Bluff Meadows at the Bluff, Subdivision, Real Estate, Slide Show


Bluff Meadows Subdivision is located in “The Bluffs” of St. Charles, Missouri. The Bluffs are an exclusive and private community composed of several subdivisions including Bluff Meadows Estates, Woodmere, and Bluff Meadows. The community is located off Caulks Hill Road on the southern most end of St. Charles. It is set back from any main access roads, which creates a very private and intimate woodsy feel. The subdivision is surrounded by collective neighborhoods but also by mature trees and nearby conservation areas. There are sidewalks and streetlights throughout the community providing safety and convenience for children, runners, and dog walkers. The subdivision is very family friendly. Many of the homeowners have pools or outdoor play equipment in their oversized lots.

Having a private setting in this community means forgoing some conveniences, like access to main roads and shopping. Caulks Hill has become a very busy road for residents with an abundance of neighborhoods located off this once country road. While commercial locations are growing in numbers along this busy road, shopping is limited. There are a few salons, dog grooming services, and insurance agents, but the closest grocery, retailer, or fast food establishment is at least 8 to 10 miles away at the Harvester Shopping Center off Highway 94. Access to Highway 70 is not very convenient either, but a 15 to 20 minute drive will get you there. The Mid Rivers Mall will be a longer drive from this community at about 30 minutes.


Much like the subdivisions that surround this one, it is comprised mostly of modern 2 story homes and lots that are above average in size. Home prices in January of 2010 are in the 200’s. It is very secluded, quiet and serene. The main entrance is located off Bluff View Drive, which stems off of Caulks Hill Road providing private access to residents.


Bluff Meadows Estates is located in the Francis Howell School district. Elementary children would attend Castlio Elementary, middle school children would attend Barnwell, and High School students would go to Francis Howell North according to the Francis Howell School District website: You can reach the school district directly to confirm and register at 636-851-4000. Their main website is located at


Anytime you have small children, you will want to learn of any potential dangers in the area. Most people check the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Sex Offender Registryas a precaution. You can access their website at: Agree to the disclaimer and enter your zip code for an updated list of offenders in the area and be sure your child is aware of the possible dangers and where they exist.



The Pros and Cons of Equity Release Plans: Is Releasing the Cash Tied up in Your Home a Good or Bad Idea?

The following post is a guest post from Houston, Texas area real estate developer and entrepreneur Tracy Suttles. Tracy can be best contacted for questions, comments and concerns on Twitter at @tracydsuttles.

There are a number of different types of Equity Release Plans, but they all basically allow people over the age of 55 to release some of the cash tied up in their homes. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of doing this?

The Advantages of Equity Release Schemes

The money raised can be used by older people for anything they want by could otherwise not afford. They may opt for home improvements, a dream holiday, or a new car. Some decide to help their family in their lifetime, rather than leaving them a house many years down the line. Others simply use the extra cash to give themselves a better standard of living.

Individuals continue to own their own homes, except with a Home Reversion Plan, where they exchange the ownership of the property. They can still move home, at least within the UK, taking the plan with them. They can, if they wish, protect a proportion of the property, guaranteeing that something is left for their heirs.

The Disadvantages of Equity Release Plans

By releasing funds which would otherwise remain in the property until an individual’s death, an Equity Release Scheme will reduce the size of a person’s estate and therefore the amount that can be left to their children or other beneficiaries. Since many people want to pass their houses on to their heirs, the plans should be considered carefully if this is the situation.

Additional funds made available by equity release may affect an individual’s entitlement to means-tested state benefits. Therefore anyone who is receiving any kind of top-up benefits above and beyond the state pension should take advice as to whether an Equity Release Plan is the best option for them.

While all Equity Release Schemes allow the individual to move house, this is only within England and Wales. Scotland has some different regulations, and if someone decides to move abroad, the plan would need to be repaid. Therefore these plans are perhaps only suitable for those whose lives are reasonably settled. While this probably applies to most older and retired people, it is not the case with everyone.

Therefore, while Equity Release Schemes can be a good idea for many older people, they are not suitable for everyone. Anyone considering this option as a means of raising cash in retirement should think carefully and take expert advice before going forward.

