By Bruce Carlson

We’re Bruce and Karen Carlson. We recently moved to the Metro East area of Illinois. It’s a whole new world out there. Our goal with this website is to share our exploration of the Metro East area. As we find businesses and services we use in our daily lives, we’ll share how these businesses and services have helped make our lives better and easier to live.

We’re calling our move to the Metro East area retirement, but we’re not quite sure what that means. By sharing our story with you, we hope you too will gain a better sense of what the Metro East area has to offer and how their businesses and services can improve your lives and build a better community.

We are very excited to have a chat today with Jane Stone of The Ellerbrake Group, Keller Williams Pinnacle.  Jane has become one of our favorite people. Sometimes fate throws you together with people who just make your life a lot better. Jane is one of those folks.

We were introduced to Jane through our realtor, Alecia Lenertz, in North Aurora when we had our home for sale there. Alecia said she researched Jane, and she was the one to go with to find a new home in the Metro East area. Jane wasn’t just a home run; Jane is a grand slam.

Karen initially had a phone call with Jane at the beginning of February and Jane gathered information on what type of home we were looking for. Jane’s office started to email us houses to consider. The weekend after I returned home from the Philippines mission, we headed down to the Metro East area to meet with Jane and start looking at a list of homes. Jane was focused on the task at hand and made sure we saw the good and bad of the houses we looked at. Each viewing helped Jane to focus on what type of home we were looking for.

For the next month, we jumped back and forth to the Metro East area looking for that perfect house. A few weeks later we thought we had found one, but it fell through. Karen and I were crushed, we were angry, and we were wondering if we would ever find that perfect house again.

Jane endeared herself to us

This is where Jane endeared herself to us. She put up with our foot stomping and complaining and said we’ll find that perfect home. A couple of weeks later she got us into a home that really was perfect and it was the one we brought.

We got the call on a Friday, jumped in the car, and headed south on I-55. Halfway there she took us through the house in a video call. Pointed out the key points of the house and gave us a good feeling. We signed the paperwork as we drove between Bloomington and Springfield. Our offer was submitted, and she arranged for an inspector to look at the house the next day, Saturday.

It took a few days of Jane cajoling with the seller, but she stayed on top of it and we got it done. The home was ours. There were a few issues that needed to be worked out, but Jane didn’t give up and we were about to close on the house at the end of April.

Jane didn’t stop there. She has stayed in touch with us and made sure that we had everything and anything we needed during and even after the move to our new home. Karen and I can’t recommend Jane enough. If you need a realtor in the Metro East area Jane Stone is the one to turn to.

So, sit back and enjoy the rest of the interview we had with Jane. Be sure to click here to check out Jane Stone, a number one realtor.


Bruce – Tell us about yourself and Ellerbrake Group, Keller Williams.

JaneI grew up in Columbia, in Monroe County so I’m familiar with that area. To the north is Madison County which is Edwardsville, and then we’re here in St. Clair County.  There are 120 Keller Williams Pinnacle agents. There are other Keller Williams agencies in the area, but with Pinnacle there are 120 agents. They stretch between St. Clair County, Madison County, and Monroe, which is down by Columbia. This is one of our big offices here.

Bruce – This is exactly the area we’re looking for in our new home.

Jane – So Rob Cole with Judy Dempsey Homes was who trained me. I was with Rob for about eight weeks, and he did a phenomenal job teaching me how to sell a house. I knew how to sell, I didn’t know how to sell a house. I didn’t know about the different furnishings or the different types of finishes on cabinets. He said to go to Home Depot and figure out what kind of wood was used. It’s like, that made sense. Different types of flooring, so he was great with that. And I saw that as many years as he had been in the business, and his mother had been in it before him, that was Judy Dempsey, he would go in and fix things in people’s houses. I was like, if this guy doing that well, cares that much to go back on his own time and do things, he’s got it right. He’s doing it the way I want to do it. He had the same type of personal touch that I wanted to bring to it. So I think that makes a difference. When you come out and you care what is at the root of people’s heart and their homes, you’re gonna figure out what they need, right? It’s kind of what I was raised in a small town in Columbia, Illinois, a German community. We didn’t hurt each other.

Bruce –  Well, we were very happy with what you did for us.

Emotion with the one house we lost

Karen – You know we have that emotion with the one house we lost. We thought that that was the perfect house, but it wasn’t.

Jane – Yeah, I love that home too.

Karen – We were talking about all the houses have had, because we built three houses, we moved nine times and stuff, the house we now have is the perfect house, this is the best house.

Jane – It’s amazing the path that we take is the right one sometimes leads us to the best one.

Karen – It’s hard to trust sometimes that it will come out in a while.

Jane – It is, it is. And I say that to people. Remember that this house you looked at you didn’t get, we didn’t know about it two weeks ago. So two weeks from now we might find that one that’s the right one. Let’s give it some time. Let’s trust it.

Bruce – Yeah. I mean, as much as that other house was nice, this one is like, yeah, this is the house. We were coming home one night and I said, this we can now call our home. And it was like the shift from a house to a home. And you know, it’s like, yes, this is, as Becca would say, is this your forever house?

Karen – It is.

Jane – Good. I don’t want to be sorry about that.

Karen – Two of our grandsons came down for a few days and Jase said, “So are you going to be staying? Is it like you’re staying here?” And I said, for the foreseeable future, we do not plan to go anywhere, but we’re very happy here, and we both enjoy it.

Thank you for all you have done

Bruce – So that’s why we want to say thank you for all you have done.

Jane – I don’t want to keep finding homes for you. I want to find the one for people that they love. For somebody else. It’s not always a huge investment. I want you to be at your home. That’s it.

Bruce – You know, it fits everything that we’ve wanted, and I’ve got my little wood shop that I can set up now.

Jane – The downstairs is great, isn’t it?

Bruce – Oh, and I’m already working on your chairs.

Jane – You take your time.

Bruce – No, no, no. I gotta get them done. Last night I was carving Becca’s boards, she does Tae Kwon Do and the first board that she broke they gave to her so I’m carving a picture of her on one half kicking the board on the other half and breaking the board with her hand. So I’ve got the images carved into it and I just have to clean it up and do a little painting on it.

Jane  – Take a picture and send it to me. We’ll see it next week when I stop by.

Bruce – Yeah, I don’t know if I’ll quite have it done. Because that’s a lot of work. I like doing it.

Karen – That’s his downtime sort of is just doing that kind of stuff.

I am a Cub fan

Bruce – We’re having fun with the idea of the website here. And, you know, I found my little way of breaking into things is that I tell people I’m a Cubs fan.

Jane – I heard about that at the chamber meeting. Yeah, and that gets back. I said everybody started saying what they wanted, which is wonderful.

Bruce – And that’s sort of the way I’ve been leading into things with people. You know, I am a Cub fan.

Jane – But you say it in a way that’s not like, you know, adversarial too much. Well, who knows?

Bruce – Who were we talking with last night?

Jane – Because they’re pretty proud of their Cardinal heritage.

Bruce – Yeah. Well, we got talking about the area down here, and they used to have the Chicago Cardinals, which was the football team back in the 50s. There was the Bears and the Chicago Cardinals. The Cardinals came down here and played football.

Jane – Did not know that.

Bruce – Yeah. So that was like 58, 59, somewhere around there when that switch happened. I vaguely remember it as a kid growing up. And then of course, I was talking to him, he said, yeah, and then they took off and went off to there.

Jane – I don’t hate the Cardinals now. We’ll forgive them. You’re a Bears fan, right?

Bruce – After yesterday’s game I’m not sure, it was a horrible game. I fell asleep it wasn’t too great.

Bruce – What do you see as how the Pinnacle group helps the community? Because as a chamber of commerce member that’s what we’re involved in, is how do we build community?

