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choosing siding

Choosing Siding For Your Home

choosing siding

First Things to Notice

One of the first things that people notice about the exterior of your house is its color and the material. While it is difficult to convert a house with siding to brick or stucco or vice versa, it is possible. Choosing the correct siding for your home will not only help (or hurt) your curb appeal but can impact your energy costs.

Each material has its own benefits and drawbacks, as described in the rest of this blog.

Before deciding on a material, it is important to determine your budget, not only for the actual installation, but maintenance, upkeep, energy savings, and resale value if you are rehabbing the home. While the siding may be less expensive at purchase, it may be more expensive to maintain.

Types of Material

Plank siding comes in three different materials: vinyl, wood, and aluminum. Vinyl is the least expensive to purchase/install if you are building new or replacing plank siding, but it is not durable and cannot be painted when it fades, lowering your home’s value as it ages. It can also be easily damaged by hail, melts easily if there is a fire nearby, and its use is restricted in older neighborhoods. Another type of vinyl siding is insulated vinyl siding, which has expanded polystyrene foam built into the ridge of the panel.

Aluminum siding is also less expensive and is a natural alternative to vinyl siding that can be recycled at the end of its lifespan. Unlike vinyl siding, aluminum can be painted, but is also susceptible to hail damage.

Wood siding is a natural and durable alternative as long you maintain the paint or stain and have regular termite control treatments. It is more expensive but will last more than a lifetime if maintained. Engineered wood looks like real wood and is less expensive but is prone to mold and mildew damage if there is moisture behind the siding.

Stucco is a mixture of lime or sand or cement and cement that is spread on a flat as a paste and dries into a firm surface. This is not a good choice for rainy or humid areas because it is porous and absorbs the water.

Brick siding is the most durable and long-lasting, but also the most expensive, whether building new or retrofitting your existing home. The color can vary depending on the type of clay used, is resistant to fire, and easy to maintain. Real brick is also energy efficient and eco-friendly. Faux brick panels do not have the same benefits, but also do not have the disadvantage of mortar damage in harsh environments.

As mentioned with several of the materials above, you need to take into consideration the climate where you live. Here in the Midwest, aluminum and vinyl siding and stucco are not suitable options, even though many homes are built with them. If you live in a densely spaced neighborhood, brick is safest, with wood being worth the investment everywhere else.

The overall beauty of your home’s exterior is also an important consideration. If you are someone who likes to have the most up-to-date colors on your home, vinyl siding will not work for you, nor will brick (even though painting brick is trendy currently). Also consider the exteriors of the other homes on the street. If most of the homes are brick or stone, a home with plank siding is likely to look out of place.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is also crucial to think about when building or residing in your existing home. Insulation types and values vary between materials, so ask about the R-value (resistance to heat flow) when selecting siding.

Durability and Maintenance

Durability and Maintenance are important considerations, especially if you are planning on living in the same home for many years. How much time and effort are you willing to invest in maintaining the appearance of the siding, such as painting, staining, sealing, or power washing (especially if you go with a light color).

In many communities, older neighborhoods and subdivisions with Homeowners Associations (HOAs) put restrictions on the types of materials that can be used on the outside of the house. Older neighborhoods typically require real wood siding instead of vinyl or aluminum and HOAs may require a certain material such as stone or brick of a specific color.

Many siding manufacturers offer warranties. Try to find one with a more extended warranty period so you can be confident in the quality and longevity of the siding.

Having your siding professionally installed ensures it is done correctly. Improper installation can lead to issues like water infiltration, decreased longevity, and void the warranty.

Many people are purchasing products based on their environmental impact. Some materials are recyclable, such as aluminum siding, others are damaging to the Earth, such as stone extraction, and others such as vinyl siding, leave a large carbon footprint.

Choosing siding for your home is a long-term investment. By doing your research, you will be satisfied for years to come.


Shopping For A House Out Of Area

With Scott Air Force Base in our backyard, we have lots of clients that are not able to look at homes before their transfer in or out of the area. Thanks to improvements in technology, it is easier to look at a variety of homes and close the deal ahead of time, without having to move into an apartment or hotel temporarily. At KW Williams Ellerbrake Group, we understand the stress of moving to a new area and not knowing anything about the neighborhoods or schools. Our staff lives in the areas we sell homes in and has relationships with realtors in other markets to make sure you get the best buying and selling experience.

Familiarize yourself with the area: As soon as you find out you are moving to the O’Fallon, IL area, make sure you check out the local Chamber of Commerce websites, visitor bureau websites, and community websites so you can narrow down your search. Some are listed below.

Our website,, includes basic information about several of the communities in our area, as well as links to additional resources.

Set a budget: Depending on where you are moving here from, you might find the prices in Madison, St. Clair, and Clinton counties in Illinois are less expensive for the same quality home you might find elsewhere, with a lower cost of living. Use the calculator on to figure out what the mortgage payment is for some of the homes we have listed to give you an idea of what you can afford.

Secure financing: With improved online security, everything your mortgage lender needs to get you qualified, such as income statements, bank statements, and identification can be safely submitted no matter where you are in the United States. Getting pre-approved for financing will help you narrow down the properties you look at instead of looking at homes that are more than you can afford. Many mortgage lenders also have access to special financing programs for active military and veterans. Getting pre-approved also speeds up the closing process. Ask your Ellerbrake Group Realtor for a list of preferred mortgage lenders.

Make a “Wish List”: Before you look at our listings or any others, make a list of what amenities you want in your new home. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need? Do you want to live near the school your children would attend? Are you going to be cooking or entertaining a lot, or is an older kitchen good enough? Do you want a pool? Fenced in back yard? Land? Be realistic about how long you will be living in the area. If your job (military or civilian) requires you to move frequently, Keep your list simple so when it is time to move, you can sell quickly.

Ask for a “Virtual Tour”: Advancements in technology now make it possible for our Realtors to take you on a video walk through of the house, either recorded or live through FaceTime or Zoom. We will answer your questions during the walk through and our agents will point out anything additional that could be an issue so we can address it on your behalf before closing.

Request a home inspection: Once you have narrowed your search down to “the one”, we will refer you to one of our preferred home inspectors to thoroughly evaluate the property and provide you with a detailed report. We will go over the report with you to find out what repairs you want to negotiate into the deal or questions you have about the report.

Submit an offer: Your Realtor at The Ellerbrake Group will guide you through the process of negotiating the price and the terms of the purchase agreement. Your Realtor will act as your representative and protect your interests.

Closing: Your Ellerbrake Group Realtor will help you coordinate the necessary paperwork and work with a local title company. Many title companies and mortgage companies now offer remote closings with electronic signatures and wire transfers. This can be planned as close to your moving date as possible if you don’t need repairs before moving in.

Whether you are buying a new house from across town or across the country, the experts at Keller Williams Ellerbrake Group will make sure you get exactly what you are looking for hassle free. Start the process at 

Real Estate Investment



With the residential real estate market running on low inventory, you might be wondering if trying to find a single-family home or duplex to rent out is a good idea. Below are some things to think about to determine if this is a good time to invest.

  • Evaluate your financial situation. Purchasing real estate, even for your own personal use, requires a significant upfront investment, including a down payment, closing costs, and ongoing expenses such as property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and repairs. Do you have the funds to put into additional properties without your primary residence and other daily needs suffering? Is your credit score strong enough for you to get a loan with a good interest rate?
  • Consider your long-term goals. Rental property can increase in value over time and provide a steady stream of passive income through rental payments. If your goal is to build wealth through real estate, investing in rental property might help you reach those goals. Investing in real estate is not a good investment for those looking for quick returns or have a low tolerance for risk and should seek other investment options.
  • How much time are you willing to put into management? Managing rental properties requires time, effort, and knowledge of such issues as tenant rights and other legal/financial issues. Do you want to take on the responsibility of finding tenants, dealing with maintenance issues, collecting rent, and handling legal and financial matters, or are you willing to pay a fee to a property maintenance company to handle these issues for you? If you have the skills or are willing to learn, dealing with these issues may be a rewarding experience for you.  
  • What is your local real estate market? This is one of the most critical issues to be considered, and it is not one that you have any control over. Do thorough research of the local real estate market to determine what the demand is for rental properties in the area you are considering. Job growth, population trends (college students, new families, retirees), and proximity to amenities (parks, stores, schools) can determine the demand for rental housing. Analyze rental rates and vacancy rates to estimate potential rental income and assess the profitability of your investment. This can be done by a search of classified ads or driving through neighborhoods you know to be mostly rentals. If you have friends or family renting in the area you are looking into purchasing real estate, ask them if they are satisfied with the condition of the apartment they are renting and the amenities they are getting for the price. If the market conditions are favorable and show potential for growth, owning rental property could be a lucrative opportunity.
  • Risk assessment. Like any investment, rental property carries risks. Economic downturns, changes in housing regulations, property damage, and difficult tenants are some of the risks that come with owning rental property. It is important to have contingency plans and financial reserves to reduce these risks. Adequate insurance coverage is also not only crucial to protect your investment, but can protect you from lawsuits from your tenants should something happen to the property or them. If you have a solid plan in place to deal with the risks, the benefits to owning rental property can outweigh the risks.
  • Evaluate your personal skills and strengths. To be a successful landlord, you must possess excellent communication skills, be able to negotiate disagreements, and be able to use excellent problem-solving skills quickly. You also must be able to address maintenance issues promptly and responsive to tenant concerns 24/7. Some knowledge of real estate laws and local regulations/ordinances is also beneficial. If you do not have these skills or are not willing to learn them, you may consider hiring a property management company.
  • Remember the tax benefits. Owning rental property can provide tax benefits. Although rental income is taxable, mortgage interest, property taxes, maintenance expenses, and depreciation can be counted as tax deductions. Consult with a tax professional to understand the specific advantages and implications of owning rental property in your area.

With planning, owning rental property can be a major source of secondary income. By following the guidelines above, you can make an educated decision about whether purchasing rental property is a good decision for you at this time. If you do not possess all these skills or cannot meet these conditions at this point in your life, at least you know what you need to work towards to be a successful rental property owner. Whether you are unsure about the best course of action or ready to jump in, call Ellerbrake Group Real Estate and we will help you.

bbq o fallon il

Back Yard Entertaining Safety

One of the advantages to having a home of your own is the abbbq o fallon ilility to have friends and family over for food and fun in your own backyard. If this is your first summer as a new home owner, here are some things to keep in mind to make sure your guests remain safe when you entertain all summer long.

Make sure the area is well lit: Solar lights along all the paths and steps will ensure no one has a misstep after the sun goes down. Fairy lights or lanterns strung above your patio or deck add ambiance. Tiki torches of citronella around the perimeter of your outdoor area will keep mosquitoes away.

Keep a cooler of nonalcoholic drinks in a shady spot: Keeping some water, soda, lemonade, and ice tea in addition to beer and wine will ensure your guests stay well hydrated and drinks will stay cooler longer. Your air conditioner will also thank you because guests will not be fanning the door going to your kitchen all the time.

Provide shelter from the weather: Pop-up thunderstorms can be dangerous if you have lots of people gathering outside. Have a radio or app on your phone that can give up to date weather alerts and be ready to move everyone in your home should severe weather warnings be issued for your area. A gazebo or tent can provide shelter from the heat or a non-severe rainstorm pops up. Keep a few extra umbrellas on hand for lighter showers when people can still sit or stand around and talk while having a drink.

Check your yard ahead of time for hidden hazards/obstacles: You may know that some of your stepping stones are loose or wobbly but your guests do not. Make sure your stones are even and mildew free. Rocky or slick stepping stones can cause a person that is not expecting it to fall. A little sand under each stone can even things out and a mixture of water and vinegar sprayed on the stones can kill mildew. Tree roots hidden by grass or divots from animals digging can also lead to falls, especially on a hillside.

Monitor your pool closely: A pool party can be fun, but you as the pool owner need to make sure basic safety measures are in place before an accident can happen. Make sure ladders, handrails, and steps in and out of the pool are secure. Once you have checked your pool’s chemicals to make sure it is sanitary, but not over chlorinated, make sure your chemicals are locked up. Have an empty cooler on a nearby table to keep electronic devices not only dry, but keep them from overheating in the sun. Have pool noodles, floaties, and other assisting devices in the water for anyone that needs help in the water. Always have an adult present near the pool, especially when children are present. If guests are not allowed to use the pool, make sure the fence is locked and the ladder put away for above ground pools.

Attend the grill at all times when grilling on an open flame: Grill safety begins with a well maintained and cleaned grill used away from trees, weeds, and buildings. Do not grill on windy days. Even flat top grills can be dangerous since the surface can stay hot even when cooking is finished. Keep a fire extinguisher near and pets and children away from the grill. 

Keep mosquitos away: Mosquitoes can breed anywhere there is even a capful of standing water, so make sure your yard is clear of old tires, empty flower pots, trays, etc. If you have a pond, make sure it has an aerator or you maintain it with mosquito dunks that kill the mosquito larva. Citronella candles, mint and lavender plants, and other natural pest control remedies will help keep other annoying flying bugs away without hurting humans or pets. 

Make sure playground equipment and games are in good condition: Peeling paint, sharp edges, and fraying ropes can be dangerous. Make sure rubber mulch or other soft material is under the equipment and is spread out under the swings. This will help with water puddling and breeding mosquitoes.

Following these tips will ensure everyone wants to keep coming back to your home for summer get-togethers.

energy upgrades

Energy Upgrades To Improve Home Value

energy upgrades


Energy-efficient upgrades are a good investment not just for saving money while you live in your house, but can increase the value of your home for potential buyers when you are ready to sell. A recent study by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) found nine out of ten home buyers prefer a home with energy-efficient features and lower energy costs than a lower priced home without the upgrades. Additionally, over half of real estate agents report their homebuying clients are interested in sustainability. Energy-efficient upgrades can boost a home’s value in five ways.

Reducing Energy Costs Can Save Money

Reduced energy costs- When making energy efficient upgrades, the costs you put into the upgrades will quickly be paid off by the money saved in energy costs. Energy Star estimates that Examples of inexpensive ways to reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs include caulking doors and windows for air leaks and replacing old appliances, (including your HVAC system) with new Energy Star Certified energy efficient appliances (use 40% less energy); these appliances are more likely to be electric than gas, which is an additional savings.

Looking to Increase Your Home’s Value?

Larger investments that save more in energy costs and increase home values even more include insulating the attic and walls and installing energy efficient windows and doors to prevent air leaks. Just insulating the attic can save homeowners 15% on energy costs. If you are a long-term planner, getting solar panels will save you approximately $500 per year on energy costs and increase the sale price of the home by as much as $10,000, depending on what the solar market is in your area.

Reducing Air Leaks

Reducing air leaks allows the heat to stay in during the winter and the cool air during the summer, allowing the heating and cooling systems to maintain a comfortable temperature with less work. The less your HVAC system has to work, the longer it will last with little maintenance besides seasonal routine maintenance such as changing your filter and washing the compressor unit. When you invest in these upgrades, you are investing in the overall quality of your home. Energy efficient homes cost less to maintain, which can be a major selling point as energy costs continue to rise.

Increased comfort- Even with the above energy-efficient upgrades, a new HVAC system will allow for an even more comfortable living environment. Homes that are more comfortable to live in are more valuable than those that are not. Homes that provide for a higher quality of life sell for more than homes that are not as comfortable to live in.

Improved air quality- When your home does not have air leaks and the HVAC system can run more efficiently, the air quality in your home naturally improves. Adding a high-quality air filter to your HVAC system can help remove more airborne particles from the air, such as pollen, dust, and allergens. HVAC systems also help control excess moisture that can cause difficulty in breathing for those with COPD or other breathing ailments and mold that can cause serious health problems. Indoor air quality is becoming more and more important for people, especially in the post-COVID era when people realized how easily viruses are spread through poorly ventilated buildings.

Replacing The Garage Door Can Improve Insulation

Another energy efficient upgrade that can improve indoor air quality and reduce heating and cooling costs is replacing the garage door if you have an attached garage. Energy costs can drop by as much as 15%  with a new garage door, plus the increase in your home’s value will almost pay for the garage door.

Reduced maintenance costs- A home that is energy efficient has lower maintenance costs. A home that does not need energy-efficient upgrades after closing is likely to sell quicker than a home of the same size and amenities that needs new windows, HVAC, or other major appliances.

Increase Property Value

Increased property value-The biggest reason to make energy-efficient upgrades before selling is the increased property value. A home that has energy-efficient upgrades can be worth up to 10% more, depending on factors such as the area the home is in, the cost of energy in the area, and what upgrades have been made.

Making energy efficient upgrades well before you get ready to move will save you money that can help you enjoy the house you are in until you are ready to move. Before deciding how many upgrades make sense, conduct a cost vs. benefit analysis to see which upgrades are worth the investment.

spring home repairs

Spring Home Repairs To Prepare Your House For Selling


Many homeowners are beginning to start their spring cleaning lists and decluttering for a fresh start after a long winter. While cleaning your home inside and out, it is a good time to check your home for wear and tear inside and out that may have occurred during the harsh winter months. Checking for damage while it is still minor can save you lots of money than waiting until the damages grow. It is always best to have a handyman, contractor, or other professional do a detailed inspection of the problem area and give an estimate with details of what the repairs entail.

Here are some of the issues to look for when you give your home a good clean.

