Among the various Chicagoland home selling tips are the usual recommendations such as decluttering your home, cleaning the carpets, sprucing up the landscaping and perhaps doing a little painting. While those are certainly good suggestions designed to maximize the curb appeal and presentation of your home to prospective buyers, here’s another important “to do” to add to the list.

Vital Statistics – Chicagoland Home Selling Tips

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 Chicagoland marketplace, due to our experience in working with these agents over the years. Even though we always only work for buyers and never for sellers, we offer these tips to potential home sellers as assistance in the process of selling your Chicagoland home.

There is one thing we recommend you do before you sell your home:  Check your home’s vital statistics. Consult your local government’s resources to ensure it has accurate information regarding your home.

One of many Chicagoland home selling tips is to check on vital statistics and building permits for your home.

You’ll find your local municipality has information on your home – regardless of its age, size or location. Your town’s building department and assessor’s office will both have records about your home. The reason to check those records prior to listing your home for sale is simple – often the information contained therein could be erroneous. If the records don’t match your home’s reality, any resulting issues that are unresolved could delay the sale or even squash it completely. For example, let’s say you’ve always been told your home contains 2,759 square feet. Armed with that information – without verification – you list your home at an asking price based on comparably-sized homes. When a buyer signs a contract to purchase your home he assumes, as you did, that the square footage is correct. However, at some point prior to the loan closing – either during the appraisal process or some other routine event – it was discovered the correct square footage is actually 2,579. A transposition error caused you to assume your home had 180 more square feet than it actually does. While 180 square feet isn’t a huge difference, if the sales prices was calculated at, say, $90 per square foot such a mistake could potentially mean a difference of $16,200. That’s enough to make the mortgage lender alter the amount they would be willing to finance and it could substantially change your prospective purchaser’s interest level in paying a higher than market asking price.

So, remember this one of many Chicagoland home selling tips:  Consulting your municipality’s building department could have avoided the above-referenced discrepancy. The town or municipality keeps records of every construction permit issued and all buildings built. In addition, the building department is responsible for making sure that if any changes are made to the building they meet the current codes in force, and that the work is performed by licensed contractors. The primary concerns of the building department are home health and safety issues. Therefore, when an application is made for a new construction or home improvement permit, a building inspector from the code enforcement office must physically visit the property to review, approve and give written permission that the work done by the contractor, electrician or plumber is approved and meets the local codes.

When a purchaser agrees to buy your home and signs the contract, often they (or their representative) may go to the building department to perform due diligence. In the event there’s an open permit – a permit that was applied for, but never signed off on for final approval – that could raise a red flag. Even worse is if no record exists in the building department of work performed that should have been inspected and approved.

Sometimes home sellers discover a mistake was made. For example, permits weren’t approved or closed properly, but the seller assumed they were. The mistake could have been made by the building department, the former owner or the building contractor. In addition, it’s not unusual for homeowners to mistakenly assume that any type of renovation was performed as the building code requires, only to find out it wasn’t. Such a mistake can potentially present a problem when a seller tries to sell his home. The reason is that once the title to the property transfers to the new owner, he assumes responsibility of any illegal work not meeting the code requirements. That’s a liability few, if any, buyers want to inherit.

In addition to the building department, the town or county assessor maintains records on the local real estate market to ensure the assessed value of your home is correct and comparable to what the market reflects. The assessed value, of course, affects the real estate property taxes.

Before you put your property on the market for sale, add this to your list of Chicagoland home selling tips: Go to the town hall or county courthouse (the source varies from state to state) and check the property records. You’ll find that many times solving issues such as open construction permits or errors on a piece of real estate can be fairly easy. Remember, it’s better to tackle a potential problem ahead of time before it could jeopardize the sale of your home – especially if it causes delays and the proverbial “domino effect,” creating additional problems down the line.

If there’s a larger issue or more complex problem, real estate experts suggest holding off listing your home for sale until it can be cleared up. For example, lowering your property assessment may take time to appeal and plead your case to the property authorities. Because of that, it may be best to get the assessment lowered first, then put your home on the market. A lower tax bill will, no doubt, be an advantage to your prospective buyers.

See more Chicagoland Home Selling Tips in the section of our site below Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

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The latest Chicagoland real estate news indicates recent employment gains could improve the price recovery of luxury homes on the market. During the first quarter of 2016, unexpected stock market volatility caused a decrease in luxury home values. Prices were able to recover slightly during the second quarter with an increase of nearly 1%, according to a nationally recognized real estate data firm. Luxury homes are typically defined as being in the top 5% of the highest-priced homes sold in each American city. Let’s look at the impact the recent job market improvement may have on luxury home prices.

Help For Luxury Homes? Chicagoland Real Estate News

The U.S. stock market took quite a tumble in June with the Brexit vote and the resulting repercussions throughout world markets. However, it’s rebounded considerably since that time and recent employment numbers are likely to boost the stock market even more. Economists expect the employment growth to aid the recovery in luxury home prices.

Chicagoland real estate news indicates that luxury homes may see a boost in prices

With this recent Chicagoland real estate news, analysts say the higher, luxury end of the housing spectrum is more sensitive to changes in the stock market. The reason is that homebuyers with higher net worths and incomes are likely to have more money invested in various equities than middle America. Some economists say the housing market, in general, can adjust and adapt to even large spikes or dips in the stock market. However, they say, there are some markets – especially those in high-value real estate areas – where volatility in the stock market has a very direct correlation to the luxury housing market. In those markets, what happens in the stock market is more closely tied to real estate transactions because homebuyers in that income segment rely heavily on market activity to produce down payments and other liquid investments. Plus, there’s often a resulting sensitivity from foreign buyers who would otherwise invest in high-end real estate. Global volatility and its effects on the U.S. stock market curb – at least temporarily – their interest in purchasing luxury homes in some major cities.

The improvement in the jobs report, some analysts believe, will make it more likely the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates during the year. While not directly tied to mortgage interest rates, a hike in the fed funds rate may signal an end to record-low mortgage rates. Despite the seemingly negative impact such an increase may have on most homebuyers, a mortgage rate increase will probably not affect buyers in the luxury home market. In the words of one real estate professional, “Luxury (home) buyers aren’t motivated by mortgage rates. As evidence, luxury home prices were sluggish in the second quarter even though rates were near rock bottom levels.” Real estate agents and economists alike say what matters the most to buyers in the luxury market is a solid investment opportunity that is likely to pay higher returns in the future – much like their investment philosophy in the stock market. So, if the employment results do spur growth in the economy, there could likely be an improvement in the luxury housing market, regardless of what happens to interest rates.

Regarding the Federal Reserve, some economists maintain there will be no increase in interest rates for the remainder of 2016. In addition, some feel that bond yields – to which mortgage interest rates are more closely tied – may move downward as a result of several other global market factors. One respected economist said, “Rate hike odds by year-end shifted from 32% to 40% after (the recent) jobs number.” That would mean the likelihood of the Fed increasing short-term rates would still lean in favor of that not happening.

Of course, the luxury housing market – like its counterpart at other points in the buying spectrum – still suffers from a lower than normal inventory. However, if higher prices return, investors and homeowners are more likely to put their homes on the market – especially if the stock market continues its return to normal levels – allowing them the opportunity to use those additional earnings to purchase newer or larger homes.

The unknown factor that could affect luxury prices is the upcoming presidential election. With that event occurring in the fall – coinciding with the normal housing market shift that post-spring and summer bring – there could be a leveling off of luxury home prices. Interestingly, however, politics overseas may increase luxury prices in some U.S. markets traditionally popular to foreign investors. Real estate analysts point to Miami Beach, Florida, for example, where luxury home prices rose roughly 22% during the spring quarter.

Economists and political pundits alike continue to debate what effect the U.S. presidential election results will have on the housing market in general. If history is any indication, little impact is expected for several months after the presidential election. Either candidate, including those that may be reelected or replaced in upcoming Congressional races, will individually or collectively need time to assess and change economic policies. While we will all likely keep an eye on Chicagoland real estate news on a regular basis, most analysts say the greatest likelihood for the real estate markets to be affected will lie in the hands of the American public and the perception that a win by either party will make a difference in their financial future. In short, human nature takes over and prospective home purchasers who are optimistic about the country’s economy will likely be bullish on home ownership – if the price is right – while those with a more pessimistic opinion will likely be more cautious until economic conditions improve.

The bottom line is the real Chicagoland real estate news is that it remains to be seen how the recent job gains and the November election will affect the housing market.

See more articles pertaining to real estate news in the section of articles on Chicagoland Real Estate News just below Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right. And remember, we also post tips daily on Facebook and Twitter. Check us out there, too.

Hardly a day goes by without Chicagoland's economy being adversely affected by financial fraud. The reported fraudulent activity ranges from hackers being able to access a business’ computer network to various types of identity theft. Despite new chip-enabled credit cards and the general heightened awareness of phishing scams, hackers are becoming much more sophisticated and consumers are at greater risk than ever. However, there are some proactive steps we can all take that are relatively simple. Let’s take a closer look at how to combat fraud and reduce the frequency of it occurring in Chicagoland's economy.

Chicagoland's Economy: 5 Tips to Fight Fraud 

Experts say taking precautionary steps isn't difficult. The problem, they say, is that consumers are literally bombarded with information overload, making it easy to become overwhelmed. Follow these five tips to better protect your financial assets.

When dealing with Chicagoland's economy, here are 5 tips to help you prevent being a victim of fraud

Whenever possible, use a chip-enabled credit card. Chip-enabled cards have an added layer of protection built in. They generate a unique consumer code designed solely for one purchase. That prevents a crook from using that information. The only drawback is that not all retailers accept the chip-enabled cards, but they soon will. Analysts say the lag time in card acceptance is primarily the result of the sheer number of banks, credit cards and checkout counters/card readers. A recent survey published by the National Retail Federation showed 86% of retailers expect to have their card readers operational by the end of the year – a number that some detractors claim is overly optimistic. Many retailers continue to await arrival of their terminals, while others have received the terminals, but are waiting for the credit card networks to certify the systems as operationally ready.

Don’t send sensitive information via public wifi or email. Many people make the mistake of assuming that public wifi is safe and secure. It’s not – hence the name, public. Never divulge information such as credit or debit card numbers or other personal or financial information over public wifi. If you must use public wifi, make sure that the site on which you’re conducting business has the “https” designation at the beginning of its url address. The “s” at the end is the optimum level of internet security available. In addition, remember that financial institutions will never request passwords, ATM pin numbers, or other sensitive financial data via email.

Make the switch to electronic delivery of account documents and check online banking and credit accounts often. Another tip to help fight fraudulent activity in Chicagoland's economy is to reduce the chance that paper documents or account statements could be intercepted in the mail or in other ways. Participating in online account access removes that risk. In addition, users can monitor their accounts more often in an effort to see and react to any suspicious activity or transactions. Security experts suggest monitoring your credit card and bank accounts once a week. Be sure to take advantage of free opportunities to sign up for fraud alerts from your financial institution or bank card company. The alerts can be set to notify users if purchases which exceed a certain prescribed amount, or if a purchase is made without the credit card being physically presented. One additional tip for these sensitive financial sites:  Make sure your password is more complex than usual, and that you change it frequently. Experts recommend you not use the same password for multiple accounts.

Beware of card skimming. Thieves perform the illegal information gathering act of skimming by putting a device over the credit or debit card slot, allowing them to get information when the card is swiped. If you use a credit or debit card at a gas station, for example, look closely to make sure there’s nothing unusual on or near the card slot. Experts suggest physically touching the ATM or gas pump card slot and slightly jiggle it back and forth. If it moves a little too much, it could be a sign that a crook has attached a skimming device. In addition, cover your hands and fingers as you punch in your pin number. Thieves often install portable cameras nearby or watch through binoculars to try to steal your pin number.

Keep an eye on your mail. Despite having signed up for electronic banking, there are times where financial information must be sent through the mail. If you choose to receive paper documents instead of, or in addition to, electronic correspondence, be vigilant. Make sure what you’re being sent arrives as expected. We know of a situation where an apartment complex’s row of mailboxes was completely destroyed and a recipient of a new credit card was the victim of several thousand dollars in fraudulent charges – all because he wasn’t aware a new credit card was being mailed to him. The thieves only had to call a toll free number on the credit card to activate it and begin making purchases. The credit card company didn’t hold the cardholder liable for the fraudulent purchases, but he had to go through a inordinate amount of red tape in disputing the charges.

One last tip for fighting fraudulent financial activity affecting Chicagoland's economy:  If you receive a change of address notice in the mail, call the financial institution or company it was sent from immediately. An address change could be a red flag that someone is trying to commit a fraud in your name. In a worst case situation, a crook could open accounts or purchase financial products in your name with the illegal intent of laundering money. So be vigilant, trust no-one and don’t just assume it couldn’t happen to you – it can and does happen to people every day – in Chicagoland's economy as well as others throughout the U.S.

You can find more articles pertaining to the Chicagoland Economy in the Economy section of articles just below Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

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A Chicagoland home inspection isn’t just a good idea. It’s imperative if you’re contemplating buying a starter home or “fixer-upper.” Before you buy any house – regardless of its age, size or condition – select a qualified home inspector to thoroughly inspect it and provide you with a complete report. Here are a few areas in your prospective home you and your inspector should check out.

