Chicagoland Home Improvements

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.

As a homeowner, no doubt you’re familiar with Chicagoland home improvement issues. Every home has those nagging problems that arise from time to time. Many times they are too minor to call in a professional, but they still require attention – and repair. The good news is you can easily tackle these and other issues all by yourself. Let’s take a look at how you can solve three well-known problems that can occur around the house.

Jammed or stuck garbage disposal

The first of the Chicagoland home improvement issues we should address is the jammed garbage disposal. You know the drill. You flip the switch and it makes a humming noise, but doesn’t turn on and do its job. That usually means it’s stuck, clogged or jammed with food (or something that’s not supposed to be in there, like a spoon for example.) Don’t force the situation and don’t reach down into the disposal with your hand! Follow these easy suggestions to remedy the problem:

  • Turn off the disposal or flip the electrical circuit that serves the appliance.
  • Using a flashlight, look into the disposal and “fish around” with a pair of pliers to pull out the item(s) that may be clogging it. Again, even with the power turned off or disconnected, never put your hand in the disposal. Hopefully, you’ll locate whatever’s jamming the disposal and can remove it easily. If that’s not the case, continue as follows.
  • If your disposal is equipped with a reversal feature, run cold tap water into it and put it in reverse. Usually, that dislodges whatever is causing the clog and it can be removed. If you don’t have a reversal feature, do the following instead:

Turn off the electrical power at the circuit breaker 

Chicagoland home improvement issues often include repairs, and this may mean a stuck or jammed garbage disposal.

Look beneath the sink and find the hole in the bottom of the disposal. Using an Allen wrench, insert it in the hole and twist it back and forth a few times in an effort to free the impeller blade, which could be stuck. If you can turn the wrench in a complete circle, the object will probably be freed… see step two above.

  • Try the reset button and run cold tap water into the disposal for a minute or so.
  • Turn the power back on to the disposal ad turn it back on.

Loose toilet seat Probably because it gets a fair amount of wear and tear, it’s not unusual for the toilet seat in your main bathroom or kid’s bathroom to become loose. It’s common among Chicagoland home improvement issues. Do this for a tighter toilet seat:

  • Take off the hinge bolt covers on the seat
  • Remove the nut holding the hinge bolt in place. Be sure to leave the hinge bolts in.
  • You’ll need a toilet seat tightening kit, available in Lowe’s or Home Depot. Using the tool in the kit, slide the washer from the kit onto the hinge bolt on the underside of the toilet. Then, slide the bolt up so that it’s secured tightly into the underside of the hinge bolt opening.
  • Replace the hinge bolt nut, then tighten.
  • Do the same thing on the other side of the toilet seat.

Misaligned or sticking door Another one of the Chicagoland home improvement issues facing homeowners is the nagging, recurring problem of an interior door that won’t close as it should. Remedies can range from inserting a piece of cardboard used as a shim to aid in realigning the door, to using a long screw in the door jamb to pull it in, to removing the door and planing the edge so it swings properly. Before you try any of those options, make sure to check the hinge screws to see if they’re loose. If they are, try this:

  • Take out the screws from the hinge and remove the hinge from the door or door jamb (depending on which side is loose.)
  • Place a drop or two of wood glue into each of the hinge screw holes.
  • Using wooden toothpicks or wooden matches, put one or more in each of the screw holes. Allow them to set for ten minutes, then break off the excess wood.
  • Re-install the door hinge with the screws. If everything goes well, the fit should be tight again.

These Chicagoland home improvement issues are just three of a number of common problems that every homeowner faces at one time or another. With a little patience and a few simple tools, these and other issues can be repaired with minimal expense. If you hit a snag or need additional information, Google it! In today’s information-rich age, many do-it-yourself solutions to Chicagoland home improvement issues are available on the internet – some complete with YouTube videos that show the step by step instructions.

Fixing these and other problems yourself will give you a greater degree of satisfaction and will save you time and money!

You can find more articles pertaining to Chicagoland home improvement issues and projects 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.  

Chicagoland home improvement trends are slow to catch on – especially compared to the world of clothing and fashion design, where trends come and go with the seasons. In the interior design business trends often change annually. Let's look at five home improvement trends worth keeping an eye on.

Solar Roofing

Some of the latest Chicagoland home improvement trends include solar roofing

While solar improvements have been around for decades, it's only been recently that the technology has moved past solar panels being an expensive niche market to a sustainable reality for many homeowners. Solar power experts attribute solar's recent acceptance and accessibility to two main achievements: improved efficiency and the growing support from utility companies, state and local government municipalities and environmentally conscious investors. This means attractive leasing options, government subsidies and certain tax breaks for customers who choose to go solar. As for Chicagoland home improvement trends, solar panels are making huge inroads in the construction roofing sector.

As one home improvement contractor recently put it, "We are seeing a lot of interest in solar from homeowners who are redoing their roofs. It's the perfect time to consider adding solar panels." In addition, roof design is already being impacted to accommodate the demand for solar as an alternate source of power.

Smart Homes

The rapid advancement of technology has placed home automation in the forefront of a growing trend in the home improvement and home building markets. New products are consistently introduced to the marketplace to promote the new technology as well as assist homeowners in better managing their homes – from the convenience of controlling lights to automatically setting thermostats and other energy saving devices.

One notable sign that smart home technology is here to stay occurred recently when mega-company Google purchased Nest, a smart thermostat company, for $3.2 billion. Experts say Chicagoland home improvement trends tend to address needs homeowners never thought they had before, but now the technology exists to meet those needs. As technology improves, new devices enter the marketplace to include items such as portable cameras, Wi-Fi enabled doorbells, two-way speakers, and other smart home features. Homes are consistently being retrofitted with smart home technology and such devices will soon become standard in new home construction. However, despite home automation advantages like lowering power bills and making homes safer, a consistent return on investment for the average homeowner is difficult to achieve due to the ever-changing improvements in technology. To quote another Chicagoland home improvement expert, "We all want a better mouse trap, the problem is newer and better mousetraps cost money… and keeping up with the technology can be both challenging and costly."

Energy-Efficient Windows

Home automation has even made its way into the area of making windows more energy-efficient. Recent studies show windows are around 25% more energy-efficient when they are locked. Modern technology enables a reminder to be sent to the homeowner to close or lock their windows to save energy. In addition, energy efficiency is expected to continue to be popular among Chicagoland home improvement trends. Currently, decorative glass films and coatings can make windows better insulated against the heat and cold. Window glazing, a process whereby windows are coated with a frosted or opaque background, may be the next evolution in energy-efficient windows. Experts say this technology may soon be able to be communicated by the flip of a switch as window manufacturers research the best way to deliver the process to the marketplace so it can be affordable for all new construction.

Barn Doors

Though usually thought of as an interior design treatment, the installation of barn doors requires enough aspects of construction to qualify as a building or home improvement trend. Interior barn doors slide on a special bar mounted above the door frame. The frame is designed to provide a smaller footprint and profile for interior thresholds. In addition, smaller customized barn doors are often utilized to hide an entertainment center or disguise a pantry or other storage. Since barn doors offer a unique combination of rustic charm and functionality, the popularity of this trend is growing.

Electric Car Charging Stations

Ongoing growth in the electric car industry is impacting one major aspect of home construction and remodeling – the family garage. Slowly, a greater number of homeowners are making the transition to electric cars. As this happens charging stations have become popular fixtures in family garages. Top-of-the-line car charging stations are still costly, starting between $2,500-$3,000. Self install units can be as cheap as $300. Construction and home improvement experts say we should expect charging stations to become more popular in garages in the future.

With the emergence and predominance of home automation, new home construction and Chicagoland home-improvement trends have changed dramatically in the past 8 to 10 years. Home automation combined with a greater emphasis on green homes providing sustainable energy will continue to grow in years to come. Furthermore, experts predict improvements in technology and changing lifestyles will dominate home construction for the next several decades.

The age of technology in which we are currently living is moving so rapidly in comparison to the advances made in the last generation it's hard to fully comprehend. It wasn't long ago that such "modern conveniences" like an electric garage door, a central vacuum system, or motion sensitive security lights were thought of as high tech. Today, homes can virtually regulate themselves with respect to heating and air conditioning, energy usage, home security measures and other technological advances that have been adapted for in-home use. Perhaps best of all is that as innovation occurs much of the focus will be on delivering that innovation and technology to the home buying and homebuilding industry. After all, what better way to pay for this emerging – and sometimes expensive – technology than by folding it into a 30-year mortgage as part of the sales price of a new home?

You can find more articles pertaining to Chicagoland home improvement trends and projects 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.

Chicagoland home improvement projects can cover virtually the entire spectrum of housing. Home improvements can range from custom finishing newly-constructed spec homes to older home remodeling updates to fixer uppers that need considerably more than just a little TLC. Let’s take a look at the various options available in the housing market in which Chicagoland home improvement projects can make an important impact.

New Construction or Builder Remodel It’s no secret the new home market has been one of the most attractive in recent years. In part, new construction has added an element of increased supply to a national real estate market that has suffered from a lack of available inventory. The biggest attraction to new construction is just that – it’s new! Yet, with all its newness and “move-in” readiness, new homes do present some potential purchasers with a major drawback – there are few components to which buyers can claim for “their own.” Unlike a custom home construction project built to the owners’ specifications, most new construction allows little for the purchaser to customize or have input on. In addition, some home buyers feel that a newly built home lacks individual personality since the home has been designed to attract a larger pool of typical buyers. That brings us to the first of the Chicagoland home improvement projects – some developers and builders allow certain customizations to their homes. The improvements can range from what color or type of paint or wall covering the home can have to the type of floors – carpet, tile, or hardwood flooring. In addition, some developers or builders will give their purchasers the opportunity to make other customizations from appliances, kitchen cabinetry, kitchen and bathroom hardware and more.

Owner Remodel

Chicagoland home improvement projects can be rewarding and fun – but only if you have the mindset, temperament and financial wherewithal to undertake them.

Arguably the most popular of the Chicagoland home improvement projects is the owner remodel option whereby the homeowner elects to renovate all or part of an older home. Often the remodeling project can be undertaken expressly for the satisfaction and enjoyment of the homeowner. Many times – especially in the past several years as home values have risen steadily in some markets – homeowners elect to perform remodeling that will enable them to put their home on the market and command top dollar because of the popular updates it will offer.

Homeowners who have done their Chicagoland home improvement projects homework and who can select knowledgeable remodeling contractors can indeed make improvements to homes that can improve its value dramatically – especially in a rising home value market. A word of caution, however, not all home improvements will add value to a home. The best thing to do is to discuss the improvements you want to make and get a cost estimate. Then have a frank discussion with a real estate professional as to the price range you could expect to sell your newly-modeled home. Then, the decision is easier. If you’re able to recoup more of the cost incurred by having the improvements performed than by not having them done, you should consider moving forward with your remodeling plans.

Fixer-Upper As the name implies, the fixer-upper is on the complete other end of the Chicagoland home improvement projects spectrum as far as the scope of the work to be performed. A property described as a fixer-upper could require anything from some cosmetic attention to a complete gutting of the home to the walls and subfloor. Homeowners thinking of purchasing a fixer-upper property should be aware of two major considerations:

  1. How much work needs to be performed to raise the property to the level you desire, and how much of that work are you able and willing to perform?
  2. Are you in favor of making severe wall or flooring demolition if necessary, or are you in favor of merely updating surfaces like walls and floors with new materials?

Once you’ve answered those two questions you can move forward by identifying the properties that fit into the categories based on your answers. If you’re considering buying a fixer-upper, remember it requires a level of imagination and forward-looking vision to create and achieve the potential the property may have. Some buyers find it helpful to enlist the services of a knowledgeable real estate agent who may be aware of properties that are available. Plus, you may also want to hire an architect, contractor and designer to assist you in developing the vision for the property’s potential. Their experience, opinions and cost estimates can be extremely valuable in determining whether to go forward with remodeling a fixer-upper and, if so, to what degree.

While there are advantages for each of the three major Chicagoland home improvement projects options, our best advice is to decide which is right for you. The most important factor to consider is the result of a comfortable balance of money and time combined with what you want and what you need in your home.

The key to achieving the most success in determining the level of home improvement work you’re comfortable with is purely a personal decision. It’s a decision based on your financial abilities, but also on your appetite for making changes and taking chances.

One last word of caution. Be prepared for the unexpected if you choose a fixer-upper. Many homeowners can sadly attest to the simple truth that once the renovation starts, there’s little or no backing up. In addition, in the case of an older home that may have undergone years of neglect, there could be hidden damage such as rotten wood, termite issues, or water damage that may only be discovered after the demolition and renovation work has begun. Beware also of electrical and plumbing system failures that may require additional budgeting to replace or upgrade the systems to bring them within the proper municipal building codes.

Chicagoland home improvement projects can be rewarding and fun – but only if you have the mindset, temperament and financial wherewithal to undertake them.

You can find more articles pertaining to Chicagoland home improvement projects 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.

Chicagoland kitchen home improvements include remodeling and renovation to one of the most important rooms in any home. Because it’s so important, it’s imperative that homeowners hoping for a successful kitchen remodeling project start with a realistic budget – and stick to it! Establishing the budget is a definite "must do." In addition, the budget should always rule every decision during the course of the work. Here are five easy steps that will help you and your spouse set – and adhere to – your kitchen remodeling budget costs.

