Tuesday, February 28, 2012

12 Hidden Costs To Be Aware of When Buying an Evanston Home This Spring!

The spring season is just around the corner which means the Evanston Real Estate market will begin seeing more activity.  As the weather gets warmer, those interested in buying a home in Evanston start to consider their options and begin touring homes that are currently on the Evanston Real Estate market.
If you’re one who’s hoping to find your ideal home in Evanston this spring; you’ll want to get started soon!  Since the national housing market is still leaning in favor of buyers, the competition for homes in Evanston will be more aggressive, especially during the busier spring season.  If you are buying a home in Evanston for the first time, or you’ve just been out of the Evanston Real Estate market for some time; you’ll want to review the following twelve hidden costs to ensure you’re fully prepared and don’t come across financial surprises along the way.
1. Home Inspection- It is a great idea to hire a professional to inspect a home before you purchase as they can bring your attention to any major or long term issues.  Let us know if you need a recommendation for an Evanston home inspector;  we’d be happy to help!

2. Pest Inspection- Buyers should consider having the wood of the home inspected for termites or other wood-destroying bugs. These inspections can run between $50-$200, but can save your home from further damage and larger costs.

3. Appraisal Fees- Before a purchase, your home must be inspected by a professional real estate appraiser as this helps lenders determine the amount of money to lend borrowers.

4. Closing Costs- At the final closing meeting in which you sign all documents, you should be prepared to pay closing costs which can be a few thousand dollars. These fees include processing fees, underwriting fees, recording, survey and title insurance fees. Many buyers roll these fees into their offer on the home and can be discussed with the seller and the participating agents. 

5. Moving Expenses- Unless you are moving down the street, you will have to be prepared for moving expenses such as renting movers, a moving truck, and any possible shipping costs depending on how far you are moving.

6. Furniture- You may come to realize that in buying a bigger home, you’ll have space to fill.  Buying additional furniture is an expense that can oftentimes be overlooked, but can be necessary in moving to your new Evanston home

7. Property taxes and homeowners insurance- First time home buyers should be aware that your monthly bill will not only include the loan amount plus interest, but also the property taxes and premiums for homeowners insurance, which all mortgage borrowers are required to obtain.

8. Supplemental insurance- Buyers who are purchasing a home in a flood zone may have to buy supplemental insurance. There are tools online to help determine if your home is in a flood zone or we can discuss this as you view the homes in Evanston that interest you. 

9. Homeowners association fees- There are many great neighborhoods and condos in Evanston and the surrounding areas, some of which will have a monthly HOA fee. While you may not be keen on paying this additional cost, oftentimes it covers items such as trash removal, landscaping, or even golf fees. 

10. Utilities- These costs vary from city to city so it’s always good to expect to see a difference in monthly bills. We can help answer questions on the average costs of utilities in the Evanston area!

11. Ongoing maintenance- You may love the thought of a large backyard, but keeping in mind the cost of maintaining your yard or garden. If you are buying your first home you may not have all of the tools such as a hedge trimmer or lawn mower to keep your Evanston yard looking fresh. Also keep in mind any type of exterior or interior maintenance you noticed about your new home and factor in the additional costs.

12. Repairs- Covering all repairs tends to be one of the larger transitional points for those first time home owners.  It’s wise to set aside a small amount each month to ensure that if additional repairs are required, the funds are already in place to cover the extra expense.
As Evanston Real Estate agents, The Thomas Team, we hope these tips are useful as you consider buying a home in Evanston.  Our goal is to provide you with current real estate information and tips as you enter the Evanston Real Estate market.
If you are ready to begin your Evanston home search, or still have a few more questions; please contact us!  We’re here to help in any way we can and look forward to helping you find the home in Evanston for which you’ve been searching!
We look forward to working with you!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Experience Evanston's Arts Culture this Weekend!

Evanston IL is a vibrant community rich in character, a vision for the future, stunning homes, a committment to the environment and a lively arts culture.  As Evanston Real Estate agents, these are just some of the reasons we enjoy showing others what Evanston has to offer.  When people are relocating to Evanston or committing to buy an Evanston home and settle in permanently, we know they’re not just searching for a home, but a lifestyle.
If you’re considering moving to Evanston or would like to visit to get a better feel for this North Shore city; we would encourage you to check out the arts scene this weekend!  Whether you enjoy music, theatre, art or other various forms of artistic expression; you can get a real sense of Evanston and its residents by enjoying the wide variety of the arts that Evanston has to offer.  Here are a few events this weekend you won’t want to miss!
Symphonic Wind Ensemble
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall
50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston

Friday, February 24 at 7:30pm
- The Northwestern Bienen School of Music presents an evening of beautiful symphonic music.  Conductor Mallory Thompson leads this wind ensemble comprised of talented students.  To purchase tickets, visit the Pick-Staiger website.
The Woman I Stole
Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art 
Saturday, February 25 at 2pm

- Enjoy this rarely screened, 1933 feature from Columbia Pictures which portrays a love triangle between ex-pat Americans in the North African desert.  Northwestern’s Block Museum of Art seeks to highlight an array of films from Hollywood history that portray the times.  View more infomation on the Block Museum’s website.
Spoken Words with Rob Austin
Fleetwood-Jourdain Center
1655 Foster Street, Evanston
Saturday, February 25 at 3pm
- Enjoy the expressive works of poet Rob Austin this Saturday.  This free event celebrates Black History month and will take place in the upstairs gallery of the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center.
Livingston Taylor
1245 Chicago Avenue, Evanston
Saturday, February 25 at 8pm
- Gifted guitarist, Livingston Taylor has been playing since he was 13 years old and has spent the past 40 years performing, writing music and teaching.  Berkley College of Music Professor and brother to well know artist James Taylor, Livingston has a vast musical knowledge and talent that is known worldwide.  Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to hear him in concert.  Learn more about this event by visiting the S.P.A.C.E website.  
We hope you’re able to attend at least one of these great artistic events this weekend in Evanston!  As always, our goal is to provide you with a first hand look at what’s taking place in Evanston and why it’s such an attractive city to call “home.”
If you are considering buying a home in Evanston or would like more information on the Evanston Real Estate market; please contact us!  The team of Evanston Real Estate agents here on The Thomas Team would be happy to meet with you to discuss your real estate needs.
We hope to hear from you soon!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

10 Tips for Downsizing in Your Evanston Home

For those of you who live on Chicago’s North Shore, one of the reasons you may have been drawn to it is because of the gorgeous, expansive homes that are rich in character.  There are a number of peaceful neighborhoods that are found along Lake Michigan’s shores that appear to be right out of magazine, and many buyers are able to find the exact home for which they’ve been searching. 
And, while these oftentimes historic homes are stunning, you may be considering downsizing this year.  Whether you’ve become an empty nester, are looking for a place that doesn’t require as much upkeep, or you’re looking to settle into a North Shore home that’s a little more cozy; downsizing can be just the thing!
In fact, Evanston is a great place to find a charming bungalow or even a renovated condo in the midst of Evanston’s downtown.  These homes still have that unique character that allows you to feel you’re still investing in a piece of history without the additional expenses a larger home can bring. 
As Evanston Real Estate agents, we always want to provide you with pertinent information that you can use throughout your experience in the Evanston Real Estate market and as you begin to settle in to the Evanston lifestyle. Recently, Forbes.com pointed out ten great tips for downsizing that you’ll want to take a few moments to review. We hope these tips are helpful to you as you consider downsizing in Evanston!
1. Accept that downsizing is tough- You’ll find when going through your things, there are some very personal items that will be hard to get rid of.  Whether a set of furniture passed down in your family or a collection of dolls from your grandmother; you’ll have to be willing to let go of those items that may not fit in your new space.  
2. Find trusted experts- If you’re planning on conducting a large house sale on most of your items; you’ll want to ask the experts.  You can stop by a local antique store or do your own search online. Pricing your antiques and heirlooms correctly will keep you from being ripped off by those attend these type of sales in order to make money.  These are personal items so make sure you know monetary value before selling.
3. Call in an appraiser- If you don’t have any idea of what you’ve got, consider paying an hourly fee to an appraiser of “household contents” or “decorative arts” who will visit your home. The appraiser should be disinterested, meaning they shouldn’t be bidding for your items or working on commission.  This will help give you a better idea of what’s in your home.
4. Be wary of family lore- Just because grandma believed something was valuable doesn’t mean it is. On the other hand, family members may have something that they use daily and don’t recognize the value of.  The rule of thumb is to figure out an items worth for yourself.
5. Don’t throw out items prematurely- Many people throw out things that appear to be junk, but actually have extreme value.  This is where calling in the experts becomes necessary!  Throw away items should include things like old newspapers, moldy clothing, cracked everyday china, stuffed animals, bed linens and other items that take up space and that you know are not sellable. 
6. Call in an auction house- Auction houses will also send out specialists to review your household contents, and suggest items you might consign. While at an estate sale you have a limited audience and you set the price, at auction you can reach an international audience and the price can be bid up if you’re lucky. Some auction houses, however, will take lower-value items only with no reserve—meaning you must sell the item no matter how little is bid.
7. Donate and deduct- Bags of old clothes and rickety furniture you can be left out for the Salvation Army or Goodwill to pick up. But if you have something special to donate you might want to seek out a local charity that can use the item. Aside from the satisfaction of giving, you get a charitable deduction on your tax return—assuming you itemize. 
8. Pass down heirlooms before you die- You can give away up to $13,000 a year to as many individuals as you’d like without eating into your lifetime exemption from federal gift tax. The $13,000 includes cash, stocks, or things:  your jewelry, furniture, rare comic books, whatever.  “You can give away a lot of stuff, keep it in the family, and there are no tax costs,” says Carol Harrington, an estate lawyer with McDermott, Will & Emery in Chicago. Once you go over the $13,000 per person, you must file a federal gift tax return.  Filing a gift tax return may be worth it, if you’re passing on family treasures your children will use now and cherish. If, however, it’s not something your family wants; sell the item now and give them the money instead. 
9. Watch out for capital gains- Most personal items bought at retail depreciate enormously. If you have jewelry listed on your insurance policy at replacement value, you could get as little as 30% at resale. The upside to depreciation: if you don’t have a gain, you don’t owe capital gains tax.  If you hold onto something until you die, however, your beneficiaries get a step-up in basis—meaning its new basis is what it’s worth when you die. So if you have an item that has appreciated, or that you can’t show the basis of, you may want to hold it until your death. By contrast, if you give something to your daughter when you’re alive, she takes your cost basis. That’s fine if she’s going to keep handing it down generations. But if she sells it, she owes the capital gains tax on any appreciation since you bought it.
10. Remember the estate tax return- Under current law, on Schedule F of the Form 706 estate tax return, your executor has to list the value of your household goods (this includes jewelry, silverware, books, statuary,  oriental rugs, and coin or stamp collections, etc...). Any item valued in excess of $3,000 or any collection valued in excess of $10,000 must be appraised and listed separately. Think there won’t be a need to file an estate tax return because your estate is less than the $5 million federal estate tax exemption? If you’re a surviving spouse counting on a provision known as “portability” where you can carry over part of your late spouse’s unused estate tax exemption, you need to file a return. Plus, the values for personal items reported on the estate tax return are typically used by beneficiaries to establish their cost basis. 
Again, we hope these tips are useful as you think of starting a new chapter of life in a smaller home or condo in Evanston!  If you are interested in seeing some of these charming homes that Evanston has to offer or have more questions about the current Evanston Real Estate market; please contact us!
As The Thomas Team of Evanston Real Estate agents, we look forward to helping you navigate through the home buying experience with ease!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sell Your Evanston Home with These 7 Tips!

