Chicagoland home improvement ideas usually are reserved for homeowners who want to make their homes bigger, more attractive or more modern. However, many home improvement steps can be taken to prepare your home when it comes time to sell. If you’ve made the decision to sell your home, it’s not just a good idea – sometimes it’s a necessity – to make your home as attractive and presentable as possible for prospective buyers. Here’s how.

Be Ready to Hit the Market Running Listing your home for sale isn’t a decision to be made lightly. In addition, putting your home on the market before you’re ready or it’s ready can severely hamper your ability to sell it for its full value. Make sure you prepare your home for the real estate marketplace. Follow these Chicagoland home improvement ideas and make the best impression you can for potential buyers to sell your home quickly and for the best price.

Chicagoland home improvement ideas include de-cluttering the house in preparation for selling it.

Clean and Declutter Your Home While it may sound cliche’ to some, we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to make sure your home is clean and free from unsightly clutter. Follow these steps and you’ll be glad you did when you receive an offer that’s at or near your full asking price.

  • Remove as much clutter as possible before you start to clean. There's no better time to get rid of unwanted items and things you’re just tired of staring at each day (we’re talking about objects, not family members!) You can donate unneeded items to a local charity, or have a yard sale if you have larger items. In addition, recycling companies are usually more than happy to come pick up large metal items – often at no charge.
     
  • Give your house a good deep-cleaning. While this step will take the largest investment of time, it will also yield the best results. Try to involve the entire family and assign everybody a task or two. Make sure you give necessary attention to the bathrooms and kitchen – lots of women who will ultimately make the decision on the house purchase will be looking them over closely. Lastly, clean the inside and the outside of your home’s windows. You’ll be surprised how it will make your home sparkle – and buyers will notice!
     
  • Take the time to organize your closets, cabinets and drawers. Don't just stuff them with things you want to get out of the way. You’ll be surprised at how many prospective buyers will open cabinets and closets so they can get an idea of the amount of storage space they contain. Clean, organized cabinets, drawers and closets will give the buyers the impression that you take care of the home – which may translate into a feeling that the rest of the home and its systems are well-maintained, too.

Make Do-it-Yourself Repairs One of the next Chicagoland home improvement ideas – and possibly one of the least expensive – is to perform various repairs to your home you can take care of all by yourself with a little time and know-how.

  • Fix leaky faucets and running toilets
  • Replace the caulking around showers, tubs and sinks
  • Repair or replace grout, if necessary
  • Repair cracks, stains, or nail holes in walls and repaint them in a neutral color
  • Fix cracked, broken or discolored windows
  • Replace or repair damaged or missing window screens
  • Replace burned-out light bulbs or fluorescent tubes

Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal The old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” is never truer than when you’re showing your home to prospective purchasers. If they don’t like what they see in exterior photos online or in person, chances are they may not look further. And, if your home’s curb appeal is just “average,” most buyers may adopt the feeling the rest of the home is “average,” as well. You want to “wow” your buyers. Make them love what they see on the outside and they will look forward to seeing the rest of the house. Consider these “spruce-up” tips for your home’s outside, too.

  • Trim the bushes, shrubs and trees in your yard
  • Fix broken downspouts and gutters
  • Apply new mulch as needed to give your planted areas a fresh, clean look
  • Clean and repair concrete or stone areas such as driveways and walkways. Pay close attention to oil stains and weeds or grass growing through the cracks.
  • Add some flowers to give your lawn and garden a little more color. Add a new doormat to your doorstep or front porch area. Ensure that the house numbers are clean and easy to see.

As you can see, with a relatively small amount of time, attention and expense to your home, these and a few of your own Chicagoland home improvement ideas will help you give it a renewed appearance – making it more attractive inside and out to prospective home shoppers.

You can find more articles pertaining to Chicagoland home improvement ideas in the Chicagoland Home Improvements section of our site below Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right. We also post tips daily on Twitter and Facebook and would love for you to follow us there as well.

In recent Chicagoland economic news, it appears home buyers and home sellers are entering the coming spring selling season with a feeling of optimism. Despite interest rates moving slightly upward and home prices continuing to rise, housing sentiment is increasing as well.

Fannie Mae publishes an index each month that ranks buyers’ sentiment. The most recent report showed buyers’ sentiment about the spring real estate sales season has risen to the highest level in six years, in part, due to a strong showing by millennial purchasers.

Millennials are entering the housing market and that's making Chicagoland economic news.

The millennials segment of the home buying population mentioned solid increases in employment confidence and income gains, which go hand-in-hand for first-time home purchasers – creating increased demand in the housing market. And while millennials are finally making the move out of mom and dad’s basement or spare bedroom faster than ever, the majority are still destined to rent, according to Fannie Mae’s research and statistics. As the supply of affordable inventory in the housing market continues to plague many millennials, so too does the higher price appreciation. Simply put, most millennials still find it challenging to afford to purchase their first home.

However, an ever-increasing number of millennials are entering the housing market and that’s making Chicagoland economic news. The same millennials that had put off marriage and having families are slowly turning their thoughts to home ownership. Recent research shows roughly 50% of millennial families have at least one child. That represents an increase of nearly 5% from last year and 7% two years ago. Real estate experts say children in the family is the most common reason young couples buy their first homes. With the U.S. home ownership rate at what has been near an all-time low, that’s good news for millennials and good for the housing economy. In addition, when it comes to living in urban areas, the number of millennials desiring to live the urban lifestyle is decreasing – by more than 6% in just two years. They are opting for the suburbs for the spacious outdoor amenities like playgrounds and parks.

The Fannie Mae buyers’ sentiment survey also revealed 85% of millennial buyers felt their home purchase was a “good financial investment.” And why wouldn't they? They’ve seen the prices of homes rise consistently in many of the popular neighborhoods throughout the country and they’re familiar with the average cost of a home – many have watched homes in their price range continue to rise faster than their income. Despite the higher prices, the fact that millennials see their home as a good investment should fare well for increased demand as they and other millennials begin raising bigger families and buy larger and newer houses as their families grow.

Experts say the Chicagoland economic news would include even greater demand for housing were it not for home values that continue to rise as a result of lower inventories nationwide – especially starter homes, popular with first-time home buyers. According to CoreLogic, nationwide home values increased 6.9% in 2016 compared to 2015. While home prices grew at a faster pace than incomes, the result was lower during the month of December 2016. Analysts cite a rise in mortgage interest rates immediately after the presidential election as possibly having an affect on asking prices by eager home sellers.

A CoreLogic spokesperson said, “Home prices continue to climb across the nation, and the spring home buying season is shaping up to be one of the strongest in recent memory.” He further added, “A potent mix of progressive economic recovery, demographics, tight housing stocks and continued low mortgage rates are expected to support this robust market outlook for the foreseeable future.”

According to the Fannie Mae sentiment report which measures consumer confidence regarding the housing market, the biggest gain in confidence was among those respondents who felt now is a good time to purchase a home. In addition, home sellers also felt it was a good time to sell. With more Americans feeling better about their employment and job opportunities, fewer are worried about losing their jobs. Other statistics in the survey showed more households are reporting slightly higher incomes – and the number of people surveyed expecting home prices to continue to rise did indeed increase. Lastly, among respondents asked about expectations that mortgage interest rates would drop, the survey percentages remained largely unchanged for the third consecutive month. This signals to researchers and real estate professionals alike that demand is high in the housing market, prospective purchasers are fairly bullish on home values and, so far, are not thwarted by what could possibly be continued slight increases in mortgage rates.

All in all, it appears that the biggest story in the Chicagoland economic news is that the housing market could see a relatively strong spring selling season. Prices will be as high as they’ve been for the past several months, but qualified purchasers will be fueled by steady incomes and job security for the most part – and, while interest rates are worth watching, most analysts feel they won’t be a deterrent for purchasers anxious to trade up.

You can find more articles pertaining to Chicagoland economic news in the "Economy" section of articles just below Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right. Remember to also check us out by finding us on Facebook and Twitter.

Chicagoland home insurance claims – especially during the winter – can be expensive. And, whether you live in a colder climate or a warmer winter one, damages caused by a number of perils can put a damper on things. Let’s look at a few winter – and some all-season – claims and how you can best reduce the risk of them happening to you and your home.

Common Claims (and the Most Expensive)
Once again, it may affect some regions of the country more than others, but damage is damage, no matter where you live. Weather is a leading contributor to a number of Chicagoland home insurance claims. Frozen precipitation – or an abundance of rain, frozen or not – and extremely low temperatures are often responsible for a variety of potential home damage. The insurance industry listed a recent top five list of the most-often claims based on analysis of claims data (and all of them are not necessarily restricted to winter weather): 

Chicagoland home insurance claims can get expensive

Water leaks (and flooding)
Wind damage
Hail damage
Frozen pipes
Roof damage from too much snow and ice

The claims analysis went on to rank the top three most expensive weather claims based on the average cost to repair covered assets:

Frozen pipes – $18,000
Hail damage – $10,000
Falling trees – $6,000

Historically, year after year, these and other Chicagoland home insurance claims total billions in insurance losses. The insurance industry estimates losses of more than $3.5 billion in 2015 and $2.6 billion the year prior to that.

Preventing Common Perils
Of course, perils such as wind and hail damage are difficult to prevent – but not completely impossible to minimize. Consider these defensive measures to prepare for the unexpected – whether it’s in the winter or not.

  • Inspect your roof and keep it in tiptop shape. Keep your gutters clean. Replace worn or missing shingles. By doing so, you can guard against potential water leaks. And water leaks can lead to a whole host of other claims issues.
  • If you have an abnormal accumulation of snow and ice on your home’s roof, act quickly by using a long-handled snow rake or hire the services of a business specializing in snow removal. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Fortunately, in most areas of the country, this has not been an issue this year, as most of the country has experienced an unusually mild winter.
  • Protect your water pipes. Frozen pipes – or old, damaged pipes – can cause expensive repairs. In extreme cold climates, keep your thermostat set at a minimum of 68 degrees. In addition, allow your faucets to drip slowly so the water can move through them without freezing. Lastly, make sure any water pipes located outside are properly insulated. For homes in warmer climates who rarely, if ever, have to worry about winter weather issues, ensure your pipes are sturdy, free of rust and unobstructed. Remember, old pipes can break, too.
  • Make sure your trees are in good shape. Strong winds, ice and sleet often cause tree branches, and even the tree itself, to come falling to the ground – and perhaps on your house. So keep the limbs near your house trimmed back. Insurance experts further recommend to have an arborist inspect trees that may require pruning, may have diseases, or potentially may need to be removed altogether. Again, remember, such perils are not only restricted to areas of the country that have harsh winters. Many tree branches can be broken off by high winds – and entire trees can fall as a result of the ground becoming too saturated with rain or flood waters.

Protect Against Liability Claims
Another of the Chicagoland home insurance claims to be on the lookout for – and to avoid, if possible – are the common slip-and-fall lawsuits and resulting claims. Many of these such incidents occur in the winter, but of course, guests visiting your home can trip and fall anytime during the year, not just during the winter months.

Thankfully, most homeowners are covered against slip-and-fall lawsuits under their liability coverage in a standard home insurance policy. In addition, according to some legal analysts, slip-and-fall cases due to the accumulation of snow and ice on a homeowner’s driveway, sidewalk or porch are difficult to win – particularly in cold-climate states where judges and juries view those perils as known and accepted weather-related hazards.

Regardless of the advantages mentioned above, it’s always a good idea to be as prepared and proactive as possible when it comes to eliminating or lessening the potential for any slip-and-fall accident. We suggest keeping your driveway, sidewalk and other areas that you or guests may walk on free from snow and ice in the winter – or other debris or hazards during other times of the year or in other climates – in order to make it safer for all concerned.

Remember, Chicagoland insurance claims can be expensive – whether they occur in the winter or not. So, be vigilant, be prepared and be ready to address potential hazards around your house that could lead to damages or personal injuries causing you or your insurance company substantial losses – and greater headaches!

You can find more articles pertaining to Chicagoland home insurance claims in the Chicagoland Insurance section of our site below Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember, we post tips daily on Twitter and Facebook, many of these relate to insurance as it pertains to homes and homeowner's insurance. Check us out there.

Chicagoland home buying strategies can be vital as you enter the market this spring in search of a new home. While a home search is always an exciting and challenging one, in what is currently a sellers’ market, it can be especially daunting. Chances are pretty good that a seller will have his choice of buyers and offers from which to choose. That makes it a little more difficult in the event you find “the” home that’s right for you and your family. If you’ve bought a home before, you know the feeling. You’ve searched high and low and visited numerous open houses and finally found that “just right” home that meets all your needs – and is perfect for your budget, too. But, what happens if the seller isn’t as excited about you or your offer as you’d like for him to be? Then what? Let’s look at five Chicagoland home buying strategies that may help you deal with a seller who doesn't necessarily like you or your offer for his home.

Here are some of our recommended Chicagoland home buying strategies

First, remember a seller can refuse a prospective buyer for any reason. While it’s unusual for people selling their homes to be finicky or fickle, it’s not unheard of. Plus, as mentioned above, in a sellers’ market they may be able to afford to be a little more stubborn when it comes to the sales price, the terms, any contingencies, or the closing and move-out date.

Consider these tips in working with a seller in that position:

Hit Them With Your Best Shot.  No, not literally, even though it may be tempting, we’re not advocating violence! What we’re suggesting is that if you submit an offer and suffer through the back-and-forth of counter offers, it could be time to stop playing games and wasting time. Cat and mouse can be fun and challenging, but we're talking about a home here. If you like the home and want it, make your very best offer. At that point – win or lose – you’ve done all you can do – and now the proverbial ball is in the seller’s court to accept or reject your best deal. While they may reject your offer and hold out for a better one from another potential purchaser, sometimes they may rethink your offer a few weeks later.

Keep on Keeping on.  Another of our recommended Chicagoland home buying strategies is to “cut your losses and move on.” While doing so is difficult and often heart-wrenching, sometimes it’s necessary. If the seller isn't open to working with you or negotiating, it could be time to throw in the towel and move on to the next listing. Wasting time, talent, energy and desire on wanting the seller to see the deal the same way you do may mean you’ll lose out on the next “perfect’ home out there – and trust us, there’s always another one waiting.

Live and Learn.  The best coaches in the country – no matter the sport or the level of competition – will say, "…other than preparation and execution, learning from mistakes in competition is very important for the next game." So, when things don’t go exactly as you planned, take a little time to try to figure out what went wrong – and learn from it for the next negotiation on the next house. The more you understand about what worked and didn’t work, the more likely your next transaction will be more successful. Just like most things in life, it’s critical to live and learn.

Don’t Overthink This.  While you’re performing your analysis on the experience you’ve had in negotiating with or trying to work with a seller in buying their home, be careful not to overthink the seller. As is the case with most people – even close friends and family – nobody really knows what goes on inside a seller’s head. Maybe they’re not really ready to let go of their home. Maybe they’re holding out for every single dollar they can squeeze out of the deal. Perhaps they aren't prepared to move and are dragging their feet in an effort to buy time. Whatever the reason, don’t waste precious time trying to figure out the seller and his motivations or desires. Move on to the next property and concentrate on it.

Self-Analysis Can be Healthy.  Chicagoland home buying strategies can be useful – but only if you use them to your advantage and to accomplish your necessary goals. So, remember this: If you keep trying to work with sellers that refuse to cooperate, maybe you’re the problem, not them. Identify a seller who is both motivated and serious about selling his home. Work with them and make the best deal you can. Don’t waste time pining over the “one that got away,” as there are other fish in the sea. Keeping a positive attitude and a feeling of optimism in the face of rejection or disappointment may mean the difference between finding the right home and becoming frustrated. Stay positive and get what you want.

Read more about home buying advice in the section of articles on Chicagoland Home Buying Tips just below our Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember, we also post tips daily on Facebook and Twitter. Check us out there, too.

If you’re selling your home or contemplating doing so, there are some Chicagoland home selling issues to consider. While to ultimate goal of any real estate transaction is for complete satisfaction for every party involved – from the buyer to the agent to the seller to the lender – sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. What happens if – prior to the close of the sale – somebody gets cold feet, buyer’s remorse, or the seller has second thoughts? As the seller, how can you get out of the sales transaction without making too many waves? Can you?

