Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Welcome home. The fun is just beginning when first-time home buyers move in and personalize their new space.

Furnishing a new home can be expensive. Have enough funds to provide the basics and not experience short-term financial stress.

First-time home buyers who took advantage of the $8,000 tax credit program now have the experience of moving into home ownership with all accompanying responsibility and adventure. For many, this will be the first real place to call home; the urge to personalize the new “nest” is compelling.

Coming from apartments and their parents’ homes, new home owners may not realize the scope of furnishing a home with all the necessities to make the place livable, let alone lavish. According to the National Association of Home Builders, a typical homebuyer spends an average of $7,400 on their home, with more than half of that during the first year after purchase. The first order of business for new owners is to make sure at least that amount is available and won’t send the owner into a severe budget crunch. Here are some tips to make that house a real home.

Before moving, take stock of what you have and what has just become part of the scenery. Make a list of what has sentimental value and what is clutter. Moving clutter can cost a lot, either through professional moving companies or calling on friends to heave all those boxes.

After you’ve packed up your stuff, outfit and pack a basic toolbox. Many of projects you’ll do to personalize your space require tools. The basic minimum includes a hammer, screw drivers, pliers, wrenches, a tape measure and a staple gun. Hanging those new curtains loses a lot of appeal if you have to run to the hardware store in the middle to get tools. Be prepared first.

Personalizing and furnishing your new home is one of the most exciting activities for new home buyers. Before running out to purchase that super extra king size bed or several pieces of oversized living room furniture, take accurate measurements of all the rooms and use them to judge what fits and what doesn’t. After all, too much furniture in a room makes it feel small and claustrophobic. Be a fair judge of what would compliment the furniture you already have.

You’ll also need basic appliances to get started. A stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer should be energy efficient to reduce your utility bills. Spending a bit more right now makes more sense than purchasing a cheaper model that may become a problem and financial drain later on. If you are angling for an entertainment system and a huge flat screen television, check your budget first to make sure you can buy basic furnishings before such large ticket items.

Window coverings and linens are another way to express your personality, plus add security and privacy. Budget accordingly, since some new home owners don’t plan for the cost of outfitting a house with new drapes and curtains.

Garden tools will be a necessity to keep your curb appeal top notch. The basics include a lawn mower, garden hose, sprinkler, clippers, a shovel and rakes. For people moving from an apartment, this category of necessities will be a new experience.

Purchasing and personalizing your first home is a real thrill. Be creative but approach this one room at a time. As you begin feeling at home, you’ll be able to capitalize on your home’s features and blend that with your own uniqueness.

Written by Myra Vandersall

Monday, July 26, 2010

Happening around St. Charles County

Sunday, August 8
Peach Festival
Pere Marquette State Park
11 a.m.-3 p.m.
It’s time for peaches. This annual festival features crafts, food, children’s games, a balloon artist, face painting, a pie eating contest, the largest peach contest, peach drinks and lots of peaches. Take the ferries back to St. Charles County and look for even more peaches.
Free

Tuesday, August 10
Statehood Day Celebration and Concert
First Missouri State Capitol Historic Site
200 S. Main
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
7 p.m. Concert
Missouri became the 24th state on August 10, 1821. Statehood Day celebrates the anniversary with special demonstrations, interpreters in period dress and an open house. The After Hours Community Band will give a concert at 7 p.m. in the backyard of the Capitol. Bring lawn chairs, blankets and a picnic basket supper. For more info, call 636-940-3322.

Wednesday, August 11
Perseid Meteor Shower
Broemmelsiek Park, Astronomy area
St. Charles County Parks Department
8:30 p.m.
For more than 2,000 years, the Perseid Meteor Showers have been viewed. See this yearly phenomenon and bring blankets and chairs for comfortable views of the active night sky. Telescopes will be offered to view Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. For more info, call the park at 636-949-7535 or visit stccparks.org.
Free

Friday, August 18-Sunday, August 20
Festival of the Little Hills
Frontier Park and Main St.
Friday, 4-10 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
The largest festival of the season features more than 300 crafters and artists from 30 states, demonstrations, live music, street performers and magicians. The kid’s corner offers face painting, arts and crafts. Shuttle service is available. For more info, check the Festival website.

Friday, August 27
Fridays @ Frontier
Frontier Park
5-11 p.m.
Happy hour from 5- 7p.m. and That 80s Band will entertain concert goers at 7 p.m. Sponsored by the St. Charles Jaycees, the evening is Rally For America Night and all proceeds will be donated to the USO.

Friday, August 28-Sunday, August 30
Wabash Days Festival
Allen and Main St.
Wentzville
Friday, 5-11 p.m.; Saturday, noon-11 p.m.; Sunday, noon-7 p.m.
The city has been a railroad town for more than 150 years, and the Wabash Festival celebrates that heritage. New this year is a parade at noon on Saturday and the Wentzville Historical Society will again display a railroad caboose. The three-day celebration also features carnival rides, craft booths, live music and food. A 5k/1 mile fun run, Pound the Pavements for the Parks, is set for Saturday in downtown Wentzville. For more info, go to the City of Wentzville website.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Keeping a financial even keel is essential to purchase a home these days

Pay off your credit cards on time and in full, skip the new car or the new furniture. Banks and mortgage companies want to see financial stability with no big changes.

Anxious to close on the house? Sometimes the waiting period between finding your perfect place and driving up to your new home with keys in hand can be nerve wracking. You’ll want to be seen in the best light possible, so don’t get ahead of yourself.

Most likely you’ll need a mortgage and you want to be financially stable. When you begin your search, get copies of your credit report to make sure it is clean. If you find any errors, fix them.

Making large purchases in anticipation of buying a house, like new furniture, is not a good idea. That can affect your credit rating. The same goes for taking out another loan, buying a car or funding an education. Keep your credit situation as-is for right now.

Any changes to your credit status can make a difference for mortgage approval. Pay all your credit cards before the due date to make sure they are processed on time and don’t increase your credit balance. A mortgage pre-approval doesn’t make it a done deal.

Wait on any large purchases. For instance, no new car, or a new loan, or even new furniture for your home. Keep your credit situation as-is for now. Also, don’t co-sign a loan because that will add credit liability and could very well eliminate your chances of obtaining a mortgage.

Moving large sums of money is not a good idea. Don’t jump the gun and take money from savings to checking in anticipation of closing. Last minute credit and bank checks will generate inquiries about the shift and could slow down the process.

And if you leave the money in the savings account you won’t be tempted to spend it. Funds designated for closing should be left alone in the event of unexpected house-related costs. After all is said and done, you may have a bit left over but spending that won’t affect your closing.

Keep copies of all your paperwork in one place and have it ready in case someone in the process loses a crucial document. By keeping copies, you’ll be able to provide information quickly, getting you that much closer to your new home.

The time leading up to buying a house is all about financial restraint. Right now banks and mortgage companies are taking very close looks at their clients and you want to show you are a good candidate. After the closing, celebrate!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ceiling fans make life more comfortable year round

Cooling in the summer, warming in the winter, ceiling fans sweep away energy costs

The July sizzle is in the air, a blanket of humidity has descended over the metro area and air conditioners are working overtime. One inexpensive solution to help the AC is adding ceiling fans to your home. If you choose an Energy Star fan, you’ll not only increase your comfort level but also decrease your utility bill, sometimes as much as 15 percent. Fan design has improved so much over the years that there’s a fan for any d├ęcor, from the traditional Tiffany glass and dark wood models to ultra modern one-blade fans. Prices are also reasonable in relationship to the ultimate cost savings and comfort.

Don’t think of ceiling fans as just a summertime thing–in the winter fans with reversible blades circulate the hotter air that rises to the ceiling, helping to lower your heating bills too.

Before you rush out to buy a fan, do some homework first and determine the square footage. Measure the length and width of your room and multiple the numbers. That’s the square footage. Keep in mind the style of the room, and decide if you want a light kit and remote controls.

According to the American Lighting Association, choosing a fan that fits your room size gives you the maximum efficiency. In a room up to 75 square feet, like a bathroom, a 29-36 inch fan is appropriate. Medium sized rooms up to 144 square feet can handle ceiling fans from 36-42 inches. For larger bedrooms and family rooms in the 225 square foot range, the most efficient fans are 50-54 inches. The number of blades makes some difference in airflow, but whether to choose a four, five or six-blade fan is really a matter of personal design choice.

Ceiling fans do such an efficient job of circulating air when used correctly. Paul Vrabel of ICF International, an energy solutions firm, explains how to operate fans properly. “Put them on when you are in the room–during the day and when sleeping–and turn them off when you leave. Ceiling fans cool people, not the air. Using fans wisely and turning down the AC can save a lot of money.”

Written by Myra Vandersall

Monday, July 5, 2010

Senior homebuyers want simplification, good design, and smaller homes

Americans age 55+ are looking for homes close to family, work, and with a sense of style.

What does the 55+ crowd want in a home? Smaller, more energy-efficient homes in active, vital communities near work and family are the top requirements. Those are the findings from a study by MetLife and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) called “Housing for the 55+ Market: Trends and Insights on Boomers and Beyond.”

The study reveals that Boomers are looking for smaller, less expensive homes. This group isn’t ready to retire anytime soon, and with the Great Recession complicating things, they are staying in their jobs as long as possible to recoup financial losses.

The lure of “age-restricted” communities is there too, but only those that fit into the active lifestyle. These people aren’t ready for the rocking chair. The study notes that “those who moved from their existing homes did so primarily for reasons relating to their families, but the design and quality of the home, as well as the design and layout were the factors most often considered.”

Dave Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist agrees. “ A strong and growing number of retirees and empty-nesters are interested in either downsizing or moving to a more user-friendly home, especially if it’s near their existing community.”

Homebuilders are beginning to recognize what boomers want and incorporate that lifestyle in home design. In addition to a smaller home, a one level floor plan is preferable with open space and tall ceilings. Wider hallways are a plus, as is minimizing unnecessary staircases. Over 55ers want small luxuries, like double sinks and a soaking Jacuzzi-style tub, plus some space for hobbies.

Boomers, 38.9 million over the age of 65, are well-traveled, sophisticated consumers who have a good sense of what they want. And for housing, they want simplification that will enhance their lifestyles.

Monday, June 28, 2010

July 2010 Calendar of Events

Saturday, July 3 – Sunday, July 4
Fourth of July celebration
Frontier Park
This Independence Day celebration includes fireworks at 9:20 p.m. both nights, food and beverage booths, beer garden, crafts, games, carnival rides, live music on the Jaycee Stage and the Music Tent, parade.
Free
For more information call 1-800-366-2427


Saturday, July 3-Sunday, July 4
Fair St. Louis
Gateway Arch grounds on the Riverfront
10 a.m.-10 p.m. both days
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fair, the air shows return, plus spectacular fireworks displays both days, and free music performances. Saturday night John Legend entertains and on Sunday night the B-52s close the fair. For a full schedule, check out the Fair website.

Sunday, July 4
Fourth of July celebration
Progress Park, Wentzville
The theme for the Wentzville Fourth of July celebration is “The American Dream.” The parade begins at 3 p.m. on Pearce Blvd to Wentzville Holt High School. The celebration includes live music, games, food and fireworks at 9:05 p.m. For more information, call the Wentzville Parks and Recreation Department at 636-332-9236 or visit the website.

Friday, July 9 and 23
Friday Night Flicks
7:30 p.m.
4th and Clark
Friday Night flicks in Frenchtown continue with the movie Shorts playing on the 9th and Evan Almighty on the 23rd. Bring a lawn chair for comfort. The movies being at dusk. Sponsored by the Historic Frenchtown Association.
FREE

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tour of the Little Hills
Registration: 7:30 am - 9 am
Foundry Art Centre, 520 N. Main
Become a modern day explorer and climb the “little hills” of St. Charles. This urban bicycle ride has routes of various distances along flat to rolling terrain that is moderately hilly with a few big hills and is recommended for experienced cyclists. After the ride explore the fine arts gallery that hosts juried exhibitions and features 20 working artists’ studios.
Fees: $8 Trailnet Member, $12 Non-member, $3 Children under 13
For more information call 314-416-9930 x114

Tuesday, July 20
Organic Foods: Scrumptious or Scam?
Middendorf-Kredell Library Branch
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Are organic foods really worth the extra money? A registered dietician will discuss which foods to buy organic and how you can save money. Participants will taste test organic and conventional produce.
FREE

Tuesday, July 27-Saturday, July 30
St. Charles County Fair
Rotary Park, Foristell
The St. Charles County Fair is everything an old-fashioned fair should be–4-H exhibits and livestock competition, a queen and her court, baby contest, carnival rides, a rooster crowing contest, pony rides, tractor pull, midway food, and much, much more. This is a chance for kids to experience a nostalgic tradition with an updated twist. For schedules, admission fees and other information, go to the fair’s HYPERLINK "http://stcharlescofair.org/index.html" website or call 636-970-3000.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lower interest rates now eclipse savings on the $8,000 tax credit program

Because interest rates have gone down since April 30, homebuyers can still be ahead of the game in the long run

In looking back over the past year, did you really miss the opportunity of a lifetime by not buying a home and taking advantage of that $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit? The program did increase home sales and nudged people off the fence if they were considering a home purchase, but some potential buyers just weren’t ready to take the plunge.
But, with interest rates lower now and no sign from the Feds that rates will rise dramatically any time soon, the opportunity for a good buy is definitely there. In fact, this might be the best time to buy.

Here’s an exciting scenario for those of you who didn’t buy: interest rates have gone down so much since April 30, the end date for the tax credit program, that the buyer of a $350,000 home, financed with a $280,000 mortgage, would have seen quite a savings by waiting until May. With April’s average rate of 5.34 percent, a homebuyer would have locked in a 30-year fixed rate loan with a monthly payment of $1,561.82.

If that buyer waited for May to roll around, with a 30-year fixed rate loan at 4.625 percent, monthly payments would be $1,439.50. Computed on an annual basis, that’s a savings of $1,467. Over the 30 years of the loan, that’s $44,003 in savings. That’s an incredibly huge incentive to jump into the housing market and really diminishes the tax credit in the long run.

But for those of you who did take advantage of the tax credit and have found it difficult to close before the June 30 deadline, there may be help. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Harry Reid (D-NV) have offered an amendment to a house bill that would extend the closing deadline to September 30, 2010. The proposed amendment only extends the deadline to close, not to purchase. If passed, this would help a lot of buyers to still receive the tax credit and buy a home.

Written by Myra Vandersall