The Best Mortgage


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Shopping around for a home loan or mortgage will help you to get the best financing deal. A mortgage – whether it’s a home purchase, a refinancing, or a home equity loan – is a product, just like a car, so the price and terms may be negotiable. You’ll want to compare all the costs involved in obtaining a mortgage. Shopping, comparing, and negotiating may save you thousands of dollars.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a free brochure to help guide you through this process.  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Reducing Holiday Stress


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From WebMD


The holidays can be a joyful time, offering a chance to reconnect with friends and family. But they can also be stressful. You may feel pressure to buy and give gifts. Maybe you are worried about money. The holidays can also be hectic. There never seems to be enough time to get things done.

Think about the kinds of events that trigger stress for you during the holidays. Then you can focus on one or two things you can do that will help the most to reduce stress.

Preparing for the holidays

  • Know your spending limit. Lack of money is one of the biggest causes of stress during the holiday season. This year, set a budget, and don’t spend more than you’ve planned. It’s okay to tell your child that a certain toy costs too much. Don’t buy gifts that you’ll spend the rest of the year trying to pay off.
  • Give something personal. You can show love and caring with any gift that is meaningful and personal. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Or use words instead of an expensive gift to let people know how important they are to you. Make a phone call or write a note and share your feelings.
  • Get organized. Make lists or use an appointment book to keep track of tasks to do and events to attend.
  • Share the tasks. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Share your “to do” list with others. Spend time with friends and family while you share tasks like decorating, wrapping gifts, and preparing the holiday meal.
  • Learn to say no. It’s okay to say “no” to events that aren’t important to you. This will give you more time to say “yes” to events that you do want to attend.
  • Be realistic. Try not to put pressure on yourself to create the perfect holiday for your family. Focus instead on the traditions that make holidays special for you. And remember that just because it’s a holiday, family problems don’t go away. If you have a hard time being around your relatives, it’s okay to set limits on your time at events and visits.

You may not be able to avoid stressful situations during the holidays. But you can plan to respond to them in a healthy way.

  • Take breaks from group activities. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Spend a little time by yourself if you can. Meditate, or do some relaxation breathing. Go for a short walk.
  • Keep a regular sleep, meal, and exercise schedule. Limit your alcohol. Taking care of yourself will help you deal with stressful situations during the holidays.  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Existing Home Sales Report


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Existing–home sales came back strongly in September following a decline in August and have now risen year–over–year for 12 months in a row, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). All four major regions saw sales gains in September.

Total sales of existing homes (transactions for single–family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co–ops) grew 4.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.55 million in September from a slightly downwardly revised 5.30 million in August, and are now 8.8 percent above a year ago (5.10 million).

NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, believes a slight moderation in home prices in some markets and mortgage rates staying below 4 percent gave more households the confidence to close on a home last month. According to Yun, “September home sales bounced back solidly after slowing in August and are now at their second highest pace since February 2007 (5.79 million).” NAR’s economist added, “While current price growth around 6 percent is still roughly double the pace of wages, affordability has slightly improved since the spring and is helping to keep demand at a strong and sustained pace.”

Existing Home Sales By Region

Key takeaways from NAR’s data

  • September’s median price for existing homes (no new construction) was $221,900, or 6.1 percent higher than a year ago ($209,100). This represents 43 months of year–over–year growth.
  • Total housing inventory by the end of September dropped 2.6 percent to 2.21 million existing homes, or 3.1 percent less than the inventory a year ago (2.28 million). Unsold inventory holds a 4.8–month supply at the current sales pace.
  • The share of first–time buyers dropped to 29 percent of overall sales after a rise to their highest share of the year in August (32 percent).
  • Freddie Mac data shows the average commitment rate for a 30–year, conventional, fixed–rate mortgage stayed below 4 percent for the second consecutive month. A year ago, the average commitment rate was 4.16 percent.
  • Properties remained on the market 49 days in September, a bump from 47 days in August and 56 days a year ago. Short sales sold in 135 days in September; foreclosures sold in 57 days while non–distressed homes required 48 days.
  • Distressed sales — short sales and foreclosures  — stayed at 7 percent in September for a third month in a row; a year ago, they were at 10 percent. Six percent of September sales were foreclosures and 1 percent (lowest since NAR began tracking in October 2008) were short sales.  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Fireplace Maintenance Checklist


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By Jennifer Noonan

Fireplace Maintance Tips

As days get shorter and weather gets colder, we retreat indoors to the warmth of our homes and hearths. If you have a fireplace, fall is a great time to make sure the chimney and flue are in good working order. If your assessment uncovers any issues that gives you pause, call in a chimney professional to diagnose the problem before it gets big, expensive, and potentially dangerous.

