Chicago's North Shore - North and Northwest Suburbs Real Estate Archive


Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9

Have You Considered a Foreclosure?

by Allyson Hoffman

In this Chicago North Shore market, foreclosures are fairly readily available. They typically represent a good deal for the buyer, and if you are ready to purchase a home, you may want to consider this option.

According to a market study, 2012 could be a record year for home foreclosures. So, how do you go about buying a foreclosure home in 2012? What are the steps involved? First, you need to understand the different stages in the foreclosure process. The process varies from one state to another (based on state laws), but the basic stages are the same

1. Pre-foreclosure: Take for example a homeowner that falls behind on his mortgage payments. Maybe he lost some of his income, or perhaps his mortgage payment increased in size due to an ARM loan adjusting. Two or three months after falling behind on the payments, they receive a notice of legal action from the lender. This is the pre-foreclosure stage, where the homeowner has defaulted but the lender has not yet foreclosed on the property. When the lender files a legal record of the homeowner’s default, it becomes public information. During this stage, they might try to get back on track. They can do this through reinstatement, or one of several other foreclosure-avoidance options. They can even sell the home through a short sale, with the lender’s permission. This is one way to buy a foreclosure in 2011 (or a pre-foreclosure, to be exact). If none of these options work out, the bank will eventually foreclose on the home.

2. Auction: This is often the next stage in the foreclosure process, after the bank forecloses on the home. At this point, the homeowner has been evicted from the property. Next, the bank wants to sell the home as quickly as possible, since it’s a “non-performing asset.” An auction is one way to go about it. Bidders who have cash in hand can bid on the home. Generally, their bids must be above a certain starting point. If the property is sold through auction, that’s the end of it. If it’s not sold at auction, the home goes back on the market as a bank-owned house. Sometimes the auction process is skipped entirely.

3. Bank-owned home: When a foreclosure home comes back on the market for sale, it’s usually referred to as a bank-owned home. You can find these homes listed on the two websites mentioned above. The home might have been through an auction prior to reaching this stage, or the bank / lender might have skipped the auction. Either way, you can be fairly certain that the homeowner who defaulted is now out of the picture entirely. From a buying standpoint, most experts agree that this is the safest stage of the process. You might not get the kind of deal you would get during an auction. But you can probably rest assured that the home is “free and clear” of any liens or other legal claims.

If you do your research and have a good real estate agent by your side, buying a foreclosed home can be a great option for you! Of course, it's not for everyone, and there is no shortage of more traditional sales as well. Contact me today to find out which is best for you and your family!

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The Capitol Steps Annual Appearance in the North Shore

by Allyson Hoffman

With the 2012 election season as filling fodder, get ready for some US deficit-sized belly laughter! A skilled musical political parody like no other, the Capitol Steps make their annual January appearance in Skokie at the North Shore Center.

The theater's website has this to say about the comedy: "When a ripe 2012 Presidential election season wafts up vapors of inspiration to the discerning noses Washington D.C.'s most prolific political satirists, we are in for some US deficit-sized belly laughter! A skilled musical political parody performance like no other, the Capitol Steps make their annual January appearance at the North Shore Center."

Tickets are $45.50-$49.50 and can be purchased here.

Support this local Chicago musical which starts today and runs through January 29th.

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Top 10 Reasons You Need a Real Estate Agent

by Allyson Hoffman

In this economy, people are looking to cut out any extra costs they can, especially when making a purchase like a home. You may feel like it's not necessary to hire a real estate agent, but here are ten solid reasons why having an experienced, friendly, helpful real estate agent can make a big difference in your home shopping, and buying,  experience!

1 -- Experience 

Purchasing a new home may well be the largest expenditure that you ever make. So it simply makes good business sense to enlist all the help you can get.

A seasoned real estate agent has completed more real estate transactions already this year than you'll likely make in your lifetime. That adds up to a whole lot of knowledge and experience. This experience can help navigate you safely and securely through every aspect of the buying process.

2 -- Knows the Market  

A real estate agent will know what's happening in a particular area, or neighborhood, and help you decide if a home you find is a good value. Once you find a property that interests you, your agent will show you "comps" (comparable properties) of similar homes that have sold recently, as well as those that are currently on the market.

And if your real estate agent works with an established firm, he or she will have instant access to a host of proprietary tools -- and property information -- that may be difficult, or even impossible, to find on your own. All this information will help you make a well-informed decision.

3 -- Saves Time 

A good real estate agent is an organizational genius. He or she will manage to get you in to see new properties as soon as they become available -- and arrange the most appointments possible within your available time slots, no matter how limited.

But remember, accessibility is a two-way street! Be sure to support your agent by being as flexible as possible -- especially when your time is very limited.

4 -- Good Listener 

If you decide to use a real estate agent, look for someone who asks as many questions as you do. When you mention a price range, does the agent give you a 'standard' list of available properties, or is he or she able to make -- or adjust -- his or her recommendations based on what comes up in your conversations?

How interested is the agent in listening to your point of view? How many questions does he or she ask? After all, your real estate agent's recommendations should vary substantially based on your personal needs and goals (for example, you may be starting a family, need to configure your new home to accommodate an office, need space for your son's new car, or be downsizing).

5 -- Tells the Truth (even when you don't want to hear it!)  

Expect that a good real estate agent will challenge you once in a while, ask the tough questions, and yes, even disagree with you occasionally. When he or she makes a recommendation that seems off-base, give your agent the opportunity to give you the facts -- and share his or her knowledge and experience -- before making a decision. Learn to trust your agent's intuition, insights, and perspectives; they'll often lead you in the right direction.

6 -- Respects Your Budget 

One of the most important things that your real estate agent will do is help you determine how much you can afford to spend. He or she may well ask you to consult with your accountant, financial planner, and/or mortgage broker before you make this important decision.

In some markets, there's a lot more to purchasing an apartment than having cash for the down payment, and securing financing. For example, most Manhattan cooperative buildings ('co-ops'), which account for about 75 percent of the properties in the city, will also look at your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), and your post-closing liquidity (yes, it can be a bit complicated!).

A good real estate broker will understand the particulars of your market, and help you find a terrific housing solution that you'll be able to qualify for financially -- and that will be possible within your budget.

7 -- Team Player

Your real estate agent should be able to recommend a great team of professionals to support your purchase -- from mortgage brokers and appraisers, to contractors and designers and real estate attorneys.

8 -- Getting to Closing  

Remember that finding the right property is only the beginning. Be sure your real estate agent is well prepared to negotiate aggressively on your behalf, and assist you in finding financing, if necessary. Your agent should be ready to follow through with your bank or mortgage broker, any other agents involved in the deal, and with your real estate attorney, until the purchase is complete.

9 -- Gives Timely Updates  

Throughout the buying process, you should stay in touch with your real estate agent regularly. He or she should give you regular updates on new properties, any changes in the local real estate market, mortgage rate changes, and so on. And you should update your real estate agent right away should any of your priorities change, or if your research turns up a property you may be interested in seeing. What’s the result of working together closely? Finding just the home you're looking for, more quickly.

10 -- The Relationship  

Don't underestimate the importance of personality when you choose your real estate agent. You'll be spending a lot of time with them -- and entrusting them with one of the most important transactions of your life. So be sure to find someone you not only trust and respect, but also look forward to working with.

Please contact me today, I would love to help you in your home search. I can help you find the home that is perfect you and your family and make the entire process less intimidating!

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4th Annual Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival

by Allyson Hoffman

The winter weather may be cold outside but inside the 4th Annual Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival is here and warming everyone's spirits!

This festival is known for celebrating Chicago's unprecedented appreciation of roots music and culture. Hosted by the Kingtello, Silver Wrapper and React Presents, it features a bevy of homegrown talent that will unite with some of contemporary music’s most accomplished and influential artists for two months of collaboration and cause. Now in it’s 4th year and featuring over 40 acts in the name of a just cause and a plethora of musical styles that have evolved from the Bluegrass and Blues traditions that started it all.

The lineup on Saturday, January 21st can be found here!  The festival starts at 2:00 pm at the Auditorium Theater & January 28, 2012 at the Congress Theater

The headliners for this year includes:  Del McCoury Band, the mad mandolinist David Grisman, Bill Nershi of the String Cheese Incident, the incredible Drive-By Truckers, the folksy flow of Dawes.

Make plans to come out and support our local Chicago artists at this annual festival!

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Have You Considered Alternative Financing?

by Allyson Hoffman

Some homebuyers are reporting that obtaining financing for a home has been getting more and more difficult. If you are finding it a challenge to qualify for a traditional mortgage, that doesn't mean your dream of owning a Chicago North Shore home has to end. With lending guidelines tighter than ever, many home buyers are looking to alternatives to traditional mortgages and fortunatly there are some options available!

 Here are a few ideas to consider if you are running into road blocks:

  • Borrow From Life Insurance: You may have a whole life or other insurance policy that increases in value over time. If you borrow against that cash value, you don’t have to go through standard loan qualification.  Be sure to check with your insurance company about the risks involved
  • Owner/Seller Financing: If the seller is an investor, or if the seller owns the property free and clear, they may offer owner or seller financing options to help move the property. You will still be responsible for principal, interest and scheduled payments through a promissory note, but you probably won’t go through the rigorous qualification process that a bank requires. Typically owner or seller financing also saves mortgage origination fees and other fees tacked on by most lenders.
  • Borrow From An IRA: If you have a self-directed IRA, then you know that you can use the IRA to invest in a number of assets, including mortgages. Although you can’t use your own IRA to buy your personal home, a family member or other investor can use a self-directed IRA as the investment vehicle for your property. Private investors often step in to help with acquisition loans, although you can expect to pay a higher rate for the initial loan.
  • Lease/Purchase Option: Many investment owners are willing to offer a lease/purchase option or rent to own agreement. You are able to rent the property for a specific term, usually with higher payments than the market rate; and your rents go toward the purchase or down payment of the property.

Do you have any tips to share on alternative financing or have you found other options than what is listed here? Contact me today, we'd love to know about other options that can help homebuyers!

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Downtown Skokie Dining Specials in January

by Allyson Hoffman

Hungry and looking for some good places to dine this weekend? Skokie area restaurants and pubs have something for everyone! This month there are specials throughout the area if you print out this webpage and bring it to the below participating establishments.

The Curragh Irish Pub
January Special: With a copy of their coupon page, receive a free appetizer with the purchase of two entrees.

•Mondays - $2.50 domestic bottles
•Tuesdays - $16 Corona buckets
•Wednesdays - $5 martinis and karaoke starting at 10 p.m.
•Thursdays - Drink like an Irishman with $1 off Guinness, Smithwicks, Harp and some Irish whiskeys
•Fridays - $4 flavored vodka bombs and 1/2 price appetizers from 4 to 6 p.m.
•Saturdays - $4 drink of the day
•Sundays - $4 Bloody Mary's
The Curragh Irish Pub is located at 8266 North Lincoln Avenue and can be reached at 847/675-9600 or

Tub Tim Thai
January Special: Mention "Downtown Skokie Deal" and get the "Hungry Hound Channel 7 ABC Set" for only $35 (regular price $40).  "Set" includes:

•Appetizer: Meang Kum + Thai Crispy Crepe
•Choice of Salad: Papaya Salad or Chicken Salad
•Entree: Sizzling Salmon Curry served with Rice
•Dessert: Sweet Rice with Mango (if out of season, replace with Fried Banana with Ice Cream)
Tub Tim Thai is located at 4927 Oakton Street and can be reached at 847/675-8424 or on the web at

Village Inn
January Special: For the month of January, two BIG Village Inn specials are:
•Order one pizza and get the second pizza half price during National Pizza Week (January 8 through 12). See website for details.
•NFL Playoff Game Package - One two topping pizza and two pitchers of domestic beer for $25. See website for details.
Ongoing weekly specials include half off pizza every Tuesday from 3 p.m. to midnight (dine-in only) and daily $5.95 lunch specials.

The Village Inn, located at 8050 Lincoln Avenue, can be reached at 847/675-3737 or visit them on the web at

Do you know of any hidden culinary gems in the Chicago North Shore that we should know about? Share them here! Happy eating!

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Your Credit is More Important Than Ever

by Allyson Hoffman

We are hearing that lenders want to make loans in Northern Illinois, but in distressed economy, could it be that only those with great credit will get approved?  While many Americans are struggling to make payments and hang on to their good credit scores, mortgage companies and other institutions are tightening their standards and credit qualifications more than ever before.

Most buyers are wanting to know how they can secure the rock bottom interest rates. The truth is, they may be reserved for top tier credit risks – borrowers who have scores of 720 and above. Your banker is also looking for thorough documentation of your income and assets. Keep in mind that from mortgages to car loans, your credit history and score matter more than they did

If you're buying a new home or refinancing the mortgage on your primary home, you'll need a minimum down payment of 5% to 10% for a conforming loan or 10% to 15% for a conforming jumbo loan (125% of a metro area's median home price, up to $729,750).