I’m gonna kind of layer this a little bit

Jane – So I think, okay, so I’m gonna kind of layer this a little bit. Keller Williams, we do a gift act with the community. We do something called Red Day, R -E -D -D -A -Y. And that is a community event that is always a Tuesday in May, or one Thursday in May. It’s for one of our founders, it’s her birthday. She’s an older woman now. And we pick one charitable organization in need. All agents across the country, pick in their offices a day to take off, close the doors, and benefit their charity. Renew, energize, and donate. That’s what Red Dance for Renew and Energize is doing. And so two years in a row we helped out a not-for-profit day care in East St. Louis. Then as long as one of the parents can work, they get free daycare and they do it all the way up through the eighth grade. It’s a non-denominational, and all the churches helped donate to it. And then this year we worked at Randy’s Rescue Ranch, which is a horse rescue ranch run on Highway 50 by Schnucks in O’Fallon. They also rescue dogs. It’s part of Stray Rescue, which is the dog place that you hear about. Stray Rescue is always helping dogs. But Randy’s Rescue Ranch is Randy’s grandfather as the founder. So we worked there. We made, we painted horse corrals, we put in new stuff. I mean, we worked hard. We probably put in, it was just a big project. So we do that.

Karen – How many people usually participate?

Jane – We usually have about 35 or 40 agents go. Then we had 12 sponsors donate money from our different vendors, like the car dealerships, the lenders, from people. So we had a big turnout this year. It was nice. We probably raised about $12,000 in funds, which is good. And then gave a check to them.

Karen – Plus the whole work you did.

Jane – All the work we did was amazing. Because they have visitors every Saturday to help raise funds for them. So we cleaned it up and helped the horses. Like there was one pig there that had been stuck in a horse stall. And were not able to see the light of day because they didn’t have enough pig stalls. So our team, the other Keller Williams actually, Steve, and another guy in there helped build a new pig stall for the first time. She was able to go out and get out in the sun and roll around in the mud. It was so cool to see that. So yeah, that was cool. What else? So as an organization, Keller Williams, I think that being in Old Fallon, and especially with our team, we worked a lot with the military. There’s so much satisfaction knowing that they come in. We made two FaceTimes with them, and they never even saw the house till they moved in. And know that it’s a bit of a responsibility, but I also feel so proud of the fact that maybe it comes from majoring in radio and television. That’s what I did in college, but I love to take that interviewing background and move it into FaceTime. So I will go and get on my hands and knees and show every part of the house, the yard, the basement, and look for things. But sometimes they don’t see the house until they move in. And they’re from the country, in Hawaii, wherever they are. But we are tied in to keep our community as vibrant with the base as possible. So we are just as involved as O’Fallon is, as this is O’Fallon, as a community, at Scott Air Force Base, it’s a surrounding area. We are very protective of our schools, our base, our military, and O’Fallon and the surrounding townships. So we all work together. It’s important. We’re gonna be thriving. And you know that too. That’s, well, you know that too because your Scott. I do think so too. But it’s very important to us because they are, they’re our extended family.

Karen – You know, and that’s the same way that Johnny, you know referred to, you know, what they do work, not about very much.

Jane – We are proud of the base and the service they do for our country. It’s just amazing. The different people you meet and you become so protected and they become protective of me. It’s weird the way someone calls me. It’s mutual. Yeah. You’re in for life once you’re in with them. So it’s extremely gratifying.

Bruce – And that’s a key part of what I want to be able to do in the articles is because, from my own personal point of view, I feel we’re becoming a very individualistic nation. And I want to do something to say we need to work together as a community to solve our problems and say, you know, you’ve got issues, I’ve got issues, but by working together and having more minds on the problem, we can get it solved in a much quicker way and in a way that everybody will have a benefit from it. So it’s this kind of thing that, you know, show how you’re involved in the community, how you’re pulling people together, you’re helping them. That’s going to be key to what we want to say in these articles.

Karen – You know it’s that idea of giving back.

