7 Steps To Take Before You Buy A Home

  1. Decide how much home you can afford.
  2. Develop your home wish list.
  3. Select where you want to live.
  4. Start saving.
  5. Ask about all the costs before you sign.
  6. Get your credit in order.
  7. Get prequalified.

Looking for more information? This amazing article will help guide you in the steps you need to take before buying a home!

  1. 7 Steps to Take Before You Buy a Home

    By doing your homework before you buy, you’ll feel more content about your new home. Read

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.



Single Women Homebuyers Dominate Market

Who run the world? Girls. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, single females contributed to a significant amount of home sales in the last year.

“Despite having a much lower income ($55,300) than single male buyers ($69,600), female buyers made up over double the amount of men (7 percent),” says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Single women for years have indicated a strong desire to own a home of their own, as well as an inclination to live closer to friends and family. With job growth holding steady and credit conditions becoming somewhat less stringent than in past years, the willingness and opportunity to buy is becoming more feasible for many single women.”

Thirty-six percent were first-time homebuyers, and the typical home had three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Bravo single ladies!



Homeownership Better Way of Producing Wealth

According to the latest Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent (BH&J) Index homeownership is a better way to produce greater wealth, on average, than renting.

The BH&J Index is a quarterly report that attempts to answer the question:

Is it better to rent or buy a home in today’s housing market?

The index examines the entire US housing market and then isolates 23 major markets for comparison. The researchers use a “‘horse race’ comparison between an individual that is buying a home and an individual that rents a similar quality home and reinvests all monies otherwise invested in homeownership.”

Ken Johnson Ph.D., Real Estate Economist & Professor at Florida Atlantic University, and one of the index’s authors states:

“The nation as a whole is in buy territory. Continued near record low mortgage rates, unsteady stock market performance, and rents (on average) now out pacing the cost of ownership (maintenance, taxes, insurance, etc.) all combine to favor owning and building wealth through home equity over renting and reinvesting in a portfolio of stocks and bonds.”

Dallas, Denver and Houston currently remain deep in rent territory but, “there is some degree of good news from these markets for homeowners as the cost of renting is now increasing at a faster rate than the cost of homeownership — reducing the advantage of renting over buying.”

Bottom Line

Buying a home makes sense socially and financially. Rents are predicted to increase substantially in the next year, so lock in your housing cost with a mortgage payment now.

To Find Out More About the Study: The BH&J Index and other FAU real estate activities are sponsored by Investments Limited of Boca Raton. The BH&J Index is published quarterly and is available online at http://business.fau.edu/buyvsrent.

Original Source: Keeping Current Matters

First Time Homebuyer Checklist

Buying your first home is an exhilarating experience! It may mean you’re growing your family or you’ve finally gotten that promotion that will allow you to make a big investment. However, it can also be a very stressful time. Through the help of your realtor, lender and other great resources, you can be fully prepared for this exciting transition. The following steps map out the best way to prepare for your home purchase:

9 Months Out

  • Check your credit score. A Federal Trade Commission study found one in four Americans identified errors on their credit report, and 5% had errors that could lead to higher rates on loans. Knowing in advance will give you time to fix any errors or raise your credit score if necessary.
  • Talk to a mortgage broker to find out what you can afford. Lenders look for a total debt load of no more than 43% of your gross monthly income (called the debt-to-income ratio). This figure includes your future mortgage and any other debts, such as a car loan, student loan or revolving credit cards. Look for a mortgage broker who will shop for a competitive loan rate for you among multiple lenders.
  • Prioritize what you want in your home and neighborhood. Unless you’re buying new construction, no home will have everything you want. In order to focus your search and find your ideal home, it’s important to know what you can and can’t live without.

6 Months Out

  • Contact your realtor to map out your timeline and discuss your goals. An agent will work in your best interest to find you the right property, negotiate with the seller’s agent and shepherd you through the closing process.

3 Months Out

  • Focus your search and start actively looking at homes. At this point, hopefully you’ve scoped out neighborhoods that interest you and browsed through potential homes online. Now your realtor will schedule times for you to go out and view the homes.
  • Work with your lender to get approved for your loan. He or she will most likely require your W-2 forms, pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, credit card and loan statements, and more.

