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

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Green Tips - Going back to school

So the new school year begins.   What are some simple tips to start out the year right?

Shorten the car queue. Instead of driving alone, start a carpool, bike train, or group walk and take turns with other parents in the neighborhood to drop off and pick up the kids. You’ll each save time, energy, and fuel. Walking is good for children!!!!   Check out: Researchers: Kids need to move to think and 5 tips for helping kids walk safely to school
  • Buy Smart. Buy school supplies with less packaging and seek those made with recycled and sustainably-harvested materials. Invest in sturdier products for years of use and reuse supplies.
  • Insist on Regular Nature Time. Studies show that children who spend more time outside are less likely to suffer from obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder, and depression. Encourage kids to get outside for an hour or two after school each day and on weekends.  I know Lake Forest schools have programs with Open Lands.   When I was at Joseph Sears many of our gym classes were outside -- including skating in the winter.   Between that and walking to and from school, we got a lot of outside time. 
  • Plant a school garden.  I had a friend who bought spring bulbs for her child's elementary school in Winnetka and had the class plant them in the Fall.  The children were pretty delighted to see all the flowers blooming the next spring!
  • Get Involved.  EarthShare charities like the National Wildlife Federation and Alliance for Climate Education are active in schools across the country and have lots of great ideas.
It's going to be their planet -- start them young with appreciating it!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Caveat emptor!

I have lived in my house in Lake Forest for going on twenty years. As some of you may know, that before moving here, I had lived in the city for nearly twenty-five years and owned various condos. After 9/11, I had this aching need to get out of a box in the sky, put myself firmly on the ground and to live even closer to family. I wanted a garden and a different lifestyle.

At the time, it didn't seem to me that the cost of living in a house could be all that different from condo living -- after all I was paying $1,000/month for assessments, plus paying for a garage for my car. I couldn't imagine that owning a house could possibly be much more than that.

I can still remember my sister laughing at my ignorance. 

She got the last laugh.

For starters, moving has a whole series of hidden costs that buyers sometimes forget.  Every day it seemed like I was writing another $1,000 check -- movers, home inspection, appraisals, transfer tax, etc.   Closing costs need to be considered along with the purchase price.

Here's a great video from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that outlines the costs for purchasing a home.



And then after the move... oh my -- so many things I hadn't even considered.  For example:

Keys & Locks
The first thing I had to do was re-key and change door locks.  
Finding a locksmith... cha ching

A Yard
A garden needs... a landscaper (or lawnmower), wheel barrel, garden tools, watering can, hose, sprinkler, patio umbrella and furniture, plants, trees, arborist, flower pots... a garden can become an endless money pit, if you let it...  (For example, this spring I had to remove a dead tree -- trust me, that's not an insignificant cost.)  

Tools 
While I had a screwdriver and hammer from my condo, I found a house needed a few more tools.... the maintenance man wasn't living downstairs anymore!

Snow Removal 
The first time it snowed, I wasn't prepared -- at all -- I didn't even have a shovel.  My darling neighbor saw my dilemma and sent over his plowing guys.   I had to find someone quick. Still have someone to come and dig me out -- maybe if I had bought a snowblower way back when...

Window Treatments
The front windows in my new house had NO blinds.  What to buy?  Drapes, Roman shades, curtains, or shutters. Cha Ching

Furniture
The house was bigger than the condo.   I also had had a lot of built-ins for desks, tables, shelving etc. in the condo.   I found myself in need of new furniture for the house including new beds for the new guest bedroom, etc. etc. etc.

Appliances
Within six months, two of my appliances conked out... so much for the home inspection report.   

I have since learned that things like sump pumps need to replaced every 5-7 years, etc. Nothing lasts forever.  

Linens, Towels and Rugs
I had some of these things -- but not all.   With new beds, I needed new bedding. 

Utilities
When I got my first utility bills, I almost fainted.  Heating had been included in my assessments in the city as had cable and water.   The electric bill wasn't radically different from my city bills -- but the Comcast and the North Shore Gas bills -- oh my.


Invisible Fence
I brought my beloved Corgi, Dewi, from the city.   He was pretty well trained, so it wasn't an immediate expense, but when new puppie, Lewie, joined us -- we needed the fence - pronto!

Maintenance
But probably my gravest misunderstanding about home ownership was the role of maintenance.   So many things I took for granted,  when I lived in my condo -- costs of servicing of the furnace, gutter cleaning, window washing, minor repairs, etc.   Owning a house requires vigilant attention to everything.  These expenses were a real surprise to me.

And  basic living costs have nothing to do with decorating and putting one's personal touches into a home.   Those are a whole other set of expenses to consider!

So, are you thinking about buying a house?  

Put together a spreadsheet -- the mortgage expense is only one line item... there are a lot more items to consider... one-time closing costs, moving costs, and then ongoing taxes, maintenance, decorating budget, the yard, snow plowing, utilities....

I have to warn you, "Caveat emptor!"

There is no doubt when I moved to Lake Forest, that I was naive about the costs of owning a house.   

Don't get me wrong. I have never regretted the move or buying my house.  It was the right move for me.  Maya Angelou says it best:
"I never expected anyone to take care of me, but in my wildest dreams and juvenile yearnings, I wanted the house with the picket fence from June Allyson movies. I knew that was yearning like one yearns to fly."
While the costs of owning a house are unending, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I tend think of my house in the same way that I think of Lewie.   I love him dearly.  He brings me much adoration and devotion, but there is also a cost to having him in my life:  i.e., vet, kennel, dog food, etc.  

It's the same with my house.  It brings me much warmth and comfort.  It's a refuge in the storm and a place for peace and joy.   And while it's not free and the mortgage is just one of many expenses - it is my piece of the American Dream and I love it. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

What is a transfer tax?

When I made my first real estate transaction many years ago, there was this charge on my closing statement called "transfer tax."  The Illinois Real Estate Transfer Tax Law imposes a tax on "the privilege of transferring a title to real estate" for property located within Illinois.

In a typical real estate transaction, a transfer tax is charged by up to three governmental entities: the State of Illinois, the relevant County and sometimes a local municipality.

Essentially I was paying for the opportunity to buy a property. I wasn't exactly sure, what I was getting and simply concluded that it was more of a venue for governmental authorities to gain additional revenue: a transfer tax is a tax on the passing of title to property from one person (or entity) to another.

The State collects $1.00 per $1,000; the County collects $.25 per $500 and each municipality does as they choose. Sometimes the buyer pays the tax -- sometimes the seller. For example, when I moved from Chicago to Lake Forest, the buyer was responsible in Chicago in Cook County and the seller was responsible in Lake Forest for Lake County. It worked out great for me!

A transfer tax is essentially a transaction fee imposed on the transfer of title to property. It is sometimes entails stamps... real physical stamps that are adhered to the documents.

The downside of this tax -- as many municipalities found out during the housing downturn -- is that the income is directly related to the health of the housing market.   Several municipalities on the North Shore,  that had planned their budgets based on certain revenues from the transfer tax, had to scramble due to an anemic housing market.

How does the municipal transfer tax work on the North Shore? 

 The process and the amount varies from community to community, but works the same as the state and county, i.e., it is levied based on the sales price of the property.  If the tax is $4/$1000 a $1M property would have a tax of $4,000. ($1,000,000 / by $1,000 x $4 = $4,000).

Here's a chart that outlines our North Shore communities:

Town
Amount
Who Pays?
Evanston
$5/$1,000
Seller
Wilmette
$3/$1,000
Buyer
Kenilworth
-

Winnetka
-

Northfield
-

Glencoe
-

Highland Park
$5/$1,000
Seller
Highwood
-
Lake Forest
$4/$1,000
Buyer
Lake Bluff
-

Mettawa
$5/$1,000
Buyer
The taxes and processes change periodically, so a real estate attorney would be knowledgeable about the rules and regulations for each county/municipality.   

20 Tips For Preparing Your House For Sale


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How's the Market as of August 1, 2017?

Hard to believe that summer is coming to an end in a few short weeks.  It's really been lovely this summer -- as it always is on the North Shore.  

So how was the market in July? 

This next chart shows units sold, the second presents the median prices.  (Click on the chart to see it enlarged.)




The units sold in July were mixed across the North Shore as compared to 2016.   What's interesting to me is that while median prices are fluctuating, sales continue to go up in certain communities.    

I study inventory levels to really have a sense of how local markets are doing.  In general we are looking pretty good across the North Shore.  The two big exceptions are Evanston and Lake Forest.  Evanston continues to have a shortage of inventory, while Lake Forest continues to have a surplus.   (Note to buyers -- Check out Lake Forest! -- it's a great time to be buying here -- and trust me, it's a fabulous place to live with the lowest taxes in Lake County -- certainly lower than Cook as well!)


The trend is good on inventory more or less - we would like to see the arrow pointing up for Evanston -- but the other communities are heading in the right direction! 

In the next chart I show the high-end sales for each community.  The highest sale was a newer home in the on Sheridan Road in Glencoe.  Glencoe's on a (mansions) roll!

There are currently 199 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of July, 11 houses closed in this price range:

Community
Sold this Month
# for Sale
Evanston
0
5
Wilmette
1
9
Kenilworth
2
13
Winnetka
2
47
Northfield
0
9
Glencoe
2
15
Highland Park
0
22
Lake Forest
4
77
Lake Bluff
0
2


Enjoy the last days of summer... loving this weather!