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


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 48

Should You Refinance?

by Allyson Hoffman

Many homeowners are seriously considering refinancing because interest rates are at historic lows and now is the time to take advantage of this option. If you have been thinking about refinancing your mortgage there are some factors to take into consideration before making your decison. It is important to realize that although rates are low now, the current economic crisis has caused many lenders to reduce the amount of loans they provide. This is quite a change from the last few years when almost anybody was eligible for mortgage. If you are thinking on how to save on your mortgage refinance, you must be precise in getting your facts right.

You will first need to look at your loan-to-value ratio. In a no-cash-out refinancing (where the amount of your new loan doesn't exceed the balance of your existing loan, plus points and closing costs, if applicable), you may be able to borrow as much as 95% of your home's value. However, if the value of your home has fallen below the amount of your existing mortgage balance, you may be unable to refinance at all. This has unfortunately been the case for many homes but you may be able to proceed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009's Home Affordable Refinance program. 

The major advantage of refinancing to a new lower interest rate, you will save a substantial amount on your monthly mortgage payment. This is of course why most people choose to refinance their mortgage. Keep in mind however that there are going to be costs involved with refinancing such as closing costs, points, and possible appraisal  and attorney fees.

Do your research and shop around for the best refinancing interest rates. All banks are not created equal, some banks and financial institutions charge higher rates than others. Normally, the smaller Community Banks and Credit Unions are more consumers oriented and charge lower rates.

Also when shopping around look and compare interest rates and points vs. no points before you refinance. Watch out for embedded points included in the closing costs. Some lenders will include points in the closing costs without specifically quoting these costs as points.

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Understanding Escrow

by Allyson Hoffman

Escrow is part of the process when you are  purchasing a Northern Illinois home.  Many first time homebuyers have many questions about the escrow process. Here is some information to make it a little easier to understand.

What is an escrow?
An escrow is an arrangement in which a disinterested third party, called an escrow holder, holds legal documents and funds on behalf of a buyer and seller, and distributes them according to the buyer’s and seller’s instructions. The escrow becomes the depository for all monies, instructions and documents pertaining to the purchase of your home.

How does the escrow process work?

The escrow is a depository for all monies, instructions and documents necessary for the purchase of the home, including  funds for the down payment, lender’s funds and documents for the new loan. The duties of an escrow holder include: following the instructions given by the principals and parties to the transaction in a timely manner; handling the funds and/or documents in accordance with instructions; paying all bills as authorized;  closing the escrow only when all terms and conditions have been met; and, distributing the funds in accordance with instructions.

Do I need documentation?
Receipt of your deposit is generally included in your copy of your purchase contract. Your funds will then be deposited in your separate escrow or trust account and processed through your
local bank.

What information will I have to provide?
Typically you will be asked to complete a statement of identity as part of the necessary paperwork. Because many people have the same name, the statement of identity is to identify the specific person in the transaction through such information as date of birth, social security number, etc. This information is kept confidential.

How long is the escrow?
The length of an escrow is determined by the terms of the purchase agreement and can range from a few days to several months. Typically an escrow often takes an average time of 30 to 45 days.

When does the escrow process end?

The day you actually close on your home, the escrow process ends. This is when all the funds are transferred where they need to be and all the documents are signed and you get the keys to your North Shore dream home!

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23rd Annual CSL Art Exhibition

by Allyson Hoffman

The CSL Art Exhibition was the vision of Dr. E. J. Duffy, Principal of Glenbrook North High School. His goal was to unify the CSL Schools through the visual arts, in a non-competitive environment.

Organized and facilitated by CSL Art Educators, the inaugural show was at Northbrook Court in 1988. The intent is to further nurture and cultivate a sense of Community and Commonality amongst all participants centered in the Visual Arts.

Friday, April 8th from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm you can check out the exhibit at the Art Center Highland Park at 1957 Sheridan Road in Highland Park.




Closing Day Tips

by Allyson Hoffman

Closing day is when all the decision are final when purchasing a new or pre-owned Northern Illinois home. The purchase price is paid and the title is transferred from the seller to the buyer. In many states the mortgage lender’s attorney or a title agent will handle the closing details and protect the buyer and seller’s rights as a neutral 3rd part.

You will receive a number of important documents at the closing meeting. Review this list of documents before you go, so that you'll know what to expect when you're there.

Documents the Buyer Typically Receives

  • Settlement statement, itemizing the services provided and the fees charged
  • Truth-in-lending statement
  • Mortgage note
  • Mortgage or deed of trust
  • Sales contract
  • Any required affidavits, if any
  • Copy of the deed
  • Keys to the home

Closing costs are one of the least-understood aspects of the home purchase procedure. You should be sure to speak up and ask about anything you don't understand. Closing costs can vary but they generally are between two and five percent of the home's purchase price and include:

  • Attorney fees
  • Escrow fees
  • Property taxes to cover the period to the closing date
  • Interest from the closing date to one month before the first monthly payment
  • Loan origination fees
  • Recording fees
  • Survey fees
  • Mortgage insurance, if applicable
  • Title insurance, both for the buyer and the lender
  • Loan discount points
  • The first escrow payment for future real estate taxes and insurance
  • Homeowner's insurance policy payment or receipt
  • Appraisal fees
  • Pest or other specific inspection fees
  • Document preparation fees

Closing day is the most important step in the home buying process. Always be sure to ask questions about anything you do not understand. Your realtor or attorney can handle most questions and if they don’t know, they’ll know which direction to point you in.

