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Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9

The Basics of Closing

by Allyson Hoffman

Buying a house is not an easy process, and perhaps the most confusing part of any purchase is closing. When you get down to it, closing is simply signing the documents and paying the fees required above and beyond your down payment. The government, your bank's insurance company, insurance companies, title companies and lawyers all have fees that have to be paid to complete the transaction before you'll get your keys and your new home.

The bank loaning you the money for example, is going to charge you a fee for making the loan itself. They may want to charge you for running a credit check and processing your loan application and your first interest payment. They'll charge you for the appraisal of the house. The bank might also collect your property taxes to pay the local government at the end of the year. You're going to wind up paying for Title Insurance, to protect yourself against claims against the previous owners, and Homeowner's Insurance. There may be a fee for a property Survey. You'll have to pay fees and taxes to the local government as well. And while you don't need an attorney, you may want one if the situation is unusually complex.

It's important to note that you may not have to pay all of the fees yourself. Allyson Hajdu, a real estate professional in Atlanta, says that in this market, you may be able to negotiate to have the seller pay some or even all of the fees. "It's often negotiated in the offer, on the front end, before you sign anything."

Now, if you really want to get down to the dollars and cents of the issue, here are some tools for you to put to use. This Closing Cost Calculator will give you a good sense of what you're likely to wind up paying. It's part of real estate investor Michael Bluejay's comprehensive How to Buy a House site. Another site with some excellent information about Home Closing is Home Closing 101.

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Photo courtesy tlindenbaum/flickr.com

Pets on Parade Saturday

by Allyson Hoffman

It's no surprise to see folks out in Halloween costumes this time of year. But dogs and cats? That's a sight to see! And you can see it Saturday at 1pm at the Howl-o-ween Pet Parade. The competition offers a $50 gift certificate prize in the following categories:

  • Most Creative Costume
  • Most Humorous Costume
  • Best Owner/ Dog Look-a-like Costume
  • Most Breed Appropriate
  • Most Original costume

It all takes place at the Chalet Landscape, Nursery, & Garden Center at 3132 Lake Avenue in Wilmette [map].  To get in on the fun, you'll need to register here.

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.

Improve the View from the Curb

by Allyson Hoffman

That fabled first impression is no myth, and if you're trying to sell your home, take a half-hour to evaluate what prospective buyers are seeing when they drive up to your home. Doing that by yourself can be a lot harder that you might think, simply because it's hard to separate your subjective experience out of the equation. This is simple to solve. Simply ask friends or acquaintances who are unfamiliar with your home to give you an honest account of their first impressions. Certainly, your real estate agent is going to give you an objective appraisal as well.

Your job is to take those observations and find ways to improve the view from the curb. You should try to do everything you can to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives.

Landscaping of the space between the curb and the front door is a primary concern. Maximize by trimming, edging and weeding. Neatness counts! Minimize by removing ailing or dead trees, shrubs, bushes and other plants. If you just can't get a decent looking lawn, perhaps resodding is the answer, or even more radical approaches like changing ground cover completely. Refresh that mulch! Deep browns and reds are so much more appealing than a dull, washed out grey at the base of your landscaping pieces. And prepare your lawn for spring now, following the guidance in this Chicago Tribune article.

Structurally, make sure any damaged siding, roofing or other exterior parts of your home are repaired. Make sure the front of your home is clean and attractive. A power-wash is always a great place to start, and the DIY network has some excellent tips on doing it yourself. A new coat of paint is often a good idea, but you don't have to paint everything. Just touching up the trim, window and door frames after everything else is clean can brighten the appearance of your home.

A little color can go a long way. Carefully coordinated window treatments are an excellent accent; check out this article from HGTV for ideas. Colorful flowers just inside the windows can create a sense of warmth and depth, especially in the drab, colder months of the year. If you have a lot of decorations on the front of your house, make sure they're clean and in good condition. You don't want to overdo those, either. Remember, you want a buyer to imagine the home as their own, not see it as someone else's!

Have you tried any of these ideas? If you have a second to email me, I’d love to see some before-and-after photos. How much time did you spend? Were you surprised at the difference a few minutes of work makes?

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Photo courtesy one2c900d/flickr.com

Join the Battle Against Breast Cancer

by Allyson Hoffman

Take a walk Sunday morning to help support the fight against Breast Cancer. The American Cancer Society is sponsoring Project Pink, a non-competitive 5k walk to support the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer program. The walk gets underway at 8am. The starting location is at the Westfield Shoppingtown at 4999 Old Orchard Center in Skokie, across from Lawler Park. You can both sign-up and donate on the website.

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.

Protect Your Family by Having Your Furnace Checked

by Allyson Hoffman

Keep your home and family warm in winter is a vital concern for all of us. But, home heating can be problematic if you don’t take some simple precautions before we get into the frigid months. Now’s the time to make sure that whatever you use to keep your house warm is safe and operating properly. Combined with the fire safety tips we’ve talked about previously, you should be able to rest assured you’ve take all necessary precautions for a safe winter.

A furnace inspection is the start and is a vital step. If you have any doubts, have an expert handle the inspection and any necessary repairs. Make sure you change your furnace filters several times a year.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, in this pamphlet [pdf], suggests the following:

  • Be sure all furnace control and emergency shutoffs are in proper working condition. Old furnaces don’t have many of these safety features, which increases the need to have them professionally inspected.
  • Inspect walls and ceilings near the furnace and the chimney line for heat or discoloration.
  • Make sure the flue pipe and seams are well supported and free of holes or cracks. If you see soot near the seams, you may have a leak.
  • Make sure your chimney is solid, without any loose bricks or cracks.
  • And keep anything that might burn well away from the furnace or other heating devices.
  • Don’t attempt repairs unless you are qualified to do them.

