Keeping up with Chicago's North Shore Real Estate Market!

Contact Ann

call or text me: 847-691-1111 or email: ann@rannjones.realtor

Saturday, April 30, 2011

No more Pottery Barn?

"While many of us are drawn to the new and perfect, inherited pieces have soul."

Read more in the
Wall Street Journal.

A bull market in rental housing

"Five years into the real-estate bust, the market for single-family homes seems weaker than ever. According to the most recent S&P/Case-Shiller housing data, prices fell 3.3% nationwide in February from a year earlier.  The ongoing malaise, paradoxically, is only boosting the opportunities for investors in multiunit rental properties."


We're seeing a high demand for rentals on the North Shore. This increase seems to be motivating more and more investors back into the market place. Read more in the Wall Street Journal.

Stonebridge to sign over property to SunCal

"The 47-acre Stonebridge property will be in the hands of the development company, SunCal, by early next week..."

Read more in Patch Lake Forest

Friday, April 29, 2011

The royal wedding - sites along the way!

Today's the day. Wills and Kate tie the knot. One thing you can say about the British, is they sure do know how to put on a good show. What are we going to see?
The Mall
The Mall is the road running from Buckingham Palace at its western end to Admiralty Arch and on to Trafalgar Square at its eastern end. The Queen Victoria Memorial is immediately before the gates of the Palace.  It's often climbed on and covered with tourists trying to get a better vantage point. The Mall is closed to traffic on Sundays, public holidays, and on ceremonial occasions like today. The surface of The Mall is colored red which gives the effect of a giant red carpet leading up to Buckingham Palace.

The Mall was created as a ceremonial route in the early 20th century, matching the creation of similar ceremonial routes in other cities, such as our Mall in Washington DC.   When I lived in the UK, I could always tell when some dignitary would be visiting London. During state visits, the monarch and the visiting head of state are escorted in a state carriage up the Mall and the street is decorated with the British Union Flags and the flags of the visiting head of state's country. It would always make for a very decorative setting.

Westminster Abbey
When Charles and Diana were married, they had the ceremony at St. Paul's Cathedral which was quite a distance from the palace. A lot of streets had to be blocked off and security provided through much of East London. Fortunately, Wills and Kate are getting married a bit closer to the reception by being wed at Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster - AKA, Westminster Abbey.  Just as advertised, it's in the London borough of Westminster. It is a large, mainly Gothic church located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster (better known as the Houses of Parliament).  Westminster Abbey is the traditional place of coronation and many of the previous kings and Englishmen are buried there. While much of the Abbey has been built in more recent times, its origins date back to 624 AD.  It's an  amazing cathedral, right in the heart of London.

After the marriage, back to Buckingham Palace and the wedding reception. Follow the entire route with this wonderful Google application!

Congratulations Will and Kate!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Local homeownership rate rises

"Renting may be the rage these days, but homeownership is still more popular here than it was before the bubble.  The percentage of local homes occupied by their owners rose to 67.7% during the first quarter, from 67.2% in the fourth quarter and 67.4% in the first quarter of 2010, according to a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau released Wednesday."

Read more of this good news in Crains!

Making sense of London

Living in London was an adventure. I know it has changed remarkably in the last 20 years. When I lived there, all stores closed at 5:00pm and no stores were open on Sundays (except a for a few Mom and Pop shops). As a result, Saturday was for errands and grocery shopping; and Sundays were for exploring. I learned to entertain myself by going to museums and walking the streets of London. Carrying around an "A-Zed" map of streets book was mandatory -- I suppose that today, people just use their GPS systems on their iPhones. 

I learned that just about every street name has a meaning, and if you really think about it, the name can point you in the right direction. It took me about 3 months to figure that out. Once I did, I found maneuvering through London a lot easier. For example, The Embankment, is a street that runs on the north bank of the Thames.  My office was near that street.   It was also a major stop on the Underground, so to me it was simply a street name. It finally dawned on me that it referred to the Thames River. The Thames Embankment was actually major civil engineering feat of 19th century designed to reclaim marshy land next to the River Thames in central London. It consisted of the Victoria and Chelsea Embankment.

