When you hire a Chicagoland home inspections specialist, there are often problems that even the most knowledgeable and experienced home inspectors can’t always see. While trained professional inspectors can notice wood rot, spot weak places on a home’s roof or locate cracks in a foundation, there are some areas that can go undetected. While a home inspector often can be a super hero, he isn’t Superman. He can’t use x-ray vision to see through walls, between floor joists or inside sewer pipes. In addition, the main purpose of most Chicagoland home inspections is to uncover problems or defects that could adversely impact the value of a house or how safe it is for its occupants. While a home inspection is always a good idea and can certainly help verify the home is a good investment as well as a safe structure, there could be existing problems that may create additional issues at a later date. Let’s take a look at four areas of concern that can go undetected.
Issues in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC) of a home are among the most difficult for home inspection professionals to detect. Since running a unit to test its cooling or heating capabilities can potentially damage it in certain conditions, most inspectors don’t perform such tests. One experienced home inspector explained it this way, “I can tell if a unit isn’t working, but I don’t have time during a home inspection to determine if the system is adequate for the house they’re trying to heat or cool.” The inspector recommends that if you have concerns about the home’s HVAC system, you should have it checked by a licensed HVAC specialist, in addition to your home inspection.
Water Leaks or Damage
A home inspector will, of course, turn on faucets to test pipes, water pressure and other issues. However, if a house has been vacant for any extended length of time, previous evidence of water leaks or damage has likely dried up. It may take several days for the leaks to return. In addition, damage to ceilings or walls could have been covered up with paint or wallpaper, making them nearly impossible to detect.
Furthermore, if the house has a leaky roof, chances are even the most experienced home inspector may miss it. Normally, inspectors make their assessments by visually scanning the room from the ground. Rarely is there time or opportunity to climb on the roofs to further inspect them. In the event an inspector does climb atop the roof, snow, ice, fallen leaves or other debris may prevent him from determining its true condition.
In 1978, the federal government called for a moratorium on the production and use of lead paint and asbestos-based materials used in construction. If the home you plan to purchase was built before 1978 it’s a good idea to pay to have specialized tests conducted for these environmental toxins. In addition, higher than normal radon levels can occur in any home – no matter the age. While lead paint, dangerous asbestos and radon pose potential risks, they’re not included on the list of items most Chicagoland home inspections experts look for. If you know about these environmental toxins prior to the closing of the sale, ask the seller to pay for part of the costs to remove or contain the issues. Keep in mind, the costs of removing or containing these and other toxins can be surprisingly high. For example, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the cost to professionally remove lead-based paint can run from $8 top $15 per square foot. On a 2,400 square foot home, that amounts to between $19,200 and $36,000!
Blocked or Damaged Sewer Lines
The sewer line that goes from a house to the city sewer main is the responsibility of the homeowner. It’s important, therefore, to know if there are obstructions or leaks in that sewer line. A clog or breakage could cause major issues – such as raw sewage seeping through the line or creating back ups all the way to the indoor drains.
Chicagoland home inspections usually include the type of drain pipe used in the sewer disposal and an estimate of the pipe’s age. However, it probably will not include an assessment of the structural fitness of the sewer line or its overall condition. If you’re concerned with the sewer line in the home you’re interested in buying, you can have a separate inspection done by a qualified company. They will determine if tree roots or other obstructions have adversely affected the line. A complete video sewer inspection will cost $250-$500 – compared to a total sewer line replacement, which can cost $25,000 or more.
Remember, an experienced, qualified professional home inspector can give you vital information about your home’s condition and potential issues to repair or keep a watchful eye on. However, the unknown factors are the hidden potential problems that lurk “behind the scene” that an inspector cannot see or may not be able to detect. If you’re really interested in a particular home you want to buy, a home inspection is an expense that will likely more than pay for itself – either in actual savings before problems occur, or in the peace of mind in knowing the house is free of major issues. In addition, spending the extra money to have some of the above-mentioned tests and inspections performed may also save money and headaches down the road. Remember the old adage: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." That certainly applies to a large purchase like a home. Knowing what issues you may be faced with in the future will save time, money and aggravation – and just may mean the difference in making buying your dream home a living nightmare.
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So, you entered the Chicagoland home selling market. And, so far your house is still unsold. There could be several reasons your home hasn't sold yet. Perhaps the economy isn't right for your prospective purchaser. Maybe your home doesn't have enough curb appeal. Maybe it's just plain bad luck that the right buyer hasn't seen your home yet. Whatever the reason – or excuse –, your home is still on the market. Let's take a look at five mistakes some homeowners make when they are selling their house.
The asking price is too high.
Naturally, everybody wants to sell their home for as much money as possible. However, if your home is not priced competitively and comparably to other homes in your neighborhood or market, you better be prepared for it to remain on the market for longer than you hoped.
Furthermore, unless you’re delusional and are expecting a multi-millionaire to pay cash without blinking an eye, most purchasers will need to obtain a mortgage loan. In that case, your home still needs to appraise at an amount sufficient enough for the lending institution to make the loan. Simply put, a lender won't approve a loan for, say, $300,000 on a house that’s appraised at $275,000. While it's certainly possible to find a buyer willing to pay cash, most smart buyers aren't going to overpay for a house. After all, they didn't get in a position to pay cash because they make poor investment decisions.
Your home contains too much of your personality.
Let's say you love rabbits. Throughout your home you've assembled a collection of rabbit knick-knacks from all over the country. Ceramic rabbits, brass rabbits, wooden rabbits – everywhere you and your prospective purchasers look. You see cuddly, cute bunnies. You buyers see rodents that are a nuisance and steal food from bird feeders. Say your husband is an avid hunter who proudly displays his deer and duck mounts on the den wall – six of them at last count. What he may see as the results of successful hunts, some buyers – especially females – may not be able to relate to. They see poor, defenseless, dead animals. In either instance, it's not likely your home will get a second visit, Pack up the rabbit statuettes and store the hunting trophies. And get them out of sight.
All too often, homeowners make this mistake in the Chicagoland home selling market by not removing the clutter, photos and memorabilia from their homes as they should. Remember, a prospective buyer wants to be able to picture themselves and their belongings in the house, not those of the current owner
Do not conduct tours of your home.
Most real estate agents agree – conducting a home tour is a job best left to the professionals in the Chicagoland home selling market. The reason? Simply because most buyers are very uncomfortable when the seller is present for a home showing. Prospective purchasers don't feel relaxed or able to freely explore the house if the owner is there. As one real estate agent put it, it's similar to shopping in a retail store where an over-enthusiastic sales clerk follows your every move. If that's ever happened to you, you probably didn't stay in the store very long. Moreover, you probably didn't return – much less buy anything. Leave the home tour to the professionals. Allow them to give the prospective buyers enough time to take a thorough look at your home without you looking over their shoulders.
Do not let your pets take over your house.
This can be challenging, at best. If you're a pet lover, no doubt you feel like your pet is part of the family and belongs in your house. However, your goal is to sell your home as quickly as possible. The experts recommend finding a temporary place for your pet while you're trying to sell. It's also a good idea to do whatever is necessary to make prospective buyers forget that you even own a pet. In other words, when you clean your home of your clutter, don't forget about your pet’s clutter too. That includes dog beds, litter boxes, various chew toys, scratching posts and other pet reminders. Keep in mind that buyers may recognize pet odors that you have become used to. Those odors can be a huge turn off – especially to buyers who don't have or don't want pets.
Restricting or limiting when buyers can see your home.
Until your home sells, your job is to try to sell your home to anyone willing to pay the asking price, or as close to it as possible. If you're serious about selling, you'll want to make it as easy as you can for potential buyers to visit and view your home. Most real estate agents agree that putting restrictions or time constraints for when prospective buyers can visit is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in the Chicagoland home selling market.
While it can certainly be an inconvenience – even an invasion of privacy – remember, you're in the business of selling your home. As such, it’s incumbent upon you as a serious seller to be prepared to make your home available for a showing whenever possible. You never know when the right buyer will come along, so be prepared. Again, your goal is to sell your home. Be willing to make time and convenience concessions if requested – that's considerably cheaper than making huge reductions on the selling price!
See more articles pertaining to selling a home in Chicagoland in the Chicagoland Home Selling Tips section of our site below Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.
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Among several housing-related stories making the news around here locally asks the question, Is there a Chicagoland housing bubble in our future? Before we can attempt to answer the question, let’s define what is meant by a “housing bubble.”
What exactly is a "Housing Bubble?"
A “housing bubble” is an increase in housing prices fueled by demand, speculation and fervor in the market. Bubbles normally begin with an increase in housing demand, usually accompanied by a very limited supply. When speculative housing investors enter the market it further spikes demand, which increases prices even more.
While the definition certainly sounds like what’s been trending in the housing market lately, let’s look at several reasons there isn’t a Chicagoland housing bubble on the horizon.
Average home prices are currently higher than they were in 2007 in more than 20 major metropolitan markets. In addition, larger cities with limited home inventory of both new and existing homes are seeing prices rise as high demand continues. Home sales throughout the nation recently reached the second highest level in more than 10 years, according to the National Association of Realtors. Despite these occurrences, some housing analysts say any “bubbles” that may exist are relegated to certain local markets, and the bubbles haven’t created the financial risk inherent with the housing boom of roughly 10 years ago. The earmark of the housing bubble that occurred during that time period was the easy availability of credit – highlighted by borrowers that should not have qualified for mortgages they received.
Still, the housing market is nowhere near where it was during the housing boom – and the resulting bust – that made just about every city's real estate news almost daily.
While mortgage interest rates are near record lows and the affordability of housing is still high, absent are the speculative buyers driven by easy credit availability. During the boom, many of these speculators were investors seeking to make a quick profit. In addition, the lenders who fueled that speculation along with making credit available to non creditworthy borrowers have long since learned their lesson, it appears. So, too, have the mortgage lending regulators, who have implemented a range of policies and procedures to better safeguard lending institutions from violating lending practices that may repeat history.
The Chicagoland housing bubble debate continues.
Experts say definitive housing bubbles are a rare occurrence. Despite some of the warning signals that exist in today’s market, the truth of the matter in today’s Chicagoland real estate market is, there are just as many other factors that are non-existent.
A great number of well-respected economists have studied and tracked housing bubbles. Most of them agree that when a market bubble occurs, home prices increase slowly to being with and gain traction and momentum in time. During this rise in prices, the home buying public is usually skeptical and unfazed initially. Economists say they’ve seen the same sorts of bubbles in other markets – stocks, commodities, futures, even art and wine. Over time, the initial skepticism morphs into a semi-acceptance by the buying public, as they witness prices being pushed even higher, or as the name implies, the bubble gets bigger.
As the low cost and high availability of mortgage credit gives the bubble a greater opportunity to continue to grow, it invites new participants. Many of these new purchasers, or speculators, are less credit-worthy and less savvy than typical real estate investors. However, they all have one thing in common – they all envision selling their newly-acquired real estate properties at a profit – fueled by the higher prices they feel they can command. This increased speculation can grow at such a rapid pace that the news may imply “the sky’s the limit” when it comes to housing prices in such a market. The result? Investment growth expands so much that it increases the housing supply, which in turn exceeds the existing housing demand. When supply outweighs demand, prices fall – or in this case, the bubble bursts.
Economists argue that what’s missing in the Chicagoland housing bubble equation is widespread participation on the part of the buying public. Gone are the days of flipping condos in popular locations. Gone, too, are the mortgage loans made on homes that exceed their value. The biggest change is that borrowers with poor credit aren’t able to borrow money as easily as they were during the housing boom and resulting crash. A case in point is the simple fact that it’s difficult, at best, for a homeowner who is still underwater on his mortgage to refinance.
Some real estate analysts say they expect certain changes in the near future to occur that may burst any regional, localized Chicagoland housing bubble that may exist. They cite potential interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve as among such events. However, they are quick to point out that the banking system today – unlike the real estate news of a decade ago – isn’t overwhelmed with sub-prime mortgages. In addition, most banks aren’t leveraged to the success of the real estate market anywhere near the degree that many were years ago.
Simply put, the existing housing market issues aren’t severe enough to spark another recession – at least not one of national proportions. Most economists agree that there may be a series of “mini-recessions” that are locally or regionally based and will only affect the players in high-end residential or commercial real estate. That bubble – if it can be called a bubble – will likely burst.
In the meantime, there will be expected fluctuations in housing market supply and demand. New home construction will continue to try to keep pace with the demand for new products and new home innovation at prices average American families can afford. And while interest rates may not stay as low as they have been, there’s little reason to believe that mortgage availability will suffer for the time being. Comparatively speaking, while there are some similarities in the true definition of what a Chicagoland housing bubble is, the simple truth is that the U.S. is no where close to the dire straits the housing market found itself in just a short decade or so ago.
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.
The Chicagoland economy and housing, of course, is a subset of the national economy and housing market. As such, it’s important to keep abreast of recent changes and future trends in the economy – and how they will ultimately affect the overall housing market. Let’s examine five areas of interest in the economy and what we can expect in the coming months.
The Federal Reserve recently opted not to increase short-term interest rates – at least for now. Despite Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s suggestion that the potential for a slight uptick has increased in recent months, the biggest action the Fed took was a notable inaction. While there were few clues about when the Fed may raise interest rates again, some economists say a rate increase could occur sometime soon. However, in the absence of improved economic indicators over the next several weeks, any rate hike could be delayed until closer to the end of the year. As a reminder, any expected increases in the Fed interest rates will probably do little to impact long-term mortgage interest rates available in the Chicagoland economy and housing.
The Chicagoland economy and housing market has recently endured a mixture of bad news and good news regarding home sales. The bad news is existing home sales continued to suffer, while the good news is new home sales have performed extremely well. A recently published report by the U.S. Census Bureau showed total sales of new single-family homes increased 12.4% compared to the previous month. In addition, sales were a whopping 31.3% higher than this time last year – the highest level since the fall of 2007.
Existing home sales comprise a higher percentage of the nation’s total real estate and housing activity. While new home sales flourished, sales of existing homes fell 3.2% from the previous month and are down 1.6% year-to-date, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Ironically, mortgage interest rates are near all-time lows, helping to keep housing affordable in the face of increased home prices. Both the Census Bureau report and the NAR report listed low home inventory as ongoing problems. Limited existing home inventory has been characterized as the culprit in the decrease in sales in that category.
While home sales in the Chicagoland economy and housing market are expected to end the year on a high note – largely the result of a robust spring selling season – the housing market won’t reach its maximum potential this year. It’s clearly a case of supply not meeting demand. New construction, too, has failed to add enough units to the marketplace to keep pace with demand. Low inventory puts constraints on what willing buyers have available to purchase. In addition, new and existing homes that are selling are selling faster – and for more money. This usually means there are home buyers waiting in the wings to purchase when a wider variety and better choices become available.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
A recent report of the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) revised the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) downward for the second quarter of the year. After the first quarter’s growth of nearly 1% (0.8%), the BEA reduced the GDP growth to 1.1% annualized for the second quarter. Contributing to the downward revision were less-than-spectacular exports, which were also bumped down slightly. Imports were revised upward, however, and the relationship between exports and imports – as one economist explains it – all but cancels out each other. While exports are an economic growth plus, imports tend to stifle expansion. The bottom line: Revisions to the U.S. trade activity made little impact on improving the nation’s economy.
Business investment has now declined for three consecutive quarters. For their part, economic analysts continue to fret about business investment – especially since the recent trend of declining numbers represents the first time the U.S. has experienced three consecutive declining quarters in nearly seven years. Business investment is typically a good indicator of gains in productivity, which in turn produces profits for corporations and fuels greater earnings for the labor sector. Naturally, when wages improve, so do consumer confidence and spending.
A report recently published by the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers stated U.S. consumer sentiment had fallen to its lowest point in five months. While the drop was only 0.2% over the previous month, it was down 2.3% for the year. University economists said the decrease in consumer sentiment was due, in part, to higher than expected expenses and smaller than anticipated gains in income – especially as they relate to younger aged households.
While economists stopped short of indicating to what degree the looming presidential election concerns have on the impact of consumer sentiment, there’s reason to suspect there is an effect. Consumers, for the most part, may be satisfied with their current financial situation, however they are concerned about the future and what changes – good and bad – the election results will bring over time. Among the concerns are the outlook for interest rates, tax considerations and global markets. Despite most consumers agreeing that a recovering job market, record low interest rates, steady incomes and an improving stock market all contribute to their financial health, few anticipate the current state of the Chicagoland economy and housing to continue.
The Job Market
The recently announced merger between beer makers Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller to create the largest brewing company in the world will eliminate thousands of jobs across the globe. While it may not immediately affect you – unless you’re an employee of one of these two companies – there are some potential ramifications. Economists believe the layoffs resulting from the merger could increase a slowly growing nationwide trend of companies trimming their workforces. A layoff report published by a respected employment consulting firm said that layoffs increased 19% during the month of July – for the second consecutive month. To put that into perspective, however, layoffs from January through June were down 8.7% compared to the same period last year. While the July layoffs were notable, there’s no immediate concern wholesale layoffs will continue. It is, nevertheless, worth keeping an eye on in the Chicagoland economy and housing, as well as elsewhere.
