Tuesday, March 27, 2012

7 Factors to Ensure a Stress Free Home Buying Experience in Evanston

If you’re considering buying an Evanston home, this spring is an excellent time to do so!  The Evanston Real Estate market is picking up as the days get warmer and there are a wide variety of homes in Evanston from which to choose.  Buying a home now can mean cashing in on the currently low interest rates and home prices, while being able to settle in just in time to enjoy the beautiful summer months in Evanston.
And, although there are many perks to buying in this current buyers’ market; we know that the home buying process can be stressful at times.  As a team of Evanston Real Estate agents, our goal is to ensure our clients have a positive home buying experience.  Part of making sure there aren’t any bumps along the way is helping buyers prepare for buying an Evanston home.  Below are seven key factors to having a stress free home buying experience that you’ll want to take a few minutes to review. 
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 grip on what to expect during the homebuying process- 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.  Ask your agent 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:  member of the National Association of Realtors, 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 houses in the area 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. Avoid buying a lemon- 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.
Knowing some of the stress points of buying a home can help you avoid them.  Whether you’re a first time home buyer, are hoping to relocate to Evanston or have finally found your dream home; we hope these tips are helpful in keeping you calm, cool and collected throughout the home buying process.
If you still have questions about buying a home in Evanston or are ready to begin your home search; please let us know!  We would be happy to talk with you and discuss what you’re looking for in an Evanston home.  
Please feel free to contact us today to get started!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Avoid These Property Tax Mistakes for Your Evanston Home!

As we welcome the first day of spring, we’re excited to see the already budding trees and plants, and are anticipating a beautiful spring and summer in Evanston.  For many of us, spring signals the fact that tax day is just around the corner and reminds us there’s a lot to prepare before April 15!
If you are a first time homeowner in Evanston, or wanting to brush up on how to make the most of your property taxes, we thought we’d highlight some of the common property tax mistakes you’ll want to avoid.  As Evanston Real Estate agents, we know that the real estate market and all that’s entailed with owning a home can sometimes be confusing, and our goal is to provide you with the information you need!  Take a few minutes to review these tax mistakes as pointed out by HouseLogic, that can keep homeowners from getting their full refund or that can cause questions from the IRS.
Mistake #1: Deducting the wrong year for property taxes- You take a tax deduction for property taxes in the year you (or the holder of your escrow account) actually paid them. Some taxing authorities work a year behind—that is, you’re not billed for 2011 property taxes until 2012. But that’s irrelevant to the feds. Enter on your federal forms whatever amount you actually paid in 2011, no matter what the date is on your tax bill. Dave Hampton, CPA, tax manager at the Cincinnati accounting firm of Burke & Schindler, has seen home owners confuse payments for different years and claim the incorrect amount.
Mistake #2: Confusing escrow amount for actual taxes paid- If your lender escrows funds to pay your Evanston property taxes, don’t just deduct the amount escrowed, says Bob Meighan, CPA and vice president at TurboTax in San Diego. The regular amount you pay into your escrow account each month to cover property taxes is probably a little more or a little less than your property tax bill. Your lender will adjust the amount every year or so to realign the two.
Mistake #3: Deducting points paid to refinance- Deduct points you paid your lender to secure your mortgage in full for the year you bought your Evanston home. However, when you refinance, says Meighan, you must deduct points over the life of your new loan. If you paid $2,000 in points to refinance into a 15-year mortgage, your tax deduction is $133 per year.
Mistake #4: Failing to deduct private mortgage insurance- Lenders require home buyers with a down payment of less than 20% to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI). Avoid the common mistake of forgetting to deduct your PMI payments. However, note the deduction begins to phase out once your adjusted gross income reaches $100,000 and disappears entirely when your AGI surpasses $109,000.
Mistake #5: Misjudging the home office tax deduction- This deduction may not be as good as it seems. It often doesn’t amount to much of a deduction, has to be recaptured if you turn a profit when you sell your Evanston home, and can pique the IRS’s interest in your return. Hampton’s advice: Claim it only if it’s worth those drawbacks.
Mistake #6: Failing to track home-related expenses- If the IRS comes a-knockin’, don’t be scrambling to compile your records. Many people forget to track home office and home maintenance and repair expenses, says Meighan. File away documents as you go. For example, save each manufacturer's certification statement for energy tax credits, insurance company statements for PMI, and lender or government statements to confirm property taxes paid.
Mistake #7: Forgetting to keep track of capital gains- If you sold your main home last year, don’t forget to pay capital gains taxes on any profit. However, you can exclude $250,000 (or $500,000 if you’re a married couple) of any profits from taxes. So if you bought a home for $100,000 and sold it for $400,000, your capital gains are $300,000. If you’re single, you owe taxes on $50,000 of gains. However, there are minimum time limits for holding property to take advantage of the exclusions, and other details. Consult IRS Publication 523.
Mistake #8: Filing incorrectly for energy tax credits- If you made any eligible improvements, fill out Form 5695. Part I, which covers the 30%/$1,500 credit for such items as insulation and windows, is fairly straightforward. But Part II, which covers the 30%/no-limit items such as geothermal heat pumps, can be incredibly complex and involves crosschecking with half a dozen other IRS forms.
Mistake #9: Claiming too much for the mortgage interest tax deduction- You can deduct mortgage interest only up to $1 million of mortgage debt, says Meighan. If you have $1.2 million in mortgage debt, for example, deduct only the mortgage interest attributable to the first $1 million.
As you prepare for tax day, we hope that viewing these mistakes will help you avoid them!  If you have questions about owning a home in Evanston, or are ready to begin your Evanston home search; please feel free to contact us!  
Our years of experience as Evanston Real Estate agents ensure you’ll get the highest level of expertise in dealing with the Evanston Real Estate market.  We work hard to provide the best service and a smooth and efficient home buying process.
We look forward to working with you!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

