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


Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9

What Closing Costs Can Your Expect?

by Allyson Hoffman

For many first time home buyers in Northern Illinois, as well as seasoned buyers, closing costs and how they are calculated are a mystery.

Here is some information you should know about closing costs before you begin the home shopping process!

Find out the fees the bank will charge you for in conjunction with loan. Ask your bank for the list of fees associated with the loan. Fees vary from state to state and bank to bank. Typical and approximate fees include: Appraisal fee, Survey fee, Cost to run the credit report Loan origination fee, Tax service fee, Underwriting fee Flood certificates, etc.

1. Pre paid items that you will have to pay for a year in advance will be added to the closing costs. They include interest paid for a year in advance as well as hazard insurance on the home.

2. There will be additional reserve payments added to the closing costs such as an additional two months of hazard Insurance, two months of taxes, and two months of mortgage insurance.

3. There will be title charges that transfer ownership of the home to you in the closing costs. The include may include title policy fees (which depends on the loan amount), endorsements and a courier fee.

4. You will also have to pay the local recording authority to record your ownership of the home. You will have to pay for recording fees, documentary stamps and intangible taxes, which will vary by state.

5. Add all of these items together and if you are using a real estate attorney, you will need to add their fees and any remaining down payment that you owe, and you will have your closing costs calculated.

The closing process can be confusing and most home buyers will have questions. If you have concerns on closing costs and the process, contact me and I can help!






Special Event at Chicago Botanic Gardens

by Allyson Hoffman

The Chicago Botanic Garden will be transformed into a winter wonderland featuring twinkling lights and beautiful holiday horticulture displays starting tomorrow, November the 25th!

Outdoors, more than 750,000 LED lights will beckon families to a dramatically lit Esplande and the Regenstein Center. Inside, visitors will enjoy lush displays of topiaries, poinsettias, and orchids in the Greenhouses, and trees and wreaths decorated by local designers and retailers. Garden-scale trains will wind their way through more than 80 miniature versions of Chicago's favorite landmarks.

This event takes place from November 25, 2011 thru January 1, 2012 and is Open 10am - 6pm daily




Financing for the Self Employed

by Allyson Hoffman

For many, owning their own business and being their own boss sounds like a dream come true. However, if you are self employed you most likely know that owning your own business can be stressful and overwhelming at times. But while being a business owner is a great deal of work, it is part of the American dream. The downside is that if you are in the market to purchase a new home in Chicago's North Shore and are planning on applying for a loan based on your self-employment income, you may be faced with some challenges you weren't expecting.

Unfortunately the current economic situation has forced many lenders to tighten their requirements and that may make getting a loan more difficult than in past years for self employed home buyers. Here's the score on what today's lenders are looking for.

1. Forget about a 'stated income' mortgage - you are going to need tax documents, bank records and at least a two year history of business stability for a lender to even consider your application. Even if you are just branching out in the same kind of business that you have done for years, expect tight requirements and nearly perfect credit to move forward with qualifying.

2. Do your homework - research the banks or mortgage lenders you want to approach and find out exactly what paperwork and documentation they require to process a loan for a self-employed borrower. Spend time putting your documents together carefully and thoroughly in advance of your application.

3. Look for lenders who have a track record of accepting self-employed borrowers and try to meet with them in person to review your paperwork and find the right kind of loan package for your needs and situation.

4. Take a break from write-offs for a couple of years - those tax deductions help with your disposable income, but they also take down your gross income level. Lenders want to see a good debt-to-income ratio, not how clever you are about expensing your income away. Direct any questions about how to manage your expenses and write-offs to your CPA.

5. Stay liquid - build your bank account so that lenders can see your ability to make payments even if you have seasonal or other fluctuations in your income levels month to month or year to year. A solid savings plan and liquid assets can be helpful in getting your application approved.

Finally, if you have a strong co-signer, one with great finances and a steady income, you may be able to overcome your lender's concerns and hesitation when it comes to considering the source and level of your personal income.

