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


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 58

Are You Ready to Find Your New Home?

by Allyson Hoffman

Are You Ready to Find Your New Home? 

It’s not hard to see the signs. The housing market in some regions is roaring toward a complete recovery. In California and Florida, developers are resorting to lotteries to handle the scores of prospective buyers each new home brings.  It seems every week brings new, positive reports on housing starts, sales and other statistics. So if buying a home is on your agenda this year, you’ll need to be prepared.

Know What You Can Afford

This part of the process can be difficult, because you have to be painfully honest with yourself or you risk problems down the road. You know how much you make. What you need to know is how much of that is available for a mortgage payment and insurance every month, as well as annual taxes and fees. Sometimes, it can be easier to work from the other direction and determine how much you have left over after other expenses are accounted for in your plan. These are things like car payments, monthly food purchases or school-related expenses.   However you arrive at it, a number representing how much you can spend each month on housing is a critical component of your home search. You won’t be the only one doing this, of course. Your lender will also make the same assessment when deciding how much they’re willing to lend you!

Know What You Want

This can be a real challenge. First you’ll want to make a list of all the things that would make a new house perfect for the life you envision. Try only to add things that would really make you happy.  This part isn’t about what you can afford. It’s about what you’d like to have.  Is it a media room, a three-car garage, a hot tub and/or his and hers closets in the master? Write it down in a list that can really help you narrow potential choices as you compare the list to the features of houses you’ve seen or plan to see.

Know What You Need

This can be even harder than making your initial list, because you have to take the list of what you want and remove everything that isn’t essential. The list above is your “wish list” and this is a list of things that a potential new home must have. You might be able to live without wood floors, but what about central heating and air? Or access to top notch schools and medical care? Providing this list to your real estate professional means you’ll only see houses that have already passed this essential screening.

By thinking though through these considerations before you begin searching for your new home, you will undoubtedly save a lot of time. This preparation will pay off when you  begin looking at houses and with some luck, you’ll find that great new home without a problem!

If you have questions about the buying process, please contact me.  I am always happy to answer any questions about the real estate buying and selling process

Allyson Hoffman, ABR, ACRE, CDPE, CRS, e-PRO, GRI, SFR, SRES
RE/MAX Villager
Serving Chicago's North Shore, North and Northwest Suburbs
[email protected]

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Allyson Hoffman is your ultimate real estate resource for Chicago's North Shore, North and Northwest Suburbs and surrounding areas. Visit my website for detailed information regarding today’s real estate markets.

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.

Image courtesy of Images Money/


Out to Lunch in Libertyville

by Allyson Hoffman

Wanting a relaxing place to spend a summer afternoon? Searching for somewhere that you can go during your lunch hour to recharge? If so, Cook Park in downtown Libertyville, Illinois is where you want to be!

You can visit either this Friday, August 12 or next Friday, August 19 between the hours of 11 am and 2 pm for some fun in the sun. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy the summer day visiting with friends, or “grab and go” on your lunch hour. There will be many different food vendors there offering tasty food such as subs, brats, Mexican, Chinese, salads, barbecue and even ice cream for dessert! Sit back and enjoy the live music playing as well. There’s no better way to spend a Friday afternoon in Libertyville than that!

Parking can be found in the covered free parking garage on Lake Street, as well as the municipal lot behind St. Lawrence Episcopal Church, or designated areas at PNC Bank or the MainStreet parking lot at 160 E. Cook. 

For more information call the MainStreet office (847-680-0336) or visit their website at

Image courtesy of Hajime NAKANO/


Ravina Festival at Martin Theatre

by Allyson Hoffman

Come out to beautiful Highland Park this Saturday for the Ravina Festival and Martin Theatre.

This family friendly event will have an instrument “petting zoo” from 12-1pm!

Founded in 1979 by Ravinia Festival Trustee and cellist Larry Block, the Highland Park Strings is a local orchestra with a mission to provide community concerts where families, friends and North Shore neighbors can gather for an afternoon of musical enjoyment at the highest level. Led by Principal Director Francesco Milioto, the orchestra features top-notch soloists, including members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and gifted rising stars who are given the opportunity to perform for an appreciative audience

For tickets and more information to this event in click here.

Image courtesy of nosha/


Dine out at Pizanos in Glenview

by Allyson Hoffman

Pizano's newest location is now open in Glenview, Illinois at 1808 N Waukegan Road - just half a mile north of Lake Street.

They feature their famous thin buttercrust and award-winning deep-dish pizzas, homemade pastas and sauces from
recipes that have been passed down for generations.

Patio seating outdoors in the warmer months, always friendly service, comfortable atmosphere, and the old world tradition of great food and the celebration of family, friends, and life in

Image courtesy of Sebastian Mary/


What is Title Insurance and Do I Need It?

by Allyson Hoffman

When you buy a Northern Illinois home, you are given a title.  The title is your right to possess and use the property.  A very important fact is that it may not be the home seller who owns the title.  If a bank has a mortgage on the property, they may own an interest in it. Or if someone has done work on the house and didn’t get paid, they could have a lien against it.  

How can you be sure that when you purchase a home that the title has no problems that go with it? And that the seller truly does own the property? These problems could end up being a financial loss to you. That is what the title search and title insurance is for. 

A title search will reveal if someone other than the owner of the property owns the title. This search can be done by examining public records to look up the history of property ownership. While you can easily do your own title search, if you are obtaining a loan to purchase the property, the lender will require that a qualified third party do the title search. The title search shows not only limitations on the use of the property and rights others may have in the property, but also liens or monetary obligations that are outstanding against the property.  

Title insurance is different than the standard insurance where you are covered in case of a future event. For example, if you get car insurance you are insured in case you have an accident, you buy health insurance in case you get sick.  Title insurance is different as it covers events relating to the title that have already happened. It does not cover anything that happens to the title after the date of issuance. For example if you have liens filed against the property for taxes that you have not paid, your title insurance policy is not going to help you. But, if the lien is for taxes not paid by someone who owned the house before you, then you may have coverage under your title policy. 

Title companies can do a title search on the property before issuing the policy to see if there are any problems with the title. This search is done to minimize the risks of offering insurance. The search can turn up problems with deeds, wills, outstanding mortgages, judgements, and tax liens on the property.   When these problems are not cleared, they will often be listed as exceptions to the policy’s coverage. You then would have to make the decision on whether the property was something you wanted or not, knowing the problems. 

Image courtesy of Monam/







Learn to Save on Energy

by Allyson Hoffman

The Department of Energy tells us the typical US family will spend in excess of $1600 a year on energy costs. This amount could be lessened as a large portion of the energy we use is wasted. Here are a few simple steps to take to conserve energy and money.

  • Set your thermostat comfortably low in the winter and comfortably high in the summer in your Northern Illinois home. Install a programmable thermostat that is compatible with your heating and cooling system.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher's drying cycle.
  • Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use.
  • Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips; turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use (TVs and DVDs in standby mode still use several watts of power).
  • Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater in your Chicago North Shore home
  • Take short showers instead of baths.
  • Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® label on home appliances and products. ENERGY STAR® products meet strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

This is the first step in making your home “energy efficient” and will also save you money. For more information on any of the tips listed here, or to learn how you can cut your energy use up to 25%, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website for consumer tips.


Image courtesy of Advanced Telemetry/

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/


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 


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Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 58




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Allyson Hoffman
RE/MAX Villager
1245 Waukegan Road
Glenview IL 60025
Fax: 847-400-0881

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1245 Waukegan Road
Glenview, IL, 60025

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[email protected]

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