10 Tips for Creating a Beautiful Garden for Your Evanston Home!

Evanston has already enjoyed some beautiful weather this year, and thoughts of an early spring are causing many Evanston residents to want to get outdoors!  This week’s forecast is simply ideal for beginning some of those outdoors projects you’ve been considering all winter long, so you’ll want to take advantage of the great weekend ahead.
As Evanston Real Estate agents, one of the aspects of Evanston that we enjoy sharing with potential buyers is the community’s pristine care for their homes and curb appeal as residents realize that doing their part leads to a beautiful place to live.  If you’re planning on creating a stunning garden this year for the first time, or are a seasoned pro, we thought we would help you boost your Evanston garden this year with these ten tips!
1. Bulbs- Want full, rich colors in your yard?  Begin planting bulbs of dahlia, lily, gladiolus and tuberous begonia.  
2. Annuals- Now is the time to plant hardy annual such as petunias, dianthus, snapdragons and pansies.  If you’re worried about frost, simply cover the plants with plastic at night.  You can also opt for hanging mixed baskets filled with fuchsias, geraniums and impatiens which can easily be moved inside if threatened by a frost. 
3.  Perennials- As you begin to see these return, be sure to give these plants some fertilizer to ensure they’re fed for the season. 
4. Lawn care- Now is the ideal time to assess the needs of your lawn if you haven’t already done so.  Begin cleaning away weeds and debris that settled during the winter.  Begin fertilizing grassy areas and do any trimming to give a well manicured appearance.
5. Vegetables- Before you begin planting, consider the timing of your plants as well as who makes the best neighbors.  Plant hardier veggies such as lettuce or potatoes now and wait until it’s consistenly 60 degrees before planting the more delicate plants.  Beans, celery an cucumbers are happy to be planted near each other, but be sure to keep bean plants away from aromatic vegetables such as garlic.
6. Planting- Buy new plants along with replacements of those that may not have made it through the Evanston winters.  
7. Fertilizing- This is key to keeping your plants well fed and growing all season.  Don’t forget to give your well-loved plants their food!  Be sure that you don’t “over-fertilize” as it can kill the plants or cause “leaf burn.”
8. Pruning- Pruning needs vary by climate zones.  Be sure to check on more details of pruning for the Chicago area.  
9. Weeding- No one likes to do it, but weeds need to be nipped in the bud before they get out of control.  Spraying weed killer is a great option, just be sure to spray on a warm day with limited wind. 
10.  Preparing Your Patio- With consistent warm weather just around the corner, you’ll want to make sure your patio is spruced up and the furniture is cleaned and in good working order.
As always, our goal is to help you not only find your ideal home in Evanston, but to help you enjoy your Evanston home to the fullest!  A beautiful garden can create a serene and cheery atmosphere that you’ll be sure to enjoy during the warm spring and summer months.  You’ll also be contributing to Evanston’s beauty and giving back to the environment!
If you have any questions about owning an Evanston home or are ready to begin your Evanston home search; please let us know!  Our team of trusted Evanston Real Estate agents here on The Thomas Team would be happy to help you each step of the way!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Reasons to Take a Second Look at Overpriced Homes in Evanston

Entering March, there’s great hope that a beautiful spring in Evanston won’t be too far behind.  For many, it’s the time to begin freshening up their outdoor space and to begin home projects that were put off during the winter months.  As Evanston Real Estate agents, we’re gearing up for a busier time in the Evanston Real Estate market as sellers put their homes on the market and buyers begin their Evanston home search.
If you’re considering buying a home this spring, you may have already been browsing online for available homes in Evanston.  And, while you may have found your dream home, you’ve come to find that it’s overpriced and you may feel like beginning your search all over again.  Yet, oftentimes the homes that are overpriced are worth a second look!
Overpriced homes tend to sit on the market because buyers tend to avoid these home altogether.  They notice that the price hasn’t moved and may even begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with the home.  The longer a home sits on the market, the less interest it receives from buyers.  Below are a few common reasons buyers shy away from overpriced homes. 
- Fear of Offending the Seller- Buyers may feel that a significantly low offer on an Evanston home would completely offend the seller. The buyer may also feel embarrassed that they attempted such a low offer and may be convinced that the seller would never accept.
- The Price is Solid- Buyers may think that they seller is already aware that the home is overpriced. They think that if the seller was anxious to sell, they would have lowered the price and that perhaps the seller is solid on the listing price and not willing to budge.
- Offers Have Been Turned Down- If an overpriced home has not moved at all in price, those interested assume that lower offers have been made and the seller has simply turned them down. The reality could be that, in fact, no offers have been made.
We hope that as you read through these reasons, you’re encouraged.  That beautiful Evanston home that seems to fit your needs and lifestyle perfectly may be the home for you!  If the overpriced home has sat on the Evanston Real Estate market for some time, they may be willing to rethink their price.  The seller may even be feeling the increase in competition as the spring market approaches and may welcome an offer at a lower price point.
If you would like to take a closer look at a few of the Evanston homes you’ve had your eye on; let us know!  We would be happy to talk with you about your real estate needs and show you some of the comparable homes in Evanston and their list price.  This would help us determine a fair offer for the overpriced home and give greater insight into the current Evanston Real Estate market.
Please feel free to contact us today to get started.  We look forward to working with you as you give your ideal home a second look!

The Thomas Team
Chicago's #1 Real Estate Brokerage