Hold on to those values

Jane – Paying for whatever you do it that keeps them just helping everyone and rescuing animals all over the country they need help get them on the map that gets a bigger sign what can we do that the base needs to stay thriving with those they don’t know where to go so you’re right your website can be great, they don’t know where to go so it helps it’s just it’s a great community somebody was saying to me yesterday I drove through O‘Fallon I was so proud to see what’s going on. The church had a food truck out there you know this one we had to be in out there and then the high school had a football game. He said I was really proud of our community and named off all the things just driving down 50 and I was like you know what that’s true and you’ll find that even you know where you live in every drive down you see there’s a thriving every town has its own little thriving community that they bring forward I like that we’re still trying to hold on to those values right

Karen – He interviewed the guy from the library and said, they’ve come a long way. And so anyway, we decided a couple of days later that we would go and get a library card In New Athens. It’s in a tiny little old bank.

Jane – They’ll look great inside though, don’t they? They just smell like books all over.

Karen – And so we went in, got our library card and they asked, do you want a tour? Sure. So we take this little tour, and here’s our novels, here’s the fiction, but what used to be the vault, the safe is the children’s area.

Bruce – I’m not sure that it was some kind of subconscious idea. Lock them in.

Karen – You’re bad? We’re in a lot of different parts of the world.

Jane – I hope you took a picture of that.

Bruce – No, we didn’t take a picture of that.

Jane – That’d be great.

Karen – And so, but when we got to the front, they were showing us, oh, here’s our periodicals. And we looked and there was a rack with six fishing poles in it. You can check fishing poles out.

Jane – Oh my gosh.

Bruce – And walk across the street to the river and go fishing.

Jane – That is so cool, who would have thought of that, what a great idea.

Karen – And I was telling Nicole, she was like, oh, they have fishing poles at O’Fallon. And they also have telescopes you can check out.

Bruce – So it’s not just books.

Jane – Yeah, that’s something to put on the website. Think about that. If you’re all shocked, anytime you have a shock value, advertise it. Yeah. But it was just so funny. That would be a great one. Who would have known? There you go, bullet point in.

Karen – I sent a picture of the rack with the fishing pole to our nine-year-old grandson, and he goes, that’s just not right.

Jane – That’s genius. I love that. So it was just so funny… But you’re enabling kids to do something that they… Well, try it. See if they like it before they invest in it. I would actually like to see that on a website. Just say to who.

Bruce – There’s a picture of it on the website. Again, the idea is I’m trying to keep this to about 1,000, 1,500 words.  Just enough for people to not quit. Yeah, so if we get everybody coming back, then it becomes something that people will go out there and find out what’s going on.

Jane – Yeah, you see when you show something different and small words and something different you’ll be like he’s got something different than everybody else has. Yeah.

Bruce – And you’re looking at it from the more technical point of view. That’s what Google is looking for. So when people go out and look for something, they’re looking for one, something that looks like it’s genuinely written. It’s telling a story as the guy that we’re working with says, is it something that grandma would want to know?

Jane – Hmm.

Bruce – So it’s things that we’re trying to write there. That’s a, you know, tell us about who you are, what’s your history, what you’re involved in the community, what you do there. But then the last part to sort of start wrapping it up is, how do you see the future? What’s going to be, how is real estate going to be, real estate, and more particularly to this area? How will things change? How will you have to adapt so that people see forward-thinking?

What’s going on with interest rates

Jane – Everyone wants to know what’s going on with interest rates. So I’m just going to address the big elephant in the room.

Karen – What are they right now?

Jane – They’re right now about 7.1 to 7.2. But you know, it depends on what kind of loan you get. So they’re high. I mean, you came in a good time. So I think we’re going to see in August it starts getting a little decline naturally, you know, it’s going to pick up again. A lot of times, and I’m just going to give you more info that you need. So you’re going to have to just compress this. People don’t want to buy in the winter, but actually, it’s a great time to buy because when somebody does have a house they have to sell because they move for whatever reason. There are less people looking. It’s a great time to buy a house.

Bruce – Well, that’s part of the reason we started when we did.

Jane – You know, go look. Interest rates are going to go up again. I think they’re going to go a little bit up next year, but then they’re going to come back down. They’ll never be what they were.

Karen – No, you’ll never get the 3.0 again.

