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Get to Know Your Home’s History

Have you ever wondered about the history of the house you live in? If you aren’t the first owner then your house has a story to tell. Tracing your home’s history can be a fascinating project. There are basically two types of research you can do on your home: architectural research and historical research. Architectural research begins with looking at the type of construction of your home and will help establish the time period your home was built. Talking to your neighbors may help you learn more about the former owners or even the builder of the home. Most neighborhoods consist of similar homes built in a similar time period and if you are lucky enough to have a long time home owner as a neighbor, they may have a wealth of information about the history of your home. If you live in an older neighborhood with charming brick or stone 2 story homes, they could easily be over a hundred years old. If you live in a neighborhood of smaller wood frame ranch style homes, those were popular post war time with young families. The style of your home may help you determine the era it was constructed. Historical research usually begins with a search of public records and can help you discover previous owners and other events that may have happened on the property. The first place you might want to search is the county Recorder’s office to obtain the deed records for your home. This will help you establish a chain of ownership. You may also be able to locate and old abstract of title which...

What Is a VA Loan?

Today is Veteran’s day so I thought I would dedicate today’s column to all the Veterans out there and to explain one of the benefits of being a Veteran- the VA Guaranteed Loan Program. The program was started in 1944 as part of the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act or the G.I. Bill, as it became known, by President Franklin Roosevelt. The purpose was to help veterans returning from war re-establish credit, purchase housing and to stimulate the economy. Since its inception, the VA Guaranteed Loan Program has helped over 20 million veterans and their families purchase homes. There have been several changes to the program since it began but the goal has remained the same: to assist Veterans and their families in obtaining loans to purchase or re-finance their homes. VA loans can be used to purchase existing or new construction homes or to re-finance an existing mortgage. This loan program offers several important benefits over other traditional mortgages. Most notably is the opportunity to purchase a home with no down payment and no mortgage insurance. Typically a down payment of at least 3.5 % is required for most loan types. Some form of mortgage insurance is always required unless you have at least 20% to put down on a home. The VA also requires the property to meet certain requirements for it to qualify for this type of financing. The VA appraiser will make sure that the property is safe, sanitary and sound according to the VA loan requirements as well as making sure the property value is consistent with the loan amount. Who is eligible for the VA...

How Do You Know When to Accept an Offer?

When you put your house on the market you have high hopes of getting multiple full price offers the first day. Unfortunately for most sellers, that rarely happens. Average marketing time in Freeport for a single family home is about 7 months. So when you do get an offer how do you know if you should accept, counter or reject. You just got an offer so what do you do now? Your Realtor will help you go through the offer, show you the good and the bad elements and help you decide what the best way to proceed is. Sometimes the highest price offer isn’t necessarily the best option. It may not always be about price. Here are some other things you need to consider when looking at an offer on your home. How much earnest money is the buyer putting down? Earnest money is a sign of the buyer’s “good faith” and usually the more earnest money the buyer is offering to put down, the stronger the offer. What are the contingencies the buyer is requesting? Most offers contain some contingencies, or provisions that must be met in order for the purchase to go through. Typical contingencies are financing contingencies, appraisal contingencies, inspection contingencies and home sale contingencies. There are other contingencies the buyer may request as well but these are the most common. The more contingencies a buyer puts in an offer, the greater the likelihood of potential issues or the chances of a contingency not being satisfied. Some other things to consider are the kind of financing the buyer is looking to obtain and how much...

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,...

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