7 Essential Tips for the Best Outdoor Summer Parties Ever!

493317904_51952aefc5_bIt’s officially summer, which means it’s time to get outside, soak up the sun, and enjoy everything the season has to offer! What better way to do that than with a fun summer party with all of your friends and family?

Check out our 7 essential tips to help you host an amazing outdoor party this year!

Spread the Word – While you don’t have to send physical invitations if you don’t want to (but please feel free if you do because, well, it’s fun!), make sure your guests know what’s going on. Tell them when you’ll be eating (say, between 6 and 7 p.m.), let them know if they should bring their swimsuits, and tell them what to expect if it rains (game night inside, anyone?!).

Provide Enough Seating – Check out your outdoor furniture. Do you have enough seats to accommodate your guests? If not, it’s time to get creative! Grab picnic blankets, lawn chairs, stools, and anything else that might serve as seats. Renting can also be a surprisingly feasible (and stress-free) option if you’re planning a big-time bash!

Dazzle with Ambient Lighting – Don’t let the party stop once the sun sets! Just add a little ambient lighting to keep your guests in the light. Hang strings of lights on the deck, on tree branches, or even on your fence. Add tea lights, globe string lights, and hurricane lanterns to give your party a warm, inviting glow. This will help your guests navigate their way around outside once nighttime arrives!

Keep Mosquitoes at Bay – Mosquitoes can put a damper on any party. Don’t let them stop you! Just attack their weaknesses. Get rid of any standing water the week before the party, and offer guests any bug spray or bug wipes when they arrive. Also, mosquitoes aren’t very good flyers, so plug in some fans around seating areas and the food to keep the little bugs at bay!

Cover Food Strategically – You may have other insects to contend with than mosquitoes during the summer months. Make sure to cover up any food, including appetizers, salads, and desserts with glass domes and cake stand covers to keep the bugs away (and preserve the food’s freshness). Your guests will thank you!

Stay Cool – Don’t let the heat keep you indoors! You can beat the heat with handheld fans like classic accordion fans or battery-powered fans. You can also create homemade ice-cold compresses by purchasing inexpensive washcloths, rolling them up with a rubber band, and tossing them in a cooler of ice.

Make a Killer Playlist – Who doesn’t love music at a party? Create a fun playlist of party-friendly music that will last for 5 or 6 hours. Choose classics and toss in a few newer tunes here and there to keep your guests dancing. Remember, don’t blare the music – you’ll want your guests to be able to hear each other easily when they talk!

What tips do you have for a successful summer party? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

Turn Your Backyard into an Exotic Paradise with a Koi Pond!

25074502855_f8441cf1e7_bAre you tired of staring out at the plain stretch of grass in your backyard? Feeling fresh out of ideas for increased curb appeal? If you’re looking for something unique and fun to do with your yard, a koi pond could be a great addition to your property!

A koi pond will take some work and know-how to start, complete, and maintain, but it’s definitely worth the time and effort. Here’s how you can get started with creating your exotic water garden:

Find the Perfect Spot – First, look around your yard and find the perfect spot for your koi pond. You’ll want to have enough room for these fish to swim in, and you’ll also want to opt for a shadier location since it will keep the water temperate for the fish and keep algae at bay. A good rule of thumb is to plan for a surface area of 50+ square feet for your exotic water garden.

Gather the Necessary Materials – Next, you’re going to need the right materials to help get the job done. We recommend putting sand, a polyvinyl chloride liner, an aquarium sealant, spray-foam insulation, and a water pump on your list. These items will help give you a great koi pond. Worry about acquiring your fish later.

Start Digging – Now it’s time to start digging! Aim for a depth of at least 2 feet, if not more, to help give your fish enough room to move around and to keep any predators like raccoons at bay. Of course, it doesn’t have to be one big pit; you can dig a deeper hole near the middle and keep the sides more shallow to keep the aesthetics more interesting!

