Category Archives: Real Estate News

It’s 2019..How to Quickly Sell a Home in Winter Months-Chicago Real Estate

There’s typically a slowdown in shopping activity from Thanksgiving through New Year’s when people are focused on family and friends and holiday celebrations. But that’s not necessarily the end of the world for 2019 sellers.

Those left combing the market during December and January are typically more serious about the home hunt. They might include families relocating for job changes, first-timers ready to leap during a slow market, and those who’ve recently sold a home and need a new place to live.

Some buyers simply thrive in a more relaxed environment, with fewer competitors for top properties and more attention from agents. Holiday season buyers are typically motivated and financially ready.

Hoping for a signed contract in your stocking? Follow the rules of holiday/winter home selling and you could capture the interest of one of these serious buyers:

1. Deck the halls with restraint. Holiday decorations make homes festive and buyers merry. But too many ornaments, wreaths, and garlands can obscure views, make rooms feel smaller and distract buyers from their true purpose: deciding whether or not your home is right for them.

2. Basic principles of home staging take on added importance during the holiday season. They include these tenets: Anything more than five is a collection and should be packed away. Keep tabletop decor to no more than three objects.

3. Think twice before displaying decorations specific to your religious or cultural heritage, since it makes it more difficult for others who don’t share your background or beliefs to envision themselves living in the space.

What, then, is appropriate?…… MORE INFO

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Don’t Forget 2018 Holiday Curb Appeal: Chicago Real Estate

During the 2018 holidays or any holiday no matter the year, your curb appeal needs to not only spread holiday cheer, but attract the right message to guests and potential home buyers. If the outside of your home is not appealing, you may leave a not so great lasting first impression before anyone even experiences what the inside has to offer. Many real estate professionals and home stagers have found that hints of holiday colors and decorations on the outside of your home can create a warm and inviting atmosphere for all that cross the threshold. With so many poor examples of proper outdoor decorations, it is hard to know what is appropriate for decorating the exterior of your home. REALTOR® Magazine  provides guidelines to create holiday curb appeal the right way:

1. For a classic exterior look, home stagers recommend twinkling clear, white lights.

2. Hang a festive wreath at the front door that will look great and create a nice smell when buyers enter your home.

3. Add some seasonal flowers to your front entryway to add some holiday color.

4. Show off your windows with battery-operated candle lamps at primary windows.

5. Leave outdoor lights on after 5:00 p.m. to give all a clear pathway as they enter your home.

6. Think winter and not a specific holiday…avoid placing religious-themed decorations outside your home.

7. Make sure your home is in home staging shape with nicely trimmed bushes, fresh house paint, etc.

Since your home will be looking its best, take a photo that you can use to create a special holiday card or flyer to be used as marketing material through the holiday weeks.  With these tips, you will be on your way to leaving good vibes with visitors, guests, and potential home buyers.

Fall 2018 Home Maintenance Checklist-Chicago Real Estate

Is fall home maintenance as important as spring cleaning….absolutely!  The air on a brisk 2018 autumn morning inspires us to dutifully button up the home in preparation for cooler days and longer nights, right? Below is a quick reference guide full of safety inspired tips to sharpen up a Chicago home or any property for that matter:

Give the roof and chimney a look-over
Assuming your roof isn’t too steep, and isn’t covered with slate or tile, you may be able to carefully walk on it on a dry day. Look for broken or missing shingles, missing or damaged flashing and seals around vent pipes and chimneys, and damage to boards along the eaves.  Tip: Also peer down your chimney with a flashlight to make sure no animals have set up house in it. If you can’t get on your roof, perform this inspection with a ladder around the perimeter.

Weather-stripping to doors and windows a must
On doors, make sure the bottom seal is working properly — there are many sweeps, gaskets and thresholds designed to seal this gap. Doors generally need weather-stripping in their jambs as well.    Weather-stripping can be plastic, foam, felt or metal; its job is to seal small gaps, keeping moisture and cold air outside where they belong. Tip:  Look around your doors and windows: Is the weather-stripping torn or missing? This can become expensive if ignored. Adhesive-backed foam pads are easy to install for this purpose. Newer, energy-efficient windows generally don’t require added weather-stripping, but if your windows are older, weather-stripping can keep drafts at bay and

Don’t forget the gutters
they’ll be performing double duty soon with rainstorms and falling leaves—Do a quick visual check to make sure gutters are clear.

Exterior caulk is key
Carefully read manufacturer’s directions to make sure the caulk you buy will work where you plan to use it, and don’t forget to purchase a caulking gun. Early fall is a good time for this task because caulk becomes difficult to apply when the temperature falls. Think of caulk as weather-stripping in a tube. Tip: Any gap on the outside of your home can be a candidate for caulking. Look at transition spots: corners, windows, doors, areas where masonry joins siding, or places where vents and other objects protrude from walls.

Speculate Insulation
This is a good time to check the condition of insulation and see if you need more, especially if you live in an older home. You can purchase unbacked or loose-fill insulation if you are just beefing up what is already there. Tip: If you are adding batted insulation to a spot that has none, remember that the foil-backed side is the vapor barrier, and it must face the heated area.

For example, if you are laying fiberglass insulation in an unfinished attic floor to keep heat in the living room below, you should see pink when you’re done — not foil. If your walls lack insulation, consider having a professional install blown-in insulation foam. The energy savings will probably offset the cost of the procedure in a couple of years.

Ok on wood?
Wood piles attract insect and animal pests, so stack wood away from the house. Wood dries best when it’s protected from rain and has air circulating around it, so under the roof of a wall-less carport would be an ideal wood storage spot. If you have a wood stove, it’s not too early to lay in a supply of firewood. Tip: Though most of us buy whatever’s local, bear in mind that softwoods like fir and cedar burn faster and create hazardous creosote in the chimney, thus requiring more system maintenance and more wood. Hardwoods such as oak, hickory and maple are slow, hot, clean burners.

Remember the dryer vent
This is another one of those tasks that should be on your to-do list every six months. Scoot your clothes dryer away from the wall, unplug it, and vacuum behind it. Tip:  (If it’s a gas dryer, turn off the gas supply to the dryer at the appliance shutoff valve.) Unhook the tube that leads to the vent and clear as much lint from the tube as you can. Grab a shop vacuum, go outside, and tackle the outside dryer vent as well. More information HERE

October 2018 – Top producing, client-driven Ian Schwartz with The Ian Schwartz Group takes joy in over $50,000,000 sold so far this year; as well as outstanding testimonials such as: “This is where Ian really shines and his mental rigor as a former lawyer came into play. He is a masterful and brilliant negotiator. For this reason alone, it would be a mistake not to hire Ian if you are looking to purchase a new house. Ian does not stop working for you until you have the deal closed, keys in hand and are fully happy. I have the highest regard for his capability and would highly recommend him”.

Find out why Ian and his team say: everything we touch turns to SOLD!

 

3 2018 Housing Trends Buyers-Sellers Should Know This Spring: Chicago Real Estate

The summary of hot housing trends going on right now this spring 2018: Potential Chicago-Lincoln Park home-buyers may find that if they were waiting for mortgage rates or house prices to hit bottom, they may have delayed too long. Expected mortgage rate increases will serve as a warning to borrowers who thought the low rates would last long term. Good news: mortgage rates are still at historic lows.

Good news: Chicago home purchases have picked up considerably, many are ready to buy. In addition millions of current borrowers will have the opportunity to refinance their mortgages through two government programs that make the refinancing process easier and cheaper.

Top 3 Chicago real estate trends you should expect to see for spring 2018:

Homebuyers are expected to get off the fence

Attractive mortgage rates, low home prices and rising rents make the current housing market the perfect opportunity for Chicago and surrounding area buyers and investors.

The price gap is closing between what sellers expect to get for their homes and what buyers pay; one reason home sales are improving. As consumer confidence and Chicago rents rise, more renters will likely want to become homeowners.

Mortgage rates rise but won’t hit the roof

Many Chicago borrowers missed the record-low mortgage rates seen earlier this year, but they still have a chance to grab low rates this spring.