2 Months Out

  • Make an offer on a home. It usually takes at least four to six weeks to close on a home. If you have a firm move-out date, allow enough time to deal with any hiccups that can delay closing.
  • Get a home inspection. One of the first things you’ll do after an offer is accepted is have a home inspector look at the property. If the home inspector finds something that needs repair, that may cause you to restructure the deal and could delay closing.
  • Find a real estate lawyer. Your agent will most likely be able to recommend someone to you that he or she has worked with in the past.

1 Month Out

  • Stay in constant communication with your realtor, your lender and your lawyer. You’re in the home stretch and you want to ensure that everyone has their ducks in a row for closing.
  • Get insurance for your new home. Don’t forget to secure insurance before closing. You’ll need to provide proof of insurance on or before closing.
  • Do a final walk-through of your new home. This usually occurs the day of closing to make sure the home is in the shape you and the seller have agreed upon.
  • Get a cashier’s check or bank wire for closing. You’ll get the amount owed at closing a few days before closing so you can secure a cashier’s check or arrange to have the money wired. Regular checks aren’t accepted.

While this list might seem overwhelming, your real estate agent will be there every step of the way to walk you through it. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions at Julia@reprealestate.com.

Information taken from Houselogic.com. Photo taken from City of Chicago. 

Tips for First-Time Landlords

You buy property at a good price, patch up a few holes in the walls, add fresh paint and rent it out to three tenants each paying $1,000 a month. Half of that income covers your mortgage and the other half goes into your pocket. Sounds easy enough, right? While I encourage these kinds of investments, it’s crucial to know the burdens that come with being a landlord. The following tips from Trulia can help you become the savviest landlord on the block:

1. Buy rental property near your home or office.

Just like in your own home, a rental property is bound to have its fair share of complications. Leaky faucets, broken toilets and even pest control are all issues that you or a hired contractor will have to handle in a timely manner. The closer you are to the property, the easier it is to get there and fix minor problems before they become major, costly issues.

2. Understand landlord-tenant laws in your city or suburb.

If you only take away one point from this post, this is it. I can’t stress enough how important it is to understand landlord laws. Visit the City of Chicago website for more information on rental rights. You don’t want to get sued!

3. Screen tenants.

I highly recommend running credit checks, background checks and setting up interviews with potential tenants. This might sound over the top but it’s crucial for the resale value of your property. If a tenant destroys the place, it’ll cost you more money in the long run. Meanwhile, the eviction process is expensive and time-consuming. This initial tenant evaluation is worth your time and money.

4. Check your property on a monthly basis.

In fact, if you have the time, check your property on a bi-weekly basis. Drive by every two weeks and stop inside once a month. This is especially important with new tenants. Before a new tenant moves in be sure to take interior and exterior photos.

5. Customize the lease.

Not all leases are created equal! It’s essential that your lease fits your property, your association or community requirements, and your own needs. You can tweak a standard lease form from Nolo or hire an attorney or property manager to create one.

Click here for more information on landlord best practices, and comment below if you have additional landlord tips.

Photo taken from Rentalo.com. 

Fall Market

As the summer winds down, typically, so does the housing market. But the first readings from August, which came in this week, point to continued growth in housing demand as the year progresses.


The Advantages of Buying in the Fall Season

Noah and Harper have spent years saving up to buy their dream home. Something a little unique on an oversized lot, with a sports bar for him and a walk-in closet for her, and a yard so their kids can play baseball. They’ve been saving for quite awhile.

And over time as they’ve saved, they’ve skimmed through real estate websites trolling locations and price points, dreamily comparing kitchen layouts and floor stains. They’ve indulged in ‘Love it or List it” marathons, and have even occasionally headed to Home Depot for a light bulb only to wander through rows of sparkling appliances, and aisles full of backsplash, writing down serial numbers just—you know—in case.

Then just the other day, with Q3 winding down, something incredible happened. Noah and Harper realized that, between the growth in their mutual funds and the cash in their savings accounts, they’d finally, finally, managed to accumulate the healthy 20 percent down payment they’d been working towards for years. It was time to celebrate!

But just as Noah popped the cork on the champagne bottle that he’d stashed away for this very occasion, he realized that summer was all but gone. “Have we missed the homebuying window?” he worried.

Although it’s true that spring and summer markets can be as hot as their temperatures, cooler weather and the start of a new school year can pave the way for homebuying opportunities that summer markets just can’t compete with.


The Advantages of Buying in a Fall Market

  • Less Competition
    • The pool of active buyers significantly decreases in the fall, as most families prefer not to move during the school year. Historically, this decrease has been softened by activity from first-time homebuyers, but overall this group has had the most trouble re-entering the housing market since the recession. 
  • Better Prices
    • The number of homes that sold above list price in July of this year was down nearly 26% compared to last year. Sellers who were not able to nab a list price offer for their home will have to reconsider their options this fall, which often translates to price reductions. In fact, according to Realtor.com, home prices are typically at a 12-month low by the time we get to December.
  • Reduced Stress
    • During the spring and summer seasons, particularly the ones we’ve been experiencing recently, multiple offer situations are common. This is ideal for a seller, but for a buyer multiple offer situations can be emotionally draining—If they put in their best offer and it’s accepted, they may worry they offered too much; If they put in their best offer but the seller chooses a different one, they worry they should have offered more. The less competitive fall season allows buyers the time they need to make informed decisions without being influenced by other buyers. 
  • Low Rates
    • Mortgage rates are still at historic lows at roughly 4.25% for a 30-year fixed, and it’s unlikely that we’ll see any big increases as we finish out the year.

The Disadvantages of Buying in a Fall Market

  • Decreased Inventory
    • Same as with buyers, most sellers prefer not to move after the start of the new school year if they have school-age children, leading to decreased inventory. This change becomes more noticeable in the colder months, as sellers—both with and without children—prefer not to move during the holidays.
    • This should not be considered a reflection of the quality of inventory, only of the quantity. Ironically, the holiday season can be the best time to gift yourself a discounted home. 
  • Inconvenient Timing
    • Generally, it takes 45-60 days from the time an offer is accepted to close on a home. This timeline can vary depending on the type of financing required, and the preferences of both the buyer and the seller. This is something to keep in mind for any buyer who wants to avoid moving when the weather gets rough or the snow starts to stick.

Questions, comments or concerns? I’m always available to help in the comments section below.

How to De-Clutter Your Home

The wonderful, beautiful thing that happens when you rid yourself of the things that don’t see your worth? You make space in your life for all the glorious things you deserve.” -Mandy Hale

It happens to all of us. One day, we wake up and realize that our home, our sanctuary, the single most place in the world that we’re meant to feel cozy and comfortable, is full of things that instead make us feel claustrophobic and out of control. Clutter. The word itself inspires enough dread to make us peer out from behind the shutters to check for the camera crew from ‘Hoarders’.

As a woman with lots of experience walking into all sorts of homes, I want to assure all of us that we’re not alone in accumulating this. It’s as though we have this innate talent whereby we can stroll into a HomeGoods for a place setting and leave with five picture frames, four candles, a set of rooster salt and pepper shakers, one full-length mirror and a dessert platter that we would just die without. But if one day you wake up with an irrational fear that your houseguests will mistake your living room for a Hobby Lobby, you might be ready for some of the tips below. Click the first photo to begin. Enjoy, and best of luck!

IHDA Offering SERIOUS Cash Incentives for First-time Homebuyers this Summer

I’m back!!!!!

First I would like to apologize for my SUBSTANTIAL disappearance from my beloved blog. As barren as Chicago’s winter was is as busy as the spring and summer have been! So to all of my thousands of loyal readers (ha!) I apologize for my absence. It took something REALLY important to make me see sense and bring me back to get the word out, so here I am to deliver the news. Onwards!

This is for anyone who is currently considering buying a home for the first time, OR anyone who has not owned a primary residence in the last three years. Got it? Okay good, read on.

The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) is offering some serious cash incentives (think between $6,000 – $10,000 to be applied towards your down payment) for people who meet the two criteria I mentioned above.  These incentives come in the form of their new loan programs that my sources tell me are likely to last only through August because of the high interest they’ve been receiving. These government loans can make a substantial dent in your down payment. For example, say you want to buy a two-bedroom condo in Wicker Park, or wherever, for around $300,000 – Twenty percent down is $60,000 so having the government potentially chip in $10k would be HUGE for anyone and everyone. Interested? Of COURSE you are! Check out the options below to see if any of them may lighten your home-buying load:

Welcome Home Illinois Loan

The Welcome Home Illinois loan comes with down payment assistance that drastically reduces the total cost of your home and a below-market interest rate that saves you hundreds of dollars each month.

Welcome Home Illinois includes:

  • $7,500 cash assistance to cover down payment
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a below-market interest rate
  • Variety of loan options to choose from, including FHA, Conventional, VA, and USDA


  • Buyers must be first-time homebuyers or anyone who has not owned a home in the last three years


  •  Contribute one percent or $1,000 of the purchase price, whichever is greater
• Purchase a one- or two- unit property within Illinois
• Live in property as primary residence



IHDA’s flagship mortgage program, SmartMove, offers first-time homebuyers an affordable 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and up to $6,000 for down payment. SmartMove is the perfect solution for borrowers who have limited funds for down payment, yet have the financial means to maintain monthly mortgage payments.

SmartMove includes:

  • Up to $6,000 cash assistance to cover down payment
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a competitive interest rate
• Variety of loan options to choose from, including FHA, Conventional, VA, and USDA


  • Buyers must be first-time homebuyers


  • Contribute one percent or $1,000 of the purchase price, whichever is greater
• Purchase a one- or two- unit property within Illinois
• Live in property as primary residence


SmartMove Plus

SmartMove Plus is for buyers who currently own a home and want to refinance or buy a new home.

SmartMove Plus offers:

  •  30-year fixed rate mortgage with a competitive interest rate
• Variety of loan options to choose from, including FHA, Conventional, VA, and USDA


  • Buyers need not be first-time homebuyers


  • If purchasing, contribute one percent or $1,000 of the purchase price, whichever is greater
• Purchase or refinance one- or two- unit property within Illinois
• Live in property as primary residence


SmartMove Trio

SmartMove Trio includes:

  • Up to $6,000 cash assistance to cover down payment
• Federal tax credit that reduces income tax liability by up to $18,000 over the loan life*
  • 30-year fixed rate mortgage with a competitive interest rate
• Variety of loan options to choose from, including FHA, Conventional, VA, and USDA based on a 30-year, $128,000 loan with a 4 percent interest rate


  • Buyers must be first-time homebuyers


  • Contribute one percent or $1,000 of the purchase price, whichever is greater
• Purchase a one- or two- unit property within Illinois
• Live in property as primary residence

Illinois Building Blocks

IHDA helps strengthen communities with programs that turn vacant homes into valuable homeownership opportunities.

Illinois Building Blocks includes:

  •  $10,000 cash assistance to cover down payment
• 30-year fixed rate mortgage with a competitive interest rate
• Variety of loan options to choose from, including FHA, Conventional, and

Eligible communities:

Belleville Berwyn Blue Island
Champaign Chicago Heights Cicero
Crest Hill Joliet Lockport
Lynwood Melrose Park Maywood
Park Forest Peoria South Holland


Rehabilitated Homes Available for Purchase:

  • Rehabilitated homes in five Building Blocks Communities are now available for purchase. Up to 75 homes will be available through the end of 2014, so check back often and call the brokers listed below for updated listings.
• Homes are professionally renovated and move-in-ready. Improvements vary in each house but may include HVAC, electrical, roof, updates to bathrooms and kitchen, flooring, painting and/or windows.
• These homes are eligible for the Building Blocks Loan which includes $10,000 in cash assistance for down payment and a competitive 30-year fixed rate mortgage. Visit the Find a Lender page to locate a participating lender.
• For properties in Berwyn and Maywood, contact Sonia Figueroa from Century 21 Affiliated at 773-308-5505. For properties in Chicago Heights, Park Forest and South Holland, contact Lisa Thompson from Century 21 SGR at 312-326-2121.


  • First-time and non-first-time homebuyers are eligible


  • Contribute one percent or $1,000 of the purchase price, whichever is greater
• Purchase a one- or two- unit property within the eligible communities
• Live in property as primary residence


Welcome Home Heroes

The Illinois Welcome Home Heroes program provides critical financial support to men and women who have honorably served in our armed forces.

Welcome Home Heroes offers:

  • $10,000 cash assistance to cover down payment
• 30-year fixed rate mortgage with a competitive interest rate
• Federal tax credit that reduces the federal income tax liability by up to $18,000 over the loan life*
• Variety of loan options to choose from, including FHA, Conventional, VA, and USDA
  • based on a 30-year, $128,000 loan with a 4 percent interest rate


  • Veterans (need not be first-time homebuyers)
• Active military personnel, reservists and Illinois National Guard members (must be first-time homebuyers)


  • Contribute one percent or $1,000 of the purchase price, whichever is greater
• Purchase a one- or two- unit property within Illinois
• Live in property as primary residence

For the full IHDA website, click here.