Driving on the left versus right goes back centuries to the days of jousting and war. The weapon was carried in the right hand, so men in armor would charge at each with their right sides toward each other -- protecting their horses and bodies -- thus the habit became to walk, ride and eventually drive on the left side of the road.  I grew to love driving in the UK and thought the roundabouts were (as they say in English-speak)  quite simply, brilliant.  Once you understood how to maneuver them, the traffic moves so much more efficiently than with stop signs and stoplights. 

However, the maddening thing about London, is that streets would change their names at very random points along the way.  For example, the Strand became Fleet Street. Or Kensington Road became Kensington High Street, and to the east it became Kensington Gore. 

It used to drive me crazy until I really understood how London emerged and developed. The City of London is actually quite small. In the medieval period, the City was the full extent of London. The term London now refers to a much larger Greater London, a local government area which includes 32 London boroughs (i.e., Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fullham, etc.) as well as the City of London.  Even though the boroughs merged, the streets retained their original name.  So the Strand (which refers to the old English word meaning "shore" - or the shoreline of the Thames) is located in Westminster, while Fleet Street (named after the River Fleet, a stream that now flows underground) is in the City of London.  Usually when the street changes names, you have crossed into a different part of Greater London.  Like I said, if you think about it -- everything sort of makes sense. 

Lanes, gates, squares, circles (from Latin: circus), roads, streets, all have meanings. So Trafalgar or Grosvenor Squares are just that: streets that form a square. What about Piccadilly Circus. It's a circle -- why Piccadilly? The name Piccadilly came in the late 16th century and early 17th century, from Piccadilly Hall where piccadills (also called picadils or pickadils—stiff collars with scalloped edges and a broad lace or perforated border) were made and sold, that were then in fashion along this street... Piccadilly Street. The circus or circle united the street with Regent Street (named after the Prince Regent - later George IV).

When the name of a town is the part of the street name, it usually means the "road to ..." So when in Reading the sign would read, "Wokingham Road" (i.e., the road to Wokingham) and in Wokingham, the very same road would be called the "Reading Road" (i.e., the road to Reading).  High Street is roughly equivalent to Main Street in the US.  So Kensington High Street was the main street shopping street in the borough of Kensington.  Whenever going into a village or town, just ask for the High Street and you'll know you're in the center of town.

While our North Shore streets are usually less instructional and more lyrical,  we do have a few that provide insight,  direction and have used the some of same English conventions.  For example, Green Bay Road was at one time, the trail that led to Green Bay.   Similarly, Waukegan Road was the road to Waukegan.   Lake Road is the road along the lake. In Evanston, Chicago Avenue (the road to Chicago) turns into Clark Street as soon as you cross the border and are in Chicago.   In Lake Forest, Western Avenue was at one time the western edge of the village... and South Park was just that -- the southern most park.  Tower Road in Winnetka was named after the Water Tower at the end of the road... think about it -- I'm sure you can think of other meaningful street and venue names on the North Shore!

Tomorrow...(drum roll)... is the big day...

Cook County foreclosures jump 10% in first quarter

"Foreclosure filings in Cook County increased 10% from the previous three months after a pause from mortgage servicers and the Sheriff's ban on enforcement lifted."
Read more in Housing Wire...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Working with the English estate agent

While working in the UK, I needed to find a place to live.  My office gave me the name of an "estate agent" whom I contacted.  Keep in mind, while there were literally hundreds of available apartments within London, my estate agent showed me 4 flats and then told me to pick one.  Needless to say, customer service wasn't exactly their strong suit.  I picked the unit that looked the most modernized -- although there was no heat (only an electric radiator) and no shower (only a clawfoot tub) and moved into a one bedroom flat in Gledhow Gardens near Earl's Court.   She failed to inform me and I learned later, that I didn't have access to the gardens -- one needs a key and ownership rights to use the gardens, which was a bit of disappointment at the time.

After about 8 months in my 4th floor walk-up near Old Brompton Road, I grew restless in London and wanted to shorten my commute time and live closer to where I was working in Reading.  I had this fairy tale notion, that I would find some quaint little cottage in Oxfordshire or Berkshire -- perhaps in Henley upon Thames or near Windsor.  Again, I contacted the office.  They gave me the name of a local estate agent, who again showed me about 5 potential flats in Henley.  Frankly, they were ghastly; they looked worse than student housing.  She threw up her arms and said that was it.  She had nothing else to show me. 