Visually assess the chimney from the outside. Is it leaning? Are there any chipped bricks or masonry joints? Do you see any cracks or holes? If your chimney is factory-built metal, look for any corrosion, stains, or loose sections. If your chimney is exposed to your attic, make sure to check there, as well. Look for any signs indicating that repairs are necessary.

Chimney Cap
A good cap can reduce damage caused to a chimney by water and wildlife. Rain and snow can enter an uncapped chimney and subsequently freeze and thaw, causing expansion damage. Small wildlife can nest in chimneys, clogging them and potentially introducing fleas, ticks, worms and other disease-causing pests into the home. A chimney cap with screen mesh will keep animals out, while shielding your roof from embers and sparks.

Leaks and Stains
Inside the house, check the area around your chimney for any stains or dampness. These could be caused by faulty flashing around the chimney at the roof line, or by a damaged flue liner. If you see signs of water around your chimney, call a chimney professional right away.

Open the clean-out door from the base of the flue, located either in your basement or outside the house. Using a small mirror and flashlight to see up the flue, look for buildup of soot and also any cracks, holes, or separations. If in doubt, give your chimney professional a call for a good checkup and cleaning.

Check the brickwork in your fireplace for wear. Check the damper, as well—it should open and close easily. Look into the smoke chamber above the damper to see if it has a buildup of soot. Again, call your chimney professional for service if you see any of those telltale signs.

Chimney safety should be a high priority for every homeowner. With regular maintenance, your fireplace and chimney can give you years of wonderful service. A chimney professional can spot things that even a diligent homeowner could miss. Call on a pro to do regular cleanings and safety checks as a part of your home maintenance routine. Then throw another log on the fire, sit back, and enjoy.  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*


Seller Opportunties


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Selling your home in today’s market requires strategy and execution. Here are three tips to help sellers reduce their time on market:

  • Make it shine. Buyers are attracted to attractive homes. Make your home stand out by mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, washing windows, and cleaning the carpets. These are small things that make a big difference.
  • Remove clutter. Not only do clean homes show better, but tidy homes offer more to the imagination. One person’s treasure is another person’s trash. Removing unnecessary clutter will help potential buyers envision their own potential for the home.
  • Consider removing art and personal keepsakes. Beyond general de-cluttering, some sellers also remove all or most of their personal artwork, family photos and personal mementos to give potential buyers an even better chance to imagine the home being theirs. This can be hard emotionally, but don’t take it personally.
  • Pay attention to the market. Work with your agent and price your home to sell. A competitively priced home is the one that sells first, and in this market that counts for a lot. Overpriced homes often end up selling for less or incurring much greater holding costs than if they had been appropriately priced in the first place. An experienced agent will help you arrive at the most advantageous price for your home.

These simple tips can help you sell your home and take advantage of our today’s market. Please contact us if you have any questions about selling your home. We are here to help!  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*


Halloween Safety Tips


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1. Walk Safely

Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.

Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.

Put electronic devices down and keep heads up and walk, don’t run, across the street.

Teach children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.

Always walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.  Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.

Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Teach children to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

2. Trick or Treat With an Adult

Children under the age of 12 should not be alone at night without adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, they should stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.

3. Keep Costumes Both Creative and Safe

Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors.

Choose face paint and makeup whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.

Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers.

When selecting a costume, make sure it is the right size to prevent trips and falls.

4. Drive Extra Safely on Halloween

Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.

Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.

Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.

Eliminate any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.

Drive slowly, anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and turn your headlights on earlier in the day to spot children from greater distances.

Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. so be especially alert for kids during those hours.  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Find the Right Coverage


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When purchasing a home, you will need to acquire homeowners insurance. In fact, all lenders will require a policy to be in force prior to funding the loan. Make sure you have enough coverage should anything happen. Policies refer to “replacement costs” that may not cover everything. You should ask your insurance agent a lot of “what if” questions. The deductible amount also plays a big part in setting your premium. Higher deductibles lower the number of claims, and reduce your insurance costs.

Check with your insurance agent for more information on these issues and others. If you don’t have an insurance agent, we have access to several top-notch agents to whom we can refer you with confidence.  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*


10 Simple Ways To Winterize Your Home And Stop Throwing Away Money


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fall home improv

Vivian Giang

‘Tis the season to crank your thermostat. Unfortunately it could cost even more than normal. Americans will pay 15% more for heating expenses than last year, according to the EIA.

At this point you’ve got no excuse not to follow this simple guide for winterizing your home.

Dodge the draft

Problem: Cold air is rushing in from underneath your door, and warm air is rushing out.

Solution: The draft snake, adopted during the Great Depression era, is one of the easiest ways to cut back on energy waste. A draft snake can be easily made by rolling up a towel or filling up a pouch of fabric with kitty litter or sand, advises The Daily Green. Or you can buy one pre-made.

Money/Energy Saved: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5 to 30% of energy use per year.

Bubble wrap your windows

Problem: You suspect your windows are as old as your grandparents and cold air is leaking through the cracks.

Solution: Tape bubble-wrap on your windows to trap the pockets of air that cool down your home. Although it may look funny, the bubble-wrap will still allow light to come through and you’ll be saving some major dough, advises Life Hacker.

Money/Energy Saved: Taping up bubble-wrap can avoid drafts which waste 5 to 30% of energy usage per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Caulk any gaps

Problem: Little gaps in windows, doors, or cracks in the walls are letting cool air in, raising your energy bill.

Solution: The Daily Green offers a test to find out where to seal these gaps: Have a friend stand outside the suspected window/door/wall with a blow dryer while you hold a lit candle inside. If the dryer blows the candle out, then it’s time to seal those cracks using caulk.

Also check the caulk around your doors and windows outside to see if they’ve deteriorated over time.

Money/Energy Saved: Sealing up drafts will save you to up to 30% of energy use annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Change the direction of your ceiling fans

Problem: The air in your home feels hot and trapped, but turning on a fan only produces cool air.

Solution: If you have any ceiling fans inside your home, know the rules: Counter-clockwise rotation produces cooling breezes and clockwise rotation produces warmer air.

Money/Energy Saved: This method will cut your heating costs by 10%, according to The Daily Green.

Install storm doors

Problem: The cracks in your door are increasing the air flow in and out of your home, letting warm air out and cold air in.

Solution: Installing a storm door can seal those drafts and help reduce air flow.

Money/Energy Saved: A storm door can increase energy efficiency by 45%, according to The Daily Green.

Control your thermostat

Problem: You want your home warm so you keep the thermostat high, but your wallet is suffering from the high energy bill.

Solution: Set your thermostat to 50 or 55 degrees when you go to bed and work. You won’t enjoy the warmer temperature while you’re asleep or away from the house, anyway. You can also purchase a programmable thermostat.

Money/Energy Saved: Turning down your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day can save 10% per year on your energy bill, according to Brighter Planet.

Pile up on insulation

Problem: Heat is rising right out of your home, leaving you cold and miserable.

Solution: Loading up on insulation is one of the best ways to save your energy bill so add more between your walls, attic floor, and basement ceiling to stay toasty.

Money/Energy Saved: An insulated home loses a quarter of its heat through the roof, according to Energy Savers.

Get rid of that window A/C unit

Problem: You suspect cool air is sneaking through the cracks of your window A/C unit.

Solution: During winter, you most likely won’t be using your window A/C unit so remove it from your window or purchase a quality tarp to cover the outside of the unit, says Wisebread.

Money/Energy Saved: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5 to 30% of energy use per year.

Turn off your A/C water valve

Problem: You have an A/C with a water valve that you suspect has been leaking, which can clog up your water pipes.

Solution: Shut off the A/C water valve to prevent excess water from collecting in the equipment. Drain all air conditioning pipes, says The Green Daily.

Money/Energy Saved: Doing this during the winter will save you from having to buy a new A/C unit next summer.

Lower your water heater’s temperature

Problem: You’ve unknowingly kept your water heater on the default setting.

Solution: Conventional water heaters are typically set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but most households only need a setting of 120 degrees to be comfortable. Check your water heaters and lower them to 120 degrees.

