Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top 10 Eco-Friendly Projects to Prepare Your Evanston Home for Winter

As we near the end of October, we all are starting to sense that the infamous Chicago winter is right around the corner.  While winter can be a beautiful time in Evanston with it’s charming downtown gleaming with holiday lights and cheer, having energy bills go through the roof is something that seems to weigh heavily on everyone’s mind.
To ensure your Evanston home is as energy efficient as possible this winter, we’ve gathered ten projects that you can do this weekend.  You’ll not only save money, but you’ll be promoting eco-friendly living at the same time, which is something we can all appreciate!
1. Replace your shower head- Your shower head is a water-waster if it fills a gallon bucket in 20 seconds or less. Install a new WaterSense-labeled showerhead and you could save more than 2,300 gallons of water annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. 
2. Add aerators to your faucet- You can save an additional 500 gallons of water annually simply by replacing a standard aerator, which delivers more than 2.5 gallons per minute, with a low-flow one, with a flow of 0.5 to 1 gallon per minute. Low-flow aerators will cut water and energy usage while maintaining adequate water pressure.

3. Install a water-efficient toilet- The EPA estimates that a family of four replacing a home's older toilets with WaterSense-labeled models average $90 in annual savings on their water bill and $2,000 in the toilet's lifetime.
4. Switch to florescent light bulbs- As the days get shorter, you'll keep the lights on more. Now is a good time to switch from traditional, incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. Energy Star-qualified CFLs use 75% less energy and last as much as 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Not ready to change every light bulb in your home? Start with your five most-used light fixtures, and you can save more than $65 annually.
5. Install a programmable thermostat- With a programmable thermostat, you can preset temperatures for your home and automatically reduce heating and cooling when you don't need them as much or when you’re away from your Evanston home. Energy Star says an average household can save about $180 annually on its energy bills by properly setting its programmable thermostat and maintaining those settings.
6. Build or install an insulated attic hatch- If your attic entry is not insulated, your home gains heat in summer and loses it in winter, greatly increasing your energy bills. Taking this on as a DIY project or hiring a contractor to do it will cut down on losing large amounts of heat in the winter and will result in a lower energy bill. 
7. Stop chimney drafts- Even with the damper closed, your home's heated air goes up the chimney in winter and hot outdoor air comes down in the summer. When you're not using it your fireplace, plug the flue with a chimney balloon like the Draftstopper from Battic Door Energy Conservation Products.
8. Drain sediment from your water heater- To ensure your water heater's performance and longevity, drain it annually to get rid of accumulated sediment such as sand, minerals and other non-soluble debris that settles at the bottom of the tank. You’ll know to do this if your heater sounds like a coffee pot, making bubbling or burping noises. The basic strategy is to attach a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank and run it outdoors or to a utility tub.
9. Replace your washing machine hoses- Washing-machine hoses don't last forever, regardless of the material, whehter reinforced rubber or stainless steel, even those touted as "burst-proof." A broken hose can deluge your Evanston home with hundreds of gallons of water per hour, and your homeowners insurance probably won't cover the flood. Check the hoses frequently for rusting, bulging, cracking, fraying and leaks. All are signs that you should replace the hoses now. While you're at it, check the hoses leading to water heaters, dishwashers and refrigerator icemakers.
10. Add insulating window treatments- You can increase your comfort and cut your energy bills this winter with thermal window coverings. There are a wide variety of options out there from foam backed thermal curtains and liners to energy efficient window shades. 
Whether you decide to do a few, or all of these projects, you’ll find that the energy savings and eco-friendly choices will be well worth the effort this winter.  Our goal is to not only help you buy or sell your home in Evanston, but to be Evanston Real Estate agents that have a holistic approach to the Evanston Real Estate market and lifestyle
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about buying or selling in Evanston.  We’re here to help and look forward to talking with you!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

6 Mistakes You'll Want to Avoid When Selling Your Evanston Home!

A few week ago, we talked about five tips for selling your Evanston home this fall, and today we wanted to revisit the topic of going through the home selling process.  As Evanston Real Estate agents, we know that there can be a number of questions and concerns about selling in today’s market, so we want to help you prepare as much as possible!
This week, we thought we’d point out six of the most common mistakes when it comes to selling your home.  Being aware of what not to do can help you avoid some of those blunders that trip other home sellers up and cause a long and stress filled selling experience.  We want you to navigate through the sale of your Evanston home with ease and being armed with a solid background of the current Evanston Real Estate market and what to expect can help you do so!  We encourage you to take a few minutes to review these mistakes you’ll want to avoid!
1. Thinking your home is the exception- While you may have a beautiful home in Evanston; this alone will not sell your home. It’s easy to get emotionally attached to your home and feel that the time, energy and money you’ve invested makes it worth every penny of the selling price. However, to help your home sell in today’s market, you will need to price it competitively or else it will get overlooked.
2. Not checking your agent’s references- Your Evanston Real Estate agent will play a vital role in getting your home sold. You’ll want to be sure to choose your real estate agent carefully by checking their references, reviewing their testimonials and looking at their home selling record.
3. Not scouting the competition- Getting an idea of your competition- what the homes are like and what they’re selling for- is imperative for pricing your home correctly. It will also give you a realistic view of the current Evanston Real Estate market and what you can expect from your home sale. Your Evanston Real Estate agent will provide you with a list of “comps” (comparable homes that are currently on the market or that have sold recently), which will also help you get an idea of how your home will fare on the market.
4. Not prepping the property- Selling a home in today’s real estate market means having it in prime condition. Whether it’s a fresh coat of paint, cosmetic repairs or removing clutter from your home, making sure your home shows well to buyers is key. Buyers want to know the home is in move-in ready condition, so they can easily begin enjoying their Evanston home from the moment they move in.
5. Being present during an open house- You’ll want to leave your home anytime there’s an open house or showing. This allows the buyers to feel at ease and to talk freely with their real estate agent about the home. They will also feel more free to explore the house and take their time envisioning themselves in your home.
6. Taking negotiations personally- You can’t take offers on your home or negotiations personally. While you do have a lot invested in your Evanston home, the emotional ties you have need to be kept at bay. This will give you the opportunity to think clearly and be flexible with what the buyers is looking for and can make the negotiation process run smoothly.
Staying clear of these mistakes and dealing with an experienced Evanston Real Estate agent will ensure an efficient and stress free home selling process!  As always, we’re here to help so feel free to contact us today with any questions you have or to get started!
We look forward to hearing from you!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Get Involved in Evanston's 1st Annual Flying Turkey 5K Walk/Run!

As local Evanston Real Estate agents, the Thomas Team, we love what we do!  We enjoy helping people navigate through the Evanston Real Estate market whether they are buying or selling a home and always strive to ensure each process runs smoothly and efficiently. 
However, we also truly appreciate the city of Evanston and being able to call this charming city “home.”  It’s here that we have planted our roots and because we find it such a great place to live, we find it easy to let potential buyers in on this hidden gem of Chicago’s North Shore.  Being involved in our community is important to us as individuals and as a team, and each year we enjoy finding a way that we can give back to the city of Evanston.  
This year, we found a fantastic event that we are thrilled to support and wanted to tell you about it in hopes of getting as many people involved as possible!  It’s the 1st Annual Evanston Flying Turkey 5K Walk/Run taking place on Thursday, November 24 along the Evanston lakefront.
Starting at 9am, this walk/run will be a great way for families and friends to work up an appetite before their Thanksgiving feast!  Everyone is welcome to be a part of the Flying Turkey 5K whether you are in the race or want to cheer others on.  Volunteers are also needed to make this event run smoothly, and there are many ways to get involved.  
Those in the race will need to register and will receive a goodie bag for participating!  Water stations along the way will help keep athletes going and refreshments at the finish line will be a welcome treat.  Most importantly, the Flying Turkey 5K will support local Evanston charity, The Harvest.  This food bank has been helping many needy families for over 30 years and we have the chance to give back to their ongoing efforts!  Canned good donations will be collected prior to the race and will go directly to The Harvest Food Pantry
To learn more, or if you’d like to volunteer or register for the race, please visit the Evanston Flying Turkey 5K website!  Of course we’re more than thrilled to be a part of supporting this great event and hope that you’ll be able to get involved as well!  
As always, if you have any questions about living in Evanston, or are interested in seeing some of the beautiful homes available on the Evanston Real Estate market, please let us know!  
We’re here to help you discover Evanston and get connected to this vibrant community! 

