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


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 120

The Trouble with Pets

by Allyson Hoffman

For many homeowners, pets are part of the family. And just like other members of the family, pets can sometimes cause problems around the house … a stain here, damaged wooden floors there.  The damage can add up over time.  Before selling a home, a homeowner will want to rectify these problems, amongst any others.

Oh My, What’s That Smell!

Sometimes you can tell that pets live in a house the moment you open the door. This reaction is not something you want when potential buyers come in to take a look.  Unfortunately, there is no simple fix for pet odors.  Sprays, plug-ins and scented candles might cover the smell, but those remedies may also set off alarm bells as people wonder what you’re trying to hide with all that perfume.

There is no short cut to the secret in solving this problem.  Thorough and complete cleaning of all problem areas is essential.  That means deep cleaning carpets, furniture, floors and walls.  The smell of cat urine is perhaps the worst offender in the odor department, and it the hardest to remove successfully.  The process can be involved, but here are guides from and that will help immensely.  In addition, you might want to try this solution:


The Damage Pets Can Do

Hardwood floors and sharp, hard claws do not mix well.   So watch those dogs and cats on any wood floors.  Their proximity to window screens is also often a disaster in the making.  Exotic pets can unleash additional issues that you likely would not even consider.  All in all, pet damage translates to significant repair costs.  So, here are some ideas to help prevent damage in the first place:

  • Keep pets’ nails trimmed so they don’t ruin the finish of a hardwood floor.
  • Give your cat something to scratch so they’ll be less likely to attack window screens.
  • Don’t train your dog to scratch at the door to be let out – an unprotected door will suffer over time.
  • Try a bitter smelling spray from the pet store to discourage teething puppies from chewing doors, woodwork, walls or cabinetry.
  •  Try double-wide sticky tape to keep cats from scratching an area.
  • Clean up urine and water spills quickly – liquids readily seep through the floors causing underlying damage.
  • Mitigate the potential for allergic reactions by vacuuming up pet hair accumulating behind the refrigerator, underneath furniture or anywhere else it can hide.

Here’s one final tip:  Your homeowners’ insurance policy will only cover damage caused by pets if that animal is covered by the policy.  So you may want to talk to your insurance agent if you think you need to expand your coverage.

And when it comes time to sell your home, I’m here to help you.  Contact me so I can help you get the best possible price for your home, pets or no pets!

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.


Plant a New Investment

by Allyson Hoffman

Looking for a simple way to add beauty and value to your home? Plant a tree! There are a wide variety of trees native to Illinois, but making the best choice takes a little work. Adding a healthy, beautiful tree is an excellent investment in your home’s value.

First of all, you’ll want to have a good assessment of the quality of the soil where you want to plant the tree. The pH balance of your soil, for example, can make the difference between a beautiful tree and a dead eyesore. Soil testers can be purchased at most lawn and garden centers.

You’ll also need to know how well-drained the planting area is before you put the tree in the ground. Too much water in the soil can cause problems for the roots. Adding bark mulch around the base of the tree will help add nitrogen to the soil. And wrapping trees in the fall and winter will protect them against the cold and deer.

The University of Illinois Extension has a wonderful website filled with information about trees you might want to consider. You can use the site to filter trees by size, tolerance to different conditions, exposure and use. It also contains useful warnings about pests specific to Illinois.

Whatever your choice is, you’ll probably want to consult with a local garden center or tree farm to confirm you’re making a good decision. Do you have a favorite tree? Send me a picture! Plant a tree, invest in your home’s value, and make Illinois just a little more beautiful.

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Photo courtesy R_A_L/

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/


Affordable Bathroom Renovations

by Allyson Hoffman

Many North Shore homeowners are making the choice to remodel their bathrooms, whether to improve their newly purchased home or to sell their previous home by making it more appealing to buyers.

The popularity of bathroom remodeling may be attributed to the concept that it can be a very affordable means to make your master suite more comfortable and add value to your Chicago home when it’s time to sell.

If you are considering making some improvements to your bathroom, below are some tips to help give your bath a great lift:

Vanity Sinks: From artistic vessel sinks to furniture pieces that have been modified to accommodate plumbing, sinks can become a bathroom showpiece while keeping their functionality.

Countertops: Granite, ceramics, recycled glass and marble are all popular materials to consider if you want to update the counters of your existing vanity.

Showers: Open, walk-in showers are very popular right now and can be designed to accommodate more than one person.

Faucets: Old, polished brass fixtures really date your bathroom – check out new silhouettes and finishes for your faucets and cabinetry.

Lighting: Bathrooms that are well lit, especially with natural light sources look fresh and modern. Consider glass block windows and skylights to bring in natural light and create an open feeling.

Tile: Tile can be used creatively in the shower and wet areas as well as the floor and for backsplash.

Before starting a home improvement project, list your objectives, create a budget and do your homework before you select a contractor. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) also offers a list of resources and reference guides to help make decisions and find qualified professionals.

Image courtesy of ErikaWittlieb/


New Mariano Fresh Market Opening August 23 in Chicago!

by Allyson Hoffman

Mariano's Fresh Market has become quite famous in Illinois due to its wide selection of grocery items and unique features. There are already two of these excellent grocery stores in our area, one in Arlington Heights and the other in Vernon Hills. Mariano's Fresh Market has announced it is now set to open its first store in the city of Chicago, located at 3350 N. Western Avenue (Roscoe and Western) on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 6:00 a.m.

Mariano, the CEO of the company, is thrilled to be back in Chicago and proud to once again provide the community with what he calls “the aisle by aisle selection and the value every shopper deserves.” Mariano’s Fresh Market epitomizes their brand promise: Shop Well. Eat Well. Live Well. The emphasis of the stores is on fresh offerings in produce, meat, seafood, bakery and deli, with prepared foods available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The full-service shopping experience also includes natural and organic products, and a wide selection of homeopathic remedies.

The wine and spirits department, sushi bar, and Italian themed café featuring espresso, gelato, and panini are additional attractions that elevate the shopping experience to a new level.

Image courtesy of jjuntune/



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/


Top 5 Trends of the Modern Home

by Allyson Hoffman

Potential homebuyers in today’s real estate market have made it crystal clear that extravagant, over-the-top homes are a thing of the past. Today’s buyers want their Northern Illinois homes to be affordable comfort zones with efficient and sustainable materials. They want combined elements of indoors and outdoors lifestyles, thoughtfully planned living space, and room to make a nice home office. Listed below are some of the top trends that 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.

Home buyer's priorities have shifted to reflect changing economic times. The top trends reflect a new desire for comfort and flexible lifestyles, along with an ever growing concern for sustainability and efficiency.

Image courtesy of Nick Keppol/


Packing Tips For An Easier Move

by Allyson Hoffman

There is enough to do when buying a new Northern Illinois home, so make it easier on yourself on un-packing day by organizing a packing plan so you can easily find your essentials! 

 Here are a few tips to get you started.

 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.

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.  

  • Pack room-to-room keeping similar items together. 
  • Use smaller boxes for heavier items so it is easier to lift. 
  • 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. 
  • Make sure that any opened boxes or jars are tightly sealed before packing them. 
  • Use colorful tags to identify the contents of the box and which room it will be taken to in your new home. 
  • Pack any rugs last so that they will be the first thing unpacked and placed in the home. 
  • Make a master list of all household items and personal belongings. 
  • 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).

Do your research and plan ahead so that your packing strategy makes  unpacking in your new home  much less stressful!

Image courtesy of Joanna Bourne/



Try LuLu's in Evanston

by Allyson Hoffman

Have you checked out LuLu’s in Downtown Evanston?  Here they focus on sourcing high quality ingredients and utilize them to create dishes using lighter homemade sauces containing little to no oil. They always cook with your health in mind!

This amazing Evanston restaurant is offering amazing deals you should check out soon, as they are ending July 31st!  Enjoy this healthy home cooking this weekend!

Share with us your fave menu item!

Image courtesy of Pattie/


Are Home Inspections Necessary?

by Allyson Hoffman

When you are looking at your  Northern Illinois dream home, getting a home inspection is a very necessary step in the home selling and buying process.  It is important to be sure that when hiring a home inspector that you are sure to hire a qualified individual or company. Below is a list of things to keep in mind to ask your potential inspector.

1. What are your qualifications?  

2. How many home inspections do you perform in a year that is similar to my home?

3. Can you provide a list of references that we can contact? 

4. What is your turnaround time to receive the report? 

5. What will be included in the report? 

6. How much will the report cost?  

For an easy, quick search of certified Home Inspectors in your area you can visit The American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

Your Home Inspector will perform a “visual” inspection to determine the condition of your Northern Illinois home. To better understand what may be included in your report and what your Home Inspector will be looking for see the list below.

  • Foundation and Framing
  • Roofing and Flashing
  • Gutters and Drainage
  • Siding
  • Decks and/or Porches
  • Driveways and Sidewalks
  • Doors and Windows
  • Stairs and Railings
  • Ceilings and Walls
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Heating and A/C
  • Ventilation
  • Attics
  • Basement
  • Garage





Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 120




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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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