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Hickinbotham Real Estate Team


Displaying blog entries 71-80 of 92

Can I Improve my Credit Score Before I Shop for that St. Clair Dream House?

by Hickinbotham Real Estate Team

A little while back, we discussed here about how you can obtain a credit report to see why your credit is what it is before you go shopping for your St. Clair dream house. Another number you will need to know is your credit score.                                                                                                   

To find out what your credit score is go to CreditKarma, where you can obtain a free credit score at any time. This way you'll be able to monitor your score to see if it's going down (Bad News) or up (Good News). A score of 720 or above is considered "good" but anything above that is even better!

If you're planning to buy a St. Clair house, the better your credit score the lower the interest rate you'll be able to get on your mortgage and the easier it will be to find a lender willing to lend to you. So before you attempt to obtain a mortgage at a great rate, find out your credit score and, if need be, improve it.

Here are some proven ways to get your credit score to a higher level:

1. Monitor your credit score so you can see where it's at.

2. Pay down your debt so your debt-to-credit ratio is low.

3. Make your payments on time, every time.

4. If you sometimes accidentally miss payments, consider setting up automatic payment reminders to help stop missed payments.

5. Use the Credit Simulator at Credit Karma to simulate certain financial transactions, such as getting a new credit card, increasing the credit limit on a card, or even missing a payment, to see how these actions will affect your credit score.

6. If you use credit cards, choose one to use for regular purchases and pay the complete balance off each month. Save your other cards for emergencies.

Good financial behavior and time are the most important factors in improving your credit score.  Then, when you're ready to buy or sell a home in the St. Clair area, give me, Scott Hickinbotham, a call at 636-629-3419 or contact me online. I'm ready to help make St. Clair a great place for you to live.



Start Your Own Family Christmas Tradition at the Heritage Valley Tree Farm

by Hickinbotham Real Estate Team

If you're lucky enough to live in the St. Clair area, or maybe you're thinking of moving here, this is a great time of year! Many folks these days love to have a traditional Christmas tree in their homes, and a great place to find one nearby is at the Heritage Valley Tree Farm at 1668 Four Mile Road near Washington.

The Heritage Valley Tree Farm is actually a tree farm and a bed and breakfast, although the farmhouse is closed to overnight visitors during December and is instead wearing its festive Christmas splendor while offering hot chocolate, apple cider and fresh-baked cookies to those visitors coming out and selecting Christmas trees.

The tree farm offers Canaan Firs from 6 to 8 feet tall at $6.50 to $8 per foot or White Pines from 6 to 8 1/2 feet tall for $6 per foot. All trees that are ready to be a Christmas tree this season are tagged with their height and price to make it easier for tree hunters to visualize the tree in their own homes. They always seem to look a lot smaller out in the field than they do when you get them in your house!

Saws are provided so you can cut down your own tree and you get to ride out to the tree fields and back in farm wagons. Wreaths and greenery are also available for sale.

The 75-acre working Heritage Valley Tree Farm near St. Clair has been family-owned now for over 100 years. The first evergreens were planted in the spring of 1983. The farm also has an apple orchard and a pecan grove, both of which offer a supply of lovely fruit and nuts to fall visitors.

If you and your family would like to start a tradition of cutting your own Christmas tree, a trip to the Heritage Valley Tree Farm may be just what you're looking for! See their website for maps and driving directions. They can be reached by phone at 636-239-7479 or by email at if you have other questions. Christmas hours are every weekend in December through 12/18/11 from 10 am till 5 pm.

Even though the holidays are getting near, it's always a good time to buy or sell a home in St. Clair. If you're interested in moving to our great St. Clair area, or if you're already living here and need help buying or selling a home, I can help! Please contact me, Scott Hickinbotham, at 636-629-3419 or online.     


Help Make Sure Your Credit is Secure by Obtaining a Free Credit Report

by Hickinbotham Real Estate Team

Do you ever wonder what your credit is like? If you're thinking about going house hunting in the St.Clair area, this might be a good time to find out what your credit report has to say. State and Federal laws entitle you to receive this disclosure copy of your credit file.

First, let's learn exactly what a credit report is. As a consumer, your credit file is maintained by different consumer reporting companies. By obtaining a credit file disclosure, or credit report, you will be able to see what information is being disclosed to certain parties, such as a lender if you're attempting to get a loan to buy a home, when they request a consumer report about you.

You'll also be able to see what companies have gotten your consumer report from the consumer reporting company (also known as inquiries) within a certain period of time. These may include pre-approved offers for credit cards or insurance. The credit report will also show you if there is any medical account information which is not shown to these third-party consumer report users.

Why is it important to see your credit report? One of the main reasons is to combat identity theft by keeping track of your credit report. If your credit report shows actions being taken that you did not authorize, an identity thief may be attempting to use your credit.

You can obtain one free credit report a year from these three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. To help you get your free credit reports, these companies have created a centralized service for you to go to and request your free credit reports.

This service is called, and you can get your free credit report from each of the three companies mentioned above for free, once every 12 months, either online, by phone or by mail. You can order all three at once to make it easy to compare them, or spread it out over time to keep an eye on things all year long. For example, you might order a credit report from Equifax in January, from Experian in May, and from TransUnion in September -- in other words every four months, which lets you monitor your credit report all year long, at no cost to you.

For your own peace of mind, why not check out your credit report, especially if you're hoping to buy a home in the near future. If you want to move to the great St. Clair area, or if you're already here and need help buying or selling a home, I can help! Please contact me, Scott Hickinbotham, at 636-629-3419 or online. Let's make St. Clair a great place to call home.

NAR Members Gather to Build Habitat for Humanity Homes

by Hickinbotham Real Estate Team

Members of the National Realtors Association (NAR) from around the US, who were in California recently for their convention, also spent a day at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, framing new homes during the Habitat for Humanity of Orange County Volunteer Build Day. As a NAR member and a carpenter, I was thrilled to be able to join in this great event!                           

The vision of Habitat for Humanity is a world where everyone has a decent, safe and affordable place to live. Towards this end, they build or repair simple houses for low-income families around the world in need of a home. Along with volunteers, the homeowners themselves help with the building or repair of their homes, and may also be eligible to obtain a no-profit, no-interest mortgage through Habitat for Humanity to help pay for the home they receive.

From 8am to 3pm on Wednesday, November 9, 2011, we came together to work on framing several homes for Habitat for Humanity. Framing can be compared to building a home's skeleton, since the rest of the home's parts are built around the frame. We built many frameworks on Volunteer Build Day in the gym in the Convention Center, and they will eventually be moved to various new-home sites, where they will be used as the beginning construction for homes being put up in Orange County by Habitat for Humanity.

Take a look at the video of the Volunteer Build Day in California to see some of what NAR accomplished. As you can see, we're not only selling homes, but helping build them as well!

As both a carpenter and a Realtor®, I am so happy I was able to be in Anaheim framing with this great group of NAR members! Now I'm back here in the St. Clair, MO, area ready to help you buy or sell your home. Please contact me, Scott Hickinbotham, at 636-629-3419 or online so I can help you find the perfect home.

St. Jordan Creek Winery Now Open in Beaufort

by Hickinbotham Real Estate Team

In the heart of Missouri wine country, another winery has opened its doors. From now until December 31st (except for Christmas Day), the St. Jordan Creek Winery at 2829 U.S. Hwy. 50 in Beaufort will be open from noon to 6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.                             

From 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 3rd, come and enjoy free tasting and food pairings as the winery holds its Winter Wine Party. Their newest wine, "Snowy Knight", will be released at this gathering.

Along with another new release, "Vineyard Ambrosia", "Snowy Knight" is made from the sweet vignoles grape and is perfect with light desserts or fresh fruit. A sweet Norton port called "1919" will also soon be released, just in time for the holidays. This wine is great with stews, beef and other hearty dishes.

St. Jordan Creek Winery has a wine shop where you can purchase any or all of their signature wines including the new releases, bottled water, soft drinks and beer, and munchies such as cheese and crackers. For those desiring to take home a souvenir of their visit to the winery, there are shirts and glasses featuring the winery logo.

If the weather stays nice or you come back in the warmer months, the winery also has a wine garden, where visitors can bring their own picnic lunch and enjoy it with wines purchased in the wine shop.

The St. Jordan Creek Winery is owned and operated by a 6th generation family of Bavarian agriculturalists, calling Franklin County home since 1845. They are also the ones who named the local creek after St. Jordan, who was born in Saxony (now Germany) in 1190 and converted many to Christianity.

If you're looking for a fun escape for a few hours this weekend, take a ride out to the St. Jordan Creek Winery and have a taste of what they have to offer. If you're desiring to move to this great area, or if you're already here and need help buying or selling a home, I can help! Please contact me, Scott Hickinbotham, at 636-629-3419 or online. Let's make St. Clair a great place to call home.

Should We Buy a St. Clair Home Now? Some Food for Thought!

by Hickinbotham Real Estate Team


You're probably hearing how bad the real estate market is right now. It seems to be a big topic on all the news channels. Have you also been thinking that now might be a good time to purchase a home in the St. Clair area, but you just aren't sure?

Here are six tips to give you some food for thought in deciding whether to buy a house in the current housing market.

1.  As I mentioned, the housing market is not at its best but rather somewhat stagnant at this point in time. However, the price of renting a home is on the rise. Demand for rentals has increased, due to foreclosures and little new construction, making a nice low-priced rental harder to find. Experts are predicting that the price to rent a home will increase by 5 percent through 2012. But the good news for buyers is that home prices are not increasing right now.

2.  Mortgage rates are at all-time lows. Current rates in the St. Clair area are running at 4.25 percent for a 30-year fixed mortgage and 3.57 percent for 15-year fixed mortgages. Interest rates are expected to rise slightly during 2012 and beyond.

3.  Home prices are now moving from the steeply falling prices we've seen recently to a more stable level. This means that if you buy a St. Clair home at today's prices, you shouldn't see a big drop in the home's value.

4.  Tougher lending standards will probably make qualifying for a mortgage more difficult in the coming years as the mortgage market moves out of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae's hands.

5.  Yes, foreclosures are rampant in Nevada, California and Arizona, but not so much in St. Clair, so there are more homes available as regular sales, which means no agonizing over when or if your bid on a foreclosure will be accepted.

6.  There are fewer serious buyers as your competition at this time, so it's unlikely you'll get into a bidding war trying to get an acceptance from the seller of your dream home.

Overall, it seems to me that now is a very good time to buy a home, especially for first-time homebuyers who don't already have a home they must sell. The market has great homes to offer at great prices, and mortgage rates are low, home values are not falling as they were, and your competition is more limited.

So have you made up your mind that now is a great time to buy? Do you need some help in finding that perfect home? Give me, Scott Hickinbotham, a call at 636-629-3419 or contact me online.

Do You Dare Enter the Butcher's Brewery?

by Hickinbotham Real Estate Team

This Halloween, the old Busch Brewery in Washington is the site of the Butcher's Brewery, a real haunted house. Do you dare enter the Butcher's Brewery? If you think you're up to the task, come on out any or every night of Halloween weekend, Friday night through Monday night, October 28 through October 31, from 6 to 11 p.m.                                                                                                     

For a $2 donation, you can tour the lower level of the old Brewery. Different things will be happening each of the four nights, so you may want to plan to come to them all, if you dare! All donations will be going to the Relay for Life of Franklin County, so good things are afoot.

Assistant Police Chief of New Haven, Dan Terry, a local ghost hunter aka Spookstalker, says there are several ghosts that call the old Brewery home, including Fred Gersie, who was one of the Brewery's three original owners, and Fritz, the hapless homeless man who, in the early 1900s, suffered a sudden heart attack and passed away in the kitchen area of the Brewery. Other unnamed ghosts also hang out here--a Confederate soldier, a young girl, and even someone who is apparently hiding from the police.

Dan says he has communicated with the Brewery's inhabitants using such tools as the KII electromagnetic field detector and dowsing rods, which many of you may know as something used to locate water underground. In Terry's fourth book, "River Shadows, Ghosts and Legends of America's River Towns", he tells us, "There seems to be a high percentage of hauntings around rivers. That makes sense. Everything started near rivers. Or it could be the limestone...heavy quartz seems to magnify these energies that come up. Or it could be the moving water."