Do your homework.

It's important to plan your Chicagoland kitchen home improvements before you begin.

The first step in creating your budget is to understand what you’re dealing with. No doubt you have an idea of the specifics you’d like to accomplish with the remodeling project and a general idea of what items like new appliances may cost to purchase and install. However, that’s just the beginning. It’s vital to have a handle on the typical cost of remodeling kitchens in today’s market. Remodeling Magazine, in its 2016 Cost vs. Value Report, says the average cost throughout the U.S. for a middle-range kitchen remodeling or renovation project is nearly $60,000. In addition, the average return on value is roughly 65%. Translated, this means that for every dollar you spend you’ll have a return on your investment of 65 cents. So, a $30,000 kitchen remodeling project may add $19,500 to your home’s value. Of course, these amounts will vary depending on the size of your home and the scope of your Chicagoland kitchen home improvements project.

If you’re considering remodeling your kitchen to improve its sales value, remember this:  Your home’s valuation – or sales price – is dependent upon how it stacks up to comparable homes in your market or neighborhood. Don’t go overboard by having THE best kitchen in the neighborhood. You probably will enjoy a lower return on investment when you sell.

If you’re remodeling your kitchen for your own personal enjoyment and benefit, choose a remodeling plan that best matches your family’s tastes, needs and lifestyle. And, if you’re planning to sell your home in the next 5-7 years, treat your kitchen project as an investment. If yours is a higher-priced home, you’ll want to make sure your kitchen includes top-of-the-line appliances, granite countertops, high-quality custom cabinetry and upgraded flooring. The experts suggest engaging the service of a professional decorator specializing in functional and fashionable kitchen remodels.

Set your budget and live with it.

When it comes to Chicagoland kitchen home improvements – it’s best to determine in advance how you want your kitchen to look. Will it include a center island? What style and material will the cabinetry look like? Will you go with stainless steel appliances? What about kitchen sink and faucet hardware? Price out each of the items and use the total as a starting point from which you can expand or contract. A rule of thumb is to maintain the remodeling budget in the range of 5% to 15% of the total value of your home. So, if your home’s value is $400,000 your kitchen remodeling budget goal should be in the $20,000 – $60,000 range. It’s important that once you set the range, you adhere to the maximum budget. We recommend having some leeway built in for contingencies, but make sure you don’t exceed them.

Know your costs and their origin.

As is the case with any remodeling project, the various components of a kitchen renovation are broken down as a percentage of the total cost.  The National Kitchen and Bath Association has published this cost component breakdown for guidance:

•  Design fees: 4%

•  Installation (of cabinetry, flooring, plumbing and appliances:) 17%

•  Appliances and ventilation: 14%

•  Cabinetry and hardware:  29%

•  Countertops:  10%

•  Lighting:  5%

•  Flooring:  7%

•  Doors and windows:  4%

•  Walls and ceilings:  5%

•  Faucets and plumbing:  4%

•  Other items:  1%

Prepare for the unexpected.

It’s important to understand that almost every project involving Chicagoland kitchen home improvements will face unexpected costs. The trick is to anticipate them as best as possible in order to be prepared for them. We suggest budgeting a contingency of 20% to allow for unexpected twists and turns. They could range from plumbing problems caused by older pipes to wiring issues as a result of bad electrical work or overloaded circuitry.

Hire a professional. 

One of the best things you can do to ensure you stay within your budget is to hire the right professional for your kitchen project. With proper, ongoing communication not only will you stay within budget, but you can probably expect to save money in some cases. Contractors are able to buy appliances and materials in bulk can pass the savings on to their clients. Be sure to give your professional remodeler a complete list of what you want and what you expect. Have your professional give you a written estimate including a timetable of when payments or draws are expected. Most importantly, have a clear understanding of what it will cost in – in terms of both time and money – should you decide to make design changes during the course of the remodeling project. Some contractors are notorious for issuing change orders without estimating the costs. The result can be disastrous to your budget. Instead of simply asking the question, “Can we move the cabinets over a foot in order to add a wider refrigerator,” ask, “If we decided to move the cabinets over by a foot or so, what would the additional cost be and would it delay the project?”

With proper planning and focused budgeting, your kitchen remodeling project may be one of the most profitable Chicagoland kitchen home improvements you can make. Remember, set your budget, allow for contingencies, and stick to what you’ve budgeted. Not only will you end up with a beautiful addition to your home, but having it completed within your budget will give you a great sense of accomplishment and future enjoyment.

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.