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


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Is A Mortgage Refinance For You

by Allyson Hoffman

With rates at historic lows, now is the time to take advantage and consider refinancing. If you have been thinking about refinancing your mortgage there are some factors to take into consideration before making your decison. Although rates are low now, the current economic crisis has caused many lenders to reduce the amount of loans they provide. This is quite a change from the last few years when almost anybody was eligible for mortgage. If you are thinking on how to save on your mortgage refinance, you must be precise in getting your facts right.

You will first need to look at your loan-to-value ratio. In a no-cash-out refinancing (where the amount of your new loan doesn't exceed the balance of your existing loan, plus points and closing costs, if applicable), you may be able to borrow as much as 95% of your home's value. However, if the value of your home has fallen below the amount of your existing mortgage balance, you may be unable to refinance at all. This has unfortunately been the case for many homes but you may be able to proceed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009's Home Affordable Refinance program. 

The major advantage of refinancing to a new lower interest rate, you will save a substantial amount on your monthly mortgage payment. This is of course why most people choose to refinance their mortgage. Keep in mind however that there are going to be costs involved with refinancing such as closing costs, points, and possible appraisal  and attorney fees.

Do your research and shop around for the best refinancing interest rates. All banks are not created equal, some banks and financial institutions charge higher rates than others. Normally, the smaller Community Banks and Credit Unions are more consumers oriented and charge lower rates.

Also when shopping around look and compare interest rates and points vs. no points before you refinance. Watch out for embedded points included in the closing costs. Some lenders will include points in the closing costs without specifically quoting these costs as points.

Image courtesy of Mark Moz/


Thanksgiving In The Chicago North Shore/Suburbs

by Allyson Hoffman

It's that time of the year again! Thanksgiving time is here and whether you plan to cook, shop or just enjoy this time with family and friends, the Chicago Metro area offers so much to do! Kick off this holiday season by enjoying all that our area offers. Happy Thanksgiving!

Chicago Thanksgiving Parade 2009 

This famous Thanksgiving Parade kicks off at 8:30 a.m. on November 26, 2009 and features giant inflatables, marching bands, dancers and more.  The State Street Thanksgiving Parade is attended by over 400,000 spectators and features over 100 participating "units", including marching bands, floats, horses, drill teams, circus performers, and more. Parade starts on State Street from Congress to Randolph  8:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m

Dining Guide

Thanksgiving is all about eating, so even if you don't plan on cooking or if you were not lucky enough to be invited to dinner you can still feast.  Chicago restaurants will be offering their renditions of the classic holiday feast. From traditional turkey with stuffing and mashed potatoes to spiced-up ethnic interpretations, click here to find a place where you and your family can eat well this Thanksgiving, minus the dishes.

Turkey Shoot at Davis Square Park

Football fans of all ages can head to Davis Square Park for the annual Turkey Shoot event on the field. The games run from 10 a.m. to noon on Thanksgiving day, and the event is open to all ages. This free activity is a fun way to enjoy the great outdoors before your Thanksgiving meal. Call (312) 747-2001 for more information.

NoMI Thanksgiving Brunch Buffet

The NoMI Thanksgiving brunch is host to one of the largest brunches in the city. This upscale restaurant serves a grand holiday buffet with all of your Thanksgiving favorites and comfort foods. They feature traditional fare such as turkey, potatoes, Thanksgiving sides as well as sides and a grand showcase of desserts. NoMI is located on the seventh floor of the Park Hyatt hotel on 800 North Michigan Avenue. Call (312) 239-4030 for Thanksgiving 2009 brunch reservations and more information.

The Great Tree at Macy's

Kick off your holiday season on Thanksgiving night with the annual lighting the Macy's Great Tree.  The 45-foot tree takes a few weeks to decorate with over 1,200 themed ornaments and hundreds of lights. It's a Chicago holiday tradition you won't want to miss, and takes place in the Walnut Room of Macy's Chicago.

