Call Sandie: 618-978-2384
sandie@sandielamantia.com

Posts by Sandie LaMantia

Outdoor Living at its Best

outdoor livingDepending on your lifestyle and your desire for outdoor living, you may have different reasons for purchasing a home for its outdoor spaces. Some of us would prefer to have limited weekend warrior duties, preferring a small backyard or simplified living neighborhood. Others, with growing families and a love of the outdoors, may seek a home with a large yard that backs up to a wooded tree line. If beautiful outdoor living spaces make your heart skip a beat, there are wonderful home features and add-ons to enhance your outdoor living for years to come.

Outdoor rooms, a trend that has been emerging for years, is one of the best ways to fulfill your love of the outdoors. Outdoor rooms can be created by the use of architectural devices such as columns, walls, and ceilings, offering transitional spaces that extend your living spaces out into the crisp, fresh air.

Years ago, patio furniture was quite simple; functional, with not a lot of style and comfort. Outdoor furniture had a distinctive look and it definitely didn’t look like furniture that you would want to spend hours upon hours sitting on. But today’s outdoor furniture has mimicked the furniture in our living rooms, with colorful cushions, pillows, end tables and rugs, all made to withstand the elements of the outdoors (within reason) and bringing your guests outdoors, too.

Privacy is important when homeowners are looking for an outdoor room. Usually this can be accomplished with a tree line, fence or decorative wall. By creating some seclusion for your outdoor living space, not only does it offer the privacy we all crave but adds to the intimacy of your space. Not every dinner party should be interrupted by the curiosity of your next-door neighbor!

Outdoor kitchens, once deemed home features of only the rich and famous, are now achievable options for the aspiring homeowner. Outdoor kitchens can include structurally integrated fire-pits and fireplaces, TVs and custom counters built around the “grill-masters” favorite Weber grill. With comfortable seating and even a beverage refrigerator, this extension will rival many indoor kitchens. The addition of an outdoor space, like a kitchen, supports multiple functions for the homeowner. It will likely also deter guests from always entering the home if you own a pool and instead offer a defined living space for the whole family when entertaining outdoors.

Porches and decks are wonderful outdoor living spaces that have also been modernized. Porches are now being built out of composite materials, extending their life and requiring little maintenance. Screens and enclosed patio walls have turned standard decks off the great room into spaces that can even be used year-round. Offering you shelter from the sun and the elements, even when it’s raining you can still enjoy those 360° views of your backyard’s garden that you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. By adding a ceiling fan, furniture and other comfort items, your outdoor living space will be your favorite gathering spot.

Another option for shade is the Pergola. Pergolas can be added to outdoor spaces that may not have existing ceilings or overhangs, offering a way to cool off in the midday summer heat. In a variety of sizes or custom made, pergolas are also a nice decorative touch to your deck or porch. It’s a lighter, more permeable way to enhance outdoor living, but yet very effective. Adding just a little shade to an otherwise sunny spot will also mean you can decorate your patio with flowers and furniture that might not be able to tolerate the heat otherwise.

There are several outdoor living features homeowners may look for in a new home, depending on personal style preferences and interests. With my assistance, I can help you find that perfect home with incredible outdoor living spaces that suit you and your family. I know the local real estate market and have first hand experience about neighborhoods with the best green space available. If you are looking for a new place to call home, it’s time to give me a call at 618-978-2384 or contact me here so that I can help turn your dreams into reality. Happy summer!

When Downsizing Makes Sense

When Downsizing Makes SenseIf you have ever watched “Tiny House” shows on HGTV, you’ve probably talked about the downsizing pro’s and con’s of a smaller home. In some cases, the homes are so tiny it seems almost unrealistic to believe the families can live comfortably on top of each other every day! Even though tiny houses aren’t for everyone, there are some real benefits to downsizing your living space but it really does depend on your lifestyle.

Discussions about downsizing can begin to happen when the oldest child registers for college courses on a campus two states away. Or, if you’re lucky, you have retirement plans to escape a few months each year to a golf course community on a beach somewhere. Why keep that 3,000 square foot home when you’re only living in it part time? Whether you are tired of your oversized current home or are just in the mood for a change, downsizing might be the ideal scenario for you.

Less of a house also means less upkeep and many empty-nesters (or soon to be empty-nesters) like the freedom that a smaller sized home allows. Let’s face it, when your children get older they begin to spend less time at home. As young adults begin to leave home and venture out into the world for their education and careers, the home begins to become more tranquil with less cleaning and picking up constantly after everyone. Soon, that larger home that was filled to the brim with kid’s belongings becomes less clustered and tidier. Is it really necessary to have those empty bedrooms and closets that are barely filled anymore?

Sacrificing size does not mean you have to sacrifice amenities. There are many areas in the Edwardsville, Glen Carbon and surrounding communities that offer beautiful options for couples or smaller families wanting to downsize. Many clients still want the luxury in their smaller homes, just with less square footage. Big islands, high-end appliances and countertops with outdoor living space is still considered important to clients wanting to downsize. You may have to sacrifice smaller second bedrooms and storage spaces, but the trade-off will be worth it to get nicer amenities without too much sacrifice. Brookshire Hamlet, The Enclave at Augusta Greens, and Villas in Bethalto are just a few of many communities now focused on big living but in a smaller home footprint.

Many simplified living communities, like @ Cloverdale, are built with the empty-nesters in mind. For example, the @Cloverdale community boasts modern and functional amenities, like first floor master bedrooms, open floor plans, and spacious front porches, all within easy walking distance from downtown Edwardsville. In the @Cloverdale community, the front porch functions as an extension of the home and is the perfect place for friends to gather and make memories happen. Both @Cloverdale and Brookshire Hamlet, another simple living community, take care of the outdoor maintenance so you don’t have to.

There are many reasons homeowners decide to downsize. The good news is downsizing size doesn’t mean you have to downscale your new home’s craftsmanship. Builders today acknowledge and appreciate the fact that people are living longer, having healthier lifestyles and seeking the convenience of smaller homes as they age. The empty-nesters trend is here to stay, which means more options and variety when looking to downsize.

Take advantage of my expertise on the many wonderful communities in Edwardsville, Glen Carbon and beyond. Whether you need a larger home for a family of 8 or are looking to downsize, it’s easy to find the perfect place to call “home” in the Metro-east. I make it my priority to know the local market and have first hand experience about the many benefits living here has to offer. Ready for a change? Then it’s time to give me a call at 618-978-2384 so I can answer your questions and find you the home of your dreams, sized just right.

Summer Planning for Kids Made Easy

summer planning for kidsSpring is here and it’s time to start thinking about things to do as a family, particularly if you have younger kids spending the entire summer at home. If you are lucky to take some time off from work during the summer break, or if you have a babysitter or nanny helping out while the kids are home, there are numerous local day trip options and summer camp activities that will keep your children busy with things-to-do, education and fun.

There’s no better place for “monkeying around” than the St. Louis Zoo. Recently voted America’s Top Free Attraction, this summer playground offers enough variety for kids of all ages. Open 9am-5pm daily, there are over 15,000 animals being cared for at the zoo. Their website is perfect for planning your visit, making it easy to hit all of your favorite spots. Check it out at https://www.stlzoo.org/.

Another great day trip to St. Louis is the City Museum. But be warned: there are many nooks and crannies at the museum and keeping track of the youngest of children is not an easy task! It’s recommended that you include your cell phone number on their wristbands, and for every six kids sixteen and under, at least one adult is required. There are some age restrictions on activities and slides, so it’s best to “know before you go” and visit their website at http://www.citymuseum.org/visit/policies-and-restrictions/. Whether you love the idea of indoor “Enchanted Caves” or a 10-story Spiral Slide, the City Museum is an amazing venue filled with adventure.

If you like water parks, living in Edwardsville is a perfect place to “stay cool” when it’s hot. There are several options for splashing around, including Raging Rivers in Alton, Illinois. Water slides galore; it’s only a thirty-minute drive for a full day of fun. If you want something a little closer to home, Collinsville, Illinois offers Splash City Water Park with a lazy river, toddler area, pools, slides and more. Of course there’s also the recently built Leon Corlew Park and Splash Pad in Edwardsville, a free activity for splashing around, enjoying a picnic lunch, and soaking in the sunshine.

A local Edwardsville treasure is the Edwardsville Children’s Museum, a wonderful place for younger children to play and learn. With a number of summer programs to enjoy as well, your child will love the wonderful classes available, and you’ll love the affordability! Playgroups, crafts and more will certainly be ideal for combating your little one’s boredom this summer. Visit their website at http://edwardsvillechildrensmuseum.org/ for a complete list of museum activities and programs.

Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville is a wonderful asset for those of us living in the Glen Carbon and Edwardsville community. This university offers a variety of classes for kids during the summer months, making it easy to find something perfect for your child. Their long-running Writing Camp, for kids 8-18, is ideal for children who wish to combine learning with recreation. Children receive practical development in writing skills combined with full and vigorous activities like hiking, swimming and sports. Student to teacher ratio is 1 to 12 and children are grouped by age. Their Art Camps for kids K-12 are ideal for different ages and abilities. Want to learn more? Visit their summer camp link at http://www.siue.edu/summer/camps/index.shtml. Additional art classes are also offered year-round at the Edwardsville Arts Center (EAC) with additional options for summer camps. If you haven’t visited, you are missing out! Pottery-wheel classes, painting, and more can be found at the EAC.

Lewis and Clark Community College also offers College for Kids over the summer, providing yet another option for learning and fun. The Edwardsville N.O. Nelson Campus is host to many of the classes as well. More than 20,000 young people have participated in hands-on learning in math, science, creative arts, technology and languages since the program’s inception in 1989. Their online catalog can be found at http://www.lc.edu/c4k/.

Summertime is the perfect time to take advantage of the wonderful things to do in the Edwardsville and Glen Carbon communities. Downtown St. Louis is only a short drive away, offering so many additional options it will be easy to satisfy the entire family with summer activities. I know the local market and have first hand experience about the many benefits living here has to offer. If you are looking for a new place to call home, it’s time to give me a call at 618-978-2384  or contact me here so I can answer your questions and find you the home of your dreams.

Why Pet Owners Should Buy In Edwardsville/Glen Carbon

pet ownersNothing beats a lovely, fall day at one of the many parks in any of the Edwardsville and Glen Carbon, Illinois communities. Whether you want to pack a picnic lunch and bike to one of the parks taking one of the miles and miles of bike trails, or stroll to a neighborhood park just two blocks away, it’s easy to see why so many people love the area. Our four-legged friends love the area too, and you can see it in the wags of their tails and friskiness in their play. Want to live somewhere where pets not only have plenty of places to roam, but the best medical care and daycare centers around? Edwardsville and Glen Carbon may be your dream come true!

It’s not just about where you live, but also about your way of life. So many of us have made our beloved pets members of our family. They travel with us when running errands and often are treated to salon services more regularly than we treat ourselves! Having a community that embraces outdoor living at its best, which includes an overall acceptance of our furry friends, is an added benefit to living in the Edwardsville area. Plus, there are many amenities in Edwardsville that offer boutique-like benefits for taking care of your pet at affordable, “small town” prices. Here are some qualities that make Edwardsville and Glen Carbon a pet-owner’s haven!

Outdoor living at its best. Move over, urbanites! It’s not just the big cities that have dog parks! Glik Park in Edwardsville as well as Miner’s Park in Glen Carbon both have very nice dog parks where leashes are optional. Glik Park offers a larger, fenced-in area where your dog can play with other dogs safely, leash-free, while the Miner’s Park area is smaller although large enough to play catch and enjoy the fresh air. Both Edwardsville and Glen Carbon have parks and recreation links on their websites where you can find more information on the two dog parks as well as the many other parks online.

Edwardsville and Glen Carbon offer bike and walking trails that are often accessible from the many neighborhoods and subdivisions, making it easy to get outside with your pet(s) and exercise. Thanks to the Madison County Transit (MCT) Trails system, many abandoned train lines have been paved and turned into pedestrian and bike trails, offering residents and visitors alike more than 85 miles of scenic trails to enjoy. It’s a beautiful way to spend time with your pet and enjoy the changing seasons.

Pet lovers also enjoy the benefits of the outdoors when shopping and dining in downtown Edwardsville. Pull up a chair at one of the many restaurants in the downtown area that boasts outdoor seating. While you’re enjoying a cup of coffee or tasty lunch your pet is able to cool off in the shade by your side. And don’t forget to visit Goshen Market every Saturday morning from May to October, offering fresh and seasonal fruits, vegetables, flowers, crafts and more. You may see just as many pets as you see kids at this fun, family-friendly bazaar held downtown by the Edwardsville Courthouse.

Only the best for our pets! There are many pet options for veterinary services, groomers and more in the Edwardsville and Glen Carbon area. Do you prefer to wash your pet but would like to avoid the mess? Try Four Muddy Paws where they have a separate room with many walk-in tubs for your pooch as well as hair dryers. You can either do it yourself or have one of their professionals help out. They also offer homemade treats, dog food, and so much more. There’s even a new shop in downtown Edwardsville, Whisker Bones Supply Company, that is a dog bakery and shop with exclusive treats for your four-legged friends.

Need a boarding service for your pet? There are many to choose from in the area. Traveling Tails offers a “no kennel” approach for pets, with doggie daycare, grooming, and more amenities. You can even watch your pet via live video streaming if you miss them while they are away. There are too many choices for reputable, quality dog groomers and boarders to list here, so it’s always best to ask around to find out which one would suit your pet the best. Only you know what’s best for your pet.

Not only does Edwardsville and Glen Carbon offer plenty of parks and green-space for their residents, it offers lovely homes in historical districts with large yards and overgrown trees where pets can play. Newer communities also offer quality-built modern homes with lovely yards, tree-lined sidewalks, and friendly neighbors. It’s so nice to have so many options for a family home, making memories with our pets along the way.

If you or a loved one is looking to relocate to the Edwardsville or Glen Carbon area, please contact me for all of your real estate needs at 618-978-2384. I’d be happy to share more information on the abundance of wonderful places to go and things to do in the area. Whether you are already a pet owner or would like to be, you can’t beat the Ed/Glen communities!

Tips On Creating A Home Inventory

home inventory tipsWe take pride in our homes, but when is the last time you did a home inventory? Not only does a home showcase our personal taste, but it also holds a collection of mementos that we’ve gathered over the years. Photo albums and family photos on the wall are displayed proudly, surrounded by artwork and trinkets from past vacations, sharing memories with friends and family. Along with all of those memories that hang on the wall, we also surround ourselves with the comforts of home like 3D televisions, state-of-the-art gaming systems and quality sound systems. But what if a home disaster strikes?

No one likes to believe that a natural disaster or house fire can happen, but unfortunately emergencies can occur. In the event of an emergency, irreplaceable items lost (like photos) can be devastating. Fortunately there is something you can do about household items and purchases that you’ve made over the years. By keeping an inventory of the items in your home, it will be easier to assess their values and obtain replacements. Because even if you can’t replace that antique grand piano, your insurance company will still be able to assess its value and replace it with a new one…to be enjoyed for future generations.

If you don’t have a home checklist, it’s probably time to start taking inventory so that you can keep tabs on how much you own. Although this process does take a bit of effort, focus on tackling one room at a time. Once you’ve accomplished completion of this important undertaking, you’ll be able to enjoy more peace of mind because you’ve planned for adversity.

  1. Create a spreadsheet. You can either purchase a software program or app to help get you started, or simply create a spreadsheet on your own by using Excel or another program. FEMA, for example, offers an online checklist to follow or you can check with your insurance agent on their recommendations.
  1. Document what you own. The easiest way to outline your possessions is to list the items by room, item description, quantity, model and serial number. Also, it’s ideal to include the year and store where the item was purchased, along with the cost. Larger, more expensive line items should include receipts and appraisal information, if applicable.
  1. Include photos and/or video. It’s never been easier to include digital photographs within your checklist document. Take photos of your homes’ exterior along with interior room photos, too. Today, many homeowners walk through their homes and create a video that showcases what they own. Have you recently purchased a big, beautiful entertainment center that you intend to pass on to your adult children one day? Take close-up photos or video of the items you consider to be “big-ticket” items.
  1. Back it up! Now that you have created a spreadsheet for each room of the home with accompanying photographs, it’s important to back up the document on a flash drive. It is also a good idea to print out one or two hard copies, keeping one in a secure location at home and another at a close relative or friend’s home, just in case.

Moving forward, it will now be easier to track receipts and warranty information, adding key purchases to your list as time goes on. Many insurance agencies recommend that homeowners purchase bank safe deposit boxes for warranty paperwork as well as insurance policies, legal documents and marriage and birth certificates. Today, there are many options available for placing a fire safe in the home for easy access to the paperwork and your backed-up home inventory checklist. In the event your home is robbed, having a fire safe is also an ideal place to keep expensive jewelry or items that you only use occasionally. Having a clear picture of what you own will also make it easier to decide if a future purchase is really necessary. Many homeowners, after creating a home inventory checklist, decide it may be time to start downsizing their possessions after all!

Continue to follow my blog for future home-ownership tips. As a licensed Realtor, not only do I understand the local real estate market, I also understand the many intricacies that go hand-in-hand with buying and selling a home. If you are planning on buying a new home, selling your existing home, or even are in need of expanding or building, I have the experience and knowledge you want to make all of your dreams come true. Contact me for your real estate needs at 618-978-2384.

What You Need to Know about Finding a Realtor

Finding a RealtorWhether it’s your first time buying or selling a home, or you consider yourself experienced in real estate, it’s always important to know what you’re getting yourself into. Buying or selling a home can be quite a task and as a Realtor for many years, I have heard about negative experiences as well as success stories that can go hand in hand with real estate transactions. I like to offer some universal pointers and reasons why I recommend relying on a Realtor instead of attempting to go it alone. It should be an exciting time in your life, so why make it overly challenging?

Choosing a Realtor you feel comfortable with is an important part of buying or selling a home. Whether a Realtor approaches you at an open house or you meet she or he at a bustling office, always check their license and credentials. Many of us in the industry hear stories about professionals still selling homes when their license has been expired or revoked. With the power of Google, searching Realtors online has never been easier. A good Realtor will have more than just a LinkedIn profile, making them appear reputable. Many Realtors have online reviews from those who have worked with them. If the Realtor is newer to the profession, they may not have many reviews but that’s okay too. The best approach is to ask around and get recommendations about any agent you are interested in working with, whether they have a large portfolio yet or not. If you feel at ease with the Realtor and feel that they listen to you, you are likely taking that first step in the right direction!

People hire real estate professionals for many reasons, but one of the main benefits of having a Realtor involved is because the home selling/buying process can be time consuming. If you are thinking you may want to put up that “For Sale by Owner” sign in your front yard, for example, be prepared for additional effort and energy that goes along with selling your home. Do you know if you are selling in a buyer’s market? Are homes sitting empty on your block already? Trying to sell your home on your own, while working a full-time job and raising a family, can be a big undertaking. Balancing your work, life, and family time can be hard enough. Adding additional time and energy required to sell your home may turn into an overwhelming experience. Luckily, Realtors can help make the process a smoother one. Realtors know all of the “tools and channels” for selling your home so you don’t have to.

A good Realtor also knows what price range to list your home within and can work in conjunction with “home stagers” to make sure any walk-throughs or open houses make a great first impression. If you are looking to buy, Realtors often know homes for sale even before they are listed, making it a smart decision to contact a Realtor when you are beginning your new home search. Having a large real estate network, Realtors specialize in knowing everything about the communities in which they work, including which home just added that in-ground pool you may be looking for in your new home!

With any real estate transaction, there is paperwork involved. Learning about the laws of your particular state that govern real estate transfers can be a lot of work if you are not experienced. Different laws mean different kinds of paperwork, and Realtors will handle everything you need to do with a simple “sign here” sticker once you’re ready to buy or sell. There may be encumbrances that are on your home or mandatory disclosure laws involved and a Realtor is happy to take the burden off of your shoulders, walking you through the entire process. When dealing with a more complex transaction, trust your Realtor and take a deep breath! Although the process may seem perplexing to you, a skilled Realtor has seen it all and will know what to do. After all, a Realtor’s reputation is at stake and they rely on your review of their services to be successful.

Finding or selling a home should be an exciting occasion, signifying a change in your life. Whether it’s a new baby, job relocation, or marriage, a trusted Realtor can help make the adventure less stressful from the legwork to the paperwork. I know there will be questions along the way, and am more than happy to share my knowledge with you. It’s better to ask every possible question than to feel confused during the home buying or selling process. Knowing the local market, I have first hand experience in what potential buyers look for in our area. Contact me for your real estate needs while the mortgage rates are still low. 2016 can be the best year yet for finding you and your family an ideal home for making new memories!

What Does Simplified Living Mean To You?

simplified livingToday, all of us strive for a simpler way of life. In many ways our days have become simplified with the invention of robotic vacuums that can sweep floors while we’re at work, camps for dogs that can exercise your pet for you, and cars that can even parallel park! There’s even a new refrigerator that can tell you what items you may be running low on if you didn’t have time to make a list before grocery shopping.

The definition of “simplified living” means something different to all of us. In terms of home ownership, simplifying your home’s upkeep can help homeowners focus on other things, like their golf game or travel. Smaller homes are becoming more popular and trendy, especially for “empty-nesters”. Empty-nesters often include parents that for the first time in decades have an empty home, with children that have either left for college or started families of their own. Unless you have regular out-of-town guests or a large family, downsizing a home’s size offers many advantages. If you’re on the quest to find a new home, it’s best to set your priorities first and figure out what simplified living means to you.

Just because a home is smaller, doesn’t mean it lacks the amenities that many of us prefer. Any homeowner can appreciate the benefits of an organized home. An organized home takes away the stress that goes along with not being able to find your son’s football jersey or your daughter’s homework assignment. When you have designated spaces in the home for items, it’s easier to be organized. Having a desk or alcove in the kitchen for paying bills, plentiful closet space, and an organized mud room are all simple concepts but can make a big difference in your daily routine. There are many, lovely Metro east communities that offer newer homes with all the “bells and whistles” but with less square footage.

Brookshire_Hamlet big logoFor instance, the new development @Cloverdale, located in the heart of Edwardsville, offers a lifestyle of single-family living in a designed community that focuses on front porch living and outdoor activities, and offers freedom from home ownership upkeep. In Bethalto, there are the Villa’s at Sportsman Park with lots still available. These homes are an ideal size for empty-nesters or smaller families, offering many amenities (and bragging rights) that the larger custom homes offer. Contact me if you want to see any of the newer communities and I’d be happy to give you a home tour.

If you are focused on simplified living, it’s important to be realistic about what you have time to maintain within your home. If your work schedule goes beyond the normal “9-to-5”, it may not make sense to purchase a new home with a big backyard or pool. Unless you have budgeted a lawn care service or pool service to take care of those outdoor spaces, opting for a neighborhood with a community pool or a smaller lot may be the best route to take. Luckily, the Edwardsville community and beyond has many beautiful parks and trails to enjoy if you are worried there isn’t enough backyard space for your child or a pet. Make sure you prioritize how you want to spend those weekends, and mowing a 2-acre lot may not be on the top of your “fun things to-do” list.

The purest definition for “simplified living” means to make things better, not worse. Is your home offering you the simplified, happy living space you deserve? Your house should be your joyful haven, and as a licensed Realtor I have helped families find the best home for their unique lifestyle. Whether you are selling your existing home or looking for a more suitable home to simplify your life, I can help. Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at sandie@sandielamantia.com.

Home Upgrades & More! What To Keep In Mind When Finding Your Next Home

home upgrades

When families decide to relocate into a different home, it can be for many reasons. People get new jobs in new zip codes, start a family, or bring an aging parent home. Sometimes additional space is needed, other times adult children move away to begin their own life chapter, making it time to downsize. Regardless, homes of all sizes offer lovely house upgrades that are not only desirable, but are affordable. In today’s competitive home-buying market, there are certain qualities in an upgraded home that transcend many geographical locations as well as the current trends.

Buyers walking through spec homes today will notice that many builders are adding features that were once considered upgrades. When buyers started to routinely ask for certain features in a new home, builders noticed. It started to make sense to include those features as standard instead of upgrades or optional ones. In a competitive market with skilled builders vying for business, it just made sense to streamline the building process for consumers.

You may have features in mind that are more important than others when thinking about your new home’s style. The following list of upgrades focus on the general upgrade options, often offering flexibility depending on the homeowner’s unique decorating taste or style preference.

Bath Upgrades that Impress

For many years, the master bathroom has been revered as the perfect oasis for couples to enjoy in their home. This remains true still today for homeowners! The tub and the shower are usually separate, with tiled showers versus standardized stalls. Luxury showers can provide you with a spa-like experience in the comfort of your own home, with dual showerheads and even steam. Bathtubs can also offer hot tub options with heaters, pulsating pumping action and oversized options. No matter what you prefer, many baths are being outfitted with beautiful, natural stones and finishes, making homeowners feel like they just stepped into a tranquil world away from any of the day’s stressors.

The Kitchen: Still the Heart of the Home

We all would love to have our very own island, and upgraded kitchens today boast an “island paradise” for anyone that loves to entertain and cook! Kitchen islands continue to be the centerpiece of the kitchen and are often being requested by homeowners looking to upgrade. When it comes to kitchen islands, many agree that bigger is better. Think about the last time you visited a friend’s home for a party and it’s quite likely you spent much of the time chatting over the island, snacking on food and drinks!