Last week we went over tips on how to host a successful open house in your Evanston home.  Today, we wanted to provide you with additional insight as to how you can make your home stand out from other homes on the Evanston Real Estate market.
Creating an appealing home from the moment a buyer first sees your property to the moment they leave will show that every aspect of your Evanston home is well thought out and maintained.  With the busier spring market just around the corner, you’ll want to be sure to do everything you can to help sell your home.  Below are seven important things you’ll want to do!
1. Focus on curb appeal- It may seem like a simple idea, but how buyers view your home from the moment they see it can make a lasting impression!  Adding potted plants to your porch or deck, making sure all shrubbery is well trimmed and making sure your lawn is cleared from any debris can make all the difference.
2. Flaunt your outdoor living space- As you know, Evanston summers are beautiful. Whether you have a deck with a lake view, or a private yard ideal for entertaining outdoors; you’ll want to be sure to highlight this great feature.  Buyers want to imagine themselves soaking up the warmer months in Evanston in a relaxing setting.
3. Think like a buyer- Buyers know that a busier spring market can mean even higher competition amongst sellers.  You’ll want to be prepared for lower offers and even some non-serious buyers who just want to see what the Evanston Real Estate market has to offer.  Depending on how motivated you are, you’ll probably end up in a series of negotiations as buyers will do all they can to get the lowest price.  Of course your Evanston Real Estate agent will help you navigate through the entire process.
4. Hire a reliable Evanston Real Estate Agent- In working as a real estate agent in this market for many years, we know the ins and outs of selling a home in Evanston.  With our experience, you’ll find that selling your Evanston home can be a stress free and efficient process! If you are still searching for an agent; we would love to help you sell your Evanston home
5. Price it right- If you want to grab the attention of deal-seeking Evanston buyers, you need to price your home competitively; possibly lower than comparable homes in Evanston.  Setting your listing price just right could lead to a bidding war, resulting in a higher sales price for you. Work with your Evanston Real Estate agent to price your home correctly.
6. Watch your timing- Put your Evanston home on the market well in advance of looking for a new home. And don’t place an offer on your next home until you have solid offers on the one you have to sell now. The last thing you want to do is juggle two mortgage payments.
7. Be flexible- Be willing to work with buyers if you’re looking to make a quick sale. Offer to pay for closing costs or repairs, and be adaptable when it comes to showing your home and holding open houses. If you really need to sell your Evanston home, you need to accommodate buyers’ busy schedules as well. This might mean opening your home to strangers on weeknights and weekends.
Selling your home can seem like a daunting process, but we’re here to answer any questions you have about selling your home.  Your home selling experience should be one that leaves you feeling satisfied.  Be sure to contact us today so we can put our expertise in the Evanston Real Estate market to work for you!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage