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.

HERE ARE FOUR THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU SELL


1. TRY TO CONTROL THE TIMING

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.


2. DON’T PUBLICIZE THE FACT THAT YOU’RE SELLING BECAUSE OF A DIVORCE

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.


3. CONSIDER THE TRANSACTION COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH SELLING

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.


4. BEFORE YOU MAKE THE FINAL DECISION TO SELL, TAKE A LOOK AT COMPARABLE HOUSING

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*

Tips for buying a house

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By CNN Money

1. Don’t buy if you can’t stay put. If you can’t commit to remaining in one place for at least a few years, then owning is probably not for you, at least not yet. With the transaction costs of buying and selling a home, you may end up losing money if you sell any sooner – even in a rising market. When prices are falling, it’s an even worse proposition.

2. Start by shoring up your credit. Since you most likely will need to get a mortgage to buy a house, you must make sure your credit history is as clean as possible. A few months before you start house hunting, get copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you discover.

3. Aim for a home you can really afford. The rule of thumb is that you can buy housing that runs about two-and-one-half times your annual salary. But you’ll do better to use one of many calculators available online to get a better handle on how your income, debts, and expenses affect what you can afford.

4. If you can’t put down the usual 20 percent, you may still qualify for a loan. There are a variety of public and private lenders who, if you qualify, offer low-interest mortgages that require a small down payment.

5. Buy in a district with good schools. In most areas, this advice applies even if you don’t have school-age children. Reason: When it comes time to sell, you’ll learn that strong school districts are a top priority for many home buyers, thus helping to boost property values.

6. Get professional help. Even though the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings, most new buyers (and many more experienced ones) are better off using a professional agent. Look for an exclusive buyer agent, if possible, who will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.

7. Choose carefully between points and rate. When picking a mortgage, you usually have the option of paying additional points — a portion of the interest that you pay at closing — in exchange for a lower interest rate. If you stay in the house for a long time — say three to five years or more — it’s usually a better deal to take the points. The lower interest rate will save you more in the long run.

8. Before house hunting, get pre-approved. Getting pre-approved will you save yourself the grief of looking at houses you can’t afford and put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house. Not to be confused with pre-qualification, which is based on a cursory review of your finances, pre-approval from a lender is based on your actual income, debt and credit history.

9. Do your homework before bidding. Your opening bid should be based on the sales trend of similar homes in the neighborhood. So before making it, consider sales of similar homes in the last three months. If homes have recently sold at 5 percent less than the asking price, you should make a bid that’s about eight to 10 percent lower than what the seller is asking.

10. Hire a home inspector. Sure, your lender will require a home appraisal anyway. But that’s just the bank’s way of determining whether the house is worth the price you’ve agreed to pay. Separately, you should hire your own home inspector, preferably an engineer with experience in doing home surveys in the area where you are buying. His or her job will be to point out potential problems that could require costly repairs down the road.

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

5 Ways Home Sellers Can Prepare for the Spring Market

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By Michele Lerner

With spring being the busiest time for real estate, homeowners planning to put their homes on the market shouldn’t wait for flowers to bloom before getting ready to sell. Having a few months to prepare can make for a much smoother selling experience.

If you’re a prospective home seller, here are five things you can do now to get ready for a spring sale:

Start Packing. It may sound crazy to start packing months in advance of your move, but since you’ll eventually need to do this anyway, you might as well get organized now. We’re not suggesting you pack up your kitchen and eat off paper plates, but you can sort through your storage closets, attic, basement or garage to determine what you want to keep, what to give away and what to sell. Boxing up items will make your space look larger and neater when it’s time to show your home. You can also get an idea of whether you need to rent a storage facility while your home is on the market.

Clear Away the Clutter. If you visit model homes or open houses of homes that have been staged, you’ll never see a stack of unread magazines, children’s artwork loosely hanging on the refrigerator, or a cluster of unpaid bills on a table. While everyone has clutter, buyers want to see a fantasy version of your house, in which they can envision living. Once your home is on the market you’ll need to keep it as neat as possible. One way to make that easier is to reduce the amount of clutter you have on your shelves and surfaces. Put away items that are regularly on your kitchen sink and pack away the family photos that gather dust.

Improve Your Home. While you don’t necessarily want to do a major, expensive renovation project before you sell, you can make minor repairs and improvements that will make your home look fresher to buyers. Try things such as replacing the caulk and grout in your bathroom, updating old or rusted ceiling fans and light fixtures, and changing switch plates, doorknobs and other hardware for a clean and neat appearance. Consider painting your front door and trim even if your rooms don’t need new paint.

Interview REALTORS®. Your choice of a listing agent will make a big difference in how quickly your home sells and how much of a profit you’ll realize. Get recommendations from friends and interview several listing agents to see which ones have the right experience with similar homes in your price range and area. A REALTOR® with a great marketing plan and deep local knowledge is extremely important. Don’t just go with the one who tells you they can sell for the highest price; choose someone who can present you with a detailed market analysis.

Research Your Market. If you plan to buy another home, an important decision to make is whether to sell your home first or make an offer on a new home before putting yours on the market. A knowledgeable REALTOR® can help you evaluate how fast homes are selling in your market and help you estimate how long it will take you to find a home. This decision also depends on your financing, so you may want to consult with a lender to see how you can finance the transition from one home to another if you choose not to sell your home first.

If you spend the winter months preparing for spring, you’ll find yourself ready to move fast when buyers come out of hibernation.

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

Cozy Ideas for Winter Decorating – part 3 :)

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By Annika Peick

As temperatures outside drop, it’s time to bring some warmth back into your home. Use these tips and tricks to learn the best ways to cozy up for winter.

Warm Up Windows

Warm Up Windows
Block out chilly winter drafts by layering on window treatments. Thick, striped draperies add volume to floral-pattern Roman shades in this pretty breakfast nook. Replace the thick curtains with sheer draperies during warmer months, or simply remove the extra treatments altogether until temperatures plunge again.

Cozy Reading Nook

Cozy Reading Nook
A window seat offers the perfect perch for everything from an afternoon nap to a day spent lost in a good book. Keep your window seats cozy by bulking them up with fluffy seat cushions and pillows. If space permits, use under-seat storage to house blankets for the season.

Fireplace Facelift

Fireplace Facelift
As temperatures dip lower, your focus will naturally shift toward the hearth. Give your fireplace a quick makeover to ensure it’s ready for all that extra attention. A large mirror above the mantel instantly elevates this fireplace to focal point status, while an ornate screen adds both style and function below.

Scents of the Season

Scents of the Season
Although decor and accessories can go a long way toward cozying up your home, it’s important to fill it with the smells of the season, too. A fragrant bowl of potpourri — in a wintry scent such as cinnamon, pine needles, or evergreen — can do the trick and will fill your home with seasonal cheer. Display the arrangement prominently on a mantel or in a casual dining room tablescape.

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

Cozy Ideas for Winter Decorating – part 2 :)

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By Annika Peick

As temperatures outside drop, it’s time to bring some warmth back into your home. Use these tips and tricks to learn the best ways to cozy up for winter.

Toasty Transitions

Toasty Transitions
Adding a sheepskin instantly brings warmth to any room in your home. Place a sheepskin rug beside your bed, a cozy greeting to feet on brisk winter mornings, or toss one over an ottoman or a chaise to provide a toasty spot to tuck chilly toes while reading or relaxing.

White as Snow

White as Snow
Collect a display of crisp white glassware to bring a hint of winter’s beauty into your home. Bright white dishware stands out against a black-painted hutch backed with pretty patterned wallpaper. Accents of silver scattered throughout the display echo the sparkle of freshly fallen snow.

Comfort Underfoot

Comfort Underfoot
Although wood floors create a sophisticated style statement year-round, you’ll need to cozy them up for the cold winter months. A fluffy area rug sets off this living room’s main seating area and adds warmth and texture underfoot. For a unique style statement, layer one rug on top of another to add more visual interest.

Layered Rugs

Layered Rugs
Make an existing rug even more cozy by layering a thinner, smaller rug on top of it. If it won’t damage the rug material, consider placing hook-and-loop squares on a couple of points on the smaller rug to help it stay in place and prevent tripping.

Pillow Panache

Pillow Panache
Layer in a few extra throw pillows for a quick winter style update. Playful patterns and bold orange hues stand out against dark wood furnishings and a creamy white sofa in this cozy living room. Choose accent pillows in colors and patterns that match your existing decor to ensure you don’t have to make any more decor adjustments.

… check back next week for MORE Cozy Ideas for Winter Decorating!

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

Cozy Ideas for Winter Decorating – part 1 :)

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By Annika Peick

As temperatures outside drop, it’s time to bring some warmth back into your home. Use these tips and tricks to learn the best ways to cozy up for winter.

Focus on the Hearth

Focus on the Hearth
As temperatures dip lower, bring your focus inward by rearranging your furniture. If you have a fireplace, pull pieces in toward the center of the room and face them toward the hearth to create a cozy gathering spot for winter entertaining. Extra pillows and throws add warmth even without a roaring fire.

Color Me Happy

Color Me Happy
Avoid the winter blues by infusing your spaces with pops of cheery color. A bright throw or a boldly patterned pillow will do the trick, and will ensure your neutral spaces don’t look stark and cold like the space outside your windows. Brightly colored elements can also last into the spring and summer, so you’ll get more bang for your decorating bucks.

Reflective State

Reflective State
With the shorter days, it’s time to maximize what natural light is still available. Hanging a large mirror on a blank stretch of wall or above a mantel display will reflect light throughout your space. Turn the mirror into a decorative display by painting the frame an eye-catching color.

Window Dressing

Window Dressing
Even kitchens need a little TLC during the winter months. Adding bold window treatments to your kitchen windows, like these cheery red curtains, will keep your workspace feeling cheery and bright. Create your own by purchasing a yard of fabric in the color or pattern of your choice, hemming the raw edges, and using clip-style curtain rings over rods.

Seated in Style

Seated in Style
Similar to winter fashion, winter decorating is all about layering on the fabrics. Cozy your dining room up for the season by covering your chairs with simple slipcovers. Slipcovered chairs add warmth and style to this neutral dining room and can be easily taken off for a quick cleaning after a family dinner or gathering with friends.

Luxe Looks

Luxe Looks
Give your bedroom a quick style update and prepare it for the season by layering in textured bedding, throws, and pillows. A luxurious cashmere throw and soft velvet bed pillows turn this bedroom into a cozy refuge from \those harsh winter winds.

… check back next week for MORE Cozy Ideas for Winter Decorating!

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

First-Time Buyers’ Myths About Mortgages

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By Brena Swanson

While realtor.com predicts 2015 will be the year of the first-time home buyer — a predicted increase in job growth next year should drive Millennials back into the housing market — many of them have some misguided ideas about mortgages. Joel Gurman, vice president of mortgage banking at Quicken Loans, says first-time buyers often mistakenly believe these myths about mortgage lending:

  • Lending requirements are still too tight. (Actually, mortgage standards have been easing dramatically.)
  • It’s not necessary to check your credit before embarking on the mortgage process.
  • “Preapproved” and “prequalified” are interchangeable terms.
  • You should wait until after choosing a home before talking to a lender.
  • You must have a 20 percent down payment.
  • You should focus your home search solely on your wants.
  • You do not need a home inspection.

For lender recommendations to answer all your questions about home loans, contact our office!

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

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