Line the Hole – Unfortunately, dirt doesn’t retain water very well. That’s why you’ll need sand and a polyvinyl chloride liner to line the hole with! Be sure to line both the bottom and the sides of the hole with 2 inches of wet sand, followed by the polyvinyl chloride liner. Make sure that the liner’s edges extend above ground, too. This, along with using extra pond liner material, an aquarium sealant, and spray-foam insulation, will help ensure that your hole is sealed properly for your koi to enjoy!

Install the Pump Equipment – Don’t let this step worry you! Installing pump equipment isn’t as tough as it sounds. You can often purchase the equipment you need at local pool and pond supply stores, and the equipment should come with installation instructions. You can choose to hide the pump under rocks, beneath plants, or on the side of your house. Want a waterfall? Make sure that you choose a pump that will circulate half the pond’s capacity every hour!

Add Some Landscaping – It’s time to think about the landscaping around your koi pond! Find some beautiful plants, stately rocks, or even some decking to complete the look. Once you have it looking just the way you want it, add water! Just be sure that you check the chemical balance and temperature before you add any fish.

Add the Koi – If your water’s pH and temperature are adequate, then it’s time to add some koi to your pond! These fish are gorgeous and are very fun to feed. If you’d prefer a cheaper option, fancy goldfish are a good choice, too. You can also add snails, frogs, toads, and even a few turtles to your pond – they’ll help control insects and algae in and around the pond!

Keep in mind, if you live in an area that experiences severe winter weather, you’ll want to take your fish inside during the winter. If you live in a milder climate, your fish can live under a foot of ice as long as a pond heater creates a little air hole for them.

Adding a koi pond can really amplify your home’s curb appeal. Learn more tips about how you can put some pizzazz back into your home and yard by reading more of our fun blogs! Got questions about finding your dream home or selling your current home? Call The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298!

The Pros and Cons of Adding a Pool to Your Property

Original_Pool-Environments-outdoor-kitchen-and-pool_s4x3.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.1280.960.jpgSchool’s out and summer is just around the corner – are you having visions of lazing about in your very own swimming pool yet? We wouldn’t blame you if you did! After all, who doesn’t love having a swimming pool in their backyard?

If you don’t own a pool but have been dreaming about it for a while, you will need to do a little bit of homework to determine if this addition is right for you and your lifestyle. That’s why we’re here! Here are some pros and cons to having your own swimming pool:

Pro – It’s a Lot of Fun: There’s no doubt about it – pools are just plain fun! You get to host plenty of fun summertime parties and cookouts with your family and friends, and you also get to enjoy playing and relaxing around the pool. Besides, it’s a great way to get some exercise and soak in the sun!

Con – It Can Present an Element of Danger: For children or for those who don’t know how to swim, pools can be dangerous. You can also be held liable for any injuries that occur in or around your pool when your neighbors or friends are over. If you do decide to install a swimming pool, we recommend having the right safety fencing complete with locks to secure the area.

Pro – It Can Be Appealing to Potential Homebuyers: Like we mentioned earlier, who doesn’t love having their own pool? If you ever do decide to sell your home, a pool can really attract potential homebuyers to your property. That can be a real plus!

Con – You Might Not Receive Your ROI: When selling your home, you can’t simply tack on the price that you paid for the installation of your pool onto the asking price. That means that you will more than likely not receive the amount that you invested in the feature, also called return on investment (ROI). Just keep in mind that all upgrades and renovations will correlate with the current market trends and demands in your area.

Pro – It Can Add Great Curb Appeal: When done properly, a landscaped pool area can really add some amazing curb appeal to your property, making it a beautiful focal point in your backyard.

Con – It Will Need Maintenance: Let’s face it – pools will need proper maintenance. If a pool is neglected, your health and safety could be in jeopardy. You will need to use the right amount of chemicals to keep the pH levels accurate and to keep algae and other bacteria at bay.

Swimming pools can no doubt be a fantastic addition to your home, but like with everything else, it’s best to do your homework to determine if a swimming pool is right for you.

Looking to buy a home with a pool? The experts at The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties can help! Call us today at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298 to get started today. You can also scope out our listings by visiting us online at www.dianamasseyhomes.com!

7 Tips for Throwing the Perfect Graduation Party at Home

University Student Hats Graduation PhotoMay is finally here, which means that students in high school and college will be graduating and embarking on a new chapter in their lives. If you have a child who is about to graduate from either high school or college, you may want to celebrate his or her achievements by throwing a graduation party! From the decorations to the refreshments and everything in between, there is a lot of work that goes into planning and preparing the perfect graduation party. But don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be overwhelming!

Here are 7 tips to help make your graduate’s party a wonderful day to remember!

Choose a Date Now – Before you do anything else, set the date for the party. Then tell your graduate’s friends and your family so they can put it on their calendars right away. Since many graduation parties seem to take place near the end of May, you might want to consider having your party in early June.

Get Creative with the Decorations – Of course, you’ll want to deck your home out with balloons and streamers. You can decorate in your graduate’s school colors, in his or her favorite color, or with a fun color scheme that fits a certain theme. We also suggest adding in a poster or a scrapbook that your graduate’s friends and family members can sign and personalize at the party!

Fix the Perfect Food – Your graduate’s guests will more than likely be wandering around and socializing, so finger foods will be the best way to go. We’re thinking finger sandwiches, trays of fruits and veggies, tasty skewers, mini sliders, chips and dips, and pizza! Try having a few different food stations around your home so guests can avoid waiting in long lines.

Don’t Forget Dessert! You’ll also want to make sure that you have some delicious desserts on-hand for your graduate and guests to enjoy! Cupcakes, cookies, and even indulgent Chex mixes are always good choices. Don’t forget the graduation cake to top it all off!

Create a Memory Wall – Bring your graduate’s memories to life with a cool memory wall! Display photos of his or her first days of high school or college, all the fun times that happened in between, photos from football games and band concerts, and the day of their graduation. Your graduate will enjoy laughing and reminiscing over these photos with their friends!

Set up Some Outdoor Games – If the weather looks like it will cooperate, try bringing your graduate’s celebration outside, too! Set up a couple of outdoor games for everyone to play and enjoy. Cornhole, oversized wood dominoes, washers, and oversized Jenga are all great choices!

Pump up the Jams – Don’t forget the music to set the mood for the party! Ask your graduate to create a playlist of his or her favorite songs to play throughout the party. The playlist could also include songs that serve as a reminder of fun times, the school’s fight song, and other fun tunes!

How will you be celebrating your graduate? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

6 Steps to Help You Have a Successful Post-Move Garage Sale

imagesYou never really know how much stuff you’ve accumulated through the years until you move! This is a saying that many who have moved into a new home know to be true. If you’ve recently relocated to a new abode and you weren’t able to purge any of your unwanted or unneeded items, you’re probably wondering where to even begin with your towering boxes of possessions you no longer need.

While it may seem daunting at first, you can get rid of all the things you don’t need successfully, one step at a time, by holding a garage sale. Garage sales (or yard sales) can help clear out all that clutter while helping you score some cash in the process. Here are 6 handy steps to help you organize a successful garage sale after you move:

Dedicate a Space – Before you begin gathering your garage sale inventory, it’s best to dedicate a temporary home to store all of your items in. You can set aside your garage, an unused guest room, or a portion of the basement to help you store and sort through your unwanted belongings. Make sure that your space has enough room for you to assess, clean, and price your items!

Start Compiling Your Sale Items – Now it’s time to gather everything you don’t want or need anymore. As you go through your boxes, ask yourself if you’ve used it, worn it, read it, displayed it, or cooked with it within the last year. If not, put it in the for-sale pile! Try to group like things together to make the process even easier.

Begin Pricing – Once everything is sorted, start pricing all of your items. Avoid coming up with general prices for like items – it’ll be easier on you to remember what your price is per item, and your buyers will be more apt to buy when they can see the price. Use masking tape or small adhesive stickers to label your items properly. Not sure how much to ask for your items? Look around in garage sale ads in the local newspaper, on Craigslist.org, or by visiting a few garage sales in your neighborhood to get a good idea.

Don’t Forget to Advertise – A successful garage sale is one that is advertised! Set the date and time for your sale – Saturdays are typically the best. Plan to advertise your garage sale on your social media pages, in the local newspapers, and even on Craigslist. Don’t forget to put up garage sale signs to help direct would-be buyers to your event!

Set Yourself up for Success – When you start setting up your garage sale, try to think like a storeowner or a shopper would. You’ll want your customers to be able to move around and browse freely and comfortably. You will also want them to be able to see all of your items easily. Display your things in a way that intrigues your buyers, and make sure that your big-ticket items are positioned near the front. Remember, you’re trying to display unique treasures, not your unwanted junk!

Have a Game Plan for Leftover Items – If you find that you have some leftover items after your sale (and you probably will – don’t worry!), make sure that you know what you want to do with these items. The easiest actions to take are to either donate your items to a thrift shop or give them to a charity. If you know a friend or family member who is having a garage sale soon, see if you can try selling those unwanted items at their sales.

We hope that these tips help you organize a successful garage sale that will give you more space (and more spending money!) in your new home. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

8 Easy Ways to Make Your Patio a Private Paradise

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Relaxing on your patio is a great way to get out and enjoy the sunshine this spring and upcoming summer! While you may pass the time chatting with friends around the table, lounging in a hammock, or reading a book in your favorite chair, you could feel as if you are exposed to your neighbors and passers-by, which can take away from the comfort you seek.

Fortunately, there are ways that you can give yourself some privacy tastefully and inexpensively. Check out our 8 tips here!

Outdoor Privacy Curtains – You can treat your patio as an extension of your home and obtain the serenity you seek by investing in a few privacy curtains made out of outdoor fabric. You can also create DIY drop cloth curtains by spray-painting a few drop cloths in a unique pattern, giving you privacy and shade in style!

Lattice Panels – Lattice isn’t just lovely to look at – it’s also very versatile for nearly any space! Use a traditional white piece of lattice, spray paint it to reflect your personality, or grow some trailing vines to add a bit of nature to the panels.

Fast-Growing Privacy Plants – Although you will need to wait to enjoy your living privacy screen, plants are an attractive solution to giving your deck or patio some solitude. We recommend tall, bushy plants for the greatest amount of privacy from evergreen trees and oleander to Italian cypress and gold cone.

Outdoor Privacy Screens – A privacy screen or two can be a real asset to your patio. They look great and can be moved around to any location that you’d like! You can purchase one in just about any material you’d like, or you can make your own with old shutters, doors, or other materials.

Bamboo Plants – Bring some exotic charm to your patio with some bamboo! This plant can create a fabulous, tall, dense, and natural privacy screen to the outdoors. It’s especially handy in areas of the yard that has high exposure from the road or close proximity to neighbors.

Tall Garden Pots – For an immediate yet still natural solution to your privacy problem, we suggest placing some tall garden pots in strategic spots on your patio. Plant your favorite plants, flowers, or shrubs in these pots, and place the pots close together to create an eye-catching privacy wall wherever you need it!

Pop-Up Gazebo – Don’t want to spend a lot of money on creating your own gazebo to relax in? Invest in a pop-up canvas gazebo! They’re easy to set up, give you four walls of privacy, and can be moved easily into storage once whenever you choose!

Fountains – We’ve talked a lot about visual privacy, but what about auditory privacy? Sometimes, you just don’t want to hear your neighbors chatting or the cars driving by. If that’s the case, a fountain can help solve that problem! Not only can it help mask the noise you may hear (or the noise others could hear from your yard), but it can also add a lovely element to your curb appeal. Find a small plug-in fountain to place on your table, or go bigger with a multi-tiered fountain near your patio!

Is it a dream of yours to own a house that features a patio or a deck? The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties can help make that dream a reality! Give us a call today at either (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298, or check out our listings online at www.dianamasseyhomes.com.

4 Fresh Spring Decorating Trends Your Home Is Begging for This Year

16841996946_04187a2427_bIt’s March, which means that spring will be upon us very soon! As the weather warms up, you’ll probably get the itch to put away those heavy throw blankets and winter decorations in favor of items that speak to the season of renewed life. Spring is a wonderful time to decorate because there are countless possibilities to help you bring the feeling of the season indoors.

Here are 4 of our favorite decorating trends for this spring. Try one (or more!) out in your home!

Pastel Romance – Love is in the air this spring, so welcome it in your home with plenty of pretty pastels! We’re seeing a lot of lavenders, soft pinks, and light greens this season, and we just love it! Combine these colors with a crisp white or a bold neutral to create a bright and cheery space.

Hello, Yellow – Yellow is really in this season, and we can’t get enough! Bring in the sunshine with yellow accents, throw pillows, or wallpaper. You can also drape a buttery yellow throw over your favorite armchair or breathe life into your mantelpiece with yellow flowers like daffodils! Pair yellow with pretty much anything – grays, blues of all shades, lavender – really, just about anything goes!

Welcome to the Jungle – For a different take on the spring season, go for a deeper, richer pop of color with dark shades of green! From a bold splash of color as an accent wall in your study to small pops in décor items, this wonderful color will bring a new, vigorous depth into your home.

Springtime Blossoms – What says “spring” more than flowers? Don’t be afraid to bring flowers – real, fake, or a bit of both – into your home this year. You can keep freshly-cut blossoms in a vase in your living areas, place fake flowers inside decorative rain boots by the front door, or admire a bunch inside a few cute mason jars!

How will you decorate for spring this year? Take photos of what you’ve done in your home and share them with us – we love hearing from you! Happy spring!

8 Useful Tips to Help You Throw an Incredibly Memorable Housewarming Party

how-to-have-an-elegant-housewarming-party-4You’ve finally found your dream home in your ideal neighborhood! You’ve signed all of the necessary papers, and you’ve moved all of your things into your new place. Now it’s time to celebrate! Your family and friends are probably excited to see your new home, so why not invite them over by throwing them a party for all of you to enjoy?

Here are 8 tips to help you throw an amazing housewarming party:

Start Planning – First things first, choose when you want to throw your party and start planning! Maybe you’ll want to have an afternoon open house party where your guests come and go as they please. Perhaps you’ll want to enjoy a more elaborate event with an evening dinner party. Whichever you choose, be sure to set a time for the party and inform your guests well ahead of time so they can plan on coming over and celebrating with you!

Get Creative with Seating – Chances are that not all of your chairs are in place or you don’t have enough chairs to seat all of your guests. No problem! You can pull your dining room chairs or a few ottomans and benches into the party area for your guests to perch upon comfortably. Still have some unpacked boxes around? Throw a nice fabric or cute blanket over them and use them as seats! When there are plenty of places to sit, your guests will feel more at ease and will want to stay longer and have more fun with you.

Put Together an Awesome Playlist – Whether you’re breaking out the record player or turning up Spotify, it’s time to put together a playlist that will bring your party to life! Put together a collection of your favorite songs or let Spotify cruise and do its thing.

Give ‘Em the Tour – Don’t forget to give your guests what they really want – the grand tour! You can either choose to give individual tours to all of your guests or give a group tour altogether. Either way, take them through the house and proudly show off your new digs!

Place the Food and Drinks Strategically – Your guests definitely want to check out your home, but they will generally gravitate toward the food and drinks. You can give them what they want and show off the best parts of your home at the same time! Does your home have a great view? Set up a drink station in front of that view to give your guests something to talk about! Does your kitchen look like it leapt off the page of a home magazine? Show off those gorgeous countertops and cabinets by displaying your appetizers and finger foods in your kitchen.

Show Your Work Off – Have you made big changes to the home since you moved in? Show off the renovations by posting “before” photos outside each room! You can also post some photos of the rooms while the changes were in progress. Your guests are bound to enjoy checking out your progress!

Document the Event – Don’t forget to record your event by taking plenty of photos! Take real photos with a camera, use your smartphone, or get creative and come up with a fun hashtag for your guests to use on social media when they post photos. You can gather those photos together and create a scrapbook later! Don’t forget the guestbook!

Enjoy Your Party – This might seem like a “gimme” tip, but you’d be surprised at how easy it can be to run around taking care of the refreshments, giving tours, and playing bartender and lose focus on your party. Ask some of your friends or family members to help take turns manning the food and drink station so you can go mingle with your other guests. Sit back, enjoy their company, and be proud of how far your home has come along!

Once the party’s over, be sure to mail out thank-you notes to your guests! It might seem a bit cheesy to do, but it’s actually a thoughtful and classy gesture. Thank your guests for coming with personalized handwritten notes, especially if they helped or brought something to the party.

If you haven’t found the home of your dreams yet, never fear! Just call The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298! You can also view all of our listings online at www.dianamasseyhomes.com.

White Lights or Multi-Colored Lights – Which Side Are You On?

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The holidays are officially here! If you couldn’t tell from the colder temperatures and the shorter amount of daylight we’ve been experiencing, you can easily tell that the season is upon us whenever you go outside and see the beautiful spectacle of holiday lights. Trees and shrubs are bedecked in multi-colored lights, trees sparkle with clear white light in living rooms, and a myriad of bright lights can be found downtown or in your own neighborhood.

One of the biggest questions we usually wind up asking ourselves every year is this: should I decorate with white lights or multi-colored lights this year?

If you’re having trouble deciding between these two choices, here are a few reasons for you to use either of them:

White Lights

They Are Always a Great Neutral Color – If you don’t want to be totally inundated with color this holiday season, white lights might be right for you. Go totally neutral by pairing white holiday lights with metallic or glass decorations and plenty of gold, silver, and bronze. The color can come from the tree itself, the stockings, the presents under the tree, and other holiday decorations you place around your home!

They Always Add Ambiance – Glimmering white lights always add some level of magic, wonder and sophistication, especially during the holidays. Besides, their subtle light can complement any color scheme!

 

Multi-Colored Lights

They Get You in the Holiday Spirit – When added to trees, shrubbery, rooftops, and more, multi-colored lights give a happy, playful, and energetic vibe, which can really help you get in the holiday spirit. Thanks to LED settings, you can now customize your colorful light displays to sparkle, twinkle, and dance as well!

They Give You a Fun Color Palette – You can easily go with a more simplified route by choosing one or two specific colors, or you can choose to get more festive by using a myriad of colors. Whichever you choose, you have countless options, and there’s really no way you can go wrong!

Whether you put multi-colored lights or white lights on your tree or home this year, there really are no downsides to either lighting option. In fact, if you really want to, you can even choose to have the best of both worlds and use both! It all boils down to a matter of preference, so choose what you like!

Which side are you on? Be sure to tell us in the comments below! We love hearing from you. Happy holidays!

Haunted Houses – Would You Say Good Buy or Good-Bye?

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It’s that time of the year again! Throughout our neighborhoods, we can see countless homes bedecked with fall and Halloween decorations. Pumpkins and Jack-o-lanterns dot patios and stairs, ghost clings haunt storm doors and trees, and skeletons dance in the windows of our homes. This time of the year is exceptionally spooky with the arrival of fall, shorter days, and, of course, Halloween, and Americans love decorating their homes in celebration of the holiday.

While your home might look like a haunted house and you probably feel at home, would you really ever consider buying a real haunted house?

According to the 2013 Haunted Housing Report from realtor.com, 62% of American homebuyers are open to purchasing a real-life haunted house while 38% said they would walk away from the opportunity as fast as possible!

The study revealed that while a large majority of homebuyers are open to buying a haunted home, many of them will conduct their own research on a home’s history as well. Also, the study also shows that while quite a few Americans would be willing to purchase a haunted house at a discounted price, many say that their deal-breakers include levitating objects, ghost sightings, and seeing objects move from one place to another (and we can’t blame them!).

For those of you who wouldn’t dream of buying a haunted house but still like to get your thrills around this time of the year, there are some haunted locations that you can visit in St. Louis and the Metro East St. Louis region! From the spooky McPike Mansion and the Mineral Springs Hotel in Alton to the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis and the Lincoln Theater in Belleville, you can get your ghostly kicks in without moving to a new home.

So how about you? Would you be open to buying a haunted home? Be sure to tell us in the comments below!