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

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Top Reasons To Buy A Home Now

by Allyson Hoffman

A recent Wall Street Journal article was addressing the housing market, they gave some great reasons as to why now is the time to buy a new home.   Here are some of the reasons we agree on for buying a North Shore home now:

10. You'll get a better home. In sothe current inventory at around 4 million homes. That's enough for a years worth of sales. That means a lot of choices as well as great prices.

8. Sooner of later, the market will improve. There will be more demand than supply. The population is supposed to grow by more than 100 million people over the next 40 years. That means a lot of people will be looking for new homes in the future.

7. Your home isn't the stock market and it shouldn't be viewed as a way to get rich. Real Estate prices will go up again. Equity in your home is another way of investing in your future.

6. If offers some inflation protection, especially if you are young and raising a family.

5. It will be yours. You can have the kitchen and bathrooms you want, you can move walls or build an extension. You can even paint your home bright red. Few landlords will allow you to do that.

4. It's a buyer's market. We all like a good deal, we feel a sense of satisfaction after negotiating.

3. It's forced savings.  If you rent an apartment for $2000/month instead of buying one for $2400/month, renting seems like a good idea but will you save the $400 for the future? Most people won't and since part of that monthly payment as an owner is tax deductible, you do the math.  You are just paying yourself by building equity in your home.

2. You'll save on taxes. You can deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes from your income taxes.

And the #1 reason is...

1. Mortgages are cheap. Interest rates are low. Two years ago they were around 6.3%. Now they are around 4.3% for a 30 year fixed loan. That's a big difference in your monthly payment.  When inflation goes up, interest rates will go up.

Can you think of any other reasons to buy?

I can. Landlords raise your rent every year. That increase could be used towards a tax deductible mortgage.

What are you waiting for? If you're thinking of buying, now is the time to buy!! Contact me on how I can help!

 

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Signs That You are Ready to be a Home Buyer

by Allyson Hoffman

It's time to buy in Chicago's North Shore, but there is a lot to consider when purchasing a home. For example, how do you know that you are ready to take the leap? Here are a few signs of readiness, ask yourself these questions-are you ready?

  • Do you have your finances in order? Becoming a homeowner, especially in a difficult economy can be financially challenging. If you have created a budget and stick with it you are on the right path. Having good money-management skills are a must-have so that when you do own a home you will be able to have a smooth financial flow for monthly home expenses.
  • Do you have a sizable down payment of at least 20%? While this is a large amount of money to come up with it is important to have as you will start out with having some equity. Just a few years ago, homeowners could obtain a home with little or no money down, but the rules have changed. However, there are options out there for zero or low money down loans but if you have to sell your home before you expect you can potentially loose money and you will also need to pay for PMI (private mortgage insurance).
  • Do you have a steady source of income? Of course in a recession there is no real thing as job security but when you buy a home you are going to be required to have a reliable source of income to cover not only mortgage payments but all the other monthly and unexpected expenses that come along with homeownership. It is important to look at how stable your source of income is as well as having an emergency savings fund where you will have enough funds to cover these expense in case of a loss of a job or other emergency.
  • How does your credit look?  Having a good credit score will help to not only get a home loan but will also get you a lower interest rate on your mortgage. Hold off on any large purchases such as cars before applying for a loan as this could effect your rating. Also review your credit report for free at annualcreditreport.com before even applying for the loan to check for any errors.
  • Are you ready for the responsibility of owning a home? In addition to the financial aspect of homeownership, you need to be sure you are ready for the other things that come along. Things like lawn care, upkeep as well as unexpected repairs need to be considered as part of owning a home. 

If you are ready to buy a home contact me today to help you find the perfect house for you and your family! 

 

 

 

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Moving to the North Shore!

by Allyson Hoffman

Whether you are moving to North Shore or just the next town over, it can be a time consuming and at times a frustrating process. Even the best laid plans can run into a snag, so being flexible is key. Below are some helpful tips that can help you to get organized so your move runs smoothly and help you save some time.

1. Change your address and notify companies before you move. Start by filling out a change of address form in advance of your move. Doing this ahead of time can help you to avoid hassles like past-due bills, service lapses and even identity theft. It is also a good idea before you move to set dates to discontinue your utilities at your old address as well as arrange for these services to be turned on at your new address. .

2. Create a moving schedule. It is a good idea to set up a moving schedule a few months before you move. Set it up as a week-by-week checklist to manage the process and help to stay on track. A moving schedule helps you to keep track of the little details or things that may be over looked, thus helping you to avoid last minute headaches. 

3. Establish a packing system. Packing is a major time consumer so thing about coming up with a packing system so all of your boxes end up in the right rooms when they get to your new North Shore home. Many professional movers recommend that you use the color code system where you color code each box with a particular room to avoid any confusion with the movers. It is also helpful to give your movers a floor plan of your home with each room labeled.