The Mortgage Bankers Association’s latest forecast indicates that the rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage will average about 4.3 percent in the second quarter. That’s up from the first quarter’s average of 4.16 percent in a weekly survey. But 4.3 percent would still be low, especially when you compare it to the 6 percent or 7 percent borrowers paid at the height of the housing boom.

Refinances get easier, cheaper

Another government program, known as HARP 2.0, will make it easier for thousands of borrowers to refinance their mortgages this spring. Homeowners who have FHA-insured mortgages and who are current on their payments will be able to refinance with lower fees through the FHA streamline refinance program starting in June. Only loans that closed before June 2009 are eligible to be refinanced in the program.

The FHA will reduce loan fees by more than half on streamline refis. As of June 11, borrowers who refinance through the FHA streamline program will pay only 0.01 percent of the loan in upfront insurance fees and 0.55 percent in annual mortgage fees. More info HERE

 

Curb Appeal Holiday Quiz 2017-Chicago Real Estate

A job that should be done year round… the upkeep of curb appeal, a Chicago property staple for many. Take the Chicago curb appeal quiz (Holiday edition) and see if you’re keeping up with the 2017 season:

1. Driving home at night, you see a wide variety of Chicago outdoor decorations and cozy lit details. You then:

a. Enjoy the display and feel connected to the Chicago community.

b. Wonder how some people can afford to pay their electric bills!

c. Wishing your Chicago home looked that awesome!

2. The day after your holiday feast finds you:

a. Looking at a pile of dirty dishes and wondering if friends or family will help tackle them.

b. Reaching for your antacids and the remote.

c. Putting up your front yard holiday decorations.

3. You pull up in front of your Chicago home on a dark, windy and snowy night, and immediately:

a. Feel slightly uncomfortable that the front of the house hasn’t been tended to since the summer.

b. Are glad it gets dark early and you have no lighting to call attention to your home?

c. Feel a thrill of pride at living in a warm and welcoming Chicago home, graciously lit and beautifully decorated; ready for visitors, friends, family even buyers or sellers of Chicago real estate!

The following are tips especially for those of you who enjoy your holiday cheer — those who answered “b” we are talking to you! Make your Chicago home a joy to come home to and above all get noticed for all the right reasons:

• Light strands with battery packs make it possible to light potted porch plants with no fuss.

• Use battery-operated candles to create fire-safe luminaries to light your paths and driveway.

• Be sure outdoor lighting is on after dark. A timer or photocell can help with this.

• A natural wreath on the door made of fresh winter berries and foliage is a beautiful addition to any home. Colored garland over the doorway creates an added sense of welcome.

• Add a welcome mat, it helps keep your homes interior cleaner, and sends an instant assuring message when someone enters the home. More info HERE and HERE

 Happy Holidays from Ian Schwartz and The Ian Schwartz Group! Remember…everything we touch turns to SOLD!

Top Tip for Sellers in Today’s Market…Honesty Rules

It’s as true in real estate as it is in politics: There are no secrets anymore. Buyers have access to an enormous amount of information. On the Internet, details about what a Chicago home last sold for and how much it now might be worth are usually only a series of clicks away. Where sellers might once have coyly declined to say what they paid for a house, sellers and buyers can now assume that each has most or all of the information the other has. “I tell my sellers that the buyers are going to look at all the same facts I’ve [given] them in the listing presentation,” Owen says. “There’s no way to hide it.”

Some sharp real-estate agents have been capitalizing on the newfound transparency, playing to buyers’ understanding of the market. They may trumpet the size of the bargain, such as the listing for a St. Charles home sold in June that announced the asking price of $1.249 million was “$1 million less than seller paid in ’06!” A Chicago-Lincoln Park propertie’s listing sheet blared that the $1.75 million asking price was well below both the original asking price of $3.65 million and the appraised value of $2.5 million. For another residence—this one in Lake View—the agent confessed that the home “was overpriced for much too long.” Those revelations might spark pangs of humiliation in the sellers, but at the same time, they send a clear signal to buyers: Game on.

Honesty is essential in another aspect of the home-selling process. When first meeting with a real-estate agent, sellers should be up-front about their financial status. As Parent explains, there are markedly different routes for selling a home that is…CONTINUED

 

 

Top 7 Spring Home Maintenance Tasks: Chicago Real Estate

Click image for more 2015-16 season info!

We are part of the Midwest landscape. Our weather patterns may test the structures of our sturdy Chicago-Lincoln Park homes. So, certain property maintenance tasks should be completed each season to preserve value, prevent structural damage, save energy, and keep all your home’s systems running and humming like new. What maintenance tasks are tops for the Chicago-Midwest in spring or summer? Here are the major issues you should be aware of and critical tasks you should add to your list:

1. Double Check your GFCIs. (ground fault circuit interrupters) are electrical outlets that protect you from deadly electrical shocks by shutting off the power anytime even a minimal disruption in current is detected. They feature two buttons (“test” and “reset”), and should be present anywhere water and electricity can mix:  kitchens, bathrooms, basements, garages, and the exterior of the house. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that you do this once a month. It’s a good idea to incorporate it into your spring maintenance routine.

2. Make sure gutters and downspouts are clear. Stuff accumulates even after your fall gutter cleaning. Items like pine needles especially, which fall all year long and are difficult to get out. Even children’s toys may find their way into gutters between cleanings, as well as nails and other debris from the roof. Look for any sign of wind or ice damage—has the gutter pulled away from the house, or bent so that there are depressions where water can stand? You can usually repair damage yourself for under $50 by adjusting or reattaching brackets and gently hammering out bent areas.

3. Examine your roof for winter wear. This is best done using a ladder, but if you’re allergic to ladders, use a pair of binoculars to check your roof from your yard. Look for loose and missing shingles. If anything looks unusual, investigate further yourself or call a roofing professional.

4. Inspect your chimney. High winds, rain, and snow can damage a chimney. Look for cracks, missing mortar, loose bricks or boards, and signs of rot. If any of those things are present, call a chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America for a repair estimate.

5. Check on your drainage. Make sure soil slopes away from your foundation at least 6 vertical inches in the first 10 feet on all sides of the house and that there are no areas of standing water. If you have properly sloped foundation drainage but still have areas of standing water, consider a landscaping solution, such as a swales (contoured drainage depressions), berms (raised banks of earth), terraces, or French drains (a shallow, gravel-filled trench that diverts water away from the house).

6. Investigate your siding. Has any of it come loose or started to rot? Repair any damaged sections before moisture has a chance to settle in. No matter what your siding is made of (wood, vinyl, brick), it may need spring cleaning. The best DIY method for any kind of siding is a bucket of soapy water and a long-handled brush.

7. Setup biannual HVAC inspection. Get ready for the air conditioning season with your spring tune-up. If your system wasn’t running well last year, be sure to tell your contractor, and make sure he performs actual repairs if necessary rather than simply adding refrigerant. Your maintenance checklist should include checking thermostats and controls, checking the refrigerant level, tightening connections, lubricating any moving parts, checking the condensate drain, and cleaning the coils and blower. On your own, make sure your filters are changed and vacuum out all your floor registers. NOTE–duct cleaning, while it probably won’t hurt anything, is not necessary; be wary of contractors who want to coat the inside of the ducts with antimicrobial agents, as research has not proven the effectiveness of this method and any chemicals used in your ducts will likely become airborne.

Read more HERE and also see why The Ian Schwartz Team…everything we touch turns to SOLD!

Top 10 Winter Moving Tips: Chicago Real Estate

Winter weather can potentially pose some challenges during the moving process, but those who want or need to assume a new residence during cold weather months have options to prevent problems from affecting their relocation. I have helped countless clients with relocation that include buying or selling a home. As a preferred USAA Movers Advantage realtor, I assist by sorting out real estate matters that can easily become an overwelming process.  Keep the following 10 tips in mind before the big day:

1. Make sure your moving paperwork is organized.Create a move file to store information and collect expense receipts.

2. Get  in-touch with your new community.Contact the local chamber of commerce or visitors’ bureau for your new community. See if they can send you a telephone directory and newspapers.

3. Confirm school schedules and enrollment requirements.Arrange to pick up school records or have them sent to the new schools.

4. Protect your items.Obtain appraisals for high-value items. Call USAA at 1-866-398-7537 to obtain coverage for your possessions while in transit or storage. Contact your homeowners insurance company at least 24 hours before you release your belongings to the mover (For USAA, call 1-800-531-8111).

5. Don’t leave your car out.Take care of auto maintenance and repairs. Call USAA at 1-800-531-8722 to get an auto insurance quote for your new location.

6. Switching your utility services. Notify your utilities and local services of disconnect dates. Order utility services for your new address, including Internet, cable, home phone, electricity and natural gas through the Utility Marketplace.

7. Update address info.Get change-of-address cards from your post office. Aside from friends and family, make sure you provide your new address to medical facilities, schools, magazines to which you subscribe, and USAA.

8. Lighten your load..have a garage sale.Donate anything that isn’t sold to charity. (Don’t forget to keep receipts for income tax deductions.)

9. Remember cleaning.Properly dispose of flammables such as aerosol cans, cleaning fluids, paint, ammunition, weed killer and acids. Drain oil and gas from your lawn mower or other power equipment. Clean the refrigerator and the freezer; allow them to dry one or two days with the doors open. Remember to block the doors to keep them from closing if you have small children or pets.

10. Travel well prepared. Separate items you don’t want to pack, such as suitcases, and store in an empty closet. Pack prescriptions and immediate necessities in an easy-to-access suitcase. If you are traveling by air, do not check this bag. If you have children, compile a list of traveling games for the car or plane ride. MORE INFO

Ian Schwartz with The Ian Schwartz Group looks forward to making 2016 a year of more top performing, high ranking, client focused, accolade producing results. See why he and his team are known for…everything we touch turns to SOLD!

 

Stats are In..Buying Beats Renting in 2012:Chicago Real Estate

Until Recently, home ownership may not have been seen as the winning situation compared to renting, but not anymore. With a reduction in home prices, a serious plunge in mortgage rates and a national 15% rise in rents to start off the new year, the scales have tipped to the tried and true home ownership. Currently, the median monthly mortgage payment has fallen to about the level of a median monthly rent check. If mortgage rates keep falling and rents keep rising, which they are on track to do, the equation will tip even further toward buying a home.

Although, much of the decision to purchase Chicago real estate still rests on your personal finances and preferences, your career or family life, or level of financial security.

But if you’re comparing just the cost of owning and renting, buying a house may soon be the better choice…here’s a few reasons why:

1. Renters have to think about broker fees and future rent hikes. Chicago home owners deal with closing costs, maintenance, insurance and property taxes, tax savings from mortgage deductions, gains or losses from home equity, among other factors. In the end, both have to make assumptions about future trends in housing prices and rents.

2. With all those factors in mind, someone who plans on staying put for seven years would come out ahead by about $9,000 if they bought a median-priced Chicago home rather than being a tenant in non-fixed price rental. Projections show that rents keep rising by about 3 percent a year and that house prices should stay flat in 2012 and 2013 and begin rising in 2014 at about 3 percent a year.

See for yourself, see the buy vs rent calculator link HERE and more information on the statistics HERE.

Housing Forecast for 2012-Chicago Real Estate

Many have asked during the start of this holiday season and as we approach the end of 2011…What will the Chicago market look like in 2012?  Well, the long and short of it is…improvement is projected to continue on a steady course through 2012.  Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors(R), said home sales should be stronger. There is a sizeable pent-up demand based on population growth, employment levels and a doubling-up phenomenon that can’t continue indefinitely. This demand could quickly stimulate the market when conditions improve.”

“Housing affordability conditions, based on the relationship between median home prices, mortgage interest rates, and median family income, have been at a record high this year,” Yun said. “Very favorable affordability conditions will dominate next year as well, which will probably be the second best year on record dating back to 1970.” …More Info

Specifically Chicago continues to show home sales increases with 15.3% noted for the month of October based on the previous year. “Prospective buyers in the market are making investments that make sense long-term. Those who haven’t considered buying are encouraged to work with a realtor to assess their individual buying power in today’s market”….DON’T MISS THE BOAT!!….More info