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

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Selling Homes Near Dead People

Why should I buy instead of rent?

Q: Why should I buy instead of rent?

Ilyce Glink: I think there’s a unique opportunity to buy because prices are low AND interest rates are low. So if you have good credit, and you can really manage to scrape up enough money to make the banks happy, you should go for it. Just make sure you know where you’re going to be for the next 5 to 7 years because fixing and flipping is for the experts. Find somewhere you want to live.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Survey Reveals 5 Home Buying Myths

Overall, today’s home buyers tend to be fairly knowledgeable about the real estate market, but there are still a few points of confusion in the process, a new survey by Zillow of 1,000 potential home buyers finds.

Here are the five main areas of confusion the survey revealed:
Appreciation: About 42 percent of home buyers believe home values will appreciate by 7 percent a year. Reality: Historically, home values in a normal market appreciate by 2 to 5 percent in a year.
Mortgage insurance: 41 percent of buyers think they will have to purchase private mortgage insurance, regardless of the amount of their downpayment. Reality: Buyers only need to purchase PMI if their downpayment is less than 20 percent of the home’s purchase price.
Appraisals: 56 percent of the buyers said the purpose of the appraisal was to determine if a home was in good condition. Reality: That’s the purpose of a home inspection; an appraisal estimates fair market value.
Home owner’s insurance: 37 percent of home buyers said that buying home owner’s insurance is optional. Reality: Lenders require homebuyers to purchase homeowner’s insurance.
Ownership: 47 percent of home buyers said a prospective buyer owns a home after the purchase contract is signed. Reality: The purchase and sales agreement is the beginning of the closing phase, but it can be a long process until they finally take ownership.

Source: Zillow Inc.

Flipping a high end home

A bright spot in the housing market!

"Within the dark and battered housing market there is one emerging bright spot: rentals.

In September, builders blew away analysts’ forecasts and began work on 51.3 percent more new multi-family rental units than the previous month. New buildings with two or more apartments surged to 223,000 annually, according to the Census Bureau. While it’s only one month and still well below pre-recession levels of 350,000 units per month, the surprise increase represents a larger upward trend that many experts say will continue to provide work for ailing construction companies and help resuscitate a market that has been lifeless in the two years since the recession ended in June 2009."

Read more in The Fiscal Times:
The One Bright Spot in a Hideous Housing Market

Pushing the envelope

"While the right asking price and a buyer's ability to secure bank financing are key to selling your house, generating a lot of traffic will increase your odds of success in this real estate market. That's why some sellers and agents are pushing the envelope to entice buyers and create buzz."

Read on in 
Unusual ways to sell your home in today's market

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Knowing When to Refinance

"Refinancings made up 79 percent of all 2011 mortgage applications as of early October, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, about the same level as last year but well above the 54 percent average of the last decade. Many of these applications have come from so-called serial refinancers in a constant search for the lowest possible interest rate."

New York Times: Knowing When to Refinance

Home sales up!

"Sales of new U.S. homes rose in September after four straight monthly declines, largely because builders cut their prices."
NPR: Home Sales Up, Breaking Downward Streak

"Home prices rose in August in half of major U.S. cities measured by a private survey, a sign that prices are stabilizing in some hard-hit portions of the country. Overall though, prices in the 20 major markets were down 3.8 percent in August from a year earlier.
Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index showed Tuesday that prices increased in August from July in 10 of the 20 cities tracked. That marked the fifth straight month that at least half of the cities in the survey showed monthly gains.
The biggest price increases were in Washington, Chicago and Detroit. The greatest declines were in Atlanta and Los Angeles."
NPR: Home Prices Up In Half Of Major U.S. Cities

Refinancing Overhaul for Homeowners

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chicago home price index up for 4th straight month

"A closely watched index of local home prices rose in August, its fourth straight monthly increase.

The Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller index of Chicago-area single-family home prices rose 1.4% from July to August but was still down 5.8% from the year-earlier level, according to a report released Tuesday. The index rose 1.9% from June to July, 3.2% from May to June and 1.7% from April to May, which was the first monthly gain since last August."
Read more in Crain's Chicago Business

The Politics of Refinancing

Underwater Mortgage Relief

"More homeowners who are underwater on their mortgage should be eligible now to refinance through the government's Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) as a result of changes to the program announced ..."

Read more in Kiplinger's

Friday, October 21, 2011

Is your space shrinking?

"Murphy beds are on the upswing.

More homeowners are installing the frequently-lampooned beds, rather than renovating or moving to a bigger home. The beds, which swing up into a wall for vertical storage, help home offices serve as bedrooms and vice versa."

Wall Street Journal
A Comeback for the Much Maligned Murphy Bed

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dare to repair?

"These days, Americans are more inclined to patch up household products like vacuum cleaners, blenders and mowers rather than junking them.

This wave of frugality is increasing call volume to customer help lines, prompting some companies to boost their call-center staffing and offer more online tutorials on fixing and maintaining household machinery."

Wall Street Journal

Using patio furniture inside!

"Patio furniture is becoming so stylish and comfortable that people are bringing it indoors."
Wall Street Journal:
Patio Furniture Gets Invited Inside

Buy a house -- get a visa!

"The reeling housing market has come to this: To shore it up, two Senators are preparing to introduce a bipartisan bill Thursday that would give residence visas to foreigners who spend at least $500,000 to buy houses in the U.S."
New York Times:
Foreigners' Sweetener: Buy House, Get a Visa

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

HallowFest A Garden of Good...and Evil

Celebrate Halloween at the Chicago Botanic Garden! Take either the "friendly" or "spooky" path to activities in the Regenstein Center and McGinley Pavilion. There are new thrills and chills to experience this year including Mysterious Magic with Dracula, a live show-and-tell of creepy, crawly amphibians and reptiles, and a Face Painting Extravaganza!
October 21, 22 & 23
Friday & Saturday: 6 – 8:30 p.m.
Sunday: 4 – 6:30 p.m.

See all the events planned at Hallowfest

Saving Energy?

"A program of telling homeowners how their electricity use compared with their neighbors' had the effect of cutting energy consumption by 2%..."

Thought this was interesting read in Harvard Business Review about "keeping up with the Joneses :)"

Tips for home remodeling

"If you're among the millions of Americans tackling renovations this year, follow these tips to ensure your project goes smoothly and your money is well spent."

Read on in Kiplingers
Advice for Home Remodelers

Self–fulfilling prophecy?

"The United States has a confidence problem: a nation long defined by irrational exuberance has turned gloomy about tomorrow. Consumers are holding back, businesses are suffering and the economy is barely growing.

There are good reasons for gloom — incomes have declined, many people cannot find jobs, few trust the government to make things better — but as Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, noted earlier this year, those problems are not sufficient to explain the depth of the funk...."

Did you read this article in The New York Times?
Gloom Grips Consumers, and It May Be Home Prices

It reminded me of a story I learned a long time ago when I was in college. 
In a classic experiment, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson worked with elementary school children from 18 classrooms. They randomly chose 20% of the children from each room and told the teachers they were "intellectual bloomers."

They explained that these children could be expected to show remarkable gains during the year.
The experimental children showed average IQ gains of two points in verbal ability, seven points in reasoning and four points in over all IQ. 
The "intellectual bloomers" really did bloom! 
The Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect (the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people the better they perform) could also apply to how consumers are approaching the housing market.  

While things are less than optimal in the economy, we are experiencing right now one of the greatest potential times for purchasing a home.  Financing rates are historically low, housing prices are in line with income capabilities, and there are some utterly amazing properties for sale right now... yet people are gripped with fear.  Every indicator would suggest that people who want to buy properties should be buying... yet fear is holding them back. 

Just as the teachers created intellectual bloomers, by projecting their assumptions about them; consumers are projecting fear and gloom.... which indeed is creating an economic downturn.  

Maybe it's time to get back to our characteristic, innate American "irrational exuberance" and start thinking about the future more optimistically!  Let's project a new reality!

Crain's: Illinois' Business Climate Outshines Neighbors

October 2011 U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook from Freddie Mac

Freddie Mac released its U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook for October showing with rental demand rising and apartment economics improving, the multifamily sector is a strong positive signal for the U.S. housing industry.  Their major conclusion:
Rental Housing on an Upswing

Outlook Highlights
  • Over the year ending mid-2011, the Census Bureau reported a net increase of 1.4 million households that moved into rental housing, a 4 percent rise in the number of tenant households in just one year.
  • The U.S. homeownership rate has fallen about 1.5 percent over the past year (from 66.9 percent to 65.9 percent during the second quarter of 2011) with owner rates falling by 4.4 percent (to 21.9 percent) for those under 25 years of age and by 7 percent (to 34.7 percent) for those aged 25 to 29 years.
  • Apartment rents, which had been flat to falling in many projects during the 2008-2009 recession, have begun to rise, albeit slowly.
  • New construction starts of apartments in buildings with at least 20 dwellings has picked up this year, and in the second quarter was the highest since the end of 2008.
  • Ten-year constant-maturity Treasury yields averaged 1.98 percent in September, the lowest monthly average since the Federal Reserve's series began in 1953; these yields are a common benchmark for multifamily mortgage rates, and suggest that mortgage rates fell to new lows for multifamily lending in recent weeks.
Click here to view the complete October 2011 U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook. Freddie Mac compiles data on major economic and housing and mortgage market indicators and offers forecasts based on those indicators.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fear versus Courage....

"The younger you are, the more freaked out you are likely to be by the housing market crash."
Read on in the Wall Street 
Next Generation of Homeowners Are Freaked Out

It makes sense to buy

"Three years ago, the real estate market was simple — simply terrible, that is. In virtually every part of the country, foreclosures were shooting up and prices were plunging. Today, the real estate picture is more nuanced. Foreclosures are still rising, but prices are stabilizing in some markets, making home-buying look more attractive."
Another story in NPR
Housing Market Stuck Despite Low Prices, Rates

Monday, October 17, 2011

Like to cook?

Gale Gand, nationally acclaimed pastry chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, television personality, root beer maker, and mom will be teaching cooking classes at Elawa Farms!

Be sure to sign up if you want to have this unique opportunity to learn from a master!

Next class:
 November 17, 2011 - 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm - Pies

What Boomers Want

"The blueprints for retirement are changing, home builders say, with baby boomers demanding fewer stories, step-less front entrances and showers, and doorways wide enough to one day easily accommodate wheelchairs."

Read on in Smart Money
What Boomers Want in a Retirement House

Housing's New Headache

Handling rejection

"Just because your mortgage application has been rejected doesn’t mean you won’t eventually get funding."

Read on in the New York Times
After a Rejection

Ideas for a Fall Palette

"It's that time of year when pots of mums swarm porches and yards like flocks of noisy starlings. Most of these have been bred by the hundreds of thousands for a quick flowering burst. The easy fix, these abundant annuals—not to be confused with the noble, hardy Chrysanthemum—are the fast food of fall flowers."

Some great ideas in the Wall Street Journal
Mums Not the Word

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chicago Magazine: Houses Prices in 2011

"THE NEW NEW RULES OF REAL ESTATE: Eleven years ago, Chicago offered a guide to making the most of the sizzling-hot housing market. What a difference a decade makes. Now, confronting the realities of today’s pinched economy, local real-estate pros weigh in with the best strategies for buying or selling a home."

"Clearly, it’s time for a new set of rules.


Yesterday is gone.


Don’t play the “let’s just see what happens” game.


The right price sells fast.


Read about all the rules at

I totally agree with rule number 3!!!

Old versus New

"At what point does a home's age become an asset? The "antique effect" begins to increase a house's value...."
read on in the Harvard Business Review

Considering a strategic default?

Can honor ever exist in a strategic default or foreclosure when you have an underwater mortgage?

A couple of good articles in Think Glink:

Underwater Mortgage May Lead To Strategic Default

Stop Paying Your Mortgage And Your Credit Score Will Suffer

Getting your home ready for selling

"Q. Is it worth renovating my bathroom before I try to sell my home?"
Answer -- read on in Market Ready in the New York Times

My personal recommendation is to make sure the master bath looks great.   That seems to be an important room for most buyers.   The others don't necessarily matter quite as much. 

Trends for new construction

The National Association of Home Builders released their survey the future of the home building.  Read all the findings in:

The New Home in 2015

The highlights of the survey:

Color it beige

"Pulling the decorating trigger would be much easier if I removed seven of the nine major color options. Left with just black and white, raging indecisiveness would give way to calculated precision. The tough calls could be solved with a coin.

Pale rooms, sucked free of distracting reds, blues and yellows, are having a moment. A few months ago at a trends seminar at the Decoration & Design Building in New York, super-decorator Miles Redd showed slides of crème colored rooms. Gasp. Even the king of saturated hues was hankering for something more soothing..."

Read on in the New York Times
The Case against Color

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Time to buy -- YES!

"U.S. house prices have plunged by nearly a third since 2006, and homeownership rates are falling at the fastest pace since the Great Depression.

The good news? Two key measures now suggest it's an excellent time to buy a house, either to live in for the long term or for investment income (but not for a quick flip). First, the nation's ratio of house prices to yearly rents is nearly restored to its prebubble average. Second, when mortgage rates are taken into consideration, houses are the most affordable they have been in decades."
Excellent article in the Wall Street Journal
It's Time to Buy That House

Friday, October 14, 2011

Getting an appraisal done?

"The appraiser was due in an hour. The beds were unmade, breakfast dishes in the sink and toys scattered about the playroom. Would she care?"
Great article in the Wall Street Journal...
Ten Tips for High Value Home Appraisals


North Shore Ranks on Forbes List

Forbes has published its annual list of the high end zip codes... How did North Shore real estate rank?

You can read the whole article at 

Walking away from the American Dream?

"Just remember that freedom has its price and, in this case, it is a steep one. It costs much more in the long run to rent, which is why homeownership can be the ultimate retirement strategy."

Good article in Forbes:
The Next Mortgage Crisis

Monday, October 10, 2011

In need of furniture? Try online...

"It takes time to find high-quality furniture for the best prices online, but these tips can help you make solid buying decisions."

Money Crashers:
21 Tips for Buying Furniture Online 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Six Good Reasons to Buy a Home Now

Good read in this month's Kiplinger's Personal Finance

6 Good Reasons to Buy a Home Now
Houses are more affordable than they’ve been in a decade

Ready to make a lowball offer?

Here are six things you need to do when making a lowball offer.

Wall Street Journal:
How to make a "lowball" offer

Are you feeling rejected?

“We regret to inform you...” Nobody applying for a new mortgage or a refinancing wants to see or hear these words. But last year more than two million people were turned down for home loans, according to federal data, often because they didn’t meet certain lender requirements or because their applications were incomplete or otherwise problematic.

New York Times:
Triggers for Rejection

Don't forget the walk-through

"Finding the house of your dreams is often a stressful affair. Searching, haggling, and qualifying for a loan will take a toll on any buyer, no matter how experienced. Once the appraisal comes in and contracts are signed, most buyers are tempted to kick back and wait with excitement for closing day so they can move in.

But there is one final, extremely important thing to do before closing. You need to do a final walk-through."

Money Crashers:
Final Walk-Through Inspection Checklist for Your New Home 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Looking to save money?

"Here’s a way to save money: Move in with relatives.

Lots of Americans have done just that during the economic downturn, an analysis of census data from the Pew Research Center finds.

In fact, the trend helped touch off the largest increase in the number of Americans living in multigenerational households in modern history, the report says. From 2007 to 2009, the total spiked to 51.4 million, from 46.5 million. Such households might include a couple and their parents or in-laws, adult children, younger children and grandchildren."

Read on in the New York Times

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Home ownership rate down

"The U.S. homeownership rate in 2010 fell to the lowest level in 70 years, dropping to 65.1%, down from 66.2% in 2000, according to data from the Census Bureau." 

Read more in Housing Wire

30-Year Mortgage Rates Fall Below 4 Percent

The average rate for a conventional, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell below 4 percent for the first time on record, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly market survey that came out on Thursday.

Read on in the New York Times

The mini house

"Last year, the average new single-family house completed in the U.S. was 2,392 square feet, down slightly from 2009, according to the Census Bureau. But some homeowners are thinking smaller—much, much smaller."
Wall Street Journal
Living Within Less

New discounts for borrowers

"As mortgage rates continue to fall, lenders are rolling out splashy discounts and promotions to inspire reluctant home buyers. But critics say the newest offers still stop short of the best deal for borrowers: Lower rates."
Smart Money 
New Discounts for Mortgage Borrowers

Nate Berkus: Designed to Sell

New kitchen or a new door?

"These days, new exterior doors often bring a better return on investment than a kitchen re-do..."
US News and World Report: 
The Best Remodeling Choices for a Soft Housing Market

Still the American Dream!

"Hanley Wood Housing 360 Survey Reveals 29 Percent of Renters and 19 Percent of Homeowners Are Considering Buying a Home in the Next Two Years. Despite the recession and declines in home prices, Americans still view homeownership as being important to the economy and the American family, according to the "Housing 360 Survey" conducted among more than 3,005 homeowners and renters across the U.S."

Some of the key findings include:
  • Now is a good time to buy. 72 percent of owners and 59 percent of renters think now is a good or very good time to buy.
  • Doubling up trends increased.  30 percent of respondents are "doubling up" – living with adult children or parents.
  • Now is a good time to remodel.  42 percent of owners say now is a good time to remodel. Top remodeling priorities are maintenance and energy efficiency. Most homeowners will pay for remodeling from personal savings.
  • Staying put in retirement. 60 percent of homeowners plan to stay in their current home for their entire retirement.

Getting your home ready for selling

"Q. I have a number of high-end lighting fixtures. Should I leave them ... as a selling feature, or can I take them with me?"

Answer -- read on in Market Ready in the New York Times

My personal recommendation is to replace any fixtures before you list the property.  Sometimes buyers fall in love with the fixtures and are very disappointed when they find out they are exclusions. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nate Berkus: How Long Is Too Long on the Market?

Are appraisals too conservative?

"There is plenty of blame to go around after a robust housing market swelled to a bubble and then deflated. Fingers point to impractical consumers, overzealous lenders, and yes, the appraisers whose signature on a home's value helps close or kill the deal.

Before the credit crisis, some appraisals seemed to be mere formalities; that attitude helped fuel the boom days. Now, overly conservative appraisal standards—many unfairly calculated, some observers argue—may be holding back the housing recovery."

Interesting read in US News and World Report
How Low-ball Appraisals Are Limiting the Housing Recovery

Rent or buy?

"Whether or not young people should buy homes right now is a difficult decision that doesn’t have an easy answer. Above all, the choice of whether to rent or buy is a lifestyle decision. What kind of home and neighborhood does she want to live in, and how long is she going to stay there?"
Good read in US News and World Report

Monday, October 3, 2011

Porch Light Night

Growing up in Kenilworth - I remember Porch Light Night.  This year the annual community fundraising drive for the Kenilworth United Fund (KUF) will take place Monday, October 3rd from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. Porch Light Night is one of the unique Kenilworth events that make this community great. For nearly a century, volunteers have knocked on doors throughout Kenilworth on Porch Light Night to ask their neighbors to make a donation to KUF. Residents leave their porch lights on as a signal to roughly 50 volunteers who go door-to-door collecting donations.  Leave your light on!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What's the value of my home?

"Again and again, you hear about mortgage rates hitting historic lows; now you’re thinking it’s time to refinance. But one hitch may hold some homeowners back: declining property values."

Rummage Sale

Winnetka - Christ Church
87th Annual Fall Sale
Thursday, October 6, 2011
7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Christ Church Winnetka Rummage Sale is nationally renowned as the oldest and one of the highest-grossing church rummage sales ever. Net proceeds are distributed in the form of Benevolence Grants to over 60 charities & agencies in the Chicago area.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fall Garden Checklist

Use this timely guide to prepare your garden for winter.
BH&G - Fall Garden Checklist

A deficiency judgment

"Forty-one states and the District of Columbia permit lenders to sue borrowers for mortgage debt still left after a foreclosure sale. The economics of today's battered housing market mean that lenders are doing so more and more."

Wall Street Journal:
House Is Gone but Debt Lives On