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


Displaying blog entries 1-7 of 7

You're ready to buy a home, but do you really know how much you can afford? 


Before you set out on your new home search, it is important to know how much you are able to afford. This is referred to as being pre-qualified, which is different than being pre-approved. During the pre-qualification process you will learn a number of different things about your finances such as:


  • How much home you can afford


  • The amount of down payment you will need


  • The minimum down payment and the advantages of higher down payments


  • What the bank feels you can afford for a monthly payment


Determining this information ahead of time will also assist your agent in finding the right properties for you to look at that fall within your budget.


The next step recommended is to be pre-approved. This step is more involved as your lender will review your finances in detail to determine how much money they agree to loan you for your home purchase. Your lender will review the following:


  • Gross Monthly Income


  • Credit History


  • Amount of any/all outstanding debts


  • Source and amount of money available for down payment and closing costs 


  • Type of Mortgage 


  • Interest Rates, etc. 


Analysis of this information will allow the lender to determine two important ratios:


  • Debt-to-Income Ratio
    Your bills/debt each month should not exceed 36 percent of your gross monthly income


  • Housing Expense Ratio
    Your monthly mortgage payment should not exceed 28 to 33 percent of your gross monthly income


For more information about pre-qualification visit Pre-Qualify For Your Mortgage or visit our Home Finance page for additional mortgage information.


Image courtesy of Stefan Baudy/


A Guide to Your Real Estate Closing Costs

by Allyson Hoffman

The process of purchasing a home can be overwhelming if you are not familiar with all the steps and costs involved in a real estate transaction. The most common costs that tend to be overlooked by buyers and sellers are a bundle of fees called closing costs.

It is important to be aware and budget for these costs so you are not surprised on closing day and possibly fall short within your finances.

Below is a guide to some of the more standard costs that you may be faced with on closing day.

  • Loan Origination Fee or Points
    Fees charged by the lender for generating your loan.
  • Broker Fee
    These fees are occasionally combined into the Loan Origination Fee.
  • Credit Report
    Lenders may require this fee up front to obtain and review your credit history. (Approx. $21 - $60)
  • Appraisal Fee
    This fee is normally non-refundable and will vary depending on the value of the home.
  • Inspection Fee
    Fees paid to have a Certified Home Inspector evaluate the structural and mechanical condition of the home.
  • Title Search
    This search will provide verification that the seller owns the house you are buying.
  • Title Insurance
    This fee insures against losses as a result of any title defects.
  • Prepaid Interest
    To pay up the mortgage interest to the first of the following month.
  • Mortgage Insurance
    Insurance to protect the lender in the event that the borrower (mortgagor) is unable to repay the loan.
  • Administration Fee

Your real estate agent will be able to give you a rough estimate of some of these costs, however once you have applied for your loan, the lender will provide you with a Good Faith Estimate of what they anticipate the closing costs to be.

Familiarize yourself with these terms, ask your real estate agent questions and budget for these fees on closing day.

For more Home Finance information, visit my Finance Information page or Contact Me should you require additional information.

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Happy Memorial Day!

by Allyson Hoffman









I hope you are able to take some time today to spend with your families and remember the U.S. men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. There are a number of ways to commemorate these men and women and a few traditional ways of observance include: 

  • Visiting Cemeteries and Placing Flowers
  • Visiting Memorials
  • Flying the U.S. Flag Half-staff until noon
  • Participate in the National Moment of Remembrance to be held today at 5:00 p.m.

Memorial Day has also become a day to celebrate the unofficial beginning of summer with family and friends by attending:

  • Family Gatherings
  • Picnics
  • Sporting Events

However you decide to spend this Memorial Day, I hope it is a safe and healthy holiday for you and your families.

Image courtesy of wintersixfour/

Going Green With Your Home Can Save You Money

by Allyson Hoffman

Being environmentally concious can, in a lot of cases, cost us a few extra dollars here and there, however there are a few things we can do as homeowners that actually save us money in the long run.

I'm sure most of us could use a break on our heating and cooling bills but we're just not sure how to go about it. The article Tips for going green in the city - Your Chicago Home - Upgrading your Heating and Cooling System Saves you Money has some great tips on how to "go green" and save money.

Image courtesy of FutUndBeidl/

It must be the unconditional love our pets provide us that drives us to seek the best of the best for them when life is at stake -- at least it was for me one evening last week when I found my little Beagle, Penny, frisky one minute, begging for food and splayed out on the kitchen floor unable to move the next!  Her little body had suddenly become cold and she was clearly dazed.

To an owner inexperienced in sudden dog collapse, this really looked like a stroke, but knowing her drive to chase, catch and possibly devour any number of interesting yard critters, I suspected that she may have eaten something disagreeable, so off we were to the emergency vet thinking her stomach was really upset.  Little did I know at the time that when I walked in with her, she would be promptly pronounced in critical condition (check their gums -- if gums are white and not pink, your dog is in big trouble) and whisked away into emergency care to stablize her vital signs.

Our first of two stops began in the Skokie offices of the 911 Emergency vet where expert hands began her diagnosis.  Suspected were two things, neurologic problems and a possible issue with her abdomen and underlying internal organs, something discovered as a result of a big, tight tummy (we just thought she was getting fat) and a suspicious x-ray.  Told that surgery might be needed, I made the executive decision to "transport" her to the incredible Buffalo Grove facility on Busch Parkway -- the Veterinary Specialty Clinic.  The "transport" was not without risk and the 911 vet would not guarantee her safe arrival, but nonetheless, we ventured out hoping for the best.  Upon arrival there with expert arrangements and coordination between the two facilities, I had x-ray films in hand and one very sick dog.

Penny (in front) is shown here with her littermate, Lucy, in a puppy picture.  As a grown dog her cuteness and engaging brown eyes have never changed.  Her ditzy personality is infectious making you absolutely want to pick her up, pet her or play.  Sweetness exudes from each and every inch of this loving little friend.

As I entered the Veterinary Speciality Clinic, I knew I was somewhere special!  Again the dog was whisked away and only after the dog was already receiving emergency care, did the amazingly compassionate staff ask me to fill out papers.  A very long night had really just begun, but I knew if she was to survive, this was the place to make it happen.   From the doctors to the caregivers, to the nurses and the reception staff,  all were outstanding without exception.  How about clean?  I'd put it up against any hospital in the Chicago Metro area, the North Shore or Northwest Suburbs and in fact, almost any hospital I have ever seen!  Organized and orderly -- they have it down to a science.  Want to sleep there while you find out how your pet is doing?  They gave me blankets to make me comfortable.  Are you thirsty?  Coffee, pop, water are all available and they'll run to get it for you too!  Want to visit with your pet?  No problem, the staff will even sit on the floor and snuggle with your animal to comfort them.

I experienced all of this between 10:30 PM and 4:30 AM when at last they felt she had stablized enough to make it into the early morning when the radiologist could do an ultra-sound of her abdomen to see what was really going on.  By this time they had already determined that she did not have a stroke, but rather had something in her gut rupture causing a massive bleed that led to her symptoms.  If surgery was to be performed, that ultra sound would hopefully show whether or not surgery was a good option at all and lucky for us it was. 

Last Thursday afternoon Penny had a tumor of her spleen (8" in diameter) removed along with her spleen.  Now that is one big tumor for a 25-lb. dog who now weighs considerably less.   She came through the surgery extremely well, was an excellent patient that everyone there loved, and is now happily at home recuperating and doing so well that if you saw her today and I failed to roll her over to show you the 8" incision on her tummy, you would never know she'd had a problem.  We're hoping for a favorable pathology report on her and that should be forthcoming shortly.  If it is a malignancy, well, of course, the Veterinary Speciality Clinic has oncologists she can visit.

For all those lucky homeowners and property owners in Chicago's North Shore and Northwest suburban areas or anyone in Northern Illinois whose pets are like so many today, a integral part of your loving family, this is truly the place to recall and remember if your pet ever needs exceptional medical care -- it is definitely worth the drive, even if you are not north or northwest!  So for those of you who live here already and those of you who may be moving here in the future, make a note of this place (which I discovered that night is also a 24/7/365 emergency pet care facility) with a 10++ rating in my estimation.  It's the place we can count on to repay the unconditional love that our pets give us so unselfishly every day!

If you would like more information about the Veterinary Speciality Clinic, they are located at 1515 Busch Parkway in Buffalo Grove.  Their phone number is 847-459-7535 or you can check them out on the web at




Tonight Leslie Stahl's interview regarding an alternative real estate model of discounted brokerage commissions mentioned that the State of Illinois is one of the states that has imposed a law making it harder for discount brokerages to offer their discounts.  In fact, this is absolutely true.  The implication was that full service brokerage firms are conspiring to undermine the discounters.    It is unfortunate that this one-sided discussion failed to mention why the law was enacted in the first place.

This law, which obviously affects all homeowners and property owners in the Chicago metro area, the Northern Illinois real estate community , as well as buyers and sellers of homes in Chicago's North Shore and Northwest Suburban areas, might lead one to conclude that it was designed to limit consumer options.  In fact, this law actually resulted from consumer complaints to the Illinois licensing authority, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (  

Numerous instances of consumer dissatisfaction were brought to the attention of the licensing entity regarding the lack of services provided by some of those whose business model embraces the discount profile.  In an effort to assure that this dissatisfaction was addressed and resolved, Illinois enacted a law that required a minimal level of service be provided by those offering real estate brokerage services.  This was done not to undermine discounters and not to limit consumer options, but rather to assure  that consumers received a minimal level of service, a level expected based upon their complaints. 

Stahl's interview additionally failed to examine or highlight the benefits of full service brokerages and neglected to share the statistical data that shows a much higher average listing to selling price ratio for those who utilize full service brokers.  Had this been explored, it would have been clear that despite higher costs of sale in the full service brokerage model, there is an associated higher net on average that typically companions that cost and results in an overall higher net profit in the end.  Stahl failed to focus upon the most important issue which is ultimately what puts more dollars in the consumers pocket at the end of the day! 

For more information on this subject , read the Blanche Evan's  Realty Times article of May 11, 2007 which further explores this current controversial topic.  Blanche Evans is a highly respected, experienced and well known real estate journalist whose in-depth article can be found at

Image courtesy of Dan Wiedbrauk/

Home Appraisers; What You Should Know

by Allyson Hoffman

Home appraisers are a necessary part of your real estate transaction and it is important to know exactly what the appraiser's responsibilities are, and to whom.

I think the most common misconception about appraisers is that they work for the home seller. Appraisers are hired to be impartial and provide an accurate "value" to your home in order for lenders to determine if the collateral supports the debt. These same lenders are also putting a lot of pressure on appraisers which result in higher than market value home appraisals.

You can read more about it in the article Please don't hit the appraiser.

Image courtesy of Sherwood CC/

Displaying blog entries 1-7 of 7




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]