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

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

News Hub: Home Price Drop to 2002 Levels

News from Market Watch

Local home price index hits 10-year low

"An index of local home prices fell in March for the seventh straight time, hitting its lowest point in 10 years."

Read more in Crain's Chicago Business 

What $300K can buy in the way of housing!

Tuscany looks good to me!

Fun to look at the real estate market beyond the North Shore!

Stop Housing Obsession

Housing is no longer a big part of the market says Jim Cramer.

Considering a second home?

"...the truth is that there are plenty of outstanding second home locations near every major metropolitan area where home buyers can get a lot of house for their money."

Read more in ThinkGlink

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Foreclosure-related deals made up 29% of Illinois home sales in first quarter

"Foreclosure-related sales accounted for 29.4 percent of all Illinois home transactions in the first quarter of 2011, down from about 34 percent in the first quarter last year." 

Read on in Crains Chicago Business

Cell phone ban goes into effect

Next week Highland Park joins Chicago, Evanston, Glencoe and Winnetka in banning cell phones while driving.  Beginning June 1, Highland Park police will issue warnings.  After July 1, $120 tickets will be issued and drivers will be cited with moving violations. 

Something to remember when you go to Ravinia this summer!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Time to buy?

"... I think housing has a "buy" sign on it.  Am I delusional? Possibly. Yet it's striking how the pall enveloping the market is masking a number of important signals suggesting the bottom is near. This doesn't mean speculators will be rewarded and that prices are poised to come roaring back. There's no reason to rush. But the money maestro Warren Buffet once defined investing as laying out money now to get more money back in the future, after taking inflation into account."

Read more in Kiplingers Magazine

Experts predict rents will continue rising

Interesting read in Fortune:

Winners of the rental economy

Interview about the housing and financial crisis

Best-selling author and Vanity Fair contributor Bethany McLean deconstructs the shared responsibility behind America's financial crisis and the misguided attacks on home ownership. 

"Between banks, politicians, regulators, and Wall Street, there was a lot of blame to go around. No one group was responsible, as much as Americans would like there to be. But if I had to point a finger, I’d say Congress and the federal regulators bear the most blame..."

Interesting read...

Should you move or stay put?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New-Home Sales Increased in April

"New single-family home sales rose unexpectedly in April to notch their second straight month of gains and prices increased, offering some hope for the stagnant housing market."

Read on in MSNBC

The rental market continues to be hot!

I recently listed a rental property and it's amazing how many calls I have gotten from many folks.  Renting is hot.  MSNBC put out an article today, that highlights this.

Monday, May 23, 2011

National Housing Survey from Fannie Mae

"The Fannie Mae National Housing Survey polled homeowners and renters between January 2011 and March, 2011 to assess their attitudes toward owning and renting a home, the current state of their household finances views on the U.S. housing finance system..."

Some interesting findings --  Read on

More about shadow inventory.....

"The major lenders say they are not deliberately holding back any foreclosed homes. They say that a long sales process can stigmatize a property and ratchet up maintenance and other costs. But they also do not want to unload properties in a fire sale."

Read on in the New York Times

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My life in real estate: Learning lessons about getting a mortgage

Do you remember getting your first mortgage?  I do.  I was buying a condo in Lakeview around 1987.  The rates were somewhere around 9%.  By today's standards that may seem high, however at the time they were thought of as great.  We had just gone through a period when mortgage interest rates were above 13%.  While fortunately I had been able to assume the mortgage on my first condo,  it meant that I didn't really understand the process at all.  

I first went to my bank, where I had had a checking account since college and where I had even worked during my summers.  In a million years, I never thought they would deny me a mortgage.  I'd been a responsible, loyal customer.  But they told me that they weren't issuing mortgages for condominiums.  I was dumbfounded and didn't know where to begin.

Lesson 1: Don't assume that your bank will give you a mortgage,  just because you've been a good customer.  

A colleague told me to go to a different bank -- the one where she had gotten her mortgage, so I did.  They were very accommodating, but insisted that I transfer my banking relationship to their bank.   Then we had the discussion about "points."  At the time, no matter how many questions I asked, I never really understood what they meant by points.  

Lesson 2: Assume mortgage lenders are speaking a foreign language.  If you want to converse with them, bring a dictionary and use it to translate what they are saying.    

Eventually we agreed on the product and terms.  But I have to admit, at the time I really didn't understand what I was signing or why.  

I'll never know whether I had a good rate or the right product, because I didn't shop around or really come to the table with a good understanding.  (In my defense, I was working 7 days a week and long hours, so I didn't have a lot of available time to study the options.)  I just wanted to get a mortgage and went with the first one who agreed.  

