Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Don't Miss These 7 Key Steps to Buying an Evanston Home!

Buying a home in Evanston or any other area on Chicago’s North Shore can be a really exciting time as you dream of what you new home in Evanston will look like.  Currently, there are many beautiful homes available on the Evanston Real Estate market and with low mortgage rates and ideal home prices; now is a great opportunity to buy.
Whether you are new to the Evanston or North Shore Real Estate market or you’ve been away from the market for some time; you’ll want to take note of today’s real estate market and what you can do to ensure a smooth process from now until you close!  As experienced Evanston Real Estate agents, as well as working in other North Shore Real Estate markets, we want to make sure you’re fully prepared as we walk with you throughout the home buying experience.  Below are seven key steps you’ll want to review before you begin!
Step 1: Set Up Your Financing- Getting pre-approved for a loan is imperative in today’s Evanston Real Estate market.  Make sure you’ve spoken with a lender on how much you can afford and the type of financing you can get. Having a pre-approval letter will show sellers that you’re serious about buying and it can help move the process along quickly.
Step 2: Get a Home Inspection- Even though the Evanston home you’re interested in may seem in excellent condition, you’ll want to examine the house very carefully. Getting a home inspection will put to rest any questions you may have about the condition of the home and will let you know of any repairs that need to be made that can be included in your final offer. Do not accept the home’s condition from its appearance alone. You could find yourself facing major repairs once you move in.
Step 3: Set a Limit for Yourself- It can be easy to get swept up in a bidding war if the home you have your eye on is being viewed by a few other buyers. It’s important to set a limit for yourself and be willing to walk away once that limit has been met. There are many great homes on the Evanston Real Estate market so buying outside of your means is not necessary to get a great home.
Step 4: Decide on an Offer Price- Your Evanston Real Estate agent can help you determine your offer price as they’ll present you with the comparable homes currently on the market. By viewing these similar homes and with the advice from your real estate agent, you can set a realistic offer. It’s typical to offer 5-10% lower than the home is currently listed on the market, rather than making an extremely low offer that the seller will immediately reject. A lower offer will show that you’re interested and will give them room to counteroffer.
Step 5: Decide on Earnest Money- Earnest money is cash that you can include with your offer to show that you’re serious. The earnest money can vary depending on what you can afford and this amount will be subtracted from the amount you borrow from the lender. Typically the earnest money is about 1% of the purchase price.
Step 6: Consider Your Contingencies- Things such as closing costs, inspection, the appraisal, or any repairs are just a few of the contingencies that can be worked into your offer. Your Evanston Real Estate agent can help you build these into your offer, that will allow you to walk away or renegotiate with the seller if they are not met.
Step 7: Take Attention Away From Price- Most sellers do not want to see an offer that’s below the asking price, but you can make your offer more pleasing by adding in a few things such as an all-cash transaction or a quick close, that will sweeten the deal for the seller. Or, if the Evanston home you’re interested in is bigger than your current home, see if the seller would be willing to throw in a few of the furniture items. This can help save you money and you won’t have to depend solely on the asking price.
As you consider your next steps for buying a home in Evanston or any of the other charming North Shore neighborhoods, we hope these tips will help you get started on the right foot!  We are always here to help answer any questions you may have and would enjoy the opportunity to assist you in your home search and purchase!  
We look forward to hearing from you!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Enjoy a Healthy Lifestyle on Chicago's North Shore!