Whatever the reason, the Busch Brewery ghosts, according to Spookstalker, have a lot of fun! He's never felt any danger in his ghostly encounters at the Brewery, although one of the spirits did grab his hand. Terry described it as not cold like death, not warm like a human touch, but rather just the pressure of another's hand gripping his.

Whether any of these ghostly inhabitants of the Brewery will decide to have some fun and make an appearance at this year's Butcher's Brewery is yet to be seen. Of course, if you're not there, you certainly won't be having any fun with the ghosts. So enter the Butcher's Brewery this weekend...If You Dare!!! For more info on the Butcher's Brewery, contact Karla at 636-667-0088.

These friendly spirits know that living in the St. Clair area can be fun. For anyone else wanting to move to this great area, or if you're already here and need help buying or selling a home, I can help! Please contact me, Scott Hickinbotham, at 636-629-3419 or online. Let's make St. Clair a great place to call home.


As most residents of St. Clair are aware, the city is attempting to convince the FAA in Kansas City that closing the St. Clair Regional Airport located off Hwy. 47 in the Interstate 44 corridor north of town would be in the best interests of the city of St. Clair.

Most St. Clair residents seem to agree that the airport is a drain on city funds, as well as a waste of prime land where retail shops could be built, saving them from the 12 - 20 mile drive to shop in nearby cities. Residents are tired of spending their tax dollars on upkeep of the airport that seems to benefit only a few, many of whom are not St. Clair residents, while city parks, streets, sidewalks and even the city pool need those funds.

If the airport closes, the city would have to pay back the approximately $450,000 in Federal government grant money that has already been received and used for airport improvements. However, that money, along with other Federal funds amounting to a total of about $2.5 million, would possibly become available for redistribution to other nearby airports.

Towards this end, St. Clair officials recently met with officials from three of the four nearby airports, the Washington Regional Airport, the Sullivan Regional Airport, and the Cuba Municipal Airport (the Washington County Airport was invited but did not attend). In an effort to convince the FAA that the funds should continue to be used locally, these airports were encouraged to submit proposals as to what they would like to do or build, the time frames for such projects, design and engineering fees and other costs that might be incurred.

Overall, it looks like closing the St. Clair Regional Airport would be a good thing for not only St. Clair but surrounding airports as well. Our residents would benefit by getting new retail shops closer to home and freed-up tax dollars to go for important city upkeep and growth, while other nearby areas could receive additional funding for their airports. Looks like a win-win situation to me!

For anyone wanting to move to this great area, or if you're already here and need help buying or selling a home, I can help! Please contact me, Scott Hickinbotham, at 636-629-3419 or online. St. Clair--a great place to call home.

The Pumpkin Patch Awaits at Pin Oak Farms

by Hickinbotham Real Estate Team

If you've never been to Pin Oak Farms U Pick Pumpkin Patch, this may be the year you'll want to go! Pin Oak Farms is located at 2431 Highway E in New Haven, which is about 30 miles north of St. Clair. The farm is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm every Saturday and Sunday in October, so pack the kids in the car and make a day of it. The pumpkin patch awaits!

At Pin Oak Farms you'll find free parking, free admission and even a free ride in the hay wagon to get to the U-Pick pumpkin patch, where your family can pick pumpkins of their choice, right off the vine. Kids 12 and under can get their very own FREE mini-pumpkin just by coloring one of the Halloween pictures you'll find here (print them off yourself) and taking it to Pin Oak Farms, where it will be put on display for other visitors to admire.

A 5-acre corn maze awaits those adventurous enough to tackle it. For younger adventurers, there's a straw-bale maze as well. Don't forget to let the kids pet the goats, rabbits, chickens and ducks that live at Pin Oak Farms. These guys are super friendly and love welcoming new folks to their home.

What kid doesn't love playing in a sandbox? Well, there's something better than that here - a "Tub O' Corn". Yup, just like a sandbox, only cleaner (Mom and Dad, you'll appreciate the "cleaner" part when it's time for the kids to get back in the car!)