Not surprisingly, even homeowners that don’t cook a lot prefer upgraded kitchens. Stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, under cabinet lighting (and even cabinets lit from within), are increasingly popular. While granite is still popular, solid-surface countertops offer more of a modern look than the exotic patterns found in granite. Another recent trend includes countertops in lighter colors, like white. Marble offers that clean, modern look many homeowners seek. However, it really depends on personal preferences. No matter what countertop material is preferred, kitchens remain a key investment in the home. If you are unsure where to make upgrades, look to the kitchen and bathrooms first!

So Many Upgrades, So Little Time

There are other places in the home that benefit from upgrades. Ask anyone that has upgraded their old linoleum with tile or hardwood floors and they will tell you how the new flooring has changed the entire look of their outdated home. Whether you live on the West Coast or in the Midwest, hardwood flooring is an upgrade that many new homeowners desire. If you have some extra money to spend on upgrading your home, it makes sense to spend it on hardwood flooring.

There are other ways upgrades can transform a home. Looking for some flair in your upgrades? Lighting fixtures can transform your spaces from ordinary to extraordinary! Fixtures come in a variety of different styles and materials, offering a wide selection of price points. Adding stone to your home’s exterior is also a popular upgrade option that homebuilders are adding to more upscale brick homes. Another upgrade that homeowners often ask for involves the laundry room and the addition of a mudroom. Separate cubbies for book bags and sports equipment, enclosed cabinets and a sleeker overall “look” are especially important when your laundry room is right off of the garage for guests to see.

Not sure which upgrades make the most sense for your lifestyle? As a licensed Realtor, I know the local market and have first hand experience about which features are popular in our area. If you are planning on buying a new home, selling your existing home, or even are in need of expanding or building, I have the experience and knowledge you want from start to finish. Contact me for your real estate needs. I’d love to help you create the upgraded home of your dreams!

Need To Sell FAST? Use These Home Staging Tips

home stagingWe’ve all seen the shows on HGTV that can remarkably take a fixer-upper and turn it into a home that not only looks completely different, but has the “wow factor” that people want when staging their home for resale. Not only are the remodeled homes structurally updated in many cases, they are also beautifully staged with on trend lighting, furniture, pops of color, greenery and appealing home décor. Most experts agree that a home with furniture helps sell a house, and properly staging that same home allows the seller to appeal to the pickiest of buyers. A well-staged home will stand out from the pack! Here are some of the latest trends based on an article from the National Association of Realtors.

Know your market. A big part of staging is creating a lifestyle in the home for sale that appeals to the demographic. For example, if your home is on the outskirts of town in the country, using a modern, city-loft appeal for décor is less likely to be effective. It’s important to research the distinct neighborhood characteristics and incorporate that into staging your home.

Get glam! Believe it or not, a current trend is adding a little bit of sparkle to décor. Whether it’s a decorative pillow stitched in shiny silver thread or a sparkly picture frame, adding silver is the trendier version of the popular shades of gray. Smaller doses of golden glimmer are also being used in staging, accommodating more of a “vintage” vibe. Both trends work well with modern, glass-top tables, mirrors and the incorporation of metallic bedding, throws, and fabrics.

Color pop. Today’s walls are more neutral, while pops of color are being combined in different ways with home décor. The article refers to this recent trend as “movable color”. The benefit of using accent colors in your pillows, vases, and area rugs is simple: it’s easier to change things up a bit, moving colors from room to room or simply changing the entire “feel” of a room with a few, personalized items. Popular colors forecasted for this year are navy, purples, and blue accent colors.

Outdoor spaces. More and more of us are retreating to the home for entertaining. Whether it’s a small gathering with friends or a loved one’s birthday celebration, there’s been a recent resurgence in home entertainment with a focus on comfortable outdoor spaces. Outdoor dining, kitchens and water features top the list of enhancing those exterior spaces. Throw in a comfy all-weather couch and a walkway leading to the backyard garden, and you will certainly impress buyers with a little piece of outdoor living at its best.

Get in the mood! Mood lighting is always something to consider when staging your home. The power of using the correct lights in certain spaces can really add to the way buyers perceive your home. Ambient lighting is being used more and more to enhance living spaces. Wrought iron lamps, colorful lampshades and metallic lamp bases will all convey very different feelings, textures and sense of space. If your small sitting room seems to be missing some pizzazz, perhaps it’s time to add some mood lighting! You’ll be amazed how a certain lamp can transform the room.

Go green. The “going green” buzzword is a popular one in home building, real estate and home decorating. Repurposing old furniture, using twigs from outside as filler for a vase and displaying your antique storage chest as a coffee table are all variations of popular techniques used in home staging. Bringing the outdoors in, whether with barn wood or weathered antiques, gives any home that “lived in appeal”, adding a personalized touch.

When staging your home, it’s okay to add a little bit of your own taste into your living spaces. However, it’s important to remember that you are trying to appeal to a new potential buyer, which means de-clutter, re-organization and strategic staging is key. In a market with unsold inventory and empty homes, staging will perk up your property and separate it from the cold, vacant listings that lack appeal and a sense of warmth and personality.

As a licensed Realtor, I know the local market and have first hand experience in what potential buyers look for in our area. If you are planning on buying a new home, or selling your existing home, I have the experience and knowledge you want. Contact me at 618-978-2384 for your real estate needs and staging recommendations while the mortgage rates are still low. I look forward to helping find you and your family an ideal home for making new memories!

6 Tips for Families Looking to Build a New Home

build a new homeYou’ve been looking through floor plans online and in magazines, visiting open houses on weekends and talking to friends and family members about features you’d like to include in a home. It’s time to build your dream home, and there’s excitement in the air mixed with the reality that building a home is a big undertaking! A recent article on HGTV.com shared some awesome tips for those about to embark on the home building process, and it goes beyond the basics of selecting a quality builder.

Of course, choosing a builder takes time and consideration. You want to see other homes they’ve built, get referrals from people that have worked with the potential builder and make sure the builder has a good relationship with subcontractors and is in good standing with bill payments. Their bad credit will only delay your move-in date! There are other practical things to consider when your dream home starts to become a reality.

It’s not (always) about the money. Selecting a builder based solely on their fees is not always the only reason to hire them. It’s best to not select the highest bid or the lowest bid when building a home. A high bid doesn’t guarantee a superior product and the lowest bid could mean that you might be hit with extra costs throughout the construction process. Often, the low number is used to “reel you in”, adding extras that will be tacked on later. Do your research and make sure the builder you choose is respected in the community and offers the best product for the money.

Don’t overbuild. Even before the trend of “tiny houses” and downsizing, consider comparing your new home’s blueprints with others on the same street. You never want to be the most expensive home on the block because you’ll never get that money back if/when you sell.

Location, location, location! Especially when moving to a new town, it’s important to research the school district, shopping and entertainment, crime rates and convenience to interstates. Fortunately in the District 7 School District and surrounding communities, there are still viable options for land to build a new home and still be close to modern-day conveniences, quality education and a short drive to Downtown St. Louis for work and play.

Think ahead when you build. Did you just have a baby and want to have your master bedroom next to the baby’s room? Kids grow up fast and soon enough you’ll all be wishing there was more privacy. Or, if you’re an older adult, having the upstairs master suite may not be ideal in the long term. Higher-end homes can be built with a shaft now for an elevator. Simply use the shaft as additional closet space and convert it, if needed, to an elevator later.

The latest and greatest, debunked. We all love technology! But you may want to think twice about filling your high-tech new home with too many state-of-the-art features that haven’t been tested yet. It’s best to buy products (including appliances) that have been on the market for a year or two because consumer reports are available for comparison shopping and any “kinks” have likely been worked out. You’ll also find savings by purchasing models and products from a previous year.

Trends are not your friend. When building a new home, nothing dates a home quicker than jumping on the bandwagon of the latest trend. Weird, futuristic fixtures appeal to you? You may want to think twice before installing items that are too trendy. Once the style becomes obsolete, you’ll be wishing you had made a more traditional decision. Not only will it cost you more money in the long run, it will make your new home look dated too quickly. It’s best to select fixtures and features that have classic appeal so your home looks current. You can always add that area shag rug later!

If you are planning on building a new home, or selling your existing house, or even are in need of expanding your existing home, I have the experience and knowledge that will help make the process easy. I also believe home-ownership is one of the most important investments we make, not just as a valuable asset but also as a place to make memories that last a lifetime. I look forward to sharing the journey with you as you build the home of your dreams! Contact me here or give me a call at (618) 978-2384 for more information on existing listings or property available.