Image courtesy of David Wall/


Try Something New-Curling!

by Allyson Hoffman

It is always fun to try something new. How about Curling in North Shore? This unique sport is a growing favorite and is an Olympic event.

The North Shore Curling Club is located on the grounds of the North Shore Country Club (NSCC) at : 1340 Glenview Road, Glenview, Illinois 60025. Enter the NSCC grounds, head towards the main club, and the curling lodge will be off to your left.

The phone number for the curling lodge is (847)724-9762. The phone number for the Country club is (847)729-1200.

Image courtesy of Shabbytochicnz/ 


What Do Mortgage Points Mean To Me?

by Allyson Hoffman

When Northern Illinois homebuyers request a quote from a lender for a home loan, they will find that the quotes frequently include both loan rates and points. Most people are confused by what exactly a point is.

Mortgage points describe certain charges to be paid in order to obtain a mortgage on a home. Each mortgage point is a fee based on one percent of the total amount of the loan

A point is a fee equal to 1 percent of the loan amount. For example, A 30-year, $200,000 mortgage might have a rate of 6 percent, but come with a charge of 1 point, or $2,000. A lender can charge 1, 2 or more points. There are two kinds of points: discount points and origination points.

 •Discount points: These types of points are really prepaid interest on the mortgage loan. Because, the more points you pay, the lower the interest rate on the loan and vice versa. Borrowers typically can pay anywhere from zero to 3 or 4 points, depending on how much they want to lower their rates. The advantage to this type of point is that it is tax-deductible.
 •Origination fee: This is charged by the lender to cover the costs of making the loan. The origination fee is deductible if it was used to obtain the mortgage and not to pay other closing costs. The
IRS specifically states that if the fee is for items that would normally be itemized on a settlement statement, such as notary fees, preparation costs, and inspection fees, it is not deductible.

The longer you keep the property financed under the loan that has the purchased points, the more money spent on the points will pay off.  And if the homebuyer has the intention to buy and sell the property or refinance in a big hurry, the buying points will actually end up costing more than just paying the loan at the higher interest rate.

Whether or not you pay points, or how many points can be effected by a variety of factors.  The amount of money you can put down at closing and also how long you plan on staying in your home can be a factor. If you are planning to stay in your home for a long time, you may find it worth it pay points so that it reduces your interest rate. Make sure to have your mortgage lender explain these fees with you at length if you have any questions.

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What is a Piggyback Loan?

by Allyson Hoffman

Have you ever heard of a “piggyback loan?' This is a home financing option where the property is purchased using more than one mortgage from two or more lenders.  While there are many variations, the piggyback loan which is also known as the 80-10-10 loan, can be typically defined as a 10 percent second mortgage coupled with a traditional 80 percent first lien and a 10 percent down payment.  This loan can be mixed in a variety of different ways to make up the difference between a conventional loan and almost any amount of down payment.

A piggyback loan is basically a second mortgage that they give you at the time of a home purchase or refinance.  These types of loans allow you, the home buyer, acquire or refinance a home with less than a 20 percent down payment or equity. One advantage to this style of loan is that the homebuyer isn’t required to carry private mortgage insurance.

Homebuyers can also use this piggyback loan as a source of funding for making a bigger downpayment on their new home. This can be to their advantage because private mortgage insurance can be quite expensive and it is not tax deductible.

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The Chicago Experience

by Allyson Hoffman

Calling all Chicago Fans!! We are not talking about the town but the legendary band!

Take a drive to the Flatlander’s Restaurant and Brewery at 200 Village Green in Lincolnshire to check out 25 or 6 to 4-the Chicago Experience. They are the ultimate tribute to one of the greatest rock bands in history: Chicago!

The show starts at 10PM and ends at 12:30 AM on February 26th. 

What is your favorite Chicago hit?


Image courtesy of Kenneth Hagemeyer/

Family Karaoke and Poetry Slam

by Allyson Hoffman

Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre Presents a Night of Poetry, Karaoke and Pizza for everyone to enjoy! 

Share your family’s poetry or karaoke talent from 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, February 19 at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St. in Evanston.

Bring your best singing voice and most slammin’ poem because it’s gonna be a down-right-groovy thing!

The price of admission is $5 per family, and only $1.50 more per person for a slice of pizza and a soft drink. “Phat Katz Karaoke” will provide the music. For more information, please call 847-448-8254 and ask for the theatre.    

What is your best karaoke song? Have a great weekend!

Image courtesy of aaronHwarren/



Home Appraisers

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.

One of the most common misconception about appraisers is that they work for the home seller. Actually, 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.

If you are buying or selling a home it is a good idea to do some research on the role of appraisers and how they effect you.  Click here for some good facts on appraisers and the process.

Have you had any experience with home appraisers? Share your thoughts with us!


Image courtesy of David Wall/


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 48




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Photo of Allyson Hoffman Real Estate
Allyson Hoffman
RE/MAX Villager
1245 Waukegan Road
Glenview IL 60025
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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