BBQ safety tips and tricks

With the weather warming up it’s the start of a new season, barbecue season! BBQ’s are the best activity to bring friends, family and co-workers together. When throwing a BBQ you are concerned with the people you invite, the food and equipment to grill, the music and the thirst quenching beverages. The last thing on everyones mind is that BBQ a could potentially be dangerous! Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered so yours never is!

Here are 7 tips to make sure your BBQ is safe and your guests forever call you a grilling expert!

  • Grilling Safety

    Nothing spoils an outdoor barbecue more than burning the house down. Here are 6 tips to stay safe when grilling this summer, plus videos of cookout calamities. Read

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.

Copyright 2017 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

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“[Total existing home] sales are now at their highest pace since February 2007 (5.79 million), have increased year-over-year for nine consecutive months and are 9.6 percent above a year ago (5.01 million).”

-Larry Yun, Chief Economist at NAR

Nationally existing home sales are at their highest level in 8 years. Home prices have surpassed the 2006 peak, indicating a full recovery from the Great Recession.

WARNING: Chicago Winter Parking Bans Enforced, Cars Towed, Even When No Snow.

The year was 1979 when an “avalanche of snow protest votes carried Jane Byrne to the most stunning political upset in Chicago history… as the second biggest primary election turnout in 40 years crushed the legendary Democratic political machine and ended Michael Bilandic’s two-year reign in City Hall.” – The Chicago Tribune

Many still remember that massive January blizzard, which buried the city of Chicago in 19 inches of snow in less than 24 hours, and caused citywide paralysis for motorists over thirty-five years ago

The city’s inadequate response to the blizzard was blamed primarily on then-mayor Michael Bilandic, something that political rival, Jane Byrne, capitalized on during the campaign before ultimately defeating Bilandic in the February 27 primary.

In order to prevent another disaster the likes of which we haven’t seen since ’79 (and to ensure that the most critical roadways in Chicago are kept open to full capacity at all times), the city of Chicago now enforces a Winter Overnight Parking Ban on 107 miles of vital arterial streets from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m., Dec. 1 – April 1 REGARDLESS OF SNOW.

Motorists who ignore this permanently posted seasonal tow zone face a $150 towing fee (minimum) in addition to a $60 ticket and an initial $20 daily storage fee.

A separate snow-related parking ban exists for another 500 miles of main streets and can be activated after there are at least two inches of snow on the street.

A total of 239 cars were towed yesterday, Dec. 1, 2014 because of the Winter Parking Ban—something to think about the next time you’re in a hurry to grab parking in Chicago.

Sources:

City of Chicago

Chicago Tribune

We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.

– Sir Winston Churchill

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.

-Realtor.com

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!

Lollapalooza 2014 Survival Guide

With Lollapalooza less than one week away (Hard to believe, right? Where did summer go?) it’s time to start prepping for the best festival that the Midwest has to offer. If you were lucky enough to grab tickets at face value before Lolla’s website crashed and sold out, then nicely done! If not, StubHub is still chock-full of tickets for all of you procrastinators out there. Sure, they may be a little pricey at this point ($159 for Friday, $179 for Saturday, $118 for Sunday, and a cool $307 for the 3-Day) but if you’re reading this article you’re obviously at least interested in going, so to you I say, ‘It’s not too late!’

I was out on showings in Lincoln Park the day that the tickets went on sale, but thanks to a friend of mine and the sixteen screens she had open during that first wave of ticket sales, I now have a colorful new 3-Day wristband that I’ll be slapping on come Friday morning. If you’re planning on going, too, the time has come for you to start researching what to pack, where to park, who to— oh wait, I’ve already done that for you.

Consider this your 2014 Lollapalooza Cheat Sheet. You’re welcome 🙂

Getting There 

  • By Plane
    • Chicago is home to two international airports – Midway and O’Hare. Either will do the trick for those of you coming in from great distances. Safe travels!
  •  By Public Transportation
    • CTA, Metra and Pace – all in one place. Plan your Lollapalooza trip using the RTA‘s trip planner goroo.com with real-time travel information. Traveling from the suburbs? Metra’s commuter rail system makes it easy. Click here for Metra details, and to see a map of nearby Metra stations.
  • By Bike
    • Bike parking will be available south of the main entrance on Michigan Avenue. You’ll find bike racks both north and south of Balbo Ave. Bring a lock!
  • By Car
    • Security patrolled, 24-hour parking is available directly beneath Grant Park in four underground garages, as well as Soldier Field’s North Garage.
    • Uber is a great alternative if you don’t want to deal with the hassles of parking. New users can enter Promo code LOLLA for a free first ride, up to $30 off.
  • Park Entrance
    • Grant Park in downtown Chicago is the annual host of Lollapalooza. There’s a Main Entrance to Lolla at Michigan & Congress, in addition to the North Entrance at Columbus & Monroe. The Box Office is just north of the Main Entrance at S. Michigan Ave & E. Van Buren St. Your wristband allows entry at both entrances, so check and see which line is shorter.
  • Park Hours
    • Gates for Lolla will open at 11AM CST and the music will end at 10PM CST.

What to Wear and Bring

Weather

As of today, Monday, July 28, the never-been-wrong-a-day-in-their-lives meteorologists are predicting a warm Chicago weekend. Mostly sunny, 80 degrees with a slight chance of an isolated thunderstorm. Assuming they’re right, I’m calling these the necessities:

mud

  • Clothes You Can Ruin – I’m not saying that you will ruin your clothes, but the likelihood is extraordinary. Every year Grant Park looks like a post-apocalyptic mess by the end of day on Sunday – especially when it rains and everything turns into a mudslide. Don’t bring anything you would be devastated to lose.
  • Backpack – Distributing the weight across both shoulders instead of one is huge.
  • Water bottle – This goes in your backpack. It’s cool to drink water. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  • Comfortable shoes – Whatever happens, you do NOT want to be the one person there in sky-high heels. It’s not a good look, and people will laugh at you on the inside for your poor planning.
  • Shorts – or a fun skirt or sundress. Flow-y-ness is best.
  • Head Accessory – Hats, bandanas, headbands, wraps, even flowers if you’re into that kind of thing. It’s the only time it’s considered borderline acceptable to wear a headband made of sunflowers when you’re a grown up. Knock yourself out.
  • Bathing Suit – Try to refrain from wearing only a bathing suit, but they are great to wear under your top in case it rains.
  • Totem – People always get separated and it is zero fun having to miss your favorite show because Suzie Q or John Smith got lost on their way back from the bathroom. Bring a flag or a balloon so your friends can find you from a distance.
  • Cash – ATM fees are a joke.
  • Sunglasses – Just maybe not your most expensive pair.
  • Spray Sunscreen – Spray is quicker than lotion, and nobody likes sunburn.
  • Bug Spray – I loathe mosquitos. Loathe.
  • Phone Charger – duh.
  • Travel-Sized Kleenex – In case they run out of TP. It’s more discreet to carry.
  • Chapstick – Again, duh.
  • Oil blotting paper – You will sweat. Your Instagram friends will thank you.
  • Camera – Speaking of Instagram, don’t waste your entire experience posting photos from your phone to social media. Take photos on your camera and post them later. You know, the old fashioned way.

One last thing, try to make a schedule before you get there. This year’s line-up is pretty great and it would be so disappointing to miss a good show just because you wound up at the wrong stage at the wrong time.

Check them out below if you need a refresher. Looking forward to the weekend. Perhaps I’ll even see you there!

lollapalooza-2014

 

 

2014 Schedule – Chicago Park District’s ‘Movies in the Park’

 

2014 Movie Schedule:

JULY
7/15    Chicago PG-13 Montgomery Ward Park
7/17    The Sandlot PG Wicker Park
7/19    42 PG-13 DuSable Museum of African American History
7/20    The Book Thief PG-13 Humboldt Park
7/20    Ghostbusters PG Jonquil Playlot
7/20    The Hunger Games: Catching Fire PG-13 Tuley Park
7/21    Sixteen Candles PG-13 Fulton River Park
7/28    The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer NR Belmont Harbor
7/29    Gravity PG-13 Montgomery Ward Park
7/30    The Muppet Movie G  Touhy Park

AUGUST
8/2    Mr. Peabody & Sherman PG Jonquil Playlot
8/2    The Nut Job PG Sauganash Park
8/3    The Hunger Games PG-13 Lincoln Park Cultural Center
8/5    Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 PG Trebes Park
8/6    Latino Film Festival Selection NR Loyola Park
8/7    The Hunt for Red October PG Wicker Park
8/8    The Goonies PG Wrightwood Park
8/11    True Grit NR Cricket Hill
8/12    The Blind Side PG-13 Montgomery Ward Park
8/13    Claudine PG South Shore Cultural Center
8/14    Despicable Me 2 PG Hamlin Park
8/16    Twenty Feet From Stardom PG-13 DuSable Museum of African America History
8/17    The Thin Man NR Berger Park Cultural Center
8/18    The Lego Movie PG Lake Shore Park
8/19    Fast & Furious 6 PG-13 Fulton River Park
8/19    The Nut Job PG Paschen Park
8/20    The Princess Bride PG Chicago History Museum
8/20    Car Wash PG South Shore Cultural Center
8/22    The Benchwarmers PG-13 Humboldt Park
8/23    The Wizard of Oz PG Oz Park
8/25    Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom PG Grant Park: Grove 5
8/25    The Great Gatsby PG-13 South Shore Cultural Center
8/26    The Hunger Games: Catching Fire PG-13 Lake Shore Park
8/26    The Lego Movie PG Montgomery Ward Park
8/27    The Wiz G South Shore Cultural Center
8/28    The Goonies PG Holstein Park
8/28    The Lego Movie PG Chicago Women’s Park & Gardens
8/30    The Hunger Games PG-13 Jonquil Playlot

 

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

Eligibility:

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

Requirements:

  •  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

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

Eligibility:

  • Buyers must be first-time homebuyers

Requirements:

  • 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

Eligibility:

  • Buyers need not be first-time homebuyers

Requirements:

  • 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

Eligibility:

  • Buyers must be first-time homebuyers


Requirements:

  • 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
VA

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.

Eligibility:

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

Requirements:

  • 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

Eligibility:

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

Requirements:

  • 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 🙂

SellWithGrace@gmail.com