Living on Chicago’s North Shore offers a lifestyle that is hard to find anywhere else!  The North Shore cities of Winnetka, Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Highland Park and other surrounding areas entail a perfect blend of a strong sense of community and metropolitan vibrancy.  Unique offerings provide each Chicago North Shore area with it’s own sense of style and environment, while the close proximity to downtown Chicago is ideal for experiencing a world class city.  No matter what type of lifestyle you’re after, you’re sure to find it on Chicago’s North Shore!
In working with the Chicago North Shore Real Estate market, one of the things we love about our job is being able to highlight the communities to those relocating to the area.  Buyers want to know more than the types of homes that are currently on the Chicago North Shore Real Estate market, but also what each city has to offer to enrich their lives.  
The Chicago North Shore is committed to providing a healthy lifestyle and community which many buyers are looking for in the area in which they live.  Communities throughout the North Shore promote health and giving back to their surroundings through weekly farmer’s markets.  
There are many to choose from along the Chicago North Shore, so feel free to try the one closest to you, or try them all!  Below is a highlight of some of the North Shore farmer’s markets, so be sure to take advantage of these markets before the season ends!
Wilmette French Market: Downtown Metra Parking Lot
Saturdays, 8:00 am – 1:00 pm
April 30 – October
Glenview Farmer’s Market: Wagner Farm, 1510 Wagner Rd.
Saturdays, 8:00 am – 12:00 pm
June 25 through October 8
Downtown Market: Corner of University Place and East Railroad Ave.
Saturdays, 7:30 am – 1:00 pm
May 7 – November 15
West End Market: Church St. and Dodge Ave. (Evanston High School Parking Lot)
Saturdays, 8:30 am – 3:00 pm
June 4 – October 29
Central Street Farmer’s Market: Independence Park (Central and Stewart)
Wednesdays, 3:00- 7:00 pm
June 1 – October 26
Highland Park
Port Clinton Square Farmer’s Market: corner route 41 and Park West Ave.
Thursdays, 4:00 – 9:00 pm
June 23 – October 27
Glencoe Farmer’s Market: Village Court near Hazel
Saturdays, 8:00 am – 1:00 pm
Through October 29
We hope that by attending the farmers market you will quickly begin to feel a part of the community.  It’s a great way to meet local farmers and vendors, as well being able to get to know your neighbors!  
If you have been considering moving to the Chicago North Shore, but aren’t quite sure where to start; please let us know!  Our team of experienced Chicago North Shore Real Estate agents would love to show you around, answer your questions and help you throughout the entire home buying process.  
Please feel free to contact us today to get started!
The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Look for these 10 Signs Before Buying a Chicago North Shore Home!

Buying a home on Chicago’s North Shore is a large financial and life changing decision!  As experience Chicago North Shore Real Estate agents, we enjoy helping people through each step of the home buying process and taking the time to answer their questions so that they feel completely comfortable with the process.  
Since our nation’s housing market is currently leaning in the favor of buyers, many are taking advantage of the low mortgage rates and home prices and venturing out onto the Chicago North Shore Real Estate market.  You probably know of friends and family who’ve recently bought a home and you may be wondering if now is a good time for you to buy as well.
If you’re a first time home buyer, this can be especially tricky to differentiate between now being a great time to buy because of the current real estate market and now being a great time to buy because you’re ready to be a home owner.  Whether you’re new to the home buying process or are considering buying a new Chicago North Shore home, we’ve gathered ten signs that determine if you’re fully prepared to buy a home.
1. You’ve determined why you want to buy- Evaluating why you want to buy a home is crucial.  Are you the one who wants to buy a home and take on that responsibility or do you have outside pressures that make you feel that you need to buy?  Only you know how your finances, personal goals and lifestyle will fit into the home buying process and if you’re not sold on buying; don’t.  If you know that you do want to buy a Chicago North Shore home before the end of the year; make sure you determine what you’re comfortable with and stick to it.

2. You’ve been paying attention to home prices
- You will need to know what home prices are like in the North Shore area before embarking on your house hunt.  Of course your Chicago North Shore Real Estate agent will give great insight into the current home price trends.  Having an idea of where the market has been and where it’s going will help you determine if now is the time for you to buy.

3. Home prices are stabilizing in your area- Playing off of the previous point, you want to determine what the Chicago North Shore Real Estate market looks like.  It seems that the market will continue to stabilize itself, which is great news!  Ask yourself how long you plan to stay in your new home.  If you only plan on living in the home for a few years; the stabilization of the real estate market will play a larger role. However, if you’re planning on living in your North Shore home long term; you can rest assured that the market will only continue to climb upward and that if you ever plan on selling, the market will be healthy for a home sale.

4. You’re saving money- This seems like a very basic point, but a very essential one.  The days of “no money down mortgages” are gone and most lenders require at least 5% down.  You will also need to make sure that you have additional money for things like closing costs, as well as money in the bank when all is said and done.  Lenders are becoming more strict and want to know you can back up the purchase of a home.

5. You have a solid credit score- Credit scores are moving to the forefront of being approved for a home loan.  Most lenders are expecting a credit score of 600+ even for FHA loans.  A good credit score will not only help you qualify for a home loan, but can lower your interest rate, which can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

6. You’ve created a home-buying budget- If you’ve taken the time to create a home-buying budget chances are you’re serious about buying a home and want to go about it in the best way possible. It’s imperative to establish your budget prior to talking with lenders.  Just because you are approved for a certain amount on the loan, does not mean that’s what you can actually afford.  Lenders don’t take your extended finances into consideration, but will look at your income.  Be sure to stick within your budget to avoid foreclosure and heartache in the future.

7. You’ve researched your mortgage options- It’s important to research which type of mortgage is best for your financial situation.  Getting a fixed or adjustable-rate mortgage will depend a lot of your long term goals.  Your Chicago North Shore Real Estate agent will also be able to help you determine which option is better for you and can walk you through the pros and cons of both.

8. You’ve been pre-approved- Getting pre-approved before you meet with a lender can save you time and will be a good indicator of any financial issues that need to be addressed.  Things such as credit or income problems are items you want to take care of before trying to get approved for a home loan. Sellers will also take you more seriously if you have your financials in order. 

9. Your debt is under control
- Another way to test if you’re ready to buy a home is if you’ve paid down your debts.  Lenders will look at your DTI, your debt to income ratio, and if your combined debts (mortgage and other debts) are more than 36% of your yearly income; chances are you will have a hard time qualifying.  Each lender varies on this amount, but making the serious decision to buy a home can’t be taken lightly as it may have been in years past.  The housing market is really attempting to wipe its slate clean to help lay the ground work for a healthy future.

10. You’re looking at all of your options- Keeping your options open is key in buying in today’s market.  Whether a short sale, foreclosure, or regular home; there are many options that can prove to be great deals.  Your Chicago North Shore Real Estate agent can help you determine which type of home is right for you. 
After reviewing these signs of being ready to buy a home, you may feel even more leery about jumping in to the Chicago North Shore Real Estate market; and that’s okay!  You need to be ready for such a large investment and it may just mean waiting a little longer.   Or you just may have more questions that you want answered and we would love the opportunity to talk with you!  
Whether you’re fully prepared to buy a Chicago North Shore home or want to explore your options a little more, feel free to contact us anytime!  We’re here to help!
The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Top 10 Home Improvement Projects for Chicago North Shore Homes

Home sales along Chicago’s North Shore can tend to be competitive, especially in today’s buyers market.  Whether you need to sell your home in Evanston, Wilmette or any of the other North Shore communities, making updates can give your home the extra boost it needs to stand out to North Shore buyers.
Given all of the current renovation tv shows and trends, it can seem overwhelming to know where to start in bringing your home up to date for today’s Chicago North Shore Real Estate market.  It could be that you’re not even considering selling your home right now, but you want to make sure that any updates you make on your home bring about the return on investment that you desire.  So where do you begin?
We’ve gathered the top ten projects within various categories that will help you determine the best renovation or update to tackle for your home.  While you may have the time and funds to complete all of these projects; many sellers will just want to pick out a few that can instantly boost their Chicago North Shore home’s value.  Take a few minutes to review the list and see which projects will most benefit you and the sale of your home.
1. Top Budget Friendly Project: Clean and Conquer Clutter- If you're on a tight budget, cleaning and de-cluttering is by far the most cost-effective way to add value to your Chicago North Shore home. A clean and clutter-free home looks larger and more livable and makes a great first impression on homebuyers.
2. Top Energy Efficient Project: Add Insulation- Energy-efficient upgrades have two advantages: they add value to your home, and they save you money in the long run. The most inexpensive way to increase your home's energy efficiency is to add insulation. Proper insulation can reduce heating and cooling costs as much as 30 percent and make a home feel more comfortable; which is especially nice during the chilly Chicago winters!
3. Top Outdoor Structure Project: Build a Fence- Adding a fence to your property can enhance its appearance, give you extra privacy and add value to your home overall. If you're trying to sell your home, buyers with children or pets will appreciate this addition. Wood and stone are two popular options, but before you start buying supplies, visit your Chicago North Shore community website for local zoning codes and homeowners association rules. 
4. Top Big Ticket Project: Finish the Basement- If you're willing to take on a major remodeling project, finishing your basement can add value and more usable space to your Chicago North Shore home. It's a far more cost-effective way to add living space than adding on a whole new room.
5. Top Home Exterior Project: Repair Gutters- While they're certainly not a home's most exciting feature, gutters should be at the top of your list of exterior updates. Gutters keep the rest of your home's exterior -siding, windows, foundation and doors -free from water damage, so maintaining them is crucial to maintaining your Chicago North Shore home overall.
6. Top Outdoor Living Project: Add Outdoor Lighting- Adding outdoor living space to your home is almost like adding square footage, and more square footage equals more value in your Chicago North Shore home. If you have a patio or deck that doesn't get much use, start making it more welcoming by adding lighting. This will instantly create a space to entertain well into the evening!
7. Top Landscaping Project: Tidy Up Your Lawn- When it comes to adding value to your home, curb appeal is key. A patchy lawn looks sloppy and detracts from your North Shore home’s overall appearance. Before you take on any major landscaping projects, start small by getting your lawn in shape. Reseed any bad areas and have the soil tested for any chemicals needed for healthy grass.
8. Top Storage & Organization Project: Maximize Storage Space- Real estate professionals agree that ample storage space tops most homebuyers' wish lists. If your home has a large garage and walk-in closets, you're in great shape. If not, you can make the most of the storage space you do have with organizers. Adding organizers will create a more custom and attractive appeal to your home.
9. Top Bathroom Project: Refresh Fixtures- Little changes go a long way when it comes to bathroom updates. Simply replacing old fixtures and hardware can give an outdated bathroom a stylish, contemporary look. If you want to go one step further, consider updating your sink or vanity.
10. Top Kitchen Project: Upgrade Appliances- The kitchen is one room where upgrades almost always bring a large return on investment in the Chicago North Shore Real Estate market. However, you don't have to gut your kitchen and tackle a major remodel to add value. One way to improve your kitchen is to simply replace your old appliances. Stainless steel is the current standard, but you don't have to buy the commercial-quality Viking range or the most expensive Sub-Zero refrigerator. Any updated appliances will look better, run better, and give your kitchen more appeal.
We hope that whatever home project you take goes well and that it gives you the boost needed to get your Chicago North Shore home sold!  Of course we’re here to help as well!  Our team of experienced Chicago North Shore Real Estate agents know the ins and outs of what buyers are looking for in North Shore homes and can give you the tools that will ensure your home gets sold in a timely and efficient manner!
Feel free to contact us today to get started!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