Jane – But I think we’re going to see in the next 14 months. But I think the next 12 -14 months are going to be a little hard. But this area is a little bit more protected because of Scott Air Force Base. We have the PCS time frames and we do okay. So, you know, we’ll be okay because that base, that’s why everyone makes sure that base is thriving. It’s a well-maintained and well-thought-of base and it’s got a lot of different elements to it. So, you know, I think we’ll be okay. O ‘Fallon in particular, I know they’re talking about widening Highway 50. You know, Highway 50 is a main thoroughfare. So, that’s going to, they’ve got a whole master plan for around here, which means growth is big. Growth is going. O ‘Fallon is supposed to be like, and I keep on going on O ‘Fallon facts, but I’m just telling you what I know. The mayor said it’s like a number, I think it’s the 5th safest community in the state of Illinois. So, we push a lot of that. We try to maintain as much as we can. So, O ‘Fallon and Shiloh combined police departments. You guys are in a very, very great community. And you know that as it spreads out, it’s just, it’s doing fine. I mean, I would pull up stats on just census, but I think we’re doing okay.  If the east coast and the West Coast gets hit, and everybody talks about the housing market, but they’re talking about those. It takes forever for it to kind of hit us. We’re almost in the bubble because we have the base, and we have 30 to 35 minutes outside of that, is what is almost protected by how thriving the base is. You’re pretty much in that bubble. New Athens falls in the bubble.

Bruce – I want to get a hold of O’Fallon. They’re part of the chamber and sit down and get to know them. That would be a good one to get because I think it’s through the little bit I’ve looked at their stuff. They’ve talked about the Highway 50 plan I forget what the title is.

Jane – Mayor Gary Graham always talks about it. I think he still might do stuff in his office on Saturdays or Sundays, it’s that open-door policy. That might be one of the college’s agents. He still has that open-door policy on the weekends. If he does, go in there and ask him all these questions.

Bruce – And like I said, we’re trying to develop this website so that we can tell those stories.

Jane – Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. We love it. He’s got great information. He’s a great speaker. He would like that. Okay.

It’s about adding value

Karen – When you see value and you want to share value, it isn’t just filling a page. It’s about adding value.

Bruce – Will he talk to a Cubs fan?

Jane –  But he has family that is the ones that own the High Point Diner here and I believe they’re involved with Sugarfire so they have a family that is building businesses and investing back in the community. When you see that, you know, something’s very invested in the community.

Bruce – What we’re looking for is how you get back into the community.

Karen – I think that Sugarfire is one of the sponsors of the After Hours Networking. They have an After Hours Networking on the 19th, the 19th, next Tuesday, it’s, I forget where it is.

Bruce – The 19th is already coming next Tuesday? Oh my. That’s the one drawback of saying I’m retired, I don’t know what day the week is anymore.

Karen – It’s five to six thirty. There’s an after-hours. Sugarfire is one of the sponsors. So they’re having some food and so that’s it.

Jane – We talked about this and I’m sure it’s in.

Karen – And we talked about the 5th of October when it was the next breakfast one. but I don’t know.

Jane – What’s on Tuesday? No, I won’t be able to do it. So I’ve got a massage with you on the 20th. Right. I won’t be able to do the 19th. Okay. So I’ll do a massage with you at four o ‘clock on the 20th. Right? Okay, got it. Okay, okay. All right, next question’s up.

Bruce – Well, like I said, how do you know in five years what will the market be? How will you sell houses, will it change or is it such an established way that something like that will never really change?

Jane – I think we’ll see more of this, the cell phone. What we will see is what I’m noticing is that people used to go to websites and they used to look at listings. Now people say to me, I looked up on Facebook, you know, I found out about you, and I was like, did you not want to look at homes and stuff? And they want to know about the person and the person’s person, which is why this bothers me about this hacking. You know, they want to know about the person’s personality before they go and invest with them as an agent. So they don’t necessarily go to the website and say what kind of homes do they have.

 Karen – Anybody can find the whole thing. Right.

