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

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Raise the downpayment level?

"Requiring a minimum down payment of 20 percent, or even 10 percent, on home loans would push many creditworthy borrowers into higher-cost loans or out of the mortgage market entirely, a new study says.

Possible down-payment requirements are part of a debate in Congress and among a cluster of federal regulatory agencies, as they develop new rules for mortgage lenders following the housing crash."

Interesting read in the New York Times:
Big Down Payments Could Bar Creditworthy Borrowers From Market

Case Shiller Index released

"Home prices in the Chicago area fell in November for the third consecutive month, putting them back at May 2001 levels, according to a widely watched index released Tuesday.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index found that in November, housing prices in the Chicago area fell 3.4 percent from October and were down 5.9 percent from a year ago. Other than Atlanta, Seattle and Las Vegas, Chicago had the greatest year-over year price decline.

Source: Chicago Tribune

A conversation with Robert Shiller

"A lot of people have just called the bottom in the housing market in the United States, and there's been some okay data recently. Is that your take? That finally housing prices are bottoming?"

Read more in Business Insider

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Staged to sell

Staging can help you highlight selling features that may otherwise be overlooked by buyers.
Good article in Realtor Magazine:

Friday, January 27, 2012

One builder is doing well....

The heart of the home

"A kitchen is the heart of a home. This is true all across the globe. The old saying that the 'stomach is the way to the heart' carries a lot of truth. Kitchens are where we spend much of our time and most of that is with our families. It's the room where we nourish our bodies and our spirits. 

Kitchens are integral to entertaining and in today's age of open floor plans, they're a focal piece of many family rooms. It's because of this that kitchens play such an important role in the buying and selling process.  

Read Kitchens Sell a House in Realty Times.

Read This Before You Remodel a Kitchen from This Old House

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pending Home Sales in U.S. Fell Back in December

"The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell in December after hitting the highest level in a year and a half.

The National Association of Realtors said its index of sales agreements fell 3.5 percent last month to a reading of 96.6 points. That’s down from November’s reading of 100.1 points.

But the reading is still the second highest since April 2010, the last month that buyers could qualify for a federal home-buying tax credit.

A reading of 100 is considered healthy.

Read more in the New York Times

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What to do with a distressed home

Q. I’ve inherited a rundown home. Is it better to sell as is or invest in repairs and upgrades?

Market Ready

Spruce up your kitchen!

"Kitchens are more than just where you prepare your meals. Nowadays, the kitchen is a command center, dining area, and the one room in the home where families spend the most time together. If you're looking for a way to spruce up the space, and an overhaul isn't in the budget, try one of these easy kitchen cabinet upgrades. "

Nine ways to spruce up kitchen cabinets from This Old House

Is this the year of the turnaround?

"It's only January, but already the latest real estate news indicate that the housing market is looking up."
CBS News:
Housing market picks up speed for 2012

Scamper Night

Growing up in Kenilworth in the 1950-60's was pretty uncomplicated.  We walked or rode our bikes everywhere -- our parents wouldn't dream of driving us anywhere. There were 5 TV channels  - 2, 5, 7, 9 and 11.  Most families had one phone line and one TV.   We rarely had scheduled activities -- we just played with our friends. 

Oh, for a few years I took ballet lessons at the Community Center in Winnetka and had piano lessons once a week and swimming lessons over at New Trier on Saturday mornings.  But our lives much revolved pretty much around school, home and church.  Uncomplicated.

Everyone was in Scouts.  My "Uncle" Charlie (Barnes) was the troop leader for the Boy Scouts.  Our Girl Scout leaders changed every two years -- my mom was eventually one of the leaders of my troop. Even being in Scouting revolved around the school.  I think it was Mondays that were Scout days and all the girls would wear their Brownie/Girl Scout uniforms to school.  They even assigned our troops in the third grade based on our teachers:  Miss Huck's 3rd grade class became Troop 5 and Mrs. Johnson's 3rd grade class became Troop 6.  I was in Miss Huck's class. 

From what I can tell, things have changed and things seem to be a lot more complicated in Kenilworth.  Given that Abbotsford Road is now a one way street to accommodate the traffic, kids no longer seem to get to school on their power.   I know there are other changes that have come with technology and modern parenting, but one thing remains the same: Scamper Night.

On Friday, January 27th at 7:15 p.m. the Girl Scouts will perform at the Annual Girl Scout Scamper Night at Joseph Sears School as they have since 1943.  Scamper Night includes 3rd through 8th grade Kenilworth Girl Scout Troops putting on skits, singing songs and dancing their way across the stage.

I asked my mother's friend, Kayi Hummel, for her memories of Scamper Night and this is what she shared with me.  Her dates are little different, but I thought it was fun to hear what she remembers.  
"I was in the first Scamper Night in 1945 when I was in sixth grade, the first year we moved to Kenilworth. It was started by Mrs. Wayne King and Mrs. Stevenson. Their girls Penny and Sally were in my grade.  They felt that children needed to develop stage presence and one eighth grade play didn't do that for the majority. Therefore, they started the Scout program of Scamper Night. It was probably a badge project."
Like all of the other Kenilworth Girl Scouts I performed in Scamper Night every year for six years.  Every year, Mrs. Wells would create, direct and produce our show.  Because her daughter was in our class, she would take charge of the performances for Troops 5 and 6.  I don't remember all the shows -- there was one where we sang "By the Sea" and were dressed up with bloomers as 1920's bathers at the ocean.  There was one that was arranged to the tunes of Flower Drum Song.  I can't remember all the others. 

After the dress rehearsal every class would line up on the stage and get our pictures taken with Violet Wild -- an interesting Kenilworth character.  I would imagine these pictures are somewhere available at the Kenilworth Historical Society
If you are in Kenilworth or nearby, I encourage you to attend Scamper Night.  I think it's fun to see something that has been a North Shore tradition.  (A dress rehearsal, also open to the community, is scheduled for Thursday, January 26th at 3:30 p.m.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fix the housing market!!!

"Laurie Goodman is an apolitical number cruncher who has spent most of her 28-year career out of the public view, studying the minutiae of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) for big investment banks. She's long been a star among Wall Street insiders, however. She holds the record for the most top rankings for fixed-in-come research from the trade bible Institutional Investor...."

Continue reading CNN Money:
Housing: The one bailout America could really use

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cooking with Gale

Gale Gand, Elawa Farm’s chef-in-residence is offering a series of cooking classes this year for aspiring young chefs, age 8 to 13. The ‘Kids in the Kitchen’ cooking series will begin on Saturday, February 11th from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. ‘Chocolate for Valentine’s Day’ is the theme. Each class will offers children the opportunity to cook and bake with Chef Gale, taste what they make, and bring home a sample along with recipes to share with the whole family.

Learn more at Elawa Farm.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Replacing bathroom tiles???

Q. The tile in my bathroom is in good shape, but it’s brightly colored and may not appeal to everyone. Should I replace it before selling?

Read more in the New York Times - Market Ready

Low appraisal -- what to do...

"When you’re selling your home and the closing date is looming, the last phone call you want to take is the one from your buyer informing you that the appraisal for his or her loan has come in below the sale price—and asking if you would consider taking less money."

Good article by Steve Cook in Equifax

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Strategic Default?

I like my friend, Mark's blog posting ... I guess I'm old school, too. 

Consumer Attitudes Improve in December

"Americans' attitudes on a variety of issues are marginally better than one month ago, according to results from Fannie Mae’s December National Housing Survey...."

Fannie Mae

Monday, January 9, 2012

Self employed?

"It’s tougher for just about all mortgage borrowers to get a loan for a home purchase or refinance these days, but many self-employed business owners are really feeling the pinch."

Read more in MarketWatch
How to get a mortgage if you’re self-employed

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Renters -- something to know

"If you’re planning to buy a home for the first time later this year, your chances of qualifying for a mortgage might be better if you’ve had a history of paying the rent on time."

Read on in the New York Times:
A Good Rental History Can Help Borrowers

Friday, January 6, 2012

Can Construction Help Build The Recovery?

"Of all the good news in the December unemployment report, perhaps the most encouraging sign for the 2012 labor market was the increase in construction jobs. That sector has lost more than 2 million jobs as the housing market imploded 5 years ago, but increases in construction hiring and spending could be cautious signs of a turnaround, analysts say."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How's the Market? End of Year Recap for 2011

Happy New Year – and let’s hope it is a happy new year for the real estate market!   I have studied last year's numbers for real estate on the North Shore, and I think there is both encouraging news and a new reality of sorts. 

I think the big winners for 2011 were single-family detached housing in Kenilworth, Glencoe, and Winnetka.

Winnetka appears to be back to 2007 levels in terms of the number of sales.  That said, the median price was down almost 9% from 2010.  BUT, getting back the basics of supply and demand, the inventory levels have dropped significantly in Winnetka, which should theoretically drive prices back up again – in fact, it looks like a seller’s market in Winnetka.

I found the number of sales in Lake Forest compared to Winnetka very interesting.  While there were the same number of units sold, Lake Forest has over 2,500 more households than Winnetka.   As such, one would expect absolute number of units sold to be much higher in Lake Forest.   While the median sales price did not decline, the inventory level remains very high with over a year’s supply.     We have seen a number of very high-end sales in Lake Forest, so perhaps that is driving the median up.  Or perhaps, Lake Forest sellers are not accepting lower offers.    It’s information that can be interpreted in many ways. 

The loser for 2011 was attached housing in just about every community.  There appears be an oversupply of condos and townhouses along the North Shore.  And while we saw some improvements in Glencoe and Lake Bluff, the inventory levels remain high... Winnetka has over two years of supply.

Don’t Count on Housing Market to Lead Recovery

"...When it comes to housing prices, it hasn’t just been a lost decade: Many metropolitan areas have had two lost decades. In nine out of the 19 Case-Shiller cities with data going back to 1991, real prices are lower today than they were 20 years ago...

Interesting read in Bloomberg News

Let there be light!

Light is truly one of the most important features within a home that buyers look for when they enter a property.  Some homes have great light just because they have the Southern/Western exposure... others need help.  The New York Times addresses the issue...

Q. My apartment doesn’t get much natural light. What can I do to improve the way it looks to buyers?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Good news in housing?

"A few positive readings in home sales and housing starts recently, topped off by today's 7.4 percent monthly jump in contracts to buy existing homes, are fueling what I dare say is a spark."

Read more in CNBC
Housing's New Hope

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

I read this on the web -- the original source was
Thought it was worth sharing!

By Bob Billimack

5… 4… 3… 2… 1: Happy New Year! January is the perfect time for a fresh start. But with beginnings also comes reflection on the year that just passed. For homeowners, it's a fitting occasion to take stock of the improvements on or repairs to your home or condo you made last year, and the things that were on your to-do list that never got done.

Here are a list of resolutions for homeowners to keep their place running smoothly and their home value up in the New Year:

I resolve to keep my paperwork organized

Of course you got a new roof two years ago last fall… or maybe it was three? Without having a central system to keep track of what was done, by whom, and when, it can be downright impossible to make sure all the yearly maintenance and big-ticket improvements that need to be done on the house actually get accomplished. Your organization method doesn't need to be fancy. You could create a folder on your desktop computer or buy file folders to keep track of your receipts for improvements or repairs throughout the year. It's not only for your peace of mind to know your go to guy for bathroom repairs, or when the last time was you got the furnace repaired. You'll need to know the value of home improvements over your entire ownership when the time eventually comes to sell.

I resolve to do regular maintenance

To keep your home in working order, every year you should you have your furnace cleaned and serviced, have the chimney cleaned, have the roofs cleaned, check decks, porches or balconies to ensure they are not rotting and check the crawl space underneath your home to make sure there are no major pest infestations or water. If you live in a condo, it's important to ask at condo association meetings the schedule for common area building maintenance issues, such as cleaning the roofs and chimney. To drive the pricing on some of these services down, try to organize the entire association to have these yearly maintenance services done at the same time. Every few months homeowners should clean the gutter and inspect weather stripping around doors and windows to determine if air is getting in and you need to re-caulk those areas. Every month you should change your furnace filters to prevent fire hazards.

I resolve to restore harmony to my home

Yes, no one can see the inside of your drawers, but you know the frustration you feel when you're hunting for your favorite shirt in the morning, and it's seemingly nowhere to be found. So clean out your drawers and closets to bring order to your bedroom. Organize your pantry and your refrigerator so that food is both within reach and no one in your family tempts fate by eating an item that has passed its expiration date.

I resolve to be safe

Make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in working condition. An easy way to remember to change the batteries is to do it twice a year, during the spring forward and fall back time changes. Check electrical systems for worn or exposed wires, and check heating systems and appliances for gas leaks and adequate ventilation. You can't put a price on your family's safety.

I resolve to keep minor repairs just that 

Despite the time and money involved, roof repairs, functioning doors and windows, safe plumbing and safe electrical fixtures are all non-negotiable home repairs. Ignoring the problem or putting it off until later might not only be costly, but also dangerous.

I resolve to beautify my home

In the chaos of daily life, keeping up with keeping your home clean may seem both impossible and a drag, but remember the feeling you get when you survey a sparkling room and feel fortunate to live there. Dirty windows, for example, can make the entire place look filthy. It may not be an ideal way to spend a Saturday, but the end result of your cleaning will make you feel great when you see how much brighter and larger the entire room looks. And by maintaining the cleanliness of your home on a regular basis, straightening up will feel like a much more manageable task than if you don't clean at all for a few weeks, and have to spend hours and days picking up and putting things away."