4. Get rid of unnecessary items. The less boxes you pack, the less you have to move and finally unpack. So it makes sense to thoroughly go thru your items and get rid of the things you just don't need. Items such as unread books, half-empty cleaning products, clothes that you know you won't wear again should be given away or sold at a garage sale. You don't want to bring the clutter to your new home!

Contact me today to find the perfect Northern Illinois home for you!  Have any moving tips that have worked for you? Share them here!

 

 

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Become a Better Borrower with Your Credit Score

by Allyson Hoffman

If you are ready to buy a North Shore home then you probably know that lenders look at your credit score to make a decision on if you can get a loan for your Northern Illinois dream home.  In today's tight lending market, this article from the Equifax experts can help you to get the loan you need.

Raise your credit score! There’s good reason to do so—a higher credit score can provide you a greater array of financial options and more favorable credit offers. And there’s always room for improving your creditworthiness by understanding your credit score, even if yours is good to begin with.

Keep in mind, however, that your credit score is based on your history of borrowing and repaying money, so there’s no way to instantly change it. But here are some effective strategies that can help to strengthen your creditworthiness over time.

Top ten strategies for improving your credit score

10. Learn what your current FICO credit score is and what appears on your credit report. You’re allowed one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus, accessible at AnnualCreditReport.com. When you pull your report, you can also pay a small fee to see your credit score. If you’ve used up your freebies for the year, Score Power can give you immediate access to your Equifax Credit Report, which includes your current FICO credit score.

9. Don’t open new credit cards that you don’t need just to increase your available credit. This approach could backfire and could lower your score.

8. Try to keep your total account balances as low as possible. High outstanding debt may negatively affect your score, as you have a greater chance of missing payments.

7. Check your report for inaccurate information and correct any mistakes. Incorrect information on your credit report is a warning sign for identity theft, which can be very damaging to your credit score. Check out more information for preventing and recovering from identity theft.

6. If your credit is severely damaged, or if you have a very short credit history, there are still ways to improve your creditworthiness over time. Consider opening new accounts responsibly and pay off debt on time.

5. If you fall behind on paying a bill because of illness, unemployment, or family issues, write a short explanation to the credit reporting agencies. They will add it to your credit report. It won’t improve your credit score directly, but creditors may take your personal statement into consideration when evaluating you. Also, call your creditor to explain the circumstances and, if possible, work out a payment schedule you can meet.

4. If you need help managing your credit, contact a reliable nonprofit credit counseling agency. Find an agency in your area through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

3. To minimize the number of inquiries on your credit report, don’t apply for multiple credit cards over a short period of time, and don’t apply for a card you’re not likely to get. Apply for new credit accounts only as needed.

2. Make all of your payments on time. If you are forced to miss a payment, be sure to pay it the following month along with the current payment. Past due accounts will be listed on your credit report. If you have missed payments, get current and stay current. As a general rule, the longer you pay your bills on time, the better your score.

And the number one strategy to improve your credit score…?

1. Continue to check your credit report regularly, charting your progress along the way. Everyone’s financial situation is different and all credit reports are different as well. Monitor your credit report for how certain activities affect your credit score. Keep an eye out for false information and identity theft. And watch and see how positive activities like on-time payments and a good mix of credit accounts will raise your credit score over time.

Are you ready to find your perfect home in the Chicago North Shore? Contact me today so I can help!

 

 

 

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Top 10 Reasons You Need a Real Estate Agent

by Allyson Hoffman

In this economy, people are looking to cut out any extra costs they can, especially when making a purchase like a home. You may feel like it's not necessary to hire a real estate agent, but here are ten solid reasons why having an experienced, friendly, helpful real estate agent can make a big difference in your home shopping, and buying,  experience!

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. This experience 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.

9 -- Gives Timely Updates  

Throughout the buying process, you should 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. What’s 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.

Please contact me today, I would love to help you in your home search. I can help you find the home that is perfect you and your family and make the entire process less intimidating!


Image courtesy of 드림포유/Flickr.com

 

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Have You Considered Alternative Financing?

by Allyson Hoffman

Some homebuyers are reporting that obtaining financing for a home has been getting more and more difficult. If you are finding it a challenge to qualify for a traditional mortgage, that doesn't mean your dream of owning a Chicago North Shore home has to end. With lending guidelines tighter than ever, many home buyers are looking to alternatives to traditional mortgages and fortunatly there are some options available!

 Here are a few ideas to consider if you are running into road blocks:

  • Borrow From Life Insurance: You may have a whole life or other insurance policy that increases in value over time. If you borrow against that cash value, you don’t have to go through standard loan qualification.  Be sure to check with your insurance company about the risks involved
  • Owner/Seller Financing: If the seller is an investor, or if the seller owns the property free and clear, they may offer owner or seller financing options to help move the property. You will still be responsible for principal, interest and scheduled payments through a promissory note, but you probably won’t go through the rigorous qualification process that a bank requires. Typically owner or seller financing also saves mortgage origination fees and other fees tacked on by most lenders.
  • Borrow From An IRA: If you have a self-directed IRA, then you know that you can use the IRA to invest in a number of assets, including mortgages. Although you can’t use your own IRA to buy your personal home, a family member or other investor can use a self-directed IRA as the investment vehicle for your property. Private investors often step in to help with acquisition loans, although you can expect to pay a higher rate for the initial loan.
  • Lease/Purchase Option: Many investment owners are willing to offer a lease/purchase option or rent to own agreement. You are able to rent the property for a specific term, usually with higher payments than the market rate; and your rents go toward the purchase or down payment of the property.

Do you have any tips to share on alternative financing or have you found other options than what is listed here? Contact me today, we'd love to know about other options that can help homebuyers!

Image courtesy of Pictures of Money/Flickr.com

 

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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!

 

 

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Why is Having a Good Credit Score Important When Buying a Home

by Allyson Hoffman

Interested in buying a home in Chicago's North Shore? Lenders are telling us that they want to make loans, but in this difficult economy, those with the best credit will be approved.

While many Americans are struggling to make payments and hang on to their good credit scores, mortgage companies and other institutions are tightening their standards and credit qualifications more than ever before.

Those rock bottom interest rates? They are reserved for top tier credit risks – borrowers who have scores of 720 and above. Your banker is also looking for thorough documentation of your income and assets. Keep in mind that from mortgages to car loans, your credit history and score matter more than then they ever have in the past.

If you're buying a new home or refinancing the mortgage on your primary home, you'll need a minimum down payment of 5% to 10% for a conforming loan or 10% to 15% for a conforming jumbo loan (125% of a metro area's median home price, up to $729,750).

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will take a credit score of 620 if you have at least 25% equity in the property or a score of 660 with equity of less than 25%. Oh and that debt to income? Make sure it’s at 36% or less.

In addition to stellar credit history lenders look for:

  • Proof of income – You’ll need to show pay stubs for the past 30 days and W-2 forms for the past two years, along with retirement-account and investment statements.
  • Self-employment – Be prepared to give up  two years of tax returns and keep your fingers crossed. It’s become harder than ever for declared income borrowers to get mortgages and other lines of credit.
  • Rental income - You can use only 75% of rental income to qualify for a mortgage, along with 30% equity in your former home.

Even if you are preapproved, you will be subject to a second or final approval – lenders will pull a second credit report before closing. If you have taken on any new debt, your deal may go right out the window. Home equity loans are tougher to get now as well. In most areas you'll be able to borrow no more than 80% of the appraised value – and that’s with your perfect credit score.

The bottom line – take good care of your credit. It can be very challenging in this recession but your credit history and credit score are more important than ever. Bad lending practices have resulted in tight standards that will give credit only to the top tier borrowers who have enough cash and income that they may not even need to borrow money in the first place.

In this tight lending environment, credit is key. Have questions?  Contact me about ways  to improve your credit score to have the best home buying experience!

Photo courtesy www.gotcredit.com/Flickr.com

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Be Prepared For The Home Buying Experience

by Allyson Hoffman

It can be overwhelming and confusing to some buyers as to exactly what they should do, especially first time homebuyers. With a trusted realtor by your side you can avoid common mistakes and be prepared for the homebuying experience.

Below are some some important tips to follow before you begin to help ensure a smooth transaction.

  1. Avoid making any major purchases – at least not on credit. If even you are pre-approved, do not make any large credit purchases or take out any loans before you close on your new home. For example:
  • Autos, boats or other vehicles
  • Furniture
  • Appliances
  • Electronics
  • Student loans
  • Refinanced property
  • Personal loans

2. Don’t wait to get your approval from your mortgage lender – the more up front work you do before you are ready to sign, the better. This includes making sure your credit is in good shape, with no mistakes or surprises on your credit report.

3. Don’t change jobs – unless you absolutely have to or you are making a major step up the career ladder. A steady and stable employment history is another important piece to getting approved and getting a good rate on your mortgage.

4. Don’t skip the home inspection or rely on the seller’s inspector. Your best bet is to get an objective third party home inspection (your agent can recommend one) and make sure that any repairs or problems are not on your contract.

6. Finally, as tempting as it is don’t buy a home you can’t afford! A large house with bells and whistles is tempting but foreclosures are at an all time high for this reason. Be sure to take into account the property taxes, utility bills, HOA expenses, insurance and maintenance. The price of your home is much more than the mortgage payment!

Don't let finding your dream home turn into a nightmare! Do your homework, talk to your realtor and be prepared for this experience.

Image courtesy of www.401kcalculator.org/Flickr.com

 

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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/Pixabay.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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