I know. Or at least, I think I know what you’re thinking: “What’s the catch? Do I have to talk to some really weird, unfamiliar lender to get these ‘special incentives’ or am I just supposed to Rumpelstiltskin my first-born child for this?” The answer is no. You can use your lender to hook you up with the program that’s best for you. This is a government program to keep our economy moving and it is AWESOME! Now, in the extremely small chance that your lender has no idea what I’m talking about then let me know so I can put you in touch with someone who has a clue.

AND OF COURSE (and most importantly) when the time does come for you to buy or sell, remember to Sell With Grace 😉 Until next time my friends!

Young, Fabulous and Sick of Paying Rent: Can You Afford to Buy?

Leasing a fabulous apartment in the city is a lot like dating Mr. Right Now. It’s fun, it’s pretty easy and there are practically no strings attached. You can basically move in with nothing but a mattress, a table,  your favorite bottle of Trader Joe’s ridiculously inexpensive wine and start having fun. Buying, on the other hand, is a lot like going to the court house and signing a marriage license. Sure, you could get out of it if you really wanted – a la Britney Spears in Las Vegas or Elizabeth Taylor in seven of her eight marriages  – but most people who take the plunge are ready for real commitment. They liked what they saw on the exterior, checked out the mechanicals, toured the neighborhood restaurants and decided they wanted what was on the menu. Forever. Well, maybe not forever, but at least for the next 3-5 years, as is usually the minimum recommended for most real estate investments.

Like both dating and marriage, leasing and buying have their ups and downs. When you lease, you’re usually not committed for more than a year. Which is great because your apartment might sound amazing now, but you could come to find out that you hate the neighborhood, the closet space is unacceptable, the coin laundry is not your style, or that there are centipedes the size of birds waiting to stalk and attack you in the basement. Seriously, it could happen. Or, you could move in and absolutely love the apartment and pour all of your energy into it. You buy all the right furniture, you paint the walls these gorgeous earth tones and get the cutest sheers so the light filters through the windows, just so. You could hang full-length mirrors and buy stunning glassware and keep fresh flowers in the vase by the door and it would be flawless. But it would also be temporary. By the time you’d finished perfecting your space, your landlord could already be arranging for the next tenants to move in and before you know it you’re out on your ass. Ouch.

So, maybe one day you realize that – not unlike some of our past relationships – you’re tired of pouring your energy (and money) into something that really isn’t giving you anything back in return. Then what do you do? Well, if you’ve finally found a neighborhood that you love and plan to live in for the next handful of years then I suppose, in a perfect world, you’d want to buy. But the real question then becomes: can you afford it?

Below is a breakdown prepared by Larry Steinway of The Federal Savings Bank for one of my listings at 828 W. Waveland, unit #1S. It’s a jaw-droppingly handsome, 4 bed/2.5ba duplex down within walking distance to Wrigley Field. The very best, top-of-the-line appliances and finishes in this unit. It’s even wired for sound! Larry calculated that with a 20% downpayment, the mortgage payment on this home would be $3,191.52 (which INCLUDES the assessments and your own garage spot!) for a 30-year fixed loan. You split that up with a few roommates and you’re looking at $798 a month. I suspect that’s less than your rent right now.

828 W Waveland Loan

But I know what you’re thinking, “Um, yeah Grace, however that 20% downpayment is a ton of money.” And I agree – especially for a first-time homebuyer that’s a huge chunk of change. In my experience, most first-time homebuyers are looking at properties somewhere between $200,000 – $400,000. So let’s use this listing at 1104 W. Webster instead (courtesy of Sara McCarthy of Coldwell Banker, of course) as another example.

Example Listing

1104 W. Webster is a 2bed/1.5ba simplex in an ideal location. It’s been recently updated and the unit itself is adorable. It’s listed for $325,000. Say you bought it for list price. At 20% ($65,000) down for a 30-year fixed loan, your monthly payment would be roughly $1,655/mo. If you had a roommate, that’s only $827 a month. And the best part is it’s NOT a rent payment. You are actually paying off your very own home so that someday, when you sell, you should have a little equity and, with any luck, an investment you are super happy you made when you were young.

Still, maybe you think 20% down is a little steep for you. There are also options available to purchase for 5% – 10% down as well. Call or email me if you’d like to talk over those options. Because, unlike the hundreds of scary dates we may have been on, or all the dumpy apartments we may have lived in, homeownership is a decision that we can always, always, always be proud of.

To play around with mortgage payments and different scenarios, check out this link: http://www.mortgagecalculator.org/ And remember, you can always buy or sell with Grace 🙂