Chicagoland Home Inspection: Avoiding a "Money Pit"

There’s a classic 1986 Tom Hanks movie entitled The Money Pit in which a young couple sinks their entire life savings into a home that is, quite literally, falling apart. A comedy of calamities ensues as they try to handle each disaster the “money pit” they purchased throws their way.

Typical fixer-uppers are less expensive and offer the best potential growth in value. As a result, they are popular with first-time buyers. While a fresh coat of paint and some landscaping or other curb appeal improvements can help the property, it’s more important to make sure the house is structurally sound. Once that’s determined, further improvements can be made that may potentially increase its value, appearance and livability. The key is to avoid issues in the house that could create your family’s money pit. Let’s look at the benefits of a Chicagoland home inspection in several key areas.

Get a Chicagoland home inspection and avoid buying a money pit.

General Structure of the Home

The most important part of any home is its foundation. If it was constructed properly, the home should be on a sturdy foundation, usually reinforced with steel and a concrete perimeter wall below ground with concrete footings. Make sure the structure of the house is straight and solid. Inspect exterior walls to ensure they are plumb and straight – from top to bottom. In addition, the floors should be flat and level. Look for doors that don’t open or close properly or that don’t fit squarely in the door jambs. That could indicate structural problems or settling issues that have created issues. Lastly, the floor should have a solid, sturdy feel to it. If it feels springy or “soft” it could mean the floor joists need greater support or potential repair.

Cracks 

Large cracks in the foundation are warning signs. They can often represent structural issues that may lead to expensive foundation repair. If the interior walls in your prospective home have cracks, it could indicate settling or movement has occurred over time. That’s usually caused by unstable or shifting soil or potential drainage issues. Those problems can often be difficult and expensive to solve. Minor cracks above the corners of windows and doors are less worrisome. They can usually be remedied with a little cosmetic work using filler and touch up paint.

Drainage

Your Chicagoland home inspection should also include a closer look into how well your gutters and downspouts operate. Their sole job is to efficiently move water away from the house. Look for signs of drainage problems. Check to see if there are watermarks or moisture near the corners of the exterior walls and lower places near the home’s immediate perimeter. Have your home inspector thoroughly inspect the basement or crawlspace for signs of flooding, standing water, or excessive moisture. Moisture can create a perfect environment for mold. While some types of mold are not problematic and easily removed, other types may require considerable expense. Your home inspector will know the difference and will recommend the best course of action.

Plumbing

Determine whether your fixer-upper’s plumbing consists of copper or steel water pipes. As steel pipes age, they may become blocked with natural sediments which can reduce water pressure and restrict water flow. Here’s a test you can perform to check your water pressure – even the most experienced Chicagoland home inspection professionals do this. Turn on the bathtub spout in the bathroom located the furthest from the water heater. Then, while the water’s running, turn on the bathroom sink faucets and flush the toilet. If the water flow coming from the bathtub spout slows down a good bit, it may be time to re-pipe the plumbing.

Electrical

Another determination you should make in your fixer-upper is whether the house has an outdated and undersized main electrical service panel. Check to see if the main electrical circuit breaker (fuse box panel) has a maximum capacity of 100 amps or less. If it does, it’s undersized for a typical family. In addition, the house should be equipped with 220-volt service. Check to see if there are three main wires from the power company’s pole to the house. If so, the house likely has 220-volt service. If there are only two wires, there’s probably only 110-volt service. Lastly, you can check for 220-volt outlets that accommodate appliances like clothes dryers or electric ovens.

Heating and Cooling

It’s important in your Chicagoland home inspection to determine the approximate age and type of heating system in the home – and whether all the rooms are heated. Look in the attic and walls for insulation. Adding more insulation in the attic usually isn’t a very expensive or difficult task. However, adding insulation in the walls can add up quickly. Have a home inspection professional check by removing electrical outlet covers.

Roofing

The easiest way to tell if your prospective home has a leaky roof is to check for water stains in the ceiling or attic. Instead of actually climbing on the roof to examine the shingles and other materials, we suggest you hire a Chicagoland home inspection professional whose trained to do that sort of work and knows what to look for.

Architecture and Design

One last recommendation is to check out the house’s general layout and architectural appearance. Homes with a distinct style like a ranch-styled home, a Cape Cod or salt box home are perennial favorites. These homes and others are relatively easy to upgrade and perform improvements to – and that work will likely increase the home’s value – turning your fixer upper into a nicely restored older home that will be more marketable when the time comes to sell.

