Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spotlight on Northwestern Mutual Financial Network

Q: What is the Name of your Business?
A: Northwestern Mutual Financial Network

Q: What is your name?
A: Jake Bleyenberg

Q: Where is your business located?
A: 424 S Woods Mill Road Ste 110, Chesterfield, MO 63017

Q: Briefly describe what you or your business does?
A: I serve as a catalyst in the community, helping people take a thorough look at their financial security strategies. This includes, but is not limited to, protecting your income with disability insurance, protecting your family or business with world class life insurance strategies, and helping you track and move toward your retirement goals in the most efficient way possible. Why Northwestern Mutual? We’ve been around for 151 years, maintain the highest financial strength ratings and are a mutually held company that will pay out $4.6 Billion dollars to its policyholders in 2009. In these uncertain financial times, Northwestern Mutual provides the stability and strength you are looking for in a financial services company.

Q: Do you have a Website Address?

Q: Do you have a burning desire?
A: To have a positive impact in the world.

Q: What’s something not many people know about you?
A: I played professional soccer in Ireland.

Q: What’s the best way for someone to get a hold of you if they have further questions?
A: Call or email. My phone number is 314-744-5215 and my email is

Friday, February 27, 2009

A gift

Around St. Charles County

  • March 3-8: The American Girl Fashion Show, Academy of the Sacred Heart; Friday, March 6 at 7:30pm - Dessert; Saturday, March 7 at 10am - Breakfast & 2pm - Tea; Sunday, March 8 at 2pm - Tea; Tickets are $40.00
  • March 7: Fabulous Baby and Kids Expo, St. Charles Convention Center; 9am-4pm
  • March 12-15: Missouri Valley Conference, -St. Charles Family Arena; The tournament weekend begins with a luncheon on March 12, followed by opening-round action starting at 6:05 p.m. The quarterfinals begin at noon on March 13, with the semifinals starting at 5:05 p.m. on March 14. The tourney concludes with a 3:05 p.m. championship game on March 15.
  • March 15: Crescendo Concert Series, First United Methodist Church; Concert on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 PM with a pre-concert talk at 2:30
  • March 21: Moolah Shrine Parade, Starting Noon at the north end of Riverside
  • March 26-29: Moolah Shrine Circus. St. Charles Family Arena; Thursday, March 26 at 7:30pm Friday, March 27at 7:00pm Saturday, March 28 at 10am, 2:30pm, & 7:30pm Sunday, March 29:30pm & 6pm Tickets: General admission $13.50 Reserve $18.50 VIP $28.50 Executive VIP $36.50 (Tickets on sale now)
  • March 28- April 4: New Melle Passion Play, New Melle Sports Center; Performances are Saturdays at 7:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m, Free

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Buy Real Estate Today… Window of Opportunity

10. The First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit of $8,000 can generate $100,000 Net Equity or Net Worth in 8 years with an average of 5% annual appreciation!

9. 8 out of 10 economists agree homes will appreciate over the next 5 years.

8. St. Charles has been selected by Forbes & Money Magazines as the “Top 100 places to live” and one of the Top 10 areas poised for early Real Estate recovery.

7. Home prices and Interest rates are low and home inventories are plentiful, this is a true Buyers Market.

6. It has been proven that it is Better to “Buy Real Estate and Wait” than to “Wait and Buy Real Estate”.

5. Historically, real estate downturns have lasted from 18 to 24 months. This current market peaked at its highest values in July 2006, suggesting we are at or near the current down trough.

4. 70% of Loans today are FHA Assumable Loans. If a buyer today locks a 30 year rate of 5%, this will make that home more marketable in the future when it is time to sell.

3. Interest rates are the lowest in our lifetime nearing 5%! In the last two Buyer’s Markets, rates were 18% to 20% in the early 1980’s and 11 to 12% in the early 1990’s. The average Mortgage Rate over 44 years was 9%.

2. A 1% increase in Mortgage Rate on a $150,000 home equates to a $100 per month increase in payment or $1,200 per year and $36,000 more over a 30 year loan. It is twice that on a $300,000 home or $72,000. Waiting has its perils.

1. Buy Low / Sell High…Basic Investing Economics at play.

All Indicators suggest the time to buy…is NOW!!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Right Time to Buy a Home Is Now

Passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is a step in the right direction to help the housing market begin the recovery process. Now, it’s up to potential homebuyers to take that first step too. The $8,000 tax credit couldn’t come at a better time. Late winter and spring are the prime seasons for sellers and buyers who want a change of location, a new school district, to down-size or move on up.

However, time is of the essence. Details of the plan are:
  • First-time homebuyers will receive an $8,000 tax credit, or 10 percent of the home’s value, whichever is less. First-time homebuyers are defined as those who have not owned a principle home during the past three years.
  • The credit can be applied to either 2008 or 2009 tax returns and does not need to be repaid if the homebuyer lives in the house for a minimum of three years.
  • The tax credit applies to first-time buyers who purchase a principle home between January 1, 2009 and December 1, 2009.
  • Claiming the tax credit is easy. Once the sale is completed, new first-time buyers can claim the tax credit on their returns. No special forms or documents are required.
  • Income restrictions do apply for the tax credit. Single homebuyers must make less than $75,000 and couples less than $150,000.

Mortgage Reduction Component Is Part of the Solution

While the $8,000 tax credit is an incentive to excite new buyers about home ownership and reduce inventory, the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan takes aim at reducing foreclosures and reducing mortgage payments. Between seven and nine million homeowners could see relief under this plan to partially stem the tide of even more housing stock going into foreclosure.

One feature of the plan focuses on responsible homeowners who continue to pay on their mortgages but at rates higher that the current rates. Because of lack of equity, these homeowners have been unable to refinance at a lower rate. Under this plan, qualified homeowners in good standing will be eligible to reduce their monthly rate, and free up the balance of the payment for potential spending.

For those at risk of losing their homes, a second feature of this plan aims to provide incentives for those entities in the housing industry, such as lenders, mortgage holders and borrowers to provide more affordable conditions for responsible homeowners in these circumstances.

This federal assistance is another step in reaffirming a robust society, and to begin the long road back to responsibility and a sense of hopefulness.

Affordable housing price index supports renewed interest in housing market

Affordable housing stock is one of most important components that will stimulate the housing crisis, and in turn, provide a solid foundation for economic recovery as well. The good news is recent indicators reveal that, with the decline in prices, housing is more affordable and that buyers are beginning to sign more sales contracts.

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), two reports show homebuyers just may be taking baby steps back to the market. First, buying a home is becoming more affordable because of reduced prices and mortgage rates predominant in a distressed economy. The NAR’s Housing Affordability Index for December 2008 revealed the affordability index increased 10.9 percent to 158.8, the highest level since 1971. The higher the index number, the more affordable housing is for prospective, qualified buyers.

The second indication is the Pending Home Sales Index, which topped out at a healthy 87.7 in December 2008, an increase of 6.3 percent from November 2008. This index is the NAR standard to judge pending sales of existing homes, and showed the strongest gains here in the Midwest and South.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says these gains are supported by buyers who are responding to lower home prices and mortgage interest rates. He adds that the “biggest gains were in areas with the biggest improvements in affordability.”

What do these tracking methods mean in real terms for consumers? Increasingly affordable housing brings more traffic into homes for sale, and that results in more sales. That’s good news for buyers, sellers and the economy. Simple as it sounds, reaching that formula during the past two years has been a challenge for the housing industry and families who want to buy property.

However, the housing market is still uncertain, and will continue to be so in the near future. While federal stimulus packages will offer some relief, just as important is the emotional aspect of home buying, when Americans will again feel secure about their purchasing decisions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Your Home Buying Experience

Q: Please introduce your family?
Hi. My name is Angela. I am a single mother to a wonderful son.

Q: Where is your new home located?
St. Charles County

Q: Describe your situation when you decided to purchase your home?
I was wanting a more permanent place for my son and myself.

Q: What concerns/fears did you have about buying a home?
I was afraid of doing it on my own. Grant and his team made my home buying experience a breeze.

