May 8, 2017

Turn Up the Heat: 8 Ideas to Spice Up Your Kitchen

It's common knowledge that kitchens sell homes. Guests always congregate in the kitchen and you probably spend more time in the kitchen than any other room in the house, so it makes sense. Renovating a kitchen is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking that may not be in the cards. Whether your kitchen is in need of a full-fledged overhaul or just needs a few updates to spruce it up, these eight ideas are budget-friendly and DIY compatible - and they'll give your kitchen that high-end look everyone wants!

  1. Freshen Up the Hardware - Punch up boring cabinets with cool new hardware. You'll be surprised how changing out drawer pulls and cabinet handles impacts the overall look of the kitchen. Be smart about it and get hardware whose holes match up with the current hardware.
  2. Incorporate Color & Texture - High-end kitchens often follow similar color palettes and there's a reason for that: they appeal to a wider audience and allow the designers to play with texture, which adds depth and richness. Pops of color should come in with fruit bowls and other items that can be moved and switched out easily.
  3. Let There Be (New) Light - Replace dated light fixtures with modern-look pendants or track lighting (which is much easier to install than it used to be). Add task lighting under cabinets and in low-lit corners and brighten up the whole mood of the kitchen!
  4. Fix Old Fixtures - Unless you're going with a retro look, ditch the old faucet and replace it with a hands-free model, or one with the sprayer that pulls out.  The sink is a focus of the kitchen and a newer faucet fixture will make a big splash.
  5. Incorporate Modern Luxuries - It's not that hard to install a pull-out trash and recycling bin or pull out drawers in lower cabinets and kits are sold in your favorite hardware store. These small improvements to the kitchen reap big dividends in terms of functionality!
  6. Add An Island - Not every kitchen can accommodate a fixed island but many can be improved by the addition of a mobile island. Space-saving options abound and the added prep surface and flexibility they bring are worth the minor investment.
  7. Create a Command Center - As the hub of your home, it makes sense to allocate a small part of the kitchen to organizing the family. Some chalkboard paint, a little added trim and a dry-erase board or bulletin board quickly transform the side of a cabinet or a blank wall into your Family Command Center.
  8. Kill the Clutter - Think about your mental image of your dream kitchen.  Know what is central to almost everyone's mental picture? Clean countertops. Keep clutter out of sight with organized shelves, cabinets and drawers to take your kitchen up a notch instantly. 
April 18, 2017

Spring Into New Cleaning Routines

https://honestlycouldnotcare.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/clean-house-vintage.jpg"Spring cleaning" conjures up images of all-day, immersive cleaning marathons and while those are important once or twice a year, you can make that job a lot easier by maintaining a cleaning routine that you can manage daily or weekly. Follow these tips, adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Whole House Cleaning Schedule, to personalize your new and manageable cleaning routine and you'll never have to turn away a visitor again!

  1. Tour the house and make notes - Walk through every room and hallway/stairs and write down what needs to be done and how often. Prioritize rooms that get a lot of traffic or will be seen by guests.
  2. Organize the tasks - Once you've toured the house and listed what needs to be done in each room, start with the most important room and organize the cleaning tasks in the order you want to accomplish them. This will create the checklist you'll use for each room.  
  3. Divvy up the rooms - With the room checklist in hand, consult the calendar. If you are the kind of person that wants to knock it out in one or two bigger time increments, decide which day and how long you'll devote to the highest priority rooms. If you prefer to spread out the work into smaller time slots, assign a room per day - and consider assigning the more visible rooms for nearer the weekend, so any weekend visitors will enjoy clean spaces.
  4. Make the shopping list - Inventory your on-hand cleaning supplies and buy any that are missing. Some cleaning tools can drastically reduce the time it takes to accomplish a task so invest in these if you are short on time. Also consider buying baskets or carriers to consolidate cleaning supplies in one place to make it easy to grab and go.
  5. Practice and perfect - The first go-through will likely help you discover efficiencies and waste so be mindful that the checklist and schedule can be amended as you go. Give it at least a month of fine-tuning before cementing the routine into habit.
  6. Stick with it - Set reminders, write it on the calendar or tie a string on your finger...whatever it takes to keep your new routine top of mind.  A new habit takes an average of 16 weeks to get established so the first few months are critical to keep on it.
Posted in Tips and Tricks
March 13, 2017

The Inside Scoop: Tips & Tricks for Starting Your Vegetable Garden Indoors

Most people don't know how easy it is to get a head start on their vegetable garden by starting seeds indoors. Not only does it save money, but you can get a much wider variety of seeds than you will find as plants.  The best part about starting seeds indoors comes from an earlier harvest and greater yield. It can seem daunting, but with these tips and tricks, you'll be armed with seedlings ready to go in the ground as soon as the last frost date has passed (in our area, that is around April 15th). Happy gardening!

  1. Start With the Container - In addition to your seed packets, you'll need small containers, no more than 3 - 4 inches across.  You can use the small pots last year's plants came in, yogurt cups or really any small container with drain holes. Be sure to sterilize whatever containers you pick with a bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) to avoid disease and fungus. You also need a large tray in which to place the pots as you want to water the seedlings from below by filling the tray and letting the water soak up into the pots.  Watering from the top can lead to disease so the tray is an important piece.
  2. Prep the Soil - The best medium for growing delicate seedlings is a light, fluffy and sterile mix that is specifically for starting seeds. Fertilizer isn't important at this stage as the seeds themselves contain the nutrients the seedling will need until it is time to plant it in the ground.
  3. Light it Up - Seedlings need about 16 hours of light a day and are very sensitive to heat so the best light source for your starts are fluorescent bulbs.  A shop light with two fluorescents - one cool white tube and one red light tube are a great combination - works great. The light should be kept 3-4 inches above the seedlings so they don't get tall and spindly so hang the shop light on chains with S-hooks to allow easy maneuverability. 
  4. Warmth & Water - During germination (before the seeds sprout), light warmth is needed. Special heating mats are sold for this purpose, but the effect can be achieved on top of the refrigerator or dryer. Once the seeds sprout, room temperature is fine.  You want to keep the soil moist - but not soaked. A cover over the tray can help keep the humidity at a nice level for the seedlings but make sure there is adequate air movement, again to avoid fungal growth. And as discussed above, always water from the bottom, not the top so as to reduce the chance for disease to take over the delicate sprouts.
  5. Introduce to the Outside Slowly - Once the seedlings are ready for their debut outside, implement a process called "hardening off". Take the trays of starts outside on a nice, sunny day and place them in a shady spot that is somewhat protected from heavy wind and leave them out there for just a few hours before bringing them back inside. Do this for a few days, slowly increasing the amount of time they spend outside as well as the amount of direct sunlight they're exposed to. This acclimates the seedlings to the outdoors and the conditions they'll soon be living in. Once the last chance of frost has passed and the soil is a balmy 70 degrees, plant your little beauties and garden away!
Posted in Tips and Tricks
Feb. 13, 2017

Home Improvement Ideas for Your Valentine

Flowers, chocolates and jewelry are always lovely gifts for a significant other on Valentine's Day. But who doesn't appreciate a gift that serves the dual purpose of showing love while at the same time investing in your home? The following ideas don't cost much and don't take a lot of time but they are sure to convey your sentiments with the added bonus of being gifts you can both enjoy for a long time to come!

  1. Print, Frame & Hang Photos - This idea doesn't have to take a long time to prepare! A super quick way to make a sweet keepsake is to find a great photo of the two of you and get it printed at Walgreens, WalMart, Office Depot or the like.  While you're waiting for the print, find a magnetic photo frame of the right size.  Insert the printed photo and voila, you have a sweet gift to stick to the refrigerator.  Make several of varying sizes for an instant refrigerator collage. Upgrade to wooden frames and larger prints for a statement piece that will brighten your walls.
  2. Upgrade Lighting - You don't have to be a handyman to swap out dated lighting fixtures and you are adding value to your home at the same time. Pick a high profile light that could use an update and for less than $50 and an hour or so of time, your gift will make a big impact. For an extra touch, hang a gift tag from it that says "For the light of my life!"
  3. Appeal to the Sense of Smell - Whether you go for a basket of lotions, scented candles or plugins that can be dispersed throughout the house, a pleasing scent when your significant other walks through the door will be a sign that love is in the air. 
  4. Replace or Update Bathroom Linens & Fixtures - Sometimes the most thoughtful gestures are small ones that make a big visual impact.  The bathroom is one of the most trafficked areas of the house but also often ignored when it comes to updating its accoutrements.  A new shower curtain, hand towels, bath mat and soap dispenser will instantly and dramatically add new life to the bathroom. Keep in mind the wall or floor color and add bright pops of color that complement them. 
  5. Install a High-End Shower Head - If you go the bathroom update route, consider a new shower head. For less than $100, you can easily and quickly install a waterfall or multi-stream shower head that will provide your love with a luxurious shower experience in your own home.
  6. Replace Bedroom Linens - Soft blankets, warm colors and freshly laundered sheets are a joy to slip into. It takes almost no time and requires no special skill to buy a new bedding set - but remember to leave yourself time to wash any new bedding before putting it on!
  7. Install a Wine or Beer Refrigerator - If you can operate an electric plug in an outlet, you can give the gift of always chilled wine or beer with the purchase of a wine cooler or mini beer fridge, depending on your partner's preference. Valentine's Day is ideal for toasting your love with the frosty beverage of choice and this gift practically screams "I love you!"
Jan. 13, 2017

Our Office Has Moved!

 

We made yet another "Smart Move" to our new location at 1551 Wall St., St Charles January 7th, 2017.

A heart felt THANK YOU to friends and longtime supporters. 2016 was another incredible year for SRE!

With over 40 years in business....1 Billion in Local Real Estate SOLD and over 10,000 Local Families we've had the opportunity to serve, we say Thank You. We are likewise thankful for our 40+ Real Estate Professionals ready to serve.

Click Here for Directions to Our New Office (Opens in New Window) >>

Jan. 13, 2017

Lower Mortgage Insurance Premiums on FHA Loan Announced

The federal government announced on January 9th that the annual monthly mortgage insurance premiums on FHA-backed loans will be lower by 25 basis points starting January 27th. A 30 year fixed rate with 3.5% down payment: new mortgage insurance premium will be .60% , down from .85%.

After four straight years of growth and with sufficient reserves on hand to meet future claims, it’s time for FHA to pass along some modest savings to working families,” Julian Castro, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, stated.

Read More at RealtorMag.com (Opens in New Window) >>

Jan. 8, 2017

Getting Motivated: Organizing for Small Spaces

Now that the holidays are over, there's a good chance you've found yourself wondering where you're going to put the new treasures you received from family and friends. You'd be surprised how much more space your closets and rooms have when they're smartly organized! Use the following tips to maximize your space no matter how small.

  1. Go Vertical - Walls are often overlooked as potential storage space. Shelves can be pre-purchased and are fairly easy to install, giving you many options for storage.  Use brightly colored containers, photos or figurines to draw the eye for a pleasing effect.
  2. Choose Furniture that Does Double Duty - Ottomans, benches and tables can all have hidden storage compartments to stash away throw blankets, DVD's or other small items that don't have a home in your closets or on shelves. Buying extra seating that doubles as hidden storage is a great way to increase space for your stuff.
  3. Under the Stairs - Have you seen this new fad of tiny homes? Their usage of small spaces to create ingenious storage solutions is best exhibited by under stair storage options. From drawers under each stair to fold down desks built into the space, don't be afraid to take inspiration from anywhere you can get it!
  4. Check out Pinterest - When it comes to DIY or anything crafty, Pinterest should be a go to source for ideas. There is no shortage of clever people sharing their projects with photos and step-by-step instructions there and while some may be a little ambitious for the average person, it's still a great resource for thinking outside of the box. Here's a search to get you started!
  5. Electronics & Cords Everywhere? It's a common problem nowadays - everything seems to have a charging cord. Use a mailing label or file folder label folded in half over a cord and note what the cord goes to so all the cords can be stored in one place. Amazon also has many options of charging stations that conveniently hide the jumble of cords and keep all of your most used electronics neatly placed together.
  6. Over the Door Storage - All available space can be used with the right tools. Over the door options include shoe organizers (that can be used for more than just shoes - like art supplies, office supplies and jewelry), towel organizers in the bathroom and even cabinet door organizers for lids of all types.
  7. Maximize Closet Space - If you have limited closet space, a closet organization system can be worth its weight in gold! If you can't spring for a full on closet makeover, try things like adding hooks, removing the doors to take advantage of all the space and adding lighting to make it easier to find things once tucked away. Make sure you label boxes and bins to save yourself time and headache too!
  8. Make it Easy on Yourself with Regular Purges - This tip should really be number one! The best way to make room for new stuff is by getting rid of stuff you no longer use or has served its purpose and is ready to move on to the next person. And if you donate the things you have outgrown or no longer need, you're also helping others - and what could be better than that? 
Nov. 30, 2016

Join Us! Shred Old Papers and Visit with Santa

What: Shred Day & Photos with Santa

When: Saturday, December 10 from 10:00 am - Noon

Where: SCHNEIDER Real Estate, One Point West Blvd (Click for Directions)

Video Details

Clear out those unwanted papers and end the year free of clutter! SCHNEIDER Real Estate is hosting a "Shred Day" Saturday, December 10th. A shredding company will be onsite from 10:00 am until noon to conveniently dispose of any old or unneeded paperwork. A hot cocoa and coffee bar will be available as well.  And bring the kids to visit with Santa in his red Corvette! Photos with Santa will also be available.

Click here for the Facebook Event page for Shred Day with Santa!

Posted in For The Community
Nov. 30, 2016

To Save or Not to Save: 5 Records Retention Guidelines

To save or not to save? It's a question we ask ourselves almost every day and yet we usually still end up swimming in paper. When it comes to deciding what to keep and for how long, these five guidelines can help you cut back the amount of time you spend filing and organizing paperwork and save you loads of space in your filing cabinets. It's timely information too; we're hosting a Shred Day next weekend (details below) to help you purge unneeded papers!

  1. Some Records You'll Keep Forever - Vital records like birth/death certificates, marriage licenses, wills, adoption papers, retirement/pension papers, most legal documents and your tax returns should never be thrown away.  In fact, these records should be kept in a safe or fireproof lock box for safe keeping.
  2. Some Records You'll Keep for at Least Three Years - It's recommended to keep medical bills, insurance benefits statements, supporting tax documentation (i.e. receipts), investment statements and records pertaining to capital gains for at least three years in case of an IRS audit.  To be extra safe, keep these on hand for six years if you have the space.
  3. Some Records You'll Keep for at Least One Year - Paycheck stubs, utility bills, canceled checks, and quarterly investment statements can all be shredded after one year...unless you need any of these for tax purposes, in which case you should save them for three years.
  4. Some Records Vary in How Long You Should Keep Them - Receipts for large purchases, warranties and instructions should all be kept for the life of the item.  Once you replace an item, toss the old receipt and user manual and replace with the new.
  5. All Records Should Be Properly Organized - It does you no good to keep paperwork if you can't locate it when you do need it. Your filing system will be key to your ability to put your hands on documents months or years after you receive them so invest in a filing cabinet and file folders. Start a file for that year's taxes in January and keep it somewhere easy to access so when it comes time to file your taxes, everything is already in one place and ready to go. 

Click here for details about the SCHNEIDER Real Estate Shred Day!

Posted in Tips and Tricks
Nov. 7, 2016

Enjoy Traveling: 8 Tips to Navigate the Busy Holiday Travel Season

The busiest travel season of the year is Thanksgiving, followed closely by the Christmas holiday. Traveling can be a daunting task in the best situations so when systems are maxed out, things can get stressful. While some things are just out of your control, there are several things you can do ahead of your trip to make the experience more enjoyable and relaxing.  Read on for tips to help you navigate the highs and lows of traveling by planes, trains or automobiles!

Planes

  1. Be smart when booking your flight. A common suggestion is to book your flight as far in advance as possible, but that's not always true. Airlines sometimes add flights on popular routes if all the options get booked up so check flight options often. Check the fares on various websites, including the actual airline's website where they may offer special discounts. Many airlines offer fare alerts that send emails or texts when a specific fare has a reduced rate. Don't wait too late though; fares go up dramatically with less than 14 days before departure.
  2. Be smart about picking departures and return flights. For one, if you're not flying direct to your destination, make sure you leave plenty of time for connections. Some travel sites will show flight options with 30 minute connection windows and if you are desperate to arrive or depart at that time, go for it.  But keep in mind, if a leg of the trip has a delayed flight, if you are traveling with children or if you just want to not have to walk fast or run from the plane to the connecting gate, give yourself at least 45 minutes to an hour for each connection. Add time to connection windows if you are not familiar with an airport, if the connection is in Chicago or Atlanta (the two busiest airports in the Midwest) or if there is a possibility the weather will cause delays (like if you're flying into Denver or Minneapolis). If you are flying direct (lucky you!), consider the travel to and from the airport: is the flight super early in the morning and you could run into rush hour traffic? Are you getting a family member to pick you up and is the time of your arrival convenient for them? Really thinking through the flight logistics can make a big difference in your state of mind on the travel day.
  3. Be smart about time management. Not too many people enjoy running through an airport to catch their flight.  Plan to arrive at the airport with at least a full hour before boarding, which is usually 30 minutes prior to departure time. During the holiday high traffic travel window - especially around Thanksgiving - consider arriving even earlier since security lines will be longer than usual and probably move more slowly due to the influx of inexperienced travelers.  If you're traveling with children, add extra time to all segments of the trip.
  4. Be smart about security. Check with your airline or airport for security rules specific to them and make sure you aren't bringing any TSA prohibited items. For your carry-on, be sure to follow the liquids rules and have all 3 oz. liquids in a quart-sized ziploc before you leave the house and put it in an easy to access location in the carry-on bag. Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off since you'll most likely have to remove them at security. While you're in the security line, get yourself ready: remove jackets or bulky outwear, empty your pockets, get the liquids bag and your laptop (if you're carrying one) ready to pull out and have your ID and boarding pass ready to go. When you get to the x-ray machines, your laptop goes in a separate bin and you can pile your shoes, jackets, purses and liquids into one bin. 

    Trains
  5. Be smart about packing. Even though you can bring more pieces of luggage onto trains than you can bring onto planes, remember that you'll still have to transport all of those items from your car to the station and from the station to your destination so only bring what you can easily manage on your own. 
  6. Be smart about entertainment. Most trains are now fitted with electric ports and WIFI to accommodate the smart phones, tablets and laptop-carrying travelers. Before your trip, download TV or movies to your device just in case the WIFI isn't working or is lagging and causing buffering issues.  And bring an offline form of entertainment like a book, magazine or printed sudoku games again, just in case the electronic devices aren't functioning.  This is especially true if you're traveling with kids!

    Automobiles
  7. Be smart about traffic. Most people travel with their smartphone and use some type of maps app, which is a no-brainer.  But don't forget that road construction, rush hour traffic and weather-related traffic can all impact your drive - severely in some cases.  Each time you stop, check the next leg for traffic and figure out at least one alternate route just in case. So if you do encounter trouble, you're not scrambling and stressing out about not knowing where you're going.
  8. Be smart about weather. Conditions can change rapidly, especially in winter and especially at higher elevations. Similar to traffic checking, at each pit stop you should check weather conditions where you're heading so you aren't taken by surprise. If you're driving long distances in relatively remote areas, weather can cause serious delays and if you aren't properly fueled up, you could be stuck in the middle of nowhere in bad weather with no gas...which is never a good feeling!
Posted in Tips and Tricks