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. 

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1109 N. Hermitage, #2

2 Bedrooms

2 Bathrooms

Gorgeous new condo in Wicker Park. Built in 2009, this property features luxury appliances, beautiful crown molding, a fireplace, a large deck and one garage space. Dark hardwood floors throughout and an abundance of natural light.

As REP Group agents, we respect and appreciate our client’s privacy. To inquire about pricing for similar properties in the area, please contact us directly at julia@reprealestate.com.

End of Summer Market Snapshot

Market Trends

  • In August 2014, 10,370 homes sold in Chicago. This marked a 13.3% decrease from August 2013 sales of 11,963 homes at a time when more homes were available for sale.
  • The median price in August 2014 was $215,000, up 9.1% from $197,000 in August 2013.
  • The time it took to sell a home dropped year-over-year in August with listings averaging 53 days until sale, a 10.2% decrease compared to 59 days in August 2013.
  • Chicago saw a 15.3% decrease in year-over-year home sales in August 2014 with 2,414 sales, down from 2,850 in August 2013 when more homes were on the market.
  • The sales forecast for September, October and November suggests a downtrend both on an annual and monthly basis. Annually, the three-month average forecasts point to a decrease of 5.4% to 4% for Chicago. On a monthly basis, the three-month average sales are forecast to decrease by 7.5% to 10.1% for Chicago.
  • In August 2014, 2,092 houses were newly filed for foreclosure in Chicago. This is down 18.5% from August 2013, and 10.2 % from July 2014. In August, 2,888 foreclosures were completed, down nearly 59.1 % from August 2013 and 1.9% from July 2014.
  • The foreclosure inventory of homes for sale is 32,720 in Chicago.

State of the Market

  • Home prices posted gains over last year in a consistent trend.
  • The inventory shortage that has held back the market all year continued in August.

Information from the Chicago Association of REALTORS®.

Most Dog Friendly Neighborhoods, According to Me

It’s pretty safe to say that I go to a lot of buildings on a regular basis. And I mean, a lot. It’s essentially the most important aspect of my job as a real estate agent in Chicago to go and check out real estate in Chicago. Shocker, I know. But while most people expect me to relay things like, “The doorman at SoNo is the best. People love him,” or, “You have to see the running track on the roof at 900 N. Kingsbury. Four laps to a mile, it’s huge!” or, “Every single layout at Clock Tower Lofts in Bucktown is different. That’s 113 unique layouts in one building, for crying out loud.”

I do notice and relay all these things, of course, but there are also other little nuances you notice as you go in an out of these buildings in all of these different neighborhoods. So, today I feel like relaying a little of what I have seen in terms of pet-friendliness. Actually, dog-friendliness, to be specific. Because, let me tell you, with the weather warming up I have been spotting borderline stampedes of dogs coming in and out of buildings, or up and down the streets of some neighborhoods, and it is awesome.

Why, you ask? Because it’s SO entertaining. And don’t worry, non-dog-people, these friendly beasts aren’t completely taking over, (besides, often times there are separate service elevators for dogs, and if there’s not I have noticed lots of owners prefer taking the stairs anyway) it’s just that it’s kind of like having a front row seat at Westminster Dog Show, and while some of the pups are scrappy little guys, others are practically ‘Best in Show’.

Even just the other day, I was in the lobby of a building that I was showing my client when a nice man walked around the corner with this gorgeous brown, black and white dog prancing in front of him, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of its flowing mane. Yes, its flowing mane. “That’s a Bermese Mountain Dog,” my client said. “The purebreds are kind of rare, actually, because they’re so expensive.” I had no idea! But I totally got it. This bowser was ‘Best in Show’ material, for sure.

Anyway, it got me thinking. It feels like recently there are dogs everywhere! Dogs in walk-ups, dogs in lofts, dogs in high-rises, single-family homes and studios. BUT, the abundance of puppy love in some neighborhoods, also makes you notice when another neighborhood has no love for these four-legged fur balls at all. So, here is my unofficial list of the most dog-friendly neighborhoods in Chicago, as decided by yours truly.

5.) Wrigleyville

Really, I should give the five spot to Lakeview as a whole because it’s a very dog-friendly area and also the closest (in terms of proximity) on this list to Montrose Dog Beach, but it’s great to see the hungover college kids taking Fido on walks during my Sunday showings and I have to give them props for being such diligent owners. A+ you guys.