Jane – They do the research with Zillow, so I think you’re going to see more of that. People becoming, almost like how they are with WebMD. And I say that to people, they’ll tell me everything they know about homes and then I’ll be like, well, it’s kind of like WebMD. You should go to your doctor for the final diagnosis because he’s going to make sure you don’t die. Okay, please, please go to your doctor. But they do. They get some good basis and good information. So I think we’re going to see a lot more smarter buyers and sellers because they are given tools through social media or the internet, I guess I should say, through the web. And then they’re going to come to us and we’re going to finish it off. But really, I mean, some of these places would say you can sell your home. You can do all that. But buying a home, you’ve got to go in. You’ve got to see it. You’ve got to touch it.

Sale by the owner

Karen – Didn’t you just have a closing a week or so ago with somebody that was for sale by the owner?

Jane – Those are tricky. That’s a great question. Bring it up so people will say it. So here’s my advice on that. And I’ll say that to anybody when you have for sale by owner and then you got a for sale. You got a buyer who doesn’t want to use an agent. Think about it. You like you guys went through a great example. Can you imagine if you didn’t have an agent and it was a for sale by the owner? So you maybe didn’t do inspections. They didn’t give you disclosures. You came in and you bought the house and you didn’t know what was there. It’s a disastrous situation to make. I mean, it worries me for people. Let’s say, oh, we don’t need an agent. We’re just going to buy it or we buy it. So I said to them, I was like, listen, you don’t have to use me. I know you need to save money for my buyers. That’s OK. But somewhere somebody has to have an agent because you’re getting for sale by the owner. He gave us, didn’t have disclosures about how we always went through disclosures. Then we have to fill it out for whatever reason. Did not know some of these things. And it was a huge $20,000 worth of damage in the water in the basement. And I ended up getting a structural engineer. And we spent two weeks going through all this before we signed off on inspections. If my people who had never bought a home didn’t have an agent attached, he didn’t, can you imagine what would have happened? They would have gone and bought this home. Wouldn’t have known what price. Wouldn’t have had comms. We’re going to just have one person have an agent somewhere attached to this.

Karen – I was like, I can’t come to this, and that’s why you’re the professional.

Jane – I thank you for that. But it’s tricky and you don’t want people to think you’re just trying to get a commission because the seller pays the buyer’s fee. But I just want to say that for anybody. And I get into a situation that by home and they find out there’s a fire hazard like what happened with your water heater. You guys can attest to that.

Karen – That’s bad karma.

Jane – It’s just you never know.

Karen – This is a business built on reputation.

Don’t wave inspections

Jane – And we know that you gotta run these inspections. These would recommend this. Don’t wave inspections, don’t do that. Please let us do diligence, do something. But can you manage it? Nobody checked anything?

We had a great conversation with Jane. It was a little laid back, but Jane is a great person to work with. She puts you at ease and looks out for her clients. Karen and I can’t recommend Jane enough. She will work to protect her clients and see that everything is in place. We now have our perfect home and Jane was a big part of making it happen.

At one point in the interview, Jane talked about getting on her hands and knees to show the house during a video call. I can attest to that. When she walked us through our houses while we were looking we saw every nook and canny. Thanks, Jane you are great.

We hope you are enjoying these articles and are willing to continue to follow along as we move through the process of selling our house, buying a new house (to become our home), and the adventures of learning about life in southern Illinois, Bruce & Karen.

+ posts

We’re Bruce and Karen Carlson. We recently moved to the Metro East area of Illinois. This area is east of St. Louis from the Mississippi River north to Alton, east to Carlyle, back south to Waterloo and the Mississippi River, finally north to Columbia. The center is Fairview Heights, Swansea, Belleville, Shiloh, and O'Fallon. Not to be forgotten is Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Edwardsville. It’s a whole new world out there. Our goal with this website is to share our exploration of the Metro East area. As we find businesses and services we use in our daily lives, we’ll share how these businesses and services have helped make our lives better and easier to live.

We’re calling our move to the Metro East area retirement, but we’re not quite sure what that means. By sharing our story with you, we hope you too will gain a better sense of what the Metro East area has to offer and how their businesses and services can improve your lives and build a better community.