In examining Chicagoland real estate trends, at first glance some statistics are difficult to understand. For example, when it comes to homebuilder confidence in the December report recently released by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) the number reflects the highest confidence level since 2005 – a period of 11 years! In addition, the one-month move was cited as the largest in 20 years – attributed, in part, at least to the post-presidential election optimism on behalf of many NAHB insiders. Confusingly, just a day later monthly reported statistics on home construction published by the U.S. Census Bureau showed a drop of nearly 19%. The bottom line, at least on the surface, is the nation’s homebuilders are very happy and extremely optimistic, but not enough to build more single-family homes in the current market. As mentioned, the numbers – and the concepts – seem difficult to understand. Let’s take a closer look at what may be at the root of the confusion.

New home construction as it pertains to Chicagoland real estate trends

Experts say the two sets of numbers – builder confidence and home construction – once tracked closely together. However, in 2012 during the depths of the worst housing crash in history, the numbers seemed to distance themselves from each other – having less correlation than they once did. While builder and consumer optimism started its steady recovery, the actual homebuilding market continued to suffer. Some experts offer the theory that it was simply the result of a basic business psychology – and a little human nature. Homebuilders, because they are entrepreneurs at their core, were more optimistic during the recession than the market may have reflected. This optimism, some argue, is necessary and expected – homebuilders lacking optimism about the market’s future would’ve had to consider another profession for their livelihood. Simply put, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to be in a business and not be one of its biggest supporting cheerleaders. Still, too, some insiders say the monthly builders' sentiment published by the NAHB is slanted more towards the smaller, custom homebuilder and, as a result, the data is somewhat skewed. The NAHB website cites its surveys as being comprised of three component parts:  current sales, expected sales over the next six months and current buyer traffic. The NAHB says the survey is a “weighted average of separate… indices for these three key single-family series.”

Some experts familiar with both the NAHB and other independent surveys say with different weighting the findings can favor the larger-volume nationally-known builders. One such survey, published by a well-known real estate consulting firm issued this opinion:  “We asked the same three questions that the NAHB asks at the same time of 311 homebuilders overseeing 11 percent of all U.S. new home sales. Builders told us sales and expected sales are better than average, and traffic is slightly worse than average. Since the builder responses were virtually identical to the responses last month and last year, and this survey is weighted 59 percent to actual sales rather than sales expectations and buyer traffic, (we are) surprised by the sharp increase in the [NAHB] index.”

Homebuilder confidence as part of Chicagoland real estate trends, as it turns out, cannot only be portrayed in different ways, it is also very subjective. For example, one expert contends, if you consider the results of the NAHB survey and include surveys from businesses asking them if conditions are the same, worse or better in the face of the recent presidential election, you may find that the results are indications of the “direction” of change, not the “degree" – in other words, qualitative and not quantitative. Quantitative analysis can only be measured after the fact and typically has little to do with theory or anticipated results.

So, as it relates to Chicagoland real estate trends, there seems to be a much higher demand for housing compared to the existing supply of homes for sale in inventory. This fact on its own makes homebuilders more confident. It’s always nice to know any product you are manufacturing has both a built-in demand and one that is underserved. Of course, this trend has been in existence largely since the start of 2016 or earlier. But even more telling is that the overall U.S. economy has and is continuing to improve – and a number of business sectors throughout the nation are very optimistic that a Trump administration will mean great improvement. With that, the nagging question still remains:  “If all that’s true, why aren’t homebuilders constructing more houses than ever before as part of Chicagoland real estate trends?” The answer, as usual, boils down to the basics. Check them out:

Homebuilders continue to be thwarted by a myriad of new regulations that end up costing as much as 25% of the price of a newly constructed home. In addition, labor shortages – nothing new in the new construction industry – continue to weigh heavily on homebuilders’ abilities to gear up to the degree they’d need to to meet the existing demand. Ironically, the labor shortage – primarily because it relies on a large number of immigrant workers – may continue during the upcoming Trump administration. Other factors holding builders back include the high costs of land and building materials – with little relief in sight – as there are fewer finished, construction-ready lots in the neighborhoods and subdivisions in which buyers want to live or move into. Then, there's the whole feeling of cautious optimism that comes as a result of previous housing industry setbacks – and most homebuilders are very cautious after enduring the severe housing crash of a few years ago. Lastly, as a homebuilder operating purely on a business level dealing with supply and demand and the proverbial bottom line of making a profit, by building fewer homes in a market – largely called a seller’s market – they can command a higher sales price for the homes they build, and that's one of the Chicagoland real estate trends that's hard to ignore.

See more articles pertaining to Chicagoland real estate trends in the section of articles on Chicagoland Real Estate 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.

