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


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Ten Reasons Why to Choose a Real Estate Agent

by Allyson Hoffman

Here are ten reasons why it is a good idea to hire an experienced, knowledgeable real estate agent when you are looking to buy a Northern Illinois home.

1 -- Experience 

Purchasing a new home may well be the largest expenditure that you ever make. So it simply makes good business sense to enlist all the help you can get.

A seasoned real estate agent has completed more real estate transactions already this year than you'll likely make in your lifetime. That adds up to a whole lot of knowledge and experience. Experience that can help navigate you safely and securely through every aspect of the buying process.

2 -- Knows the Market  

A real estate agent will know what's happening in a particular area, or neighborhood, and help you decide if a home you find is a good value. Once you find a property that interests you, your agent will show you "comps" (comparable properties) of similar homes that have sold recently, as well as those that are currently on the market.

And if your real estate agent works with an established firm, he or she will have instant access to a host of proprietary tools -- and property information -- that may be difficult, or even impossible, to find on your own. All this information will help you make a well-informed decision.

3 -- Saves Time 

A good real estate agent is an organizational genius. He or she will manage to get you in to see new properties as soon as they become available -- and arrange the most appointments possible within your available time slots, no matter how limited.

But remember, accessibility is a two-way street! Be sure to support your agent by being as flexible as possible -- especially when your time is very limited.

4 -- Good Listener 

If you decide to use a real estate agent, look for someone who asks as many questions as you do. When you mention a price range, does the agent give you a 'standard' list of available properties, or is he or she able to make -- or adjust -- his or her recommendations based on what comes up in your conversations?

How interested is the agent in listening to your point of view? How many questions does he or she ask? After all, your real estate agent's recommendations should vary substantially based on your personal needs and goals (for example, you may be starting a family, need to configure your new home to accommodate an office, need space for your son's new car, or be downsizing).

5 -- Tells the Truth (even when you don't want to hear it!)  

Expect that a good real estate agent will challenge you once in a while, ask the tough questions, and yes, even disagree with you occasionally. When he or she makes a recommendation that seems off-base, give your agent the opportunity to give you the facts -- and share his or her knowledge and experience -- before making a decision. Learn to trust your agent's intuition, insights, and perspectives; they'll often lead you in the right direction.

6 -- Respects Your Budget 

One of the most important things that your real estate agent will do is help you determine how much you can afford to spend. He or she may well ask you to consult with your accountant, financial planner, and/or mortgage broker before you make this important decision.

In some markets, there's a lot more to purchasing an apartment than having cash for the down payment, and securing financing. For example, most Manhattan cooperative buildings ('co-ops'), which account for about 75 percent of the properties in the city, will also look at your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), and your post-closing liquidity (yes, it can be a bit complicated!).

A good real estate broker will understand the particulars of your market, and help you find a terrific housing solution that you'll be able to qualify for financially -- and that will be possible within your budget.

7 -- Team Player

Your real estate agent should be able to recommend a great team of professionals to support your purchase -- from mortgage brokers and appraisers, to contractors and designers and real estate attorneys.

8 -- Getting to Closing  

Remember that finding the right property is only the beginning. Be sure your real estate agent is well prepared to negotiate aggressively on your behalf, and assist you in finding financing, if necessary. Your agent should be ready to follow through with your bank or mortgage broker, any other agents involved in the deal, and with your real estate attorney, until the purchase is complete.

And if you're purchasing a home in Manhattan, be sure you have a real estate agent who is adept at helping you put together the materials necessary for the board application package, following through with the management company, and if it's a co-op purchase, preparing you for the board interview.

9 -- Gives Timely Updates  

Throughout the buying process, stay in touch with your real estate agent regularly. He or she should give you regular updates on new properties, any changes in the local real estate market, mortgage rate changes, and so on. And you should update your real estate agent right away should any of your priorities change, or if your research turns up a property you may be interested in seeing. The result of working together closely? Finding just the home you're looking for, more quickly.

10 -- The Relationship  

Don't underestimate the importance of personality when you choose your real estate agent. You'll be spending a lot of time with them -- and entrusting them with one of the most important transactions of your life. So be sure to find someone you not only trust and respect, but also look forward to working with.  

Many Northern Illinois home buyers try to find the perfect property on their own. No surprise, actually. With internet access to more real estate information than ever before, it's fairly easy for anyone who's computer literate to access a list of available properties in every part of the country.

Image courtesy of ClkerFreeVectorImages/



Chicago's Memorial Day Parade

by Allyson Hoffman

The parade will step off at 12:00 pm and proceed south on State Street from Lake Street to Van Buren Street in Chicago.

This year’s Grand Marshal will be General Raymond T. Odierno, United States Army, Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command. During the parade, Odierno will swear in new recruits representing many branches of service.

The General’s command focuses on supporting current operations while shaping U.S. forces for the future. He oversees USJFCOM's roles in joint concept development and experimentation, joint capability development, joint training, and force provision and management as outlined in the Department of Defense's Unified Command Plan. Prior to this, Odierno commanded Multi-National Force –Iraq and then U.S. Forces –Iraq. He oversaw the transition from surge to stability operations and directed the largest redeployment of forces and equipment in 40 years. He assumed command of MNF-I less than seven months after completing a 15-month deployment as commanding general of Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

Have a safe Memorial day in Chicago!

Image courtesy of wintersixfour/


Homebuyer Trends

by Allyson Hoffman

In today’s tough competitive real estate market, homebuyers no longer seem to need the extravagant, over the top mansions that they once did. Now people are looking for more efficient, sustainable amenities, features that focus on making their home an affordable place to live.  Below are some of the top trends that most homebuyers are looking for these days:

1. Green building and sustainability – from recycled materials to water wells and water collection systems, today’s home buyer is concerned with organic, sustainable features. While green building can sometimes be expensive up front, even the cost conscious know that the results may save money in the long run.

2. Energy efficiency – those who go green are also concerned with sustainable, efficient resources. Buyers want energy efficient appliances and the latest in insulation techniques using spray foam and gels. Not only do they reduce current energy costs, but energy efficient homes help with resale.

3. Outdoor living areas – more people are staying home these days, and one of the hottest trends is outdoor living areas that create a seamless indoor to outdoor space and include living room style features. From comfortable sofas to televisions and sound systems and creative outdoor cooking areas, the right outdoor space becomes a natural extension of the interior.

4. Main floor master suites with luxurious baths – now more than ever, home is an oasis for hardworking homeowners, and large masters on the main floor (away from kids rooms or play areas) are key to a homeowner’s satisfaction. Along with the master, buyers are interested in soaker tubs, walk-in showers with seating and dual showerheads.

5. Home offices – more and more people find themselves telecommuting or working from home in the evenings, and space for a home office has taken priority over traditional home features like formal dining and living and even media rooms. Home buyers seek that unique space that separates work from family living areas.

Homebuyers’ priorities have changed mainly due to the changing economic times. The top trends reflect a new desire for comfort and flexible lifestyles, along with their concern for sustainability and efficiency.

Image courtesy of FutUndBeidl/


Better Homes and Gardens Magazine’s and Weber’s Chill and Grill Festival™ takes over Chicago’s Lincoln Park on May 21st-22nd. This exciting culinary event puts grilling center stage with local restaurant and BHG recipe tastings, grilling demonstrations, ticketed hands-on grilling classes, a live Grilling Showdown, a “Chill Zone” lounge area, live music, cookbook signings, kids activities and more. 

There is no cost to enter the festival and many “happenings” throughout the weekend are free. However:

• All food and beverage will require the purchase of a Tasting Card
• Hands-On Grilling Classes cost $30
• Chill and Grill Expert Seminars are free but require sign up. Sign-up sheets will be available outside the class location at the festival.

To see a full schedule of the fun to be had in Lincoln Park click here.

To purchase Tasting Cards or tickets for Hands-On Grilling Classes, click on Buy Tickets.


Image courtesy of Andrew Czap/





Homeownership: Building Family Wealth

by Allyson Hoffman

The question facing many families making a move today is whether it makes more sense to rent or buy. We have been very upfront in discussing our unwavering belief in homeownership. It is for that reason that today we want to quote from a study issued by an institution with no ties to the real estate business or mortgaging.

The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University just released a study, America’s Rental Housing: Meeting Challenges, Building on Opportunities. The study discusses the need for a greater supply of quality rental units in America. We agree. However, there were a few nuggets of information found in the study we want everyone to know.

American’s Belief in Homeownership Has NOT Fundamentally Changed

There seems to be some feeling that homeownership has lost it’s luster and perhaps is no longer a component of the American Dream. Harvard explains:

To date, attitudes about owning have become only slightly more negative while attitudes about whether now is a good time to buy are little different than before the housing boom. In the latest Fannie Mae housing survey from October–December 2010, the vast majority of respondents—including renters—continued to believe that homeownership makes more financial sense than renting. In addition, nearly two-thirds of all renters surveyed reported their intention to buy homes in the future.

Homeownership Creates Wealth

Because prices have fallen dramatically in many parts of the country in the last five years, some are too easily dismissing homeownership’s role in building family wealth over the last century. The study explains: 

In addition, renters have only a fraction of the net wealth of owners. Near the peak of the housing bubble in 2007, the median net wealth of homeowners was $234,600—about 46 times the $5,100 median for renters. Even if homeowner wealth fell back to 1995 levels, it would still be 27.5 times the median for renters.

The recent fall in prices can’t wipe out the 100 year history housing has as a good long-term investment.

Bottom Line

The study was promoting the need for the construction of more rental housing for the average American family. However, when it came to a discusion on building wealth, Harvard offered:

“And for individuals as well as businesses, owning rental properties is an avenue for wealth creation.”

And how do these individuals and businesses create that wealth. Owning the real estate and collecting rent from their tenants to offset the mortgage payments. Build your family’s wealth – not your landlord’s. We believe home ownership almost always makes the most sense.

Article from KCM Blog 


Image courtesy of

The Outgoing Tide Northlight

by Allyson Hoffman

Saturday, May 14th at 8:00 PM the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie presents The Outgoing Tide Northlight.  This is presented in support from the Lehman Family American Experience Series. 

In a summer cottage on Chesapeake Bay, Gunner has hatched an unorthodox plan to secure his family's future but meets with resistance from his wife and son, who have plans of their own. As winter approaches, the three must quickly find common ground and come to an understanding-before the tide goes out. This new drama hums with dark humor and powerful emotion.

A great weekend to go out to the theatre in Skokie. For tickets click here.

Image courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region/


Keeping Your Home Safe

by Allyson Hoffman

Keeping your family safe is top priority for all Northern Illinois homeowners. Most people believe that their homes are a safe place.  The reality is that even if you have taken the extra precautions to make your home a safe place, it still may not be.  There are some common safety hazards that can make your home unsafe, even dangerous.  The positive thing is that most things can be easily fixed.  Here are some of the most common concerns and you can fix 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.

Keeping your Chicago Metro home safe is one of your most important jobs. So keep it safe and that will help to keep it happy!

Image courtesy of John Bell/


Mother’s Day Smooth 87.7 Brunch

by Allyson Hoffman

Check out the Mother’s Day Brunch with Rick O’Dell Broadcasting live from 10 AM to 2 PM on smooth 87.7 WLFM-FM Chicago Jazz Radio in Arlington Heights.  Unlimited Champagne, Gourmet menu, every mom gets a flower. Plus, photo station and contest to win concert tickets.

This brunch isn’t just food, it’s an event! Maybe mom will get on the radio? Tickets are limited and prepaid. Call the Metropolis Ballroom of Arlington Heights at 847-870-8787 extension 200 for reservations.


Image courtesy of MZPlus/

Presenting Judy Collins

by Allyson Hoffman

The Centre East Theatre stage in Chicago presents Judy Collins. Judy Collins was the only artist in the top three of both of their on-line and performance program surveys.  She has an impressive career that has spanned more than 40 years. Ms. Collins has thrilled audiences worldwide with her unique blend of interpretative folk songs and contemporary themes.  She is noted for her rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” on her classic 1967 album, “Wildflowers” and her Grammy Award-winning version of “Send in the Clowns.”

Click here to purchase tickets for $50-$60 for the show that begins at 8:00 PM at the Centre East Theatre in Chicago or call 847-673-6300.


Image courtesy of CHRIS DRUMM/

Foreclosures: Are They Increasing or Decreasing?

by Allyson Hoffman

There seems to be much confusion about the number of distressed properties which are currently entering the North Shore housing market. This inventory has a tremendous impact on pricing in any particular region. For this reason, we want to bring a little clarity to the situation. Mortgage delinquencies are decreasing and foreclosures are increasing. Still confused? Let us explain.

Delinquencies are decreasing

The great news at this time is that the number of people 90+ days behind on their mortgage payment is falling. As the employment picture slowly brightens and families adjust to their current financial situation, more people are paying their mortgage on time. This has created headlines touting that the foreclosure situation is easing. Those headlines are correct. However…

Foreclosures are again flowing to the market

We must still clear the large inventories of foreclosed properties that exist. We had a small reprieve over the last few months as many distressed properties were caught in a logjam created as banks corrected faulty paperwork. That bottleneck is beginning to clear. This month’s LPS Mortgage Monitor shows exactly this situation in this graph:


As further evidence, Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance just released their HousingPulse Distressed Property Index (DPI). The Index indicated that:

… nearly half of the housing market is now distressed properties. This trend is likely to continue as a backlog of foreclosures and mortgage defaults make their way through the housing pipeline. 

What does this mean?

We will keep hearing what seems to be conflicting reports on the foreclosure situation. Remember that delinquencies and foreclosures are two different measures and can go in different directions. Here is an additional slide from the Mortgage Monitor to help you distinguish the differencies.

Bottom Line

More people are paying their mortgage. Once we clear through the existing distressed property inventory, the market will finally gain momentum.

Article from KCM Blog



Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 10




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

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