June 06, 2012

Affordability - A Hot Trend in Home Sales Right Now

LauraOne trend is coming across loud and clear for home sales this year - demonstrate lower monthly bills and you will attract buyers!  Fifty to 75% of home buyers shop utility bills when looking for their next home.

Chicago Magazine made this their leading advice for selling your home this season:  staging for energy efficiency is a great way to make your home stand out to value-conscious buyers.  The first bit of advice in the article Boost Your Home's Value - If you want to sell this summer was energy efficiency.  

A sampling of other articles says the same: 

So what are some steps you can take if you want to attract value-conscious buyers?  Here are some great staging tips for your home - and they will help you save a little money while your sale comes together!

  • Install a programmable thermostat. This is now a prerequisite for "well-maintained" homes. The good news is that a basic $50 programmable thermostat can save over $100 per year on heating and cooling!  So why not install (or use) one for yourself right away?
  • Replace light bulbs in  five key areas Ditto above - another prerequisite. Focus on the five most used lights first to see the savings start to add up on your next ComEd bill:  1. Outdoors 2. Kitchen 3.  Family/living room 4.  Dining room/eating space 5. Bedrooms. 
  • Lighting_factsGet the perfect color light bulb! You can get all sorts of "normal" shaped bulbs now too.  A warm, yellowish light is just like the incandescents buyers are used to.  Look for bulbs that have a color temperature around 2700 degrees kelvin for the best ambiance.  The new light bulb label (right) make it easy to find color temperature and pick a bulb that really enhances your home. 
  • Earn rebates on CFL bulbs.  Use a ComEd retailer and earn a rebate on replacement bulbs!

Once your home is under contract the home inspection is a big next step.  Many items that become home inspection hot spots are good places for energy efficiency improvements.  The Energy Impact Illinois program is supported by a Department of Energy Grant and makes it easier than ever to understand the best way to replace key systems in your home, and also identifies qualified rebates and loans to cover the work. Check out their "Make Improvements" list to see if any of their tips and rebates relate to home inspection issues.  Who knows, by empowering your buyer with great resources "big problems" might becom much less of a concern and actually improve the way your deal is coming together!  

Finally, if you want to really highlight your home's affordability and maximize the benefits of home improvement, you can participate in the Illinois Home Performance with Energy Star program.  You follow a home improvement process focused on cutting your energy use.  The program follows a quality system that starts by qualifying contractors and ends by testing the results of your improvements to make sure they actually worked.  Once complete, you will receive a Silver or Gold certificate, depending on savings achieved.   It's a great document to share with prospective buyers to show that your improvements meet the high standards of Energy Star. Plus, the certificate is even a searchable field in Chicagoland's multiple listing service.

Whether you've made big efficiency improvements to your home or you are just getting started on the basics - now is the time to showcase how your home is not just a great value to buy, but to operate too!

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February 16, 2012

"Your Time is Now" Free Home Buyer Festival with food, music and prizes

Are you shopping for a home? Would you like to learn how to understand your credit report? Are you interested in buying a short sale or foreclosed property?

Join DuPage Homeownership Center for a free Home Buyers Festival on Saturday, March 3, 2012, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Illinois Institute of Technology, South Wheaton Campus, 201 East Loop Road,  Wheaton.

In addition to the free workshops, vendors will be available to answer all your housing related questions.  Spanish, Polish, and Burmese interpreters available.

If you stop on by, be sure and visit the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS booth. We'd love to see you!

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December 22, 2011

Welcome Home Heroes Financing Package

Launched to honor those who sacrifice to safeguard our freedom, Welcome Home Heroes is open to all qualified Illinois veterans, active military personnel, reservists and Illinois National Guard members.

The Welcome Home Heroes homebuyer financing package includes:

  • a $10,000 forgiveable loan over two years for down payment and closing cost assistance
  • a 30-year fixed rate mortgage that has an affordable interest rate
  • an optional mortgage credit certificate to reduce federal income tax liability

Who is Eligible?

  • Veterans (who do not need to be homeowners)
  • Active military personnel, reservists and Illinois National Guard members (must be first-time homebuyers)
  • Buyers must qualify based on income and purchase price limits

How to apply?