A Kiddie Corral is also available at a charge of $7.50 for kids over 2. They'll be able to get in and out of the Corral all day, if you can talk them into leaving it, that is! Here they'll enjoy bounce houses in a variety of shapes, pedal tractors, and even mini pumpkin golf.

Getting hungry just thinking about all these fun activities? Well, local groups will be on hand with BBQ, local honey and apple butter and even kettle corn that you can take home and enjoy another day. There are also lots of fall decorations available to help you celebrate fall in your own home.

If you have a group that would enjoy a hayride tour lasting 30 to 45 minutes and a big bonfire where you can cook hot dogs, marshmallows and the like, or just sit around and enjoy each other's company and the beautiful flames, this is the place. These gatherings occur after dark and are $7.50 per person with a $75 minimum. You can learn more, including how to reserve one of these for your group at the Pin Oak Farms website.

Fall fun is never far away when you live in beautiful St. Clair, Missouri. Contact me, Scott Hickinbotham, online or by phone at 636-399-2296 to help you buy or sell in our area.

Hickinbotham Real Estate has been providing residential, commercial and acreage real estate services, as well as property management and investment property real estate services in Franklin County since 1976.


Federal Mortgage Servicer Reviews Target 4.5 Million Foreclosures

by Hickinbotham Real Estate Team

According to a recent article in HousingWire on bank processing of foreclosures, 14 largest mortgage servicers will examine 4.5 million files to make sure that foreclosures were processed fairly. The article appears below in its entirety.


Monday, September 19th, 2011, 2:52 pm

by Jon Prior

The reviews federal regulators required of the 14 largest mortgage servicers to determine how many borrowers were harmed by faulty procedures will span nearly 4.5 million loan files, according to Acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh.

In the coming weeks, homeowners who faced a foreclosure will be able to request a review of their case if they believed they suffered financially as a result of a servicer's error. Direct mailings and an advertising campaign will target borrowers who received a foreclosure between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2010.

In April, the 14 servicers, which include Bank of America (BAC: 6.03 -2.58%), JPMorgan Chase (JPM: 31.04 -2.67%), Wells Fargo (WFC: 24.42 -8.44%) and others, signed consent orders with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, its now absorbed Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Federal Reserve.

The orders settled an investigation into faulty servicing practices including robo-signing, dual-track foreclosures and a shortage of qualified staff to work with delinquent borrowers.

As part of their investigation, the regulators along with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. spent three months studying 2,800 loan files, roughly 200 per servicer, but required third parties to handle the look-back reviews of any pending or completed foreclosure in the allotted time.

Walsh, during an American Banker symposium Monday, said the initial review was "not nearly enough to answer all questions."

The consent order, signed by each member of the board of directors at the banks, required new oversight, a single point of contact for the borrowers, and the end of proceeding with a foreclosure while a modification is being considered.

"All of the steps I've described thus far are aimed at ensuring the process works going forward — the 'fixing what’s broken' piece. But for homeowners who ended up in foreclosure, the critical issue is whether they were financially harmed due to servicer deficiencies, errors or misrepresentation and, if they were, what kind of restitution should be provided," Walsh said.

He added these reviews are the "most ambitious and complex aspect" of the consent orders.

Walsh admitted many borrowers have become jaded by the inefficiencies and confusion of the process.

The files are currently being divided into targeted segments to identify which cases have the highest potential of financial injury.

Walsh said regulators are setting up a system for individual third-party consultants to examine the cases for any injury caused by the errors. The servicers will be required to draft a remediation plan subject for approval by the OCC and the Fed.

The reviews, he said, will take months.

Because Walsh said the regulators are working with the Justice Department and the other state attorneys general to "harmonize" the requirements from their separate investigation, the full impact from the servicing issues may not be realized for some time.

"While I wish that there was a faster way to address the problems, provide relief, and restore the smooth functioning of the housing market, the fact is that this process will take some time to complete," Walsh said.

Write to Jon Prior.

Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior


Displaying blog entries 71-80 of 92

Contact Information

Photo of Hickinbotham Real Estate Team Real Estate
Hickinbotham Real Estate Team
Scott Hickinbotham
862 S. Outer Rd.
St. Clair MO 63077
Scott: (636) 399-2296
Office: (636) 629-3419
Fax: 636-629-4462