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Posts Tagged ‘realtors in Edwardsville’

“Sandie’s Two Cents:” What Happens During a Closing?

what happens during a closingThe home search is over! You have finally found the perfect home in the ideal location, negotiated the price, had your offer accepted, and are ready to make the big move. After the walk-through, appraisal, and some constructive “back-and-forth” with the agents, family members, and friends, the next step is finally here: it’s closing time! The closing is an exciting milestone in the overall home purchasing process and it’s the final piece of the puzzle when buying and financing a home.

Taken directly from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website, the closing, or sometimes referred to as a “settlement”, is when “you and the other parties in a mortgage loan transaction sign the necessary documents” so that the new, beloved home is finally your own! The closing documents make you responsible for the mortgage loan, so it’s important that you know what you are signing during the closing process.

One particular document, the closing disclosure, is a form that includes all final terms of the loan, closing costs, details of who pays and who receives any of the payments in the transaction. This document is a form that has replaced the previous HUD document (Department of Housing and Urban Development). Another document, the initial escrow statement (also called the initial escrow disclosure), lists what is going in the escrow account each month so taxes and insurance is paid on the homebuyer’s behalf. This document also shows the estimated balance in the escrow monthly as payments are made and how their account adjusts.

Contractual documents include the promissory note, which outlines clearly what you are agreeing to. It will include what you owe, interest rate of the mortgage loan, the dates when payments are to be made, total amount, length of time to repay, and more. Another form, a mortgage or security instrument, explains responsibilities as well as rights as a borrower. There are additional state and local government documents that are typically used to collect information about you, the new homeowner. Lender documents will also need to be signed at this time, too. When you receive the closing disclosure, you can ask your lender to provide a full set of all the documents listed here. This way, you can review them in advance and before the closing.

The closing process usually includes your real estate agent or Realtor®, the title company representative, also known as the closer, and potentially the lender. Your lender may or may not attend the closing. State regulations are different, so the closing meeting may include everyone at the conference room table while signatures are happening or it could take several days if signatures are being compiled separately. In some cases, a closing may even be via the internet or mail.

Regardless how the actual closing process happens, it’s important to understand that the paperwork has lasting financial implications. Before signing, make sure the documents have been reviewed and are understood. Don’t sign the documents if you’re unsure of making the payments or if there are errors. Ask questions if you don’t understand something involving the terms of the loan. Also keep in mind that over time, your payments may change. With an adjustable-rate mortgage, payments may increase over time so make sure you know when it will change and by how much. Even fixed-rate mortgages may change because of variations to taxes or insurance.

Being prepared at closing will help alleviate any stress and let you focus instead on this momentous event. Being a new homeowner is definitely a reason to celebrate! If you’re interested in a new home or want to learn more about selling your existing home, I’d love to help. I’ve assisted many families and individuals in the Metro-east area and beyond find their dream home. Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.

Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer

keep kids busyIn between family vacations, sporting events, picnics, reunions and trips to the pool, how are you going to keep your kids busy this summer? In the Edwardsville and Glen Carbon area, we are fortunate to have many wonderful activities in our community (or just right next door), offering a variety of things for kids and families to enjoy all summer long.

Community Parks. If you live in one of our beautiful Metro-east communities, you know about our wonderful parks. Whether you spend an afternoon at Edwardsville Township Park (also known as “Airplane” Park) or the recently developed Leon Corlew Park and splash pad, you have fun only moments away. Township Park offers visitors a Boundless Playground™, an all-inclusive playground that lets children with and without disabilities play together in an accessible and nurturing environment. Learn more at https://edwardsvilletownship.com/.

The Leon Corlew Park and Splash Pad, located at 333 South Main Street in Edwardsville is another free, cool way to spend a hot afternoon. Offering a splash pad with features from gentle bubblers to a large dumping bucket, the park has pavilions, shady areas and even a dry playground to enjoy. Most of the parks in Edwardsville and Glen Carbon are also connected by area biking and walking trails. Learn more at the Edwardsville Parks and Recreation website by clicking on this link:  https://www.cityofedwardsville.com/475/List-of-Parks-in-Edwardsville.