Q: How did The Grant Hickman Team help you work through those fears/concerns?
Being a first time home buyer I had A LOT of questions and concerns. Grant and his team were knowledgeable and very eager and happy to answer/help with any of my concerns.

Q: What was the best part of your home buying experience?
The flawless process that Grant and his team provided. They made me feel comfortable every step of the way. I never felt pressured to buy a home. Professionalism all the way!!!!

Q: Would you use The Grant Hickman Team to buy or sell a home in the future?
I would not use anyone other than Grant Hickman and his team.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Buy now, say St. Charles County Realtors

Now is a good–check that–great time to buy a house.

So say real estate leaders in St. Charles County, among the nation’s fastest-growing areas until the housing slump rolled in last year.

Karen Vennard, president of the St. Charles County Association of Realtors, said today that stable house prices and low low mortgage rates mean now is the time for buyers “to make their move.”

“This is a just a great environment to buy a house,” she added.

Vennard was preaching to the choir at a luncheon attended by about 35 real estate agents, builders and lenders. Merle Schneider, head of the association’s PR committee, told the group “there’s plenty of money” from lenders for people with good credit, a job and the ability to make a down payment.

“The bankers and lenders have simply gone back to sensible lending practices,” he said.

Don’t believe gloom-and-doom housing stories in “the media,” Schneider added. Home values rise and value but the trend, over decades, is a steady rise in prices, he said.

To drive home–so to speak–their point that people are still buying houses, the Realtors’ group introduced to the audience Dave and Jennifer Berkbigler, who closed today on a new four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home in Wentzville. Dave, 38, who works for Grey Eagle Distributing, and Jennifer, 36, a speech pathologist, are moving west from north St. Louis County.

They declined to disclose how much they paid for their new house but say they got a good deal.

Click to read article from

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spotlight on J Campbell CPA LLC

Q: What is the Name of your Business?
A: J Campbell CPA LLC

Q: What is your name?
A: Joan Campbell

Q: Where is your business located?
A: 1527 Country Bend Drive, St. Charles, MO 63303

Q: How can someone contact you to learn more?
A: (314) 422-1897

Q: Briefly describe what you or your business does?
A: J Campbell CPA is dedicated to St. Louis' small business, and a QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisor. J Campbell CPA offers the service and expertise you need to succeed. From comprehensive, customized setup of your QuickBooks accounting software to regular reporting, statement preparation, and tax returns, and more, you can rest assured that your accounting functions are operating properly, and that you have someone - an expert - that you can call anytime with questions.

And best of all ... make it affordable. So don 't leave your accounting to chance! Explore our site to learn more about J Campbell CPA, your accounting partner for small business success!

Q: How many years have you been in business?
A: I have had my own business for seven years, but have over 30 years accounting experience.

Q: Do you have a burning desire?
A: To retire out west, in the mountains, so I can take a scenic walk whenever I want

Q: What’s something not many people know about you?
A: My favorite car was my ‘push button transmission, ‘65 Dodge Dart.

Have you met our Partners?

The Grant Hickman Team is proud to have brought together a talented group of businesses that we trust and stand behind. We recommend each of these companies as they have proven their knowledge and expertise on a regular basis. They each continue to provide invaluable services to making a real estate and/or home purchase. Meet our 2009 Partners!

Your Home Buying Experience

Q: Please introduce your family?
A: Emil, Jill, Nick and Casey (dog)

Q: Where is your new home located?
A: Fenton, Rockwood School District

Q: Describe your situation when you decided to purchase your home?
A: We saved for a few years so we had a down payment and then bought our home while the interest rates were somewhat low. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend searching for homes which made using the tools Grant provided on his website much easier to find what we wanted.

Q: What concerns/fears did you have about buying a home?
A: I felt a little overwhelmed by the idea of taking on the responsibility of a mortgage payment and other responsibilities of owning a home. After spending some time with Grant and our loan officer, Shawn, I felt much more at ease. I still feel that with their help we made the right decisions which resulted in owning a nice home that matched our expectations and comfort level.

Q: How did The Grant Hickman Team help you work through those fears/concerns?
A: Grant didn’t try to push a big expensive home on us. He listened to what we were looking for and comfortable with, helped us set realistic goals, and pointed us in the right direction. Grant gave us tips on what kinds of features of a home are important for selling our home later on down the road which made us realize how our choices affected the investment we were making in our home. Grant was always excited and ready to help us even on weekends and I always felt like he was working in our best interest.

Q: What was the best part of your home buying experience?
A: I expected the whole process to be difficult but it didn’t turn out that way at all. It was very easy. We got what we wanted and did it with minimal effort on our part.

Q: Would you use The Grant Hickman Team to buy or sell a home in the future?
A: Absolutely. I always recommend Grant to our friends and direct them to his website so they can see how easy it is to find a home with Grant.

Look For A Bit Of Sunshine In Your Own Backyard

Good news is out there, and rays of optimism are breaking through the gloomy clouds. Sure, we are in the throes of some of the most difficult financial times in recent memory. However, American homebuyers and sellers are a resilient group. Combined with a variety of proposed stimulus packages, responsibility and a never-say-quit attitude, the St. Charles area housing market will survive and eventually thrive again.

According to the St. Charles County Association of REALTORS®, homes sales in September and October 2008 increased over the same period in 2007–9.7 percent up in September and 5 percent in October. Former Association President Keith McCulloh also noted that more than 3,800 homes were sold in St. Charles County during the first 10 months of 2008. These figures could get even better later in 2009 with some help from the federal government.

Federal Stimulus Package–What Does That Mean For You?
The recent activity in Washington D.C. points to some housing market relief. When the negotiations and fine-tuning are over, home buyers will benefit in the end. On the horizon are a variety of tax credit options, such as a 10 percent credit for the purchase price, up to $15,000.

Existing homeowners could be rewarded with tax credits too for using energy–efficient techniques. Adding insulation, energy-efficient windows, doors, furnaces and air conditioners may result in getting back 30 percent of the upgrade expenses, up to $1,500.

In the meantime, spring is coming soon, typically a time when families decide to relocate, and homebuyers are out there looking for a change of pace and a good deal. The deals are there, housing prices have moderated and buying or selling a home is still a reasonable dream.

Let’s make it local. Look in our own St. Charles County backyard. Our housing stock is solid, our neighborhoods are desirable and we are reinvigorated to help St. Charles homebuyers and sellers achieve their goals.

Continue to visit our blog for updates on the Stimulus Bill.

How much money do I need for a down payment on a house?

There is plenty of news in the media right now regarding the housing market, especially with the financial and bank bailout looming. Although much of this news is accurate, many facts get misinterpreted and falsely reported, leading to rumors and hearsay.

The biggest rumor right now is that you need a 20% down payment to buy a house, which is the furthest thing from the truth! Even with all of the uncertainty in the financial sector today, mortgage lenders are still lending money and in some cases up to 100%.

However; I will add that these lenders have tightened their guidelines and requirements, but as long as you have a 620 credit score; there most likely is a loan available for you.

So how much money do you need for a down payment? This table will give you a quick glance of the loan options that are available today!

Veterans Administration (VA) 0%
Federal Housing Administration (FHA) 3.5%
Conventional Financing 5%
FHA with MHDC Financing 0%

Keep in mind that the down payment is not the only money that you need to bring to the closing table. There are also closing costs and escrows, which you will establish with your lender for taxes and insurance. But even then, a good real estate agent like Grant can negotiate for the seller to pay for your closing costs and escrow making it possible to get into a house with no money out of your pocket.

In closing, it is very important to evaluate your financial situation when trying to buy a house, but as you can see there is no requirement for putting 20% down to make that dream happen. Talk to a good lender to figure out your best option!

30 Year Fixed 5.125% with 0 points and only $399 in lender fees
MHDC (CAL) FHA 30 Year Fixed 6.46% with 0 points
FHA 30 Year Fixed 5.00% with 0 points and only $399 in lender fees