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Sell Your Home | 1 Posts

Holiday Decoration Storage Ideas

Decoration Storage

Major retailers have their displays of holiday decor stocked and ready for the upcoming holiday season. Before you stock up on new ornaments or lights to deck your halls, it's important to have a plan in place for storing your holiday decorations.

This helps you keep your home organized and ensures that your decor remains in good shape for years to come. Our real estate agents suggest using these ideas for storing your holiday decorations. 

  • Go Through Your Old Decor
    Before you spend money buying storage items for your decor, declutter your holiday decor. Get rid of anything that's broken and unfixable or that you just don't enjoy seeing in your home. Not only will you have less to store when it's time to pack everything away, but you'll be able to quickly find what you're looking for when it's time to decorate your home.
  • Opt for Clear Storage Containers
    Clear storage containers are a budget-friendly, efficient way to store your decor so that you know exactly what's in the bin. Try to store like items together; for example, store indoor items together and if necessary, give each room or space its own container. Label each container using specific terms so that you can quickly determine what bin you need. An added benefit of using plastic storage containers is that they help your garage or storage shed appear neat and functional, making it more appealing to potential homebuyers when you add your home to the inventory of Belleville homes for sale
  • Use Clear Garment Bags to House Large or Oddly Shaped Items
    Clear garment bags work well for protecting oversized or irregularly shaped items from the elements. You can use them to cover wreaths, outside decor, door signs, artificial trees, and floral arrangements. Garment bags are also a terrific idea for storing all your rolls of wrapping paper and decorative boxes. Depending on the item, you can hang the garment bags on a portable clothing rack, in a closet, or on hooks so that you can easily find what you're looking for when it's time to decorate. 
  • Store Ornaments and Small Decorative Pieces in Egg Cartons
    Recycle your old egg cartons to store ornaments, figurines, and other holiday trinkets. The egg carton will protect fragile items, and you can house the egg cartons in larger storage bins. Make sure to label each egg carton so that you know what's inside. 
  • Repurpose Cardboard Boxes
    You can use all your cardboard boxes to keep your lights and garland from getting tangled. Cut a piece of the box to wrap your garland or lights around so that they don't get tangled when they're in storage. This will save you detangling time when it's time to use your decorations. If you like to use specific lights in certain areas of your home, you can write on the cardboard where each strand of light goes. 

With a little time and planning, you can keep your holiday decorations organized and protected when you're not using them. Interested in purchasing a home with more space for holiday festivities? Contact us to list your home for sale!


Average Remodel Cost by Room

Remodel Cost

If you want to update your home's features or make the space more useful for your household, a home remodel can help you accomplish these goals. Our real estate agents recommend checking out this guide about the cost of a remodel by room to help with your planning.  

  • A Kitchen Remodel
    The average cost of a kitchen remodel is $25,656 on average. You can expect to pay between $75 and $250 per square foot, depending on the details of your remodel. A kitchen remodel that doesn't involve reconfiguring the room or changing the electrical or water hookups is your cheapest option for updating your kitchen. The finishes and materials that you choose also affect the total price tag. For example, a remodel that uses custom-made solid wood cabinets and quartz countertops will be more costly than a project that utilizes stock cabinets and a cheaper granite counter. A kitchen remodel is one project that tends to add value to your home and make it more appealing to potential buyers when you add your home to the inventory of Belleville homes for sale.  
  • A Bathroom Remodel
    An average bathroom remodel costs $10,978. Your costs will depend on the details of your remodel, including your flooring, materials, finishes, what items you're replacing, and whether you're sticking with your bathroom's existing layout. Changing the layout, opting for luxury materials, or integrating another feature (like going from a single sink vanity to a double vanity) will all increase the cost of your remodel. Remodels that require structural changes to your bathroom will also take more time and planning to complete. 
  • A Bedroom Remodel
    Bedroom remodeling costs vary dramatically depending on the project, but you can expect to pay around $20,000 to convert a space or expand the size of an existing bedroom. Converting an attic or other space that doesn't already have windows and a closet will be more expensive than changing the flooring and paint for a room that already has the structure in place to be considered a bedroom. If your project is minor and includes painting, replacing the flooring, and adding a few decorative features (like crown molding or wainscotting), your bedroom remodel will likely cost around $5,000.
  • A Living Room Remodel
    It usually costs about $8,000 to remodel a 250-square-foot living room. This estimate includes new flooring, fresh paint, and the addition of new lighting fixtures or accessories. If you're expanding the size of your living room or making changes to any of your home's major systems, this will increase the cost of your project. For example, adding a wet bar that requires plumbing work or adding recessed lighting can add thousands of dollars to your project. 

A remodeling project is an excellent way to make your home's space more usable for your family and allow your property to adapt to your needs. Looking for a new home to customize to your family's needs? Contact us to get started!


5 Things to Know About Home Additions

Home Addition

If your home no longer fits your needs, you might be thinking of building an addition. A new wing, great room, or even bedroom can make your current house feel more like your home. You may also consider an addition if you find an awesome home for sale that's simply lacking in a few ways. We've seen plenty of Belleville homes for sale with additions that blend in well with the original architecture. Here are some key things to know if you're thinking about having an addition built.

  1. Above-Garage Additions Are An Option
    When considering a home addition, people often assume that the addition will be added square footage on the first floor. But if your yard is already small or there's no convenient place to build onto your home, there is an alternative. Building a room above the garage works well in many cases.

    This room can be an extra bedroom, a living room, a storage area, or even an office. Since you don't need to dig or pour a foundation, above-garage additions tend to be quite affordable.

  2. You'll Need a Designer and a Builder
    There are two key people you need to hire for a home addition project. The first is an architectural designer who will draw up plans for the project. The second is a builder to actually build the addition according to the drawings. The builder may subcontract out some of the work, such as roofing or plumbing, but they'll be the head of the project.

    There are design-build companies you can hire to handle the project from start to finish. However, many of these companies only build new homes. 

  3. Extra Bedrooms Are a Relatively Affordable Type of Addition
    Building a bathroom or kitchen will cost more because the room requires plumbing. Bedrooms, on the other hand, tend to be more affordable to add. It's rather simple for builders to bump out a wall and add a bedroom onto the home.

    You'll still need building permits, and you'll need to ensure your HVAC system can support the extra square footage. 

  4. Adding a Sunroom Often Works Well
    Do you feel like your family just needs additional "living space" inside of your home? Adding on a sunroom or three-season room can be an affordable option.

    In some jurisdictions, building requirements for sunrooms are more lenient, so you may not need to spend as much on elements like the foundation and roofing. Plus, these rooms are really versatile. You can use the sunroom for relaxing in the summer and for storing off-season sporting goods in the winter.

  5. Sometimes an Addition is Not the Most Affordable Choice
    Before you commit to building an addition, get an estimate or two from building companies. Also, talk to a real estate agent and visit some homes for sale that suit your family's needs. Pay attention to the prices of those homes.

    With estimates in hand, you can compare the cost of building an addition to the cost of moving to a more suitable home. Sometimes building an addition is the more affordable option, and other times, you may be better off moving.

Home additions can open up a space and make your home a more enjoyable place to be. However, we encourage you to also consider moving to a home that's already built to suit your needs. Contact us if you're looking for a real estate agent to guide you. Our real estate agents are local experts and can guide you through the buying process. 


8 Ways to Refresh Your Front Yard

Front Yard Tips

You took your time looking at Belleville homes for sale, finally found the right one, and moved in. Now, you're looking at your front yard and thinking it could use a refresh. Sound familiar? You're not alone. Front yards do need a little revitalization from time to time to keep them looking fresh and inviting. Here are some ways you can spruce up your front yard and enhance your home's curb appeal. 

  1. Line Your Walkway With Greenery
    If the walkway to your front door is looking a bit tired, try sprucing it up by planting greenery on either side of it. Daffodils work well for this. They are tall but compact, and they bloom early in the spring when your yard could really use a pop of color. Other plants you can use to line your walkway include marigolds, allium, and daylilies.

  2. Add a Custom House Number
    House numbers can be more than just functional. They can be an attractive addition to your home's facade. Look for companies that offer custom house number plaques. Work with them to design one that coordinates with your home's color scheme and architectural style. Choose a backlit plaque to add character to your home at night.

  3. Build a Water Garden
    Water gardens don't have to be backyard decor. You can have a small one added to your front yard. A small, concrete-lined water feature with a fountain, a few floating plants, and surrounding rocks is pretty easy for a landscaping company to install. You can sit around your water garden in the evening, making your front yard a more usable space.

  4. Place Boxwoods Across the Front
    Boxwoods are a common choice for hedges because they are easy to trim and keep contained. You could plant a row of them across the very front of your yard, creating separation between your yard and the street. Keep them trimmed low enough that you can see over them. 

  5. Mulch Your Garden Beds
    This is an affordable, easy way to change the look of your front yard without majorly overhauling anything. Simply apply new mulch to your garden beds. It's surprising how much different your entire yard will look if you simply change up the mulch color or type. If you have brown mulch, change it to black. If you have pine needle mulch, change to wood. 

  6. Plant a Butterfly Garden
    Add a new flower garden, or replant part of your existing flower garden with butterfly-friendly plants. Before long, your front yard will be full of lovely butterflies. Key butterfly-friendly plants to include are milkweed, butterfly bushes, allium, Russian sage, and hydrangeas. Include a little water bath for the butterflies to use, too.

  7. Replace Your Front Door
    Is your front door starting to chip? Does it wiggle in the frame, or are you having trouble closing it? Replacing it won't just make your whole home more secure. It will also change the look of your front yard. Choose a new front door in a color that contrasts the rest of your home. For instance, if your home has tan siding, a navy blue front door would work well.

  8. Plant Crabapples
    Crabapples are perfect trees to add to your front yard. They have lovely white or pink blooms, and they stay compact in size. Plant one on either side of your home or along the street.

With these ideas, you can transform your front yard in just one weekend. If you're still looking for the perfect house to call home, contact us soon. Our real estate agents can guide you through the process. 


Time to Rearrange Your Furniture?

Furniture Tips

Are you feeling dissatisfied with your home? If it's starting to feel a little stale or like it doesn't meet your needs anymore, it could just be that it's time to rearrange your furniture. Changing your room arrangements can breathe new life into your home and remind you why you love it. Or if you're getting it ready to list, rearranging your furniture can help stage the space better for potential buyers. Here are a few tips from our real estate agents for a winning room arrangement.

  • Measure Before You Begin
    Before you start moving your furniture, measure the room and your largest pieces. This will help you make sure you choose an arrangement that will actually work with the furniture and space you have available. If it appeals to you, you can even create a visual model of how it will look by drawing the layout to scale or using a room layout app.

  • Choose a Focal Point
    If you walk through a few Belleville homes for sale, you'll start to notice that the best-staged rooms all have a focal point that the layout centers around. In your living room, this could be your TV or a fireplace (or both, if you mount the TV over the fireplace). The rest of the furniture arrangement should be chosen with this focal point in mind.

  • Choose the Placement of the Largest Pieces First
    Even if you're playing with a room layout app and trying things several different ways before actually moving your furniture, always place the largest pieces first. This will allow you to find the best location for those pieces and fill in the rest of the space with easier-to-place small furniture and accent pieces.

  • Plan for Traffic Flow
    As you are moving furniture around, either in reality or in an app, don't forget to plan for a logical flow of traffic through your home. Open spaces and freer walkways will help to make the rooms feel bigger. If you've gotten used to dodging around furniture, chances are your current layout is too crowded, so keep that in mind as you work on rearranging.

  • Get Rid of Anything That Doesn't Make You Feel Joy
    Do you feel like you have a clutter problem that's preventing you from choosing a good layout or constricting the flow of traffic through your home? Do what the minimalists do and get rid of anything that you don't absolutely love. It's not worth trying to find space for something you feel only lukewarm about. Sell or donate what you don't want and free up your space so that you can enjoy it better.

  • Revamp Your Lighting
    If your rooms aren't well lit, it might be a good time to rethink your lighting while you're moving furniture around. You should have several layers of lighting in every room: overall lighting, task lighting, and mood lighting. A mixture of overhead lighting, table lamps, floor lamps, and even wall sconces will achieve these layers. The idea is to have the room fully lit when you need good lighting, but to be able to reduce it to mood lighting when needed, such as when watching a movie.

Rearranging your furniture can go a long way toward making your home feel fresh again, but if you've truly just outgrown your space, it may be time to look for a new place. If this sounds like your situation, contact us today, and we'll help you get your search started.


How to Better Organize Your Kitchen

Kitchen Tips

Tired of having to search through multiple cabinets to locate the pot or pan you're looking for? Feel like your cabinets and drawers have a lot of wasted space?

Organizing your kitchen helps you quickly find what you're looking for and makes cooking more enjoyable. Follow these tips from our real estate agents to get your kitchen organized and clutter-free. 

  • Empty Everything Out
    Before you can decide what you want to keep and which items you want to toss or donate, you need to know precisely what you have in your kitchen. Empty out every item from all your cabinets and drawers. A general rule is to get rid of anything that you haven't used in the last 6 months (or 12 months for seasonal items). If you have multiples of an item, consider how many you really need based on your entertaining preferences. It likely makes sense to keep multiples of a specific type of pan or oven dish if you know you need them all when you cook larger meals, but keeping three or four spatulas when you only use one or two is a needless use of space. Get rid of anything that isn't conducive to your current lifestyle. Perhaps you used to faithfully use your juicer but now prefer smoothies made in your blender. Sell or donate the juicer. 
  • Clean Your Cabinets and Drawers
    With everything emptied out, it's an excellent time to clean your cabinets and drawers. If you're ready to add your home to the inventory of Belleville homes for sale, it's essential to make sure every surface in your kitchen is clean. Use a handheld vacuum or regular vacuum with a crevice attachment to quickly eradicate crumbs, hair, and dirt. Then, add a little dish soap to a bowl of hot water. Grab a rag and wipe down your cabinets and drawers. Afterward, dry each cabinet, shelf, or drawer with a dry towel.
  • Put Items Where They're Frequently Used
    As you put things back, try to place them close to the area of your kitchen where you tend to use them. For example, pots, pans, cooking utensils, and ovenware should be stored close to your stove or oven. Place cups in the cabinet closest to wherever your drinks are stored. Stow spices and baking supplies where you prep your meals. 
  • Invest in Storage Accessories
    The right storage accessories will expand your kitchen's storage space. Wire organizers work well for storing pans and baking sheets vertically so that you can get the piece you need without having to take everything out of the cabinet. A cabinet shelf allows you to organize your cabinet into multiple areas so that you have more usable space and can easily find what you're looking for. Hang hooks on the interior of your cabinets to store cleaning cloths and kitchen gloves. Clear bins work well for keeping items grouped together and contained in one spot. Opt for stackable bins so you can use every inch of your cabinet space. If you feel like you simply need more storage space, consider installing shelves or adding a sideboard or freestanding pantry. 

With a little time and planning, you can improve your kitchen's organization so that it's a better fit for your needs. Interested in a home with a larger kitchen? Contact us today to start your search!


Helpful Tips for Saving up for a Down Payment

Down Payment Tips

The spring real estate market is here and is sure to continue to heat up! If you are looking into Belleville homes for sale, you are likely considering the down payment you'll have to invest. Saving adequate money for the down payment is a hurdle for many, but a solid savings plan makes homeownership possible. Our real estate agents have compiled an easy guide below to get you closer to owning your dream home.

Most homeowners hesitate to start the homebuying journey because they can't make a 20% down payment. While many mortgage lenders demand a 20% down payment, you can put as little as 3% down with a fixed-rate conventional loan. You may pay for even less or no down payment if you qualify for a VA or USDA loan.

The best strategy is to start saving well before you start house shopping. Use your pre-approval amount or home budget to determine how much you need. For example, if your budget is $200,000, plan to save $20,000-$40,000, that is 10-20% of the down payment.

The down payment amount may be intimidating, but it's attainable with some creative strategies. These tips include the following.

  • Add Down Payment Savings to Your Budget
    The homeownership journey starts by making room in your budget. List all the places your money goes every month and determine how much you will put away for your down payment.

    You may need to cut some expenses, such as eating out or taking vacations. Some creative ways to reduce your expenditure include moving into an affordable neighborhood, getting a roommate, or spending less on trendy clothes. The goal is to make down payment savings a nonoptional expense.

  • Boost Your Income
    Look at ways to increase your income, like negotiating for a raise or working overtime.

    Side hustles like ride-share driving, dog walking, or tutoring will help you reach your savings goal in a shorter time. Selling used goods is another great idea to bring in more money.

  • Automate Savings
    If your down payment fund is easily accessible, you may be tempted to use it for other purposes. So, establish a different savings account for the down payment and contact the bank to make automatic deductions every month or week. You will find that you forget about these funds while your down payment grows.

  • Reduce Your Debt
    Mortgage lenders consider an applicant's debt to income ratio and may require a higher down payment if you have a lot of debt. High-interest debts, including student loans and credit card debts, can especially affect your ability to save for a home.

    If paying off your debts seems unattainable, start by clearing the smallest high-interest debt and move on to larger debts or refinance your current debts to free up some money.

  • Look Into Down Payment Assistance Programs
    Local and federal agencies offer various programs to encourage homeownership. Eligibility varies between these programs.

    Non-profit organizations also help people with low to moderate incomes become homeowners. Your state's Housing Finance Agency is an excellent place to start your search for down payment programs.

Saving for a down payment is taxing but entirely possible. In addition to a savings plan, you can simplify the buying process even further by consulting a seasoned real agent who understands your needs. Contact us to explore your options.


6 Tips for Creating a Home Coffee Station

Home Coffee Station

One popular feature in today's kitchens is a coffee station. While some people design their kitchen remodels with dedicated space for a coffee station, you can get the same effect in your kitchen today while making minimal changes. Here are a few ways our real estate agents recommend incorporating a coffee station in your kitchen.

  1. Make Use of What's in Your Kitchen
    Does your kitchen have a butler's pantry or built-in desk that you never knew what to do with? These are a frequent feature in remodeled kitchens, but deciding what to do with them can be tough. Give that space a purpose by turning it into a coffee station, or even a day-to-night drink station with everything from morning coffee to evening nightcaps.

  2. Carve Out a Cabinet
    If you don't already have a dedicated area like a butler's pantry where you can make a coffee station, find a slim cabinet in your kitchen that you can clear out and devote entirely to coffee, tea, and other beverages such as hot chocolate for the kids. Place the coffee maker on the counter nearby to keep everything together. This is a great thing to do during a cabinet clean-out when you're getting rid of unnecessary kitchen gadgets, as you can convert the found space immediately into a coffee station.

  3. Make a Coffee Cart
    If storage in your kitchen is at a premium, you can easily add a coffee station by using a converted bar cart, microwave cart, or even a stylish shelf unit. Attractive shelving or cabinetry underneath gives you a place to store everything you need for your morning cup, without taking up valuable counter and cabinet space elsewhere in your kitchen.

  4. Keep it Well-Stocked
    Regardless of where your coffee station is, it should have everything you or a guest needs to make your favorite drink. Make a list of everything you need to keep in your coffee station: coffee, tea, sweeteners and syrups, mugs, stirrers, and of course your coffee machine and electric kettle.

  5. Store with Style
    Once you settle on where and what will be stored there, it's time to plan out your storage in a way that's both efficient and pleasing to look at. Attractive coffee, tea, and sugar tins enable you to keep everything you need on hand, and mug hooks or racks provide a way to keep mugs on hand and organized. Baskets are a great way to store everything from pods to sugar packets, and an attractive jar or two can corral spoons or stir sticks so that everything you need is within reach.

  6. Make it Personal
    Don't forget, while you're designing your dream coffee station, to add a little personal flair. Canisters, tins, and baskets can make it look attractive and welcoming, plus you can add a wall placard, magnets, signs, or stickers with fun slogans or designs. If you're staging your home to sell it, you won't want to make it too personal, but a little flair goes a long way in Belleville homes for sale.

Even if all you do is rearrange or bring in a new cart, a coffee station is a great way to stage your kitchen for potential buyers. If your current kitchen just isn't cutting it and you're in the market for a new house, contact us today.


Get Ready for Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

Spring will be here before you know it! If you're like most people, once the seasons change, you'll focus on cleaning your home and getting it ready for the warmer months ahead. It's not too early to start planning your spring cleaning routine, especially if you're planning on listing your home in the near future. Our real estate agents have some tips to help you with your spring cleaning endeavors. 

  • Shop For Supplies
    Late winter is the perfect time to sort through your cleaning supplies, get rid of any you won't use, and start shopping for new supplies. By planning ahead, you can take your time to research various cleaning products and select ones that are most in line with your needs and preferences. You can then organize your supplies and ensure they're ready to go when you start spring cleaning.

  • Survey Your Home Interior
    You probably have some spring cleaning tasks you tackle every spring, such as cleaning your windows, vacuuming behind the furniture, and washing curtains. But there may be some other tasks that need to be handled this year.

    Go through your home, room by room, and note any cleaning that needs to be done. Is your weatherstripping moldy? Add that to the list. Are your carpets stained? Add carpet shampooing to your list. Making such a list will ensure a more thorough cleaning come springtime. 

  • Survey Your Home Exterior
    People often think of spring cleaning as an indoor activity, but the exterior of your home could probably use some tidying up, too. Winter can be harsh on landscaping, roofs, and gutters. Take a walk around your home's exterior and your yard, and list dirty and damaged materials you'd like to address this coming spring.

  • Make Appointments
    You can probably do most of your spring cleaning on your own. However, there may be some professionals you want to hire. You may, for example, want to have window cleaners come to clean the outsides of your windows. You may want a carpet cleaning company to steam clean your carpets or an HVAC company to come to clean your heating and air conditioning equipment.

    Make appointments with these professionals in advance, and you'll enjoy more flexibility in scheduling. This also gives you a chance to plan ahead for any costs.

  • Start Decluttering
    Spring cleaning will be a lot easier if you're not cleaning and organizing items you don't need. So, as winter draws to an end, make a point of sorting through your items and getting rid of excess clutter. Donate extra items to charity, or sell them for a little extra cash. Declutter a little at a time, and it won't feel so overwhelming. 

  • Assign Cleaning Tasks
    Before spring comes, you can make a list of cleaning tasks and assign each task to a different household member.

    Reserve easier tasks, like cleaning indoor windows, for the kids. This way, when spring does come, everyone will know how they're expected to contribute.

Spring cleaning is a great way to freshen up your living space, restore its functionality, and make it feel like home again. Of course, if you're still looking for Belleville homes for sale, we'd be happy to help. Contact us to learn about our real estate services.


6 Tips for Staging Your Home This Holiday Season

Holiday Selling Tips

The holidays are just around the corner, so it's time to fill your home with seasonal decor that creates an inviting atmosphere. While the holidays can be a difficult time to sell your home, our real estate agents have some staging tips that will impress holiday buyers.

The holiday season is a busy time of year with travel, family gatherings, holiday parties, and special events. With crunched schedules and strained shopping budgets, 'tis the time of year when home sales usually slow down. Buyers looking for Belleville homes for sale may need a little nudge to pique their interest. Staging your home for the holidays can be a great way to attract even the busiest buyers. Follow these tips to make a lasting impression this holiday season.

  1. Clean and Declutter
    Before you focus on holiday staging, it's essential to clean and declutter your home. Dusty floors, stained upholstery, and cluttered shelves and countertops are never appealing, but holiday decorations added to a cluttered interior are a definite turnoff. Before the holidays arrive, do a thorough cleaning or hire a professional cleaning crew, so you have a clean slate for holiday decorating.

  1. Add Some Lights
    Lighting up your home's exterior will increase curb appeal and attract more potential buyers. The holidays are the perfect time to add twinkling string lights to trees and shrubs, pathway lights to walkways, and spotlights to special outdoor architectural features. It's best to keep outdoor lights white or all one color to avoid a busy, overwhelming effect that may be an unpleasant distraction for buyers driving by the house.

  1. Showcase the Tree
    Your tree can create a lovely focal point that emphasizes a cozy, welcoming atmosphere. Most homebuyers will relate to a beautiful tree filled with lights and decorative seasonal ornaments that feel like home. 

  1. Decorate for the Holidays
    Home staging is all about neutralizing and paring down to make your home look larger and more appealing to buyers. Your holiday decorations should emphasize a warm, comfortable interior where buyers want to live. Think cozy quilts and throws, fresh garland with berries on the mantle, vases with seasonal flowers around the house, glowing candles and tealights, and a beautiful holiday centerpiece on the dining room table.

  1. Fill the Air with Fresh Scents
    Holiday scents are a wonderful way to welcome buyers. Whether you choose scented candles, potpourri, or freshly baked cookies, buyers will feel very welcome when they enter your home. Everyone associates the holidays with smells of fresh pine, juniper, and spruce, cinnamon and nutmeg spices, roasted chestnuts, pumpkin pies, and gingerbread cookies. 

  1. Complement Your Color Palette
    Before you start decorating, make sure your holiday decorations complement your home's color palette. If your living room is designed in cool shades of ocean blue, skip the clashing red garland and opt for silver garland or white snowflakes. If you have an earthy color scheme, choose decorations with accents of gold, cranberry, and forest green. For a subtle white or neutral color palette, decorations in gold, silver, or metallic will add a sophisticated ambiance.

If you're considering buying or selling a home during the holiday season, contact us for more ways to make your holiday real estate venture a complete success.


Interior Design Trends That Can Help Reduce Stress

Interior Design

Did you know that National Stress Awareness Day is on November 3rd? This important day always falls on the first Wednesday in November, as Wednesday is typically the most difficult and stressful day for Monday-through-Friday workers. The day was made an event by the International Stress Management Association (ISMA) to recognize how much stress people carry and the harm it does both physically and psychologically, as well as to promote methods of managing stress.

There are many techniques that can help you deal with stress more effectively, but did you know that your surroundings can play a big part in how stressed you feel? Here are a few interior design tricks our real estate agents recommend for minimizing stress in your home.

  • Declutter
    Decluttering is important for more than just cleaning your home or staging it to sell. There's a good reason why Belleville homes for sale do better when they're tidy and decluttered. Whether you realize it or not, a lot of clutter tends to stress you out and create a jumbled frame of mind. A tidy home without a lot of clutter, on the other hand, supports a more serene and relaxed state of mind.

  • Let in Natural Light
    Sunlight does a lot for our mental state. It's uplifting for our mental health and keeps our internal clocks on track. Plan your interior decor to let in as much natural light as possible. Even if you use insulated curtains to save energy, open them to let in daylight as much as possible. For instance, you can open the curtains in the mornings and evenings in the summer and keep them closed during the day when the sun comes in and heats things up.

  • Choose the Right Colors
    Color can be a vital part of your decor, but which direction you take it will depend on the source of your stress. A few bright splashes of color can add cheeriness to your surroundings. Soothing colors like neutrals or soft blues can help create a place where you can relax.

  • Invite Nature Inside
    House plants can also help to create a relaxing environment. Whether it's being responsible for another living thing's survival, or the perception of having a little of Mother Nature in your daily surroundings, studies have found that house plants can lift your mood and help you to destress.

  • Don't Forget a Good Night's Rest
    Your stress levels and how you manage them have a lot to do with how well you sleep. If you don't get enough sleep, or you don't sleep well, you may be setting yourself up to be more stressed than you would be otherwise. The bed often gets overlooked when decorating your home, as most people focus on the common areas of the house and those used for entertaining, but it's important to choose a comfortable bed and soothing decor in the room where you get the most rest.

The perfect home may not be able to completely resolve your stress, but by following these tips, you can create an environment where you can rest, reset, and recharge. To start your search for the perfect refuge from life's stressors, contact us today.


How to Make Your Home Cozy This Fall

Cozy Fall Home

Fall is the ideal time to make a few cozy upgrades to your home. A cozy, inviting home makes the transition from long summer days to shorter, chillier fall days (and eventually frigid winter days) less daunting. 

When it's time to add your property to the inventory of Belleville homes for sale, potential buyers will appreciate these homey, inviting upgrades. Here are a few projects to add to your to-do list. 

  1. Seal Drafty Spots
    A drafty room increases your energy bill and makes it more difficult to produce a warm, inviting space. Use a candle to identify areas where air is entering your home (the draft will blow the flame). Use caulk to fill small holes; spray foam is a great alternative for fixing larger holes. If the weatherstripping around your windows or doors looks damaged or you can feel drafts, replace it. 
  1. Clean Your Light Fixtures (and Replace Burned-Out Bulbs)
    A room filled with light instantly looks more inviting. Clean your light fixtures to ensure that they can properly illuminate the room. You can use a soft cloth to wipe down dusty fixtures. Or, if the fixtures have a lot of grime on them, disassemble them and use warm, soapy water to clean them. Dry them with a damp cloth and polish if necessary. Replace any burned-out or harsh, fluorescent light bulbs. Swap them for a softer light bulb in a suitable wattage. 
  1. Add Indoor Plants
    Plants add life to a room, making it more inviting to homebuyers. Our real estate agents often recommend adding potted plants to various spaces in your home to make them universally appealing. Not only do plants improve your home's ambiance, but they boost the air quality and increase humidity levels. If you're constantly combating dry air during the cooler months, plants can help. 
  1. Wash Your Windows
    Natural light is a fantastic addition to any room in your home. However, when your windows are dirty, this literally dulls the amount of light that enters your home. Spend an evening washing all the windows in your home. If your blinds are dusty, wipe them with a wet wipe and a small amount of degreasing cleaner to ensure they don't transfer dirt to your newly cleaned windows. 
  1. Replace Your Bath Towels and Bedding
    Make sure that your quest for a cozier home extends to every room in your home. Fresh linens are an easy way to upgrade the look of your bathroom. Invest in new linens that will turn your bedroom into a cozy haven. Flannel sheets feel fantastic against your skin and keep you warm without creating a stuffy sleeping environment. A lush down comforter is an excellent addition that adds insulation and sleep-inducing heft to your bed. 
  1. Add Functional Storage
    You need to make sure you have a convenient, functional space to stow all your cozy essentials. Consider a cube storage unit with stylish bins, or invest in a lift-top ottoman or coffee table. When you're not using your throw blankets, candles, or books, you can store them out of sight, making it easy to keep your home free of clutter. 

Looking for a new space that you can decorate with all your cozy essentials? Our team can help. Contact us today!


Outdoor Walkway Ideas for Your Home

Walkway Ideas

As if landscape design hadn't been breaking new frontiers in recent years in so many inventive ways, here comes the latest: outdoor walkway ideas that promise to dazzle your visitors and set the neighborhood talking. Whether your walkway design is brick, wood, stone, tile, or gravel, it can become a real talking point -- or selling point, if you plan to list your home among Belleville homes for sale.

Let's take a walk through some of the fabulous outdoor walkway design ideas that might be right for your new home.

  1. Gravel
    Many homeowners choose gravel for their walkways because it's low maintenance. But that's not all; skillfully installed, gravel can look clean and sophisticated. When considering gravel, remember that it comes in many sizes, types, and colors, and not just the well-known river rock. There's lava rock, colored glass, crushed granite, and many more. One popular walkway design is to pair gravel with stone, either by matching or contrasting. 

  2. Brick
    Brick has been used in walkways for centuries. Its warmth and beauty still make it a treasured walkway material, but the good news is that some companies are offering a more durable brick look-alike paver. Whether you opt for the look-alike or the real thing, you can find different colors that will lend themselves to defining interesting patterns, including herringbone, basket-weave, running bond, and stacked bond.

  3. Bark Mulch
    Talk about low maintenance; bark mulch is also about as low-key as you can go, but that doesn't mean it can't be beautiful and sophisticated as a walkway material. Mulch comes in different textures and colors, so have fun choosing what sets off your lawn or flower beds. Border it with stones, or not. It will, of course, need to be replenished over the seasons as it breaks down.

  4. Wood
    Wood is a traditional walkway material that offers myriad possibilities for creating intricate or simple designs. You can take the easy road and place recycled wood palettes next to each other, allowing vines and other low-growing plants to twine around them, or a cedar decking boardwalk, ideal for sloping or wet sites. While wood is known for needing maintenance, so it doesn't break down, it's also a lot lighter than concrete or stone and can be relatively inexpensive. However, if you're interested in durability, you might look into a concrete slab wood look-alike.

  5. Stepping Stones
    Concrete stepping stones can add some storybook charm to your secret garden. These stones fit nicely in a natural setting, complementing your plantings and other structures without drawing the eye away from your garden wonders. You can opt for natural stone or low-maintenance concrete slab stone look-alikes.

  6. Textured Walkways
    Textured walkways will inspire some buzz in your neighborhood. These unique surface finishes feel good and look intriguing, with their patterns evoking the beach, the desert, or the dunes. The various textures can also offer guests the benefit of non-slip surfaces.

  7. Stamped Concrete
    Stamped concrete has many looks these days, including a palette of warm, eye-catching colors and novel patterns. Consider your outdoor landscaping when picking a design for this material.

  8. Large Tiles
    Large monochromatic tiles lend themselves to creating a smooth, sleek expanse -- just right for retreating a bit into the background while letting your landscape, your patio furnishings, and other hardscape elements shine in the spotlight. These tiles are perfect for a clean, modern look. 

Our real estate agents have lots of ideas to improve your Belleville home. Contact us today. 


Security Upgrades You'll Want for Your Home

Belleville Security

When you have a home that you love, it's important to have security features to keep you and your family safe. 

Our real estate agents know that a few simple changes make a significant difference in the security of your property; these upgrades also make your home appealing to potential buyers. Here are some security upgrades to consider adding to your home. 

  1. Add Lighting to Your Home's Exterior
    A dark property is attractive to potential thieves. They have a chance to scout a home for valuables, check storage sheds for expensive items, and break into vehicles, all while they are conveniently concealed by the darkness. Install motion-sensor lights around your home and, if possible, along the perimeter of your property. These lights are a great option for deterring thieves or even stopping a theft that's in progress. If you aren't keen on motion lights, regular exterior lights are another alternative. You can also put your lights on a timer by using smart light bulbs. Even if you have a late evening, it's possible to remotely turn on your lights, so your home is properly illuminated. 
  1. Install a Video Doorbell
    Video doorbells are an excellent upgrade for any home. Not only can you see who's on the other side of your door without having to open it, but you can record any activities that take place on your front porch or lawn. If porch pirates steal your packages or if someone tries to break into your car, you'll have them on video. 
  1. Swap Your Doors Locks for Biometric Locks
    Biometric locks require an acceptable fingerprint or password for entry to your home. They're often more secure than keyed locks, making it difficult for thieves to pick your lock. Some models even sound an alarm when someone with the wrong credentials tries to unlock the door. Since you don't need a key for a biometric lock, you won't have to worry about hiding a key on your property in case you get locked out. Thieves may find hidden keys and use them to enter your home. 
  1. Keep Your Shrubbery and Trees Maintained
    Overgrown vegetation provides easy hiding spots for thieves. Make it more difficult for a thief to remain undetected by regularly trimming your bushes, trees, and shrubbery. Neat landscaping also improves the appearance of your home's exterior before you add it to the inventory of Belleville homes for sale
  1. Buy a Few Fake Signs and Decals
    Thieves are more likely to avoid homes that they view as a hassle. It only costs a few dollars to purchase a decoy sticker that states your home is monitored by a security company. You can also buy an inexpensive "Beware of Dog" sign (even if your home only has two-legged family members). A potentially aggressive dog and a loud security system are both deterrents for criminal activities. 

Interested in selling your property? Contact us today to start the selling process!


The Outdoor Updates Buyers Will Love

Outdoor Updates

When you're getting ready to list your home on the market, many sellers primarily focus on their home's interior, but it's important to remember your outdoor space too. Your home's exterior is your first chance to make a good impression on potential buyers. A beautiful exterior is an excellent way to attract attention to your listing. 

Our real estate agents always encourage sellers to focus on sprucing up their outdoor space before listing their home, as it can actually have a positive impact on the home value and sale price. Below are some tips to help you get started today:

  1. Update Your Landscaping
    If your yard is overgrown or your trees need a trim, it can certainly give buyers a bad first impression. Before listing your home, make sure your lawn is well-maintained, shrubs are trimmed, and weeds or debris are removed from your garden. Once everything is in order, try adding some new plants. Blooming annuals and perennials are great ways to make your exterior stand out in the summer. 

  2. Refresh Your Facade
    If the front of your home is looking a bit dated, giving it a good makeover or refresh can really increase your home value. If your home is stucco or wood, you may want to pressure wash it to remove any dirt, stains, or mold. If it's in pretty bad shape, consider giving it a new coat of paint. It might be time-consuming or expensive, but you'll likely be able to recoup the costs in your sales price.

  3. Stain Your Deck
    The deck serves an important role as a summertime gathering space, so if it's looking a bit faded, you may want to consider staining it before listing your home. Staining your deck is a good way to make it shine for prospective buyers and can give your entire outdoor space a fresh look.

  4. Add A Fire Pit
    Fire pits are the staple of any summer BBQ or backyard party, and buyers love to see them. You can buy one at a local hardware store or even build your own with brick or stone. Add comfortable seating so visitors can imagine themselves enjoying time outdoors with friends and family.

  5. Stage Your Patio
    Buyers want to see a beautiful, comfortable patio area, so be sure to show off your best furniture. Patio furniture can really make or break an outdoor space, so it can be helpful to stage the area with a nice lounge set. If your furniture is looking a bit worn or faded, you may want to invest in some new cushions. A nice patio rug is also a good way to pull the entire space together.

Outdoor areas are very appealing to prospective buyers looking at Belleville homes for sale, especially during the summertime. Make sure to give off a good first impression by devoting some extra time to refreshing the space. For more home staging tips, contact us today.


Don't Forget About Your Gutters This Summer

Gutter Maintenance

Homeowners routinely forget about their gutters when it comes to warm weather maintenance chores. However, there are a number of reasons you should check your gutters each year so that they're in good working order and you avoid potential damage to your roof. If you're listing your home among Belleville homes for sale, you should check out your gutters to ensure they are in good repair. Here's the lowdown on gutter maintenance for the summer.

If you don't have gutter covers, you will likely need to do a thorough cleaning. You can hire the work to be done, and if you need rain gutter repair, that might be the best plan. Otherwise, put on a pair of gloves, get a sturdy articulating ladder that goes up and over the gutters rather than an extension ladder. The ladder should not be leaned against the gutters.

Work your way around the house, cleaning out debris such as sticks, leaves, and dirt. Backed-up gutters can cause rain damage to your roof; in the winter, melting and refreezing ice in the gutters may cause ice dams that can damage your roof. 

Once all the debris is removed, follow these tips.

  1. Clean the Gutters
    Take a scrub brush and some mildly abrasive soap to clean the gutters. (Test a patch to see if it will work well before you use the soap and brush.) Scrub off moss, algae, mold, and dirt. Make note of any particularly moldy or mossy patches; it could signal moisture buildup. You can also use a hose to flush out your gutter system.

    Carry a bucket with you as you work your way around the house, and put the litter and debris in it. That way, you won't have to clean the ground when you're done. A drop cloth might also be helpful to catch any debris. 

  2. Repair Damaged Gutters
    If your skills are up to repairing your gutters, you may need to fill holes with mastic or address areas of rust. If the gutter sections are askew, they should be set right. Tighten gutter adherence points. You may need to replace badly damaged sections of gutters.

  3. Install Gutter Covers
    You may have DIY skills sufficient to install gutter covers. If you do, don't forget to put in downspout protectors before you install the covers. Then, position a section of 2' X 4' as a brace against a hammer; pry out old gutter spikes, then install threaded spikes with a drill. You're then ready to snap gutter covers in place. 

  4. Removing Gutter Covers for Cleaning and Maintenance
    Even with gutter covers, it may be necessary to occasionally clean out gutters or check them for problems. The way you remove the covers will depend on the type of gutter covers you have (there are five basic types). Some guards may be screwed into a fascia board, while others just snap over the gutter system. Talk to your installer about cover removal if you're not sure how they come off. You might also check the manufacturer's instructions for removal. These can be especially helpful with semi-permanent types of gutter guards. 

Need more tips to help you sell your home? Our real estate agents can help. Contact us today. 


Give Your Home Office a Refresh With These Tips

Home Office Tips

So many of us are spending more and more time working from home these days, so there has never been a better time to revamp your home office. Whether you want to impress your colleagues during your video conference call or simply want a more comfortable working space, improving your home office will improve your happiness and productivity. Our real estate agents love creating beautiful home offices, and they've been compiled a list of tips for giving your working space a refresh: 

  1. Start With a Fresh Coat of Paint
    If you're going to spend a lot of time staring at your office's four walls, then you might as well give them a nice coating of paint. Just be sure to go with a professional tone. Lighter colors will ultimately reflect more light and make your room appear larger. Consider what colors would work with your office furniture and that you'd like to see while working. For inspiration, check out home office colors in some of these Belleville homes for sale.

  2. Personalize Your Desk
    Your desk should always match your personality. If you enjoy looking at things that bring you joy, add your favorite picture frame, decor, or books. By surrounding yourself with things that inspire you, you can improve your mental health and increase your overall productivity.

  3. Maximize Your Lighting
    Lighting can have a major impact on your mind and health, which is why it's incredibly important to make sure your office is well-lit. If your home office doesn't receive enough natural light through windows, you should think about adding supplemental solar or LED lighting. 

  4. Find The Perfect Desk
    Desks come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, so it's important to find one that not only looks good but also makes you the most comfortable. If your job requires a lot of paperwork, you'll likely want to get one with a large surface. Adjustable desks can also provide you with the option to sit or stand, which can benefit your health and posture. When it comes to style, traditional wooden desks can create a classic office look, while white glass top desks can create a more modern vibe.

  5. Don't Forget The Chair
    If you're going to splurge on anything for your home office, make it your office chair! A comfortable office chair can make all the difference in the world. Make sure to invest in an ergonomic model that fits your body size. It should have both a headrest and armrests and be capable of rotating 360 degrees.

  6. Add Additional Storage
    Even though we're living in a mostly paperless world, adequate storage space still comes in handy. Plus, it helps you convey a professional and put-together feel in your workspace. Add some nice bookcases, filing cabinets, or office supply bins so you can keep all of your items organized.

Creating a comfortable place to work inside your home has never been more important. Contact us today for more tips on how to make the most out of your home office.


What Home Improvement Shows Get Wrong

Home Improvement ShowsHome improvement shows are perfect for lazy weekend binge-watching. An easy home renovation that's completed over the weekend and delivers dreamy results (complete with décor accessories) – who wouldn't want that? The popularity of home renovation shows has dramatically skyrocketed and perhaps changed the way viewers think about buying and renovating a home. However, things that happen on these shows are out of line with reality and can be misleading if you're looking to remodel or buy Belleville homes for sale. As you enjoy these shows, take everything with a healthy dose of cynicism. Here are some important things the shows get wrong.

  1. Their Renovation Costs Aren't Realistic
    Sorry to break it to you, but the project budgets you see on TV aren't even close to the real thing. They'll show a homeowner with a long list of must-haves and a very tight budget. And somehow, the renovators are able to deliver the expected results and even add some design elements for free. That's just made for TV. These shows receive heavy discounts for labor and materials in exchange for free publicity. They're also notorious for cutting corners and using cheap materials to drive down costs. If you're going to renovate any room in your home, be prepared to pay a higher price than what you see on TV.

  2. Their Timelines Are Unreal
    Home improvement shows make it look like you can have a new bathroom in 24 hours, but that's just good editing. Some shows will even have a professional crew working round the clock to get the job done. On average, a home remodeling project takes 4 to 8 months. From meeting with contractors and getting permits to selecting materials and finishes, there's significant planning that goes into a successful renovation. Not forgetting the time it takes to shore up plumbing, install electricity, let the paint dry, and inspect the home. Home improvement projects take careful and attentive coordination.

  3. Walls Are Just Knocked Down
    The hasty renovation process you see on home improvement shows would be a total disaster in real life. You'll see hosts swoop in, capture the homeowner's vision and kick start the demolition. Winging it without knowing what's behind those walls is a great way to run into frustrating complications and ruin your budget and schedule. Without careful inspection and planning, the contractors could end up knocking loose things like asbestos insulation and lead paint, creating a major health hazard. As we've already mentioned, solid planning and preparation are your best bet when it comes to home renovations.

  4. Time for a Vacation?
    Surprise reveals are very common in home renovation shows. A couple or family takes a vacation for a few days and returns to a barely recognizable space. This is just a big lie and rarely happens in reality. Home improvement projects should be orchestrated to minimize disruptions and allow homeowners to keep their daily schedule as normal as possible. You may need to share your space with workers and live for weeks without a functioning bathroom or kitchen, but you don't have to go on vacation while your home is renovated. In fact, it's best to stay so you can communicate with the contractor and keep an eye on the project.

It's possible to bring your home improvement fantasy to life, but you need to keep your dreams grounded in reality. If you're thinking of taking on a home renovation project, you can count on our real estate agents to help you renovate and sell smart. Contact us for more information.


5 Tips for Starting Your Garden Indoors

Indoor Garden Tips

Some plants take a lot longer to grow than others, which can be challenging for us gardeners who live in cold weather climates. But there is a secret to getting ahead start on the season: start your garden indoors!

Planting your seeds indoors is actually a great way to get ahead start on the gardening season. Starting indoors allows you to really maximize your harvest and ensure your plants are in full bloom for the start of spring. Broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, and onions are some of our real estate agent's favorite plants to start inside. In fact, we thought it'd be helpful to pull together a list of tips to help you get started with your own indoor gardening this year:

  1. Use A Good Seed Starting Mix
    When starting seeds indoors, you need to plant them in a seed starting mix. These mixes don't actually contain soil or nutrients, rather they're made from ingredients like compost, perlite, and peat moss. Regular garden soil holds too much water, which prevents seeds from sprouting. The key to a good seed starting mix is finding one that strikes the right balance between water retention and drainage.

  2. Make Sure Your Container Has Holes
    It really doesn't matter what type of pot or container you use, so long as it has enough holes on the bottom. Holes allow for both proper water drainage and adequate oxygen exposure for your plant's roots, both of which are critical for growth. Plastic flats or even biodegradable pots both work well for planting seeds indoors.

