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Posts Tagged ‘simplified living’

“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.

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.

Tips on Keeping Your Home Safe

keeping your home safeOur homes are often our sanctuaries, offering personalized comfort that we can’t find anywhere else. We keep our favorite snacks in the refrigerator, the temperature just the way we like it, with the right fluffy pillows and soft blankets positioned perfectly in our bedrooms when it’s time to finally rest for the evening. The saying “home is where the heart is” is popular for a good reason: it’s true. But what if our “home haven” becomes compromised due to a property crime? Even though the Metro-east communities that I serve are the safest places to live, work and play, it’s good to know there are many things that homeowners can do to reduce the chance of their homes being burglarized. Of course, it’s always smart to install a home alarm system and there are many companies and security options available today. Other than the technical security approach, here are some tips that will help with keeping your home safe.

Away on vacation? Keep it off of social media. If you have 700 friends on Facebook, it’s probably not likely you would invite all of those people to your next BBQ. Most importantly, your social media posts and pictures can also easily be shared, so even if you feel secure that only loved ones know you have an empty house, you can never be sure. Once that post is on social media, it can fall into the wrong hands. Even discussing your plans openly in a public place can pose a threat to your property when you are out of town. Make sure you also let your children know that sharing out of town plans on social media (or talking about it elsewhere) is not a good idea.

Dog ownership. There are many reasons to own a pet. It can teach a child responsibility and pets can be wonderful companions, too. Dog ownership has long been cited as a deterrent to home intruders. It’s been proven that burglars have been known to target homes without dogs. Of course, with dogs also comes responsibility so it’s not a good idea to purchase a dog solely to protect the home. This security measure just happens to come with a “perk”…a four-legged friend that can also help keep your home safe when you are away!

Keep it lit. It’s easier to commit a crime in dark, inadequately lit areas. A well-lit area is counterintuitive and generally avoided by burglars. By ensuring that your outdoor lighting is functioning properly and the lighting is in the appropriate spots of your yard, it will definitely deter criminals. It’s also recommended that motion censors be installed in the driveway so you have a bright, welcoming spot upon arriving home, keeping you and your family members safer.

Put timers on electronics and lights. Believe it or not, this older method still works today for deterring criminal activity. This technology has also advanced in recent years, making it easier than ever before to turn on lights, TVs and radios from a remote device. Not only does this mean you can come home to a house that’s not eerily quiet, it also allows for a safer environment if you happen to live alone or have a spouse that travels often.

Securing sliding doors and windows, utilizing a security system and installing deadbolts on your doors will also help keep your home sweet home safe and secure. As mentioned in last month’s blog, having a home safe is also another way to keep your most important items protected against a home invasion (or natural disaster). When most home invasions happen, burglars want to move as quickly as possible so it’s often unlikely they will want to spend time trying to access a home safe.

Home safety is important to all of us and the tips listed here are some simple recommendations that work well in conjunction with a home security system installation. Being aware of your surroundings, while also being proactive about home security, can help deter any break-ins from happening. A safe, comfortable and secure home is also a happy one! Want to learn more? Please contact me for all of your real estate needs at 618-978-2384. I’d be happy to share more home safety tips with you.

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.

What is Simplified Living and Is It For Me?

small knights bridge kitchen angle fridgeThe American Dream is owning a home and while high on our priority list, the up-keep falls to the bottom of the list. What would your dream look like if you could own the home, but not worry about the to-do list? What if there were neighborhoods designed with this type of dream in mind? Relax, there are.

Located here in our area are two communities designed specifically for those who desire homeownership without the stress of cutting the grass, landscaping, shoveling the snow or watering the lawn. These affordable neighborhoods are designed for the busy professional, the empty nesters or the growing family, all who want to focus on a simple lifestyle by spending more time with their families, or on hobbies or careers. It’s where we encourage families and neighbors to gather and enjoy each other and connect to the community.

Brookshire Hamlet and @Cloverdale are communities that define Simplified Living. Homes in these developments are designed to assist homeowners with the chores and tasks we all face, but would rather not have to devote our limited time to “getting it done”. You have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of home ownership, without the hassle.

What are the benefits to a life simplified?

Lifestyle
Simplified Living gives you back your time. It allows you to enjoy life the way you desire. You are free to focus on your family and do things you may not have had the time to do before. The hassle of a long to-do list can finally be put to rest. The lifestyle you desire can be achieved with less responsibilities and more time on your hands. You are free to be more active or simply have time to relax and recharge.

Connect with the Community
Simplified Living means a great location. Brookshire Hamlet and @Cloverdale are conveniently located in Edwardsville, Illinois. This growing, vibrant community features diverse shopping and dining along with many cultural attractions and events. There is easy access to the many miles of the Madison County Trails for walking and biking activities and 25 minutes to downtown St. Louis.

Quality Construction
Simplified Living means quality construction. Professionally built homes are constructed with the finest attention to details, inside and out. Maintenance-free exteriors and decks provide years of “no worry” and interiors are complete with luxurious Master Suites, flexible floor plans, finished lower levels and flex rooms for offices or crafts.

Let Simplified Living be a new start to living well and enjoy your free time the way you desire. Contact me today to learn more!