The Mark Cabal Team
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Arlington TX Real Estate Blog

Before and After: Home Exteriors

Maximize curb appeal with an exterior makeover. See how these 24 facades went from ordinary to unforgettable.

Before: Dreary Ranch

A hodgepodge of brick and crumbling concrete gave this ranch a dated appearance that buried its potential.

After: Warmer Welcome

Painting the exterior a warm white and coating the shutters in khaki, just a few shades darker than the house, was a budget-friendly move with big impact. Blue slate steps and stacked stone risers carve a clear path to the entrance, where new a portico defines the entry and creates a transition between the inside and out.

Before: Easily Overlooked

Surrounded by rose-filled lanes, historical architecture, and picturesque harbors, this vacation cottage in Nova Scotia has enjoyed scenic views since 1875 -- but along the way, the house itself lost some of its charm.

After: Village Charmer

Without sacrificing historical character, gray-blue ...

6 Ideas For Creating An Inviting Courtyard

6 Ideas For Creating An Inviting Courtyard

The majority of homeowners buy a house for the purpose of having their own space, including a private backyard. Designing a courtyard doesn’t have to be complicated. It does, however, need to be carefully planned before starting any of the makeover work.

A backyard can be whatever you want to make of it. I believe that creating a relaxing space to enjoy nature, BBQ with the family or read a good book, is well worth the time, energy and money it takes to design a lovely courtyard.

See six ideas for creating an inviting courtyard and turn your patio into the secret garden you’ve always dreamed of.


1. The Right Location

Location is everything when you’re building the perfect backyard. Where the sun hits, the direction the wind blows and the view are all aspects to highly consider when planning out your courtyard. Depending on the size of your backyard, there may be several different spots where your courtyard could go. For example, next to the house versus the rear part of your yard.

Existing landscape should also be evaluated, including if there’s any sloping, and the soil should be properly analyzed. Sun, wind and rain are all weather conditions out of your control, but what is in your control is picking the best spot possible for your patio.


How to Know If the Housing Market is Improving

To know if the housing market in any given year is improving, you've got to compare activity
not only month-over-month but also year-over-year. Real estate markets move in cycles.
Sometimes the market is up and sometimes the market dips. The mortgage meltdown of 2007
taught us in a big way that real estate prices do not continually rise. The housing market can crash.
That 2007 crisis shattered dreams and threw the housing market into a panic.

Through sheer tenacity, I've managed to survive many volatile real estate markets from the past.
During the late 1970s, interest rates were 18% and many first-time home buyers were priced out
of the market. In the mid-80s, the tax reform act of 1986 had a seriously negative affect on the real
estate market.
We'll never forget the fall of the housing market that began at the end of summer in 2005.


How to Plan and Capture a Perfectly Aligned Moonrise Photo


Photographing the moon can be spectacular—a rising full moon looks very big and is often red. And combining a spectacular moonrise shot with landscapes or objects in close-up can give really great results.

For close ups you obviously need a long lens. 150-600+ is recommended. For my own shots I have used the Sony A7RII with the Sigma 150-600 with Sigma MC-11 adapter. Sony doesn’t have really long native e-mount lenses hence the choice for the Sigma. In this guide I’ll explain how you can plan and make shots of moonrises and moonsets.

The Idea

When capturing photos, in general, the idea behind the photo is often as important as the execution of the shot. This is definitely the case when taking shots of a rising moon in combination with objects such as buildings and landscapes.

The moonrise (and moon set) happens very quick, so you don’t have much time to take your shot. Planning is crucial.

First, think of nice objects in your neighborhood that stand out above the tree line. Or look for higher vantage points to shoot from. Next, it’s important that you have a rough idea of where the moon is rising or setting. In this example we use my shot ‘Nine Fifty Five’ as an example in which the moon is rising next to a Church tower.


5 Ways to Get Back on Track After a Budget Hit

You’re casually going through your email when one message catches your eye and makes you say, “Oh, shoot!” The email says your car insurance payment is due in 30 days—and the message is 29 days old.


Money mishaps like this happen to everyone. Whether you forget about a bill or overspend on groceries or entertainment, budgets can take a hit. But getting your budget back on track is simple, even when it gets dinged! Here are five ways you and your money can recover.

1. Rearrange your budget. Look for areas where you haven’t maxed out your monthly spending yet. Think nonessentials like entertainment, clothing and restaurants. Rearrange the money in these categories to even things out.

2. Use your emergency fund. Sometimes a forgotten medical bill or yearly HOA dues are big enough to use your emergency savings. It’s all right to do that as long as you aren’t tapping into that money every other month. Pay the bill, and then restock your rainy day fund immediately.

3. Adjust next month’s spending. If you are overspending on groceries or you got a little too excited buying landscaping supplies for fall, it could indicate how your budget is trending. Add more money to those areas in next month’s budget so you are better prepared. It’s okay if you spend more—just make sure to account for it!

4. Make a long-term plan. Create notes on your calendar about expenses in certain months so you’ll know to adjust your budget. Give yourself a heads-up about car insurance bills or a weekend anniversary trip by looking at the calendar each time you make a new budget.

5. Give yourself some grace....

New down payment option could boost homeownership

This is the first time a 'shared-equity' program with no interest payments has been approved by a federal mortgage agency

  • Freddie Mac is piloting a program that lets homebuyers get half of a 20 percent down payment covered by a financial firm (Unison Home Ownership Investors) in exchange for home equity.

  • Twenty Unison-boosted loans have closed so far, with 10 going to first-time buyers, but lenders expect to generate "thousands" over the next few years.

New down payment assistance is putting homeownership within reach of more consumers and boosting the buying power of others, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Federal mortgage guarantor Freddie Mac is piloting a groundbreaking program that lets homebuyers get half of a 20 percent down payment covered by a financial firm in exchange for home equity.

The down payment assistance comes from Unison Home Ownership Investors (formerly First Rex) — a San Francisco-based firm that invests in homes alongside owner-occupant buyers and lets homeowners sell home equity for cash.

How the program works

Participating borrowers can fork over a 10-percent down payment and end up with the same monthly mortgage bill as borrowers who use their own money to cover the full 20 percent for the same...

Travel Photography Tips: What To Look For When Taking Travel Photos

Readers are often asking what camera I use to capture my travel photos around the world – but the truth is that your gear is just the start of capturing great travel photos, the next steps are learning how to use your camera and learning what to look for to take a great shot.

Admittedly, I’m pretty amateur when it comes to photography. I haven’t taken any courses and everything I know I’ve learned by a process of trial and error – so this post will be most useful to you if you’re a beginner (like me!) and are about to head off overseas (because travel photos are the only photos I really take).

Travel photography tips

First up, my gear.

When I first started travelling I invested in a large DSLR camera because to me, they looked pretty professional/like I’d know what I’m doing. But the truth was that I had very...

Watch out: Cell phones can be addictive

Too much dependence on your smartphone isn’t smart

The average college student uses a smartphone for about nine hours each day.

That’s longer than many of those students spend sleeping. In fact, such extended cell phone use shows that the technology could become an addiction, according to a new study. An addiction is a type of uncontrolled and unhealthy habit.

It’s well known that people can become addicted to drugs, such as alcohol, narcotics and the nicotine in cigarettes. What’s not so well known: “People can be addicted to behaviors,” says James Roberts. He’s a marketing professor at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Roberts also was the lead author of the new study. It appears in the August Journal of Behavioral Addictions.  

Some cell phone users show the same symptoms that a drug addict might have, Roberts explains. Certain people use smartphones to lift their moods. And it may take more and more time on those phones to provide the same level of enjoyment.

For such people, losing a phone or having its battery die could cause anxiety or panic. That’s withdrawal, says Roberts.

Too much phone use can interfere with normal activities or cause conflicts with family and other people, he adds. Yet despite these social costs, people may not cut back on their heavy phone use. Indeed, he says, people might be unable to stop on their own.

The new study asked college students how much time they spent on different phone activities. It also asked them how much they agreed or disagreed with statements suggesting possible addiction. “I spend more time than I should on my cell phone,” said one such statement. “I get agitated when my cell phone is not in sight,” said another. (Agitated means nervous or troubled.) The more calls someone made, the more likely they were to show signs of addiction.

The data also differed...

Basic Advice for Newlyweds On Picking Out Furniture

Newlyweds have trouble enough without having to worry about picking out furniture. In a perfect world, every newly married bride and groom has rich enough friends that the bridal shower includes teak dining tables, mahogany chests of drawers, sofas fitted with a freezer for keeping cold drinks cold, and a microwave for keeping popcorn warm. In my own experience, we had to scour every last coin we had just to get our life after marriage as comfortable and as pleasing as possible. Alas, such a perfect world is not the one into which most people marry.

Argue Now, Laugh Later

Then again, picking out your first furniture together may be one of the longest-lasting and happiest memories of your entire marriage. Of course, going shopping for furniture for the first time together as a couple can be a lot less interesting if you both share the same tastes. Fortunately, the trope that opposites attract is true often enough that very few newly wedded couples head to the furniture store with both parties in full agreement that French Provincial or Georgian or even Art Deco is the way to go. Here’s the thing to keep in mind when the debates over furniture styles start: you will one day look back on those arguments and laugh.

The point? Don’t be afraid to stake a claim for a Gate-leg table even if your so-called better half insists that his family has always been a dropleaf table family and always will be a dropleaf table family.

The Bare Necessities

You may have heard an old married couple boast that during their first year of marriage, the only furniture they owned was...

Small Kitchens, Smart Design

Clever layouts and storage solutions prove that small kitchens can be functional and fabulous.

Photo courtesy of Lowe's Creative Ideas

Storage Galore

The open shelves above and narrow cabinets on each side of the refrigerator make great use of all the available storage space in this small kitchen design. 

Going Glass

An easy way to visually expand a kitchen is to add glass. Upper glass front cabinets and pull-out pilasters for spices on each side of the range provide storage and add beauty to this smaller kitchen.

Design by ...

Going On A Photo Road Trip

Be ready for anything by packing for a journey with the essentials

Getting off the beaten path can inspire your photography with new subjects, unexplored environments and pictorial challenges. The farther you travel, the more secluded the locations, the more scenic the vistas and the more unspoiled nature can be. The difficulty with extended expeditions is that you’re often far removed from your home base, and that can be limiting.

Prepare in advance, however, and these challenges can be easily overcome. From navigating a safe course to carrying all of your gear to making sure you have steady support for sharp shots, bringing along these indispensable tools of the trade will keep your load light while filling your photo adventure with remarkable experiences and wonderful imagery.


On an extended road trip, your vehicle will carry your gear between parking areas. From the parking area to the shooting location, however, you’ll have to carry the equipment yourself. When a minimal amount of gear is needed, Tamrac’s compact Expedition 3 photo backpack (9x6.25x13 inches, two pounds) will hold a D-SLR with up to a seven-inch lens and three to four additional lenses, plus accessories. The pack is fully padded and has a giant rain flap to protect the main compartment in case you get caught in bad weather. Other features include a QuickClip tripod attachment system, Tamrac’s signature Memory & Battery Pack Management System and a padded backpack harness for enhanced comfort.

Estimated Street Price: $60.


China's Runaway Housing Market Poses Latest Challenge for Yuan

Here's the latest uncertainty facing China's currency: sky high house prices.

A runaway boom in the largest cities will push investors to look for cheaper alternatives overseas, draining money out of China and putting downward pressure on the yuan in the process, according to analysis by Harrison Hu, Chief Greater China Economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. in Singapore.

An "enlarged differential between domestic and foreign asset prices will lead to capital outflows and depreciation, until parity is restored,” Hu wrote in a note. He said that the 30 percent year-on-year price gain in Tier 1 and leading Tier 2 cities implies a 25 percent rise in dollar terms, which far outpaces the 5 percent gain in major U.S. cities. That ratio is here in red: 

Chart 9
Source: RBS, CEIC, Bloomberg


5 Affordable Ways to Upgrade an Outdated Bathroom

Recaulk, repaint and consider installing propane heating under the tiles.

A wise man once said, “You go to take a shower with the bathroom you have — not the bathroom you might want or wish to have at a later time.” Perhaps we’re paraphrasing, but how happy are you with your current master bathroom? This should be your oasis; an escape from the drudgery of your workday, and a place to sink into soothing bubbles with a glass of wine and mellow tunes pouring from your iPod.

That can’t happen in a bathroom that is dingy, dank and depressing.

Are you ready to upgrade your outdated bathroom? Here are some affordable ways to make your restroom truly restful:

Buy Used or Imperfect

Image result for bathroom countertop distressed

In a perfect world, you could be replacing your sink, countertop, tub, shower and even toilet. That can end up being an expensive proposition if you buy everything brand spanking new. Instead, be smart about your fixture purchases....

3 Ways to Simplify My Finances

Life is short, we all know that.  Over time, small tweaks to financial habits can build up into a bureaucratic nightmare.  That’s what I think happened to me and it caused an unnecessary burden.  At the time of my decision, I’m sure getting that bank bonus was a great idea.  I’m sure opening this new cash back credit card that is slightly different than my hotel points credit card appealed to me for some reason.  There is nothing wrong with adding layers, cards, rewards programs like Swagbucks, etc. and I don’t want that to be the takeaway here.  But for me, it has become too much. I want simplicity and efficiency with my financial habit.  In this article, I identified three pain points in my current finances and propose solutions and action items for each.

Method #1 – Consolidate Bank Accounts.  My mom opened my first bank account for me when I was a teenager.  It was the local National City Bank, the once proud Cleveland bank that was a victims of the financial crisis. My mom allowed me to upgrade to the Cleveland Browns debit card to show my diehard fandom.  Possessing that card was a badge of honor and I loved getting to show it off every opportunity I could.   Now PNC, it is one of the four banks that I currently use for a variety of reasons.  My fiance and I opened a bank account at another large bank in the area to begin our “house” account to cover the costs of the wedding and begin saving towards our first mortgage (which by the way, we are in no rush to buy a home!).  Bank number two was officially opened!  Then, I was introduced...