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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When it comes to Chicagoland home improvement ideas, the list of potential projects can get lengthy – and expensive. If you’re like most homeowners, you’re probably only interested in those improvements that won’t cost much money and that can pay for themselves or add to your home’s value. Usually, the key to keeping the costs down is being able to perform many of the home improvements yourself. Let’s look into several do-it-yourself (DIY) projects that won’t break the bank and may just add value to your home in the long run.
Add backsplash tiles in the kitchen
Self-adhesive backsplash tiles come in an array of styles and colors designed to fit most everyone’s tastes. Probably the biggest advantages to undertaking a DIY kitchen backsplash tile project are the relatively low cost, the simplicity of installation and the ease of post-project clean-up.
Step one is to clean the walls where the tiles will go. Use a mixture of warm water and soap, and clean the walls with a soft sponge. Adhesive tiles will stick best if the surface is free of dust, grease, grime or dirt. Dry the area with a clean, dry cloth and wait a few minutes before you begin the application. Remove any outlet or switch plates and make sure you leave enough space when you get ready to place the tiles around the outlet edges so you can replace them easily.
Next, follow the instructions recommended for the adhesive tiles you purchased – each manufacturer’s suggestions vary slightly. As a general rule, the instructions will call for installation from left to right, starting with the bottom row. If you need to cut any of the adhesive tiles, a sharp razor knife will usually work very well. Remember, you’re working with adhesive tiles, so if you need to remove or reposition one, just heat the adhesive with a hair dryer and peel the tile off the wall.
Install crown moulding in the bedroom
Another popular DIY job on the list of Chicagoland home improvement ideas is adding crown moulding to your bedrooms. It’s amazing the transformation a few pieces of decorative wood trim can make to bedrooms – or any room. While woodworking may sound a little intimidating, you don’t have to be a professional carpenter to pull this project off. First, carefully measure each wall – from corner to corner – on which you plan to install the moulding. Then, measure it again. (We suggest following the old rule of “Measure twice, cut once.”) Select the moulding you like best from your favorite home improvement store, give them the measurements and they should be able to cut it to those specifications. While you’re at the home improvement store, don’t forget to buy some wood filler, wood putty or caulk for a seamless installation. Here’s a helpful tip from a home improvement specialist: Paint the crown moulding after it’s cut and before you install it. You can always paint the touch-up places and fill the nail holes later. That will be a much easier project than painting it once it’s installed. Plan to use a nail gun to nail the moulding to the tops of the walls.
Clean and paint the floor in the garage
It doesn’t take very long for the garage floor in any home to accumulate grease, grime and oil stains. Here’s what the experts recommend to give your home’s garage floor a clean, new look – with very little expense. It’s one of several often-overlooked DIY Chicagoland home improvement ideas you can do in just a few hours over a weekend. First, take old newspapers and blot the stains to remove as much of the excess oil or other residue as possible. Then, follow up with a mixture of hot water and liquid dishwashing soap – add a drop or two of degreaser if you’d like – and use a scrub brush to clean the floor. When you’ve finished scrubbing, you can pour a little kitty litter – yes, kitty litter, or a granular oil absorbent if you have it – on the tougher stains. When the absorbent has done all it can do, sweep the floor thoroughly and prepare it for painting. If you’d like, you can fill any minor cracks in the concrete floor with crack filler. Lastly, apply a coat of garage paint designed to guard against oil, grime and mildew. The home improvement experts recommend rolling the paint on with a specially made, long-handled paint roller. Take precaution not to paint yourself into a corner!
Upgrade the landscaping
Among the easiest DIY Chicagoland home improvement ideas a homeowner can accomplish is improving the landscaping around your home. Simple additions of low-maintenance greenery along sidewalks, walkways and porches can improve a home’s curb appeal. In addition, you can use fresh sod to patch any worn or bald spots in your lawn. You may also choose to use grass sprigs that may not take long to cover dead or sparse areas. Often, the addition of decorative landscape “stepping stones” can be a nice touch. Use them as a secondary walkway to a popular section of your backyard, or to enhance the area around your mailbox, driveway or lamp post. Adding fresh mulch or compost material in flower beds is not only a visual improvement, but it’s good for the soil and the plants growing there. Lastly, trim the shrubbery, hedges and excess tree limbs around your home. Usually you can get some great ideas by going online and matching your trees and plants with those shown in online photos. Don’t be afraid to experiment with adding perennials or other types of flowers and plants. A dash of color is always a welcome addition to a landscaping upgrade.
These are but a few Chicagoland home improvement ideas that may add value to your home – without putting a huge dent in your budget.
You can find more articles pertaining to home improvements 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.