Needless to say, I was quite discouraged and called the office to let them know that I guess I was going to be extending my lease in London.  The relocation coordinator then asked me, did I want the name of another estate agent?  It was then that I learned that in the UK they didn't have anything equivalent to our multiple listing service.  The concept of a "buyer's agent" is fairly non-existent.  Buyers need to call each listing agent in every office in order to look at homes they might want to see.  Sellers may need to sign contracts with multiple companies in order to get their properties viewed by prospective buyers!

Next go around.  I called another estate agent and, against all odds, I hit the jackpot.  She had just signed a listing for a little cottage on a big estate.  To make a long story short, I moved to the village of Finchampstead near the Hampshire border and had this darling "Laura Ashley" cottage.   I lived on a farm and saw the goats and cows and dogs.  My lessor, Janet, was actually the lady of the estate, who also lived on the property.  It was a wonderful experience: Janet became a good friend; I was able to walk the public footpaths that bordered the property up to the village church (an over 1000 years old chapel!); and could drive to work quickly.  Also, in the process I learned that UK estate agents and US real estate agents don't go about their jobs the same way at all!

Estate agents basically show you the property and put you in touch with the owners.  Some manage leases and rentals.  Renting in the UK is interesting because most of the properties are rented furnished.  Janet told me that it is easier to evict someone when the unit is furnished and almost impossible to evict someone when it isn't.  It's not unusual to have at will leases that run from week to week rather than from year to year. 

While it was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot about the country, I also learned a little about securing English real estate.  If you're thinking about buying property in the UK, do your homework, because I can assure you from my own experiences, that your estate agent won't.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chicago home price index remains near 10-year low

"An index of local home prices fell in February for the sixth straight month, dropping to its lowest point since spring 2001."

Read more in Crains...

The Queen's real estate

Do you know the difference between a palace and a castle? Until I lived in the UK, I didn't even think about it... they all seemed the same to me. There is a distinction though. A palace is a grand residence, or often a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary. In many parts of Europe, the term is used for huge mansions of the aristocracy. If we believed in such things, The White House could be considered a palace. A number of the English palaces have been converted to public buildings.  For example, the Palace of Westminster is now the Houses of Parliament.

A castle on the other hand is a military complex. A castle, which comes from the Latin word, castellum (meaning fortress), is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages. The word castle usually refers to the fortresses of a lord or noble. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are like a complex villages within the castle. Some are simpler. 

Through the centuries the British monarch has had many castles and palaces, although they have not retained ownership of many of them. A good example, is the palace, Hampton Court.  Although originally built for Cardinal Wolsey around 1514, the palace was passed to the Henry VIII, when Wolsey fell out of favor.  It has not been inhabited by the royal family since the 18th century.

There are several "royal residences" of which some rooms are open for tourists.

The best known, of course, Buckingham Palace is in London. Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837 and today is the administrative headquarters of the monarch. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms. These include 19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. It's like a village until itself. Buckingham Palace is furnished and decorated with priceless works of art that form part of the Royal Collection, one of the major art collections in the world today.

Everything I have read would indicate that Windsor Castle, is the Queen's favorite home. Strategically built by William the Conqueror, Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. He chose the site, high above the Thames and on the edge of a Saxon hunting ground. It was a day's march from the Tower of London and intended to guard the western approaches to the capital. The Queen uses the Castle both as a private home, where she usually spends the weekends. Every year the Queen takes up official residence in Windsor Castle for a month over Easter (March-April), known as Easter Court.

Founded as a monastery in 1128, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh is the Queen's official residence in Scotland. Situated at the end of the Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is closely associated with Scotland's turbulent past, including Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived here between 1561 and 1567. Successive kings and queens have made the Palace of Holyroodhouse the premier royal residence in Scotland. During the Queen's Holyrood week, which usually runs from the end of June to the beginning of July, she carries out official engagements in Scotland.

Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland is another private residence of the Queen. It was a home particularly loved Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Balmoral Castle has remained a favorite residence for the royal family during August and September. There is some but limited tourism at this castle.

Sandringham House in Norfolk (to the northeast of London) has been the private home of four generations of monarchy since 1862. The royal family regularly spend Christmas at Sandringham and make it their official base until February each year. Like Balmoral, the Sandringham Estate is a commercial estate managed privately.  