Lesson 3: Shop around.  Meet with different lenders and determine who is going to give you the best product and service.  

I add service to the selection process.  As a real estate agent, I see a lot of mortgage lenders.  I've been to the closing table where the lender is no where to be seen and we wait for hours for the money to be wire transfered.  I have also been at closings where the close takes less than hour, because the lender is there making sure that everything goes smoothly and without a hitch.  In my opinion, a good mortgage lender stays on top of the loan, communicates frequently with the buyer and can tell them at any time, how things are progressing.

Times have changed.  Since the credit crisis, mortgage lenders and brokers have been under tremendous scrutiny and are required to provide various documents, such as "truth in lending," etc.  The days when a mortgage broker sets up shop in the back of his car have disappeared.  Hopefully we have more ethical, professional mortgage brokers working today. 

The internet provides such a wealth of instruction, that buyers can come to the mortgage brokers or lenders far better informed and more knowledgeable than I was.  Regardless, I find that many buyers still approach the mortgage process ill informed and a bit clueless.   To learn more, I recommend that one goes to The National Association of Realtors for a complete field guide about getting mortgage.   The New York Times has a money guide to mortgages, as does the Wall Street Journal's Smart Money.  I also have Mortgage 101 available on my website.    Check out RWF Mortgage as well. 

U.S. News and World Report just posted a great article worth reading:

The last time I refinanced I found myself asking the lender informed and much more thoughtful questions.  I feel like this housing market has taught me to really understand what I am signing and why.  Securing a mortgage is a big step and huge financial commitment and one that I wish I had understood better the last go around!  I'm sure a lot of other buyers are feeling the same way.  

Last lesson: Come prepared to the lending process and know what you're signing and why. 

IRS 2008 Homebuyer Tax Credit Causes Snafu...

"Four years ago, Congress decided that the IRS should get into the banking business, authorizing it to give out no-interest loans to first-time homebuyers. That put the agency in the position of both collecting loan payments and issuing tax refunds to the roughly 1 million taxpayers who took advantage of the program."

Read on in MSNBC

Snooping on the neighbors

"Going to the open house of a home for sale down the block may make you feel like a nosy neighbor. But there are good reasons, beyond sheer curiosity, to take a peek inside.  By knowing the selling prices and how properties look inside, homeowners can become more educated about values in their neighborhood..."

I find that when I hold an open house, about 50% of the people touring the property are neighbors... read on in the Wall Street Journal -- they make the case that it's a good policy to check out the competition -- I totally agree!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Housing hangover

"We're looking at a market on the mend. We're not healed yet but things are looking better than they did certainly in the year before..."

Read more in the Wall Street Journal

Buying beats renting in 80% of U.S. cities

"...the decision between renting and buying a home across most of the country has clearly moved in favor of buying... Chicago sits in the middle ground between renting and buying, and experts say in these kinds of markets, the determining factor is more about personal finances than home prices."

Read more in US News and World Report

Children's festival this weekend!


Learn about children's celebrations in Japan during this special weekend of activities.  Check it out at the Botanic Garden's website.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Illinois jobless rate reaches a two-year low!

Good news...
Illinois’ unemployment rate fell for the 15th consecutive month in April, to 8.7%.

Will stainless steel appliances help sell my home?

Learning about boat safety in Wilmette

The crew of U.S. Coast Guard Station Wilmette Harbor is scheduled to hold an open house at 10 Harbor Drive, in Wilmette on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., celebrating the kickoff of National Safe Boating Week. 

The open house will also include tours of the station and boats, equipment displays, free safety equipment inspections, food and prizes. Boating safety pamphlets and brochures will be available for all attendees.

For further information, please contact Chief Petty Officer Joel Pribek, officer-in-charge at Coast Guard Station Wilmette Harbor, at (847) 251-0185.

Local home sales down....

"Chicago-area home sales fell in April compared with a year ago, the 10th straight month of decreases from 2010."

Read more in Crains Chicago Business

Insurance premiums on the rise

"After five years of relatively stable premiums, some of the country's biggest insurers have raised rates or say they plan to."
Read more in Smart Money

April existing-home sales down 0.8% from March

"Though the overall economy grew at an annualized rate of 1.8% in the first three months of 2011, the housing sector detracted from economic growth. It was the fourth quarter out of the past six quarters in which housing has put a drag on economic growth."

Read more in the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

5 most common complaints for short sales

"Roughly forty percent of the homes for sale on today’s market are short sales and foreclosures! Distressed properties are well known for their value (a reputation which is sometimes accurate, and sometimes not), but they also have a reputation for causing buyers to become distressed, too!"

Read on in Trulia

Lower mortgage delinquency rate...

"Fewer homeowners are getting into trouble on their mortgages, as the mortgage delinquency rate has fallen for the fifth consecutive quarter, according to credit reporting firm TransUnion."  

Read more from NASDAQ

Illinois is slow when it comes to processing foreclosures!

"Delinquent homeowners facing foreclosure have one thing on their side: time.

For Illinois homes repossessed in the first quarter, the process took an average of 494 days, more than in all but four other states...

Read more in Crain's Chicago Business

Ways to improve your credit score

"A large proportion of borrowers who can’t qualify for a mortgage would qualify if their credit score was higher." 

Read what The Mortgage Professor has to say...

"Credit reports have increasingly become consumers’ passport to the financial world. Whether you want to rent an apartment, get car insurance or apply for a credit card, the data in your credit report will be one of the crucial measures used to judge you."

Read on in the New York Times

Monday, May 16, 2011

Let the sun shine in!

"... when my editor asked me if I'd like to cover the Getting-Your-House-Summer-Ready topic, I snorted heartily and said "no way." But then, when I actually thought about it...I did know a few people who could benefit from a little summerfication...."

Read on in the Wall Street Journal

Home owners wanting to remodel more!

"Home improvement is on more home owners’ radar as the home remodeling industry recently saw its biggest gains in more than four years. Experts are pointing to the uptick as a long-awaited recovery that is finally taking shape in the home improvement industry."


Builders Pessimistic About Housing Market

"U.S. homebuilders are concerned that the struggling housing market won't recover this year and some feel it may be getting worse."

Interesting read in NPR news

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Becoming a landlord

One thing is for sure, rentals seem to be very "hot" on the North Shore.    Investors are buying up properties and then turning around to rent them -  or - sellers, unable to sell their homes,  who want/need to move on are becoming "accidental landlords."

Kiplinger's has a good series of articles about how to be a landlord in their June edition.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Existing-Home Sales Rise in Most States in First Quarter

"Existing-home sales continued to recover in the first quarter with gains recorded in 49 states and the District of Columbia, while 22 percent of the available metropolitan areas saw prices rise from a year ago, according to the latest survey by the National Association of REALTORS®."

Read more in RISMedia...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Food Market in Evanston

Visit the North Shore Artisan Food Product Market on Saturday, May 14th. See Evanston Chamber of Commerce for more information. 

10 am to 3 pm

1601 Payne St.

Architectural House Walk in Wilmette

The Wilmette Historical Society will be holding the spring housewalk, "Architecture Through The Decades" on Sunday, May 15 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

For more information, visit the Wilmette Historical Museum website.

'A lot more optimism'

“There's a lot more optimism today than we've had in the last three to four years....People are starting to put their money back into the market."

Read more in Crain's Chicago Business

Finding a great Real Estate Agent

"Selling real estate is hard work, which is why choosing the right agent can make the difference between failure and success for you, whether you’re buying or selling.  So, how do you go about finding a great agent? Here are some tips for tracking down the best real estate agent for you."

Read more in Money Crashers:

Check some of my previous blogs to learn more about real estate agents

MarketWatch - Spring Selling Season

Sellers get past denial

"This is what passes for a victory in the housing market these days: Homeowners are no longer in denial about how little their properties will fetch."

Crain's Chicago Business
And to read more about selling your home quickly

Survey reveals consumer confusion on mortgages

Interesting article in the Trib...

Wall Street Journal - Opinion on Housing

"But if we consider that the housing bubble inflated from roughly 1999 to 2006, that made seven fat years. An ancient authority would suggest that seven lean years should follow. That would mean two more lean years to go—not a bad prediction."

Read more in the Wall Street Journal

Who Benefits From Affordable Homes?

"But for many young adults who intend to stay put for several years, have good prospects of employment security and can qualify for a plain-vanilla fixed- rate mortgage, I believe this will turn out to have been a good time to buy a house or condo."

Another great "point of view" from Knight Kiplinger... excellent read.

Mortgage rates at lowest level of the year

"Mortgage rates fell for the fourth week, with rates on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaging 4.63%, the lowest this year, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of conforming mortgage rates."

Read more in Market Watch...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to sell in tough times

"If you're in the market to sell your home, you probably feel you can't catch a break. Nearly five years into the housing bust, when many experts thought the real estate market would at least have stabilized, sales and prices are still dropping in most of the country."

Read more in CNN Money.

News from the Illinois Association of Realtors

Affordability continues in first quarter housing market with nearly 70 percent of homes sold priced below $200,000, according to the latest IAR report.  Illinois home sales totaled 18,940 in the first quarter of 2011, down 11.2 percent  from the same period in 2010, but up 24.0 percent from the first quarter of 2009. The statewide median home price for the first quarter of 2011 was $131,175, down 8.9 percent from $144,000 a year ago. Nationally, home sales rose compared to the previous quarter. Find Illinois county-by-county statistics and the 2Q11 forecast.

A positive side to lower prices? As this Washington Post column points out, the high affordability will be a boon to younger buyers who can now afford to get into the market.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Top 10 Low Cost Ways to Prepare your Home for Sale

"...sellers should consider several simple, inexpensive ways to enhance their home’s appearance before listing it for sale." 

Some basic steps outlined in Frugal Dad

A Bloomin' Festival at the Chicago Botanic Gardens

Gardeners take note. At the center of the Bloomin’ Festival is the 45th annual spring plant sale — the Midwest’s premier plant sale. Sponsored by the Woman’s Board of the Chicago Horticultural Society, this event offers plants that are particularly well suited to the Chicago area. The sale includes more than 25,000 annuals, ferns, fruit and vegetable plants, geraniums, herbs, native wildflowers, ornamental grasses, perennials, roses, shade perennials, shrubs, and vines.

Check out the schedule for all the events at the Chicago Botanic Gardens this weekend.  

Price stability

"Fiserv today an analysis of home price trends in more than 375 U.S. markets ... In the fourth quarter of 2010, U.S. single-family home prices decreased 4.1 percent over the year-ago period, continuing the double-dip in prices that started in the summer of 2010 following the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit. The slide in prices, however, has greatly improved home affordability: relative to household income, affordability is at or close to pre-bubble levels in nearly every metro area across the U.S.... [They] project that average U.S. home prices will stabilize in the third quarter of this year. By the end of 2012, home prices in even the hardest-hit housing markets will level out."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Owning that second home....

"Though investment properties have struggled in the down economy, real estate agents in destinations like Palm Springs and Palm Beach are starting to see bursts of activity again, with a common thread in many second-home markets: Cash is king. "

Read more in Smart Money

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Learn about Rain Gardens!

The Wilmette Environmental and Energy Commission and the Falcon Group will be holding a "Rain Garden 101" session on May 14 at 2:00 pm. at the Wilmette Public Library Auditorium. The session will discuss the installation of Wilmette's new demonstration rain garden on the north side of Village Hall and practical tips for creating rain gardens.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Looking for alternatives to a landscaper?

Hum... an idea for replacing your landscaper ....  read on in the New York Times: 
Tools for the Wired Gardener

Considering a Tornado Shelter?

While tornadoes are rare along the North Shore, I do remember one that touched down in Wilmette in 1976.  As I remember it, a few roofs were blown away and someone's garage was damaged  ...   The New York Times has an interesting article for those of you who want to be prepared for all possibilities!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sharp rise in apartment rentals

"Apartment rents are rising at their fastest pace in years as the U.S. economy creates jobs and spurs demand for rental housing."

Read more in USA Today

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Shake, rattle and ... are we rolling yet?

Not to be missed! FOOD FOR THOUGHT ... North Shore Real Estate Trends, Values & the Market: "Shake, rattle and ... are we rolling yet?" tonight at Gorton Community Center, 400 E. Illinois Road in Lake Forest. Sponsored by the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce & The Fresh Market. 

read on

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

See local home price changes by zip code

"But better days may be approaching for the rest of the market. After falling more than 31% from their 2006 peak, Fiserv forecasts that Chicago-area prices will fall just 0.3% this year and increase 3.4% in 2012.

Read more in Crains and take a look at the interactive map that shows price changes by zip codes. 

Time to buy in Chicago

Check out Trulia's rent versus buy map!  Now's the time to buy in Chicago!
Rent vs. Buy Q2 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

It Happens Every Lake Bluff!

On May 7, 2011 join friends and neighbors for a day-long spring-time celebration just in time for Mother's Day!  Not only can visitors enjoy the Garden Market (8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) on the Village Green, but also a variety of merchant specials and other activities in downtown Lake Bluff. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Go Native! Plant Sale

Saturday, May 7, 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 8, noon - 3:00 p.m.
Mellody Farm - 350 N. Waukegan, Lake Forest

Grow your garden greener this year with native plant and tree varieties. Come early for the best selections and stay for a complimentary class on the emerald ash borer and other tree related topics. An expert from The Care of Trees will be on hand to answer tree selection and care questions.

Lake Bluff designated "Tree City USA"

"For the 15th consecutive year, Lake Bluff has been named a Tree City USA community by the Arbor Day Foundation honoring the Village's commitment to outstanding community forestry practices."

Read more in the village news