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Moving? Make Your Social Network Work for You

by Allyson Hoffman

In this tight economy, many people are having to look far and wide for the right job opportunities.  Which can mean moving to unfamiliar places, a daunting prospect, especially if you have school-age children.  Finding the right neighborhoods and school districts is a vital part of making the experience a good one in the long run.

To get the information you need to make a good decision, I provide a complimentary relocation assistance program.  But, you may have a fantastic social network, and it’s a perfect time to put it to use.

I’m talking about Facebook and other social media sites.  If you’re a regular online, let your friends and contacts know where you’re planning to move and ask them for information about the area.  Ask about neighborhoods, schools, local parks and attractions, favorite restaurants and other places that may soon be a big part of your new life.  If your Facebook friends don’t know themselves, maybe they have other friends that do.

You can do the same thing with other services like Twitter or LinkedIn.  Tweeting something like: “Planning to move to Glenview. What are the best schools in town? #Glenview” is a simple way to solicit information from a variety of people. 

If you already have a job in the new location, make sure to ask your new company’s human resources department for any assistance they can offer you.  Find out specifics like where you’ll need to go to get your car registered and a new driver’s license.  Churches can be an excellent resource as well.

Of course, you’re going to want to see your options personally before you make any decision. And you can plan ahead for your scouting trip by using services like Yelp to pinpoint specific shops, services and restaurants that will be important to you. 

And having prepared before you tour the area with a Real Estate Professional, you’ll be in a much better position to ask specific questions and provide information that will make your search for a new home a much easier and enjoyable experience.

Image courtesy of Hitcom/Pixabay.com

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company

North Shore 4th Of July Events

by Allyson Hoffman

Summer is going fast! It is hard to believe that it is almost the 4th of July. The North Shore area has some of the best Independence Day celebrations in the country. Below are some of the exciting events that you and your family can enjoy. Have a safe and fun holiday!

City of Chicago's Fourth of July Fireworks
Location:  From Foster to Montrose
Lawrence & Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL
Cost:  Free
Time:  9:00 p.m.  (15 minutes long)
Info:  Fireworks can be viewed on the North Side from Foster to Montrose.  Display will occur up and down Chicago's 26 miles of lakefront.
 
 
Evanston Fireworks
Location:  Clark Street Beach; 400-499 Clark Street, Evanston, IL
Cost:  Free
2:00 p.m.:  Parade from Central Park Avenue East on Central Street to Ashland Avenue
7:30 p.m. - 9:10 p.m.:  Palatine Concert Band will play patriotic music
9:15 p.m.:  Fireworks
 
 
Glencoe Fireworks/Festival -- Glencoe Park District
999 Green Bay Road, Glencoe, IL
Location:  Lakefront Park
8:00 a.m.:    2 mile fun run from Train Station
10:00 a.m.:  All-Media Art Fair on Village Green
10:00 a.m.:  Family games at Kalk Park
2:00 p.m.:    Parade
6:00 p.m.:    Park & Ride from Village parking lot & train station
6:30 p.m.:    BBQ meal at the beach
6:30 p.m.:    Children's entertainment by Magician Jeff Bibik
7:00 p.m.:    Music
9:00 p.m.:    Fireworks on the beach
 
 
Skokie Fourth of July Parade & Fireworks Festival
12:00 noon:  Parade (bands, drill teams, clowns, tumblers, live animals, vintage autos & more).  Runs north from Oakton Community College on Lincoln Avenue to Oakton Street, then east from downtown to Oakton Park.
5:00 p.m.:  Festival at Niles West High School.  Features food, drinks and live bands until dusk.
Dusk:  3-D fireworks.  The first 10,000 people get a free pair of 3-D glasses.  Location - Niles West High School

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Image courtesy of wintersixfour/morguefile.com

Why Debt-To-Income Ratio Is Important

by Allyson Hoffman

When homebuyers apply for a mortgage, the lender will look at what is called a debt-to-income ratio.  This is an important aspect and the loan could be denied if the ratio is too high. Below is more information on why is it important to you and how it effects your financing.

Debt-to-income ratio is simply a comparison of the money you earn to the money you owe. It includes credit card debt, existing mortgages, auto loans, and any other personal debt.

Your mortgage lender will look at your Debt-To-Income (DTI) to evaluate your ability to afford your new mortgage. You should have a good idea of what your DTI ratio is before you approach a lender or consider buying a new home.