The Queen has many other properties where she does not reside.  Best known are are those in London:  St. James Palace, Kensington Palace and Clarence House. These are both working and residence homes for family members. For example, Princess Anne and her family live at St. James Palace. Clarence House used to be the home of the "Queen Mum" and is now the home of the Prince of Wales. 

Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens in Hyde Park. It's like a series of apartments or flats and has been a residence of the British royal family since the 17th century. Today it is the official residence of the cousins of the queen: The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Kensington Palace is also used on an unofficial basis by Prince Harry, as well as his cousin Zara Phillips. Until their deaths it was the official residence of Diana, Princess of Wales and Princess Margaret.

For now, William and Kate are making their home on the Isle of Anglesey off the coast of north Wales.  It's hard to tell whether Clarence House or Kensington Palace will become their official London home. We'll see.  

The British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, by some records is considered is the largest landowner on Earth. She is the legal owner of about 6,600 million acres of land: one sixth of the earth’s non ocean surface. Amazingly, some day William will inherit all this.  

We often call our North Shore McMansions castles. Wrong terminology -- we should be calling them palaces instead!


S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices

Case-Shiller home price indices for February released yesterday. 

Buying Or Selling?

"In the North Shore especially, there's a surplus of houses but a dearth of buyers. That means those who want to move in have the hitherto unusual luxury of being the ones with the power."

Read more of this relevant article in
Patch...  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Maybe Your Home Really Is Your Best Investment

"You often hear people in their 60s, 70s and even 80s say that the house they lived in for 30 years was the best investment they ever made. Given what we recently went through in the housing market that can be hard to believe. But they’re probably right; it’s just not for the reason you think."

Read more in the New York Times

In honor of the royal wedding...

As we countdown to the wedding of Wills and Kate, in their honor I thought I would provide an anglophile week to share a little bit of what I learned about English real estate -- I had the opportunity to work and live in the UK for some time during the Thatcher years and learned a bit along the way.

In many ways I understood more about the American mentality, by living in the UK.  For example... it seems to be part of the American psyche to own land.  I better understood why, when I began to see how property is owned in the UK.  

Always fascinated by real estate, I would look at listings posted in the windows at "estate agent" offices when I lived in the UK.  I used to notice that many of the listings posted had something written like  £700,000 for 99 years leasehold.   I asked someone what that meant and they indicated that the person is buying the "right" to live in the house for 99 years ... but neither they nor their heirs ever has clear title to the land -- they are only able to own property that can be leased on the land.   

Some of these leaseholds are for hundreds of years, so the person would essentially own the home for their lifetime.  Much of the property in the UK is owned by the Crown (Crown land) -- land belonging to the British monarch ("the Crown"), the equivalent of an entailed estate that passed with the monarchy and cannot be "alienated" from it.

In the United Kingdom and during the British Empire, the hereditary revenues of Crown lands were a feature until the start of the reign of George III when the Crown Estate was surrendered to the Parliament of Great Britain in return for a fixed civil list payment – although the monarch retains the income from the Duchy of Lancaster.  As of fiscal year 2010, it is valued at £348 million.

The Prince of Wales owns the revenue from the Duchy of Cornwall.  For the fiscal year 2007, the duchy was valued at £647 million, and annual profit in 2007 was £16.3 million.  There are perks to being the first born son of the monarch in the UK!  (Much of the controversy during the abdication of Edward VIII was actually about the income from these duchies.) 

So while home ownership is quite high in the UK, it may be tied to long term leaseholds rather than to outright ownership.   In the United States the feudal concept of Crown land and Crown Estate was repudiated during the American Revolution.  The  Continental Congress  produced a system that transferred individual state land claims into a repository of land held by the federal government, to be used for the benefit of the nation as a whole. The result was land held in the public domain by the federal government. Once land was a part of the U.S. public domain, it was thereafter held in "allodial title", meaning that it could not be alienated from federal authority, but might be removed from the public domain (as in the creation of a new state) or transferred and owned in fee simple.   You may remember an example of this from our history books, the 1862 Homestead Act when the United States federal law that gave millions of acres to farmers who settled land west of the Mississippi River.

Unlike in the US where is no limit, another interesting thing about the UK, mortgage interest tax deductions max out at £30,000 per person.  One thing I noticed when I lived over there was how many people bought houses together to maximize the amount on mortgage interest they could deduct on their taxes. 

Stay tuned for more of our English week of real estate ...
source: Wikipedia

Homeownership still considered best long-term investment

"The housing crash seems to have had little impact on consumer confidence, as 81% of adults believe buying a home is the best long-term investment a person can make."

Read more about this Pew Research in HousingWire

Buyers' Market? Stressed Sellers Say Not So Fast

"Falling home prices should give aspiring homeowners the upper hand this spring, but in a growing number of locations, it doesn't feel like a buyer's market."

Read more in the Wall Street Journal...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Builders seeing no sign of recovery

"The recession hurt a lot of industries, but it knocked the residential construction market to the mat and has kept it there, even as the broader economy has started to fitfully recover." 

Read more in the New York Times

Solar panels increase home values

"All those homeowners who have been installing residential solar panels over the last decade may find it was a more practical decision than they thought. The electricity generated may have cost more than that coming from the local power company (half of which, nationwide, comes from burning coal), but if they choose to sell their homes, the price premium they will get for the solar system should let them recoup much of their original capital investment."

Read on in the New York Times

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Price Reductions

"Check out Trulia's new price reduction map. Get access to when and where price reductions are likely to occur in your neighborhood, as well as what's happening in other local or national markets." 

Gardeners take note

"Every year the plant industry, much like the car business, introduces new models. And it uses many of the same come-ons: Never-before-seen features! Dazzling new colors! More durable designs! ...each spring brings a few tree, shrub or flower rollouts that are worth considering.  On rare occasions they represent something dramatically different..."

Read more in the Wall Street Journal

21 incredibly useful iPhone Apps for home buyers and sellers

Do you love your iPhone?  I sure like mine -- I especially like all the remarkable apps that are available.  Came across a useful blog that shares apps for home buyers and sellers.  Begin by loading Smarter Agent - This is an app that is tied to our local Multiple Listing Service -- when you see a property, you can check it out right on your mobile phone.   It's easy to download, just text: R A J  and send to 87778.

For the next incredibly useful apps, check out this list at the accountingdegree.com blog.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hunting for eggs?

On Saturday, April 23, 2011 the Lake Bluff Park District will host the annual Easter Egg Hunt at 9:00 a.m.  Bring all children eight and younger with their Easter baskets to the Blair Park Recreation Center (355 W. Washington Avenue) to enjoy some family fun and visit with the Easter Bunny.  In the event of inclement weather the Egg Hunt will be moved indoors.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Understanding Credit Scores

"The key factor in determining .. scores is your payment history -- paying your bills on time -- followed by the amount of available credit that you’ve used ... Try to keep your credit card balances to less than 20% of your available credit -- even if you pay off your bill in full each month. Paying down your credit card balances is one of the fastest ways to improve your credit score."

Read more Kiplinger's

Support the Botanic Garden

Come to the Antiques and Garden Fair at the Chicago Botanic Garden. 

Finding the Right Agent - LX TV Open House Chicago

Should You Rent Or Buy?

Renting or buying?  Looks like now is the time to buy in Chicago!
Check out this article from NPR

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

To lease or to sell? That is the question.

The American Dream -- owning your own home -- has been tested these last couple of years.   Some homeowners are finding themselves owing more on their mortgage than the market value of the house:  particularly people who purchased their homes in 2004-2006 timeframe.   I know a number of extremely responsible people, who are having difficulty refinancing their homes, simply because the house doesn't appraise out anymore for the loan amount.   When homeowners really need to move because of family situations or job requirements, they have to figure out whether they really want to sell their homes for a loss.   It's a frustrating and challenging situation.  

In the last month, I have had 5 queries from clients who either want to sell their house or rent it out.  Four of them leased their house a few years ago after trying to sell.... at the time we had hoped that the real estate market would have improved.   Well, a few years are up and the market still hasn't rebounded as we had hoped.   Do you sell your house for a loss or do you hold onto it as an investment property? 

On the North Shore, one of outcomes of this challenging housing market is the emergence of a vibrant rental market.  To give you some numbers, I looked in the MLS to see what the changes have happened since 2007 when we began in earnest in feeling the pain of the housing market.  While the trends seem to be the same in every community, I'll use Winnetka and Lake Forest as examples.

In Winnetka in 2007, only 20 houses were rented through the MLS.  The median rental price was $3200/month.  Three years later in 2010, 56 houses were rented -- more than double -- and the median rental price was $4,450/month.

In Lake Forest the increases were just as dramatic
2007 - 39 houses, median price $2700/month
2010 - 100 houses, median price $3350/month

So who's renting?  I'll give you a sense by sharing, with whom I have worked during the last few years.
  • Those who have recently moved into the area and had to sell their former home for a loss.  They are either concerned about buying, or they simply need to save up for a down payment again.  
  • Those relocating to area with a job transfer.  We're finding that with some corporate employees, the company is telling their transferees to lease rather than buy -- particularly when it's a shorter term assignment.
  • Those folks who want to move from the city to the suburbs, but can't get their city properties sold --renters who are also landlords!
  • People who are uncomfortable by the real estate market and are hesitant to jump in and buy at this point.
  • People who have credit and income problems through employment issues or loss of revenue and simply can't afford or are unqualified to purchase a home.
  • Military personnel who are temporarily assigned to the area.
Good rentals properties are very hot.  I've had multiple situations where the property has been leased within hours after listing it in the MLS.  I've worked with so many tenants and landlords the last few years... very interesting process.  This phenomena has created the accidental landlord -- people who are leasing rather than selling their home.  As you would suspect, a whole new industry is popping up as entrepreneurs tap into this ever growing market -- just Google, "accidental landlord," and there are blogs, books, tax tips and even kits that cater to this new constituency.

What are some of my tips to those folks thinking about leasing their homes?
  • Make sure you screen carefully to get a great tenant, because there are some superior tenants out there!  Thoroughly check their references and their credit report to make sure you have a reliable tenant with a good track record.  If you have a great tenant, you might want to make concessions to keep them.   The process of finding a good tenant is not always easy.  Most Realtors can provide services for provide credit checking and  background checking reports.  But as the landlord, you need to do call references and due diligence to make sure this is a reliable tenant.  
  • Insist that the rent payments be a direct deposit to from the tenant to your checking account.  This means there are no excuses or "the check is in the mail."  You will know that the rent will arrive on a certain day.  
  • If you have any ambivalence about the tenant, then consider a month to month "at will lease" with a 12 month guarantee on the rental amount.  That gives you the ability to terminate the lease sooner, if you find the tenant is not working out.
  • If you live out of town, find someone to be available to "manage the property."  Sometimes the tenant can handle all issues.  However, in some cases you might want to consider having an arrangement with a local handyman.  If you are overseas or out of the country, you might want to hire a licensed property manager.  
  • Consider having a home warranty on your appliances.   In case something breaks, the tenant will have a general phone number to call. 
  • You need to talk to your insurance provider to let them know that you have tenants living in your home.  Insurance requirements change. 
  • If you have a beautiful yard and gardens, I would suggest you hire and pay for the landscaping service yourself.  It's an asset of the property that tenants may or may not care as much about...
  • I recommend that snow removal be the tenants' responsibility.  Leave them a snow blower or let them hire their own company.  It's hard for a landlord -- particularly an out of town one -- to monitor what happens with snow removal. 
If you really would rather sell your house, there are other options.  Consider a staging company that has "home managers" who live in the house.  They are expected to have the house ready for showings 24/7 and to also help defray some of the costs associated with the house.  

While you may never have planned on being a landlord, it's an alternative that many North Shore homeowners have embraced. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Civil War Program

 Civil War Program at the Wilmette Historical Museum - April 17    

The Wilmette Historical Museum will be presenting "Illinois Fights the Civil War" on Sunday, April 17 at 2:00 p.m. at the Wilmette Historical Museum at 609 Ridge Rd.

In remembrance of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, acclaimed historian and author Robert I. Girardi will present an overview of the role Illinois played in the war and highlight some significant personalities, including civilian and military leaders, soldiers, and those on the home front.  see for more information

Renovations Worth the Money Now

"Americans invest in their kitchens. Even at the low point of the downturn, in 2009, homeowners spent an average of $27,300 on kitchen remodels, only an 8 percent drop from the peak of the boom, according to Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies."

Read more in Smart Money

Monday, April 11, 2011

Summer dreaming

"One bright side of the housing bust: Prices for vacation homes are down! So with summer coming, it's time to start dreaming. 8 deals from around the country."

Read more in CNN:Money

The disconnect between buyers, sellers

This Mary Umberger article in the Trib really resonated with me.    While expectations are certainly more in line with reality these days, I still see a lot of buyers who feel that prices are still too high and sellers who feel their homes are worth more.  As an agent it can be a bit of challenge.  When you try to help sellers understand the realities of the market, I find that they think, that you don't believe in their house.  When you try to help buyers to understand that maybe they need to get real about their offers, then they believe you're not being aggressive enough in your negotiating.  It's just not that simple and it can sometimes be a no-win situation for the agents. 

What I do believe is this:
1. Appraisals are just that -- appraisals.  At the end of the day, a house is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it and seller is willing to accept.   
2. Sellers have no control over the motivation levels of their competitors.  
3. Every offer is rare and precious these days and needs to be seriously considered!
4. And while sellers can certainly pass on offers that come their way, it's been my experience that second, third and fourth offers are usually less than first offers ...  it's not always the case, but more often than not. 

Downsizing isn't all that easy

For baby boomers, downsizing is not as easy you think...
Read more in Smart Money

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Slow housing market convinces owners to fix up rather than move out

"It is a choice more homeowners are making these days and one that is lifting the fortunes of the long-suffering home improvement industry."

Good article in the Trib on Friday...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Another way to market your home!

Here's an idea that I doubt will take hold on the North Shore...
turn your house into a billboard through adzookie.com.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Citadel Theatre and Open Lands

Thursday - Saturday
April 14 - 16 and April 21 - 23
4:30 - 6:00 p.m.

Celebrate art and nature when Citadel Theatre performs "Johnny Appleseed" as a theatre hike at Lake Forest Open Lands. Appropriate for all ages, bring your blanket and dress warmly for this unique outdoor twist to a classic tale. Snacks provided by Whole Foods Market-Deerfield.
Citadel Theatre, Open Lands

Housing Market Predictions

 "The first housing market prediction is that the recovery will not be national, or even regional. Rather, recovery will occur market by market, based upon three factors: employment, distress sales, and inventories. Where unemployment is stable or easing, foreclosures declining, and inventories within a six months’ supply, prices and values will improve no matter what is happening. "

Read more of Steve Cook's predictions in this Ilyce Glink article....

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Young and educated show preference for urban living

Educated 20- and 30-somethings are flocking to live downtown in the USA's largest cities...In more than two-thirds of the nation's 51 largest cities, the young, college-educated population in the past decade grew twice as fast within 3 miles of the urban center as in the rest of the metropolitan area — up an average 26% compared with 13% in other parts.

Read more in USA Today

Monday, April 4, 2011

North Shore - LXTV Open House Chicago - Real Estate of Mind

Buying a House with Cash – Pros and Cons

...paying cash for a home is becoming more and more common within today’s economy. And for those who do have sufficient cash on hand to purchase a home outright, the question remains: is it a good idea?

Read more in Money Crashers...

North Shore Rummage Sales

Are you a bargain hunter?   I've got a great site to check out:

North Shore Chicago Rummage
 

Looks like you can also follow them on Facebook

It's got the complete calendar of upcoming rummage sales.  There are two listed for April are:
 

St. Athanasius Catholic Church Rummage Sale 
Saturday, April 16, 2011, 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.

St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church Rummage Sale 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday, April 16, 2011, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Get A Tax Break For Going Green

“All I was doing was trying to do something that was green ... But it turns out it’s a pretty good investment.”

Read more in Forbes...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Consumers Continue Paying Credit Cards Before Mortgages

TransUnion released a study .. that reveals the divergence in payment patterns -- where consumers are increasingly apt to pay their credit cards before their mortgages -- has now occurred for three straight years. However, for the first time since the deviation began, the percentage of consumers who are current on their credit cards and at least 30 days delinquent on their mortgage payments has declined.

Interesting Read....

Saturday, April 2, 2011

How to Set Up a Home Network

Thanks to modern technology, not only do our phones do all the connecting themselves, but all of our other electronic devices can “talk” to each other when they’re linked up through a central hub. 


Read more in MoneyCrashers

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tax implications & consequences of a short sale or foreclosure

Over the past few years, millions of Americans have faced the pain of foreclosure, and many are still navigating the frustrating process of short sales to sell their homes. Each ordeal comes with a long list of hardships, but most people ignore tax implications – until the end of tax season. The IRS rules are too complicated to rush it in April before the tax filing deadline, but help is here (and maybe some good news too).

Read more in Money Crashers....