  3. Plant Your Seeds at Just the Right Depth
    Your packaging should tell you exactly how deep you should plant your seeds, but if it doesn't, here is a good rule of thumb: Your seeds should be planted two to three times deep as they are wide. Small seeds may only need to be placed a fraction of a centimeter beneath the surface of the soil, while larger seeds may need to be one to two inches deep. 

  4. Maintain The Right Conditions
    For your seeds to grow, they need to have the right combination of conditions. You want to try to keep your soil damp but not full of water. Your seeds should also be placed in a warm (but not hot) area, away from any cold air drafts. Once they start to sprout, 65 to 75 degrees is the optimal temperature for growth. Light exposure also becomes more important once your seeds begin to sprout. If your home has great light exposure, like many of these Belleville homes for sale, then you should be in good shape. If not, extra fluorescent lighting is a great way to get your plants the light necessary to grow indoors.

  5. Begin Fertilizing
    Since your seed sprouting mix doesn't actually contain any nutrients, you'll want to begin fertilizing once you see one to two leafs sprout. However, you should only use a half-strength fertilizer until the plant matures. You only need to fertilize once or twice a weak, so be careful not to overdo it.  

We're always looking for new ways to step up our gardening game. If you're thinking about starting a home garden this year, contact us for more tips today! 


How to Get Your Home Sparkling Clean This Winter

Belleville Clean Home

Sure, you worked hard all spring and summer with DIY and cleaning projects, but we bet you overlooked something. Plus, now that the holidays have come and gone, chances are you've let some things slide in your cleaning routine. Be sure to follow these tips for getting your home sparkling clean this winter. Once you're finished, if you need help listing your home or buying a house from Belleville homes for sale, your local real estate agents are ready to help.

  1. Clean the windows.
    If the weather allows, clean your windows. There's nothing like gazing through the clean, sparkling glass onto your winter landscape. You'll also let more light in — which is important to your mental well-being in winter. Clean interior glass with a glass cleaner or a squeeze bottle of vinegar, alcohol, and water. Use a lint-free, microfiber cloth to wipe clean. Then use another cloth or paper towel to dry. Repeat the procedure outside if there's no snow. You can start with the front of the house and work your way around, a wall at a time. 

  2. Dust the radiators and space heaters.
    If you supplement your central heating with space heaters or use radiators or a heat pump, be sure to wipe the dust off these units now and then. They will actually heat your home better when they are clean.

  3. Wash the throws and blankets periodically.
    You and your family may live under blankets and throws to stay warm, keeping the thermostat down a few degrees. You'll need to clean these as the season wears on, particularly if you've got pets that like to cuddle with you. Invest in washable blankets, so you don't have to spend a fortune at the dry cleaner's.

     Wash fleece blankets separately in cold water, with minimal detergent.

    Another tip:
    The pillows could need washing as well. Check the labels for instructions.

  4. Air seal your home.
    This sort of cleaning chore also affects your indoor air quality and the efficiency of your heating system. Take a lit incense stick and walk around your home, checking to see if the smoke wavers around the baseboards, electric switch plates, openings for wires, cables, and pipes in exterior walls, the attic hatch, or around door and window frames. If it does, fix the holes with weatherstripping, insulation, or caulk. This will keep your heated air in and keep out the cold air, dust, and humidity that seeps in through minute cracks.

  5. Clean curtains, shutters, and blinds.
    Wash your curtains if they're washable; otherwise, take them to the cleaners at least once a year. Wipe indoor shutters and blinds with a damp — never wet — cloth. It's best to dust shutters and blinds periodically, so you don't have to scrub off grimy dirt when you're ready to clean. 

  6. Check the fireplace.
    If you didn't have the flue or chimney cleaned prior to lighting the fireplace, do so. You want to remove bird or rodent nests, as well as soot on the chimney walls. You can burn off flammable soot and creosote, so it doesn't catch fire by stoking up a roaring fire every day.

Need more cleaning tips for your winter amusement? Our real estate agents can help. Contact us today.


Deep Clean Your New Home with These 9 Tips

Deep Clean Your Home

While cleanliness is always a feature of Belleville homes for sale, the concept has taken on a whole new importance this year. Protect your family and display your new home in its best light with this guide to pre-move-in deep cleaning. 

  1. Do a Walk-Through
    When closing is done and you've officially taken possession of the keys, head to the new house and do a walk-through of each room. Make sure everything that's supposed to be there is accounted for and no trash or belongings have been left behind. Take note of anything that may need some extra TLC during cleaning.

  2. Gather Supplies
    Don't allow your momentum to stall out because you discover you're missing a certain cleaner or utensil. Your supply list should include sponges and rags, an assortment of cleaning products and disinfectants, broom, vacuum, mop, bucket, toilet bowl brush, and rubber gloves. If you're going to clean floors yourself, rent a steam cleaner or carpet cleaner at a home improvement store.

  3. DIY Disinfectant
    Are you making a conscious effort to follow a green lifestyle? If so, you may prefer not to use chemical-laden commercial cleaning products. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a homemade solution of four teaspoons of bleach per one gallon of room temperature water. For best results, use this solution within 24 hours for effective disinfectant properties.

  4. Work from Top to Bottom
    You may be tempted to begin with the lower levels of a room because those are the visible areas. Starting at the top prevents dust and other debris from falling on clean surfaces, resulting in extra work. As a bonus, you'll get the hard part out of the way first.

  5. Start with the Kitchen
    For many families, the kitchen is the heart of the home. Unless you're prepared to rely on take-out for an indefinite length of time, clean the kitchen right away so you'll feel comfortable storing food and preparing meals. Begin with the refrigerator and put perishable items away as soon as possible.

  6. Don't Overlook the Little Things
    Small, unobtrusive objects such as light switches, door handles, and toilet paper holders are often passed by during general housecleaning. In fact, these areas are likely spots for harboring germs. During the initial move-in cleaning, nothing should be considered "not worth the trouble." 

  7. Work on One Room at a Time
    When it comes to cleaning a house, multitasking isn't the most efficient method. Moving from room to room doesn't save any time and it increases the chances of missing some important tasks. Take the time to finish one room before taking on the next one.

  8. Safety First
    Dirt and grime also has a negative effect on the operation of appliances and other household systems. Clean garbage disposals, run washers, and dishwashers on empty cycles, remove lint from dryer vents, check heating and air conditioning filters, test smoke detectors and have the chimney and fireplace professionally cleaned.

  9. Hire an Exterminator
    Did your new home sit unoccupied before you purchased it? Get peace of mind by hiring an exterminator to check for signs of unwanted visitors.

At Strano & Associates, your health and safety is our main concern. Our REALTORS® follow a complete set of protocols to eliminate contact and minimize risk. Contact us to learn more.


5 Plants to Add to Your Garden in July

July Gardening

By the time July rolls around, many people believe planting season has come and gone - but the truth is, July can be the perfect time to plant many edibles and herbs from seed. Many cooler weather plants only need about 60 days to fully mature. Since the first frost can be as late as October or early November in Illinois, mid-summer is the right time to be thinking about a second harvest. 

Maintaining a garden is not only a great hobby, but it can also significantly improve the appearance of your outdoor space. For those who are planning to put their home on the market this fall, starting a mid-summer garden can be a great way to make your yard more appealing to potential buyers and compete with other Belleville homes for sale. 

If you're looking to spruce up your yard this summer, below are 5 plants you can easily add to your garden this July: 

  1. Carrots
    Late July is one of the best times to plant carrots, as they're a great compliment to many classic autumn comfort food meals. Carrots typically take between 70 and 80 days to fully mature, so planting them in mid-July should give you plenty of time to harvest before the first frost hits. 
  2. Cucumbers
    Since most cucumbers take about 50 days to mature from seed to harvest, they're a great edible to add to your garden in July. However, most cucumbers are sensitive to frost, so err on the side of planting these vegetables as early in the month as possible. 
  3. Radishes
    Radishes are a popular edible for a fall harvest. They're able to grow until the soil freezes, and because they mature fairly quickly (between 30 and 60 days), they can be planted any time between early July and early August. 
  4. Basil
    An excellent herb for any fall garden, basil matures in 30 to 60 days and only needs between 6 and 8 hours of sunlight to grow. Planting basil in July will give you an excellent herb to incorporate until your cooking come fall.
  5. Kale
    Many people believe fall is actually the best time to harvest kale as a small amount of frost exposure can actually help to sweeten the plant. Kale takes about 55 days to mature, so planting in mid to late July should lead to a good second harvest and a healthy vegetable to add to your plate in the fall.

If you're more interested in ornamentals than vegetables, fast-blooming wildflowers such as cosmos, zinnia, and alyssum can make a great addition to your garden in July.

Gardening is a great way to improve the appearance of your yard and may even help you to sell your home faster. Just remember that your plants will need some extra water, care, and maintenance in the intense summer heat. For more tips on how to improve the appearance of your outdoor area, our real estate agents can help. Contact us at Strano & Associates Real Estate. We've been experts at serving the southern Illinois real estate market since 1981.


5 Ideas for Your Unfinished Basement

Unfinished Basement IdeasYour unfinished basement may be a useful space for storing unsightly odds and ends. However, you can take things a step further and add to your home's habitable square footage by converting the basement into anything from a workout room to an entertainment area.

Our REALTORS® can give you ideas to get you started. Your finished basement could turn into one of your home's most desirable selling points -- yet another way to stand out from other Belleville homes for sale.

Have a look at these five suggestions for your unfinished basement.

  1. Renovate Your Storage Area 
    There's no reason your basement has to look like a garage sale. First, clean it up and remove clutter. Do an assessment: are you ever going to use that rolled up rug of Aunt Sally's again? Get rid of it, and anything else you haven't used in several years. Next step: clean up, repairing broken drywall, adding insulation in the walls for better climate control, and fixing air leaks to the outdoors. Then, organize with neat shelving (use shelf paper wherever you can), pegboard for tools. Store clothing, books, and odds and ends in plastic containers that will fit in the shelves. 

  2. Design a Workout Room
    Those exercise machines just don't fit in with your upstairs decor, tending to be obtrusive no matter how you try to hide them. If you haven't gone overboard on buying equipment, you may be able to fit everything into one end of the basement. Make sure your workout space is clean (no moldy, damp smells) and airy. An air purifier or exhaust ventilation can help. Got a cold concrete floor? Soften it up with square foam floor mats in contrasting colors for visual interest. Go a little crazy with bright colors and creative designs.

  3. Create an Underground Retreat
    Create a getaway room that'll become your new favorite room in the house. Among the options:
    • Relaxation room for yoga and meditation.
    • Reading room with shelves of books, magazines, and DVDs.
    • Kids' room with games and DVD player.
    • A "cave" where you can relax and display artwork and collectibles.
    The right lighting can set the mood, so if electrical outlets are in short supply, try hanging some industrial string lights. Area rugs and some comfortable furniture will make your retreat cozier.

  4. Section off a Utility Area
    Section off your appliances and laundry area to one end of the basement and use the remainder for another function, be it entertainment, working out, or tool room. Start by beautifying the laundry area, painting cinder block walls a clean, light shade of turquoise or powder blue (blue shades are calming); add a black and white tile floor, going large with the tiles. Curtains can separate the laundry from the rest of the space.

  5. Extra Bedroom
    Who doesn't occasionally need an extra bedroom to put up guests or for sleepovers for the kids' friends? A fabric canopy ceiling and a pendant light help create a traditional bedroom effect; separate the sofas and chairs from beds with gauzy curtains.

Turn that extra square footage beneath street level into a selling point. Contact us today.


Make Your Stainless Steel Shine with These Tips

Stainless Steel Cleaning

Stainless steel appliances lend an air of sleek, modern elegance to any kitchen -- but only if they're gleaming and smudge-free. As you go about your spring cleaning, be sure to spiff up your stainless steel appliances, as well as your sinks. It's not difficult, and shining it up to polished perfection will make a great impression on a potential buyer. 

How to Make Your Stainless Steel Shine

To make stainless steel appliances shine, address those messy fingerprint smudges, water drips, and food splatters as soon as they happen. Fortunately, stainless steel is fairly easy to clean.

Stainless steel cleaner is highly recommended. It's also a good choice to prevent scratching the steel. However, there are other products you can use. But do avoid steel wool, bleach, ammonia, and scouring powder, or you'll diminish the steel's shine. Mineral-laden tap water may also leave stains. You should also avoid any chlorine-based cleaners or anything with chloride in it. 

Some products that you may have in your cupboard that will work well:

  • Mineral oil.

    Just a light coating will work fine. Buff it thoroughly to prevent tacky buildup. Do not use vegetable or olive oil, or any food-based oil. They can become rancid.

  • Windex.

    Use Windex on a dry cloth, or some ammonia and vinegar-free window cleaner. It's always best to spray any cleaner on a dry cloth, as spraying directly onto an appliance can cause drip marks. 

  • Dish soap.

    Mix a teaspoon of dish soap with a quart of hot tap water. Rub the detergent onto the marks with a microfiber cloth, always working in the direction of the grain. Rinse with warm water, drying immediately with a clean cloth. You can also polish with a little dab of baby oil, again, moving in the direction of the grain.

  • Club soda.

    Spray club soda onto appliances. As with other methods, wipe only in the direction of the grain. Club soda helps clean the surface of fingerprints and food and helps make it shine. Wipe afterward with a microfiber cloth.

  • WD-40.

    Spray WD-40 onto a microfiber cloth. Wipe it in the direction of the grain. WD-40 also helps protect stainless steel from fingerprints.

    Caution: This is a petroleum-based product and shouldn't be used on any surface that comes into contact with food. Whenever using this substance, read the safe-use label and follow directions carefully.

  • Lemon oil furniture polish.

    Apply a small amount to a clean, soft towel and then rub it evenly onto the appliance until the entire surface is covered. Wipe the polish with a clean microfiber cloth in the direction of the grain. Don't apply the polish directly to the surface, as it may be difficult to get it to even out.

Always rub stainless steel appliance surfaces in the direction of the grain. Rubbing in the right direction helps eliminate streaks; with stainless steel sinks and pots, you can use a circular motion. Sinks and pots can stand a bit more effort since you need to scrub away sticky food from pots and soap scum from sinks with more abrasive cleaners and methods of cleaning.

Are you thinking of selling your Belleville home? There are so many ways you can make your home stand out among other Belleville homes for sale. Let our REALTORS® tell you how. Contact us today.


5 Things People Forget to do After They Move

Moving Tips

With so much to do after a big move, it's easy to overlook some smaller details. Things you'd never forget normally can slip through the cracks when you're celebrating – and resting up! – after moving into one of the great Belleville homes for sale.

Our REALTORS® strive to make every part of buying a home more comfortable, including the move. Many of our clients have reached out with stories of things they forgot to take care of, so we decided to delve deeper and find out what goes undone the most.

In the chaos of packing and unpacking, important administrative tasks can fall by the wayside. And the further you're moving, the more valuable it is to remember to do those things promptly.

Let's take a closer look at five things people forget to do after they move:

  1. Turn Utilities On (And Off) Before Moving Day
    It may take up to two weeks to have electric and water service turned on at your new home, so contact utilities as soon as moving day is circled on the calendar. At the same time, be sure you notify existing utilities that you will be moving out. Service in your name must cease before new residents can move in and get everything under their own account.
  2. Change All the Locks at Your New Home
    Your home is your biggest investment – and making sure it's safe is essential. The first and easiest thing you can do is change the locks at your new home within the first week. This should include both the front and back door. If the home has a built-in security system, get all existing codes from the seller, and contact the security company directly to transfer service. Be sure to do it before move-in day!
  3. Get Situated With Utility Panels and Smoke Detectors
    Knowing the location of your breaker and water panels can be crucial in an emergency. Locate these right away and determine how to turn them off and on. If they are mislabeled or confusing, consider re-labeling them. At the same time, check all your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. It's a wise idea to replace their batteries. Ensure that you have a working fire extinguisher, too.
  4. Update Financial Records With Your New Address
    Remember, every single account you have will need to be updated with your new address. Of course, insurance – including homeowner's, health, and life insurance – should come first. But don't neglect other accounts, such as credit cards or your favorite streaming service. Before you know it, companies could be sending your sensitive information to the wrong address!
  5. Walk Around the Home Exterior to Spot Safety Concerns
    The odds are good you haven't spent much time at your new home after dark. As night falls, walk around outside to see if the lighting is sufficient. Test out outdoor light bulbs and replace any that don't work or aren't bright enough. In the morning, thoroughly inspect landscaping for anything that might cause falls or other accidents.

Moving can be hectic, even when you're on your way to the home of your dreams. Strano & Associates makes it easier with expert advice and courteous service backed by years of experience here in Illinois.

To find out more about local real estate opportunities, contact us today.


Greenhouses in Belleville for Your Garden

Belleville Greenhouses

The first day of spring is Tuesday, March 19 – and our REALTORS® are looking forward to it!

At Strano & Associates, we know people have many motivations for buying a home. Some are starting a family, others want to make space for their dogs, but one thing is for sure: Certain things are just more satisfying in your very own home.

Gardening is one of them!

Luckily, these greenhouses will get you off to a wonderful start on spring with gorgeous flowers, trees, and shrubs.

Here are our five favorites:

  1. Terry's Landscaping and Garden Center – 6200 New Missouri Avenue, Centreville IL, 62207
    Terry's Landscaping and Garden Center allows you to get landscaping advice from experts with more than 20 years of experience. The perfect way to bring color and the personal touch to Centreville homes for sale, its fully-stocked nursery and garden center includes all your favorite trees, shrubs, roses, annuals, and perennials.
  2. Effinger Garden Center – 720 South 11th Street, Belleville, IL 62220
    Effinger Garden Center offers you the most beautiful houseplants, bonsai trees, air plants, and shrubs. Convenient to Belleville homes for sale, it's a local hotspot for all your landscaping needs. With 40 years of expertise, the team is proud to offer plants only from local growers. It is also a popular locale to pick up seed for feeding all the colorful birds that live around the area.
  3. Sandy's Back Porch Gardens – 2004 West Boulevard, Belleville, IL  62221
    Sandy's Back Porch Gardens will wow you with a dazzling assortment of plants – and they can even deliver! This family-owned business is recognized all around the community, thanks to Sandy's iconic pink Jeep. Known as "The Place Where Friends and Flowers Grow," it sponsors a range of get-togethers for passionate gardeners to swap tips and stories.
  4. Joe's Market Basket – 1700 East Highway 50, O'Fallon, IL 62269
    A successful Illinois brand with many local stores, Joe's Market Basket boasts both garden centers and full-service groceries complete with deli. Vibrant annuals and perennials are hand-picked by the landscaping pros at Joe's. It even touts a selection of tropical Florida plants that do well in Midwest climates. All this just minutes from O'Fallon homes for sale.
  5. Crain Tree Farm and Nursery – 1406 South Clinton Road, Caseyville, IL 62232
    At Crain Tree Farm and Nursery, you can get one-on-one advice on raising trees around your property. Caseyville homes for sale are ideal for trees, and family-owned Crain has more than 50 years' experience matching saplings to the perfect place for them to thrive. In addition to shade trees, fruit trees, and flowering trees, Crain is unique for its selection of Japanese maple.

Find the perfect home for you and your garden! No matter what kind of property you're looking for, we make it simple by understanding your needs and supporting you every step of the way.

It's about time to find the perfect space for that garden you've always wanted ... and the home to go with it. Contact us to discuss opportunities or start your home search.


How to Get Started Flipping Houses

Tips for Flipping HousesYou've probably seen all the house flipping shows on TV and wondered to yourself what it would take to get started in the flipping game. There are a lot of pieces that need to be in place to successfully flip a house for a profit, but luckily our REALTORS® are here to help. Here's what you need to know before you get started. 

  1. Know the Risks
    When done correctly, flipping a house can be an excellent investment. It could also end up costing you thousands if something goes wrong, so it's important to understand the risks. What looks like a great investment property could have hidden defects like a leaky roof or cracked foundation that end up souring the deal, so it's important to do your homework on each property.
  2. Understand Your Financing Options
    Because of the risks involved in flipping a house, it's essential to know exactly how you're going to finance the process before starting. While it may not be an option for everyone, it's best to buy houses in cash if possible, because it eliminates the added complications and costs that come with loans and interest while you're trying to flip a property. 
  3. Know the Market
    The same house can be worth a wildly different price depending on its location. In some cities, just a few blocks can drastically affect the price point of a home. That's why having a keen understanding of your local real estate market is so essential. It's the only way to identify a home's potential value accurately and know if you're getting a good deal on it. This knowledge of the market will also help you figure out how to price the house when it's time to sell.
  4. Make a Budget
    One of the biggest mistakes you can make is waiting until after you've purchased an investment property to make a budget. Know in advance exactly what you're price range is for buying a home, including all the repairs, renovations, inspections, and other costs. 
  5. Invest Wisely
    Making repairs and renovations is a part of flipping a house for a profit, but it's important to pick your battles. Invest in smart renovations that will increase the value of the property and make it more attractive to a buyer, but steer clear of improvements that will cost you more than you can make back. Big projects like updating the kitchen and bath can sometimes go way over budget and wreck your potential return on investment. Of course, you will need to update and repair anything that needs fixing but be sure to also focus on small improvements that add value without costing too much, like updated hardware, fresh paint, and landscaping. 
  6. Get Expert Guidance
    When it comes to flipping a house for profit, it's important not to go it alone. Working with a talented and dedicated real estate agent can make all the difference in the world. Knowing you have a solid team behind you not only improves your chances of making a profit but eliminates a lot of the stress and guesswork from the whole process. 

Contact us today to learn more about buying and selling homes in the Belleville area. Our team has years of experience offering the best Belleville homes for sale to help you and your search!


How to Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient

Energy Efficient Belleville

Improving energy-efficiency within your home will trim a significant sum from your monthly utility bills. It will also enhance the home's curb appeal in an increasingly eco-conscious real estate market. As you think about the things you can do to reduce your energy usage, our real estate agents recommend you pay close attention to the following:

  1. Upgrade Your Appliances
    A new washer/dryer, refrigerator, oven, and dishwasher can shave hundreds of dollars from your gas, electric, and water bills each year. More importantly, these upgrades give your home a modern appeal enhancing the home's value in the eyes of prospective buyers.
  2. Invest in Insulation
    Adding new insulation with a higher R-value in the attic and crawlspaces can shave hundreds of dollars per year off your heating and cooling bills. Moreover, your investment in insulation pays roughly a 1:1 return in terms of real estate value. 
  3. Purchase New Windows
    Modern, energy-efficient windows will cost between $300-700. Windows are a costly investment. However, they can save you about 15% on your annual heating and cooling bills. Their most significant advantage is they will enhance the curb appeal of the property, lead to a higher appraisal, and likely result in a higher sales price.
  4. Replace the Furnace, Water Heater, and Air Conditioner      
    Furnaces, water heaters, and air conditioners have an operational lifespan of 10-20 years. These become less energy-efficient as they age, and they require more costly repairs to keep them functioning. Investing in new, more energy-efficient units will make a big dent in your monthly electricity, gas, and water usage. In some cases, you may see as much as a 30% reduction in your monthly utility bills. This investment will also reflect in the appraisal and put prospective buyer's minds at ease over their viability.
  5. Seal Up the Leaks
    One of the easiest and most affordable upgrades involves sealing up air leaks around the home. Air leaks are common around doors, windows, and vents. Applying sealant, caulk, and weatherstripping where you find leaks can boost your comfort and keep your utility bills from heating up. 
  6. Hang Thick Curtains
    Curtains are an inexpensive investment you can take with you when you move. Hanging thick curtains will help reduce heat gain on a hot summer's day, and minimize heat loss on a cold winter's night. 
  7. Replace Old Bulbs with LED's
    Most LED bulbs have an operational span of 10-15 years. Replacing your old bulbs with LED's can save you 20% or more each month on your electric bill. Over the life of the bulb, you can expect to save $125 or more per bulb in both electricity usage and replacement cost. 
  8. Install Low-Flow Showerheads and Toilets      
    Low-flow fixtures have a flow rate of fewer than 2.5 gallons per minute. Low-flow toilets use about 4.8 liters per flush as opposed to the usual 6. It is a significant difference that you will barely notice until the water bill arrives to put a smile on your face.  

Contact us for more information about the most common eco-friendly upgrades we see in Belleville homes for sale. It is our pleasure to help you choose the improvements that will help your home stand out.  


8 Ways to Improve Your Winter Curb Appeal

Winter Curb Appeal TipsEverything tends to look a little gray and dreary in the winter, so if you're selling your home during this season, you'll have to pay particular attention to curb appeal. The weather might be colder, but your home should still look warm and inviting. Winter curb appeal can make your home look more vibrant and inviting when compared to other area homes.

Our real estate agents recommend the following 8 ways to improve your winter curb appeal:

  1. Add Color to Your Porch
    If your home has a porch, add a pop of color with a few brightly colored rocking chairs with cozy outdoor cushions and blankets. Even if it's too cold for prospective owners to have a seat, they'll be attracted to a cheery color in cold weather and may imagine themselves relaxing in them when warmer temperatures come.
  2. Boost Outdoor Lighting
    Since it gets dark earlier in the winter than during other times of year, some buyers may be viewing your home when it's dark. Add outdoor illumination such as pathway lights on the side of your front door to make your home sparkle while helping keep guests safe.
  3. Add Cold Weather Plants
    Winter landscapes can normally look sparse and grey, but adding the right plants can provide some greenery throughout the year. Try planting evergreens like pansies, red-twig dogwood, or holly in bright pots to place near your doorway or along a pathway.
  4. Make Your Lawn and Pathways Tidy
    Shovel snow to keep your walkways and driveway clear, and make sure to remove any snow or ice from stairs. Not only will your home look better, but you'll also be keeping prospective buyers safe. 
  5. Replace Your House Numbers
    Prospective homebuyers are sure to notice your house numbers since they'll be searching for these to identify your home. Your numbers may look a little dingy, so replace them by choosing large digits that are easy to read from the street. Choose a striking design or one in a style that meshes with your home's character.
  6. Paint Your Front Door
    One of the easiest ways to make a big impact is to paint your front door. Use a bold color like yellow or blue, and you'll add a pop of color to your curb appeal. The goal is to choose a pleasing, eye-catching color without going overboard.
  7. Add Bird Feeders
    It's a minor detail that may sound a little odd, but adding some bird feeders can make your home more pleasant and memorable. Birds can add a lively touch, and if you attract some colorful ones, they could create a beautiful image against a backdrop of snow. Their chirps and tweets are also pleasant and will bring a tiny touch of spring to your home.
  8. Clean and Repair Outdoor Architectural Features as Needed
    Check your home's architectural features – such as roofing shingles, siding, brick, downspouts, gutters, windows, and doors – and make sure they're clean and in good repair. If your home's exterior looks grimy, that's an immediate turnoff to buyers. 

Contact us today for more home selling tips. We know what buyers are looking for in Belleville homes for sale and can help you make changes that provide the most impact for your time and money.

Disclaimer: All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. All properties are subject to prior sale, change or withdrawal. Neither listing broker(s) or information provider(s) shall be responsible for any typographical errors, misinformation, misprints and shall be held totally harmless. Listing(s) information is provided for consumers personal, non-commercial use and may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties consumers may be interested in purchasing. Information on this site was last updated 11/28/2022. The listing information on this page last changed on 11/28/2022. The data relating to real estate for sale on this website comes in part from the Internet Data Exchange program of MARIS MLS (last updated Mon 11/28/2022 1:12:05 PM EST). Real estate listings held by brokerage firms other than Strano & Associates may be marked with the Internet Data Exchange logo and detailed information about those properties will include the name of the listing broker(s) when required by the MLS. All rights reserved. --

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