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 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.


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a governmental agency responsible for consumer protection within the financial sector. Its jurisdiction includes banks, credit unions, securities firms, mortgage servicing companies and other financial companies in the U.S.  The agency was formed in 2011 as a legislative response to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

In June 2012, the CFPB launched a consumer help center where Americans can submit complaints against banks and financial institutions they believe are ripping them off.  The information in the center’s database is public.  Check out this article to see which banks made the top of the list. To avoid getting ripped off by the big banks work with a mortgage lender you know and trust.

Heather McRae

Heather McRae

Please feel free to contact me at (312) 285-6644 with any questions you might have.  And if you are a neighbor in Bowmanville, please say hello!

Heather McRae is a residential mortgage lender.  She was first introduced to the real estate industry in 2001.  Heather lends throughout the State of Illinois and specializes in condos within the City of Chicago.   She is a proud resident of Lincoln Square’s Bowmanville neighborhood.


I was recently contacted by a woman who wanted to get pre-qualified to purchase a home. She had saved about $70,000 in cash, which she currently had in a safe under her bed at home, and planned to use this money for the down payment. In the mortgage world, cash is always a problem.

Money Real EstateAll lenders are required to verify that a borrower has sufficient funds for closing, down payment and/or financial reserves. The most common way to do this is to provide bank statements. The statements must cover activity for the most recent two-month period. Any deposit greater than 50% of the borrower’s gross monthly income must be verified. This woman earned $5,000 per month in gross income from her job. So, the source of any deposit over $2,500 will need to be verified. If the source is cash, it cannot be used. The reason for this is rooted in preventing money laundering.

Anti-money laundering laws were first introduced with the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970. The designated administrator of the Bank Secrecy Act is the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), whose sole mission is to “safeguard the financial system from the abuses of financial crime, including terrorist financing, money laundering and other illicit activity.” It wasn’t until after September 11th, 2001, with the passing of the USA PATRIOT Act, when the requirements were expanded to all financial institutions, including mortgage bankers and brokers.

So, how can this woman use these funds to purchase a new home? She needs to get them into a bank account. Once they have been in the bank for 60 days they are considered “seasoned” and able to be used. Something to keep in mind is that there are additional tax implications when depositing cash in excess of $10,000 in a single day. Banks are required by law to report these deposits to the IRS. Depositing just under $10,000 in multiple deposits to avoid paying taxes is called “smurfing” and is illegal. Here’s a good article about what can happen if you try to do this.

Heather McRae

Heather McRae

Please feel free to contact me at (312) 285-6644 with any questions you might have.  And if you are a neighbor in Bowmanville, please say hello!

Heather McRae is a residential mortgage lender.  She was first introduced to the real estate industry in 2001.  Heather lends throughout the State of Illinois and specializes in condos within the City of Chicago.   She is a proud resident of Lincoln Square’s Bowmanville neighborhood.


First Time Home Buyer $7500 from Welcome Home Illinois ProgramUnder the newly announced Welcome Home, Illinois program, first-time home buyers can get $7,500 in down payment and/or closing cost assistance on the purchase of a home. The program helps working families in Illinois to achieve the dream of home ownership. It applies to 1-2 unit residential properties (single family homes, condos, or 2 flats), and the buyer must occupy the home as their principal residence.

The program is for buyers purchasing with 30 year mortgages that have fixed interest rates. The interest rates offered are below market. FHA, VA, USDA or Conventional mortgages will apply. Income and purchase price limits apply. Contact Maggie Finegan at 773-502-1673 to find out more.



Make an offer on the condo of your choiceThe Move with Maggie Team is working with many buyers.  They are finding great values in Chicago hi-rise condos located on the lakefront, from Edgewater to Lakeview, Lincoln Park, the Gold Coast and downtown.  We are often asked, how much is that condo worth, and what should we offer?

Those are challenging questions.  In the past, determining value was based on 1) size of unit, 2) condition of kitchen and baths, and 3) floor level, view and amenities.  As realtors we arrived at an opinion of value based on that data, and it was a relatively smooth process.

Now, with increasingly tight lending guidelines, and a market that includes distressed/non traditional sales, we are seeing prices that are all over the board within any given condo building.  In addition, prices are increasingly influenced by a condo building’s physical and financial condition, as those factors affect a condo unit’s mortgageability.

As professional realtors, we explain to buyers why it’s important to look beyond views, and the fancy finishes and features that you see on the televised house hunter programs, including quartz or granite counters in kitchen and bath and high end appliances.

We dig deep to obtain the information that is very important in determining the soundness of a condo building, and the financial stability of a condo association.  We do this diligence early on, before a buyer makes an offer, so that we do not tie them up in a transaction that may not qualify for financing, especially if too many rentals in a condo building can make it difficult to obtain a mortgage.

As realtors, we contact listing agents, condo property managers, and condo officers, to obtain the numbers, such as the percentage of units that are rented and how much is in reserves. .  We also inquire as to any capital projects that may be on the horizon, and how they will be financed.   Sometimes the information is readily available, other times it takes days to obtain. That is how we, as professionals, serve our clients, and strive to become their real estate consultants for life.  So once you find that great condo, give us a few days to do the appropriate research for you.


Many people are curious about what the housing market will look like in 2013. Since housing is seen as a leading indicator of economic recovery, even people who aren’t looking to enter the market are anxious to see if this will be the year that the market fully recovers.

This month’s information may help you understand the status of both the national and local housing markets. The first page offers predictions and projections for the national housing market this year. Page two provides three reasons why it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on in your local market. Although the national market can give you an idea of the overall state of housing, only the local market directly impacts you and your home.

If you want to learn more about the local market, or are thinking of buying or selling your home, contact me for more information.

(Click on image to enlarge) Jan. 2013 Newsletter























The picture is starting to improve in the real estate market. The Chicago real estate market traditionally kicks into gear right after Super Bowl Sunday and this year it got an even earlier start. We are seeing many more first time buyers out this winter when compared with last year. More buyers are planning to purchase in the $200,000 to $350,000 range. The increased activity will help to sell off some of the existing distressed inventory that includes short sales and foreclosures, and eventually prices will rise.
I believe the recent rise in the stock market is the reason for increased activity. For a while now Boomer parents have wanted to help their children with a down payment on their first home, but have hesitated to take money out of their mutual funds because the share values were so low. Now that the stock market is showing steady growth, they are more comfortable in pulling out money to gift to their children who need help putting together a down payment.
That said, it’s not too early for condo owners who are planning to sell to get their places in shape. A well maintained building can increase your sale price by up to 10%. And in our current market that is described as a price and beauty contest, we see over and over again that buyers purchase well priced places that look really good.
It’s still not a market where you can afford to lose a potential buyer because the outside of the building doesn’t look well maintained. As a Realtor®, I experienced many instances where buyers won’t even step inside a condo building that is poorly maintained on the outside, even when they have an appointment to see the home. It all goes back to what we call curb appeal. It is well known that homes and condo buildings with high curb appeal command higher prices and take less time to sell. Buyers will pay thousands of dollars more for a well-kept condo or home because they trust that it has been cared for rather than neglected.
Nothing can sour a buyer on a property faster than if they see litter on the street and up against the curbs, unkempt parkways, and alleys with graffiti and garage doors that are dirty. I’m not talking about replacing major elements such as bricks or siding. I’m talking about regular maintenance and beautifying tasks you’d like to live with anyway. It can add up to thousands more on the purchase price of your home or condo.
Stay tuned later this week and I’ll give you projects that will have the most impact.
Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team


Looking to buy a 2-3 Flat in Andersonville, Chicago?   There are some wonderful values out there. And as a client recently pointed out, 2-3 flat buildings in Andersonville, Chicago are a great alternative to single family homes.   Single family homes are few and far between in east Andersonville, and tend to be priced much higher per square foot than 2-3 flat buildings, you can see the value.   There are even some short sales and foreclosures buildings for sale.   And even those that aren’t distressed sales right now, prices on 2-4 flats are 10-15% below the market high in 2008.Buying a 2-3 flat in Andersonville is a good move for several reasons. First, the buildings are versatile and can adapt as your life stages change.     Initially you may want to live in one apartment and rent out the other one(s) for income.     As your family grows or your hobbies increase and you need more space, you can take over both apartments by making a few minor adaptations to the building. Or you may want to live on the first floor and finish the basement below, so that you have a two storey duplex apartment to live in. There is an opportunity to create a spa bath and bedroom suite on the lower level for your enjoyment or as a guest suite. Or use the lower level for a recreation room with hobby area.

You can buy a 2-3 Flat in Andersonville, Chicago currently for prices averaging $410,000 for a 6 bedroom 3 bath building, and you can choose from among the 18   2-3 flat buildings that are currently for sale.   If you are willing to purchase a frame building, or to go into West or South Andersonville, there are a few places in the $269,000 -$429,000 range. For that price you may have to update the kitchens and baths, but if you are planning to owner occupy at least one of the apartments, then 203K funding is available via FHA loans. With a 203K, you pay just one low interest rate for both the construction and end loans, rather than having to deal with an expensive construction or second loans.   Buildings with updated kitchens and bathrooms tend to be priced a little higher.   Visit and for examples of great Andersonville architecture.   So if you want to buy a 2-3 Flat in Andersonville, Chicago, don’t wait.

Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team


On occasion, the IRS will share tips to help individuals with their taxes.   While I am not a tax professional, this information is of value when speaking with your tax preparer.   Below are the ten tips direct from the IRS website.

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2011-15,   August 8, 2011

The Internal Revenue Service has some important information to share with individuals who have sold or are about to sell their home. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may qualify to exclude all or part of that gain from your income. Here are ten tips from the IRS to keep in mind when selling your home.

  1. In general, you are eligible to exclude the gain from income if you have owned and used your home as your main home for two years out of the five years prior to the date of its sale.
  2. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from your income ($500,000 on a joint return in most cases).
  3. You are not eligible for the exclusion if you excluded the gain from the sale of another home during the two-year period prior to the sale of your home.
  4. If you can exclude all of the gain, you do not need to report the sale on your tax return.
  5. If you have a gain that cannot be excluded, it is taxable. You must report it on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.
  6. You cannot deduct a loss from the sale of your main home.
  7. Worksheets are included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home, to help you figure the adjusted basis of the home you sold, the gain (or loss) on the sale, and the gain that you can exclude.
  8. If you have more than one home, you can exclude a gain only from the sale of your main home. You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other home. If you have two homes and live in both of them, your main home is ordinarily the one you live in most of the time.
  9. If you received the first-time homebuyer credit and within 36 months of the date of purchase, the property is no longer used as your principal residence, you are required to repay the credit. Repayment of the full credit is due with the income tax return for the year the home ceased to be your principal residence, using Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit. The full amount of the credit is reflected as additional tax on that year’s tax return.
  10. When you move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure you receive refunds or correspondence from the IRS. Use Form 8822, Change of Address, to notify the IRS of your address change.

For more information about selling your home, see IRS Publication 523, Selling Your Home. This publication is available at or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).


  • Publication 523, Selling Your Home ( PDF)
  • Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit ( PDF)
  • Form 8822, Change of Address ( PDF)

Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team


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What Affects Credit Scores? 7 Misconceptions

If you™re trying to raise your credit score to get a good rate for a refinance or HELOC, you might be surprised by what affects”or doesn™t affect”your score. Read

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Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team
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