Arts in the Park. Beginning on Thursday, June 7, Arts in the Park is a 10-week summer series of entertainment for the entire family. Band concerts, events and art classes all take place at City Park in Edwardsville by the Public Library. Bands like the Soulard Blues Band and Spanky’s Dueling Pianos will entertain on Friday nights, while the Saturday morning art classes include activities like clay, sculpture and mural creation (grades K-4). To view a complete schedule, visit the website at: https://www.cityofedwardsville.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=28

Indoor options…to cool off in style. Altitude Trampoline Parkwas recently updated to include enhancements for kids wanting to take a break from the hot summer sun. Dodge ball, indoor trampolines, foam pit and more is a perfect place for the entire family or birthday parties. Located at 91 Fountain Drive in Glen Carbon, Altitudeis just one more option when making summer plans.

Edison’s Entertainment Complex, conveniently located across the street from Altitude, also offers a fun way to cool off. Offering food, bowling, game room, laser tag and more, take a break from the heat to visit Edison’s for “genius level fun”.

College for kids.

Southern Illinois University (SIUE) and Lewis and Clark Community Collegeoffers a plethora of classes for all ages, whether it’s in creative writing, art or a class about computer programming, it’s easy to enrich your child’s life this summer with a little education sprinkled with fun. Lewis and Clark classes in photography, horsemanship, theater and golf are offered in Madison, Macoupin and Jersey counties. Visit their website at http://www.lc.edu/c4k/.

The SIUE Summer camps are also amazing, with the Writing Camp celebrating its 36th year. Area youth ages 8 to 18 are able to combine learning with recreational activities like swimming, hiking and bowling. The writing development involves essays, creative forms of writing in drama and fiction, with spelling, grammar, punctuation and other basics taught. Call Adam at SIUE for more information at 618-650-2284.Other camps are available at SIUE, from jazz to science, softball to dance. Visit the SIUE website for a complete list of summer courses your kids are sure to enjoy.

There are a lot of fun, summer things to do and see in our many neighborhoods and this is just a sampling! As a licensed Realtor® it’s my goal to help make your real estate dreams come true, offering tips to not only enhance your home’s beauty but to also share local news and advice about the many Metro-east communities you may call “home”. Looking to sell your home or relocate? Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or contact me here or at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.

Spring is the Best Time to Start Thinking About Beautifying Your Yard (Part II)

Tony Range, Horticultural Supervisor, St. Louis Zoo

In the second part of the series, It’s Time to Start Thinking About Beautifying Your Yard, Tony Range, horticulture supervisor for the award-winning and beautiful St. Louis Zoo, shared some best practices with me. Tony and I visited recently to discuss tips for homeowners wanting to add beauty and interest to their outdoor spaces at home. Our meeting was fun and informative as we chatted about proper planting techniques, native plants, and how to create stunning landscapes based on any given surroundings.

The St. Louis Zoo is a well-known and beloved attraction in our area, but did you know that it also houses its very own greenhouse? Thousands of plants are grown at the greenhouse and are displayed throughout the park May through October. Next time you visit the zoo, make sure to pay attention to the brightly colored plants and flowers scattered along the zoo’s pathways and inside the buildings, creating a lovely atmosphere for visitors and for the animals calling the zoo “home”. Enjoy the Q & A below from our recent visit!

Now that it’s spring, it’s the perfect time to beautify your home’s outdoor landscaping. What tips would you give homeowners about the use of plants to enhance their home’s appeal?

Many of us are running out to purchase annuals, hanging baskets and more for our homes now that the weather is warming. I think what most people don’t realize is that once the plant leaves the greenhouse and goes to a nursery, they can quickly become nutrition deficient. In the greenhouse, plants are treated with nutrients to keep them healthy. Once they transition to a store and then to a home, within a couple weeks of constant watering and no nutrients, their soil is leached. Plants are hungry and need more than just tap water to flourish and survive.

