Linda Grissette | St. Charles Real Estate, St. Peters Real Estate, O’Fallon Real Estate

Buying a home is a life-changing event. As such, the decision to purchase a residence should not be taken lightly.

For homebuyers, it is paramount to get as much help as possible so you can discover a terrific house at a price that matches your budget. With support from an expert real estate agent, you should have no trouble acquiring a residence that meets or surpasses your expectations.

But what does it take to find the right real estate agent to assist you during your search for the perfect home? Here are three tips that every homebuyer needs to know.

1. Ask Family Members and Friends for Guidance

If a family member or friend recently bought a home, he or she may be able to provide real estate agent recommendations. Family members and friends are trusted sources, and their real estate agent recommendations may help you speed up the process of finding your dream house.

Your neighbors also may be able to real estate agent suggestions. They should be able to provide details about what it was like to work with a particular real estate agent so you can plan accordingly.

Of course, you should still perform plenty of research into a real estate professional's background and expertise before you hire this individual. Be diligent during your search for a real estate agent, and you can employ a real estate professional who will go the extra mile to help you discover a great house.

2. Search the Web

A simple web search of a real estate agent's name may enable you to learn a lot about this individual. In fact, a web search often provides a great way to find out about local real estate agents quickly.

Although a web search may help you examine a variety of real estate agents in your city or town, it is essential to fully evaluate a real estate professional's credentials.

If possible, search for client feedback about a real estate agent. This may help you determine whether to move forward with a particular real estate agent or shy away from this housing market professional altogether.

3. Meet Directly with Several Real Estate Agents

When it comes to finding the right real estate agent, nothing beats a one-on-one meeting.

Set up meetings with several local real estate agents. By doing so, you can get a better idea about whether a real estate agent can help you accomplish your homebuying goals.

It often helps to make a list of questions to ask a real estate agent before you meet with him or her. That way, you can gain the insights you need to make an informed decision.

If you feel comfortable with a real estate agent after a face-to-face meeting, don't hesitate to hire this professional. Remember, the sooner you start working with an expert real estate agent, the sooner you may be able to purchase your dream house.

Use these tips, and you can hire a first-rate real estate agent to guide you along the homebuying journey.

Home is the the most comfortable place to be. We relax after a long day of work in the living room, eat meals with our family in our kitchen, and sleep soundly in our beds at night. All of this comfort can sometimes cause us to overlook basic safety habits that keep us and our property safe. One of the chief threats to our safety at home is house fires. A great way to keep tabs on our fire preparedness is to have a yearly "fire safety week" with our families to teach and reinforce important information around fires. Read on to see the five-day plan that, for just a few minutes per day, has the potential to save lives.

Day 1: Smoke detectors

The most basic fire safety items that each home has are the smoke detectors. On day one take the kids around the house and show them where each smoke detector is. Have them block their ears and show them how to test the detectors. Change all of the batteries as well. Don't be conservative or frugal with batteries when it comes to smoke detectors; it's worth the extra few bucks to know that you can depend on them.

Day 2: Fire extinguishers

On the second day, bring the kids around the house again showing them the location of fire extinguishers and explaining their function. If there ever is a small house fire you don't want to fumbling around with an extinguisher trying to learn how to use it. Explain that these are not toys and can be dangerous. If your kids are old enough to be home alone, teach them how to use the extinguishers. If the kids are too young tell them to seek you out immediately if they see or smell smoke, or think there might be a fire. Read the pressure gauge on all of your fire extinguishers to make sure they're adequately pressurized. Replace fire extinguishers that are over twelve years old.

Day 3: Escape plan

Every house should have an evacuation plan in case of a fire. Each room should have two escape routes in case one is blocked off by fire or some other barrier. Have your children go through the evacuation routes for each of their rooms. Do this for yourself as well to ensure there are no problems with your plan. Then take the family outside to a meeting spot away from the house. Tell them that this is where each member of the family will meet in case of a fire.

Day 4: Fire hazards

The average house has unlimited potential for fire hazards. Curtains near heaters or ovens, candles too close to flammable objects, and even power outlets can all cause a house fire. Before today's lesson, go through your house and find potential fire hazards and teach your family how to correct these habits during today's lesson. If your kids are old enough to cook, run through various cooking fire hazards as well.

Day 5: Review

Today, review the previous four days' lessons with your family. You can also use today to cover the top eight causes of house fires according to the National Fire Protection Association:
  1. Candles
  2. Smoking
  3. Electrical and lighting
  4. Dryers and washing machines
  5. Lightning
  6. Children playing with fire (matches, lighters, etc.)
  7. Christmas trees
  8. Cooking

It's true that it will take time and a great deal of money to give your house a full upgrade. Knock out walls, tear out cabinets and pull up carpeting and you could be looking at a home upgrade bill that exceeds several thousand dollars.

A house uplift might be the cheapest uplift around

That's if you make full upgrades. But, it doesn't require full upgrades to give your house a lift. With a few minor changes, you could give your house a more modern look and feel. Find a few home decor pieces at an antique shop, flea market or roadside stand and you might even add a rare quality to your home.

To get house upgrades for less than $100, stay open to finding decor, flooring and other household accessories at off market locations. It's at these less common spots that you can avoid paying for displays and shelving fees that major retailers have been known to tack onto the cost of home goods.

Grab household goods from shops that only ask you to cover the cost of the products and you could upgrade your flooring, wall designs and bathrooms for less than $100. Specific ways to pull off house upgrades include:

  • Place hand weaved throw rugs with rarely seen designs on your living room and kitchen floors. In addition to unique designs, go for throw rugs that are hand sewn in colors that use delicate blends.
  • Sketch or paint your own pencil, oil or chalk drawings. Frame the drawings and hang them on the walls of your house. You don't have to be a world renowned artist to add a powerful signature style to your house.
  • Decorate sofas, chairs and beds with uniquely shaped and designed throw pillows.
  • Repaint the crown molding or the edges of your walls or ceilings.
  • Replace lamp shades with shades that come indifferent shapes or colors.
  • Top living and dining room end tables with green plants or plants that blossom.
  • Reupholster chairs. Instead of buying new chairs, reupholster chairs yourself.
  • Top your beds with new bedspreads, quilts or comforters.

Appreciate and use your personal creativity when looking for house upgrades

House upgrades do more than give your home a new look. Upgrades make you feel differently. Something as simple as a throw rug can change the appearance of a room. Window decor is another great room changer.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, adding a figurine or fresh flowers to your front or back porch can give your living space a lift. Another way to give your outdoor property a lift involves adding color to your front or back yard.

Options that are open to you are as wide as your imagination, which brings up another point. When looking for house upgrades for less than $100, get creative. After all, you could create crafts, artwork and fabric based interior designs to give your house upgrades that you'll love.

Peace and quiet are hallmarks of country home living. It's hard to find those two benefits on an ongoing basis if you own a house in the city. Shortest distances between city homes makes it hard to avoid honking horns, barking dogs, stray cats and loud music.

Neighbors, pedestrians and busy government employees and business workers are also hard to avoid if you live in the city. Live in cities like Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles and you may see people riding bikes, hopping on and off trains and shouting and waving as they hail taxis.

Country home living can be entrapping

It certainly won't be quiet. In fact, the closer you live to the heart of a major metropolis, the more noise you are likely to have embedded in your life. With situations like these, you could make new friends by simply changing the way that you think and deciding to visit a mall, join a social or literary club or start participating in local sporting events.

Country home living can make it hard to get out and connect with people. If you have a history of avoiding human communications and interactions, country home living could serve as a pathway to social isolation, the type of social isolation that could lead to boredom and depression.

Because humans are social, too much isolation could eventually cause more than boredom and depression. Your mental and your physical health could suffer in other ways. Relationships could also weaken or end completely.

As a lover of peace and quiet, including quiet from frequent human interactions, to thrive as a healthy, social being, you're going to have to take action. Planning social events is also key. Here are other ways to avoid getting isolated and instead enjoy healthy social country home living:

  • Invite family and friends to visit you (don't assume that people won't want to stop by because they'll have to drive several miles to reach your country home)
  • Grocery shop in the city once a week
  • Attend one social event sponsored by your employer or a social group that you belong to at least once a month
  • Pick up the telephone and call friends and relatives instead of limiting communications to social media
  • Join a social group and attend in-person networking and entertainment events
  • Catch your favorite sports teams or music entertainers live

Good living takes place outside home

A country home can be big. In fact, many country homes are larger than city homes. Outdoor property at a country house can be triple the size of property that comes with a house in the city. Views in the country are gorgeous, tempting you to spend long hours sitting on the front or back porch or working in the yard.

Yet, a large beautiful country home and several acres of scenic land are not a match for rewarding human relationships. Truly benefiting from country home living calls for healthy human interactions, in person interactions.

Regardless of where your country home is, get out and meet people. Attend town festivals, music events, social discussions and local government meetings. Schools, including colleges and universities, also host great social events like leadership discussions, arts events and community events.

At a glance, buying a home seems like a daunting and complicated process. If it's your first time buying a home you're probably hearing a lot of terms that don't mean much to you like "rate commitment," "prequalify," and an array of acronyms that no one has ever really explained like APR and ARM. What many first time homebuyers don't realize is that the mortgage application process is relatively straightforward. It's a way for lenders to determine if they will lend money to the homebuyer. The lender will require some documentation on your part and you'll want to do your homework when it comes to choosing the right mortgage for you, but if you're confused about where to begin, here's everything you need to know about the home mortgage application process.

Gather your documents

Each lender will be slightly different when it comes to what records and documents they require from you. In general, lenders will require two years of work history, proof of income, and tax papers. They will also ask for your permission to run a credit check. Some things you should bring when applying for a mortgage include:
  • Your most recent pay stubs (at least two)
  • Your most recent W-2 forms
  • Completed tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Gift letters
  • Debt - credit cards, student loans, etc.

Filling out the application

The actual application for the mortgage is pretty simple. Be expected to provide your personal and marital information, as well as your social security number. When you apply for a loan you'll also be determining if you're applying singly or with another person, such as a spouse. Some people apply jointly to seek a higher loan amount. However, you should be aware that if this is your plan of action the lender will require income and credit information from both of you. Keep in mind that it isn't easy to remove one person from a home loan once the contract is signed, so you should make certain of this decision before applying jointly.

Locked-in interest rates

It won't come as a surprise to you that, like in other industries, interest rates on mortgages fluctuate. For this reason, many home buyers attempt to "lock-in" their interest rate, meaning the lender is no longer allowed to change the interest rate after signing. The benefit of locking in your interest is that it can avoid having your interest rate raised before you sign on the home. The disadvantage is that since rates fluctuate, you could miss out on a lower one. This is also the difference between APR (annual percentage rating) and ARM (adjustable rate mortgage). With an APR, the cost of borrowing money (interest) is fixed. For an ARM, the interest rate can increase, decrease, or stay the same at different points in the repayment process.


Your financial situation is bound to fluctuate throughout your life, hopefully for the better. At some point down the road, it might make sense to refinance on your mortgage. Essentially this means you are agreeing to change the details of the mortgage to either accept a different interest rate or to alter the length of the loan term. Refinancing usually involves fees, however, so you don't want to rely on it too heavily as a fallback.