5 Myths You'll Want to be Aware of Before Buying Your First Chicago North Shore Home

Buying your first home on Chicago’s North Shore is an exciting time as you envision owning your first home in one of the vibrant North Shore communities!  Whether you’re searching for a home in Evanston, Glencoe, Winnetka, or Chicago; you’re sure to find a great home that fits your needs, budget and lifestyle.
Given the current buyers market, many are venturing into the Chicago North Shore Real Estate market for the first time.  While it may seem like an overwhelming process, buying a home can be a smooth and efficient experience if you know what to expect, are willing to be flexible and have an experienced Chicago North Shore Real Estate agent by your side!  
As The Thomas Team, we enjoy working with first time home buyers as their excitement  seems to pour into every step of the process.  However, it can also be easy for first time buyers to have lofty expectations and even well meaning advice from family and friends that may not reflect the current Chicago North Shore Real Estate market.  In an effort to provide the best service and information to our clients, we thought it would be good to point out five of the most common home buying myths and to set the record straight!
Myth #1- You’ll Find the Perfect Home- It’s easy to see visions of your ideal home when you begin thinking about buying your first home in Chicago’s North Shore.  And, while it’s good to have a list of things you’re set on having in your home; being flexible is key.  You most likely will not find a home with everything that you have on your wish list, and that’s okay! 

Myth #2- The House has to “Speak” to You- It’s common for first time home buyers to think that a home will grab your attention from the moment you step foot in the door- it will just feel like it’s speaking to you.  There are times that walking into a home, you’ll love the d├ęcor and the furniture that’s currently in the home and that may be the thing that’s grabbing your attention.  Remember to look past the current owner’s personal touches to the actual flow and features of the Chicago North Shore home.  Alternatively, don’t write off a home on first sight because you don’t like the current style.  Things like paint and even flooring can be changed.  Look beyond the surface!

Myth #3- Never Buy a Home with An Old Furnace- While an old furnace can be a pain to fix or even replace, disregarding a home for this issue alone is not necessary; although this myth is often believed.  Buying a lower priced home with a faulty furnace that needs to be replaced can be a better choice than buying a more expensive home in which the furnace does not need to be replaced. Of course you want to be aware of other issues with older homes such as wiring and plumbing; which can become very costly.  The bottom line is to weigh the pros and cons and don’t focus too heavily on those things that can be changed if the price of the home is right!

Myth #4- You Should Buy a Home You Can Grow Into- Planning ahead for the future is wise, and if you’re considering having a family, you may think you need a four bedroom home now.  However, what happens if an unexpected move or job transfer arises or circumstances change?  You may know that you plan on living in the Chicago North Shore area for the rest of your life; which is great!  The idea is to simply think through your goals for the future, as well as what you can afford for right now.  If you can’t afford a large home right now, don’t worry.  You’d rather have a smaller home now and be able to live without the stress of a major financial burden.

Myth #5- You Have to Win in the Negotiation- First time home buyers feel that in order to “win” a negotiation; they have to have the final word.  There can be a lot of back and forth between you and the seller, and it may be easy to want to fight for the refrigerator or minor repairs to be made.  But, you don’t want to get so emotionally involved with “winning” that you lose sight of the big picture. Buying a Chicago North Shore home is a business transaction, so it’s best to keep your emotions out off the table.
We hope that the truth about these myths will help you as you journey to find your first Chicago North Shore home!  If you have questions about buying a home, the Chicago North Shore Real Estate market or if you’re ready to get started; please contact us!
We look forward to helping you buy your next home!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage