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What Does Escrow Mean When Buying Real Estate?

escrowAre you familiar with the term “escrow”? It has several meanings in real estate, but the most simplistic definition is that an escrow account is set up for you by your lender to pay for homeowner’s insurance and property taxes when home ownership costs are due during the course of any given year.

Basically, escrow is when an impartial third party holds on to something of value during a transaction, and in the case of real estate, buyers write an earnest money check when making an offer that is then placed in escrow. The impartial third party holds on to the check until the buyer and the seller negotiates a contract to hopefully close the deal. When in escrow, the buyer and the seller can’t touch the money. It’s in a sort of “real estate limbo”.

The reason the check is handled by a third party is to protect both parties involved. If you put down earnest money and that money goes directly to the seller, what if the seller decides to hold the earnest money as a way to negotiate? When the money is in escrow, you know that everyone involved in the transaction is treated fairly and gets what is due at the same time.

When talking with your mortgage lender, the term escrow will come up again. Terms like escrow, impound or reserves may come up. All terms mean the same thing: they are funds held by the lender to make payments for your homeowner’s insurance and property taxes. Another term, prepaids, is money collected in advance for bills to make sure there’s enough money on hand to pay when due.

What’s escrow and closing mean?

When the agreement has been made and the purchase is complete, the term “closing of escrow” will be used. Closing officers or escrow officers will sit with you and oversee the final paperwork and make sure the transfer of funds happens smoothly. During the closing, the officer wants to make sure the recording of deeds, money disbursement and all paperwork has been properly signed and recorded. The closing process does take a little bit of time, but it’s important that all conditions are met to make sure the transaction is accurate and complete.

When does a hold-back of funds happen?

Sales can still be completed with a transfer of ownership when funds are still in escrow. One example of this is if you’ve made an agreement with the seller to stay in the house for an agreed upon amount of time while their new home is completed. When participating in this “rent back” agreement, a real estate agent will advise you to have the escrow agent hold back some of the seller’s proceeds until vacating the premises entirely. The reasoning? Your new home should be left in the condition specified in your real estate contract with no damage, etc.

Sometimes during a final walk-through of the new home buyers find something wrong. Also in some cases, work cannot be done prior to the move-out date. If this happens, it’s a good idea to keep money in escrow to help with the expense. Hold-back of funds is also used in new construction, keeping money in escrow until work is completed and the paperwork is signed.

What’s next?

After escrow is closed and all funds have been distributed, the buyer and seller will receive a final closing statement and completed documents in the mail. Make sure the statement is reviewed carefully and if you see anything incorrect or have a question, contact the closing agent as soon as possible. Next, file the statement with all of your other important papers. When tax time comes, you’ll need to have the documents easily accessible for income tax return season.

Let me help you with your next home adventure! As a licensed Realtor® it’s my goal to help make your real estate dreams come true, sharing my knowledge of our local market as well as offering recommendations during the home buying or selling process. Looking for a new home in 2018? Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.

Real Estate Expectations for 2018

Real Estate Expectations for 2018The rest of 2017 and early 2018 is expected to be interesting for real estate. The economy is solid, trade looks fine, and we’ve seen an active new construction environment. It’s possible with labor shortages and higher lumber costs there could be higher home prices with fewer houses for resale. In the ever interesting and ever-changing real estate market, here are some other influences that may affect housing in the coming year (and possibly beyond) as well as tried and true tips for homeowners.

Is 2018 the time to buy or sell your home?

Prices are still sizzling for buying a new home…there’s simply not enough homes for sale to go around. Lack of homes available isn’t just a local problem either – it’s a national one. In some markets, homebuyers will need to get creative (and pay more) when seeking homes with multiple offers, especially in the bigger cities.

Some experts think that with the lack of homes available, it means home prices will continue to be high. There’s really no guarantee that will be the case. Many home builders are feeling optimistic, and that’s always good to hear. Typically, an economy that looks good with lower unemployment rates, you may see more people investing in rental income property or real estate investing opportunities. Millennials are seeking housing as well, and this will all influence the housing market.

What’s economists are saying.