Chicagoland home selling issues that can end up killing a deal

NOTE: Although we never work for sellers or list homes for sale, as exclusive buyer's agents, we can help you by referring you to the most qualified listing agents in the marketplace, due to our experience in working with these agents over the years. Even though we always work only for buyers and never for sellers, we offer these tips on Chicagoland home selling recommendations to potential home sellers who may be in the process of or starting to think about selling their home.

More often than not, deals that progress to the contract stage usually close without a major hitch. However, sometimes there are Chicagoland home selling issues that can kill the deal or put a bad enough taste in the mouth of the seller that he changes his mind. And, you can back out of the transaction as long as you have the proper contract contingencies along with ample communication with your real estate agent – but you need to be vigilant and don’t wait too long.

One key to backing out of the contract is to work with an experienced real estate professional. Make sure you and your agent are both on the same page when it comes to issues like the sales price, closing date, contingencies and negotiable items such as who’s paying closing costs or other seller concessions.

By keeping the lines of communication open with your real estate agent and consulting with him or her during every part of the home selling process, sellers are more informed – and better equipped, perhaps – to anticipate items that may arise regarding their home and what prospective buyers may want to negotiate.

If you’re readying your house for the market, or if it’s early in the home-selling process, an open and honest discussion with your real estate professional may save you time and trouble. Sit down with your agent and explain that you’re not ready, you’re having second thoughts, or you want to put the process on the back burner temporarily. A good, experienced agent will usually be very receptive as to how you feel – honestly, nobody wants to go through the agony of trying to sell a home only to have the seller change his mind down the road. Bring up any Chicagoland home selling issues now and avoid the awkward and painful repercussions that may occur at a later date.

If you’re a little farther into the process or if you’ve already signed the contract to sell your home, backing out of that deal can be a little more involved, but not impossible. Let’s look at your best available options for escaping the contract without creating too much damage:

Issues with the Appraisal or Home Inspection
Normally, sales contracts carry with them a contingency whereby the prospective purchaser (as well as the mortgage lender) be satisfied with the appraisal of the home and the findings of the home inspection report. Depending on the results of either, further negotiations could result between the buyer and the seller.

In the current "seller's market" situation, it’s not unusual for an appraisal to come back lower than the agreed-upon sales price. In that case, additional negotiations and discussions must occur between each party to remedy the situation. Usually, its pretty simple: Either the seller agrees to lower his price or the buyer agrees to pay more money than what the appraisal was. Of course, a third alternative is that both parties walk away from the contract based on the contingency mentioned above.

The same situation can occur with a home inspection – another of the Chicagoland home selling issues that could arise threatening a deal to fall apart. If certain problems were discovered during the routine inspection, the buyer may be more concerned – especially if the seller isn’t willing to pay to make the necessary repairs prior to the closing of the sale. The end result is that both parties – again, due to the contingency – will agree to back out of the contract.

The “Kick-Out” Stipulation
As with the contingencies mentioned above, it’s also normal for a typical contract of sale to include a contingency that says if the potential buyer can’t sell his current home, he’s not obligated to close on the new home. Some contracts may also include a contingency whereby the seller finds a new home by a certain date to ensure he has a place to move. If either scenario doesn’t occur, then either party can exercise the “kick-out” clause in the contract – enabling them to back out of the contract based on the contingency not being met.

Back Out as Early as Possible
As soon as you are made aware of Chicagoland home selling issues that may trigger your desire to back out of the contract – act fast. Real estate experts say the worst thing you can do is wait. Typically, the buyer has more options when it comes to backing out of the contract than does the seller. When the seller wants to back out, the sooner he acts, the better off he will be. Waiting too long could mean you’re setting yourself up for a breach of contract – especially if there’s a third party involved who’s entered into a contract with the buyer or the seller for an additional purchase or sale.

See more articles pertaining to Chicagoland home selling issues in the two sections of articles on Chicagoland Home Selling Tips and Chicagoland Homes for Sale just below Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember, we also post tips daily on Twitter and Facebook. Check us out there, too.