: 209 Aspen Trail, Round Rock, TX 78664.

Important Tips for Finding a High Quality Home

by Grant Whittenberger

Buffington Signature Homes shares details on finding a new home that will last.

May 5, 2008 — Home Buying Season is in full swing and eager buyers are out touring new homes in Austin. But when it comes time to compare similar looking homes in similar locations, the most important features may not be so apparent.

Once you’ve settled on a specific neighborhood or area, it’s important to begin comparing the construction standards and features available from each of the homebuilders in that area. Grant Whittenberger, Vice President of Sales for Buffington Signature Homes, has gladly offered up a list of the most important features you should ask about to ensure the home you’re looking at is a keeper.

The Foundation

First, find out what kind of foundation the homes have. The soil in Central Texas is notorious for causing shifting and cracking in home foundations, which leads to sloping floors, cracked walls and sticky windows and doors. All of the foundations in Buffington’s homes are designed and approved by an engineer to ensure they remain stable and intact for the life of your home.

The Roof

The second most important part of a home after the foundation is the roof. Poorly framed roofs can lead to leaking and buckling on the outside, as well as cracking and nails that push through ceilings on the inside. While many volume builders use pre-fabricated roof trusses, Buffington’s homes feature traditionally framed trusses, where a little extra effort can ensure a much more stable and secure roof.

The Framing

The way a new home is framed also plays an important role in the overall stability and character of its construction. Buffington’s homes feature fully engineered, wind-braced frames. The extra bracing prevents the home from racking or twisting in higher winds, where even the slightest movement can lead to cracking walls and stuck doors or windows. The interior and exterior of these walls are wrapped in heavy-duty, half-inch OSB board, further preventing movement and also adding an extra layer of noise insulation. Additionally, all structural beams are sized by an engineer for proper load ratings, protecting against beams that are too small (and unstable) or too big (and unnecessarily expensive).

The Flooring

Many buyers are concerned with the floor coverings in a new home, but what’s underneath them can be even more important. To cut costs, many builders use pre-fabricated I-joists to build their floors, which can lead to floors that bounce and squeak. But Buffington’s floors are built with 16-inch-deep trusses, the deepest flooring support. The trusses are spaced 24 inches apart throughout the home, with just 16 inches of space master bedrooms and game rooms where the loads are typically heavier. On top of that, the homes feature three-quarter-inch tongue-and-groove sub-floors that are secured with screws and industrial adhesive, ensuring against squeaking, bouncing and those annoying nails that can stick up beneath floor coverings. Deeper floors and heavier sub-flooring also add extra noise insulation between floors.

Interior Walls

When it comes to framing the interior walls, builders can cut costs by cutting back on materials and labor. Many builders frame interior walls with studs spaced 24-inches apart where the code permits, but Buffington’s homes are built with 16-inch centers throughout. The closer spacing adds stability and further protects against cracking and shifting as the home ages. They also secure all sheetrock with screws instead of nails, preventing against nails that can push through walls and ceilings over time.


Throughout this entire building process, Buffington Signature Homes requires four separate, independent inspections on the structure of the home. With two separate inspections on the foundation, one at the framing stage and one final inspection when the home is complete, Buffington can ensure the structural integrity of their homes, and they’ll give you the paperwork to prove it.

These are just a few examples of the many ways that volume builders can cut corners and save money at the homeowner’s expense. But for Buffington, the extra effort and extra materials are a part of creating homes that their customers are proud to live in. A little hard work during construction can virtually eliminate the daily maintenance that many homebuyers find themselves stuck with in a new home.


Buffington Signature Homes is the newest homebuilding venture from veteran Austin builder and developer, Tom Buffington. The company currently builds in two of the area’s premier communities; Silver Leaf in Round Rock and Forest Oaks in Cedar Park. Later this summer, Buffington will begin offering homes in Austin at The Bridges of Bear Creek and Southpark Meadows. Even in these highly competitive areas for new homes, Buffington Signature Homes stands out from the crowd with these important distinctions.

Buffington recently opened their first sales center at Silver Leaf. The Silver Leaf Sales Center offers customers a chance to experience the builder’s quality construction and innovative floorplans in person, and the sales staff is on hand every day to help interested buyers find their new home. In May, they will also open a model in Forest Oaks, located just off the new 183A toll road in Cedar Park, with two more models coming later this summer at The Bridges of Bear Creek and Southpark Meadows in Austin.

For more information on Buffington Signature Homes, visit or visit the Silver Leaf Sales Center at:
209 Aspen Trail,
Round Rock, TX 78664.

Sailfish & Safety – Important Tips to Make Your Deep Sea Fishing Holiday a Great One

Manzanillo is known for many things, but it is most known for being the “Sailfish Capital of the World.” Fishermen (and women!) come from all over to go deep sea fishing and hopefully catch “the big one.” But there are a few things you should keep in mind before sailing the high seas.

Tip #1: Check the Weather Report

Your boat captain should be doing this anyway, but it never hurts to just look at the weather report and make sure there isn’t a storm on the way. A good rule of thumb: if all of the other boats are staying docked, then you probably should too.

Tip #2: Double Check Your Gear

The day before your excursion, go through all of your equipment. Make sure everything works and that you have aren’t running out of anything. Try to get this done before noon so you can get replacements before the stores close.

Do the batteries in your flashlight work and do you have back-ups? Do you have a functional first aid kit? Do you have a waterproof bag for your wallet and cell phone and does it attach to your clothing correctly? Do you have rations in case you are stuck on the water for a couple of days? Do you have a couple of flares in case you need to signal someone in the night?

All of these items may sound small, but could be very important if something happened.

Tip #3: Make Sure the Radio is Working

Before you let the boat leave the dock, ask the captain if he has checked the. If they have a GPS system, check to see if that is working too.

Tip #4: Find the Life Jackets

Hopefully, your captain will go through some quick safety features before you leave. Make sure you know where the life jackets, rafts and/or lifeboats are located. In addition, find out where the fire extinguishers are located.

Tip #5: Learn Meditation

Sometimes a minor problem can turn into a catastrophe if everyone panics. Remain calm and offer the captain and his crew help in handling other passengers. If they are your family, make sure that you are firm in your instructions and show confidence.

Tip #6: Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Some deep sea fish are very strong and can pull a person off a boat. Be sure that your fishing rod is securely anchored and that you are also attached to the boat in some way in case your rod gets free. If you have children with you, this is extremely important. Little Billy isn’t going to win a battle with Señor Fish.

Tip #7: Leave Your Information

Make sure that somebody has a copy of your vital information before you leave. If your spouse is staying on the mainland, be sure that she knows what you are doing, the name of the charter company, when you should be returning and other information that will be helpful in case something happens. This includes any medical information and names and numbers of emergency contacts back home.

If you are traveling alone or your entire party is going on the trip, it is a good idea to leave your information with the front desk so that you have someone looking out for you.

All of these tips don’t take very long and they could save your life. Make sure that your trip is a happy one and not a disaster.

Happy fishing!

If you would like more information on fishing safety, go to Take Me Fishing. Not only do they have a great site, but they also have some wonderful information about fishing and safety.

This article was brought to you by Cascadas de Manzanillo, a new development of luxury real estate in Mexico located in Manzanillo, Mexico, the “Sailfish Capital of the World.”

Playing Golf in Friendly Confines

New trend in golf course design appealing to mother nature

When you think of golf courses, what first comes to mind?

The grass? The golf carts? The numbers?

What about the birds? Do you think about how many kinds of flowers line the 18th hole? Do you notice the wildlife that quietly nibbles the rough?

Probably not. But a new trend in golf course design is starting to change peoples’ minds when they are looking for a golf club to call their own.

I’m talking about an environmentally friendly golf course. Sound far-fetched? You’d be surprised at how many courses are currently involved with creating a green community. According to the Audubon International, there are 27 countries, including the United States, that are protecting and improving their courses. That’s more than 2,110 golf courses.

It’s more than a fad. It’s becoming a standard practice and statistics have shown that today’s consumer is looking for an environmentally friendly golf community to build their dream home.

What is Audubon Certification?

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses provides guidelines that help courses work to protect precious natural resources, habitats and the game of golf. Achieving and maintaining certification demonstrates a deep commitment to environmental management and protection. A course can achieve certification by implementing environmental practices and documenting the results. This demonstrates leadership as a steward of the environment and publicly recognizes and rewards environmental achievements.

Let’s take a look at two golf communities that are Audubon Certified.

The Golf Club at Briar’s Creek

South Carolina Real Estate is Known for its MarshesThe Lowcountry of South Carolina is known for its pristine wetlands, beautiful trees and abundance of wildlife. When the developers of Briar’s Creek were in the beginning stages of designing the award-winning golf course, they knew that they had something special and felt a need to protect the area around the proposed golf course community.

“Briar’s Creek has a coveted number of large oaks; some are spectacular specimens,” said Steve Koenig, founder and developer of the South Carolina golf community. “So we didn’t want to disturb our canopy of trees.”

They contacted the Audubon International and entered the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses (ACSP). By working closely with the group, Briar’s Creek became South Carolina’s first Certified Silver Audubon Signature Sanctuary and continues to this day to make sure that they meet the principles put in place by the society.

In Kiawah Island, real estate is in high demand and because of the high standards placed on the luxury homes in the area, buyers have become very discriminating in where they live. Creating an environmentally friendly golf community was a good way to give these buyers a reason to want to build at Briar’s Creek. Not only are the homes extraordinary, but they are surrounded by carefully protected South Carolina foliage and wildlife.

