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October 24th, 2008

Local Bailout Efforts

Last week, I saw these two articles and I figured they probably flew under the radar. I was thrilled to see that, at least in Illinois, there seems to be a local effort to help the local people and businesses.

The MacArthur Foundation is giving $68mm to local organizations to help battle the home foreclosure crisis. “The scale of the foreclosure crisis threatens to disrupt hard-won gains in many of Chicago’s lowest-income neighborhoods,” said MacArthur President Jonathan F. Fanton. “Nowhere is this work more urgent and nowhere is it more important to us than in the city we call home.”

In a separate story, the Illinois Treasurer is planning on making a $1B deposit into the state banks in an attempt to dismantle the credit jam. Under the plan, any state-chartered bank or national bank with an Illinois branch may request as much as $25 million. The major banks from which President Bush proposes the federal government buy $250 billion in shares using the federal rescue fund are not eligible, according to the Crain’s Chicago Business article.

The State of Illinois and the MacArthur Foundation – local groups helping the local economy – a very exciting concept if you ask me. I hope other states and Foundations follow this lead. What are your thoughts?

October 22nd, 2008

4 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Chicago Historical Home

With their original floor plans and fascinating histories, historical homes can make interesting places for your family to live. However, buying a historical home can be different from buying a traditional home. You have to consider more than just the neighborhood and home features. Before you buy a Chicago historical home, be sure to ask these four questions.

  1. What are the local historic district regulations? Historical homes are usually registered with a historical building organization, such as the National Registry of Historical Homes, that sets standards for what qualifies as a historical home. These organizations have rules that specify everything from what paint colors you can use to acceptable window upgrades. Make sure you can live with these rules. While the National Registry provides some excellent information, The Chicago Landmark Ordinances provides in-depth local information.

    Historic Old Town Triangle Row House

  2. Will the home need any renovations or restorations? Home repairs for a Chicago historical home can be costly. Not only will you have to find specific materials and follow specific guidelines, you will also have to find workers who are skilled enough to complete work on delicate properties. The costs for the renovation/restoration should be taken into consideration when preparing an offer to purchase a home of historical significance. For additional reading, check out Historic Chicago Greystone renovating
  3. Can the home be repaired or restored with appropriate materials? Historical homes are subject to standards that govern the home’s appearance, and this can limit the work you can do on the home. For example, if you want to paint your home’s exterior, you may be required to use certain colors to maintain the historical designation.
  4. Will the home retain its value? Your home is probably your most significant financial investment. Chicago is an old housing market and has an abundance of homes with historic or architectural significance. So when buying a Chicago historic home, while there are no guarantees of appreciation, the chances are better that they will maintain their value over some of their newer counterparts. It’s still prudent to look at the neighborhood and the values of other homes in the areas so you are making the best possible financial decision. Just because a home has a notable history doesn’t mean it will hold its value over time.

If you’re looking for a unique home for your family, a Chicago historical home may be right for you. No matter what type of home you’re looking for, I can help you find the perfect home to meet your needs.  Call 312.953.8685 or email me at Doug@LincolnParkLiving.com today to discuss how I can help you.

October 20th, 2008

Seller Closing Costs

As a Chicago REALTOR®, my real estate practice has me working with a lot of sellers and as we are going through the home listing process, I frequently get asked “aside from your fee, what other costs will I be incurring in order to close on sale of my home.” That is an excellent question. Some of the costs are county and state transfer tax stamps, title insurance and attorney fee. But for a thorough list of the seller closing costs, please review this checklist.

October 19th, 2008

Buyer Closing Costs

As a Chicago REALTOR® , my real estate practice has me working with a lot of buyers and as we are going through the home searching process, the most frequently asked questions I get asked is “aside from my down payment, what other costs will I be incurring in order to close on my new home.” That is an excellent question. As I wrote in a previous article on exclusive buyer representation, the seller typically pays our fee*. However, there are costs associated with the closing of your new home property specific. Some of the costs are city transfer tax stamps, inspection and attorney fee. But for a thorough list of the buyer closing costs, please review this checklist.

*there may be situations where your buyer agent may look to you to pay their fee. You should discuss this with your buyer agent to fully understand if/how/when this may come into play.

October 15th, 2008

The Exclusive Buyer Agent

The seller has their exclusive agent. Shouldn’t you? Prior to the mid 90′s agents in Illinois were sub-agents of the seller, so buyers partaking in the largest single purchase of their life were doing so technically unrepresented! Pretty scary stuff!!

In the mid 90′s, Illinois became a Designated Agency state. Designated Agency now has 3 facets – Seller Agency, which is no different then what it has always been, Buyer Agency, which is explained in more detail below, and Disclosed Dual Agency in which one agent represents both the buyer and seller in the same transaction. This must be agreed to by both the buyer and seller, in writing.

What does an exclusive buyer agent mean to the buyer? They now have the right to have exclusive representation! Aside from sorting thru all of the MLS listings that meet your criteria to find those that best match your needs, taking you out to view those homes and ultimately writing the offer to purchase your new home, your buyer agent has other obligations to you:

-   Show buyers that are under the exclusive buyer agreement 1st those properties that fit their needs.

-  Provide you with a market analysis relevant to the home you are purchasing, thereby determining if your potential new home is priced fairly and how it compares to other homes of similar size, location and amenities. A buyer’s version of the seller’s Comparative Market Analysis (CMA).

-  Strategize and negotiate the contract on your behalf – helping you make informed decisions

-  Disclose any information that may materially affect your decision to purchase the property, strengthen or change your negotiating position

-  Protects  any confidential or proprietary information that you disclose to your designated agent

-  Facilitates the sharing of all documents relative to the property with you and your attorney

-  Assist in securing financing, coordinate and attend the inspection

-  Attend the final walk thru and closing to answer any questions that may arise

Given all that your buyer agent does for you, why would you attempt to go thru this process alone, and without an advocate who has your best interest at heart? All this service, plus, the seller of a house that is listed in the Multiple Listing Service pays your buyer agent’s fee*…how cool is that!

Another item worth mentioning. I suggest that you see if your buyer’s agent has anything in writing that itemizes all of the services they will provide while representing you in the purchase of your new home.

Your advocate…determining fair market value…Negotiating…Helping to protect your investment…isn’t that worth having exclusive buyer agent representation?

*there can be situations where your buyer agent may look to you to pay their fee. You should discuss this with your buyer agent to fully understand if/how/when this may come into play

October 14th, 2008

What You Should Expect From Your Chicago Real Estate Agent

Choosing the right real estate agent to sell your home is a big decision. You need a professional who you trust to help you get top dollar for your home. Not only will you will work closely with your agent for anywhere from several weeks or several months, but you will also pay them for their work. Here’s what you can expect from your Chicago real estate agent while selling your home:

  1. A comparative market analysis. Your agent should complete a comparative market analysis (CMA) to determine how your home compares to others in your neighborhood of comparable size, condition and amenities as well as what is the competitive price range for your home. The CMA is a market snap shot of what’s going on in your neighborhood – what homes you are competing with, what has recently gone under contract and what has closed within the past 3 to 6 months . The CMA report sets the stage, attempting to attract that perfect buyer who is willing to give you the best price for your home in the most reasonable amount of time.  When the market was robust, pricing new homes coming on the market was based upon what was active on the market at that time. No more…now homes need to take into account what has actually closed because it’s a better indication of what a similar home is worth to at least one buyer.
  2. Suggestions for improving your home. Your agent is a Chicago real estate specialist who knows what buyers look for in homes. You should expect them to offer suggestions to make your home more appealing to buyers. This may involve repainting rooms, installing new carpet, or completing minor repairs to make your home look as good as possible. Whether they offer suggestions and do the work themselves, or offer the services of a professional stager, the key is to have your home shine and show off all of it’s many positive attributes. You know what they say about 1st impressions!
  3. A marketing plan. Your agent’s primary responsibility is to market your home, and you should know beforehand exactly how they plan to do that. This could include a “for sale” sign in your front yard, a listing in the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS), advertising in newspapers and home magazines, professionally designed fliers and brochures and internet exposure on multiple web sites, including the agent’s own site.
  4. Negotiation assistance. Your agent should deal directly with buyers and their Chicago real estate agents to discuss the sale price and terms of the sale. After there is an accepted contract, your agent shopuld also coordinate the various aspects of the transactions prior to the closing. This would include, but is not limited to, working with your attorney, the condominium board and management company to ensure that the buyer has all the necessary documents and budgets, attending the home inspection with the buyer and their agent, following up on the appraisal and loan commitment, coordinating and attending the final walk thru of the home just prior to the closing, and attending the closing in order to answer any last minute questions that may arise.
  5. Quality Service Guarantee. Your agent should have in writing, a list itemizing all of the services they will provide while representing you in the sale of your home

Don’t let an amateur sell your most valuable asset. Work with me to sell your home faster and easier. Call 312.953.8685 or email me at Doug@LincolnParkLiving.com today to discuss how I can help you.

October 4th, 2008

Midwest Home Sales

We all know that most of the country has been hard hit with slumping home sales and most of the Midwest is no different.

Urban markets tend to fare better then most in this slower market. In Chicago, the Midwest’s highest-priced real estate market, median prices dropped nearly 6 percent to $245,000 in August and sales were down nearly 30 percent.

But real estate agent Doug Fox said the market for city properties - particularly those with a view of Lake Michigan – remain relatively healthy. “Overall it seems to be pretty stable,” said Fox, who focuses on high-rise condominiums and other downtown properties. Buyers are still looking for entry-level properties in the $200,000 to $450,000 range, he said, and luxury condominiums selling for $1 million and up. Wealthier buyers, he noted, are far less affected by the slumping U.S. economy.

Location and, in the case of the downtown market, views play an important role in maintaining prices. The less of a commodity and the more special the view, the stronger the prices seem to remain. Buyers may have a tendency to overlook say, the condition of the property, if the view is spectacular and not likely to change. As a buyer of mine said…”the view cost a million bucks, the condo only cost $250,000.” 

Otherwise, our market is very price sensitive. There are a lot of buyers that are looking, albeit more casually then usual. I think many are trying to get the lay of the land and see what their buying power is. Others are sitting on the fence; waiting to see not only what the economy and the new economic recovery plan has in store for us, but wondering if home prices will go lower yet.

We’re all hopeful that the economy along with the housing market will begin to see a turnaround…let me know what your thoughts are!

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