According to many top economists, mortgage rates may rise in the next few years, past 4% and even past 5%. If house prices experience stabilization, increased rates will be manageable. One online article cites the importance of wage growth happening. Chief economist for Mortgage Bankers Association, Michael Fratantoni, stated that “it is getting more difficult for companies to fill their positions.” Fratantoni hopes that companies begin to raise wages to seek more qualified candidates. If this happens, the increase of interest rates won’t be as problematic for borrowers.

Buying and Selling Tips that work in any economy.

We live in a global economy, and even though economists and experts can see trends happening in the real estate market, there’s no real way to know exactly what may happen. Natural disasters, political uncertainty, and more can affect our local market. Here are some tips, no matter the economy, that you can rely on if you want to buy or sell a home in 2018.

    1. Fix issues in your home before its sale. Want to get top dollar for your home? Fix the issues that may lower your homes’ asking price. Realtor.com recommends updating appliances, refinishing floors, and cleaning or replacing windows. Because I know the local market and neighborhoods, I can help you decide what improvement will be the best in your particular situation.
    2. Make sure your home isn’t priced too high. About 70% of all local homes go into escrow within 30 days of being listed. Homes still on the market for 60 days or more typically means the home is overpriced, especially in today’s market. With my help, I can make sure your home is priced right and ready for sale.
    3. Set a realistic timeline. The real estate market can and will change, so have a firm understanding of your priorities and what your motivation is for selling and/or buying that next home. Are you wanting to sell your home because of a job relocation or simply because you’re wanting a change? Know what is motivating you to move and be ready to be flexible if that dream house on the corner you’ve had your eye on sells or if your existing home doesn’t sell as quickly as you thought it would. Be realistic with expectations and listen to your Realtor® for advice and ideas if adversity strikes.

Buying and selling a home is always an exciting undertaking! As a licensed Realtor® it’s my goal to help individuals and families during the entire real estate process, sharing my understanding of the market conditions as well as recommended strategies to use in any economy. 2018 will be here before we know it, and that means a fresh start and maybe even a new home! Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.

7 Best Apps For Preparing to Sell Your Home

apps for preparing to sell your homeNavigating the housing market can be difficult, but most people have a tool in their pocket that they don’t realize can help get them through this stressful time: their smartphone! These powerful tools have come a long way from just making phone calls or sending text messages. Check out these seven apps that can make preparing to sell your home a breeze!

1) ColorSnap

Imagine you’re walking down the sidewalk of your hometown main street and a bluebird catches your eye. That bluebird is the most perfect shade of light blue – a shade that would look exquisite on the walls of your guest room. Luckily you have the ColorSnap app by Sherwin-Williams. With a simple snapshot, this app can match your photo to find paint colors. You can then see how that particular color looks in sample scenes, in day or night lighting. ColorSnap makes painting your home even easier with its paint calculator. Simply enter your room dimensions, and it will estimate how much paint you need.

2) Panorama 360

This free app allows you to take high-quality, 360-degree panorama pictures and videos for free. Do not underestimate the power of panoramas, especially in the housing market. Capture the essence and personality of your home with a panorama picture or video, and let the home speak for itself.

3) Homesnap

Good for both home buyers and sellers, Homesnap allows users to see home value estimates, taxes, lot boundaries, school zones, interior photos and more just by taking a picture. This can be used to the seller’s advantage by scoping out the competition. Based on your findings, you can adjust your selling price, increase your promotion efforts, or even up your interior design game.

4) Houzz

Houzz is an app favorite for designers, home owners, and renovators. Its genius lies in the technology that allows you to see what furniture and products look like in your actual home. Browse through over 5 million trending products and materials, then simply use the “View in My Room” feature to see what they look like in your space. Read hundreds of articles written by design experts, and get professional advice on your home project in the “Advice” section. Houzz also has a vast database of active home improvement professionals for you to find, hire, and collaborate with.

5) MagicPlan

Measuring room spaces and dimensions are probably one of the biggest hassles of home selling. MagicPlan makes this process a breeze: no need for measuring tapes, no need to move furniture, no need for expertise. It measures the space and draws floor plans by simply taking pictures. The app itself is free, but if you want to download your floorplan in PDF, JPG, SVG, DXF, CSV, or PNG formats, there is a one property plan purchase for $2.99.

6) Pinterest

Okay, of course everyone who isn’t living under a rock has heard of Pinterest. But did you know you can use their app to browse for design inspiration? If you are selling your home, your interior design should be stylish, trendy, and organized. Pinterest can help create the space of your dreams! Not only does it give inspiration, but you can search for furniture and products based on your needs. If you are more of a Do-It-Yourself person, there are many projects with step-by-step instructions on how to upgrade your home.

7) Ikea

After spending hours on Pinterest (or is that just me?) you may be ready to start furnishing and staging your house. Ikea not only has affordable prices, but their sleek, modern style looks great in almost every space. Get inspired with their catalog, browse through furniture, optimize your space with every organizational device made on earth, and do it all while sitting in bed. Does it get any easier than that?

The time has come and gone where a home seller has to sit and worry about whether their houses will sell. Take matters into your own hands (literally) and try out one of these cool apps! If you need an extra set of eyes, a professional opinion, or help with staging your house I can help with that, too. As a licensed Realtor, it’s my goal to help you feel comfortable and confident in the selling process, so give me a call at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com

The Top 5 Smart Home Features

smart home featuresProbably less than a decade ago, we would have never referred to our homes as being “smart”. Today, it’s a common term connected with the latest technology, creating a home that would be suitable in a Jetson’s cartoon, entertaining us with futuristic toys and conveniences like we’ve never seen before in a standard home. In today’s world, you don’t have to be part of the rich and famous to have a smart home with amenities at the touch of a button. I wanted to share highlights of a recent PCMag.com article sharing the “best of the best” smart home features trending this year.

What exactly is a “Smart Home”? The term smart home simply means homeowners can connect many of their standard amenities and devices to the internet. This goes beyond just computers and phones, also encompassing clocks, door bells, lights, window blinds, and home entertainment systems. Did you forget to lock your door before leaving? Certain smart homes will let you know and even lock it for you. When devices are communicating together and working together, sending information as well as receiving it, it’s often referred to as the “Internet of Things”, or IOT. Essentially, a smart home is one that is automated, giving homeowners the ability to control items around the house with a touch of a button or voice command. Different levels of automation have different cost levels, so it all depends on what you want and what you can afford.

Hubs and Controllers. Alexa is a voice assistant available at Amazon, compatible with a Bluetooth speaker called Echo. Alexa works with smartphone devices and with some thought, you can use Alexa to control most of the gadgets in your house just with the sound of your voice. Tie in the Echo Dot, it will add to the Alexa functionality. Echo Show even offers a touch screen.

Wink Hub 2. The PCMag editor’s choice goes to Wink Hub 2, a home automation system that works with Z-Wave, ZigBee, Lutron Clear Connect, Kidde, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Looking towards the future of home automation, it is also compatible with Philips Hue Lighting and the Netgear Arlo camera and Google Home. The editors believe this system to be one of the most reliable, widely supported hubs tested.

Logitech Harmony Elite. This home automation device controls things the “old-fashioned way”- with buttons. The Logitech Harmony Elite is like a universal remote, but offering oh so much more! You can connect more than just a stereo system and TV – it will also work with infrared devices in your home, ZigBee, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

Surveillance Cameras. Today, there are wireless, weatherproof and easy to install surveillance cameras that can keep your home and belongings secure. One camera, the Netgear Arlo Pro, offers two-way audio and sound-triggering recording. With wireless features, there’s flexibility in where to place the camera. If you’re interested in indoor security cameras that keep an eye on your home while you’re away, the LG Smart Security Wireless Camera may be ideal. You get 24/7 monitoring via ADT’s Canopy service with no contract. A smaller option is the Tend Secure Lynx Indoor, a small home surveillance camera delivering video in color, clear night vision and two-way audio. It even offers facial recognition technology. At the $60 price tag, this is one of the more affordable home surveillance cameras.

Locks and Home Security Systems. Apple HomeKit enabled Smart Lock, available at Amazon, mounts over your existing deadbolt to provide connectivity to your door. It also uses Bluetooth to your smartphone, making it easy to access for you or your guests. ADT also offers the ADT Pulse, with 24/7 monitoring and customer service support. It’s the most robust, full-service home security system tested and can be tied in with other automation platforms. The Abode Home Security Starter Kit is ideal for the do-it-yourself crowd, easy to install and can be paired with dozens of Z-Wave and ZigBee smart home products. It also supports the Alexa products. With the Abode, you can monitor lights, locks, and more.

Heating and Cooling. As a homeowner, one of the biggest expenses we have is our heating and cooling (HVAC). Protect your investment with a Nest Learning Thermostat. With Nest, you get built-in Wi-Fi with geo-fencing support and a furnace monitor. It’s never been easier to control your home’s temperature from afar. The Ecobee3 Smart WiFi Thermostat is another thermostat you can control remotely. It also monitors multiple sensors in various rooms of the home to make sure your system is working efficiently.

Sci-Fi Cooking. Want to cook some ribs this fall in the backyard, but can’t get off work in time? Check out the Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker, a grill that you can control remotely using apps for iOS or Android. The app will tell you when the food is ready. Another smart oven, the June Intelligent Oven, has high-tech features that are mind-blowing. Wi-Fi, a camera, and artificial intelligence that lets you weigh, monitor and cook just about anything with little input, turning your kitchen into a home of the future!

No matter what type of home you are in the market to buy or sell, as a licensed Realtor® it’s my goal to help individuals and families during the entire real estate process. I know about the hottest trends, from popular paint colors to high-tech amenities. Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.

Stage Presence! The Importance of Staging To Get Your House Sold FAST

Staging To Get Your House Sold FASTSelling your home can be an exciting yet (sometimes) emotional time. If you’ve been in your home for a while, every part of the house tells a story. Strolling from room to room, you can vividly remember rocking your baby to sleep in the rocker in the bedroom’s corner, your first puppy’s favorite sleeping spot in front of the fireplace, and your daughter’s Sweet 16 party in the backyard pool. So many wonderful memories have happened over so many years! With those years and memories made, you’ve also accumulated a lot of “stuff” and perhaps some spots in your home that need to be freshened up. Because it’s impossible to sell those memories with your home, it’s important to rely on staging strategies to entice the new homeowner with images that can be completely their own.

I recommend to clients that it’s best to de-clutter and thoroughly clean the home prior to placing any home on the market. It’s okay to leave a few family photos up, but best to remove most of them because when selling your home, you want to make sure the potential buyer visualizes where his or her photographs will be displayed. Straighten closets; pack up unused items and scattered toys or accessories. Today’s buyers prefer neutral colors, walls and floors, so if you have time and money in the budget to paint, it’s not a bad idea to spruce up the main living spaces.

Why is staging important? A properly staged home creates something called “lifestyle vignettes” (RealtorMag.com) for interested homebuyers. When buyers walk through a home and see a chessboard on a comfortable ottoman, placed directly in front of the stone fireplace with drinks on the end table, they begin to see themselves in the scene. As a Realtor® in the Metro-East, I know which trends are working depending on local demographics. I can help you work with current trends, letting you know which ones are working locally, so you can create a buyer’s dream house. Depending on the home, it may only require organization and some fresh paint.

When you set the stage for potential buyers to see a home filled with fun and friends, it usually also involves food. Many stagers recommend setting the tables and the bar areas with nice plates, cloth napkins and drinking glasses, using a lovely centerpiece to tie it all together. The set up doesn’t have to be overly fancy, either. Simply use matching tableware to create a home that appears perfect for entertaining, whether it’s a family breakfast or a larger gathering with friends and family in the dining room.

Simple staging techniques don’t have to cost a lot of money, either. If you want to entice buyers to walk through that front door, it’s best to stage your entryway with a nice, new welcome mat, colorful flowers or greenery and a clean, welcoming entrance. Potential homeowners often drive by homes even before they schedule a walk-through, so it makes sense that you spend some time and energy on sprucing up the front of your home, helping to make a positive first impression.

Have a dark hallway or a wall that needs a new look? Maybe you’ve taken down some family photos and need something to replace the wall decor? Mounting mirrors in strategic places of the home can do a number of wonderful things. Mirrors enlarge spaces, add modern touches to the home, and light up hallways that lack natural lighting. Mirrors hung directly across from a window or placed next to one add even more lighting to the home, pulling in more sunshine. Many stores even sell mirrors in multi-packs and sizes, creating an impressive collage display that anyone can create.

Other staging tricks that work include outfitting a bathroom with white linens, fresh new shower curtains and some spa-like accessories. After you de-clutter the bathroom, it’s easy to update any bathroom with items that turn your outdated bath into a luxury spa. To set the stage, you can roll and stack new bath towels, place special soaps in a dish on the counter, and even add an orchid or other flower next to the sink.

Staging your home may require a little bit of forethought and some financial investment, but sellers will be happy to know that most staged homes sell faster than homes without staging methods. Look at photos online or in magazines, pay attention to displays at furniture stores, and think about items in your home that you can use (and items that may need to be placed in storage) to create a cozy, lived-in ambiance in your home that’s picture-perfect. Colorful vases, lanterns, books and plants can all be used to produce those “lifestyle vignettes” buyers are looking for in a new home.

As a licensed Realtor®, it is my goal to help individuals and families sell their home with confidence. I want the process to be pleasurable and profitable. If you aren’t sure why your home hasn’t sold yet or want tips on staging your home, I can help. Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.

Home Features: What’s Trending Now

Home Features: What's Trending NowHave you ever stepped foot in a home during the home search process and fell in love instantly with it? Some styles and house plans simply impress us more than others. The type of home you tend to prefer may also be different depending on your stage of life. Just had a baby? You probably want the bedrooms on the same floor. Have an aging parent living with you? Two master suites would be ideal. Individual preferences and styles may change over time, but the following trends have been popular and gaining traction for many new home seekers in 2017.

Outdoor living continues to impress people looking to buy a new home. Whether seeking manicured yards in a simplified living community or finding a home that backs up to secluded woods, homeowners are taking advantage of their outdoor spaces. This trend is reminiscent of “resort-style” amenities for families wanting to enjoy their homes more than ever before. Why go on vacation when you can bring the vacation home? Pools, outdoor kitchens, and big front porches for catching up with neighbors are just some features that really enhance outdoor living. Other trends like landscaped courtyards and four-season rooms also turn a home into a retreat you may never want to leave!

The use of glass is also a popular element in homes that take advantage of outdoor living. Large, floor-to-ceiling windows are just another way to “bring the outdoors in” and enjoy the views. Living areas, even smaller ones, will benefit from added glass to make them feel larger. Some designers even incorporate sliding walls of glass and screens leading to outdoor spaces (like a pool or hot tub). More glass or easy access to the yard is just another way to take advantage of the home’s neighborhood, amenities and green space. If you live in a lovely setting, why not enjoy the beautiful view by adding more windows or French doors?

Although not surprising, the basements of today aren’t being built simply as places to store your overflow items. Nine-foot ceilings in basements continue to be quite popular, even if the homeowner isn’t planning on finishing the basement in the short term. Homes are being built with taller basement ceilings because not only does it add resale value to the home but also makes the basement more inviting and livable when planning for additional living space. Another trend has surfaced and 9-foot and 10-foot ceilings are preferable features for buyers today with a decreased interest in vaulted ceilings.

Homes today are often being built as forever homes, with “aging-in-place” accommodations still being very popular. This is a newer trend and one that has really made an impact on how people are buying and building homes. With people living longer, it makes sense to live in a home that will be comfortable for years to come. Features like main floor master suites, easy access to every part of the home (with little or no stairs) and taller bathroom counters, comfort-height toilets and walk in showers, the aging in place home can come in all sizes and styles to better suit the homeowner.

There are many trends that are popular today, going beyond just wall colors and flooring styles. Builders are also still focused on energy-efficient homes with high-tech tools to help manage the home’s heating and cooling with the intention of using no more energy than the home creates. Whether it’s an energy-saving fireplace or water efficient fixtures and appliances, the energy efficient home will continue to develop with technology.

Trends are fun to talk about, but the most important feature when looking for a new home is defining YOUR lifestyle. Your house should be the place you feel the most at ease, and as a licensed Realtor®, I have helped families find the best home for their personalized style. Whether you are selling your existing home or looking for a more suitable home to reflect your current lifestyle, I can help. Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at sandie@sandielamantia.com.

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!

HOAs Explained: Reasons & Benefits

HOAsNot every community offers HOAs to homeowners, but HOAs are definitely on the rise. In 1970, only 1% of neighborhoods had HOAs. As of last year, 1 in 4 homeowners were part of an HOA according to the Foundation for Community Association Research. When talking about an HOA, or Homeowner’s Association, with friends, it may elicit smiles from some and grimaces from others. Often, people share varying opinions about HOAs, mainly because HOAs can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. Also, individual homeowners will have different personalities and preferences about what an HOA should offer.

What is an HOA? Rules and membership dues vary, but generally speaking homeowners who live in a neighborhood must abide by its regulations and pay a fee that aids in the management and maintenance of the community in which it serves. Condominiums and townhouses are often part of a homeowners association, but today HOAs also include freestanding homes in neighborhoods. An HOA often pays for maintenance of common space, subdivision entranceway, community pool/rec center, tennis courts and rec centers.

One major benefit of having an HOA is that it helps preserve your community so that it looks its best, functioning smoothly and efficiently. A new trend we are seeing is that instead of annual HOA dues, monthly HOA fees are added to include benefits to the homeowner. Lawn maintenance and even snow removal are part of the community’s HOA, making it easier to enjoy evenings and weekends full of play and family activities, instead of all the maintenance home ownership may entail. In the Edwardsville area, Cloverdale and Brookshire Hamlet are two communities that offer this type of HOA incentive.

Another benefit of buying a home in a neighborhood with an HOA is community appearance standards have to be met. Fines will be imposed if your neighbor’s unkempt lawn becomes an issue or if their siding begins to fall off. With an HOA, you are less likely to see obnoxiously painted homes and landscaping in complete disarray. Some HOAs do also have rules about how many cars are allowed in the driveway or if an RV can be parked on the property.

Association management is also often included with an HOA. The HOA board can help if you have a problem with a neighbor’s dog barking incessantly, for example. Instead of going directly to the neighbor over the dispute, an HOA can assist with the problem and hopefully help you resolve the issue.

How it works. HOA regulations are usually set by a committee or board of directors and can then be enforced by a paid management company or by volunteers. You can even become involved with the HOA in order to have a voice in the decisions being made. When part of an HOA, homeowners can request a rule change or an individual waiver, but there’s no guarantee that the request will be permitted.

You may be thinking, “Well what’s not to like about an HOA?” Overall, an HOA adds value to your home and community. However, for some buyers, an HOA seems too limiting on what they can and cannot do in their neighborhood. Having a management association tell you that you can’t park your camper in the cul-de-sac or place decorative metal sculptures all over your front yard may seem too restrictive to some people. Prior to buying that home in a neighborhood with an HOA, check the regulations because many communities have different rules. If you know that your new community doesn’t allow a certain sized flag hanging from the mailbox before you buy, it won’t seem to be as big of an issue later.

If you are deciding between two homes in different communities, check both of their HOAs. Fees will vary, as well as benefits. Because I am familiar with the many wonderful neighborhoods in our community and the HOAs they offer, I can help you make the right decision concerning which neighborhood is best for your lifestyle. Most of the homeowners that I work with appreciate HOAs and the higher standards that a homeowner’s association provides. By understanding the regulations and fees in every community, you’ll be able to make a more educated decision on which home (and neighborhood) is best for you.

I am fortunate to live and work in such a vibrant community, one that offers a wide selection of neighborhoods appealing to homeowners with different tastes and preferences. I can help you navigate through the entire purchase process, and that includes homeowner’s association information when applicable. If you are ready for a change, give me a call at 618-978-2384 or contact me here. I look forward to working with you and finding you the dream home you’ve always wanted!

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.