When is a “good deal” not so good??? Foreclosure Finds…

Wow–there must really be some “good deals” out there in the foreclosure marketplace!!! I am constantly being asked to give advice on what is or isn’t a good deal. My answer is complex…you see, what is a good deal for some is not necesarily a good deal for others. Buying a $50,000 home for $25,000 is great–unless the home needs $25,000 in repairs–then it becomes a “wash”…On the otherhand, if you are a construction worker and can do the repairs yourself with minimum cash output–it’s a good deal!!! Clue yourself in to deals that appear to be too good to be true–you know the saying…the same holds true for house hunting. I hate to sound pessimistic but as far as the average investor is concerned–if it was that good of a deal the real estate agent would not be calling you about it–they would have snatched it up themslve!!! Let’s just say…”been there, done that”! One question posed to me this week that I do not often hear is: “What about buying a home by just taking over that payments, no closing costs or anything BUT the LOAN in higher that the appraised value of the property?” HMM–this was a tough question. On one hand there is a financial benefit to not having to cough up all the closing costs..on the other hand, the house is not worth what you are paying for it. The question later stated that the rental income more than covered the payment—that’s a plus… I finally had to come to the decision that this was simply up to the desires of the buyer–how does this improve the investors portfolio? Another thing I advised the buyer to do is make sure there is no secon mortgate on the property–I suspect tht he is taking over the first and second mortgage. Also, make double-darn sure there is an attorney handling the title exchange–even if he has to pay for it!!!

The bottom line–use you head and common sense when making investment property purchases–do not get caught up in the excitement of the process–stay level headed and learn to walk away from properties you do not have a definite handle on!!!

How Real Estate Investors Persuade Lenders to Agree to Short Sale

After a real estate investor identifies distressed property that has the potential to be brought up to habitable condition and that may be the subject of a short sale, the owner and, most importantly, the investor face the tough hurdle of obtaining the mortgage lender’s consent to a short sale.

Traditionally, most lenders have refused to even consider short sales because it means accepting less than the balance owed on the mortgage loan. Although the owner often remains on the hook for the balance due on the loan after the short sale proceeds are deducted, lenders usually have preferred foreclosing on property and then trying to sell it.

The U.S. government’s Home Affordable Mortgage Alternatives program (HAFA) is designed to encourage more lenders to agree to short sales. However, it is too early to know how many homeowners will qualify for HAFA., which went into effect on April 5, 2010.

Steps to Convincing a Lender to Agree to a Short Sale

When approached by a homeowner and prospective purchaser about a short sale, a lender that is considering consenting to a short sale will engage a real estate broker to give an unbiased opinion on the value of the property. According to an article by John Ochi, a California real estate broker, most of these opinions are based on just a drive-by look at the property, and it is only when an investor makes an issue of the inside of a home that the lender has the broker evaluate the interior as well.

The point at which the lender has the broker’s opinion about the value of the home based on both the exterior and interior conditions is when the investor needs to point out as many defects as possible to drive down the market value of the property. The investor should not hesitate to list even the smallest, easily fixed defects, such as missing ceiling tiles or walls that are overdue a painting. (But the investor should not create or fake defects – that amounts to mortgage fraud.)

To bolster the claim of defects, an investor may want to bring in a contractor to look at the property and give a written estimate of what it would cost to make the repairs and renovations that will bring the property up to habitable condition. The contractor’s estimate will also serve as an essential part of the investor’s due diligence in ascertaining the true cost of buying the property.

The last step is the tendering of a reasonable offer for the property. The lender must never get the sense that the investor is not serious about buying the property or that the investor and the seller are conspiring to fool or defraud the lender.

The investor should take the initiative to draw up the sale agreement and present it to the lender early in the negotiation process. By doing so, the investor increases the chance that the final version of the contract will contain many of the terms that are in his or her favor.

Keeping the Short Sale at Arm’s Length

Ochi points out at the end of his article that investors must bear in mind that they are not the ones who dug the financial hole in which distressed homeowners find themselves, and neither are they the ones who made the bad loans for the lenders. Instead, the role of an investor in a short sale is “to make the best of a bad situation for everyone.” Investors should remember this because they will often find that selling a home on the brink of foreclosure is an emotionally wrenching experience for owners.

This article is not meant to include all of the steps and precautions that an investor should take to buy property in a short sale. Short sales are complex transactions, particularly when there are second and third mortgages on a property. Many short sales are never completed, even after months of back-and-forth negotiations and submission of documentation. For these reasons, it is advisable for an investor to consult an attorney for guidance on how to put a short sale together.

Where to Buy Foreclosed Houses: Sales, Negotiations, REO’s


Any serious real estate investor knows that there is big money in foreclosure houses- homes that have been foreclosed by the bank or the government due to the owner’s non-payment of either mortgage loans or taxes. Foreclosed homes can sell for a fraction of their market value as banks rush sales to earn back even a portion of their losses, making them prime real estate for investors and entrepreneurs who aren’t afraid of risk. The following is a guest post from Avky Inc co-founder and Phoenix native Kyle Uchitel.

When it comes to finding foreclosure homes for sale, it’s important to go into the transaction informed and prepared to do business – and that means knowing the options and what homeowners or banks might be willing to accept as an offer. There are several ways to buy a foreclosure house, including negotiating with the homeowner or purchasing at an auction or trustee’s sale.

Buying Directly from the Owner Before Foreclosure is Final

Inexperienced investors might think that banks would be eager to take possession of foreclosed homes quickly and make a sale, but banks and the government get tied up in lots of paperwork and red tape in the course of foreclosing on a house. In many states, as well, there are specific regulations about how long a homeowner must be allowed to provide the funds to keep their home – anywhere from four months to a year.

In the course of foreclosure, it’s possible for the homeowner to repay the bank loan (or pay back taxes to the government), including interest and other charges, and be allowed to keep the house.

During this period, it’s possible for a savvy real estate investor to negotiate a deal with the homeowner to purchase the home – saving the owner from the black mark of foreclosure on their credit rating, and allowing the buyer to purchase the house at a bargain price. Investors who their research and know the laws can score a terrific house at a fraction of market price.

Trustee’s Sale or Foreclosed Property Auction

Even more well known is the foreclosed property auction or trustee’s sale. This option is both riskier, because a buyer won’t be able to see inside the home before he or she buys, but less guilt-ridden since it makes it possible to avoid any dealings with the former homeowners. Again, the most important thing is to come prepared, do the research, and know the market for the area.

Bank-Owned or REO

The third, and least-common, type of foreclosed property are those that are not sold at auctions. These properties become “real estate owned” or REO homes and are usually fixed up by the bank before being sold through the usual route of real estate agents and house showings, or they may be offered up at auction again. These are usually not worth looking for because they aren’t likely to sell at much of a bargain.

There are some amazing bargains to be had in the foreclosure homes market. Whether a buyer is looking for a home for his- or herself or an investment property, foreclosure houses are the way to save – for those who know how to do the research and avoid the pitfalls of the marketplace.

Kyle Uchitel is a chemical engineer and co-founder of Avky Inc. He can be reached best on Twitter at @kyleuchitel.

Quality Workmanship: A Preparation Requirement

quality workmanship

The following is a guest post from real estate economist and expert Alex Vasser, based out of Manhattan.

About Quality Workmanship

When Fixing Up To Sell–Quality Workmanship Matters! Some many people ask me what needs to be done to get a home ready to sell. Obviously cleaning and de-cluttering are priorities…but some times a little more is necessary to enhance you profit possibilities.

Instead of focusing on how to clean and fix-up your home–I think I will tell you about what NOT to do…read on…and learn something from this story–it could save your pocketbook.

We’ve all heard the saying that goes: “If it’s not worth doing right, it’s not worth doing”.

This weekend my sister and I went to a For Sale By Owner-Open House. You see, I looked at this house a few months ago when the original owner’s family was selling it…a cute house that was in bad need of renovation. I suspect they bought it in the mid to upper twenty-thousand range. It is located in a sleepy-little town where older homes are often bought and renovated.

For weeks I had noticed that the windows and siding on the outside of the house were not level. Your eye is immediately drawn to it. I was astonished even more as I walked up… Look at some of the things I noticed in regards to quality workmanship.

The green-trim highlight did not match the rest of the house Paint was sloppy and overlapping on to the windows and doors The wallpaper in the dining room was on UPSIDE DOWN! The sheetrock was uneven in EVERY ROOM! The tape/floating job was coming apart at the seams The spacing of the ceramic tile was uneven and not straight The added pantry wall was crooked The kitchen cabinets sagged The bathroom vanity did not fit the provided space–very odd design 18 of the 27 electrical outlet, phone, cable plates were grossly askew The cedar walls added in the den were not sanded prior to staining…rough and gritty The wallpaper in the master bedroom was not even and was already peeling

These defects were all in things that were done to the house since these people bought it! Talk about “quality workmanship”!

I could go on and on and on…but the biggest surprise is that the only thing straight in this house was the look on the owners face when they said they were asking $115,000! I am still in shock…which is why I felt like this had to be addressed.

You can not expect to buy a home for $25,000 or so…drive down to the local home improvement store, spend about $12,000, do the work yourself and expect to sell the home for $115,000 unless you have some pretty darn impressive carpentry skills.

Alex Vasser can be reached on Twitter at @alexvasser2.

Prequalified Versus Preapproved Mortgages

prequalified versus preapproved mortgages

The following is an extended-length guest post from Avky Inc.

By misusing these terms, lenders and real estate agents misrepresent buyers to sellers. Potential buyers may have the wrong estimation of their potential as well. All of this does tend to lead toward problems closing loans. Taking much longer than anticipated to close or not closing at all can be eliminated by understanding these two terms completely.

Prequalified Versus Preapproved Mortgages: Pre-Qualifiying A Buyer Adequately

It takes a little more than a few questions answered in a few minutes to fully pre-qualify someone for a mortgage. There has to be a tri-merge credit report, where all three major credit reports are displayed with all three credit scores. Usually, the middle score of all three is the determining score. Then the credit report has to be analyzed for derogatory items, their severity and history, as well as the amount of positive credit history.

Prequalified Versus Preapproved Mortgages: Debt To Income Ratio

Credit alone is not enough. The minimum payments showing on the report have to be added. That sum is added to the projected monthly loan payments for the level of house sought. These monthly totals are then compared to the monthly gross income, which is one’s pay before taxes and other items withdrawn. An examination of the details on a recent pay stub will be sufficient to determine this accurately. For self employed types, the adjusted gross income (AGI) of the last tax return divided by 12 can be used.

Then the monthly debt service totals are compared to the the monthly gross income, producing a ratio. This is the Debt To Income ratio, known to mortgage professionals as DTI. A DTI too high will reduce the buying potential of a borrower regardless of how good the credit is.

Remember this, sellers and seller’s agents. Don’t be mislead by a verbal prequal (mortgage lingo) or “puff letter”. Demand a breakdown of how the prequal was determined using this information as a guide. Otherwise, there could be a whole lot drama, which possibly may never get resolved, while the house is off the market.

Prequalified Versus Preapproved Mortgages: Pre-Approved Benefits

One may get something in the mail saying he or she is preapproved for a loan. How can that be without getting pre-qualified? It is a great idea for a home buyer to actually be pre-approved though. This is like having an open credit line for buying a home. It assures a quick closing, as the buyer has been fully approved by the lender. Then closing is contingent only on a sales contract and completed property issues.

The borrower has to meet all the lender document requirements, which are reviewed by lender underwriters. This is usually a time consuming procedure. A sales contract usually states that the buyer has 15 days or less to obtain a loan commitment. That often takes longer, maybe never! Meanwhile, the house is off the market, and the seller is not sure if the buyer has a loan.

Prequalified Versus Preapproved Mortgages: Credit and Income Approval

So with an actual preapproval, the buyer already has a loan commitment. Loan commitments, or credit and income home loan approvals, usually last for 90 days. That is, a deal must close in 90 days or less, and the buyer’s profile has to be the same then as it was when originally approved.

All that is needed to close is the purchase agreement, signed by all concerned, a title report, title insurance letter, and an acceptable property appraisal. Then everyone meets at the closing table. Seller or seller’s agent, if there is a claim of preapproval, insist on seeing the loan commitment letter, which should be from the lending institution. Then closing is really close.

Avky Inc is a distribution company based out of Phoenix. Avky Inc can be reached on Twitter at @avkyinc.

Patrick Mackaronis: Foreclosures Affecting Real Estate Valuations

patrick mackaronis

Every month real estate foreclosures seem to either break a record or come very close. Foreclosures in the United States have become a very large problem for home sellers and more generally neighborhoods. Not only do they detract from the appearance of the block, but when on the market, they often sell for 20% to 30% less than similar homes not in foreclosure. The following is a guest post by Brabble CEO and Founder Patrick Mackaronis, based out of New York City.

Enter Patrick Mackaronis

Appraisal Issue

Foreclosure sales are recorded like any other sale, so when appraiser pull up comparable properties, they automatically incorporate these depressed sales into their market value calculations. For sellers, that means most home appraisals in areas with an above average amount of foreclosures will reflect a lower market value.

To further exacerbate this problem, consider the fact that appraisals are backward looking. Appraisers rely on sales over the past six months to a year to value properties today. That means that the market could be getting better today, but homeowners will still have to contend with the depressed home sales from six months to a year ago.

Furthermore, this problem creates a cycle of depressed value. If prices were lower than they should have been six months ago and appraisers reflect those values in their reports today, home buyers will only be able to qualify for loans based on that data. Lower mortgage amounts and appraisals mean lower sale prices.

Potential Solutions to the Appraisal Problem

First and foremost, sellers should always take the time to walk through their home with the appraiser. They should be quick to point out the items that differentiate their home from the competition (e.g., new kitchen, remodeled basement, etc.). Don’t be shy about telling the appraiser the actual cost of the work, as he/she will probably add that to the value of the home.

The other solution is to have a thorough understanding of the neighborhood when talking to the appraiser. Be sure to let them know which house were foreclosure sales or sales in distress. Appraisers are often willing to incorporate feedback, since their goal is to most accurately reflect the value of the home. Feel free to communicate this information to potential buyers as well. Some buyers do not feel comfortable buying foreclosures because of the potential risks associated with a home that has been without a resident for a long period of time.

Don’t forget to let buyers know that the house was cared for in every way. Provide a list of preventative and schedule maintenance. Any warranties on major items provided are also a bonus.

Sellers should never try to compete with a foreclosure on price. They will not be supported by an appraisal and they cannot compete with a bank selling the house at their mortgage value. Sellers should focus on the above strategy to differentiate their properties from the competing foreclosures.

Patrick Mackaronis can be found on Twitter at @patty__mack.

Real Estate is Too Easy…NOT!

It is so easy to sell your own home–right? That certainly is the opinion of the general public. There is skill and expertise required to effectively market your home–that is where a real estate has professional training to help do the job. You see, thie key is to define your target audience, homebuyers, that is, and gear all of your efforts towards them. In other words you would not advertise in an “Auto Trader” magazine or RV Trading periodicals. The people that are reading those publications are not in the market for a home at this time. You are best suited advertising in a local real estate magazine such as “The Real Estate Book” or “Real Estate Source”. There are many publications out there–find out which is the dominate one in your area and go with it. You also might want to advertise in the real estate section of your local newspaper and/or the Internet. But that scoop is not where the skill and expertise end.What you say in your advertisement is equally as important as where you advertise. You advertisement needs to peak the curiousity of the prospective buyer enough to make them call you. Your advertisement does not need to be so detailed that a buyer prospect can make up their mind without even inquiring with a telephone call. The ad needs to call the buyers attention to your property and entice them to call you–you then become the salesperson! Also avoid putting your address in the advertisement–a buyer might drive-by at a time when the curb appeal is not at its optimum and never call!!! There are just so many things to know about the law in advertising–that’s set for another article.

More Real Estate Due Diligence: Post-Contract Steps Help Real Estate Investors Avoid Costly Shocks

As part of the pre-contract due diligence, a real estate investor who is interested in a particular property, such as a three-family house, confirms the leases and rents at the property, the amount of real property taxes, and how much the operating expenses will be. If the property appears to meet the criteria of the real estate investment plan, the investor and the seller will sign a contract. This is when post-contract due diligence kicks in. The due diligence period between the signing of the contract and the closing of title is the last chance to find out as much as possible about the inner workings of the property and to decide whether the property will be a money-maker or a financial black hole.

Post-Contract Due Diligence Steps

After the contract is signed, several steps must be taken at about the same time. The investor takes some of these steps and the investor’s attorney and lender take the others.

  • Property inspection: The investor should hire a licensed professional property inspector to look at the property from roof to basement.
  • Appraisal: If a conventional lender such as a bank or mortgage company is financing the purchase, it will arrange for an appraiser to determine whether the market value of the property is equal to at least the purchase price.
  • Survey: a conventional lender also will require a survey if the seller cannot or does not provide a recent one; the investor’s attorney can order the survey, which the title company also will want to see. Even if the financing is from a non-conventional source (such as savings, a hard-money lender, or the seller acting as lender), the investor should consider obtaining a survey to find out the boundaries of the property.
  • Review of seller’s books and records: The leases should reveal whether the owner or the tenant is responsible for the heat, utilities, water, and sewer bills. The lease also should state whether a tenant receives a Section 8 housing subsidy. The rents on the leases should match those listed on the rent rolls. The investor also must find out the amounts of the security deposits being held by the seller and where they are being held. Other records that the investor may examine include the rent-collection report, expense reports, and documentation of all work performed at the property during the seller’s ownership.
  • Title Search: The investor’s attorney orders the title work on the property. The title insurance company will search for all the recorded deeds, mortgages, liens, easements, and other interests in the property. The title company and the investor’s attorney will insist that all open items, such as open mortgages or liens against the property, be closed before the purchase can go through. When the title company is satisfied that the seller can pass clear title to the investor, it will issue a policy of title insurance that protects the investor from claims that the title that passed was not marketable and free of encumbrances.

Due Diligence and Real Estate Negotiations

Throughout the due diligence period, investors should keep asking questions until they receive satisfactory answers in writing from the seller. If the review of the books and records or the inspection of the property reveals shortcomings or substantial problems, the investor, through an attorney, should ask the seller for credits against the purchase price or other concessions.

The seller may refuse to do anything at first but, in a challenging real estate market, that stance may change if the seller sees that the investor is willing to cancel the contract and walk away from the deal.