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by Allyson Hoffman

Ah, the last day of the year. Time to celebrate and begin looking forward to good times in 2013. Some of you have been waiting for a good time to buy and/or sell a home. And many of the experts are cautiously optimistic that 2013 will be a better time for that than 2012 was. Let's take a look at what they're saying now:

Home Prices should continue to rise, although modestly. That should mean an increase in new construction. And more homeowners, who have been underwater on their mortgages, will be comfortable putting their home on the market. Rental prices are expected to continue to increase, making buying a home, in some markets, more attractive. Foreclosures are expected to decline, while short sales will increase. This means fewer foreclosure bargains will be available.
 
Getting a mortgage will continue to be more difficult than it was before the crash, but could get a bit easier as more qualified buyers enter the market and competition for their business heats up. And new mortgage rules to be announced in January by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may also have an impact on the availability of mortgage credit. Congress may try to cut the Mortgage Interest Deduction. That would make it more expensive to own a house and might reduce home values.
 
Mortgage rates are expected to rise. They've been at historic lows throughout 2012. Analysts at the Urban Land Institute and Barclay's see rates going up slowly over the course of the year, driven by improvements in the market.
 
What all this comes down to is that the very best time to buy or sell in the coming year is going to be difficult to determine. That's just one of the reasons you and I should talk about your plans for 2013. Working together, we can identify the market factors and your personal situation and come up with a plan.
 
For more information, these are the sources for this post:

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

Making Your Plan for 2013

by Allyson Hoffman

It's that time of the year again, when people begin seriously focusing on what the new year will bring. New Year's resolutions are, sadly, often put aside once the year gets underway. But, if you're serious about buying and/or selling this year, it is a great time to develop a plan for getting what you want for the best price possible. Some of this I can help you with, but some of it you're going to need to do yourself or with a financial adviser. 

If you think you'll be buying, you need to immediately take a look at your credit. In the wake of the market fall-out, it's become much harder to borrow money. Banks want to know they're going to get their money back, and they'll take a hard look at your previous credit habits. Now, many people simply stop right there, knowing their credit just isn't going to be good enough. But, if that is the case, you can take steps that will change that evaluation. Get current credit reports from the main credit agencies and review them. If there are mistakes, you can get them fixed. If there are problems, you can work out solutions with individual creditors to clear them up. I'll give you some suggestions for more information about credit repair at the end of this post.

You will also need to have a sizable down payment if you're going to buy. And of course, the bigger the down payment, the more willing banks are going to be to make you a good deal for the remainder of the purchase price. The key to a saving for a down payment is to have a clear goal in mind and to find ways to make it a reality. Cutting out luxuries for a year or two while you put money away can be a quick way to accumulate money for a down payment. Tax refunds and work bonus money are excellent sources of down payment funds. Building a big enough down payment may take time, but then buying a house is a long-term investment and worth the effort.

If you already know the location where you want to find a new home, begin taking a look at prices for houses already on the market. This is where I can really help you identify the right houses for you and just how much money a house in the neighborhood or town you like will cost. Once you have that ballpark figure, you can determine how much money you'll want to have saved for a down payment and how much money you'll need to finance. 

With these three things, you can begin to build a reasonable plan to get you from where you are now to where you want to be. Everyone will have their own unique plan, and some people will have an easier road to home ownership than others. But, just having a plan, and a real estate professional to help, is a solid foundation for reaching your goal for the year ahead. Let's work together and see what we can accomplish!

Credit Repair Resources

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

Citadel's Little Women on Stage

by Allyson Hoffman

If you need some time to unwind from all of the hustle and bustle of the season, here's an idea. The Citadel Theatre Company in Lake Forest is presenting a brand new adaptation of the classic Little Women. This new work was adapted by Ann Noble and directed by Scott Phelps.Performances are in the Lake Forest High School West Campus performance space on South Waukegan Road [map]. Show times are 1pm and 8pm tomorrow and 3pm on Sunday.

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

Manage Your Home's Online Image

by Allyson Hoffman

In the next few weeks, a lot of people will be trying out their brand new smart phones and tablets. And with their help, some folks are going to be looking for a home to buy as we move into 2013. So, more than ever before, buyers are doing a lot of window shopping before they ever leave the comfort of their living room (I have a new MLS app available, just contact me if you would like a personal link).

This has some important implications for folks with houses on the market. You need to ensure that your listing gives a potential buyer the best possible picture of why they should consider your property at the price you want for it. Whether you’re selling on your own or have the help of a real estate professional, you need to make sure your listing has the following:

A picture is worth a thousand words, and a great picture of your home maybe worth your asking price. As visual creatures, we’re never going to get past that first impression. You must make sure that the photos you use in your listing capture the best possible image of your home. You want a buyer to not just see your home, but see themselves living in your home. If you’re not sure of your photography skills, don’t hesitate to enlist help (or even pay for it) from someone who is a great photographer. You’re not looking for anything tricky or deceptive. But a working knowledge of framing and light can yield a picture that’s just a little better, and captures the eye of browsing buyers.

The words used in your listing are also extremely important. Advertisers know that the right words have a powerful impact. You want the description to strongly sell the best aspects of your house, and to complement and reinforce the photos being used. Longer is not better. Short descriptions that evoke powerful, positive images in a reader’s mind are always best. Also, no one is going to intentionally misspell words or use incorrect grammar, but mistakes happen and wind up in an online listing. You’ll want to make sure to have your listing proof-read for those little mistakes.

