What Not to Do as a New Homeowner


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By John Riha

If you’re new to homeownership, you’ll definitely want to avoid these easy-to-prevent mistakes that could cost you big time.

Man planting a tree in his yard

We know so well the thrill of owning your own house — but don’t let the excitement cause you to overlook the basics. We’ve gathered up a half dozen classic boo-boos new homeowners often commit — and give you some insight on why each is critically important to avoid.

1. Not Knowing Where the Main Water Shutoff Valve Is

Water from a burst or broken plumbing pipe can spew dozens of gallons into your home’s interior in a matter of minutes, soaking everything in sight — including drywall, flooring, and valuables. In fact, water damage is one of the most common of all household insurance claims.

Quick-twitch reaction is needed to stave off a major bummer. Before disaster hits, find your water shutoff valve, which will be located where a water main enters your house. Make sure everyone knows where it’s located and how to close the valve. A little penetrating oil on the valve stem makes sure it’ll work when you need it to.

2. Not Calling 811 Before Digging a Hole

Ah, spring! You’re so ready to dig into your new yard and plant bushes and build that fence. But don’t — not until you’ve dialed 811, the national dig-safely hotline. The hotline will contact all your local utilities who will then come to your property — often within a day — to mark the location of underground pipes, cables, and wires.

This free service keeps you safe and helps avoid costly repairs. In many states, calling 811 is the law, so you’ll also avoid fines.

3. Not Checking the Slope of Foundation Soil

The ground around your foundation should slope away from your house at least 6 inches over 10 feet. Why? To make sure that water from rain and melting snow doesn’t soak the soil around your foundation walls, building up pressure that can cause leaks and crack your foundation, leading to mega-expensive repairs.

This kind of water damage doesn’t happen overnight — it’s accumulative — so the sooner you get after it, the better (and smarter) you’ll be. While you’re at it, make sure downspouts extend at least 5 feet away from your house.

4. Not Knowing the Depth of Attic Insulation

This goes hand-in-hand with not knowing where your attic access is located, so let’s start there. Find the ceiling hatch, typically a square area framed with molding in a hallway or closet ceiling. Push the hatch cover straight up. Get a ladder and check out the depth of the insulation. If you can see the tops of joists, you definitely don’t have enough.

The recommended insulation for most attics is about R-38 or 10 to 14 inches deep, depending on the type of insulation you choose. BTW, is your hatch insulated, too? Use 4-inch-thick foam board glued to the top.

5. Carelessly Drilling into Walls

Hanging shelves, closet systems, and artwork means drilling into your walls — but do you know what’s back there? Hidden inside your walls are plumbing pipes, ductwork, wires, and cables.

You can check for some stuff with a stud sensor — a $25 battery-operated tool that detects changes in density to sniff out studs, cables, and ducts.

But stud sensors aren’t foolproof. Protect yourself by drilling only 1¼ inches deep max — enough to clear drywall and plaster but not deep enough to reach most wires and pipes.

Household wiring runs horizontally from outlet to outlet about 8 inches to 2 feet from the floor, so that’s a no-drill zone. Stay clear of vertical locations above and below wall switches — wiring runs along studs to reach switches.

6. Cutting Down a Tree

The risk isn’t worth it. Even small trees can fall awkwardly, damaging your house, property, or your neighbor’s property. In some locales, you have to obtain a permit first. Cutting down a tree is an art that’s best left to a professional tree service.

Plus, trees help preserve property values and provide shade that cuts energy bills. So think twice before going all Paul Bunyan.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

7 Steps to Selling Your Home


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StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Investing in Real Estate


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Today’s low interest rates and stabilized home prices have created some great investment opportunities!  Investing in real estate has unique advantages over other types of investments:

  • Interest in mortgage loans are tax-deductible.  Investors can lower their tax liability while increasing their equity.
  • Renters pay down your mortgage loan.  Investors reap the benefits of rental income, which offsets your mortgage cost and build equity.
  • Real Estate values increase over the long term.  Real Estate is limited and will always be in demand.
  • 1031 exchanges are available to defer taxable income when you are ready to sell.

Many investors are taking advantage of these great market conditions. Have questions? Give us a call. We are happy to help!

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Selling a home: THE PRICE IS RIGHT…OR IS IT?


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If you are planning to put your home on the market — especially if you live in a place where prices are rising and buyers are competing for homes — it can be tempting to list your property at a high price hoping that you’ll actually get it. After all, it can work with cars, why not with homes?

Don’t do it. Resales of homes and automobiles are very different things.

Experienced Realtors who have been through dozens, scores, or even hundreds of transactions, will advise you to price your home appropriately from the outset because it’s pivotal to seeing the home sold quickly and at the best price. Research backs up what experienced Realtors already know: overpricing your home and then lowering the price a few times most often leads to a final sales price significantly below what you originally should have asked for it.

And, to make matters worse, the longer a home remains on the market, the deeper the discount is likely to be off the original price. Ouch!

How to price your home correctly

Many homeowners seek to price their home based on factors like the price they paid for it, the balance that they currently owe, or simply on the profit they need to buy another house or to meet their financial goals. These motivations are perfectly understandable but in reality the value of your home is what the market will bear. Here’s the problem: If a property is overpriced, some potential buyers will avoid looking at it at all (and having no one show up to see it is a pretty clear message from the market). Others may view the home but walk away without making an offer.

So, what can you do? Choose a Realtor who can provide you with the best comparative market analysis (CMA) and who understands your local area intimately. Some agents may attempt to woo you with an inflated price — it probably happens every day somewhere — but in the end the market will speak clearly, and choosing an experienced Realtor who understands the importance of market-driven pricing will end up being a choice you won’t regret.

Your Realtor’s CMA should include sales prices for similar properties nearby that have sold recently, prices for currently listed homes (these will be your competition), and prices of homes that were taken off the market because they didn’t sell. Look for a Realtor with demonstrated experience who can factor in a range of local market issues to produce that all-important first price.

If the price is right from the beginning, it usually means not only a faster sale, it typically means more money in your pocket.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

50 Things To Do With Kids In St. Louis Before (Or Even After) They Grow Up


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By Angela of Fluid Pudding

I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Sadly, when you’ve lived somewhere for years and years (and years), it’s sometimes difficult to view your city as a tourist in order to avoid the “There’s nothing to do here!” vibe. I’m happy to say that my interest in St. Louis was recharged about five years ago after we welcomed our daughter Meredith into the family. Seriously? This town is simply bubbling with events and attractions for kids of any age. Here are some of the things we love to do.

1. Pick up a sandwich from Amighetti’s on the Hill (they have a great kids menu, too!), enjoy a picnic lunch in Forest Park, and spend the afternoon at the St. Louis Zoo! Admission is free!

Things to Do With Kids in St. Louis

2. Travel back to the good old days and enjoy a chocolate phosphate and a chili dog from Crown Candy.

3. Check out an Omnimax show at the St. Louis Science Center. While you’re there, take a few hours to explore the special exhibits–including the space show at the Planetarium!

4. Let your imagination go wild at the City Museum. The shorties will especially love the recently expanded Toddler Town, and because the museum is open until one in the morning on weekends, the adults can come back in the evening and play big people style.

5. Get out on a rainy day and explore the St. Louis Art Museum. Many family programs are offered during the spring and summer months!

6. Get your exercise by strolling around 100+ acres of outdoor art at Laumeier Sculpture Park. (Art camps are offered during the summer for kids ages 4-15.)

7. Put on your big goofy foam fingers and head to Busch Stadium for a Cardinals game! (Be sure to stop by Gus’s Pretzels on the way to the stadium! They’ve been twisting pretzels for nearly 100 years!)

Things to Do With Kids in St. Louis

8. Head over to Fitz’s Root Beer for an amazingly fun lunch. If you get there early enough, you can request a table near the bottling line. That will keep the kids hypnotized until the food is delivered! (Added bonus: The kid meals are delivered in a mini car!)

9. Grab your eye patches and parrots and head out to the St. Louis Pirate Festival! There are merchants aplenty and lots of swashbuckling!

10. If my grandma was still with us, she would to tell you to pack up the kids and head to Hodak’s for lunch. I think you’ll agree that they serve the best chicken in St. Louis, and have been doing so for nearly 50 years.

11. Take a tram ride through Grant’s Farm, where you’ll see free roaming bison, antelope, and zebra! While there, be sure to visit the Budweiser Clydesdale Stables, where up to 15 foals are born each year.

12. If you’re itching for a theme park, Six Flags is surprisingly clean! If it’s particularly hot, you might want to walk over to Hurricane Harbor and enjoy one of the country’s largest wave pools.

13. If, like me, you’re in love with the smell of old books, you need to make the trip to the Greater St. Louis Book Fair. Located in the West County Mall parking lot, the fair opens for four days in the spring. During that time, over a million books, CDs, and DVDs are available, and the funds raised provide services to promote education and literacy in the St. Louis Metropolitan area.

14. Take some time to study the St. Louis Walk of Fame while you’re strolling around the University City Loop. You’ll be surprised at how many amazing men and women have called St. Louis their home!

15. For an especially unique tour of the city, grab your bike at midnight and join in on the Moonlight Ramble. If your kids aren’t up for the twenty mile tour, a ten mile tour is available!

16. Learn all about the history of St. Louis at the Missouri History Museum. Be sure to check the schedule during the spring and summer months to see which local bands are performing (for free!) during the museum’s Twilight Tuesdays concert series!

17. Head on down to the riverfront and travel to the top of the Gateway Arch! Helicopter rides are available for those who want an even more elevated view of the city.

Things to Do With Kids in St. Louis

18. Learn a bit about The Poet of Childhood at the Eugene Field House and St. Louis Toy Museum.

19. Explore four floors of hands-on activities at The Magic House St. Louis Children’s Museum. Be sure to take a ride on the three story slide!

20. See a show at the Fox Theater. If the show schedule doesn’t interest you, take a tour of the building!

21. Explore the marketplace at St. Louis Union Station. While you’re there, enjoy the entertainment at The Fudgery and ride a paddle boat around the lake!

22. Take a short drive down to Kimmswick. While strolling around this lovely town, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the many antique shops and historic buildings. (Be sure to eat a slice of pie or two at the famous Blue Owl!) Check out the Kimmswick Event Schedule. It seems like there’s always something going on. (My favorite is the Apple Butter Festival. I’m a sucker for apple butter. On wheat toast. Good God.)

23. Bundle up, head downtown, and enjoy the St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade.

24. The Missouri Botanical Garden is a beautiful place to visit. Be sure to pack a picnic basket during the summer and attend one of their free Wednesday night concerts.

Things to Do With Kids in St. Louis

25. Are you looking for something safe to do with your family on New Years Eve? Plan on attending First Night Saint Louis–the visual and performing art festival that has been helping families ring in the new year since 1992!

26. Welcome the holiday season by driving through the Way of Lights. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you might want to take a ride on a camel! (If not, you can always pet a donkey at the petting zoo!) This light exhibit has been entertaining my family since I was a kid. (And that was a long time ago.)

27. The Great Forest Park Balloon Race is one of the most amazing things you’ll see. Be sure to visit Forest Park for the balloon glow held the evening before the race. (Seriously. Check out this amazing photo of the glow.)

28. You know you’ve always wanted to go to a Renn Faire. Why not attend the Greater St. Louis Renaissance Faire? It gets bigger and better every year. The merchant list alone is very impressive!

29. You’re not a true St. Louisan unless you’ve stood in line for a Ted Drewes frozen custard. (If you’re one of those people who never know what to order, get the Dutchman Delight Concrete. Chocolate, butterscotch, pecans… You’ll be thanking me for this recommendation.)

30. Check out Purina Farms, where visitors can milk a cow, watch a canine competition, or play in a hay loft!

Things to Do With Kids in St. Louis

31. St. Louis is proud to have its own one-ring European circus! Circus Flora made St. Louis its home in 1987, and the big top shows take place in June.

32. The St. Louis Jazz and Heritage Festival is one of my family’s favorite events. Good food, great music, and a musical petting zoo for the kids. Who could ask for anything more?

33. Are you in the mood for some exploration? You can pan for gold, dig for fossils, or take a riverboat ride while visiting Meramec Caverns.

34. The Wolf Sanctuary is an amazing place dedicated to the preservation of rare and endangered wolves. Be sure to call ahead to take the 1/2 mile walking tour, as the sanctuary closes during the breeding season.

35. See a show at America’s largest and oldest outdoor theater–The Muny. If you’re not in the mood to pay for premium seats, the theater offers 1,500 free seats in the last nine rows of the theater. (The free seats are available on a first come, first served basis, so get there early!)

36. If water parks are your thing, you’re going to love Raging Rivers. (Personally, I’m a big fan of the Endless River.)

Things to Do With Kids in St. Louis

37. Along with their spectacular concert program, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra offers several casual Family Concerts throughout the year, free community events, and amazing holiday concerts. There’s something for everyone at the symphony!

38. Enjoy the music, dancing, and presentations at the St. Louis Earth Day Festival.

39. If you find yourself in St. Louis on Independence Day, you need to spend some time at Fair St. Louis! So much food! So much music! An incredible fireworks display at the Gateway Arch!

40. Eat yourself silly at the International Horseradish Festival. The kids will enjoy the games, and you might enjoy participating in the Bloody Mary contest!

41. Buy some fresh produce at the oldest farmer’s market west of the Mississippi–the Soulard Farmer’s Market. If the peaches are good enough for Bill Clinton…

42. If a quiet stroll is what you need, the Butterfly House is perfect. The 8,000 square foot Conservatory Garden was designed to ensure a natural and safe habitat for nearly 60 species of butterfly!

Things to Do With Kids in St. Louis

43. During the summer months, be sure to scope out one of the many Frontyard Features. Free family-oriented movies under the stars! Perfect!

44. Although I’m not a big sports fan, I’ve always loved attending a St. Louis Blues hockey game. Rowdy crowd, arena food, and ice fights!

45. The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival provides professional and free Shakespeare performances outdoors! If you arrive early to the show, you’ll be entertained by fire eating clowns, jugglers, and various other strolling performers.

46. Visit an ancient Indian civilization at Cahokia Mounds! Public tours are available in June, July, and August.

47. There’s nothing quite like a good tailgate party before a St. Louis Rams game!

48. The Museum of Transportation showcases steam, diesel, and electric locomotives, as well as automobiles, streetcars, and aircraft. Their Creation Station is a big hit with kids ages five and under.

49. Pick peaches, strawberries, blackberries, apples, or pumpkins at one of Eckert’s Country Farms. You can even cut your own Christmas tree at Eckert’s during the holiday season!

Things to Do With Kids in St. Louis

50. Explore St. Louis by riding a riverboat on the Mississippi River! The Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher Riverboats offer many different types of cruises, including a sightseeing cruise your entire family will enjoy!

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Existing Homes Sales Report


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Driven partially by an increase in the percentage of sales to first-time buyers, existing-home sales grew in May to their highest pace in about a half dozen years, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Nationally, the Northeast region saw the largest sales increases but all major regions experienced sales increases in May.

Total existing-home sales, which tracks completed transactions for single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, increased 5.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million in May from an upwardly revised 5.09 million in April. Sales have now grown year-over-year for eight consecutive months and are 9.2 percent higher than a year ago (4.90 million).

Existing Home Sales By Region

NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said that home sales in May rebounded nicely following the decline witnessed in April and sales are now at the strongest pace since November 2009 (5.44 million). According to Yun, “Solid sales gains were seen throughout the country in May as more homeowners listed their home for sale and therefore provided greater choices for buyers.” Yun also added that, “overall supply still remains tight, homes are selling fast and price growth in many markets continues to teeter at or near double-digit appreciation. Without solid gains in new home construction, prices will likely stay elevated — even with higher mortgage rates above 4 percent.”

Other Takeaways

  • Total housing inventory at the end of May grew 3.2 percent to 2.29 million existing homes available for purchase; this is 1.8 percent more than a year ago (2.25 million). Unsold inventory now sits at a 5.1-month supply at the current sales pace which is down from 5.2 months in April.
  • The median existing-home price (all housing types) in May was $228,700, which is 7.9 percent higher than May 2014. This is the 39th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.
  • The share of the market represented by first-time buyers rose to 32 percent in May, up from 30 percent in April and matching the biggest share since September 2012. One year ago in 2014, first-time buyers represented 27 percent of all buyers.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Inspired Spring Decor – part 2


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By Better Homes and Gardens

Add bursts of bright color, energetic patterns, and lively springtime motifs to your home to effortlessly transition it into spring.

Simple, Stunning Makeovers

Simple, Stunning Makeovers
A gallon of paint is among the easiest tools for changing a space. Choose a springtime color that makes you feel happy; paint an accent wall or the whole room. For a more substantial yet still easy makeover, start with two new accents for the room, such as new window treatments and a rug. Match a paint color to your new duds (it’s easier to match paint colors to fabric and accessories than the other way around) and with just three things, you can have a brand-new room.

Bask in the Glow

Bask in the Glow
A vintage wire egg basket is the perfect starting point to create a distinctive light fixture. Look for a basket with an interesting pattern and a hole in the bottom for wiring. To fashion a shade, cut a strip of sheer fabric to the length and width of the inside of the basket, plus 1 inch for finishing. Sew the strip into a tube and stitch or glue to finish top and bottom edges. Tie the shade to the basket using twine and a large embroidery needle. Hot-glue a small twig nest to the handle for a sweet touch.

Sticker Style

Sticker Style
Peel-and-stick wall decals are a quick and simple update for any plain surface. This tall tree decal serves as a mural backdrop for an assortment of framed family pictures.

Decoupage Dream

Decoupage Dream
Put a spring in your home’s step with decoupage. Use flower motifs to introduce spring color and flair.

Fruit & Flowers

Fruit & Flowers
Kumquats in a vase of water make a unique base for stems of yellow tulips or other spring flowers. Fill a tray with Granny Smith apples for a pretty (and tasty!) coffee-table accent.

Coasting Along

Coasting Along
Turn inexpensive coasters into graphic wall art. Tape pretty letterpress coasters to colorful cardstock and display in ready-made frames. Create a shadowbox effect with a thick round coaster in a crisp square frame. For a more traditional look, add a precut mat.

Barely There

Barely There
A simple pair of sheer panels moves with little effort and filters light. Lest you think sheers come only in a plain-white option, check out today’s choices, including pretty pale colors and punchy patterns such as the stripes shown here. Curtain clips make it easy to hang and replace later.

Wonderful Windows

Wonderful Windows
Sometimes all you need to update a room for a new season is a fresh window treatment. Use a pretty, floral-pattern Roman shade to turn a window into a work of art.

Take Flight

Take Flight
Evoking tabletop conservatories of old, a pretty wooden birdcage makes a fanciful three-dimensional frame for a seasonal display. Set an upbeat mood in an entry with a vibrant-color cage with a feather nest and faux eggs or a small flower arrangement inside.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Inspired Spring Decor – part 1


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By Better Homes and Gardens

Add bursts of bright color, energetic patterns, and lively springtime motifs to your home to effortlessly transition it into spring.

Airy Spring Switch

Airy Spring Switch
Create a casual living room that sings “spring” and brims with juicy citrus colors. Add brightly colored vases, spunky patterned pillows and rugs, and flea market finds to your space for a fresh feel without spending a fortune.

Springtime Bedroom Revamp

Springtime Bedroom Revamp
Add pattern to a headboard by wrapping it with a yard of mod floral fabric. Adorn bare walls with inexpensive album frames filled with patterned paper to tie in your color scheme. Add glitz to an existing bedside table with metallic paint.

Refresh with Wallpaper

Refresh with Wallpaper
Inject pattern into a room with wallpaper for a fresh and easy update. Peel-and-stick options make the job easier, and removable wallpaper makes changes a cinch later on.

In the Round

In the Round
Carved ready-made ceiling rosettes make an impressive eye-level wall display. Painted in graduated shades of yellow, the discs add style to a living room. Made of urethane and available at most home centers for less than $50, they are lightweight and easy to hang.

By the Half Dozen

By the Half Dozen
A collection of eggcups lined up in rows makes an attractive organizing tool on a desk. Fill the cups with small desk needs such as paper clips and stamps, cut flowers, or hard candies.

Plenty of Pattern

Plenty of Pattern
This chest of drawers owes its dynamic appearance to two botanical papers attached to drawer fronts with spray adhesive. Try this same idea for enlivening a plain white lampshade.

Easy Spring Centerpiece

Easy Spring Centerpiece
Bring in a little spring with a peppy green centerpiece. Simple ruffled bird’s-nest fern fronds make a striking statement. Packed into a low, footed vase, the fronds will stand upright. Ferns are a budget-friendly option for a centerpiece that requires a mass of stems.

… check back next week for MORE Inspired Spring Decor!

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Family Activities: Cheap, Fast, Fun!


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By Barbara Rowley

I was sitting with my daughter Anna at an outdoor concert. We’d walked eight blocks in the hot sun from the parking lot, skipped naptime and stood on long lines twice—once to pay the $20 entry, then for our $5 ice cream cones. And as I sat with Anna on my lap, thankful the loud music was covering her tired, cranky cries, I tried to remember why I’d thought taking a 3-year-old to a concert was such a great idea.

As moms, every day we see that kids love doing small, simple things. But we often can’t resist doing the big, elaborate ones, despite their cost and hassle. And though we know they probably won’t remember a trip to, say, the circus, we want the memory. That’s okay every now and then, but most of the time you’d be better off thinking a whole lot smaller. Some ideas to get you started:

Everyday attractions

The day they started to dig the hole for the foundation of a church in our neighborhood was the beginning of my family’s education about the differences between an excavator and a bulldozer (which is what we used to call every large yellow piece of equipment). It was also the day it started to dawn on me how many free and exciting family outings were literally sitting there waiting for us.

the perfect pull-over

Some of the best places to go are right on the side of the road. You can spend a good hour pulled over at a construction site watching gigantic machines dig, dump and lift. And if you’ve got train lovers—but no trains to ride—park near a crossing to watch them roll by (ask at a business near the tracks what time the trains pass through). When you’ve watched at one crossing, scoot over to the next one and watch again. Sitting on your car near an airport to watch the airplanes fly overhead is another exciting outing. In between take-offs and landings, you can watch the contrails and the shapes in the clouds.

ask for a back-door tour

After grabbing a bag of bagels with Anna in tow, I headed, uncharacteristically, out the back door of the shop, which gave us a view of the bagel-making machine. We were both transfixed—and watched for a good 15 minutes. To turn your Saturday-morning errands into outings to remember, just ask for a closer look (or find a safe viewing point) at any number of destinations. A few good ones: coin-sorting and dollar-counting machines at the bank, automated photo-processing equipment and any sort of mechanized food preparation, from tortillas to doughnuts.

pretty and public

Drive to a beautiful garden, a mural-or graffiti-covered wall, or a farm or fruit stand. Toddlers and preschoolers love nothing better than the smell, touch and sight of nature’s bounty, and the beauty of a fountain or even a somewhat tacky art display can be exciting to them. Ponds and streams—where you can also amuse yourselves tossing leaves and dandelions and watching them float away—all offer possibilities.

Kid-sized quests

From the moment they can figure out who has more cookies on their plate and who got to open the door first, little kids are natural competitors and absolute maniacs about measurement. Since most tots love a good search, race, or competition, you’ll be able to invent all kinds of easy outings.

the seasonal search

My dad used to take me and my four siblings to seek out the first signs of spring, an activity that got us all on our hands and knees at the local park looking for green. You can also search for the longest icicle in winter, the most colorful leaf in the fall, or try my family’s year-round favorite: finding heart-shaped rocks for natural Valentines.

who’s got the best…?

My favorite babysitter not only worked early on Saturday mornings (so my husband and I could enjoy one sleep-in a week), she also got the kids out of the house quickly with an ongoing search for the best weekend breakfast in town. At just 4 and 8, Anna and Kate practically ran out of the house, homemade survey sheets in hand, to test out the pancakes, hot chocolate and restaurant-provided amusements at every diner within driving distance. You can decide on the best ice cream or pizza. Or go with something nonedible, like the best echo in the area (under bridges or overpasses and in pedestrian tunnels), coolest playground castle or fastest slide in your town.

go on a scavenger hunt

Look for the longest bridge, highest building, tallest tree or the biggest letter A on a sign. Bring a camera and record images of your kids in front of their finds. Or give the search a concrete reward: A friend of mine’s dad used to take her and her siblings on drives with the sole mission of finding double X’s on license plates—and they got a dollar reward for each X in a row. You could just as easily offer less or even nonmonetary compensation, since the literal payout doesn’t matter. My friend still remembers the drives with her dad 35 years later.

More fun than a theme park

thrill rides

Can’t stand the roller coaster—or even the carousel? Don’t sweat it. Amusement parks’ amusements are often lost on young kids. For tots who are usually strapped in a car seat behind you, with only a view of the back of your head, sitting next to you in any mode of transportation is their definition of an amusing and exciting ride.

take a quick trip

 If your preschooler is constantly singing about the wheels on the bus—but has never had the opportunity to ride one—she’ll find actually getting on and seeing the wipers go swish, swish, swish and hearing the horn go beep, beep, beep a real treat, even if you have no place to go and just ride round-trip. Ditto for trains and ferries.

head to the mall…but not to shop

If you get there as soon as it opens, before the crowds arrive, your kids can jump from one colored tile to another, slide and pretend to skate in their socks on slick floors, take a ride in a glass elevator and sing in the echo of an underground parking garage. (This indoor outing is especially great for blustery or rainy days.)

milk the park for everything it’s got

Look for poles to twirl around, logs to balance on and hills to roll down. Even a simple park bench can be a spaceship, boat or covered wagon—and you’ll likely have the perfect ending to any outing: a child who’s ready for a nice, long nap.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Getting a Divorce? 4 Things to Consider Before Selling Your Home


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By financialpost.com

Millions of marriages in the U.S. end up in divorce every year. It’s an emotional decision that is almost impossible to decouple from the financial implications that follow.

Financial planners often say divorce is one of the worst decisions you can make, at least from a personal finance point of view. We know that, in general, married couples are wealthier than their single counterparts. Running separate households is always going to cost more than running a single one.

But even if splitting is the only option, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t handle the real estate break-up wisely.

Timing can be everything: Waiting a few months could result in thousands of dollars in savings. Fees can be reduced if you can control when you have to sell. And, ultimately, if you’re selling on your own terms — rather than in a rush — you are more likely to yield a better price.



Are you selling during a period when the market is strong with good liquidity, as it often is in the spring or fall? If you need to sell quickly, it could mean leaving plenty of cash on the table. Selling during the busy season means there are more buyers out there and less likelihood you’ll have to sacrifice your sale price.


Buyers, armed with that information, will lower their price. They might even seek out court documents, all public, showing your financial situation and any court order that says the house must be sold, including a minimum price to be accepted. If one spouse has moved out, you might even want to leave some of his or her clothes in the closet to keep buyers from getting wise.


If you just signed a mortgage, you may be looking at tens of thousands of dollars in fees to break the mortgage. Then there are realtor commissions, land transfer taxes, legal fees and movers. Transaction costs can easily eat 8% to 10% of the equity you’re left with after selling your home.


Maybe there’s a way to keep the house. Selling a $1.5-million home could leave each party with $750,000 (assuming the whole thing’s paid off), but even that may only get you a condominium in the same area, a trip to the suburbs, or a whole new life filled with debt. It’s an emotional decision that is almost impossible to decouple from the financial implications that follow.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*


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