If you’ve looked at listings of Chicagoland homes for sale, no doubt you’ve seen a variety of homes on the market – some that have been prepped for sale and others that probably shouldn’t be listed yet. Ultimately, how your home is presented for sale will determine whether it will sell in a timely manner and at a good price. Let’s take a closer look at several steps you should take before you decide to try and sell Chicagoland homes and do so in a timely manner.

To properly sell your house takes the right combination of preparation, time and patience. If you’re a first-time home seller the process can be a little overwhelming, but it’s not a daunting task if you know what to do to get your home ready to put on the market. Observe these tips as you prepare to sell Chicagoland homes:

Steps to sell Chicagoland homes quickly...

Know Your Home’s Value

In today’s “information age,” there’s really little excuse for having a pretty good idea of what your home is worth. Online websites like ours provide good information regarding your home’s value based on estimates of comparable sales data of homes for sale that are similar in size, location and age. Most websites are easy to navigate and offer users the opportunity to see recent real estate sales in the market categorized by zip codes, neighborhoods and sales price ranges. One tip:  Be sure to concentrate only on actual sales prices versus listing or asking prices. In addition, give consideration to what it would cost to perform needed repairs, upgrades, or improvements and factor those deductions into your home’s value.

Visiting this or other real estate websites will give you at least a ballpark idea of what your home is worth compared to others on the market when thinking about how best to sell Chicagoland homes. You can then use this information prior to discussing sales price strategy with a real estate professional – or negotiating with a prospective purchaser.

Have Your Paperwork Ready

To ensure the smoothest sale and closing transaction experience, it’s best to anticipate paperwork needs and be prepared. Experts say you should be aware of any existing title issues when you get ready to sell your house, including any outstanding liens, mechanic’s liens, or unpaid property taxes. Gather pertinent information concerning the ownership of your home including lending documents, the previous home inspection, and pest control inspection report. Also, in order to convey a clear, marketable title to the purchasers of your home, make sure you have a death certificate, will, or affidavit of heirship if the home is in a deceased person’s name. In addition, in the case of shared ownership, have the written consent of all owners – and any additional paperwork or documentation that may be relevant to the home and your ability to sell it smoothly and quickly.

Select the Method of Sale

The decision to sell Chicagoland homes should include choosing the method of sale that best suits your needs. As the home seller, you can retain the services of a real estate professional to list your home and put it on the market. Using a real estate agent is a popular choice for home sellers who want to place their faith in the hands of a professional real estate salesperson, trained and experienced in selling homes for a living. It’s also a good choice for sellers who want to capitalize on the highest value their home can command and those who can afford to wait a few months, if necessary, to consummate the sale. Having your home in tip-top shape is key in having it listed by a professional real estate agent. They deal in attracting residential buyers serious about making a purchase. So, a property in optimum shape will likely get the most attention and the most prospects. If there are repairs or upgrades required you can always list the property and note the items you are willing to pay for or have completed prior to the closing of the sale.

Conversely, you can choose to sell your home directly by “For Sale by Owner,” in which case you’ll be responsible for coordinating and scheduling showings, fielding phone calls and other inquiries and marketing your home for sale in all the normal and traditional channels.

As a third alternative, you can consider selling your home directly to an investor – especially if your property needs extensive repairs, or if you need to sell it quickly for various reasons. Investors who purchase property tend to pay cash, are ready to close relatively quickly to bring the property to proper standards if they plan to rent it out, or improve the house and try to then resell it at a profit, a practice known as “flipping” a home. Lastly, anyone choosing to sell Chicagoland homes to an investor needs to be aware they are usually skilled negotiators and may have a better idea of what your property is worth than you do. So, be smart. Negotiate items like closing costs or other costs if you can. You may want to make a quick sale, but be careful not to leave too much money on the table, if at all possible.

Clean up, Straighten up and Keep it Neat

Although this particular tip for listing your house among the homes for sale seems like a “no-brainer,” you’d be surprised at how often it’s overlooked. Make sure your house and yard are tidy, neat and clean to make them more presentable to prospective buyers. The home shoppers visiting your house will perceive the home as more valuable in a clean, organized condition. In addition, having “a place for everything and everything in its place” will promote the perception the house is well-maintained and the sellers have an eye for detail. This perception will likely make the home more attractive to like-minded purchasers.

See more articles pertaining to ways to sell Chicagoland homes 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.

In Chicagoland insurance news, it's no secret Americans have bought and continue to buy millions of household security cameras and home smoke detectors connected to in-home Wi-Fi networks. However, so far, insurance carriers aren't convinced the technology will improve home safety. Despite the devices designed to prevent billions of dollars in home damage and loss, the average cost of insuring a single-family home is projected to increase in 2017.