    • Openings in homes where birds, bats, mice or insects can enter. Insects can get into the home in a variety of ways: cracks in the foundation, missing caulking around the windows, rotted wood around windows and door frames, and more. Birds can get into the home in a variety of ways, such as open windows without screens, under loose fitting doors, gaps around conduits, and utility vents. Bats can fit in a hole as small as a dime (3/8”) and often enter through chimneys, louver (attic) fans, air intakes, exhaust vents, openings around plumbing, power or cable lines, spaces around doors and windows, and anywhere exterior siding has shrunk, warped, or loosened. Once you fill in all of the holes these critters are coming in, you will also see a reduction in your energy costs because if the birds, bats, and insects can get in, your air conditioned and heated air can get out.
    • Caulk and glaze around windows and doors. Even if you do not have proof of unwanted intruders, a proper seal can help keep mold spores, pollen and other dust out of your living space while enhancing the energy efficiency of your HVAC system. Caulking can also help prevent water damage when used around plumbing fixtures and ceiling fixtures. Most silicone caulk will last 20-30 years if installed properly.
    • Clogged outlet drains for gutters. Whether your gutters empty via downspouts above ground or through a pop-up drain away from the foundation, clogs can cause problems for not only your gutters, but your foundation, roof, fascia, and soffit. When rain cannot flow out of the gutters and down to the ground, the water can cause the fascia and soffit that surround the gutters to rot if they are made of wood. Pooling water can also cause damage to the shingles and decking, leading to leaks inside the house and possible mold damage. Water running down the side of the house can damage the siding and cause the basement or crawl space to flood. If you suspect your gutters are clogged, hire a professional that can not only clean the gutters and downspouts but check for damage to the areas mentioned.
    • Look for roofing shingles in your yard and loose siding. Howling winter winds can be harsh on the envelope of the house. Have the entire roof checked and the siding so that any other loose pieces can be repaired before they cause a problem.
  • Check for water stains on the ceiling in closets and places you don’t always look. Water stains in these locations is a sign of a much bigger problem, such as a slow leaking pipe or a leak from the roof or walls.
  • Check for rotten wood on decks.  Check both the walking surface of the deck, supports, and railings for rotten boards. If there are only a few with small areas of rot on the ends, you might be able to fill them with wood fill putty or replace individual boards. Once the new wood has cured (if replacing), then power wash and re-stain the entire deck to protect the wood and keep algae from forming, which can make decks and steps slippery. Brick pavers also need to be cleaned for algae by spraying white vinegar on the individual pavers or power washing larger areas such as patios, driveways, and sidewalks.  
  • Make sure your sump pump is clean and ready for spring rains. If you have installed a sump pump to prevent standing water in your basement, it is important to make sure it is clean and working properly before the first big rain. The first check should be if the filter is clean and the impeller is free of objects that can keep it from spinning. Once those tests are successful, pour a five-gallon bucket of water into the sump pit. The water is drawn out quickly and doesn’t flow back in, you are good to go. If not, there may be a problem with the intake pump, check valve or power supply.


Contact The Ellerbrake Group if you are looking for a good inspector to check out your house to get it ready to put on the market!

for sale by owner

For Sale By Owner Pitfalls


Sometimes homeowners think that they can sell their home as easily as they are selling a car or boat. They think by selling their own home, they can save the typical commission paid to a real estate agent. Unfortunately, selling a home is a little more complicated and can end up costing you more than the commission paid to an agent.

For Sale By Owner Issues

Here are just a few of the problems you may run into if you try to sell your home without the help of an agent:

  • If you try to sell your house on your own, it will sit on the market longer than a house in the same neighborhood listed with a realtor. This is because realtors have the ability to list a home in multiple locations (the NMLS number on realtors’ websites and professional sites stands for National Multiple Listings Service license that allows them to list a house on sites other than the agent’s such as Zillow and other sites). Realtor’s also have a team of marketers, advertisers, and a host of support staff to make sure your home has high visibility.
  • The home owner CAN purchase a MLS license for their home, but the cash will come out of their own pocket instead of free when using an agent. The seller is also going to have additional hidden costs such as paying for signs, flyers, photos, an attorney, home inspection, and home warranty (the last three required in some states when not using an agent).
  • For Sale By Owner Houses sell for less than agent listed homes. This is due to several factors. First, there are a lot of factors that go into calculating market value and the average person not in real estate is not going to understand how to read market reports to select a price. Second, marketing a house is time consuming. Finally, if the seller sells to a friend or family member, they will often accept less for the home than they would from a stranger because they want to “cut a deal”.
  • If the buyer requests an inspection and the seller doesn’t understand codes, he or she could end up paying for repairs that are really the responsibility of the buyer if the inspector lists “code” violations.
  • Real estate agents are less likely to show their clients For Sale By Owner homes because there is no incentive for them to negotiate a deal.
  • Legal paperwork- lots of it! If you sell on your own and do not live in one of the states that requires you to hire a lawyer, you will have to find and fill out the sales contract, property disclosures, occupancy agreements, lead paint records, and more on your own. Although ready-made contracts exist, not all states accept them. Closing is not the time to find out that your contracts are not acceptable.
  • Lawsuits. If you list a feature of your home incorrectly, forget to disclose something (lead paint), or if you renege on a deal that someone has already given you earnest money towards, you could find yourself sued.
  • Other scams can harm the purchaser of a for sale by owner home. Fraudulent papers (appraisals, loan documentation), overpayment in the form of a bad check with a request for a refund, purchases through a fake attorney, or asking for personal information have become more common with advancements in technology.

for sale by owner

All of the above issues boil down to one common theme: liability. If anything goes wrong during the sale process, from showing to closings, you alone are liable for false advertising, inadequate documentation, undervaluing your property, and not having the correct documents.

Selling your home through a Realtor solves all of these problems. They do all of the work for you and have staff, insurance, training, and all the resources needed to protect both you and the buyer. 

Buying a home should not be a game of “what ifs”. You should not have to worry about if the house has hidden dangers, if the owner is going to change their mind because they discover they have undersold themselves, if the documents you sign are legitimate, or if you find a problem with the house after closing.

There is one time when it may be a good idea to sell your home yourself: when you are a licensed real estate agent.

loan process

The Mortgage Loan Process: A Step-By-Step Home Loan Guide

loan process

Most homebuyers dream of owning a home. But before you make the purchase, many steps need to be followed. One of them is the mortgage loan application. Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions an individual makes and involves numerous factors such as affordability, credit score, debt-to-income ratio, loan amount, property type, etc. There are various options for mortgage loans, and each borrower should carefully consider their options before taking a loan that suits their requirements best. Read on to understand how mortgage loans work and help you decide which loan option is ideal for you!

Preparing for a Mortgage Loan

You will first need to gather some basic information to obtain a mortgage loan. Preparing for a mortgage loan includes calculating your credit score, estimating your monthly payment, and understanding home financing rates.

Credit Score: A good credit score means you have a low risk of being unable to pay back the loan. Your lender will use this information when determining interest rates and other terms of the mortgage loan.

Estimating Monthly Payment: When figuring out how much money you will need to borrow each month for a down payment on a home, try to come up with an estimate closer to what you would be paying every month if you were purchasing the home outright.

Understanding Home Financing Rates: mortgage lenders will give you various interest rates for different loan types. It is essential to understand the rate you are being offered before deciding whether or not to take out the loan.

Understanding Different Types of Mortgage Loans

There are several types of mortgage loans, including:

  • Conventional loans: These are not insured or guaranteed by the government and typically have stricter qualifications for borrowers.
  • FHA loans: These are insured by the Federal Housing Administration and are often easier for first-time homebuyers to qualify for due to lower credit scores and down payment requirements.
  • VA loans: These are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and are available to eligible military veterans, active-duty service members, and their surviving spouses.
  • USDA loans: These are designed to help low- to moderate-income borrowers in rural areas buy a home and are backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Jumbo loans are conventional loans that exceed the maximum conforming loan limit set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
  • Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs): These have an interest rate that can change over time based on market conditions.


The Mortgage Loan Application Process

The mortgage loan application process typically involves the following steps:

Gather financial information

This includes income statements, bank statements, and other financial documents demonstrating your ability to repay the loan. Most lenders will also require credit scores and a home equity loan appraisal.


Contact a lender and provide your financial information to receive a pre-approval, which estimates the size of the loan you can afford based on your income, credit score, and other factors. In such cases, you may be required to provide additional documentation or meet certain requirements, such as a down payment.

Home Search

Use your pre-approval to guide your home search and find a property that meets your needs and fits your budget. As you explore potential homebuyers, ask about mortgage rates, fees, and closing costs. You may also want to speak with loan officers from different lender locations about their products and services.

Loan application

Submit a formal loan application to the lender and provide additional financial and personal information as required. Also, provide documentation of your income and credit score. Some lenders will allow you to apply online.


The lender will process your application, including a review of your credit report, an appraisal of the property, and a verification of your employment and income. They will also contact you to schedule a pre-approval visit. The loan process can take several weeks or even months, so be patient!


You will be informed if your loan application is approved or denied. The lender will provide you with the loan terms and conditions if approved. Once you have signed the loan documents, the lender will begin processing your mortgage loan.


If you accept the loan terms, you will attend a closing where you will sign the loan agreement and other closing documents and pay any closing costs. This includes taxes, insurance, and mortgage interest. You will be homeowners!

Final Thoughts

You need to understand that mortgage loan applications aren’t one-size-fits-all. Each loan application varies from borrower to borrower. You must prepare for the mortgage loan application process by gathering all the required documents and information. The mortgage loan application process may seem lengthy and tedious, but it ultimately makes it easier for you and your lender to manage the home loan approval process. At The Ellerbrake Group, we are the trusted real estate broker in O’Fallon, IL. Our team of experts are dedicated to providing you with the best customer service and suggestions for lenders. Bearing that in mind, don’t hesitate to contact us at 618-632-0001 today for a free consultation about your real estate options!

real estate o fallon il

10 Common Home Buyer Questions

Are you looking to buy a home in 2023? These are 10 questions we are commonly asked. Knowing the answers will help you get the home you want without overspending.

real estate o fallon il

 1.  What do I need to tell you to help you select homes for me to look at?

The first thing that we have you do is use our Finance Center to see your loan qualifications based on your credit score, and what the current interest rates are. There are many special programs for qualifying buyers who meet certain criteria (see below). Once you are prequalified, you can tell us any special wants you have, such as location, one or two story, or a fenced in yard, and we will work to find several homes that both meet your needs and fit in your budget. 

2.  Is an older or newer home better?

Each home has its advantages and disadvantages. Buying a newer home does not guarantee that you will not need a home inspection, as some new homes in large scale developments are built quickly and can be made with lower quality materials to keep the cost down.

3.  How long does it take to buy a home?

Buying a home can take several months. Factors to consider include the housing market where you are looking, if the current home owners have a deadline to move out, what turns up during the home inspection, how long it takes to get approved for the loan, and how quickly the seller accepts the offer you make. The time the final offer is approved until closing usually takes 30 days.

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4.  What is the difference between a fixed and adjustable-rate mortgage?

Fixed rate mortgages have fixed interest rates for the length of the loan, usually 15 to 30 years. This allows you to budget a set amount each month for your mortgage. In an adjustable-rate mortgage, the interest rate fluctuates up and down quarterly depending on economic trends. The good news is, you can refinance a fixed rate mortgage once the rates go down. The house you want may not still be on the market when rates drop.

5.  Who can qualify for special loans? 

Loans are available for first time home buyers, military veterans, and rural homeowners.

6.  What kind of credit score do I need?

Lenders prefer a credit score of at least 620, but some will accept scores of 580 and lower.


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7.  How much of a down payment do I need to bring to the closing?

Depending on what type of loan you are approved for, you will be expected to bring between 3 and 5% of the purchase price. USDA and VA loans do not require money down at closing.

8.  Why should I use a Realtor?

A Realtor is your personal shopper that will do all the leg work finding properties that meet your needs and help you communicate with the seller and their real estate agent. From your initial consultation all the way to closing, your Realtor will deal with all the paperwork, negotiations, and inspections. Best of all, there is no cost for you to hire a Realtor! He or she gets paid a percentage from the sale of the house from the agent that listed the house.

9.  Do I have to have a home inspection?

While most of the communities in our area require an occupancy inspection before closing, a home inspection is not required. However, the few hundred dollars you spend on a home inspection can save you thousands is much more in depth and can save you thousands of dollars in repairs after closing if there is broken, malfunctioning, or unsafe appliances such as a water heater or HVAC system, pipes, or electrical wiring in the home.

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10.  What happens at the closing?

Closing is the time when the buyer, seller, both real estate agents, lawyers, a representative from the title company, and if needed, the lender or a bank representative meet for the signing of all of the papers and you will receive the keys to your new house. This is also when you will pay your 3-5% down payment and any closing costs of 2-7% of the closing price, so bring your checkbook (no cashier’s checks necessary) and be ready to pay Because there will be a lot of people juggling schedules to be there, make sure any issues that were found during the home inspection were fixed. This is NOT the time to report issues! You also need to make sure ahead of time that there are no liens against property you currently own (this can happen without your knowledge if you have a custom build or renovations done without a contract that a contractor did not pay the supplier for materials). Make sure to bring a state issued ID (the title and mortgage will have your name listed this way) and proof of home owner’s insurance.


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Benefits To Having Your Home Inspected

A major component of any new home purchase is the inspection. It may be tempting to save a few dollars (some inspections cost under $100) and skip the home inspection, but skipping the home inspection may cost more in the long run-like when the roof leaks the first time it rains or the hot water heater springs a leak because it is rusted- and you’re stuck with thousands of dollars in repairs. It is important to note that while a home inspection is not required, an occupancy inspection is required in many areas, especially areas with older homes.

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The occupancy inspection is a quick 30-minute inspection by the municipality’s code enforcement department looking for major safety issues, such as GFCI outlets not being installed near water sources, cracked sidewalks, broken windows, mold, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors (Illinois now requires 10-year smoke detectors be installed effective January 1, 2023), handrails, and peeling paint. Deficiencies in these areas must be corrected by the seller at his or her expense before the sale can happen.

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A home inspection, on the other hand, is requested and paid for by the buyer and is much more detailed. A home inspection usually takes between one and three hours and is an inspection from roof to foundation only looking for repair issues that can easily be seen, such as electrical outlets and lights not working, HVAC systems and appliances that do not work properly, leaky pipes and faucets, a wet crawl space, basement, or other foundation issues. For example, if the inspector flips a light switch and the light doesn’t work, he or she is not going to know if it is the lightbulb or the wiring, he or she will just mark on the inspection “light does not work when switch is flipped”. The inspector will not move furniture to take things apart to look for problems.

It is your right as a home buyer to request a home inspection. Likewise, the seller has the right to sell the home “as-is”.

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A home inspection DOES NOT include the flooring (unless there are tears in the carpet that can be a tripping hazard or the floors are uneven), old appliances, or paint color.

In the early part of 2022, home sellers were waving contingency to get an inspection because they could choose from multiple buyers without having to make any repairs. Because VA and FHA lenders require an appraisal calling out safety issues before issuing a loan, an additional inspection is not necessary.

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In general, there are three major reasons why people skip the home inspection. In a seller’s market, buyers who do not ask for an inspection have an advantage over the other buyers. Second, some buyers mistakenly think that because the house was just built or is not very old that it will not have any problems. Finally, some buyers think they can’t afford the inspection, and end up paying more in repairs after they have closed.

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Sometimes, the seller will pay for a pre-inspection. This is more likely to happen in a buyer’s market to eliminate the time used for an inspection contingency.

Your real estate agent can provide you with a list of three home inspectors if you do not already have one. He or she will not make the selection for you. In Illinois, the home inspector is required to be licensed. Once you have decided to get an inspection, there is only a 30-day window in which the entire process, from the time the contract is signed and the response is sent to the seller. The inspector will also need to be paid before the report is given to your agent to deliver to the seller. 

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Once you select an inspector, choose the first available date when you can go to the house at the end of the inspection (you do not need to be there for the whole inspection but it is recommended to have the inspector go over all of the findings with you). It generally takes 20 days to get the inspection and turn over the results to the seller, then the last 10 days for the seller to communicate if he or she will fix or replace the issues found or tell you “oh well”. 

If the seller agrees to make the repairs, make sure they are completed and you are satisfied with the job before you close the sale. If the seller goes with the last option, you can then ask your agent to negotiate for a lower sale price to cover the cost of the repairs that need to be done.

A home is a large investment. A home inspection is a smart investment to make sure you are getting what you paid for.

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Landscaping Ideas For Improving Curb Appeal

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When reading articles on how to get the most money when selling your home, a tactic that is most often brought up is to increase the curb appeal. Curb appeal is about more than what color your house is or if your lawn is mowed. A few hundred dollars now could net you thousands of dollars at closing.

A major component of curb appeal is landscaping. Think of landscaping for your house. What the right jewelry can do for a little black dress or tie and pocket square for a conservative suit. Those accessories are what makes something with very little personality in a sea of likeness stand out from the crowd. So now, think about your plain house that looks just like every other house on your street. There are other houses on your street that have been for sale for some time. You wish you didn’t have to sell, but your job is transferring you out of town. How do you “dress up” your plain house and make it the first to sell? New landscaping!

New Landscaping in O’Fallon IL

New landscaping to sell your house with The Ellerbrake Group should not cost a lot of money. A few, small touch ups and upgrades, and simple maintenance will set your house apart from the others by highlighting unique features. Replacing traditional thick shrubs that cover the front of the house and have to be pruned every year with a simple garden of native flowers that don’t need watering during the hot summers will allow the entire neighborhood to enjoy the birds and bees that will stop by for a snack. Try to pick plants with blooms that complement the color of the house and draw attention to the trim colors if you have any. Make sure you leave a map with names of the plants somewhere in the house so the new owners know what they are if the tags get blown away or moved by wildlife rooting around. Replace any mulch you have with a thin layer of multi-colored rock that doesn’t have to be replaced each year and helps control water evaporation. Use retaining blocks or bricks that complement the color of the exterior of your house to make the beds stand out.

 If you have a unique feature on the side of your house such as bay windows, try framing the outside of the set of windows with a taller, flowering bush that can be enjoyed indoors as well as outdoors. 

Make sure any wood accessories, such as the fence, swing, or other outdoor furniture is clean, painted, and in good condition. Throw on some new cushions and put color coordinated pots of seasonal annual flowers around the sitting area.

If you have mature trees, make sure they are in good health and any dead branches are removed.  Many times, if there is a problem with a dead limb hanging over the house or branches of any kind touching the house, the buyer will ask to have you solve the problem before closing or take the cost of having it done themselves out of the sale price.

Water Features

If there are water features in your landscaping, make sure they are in excellent shape too. Make sure the water is cleared of any debris and if the fountain or filters don’t work, replace them and add a mosquito larvae control tablet to the water, available at any home repair store. Make sure all outdoor water faucets are leak free and if you are leaving hoses and attachments, that they are leak free also. If you use an irrigation system, make sure it is working and the new owners know where the lines run in the yard, as well as how often you would run it.

Keeping Safety In Mind

Another important consideration in your landscaping for curb appeal is if it is safe. Paving stones can become coated with moss and mildew, making them slippery, increasing risks for falling. If outdoor lighting along sidewalks and driveways is minimal or non-existent, install a few solar lights in key locations, such as the apron of the driveway, the main sidewalk to the front of the house, and at the base of any stairs leading into the house or patio.

Even if you are not moving, having a unique sense of curb appeal will lead to your neighbors taking more pride in their landscaping. Many communities offer awards to homes with the best landscaped yards during the spring and summer, as well as offer tours of yards that their owners have taken extra pride in with unique arrangements and combinations of greenery, flowering plants, and hardscaping. A well landscaped, low maintenance yard is also more enjoyable all year long.

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Pros and Cons of Buying A Home in the Winter Months


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If you ask your real estate agent for advice on the best time to sell a house, you are likely to hear them say, “sell in the spring and the summer months.” The St. Louis area real estate market doubles its sales volume from winter to summer. The sales volume at different times of the year is vastly different.

In most cities, summer tends to see more homes being sold than winter. Some people believe that summer is the best season to sell or buy, but this is not always true. A townhouse downtown may sell easily in winter while a property with five acres with horses might have difficulty selling. It all depends on the particular circumstances of each deal.

This article is not meant to convince you to buy a winter home or to suggest that this is a good time to buy. It’s meant to help you evaluate your situation and decide what is best for you. Be objective as we discuss the pros and cons to buying a winter home. We want you to truly understand the benefits and costs.

This information may change depending on where you live, but for those of us in the Midwest, we experience all of the seasons. You will notice a significant decrease in winter sales volume if you live in an area with heavy snowfall. States like Florida, which receive little snow in winter months, may experience a rise in home sales during the winter months. Our market in St. Louis sells half the homes during Winter.


The Pros:realtor ofallon il


Most Realtors recommend that you wait until spring to sell your house. If the seller is listing in Winter, it’s possible that they need to sell their home soon.

Negotiations can be easier when you buy a Winter house. This doesn’t mean that you can offer the lowest price, but it does mean that you have more leverage if the seller has not acquired multiple offers.



It’s less likely that buyers will be looking at homes in winter so you won’t have to compete as hard during the winter months. There is less pressure to view a property on the day it goes on the market.

You may be able to take your time, and not rush to make an offer.



Real estate professionals often have slower times in Winter because there are fewer buyers. Real estate agents are often overwhelmed by house hunting inquiries during the peak season. It can be difficult to get the best service from a Realtor who is busy in the middle of summer.

Winter months are easier for real estate professionals. This means that you will likely get more attention and one on one advising.



Higher prices are a result of increased competition. At the peak of the summer market, bidding wars and multiple contracts are common. If there is less competition, you may pay less to buy a winter home.



Many homeowners who purchase older homes intend to remodel them. You will need to hire an aggressive contractor if you want to remodel your home before you move in. Contractors can be difficult to find, especially in the St. Louis region.


You’ll have a better chance of buying a house and remodeling it during the winter months, when contractors are less busy. Winter may be a good time to remodel your home.



The real estate market can get crazy with the increase in homes on sale from winter to spring. Buyers might decide to sign appraisal clauses and inspection contingencies that waive their rights.

Buyers need to be able to move quickly when the market is moving fast. Buyers may have to give up the luxury of a home inspection. It can feel chaotic and out of control when the process moves too quickly. This is why some buyers wait until winter to purchase a home.


The Cons:

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The number one problem with buying a winter home is the difficulty of inspecting the exterior. It’s almost impossible to assess the roof’s condition if there’s been a snowstorm.

Because of the hail damage caused by hail storms, roof repairs are the most common item inspectors find in St. Louis. Air Conditioning Inspectors are unable to test and run the outside units in cold conditions, so it is hard to inspect the air conditioning unit.



Winter has half the number of homes for sale than summer. Winter is a less popular time to find a unique home.

If you have specific search criteria that are difficult to meet, it’s twice as likely that you will find the unique property you want when the listing inventory doubles during the summer months.



Moving in winter is hard enough, let’s face the facts! It can be difficult to move in the winter, especially in snow storms or when it is poor weather.

It’s very difficult to have movers move boxes into and out of your home when it’s freezing outside. The snow will eventually get into everything and melt inside the house.

Some people prefer to wait for spring because of the hassle involved in moving and dealing with snow, especially in snowy regions.


If your last house was purchased in November. The landscaping was still barren during the winter months.  When Spring comes you may be surprised at the quality of the landscaping.

Also, trees that looked dormant during the winter may actually be dead when spring arrives. When you’re deep in winter, it is almost impossible to predict what landscaping will look like around your home in summer.



The St. Louis area begins to get dark after the fall daylight savings time change. This happens around 5:30 p.m. It is much more difficult to view homes at night because of this challenge.

It will be light in the summer months until about 9:00 p.m. In winter, the lack of daylight can cause problems with your schedule.



Moving schools halfway through the school year can cause major disruptions for families with children. This is why there are more summer homes that are sold when children are not in school.

The school year schedule has a significant impact on the real estate market in the United States. It also significantly increases summer sales.

Last Thoughts


Finding a realtor that you trust and feel comfortable with is the best advice I can give to any home buyer. The Ellerbrake Group will work with you to understand your needs and help you create a plan of action.

A great Realtor will help you understand all of your options and advocate for your best interests.

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5 Common Problems Found During Home Inspections

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1.  Roof Damage

The roof is one of the most important components that an inspector will inspect during a home inspection. It’s also one of the most essential parts of your house. A list of potential problems that could arise from a roof leak can cause buyers to pull out of a deal. This can lead to costly repairs.

Your roof’s condition will depend on many factors. Your roof will need more attention if you live in harsher climates than those in milder areas.

These are the things that an inspector will be looking for when inspecting a roof:

  1. Sagging – When the joists in your home become weak and are unable to hold the roof in its place, this is called sagging. Poor drainage or large amounts of snow can worsen this problem.
  2. The overall condition of the roof sheathing, especially in areas surrounding chimneys or other roof penetrations.  Leakage can be identified by looking deeper into your attic.

Two ways an inspector can assess your roof are available. The inspector will inspect your roof if it is possible and if it is safe to do so, they will take a walk on the roof in order to assess its condition.

They will then enter your attic. They can inspect the attic to find any leaks that may have occurred in the past or present. You will also notice signs of roof sagging, spreading, or twisting of the wood framing in the rafters.

Feel free to call The Ellerbrake Group for a list of trusted contractors that can perform these detailed inspections.

2.  Electrical Issues

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Electrical wiring issues are responsible for many home fires every year. The electrical system is an important component of home inspection. Newly built homes will have very few electrical problems. Older homes that have faulty wiring are more susceptible to fire.

These are some of the most common issues that an inspector will discover with electrical wiring:

Fraying and exposed wiring

Overheating can be caused by painted outlets. These are common in properties that were once rented.

Reversed Polarity – This means that the hot, neutral and ground slots of plugs have somehow been mixed.

Aluminum wiring – Aluminum wiring was more economical than copper wiring in late ’60s or early ’70s. However, it can also contribute to the possibility of a fire in your house.

Incorrect modification of electrical panels can lead to flickering lights, or switches and outlets not functioning correctly.

Missing knockouts or missing rectangular shapes in a panel

An inspector will inspect your home for any problems with your outlets and electrical panels, as well as your light fixtures and the wiring. They will also include suggestions for updating the system if they feel it is necessary. If they feel that a particular area needs to be addressed prior to move-in they will indicate it.

Some electrical repairs will not cost much. It can cost as much as $30,000 to rewire your entire house in some areas.

3. HVAC Service

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The HVAC system in your home consumes almost half the energy used in your home. Your HVAC system works hard each year to maintain your home’s climate control. It will eventually need to be serviced on a routine schedule. Many people neglect to service their HVAC systems annually, which can lead to problems during a home inspection.

An average home inspector won’t do a thorough inspection of the furnace or AC. It is a good idea to hire an HVAC specialist to inspect your HVAC system if it is more than ten years old. This will allow you to determine the remaining lifespan of the unit as well as project future repair costs.

Here are some common HVAC problems:

Most common problem: Dirty filters

Unlevel Pad

Improper Flue Installation

Dirty Coils

Broken Condenser

Cracked Heat Exchange

4.  Plumbing Problems

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Home inspection reports often include plumbing issues. Plumbing problems can be very common in a home and quite costly. Most plumbing problems are not apparent to homeowners until they are inspected.

Usually, an inspector will inspect your plumbing for the following:

How water flows from your taps efficiently

How well your drains function

And whether your toilets flush.

Although a home inspector won’t be as thorough as a professional plumber, they can give you a general overview of any issues that may need to be addressed when you move in, if any.

They may recommend professional plumbing inspections if they feel there is a greater problem. You can rest assured that most plumbing problems found in a home inspection are minor.

5.  Water Damage

Water damage is difficult to spot. This issue can be difficult to identify, but inspectors have the training and experience to resolve it.

The roof is often the first place where water leaks and it will move downwards. When inspecting for water damage, inspectors will typically start at the roof. Here are some signs that water damage has occurred:

  1. Cracks, holes – Water can easily enter your home through cracks or holes in exterior walls.
  2. Damp floors and carpets
  3. Stain on walls and ceilings– Inspectors will still look for mold growth, even if there is an old leak that has been fixed.
  4. Peeling wallpaper – This could indicate a leak behind your walls.
  5. Musty odors This can indicate mold buildup and is often caused by water leaks.

Water intrusion can be caused by small leaks. However, your inspection report will detail the extent of the problem. It will also explain what steps you should take to remedy the situation, if necessary.

Another common source of water damage could be due to the sump pump backing up or the sewer line backing up.  The Sump Pump is important to test and make sure that it is functioning properly.  If there is an access point to the sewer line, it may not be a bad idea to have a licensed professional plumber come out and put a camera down the sewer line in order to identify possible issues that could cause water to back up.

There are many issues that can pop up during a home inspection report, so be prepared to contact service specific contractors if you are selling your home so that the proper work can be completed before any inspections even need to be completed.  Many of these service base businesses exist in the area, but feel free to give The Ellerbrake Group a call if you are interested in working with someone we have used frequently in the past.

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7 Upgrades That Add Value To Your Home

Buyers are searching for homes with a modern, sleek aesthetic and lots of natural light. These are some of the requirements for many older homes.

It is important to reduce costs and avoid major renovations that will have a low rate of return. It is important to be functional, not extravagant in the kitchen or bathroom.

It is important to remember that the more you invest in renovating an area, the less it will return on your ROI depending on the type of materials used.

Here are 7 options for improving the value of your home:

1. Remodel Your Bathroom

To add value to your house, a bathroom remodel does not have to be extensive. You can make your bathroom more functional by updating the flooring, fixtures, toilet and lighting. This will allow you to get back most of what you have spent.

Many master bedrooms include en-suite bathrooms. The master bathroom is the most return-friendly of all the bathrooms. You may want to remodel your master bathroom if it is not connected to your master bedroom. This will instantly increase the value of your home.

You can increase the value of your home by replacing old light fixtures, countertops and cabinets. Bathrooms are second in return on investment after kitchens.

To increase your home’s value, upgrade it.

2. Modernizing The Kitchen

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Your kitchen is one of the most important home renovations. Before they visit a house, buyers often first look at the kitchen. Buyers want a kitchen that has been updated before they move in so that they don’t need to remodel.

A small kitchen remodel can bring in a good portion of your investment, but a larger remodel might only make up half the difference. When replacing your kitchen, be strategic.

Remodeling a kitchen is possible in many ways. It doesn’t matter if you are focusing on changing the light fixtures or adding a new layer of paint. Be careful when installing granite countertops and new cabinets, these can be the most expensive part of a kitchen remodel.

A minor kitchen remodel will typically recoup more than major renovations. You can make some of the most important updates to your kitchen by replacing the flooring and installing a new faucet and stainless steel sink. If you have solid wood cabinets, you may consider refinishing them instead of installing new ones.

3. Replace Your Old Carpet

Old and stained carpet can be a problem for home buyers. It is easy to have your home look new by replacing the carpet.

Hardwood flooring is more expensive than carpet. Although carpet isn’t as durable as hardwood, it is easier to replace. We recommend that you replace carpet that is older than three to four years.

4. Refinishing or Installing Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are a very popular choice. Wood flooring is a popular choice for homes that have been around for many years. It continues to add value to homes.

Hardwood flooring is a great investment for pets, if the current carpeting is a bit stained or shabby. Hardwood floors can be refinished for a fraction of the cost to completely replace them.

5. Use a neutral paint for your walls

It is easy to increase the value of your home by painting rooms. Paint is an inexpensive upgrade that homeowners can do themselves.

Choose lighter and more neutral colors that appeal to a wider range of buyers. This allows buyers to easily imagine bringing their belongings and furniture into the home, without them clashing.

The addition of paint to a room can make it feel brighter and more open. If you have walls that are painted in neutral colors, assess if your moldings, trim, and windows require a new coat of paint as well.

6. Create An Open Floor Plan

Many older homes have closed floor plans which compartmentalize space. This design was very popular in the past, but it is now a rare trend.

A home will feel larger and more spacious if unnecessary interior walls are removed. Extra support pillars and beams may be required for load-bearing walls, but the many interior walls can be moved or removed.

Open floor plans are more flexible in design and decoration. Open floor plans allow for more natural light to enter. Designers favor open-plan designs, such as the living and dining rooms, kitchens, and living spaces.

Remember that your home needs structural support. You could have a cracked ceiling or sagging ceiling if you choose the wrong wall. Before you start hammering away with a sledgehammer, consult a professional. Understanding the structural integrity of your house is essential before you attempt to remove walls.  Give The Ellerbrake Group a call if you need any suggestions for good home remodeling professionals.

This type of project is difficult to value because results will vary depending on the layout of your home. This is a great way to instantly add value to your home.

7. Finish the Basement

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Unfinished basements can be finished to increase the square footage and value of your house. A finished basement can provide a decent return on your investment depending on how expensive the materials are.

A basement remodel in St Louis MO can turn an unused area into a home theater, an additional living space, or even an office. These improvements can make your home more expensive than it would be without the extra square footage.

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Before you start to remodel your basement, there are many things you should consider. This type of project often involves flooring, drywall, painting, and adding light fixtures.

Before you decide what to do in your basement, consider where the light comes from. Natural light should be allowed to enter rooms as often as possible.

Because of lingering dampness, basements can be a natural breeding ground for mold. It is important to think about how to best allow airflow and prevent moisture buildup in isolated areas.

Many of these home improvement options can help to improve the marketability of your home.  You have to determine what steps will yield the best return on investment for you and your family.  We suggest that you set aside a budget for upgrades, cleaning, and improvements and start with the easier tasks that you can take care of on your own.

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Reasons to Hire A Cleaning Service to Help Sell Your Home

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When you are showing a house to potential buyers, first impressions matter the most. It is difficult to get a client’s house ready to sell. It is important to make the house look new and attractive enough to attract potential buyers. If you are looking to sell your home quickly and for top dollar, a thorough cleaning is essential.

The importance of cleaning, painting, and fixing things can not be overlooked when looking to sell a house. Cleaning the home is an inexpensive and essential step to prepare the house for sale. It is more than just a matter of removing all the dirt and dust from your home. Professionals spend more time and energy cleaning homes, paying greater attention to details. No matter how many times homeowners clean up their homes, a house on the market will require more thorough and intensive cleaning to make it shine.

Professional cleaning services make it easy to make your home shine.

The cleaning services ensure that the home is clean and free of dirt, dust, or other unpleasant odors. They will also inspect homes for discolored surfaces, stained carpets and smudged appliances to ensure they are ready for extreme inspection.

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Agents have seen the value of professional cleaning services in real estate. Here are some reasons The Ellerbrake Group recommends a professional cleaning service before you put your home up for sale:

  1. A professional cleaning service can help you make a good first impression. This is a great way to present the best image of your home so we can better market your property to potential buyers.It is important not to place anything that distracts or stands out from the potential of the home. It’s much easier to convince clients that this is the right home once they feel at ease in the space.Buyers who can’t visualize living in a home will not be able to pull the trigger on purchasing it. Clients often visualize themselves living in the home before they buy it.Agents can also help to ease the stress associated with buying a house.You can offer a deep cleaning for free to new homeowners as an incentive, but it is more beneficial to clean the house before you put it up for sale.Clients are more likely to avoid homes that look dirty compared to ones that look shiny and new. Experienced agents know this, and can recommend professional cleaning services to help them sell their home for a higher price.
  2. You shouldn’t waste your time cleaning up a house yourself when you could be marketing it. Professional cleaning services can help you focus your efforts on marketing and less on the property’s appearance.A cleaning service can also save you time so that you can focus on other aspects of the sale, such as arranging viewings and open houses or talking with your agent.It is important to focus your efforts on achieving results and not trying to cut corners.For example, Let’s say you live in Belleville IL and decide to clean your house yourself, but the house down the street decides to hire a professional cleaning service in Belleville IL.  The professional cleaning crew knows the business better than your average home owner, and they will find things that you may miss.  No matter how many times a client cleans, there will always still be things that need fixing or changing out in order to prepare a home.  Set your home above the rest by ensuring that you avoid cutting corners!With a buyer’s eye, walk through the house. Note upgrades, defects, and areas for improvement. Sometimes we give our clients a list of things to do to make their home “show-ready”.

    It is worth the effort, despite its time-consuming nature. Agents come in to take professional photos of a property once it is ready. Bad images can deter many potential buyers.

  3. The world is now facing the effects of the novel coronavirus. This has led to a greater need for cleanliness. Clients, agents, and future homeowners will feel at ease if they hire a professional cleaner to do a deep clean before showing.It is now more important than ever to clean your home.Because of the pandemic many showings can now be done online. Small dirt particles might not be easy to spot if buyers are looking at a screen. Agents can help buyers feel confident that all surfaces have been cleaned and wiped clean with the appropriate chemicals by service belleville il


Many homeowners feel tempted to save money and clean their own homes. While this may sound like a great idea, once the cleaning begins, it will most likely be a time consuming process, and you may wish that you went with a professional soon after starting.

Agents agree that it can be stressful to prepare a home. They often suggest clients to leave the work to professionals so that they can have a better experience selling their home.

It is important to make a good first impression. A crack in the wall or stained carpet can turn a buyer away, even if they are assured that everything will be fine before they move in.

Every market’s real estate agents agree that thorough cleaning is more important than ever, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. Professionals should clean the surfaces so potential buyers feel comfortable when they first enter the house. In this business, first impressions are more important than you might think. Don’t risk losing a buyer. Before potential buyers see the house, hire a professional cleaner.


realtor O'Fallon IL

What are The Benefits of Paying 20% Down

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You may be curious about how much money you will need for your down payment if you are thinking of purchasing a home in the next year. It could be 20% of the mortgage loan. Qualified buyers can choose to pay 20% or less, but it is important to know that a higher down payment can also have many benefits.

There are many programs that will allow you to make a down payment as low as 3.5%. This can be huge for those who want to buy a home sooner than expected. Veterans who have served their country may be eligible for a Veterans Affairs Home Loan (VA), which may not require a down payment. Many potential buyers have been able to save more time and start building their family wealth earlier thanks to these programs.

These are the top four reasons 20% down can be a great plan, if you have the funds.

1. The interest rate you receive may be lower.

Your lender will appreciate a 20% down payment instead of a 3-5% down payment. This shows that you are financially more stable and less risky. Your lender will likely offer a lower mortgage interest rate if they are more confident in your credit score, and your ability to repay the loan.

2. Your home will cost you less.

Your mortgage loan amount will be smaller if you have a larger down payment. You will only be charged interest on the amount you finance.  If you can pay 20% at the beginning of the transaction you will only have to finance 80% of the new home’s cost. If you decide to only put down 5% at the beginning, the additional 15%, which you will pay interest on over time, will be added to the loan if you deposit 5%. This will increase the cost of your home loan over its lifetime.

3. Your offer will be noticed in a highly competitive marketplace.

Sellers like offers that include 20% down payment in a market with many potential buyers. In this situation, the seller is given the same level of confidence as the lender. With financing that is more likely to be approved, you are perceived as a stronger buyer. The deal is more likely to close.

4. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), which you need for down payments less than 20%, is not required.

What is PMI? According to Investopedia:

“PMI is a type of mortgage insurance that buyers are typically required to pay for a conventional loan when they make a down payment that is less than 20% of the home’s purchase price. Many lenders offer low down payment programs, allowing you to put down as little as 3%. The cost of that flexibility is PMI, which protects the lender’s investment in case you fail to repay your mortgage, known as default. In other words, PMI insures the lender, not you.”

Your lender will consider your loan more risky if you pay less than 20% down when you buy a home. PMI is a protection that helps your lender recover their investment in the event you are unable to repay your loan. If you can put down 20% or more, this insurance is not required.

Home sellers who want to buy a bigger or more expensive house are often able to use the equity from their sale to purchase 20% of the next property. It is possible to use the equity that homeowners have today to save 20% on your down payment for a new home.

Consider the advantages of 20% down when you are looking to purchase your first home.

Bottom line

Reach out to trusted professionals if you are thinking about buying a house and have already saved for your down payment. They can help you determine what is most compatible with your long-term goals.



Realtor O'Fallon IL

How Today’s Mortgage Rates Effect Your Home Purchase

Realtor O'Fallon IL


If you’re planning to buy a home, it’s critical to understand the relationship between mortgage rates and your purchasing power. Purchasing power is the amount of money for a home you can afford to buy that’s within your financial reach. Mortgage rates directly impact the monthly payment you’ll have on the home you purchase by increasing the interest you pay on the house every month. So, when rates rise, so does the monthly payment you’re able to lock in on your home loan. In a rising-rate environment like we’re in today, that could limit your future purchasing power.

Today as of May 9th 2022, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate is above 5%, and in the near term, experts say that’ll likely go up in the months ahead. You have the opportunity to get ahead of that increase if you buy now before that impacts your purchasing power.

For example, if you decide to purchase a home for $360,000 and you lock in an interest rate at 5%, your estimated monthly payment (principal and interest) will be $1,933.  If that percentage rises to 6%,  your monthly payment is now $2,158.  That 1% increase has now cost you an extra $225 per month.  For this reason, we recommend that you lock in a mortgage interest rate as soon as you can to avoid a possible increase.  If you are interested in learning more about lenders in our area, be sure to give The Ellerbrake Group a call soon!

Craft A Plan With Your Realtor and Lender

You’re more likely to exceed your target payment range as mortgage rates increase unless you pursue a lower home loan amount. If you’re ready to buy a home, use this as your motivation to purchase now so you can get ahead of rising interest rates before you have to make the decision to decrease what you borrow in order to stay comfortably within your budget.  If you have to go with a smaller house, you can avoid having to pay the extra interest, but then you will have to settle for something other than what you are interested in.  

Work with a local lender to establish a good budget you are comfortable with, and they will help you determine what your max home price needs to be.  Your lender will provide you with a recommended home purchase price so we can then look for houses in your price range.

Housing Demand Is Still Strong

No matter what, the best plan of attack is to work with your real estate advisor and a trusted lender to create a strategy that takes rising mortgage rates into consideration. Together, you can look at your budget based on where rates are today and craft a plan so you’re ready to adjust as rates change.

Even with the recent rise in mortgage rates, demand for real estate is remaining strong.  Housing prices are also still holding strong, so if you are looking to sell, now might be the best time given that property is continuing to move and sell quickly.    

Homes for sale Belleville, IL, The Ellerbrake Group

Here are some easy tips to help buyers remain on top of the market today.


Home buyers can experience this kind of market exhausting. It requires patience to wait for the right bid to be placed on the house. For over 30 years I’ve ran an agency in O’Fallon IL. I’ve heard numerous stories from agents on the impact of the market on their clients. I’ve reviewed hundreds of contracts for sales, and I am familiar with the most popular strategies employed by Realtors to make offers accepted.

Today, I’ll share some suggestions to aid buyers to compete in the current market.

1. Pre-approve.

You don’t have the time nor patience to find the ideal home and to visit the banks for pre-approval. To prove that you’re committed to buying the house you must be pre-approved. Discuss with your lender the monthly payments that you feel comfortable with.

Agents who list houses will receive offers from buyers and then verify the lender’s pre-approval letters. Agents who list their properties and are highly efficient will have a good understanding of numerous local lenders. Certain lenders are notorious for their sabotage of deals. The agent who is listing the property may provide information about you if you work with one of these lenders.

Contact a knowledgeable agent for suggestions on the most suitable lenders to assist you in getting the offer approved. This is particularly important in cities that are smaller. Smaller cities have real estate agents tend to be more inclined to meet one another. The experience and reputation of your Realtor and Mortgage Broker could significantly impact the quality of your contract.

2. Make sure you’re prepared.

To make the seller aware that you’re in the know.  Your Realtor will request earnest money in advance. Find out the best closing date for the seller, or other details that can sweeten the deal.

Every seller could have their own reasons for selling. A seller could be selling their home through a relocation firm, and another could be selling an investment property. Every seller will have conditions that they like.

It’s recommended to speak with your Realtor prior to submitting your offer if you’re looking to buy a home in a highly competitive marketplace. Your agent should ask the agent for the seller what they’re seeking in the contract. This will enable you to customize your offer to meet the needs of the seller. It will guarantee that your offer is on top of the list.

3. Find a reputable Realtor.

I ensure that my clients are prepared before we meet. In addition to looking through the internet for listings, we also investigate properties off the market to assist our customers. This provides buyers with an advantage.

4. Make sure to include an Escalation Clause.

An escalation clause is a clause that buyers add to a contract.  This says that they will raise their offer above the highest bidding price. The price of the contract for the buyer will be automatically increased without having to sign an additional contract or amend the existing contract. The clause usually has an upper limit on the amount of escalation. This strategy is employed to ensure that your bid is at the top of the list during the bidding war.

Here’s an example.

  • Homebuyer A was willing to pay $500,000 for the home valued at $490,000. The contract included an escalation clause that was $3,000 greater than the highest price.
  • The house has 30 other offers. The highest bid of Buyer B is $550,000.
  • In this instance the price of the contract of the buyer A is automatically raised to $553,000.

This is among the most well-known ways to beat your competitors in extremely competitive markets.

An escalation clause is only used when you can raise your bid significantly over the list price. A escalation clause instantly puts your offer at the highest. They may be utilized by the agent listing your bid to force you to pay more than the contract price.

An escalation clause permits the agent of the seller to contact buyers to request the buyers to sign an agreement to escalate. Once they’ve reached the maximum price, you’ll be required to pay a specific dollar amount.

In the year 2018, escalation clauses became widely used and are now an increasingly common element in real property markets. If they’re not properly structured they could be difficult to understand. Before you implement this strategy, be sure that your Realtor is well-versed in the idea.

Remember these points

It is essential to be flexible in order to meet the unique requirements as a buyer in a highly competitive market. Every seller has their particular requirements. You’ll be able to beat your competition by being able to react quickly and satisfy the needs of the seller.

You might need to think outside the box if you are looking to sell your home prior to buying a new property. Sellers with multiple offers on their home won’t sign contract that is contingent on the sale of a house. Sellers would like to stay clear of as many delay and contingencies as they can. We can assist you to quickly locate buyers in this highly competitive market.

If you want to give yourself more flexibility, you might consider the possibility of selling your home and renting the property on AirBnB (or temporary rental). While this could be risky since there’s not a lot of available inventory, it can provide you with the advantage you require to persuade that the seller to sign the contract. It is possible to get more cash to make the sale go through faster.

Certain companies will purchase your home after you have found another , however it typically comes with a cost. Since the demand for homes increases each year, lenders and realtors are becoming innovative. When you are ready to sell your house make sure you research companies that could assist you in purchasing a new home.

Do not hesitate to contact me via phone, email or email if you’re interested in selling or buying. I’m looking forward to getting in touch with you.

realtor o'fallon il

These are the Top 8 Enhancements to Increase Curb Appeal

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Curb appeal is a phrase that a majority of people have heard of if they’ve read anything about home ownership or renovations. Curb appeal is the appearance of your home when seen from the street.

Since it’s the first impression that will be created about your house, curb appeal is one of the most effective places to earn a profit. It establishes the tone for the inside.  The Ellerbrake Group can help you find the right contractors to help improve your curb appeal.

There are numerous ways to enhance the curb appeal of your home.

1. Design and landscape the Front Yard

The most well-known landscaping method is to plant a garden. It’s the best method to boost curb appeal. The majority of agents believe that curb appeal is an important element in increasing your property’s value and making it easier to sell your home quickly. This is especially true for landscaping. Buyers will be impressed by the fact that your home is well-maintained.

Landscaping your property requires maintaining it neat pruning trees and shrubs as well as mulching and planting annuals or perennials. Be cautious not to remove too much of the vegetation.

A lot of homeowners don’t want to spend long hours maintaining their gardens. This can make it difficult for potential buyers to purchase your garden if they require maintenance every week.

It is recommended to choose plants and shrubs that are simple to care for. Zero-scaping is a good option in climates that are dry, in which water is in short supply. The plants that require minimal maintenance and are easy to cultivate every year are the most effective. It is important to select the right clothes for the area you live in.

One important aspect to consider when it comes to landscaping is to think about the year-round interest. It is important to choose plants that look vibrant all through the year. The plants that thrive during spring and summer may however look like dead twigs in winter and fall and will leave your garden looking bare.

2. Garage Door Replacement

You can recover the bulk of the garage door replacement costs by changing it to a more modern model. This is particularly applicable to homes with older garage doors. Modern garage doors can make a home appear years newer.

It is important to look for sturdy materials when you are shopping for garage door replacement. These include steel, aluminum and wood composites. If you choose, you may add insulation as well as an energy-efficient glaze if your garage is connected to the house.

A designer might assist you to choose the best door. Simple options can be more effective and bold choices can be distracting. Designers will complement the style of your home with distinctive garage doors that stand out and add to the curb appeal.

3. Stone Veneer On Exterior

A stone veneer will help your home’s exterior walls look more attractive. It can provide an excellent return on your investment. Stone homes are superior exterior design options than stucco siding.

The veneer is of high-quality and looks like real stone, however it is less to set up. It can be cut by using molds, and is man made. It is very simple to work with. It is an excellent way to make an old house appear better.

For a higher cost-to-value ratio, you don’t have to build a stone structure for the whole house. It is easy to add stone to smaller areas and get an impressive return on your investment. Stone can be erected on the beams that support your porch’s front. It is possible to install stones to the lower portion of your vinyl siding , instead of the entire wall.

This project can allow you to restore the spirit to an old-fashioned exterior.

4. Steel-Entry Front Doors

The replacement of the front door is an excellent method to boost your property’s value while saving money. When you walk into a home, the front door is usually the first thing that you will see. It’s the first thing you will touch upon entering a house.

It’s an excellent idea to choose an eye-catching, bright color to stand out from the exterior. Red is the most sought-after color for front doors on new homes.

Doors made of steel are sought-after because they offer significant benefits in terms of security as well as energy efficiency. They are perfect to keep cold temperatures out when you live in a more temperate climate.

5. Install a porch or a deck

A deck or patio adds value to your home and makes it more attractive. The porch in front is the place where memories are created. It can also help to increase the appeal to the house.

A contractor should be able to construct an outdoor deck or porch that is free of wood decay. Composite decking is the best choice in the majority of cases because it isn’t susceptible to rot and doesn’t need staining or painting.

Stamped concrete is an excellent alternative if you plan to build an outdoor patio. Stamped concrete can be used to add decorative finishing to your patio to replicate the look of tile or stone. Stamped concrete, a modern method of finishing, gives a stunning appearance that is extremely popular with homeowners.

6. Update or install new windows

It is possible to change windows that appear old or are beginning to degrade due to water damage. This is particularly true in homes that are located near areas of high traffic. The noise from outside will be reduced through the installation of new windows. This will make your home appear more spacious and help with sound reduction.

Vinyl windows are inexpensive and offer great energy efficiency for people with limited funds. Some people select windows that do not match with the siding they have. This can cause your remodeling to be a disaster and turn off prospective buyers. To get the best results you should consult a window expert.

Older homes are less insulated and have fewer windows. To allow more sunlight into your home, you could consider installing larger windows. While it may be more costly, it can make your home appear brighter and boost the value of your home.

7. Refresh Exterior Paint

Contrary to what many people believe, there is no need to completely redecorate your home to look new.

It is possible to focus on areas with more chipping and flaking paint if you’re on a tight budget. These areas can be cleaned with pressure prior to painting. This removes any dust or mold.

After you’ve cleaned and removed any old paint from the outside, choose the color that is similar to the current shade. You can also apply a coat of paint to any rough areas. Paint the trim and doors to the front. It can instantly change the appearance and feel of your home without much effort.

8. Plant a Tree

It is possible to plant trees if you’ve completed your landscaping , and your front yard is getting enough sun.  This is a good long-term investment for those who plan to remain in your house for a long time before selling.

It can take time for trees that provide shade to grow.  Once they have matured, they will cut cooling costs by as much as 35%.

Shade trees are beneficial to the natural environment. They provide habitat for native wildlife. The beautiful songbirds’ songs will be heard , and the curb appeal of your property will improve.

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