You ultimately want to achieve a low DTI ratio. A high number means that you have less disposable income and less ability to maintain the home once you purchase it. With foreclosures at an all time high, lenders are not willing to assume any additional risk in lending.

Most lenders seek DTI ratios in the 20-36% range or lower, with no more than 28% of debt dedicated to the mortgage itself. While some lenders will consider higher ratios, DTIs in the upper 30% range are considered high risk.

There are several different calculators available online to help you determine your ratio, and you can always check with your financial institution for guidance on determining your DTI ratio.

Here’s a simple formula:

  1. Add all your monthly payments (mortgage or rent, car, credit cards, any other debt payments)
  2. Add your gross income (before taxes), bonuses, alimony, or any other outside income and divide by 12
  3. Then divide the total number in (1) by the final number in (2)
  4. The result is your DTI ratio


Whether you are ready to buy a new home or are just interested in your financial health, it’s a good idea to know your DTI and understand the steps to lower your ratio and become as close to debt-free as you can.

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Going Green With Tankless Water Heaters

by Allyson Hoffman

More and more homeowners are starting to go green in many ways, both for the environmental benefits as well as the economical savings. In addition potential homebuyers are looking for houses that offer efficient and economical operating systems. Tankless water heaters are the latest technology to help save money and the environment.

The DOEtells us that hot water usage, specifically heating the water, is the 3rd largest day to day expense in the home. If you are looking to be more energy efficient and cut back on utility expenses, you may want to go tankless.

Conventional water heaters keep your water hot 24/7, while an on-demand system, using the tankless approach, only heats water when you need it. An efficient gas burner quickly heats cold water traveling through the system to a preset temperature.

There are several common manufacturers of tankless water heaters – check out www.smarterhotwater.com, sponsored by Rheem. They tell us that annual costs for conventional water heating and storage (average) can be as much as $285, where the costs for tankless are more than $100 less per year on average.

So why haven’t we all converted? Tankless water heaterscost more up front – sometimes as much as twice more than traditional water systems. But adoption is growing as consumers become more and more concerned with efficiency and long term value for their dollars. Here’s a few reasons to consider going tankless:

1. Energy friendly and efficient. On demand systems can reduce energy costs as much as 25%.
2. Reliable and convenient. You get a continuous supply – imagine never running out of hot water!
3. Sleek and small. No more bulky tanks taking up valuable storage. Typical tankless heaters aren’t much bigger than a small suitcase.
4. Life expectancy.  Tankless water eaters are built to last  - 20 + years or more.
5. Versatility. It’s size and operating system allow you to place nearly anywhere in your home that is convenient for you.

Tankless water heaters are expensive, as noted and can be expensive to retrofit. If you are purchasing a new home, or buying a home that you plan to say in for a long time, the savings and benefits are worth the expense. If you are in a short term arrangement, the conventional water heaters may still be all you need for now. Also, avoid electric style tankless heaters – the gas units are much more efficient and affordable.

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Image courtesy of Roger Mommaerts/Flickr.com

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Continue To See Default Rates Rise

by Allyson Hoffman

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage lending giants are facing pressure on their position on principal reductions that is out of step with the Obama administration’s directives to expand principal write downs.

The result of this reluctance to get with the program? Nearly 60% (average of both) of their loans were in default a year after modification, compared to 40% of bank mortgages (who are actively reducing principal on their own loans).

Pressed to comment on whether or not they will consider this tactic, both companies and the Treasury Department have been silent.

Both Fannie and Freddie were placed into federal conservatorship in 2008, getting a $127 billion Treasury boost in the process. Their reluctance to agree to the Obama administration’s mandate to consider principal reductions may just be prolonging the inevitable, and it looks like they are running out of time. Housing experts agree that it’s time they get with the program, including putting into play the $75M they have already set aside for preventing foreclosures. The longer they wait, the number of loans backed by Freddie and Fannie that are in default continue to rise.

Obama’s Hardest Hit Fund has tasked ten states with coming up with reasonable efforts to assist unemployed and underwater homeowners. The $2.1B fund should help states put some teeth into their efforts to get Fannie and Freddie to agree to match reductions or provide other relief assistance.

Time will tell, but the rates of default and redefault at F&F continue to rise as time goes by.

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Has Your Mortgage Loan Been Denied?

by Allyson Hoffman

Many mortgage lenders tend to advertise with satisfied customers who appear to have been approved for a loan. The truth is unfortunately that this isn't always the case and a lot of people get denied for a loan, especially in this economy. However, it is important for homebuyers to realize that it isn't always the lenders fault. Of course they would like potential customers to assume that they will be approved but the loan industry is a very risky one right now and they have to protect their assets.  If you have been denied recently or in the past for a loan, it's time to take control of the situation and do whatever you can to educate yourself on how to change that NO answer to a YES answer! Here, to help you out are some suggestions.

  • Consider a co-signer if your income simply is not high enough to qualify for the actual loan. The co-signer's income can possibly be considered as an amount towards your loan regardless if the person is living with you or helping you pay the actual bill. In many cases, the cosigner might also be able to compensate for your low credit. It is important however to understand that there are risks for your cosigner and if you default on your mortgage, the lender can actually in turn go after your cosigner for the full amount!
  • Wait it out.  Sometimes the best advice you can get, especially if the conditions in the housing market is slow or the economy is bad, is to simply wait. Oftentimes when conditions improve in the economy, the lenders will be more willing to let you "borrow" the money for your loan. While you are waiting, you can take this time to work on your credit score. While you are waiting, home prices could also drop!
  • Consider a less expensive property. We all want what we want, but you might have a better chance of being approved if you switch to a less expensive option. For example, if you wanted a house, but you cannot wait and you cannot qualify for the loan, you might consider switching to a smaller home or to a town home instead. Later on down the line when your financial situation improves, then you can trade up the property and move to the location and home you really want to.
  • Apply with a different lender. The world is full of lenders, if you don't like what one says or you get denied - try someone else! However, if every single lender you go to denies you, you should become aware that it is for a reason - in fact, if they all list the same reason then you will know what you need to fix.  Use common sense and stay away from predatory lenders. We have heard some pretty scary stories about these places - so just don't do it. You could literally be signing your life away.

Keep in mind that if you are denied, keep trying and work on your credit and then in a few months try again! With a little time, patience and understanding, you could be able to turn the situation around to your favor!

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Image courtesy of www.gotcredit.com/Flickr.com

North Shore Memorial Day Events

by Allyson Hoffman

The long weekend with the last Monday in May is celebrated as the start of summer. Parades, barbeques and other special kick off the summer season. The Chicago area offers many fun events for everyone to enjoy. Have a fun and safe holiday!


Memorial Day Parade-May 29, 2010 - Downtown Chicago

The annual Chicago Memorial Day Wreath Laying Ceremony and Parade is scheduled for Saturday, May 24, 2008. The Wreath Laying Ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at the Eternal Flame on Daley Plaza in Chicago ( at Dearborn and Washington Streets). The parade will step off at 12:00 noon and proceed south down State Street from Randolph Street to Van Buren Street.

Randolph Street Fest

Randolph Street Fest is the festival of the week this weekend. It runs all
summer on specific weekends. This street market used to be known as the Chicago Antique Market, but alas less antiques leads to a name change. This means all kinds of good stuff is for sale, although not at discount prices. Check it out for some browsing action at 1400 W. Randolph St, in Chicago 60607. They now feature indie items (eco friendly, home made, crafters) and world goods from all over in addition to the antiques. From 10am -5pm Saturday may 24th and Sunday May 25th. It is $10.00 to enter to cover the site rental and security fees. Call 312-666-1200 for more info. 
A free trolley departs from Water Tower Place on the hour between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; and returns to North Michigan Avenue from the Market every 30 minutes between 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

 
14th Annual Memorial Day Dedication & Wreath Laying Ceremony at Grant Park
 

The Lawrence Pucci Wedgwood Society of Chicago and co-sponsor Chicago Cultural Mile Association invite you to celebrate this Memorial Day by reaffirming our pledge to assemble, honor and remember those who served this glorious country in the spirit and memory of General John A. Logan, founder of Memorial Day. The dedication and wreath laying ceremony will be held on May 31, 2010, 11:00 AM at the foot of the John A. Logan statue in Grant Park (Michigan & 9th). This event is free and open to the public, more info at http://www.chicagoculturalmile.com
 

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Image courtesy of wintersixfour/morguefile.com

Damages During A Move

by Allyson Hoffman

You have searched for weeks and now that you have found the perfect home  it is time to move in! If you are using a moving company, it is likely that no matter how careful your movers are you will still have a lost or damaged item. So what should you do if a box of belongings arrives in pieces -- or just fails to materialize? Here are some tips for what to do if a moving company damages property or loses something of yours.

1.Be sure to read the Bill of Lading carefully.  This contains the terms of your agreement with specifics such as information on the type of liability you and your mover agreed upon. By law all companies are required to insure their cargo at a rate of up to 60 cents per pound. However that means small high value items will only be replaced for 60 cents.

2. Address any obvious damages or loss. It is vital that you review your inventory and make sure that everything has been accounted for and is not damaged beofre you sign anything.   If you do notice any damages or missing items before make sure to alert them of any issues and make a note on the inventory sheet or Bill of Lading. It is recommended to not accept any offer made by the company to settle on the spot as you may end up underestimating the damages.

3. Know your rights.  According to The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates moving companies, they indicate that "Movers are prohibited from having you sign a receipt which relieves the mover from all liability for loss or damage to the shipment.  Make re to NOT sign any receipt which does not indicate thatprovide that you are signing for your shipment in apparent good condition except as noted on the shipping documents." If you've made a note on your contract about concealed damages, that last bit will keep you covered. However, even if you have a claim, you are still responsible for paying for the move in a timely fashion.

4. If you suffer a lost, file a claim. You have to file a claim within nine months of the date of service. Contact the movers via certified mail, informing the movers of the damage and requesting a claim form. Be sure to keep a copy of your inventory sheet handy, along with any photos or videos that can support your claim. If the movers are not in contact about your within 30 days or if they refuse to recoup your loss, you may want to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or even take your case to small claims court.

5. Invest in moving insurance. Even before you sign a contract with a mover, research your options for moving insurance.  This type of insurance will insure your possessions in the event of a damage or loss, or for a catastrophe occurrence.  Check with your current renter or homeowners insurance company to see what might be covered from your current policy as well.

 Image courtesy of Crispin Semmens/Flickr.com

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Do You Qualify for a Moving Expense Deduction?

by Allyson Hoffman

Have you recently moved or relocated as a result of a new job or job transfer? If yes, you might like to know that some of the costs associated with a move of this type may be used as a moving expense deduction on your income taxes. A few of things to keep in mind that help in determining if you would qualify for a moving expense deduction include:

  • The distance between the old home and the new job must be at least 50 miles
     
  • If you move within a year of taking the job at the new location
     
  • If you work full-time for at least 39 weeks (the total is 78 weeks if you are self-employed)


Whether a homeowner or renter, you can deduct the cost of moving household goods and the direct cost of moving you and your family. You can also deduct expenses for lodging during the move but not meals.

It is important to keep detailed records of all expenses during a move and
consult a tax expert to make sure that you take all the lawful tax deductions allowed by the IRS criteria for expenses related to selling your old home or buying your new one. For additional reading regarding moving expenses, the IRS publication No. 521 entitled "Tax Information on Moving Expenses" is also a great resource.

Image courtesy of Hitcom/Pixabay.com

10 Packing Tips For Your Next Move

by Allyson Hoffman

When you decide to make a move to a new home there are a number of things to take care of including the dreaded packing. Not many people enjoy this process, but it can be a lot less stressful if you are organized and make a plan.

 

Here are a few tips to get you started.

 

  1. Plan ahead and budget for the move. Will you be moving yourself or will you require the assistance of a moving company? If you are planning to use a moving company it’s a good idea to price this out ahead of time by using a moving calculator.

 

  1. Make sure you have plenty of the following: strong packing boxes (more than you think you will need), markers and tags to label boxes, rolls of packing tape, bubble wrap for fragile items, packing paper, scissors and a knife for opening boxes.

 

  1. Pack room-to-room keeping similar items together.

 

  1. Use smaller boxes for heavier items so it is easier to lift.

 

  1. You can use towels, linens and curtains to line the bottom and sides of boxes with fragile items. All fragile items should be individually wrapped. Clearly mark these boxes FRAGILE.

 

  1. Make sure that any opened boxes or jars are tightly sealed before packing them.

 

  1. Use colorful tags to identify the contents of the box and which room it will be taken to in your new home.

 

  1. Pack any rugs last so that they will be the first thing unpacked and placed in the home.

 

  1. Make a master list of all household items and personal belongings.

 

  1. Finally pack a box with all the essentials and mark it “Open Me First”. This box may contain items such as: a few basic tools (flashlight, pocket knife, masking tape, light bulbs), bathroom essentials (toilet paper, soap, shampoo, toothbrushes & paste, hand towel), Kitchen items (paper towels, coffee maker & filter, paper plates, cups, utensils, pet food, trash bags).

 

Planning ahead will make all the difference to an overwhelming move. Do your research and make a plan.

 

Image courtesy of Lisa Risager/Flickr.com

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

(847) 310-5300
[email protected]

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