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

7 Tips for a Stress Free Home Buying Experience in Evanston!

Buying a home in Evanston can be an exciting time as you envision finding your ideal home and settling in to your new place just in time for the holidays.  This fall is a great time to buy a home as there are a wide variety of beautiful homes on the Evanston Real Estate market, and home prices and interest rates are low.  In fact, many are noticing that now is an ideal time to buy and are hoping to close on a home within the next few months!
While it may seem nearly impossible to enter the Evanston Real Estate market and go through the entire home buying process before the busy holiday season hits; it can actually be a very smooth and stress free process if you know what to expect.  We’ve gathered seven tips that will help you have a great home buying experience and ensure you’re settled in no time.
1. Know when it’s the right time in your life to buy- Decide whether to buy based on your life and what makes sense for you, your family, your plans and your finances. Then, use the news about what’s going on in the market to decide how to buy: what kind of house to buy, what sort of loan to use, how much to offer, and other strategies for executing your home buying plans.  
2. Get a good understanding what to expect- Research as much as possible, but be sure to decide on a trusted Evanston Real Estate agent as soon as possible.  They’ll be able to give you a layout of what you can expect from buying an Evanston home or condo.  Ask your Evanston Real Estate agent questions such as when you’re expected to show up so you can take time off work, and when you’re expected to write checks so you can be prepared.
3. Learn how to prevent money surprises during escrow- When you first apply for a loan, you’ll receive a good faith estimate which is a standardized list of costs associated with obtaining the mortgage and a breakdown of the monthly mortgage payment due on the mortgage for which you were approved.  Keep in mind this is just an estimate.  When you close on escrow, you’ll pay prorated mortgage interest and property taxes from the date of closing till the end of the month. The date of closing can make a difference in thousands of dollars required to close. Ask your Evanston Real Estate agent to help you set your closing date in accordance with the cash you have at your disposal.
4. Find the right Evanston Real Estate agent- Finding the right Evanston Real Estate agent can make all the difference!  Be sure to look for the following: qualifications, experienced in the transaction you envision (short sale, foreclosure, etc…), great referrals and testimonials, is a problem solver, and appeals to your personality style (you could potentially be spending a lot of time with your realtor, so you want to make sure it’s a good fit).
5. Solve the problem of how much you want to offer- This can be tricky, but there are some ways to determine the price of your offer.  Your Evanston Real Estate agent can provide a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) which shows what other homes in Evanston are selling for.  You can also determine the price by the sellers’ motivation to sell as well as the current market factors- which happen to be in the buyers’ favor right now!
6. Know the home you’re buying- You may have nightmares of coming home to a recent home purchase only to find it falling apart.  Ways to avoid this are to thoroughly go over the disclosures which are required to list out issues or recent repairs within the home, get a home inspection, have contingencies in place when making your offer, maintain a home warranty policy that will cover many major malfunctions for a service call fee.
7. Know when to remove contingencies or waive objections- Removing contingencies or waiving objections usually puts thousands of dollars on the line, so it’s not a step to be taken lightly. Plus, by removing contingencies or waiving your objections, you are essentially telling the seller that you plan to close the deal — something you just shouldn’t do unless and until you are satisfied with the following items: title, disclosures and inspections, condition issues, appraisal and underwriting.  Your Evanston Real Estate agent can help you determine if and when you need to take this step.
As you can see, these tips involve some action on your part, but if your main objective is to find a trusted Evanston Real Estate agent first; they can help guide you through the rest of the home buying process with ease.  Having a basis of where the market is and what you’re looking for is still important, but your real estate agents years of experience in the market will give you that smooth and efficient experience you seek.
Feel free to let us know if you have any questions or are ready to begin searching for your new home in Evanston!  We would be happy to talk with you about your real estate needs, your budget and the various options you have.  As The Thomas Team, our goal is to make the process as easy and stress free as possible and we would love to help you throughout each step of buying your Evanston home.
We look forward to hearing from you!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage