Friday, October 28, 2011

Vendor Spotlight- Plank's Woodcrafts

When creating custom kitchens through Provident Development Group (our sister company), clients often choose to go with Plank's Woodcrafts for their cabinetry. What makes them so special? The custom woodwork and gorgeous attention to detail. The Planks specialize in Amish cabinetry. According to this article: "Those who invest in Amish kitchen cabinets get products of top quality that have been untouched by electric or modern tools. Amish cabinets are made with the help of natural processes. High quality wood is used. Each piece that is crafted by hand is rubbed with tung oil and linseed to protect and also bring to the fore the wood's natural color. In this way, the wood starts glowing naturally. When sunlight falls on the wood, it darkens making a kitchen beautiful and unique."

Here's a little more about our good friends:
We, Raymond and Clara (Stutzman) Plank married in September of 1994. Raymond had
a desire to work at home in order to be with his family. When we had our second child,
he was starting to work at home part time. Now, we are married 17 years and have nine
children. We have bigger facilities and want our children to work with us.
As a Family owned and operated business, we believe in making quality cabinets, using
UV Maple plywood for the cabinet construction. The cabinet frames, doors, and drawer
fronts are made with solid wood. 5/8" Maple dovetail drawer boxes with Blum under
mount, full extension with soft-close drawer slides are a standard feature.
We want to work with you to create your dream kitchen. We do in-home consultations.
We'll sit down with you and talk about what you are envisioning, designing the kitchen
based on what you need and want. We usually take the measurements home and make a
cad drawing, get the price, and email it back to you.

Why buy box cabinets when you can buy custom cabinets for the same price or less from
Contact Raymond or Clara at
We also have a showroom in St. Louis for your convenience.

Contact Alann at for viewing.

Raymond and Clara Plank

So, if you are considering remodeling your property or an investment property, please contact us. We use only the highest quality materials and vendors.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Some good tips for Halloween safety

We want all of our friends and neighbors to be safe this Halloween, so here are some good tips to stay safe. I shamelessly borrowed this from the CDC website but it was done SO cute I couldn't resist.


Going trick-or-treating?

Alphabet letter S Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible.
Alphabet letter A Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.
Alphabet letter F Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.
Alphabet letter E Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them. Limit the amount of treats you eat.
Alphabet letter H Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you. Always WALK and don't run from house to house.
Alphabet letter A Always test make-up in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.
Alphabet letter L Look both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.
Alphabet letter L Lower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.
Alphabet letter O Only walk on sidewalks whenever possible, or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.
Alphabet letter W Wear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls.
Alphabet letter E Eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers.
Alphabet letter E Enter homes only if you're with a trusted adult.
Alphabet letter N Never walk near lit candles or luminaries. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The importance of a community

How important is a sense of community? In most societies, community is very important. Whether you define community as your town or just your neighborhood, having a sense of belonging is very important to a person's well-being. Why is community so important?
Feeling like a part of a community lends a sense of togetherness to people. We feel we are all in this together. We enjoy spending time together and we care if our neighbors fall on hard times. We have someone to talk to and share our lives with.
By living in communities, we can also utilize a division of labor. One person doesn't need to be the doctor and the farmer and the house-builder. We can hire someone to build our house when we don't have the expertise to do so ourselves. We go to the doctor who has years of schooling to care for us when we are sick, rather than trying to care for ourselves with our limited knowledge. This makes our lives much easier.
As humans, we are social creatures by nature. We seek out other humans. We need other people to talk to and share our lives with.
So we are asking you- reach out to us. We are happy to listen. If you need someone to discuss your current property management situation and how to improve us, we are glad to lend our expertise. That is after all, our portion of the division of labor. Please contact us if we can be of any assistance.

Friday, October 21, 2011

From PNC

Today's post comes from a letter our business received from PNC. 

PNC Economic Outlook Survey — Fall 2011
U.S. Business Owners' Outlook Deteriorates For Hiring and Sales; Slow Growth Expected to Keep Jobless Rates High Through 2012

Key Findings:

With weak sales as a major challenge, U.S. small business owners have no plans to hire over the next six months and many plan to raise selling prices to preserve profit margins in the face of rising costs, according to the PNC Economic Outlook survey's newest findings. The fall 2011 findings of the biannual survey provide insights on the current mood and sentiment of U.S. small business owners.

Optimism Shrinks Amid Slow Pace of Growth

Less Optimistic about Own Company:
Just under one-fifth (18%) remain optimistic about their own company's prospects during the next six months, lower than in the past year. Just under one-fourth (24%) are pessimistic which is up from 17% last spring.

Price Hikes to Preserve Profits:
Just over one-third (35%) plan to raise their selling prices and only 7% intend to cut, which is similar to the potential pricing pressures identified six months ago.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More bad economic news

Sheesh, after all that good news we were reading, the housing market seems to be turning down again somewhat.

According to an article in the St Louis Post Dispatch:
Foreclosure activity in metro St. Louis ticked up again in September, hitting its highest level in eight months, though it's still well behind last year's pace."Lenders are cautiously throwing more wood into the foreclosure fireplace after spending months trying to clear the chimney of sloppily-filed foreclosures," said chief executive James Saccacio.


In addition to that, another article states:
When it comes to housing, this is still not a seller's market.
Home prices in metro St. Louis fell 5.5 percent in August, compared to the same month last year, according to a new report out Thursday from data firm Core Logic. That's a bit better than the 7.5 percent tumble reported in July, but still lagging the national average, and deep in negative territory compared to last summer.
Removing "distressed" properties - homes in some stage of the foreclosure process - improves the numbers somewhat, but even then prices fell 2.6 percent, compared to 4.6 percent in July.
So what's that mean for us? Hard to say. It still could be a great time to buy foreclosure or cheap houses. It still is probably a not so great time to be selling a house though. So if you need some help renting out your home while waiting for it to sell, or if you are looking into investing in some properties, contact us. We would love to help you out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The importance of good property management

If you own a rental property, good property management is essential to insuring continued income from that property. Whether you own one rental or several, whether you intend to hold it for the monthly income or you just can't sell your previous home, you need to take care of that property to protect your investment. You have three choices when it comes to property management. 1) Do it yourself. This may work well for you if you only have one property and it's located near your home or place of business. You can visit it when needed to perform repairs. 2) Hire someone to take care of the property. This option works whether you own one or one hundred properties. Maybe the property isn't located near you, so visiting it for regular maintenance would be a challenge. Or maybe you just don't want or have the time to be the one responsible for repair needs. 3) Do nothing and let maintenance slip, lose tenants due to poor living conditions, and end up with a totally trashed house that you can't sell or rent. Obviously, option 3 isn't really a wise choice.
Let's look at some of the duties of a property manager, whether you are caring for your own property or hiring someone to do it.
1) A good property manager collects rents on time. If tenants are tardy, they are consistently reminded and or reprimanded. If tenants cease to pay rent, a good property manager will handle the eviction of the tenant for failure to pay agreed rent.
2) A good property manager screens incoming tenants to be sure they are a good fit for the property. This may include background checks, calling references including employers and landlords, and credit checks. If the owner has  stated that they do not want tenants with previous evictions, then the manger must screen for that. (Obviously, managers may not discriminate due to race, sex, or all that other legal stuff that's always in fine print.)
3) A good property manager takes care of maintenance issues promptly. Whether it's a leaky roof or a blown electrical circuit, a safe and well maintained home means happy tenants who pay their rents on time.
4) A good property manager promptly fills vacancies. The manager will use whatever advertising means necessary to fill the vacancy so that the owner doesn't lose money.
5) A good manager saves the owner money! By doing all these things, a good manager saves the owner money in the long run. The well maintained property keeps tenants longer, decreasing vacancies and costly major repairs. The owner saves money and time in trying to hire maintenance people or do the maintenance personally, and in trying to fill vacancies.
So you see, a good property manager is worth the money spent on them. Where do you find a good property manager? Start by contacting us! You can review our pricing here. We look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Guest Post- Thinking INSIDE the box

Caryn Burstein –         President and Founder
                                    Allied Member, ASID

            Caryn Burstein is the President and Founder of Arcterior Design, LLC, a premiere design firm that transforms ordinary to extraordinary by blending the dynamic elements of architecture and interior design along with construction management services—the outcome is a total solution that enhances her clients’ lifestyle. Passionate about design and helping her clients achieve their ideal environment, Caryn is well-known for her creative and trustworthy expertise. 

Her award-winning work has been featured in numerous national publications, including Salon Interiors, Architectural Digest, Luxury Homes, Professional Builder, Traditional Home, Distinctive Kitchens, as well as other regional St. Louis local magazines and newspapers. In addition, she has been published on the covers of several books including Spectacular Homes and Showcase of Interior Design II and III.  Caryn is a member of the Advisory Board for the University of Missouri, Columbia Architectural Studies Program.    

"Thinking outside of the box" has become the new catch phrase for sparking creativity. But when thinking of changing a room or space, sometimes "thinking INSIDE the box" has its advantages too. It costs a lot less to reestablish interior space efficiency than to push outside the existing walls. Rooms can be renovated or relocated within your home's shell. For example, a small kitchen can be expanded into a seldom used dining room or refigured within its existing space to better meet your needs.

Sometimes just rearranging the furniture you already have can make a big difference in the look and feel of the room. Think spatially. All too often people are too linear when it comes to furniture arrangement. Everything does not have to line the walls. It often works better when furniture floats within the room and can actually create less dead space and certainly a lot more visual interest.

Most everyone has a budget when it comes to decorating and for the sake of "filling the room", some people are tempted to buy less expensive pieces. We need to think about furniture as an investment and not something that will be changed in a year or so. Multiply buying less expensive, trendy furniture that does not stand the test of time by five (this represents the five times on average you will replace cheaper pieces over a 25 year period) and you probably will have spent more than you would have on a one time purchase of quality pieces, not to mention the positive effects this philosophy will have on protecting our environment. If you choose neutral colors and finishes, you are less likely to get tired of your furnishings and they will stand the test of timeless design. Remember you can always change your room accessories to match your mood and everything goes with neutral.

So many of our clients come to us with ideas about how they want their home to look, and it is a great starting point on which to build. Magazines, color samples and fabric swatches can provide the inspiration to achieve the ultimate look they desire. But do-it-yourself mistakes can be costly when trying to implement your design vision. You used a real estate professional to find the right home for you. Protect that investment by using an interior design professional who can understand your vision, translate it into reality and increase the value of your home investment.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Where do you go when you need help?

I think everyone has tried to Do-It-Yourself at some point in their life, whether it's the leaky faucet or a full-on remodel. Houses come with maintenance needs that should be addressed regularly. So where do you turn for help?
We've chosen not to have cable or satellite TV in our home, mostly because we weren't home enough to ever use it. So one of our favorite Saturday morning PBS shows was always  This Old House. It is so interesting to see them take a run-down house and fix it up. They also always gave out great tips.
Of course, for you lucky ducks with cable or satellite, there is always The DIY Network. So many useful shows, so little time.
And we can't forget the man who started DIY: Mr. Bob Vila.

Anywhere you turn on TV these days, there is almost always a show to tell you what you should do with your outdated bathroom or leaky faucet. Sometimes, even the best laid plans go awry. At our house, it isn't a "real" project until we've been to Lowes or Home Depot (OR BOTH!) at least 3 times. 

We've also found very helpful books at our local libraries. Check out the catalog at your library. There is probably an entire section of DIY- from simple to extravagant.