Nutrient-rich plant food like Miracle-Gro™, added at least once each week to your plants, will help them grow. Today, there are even slow release fertilizers on the market with Terra-Sorb (a water absorbing gel) which offers a slow-release fertilizer for your plants and flowers. Terra-Sorb doesn’t dry out as quickly and is another way to ensure that your beautiful hanging baskets and potted plants continue to impress neighbors and friends throughout the season.

Also keep in mind, dirt is what you sweep up off of your floors whereas soil is a living, breathing entity full of microbial activity, teaming with life. Without a good, healthy soil we would have nothing to sustain our daily lives.

Are there any plants you would recommend based on our planting zone in the Midwest and which ones prefer sun or shade?

There are many plants that I love and recommend! Dragon Wing Begonias tolerate heat and the sun quite well, Silver Falls Dichondra like sun or shade and are easy to maintain, and the Dazzler Merlot Mix Impatients are shade tolerant, lovely and landscape friendly. Just keep in mind that annuals, like petunias, are tropical by nature and are typically heavy feeders, requiring fertilizers to flourish.

A tip I also like to offer is that around July 4th, it’s best to cut back those petunias you may have purchased on Mother’s Day about a quarter or half of the way. This will flush the new growth out, and you’ll love the results. Simply “pinch” to the leaf nodes. Also, when purchasing 6 packs of the plants from your local nursery, steer clear of the ones that are “tangled up”, long and misshapen. Pulling and unwinding their delicate foliage and roots is very damaging, so it’s best to find the packs that are short and tidy.

As a Realtor®, I see a lot of homes with neglected landscaping. Any suggestions that you can make to convince them that curb appeal is important?

I recommend choosing plants and plant materials scaled to the home. Not all landscaping needs to be elaborate. When planting, if the homeowner follows some basic rules, the landscaping undertaking can be fun and can really enhance their home’s curb appeal.

For instance, planting perennials in groups of 5’s and 7’s offer a bigger visual impact. When planting in groups, you’ll be happier with the overall look. Shrubs, Knockout® roses and more work best in groups of three. Even planting a Juniper, for example, should be spaced out and if you plant one in your landscaping, think about planting another one in a different section. The rule of thumb is to never plant just “one” of anything.

I like to think of plants for landscaping as notes on a musical scale, stagger the plants and always place them in groups for an impactful and beautiful display!

What are some other tips you’d like to share with our readers?

Play off the landscape with the use of limestone boulders and other types of hardscape. If you’re lucky enough to find a boulder with moss naturally draped on it, it will be a beautiful and unique addition to your curb appeal. I recommend the use of hardscapes in the winter months, trees with interesting branching habits, evergreens, birdfeeders and ornamental grasses. The Taylor Juniper is a tree that I love, with a striking appearance, growing to about three feet wide and up to twenty feet tall. Also, Blue Spruce “Fat Albert” lends a colorful blue tone to the winter landscape.

The importance of feeding and grooming your landscape plants and flowers can’t be stressed enough. Adding fertilizer is a key component to a lovely yard with curb appeal. Treating your plant’s root system with care also plays a key role in their health. At the zoo, when construction and maintenance is happening amongst the landscaping, I always let the crews know how important it is to go around the plants and trees. Disrupting the roots is much like cutting off an arm or a leg for us – they need their roots intact because it provides important nutrient and water uptake along with structural stability.

Tony Range is a horticulture supervisor at the St. Louis Zoo and also a contributing author for STLZOO Magazine. I appreciated the time he took out of his busy schedule to offer planting and landscaping tips for homeowners.

 If you or a loved one is in need of a licensed Realtor®, contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.

It’s Time to Start Thinking About Beautifying Your Yard: Part One of a Two Part Series

beautifying your yardAs winter becomes more of a memory and the weather turns to sunnier days, it may be time to take a peek at your landscaping and start the plans for beautifying your yard. Does it require some TLC? Not sure what it may need to become that beloved, family-friendly space again? I can help! My next two articles will be highlighting yard beautification, including an interview with Tony Range next month. Range is the lead horticulturist for the St. Louis Zoo and will offer his suggestions on how to maintain a yard that will be the envy of your neighbors, all season long.