Are you self employed and have more questions? Contact me for more information! 



Dancing Under the Stars

by Allyson Hoffman

Eve J. Alfille will unveil her new jewelry series, 'Dancing Under the Stars' this weekend. The series features one-of-a-kind jewelry, each handcrafted in her North Chicago studio.

Eve delves into the dream world, bringing back visions of grey and colored diamonds, violet sapphires, opals, the vivid reds of rubellites and labradorites blue as the night sky.

The event will take place Saturday, November 19th from 3:30-8:00pm at the Eve J. Affille studio located at 623 Grove Street,  Evanston, IL 60201.

Visit her website to make reservations to this unique event, just in time for holiday gift giving!




Keeping Your Home Safe!

by Allyson Hoffman

Keeping your family safe at home is what all North Shore homeowners want, and most people feel that that their home is a safe place.  The reality is that even if you have taken extra precautions to make your home a safe place, you might be surprised at some of the common safety hazards that can make your home dangerous. The good news is that most safety concerns can be easily fixed! Below are some of the common concerns and how to remedy them.

1. Wiring and electrical cords. Check all electrical appliances, cords, and outlets. Are your electrical appliances in good condition, without loose or frayed cords or plugs? Are your outlets overloaded with plugs from the TV, computer, printer, video game system, and stereo?  Solution: Replace or professionally repair any appliances that spark, smell unusual, or overheat. Replace worn out extension cords, don’t run electrical wires under rugs, and don’t overload outlets or power strips.

2. Gas leaks and sources of carbon monoxide.  You may or may not smell a gas leak before it is too late, and you will NOT smell carbon monoxide. Solution: Make sure that your gas appliances are serviced regularly. Check any unusual variances on your gas bill – they could be the result of hidden leaks. Invest in a carbon monoxide detector and keep the batteries up to date as you do your smoke alarms.

3. Cluttered hallways and stairways. It sounds simple, but toys or other items that are left blocking stairwells, hallways or exits can not only provide an obstacle to trip over, but can also prevent a hasty exit in the event of fire or other emergencies. Solution: Simply try to ensure that walkways are clear of any obstructions that can cause accidents.

4. Toxic chemicals. From severe toxicity like asbestos and lead paint, to daily household cleaners, your home may contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to your family, especially children, the elderly, those with compromised heath and your pets. Solution: If you live in an older home, have it inspected for asbestos and lead. As for household chemicals, try switching to some of the new organic or natural solutions. Always keep any kind of chemical solutions up high and out of reach or locked away.

5. Recalled products. Many products, especially imported products, are subject to recall and can range from toys and cribs to everyday appliances and vehicles. Solution: Register your household goods and appliances when you bring them home – it’s easy and it ensures that you will receive recall notifications. You can subscribe via email for recalls as well as stay alert to recall information that are broadcast over TV, radio and in print and online.

Most home safety hazards are easy to prevent or fix with just a little due diligence. Do you have any tips you can share with other homeowners? Share them with us here!




Season's Greetings at Northlight Theater

by Allyson Hoffman

Come out to the Northlight Theater in Chicago's North Shore beginning this Friday, November 11th, to see this holiday comedy!

Season's Greetings, the hilarious comedy was a smash hit for London's National Theatre. It's Christmastime in the Bunker household, and while the children lurk just out of sight, the adults are busy making the "naughty" list. As dinner burns and guests bungle attempts at infidelity under the tree, only one question remains: can Father Christmas escape unscathed?  


A wildly funny look at the hilarity and high jinks of a "normal" family Christmas is on display in Chicago!

The Northlight Theatre is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd ,Skokie, IL


















How To Avoid Home Improvement Scams

by Allyson Hoffman

When times get tough, so do the scam artists and it is important to be aware how to protect yourself. Before you let someone in your Northern Illinois home, be aware of some of the top techniques scam artists use to either get inside or take your hard earned cash.

Below are five ways to protect yourself from home improvement scams:

1. Don’t fall for high pressure ‘now or never’ deals. Sometimes contractors will knock at your door with a special ‘one time only’ deal. If you don’t sign up right there and then, they warn, you will lose the opportunity to get a great deal. Reputable remodelers may offer specials, but they also recognize that you may need some time to think it through, talk it over with your spouse, or check out their references. Ask to see a price list, a website, and a list of verifiable past customers before you agree to allow any work to be done.

 2. Watch out for unsolicited offers for exterior repairs. When a repairman knocks and tells you he ‘just happened to notice’ several items on the exterior of the house that need repair, don’t fall for it. Even if he has been working in the area, many repairmen spend all their time scouting for any signs of wear and tear and turn it into an opportunity. Be especially wary, if he ‘just happens’ to have all the materials with him that are need for your job. Chances are the materials actually belong to someone else – maybe even one of your neighbors who paid more for repairs than was needed.

3. Don’t pay for the job up front. If your contractor-to-be needs to be paid in full before he starts, then you should take that as a sign that you will never see him again. Never pay for a job before the work is finished. Legitimate remodelers typically require a down payment of a third or less to get a job started (which is reasonable) and pay for materials. The balance of money in your agreement (and for significant jobs get the agreement in writing) will be paid after different milestones have been completed, with the final payment coming when all work has been completed to your satisfaction.

4. Don’t do business with out-of-towners. Beware of contractors who drive unmarked vehicles or trucks with out of state licenses. They may be part of a band of scammers who are making their way through your area. This is especially common after a storm or other widespread event that makes homeowners vulnerable to quick repair scams. Make sure that the repairmen you choose are established in your area and have both trade and customer references.

5.  Always check references. Don’t just ask for references – take the time to actually follow up on them and call. Granted, contractors are not going to list anyone who has negative reviews, but if they have 5 or more solid references you should feel good about them. Ask for bank or trade references also, and check with the Better Business Bureau and local license board to make sure their business practices and credentials are sound.

Use good judgment when selecting a home improvement contractor or remodeler. You will find many good, professional remodelers in your area if you take the time to do a little homework. Beware of unsolicited offers, high pressure sales, and upfront payments. Always check references – you’ll be glad you did!

Are you preparing for some home improvement projects? Contact me if you would like a reference for reputable contractors, I would be happy to help!



Chicago Jazz Philharmonic November 5th and 6th!

by Allyson Hoffman

It's the perfect time of year to spend the evening in
Skokie  listening to jazz on a beautiful fall night.

Visit the North Shore Performing Art Center - Where jazz and classical music thrive in perfect harmony!

Under skilled direction of the wonderfully enigmatic Orbert Davis, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble brings its Miles Davis tribute program, Sketches of Blue to the North Shore Center for two exclusive performances. Orbert Davis' newly arranged versions of the Miles Davis' classic recordings, Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain should not be missed by any Chicago music lover.

The show begins at 8pm and tickets start at $35.00. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.






Is Now the Time for You to Refinance?

by Allyson Hoffman

As Interest rates soar to historic lows, several homeowners in Chicago's North Shore are making the decision to take advantage of refinancing!  If you have been thinking about refinancing your mortgage, there are some things you need to take into consideration before making your final decision. 

Although rates are low right now, the present economic crisis has caused a lot of lenders to reduce the amount of loans they give out.  This is a drastic change from the last few years when almost anyone and everyone was eligible for a mortgage. If you are figuring out how to save on your mortgage refinance, its vital to make sure you do your homework and get your facts right.

First, 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 not be able to refinance at all. This sadly, has 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 is that 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.

In addition, when shopping around, look and compare interest rates and points versus no points before you refinance. Look out for embedded points included in the closing costs. Keep in mind, some lenders will include points in the closing cost without necessarily actually quoting these costs as points.

Have questions?  As a homeowner it is important you do your research and educate yourself on the refinancing process. It is not a one size fits all and may or may not be the best idea for your situation. Contact me today for help understanding the entire refinancing process.




Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9




Contact Information

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]