4.) Roscoe Village

Roscoe Village is super family friendly, for those who didn’t know that already, and from the looks of it lots of them end up deciding to add a furry friend to their growing brood (probably due in part to the irresistible insisting of a four-year-old who had been begging for months). It’s adorable to see the whole crew going on walks together: one parent holds the leash, the other pushes the stroller, and both sip on the Starbucks that they picked up over on the corner of Roscoe and Seeley. I dig it.

3.) River North

It always surprises me that most people don’t know how dog friendly this area actually is – especially the pocket near Kingsbury and Erie. I swear, every time I go into any building in this area I always see at least three dogs. I think there may actually be more pups than people! What’s even more amazing is how well-behaved they all seem to be. They are the definition of city dogs and I love it.

2.) Lincoln Park

I had a severe internal struggle as to whether or not River North or Lincoln Park deserved the number two spot on this list. It was close, but I gave it to Lincoln Park. Every time I’m out walking my own dog he makes at least four friends, and then dodges a fifth (unfriendly) growler, as we go. There are little puppy water bowls outside almost every shop in the summertime, and then there’s Wiggly Field on Sheffield and Schubert. I mean, how could you not give the top two spot to a neighborhood with a park named Wiggly Field? Side note, and word to the wise, if your dog likes chasing squirrels, maybe rethink walking him through the actual park, Lincoln Park. I learned that the hard way.

1.) Wicker Park

It might surprise people that I chose Wicker Park to take the number one spot, but there was just one overwhelming reason that I simply could not ignore: In the summertime, nearly every outdoor patio on Division is dog friendly. People leave their condos, apartments and homes to walk on down to Division where they can tie up their dogs and bask in the sun as they enjoy an ice-cold beer. Then, when they’re finished, they can walk their pup next door and do it all over again. I should mention the same could probably be said for Ukranian Village, but I haven’t noticed as many dogs there as I have in Wicker Park. Bucktown gets an honorable mention as well, as they have a dog park at Churchill Field on Damen that gets a lot of visitors.

So that’s my list! And if you don’t like it? Too bad.

Just kidding! You can always email me your suggestions at SellWithGrace@gmail.com. You can also email me for questions regarding Chicago real estate, or when buying or selling your home. FYI to potential sellers out there – for a totally free home valuation (done personally by yours truly!) visit www.grace.straubmilito.com/sell

Thanks, and enjoy the heat wave out there everyone!

Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail

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Like New York City’s High Line project before it, Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail is well on its way to becoming the next great elevated park success story. The project is currently under construction – transforming the old Canadian Pacific Railway viaduct into a beautiful 3-mile long elevated trail, incorporating five ground-level neighborhood parks, art installations and much more. The park will run through and connect the communities of Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park and Logan Square.

Scheduled for a Fall 2014 completion, the project is already in high gear. According to http://www.the606.org, as of January 9, 2014 the following have been completed:

  • The 21-day closures for viaduct work at Artesian, Maplewood and Talman are complete, and streets/sidewalks have been reopened.
  • Work to clean and assess viaduct walls at Sacramento/Humboldt Blvd is complete and lanes are open.
  • Fencing has been installed at ground-level areas from Ashland Ave (1600W) to Kimball Ave (3400W).
  • Brush, trees and plants that are invasive or in the way of construction have been removed along the Bloomingdale Trail and at future access points from Ashland Ave (1600W) to Kimball Ave (3400W).
  • Sandblasting work to clean the walls and wall repair has been completed at the Churchill Park Dog Friendly Area. The DFA is currently open to the public
  • Viaducts from Artesian to Fairfield and Mozart to Humboldt have been cleaned. And walls on the north side of Bloomingdale Ave have been cleaned as far west as Humboldt Blvd (3000W).
  • Construction fencing is complete at future access parks and along many areas of the trail, including securing former access points at Milwaukee and Leavitt. (If you see damage or destruction to construction fencing, please call (773) 661-9172. If you see trespassers in construction areas, please call police.)
  • Railroad track, ties and old railings along the trail have been removed from Ashland Ave. to Sawyer Ave.
  • Park 567 opened to the public at Milwaukee and Leavitt in early September, 2013.

For more construction updates on the Bloomingdale trail, including what is happening now and what else is coming up, visit: http://the606.org/january-9-2014-construction-update/

For more information regarding the Bloomingdale Trail in general, visit: http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/BloomingdaleTrail/Bloomingdale_Framework_Plan.pdf