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7 Steps to Take Before You Buy a Home

by Administrator 19. February 2015 10:16

7 Steps to Take Before You Buy a Home

Article From

By: G. M. Filisko
Published: February 10, 2010

By doing your homework before you buy, you'll feel more content about your new home

Most potential homebuyers are a smidge daunted by the fact that they're about to agree to a hefty mortgage that they'll be paying for the next few decades.  The best way to relieve that anxiety is to be confident you're purchasing the best home at a price you can afford with the most favorable financing.  These seven steps will help you make smart decisions about your biggest purchase.

 1. Decide how much home you can afford.

Generally, you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income.  Remember to consider costs every homeowner must cover: property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable, as well as costs specific to your family, such as day care if you plan to have children.

2. Develop your home wish list.

Be honest about which features you must have and which you'd like to have. Handicap accessibility for an aging parent or special needs child is a must.  Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances are in the bonus category.  Come up with your top five must-haves and top five wants to help you focus your search and make a logical, rather than emotional, choice when home shopping.

3. Select where you want to live.

Make a list of your top five community priorities, such as commute time, schools, and recreational facilities.  Ask your REALTOR® to help you identify three to four target neighborhoods based on your priorities.

4. Start saving.

Have you saved enough money to qualify for a mortgage and cover your downpayment?  Ideally, you should have 20% of the purchase price set aside for a downpayment, but some lenders allow as little as 5% down.  A small downpayment preserves your savings for emergencies.  

However, the lower your downpayment, the higher the loan amount you'll need to qualify for, and if you still qualify, the higher your monthly payment.  Your downpayment size can also influence your interest rate and the type of loan you can get.

Finally, if your downpayment is less than 20%, you'll be required to purchase private mortgage insurance.  Depending on the size of your loan, PMI can add hundreds to your monthly payment.  Check with your state and local government for mortgage and downpayment assistance programs for first-time buyers.

5. Ask about all the costs before you sign.

A downpayment is just one homebuying cost.  Your REALTOR® can tell you what other costs buyers commonly pay in your area -- including home inspections, attorneys' fees, and transfer fees of 2% to 7% of the home price.  Tally up the extras you'll also want to buy after you move-in, such as window coverings and patio furniture for your new yard.

6. Get your credit in order.

A credit report details your borrowing history, including any late payments and bad debts, and typically includes a credit score. Lenders lean heavily on your credit report and credit score in determining whether, how much, and at what interest rate to lend for a home. The minimum credit score you can have to qualify for a loan depends on many factors, including the size of your downpayment. Talk to a REALTOR® or lender about your particular circumstance.

You're entitled to free copies of your credit reports ( annually from the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  Order and then pore over them to ensure the information is accurate, and try to correct any errors before you buy. If your credit score isn't up to snuff, the easiest ways to improve it are to pay every bill on time and pay down high credit card debt.

7. Get prequalified.

Meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter that says how much house you're qualified to buy. Start gathering the paperwork your lender says it needs. Most want to see W-2 forms verifying your employment and income, copies of pay stubs, and two to four months of banking statements.

If you're self-employed, you'll need your current profit and loss statement, a current balance sheet, and personal and business income tax returns for the previous two years.

Consider your financing options. The longer the loan, the smaller your monthly payment. Fixed-rate mortgages offer payment certainty; an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) offers a lower monthly payment. However, an adjustable-rate mortgage may adjust dramatically. Be sure to calculate your affordability at both the lowest and highest possible ARM rate. 

More from HouseLogic

          4 Tips to Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford (

          7 Tips for Improving Your Credit (

          How to Assess the Real Cost of a Fixer-Upper House (


G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has thrice survived the homebuying process. A frequent contributor to many national publications including, REALTOR? Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.


Hedge Fund Manager: Buying a Home is Best Investment

by Administrator 21. July 2014 11:34

Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson believes that buying a home is the best investment possible.  

At the Delivering Alpha conference presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor, Paulson said "I still think, from an individual perspective, the best deal investment you can make is to buy a primary residence that you're the owner-occupier of.  Today, financing costs are extraordinarily low.  You can get a 30-year mortgage somewhere around 4.5 percent.  And if you put down, let's say, 10 percent and the house is up 5 percent, which is the latest data, then you would be up 50 percent on your investment." 

Here's a link to the article:

If you're interested in taking Mr. Paulson's advice in the Cape Girardeau or Jackson area, give one of our Executives a call at 335-8111 or 343-2555.



SOLD: Ferris Bueller Home

by Administrator 4. June 2014 15:13

Does anyone in the Cape Girardeau or Jackson area recognize this famous mid-century modern home?  Bueller…?  Bueller…?  Anyone...?

That’s right.  The Highland Park, IL home used in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off just sold for $1.06 million.  The steel home with floor-to-ceiling windows served as the fictional “garage” where Cameron Frye’s father kept his classic red Ferrari.  Ferris and Cameron accidentally send the car crashing through the window into the ravine below in an attempt to “undo” mileage put on the car during their infamous joyride around Chicago.

Check out the listing at!  Find your dream home at!


Home Investing 101

by Administrator 20. March 2014 10:45

In our last couple of posts, we have provided some great information on the home buying and selling processes (Spoiler Alert: They are complex, and Our Executives would love to assist you).  Today, we continue our "101" series with some info on real estate investing.  Welcome to Real Estate Investing 101.

You see it everywhere.  On HGTV, on the Internet, on billboards.  The claim?  "Real estate is a great investment, and it can do wonders for your financial future!"  While that may be true, there is certainly more to it than that.  Not all investments are created equal, and not all real estate is a great investment.

This post will identify some of the fundamental steps you need to follow when considering your first real estate investment property. 


 Real estate investing is not for everyone.  Investing (in anything) generally requires knowledge and a strong grasp on personal finance and budget management.  The most important thing to realize is that investing in real estate is not a “get rich quick” scheme.  No matter what your initial cash position is, real estate investing will be a slow and steady process that can span decades – you put your money to work today, so you have more money in the future.  But if you make enough money from rents and take good care of your property, you may end up with monthly income, increased equity, or both.  

One thing is for certain: You have to educate yourself - about real estate generally, and about real estate locally.  This is where Realty Executives of Cape County can help.  


 There are dozens of ways you can invest in real estate.  The trick is finding a type of real estate investment that suits your financial position, risk tolerance, and capabilities as a landlord.  Niches include single family properties, small multi-family properties such as duplexes or triplexs, large multi-family properties such as apartment complexes, commercial properties, industrial properties, and many others.  Strategies vary as well.  You could flip, buy and hold, or lease-option, among others.


Perhaps the biggest reason investors are not successful is because they don’t have a plan.  This applies to all investments, but for real estate, having a plan is absolutely essential.  You will need a roadmap to guide you along the way. 

The best way to build your plan is to determine your goal, and work backwards.  If you want to generate $2,000 per month in income, how many houses does that take?  How much money do you have?  How much should you spend on each house?  What are your costs each month?  What will your properties rent for?

Beyond these big picture items, you also need to have a plan for the small stuff.  How will you find and screen tenants?  How will you manage each property?  How will you handle repairs?  How will you track your expenses and income? 

A thorough plan will be a life saver in the long run.


Obviously, your plan should include actually purchasing a property.  You’ve already identified a niche and price range, so go find a deal! 

A "deal," in our opinion, is a property with a positive cash flow.  This means that your monthly rents, less expenses (including your mortgage payment, taxes and insurance), provide positive cash flow each month.  For example, if you collect $1,000 in monthly rent, then subtract expenses of $150 and a mortgage payment of $600, you will have a positive cash flow of $250 per month. 

Unfortunately, many investors buy properties that have a negative cash flow.  This occurs when rents do not cover the expenses and mortgage payment, leaving the investor to make up the difference each month.  This is not a “deal,” in our opinion. 

Also relevant to your analysis of a deal are the characteristics of the property.  Smart investors work very hard on the front end to find a high renting property that will have minimal expenses, resulting in a greater positive cash flow.  Investors should look at a variety of factors here, including property condition and features, crime rates, nearby amenities such as parks and retail, and schools.

For more information on how Our Executives can help you find a deal, check out our helpful Home Buying 101 post.  We have many great homebuying tools, including the most advanced Property Search in the area, as well as My Home Tracker, which helps you find new properties matching your criteria as soon as they hit the market.


Now that you have acquired a property, the next step is to get it on the market for rent.  There are a variety of methods you can use to market your property, such as rental websites, social media, newspapers, and the like.  You could also hire an Executive or a property manager such as Executive Property Management to market your property, both of which have proven connections to potential tenants.

When advertising your property, it is wise to first study up on the various laws and regulations that may apply to your rental.  From city ordinances to federal fair housing laws, there are many potential legal hurdles that must be cleared in order to properly advertise your property for rent.  Our Executives are knowledgeable about these regulations and would be happy to lead you through this process.   


Once you have a solid tenant lined up, your ongoing job will generally be to manage the property in accordance with the terms of your lease agreement, in exchange for the tenant’s rental payment.  The goal, again, is to end up in a positive cash flow situation.  

There are several management options, as well.  You can self-manage the property, or hire a licensed property manager.  A self-managed property is one in which the owner (or owner’s employee) fields all calls from tenants and coordinates all repairs and maintenance issues, as well as collects rent payments and holds security deposits.  A property manager will perform the same duties for a fee. 

The property manager’s fee should be calculated into the “expenses” part of the cash flow analysis discussed above.  If you find a property with a solid enough cash flow, hiring a property manager can make your life much less stressful.

Realty Executives Can Help

 As you can see, buying an investment property is not something that should be taken lightly.  From evaluating the financial aspects of the purchase, to drawing up a contract, to closing on the property, the process can be a bit overwhelming.  Our dedicated Executives can help you every step of the way.  

Give us a call at our Cape Girardeau Office (573) 335-8111 or our Jackson Office (573) 243-2555!



Home Selling 101

by Administrator 5. February 2014 09:56

Last week, we dove into the home buying process and discussed several reasons why you should choose one of Our Executives to help you with your home purchase. We cleverly called that post Home Buying 101. Today we discuss selling your home, which, just like buying a home, is often a stressful, emotional, and confusing process. We’ve named that post…wait for it…Home Selling 101.

The Process

Generally speaking, there are five phases in the home selling process: Price, Prepare, Market, Contract, and Close. Understanding this basic framework will help you realize that there is a lot more to selling a home than simply sticking a sign in the yard and showing up to closing. Acknowledging the intricacy of a well-executed real estate transaction is important, and it will hopefully help you realize just how much of an asset a real estate professional can be.


Not surprisingly, price is the most important factor in selling a home. It is imperative that you price your home correctly from the start. Overpricing is the most common mistake as marketing and advertising can only do so much to overcome a high price. Likewise, underpricing your home can be equally disappointing.

Our Executives are skilled at pricing homes right – the first time. We always complete a thorough competitive market analysis in order to arrive at an appropriate price for your home. Of course, if you need to sell your home in a hurry, or if you can afford to be patient, our suggested price can be adjusted up or down. But keep in mind that if your home is not priced competitively, it may never sell at all.

If you attempt to sell your home yourself, it’s worth noting that according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) data, homes that are sold without the assistance of a Realtor® are sold for nearly 15% less than those sold with the assistance of a Realtor®.


The next step is to prepare your home to attract a qualified buyer. Obviously, you should clean, take out the trash, and cut the grass, but you may also want to consider “staging” your home. “Staging” is the act of preparing your home for sale. The goal of staging is to make the home attractive to the highest number of potential buyers, thereby leading to a quicker sale for more money. At Realty Executives of Cape County we have an Accredited Staging Professional on staff, so be sure to ask your Executive about our free staging consultation.


Once you arrive at a price and have prepared the home for sale, it’s time to start your marketing campaign. These days, there is a lot more to marketing than sticking a sign in the yard, doing an open house, and hoping for the best. You will need to develop a clear marketing plan that will attract the largest number of buyers.

Our Executives use a wide variety of marketing tools. These include yard signage, advertising in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), ads in the newspaper and real estate magazines, direct mailings, open houses, and agent tours. We also have many contacts with referral and relocation organizations and local corporate entities that frequently bring in new employees. But perhaps the most unique part of our marketing plan is our cutting edge technology, which includes the use of quality photography, high definition video, and the Internet.

The latest NAR and Google research shows that 90% of home buyers start their search online. Our blog post last week detailed the power of our Property Search, but our website is just one of the avenues which may lead a buyer to your home under our marketing plan. The local MLS system syndicated information about your property to as many as 900 other websites. We also recently added a YouTube channel featuring our high definition videos of properties for sale. Many real estate videos you see out there are just slideshows of grainy photos set to generic music. Our videos are fully narrated, HD video walkthroughs that are sure to catch a buyer’s eye.

Another advantage to listing with an Executive is that you personally do not have to be available at all hours of the day to show the property and weed through potential buyers. A full team of real estate agents will be showing your home and qualifying buyers for you, so you won’t have to spend time interacting with potential buyers at all hours of the day. You also won’t have to wade through the various scams and safety concerns commonly associated with selling your property “by owner.”


At this point, you’ve attracted a qualified buyer and they have made an offer. This is when stress and emotion may begin to overwhelm you. It’s also when your Executive can step in and help you agree to the best deal, and not just the fastest deal.

Working with an Executive means that you have access and guidance through all of the contract and related riders and notices necessary to close the transaction. This is important because selling a home is not like selling a car or furniture. Not only is the financial obligation much larger for the buyer, but there are also disclosure obligations and legal ramifications for the seller if the contract is not written properly. Unless you are a real estate professional or attorney skilled in drafting real estate contracts, you may end up having your transaction fail, or end up with unintended legal liability.

Your Executive will guide you through all of the contingencies, disclosures, inspections, financing options, and title review. There is no way around it: This is a very complicated process. Neglecting to get professional guidance from a real estate agent or attorney during this period will likely cost you a lot of money down the road, not save it.


Assuming the buyer is satisfied with inspections, title report, and loan terms, the last step is to review and understand the closing statement and other documents before you close on the sale. Your Executive is here to help you through this process too.

Realty Executives Can Help

As you can see, selling your home is not something that should be taken lightly. If this all sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. Our dedicated Executives can help guide you every step of the way. Call us in Cape Girardeau at (573 335-8111 or in Jackson at (573) 243-2555!


Home Buying 101

by Administrator 23. January 2014 09:45

Buying a home is not an easy process, especially if you are doing it for the first time.  It can be stressful, emotional, and confusing at times.  At Realty Executives of Cape County, we simplify the process for you.

Our Executives have nearly 900 years of combined real estate industry experience.  We are always studying the latest market trends and real estate updates so that you are armed with the information and tools you need to make a smart, informed decision.

The Process

Generally speaking, there are four broad phases in the home buying process: Evaluate, Search, Offer, and Close. Understanding this basic framework will help you manage your expectations as you move through the process.


First, you must evaluate whether the timing is right for you to buy.  Are you going to be in the area for the next three to five years?  Have you spoken to a lender about the financing requirements for getting a loan?  If so, have you saved up the required funds for a down payment and any closing costs?

If you answered "yes" to these questions, we suggest that you ask your lender for a pre-approval letter before you begin your property search in earnest.  Then, contact or interview one of Our Executives to see who will best understand your needs.  Selecting an Executive as your "buyer's agent" will be very valuable to you as the process moves along.