Money/Energy Saved: Lowering it by 20 degrees will save about 6 to 10% on your bills, says Energy Savers.  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*




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After three consecutive months of increases, sales of existing homes slightly declined in August, this despite a reduction in prices and an uptick in sales to first–time buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Also according to NAR, none of the four major regions saw sales increases in August.

Total existing–home sales (including single–family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co–ops), dropped 4.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.31 million in August from a slight downward revision of 5.58 million in July. Notwithstanding August’s decline, sales have grown year–over–year for 11 consecutive months and now sit 6.2 percent above a year ago (5.00 million).

Existing Home Sales By Region

NAR’s chief economist noted that home sales in August lost some momentum. Economist Lawrence Yun said, “Sales activity was down in many parts of the country last month — especially in the South and West — as the persistent summer theme of tight inventory levels likely deterred some buyers.” Yun also noted, “The good news for the housing market is that price appreciation the last two months has started to moderate from the unhealthier rate of growth seen earlier this year.”

Key Housing Data Takeaways

The median existing–home price (for all housing types) in August was $228,700, which is 4.7 percent higher than August 2014 ($218,400). August’s price increase marks the 42nd consecutive month of year–over–year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of August grew 1.3 percent to 2.29 million existing homes, which is 1.7 percent lower than a year ago (2.33 million).

Unsold inventory is at a 5.2–month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.9 months in July.

August’s share of sales to first–time buyers grew to 32 percent, up from 28 percent in July and matching the year’s highest share set in May. A year ago, first–time buyers were 29 percent of all buyers.

The Top Places to Pick Your Own Pumpkins in St. Louis


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By David O’Brien

Fall means changing leaves, Halloween costumes and the chance to pick your own pumpkins. Here are some of the most popular pumpkin patches in the St. Louis area.


Stuckmeyer’s Farm Market

Going to Stuckmeyer’s for pumpkins is an annual event for many area families. Stuckmeyer’s is a family owned vegetable farm that’s been around for decades. The pumpkin patch is open every day in October, but if you go on a weekend in October you can also enjoy Farm Fun Days. This event features hayrides, farm animals, pony rides, live music and more. Stuckmeyer’s is located at the intersecton of Highways 141 and 21 in Fenton. For more information, call 636-349-1225.

 - Photo by Sharon Dominick, courtesy Getty Images
Photo by Sharon Dominick, courtesy Getty Images

Eckert’s Orchards

Eckert’s Orchards is a year-round destination for St. Louis area families. In October, the pumpkins take center stage. You’ll find any size pumpkin you need at the Eckert’s locations in Belleville, Millstadt and Grafton. Eckert’s also hosts many other fall events including haunted hayrides, bonfires, pumpkin parties and more. The Belleville location is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Millstadt location is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Grafton location is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Rombachs Farm

Rombachs Farm is a popular spot for pumpkins in St. Louis County. You’ll also find fall decorations and dried gourds for your home. The Rombachs Farm pumpkin patch is open daily in October from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s located at 18639 Olive Street Road in Chesterfield, near Spirit of St. Louis Airport. For more information, call 636-532-7265.

Relleke Pumpkin Patch

Relleke Pumpkin Patch is a good place for pumpkins in the Metro East. The pumpkin patch opens at the end of September and is open every day through November 1. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Relleke Pumpkin Patch is located at 473 Sand Prairie Lane in Granite City. For more information, call 618-797-6858.

Thies Farm and Greenhouses

Thies Farm knows how to celebrate the fall harvest. Not only will you find the perfect pumpkin, but in October, both locations are transformed into a “Pumpkinland” play area for children. Pumpkinland is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Theis Farm is located on North Hanley Road and in Maryland Heights. For more information, call 314-428-9878.

Golden Valley Pumpkin Patch

Golden Valley Pumpkin Patch in Franklin County offers all kinds of fall fun. There are hayrides, a corn maze, farm animals and pony rides. And of course, plenty of pumpkins to take home. The farm is open Saturdays and Sundays starting September 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s located at 6320 Highway 100 in Washington, MO. For more information, call 636-221-1956.

Herman’s Farm Orchard

Check out the pumpkin patch and more at Herman’s Farm Orchard in St. Charles. You can pick your own pumpkins, choose from a variety of hearty mums or shop in the market. Herman’s Farm Orchard is open every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s located at 3663 North Highway 94. For more information, call 636-925-9969.


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