Of course, your motto when attempting any DIY project should be "Safety First!" Here are some good safety tips that will hopefully help you keep all your fingers where they belong.
1) Don't operate power tools unless you fully understand how to use them. Read the manual. Ask someone to show you how. Don't be a hero and start using the reciprocating saw by yourself without ever seeing one in real life.
2) Wear safety goggles when cutting or hammering, and wear ear protection if you are working with loud equipment- pretty much any power tool other than a drill is probably too loud. Those Hammer drills get awfully loud while driving nails into concrete. And wear a dust mask, especially when sanding. Yes, you may look like a dork. But you will be able to see and hear when the job is done, and that's worth much more.
3) Wear knee pads if working on your knees for long periods of time. Trust me on this one. Someone in the house is only 27, and already has creaky, painful knees from 8 years of theatrical carpentry spent without knee pads.
4) Be careful on that ladder! Don't set things on the top of it, that you will later forget are there and may fall and hit someone on the head. And watch where you are putting the feet of the ladder too. A sure foundation means easier work.
5) Tackle only those tasks you feel comfortable handling. Maybe one member of the household does electrical while the other handles the plumbing. Find what works for your house.
6) Learn what you can before you start. There is nothing like on-the-job experience for learning, but going into a complex job with an idea of how it should go will help you out in the long run. Yes, there will probably be a few snags, but you can do it!

So remember, safety first! And if you don't feel up to tackling the maintenance of your rental home, contact us to manage it for you. We offer affordably priced maintenance services.
And if you are thinking about a remodel, or in the middle of one, and just don't think you can handle it, our sister company Provident Development Group can help you out. Their job is to make your house look the way you want it, and they do a fine job of it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Interior Design

Some people have a knack for interior design. And some put the brown couch on the brown carpet in front of the brown curtains and call it done. How can we create some style in our homes without breaking our budget?
In 2012, interior design is as much about texture as color, according to this article. So buy some new throw pillows for the couch, or even a slipcover in this year's hottest colors.
What if you rent somewhere? How can a renter decorate their home? A lot of landlords are open to change. They want their home to be rentable. If your ideas aren't too outlandish, or you are willing to repaint before you move, you may be able to paint your rental house. (Ask first of course!) This article has some awesome advice on rental decorating.
And of course, as the holidays are coming up, try seasonal decor. A fresh mini pumpkin on the table looks awfully cute for Halloween. A fresh pine bough or wreath is perfect over the fireplace or on the front door for Christmas. Pine cones and autumn leaves can make stunning decor items all throughout fall. Thrift stores often have holiday decor for cheap. Actually, I love shopping the local thrift store. You never know what you will find. We once snagged an amazing and large canvas painting in a frame for $4. It hangs in our entryway.
What are your favorite ways to show off your style in your home?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Special Guest Post from Tony Collins

When dealing with your home financing, I not only work with one of your largest personal financial investments; I also handle one of your biggest dreams. As your mortgage planning specialist, I will give you my best consistently. My team specializes in renovation financing both for the purchasing of a home or for renovating a home you already own. In fact, Renovation Loans are all we do. Renovation loans allow you to purchase or refinance and renovate the home in one seamless transaction.
With over 13 years experience working with only Renovation Loans you can trust myself and the rest of the St Louis Renovation Team to help guide you from application to project completion.
Market Update for the week of September 26, 2011

INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE...To help the economy succeed, the Fed is certainly using its ability to the max. Coming out of the FOMC meeting Wednesday, the Fed announced "Operation Twist"--a strategy of selling its short-term securities to buy long-term bonds to drive down long term interest rates,  especially for mortgages. This latest Fed effort to help the housing market is great news for anyone thinking of buying a home, as mortgage rates should stay very very low.

Wednesday's other great news for housing was August Existing Home Sales came in UP 7.7%, to an annual rate just the other side of 5 million units, the best reading since March. This dropped the supply of existing homes to 8.5 months. Tuesday, August Housing Starts were down 5%, to a 571,000 unit annual rate. But, hey, dealing with a hurricane and floods, builders across a good part of the East were hesitant to break ground. Better news came with building permits--UP 3.2% for the month and now UP 7.8% versus a year ago

Wall Streeters were obviously ignoring the good economic signs. Same-store sales were UP 3.4% versus a year ago, as measured by the International Council of Shopping Centers. Redbook Research reported an even better 4.1% boost in same-store sales. There was the positive housing data reported above. Then, some economists said they expect consumer spending to climb at a 1.5%–2% annual rate in Q3. The economy may not be booming, but it's not double-dipping back into recession either.

Tony Collins
Renovation Specialist
Office: 314-288-2462
Office: 866-997-0358