If you’re using electric space heaters, make sure to keep them away from water sources. And only use extension cords designed to work with the power requirements of the heater itself.

Kerosene heaters need to be inspected just like a gas or electric furnace. Make sure rooms with kerosene heaters are well ventilated. Refill them outside and only when they’re cool. Don’t use cold kerosene, which expands as it warms up. And inspect the exhaust for carbon buildup.

If you have a fireplace, you need to have your chimney inspected once a year, and cleaned if necessary. Make sure the fire is out before you go to sleep. And never close the damper with hot ashes in the fireplace.

The key, as with any major home system, is to maintain it in top operating condition. Not only is this potentially life-saving, it can save you a lot of money making repairs when it comes time to sell the house.

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Photo courtesy kightp/flickr.com

Hear What Woody Sez

by Allyson Hoffman

Woody Sez, the Life and Music of Woodie Guthrie is now playing at Skokie's Northlight Theatre. The legendary Woody Guthrie defined an American era of social consciousness and political expression with songs like "This Land is Your Land" and "The Ballad of Tom Joad." This musical portrait, featuring Woody's stirring ballads and joyous anthems, celebrates the colorful life and rich musical legacy of America's great folk troubadour.  The theater is located at 9501 Skokie Boulevard [map] in Skokie. The show runs through October 21st, and tickets range from $25 to $64. You can get your tickets online here.

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Image courtesy Northlight Theatre.

Take the Time to Prevent Fires

by Allyson Hoffman

October is Fire Prevention Month, and there's no question that everything you do now can save lives in a fire emergency. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, across the United States, there were more than 369,500 fires in homes in 2010. 2,640 people died and another 13,350 were injured in those fires, which causes $6.9 billion dollars in damage. Let's talk about a few simple things you need to do to ensure you don't become one of those statistics!

The very first thing you need to do is to make sure you have smoke detectors installed in every hallways and bedroom of your home. They need to have the Underwriters Laboratories seal to ensure quality. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. Just as important is to test those smoke detectors every week to make sure the batteries are still good and that the device is operating normally.

In the case of a fire, the most important thing is to get out as fast as you can. And then stay out! The danger is not just the actual flames, but the atmosphere the fire creates, as it consumes oxygen and gives off deadly gases such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

To that end, you'll want to establish a plan ahead of the time you might need it. You'll need to establish this plan with everyone who lives in your home. Make sure you have at least two ways out, and know them by heart. Make sure someone is assigned to call 911 for help, and if someone is assigned to help those who might need assistance. And set up a meeting place outside so you can be sure everyone is safe.

Keep this fact in mind, that the leading cause of home fires and injuries since 1990 is cooking! And most of those fires happen when kitchen ranges and ovens are left unattended. The second leading cause of house fires is heating equipment, which must be cleaned properly and checked annually. The other leading causes of fires are smoking materials, electrical appliances and candles.

For much more, make sure to check out the Fire Prevention information on the National Fire Protection Association Website. Now get to work checking those smoke detectors!

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Photo courtesy musubk/flickr.com

Enjoy Fall at the Grove Fest

by Allyson Hoffman

Spend some time outdoors this weekend with the family at Grove Fest. The festival is brought to you by the Glenview Park District and takes place at the Grove at 1421 Milwaukee Avenue in Glenview [map]. Celebrate the history of the people who settled in the Glenview area with live folk music, nature walks, square dancing, storytelling, gift & crafts vendors, and hearty pioneer food. The festival is open from 11am to 5pm.  Admission is $4 for adults, kids under 13 get in for $1. And if you happen to spot a house for sale that interests you, let me know. And have a great weekend!

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Photo courtesy the Glenview Park District.

The Questions You Must Ask

by Allyson Hoffman

Buying a home is such a significant decision, you need as much information as you can get while trying to make a smart choice. You're going to have lots of questions and lots of people with answers. But, when you talk to the owner, you're going to be able to get first-hand information. And here are some of the most important questions you should ask before making a decision to make an offer on a home.  

"Why are you selling?" It's an obvious question, but one that can provide you with valuable information. And it might be different from what the seller's agent might say.  

"How much did you pay?" Again, you might already have this information from a different source. But, asking the owner is always worth doing. You can learn a lot about your negotiating position by asking the question.  

"Are there any problems with the house?" You'll already have a lot of information related to this question from your own agent, but once again, asking cannot hurt. And don't just ask the owner or owner's agent. Ask a qualified inspector that question: Their answer is going to be vital to any decision you make on the house.  

"What can you tell me about the neighborhood?" If you're going to live there for any amount of time, you may want to know before you buy if there are annoying neighbors or other problems.  

"And what about the local schools?" If you have school age children, make sure to ask about local schools. Even if the owner doesn't have kids in the system, its worth adding to the impressions you've gotten from other sources.  

There are obviously other questions you might want to ask, and you should feel free to do so. Remember, it's your money. It should go without saying that when talking to an owner, you should go out of your way to be polite. If they're uncomfortable or unwilling to talk, you won't get better answers by pushing them. If the discussion raises concerns in your mind, talk with your own agent.  

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Photo courtesy dprevite/flickr.com

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.
Barrington, IL 60010

Allyson Hoffman
(847) 310-5300
[email protected]

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