You can find more articles pertaining to Chicagoland home inspections in the Chicagoland Home Inspections 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.

The inventory of Chicagoland homes for sale continues to feature prices that have grown over the past year. According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National HomePrice NSA Index, home prices increased 5% between May 2015 and May 2016. The growth in home values during that period and beyond prompted The Wall Street Journal to declare the increase as “further proof that the U.S. housing market had its strongest spring since the recession.” With that as our focus, here are five opportunities that higher prices may offer.

Chicagoland homes for sale continue to see increased prices

Higher Priced Chicagoland Homes for Sale Offer Options

Option #1 – Become a homeowner. If you’re in the market for a home, you may be pleased to know that the price growth seems to have slowed somewhat. While prices aren’t expected to drop, they have nonetheless leveled off for now. Stiff competition in markets with low inventory is expected to ease slightly as more homeowners will sell to take advantage of the higher prices. Zillow forecasts that home prices will continue to rise, just not as sharply as in the past year. Zillow predicts prices to rise around 3% or less in the next year.

With interest rates still at near-record lows, it could be a great time to buy the right house. However, economists issue these words of caution. Be careful taking on debt – especially mortgage debt. Many economists predict the U.S. could have another recession in the not-too-distant future. In addition, you could lose your job, become injured or temporarily be unable to work. They suggest following these guidelines:

Keep your housing costs between 30-35% of your gross monthly income

Don’t get overextended or use credit cards for purchases

Always maintain an emergency fund that would pay a minimum of three months (six months is better) of living expenses

Option #2 – Move up to a better home. As home prices rise, many homeowners are finding they are no longer underwater on their mortgages. When they were underwater, they were unable to sell – contributing both to the lack of inventory and to a slower recovery. Homeowners who are no longer underwater find themselves with a much better opportunity to sell their homes and potentially buy a newer, bigger or better one. As this happens there will no doubt be an increase in the number of Chicagoland homes for sale in the marketplace.

Option #3 – Take out cash. Many homeowners with median-priced homes have enjoyed equity increases of $10,000-$15,000 or more during the last year as a result of rising home prices. This has prompted millions of homeowners throughout the U.S. to refinance their mortgages or take out a home equity line of credit (HELOC.) Homeowners are tapping into their cash equities for a wide variety of reasons ranging from home improvements to paying for college, or for paying for things like vacations or boat purchases. One suggestion to be mindful of, however, is to leave a good amount of equity untouched when you borrow. That way, if there’s ever another substantial price drop you’ll be assured you won’t suffer a negative equity position and be underwater.

Option #4 – Take the money and run.  Some homeowners see the rising home prices as an opportunity to cash out – to take the money and run. In the hottest markets where prices have risen higher than the norm, it represents the proverbial “My ship has come in” scenario to homeowners ready to retire and use that newfound money solely for that purpose. While such an option is rare in the case of most American homeowners with median-priced homes with mortgages, it is still a possibility.

Option #5 – Don’t do anything. Homeowners who are content and don’t really see an advantage in making a move of any kind will continue to enjoy the ride the rising prices are providing. The chances are pretty good that home values will continue to rise – even if at a more gradual pace than we’ve seen in the last year. When that continues, not only will the other options always be available, home equity will continue to grow and it will be accessible when the time comes.

Regardless of what you decide to do with the options available, Chicagoland homes for sale provide homeowners and purchasers alike opportunities in today’s real estate market. Rising prices create a market that appears to be growing and thriving, making a welcomed and noticeable recovery from less than a decade ago. While there are still inventory challenges with demand exceeding the supply of homes for sale, some analysts are confident the recent price gains will help improve that situation.

In summary, as Americans, we’ve always been told that real estate is a good investment – and, for the  most part, that’s still very true. Homes and real estate purchased at the right price and in neighborhoods and markets that are stable or on the rise will likely always be a sound investment over time. As you consider purchasing one of the Chicagoland homes for sale, enlist the help and advice of a real estate professional. They know the market and the neighborhoods, and they know what the price ranges are for comparable sales of homes you may be interested in. More than anything else, buying a home in a good neighborhood at a fair market price will give you the best opportunity to build equity over time. Overpaying simply is not – and shouldn’t be – an option. We know of no bigger “dream-killer” than paying more for a property than it’s worth, and then being disappointed because you can’t sell it for what you need at a later date.

See more articles pertaining to Chicagoland homes for sale in the two sections of articles on Chicagoland Real Estate 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.