The next step is to begin your property search.  In the past, it was common for buyers to thoroughly discuss desired property characteristics with a buyer's agent, and then set up several showings.  But our industry is rapidly changing.  Various websites now give buyers direct access to the market, allowing them to "vet" houses before they ever step foot in the property (or contact an agent, for that matter).  Because of this trend, it is very important that you get accurate and timely information about the local market.

Our Property Search is the most accurate and comprehensive real estate search in Cape Girardeau, Jackson, and the surrounding the areas.  Unlike other local sites, our search contains every listing in our Multiple Listing Service (MLS), and it is updated three times daily.  Our website shows New Listings up to 10 days faster than national websites such as, Zillow, and Trulia, and it quickly removes properties no longer listed for sale.  You can narrow your search by property type, city, price, square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, and school district, among other things.  This allows you to take control of your search and feel confident in the status of the market at all times.  We also encourage you to sign up for My Home Tracker.  This feature will send you email alerts as soon as homes matching your criteria hit the market.  

Once you find a few homes you'd like to see, contact your Executive to schedule viewings.  Or feel free to set up a meeting with your Executive for additional help in your search.


Once you have found "the one", it is time to discuss the details of a potential offer with your Executive.  As a buyer's agent, your Executive will view comparable properties ("comps") to assess whether your offer is low, high, or fair for the subject property.  When you arrive at an approrpiate offer price, your Executive will prepare the contract documents and other appropriate contract riders, as well as hold your earnest money deposit.  The seller may submit a counter offer, but if further negotiations go well, you will have an accepted offer on your new home.


Even if you and the seller have agreed upon contract terms, there is still a lot of work to be done.  This is where the transaction can get tricky - and emotional.  

First, your earnest money will be deposited into the appropriate escrow account for safekeeping until closing. Then, either you or your Executive (if authorized) will discuss and schedule any inspections you desire to have completed.  Your Executive will also work with your lender, the seller's agent, and your title company to secure a commitment to issue a title insurance policy.  Meanwhile, you will be providing documentation to your lender in order to ensure that your loan is being processed in a timely manner.  Your lender will also be ordering an appraisal to make sure the bank's investment is sound before giving you a final loan approval.  Your Executive will assist you in meeting all of the deadlines specified in the contract.  

Assuming you are satisfied with the inspections, title report, and loan terms, you will move on to the fun part: Signing the closing documents and getting the keys to your new home!

Realty Executives Can Help

If all of this sounds overwhelming, don't worry.  Our dedicated Executives can help you every step of the way.  Call us at our Cape Girardeau Office (573) 335-8111 or our Jackson Office (573) 243-2555!



Mortgage Options: ARM or Fixed Rate?

by Administrator 11. December 2013 13:16

Whether you're buying your first home or refinancing your existing home, you have a host of financing options available. But, before you start talking about points, fees, and closing costs, you need to decide whether to choose a fixed-rate or an adjustable rate mortgage.

Adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) earned a bad reputation leading up to the housing bust (and with good reason) but that was largely the fault of predatory lenders who oversold houses to under-qualified buyers with artificially low initial payments.

Mortgage interest rates are extremely low right now, so you shouldn't expect an ARM rate to go anywhere but up in the future. For this reason most home buyers are more comfortable with fixed-rate mortgages that provide a predictable payment future, particularly for their primary residence.

On the other hand, quick turnarounds can be a different story. If you're an experienced real estate investor looking to flip a house quickly, an ARM could save you some money while you hold the house. An ARM may also make sense when you know you'll live in a home for a short period of time (e.g. a 5 year ARM might make sense when you plan to live in a home for 3 years).

If you have questions or need help, please call us at our Cape Girardeau Office (573) 335-8111 or our Jackson Office (573) 243-2555.


Ten Moving Tips

by Administrator 9. December 2013 13:14

1. Start Early - Get an early jump on your moving strategy and you'll save time, money, & heartache.

2. Lose the Clutter - Moving is the perfect time to clear out the junk.

3. Stop Buying - Don't buy anything that isn't absolutely necessary in the weeks leading up to your move. You can buy furniture, art, etc. after you move in.

