PREPARE YOUR HOME FOR ITS REAL ESTATE MARKET DEBUT

Many sellers have the impression that in order to sell a home, you just have to list it. While listing is certainly part of the process, there’s quite a bit of preparation to undertake before your home’s listing goes “live” on the MLS.

This month, I’m sharing information about the steps to take when you’re thinking of selling your home. Selling is an emotional process, whether you’ve lived in the home for one year or 20 years. In addition to packing and making repairs and upgrades to get the home ready to view, you may also be busy looking for a new home to rent or buy. Page one offers general tips for sellers as well as tips targeted toward sellers who are trading up, that is, selling a smaller home in order to buy a larger one. Page two offers tips for the seller who is downsizing, or selling a large home in order to buy a smaller home.

Whether you’re upsizing, downsizing or buying a similar home in another neighborhood, give us a call! We can address all of your questions and concerns and offer our expertise to help your home stand out in our market.

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Stage Your Home to Sell

SAVE MONEY EVERY MONTH WITH THESE SIMPLE HOME IMPROVEMENTS!

If you’re like many people, you’re always looking for ways to save money on your monthly water and utility bills. You turn off the lights when you leave the room, turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth and only wash full loads in the dishwasher. What else can you do?

This month’s information outlines six simple home improvements you can make to help you save on your utility bills. From upgrading your fixtures to applying weather stripping to drafty windows, these simple suggestions are sure to save resources and money.

Do you want to improve the value of your home? Page two outlines three projects that will help you boost its value, whether you’re thinking of listing it now or in the future.

Below are tips to keep in mind when pricing your home for sale. If you’re thinking of selling, give me a call at 312-261-0077!

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How to Get Your Home Sold

HOUSING OUTLOOK 2016

Happy New Year!

Here’s something to think about in 2016. How does housing impact the economy?

Buying a home not only offers you potential benefits, it also positively impacts the local and national economies. How so?

This month’s information delves into the positive impact of a healthy housing market on the national and local economies. Page one gives the scoop on the impression housing has on the local economy, specifically the impact of new homes. Page two goes into the influence of housing on the national economy and the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Housing is sure to be a hot topic in the coming months, as the election takes center stage in the media. If you’d like to learn more about how this benefits you, don’t hesitate to give me a call.

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Housing Outlook 2016

STEP BY STEP, ORGANIZING IS POSSIBLE

VM blog 2015 10 30 (before & after 1)There are many ways Sandy Spatz helps her clients reorganize their homes, condos and offices.

“I think what makes me the happiest is when I check in with them, and they say it’s still working,” Spatz said. “(When they say) ‘I’m using the new filing system,’ (or) ‘my home just flows better.’ Your house should be a sanctuary. That’s my goal, for you to feel really good in your space.”

Spatz, who lives in Andersonville, started her business in 2002, but it’s fair to say that she’s been interested in organizing and re-organizing all her life. She’s worked with clients living in Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, Rogers Park, and the Chicago suburbs, helping them move or to create a more stress-free environment.

Over the years, the owner of Step-by-Step by Sandy has had a variety of clients, some of whom have had a more difficult time sorting through their belongings than most. One woman in particular was recovering from a personal tragedy, and “she was scared to let go of anything. She had experienced so much loss.”

After working with Spatz for an extended period, the client lost 50 pounds, started entertaining again, and obtained a job. “She started feeling better about herself and the future and was able to finally make some progress,” Spatz said.

How did she do it? Every client is different, Spatz said, and she takes time to determine what process will work for VM blog 2015 10 30 (before & after 2)them. Are they more visual, meaning it’s helpful for them to have reminders within their sights of what they want and need? Do they have a small apartment or home filled with belongings they don’t need anymore, that they are working to pare down?

“I encourage people to buy a file cabinet and a shredder, but I think the learning comes from establishing a new habit,” Spatz said. “It’s really helping them see and really give 100 percent to try a new system, especially with paper. You have to practice it, learning and asking yourself the right questions. I try to learn how they think and how they live in their home.”

Spatz works with realtors and others when helping her clients move, packing and unpacking boxes and arranging furniture. “If you are able to, the next day, to take a shower, eat breakfast and get dressed for work, then that shows (great progress),” she said.

Different organizers fit different people, Spatz said. “You have to find the one that works for you. It’s a very personal, intimate process. Somebody is going through your stuff with you, and you want to feel comfortable.”

For more information about Step-by-Step by Sandy, visit Spatz’s website at http://stepbystepbysandy.com.

Victoria MartyVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

EXIT STAGE RIGHT – “CHICAGO’S BEST HOME STAGERS!”

5540 Glenwood LR“It happens all the time,” David Painter said. “I stage the property on Wednesday, and by Friday, it’s sold. And then there are also a bunch of times where a property was on the market for six to eight months, a year, and then I go and stage it and it sells in a week.”

Painter and Bradley Walworth are co-founders of Exit Stage Right, located at 626 ½ W. Barry Ave., 2S, in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. The team of experienced creative professionals has staged more than 50 properties with values from $180,000 to $6 million throughout the Chicagoland area.