Image courtesy of morano.vincent/

Homebuyers Receive Extended Tax Credit

by Allyson Hoffman

A bill signed into law Friday by President Obama extends the homebuyer tax credit, originally scheduled to expire Nov. 30. This new law will give buyers until April 30, 2010 to sign purchase contracts and another 60 days to close. And it will no longer be just for first-time buyers. Homeowners who have lived in their current home for five of the last eight years can claim $6,500, under the new law, which would only apply to houses purchased after the current tax credit expires Nov. 30. Income limits will be more generous: $125,000 a year for individuals, $225,000 a year for married couple.

Since both first time as well as existing homebuyers can benefit from this credit extension, below are some clarification for the benefits.

First-time home buyers. A  "first-time home buyer" is defined as someone who hasn't owned a home in the three years before the purchase. If your spouse owned a home in that time frame, you're not eligible. So, those eligible can claim a tax credit for 10% of the purchase price, up to a maximum credit of $8,000. The credit is refundable, which means that if you owe less than $8,000 in taxes, you'll receive a refund for the difference. The credit is not available for home purchases that exceed $800,000.

You can claim the credit if you sign a sales contract before May 1, 2010, and close before July 1. Members of the military who serve extended duty outside the USA have until July 1, 2011, to claim the credit, as long as they sign a contract before May 1, 2011.

Existing homeowners. Home buyers who have lived in their current home for five out of the last eight years qualify for a tax credit of up to $6,500. The deadlines are the same as for first-time home buyers.

The income requirements for existing homeowners are also the same as those for first-time home buyers. Likewise, existing homeowners can't claim the credit if they purchase a home for more than $800,000.

Taxpayers can claim the credit on their federal income tax returns. If the credit exceeds their tax bill, the government will issue a payment. Taxpayers who want immediate refunds can amend their tax returns for 2008 to claim the credit.

Image courtesy of


How To Sell Your Home Quicker Using Staging

by Allyson Hoffman

Staging is a hot new tool that you can use to help your home sell quicker and for more money. Staging helps to make your house look bigger, brighter, and more inviting. Best of all, it makes home buyers want to buy it!  In today’s challenging property market, you want all the ammunition you can get to sell your home at top dollar--and sell it fast.

So what is staging? Basicallly it is showcasing your home in its absolute best light. You draw buyers’ attention to your home’s most appealing features--and skillfully divert their attention from those that are less-than-stellar.

In short, staging is creating visual “eye candy” that emphasizes your home’s positives. It’s part art, part science--and all marketing. It can involve everything from fresh paint to clever carpentry, new lighting to new window treatments. And don’t forget the borrowed (or rented) furniture to define and enhance each room!

To see staging in action, watch an episode or two of HGTV’s Designed To Sell, or The Stagers. And for some simple staging techniques presented with tongue-in-check humor, see Top 10 Home-Staging Dos and Top 10 Home-Staging Don’ts by Designed To Sell’s Donna and Shannon Freeman.

Should you try to stage your own home--or hire a professional? My real estate experience has taught me there are two essential staging tricks that every home seller can do:

* Clear it out. You have stuff--lots of stuff. And your house is overloaded with all that stuff. Go through each room and get rid of the clutter everywhere you see it. Your rooms will look bigger, more restful, and more inviting. And all you did was pick up!

* Clean it up. Make sure everything shines inside and out, from windows, floors and countertops inside to the deck, garage and yard outside. Pay particular attention to the kitchen and bath. A little well-applied elbow grease will go a long way in selling your home. And it’s free!

Do these two simple things, and you’re already ahead in the staging game.

But should you keep going and stage other aspects of your own home? That depends on whether you have the eye, the skill--and the objectivity. Can you put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and see your home as the buyer will see it--positive points and negative points? Are you prepared to tackle those negatives? Do you have the “designer’s eye” for color and other design elements? Do you have the technical skills to complete improvements?

Staging can definitely help sell your house for more if it’s done right, whether you do it on your own or you hire a professional stager. Feel free to contact me and I would be happy to share staging ideas and recommend a professional, if needed.

Image courtesy of Wicker Paradise/


Displaying blog entries 1-4 of 4




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Allyson Hoffman
RE/MAX Villager
1245 Waukegan Road
Glenview IL 60025
Fax: 847-400-0881

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Allyson Hoffman
RE/MAX Villager
1245 Waukegan Road
Glenview, IL, 60025

(847) 310-5300
[email protected]

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