Once your listing goes online, you may want to double check how it looks on the web as well as in various real estate apps people download to their smart phones and tablets. You can request my MLS search app by sending an email to allyson@allyson.com or find iPhone real estate apps here, and Android versions here. You want to make sure the photos and descriptions match what you expect to see, and you might have to make changes to improve what you see. If you’re working with a real estate professional, they’ll help make sure everything looks good. And if you do need some help, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Images courtesy Realtor.com

Off to See the Wizard

by Allyson Hoffman

As the saying goes, there's no place like home. And if that makes you want to click your ruby red slippers together, then I have a treat for you. The Kohl's Children's Museum in Glenview [map] is hosting a fantastic Wonderful Wizard of Oz exhibit featuring huge pop-up book art from the original novel. The book was first published in Chicago with 10,000 copies going on sale on September 1, 1900. Museum hours are:

 

  • Monday: 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. 
  • Tuesday – Saturday: 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. 
  • Sunday: 12 – 5 p.m.
The exhibit is on-going through April, but is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

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

Locks - A Home Security Guide

by Allyson Hoffman
Settled into a new house, relaxing after the process of buying and moving, the last thing you want is worrying about your safety.  Home security should always be a priority, and almost always should be installed and maintained by professionals. But, if you're going to upgrade your security, it can be helpful to know a bit about what goes into that security. Today's focus is on doors, but we'll talk about windows and sliding glass doors in the future. 
 
Doorknob locks are the most basic type. And with that comes the inherent problem that they are easy to defeat. On doors leading from the outside, they aren't really enough to provide reliable security. They should always be paired with a deadbolt. An attachable chain lock on the inside might make you feel safe, but is easily overcome with physical force.
 
The Deadbolt lock is a physical safety lock, securing the door in the frame with a metal bolt that slides into a receptacle in the door frame. A study [pdf] by the city of Chula Vista discovered "that 87% of the break-ins ... targeted 'the one door that had no deadbolt lock.'" The bolt itself should be steel and at least an inch long. The strike plate, where the deadbolt locks into place, should be securely set into the door frame with screws that are strong, durable and at least three inches long. Shorter screws are easily torn out of the wood.
 
You might consider two deadbolts in the same door, one above the door handle and one below it. Another option is to replace your entire door and door frame with a steel security door and a steel frame.
 
There are also a variety of high tech lock systems on the market. Keypads are the most common of these, and are widely and successfully used in commercial settings. Biometric deadbolt locks read your fingerprint before they release the bolt. These locks are not perfect, and some of them failed in tests conducted by Consumer Reports.
 
The best back up for any door is a good alarm system. The major reason for this is that very few criminals want to get caught, and the alarm is going to scare most of them away quickly.  But, alarm systems can come with problematic contracts with alarm monitoring companies, which are beyond the scope of this post. 
 
If you want to do more research, try Consumer Reports which offers a buying guide and a set of reviews. If you're in the market, security is something that we can prioritize as we look at possible homes.

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Photos courtesy tymesynk/flickr.com and vflockcom/flickr.com

Welcome Home This Weekend

by Allyson Hoffman

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have served in the military in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and many of them are coming home to a world they don't feel comfortable in any more. On stage now for the Next Stage Theatre, "Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter" is a dark comedy that explores the issue. Both the Sun-Times and the Tribune highly recommend this play. Shows are at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston [map]. Written by Julie Marie Myatt and directed by Jessica Thebus, the show runs Friday, Saturday's and Sundays through December 23rd. Get tickets here.

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

Time to Change Those Filters

by Allyson Hoffman

Here's something you need to add to your monthly to-do list: Change your HVAC filters. The experts will tell you need to do it once every month to three months. The important thing is to change it when it's dirty. Doing so can save you money and improve your health.

Dirt in the System
Filters are used in modern HVAC systems to remove particles that could otherwise cause damage to the system. Dirty, or clogged filters force your HVAC system to work harder to push warm or cool air through your home. That's going to cost you money for simply running the system, and can lead to the expense of repairing damage caused by the dirty filters.

A Sigh of Relief
Filters can also help you more than you know. Allergy sufferers often notice an improvement in their ability to breathe clearly when filters are changed. In fact, if you do have allergies, make sure to get High Efficiency Furnace Filters, which are designed to better capture mold, pollen, pet dander and dust. The vary best filters can even filter out smoke, smog and particles that carry odors!

Out with the Old
To change your filters, you first need to determine the size of the filter. The easiest way to do that is simply look at the filter already in place. It will give you the filter's height and width in inches. Some filters are designed to be washed or vacuumed clean, but many are disposable. If you've got more than one HVAC, furnace or air conditioning system in your home, you may need to get multiple filters. Installing them is just a matter of pulling out the old one and installing a new one. But, if you want more guidance, check out the video below.
 
 
And when it comes time to buy a new house, we can work together to find a home that has an efficient, healthy heating and cooling solution.

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

Displaying blog entries 1-8 of 8

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Allyson Hoffman
RE/MAX Villager
1245 Waukegan Road
Glenview IL 60025
847-310-5300
Fax: 847-400-0881

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