Insurers cite a lack of sufficient data showing the security and safeguard devices have made significant impact in loss prevention. In addition, they say the new technology does little to heighten security or encourage American homeowners to be more safety or security conscious. As a result, the nearly $85 billion home insurance industry has withheld across the board premium reductions.

So, what's the significance of this Chicagoland insurance news?  As usual, it's all about money in big business. If it can be substantiated that these new technological gadgets improve the safety and security of American homes it could mean billions of dollars in lost revenue. The projected revenue loss will likely exceed the costs major insurers would save in settling insurance claims over time.

Chicagoland insurance news reveals that not many insurance discounts are being offered yet for smart home technology.

For the homeowner/consumer's part, sales of internet-connected home safety systems are forecast to more than quadruple over the next four years. As a result, many consumers feel the insurance companies should embrace their usage and recognize the technology as loss prevention features designed to save money. "Insurance companies should provide an incentive" for homeowners who use internet-connected security cameras, thermostats and lighting, says one frustrated homeowner. Currently, most insurance carriers provide premium discounts for homes utilizing basic security devices.  What remains to be seen in the Chicagoland insurance news is the advent of insurers allowing premium reductions for the internet-connected security equipment – especially if it can be proven more effective than the current equipment.

Among the more notable internet-connected technology are devices that alert homeowners like smoke- or carbon monoxide-detectors, doorbell-integrated video for their smartphones and systems that can detect plumbing leaks. As mentioned earlier, sales are expected to increase four-fold by 2020. ABI Research, a quantitative technology research company, predicts 360 million smart-home devices to be delivered in 2020, up from 79 million in 2016 and roughly 40 million in 2015.

While some carriers have made Chicagoland insurance news by offering modest premium discounts for the new devices, the savings aren't significant enough yet to reduce the average home insurance premium. Insurance insiders predict the average premium on a single-family home in the U.S. will increase 5.5% to $1,293. The premium represents a whopping 61% increase from 2006.

In 2014, a study was conducted by Morgan Stanley and Boston Consulting Group that concluded smart-home technology could reduce potential home losses by 40% to 60%. It was also estimated the devices could reduce insurance premiums worldwide from $32 billion to $47 billion over the next decade. Worldwide, home insurance premiums reached nearly $161 billion in 2013, according to the study. The projected premium savings, therefore, could be from 20% to 30%.

Some insurance industry experts say connected-home technology could change the basic need to even have insurance coverage. They contend a reduction in the severity and frequency of home losses comprise the bulk of insurance premiums. The question, they say, is when would premium dollars be reduced by a substantial amount?

While insurance insiders agree insurance coverage will never be able to be replaced completely because of hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters, there should be savings to be enjoyed in the future.

The research and data being collected from homeowners and analyzed by insurance carriers has been compared to similar efforts by auto insurance companies. Auto insurers have used devices that monitor how far their customers drive and how frequently they slam on brakes. They've been using that decade-old research to adjust pricing of insurance premiums. In some cases, drivers who agree to use the data collection tools can save as much as 30% off their premiums. One can only imagine how a 30% homeowner's premium reduction would make Chicagoland insurance news!

Although studies are being conducted now, experts say it will probably take several years to confirm smart-home technology can translate into home insurance savings. Insurance giant, State Farm, offers a 15% premium savings to homeowners with certain internet-connected home security systems. The company deems those devices better than more traditional security systems or smoke detectors because it's easier to verify they are installed and operational. In addition, other home insurers are giving incentives to homeowners to buy connected-home devices – with a bonus if the insured homeowners will share certain data with the carrier. For example, Liberty Mutual Insurance provides discounts for its customers who use internet-connected security devices or smoke alarms. The program is currently offered in 38 states. And, if homeowners allow the company to verify the devices are operating properly they can receive an even larger premium discount.

Another insurance company, American Family Insurance, discounts the cost of Ring Video Doorbells, a product containing motion sensors, cameras and microphones. The doorbells allow homeowners to view and remotely talk to visitors from a smartphone or other device. The company also offers a program to reimburse the deductibles of any of its customers who experience a burglary. With insurance deductibles averaging between $600 and $800, that incentive can be compelling. Though other testing and studies are ongoing, the Ring Video Doorbells company recently compiled a study with the help of the Los Angeles Police Department. In the study, it was concluded that the doorbells reduce crime, however, more in-depth data is expected to take a few years to compile. Industry experts say most insurance companies need a minimum of 10 years of data before any substantial changes are made to their premium structure.

In the meantime, homeowners should keep a watchful eye on Chicagoland insurance news as advances in smart-home technology are made often, with home security and safety as one of the most important goals.

You can find more articles pertaining to Chicagoland home insurance news 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 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.

There are a number of Chicagoland homebuying mistakes that need to be avoided. Let's look at three very important tips that will help you avoid common pitfalls associated with buying your first home. Anticipating your needs will go a long way in assisting you in the process you're about to undertake. In addition, it will help make the experience a potentially fun and rewarding one.

We're reminded of a true story about one first-time homebuyer who had scrimped and saved diligently for several years to accumulate a down payment. However, because he was self-employed he worried whether he would have enough for a sufficient down payment and if he would be able to qualify for a mortgage since he didn't earn a "traditional" salary like most young borrowers who work for somebody else.

Unfortunately, stories and concerns like these occur all too often and can fall into the category of Chicagoland homebuying mistakes to avoid – especially among prospective first-time buyers. The Economic and Strategic Research Group of Fannie Mae recently conducted a survey to better understand what consumers know about mortgage qualification criteria. The findings revealed that roughly 40% of potential borrowers did not know when asked about minimum down payment requirements. In addition, 54% and 59%, respectively, were not aware of minimum credit scores and maximum debt-to-income ratios to qualify for a mortgage loan. The lack of knowledge in these basic areas of mortgage qualification is both surprising and disconcerting. Furthermore, it can contribute to common mistakes first-time homebuyers may make as they try to avoid Chicagoland homebuying mistakes. Now, about those tips:

Chicagoland homebuying mistakes you need to avoid at all costs.

Seek professional advice
The above story about the first-time buyer, we're glad to report, did have a happy ending. The prospective homeowner sought help from a local HUD-approved housing counseling agency who reviewed his credit score, advised him on making some minor changes, and provided him assurance he could qualify for a HomeReady mortgage through Fannie Mae. The HomeReady program allows borrowers to pay as little as 3% for the down payment. In addition, it requires completion of an online education course. With the help of a professional, our first-time buyer was able to qualify for a low down payment mortgage – with his self-employed income – and purchase the home he wanted.

Understand the loan process
Lack of knowledge can be the single most detrimental problem to overcome for any first-time homebuyer. Fear of the unknown is likely the cause of many young buyers remaining on the sidelines when it comes to participating in the homebuying market and avoiding Chicagoland homebuying mistakes. The irony, however, is that in today's informational age there is a wealth of knowledge available to prospective homeowners with just a click of the mouse. Virtually every reputable real estate company and hundreds of publications – both in print and online – provide easy to follow guidelines concerning how to go about searching for a home to buy and financing the home you choose.

Armed with a basic understanding of what is involved in shopping for a home, how to obtain information on homes for sale, and the various financing options available a first-time home buyer can and will have an advantage that comes with knowing what to expect. The old adage, "Knowledge is power" certainly rings true when it comes to avoiding Chicagoland homebuying mistakes.

Avoid these typical pitfalls
There are three major issues that can thwart first-time homebuyers during the process of buying and/or financing their home purchase:

• Going rogue
While it's both enlightening and educational to do some preliminary online home shopping, it's probably not a good idea to strike out on your own and visit homes you like. As we've mentioned above, talk with a housing counseling agency, a real estate professional, or a mortgage lender to help you better understand if you're fiscally ready to buy a home or continue renting. Statistics provided by the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report show that just 46% of buyers were able to buy the first home on which they issued an offer. This confirms that in a fast-paced real estate market, competition and disappointment go hand-in-hand. It's probably a good idea – and good business – to enlist the aid of a professional to better enhance the outcome.

• Shopping for homes outside your price range
Many real estate professionals recommend first-time buyers get pre-approved before they begin the home buying process. Pre-approval can include the completion of a mortgage loan application and the submission of pertinent supporting documentation such as tax returns, W-2s, or pay stubs to verify income. In addition, a preliminary credit report can be ordered for those prospective applicants concerned about their credit scores preventing them from qualifying for a home mortgage. In addition, real estate agents and mortgage lenders advise first-time home shoppers that just because you're approved for a certain price range doesn't mean you should necessarily spend the entire amount. We suggest using your pre-qualification amount as a guideline to demonstrate what you may be able to afford and compare that to what you can comfortably afford to pay each month – taking into consideration your other monthly expenses. The bottom line here is, look at only those homes that are in your price range and that you can comfortably afford. This is a better plan for avoiding Chicagoland homebuying mistakes financially.

• Not comparing mortgage quotes and notes
Recent research cited by Fannie Mae shows just two-thirds of prospective borrowers actively received more than one mortgage interest rate quote. Comparison shopping for the best interest rates, terms and conditions will give you a better selection from which to choose, and will ultimately give you peace of mind knowing you considered other mortgage options. In addition, if you don't take the time to shop around, you could be spending thousands of dollars more than you need to over the life of your mortgage.

Read more about home buying tips 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.