If you are looking to enhance the overall look of your home, a beautiful, outdoor living space also increases the value of your home. A relatively recent and increasingly popular trend for homeowners is the creation of a backyard retreat, turning a home into a wonderful place for entertaining, hanging out and enjoying when the weather is inviting and the days are longer.

Homeowners who add a deck to their property or enhance their custom deck prior to selling, usually recover the cost in the sale of their home. Decks that need repairs or seem neglected can often turn away buyers because they will see additional expense and future maintenance projects. If you have a deck, it may make sense to paint or re-stain it, add some new, brightly colored cushions to your outdoor furniture, and display some potted plants and flowers. Investing in your deck and outdoor living area also adds additional space to your home, making it appear larger for potential buyers.

Even if you own a home with no future plans on selling it, Consumer Reports indicates that today’s consumers are thriftier and stay home more to entertain and to spend family time. Homes with outdoor living spaces are cited as one of the most appealing ways to spend a nice evening with those you love! When weather is prime, many clients love the idea of “outdoor living rooms. Turn off the iPad and head outdoors to toss a Frisbee in the backyard, sharing stories of the day with your kids. When you invest in your backyard, you are investing in so much more: time with family and friends.

Another way to enhance the beauty of your yard and create a more welcoming atmosphere for your guests is by adorning your entrance, driveway and more with assorted annuals and perennials. Flowers like Petunias, Snapdragons, and Knock out Roses are great additions to your landscaping. A Southern Living article cites putting a low fence between your house and the street to give an illusion that your house is farther away from the road than it truly is andit’s also a great space for planting flowers and vines.

If you have unsightly structures in your yard and you’re not sure how to hide them, strategic planting can help! Some sheds, garages, outdoor work spaces and utility boxes in subdivisions can be less than attractive. Adding window boxes and flowers to work sheds, setting attractive planters filled with flowers atop structures, and placement of potted ferns can be great additions to your outdoor ambience. Incorporating plants and flowers close to the structure, and incorporating planters onto the walls of the structure will make it seem like a seamless accompaniment to your landscaping.

As a licensed Realtor® it’s my goal to help make your real estate dreams come true, offer tips to enhance your home’s beauty, and share my knowledge of our local market. The real estate process can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be with my guidance! And don’t forget – next month’s blog will offer additional landscaping tips from Tony Range, St. Louis Zoo horticulturist. In the meantime, you contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.

Spring Time Tips For Buyers in Real Estate

Tips for buyers in real estate

The real estate industry is bustling in the spring months, beginning as early as February! With even the thought of temperatures rising, people in the market for a new home or looking to sell begin to become motivated. Homes are hitting the market and in our area, if the home is priced right, they can have an offer that same day. If you are looking to make a change or looking for your next “home sweet home”, Spring can be a perfect time to find the perfect match.

We’ve focused on tips to sell your home in the past, but if here are some Spring time tips for buyers in real estate.

Realtors rule!

Hire a real estate professional to help in your next real estate adventure. In today’s market, a professional Realtor® is experienced in many, many transactions. If you want to find a home in your ideal location, using a Realtor® can make your entire buying process easier. A Realtor® does a lot, going beyond just the home search. We help with contracts, negotiations, inspections and any other unforeseen obstacles that may pop up. An agent understands trends in the market today and can help you navigate this fast-paced buying/selling season. Keep in mind that it costs nothing to hire an agent because the seller of your new home will pay the commission.

Pre-approval for a home mortgage helps.

So, your budget is prepped and ready to go. If you know exactly what you can spend and what you may consider a “comfortable” budget for that next home, you’re heading in the right direction. You can also meet with a mortgage specialist to determine an accurate budget for that new home, and then take steps to obtain loan pre-approval. Of course, it’s okay to go to open houses and scan the web for homes for sale, but there are benefits to getting a pre-approved loan. When buyers are already pre-approved, sellers are more likely to take notice of an offer because they know you are serious at making a purchase.

Know what you want in a new home.

