Archive for November, 2010

Chicago Thanksgiving Tidbits and Treats

November 19, 2010

Ode to Thanksgiving

To our national birds
The American Eagle
The Thanksgiving Turkey
May one give us peace in all our states
And the other a piece for all our plates

What did the Pilgrims eat on Thanksgiving?

It is commonly believed that the first actual celebration of the harvest and blessings from God took place in Plymouth in 1621. The festivities lasted three days and included feasting, entertainment, and competitions. For more about the holiday’s history!

Who Doesn’t Love a Parade?

The first annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade took place in 1924. That first year, it was known as the Macy’s Christmas Parade. It was created to launch the holiday shopping season. Today, the parade is attended by an estimated three million people each year. Approximately 44 million people around the country watch the parade on television.

Other large parades which commemorate the holiday are the IKEA Thanksgiving Parade in Philly, McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago, and the UBS Parade Spectacular in Stamford.

Find holiday-themed wallpaper or screensavers here!

Want some holiday music to enhance your gathering? Get free, fast downloads of 30+ songs.

If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness.”  …. Gerald Good

Thanksgiving Around the World

Thanksgiving is essentially a harvest related festival. It celebrates communal harmony.

Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday in the month of October.

India also has a number of harvest related festivals in different regions.

Other Thanksgiving traditions around the world.

Money-saving tips for Thanksgiving–something we would all be thankful for!

1.      Have a BYOD (bring your own dish) celebration. Asking your guests to contribute to the meal is a great way to save on expenses–and on your own cooking time.

2.      Keep it simple. Cut down on the number of side dishes you have. A festive table doesn’t have to be extravagant.

3.      Serve boxed wine or large bottles of soda. Cans and individual bottles are far more expensive.

4.      Use natural items for decorations–leaves, fruit, squash, gourds, pumpkins, and dried flowers from your garden. A large candle and colorful fruit make a lovely centerpiece. Visit a dollar store for inexpensive holiday items.

Chicago’s Special Tax Fund Used For Affordable Housing

November 18, 2010

The Chicago City Council committee voted this week to set aside about $100 million a year from special taxing districts to build or preserve affordable housing, even though Mayor Richard Daley opposes the idea.

The plan backed by affordable-housing advocates was approved by the Finance Committee on a 13-8 vote but needs at least 26 votes in the full City Council. Read the whole story.

Will Mortgage Rates Go Lower?

November 12, 2010

Mortgage rates fell ahead of the Federal Reserve’s announcement last week that it would start buying $600 billion in government bonds to stimulate the economy over the coming months. But could mortgage rates go even lower, now that more is known about the scope of the Fed’s plan? That depends on who you ask.

Read Amy Hoak’s article in the Wall Street Journal to help you make up your mind.



Basic Steps for First-time Chicago Home Buyers – PART IV

November 12, 2010

You’re getting close to the finish line and will soon be the owner of your first home. Just a few more steps to go…

1. Homeowner’s insurance policy

Adequate homeowner’s insurance is a requirement of all lenders, and it is certainly in your best interests to protect the investment you’ll be making in your Chicago home. To find the policy that is right for you, you should shop around for the best value. Check online for quotes from at least three reputable agencies. Be aware that some companies offer a discount of 30%-40% if you buy online. Other possible discounts can result from insuring both your home and the contents or by insuring your home and your car with the same company. Check to see if you need flood insurance, as many properties in Chicago do.  Know the replacement value of your home, taking into consideration any unique features. Think about probable inflation increases at renewal time. Will your insurance agency automatically adjust your coverage, or will you have to request a change?

2. Preparations before closing

As the settlement date approaches, check with your lender and your closing attorney to make certain all necessary documents are in order and are being prepared. You will also want to contact utility services such as gas, electric, water, cable, and telephone to set up service in your name. Be sure to ask your real estate agent about the type of acceptable payment (usually a certified check) and amount to bring to the closing for any unpaid fees. It is also a good idea to gather all paperwork associated with your purchase (estimates, contract, proof of title search and insurance, home appraisal, and inspection reports) to take to the closing in case a question arises.

3. The walk-through

You are entitled to a walk-through inspection of the property a day or two before closing. This is your final chance to make sure that all conveyed items are present, there is no new damage, agreed-to repairs have been completed, and the home is in good working order. Your Realtor will have a checklist. Items to be checked out are numerous and include the exterior of the home (grading, roof and gutters, garage, siding, paint, concrete, brickwork, doorbell, e.g.) as well as the interior (lighting and fans, appliances, toilets, heating and cooling systems, faucets, electrical outlets, thermostat, fireplace, etc.). The house should be empty, except for conveyed items, and “broom swept“ clean. If any problems are discovered, your realtor will notify the seller and request repairs or monetary compensation for these items

4. And finally…the closing!

You should have recently received a settlement statement listing all the costs you’ll be required to pay at the settlement table, such as an escrow deposit for taxes and insurance. In most cases you’ll be required to bring a certified check and a photo ID with you. Try to relax at the closing. The attorney, who has most likely conducted many previous settlements, will briefly explain each document you are asked to sign. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or take time to read a particular paper. The attorney will also arrange for the collection and disbursement of all funds

AND, after all these steps have been completed, you will be handed the keys to your first Chicago home! Congratulations!

Buying a Home? Basic Steps for First-time Chicago Home Buyers
Basic Steps for First-time Chicago Home Buyers – PART II
Basic Steps for First-time Chicago Home Buyers – PART III

Will Your Cook County Property Tax Bill Increase?

November 11, 2010

They say there is a good side to everything. One of the few silver linings to the economic downturn is many Cook County property tax bills will have VERY slight increases this year.  This year’s increase is expected to be less than four-tenths of 1 percent compared to the Cook suburbs where increases are a little more than 2.5 percent.

Tax bills are expected to be delivered later this week and are due to be paid on Dec. 13.

Get the value is of your Cook County home?

The Belt Is Loosening on Jumbo Loans

November 10, 2010

There is good news for Chicago home buyers this week according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. Banks are loosening their belts and starting to make loans on more expensive properties, called Jumbo Loans or Jumbo Mortgages.

A couple of years ago when the credit crisis hit, these loans became non-existent. In the second quarter of 2010, jumbo-mortgage lenders originated $18 billion in loans—a 20% increase from the first quarter. The loosening of this money source will help boost home sales of pricier properties.

Read the full article and contact me for help with obtaining your Jumbo Loan.

Is Renovated Plaza of the Americas a Place to Spend Time?

November 8, 2010

The much needed maintenance updates and renovations to the Plaza of the Americas are now complete. An article in the Chicago Tribune discusses the pros and cons of the changes. The practical issues have been addressed but has the renovation created a space where people will gather and spend time like they did when the plaza was new in the 1960s? Will the plaza become a destination spot once again or merely a pass through. Read the article and let me know what you think.

Michael Reese Hospital To Be Demolished

November 5, 2010

Plans to preserve the 109 year old Michael Reese Hospital building have been scrapped by the city, breaking a promise made to preservationists years ago.

With budgets tight and city coffers being low, there is no money for the $13.5 million dollar renovation.

A gaping hole in the roof, water damage to the interior,  and squatters who have stripped the building for salvage and resale have left the city with no choice but to demolish the building.

Read the entire story from the Sun-Times.

What It Takes to Buy a House in Foreclosure

November 2, 2010

Here is a great article about the true picture of buying foreclosed property in as an owner occupant.  It highlights the need for perseverance and patience. The rewards can be great but the risks are also.

Although this is an example in Atlanta, the experience translates to our local Chicago real estate market.  If you are game for this type of project, call us!  We are Certified Distressed Property Experts, and we have assisted both owner occupants as well as investors make successful purchases of foreclosed properties.