Interested buyers must apply through a lender in their area. The program only applies to 1-2 unit residential properties in the State of Illinois purchased as a primary residence. The new home loan builds on the existing affordable home, SmartMove, also available through Illinois Housing Development Authority's (IHDA) lenders.

How does the tax credit work?

A mortgage credit certificate (MCC) enhances the benefit of the federal homeowner mortgage interest deduction. Homeowners with the credit are allowed to use 20 percent of their annual mortgage interest as a direct federal tax credit, resulting in a dollar-for-dollar reduction of their annual federal income tax liability. The remaining 80 percent of their annual mortgage interest will continue to qualify as an itemized tax deduction. To see a chart, visit IDHA.


The above information was taken from the Illinois Housing Development Authority website. If you have questions regarding this program, please visit IHDA's frequently asked questions.

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November 23, 2011

Free Wrapping Day

Members of Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS will help raise funds for our nation's heroes with a gift wrapping event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on December 3 at 14 Chicago-area locations.

Volunteers will be on hand to wrap gifts and collect voluntary donations to benefit Helping Our Heroes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans, active duty military personnel and local firefighters and police officers who are facing financial hardship.

Helping Our Heroes focuses on assisting beneficiaries to make mortgage payments and much needed home repairs. Since it's start in 2004, the organization has helped nearly 40 families avoid foreclosure or eviction.

Please bring your gifts to any of the following locations to have them wrapped by a volunteer. All we ask is that you make a donation to Helping Our Heroes, a not-for-profit 501c3 Illinois corporation. Thank you in advance for supporting this worthy cause!


Alexian Village of Elk Grove
975 Martha Street
Elk Grove Village

The Garlands
1000 Garlands Lane

Victory Centre of Park Forest
101 Main Street
Park Forest

Victory Centre of Galewood
2370 N. Newcastle Avenue

Victory Centre of River Oaks
1370 Ring Road
Calumet City

Victory Centre of Joliet
29 N. Broadway Street

Victory Centre of River Woods **This is where myself as well as other YPNers (Young Professional Network) will be at so stop by and see us!**
1800 Riverwoods Dr.
Melrose Park

Victory Centre of Roseland
10450 S. Michigan Avenue

Victory Centre of Sierra Ridge
4150 W. Gatling Blvd.
Country Club Hills

Victory Centre of Bartlett
1101 N. Bartlett Road

Victory Centre of South Chicago
3251 E. 92nd St.

Victory Centre of Vernon Hills
175 E. Hawthorn Parkway
Vernon Hills

Eastgate Manor Supportive Living
101 Eastgate Ct.

Plum Creek Supportive Living
2801 Algonquin Rd.



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November 04, 2011

How to deal with a less than stellar inspection report

AmycroppedWhen buying a home, hiring a certified home inspector (Illinois house inspectors are licensed through IDFPR) to give the place a once-over is a must. To the untrained eye, problems with the home's structure or systems such as an ineffective exhaust vent or bad electrical wiring can be virtually impossible to detect.

And while you might not be able to tell if the grade of the house is off, you'll sure notice when there are fish swimming around in your basement after the next big rainfall!

Home inspectors are often just a precautionary matter, since a seller should be aware of and disclose any serious defects ahead of time.

But what should you do when a bad home inspection report makes your dream home suddenly seem more like a nightmare?

Here are some tips on dealing with a bad home inspection report:

  • Don't panic. Almost no home is perfect. Most will have issues that come up on home inspections - even new ones.
  • Do your homework. Get as much information as you can from the inspector - especially if you were not able to accompany him during his walk-through (although we strongly encourage you to be present during the inspection).
  • Go through the home inspection report with your REALTOR to decide which defects are minor and which ones are major.
  • If there are major items that need to be addressed, you can ask the seller to: 
    • fix the items on your list,
    • fix only the most serious items, 
    • provide a cash credit at closing, or
    • reduce the sales price.
  • While it might be tempting to hand over a to do list to the seller, sometimes you are better off making your own repairs.

"When I bought our house, the basement had a lot of cracks in it. I should have asked for a credit but instead asked the seller to repair it. I believe he literally walked around with a can of spackle and slapped it on every crack."

Gee, how helpful... Learn from my mistake.

For that very reason, many buyers ask the seller to provide a credit at closing to make repairs themselves. No one - buyer or seller - is happy to see a bad inspection report. But it's also not the end of the world.

Remember, everything is negotiable. Stay positive and don't let a bad inspection ruin your day - or your deal.

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July 28, 2011

A smile or a poke goes a long way....

Horton Holding a door open for someone,  letting someone "cut" in-line, posting a "like" or a "poke" on Facebook all have a lot in common.  The thread that runs thru all of the above is two fold.  They are all a form of customer service and they all generate a smile from the recipient.  

The days of customer service are not dead....they just need to be found and spread.  The Real Estate/Mortgage business has evolved dramatically.  The one thing that has stayed constant is those that really care for the client and do not treat them as a "transaction" remain successful.  Much to the dismay of the reports you may hear.....there are loans to be had.  There are houses to sell...and there are homeowners to make happy.  The Real Estate professionals I deal with are saying this is one of the busiest years they have seen.  The phones are ringing and the doors are being unlocked.  If your sales professional takes their time with you, guides you in the right direction and consults with you as opposed to sell to you....you can be a homeowner.

The best feeling in the world is when I am at a closing for one of my mortgage clients...the papers are signed...the sweat is wiped from the brow...and that magic package slides across the table...in that manilla envelope are the keys to a new home and a garage door opener.  The look on the new homeowners face is priceless...that look is one of thanks for a great job well done and superior customer service.

Take a minute today to hold open a door......say thank you...or Poke on Facebook.  The return you get will make your day!

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July 11, 2011

Are You Emergency-Ready?

Ron Recent catastrophes across the country have demonstrated the devastation that can be caused by events like a tornado, hurricane, flood or fire. Are you certain that your family would be prepared if one of these disasters impacted your neighborhood? According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the need to prepare for this possibility is real: hundreds of thousands of people are affected by disasters each year, and in many cases, local responders may not be able to reach you or help immediately.

The key to keeping those you love safe and sound in the aftermath of a disaster is good planning. You should have a disaster plan in place for your family that prepares you to be self-sufficient for three days in the event of weather or any other disaster that could occur in your area, including hurricanes, earthquakes, extreme cold, flooding or terrorism. This may include a need to provide for your own shelter, first aid, food, water and sanitation.

Other tips that FEMA offers to keep your family safe in an emergency situation:

  • Make sure important papers are in order. If your home is flooded, you don't want to waste time re-creating the important documents you'll need to get back on track. Keep backups of your deed, proof of insurance, important medical records, passports and Social Security cards in a portable case in your home and at an offsite location, such as a safe deposit box.
  • Create a basic home emergency kit. Your kit might include: one gallon of water per person per day for three days; a three-day supply of non-perishable food items and a can opener; flashlights and extra batteries; a first-aid kit; hygienic supplies; a battery-operated radio; cash; and a whistle to signal for help.
  • Identify an out-of-town emergency contact and make sure that all family members know their phone number. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call during a disaster than to call across town.
  • Make sure that all family members have a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card in order to call the emergency contact if needed. Program that contact into all family cell phones as the person to call in case of an emergency.
  • Teach family members how to use text messaging, as it can often get around network disruptions that a phone can't.
  • Many communities have alert services that send text alerts to your phone or e-mail about inclement weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. To find out how to subscribe to one for your community, visit your local Office of Emergency Management website.
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July 08, 2011

Green - as in saving money - is all the rage!

Laura If you've been paying attention to the real estate and finance news lately you might have noticed a shift in the latest green home trends.  With the state of the current economy, the new "green" has to do first with your own wallet, and the planet next.  But that's OK because what's good for your budget is good for the earth too. 

Yahoo! Finance reported money-saving green features as one of the top 9 real estate trends for 2011.  

"The buyer of today wants to make sure that the ongoing operating costs of the house are as controlled and economical as possible," says Ron Phipps, president of the National Association of Realtors.

The National Association of Realtors' Council of Residential Specialists reported on Lean & Green: Green Features Still in Demand in their June magazine.  

“They want to know how much energy consumption is going to remove from their pocketbook. To me, that is the true green question,” says Polly Briley, CRS, of RE/MAX on the Water in Oshkosh, Wis.

And although buyers are currently motivated more by saving money than saving the planet, it seems clear that they’ll be interested in greening their homes for many years to come.

NAR research over the past three years backs up this trend.  85 percent+ of buyers surveyed those years said heating and cooling costs were important to them

The good news for home owners is that it's beginning to get easier to plan projects and save money when adding energy efficient green improvements that will have long-term appeal to buyers.  For example, the Department of Energy's BetterBuildings program will be coming to Chicagoland/Rockford soon, bringing together resources for understanding your home's energy improvement opportunities and creating easy links to utility and other incentive and financing programs and qualified contractors who can do the work right to get the most energy savings.  The program called Energy Impact Illinois recently launched its information hub and will be rapidly rolling out more services from now into the fall.  

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July 06, 2011

Survey Determines Americans Value Homeownership

Chris There is a popular song dating back to the 1800's that ends with the adage, 'Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home." Though several hundred years have passed, it seems that most Americans still agree. According to a recent National Housing Survey conducted by the government agency Fannie Mae, most believe that homeownership still holds great value as an investment.

That opinion is based on fact: homes have appreciated by an average of 4 percent a year since World War II, and continue to provide significant tax benefits for homeowners. If you are willing to ride out real estate slumps, historic evidence shows that any downward trend has always eventually reversed. Because a home purchase is a leveraged investment, a 10 percent down payment produces a 1,000 percent return if the price of a home merely doubles - which is likely to do over time.

But none of these statistics capture the fact that many benefits of homeownership have nothing to do with dollars and cents. Owning a home provides a sense of independence, security and community for many, while providing the opportunity to live in and enjoy your investment.

According to this year's first quarter National Housing survey, the top four reasons people want to buy a home are:

  • A home provides a good place to raise children;
  • Investing in a home provides a physical structure where you and your family can feel safe;
  • A home allows you to have more space for your family; and
  • Homeownership gives you control of what to do with your living space, such as renovation and remodeling.

More than half the people surveyed believe that homeownership is a safe investment and that it has more potential as an investment that any other traditional investment vehicle, such as stocks, bonds or mutual funds. With 96 percent of homeowners rating homeownership as a positive experience, it seems like an investment worth making!

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June 09, 2011

Does the Housing Market Affect You?

Chris Think you remain untouched by the ups and downs of the real estate market if you are not buying or selling a home? Think again.

A recent study by the Illinois Association of REALTORS found that real estate transactions pump nearly 8 billion dollars into the state economy each year and provide wages and salaries for more than 85,000 Illinois workers. Chances are you know someone that works in the housing market, or employees impacted by related industries such as movers, retailers, attorneys, home inspectors and financial service firms.

Outside of creating jobs, the real estate market stimulates local and state economies in other important ways. Just one home sale generates more than $28,000 in expenditures, which means that your new neighbors will likely be significant supporters of the businesses in your community.

What is driving the spending associated with home sales? The simple fact is that change often motivates investment. Sellers are preparing to make a change to a new home, and buyers are doing the same.

  • to prepare for a home sale, sellers may pay for repairs or improvements that require contractors or building professionals, financing and retail support.
  • Research shows that immediately after a home purchase, buyers continue in a spending mode that often includes appliances, furnishings and remodeling expenses.
  • New homeowners continue spending at levels higher than non-moving owners for two years after their home purchase, spending an average $7,400 more than similar homeowners that are not moving.

The last few years have been challenging ones for the real estate market in some Chicago areas, but things are looking up. While home sellers and buyers might be celebrating the favorable environment, even those of us staying put should support this positive shift: increasing home sales and the economic results of those sales benefit all Illinois residents.

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Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®
6655 Main Street, Downers Grove, IL 60516
630.324.8400 • www.SucceedWithMORe.com