4. Make an Inventory - Catalog every piece of furniture, every box of clothing, and every one of your valuables before the move (taking pictures whenever possible). This will help identify missing belongings after the move, and provides vital information for homeowners insurance.

5. Hire a Pro - On moving day your plate will be full with just getting where you need to go. If it is at all possible, hire professional movers to handle as much as you can afford.

6. Make a Map - You don't want to move furniture twice. Make a map of your new home, and decide where you would like movers to place your things.

7. Measure Everything - Measure each dimension of all furniture and appliances, then do the same for all the points of entry to your home and all internal doors to be certain everything will fit.

8. Remember Autos - If you're moving a long distance, consider shipping your cars or paying someone to drive them for you.

9. Consider Pets - Some pets don't travel well which can make things difficult. Speak with your vet about the transport and get copies of pet's medical records.

10. Keep your Essentials - Planes get delayed, luggage gets lost. Accidents happen. Keep emergency cash, copies of critical paperwork, and a week's supply of medicine readily accessible, just in case.

If you have questions or need help, please call us at our Cape Girardeau Office (573) 335-8111 or our Jackson Office (573) 243-2555.


Does Your Homeowner's Insurance Policy Cover Sewer Backup?

by Administrator 4. December 2013 13:10

Did you know that the standard homeowner's insurance policy EXCLUDES coverage for such an event?

The backup of sewer and drains as well as the failure of a sump pump is excluded. The damage you sustain from either of these problems will NOT be covered and you will be responsible to pay for the loss and the cleanup. If you have a finished basement, or even if you use your basement for storage, we recommend you consider adding this coverage to your policy.

Sewage backup normally affects the basement where mechanical systems (e.g. furnace, water heater) are often housed.  Unfortunately, sewage generally destroys anything it comes into contact with, causing thousands of dollars in damage.

For the thousands of dollars in damage, it would be well worth purchasing the additional coverage with your homeowner's policy to cover such an event!

Coverage is typically available in $5,000 increments up to $25,000 (limits of coverage and cost vary per company).

The good news is this coverage is surprisingly affordable! Typical cost annually for $5,000 is $12 - that is ONE dollar a month! For $25,000 it is approximately $42 - a mere $3.50 a month!

Be sure to check in with your insurance agent about this coverage to make sure you have it on your policy.  Better to be safe than sorry!

If you have questions or need help, please call us at our Cape Girardeau Office (573) 335-8111 or our Jackson Office (573) 243-2555.


Is Rental Property Right For You?

by Administrator 2. December 2013 13:02

As Donald Trump says about real estate as an investment: "It's tangible. It's solid. It's beautiful.  It's artistic...I just love real estate."  But is owning rental property right for you?  

Depending on the level of debt carried, rental properties can create a monthly stream of income for the owner.  Some investors choose to leverage available funds by putting down just enough to make the property cash flow.  The benefit to this approach is the tenants, over time, pay down the landlord's mortgage.  While appreciation is never a guarantee properties generally, over time, increase in value.  There are tax advantages as well (e.g. depreciation and deferring gains on sales by reinvesting in other investment properties). 

On the downside, there is liability in any landlord / tenant relationship.  Keeping the property properly maintained and adequately insured are musts.  The owner must also be prepared to take care of the surprises (e.g. the deductible on the cost of a roof blown off by a storm, new air conditioner).  Tenants must be properly screened to make certain they are capable of paying the rent and, of course, vacant property brings in no revenue.  Lastly, there is the question of whether you want to take the 2 a.m. call that the furnace is broken and it's 20 degrees outside. 

Many of the negative aspects of owning rental property can be alleviated by employing the services of experienced property management company. 

If you would like to know more about the pros and cons of owning rental property please call one of our Executives at the Cape Girardeau Office (573) 335-8111 or at the Jackson Office (573) 243-2555.  You could also speak with Jeremy Ferguson with EXECUTIVE Property Management.