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What Is An MLS?

The Multiple Listing Service, or MLS as it is commonly referred to, has been around as a concept since 1907. Originally, REALTORS® would get together and discuss properties they were trying to sell in the hopes that one of their colleagues had a buyer. In 1908 the organization that is now the National Association of REALTORS®, adopted the use of this system for all its members. So what exactly is an MLS? While it may appear that the MLS is a large national data base it is actually made up of many regional MLS’s. Each area has its own MLS with its own members that pay dues to belong. Members put their listings into the system allowing other members to access information about all property locally available. Anyone belonging to the MLS can access information for a buyer they are working with and search available listing that might be a good fit. Realtors also rely on the MLS to search for “comps” or comparable sales when pricing a new listing. Members have access to all local properties that have sold so they can have a database to help them price a property correctly for the local market. Appraisers and lenders can also join an MLS as an affiliate member and have access to the same information for use in their professions as well. Because you must be a licensed REALTOR® to be a member of the local MLS, home sellers are not allowed to post their home on the MLS. REALTORs® pay a fee to belong and that is part of the service they bring to a homeowner or...

Understanding Your Property Tax Bill

By now, you have probably received your property tax bill and I’m sure you are wondering why is it so much and where does that money go? The amount of your tax bill is based on the assessed value of your property. In Illinois, the assessed value is 33 1/3% of the property’s fair market value and the fair market value is determined by the County Assessor. Typically, property is re-assessed every four years and can result in a new fair market value. When you receive your assessment notice make sure the information on there is accurate. Check that the square footage, number of bedrooms & baths, etc. is accurate. If this information is incorrect it can affect the value of the property. If you think there is an error in the assessment you should contact the County Assessor’s office. Once the assessed value of your property has been determined, the County Clerk adds up the tax rates of all the taxing bodies in your area. Different areas will have different taxing bodies reflected on their tax bills. For example, in Freeport our tax bills include the City of Freeport, the Library, Highland College, the Park District, the School District, Mosquito Abatement, Freeport Township and the County. Your tax dollars are divided among all these taxing bodies to pay for the services we receive as well as the employees that provide these services. The Freeport School District receives the largest percentage of the property taxes with a little more than half of the total amount going to the schools. The County is next followed by the City of Freeport,...

De-Cluttering Tips for Sellers

Spring may have finally arrived and so has spring cleaning time. If you are thinking of putting your home on the market one of the most important first steps is a thorough cleaning and de-cluttering. If you aren’t in the market to sell right now, I bet you can still use a few de-cluttering tips! Most buyers will not look past a dirty, cluttered home no matter how much potential it may have. A sparkling clean, orderly home will help buyers actually see what your home has to offer instead of focusing on all your stuff and will usually sell quicker and for a higher price. If you are planning on moving all that stuff has to go anyway, so you might as well do it before you list your house and hit the market ready for a quick sale. The process of de-cluttering can be daunting but breaking it down in to more manageable segments is the key to success. First, make a master plan. Walk in your front door and look around. This is the first impression your buyers will have so make it count! Walk through every room with this same focus. Look at each room like you are seeing it for the first time. Write a list of what needs to be done for each room with the goal of less is more. Clean, bright, open rooms is what you are after. In addition to de-cluttering and deep cleaning, make note of any repairs or touch ups that are needed as you go room by room. Now is the time to replace burnt out lightbulbs,...

Celebrating 50 Years of the Fair Housing Act

April 11 marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act being signed in to law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This historic act occurred just days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Act reads” It is the policy of the United States to provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing throughout the United States”. These few simple sentences paved the way for people to legally be able to choose where they wanted to live and has served as the basis for making many forms of housing discrimination illegal. The original Act, passed in 1968, prohibited discrimination based on race, color religion and national origin. In 1974 it was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sex. Since then, the Act has been expanded to include familial status, handicap, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition to these federally protected classes, Illinois also includes ancestry, age (over 40 specifically), marital status, citizenship status, order of protection status, sexual orientation-gender identity, unfavorable discharge from military service, pregnancy and arrest record. This legislation has made it illegal to discriminate against anyone in a protected class when it comes to housing. This law applies to renting as well as purchasing housing. It is also illegal to refuse to rent to someone because of discrimination and the Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD has very stiff penalties for violations. You can be fined up to $16,000 for a first offense and upwards of $100,000 for additional offenses. These violations are extremely serious and the government has zero tolerance for such discrimination. As a member of the National...

Tax Tips for Homeowners

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year again-tax time! For some people, this may be the last year that you can take advantage of deductions that come with being a homeowner. Since most of the tax law changes don’t take effect until 2018, there are still deductions available to you when filing taxes for 2017. The deduction that has the highest value for most people is the mortgage interest deduction that you can take if you itemize and use a schedule A. You can still deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage up to $500,000 if you file separately or $1,000,000 if you file jointly. Most of us aren’t paying that much in interest but you can deduct what you are paying up to that limit. In some circumstances, interest you pay on a home equity loan or line of credit may also be deductible as long as you don’t exceed the previously mentioned limits. Starting with the 2018 tax year, those limits will change and fewer people will be able to deduct their mortgage interest because of the increase in the standard deduction. Also deductible this year is prepaid interest or points you may have paid when you took out your mortgage or when you refinanced and took out money for improvements to your home. These are typically 100% deductible if you itemize. If you paid points or prepaid interest you should have received a form 1098 from your lender. Another deduction that may be ending this year for some is your property tax deduction. Starting with the 2018 tax year, you can only deduct state and local...

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