9 REASONS YOU NEED AN AGENT TO HELP BUY OR SELL A HOME

Are you thinking of buying or selling a home this year, or know someone who is? Whether it’s your first time dipping your toe in the real estate world or your fifth, it’s important to have an agent you trust by your side to help you through the process and serve you after the sale.

This month’s information outlines nine reasons to enlist the aid of an experienced real estate professional, like us, to guide you through buying or selling a home. Eliminate the confusion and frustration of trying to understand the real estate process on your own and give us a call with your questions and concerns. We’re more than happy to discuss your unique situation, as well as give you an update on our local market.

And below are tips for you while navigating through the process:

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FOUR FACTORS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOUR NEXT HOME SEARCH

According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, more than half of recent homebuyers said the hardest part of the buying process was finding the right home to purchase. Since a home is the largest purchase most of us will make, it is easy to become wrapped up in finding the perfect place that meets all of our wants and needs. We overwhelm ourselves by focusing on checking off the boxes that will result in our ideal home. That’s a lot of pressure!

This month’s information is intended to take the stress out of finding the right home. Before you begin your search, there are four things to consider—price range, features, location and lifestyle. These four factors will help you focus your search on homes that meet your needs, allowing you to make the best decision for your family and for your wallet.

When you’re looking for a home, you need an experienced professional in your corner to help navigate the process and get you the best deal. If you’re ready to buy, give me a call! I’d love to help you achieve your dream of homeownership.

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Using the Internet in Your Home Search

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

TIPS FOR DEVELOPING BETTER HABITS

“Habit is a cable; we weave a thread each day, and at last we cannot break it.”

-Horace Mann

Have you ever set a goal or made a New Year’s resolution only to give up or forget about it a few weeks later? You’re not alone. Many of us set goals and then fall off track after a few weeks. The reason? We haven’t changed our habits.

Good habits help us achieve our goals. To help you stay on track to reach the goals you set for 2016, this month’s information offers tips for developing better habits. These nine tips will make it easier to incorporate a new habit into your daily routine. Whether your goal is to get healthier or buy a home, these tips are sure to help you rethink your habits and adopt new ones. Since habits take time to develop, it’s important to remain patient and, of course, never give up.

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Saving More for a Down Payment

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

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.