If you are ready to buy, it makes sense to sit down with family members and discuss your needs as well as your wishes. Whether it’s finding a new home in a certain school district or having an unfinished basement so you can add your personalized touch, what you want in your new home should be listed and prioritized. We’ve all watched House Hunters on HGTV when a couple can’t seem to agree on their perfect home! One wants a big back yard in the outskirts of town, while the other wants no yard in an urban environment. When buying a home, you should have a strong understanding of your requirements, and if there’s any conflict among other family members make sure you rank them in order of importance.

Keep in mind, it’s helpful to be flexible because your wants may shift based on availability in the market, market trends and budget, but the better you understand the most important features you desire of your new home, the smoother this process will be.

Be prepared to compete when buying a home.

In today’s market, it’s not unheard of that buyers compete for their dream home. You may need to prepare yourself to either back down during negotiations or pay more than you had originally anticipated paying. Bidding wars have been on the rise for a while. By working with your agent, you can think of unique ways to stand out from the other buyers, going beyond just price. Maybe you offer the sellers an extra week to move out? Or honor other stipulations when looking to close the deal? I can help you find ways to create incentives when making an offer on your next home.

If it’s time to buy or sell that new home, I can help! 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 real estate process. Now is a great time to buy a house that your entire family will love! Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com

Real Estate for Beginners – What You Need to Know

real estate for beginnersAs a Realtor®, it’s my job to find the perfect home for my clients. Over the years, I’ve learned helpful tips in regards to real estate for beginners that I like to share. Whether you’re a buyer, seller or both, here are some things that will come in handy that many Realtors® wish you already knew.

The Preapproval Letter is Just the First Step. Keep in mind, the preapproval letter is just the start of the process. Before closing, a lender re-examines a prospective buyer’s finances which also includes recent credit history. If numbers have changed (decreased due to salary or spending) the applicant could end up with a higher interest rate or even lose the loan. It’s best to continue frugality in your spending even after you’ve been preapproved for the mortgage. Homebuyers sometimes want to start buying, running up credit cards for their new home. What this means: it’s best to not open new loans or increase your credit spending.

Selling a house can take longer than you think. The selling process can take time and it’s important to have realistic expectations on the timeframe for selling a home. Different markets and different home prices move at different speeds, so you can’t always base your schedule on what happened to a friend in a different neighborhood or state. Negotiations after an offer can take 24-72 hours, and typical closing preparations can take 30-45 days. I can help price your home for the right amount so that the entire process flows smoothly and in a realistic timeframe.

“Buyers” may not all be able to buy. Just because you have an open house with many, many people walking-through, it doesn’t always mean the buyers are ready to purchase. Keep in mind, people walking through homes during an open house may all be at a different stage in their home search. It’s true that pre-qualification letters are used to confirm buyers have good credit and give salary information, but a serious buyer will have already applied for a loan and the bank has verified their finances, giving a specific dollar amount to the loan. Most agents will also call the lender and verify the buyer is pre-approved for that amount. If a buyer has already applied for a loan, they are ready to make that move into a new home.

It’s the whole package. Buyers need to walk through a home and feel good about what they are seeing, and that even includes the home’s smell. As a buyer, it’s also important to look at the new space and be able to imagine your own personal style in the prospective home’s layout. For sellers, it’s always beneficial to pay attention to the little things. Clean carpet, a fresh-smelling home, and lack of knick-knacks around the house really does help sellers present their home in a more desirable manner for buyers…and buyers will notice.

As a buyer, think about your needs for today and long term.  Buying a house can be a big financial commitment, and as a buyer it’s important to think about your long-term plans when searching for a new home. Are you planning on staying at your current job or is there a chance you may relocate? Will you be starting a family soon? Depending on the market and the terms of your mortgage, you may not actually pay down any real equity for several years. Keep this in mind if you aren’t sure about the prospective new home fitting within your long-term needs. If not, you may want to keep looking.

If you aren’t entirely sure of the details necessary to get your house “showroom ready”, I can help. 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. Now is a great time to buy! Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.

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.

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.