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will take a credit score of 620 if you have at least 25% equity in the property or a score of 660 with equity of less than 25%. Oh and that debt to income? Make sure it’s at 36% or less.

In addition to stellar credit history lenders look for:

•Proof of income – You’ll need to show pay stubs for the past 30 days and W-2 forms for the past two years, along with retirement-account and investment statements.
•Self-employment – Be prepared to give up  two years of tax returns and keep your fingers crossed. It’s become harder than ever for declared income borrowers to get mortgages and other lines of credit.
•Rental income - You can use only 75% of rental income to qualify for a mortgage, along with 30% equity in your former home.

Even if you are preapproved, you will be subject to a second or final approval – lenders will pull a second credit report before closing. If you have taken on any new debt, your deal may go right out the window. Home equity loans are tougher to get now as well. In most areas you'll be able to borrow no more than 80% of the appraised value – and that’s with your perfect credit score.

The bottom line – take good care of your credit. It can be very challenging in this recession but your credit history and credit score are more important than ever. Bad lending practices have resulted in tight standards that will give credit only to the top tier borrowers who have enough cash and income that they may not even need to borrow money in the first place.

Contact me today to learn how you can improve your credit and buy the perfect home for your family.

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A Sunday Serenade from Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra

by Allyson Hoffman

This weekend Skokie will be host to performances of the highest quality with hand picked musicians from the Chicago Metro Area, many of whom are member of the world-renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Alan Heatherington present a trio of soul-soothing Sunday serenades.  Discover how three of the greatest masters sidestep their symphonic seriousness to bring you spirited, sensuous works.  The program includes Dvorak’s Serenade, Mozart’s Serenade No. 12 and Brahms’ Serenade No. 2.  All three works represent these composers at their inspired and inspiring best.  Indulge in great music, expertly played and brought to life by Maestro Heatherington and these brilliant musicians.  Children 4-11 are welcome to attend for free and participate in our Music for Life program.

Founded in 1995, Ars Viva is distinguished by its talent. Its programs often juxtapose beloved masterworks with less familiar repertoire.  Friendly, informative remarks from the stage by Maestro Heatherington provide context for the music and establish a welcoming atmosphere at each concert.

 The show starts at 3pm this Sunday, January 8th. Kids 4-11 are free, adult tickets can be purchased here.

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What If Your Mortgage is Sold?

by Allyson Hoffman

While it's not uncommon for mortgages to be sold, many homeowners are often surprised that this happens, especially when it happens to them.  Like other financial commodities, home loans are bought and sold on the free market like stocks and bonds. When a mortgage is sold to another financial institution, it means that the servicing rights to the loan have been transferred to a new lender. You will now send your payments to a new company that is obvious, but what else does this mean for you?

The important part is not to panic when you get the news. This transaction may be seamless or you might have problems with the new changes. As a potential home buyer or a current homeowner you should have an understanding of what has happened and what your rights are.

If this happens you will probably receive a statement when you got your mortgage that indication some level of likelihood that your loan might be sold during its life to another lender. If that does happen, then federal mandates require both the seller and the buyer of your paper to notify you of the pending sale and the closed sale.

Your current lender must notify you, in writing, at least fifteen days before your next payment is due. The lender is also required to give you complete contact information – company name, physical address, phone number and account manager of the new servicer.

The servicer buying your loan is required to provide this information to you as well. They are required to provide a direct link to a person you can speak to – not just an automated system.

This requirement protects you from mortgage scams directing you to send payments to an unknown entity via P.O. Box or wire and gives you the right to ask questions about the status of your loan and receive prompt answers. In addition, you are protected from any delinquency status for 60 days during the transition.

If you are behind in payments, your loan will likely stay put, as most aren't interested in purchasing problem loans. If you have an application in for loan modification, your loan will probably not be sold as well. However, if it is sold after you have started the loan modification process, be prepared to provide additional paperwork or even start over with the new lender.

Contact me if you have any questions about what happens when your mortgage is sold. I would be happy to help!

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Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9




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Photo of Allyson Hoffman & Paul Wells Real Estate
Allyson Hoffman & Paul Wells
RE/MAX of Barrington
306 W. Northwest Highway
Barrington IL 60010
Allyson: 847-310-5300
Paul: 847-913-6100

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RE/MAX of Barrington
306 W. Northwest Hwy.
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Allyson Hoffman
(847) 310-5300
[email protected]

Paul Wells
(847) 913-6100
[email protected]