They have vast experience in home staging, model home staging, redesign service, move management, professional painting, residential and commercial interior decorating, kitchen and bathroom finishes, furniture design and lighting selection.

Painter said transitional design trends seem to work best. “This means it’s between modern and traditional,” he said. “The reason that it works for staging is that staging should really be middle of the road and really not a definition of the house. You are trying to make people notice the house and not notice the furniture.”

He advises sellers to declutter their homes and remove personal photographs before they put their homes on the market. Furniture and other belongings that would be best to be removed before showing the house can be placed in temporary storage or the home of a friend or family member. All the projects that sellers meant to do but never started or completed, like painting the front door, or cleaning up a closet, should be taken care of.

Sometimes it can be difficult to explain to sellers why their personal objects should be removed. “I just simply say to them, ‘Are you selling these items with the house? Then why are they are important to be there? Your house is a product that you are putting on the market. Everything that I’m telling you to do will help you sell it quicker,’” Painter said.

Exit Stage Right offers different types of staging. If it’s a vacant property, then Painter stages it with his own furniture and accessories that he owns. If someone is living there, “then we try to use their items as much as possible,” he said. “Some things just don’t work, like Dad’s old beat-up recliner. So I will need to bring something in there that will match the other furniture in their home.”

“When you are staging, one thing not to do is declutter too much, where you basically devoid your house of everything,” Painter said. “You do need something to add warmth to the room, like tossed pillows and a little accessory there. Don’t forget about the outside of your house. If you live in a condo situation or you live in a single family home, you need to make sure that the outside of your house looks as good as the inside because it literally is the first impression. So take care of everything, because people do see things subliminally that they don’t catch onto (the first time), that they can’t verbalize as to why they don’t like it.”

Painter also said it’s best that sellers not be at their house or condo when prospective buyers are coming to see it.

The end of summer is a busy time of year for Exit Stage Right. Painter said he is scheduled probably two months out. When it’s not this time of year, he is usually scheduled out a week in advance.

When a potential client contacts him for staging work, he visits the property, makes suggestions on what should be improved and/or changed, and then, once those changes are made, sets up the staging area.

Clients can sign either a three-month or six-month contract. At the end of the contract, if the home hasn’t been sold, then the client has the option of re-signing the contract on a month-to-month basis if they choose to use the furnishings.

“If the home goes under contract and they clear all of their contingencies and the attorney review, then the agent will give me a call and it’s time to pick up the furniture,” Painter said.

For more information, visit www.beststager.com, call Painter at 773-329-8837 or email him at info@beststager.com.

Victoria MartyVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

BRAND NEW MORTGAGE LOAN PROGRAM OFFERS FORGIVABLE DOWN PAYMENT ASSISTANCE

IHDAA new program tailored for first-time homebuyers, veterans or anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the last three years will help those living in Cook and nine other Illinois counties purchase a new one- or two-unit property.

The 1st HomeIllinois loan program launched Tuesday. It provides $7,500 cash assistance for down payment and closing costs, with an interest rate of 4.125 percent on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage. However, the down payment assistance is forgivable over five years. Borrowers have a choice of FHA, VA, USDA or Conventional loans. Buyers are required to pay $1,000 or 1 percent of the purchase price, whichever is greater.

“The $7,500 is the complete down payment required,” said Yale Valdez, vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate Inc. “If you, for instance, purchased a $100,000 FHA condo, townhome or house, you could use $3,500 as the down payment and the other $4,000 for closing costs. In this case, you would only need the $1,000 required down payment from your own funds.”

Here’s what you need to know:

– Borrower income limits are up to $106,400 for a family of three or more.

– The buyer must have a credit score of at least 640.

– The home must be a primary residence.

– The buyer must complete online or in-person homeownership counseling.

– He or she must meet income and purchase price limits.

“1stHomeIllinois is the latest move in Illinois Housing Development Authority’s holistic strategy to help neighborhoods stabilize and to reinvigorate the economy,” IHDA Executive Director Mary R. Kenney said in a press release. “By putting programs in place, like 1stHomeIllinois, we are helping qualified first-time buyers get into the marketplace and ensuring that communities rebound.”

The down payment assistance is funded through the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund, a resource that aims to curb foreclosures in Illinois. Besides Cook, the other targeted counties include Boone, DeKalb, Fulton, Kane, Marion, McHenry, St. Clair, Will and Winnebago.

“Many first-time homebuyers have been kept out of the marketplace since 2010 due to debt-to-income restrictions, larger down payment requirements and higher credit score requirements,” according to a press release from the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

According to the Illinois Association of Realtors, the percentage of first-time homebuyers has decreased dramatically since 2008, with first-time buyers making up only 33 percent of total home purchases in 2014. This is still below the norm of 40 percent. 1stHomeIllinois gives buyers in the select counties an incentive to purchase, the press release said.

For more information, visit www.ihda.org or call Valdez at 630-745-0901 or 773-250-5917.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

THINKING OF BUYING OR SELLING?

Are you in the market for a new home, thinking of selling your current home or are just curious about the market?

This month’s information will give you the scoop on what’s going on in the national market. Is now a good time to buy or sell or both? Who’s driving household formation? Will there be an increase in new homes built? What’s the deal with home prices? This month’s information answers these questions and more to give you a better view of the real estate market at the national level.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that these statistics may not reflect what’s going on in our local market. If you want to learn more about the local market, give me a call! I’m never too busy to answer your questions about the local market. If you have family or friends who are thinking of buying or selling, pass this information on to them.

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The Home Seller's To-Do List

16 WAYS TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY SAFE THIS SUMMER

As temperatures rise and we begin to spend more time outside, it’s important to make sure that our families remain safe. It may be nice outside, but summer can be a dangerous time of year around the home.

This month’s information is designed to help you keep your family safe this summer. Page one is all about pool safety. Whether you and your family swim in a private pool or in your community’s public pool, these tips will help to ensure that they stay safe. Page two offers tips to help you find and mitigate the common hazards found around your home and yard.

Pass this information along to your family and friends to help them stay safe this summer.

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How to Childproof Your Home

TIPS AND THINGS NOT TO DO WITH YOUR LANDSCAPE DESIGN

2015 05 18 IMG_4549“The number one ingredient for a beautifully designed landscape is an interested homeowner,” said Kim Kaulas, a landscape artist who has a business in Edgewater.

In that vein, here are some tips on how to improve your yard:

Plants can flourish under the right sun and shade conditions, so it’s important to understand how each impacts your property. Plants that do best in the sun can suffer in the shade, and vice versa. Kaulas said sun exposure is defined by the amount of sun shining directly on the plant.

For assistance in selecting plants that will thrive, a good resource is the plant information center at Chicago Botanic Garden, or visit Gethsemane Garden Center at 5737 N. Clark St. in Andersonville and ask the staff for suggestions.  It’s a busy place on weekend afternoons, so it’s often better to visit on weekend mornings or during the week.

Daffodils and Scilla, two types of early spring flowers, do well when planted under deciduous trees that do not yet have their leaves. Meanwhile, lillies, bee balm, roses and peonies can bear four to six hours of direct sunlight, Kaulas said.

For properties that have more shade than sun and are more apt to develop a woodland look, annuals can add colors beyond typical greens and whites.

“Nothing gives you bright color, color, color like annuals,” Kaulas said.

Gardening is a truly multidimensional art, she added. “Plants look different at different times of the year,” she said. Because of this, select plants that will change throughout each season. Sedum, for instance, blooms in September yet is attractive at other points of the year, as well.

Removing grass and replacing it with ground cover is not always a good idea. Kaulas said ground cover requires continuous weeding. “Know yourself,” she said. “If you are retired or work out of your home or are a teacher with summers off, then you have time to weed. Otherwise, no.”

Day lilies are not low-maintenance plants. They need to be deadheaded once a week, she said. This keeps the plant from going to seed. Serviceberry trees will bloom in the shade, but don’t plant them near entryways or walkways because birds — and their droppings — tend to like them, too.

Mulch amends the soil with organic matter and helps with drainage. But you never want to pile the mulch against the tree trunk as this will kill the tree. Additionally, make sure that brick homes are appropriately tuck-pointed before allowing ivy to climb their walls.

And, soil type matters. Clay soil is full of nutrients but tends to be compacted, preventing water drainage. Sandy soil, however, is excellent for drainage. Adding pine to sandy and clay soil types can improve pH balance, helping the plants.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

BENEFITS OF LANDSCAPE DESIGN

2015 05 11 IMG_4555See that hosta over there in the corner and that Japanese maple near the entrance of the house? They didn’t settle there accidentally. And they are more than just decoration, too.

According to landscape economist John Harris, good landscaping can add up to 28 percent to the overall value of a house and can cut its time on the market by 10 to 15 percent.

Additionally, a Clemson University study said taking your landscaping to the next level — upgrading, in other words, from “good” to “excellent” in terms of design, condition and placement — can add up to 6 to 7 percent to a home’s value.

“Landscape design is a beautiful mixture of art and science,” said Kim Kaulas, a landscape artist who has a business in Edgewater. “Every site is different, every homeowner is different, and the landscape is always in transition. To me, it’s endlessly fascinating.”

Among other things, well-placed trees and shrubs can provide shade in the summer and lower cooling bills. They reduce carbon dioxide, muffle noise, reduce soil erosion, deflect winter wind, and provide shelter and food for birds.

Outdoor lighting, especially at night, can protect against slips and falls and can paint your home when the sun is no longer in the sky, according to HouseLogic.com.

Lighting makes your property a more difficult target for intruders, reducing burglaries and insurance claims. Some insurance companies even give a five to 15 percent discount on homeowners with reduced or zero claims, the website said.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.