Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Back then, some 30 years ago, the interest rate was a whopping 16.70 percent (can you image that?) for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage in June 1981, according to mortgagenewsdaily.com. In between then and now, rates did moderate to averages of about 11.50% in 1983; 8.43% in 2000; 6.88% in 2008.
So yes, the 4.73% average now really is historic. For buyers and sellers, this may be the most influential component in deciding to enter the housing market now. Buyers are enticed by the low rates and the increased housing stock. Sellers have the advantage too. Low interest rates bring in potential sales, and if your home is competitively priced and improved to match comparable homes in your neighborhood, your success rate will be high.
Spring and early summer are the peak times for buying and selling. Buyers want to settle into their new neighborhood when the weather is nice and they can be outside to meet neighbors. Children also benefit with an early summer move so they can adjust to new friends and schools.
For sellers, advantages include the opportunity to increase curb appeal and add special touches to landscaping to really show off their property. Homes show much better in the summer months with loads of outdoor natural lighting streaming in through the windows. And sellers want to be somewhere else, established in their new neighborhood.
If the interest rate is the prime motivation for buying or selling, this is the right time. We see the rates hovering around 5% or less for the foreseeable future. Wait or not, there is success out there for both buyers and sellers.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Yes you can sell your home this summer! Take a look at what buyers want and get your home ready to go.
Price. Your real estate agent will help you determine a fair price for your home. She will provide you with comparable homes in your area so you can be competitive as soon as your home is listed. Pricing your home too high will only turn away serious buyers and get yourself into a stressful negotiations battle.
Basically solid. Position your home as well maintained, solid and ready to move in. Today’s buyer wants a home that has value for years to come. A pre-sale home inspection is a good idea. The inspector will help you decide what you need to fix or upgrade structurally to make your home more appealing.
Energy efficiency. One of the most enticing selling points now is energy efficiency, which points to lower utility costs down the line. Emphasize your home’s energy efficient aspects, such as appliances, heating and cooling systems, windows, lighting and insulation.
Incentives. Some sellers offer incentives to lure buyers, such as financial assistance at closing, purchasing the first year for a home warranty, sharing closing costs, paying a year’s worth of home association dues or prepaying property taxes. Offering incentives up front do make your property stand out and can shorten the negotiation process.
Outdoor living. A seemless transition between indoor and outdoor living is a popular plus these days. Highlight your lovely deck, patio or screened-in porch. Here’s a wonderful opportunity to stage that area with lighting, colorful flowers and landscaping and furniture. Not only is this a selling point, but you’ll enjoy your outdoor living space right now.
Present you home with positives in place, clean and de-clutter, repair, update and price reasonably. Your property will stand out and attract the right buyer for the best deal.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The smartest way to increase your home’s value is to bring it up to neighborhood standards. Leaping ahead of the Joneses will only stall your sale, especially in a market where buyers are cautious and want to see solid value. Always consider your neighborhood and research comparable properties before you jump into renovation projects.
Here are some don’ts and do’s.
Don’t assume more space means more profit. Depending on your neighborhood, over-the-top improvements can be a real turnoff for buyers, especially if it means that additional maintenance isn’t worth the effort. For instance, kitchens catch a buyer’s eye, but if you’re dead set on a chef’s kitchen, take a step back and think about it. Sprucing up a kitchen is a good move, and a nice makeover can be done with minimum investment.
Don’t turn a bedroom into an office space when you’re ready to sell. Buyers want bedrooms and want to see rooms as bedrooms. If you already have a home office, which most of us do these days, upgrade that space with attractive storage units to reduce clutter, and maybe a new desk that you can take with you to your next home.
Do think long and hard about installing a swimming pool, unless you plan to stay where you are for a long time. Buyers can see a pool as a major headache and safety issue if they have small children. Heating, skimming, repairing, balancing the acidity level and winterizing are a lot of work for buyers moving into a new home. Instead, take some of that money to create a beautiful landscape with perennials–a lot less work.
Don’t install that media room with theater seating. As buyers downsize, that’s one recent improvement that is no longer enticing. A family room is a better value, but so is a clean, waterproof basement for storage and an efficient laundry space.
The way you look at your living space is very personal. If, indeed, you want an Italian wine cellar with imported stonemasons, by all means do that should you plan to stay for a while. But, that wine cellar isn’t going to add bottom line value to your home if you want to sell now.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Grilling outdoors is a time-honored American tradition. Keep it a safe experience for your family and friends.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that each year outdoor grills cause an average of 7,700 house fires and $80 million in property damage. Here are some grilling tips to avoid being a statistic this summer.
Regardless of the type of grill you favor, it should be located outdoors and in a clear area. Place your grill away from siding, deck railings, eaves and overhanging branches. DO NOT grill in a garage or enclosed space. That’s just setting yourself up for a fire.
Kids are a big part of barbeques and when they get together, there is usually a lot of running around. The NFPA recommends setting up a three-foot kid-free zone around the grill to ensure safety.
The cook should use long-handled grilling tools for clearance from heat, flame and hot grease. Don’t wear loose-fitting clothes that may catch on fire.
Gas grill enthusiasts should check out the gas tank hose for leaks before using it at the beginning of the season and periodically during the summer. Obstructions in the fuel path are the number one reason for gas fires. At the first sign of a leak, turn the grill off and have it serviced by a professional.
Charcoal grilling also has its hazards. The first problem begins with lighting the charcoal with lighter fluid. Use the fluid only to start a fire, never when the coals are burning. Lighter fluid turns to a heavy gas at a low temperature, which will explode easily. Rather than deal with lighter fluid at all, use a charcoal chimney stuffed with newspaper on the bottom to start your coals. Much less risk, and you also avoid the carcinogenic effect of chemicals.
Should you have a grill fire, move everyone away from the area and call 911. Really, don’t let your ego get the better of you and your guests.
Beer and barbequed brats go together, but not for the grill master. Don’t drink and barbeque at the same time. You’ll need a clear head to produce a fine meal and stay safe. Have that congratulatory drink when you guests are raving about what a great cook you are.
Monday, May 30, 2011
We think the best use for your refund is to target improvements that will enhance your home’s value. The average tax refund is $3,000, but even if your return was less than the average, there are plenty of quick fixes to make you feel good.
With spring here and summer not so far behind, let’s go outside for some tax return projects that will make your home a welcome site. Houselogic.com has some great ideas.
For about $3,000 you can add a soft glow to your home with outdoor lighting. One of the most important techniques to increase curb appeal and safety, outdoor lighting enhances your home’s architectural features that welcome guests into your home. The cost would include 7 LED lighting fixtures with a transformer to convert household current into low-voltage and two motion detectors.
Going around back, take a look at your patio. Outdoor living is in now, and a $3,000 patio makeover could add 30-60% on your investment. A professionally installed 12 by 16 foot brick or paver patio will give you plenty of room to enjoy the outdoors in addition to the increased value.
Taking into consideration the recent run of very bad weather, you might give some thought to a portable generator system to keep you up and running when the power goes out. Depending on kilowatt model, a generator ranges from $500-$2,500. Investing part of your tax return in a generator will help you continue with a few electrical essentials until the power goes back on.
And you’ll have a bit of money left over for a pizza party on your new patio!
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Black History Exhibit
Frenchtown Heritage Museum
For more info and hours, call 636.724.2106.
Winter Classic sponsored by the Ice Skating Institute
Friday, February 11-Sunday, February 13
St. Peters Rec-Plex
More than 1,000 skaters from across the country compete in the Winter Classic. See a record performance that will feature 140-plus people from the community on the ice all at once.
For more information, call 636.939.2386
ART by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hamptons
Thursday, February 17-Saturday, February 19
Riverside Shakespeare Theatre
Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 18 and 19, 6 and 9 p.m.
Foundry Art Center
What is art? That’s a question most people don’t have an answer for. The Tony award winning play, ART, explores that question and the true meaning of friendship. In this comedy drama, three friends come to realize that even though they have been friends, their differences don’t stop with artistic opinion. Much laughter and insight abound.
$15 at the door, or go to the Riverside Theatre Company website. Are you a member of The Foundry Centre? Get a discount for the show by calling 636.255.0270.
Lindenwood University Speaker Series
Thursday, February 10
Anheuser-Busch Leadership Room
Dr. Robert George discusses Natural Law: God and Human Rights
For info, go to the University website.
Percussion Discussion, Crescendo Concert Series, A Free Children’s Concert
Saturday, February 12
First United Methodist Church
This concert is designed for children. Matt Henry and member of the UM St. Louis Percussion Ensemble will have a hands-on display of making music with percussive instruments. Please bring a canned good or one dry-packaged food item. For more info, go to the Crescendo Concert Series website or call 636.946.0310.
Saturday, February 19
Augusta Brewing Company
Enjoy a day of fun winter activities in Augusta, including live music, toasty fires, hayrides and a very special beer release.
From Tragedy to Miraculous Rescue
Friday, February 25
St. Charles County Library Middendorf-Kredell Branch
Sponsored by OASIS
Dagoberto Pinto, a U.S. citizen born in Chile, shares his fascinating story of his visit to the San Jose Mine in Chile, where 33 miners endured 69 agonizing days underground. Pinto took an American flag and a card signed by 150 co-workers at O’Fallon Casting. For more information, call 314.539.4556 or visit the OASIS website.
Mardi Gras Parade
Saturday, February 26
North Second and Clark Streets
Family friendly parade, children’s activities and music.
For info, call 800.366.2427
Beggin’ Pet Parade and PetSmart Wiener Dog Derby
Sunday, February 27
Soulard at Allen and Menard Streets, St. Louis
Bring your party animal to Soulard’s Beggin’ Pet Parade and show off his outrageous finery. Thousands of pets party on and attend the “Tail”gating Party too. It’s a $10 donation to the Open Door Animal Sanctuary to enter your pet, and free if you just want to watch and fun. Got a doxie? Enter her in the PetSmart Wiener Dog Derby on Saturday after the parade. Dachshunds race in three divisions, depending on age: Cocktail Wienies, Ballpark Franks and Hot Dogs. Trophies, medals, race pictures and local radio talent announce the race. There’s a $10 fee to register your Dachshund. Fun is free.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
With the number of houses on the market now, searching for that perfect property can be time consuming and sometimes frustrating. The number of homes potential buyers want to see has increased dramatically in the last couple of years, with buyers searching for the perfect home at the perfect price.
How do you cut through the process and become efficient in your search? First, be honest with yourself and your Realtor. Make a list of all the features you want in a home and stick to it as much as possible. That includes location. By not straying, you and your agent can be much more efficient.
Be fair about what you can pay. While homes at the very upper end of your budget may dazzle you, spending time on the unobtainable is inefficient. Keep in mind that buying a house is a very long-term financial commitment.
Almost nine out of 10 homebuyers start their search online. Here you can see virtual tours and get a feel for the property. Download the information and put it in a binder that you will refer to frequently. Set up a driving tour by using an online map application. That will guide you in a logical route and you won’t waste time and gas.
The market has been flooded with short sales and foreclosures. What if the home you find falls in one of those categories? Are you ready and patient enough to deal with the special circumstances surrounding these properties? The bank owns foreclosures and there is virtually no variation in price, plus the property may have been neglected and will need extensive repairs after you buy it. Short sale properties are usually in better shape, but, since the buyer will be dealing with the seller as well as the bank, negotiations can take months. If you see a foreclosure in your future, work with a Realtor who specializes in this type of sale. You want an agent who is experienced and can work through this lengthy process.
Trust your emotions. If you feel an initial connection with the home, give it serious consideration. Be cautious about seeing the next home and the next home, hoping an amazing bargain is right around the corner when you heart lies with the first one you saw.
When you find that special home, be flexible during negotiations. Just because more homes are available doesn’t mean you can walk away with a very lowball offer. You want to get to a place where both you and the seller are comfortable and the price is fair market value.
With a bit of focus and planning you can land your new home efficiently and start your new life without stress and tension.
Thank you for allowing us to come into your life each month with our newsletter. I appreciate your time and want to take a moment to share with you The Grant Hickman Team Goals for 2011.
- Serve Help 70 Families buy and sell
- Advise Offer proven Home Buying and Selling Systems
- Faster Sell homes 25% faster than the local average days on market
- Sell Higher Sell homes for higher in price (*97% of adjusted list price, 3-4% higher than local average)
- Buy Better Buy over 10% under asking list price (-4% better than local average)
- Have Fun Proactive Real Estate that will reduce the amount of stress and we are excited about helping :)
- Give Back Embark on efforts to give back to local foundations and charities (*details in the near future)
Because of your past support, business, and recommending us to your friends and family we are able to set these new and exciting goals. The Grant Hickman Team is providing expert services including home buying, selling, relocation assistance, new construction, leasing, investment real estate and foreclosure avoidance. This is going to be a great year!
Friday, January 21, 2011
Winter is no friend to your carpet. Improve your family life and that of your carpet’s with a professional cleaning
Left unattended, your carpet takes a beating and delicate fibers begin to break down. Traffic areas become more noticeable and deeper and dried salt crushes into the carpet. If let unattended, salt products can strip carpets of their chemical bonding compounds and wood floors of the urethane coating.
Another very important issue is mold. Carpets draw melting winter snow down to the padding, where without air drying, mold begins to form. Once you have a mold problem, it’s difficult and expensive to eradicate. A good winter cleaning will address all of these situations and make your carpet even more able to help combat allergens.
Also, professionally cleaning your carpet in the winter means that with lower humidity levels, your carpet will dry quicker with no oppressive July humidity to slow down the process.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends routine carpet cleaning every 6-12 months and every 3-6 months if you have young children and pets. Scheduling a winter cleaning is a smart way to extend the life of your carpet.
With just a 5 minute phone call and filling out a quick email questionnaire, my team and I can determine if we can help you in a very short amount of time. Don't make a decision like foreclosure that can impact you for many years down the road.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Understanding why your home went into foreclosure and making financial adjustments will go a long way toward buying another home
Enduring a foreclosure on your home is painful and disheartening. Even though the past three years have been tough for many homeowners, being in the same boat doesn’t make the situation any better. Foreclosures have many ramifications for the family, the least being a damaged credit score that could prevent future homeownership.
All is not lost. A foreclosure stays on your credit record for seven years, while a bankruptcy is 10 years. While you won’t own another home with a mortgage in the near future, you can look to the future and begin making repairs.
First, examine the cause for the foreclosure. Possibly a job loss or health issues prevented you from making mortgage payments. In these cases you can apply to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in three years. If the foreclosure is due to financial mismanagement, the waiting period is seven years.
Request a copy of your credit report from all of the three credit bureaus–Trans Union, Experian and Equifax–and write a detailed explanation of the foreclosure for each bureau. This is especially important if the foreclosure was the result of health issues or a job loss. It’s not going to change your score now, but in the future the facts may help you look credible to a potential lender. You can receive a free credit report by going to annualcreditreport.com.
Pay your bills on time. Credit reports look at payment history, so it is extremely important to make regular payments on your accounts, including utilities. You will demonstrate that you are now stable and have a consistent financial plan in place. That makes you more appealing to lenders.
Oddly enough, you should apply for credit. Just a little at a time, but having a car payment, a credit card or a department store revolving charge will begin the rebuilding process. Don’t go crazy though–keep you purchases low and pay them off every month.
Plan a budget and adjust your spending habits. Doing this will relieve more financial stress. Keep track of how you’ve spent money and evaluate those purchases at the end of each month. You’ll have physical proof of what you bought and can determine if that purchase was really necessary.
By being patient and practicing financial discipline for the next few years, you may indeed be able to purchase another home and start a better life.
Friday, January 14, 2011
The seed catalogs begin arriving. Beautiful, verdant pictures of luscious flowers blooming merrily along in sculpted gardens, all framed by well maintained rolling lawns. Leafing through the catalogs is certainly a fine diversion to chase away the gray January clouds and a way to begin planning your spring garden.
Now, for a douse of reality. Those vibrant pictures of flowering roses, deep purple clematis, impatiens bursting in oranges, pinks and lavender¬–they live in a controlled climate carefully tended by nursery people who care for them correctly, not in our Missouri yards.
So, keep in mind that what you see in the catalogs may not exactly work here. There’s no harm in dreaming, but as you begin to plan for spring, think of the reality of your yard and how much effort you will contribute to keeping it up.
While we can’t promise a no-maintenance landscape, we do have some suggestions for a low maintenance garden.
Begin with a plan
Whether you are starting from scratch or refreshing your current garden, a plan is a must. Look at the environmental aspects of your space and designate shady areas, full sun gardens, windy areas and extremely dry or wet locations. When you’ve completed your assessment move on to choosing the appropriate plants for the right spots.
As with most things simplicity, is much more elegant than an explosion of plant clutter. Each plant should serve a purpose, whether as ground cover, a backdrop or bits of color throughout a coordinated scheme. Give each plant enough room to grow, and be very generous with mulch. This nurtures plants, if you choose organic mulch, and reduces the need to water. Plants grouped into small beds are more eye-catching than a sweeping view more suited to public spaces. Small beds are also easier to maintain, which means success for you. The Missouri Extension Service has landscaping guides and plans that will be quite helpful.
When choosing your plants, keep in mind the Missouri summers that can be extremely oppressive in July and August. That kind of heat stresses plants and the people who care for them. Choose plant matter that can handle low watering and high heat.
The best bet for low maintenance plants are native ones. These plants live here in Missouri and have adapted well to the climate. Grownative.org, a cooperative project between the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Department of Agriculture is an excellent resource to stock your garden with natives that you can enjoy the whole growing year with a minimum of effort. The Missouri Botanical Garden also offers Plants of merit that will grow well here.
Curl up with the delicious seed catalogs as the cold winter wind blows outside. Choose wisely and decide how much work you are willing to contribute to your garden. Then you’ll have great success and an enjoyable summer.
Tax season is right around the corner. If your finances aren't in order, give me a call today for a recommendation on who to talk to. 314.265.1531
Thursday, January 13, 2011
- 51 cents per business mile
- 19 cents per mile for medical purposes
- 14 cents per mile for charitable services
Update your payroll state unemployment rate;
Estimated tax, if not paid before the end of 2010, they are due January 18th
To avoid income tax penalties be sure you have paid 100% of 2009 taxes or 90% of what you owe this year;
Get a basket, shoe box, or storage box, to contain all the tax documents you will start receiving via mail or e-mail;
This is a great time to update your home inventory by adding any electronic or other valuable items received over the holidays. Be sure to discuss with your insurance agent for additional coverage, if necessary;
Take advantage of buying ‘out season’ items, such as carpet, linens and swimwear.
If you need help looking over your finances, give me a call at 314.265.1531 and I can recommend the perfect solution!
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
- Form 1040, Schedule A, itemized deductions;
- Form 8917, Tuition and Fees deduction;
- Form 1040, line 23, Educator expenses;
- Form 4684, Casualties and Thefts;
- Form 5405, First time homebuyer credit & Repayment of credit;
There are a few other less ‘popular’ credits too. The IRS expects to have the forms updated and ready for processing about mid-February.
Another possible delay in filing your tax return this year; the Form 1099-DIV has been changed to report both ‘ordinary’ and ‘qualified’, and the Form 1099-INT now reports tax-exempt interest. Mutual Fund investments are the most likely to be incorrect since the information comes from several issuers, and then is broken out for the different types. Be sure to verify these Forms against your own records.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
The Grant Hickman Team
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Have you considered SELLING your Real Estate Business? (book of business)
The Grant Hickman Team is ready to do business with you. We are looking for REALTORS who no longer have the time or passion for the business and would like an exit plan. If you are thinking of:
- Quitting the Business
- Changing Careers
- Burnt out on Real Estate Retiring
- Lost the motivation
- Let someone else do the work for you
No matter if you do one transaction or 30 transactions a year, we would like to talk to you. You can still make money and let us do all of the work.
Call Grant Hickman at (314) 265-1531 to discuss how to continue to earn money, keep your license, yet focus on other endeavors.
Bald Eagle viewing and events
Various dates and locations
The eagles return. The Middle Mississippi River Valley is home to the second largest population of bald eagles. Various state agencies and parks, nature and other local organizations and communities celebrate our nation’s symbol with many types of viewing and educational opportunities. Participants can find those activities here.
Friday, January 7
St. Louis Science Center
View the brilliant night sky with the St. Louis Astronomical Society. The Society and the Science Center will provide telescopes and answer questions. For more information, call 314-289-4453 or visit the Science Center website.
Saturday, January 8
All about the farm
10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
5N726 Crane Rd.
St. Charles Park District
Learn about the historic Primrose Farm during farm story time from 10-11 a.m. Enjoy a snack and visit with the farm’s animal residents. At 2 p.m. guests can have a hands-on experience with farm animals and learn more about their care and feeding. Classes are available for both events. Primrose Farm provides interpretative experiences about life in the 19th century on a farm and how technology has changed farming life. For more info, call the farm at 630-513-4370.
Friday, January 21
Russian National Ballet presents Romeo and Juliet
Bezemes Family Theater
This full length ballet is performed by the Russian National Ballet in a dramatic and visually stunning production featuring more than 50 dancers in the great Russian ballet tradition.
For more information and to purchase tickets call the box office at 636-949-4433 or vist the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts webpage.
Daily through April 3
Treasures of Napoleon
Missouri History Museum
Daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Tuesday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Look inside the private life of Napoléon Bonaparte, the Corsican general who attempted to conquer Europe and North Africa. Here is a look behind the legend with a showcase of his personal possessions, historic artifacts and paintings. For info and tickets, go to the History Museum’s website or call 314-746-4599.
Saturday, January 29
Fete De Glace
9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Fete de Glace or the Festival of Light is an outdoor ice-carving competition where skilled carvers from around the region turn blocks of ice into amazing creations. Coffee, hot chocolate and fire pits are available for warmth. Call 636-946-1898 for more info.
Saturday, January 29 and Sunday, January 30
The Great Train Expo
St. Charles Convention Center
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
This is the place to be for model railroad enthusiasts. The show offers a variety of model railroad and toy layouts in many different scales and gauges. Hundreds of dealers will display their wares and model train experts are there to answer your questions. There are also free workshops for beginners and more experienced collectors. For information, call the Convention Center at 636-669-3000 or visit the Expo’s website.
Adults $7/ kids 12 and under FREE