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

Chicago North Shore, North and Northwest Suburban Real Estate Blog

Allyson Hoffman

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Bathroom Remodels On The Rise

by Allyson Hoffman

Many homeowners are making the choice to remodel their existing home rather than purchase new homes as a result of the sluggish economy. In a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) they report that respondents indicated that a bathroom remodel was one of their most common projects during the first half of this year. In fact, almost 61% percent of all remodels were done on bathrooms.

"While remodelers are continuing to struggle, we expect the rest of 2010 to be a period of stabilization for remodeling, with the first stages of recovery emerging by the end of the year, followed by a robust recovery beginning early next year," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.

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 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 NAHB also offers a list of resources and reference guides to help make decisions and find qualified professionals.

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Labor Day In The North Shore Area

by Allyson Hoffman

It is hard to believe that summer is almost over. School is starting and soon the leaves will be changing. But the fun of summer is not over yet as the Chicago area is host to many fun Labor Day events. Make your plans now!

32nd Annual Chicago Jazz Festival

Sep 2, 2010 - Sep 5, 2010

The longest running of the city's lakefront music festivals. For more than 30 years, the Chicago Jazz Festival has been a Labor Day weekend tradition. Know for its artistic creativity, the Chicago Jazz Festival promotes awareness and appreciation for all form of jazz through quality live musical performances. The festival’s mission is to showcase Chicago’s vast jazz talent alongside national and international artists to encourage and educated a jazz audience of all ages.

This year’s performers include: Artist-in-Residence: Nicole Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Brad Mehldau, Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, Rene Marie, The Either/Orchestra, Kurt Elling and more. Best of all this is a free event!

Buffalo Grove Days
Sep. 2, 2010 - Sep. 6, 2010

This annual festival has fun for everyone. There will be the Chamber Beer Garden, a Business and Craft Fair, Free Entertainment all day long, a Carnival, Games, Special Events, a Parade on Sunday and Fireworks. Visit their website for more information.

Oak Brook Half Marathon
Sep. 6, 2010 - Sep. 6, 2010

Make plans to be a part of the Third Annual Oak Brook Half-Marathon, a Labor Day tradition that distance runners of all types will enjoy. This challenging course is comprised of the streets, rolling bicycle paths and limestone forest preserve trails of the scenic Village of Oak Brook. This is an ideal lead-up event for anyone training for a fall marathon, or who simply enjoys the half-marathon distance. After the run, stay for great refreshments from our sponsors and enjoy the hospitality of this lovely Village. There will be activities for the whole family - including youth races  which will be presented by the Oak Brook Park District. Admission Charge. Visit their website for more information on this event.

62nd Annual Jubilee Days Festival
Sep. 4, 2010 - Sep. 6, 2010

This weekend long festival begins with a golf outing at the Shepherds Crook Golf Course on Friday. Saturday includes a 5K run, Miss Zion Pageants and an ice cream social. Sunday's entertainment includes the Arts and Crafts Festival, food, live music and fireworks. Monday will include the Mayors Breakfast, and Arts and Crafts Festival, food and the Jubilee Parade at 1pm.

 

 

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FHA Struggles with Record Loan Demand

by Allyson Hoffman

Record high new home loan requests to the FHA are causing strain due to the governemnt agencies lack of resouces. The FHA is short staffed and also contributing to the strain is a computing system that is two to three decades out of date.

The FHA is utilizing hardware and software that are from the 1980's and their workforce is minimal and at the workload is at capacity. Changes are not likely unless the agecy can fins a way to break away from HUD according to Brian Montgomery, who was once a commissioner for the FHA.

Mr. Montgomery states that the Management and Budget office barely gives them the amount needed to keep their computers running, but not an adequate amount to actually upgrade the old system they are forced to use.  There is not anything in the works to separate them from HUD, but if they were individualized, resources would likely be more readily available for them. The companies create 6.4 billion dollars yearly in revenue surplus.

The administration has not yet taken any action, and is delaying any such action while awaiting hearings. Elections are likely to cause even greater delays as decisions will be made depending on what happens at the November elections.

At yearly meeting of the NAREE in Austin,  TX, Mr. Montgomery indicated that he is doubtful that higher amount loan limits for the FHA will continue. He indicated that unless Congress does something, the loan limits are set to expire at the year’s end. 

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Homeowners Insurance Discounts

by Allyson Hoffman

Property and Casualty Insurance is a tight market – it’s getting harder to get comprehensive homeowner policies and it’s becoming increasingly expensive. However, there are some steps that you can take today that can help you not only get a better rate or a policy discount, but will actually serve to better protect your home and your belongings from loss.

Whether you are a first time home buyer or you have owned your home for many years, you should definitely shop around and do your homework on the insurance companies who write homeowner’s policies in your area.

Discounts will vary by company and by the city, state or region you live in. Here are some of our recommendations:

  • Home security system
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Sprinkler system
  • Dead-bolt locks
  • Handrails for both interior exterior steps and stairs

Additionally, your deductible plays a role in your premium rate – if you raise your deductible by $1000, you can save nearly 25% on your annual policy. Additionally, many companies offer discounts if you place both your home and auto coverage with them or if you own more than one property.

Additional ways to save:

  • Senior discounts
  • Association or employer discounts
  • Electronic payments
  • Non-smoker

Don’t forget to stay on top of your credit scores – it has an impact on all of your insurance rates. Also, be sure to evaluate your home’s value and the contents that are insured every year – if you make changes you may need to increase or decrease the replacement value, which will impact your premium. Above all, take an active role in your insurance protection. Make sure you keep up with safety features, shop rates and keep up with both your credit and your inventory – you’ll save year to year and in the long run.

 

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Top Trends That Homebuyers Want

by Allyson Hoffman

In today's tough competitive real estate market, potential homebuyers have increasingly made it clear that their‘must have’ list of amenities now includes efficient, sustainable materials and features that focus on making their home an affordable sanctuary to live and work. Gone are the extravagant, over the top, “McMansion” types of home and now the trend is for thoughtfully planned living areas that combine both indoor and outdoor lifestyles and make room for a home office. Below are some of the top trends that homebuyers are looking for:

  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 buyers 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.

 

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Making Good Use of Renovation Loans

by Courtesy of Dave Luczak, Inlanta Mortgage

Dave Luczak of Inlanta Mortgage (www.Inlanta.com), forwarded the following information regarding special financing that might help agents provide new opportunities to their clients.  He sheds light on some the of novel financing opportunities for those who may purchase a property needing repairs, expansion or other improvments.  He advises:

"When showing your clients a home that needs repair, give them some information on our Federal Housing Administration (FHA) 203K renovation loans. These loans are perfect for a bargain hunter who has spotted a fixer-upper or a foreclosure in need of immediate repair, or a client who has found a home that would be ideal if only there were a third bedroom and a second bathroom (or needing MAJOR remodeling!)

Our renovation loans provide the money to both purchase the home and finance the home's renovation. With one loan, there is only one application, one set of fees, one closing and one monthly payment. At closing, the house is paid for, and the repair money is put into a trustee account for disbursement as repairs are completed. Improvements can include anything that adds value to the home, such as a room addition, new carpeting, APPLIANCES,  landscaping, plumbing, roofing or a new kitchen. The loan can also be used for energy-efficiency improvements that qualify for tax credits* under the new stimulus package.

Another great advantage of a renovation loan is that it provides borrowers a loan based on the increased property value after renovation. But that's not the only financial upside. The required down payment on a renovation loan can be as low as 3.5%. As a tax deductible first mortgage, the renovation loan will usually feature a lower interest rate than a second mortgage (impossible to get now!) and improvement costs can be spread over the term of the loan. The loan can also provide financing for up to six months of mortgage payments if the house is not occupied during construction."

Dave also reminds us that it is best to always consult your tax advisor for tax information and advice.

Foreclosure Filings Down Nationwide

by Allyson Hoffman

In mid-July, RealtyTrac, one of the nation’s largest foreclosure listing firms (pre-foreclosure, auction and REO properties) reported that foreclosure filings were down by 5% in the first half of 2010, but numbers remain above those from 2009 by 8%. This is the latest in the good news/bad news reporting when it comes to the U.S. housing market.

"The second quarter was a tale of two trends," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. "The pace of properties entering foreclosure slowed as lenders pre-empted or delayed foreclosure proceedings on delinquent properties with more aggressive short sale and loan modification initiatives. Meanwhile the pace of properties completing the foreclosure process through bank repossession quickened as lenders cleared out a backlog of distressed inventory delayed by foreclosure prevention efforts in 2009."

According to Saccacio, U.S. housing market will exceed three million properties with foreclosure filings by the end of the year. As with the stock market, the housing market has rolled up and down in 2010 and has not shown signs of stabilization. Even with some positive numbers being reported and a level of improvement in housing inventory, the market is sitting on a significant number of distressed properties and delinquent loans.

The foreclosure rates are also very regional in nature – Nevada posts the highest rates this year (6%), with Arizona and Florida following.

Other states with foreclosure rates ranking among the nation's 10 highest were California (2.54 percent), Utah (1.91 percent), Georgia (1.79 percent), Michigan (1.73 percent), Idaho (1.68 percent), Illinois (1.61 percent), and Colorado (1.40 percent).

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Household Termite Inspections

by Allyson Hoffman

A professional termite inspection is required in most states when buying or selling a home. Termites are a very serious problem and they can cause create significant damage and even destroy a home if left untreated.

In most cases if  evidence of termites is seen, there’s a good chance the infestation is already quite advanced.

If you are a homeowner and have any concerns about termites in home, the best course of action is to locate a pest control or termite inspection to confirm any problems.. Of course, pest inspections are an important part of the overall inspection process, so make sure you hire an expert in the field:

  1. Check out online or yellow page listings under Pest Control for a licensed, bonded inspector. Your real estate agent can also be helpful in location a company for you.
  2. Request estimates for the inspection cost and compare rates.
  3. Make sure that you get a copy of the inspection report and course of action needed before signing any contract papers.


When having a termite inspection, it is vital that this is done by a licensed professional. This inspector will look for termite infestation as well as other pest infestation, plumbing leaks, obvious roof leaks, dry rot and water damage. Make sure that all areas of the home are accessible for the inspector. Try to stick with companies that do inspection and treatment only – and leave any wood repair to carpenters or contractors.

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Ways to Save on Home Improvements

by Allyson Hoffman

With a sluggish economy and a slow housing market, many people are electing to stay in their existing homes for a little longer. Many plan to instead remodel their current home and make some improvement.  Spending on remodeling is expected to rise this year and below are a few tips to help keep down expenses and still get the updates you want.

  1. First thing first: create a budget and plan and stick with it. Do a some research on the types of improvements you want and get a feel for both labor and materials costs. Use those numbers to create a basic budget that you know you can comfortably afford and then design a simple plan for making that happen. It will help your contractor understand your vision better and should keep you on track to stay within your spending limits.
  2. Choose contractors wisely. Get at least three bids and check references. There are also online resources, like Angie’s List, that can be used to screen potential contractors. The low bid may not necessarily be the best bid – get your estimates in writing and line them up against your preliminary plan.
  3. Do the demo and prep work yourself. If you have the ability to do some basic demo, such as removing old appliances or fixtures, wallpaper, or popcorn ceilings, you can save money and focus your contractor on specialized skills like carpentry and electrical. Disposing of used materials and trash yourself will also help keep your costs down.
  4. Use recycled materials. It may make sense to use recycled lumber and other materials – even recycled hardware can add a unique touch and may be much less expensive (and greener) than new.
  5. Make selections quickly and stay with them. Time is money to your contractor and any delays you insert into the process by delaying or changing your selections can layer cost on without you even realizing it. Look for the types of materials and the color selections you prefer during your planning phase and don’t change your mind mid-stream.

Updating your home can be a simple, affordable process that can make your home more livable for you and more desirable for resale down the road. If you follow some basic strategies, you are sure to be pleased with the improvements and save money in the process.

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Home Safety Hazards

by Allyson Hoffman

Keeping your family safe at home is what all homeowners want, and most people feel that that their home is a safe place.  The reality is that even if you have taken extra precautions to make your home a safe place, you might be surprised at some of the common safety hazards that can make your home dangerous. The good news is that most safety concerns can be fixed easily! Below are some of the common concerns and how to remedy them.

1. Wiring and electrical cords. Check all electrical appliances, cords, and outlets. Are your electrical appliances in good condition, without loose or frayed cords or plugs? Are your outlets overloaded with plugs from the TV, computer, printer, video game system, and stereo?  Solution: Replace or professionally repair any appliances that spark, smell unusual, or overheat. Replace worn out extension cords, don’t run electrical wires under rugs, and don’t overload outlets or power strips.

2. Gas leaks and sources of carbon monoxide.  You may or may not smell a gas leak before it is too late, and you will NOT smell carbon monoxide. Solution: Make sure that your gas appliances are serviced regularly. Check any unusual variances on your gas bill – they could be the result of hidden leaks. Invest in a carbon monoxide detector and keep the batteries up to date as you do your smoke alarms.

3. Cluttered hallways and stairways. It sounds simple, but toys or other items that are left blocking stairwells, hallways or exits can not only provide an obstacle to trip over, but can also prevent a hasty exit in the event of fire or other emergencies. Solution: Simply try to ensure that walkways are clear of any obstructions that can cause accidents.

4. Toxic chemicals. From severe toxicity like asbestos and lead paint, to daily household cleaners, your home may contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to your family, especially children, the elderly, those with compromised heath and your pets. Solution: If you live in an older home, have it inspected for asbestos and lead. As for household chemicals, try switching to some of the new organic or natural solutions. Always keep any kind of chemical solutions up high and out of reach or locked away.

5. Recalled products. Many products, especially imported products, are subject to recall and can range from toys and cribs to everyday appliances and vehicles. Solution: Register your household goods and appliances when you bring them home – it’s easy and it ensures that you will receive recall notifications. You can subscribe via email for recalls as well as stay alert to recall information that are broadcast over TV, radio and in print and online.

 Most home safety hazards are easy to prevent or fix with just a little due diligence. Keep your home safe and happy for you and your family!

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Displaying blog entries 831-840 of 946

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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
Allyson@Allyson.com

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