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I Bought a House, Now What Do I Do?

You just closed on your first house. Congratulations! You are now a home owner! After all the excitement of finding your perfect home, navigating the paperwork for the Realtor, the lender and the title company and the exhaustion from packing and moving, now what? Owning a home is a big responsibility and a big investment. You want to protect your investment and get the most out of your new home. Here are some things you should now about home ownership and maintenance. The very first thing you should do after the closing is change the locks. You will get keys at the closing to get you in the home, but how many other people might have keys to your new home? Especially if the home you are buying was a bank owned property or foreclosure, there could be lots of people out there with access to your house. Former owners, landscape people, cleaning people, contractors, realtors or just about anybody else could have keys to your property. For the price of some new locks and a few hours’ time (or better yet, call a locksmith to do it for you), you can have the peace of mind of knowing the only person with keys to your house is You. The next thing you should do is locate your main electrical box and the water main shut off. If you have had a home inspection, the inspector showed you where these things are located and how to shut them off, but if you didn’t have an inspection or need a refresher, locate them now. You should change the furnace filter...

Update on “Know Before You Owe “Mortgage Regulations

If you have bought or sold property with a mortgage since October of 2015 you probably noticed some things have changed. If you are in the process of buying or selling right now, there are some things you should know. The new mortgage rules that the government put into effect last fall have changed the way borrowers compare loan products and fees and regulates the timing of loan disclosures. The law that went into effect in October of last year is called the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule or TRID. The idea behind this change was to allow consumers to shop around for a loan and have time to compare payments and fees. The new disclosure form has all the closing costs and estimated cash to close in a standardized format which makes comparing loan products easier for the consumer. There are benefits to the buyers with these new disclosures which not only give them a clearer picture of the costs, but a period of time to go over the figures and ask questions before they commit to the loan. The government felt that one of the reasons for the lending crisis was that consumers were not given adequate time to read the loan documents and ask questions before they had to close on the property. These new rules require waiting periods before final loan documents can be signed. There is also a low threshold for any changes in costs from the initial disclosure period. The new regulations require the buyer to be given the Closing Disclosure form at least 3 days before the closing so they have time to...

Priced to Sell

One of the most difficult parts of putting your home up for sale is determining the listing price. Price it too high and it won’t sell, price it too low and maybe you are leaving money on the table. If you are like most homeowners, you are somewhat emotionally attached to your home. You loved it enough to buy it right? You have family memories there, you have it decorated just the way you want it and you know it’s the best house on the block! Do you really think you can be objective when it comes to setting a sale price? The answer, if you are being honest, is probably not. One of the things a professional Realtor does is help the homeowner arrive at a listing price. This is a delicate combination of part math, part skill, part experience and part timing. The Realtor has no emotional attachment to the property and can be completely objective. They will look at the “comps” or comparable sales and listings to help establish a price range. This process is called a Comparative Market Analysis or CMA. It is not an appraisal, which can only be done by a licensed appraiser, but a study of market activity of similar properties. After looking at what comparable properties have recently sold for, your Realtor will look at the active listing competition you will be facing. These two studies will help establish a range of value for your home. That range will then be adjusted up or down for condition and amenity differences between your home and the comparable properties. If your home has...
Is Your Home Ready to Sell?

Is Your Home Ready to Sell?

There are a lot of things to consider when putting your home on the market. You need to find the right Realtor and the right price. You need to make sure your home is in top condition for potential buyers. Most sellers will fix obvious problems that they are aware of before putting their home on the market and clean and de clutter, but what else can they do to make sure their house stands out from the crowd? Staging may be the way to do that. If you have the ability to hire a professional to stage your house for you, then that may be a good investment in getting top dollar for your home. Stagers are trained to organize, de- personalize and decorate your home to show its full potential. A professional stager can be expensive and what can you do if you can’t afford to hire a professional? Here are some tips that may help you stage your own home without breaking the bank. Staging involves more than just a thorough cleaning and de cluttering. A professional knows exactly what is needed to showcase the space you have. They will often bring in pieces of furniture, art and accessories to make your space look like a model home. Not everyone can afford to hire a professional or re decorate their entire house before putting it on the market. Here are some inexpensive things you can do to freshen up your spaces. Great lighting is very important. If you have dark rooms, get more light on the subject. Bring in more lamps, add higher wattage light bulbs...

Earnest Money 101

What is earnest money? Earnest money is the amount of money a buyer puts down to accompany an offer to purchase real estate. Basic contract law requires “consideration” as an element of a valid contract. The earnest money deposit is that consideration when a buyer makes an offer. It is used to show the seller that the buyer is “earnest” in his desire to purchase his property. Without earnest money deposits, buyers could make offers on multiple properties leaving the sellers with little recourse if the buyers back out of the contract. The amount of the earnest money deposit is negotiated between the buyer and the seller but is usually between 2 and 5% of the offered price. Who holds the earnest money is also negotiable, but in this area it is common practice for the listing office to hold the earnest money in their trust account. The escrow or trust account is a non interest bearing account where earnest money deposits are held until the property closes or the contract is terminated. At closing, the earnest money deposit becomes a credit to the buyer for any closing costs they may have, or it is subtracted from the purchase price of the property. This process sounds easy enough but what happens when the property doesn’t close? Who gets the earnest money then? That’s where things can get sticky. Earnest money is not like a security deposit. The buyer does not automatically get their money back if the property doesn’t close. The seller doesn’t automatically get to keep the money of the property doesn’t close either. How this situation gets...

Illinois Realtors Celebrate 100 Year History

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Illinois Association of Realtors. Illinois was among the first in the country to form a state Realtors Association and is now the 6th largest in the U.S with 44,000 members. The Realtor association represents one of the largest trade associations in Illinois. The name has been changed to Illinois Realtors but its mission remains the same: “to serve as a collective voice and committed advocate for the state’s real estate industry and the issues it faces”. The association was an early proponent of real estate license law in Illinois as well as promoting the highest standards and ethics in our profession. The licensing and training center facilitates training and continuing education so that our members may better serve the public. The government affairs division is a leader in the industry and fights for the best interests of Realtors and property owners throughout the State. The governmental affairs program includes the Realtors Political Action Committee or RPAC, which was formed in 1969. The purpose of this committee is to promote and elect bipartisan candidates that support Realtors interests and protect private property rights in Illinois. Realtors contribute voluntarily to RPAC, the donations are not part of the dues Realtor members pay annually. Last year, Illinois Realtors raised more than $1,000,000 for RPAC and many of our local Realtors contribute money every year to help our politicians protect private property rights. Here are some of the ways RPAC has protected your property rights recently: stopped a proposed statewide mandate that would have added a $500 pre- sale video sewer inspection...

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