“We have an opportunity here at Briar’s Creek to kind of set a standard for development in the entire region,” Koenig said.

Gull Lake View Golf Club & Resort

Cranes are a common site at Gull Lake ViewAnother golf course that became a Certified Silver Audubon Signature Sanctuary is Gull Lake View in Augusta, Michigan. When Darl Scott purchased 120 acres in the late 1950s, little did he know what his impact would be on Southwest Michigan real estate. In 1995, all five golf courses gained Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary status and they couldn’t be happier. The Scott Family views their courses not only as wonderful places for people to enjoy the game of golf, but also as great habitats for all types of wildlife.

And a happy golf course means happy Michigan real estate. Cranes Pond, a neighborhood next to Gull Lake View, adopted the natural outlook and stresses the importance of protecting the environment. There is a great deal of attention being placed on preserving natural resources and the habitat on the encompassing land. Considerable care and planning was done prior to design in order to assure that the very qualities that make Crane’s such a magnificent place to live, were not destroyed by the construction of roads and houses. A habitat and biological survey of the entire property was done for an entire year as part of the overall design process.

If more communities in the area take the torch and improve their neighborhoods to meet the Audubon standards, then Southwest Michigan will become one of the most stunning areas in the country and highly-sought after real estate.

What Can You Do?

If you are a member of a golf course and this program interests you, talk to your general manager, ask if they are Audubon Certified and, if not, when or if they are looking into becoming certified. Talk to your fellow club members and see if they are aware of the benefits of this certification. Urge them to talk to the general manager. Odds are that your golf club is aware of the program, but it is possible that they have never heard of it and might be very interested in becoming certified.

Imagine being able to raise your children in a place where they can learn to not only appreciate nature, but also to understand how the eco-system works as a whole and to better appreciate the game of golf.

You win and mother nature wins.

About the Author

This article was written by Kimberly Carrillo, who works with The Golf Club at Briar’s Creek and Gull Lake View Golf Club & Resort.

If you are interested in finding out more about South Carolina golf, consider contacting the good folks at Briar’s Creek. They are an exclusive, private golf club located in Charleston, SC with a limit of 300 members.

If you like Illinois golf or are looking for a Michigan golf course, contact Gull Lake View, an established, Michigan golf course. Gull lake View has five golf courses and a resort that make a great vacation destination and also a wonderful place to live.

Be sure to also check out the information about the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses.

Tuscan-style is All the Rage

Old World Italian Architecture Gains Popularity in US

Old World aesthetics have recently been embraced by the United States. The proof is in the architecture! By far, the most popular housing style in the United States these days, including the Southern state of Texas, is Italiante, also known as Tuscan, the Lombard or simply, the bracketed style.

New homes in AustinTuscan-style home plans typically feature distinctive stucco exteriors and low-pitched barrel tile roofs. Tuscan-style designs may also include arched windows, raised entries and a courtyard in addition to the following:

  • Balanced, symmetrical rectangular shape
  • Tall appearance, with 2, 3 or 4 stories
  • Wide, overhanging eaves with brackets and cornices
  • Square cupola
  • Tiles
  • Porch topped with balustraded balconies
  • Side bay windows
  • Molded double doors
  • Roman arches above windows and doors

About the Tuscan-style

The Tuscan-style originated in England in the 1840s. Prior to that time, British homes were more formal and classical in appearance. With the picturesque movement, builders began designing elegant recreations of Italian villas. When this style was adopted by the US, it was reinvented again with an American twist. By the late 1860s, the Tuscan-style house was the most preferred architectural style for homes in the US, and it has maintained its popularity to this day. Why?

Historians say the Tuscan-style became prevalent for primarily two reasons:

  • Tuscan-style homes can be built with many different kinds of materials, and the style can be adapted to a wide range of budgets
  • New technologies have made the production of cast-iron and press-metal fast and affordable

If you’ve ever had the good fortune to travel to Italy, then you are already well-acquainted with the richness of the warm colors and beautiful style of this type of architectural design. Now, you no longer have to travel abroad to experience Italy; make your next house or give your current house a taste of Tuscany.

Take a moment to view an extensive photo gallery of homes that stress Tuscan design.

This article was written by Jeff Watson Homes, a custom home builder in Austin, TX who specializes in Tuscan home design. If you are looking to build a Tuscan home in Central Texas, drop Jeff Watson a line and he will be happy to talk to you about your ideas.

As a Design/Build company, Jeff Watson Homes can assure you get exactly what you are looking for. Whether you purchase one of our new homes for sale on our lot or let us help you design a new custom home to build on your lot, Jeff Watson Homes is committed to see that you remain satisfied every step of the way.