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Getting Out Around St Louis

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Don’t think that just because it’s getting cooler outside, that the St. Louis area is shutting down for the winter. No way! We always have the indoor venues that keep the concerts and shows going year round.

BUT – in addition to those, we still have a full calendar of seasonal events that are being held all around the area! Since the next holiday is Halloween, some of these are costume or pumpkin oriented, but not all.

The world-class St Louis Zoo is holding their Boo at the Zoo Spooky Saturday on October 26, 9-4.  Free admission. This is a family-friendly event, so there are some restrictions on costumes. Please see www.stlzoo.org for details.  Boo at the Zoo Nights is also happening each evening, 5:30-8:30 thru October 30. Parking is free, but there is a small admission fee. Again, please see the details and all the activities on the Zoo’s website.

The Magic House is hosting a Not-So-Haunted House Fri-Sun, Oct 25, 26, 27. Attendees may wear costumes and trick-or-treat throughout the House. They have lots of fun things planned.  Participation is free with the regular admission. See www.magichouse.org  for details.

Kimmswick’s Apple Butter Festival is going on Saturday/Sunday Oct 26-27, 10am-5pm. Thousands of people descend upon this town to visit hundreds of craft and food vendors  and enjoy the hospitality offered by this historic town. Oh, and also take home some fresh apple butter!  www.visitkimmswick.com/apple_butter_festival

If you are near Washington, MO on October 26, make sure you visit their Pumpkin Palooza (10am-4pm) in beautiful downtown. They have a full day of activities planned – something for everyone! www.downtownwashmo.org/pumpkin-palooza

O’Fallon, MO will be hosting Marion Nichols’ collection of intricately carved pumpkins at the Heald Home in Ft Zumwalt Park from 1-4pm. $2 admission includes a tour of the home also.

October 28 is the 48th anniversary of the final section of the Arch being put into place.  To celebrate, the Jefferson National Parks Assoc is hosting a “Meet the Builders” celebration in the Visitor Center below the Arch. This is your chance to listen to first-hand accounts from the men who were there whenit was built.  This will be held 10am-11:30am.

Speaking of the Arch grounds, you still have a chance to take a sight-seeing cruise on the Mississippi River. Access the schedule and information at www.gatewayarch.com

Are you more the nature-lover type? How about visiting the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park and learning all about owls? You will get to meet some live owls and learn all about their calls. There are multiple dates, but reservations are required. www.worldbirdsanctuary.org

Well, this gets us through the end of the month anyway.  As you can see, there is still tons of activities going on right here in YOUR area!

Did I miss your favorite?  Let me know what, when and where in the comment section.

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FALL LEAVES FALLING IN MISSOURI

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Breathe in that crisp, cool autumn air! Grab a jacket or sweatshirt! Fall is dancing in on leaves of gold, orange, red and purple! It’s time to get out and enjoy the day! And what better way to spend a weekend day than motoring down our local highways, taking in the fall scenery?

Yes, the leaves are starting to change and its time to get out and see the countryside.  Maybe grab some of those pretty leaves for a project with the kids; maybe stop in for a glass of wine at one of the fabulous local wineries (always drink responsibly and have a designated driver); rent a bicycle and ride the Katy Trail. Go for a horseback ride though the foliage. Or just take your cup of tea out on the back deck and relax.  However you choose to view, just get out and do! It doesn’t last for very long.

If you want to know what is going on in a particular area, check out the Missouri Conservation Department’s website. They divide the state into regions, and describe the leaf action that is going on in each region. Here’s the link:   http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/outdoor-recreation/driving-tours/fall-colors

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Fade to Brown

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Fall Lawn Care

 

Cooler weather has finally started to roll in, and with it comes the need to start thinking about getting our lawns ready for winter.

Honestly, there are about as many ways to ready your lawn for winter as there are lawns to ready.  So, we are just going to touch on the main actions that need to be taken to ensure a lush, green lawn next spring.

1-     Keep your core maintenance in place until early winter when the grass stops growing.  Mow the grass to its regular length, and water it if it’s dry.  The last time you mow, you can drop it down just a bit shorter.

2-     Dethatch then aerate the soil.  Dethatching allows the air and water to reach the soil and aeration allows the air and water and fertilizer to reach the roots.

3-     Re-seed any thinning or bare areas so that they can establish themselves before the next hot season.

4-     Fertilize and de-weed – now’s the time.

5-     If you have in-ground irrigation, don’t forget to drain the lines.

This covers the core of your fall maintenance, but what else can you do to ensure that your first steps outside next spring are all you imagine they will be?

How about -

Plant flower bulbs now for beautiful blooms then

Plant a tree

Clean your lawn furniture and stow it out of the weather

Clean your lawn tools before you put them away for the winter so that you have

rust-free implements when you need them

Clean your gutters

This is a simple to-do list for those people out there who (like me) just want to make sure they have a lawn next spring. For those who want a more in-depth checklist, please talk to your local hardware store or the neighbor whose grass really is greener or search for answers online.

Please share your favorite tip for fall lawn maintenance.

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Sellers: Leave Your Home to Your Agent and Buying Customers

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Should I stay or should I go when my home is showing?

Gently put, most agents say that when potential homebuyers come to see your home, it’s best that you leave the premises.

Perspective buyers don’t want to see owners hovering or milling about. When they do, they get uncomfortable and feel as if they are intruding. This often causes buyers to look quickly without gaining a proper feel for the home.

The reason sellers give for sticking around is that they believe home shoppers won’t be able to find everything, and the sellers want to point out the important features. Another is that owners feel they can help “sell” the property by talking about the positives

Rest assured your real estate agent is well trained in showcasing your home, and in reading buyers and knowing when it’s best to relay information to them. If you bombard a seller with too much information all at once, you are going to leave a less-favorable impression. You might even hurt your cause by calling attention to something buyers aren’t interested in.

Let buyers discover your home’s features themselves at their own pace.

Some sellers choose to wait outside in their car or on the patio, which is better, but still not ideal. Again, if prospective buyers feel like they are being rushed they are going to move on to the next property on their list quickly.

Face it, there are some parts of selling a home that can be challenging and vacating the home is at the top of that list—especially when there are kids to care for, dinners to cook and work to be done.

However, you want buyers to spend as much time as they want in your home, envisioning the possibility of living there someday. So go to a neighbor’s home, the library or shopping. The inconvenience will be worth it in the long run.

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Earnest Money Deposit

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Most homebuyers today understand they need a sizeable down payment and a strong credit score to secure a conforming home loan. Buyers also must hold liquid funds for another financial obligation – an earnest money deposit – to be paid when they make an offer on a home.

In short, earnest money is handed over to the seller’s agent or the title company when a purchase contract is signed. This demonstrates that the buyer is serious about the transaction and is backing it up with cash.

Without earnest money, buyers could simply make offers on many homes, essentially taking them off the market until they choose a favorite. Sellers rarely will accept offers without such deposits.

There is no set amount for an earnest money deposit so it can be up for negotiation. If the home is popular with multiple bidders, the seller may ask for up to 3% of the asking price as earnest money. Ideally, the amount is enough to impress the sellers, particularly when they’re entertaining several offers.

Assuming the transaction results in an accepted offer, earnest money goes toward the buyer’s down payment and closing costs. If the transaction falls through, the buyer may have to forfeit a nominal cancellation fee or more.

Be sure the purchase agreement outlines the refund process. Remember, a buyer can lose earnest money through default, which happens when he or she does not perform according to the terms stipulated in a purchase and sale agreement.

Work carefully with your Prudential Alliance agent to ensure a clear understanding of all terms and obligations.

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CELEBRATE!

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- Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day Weekend is only a week away, bringing with it a changing of the seasons.  School is back in session, pools are closing, and, before you know it, the leaves will be performing their final dance to the ground, clothed in the brilliant colors of fall.

Yes, it’s definitely a significant weekend, but …why? Where did the notion of “Labor Day” come from? When did it start?

Labor Day is a celebration of the working person; recognition of the contributions made by the regular working class to the strength and well- being of this country.

There are records indicating that the holiday was suggested by Peter J McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. Others say that it was Matthew Maguire, secretary of the Central Labor Union, who came up with the idea in 1882. It was the Central Labor Union who adopted the proposal and planned out the festivities for the day. One year later, they repeated said festivities.

The first celebration was held in New York City on September 5, 1882 with a parade and huge party afterwards. In those days, to spend the day at the parade and party meant that you forfeited a day’s wages. But that’s how important this day was to the approximately 25,000 workers who attended.

During 1885/86 municipal ordinances were passed recognizing the holiday. The first state to pass the observance into law was Oregon in 1887, but after that others followed suit. Then on June 28, 1894 Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September a legal holiday.

And we still celebrate!

St Louis does, indeed, have a Labor Day Parade.  It will be held on September 2, beginning at 9:00am. It starts at 13th and Olive, proceeds down Tucker, then west on Market to 15th Street. Come out and support the American worker!

 

If you are looking for more to do, here’s the short list:

Big Muddy Blues Festival – Laclede’s Landing

Japanese Festival – Missouri Botanical Garden

Greek Festival – Central West End

Fall Art Fair – Queeny Park

St Louis Zoo is open til 7:00pm Fri thru Mon

And don’t forget, many pools will be closing after Labor Day!

 

How are you going to spend YOUR Labor Day Weekend??

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BACK TO SCHOOL

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Markers, crayons, pencils, paper,

Glue sticks, backpack, notebook, stapler,

Bigger shoes, new jeans and shirts.

Scrub those kids and tame their quirks.

Eat your breakfast, grab your lunch.

It’s time for school, go catch that bus!

As a parent, I don’t think there is any more ambivalent time than each fall when you send you precious offspring off to that first day of school. From their first “first day” to their last, our feelings run the gamut – happy that their day will now be filled with a useful purpose; sad that they have grown another year older and another year closer to flying the nest; tired because, let’s face it, we didn’t get to bed as early as we had planned because we were making sure everything would be perfect this morning; anxious – Will they meet new friends? Will they get along with everyone? Will someone pick on them? Will they feel safe in their new environment?  Will they pass math class? And lastly, irritation because, when you walked back into the house after seeing them off you realize their lunch is sitting on the kitchen counter and you are going to have to drive it to the school on your way to work.

Small annoyances aside, we really do want our kids to have the best school experience they can, right from the start. If they can start off right, they will begin a love affair with learning that will never end. Their life will be richer. They will feel free to soak up all the knowledge that is floating out there, and know that it’s ok to do that. But what can we do here at home that will help ensure that??  LOTS!!!

First of all, be involved. There are lots of things you can do from volunteering in the classroom to just sitting down with your kids and listening to what they learned today. Let your kids know that their education is important to you.

Get to know your kids’ teachers. See what they expect from your child. Take advantage of any resources that they offer you, such as keeping in touch online. Support the teacher’s efforts.

Which leads us to…make sure they get their homework done. Find a special, quiet place in the house for your child to be able to sit in a well-lit area with no distractions.

Set regular bedtimes and make sure they kids are home and in bed on time. No one can have a good day when they are tired. It will make them moody and irritable, and that makes it hard to concentrate and remember. Besides, they won’t make friends that way!

Make sure they have nutritious meals and snacks. Cereal for breakfast? Great…just throw in some berries and yogurt, pump up the nutritional value and that will keep them rolling through their morning. Did your kid trade or toss their lunch more times than they ate it last year? No problem… be creative, think outside the box (or bag).  Do they take PBJ every day?  Change out the peanut butter for almond butter for a little different flavor; use smashed fresh fruit instead of jelly, or even a different jelly flavor. Sometimes it’s as easy as a different kind of bread or cut it into a cute heart shape. Google “healthy lunches for kids”; search on Pinterest. There are tons of easy substitutions you can make that won’t break the bank or take up any extra time.

Safety is a top priority for any parent. Always check with your school to see what health requirements they have for immunizations and any sports your child might participate in. Check to see what your school’s policy is for busses. Teach your kiddos what to do “Just in case”. Where is there a safe spot close to their bus stop? What do you do when a stranger approaches?

Pretty much all of the local school districts have a website with a plethora of information to make this transition easier for you and your child.  Check www.prudentialalliance.com/st_louis_school_districts.html for links to most of the area schools. You can access the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (dese.mo.gov) for state-wide information. Family-type magazines and websites will also have all kinds of information and helpful suggestions on getting your kids back to school.

Remember to take lots of pictures. Hold on to the memories of these days, no matter what their age. Before you know it, they will be all grown up, leaving home to find their fortune in the big world out there!

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Prudential Real Estate Ranked Highest for Customer Satisfaction in Three Segments of J.D. Power and Associates 2013 Home Buyer/Seller Study

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IRVINE, Calif. – Prudential Real Estate, an HSF Affiliates LLC company, today announced that the Prudential Real Estate affiliate network ranked highest for customer satisfaction in three of the four segments included in J.D. Power and Associates’ annual Home Buyer/Seller Satisfaction Study. The network scored highest in Repeat Home Buyer, First-Time Home Buyer, and First- Time Home Seller categories. It ranked third in the Repeat Home Seller segment.

The sixth annual study measures customer satisfaction among the nation’s largest real estate brokerage companies. Overall satisfaction is gauged across four factors of the home-buying experience: agent/salesperson, real estate office, closing process, and variety of additional services. Seller satisfaction is evaluated through the same four factors plus marketing.

Among repeat home buyers, Prudential Real Estate scored 829 on a 1,000-point scale, performing particularly well in agent/sales person, variety of additional services and closing process. The network tallied 811 points among first-time home buyers, showing strength in all factors. Prudential Real Estate scored 809 points in the First-Time Home-Seller segment, drawing strong marks for marketing and closing process. This represents the third time in six years Prudential Real Estate ranked highest in seller satisfaction including recognition in 2008 and 2010.

“Prudential Real Estate stands for quality and consistency in neighborhoods across America,” said Earl Lee, network president and CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. “Buyers and sellers alike appreciate our affiliates’ market leadership and our agents’ skill and innovation.”

Lee added that the Prudential Real Estate network enjoys one of the industry’s highest average selling prices and that its agents stand out as local-market experts. “Affiliate to affiliate, Prudential Real Estate sales professionals have a strong work ethic and drive for client satisfaction. These prestigious awards further underscore our agents’ success and the quality of our network.”

Among other survey findings:

  • First-time home buyers and sellers are most influenced by a company’s good reputation and the recommendations they receive from friends, family and colleagues.
  • More than one-third (35%) of first-time home buyers and 27% of first-time sellers indicate they selected their real estate company based on its reputation.
  • 28% of first-time home buyers and 27% of first-time sellers selected their company based on recommendations.
  • Overall satisfaction with real estate companies is higher among repeat customers compared to first-time buyers or sellers.
  • Suggesting better times in residential real estate, the percentage of first-time home sellers increased to 44% in 2013 from 30% in 2012.
  • The percentage of first-time home buyers also increased significantly, 49% in 2013 vs. 40% a year ago. 
The 2013 Home Buyer/Seller Study includes 4,371 evaluations from 3,930 respondents who bought or sold a home between March 2012 and April 2013. 
About Prudential Real Estate and HSF Affiliates LLC 
Prudential Real Estate is a part of the HSF Affiliates LLC real estate brokerage family, which includes Real Living Real Estate and the new Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand available later in 2013. Prudential Real Estate franchisees are independently owned and operated. 
HSF Affiliates LLC, based in Irvine, Calif., is a joint venture of HomeServices of America and Brookfield Asset Management. 
Prudential, the Prudential logo and the Rock symbol are service marks of Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities and are used under license with no other affiliation with Prudential. 
About J.D. Power & Associates 
Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services company providing performance improvement, social media and customer satisfaction insights and solutions. The company’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. For more information on car reviews and ratings, car insurance, health insurance, cell phone ratings, and more, please visit jdpower.com. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.
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Understanding Home Inspections

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There’s no denying that purchasing a home is one of the biggest thrills of your life, but it can also quickly become overwhelming. While the home you choose may appear to be the perfect house, hiding underneath the dream could be serious unknown defects that can make your investment a costly one.

Enter the home inspector. A home inspector performs a physical inspection of the structure and systems of your prospective home. This means that while you may love the beauty of the living room’s wood floors, your inspector can tell if the floor will truly last.

The home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a home, from roof to foundation. The inspection will determine not only the condition of the home, but also help foresee any immediate unnecessary additional cost that may go unnoticed by the untrained eye.

Home inspections start at around $200 depending on the size of the home, its age and overall condition. It’s money well spent if you’re serious about that particular property.

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, the standard home inspector’s report will cover the condition of the home’s heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components.

John Prohaska, owner of J&P Inspections in Des Moines, Iowa, compares a home inspection to getting a physical from your doctor.

“When problems or symptoms of problems are found, the inspector may recommend further evaluation or remedies,” he said. “A home inspection summarizes the condition of a property, points out the need for major repairs and identifies areas that may need attention in the near future.”

The inspection will show the positive and negative aspects of a home, as well as the maintenance that will be necessary to keep it in good shape. After an inspection, both parties have a much clearer understanding of the value and needs of the property.

Knowing about an issue before closing gives you the upper-hand at the negotiating table. A home in good working order may have been worth $350,000, but if $20,000 of work needs to be done to replace rotted wood or bad plumbing, the price should drop.

Before any sale is complete, you will need an inspection to look over the good, the bad and the ugly of what your new home really offers.

Remember, even if a house needs repairs or has hidden problems, it shouldn’t always be the catalyst for getting out of a sale. No house is perfect and as long as you know ahead of time what needs to be done and can possibly change the purchase price based on the information, the home inspection will give you a great starter list of what needs to be done to really make moving in that much easier.

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