Your Ultimate Guide to Real Estate on Chicago's North Shore

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A Tale of 3 Home Buyers (and Why Picking the Right Real Estate Brokerage Matters)

success_failureOnce upon a time there were three young families looking to move from the city to the North Shore.

The first young family decided to hire an agent from a discount brokerage. They did not think they needed the help of a full service agent to help them find a house. They thought they could find it themselves on the internet and were looking forward to getting a rebate back from their agent when they closed on their new house.

The second young family hired an agent who was good at self-promotion and was very busy. They thought she must be the best because she advertised so much.

The third family hired an experienced agent from the biggest brokerage in town, and they relied on her to counsel them about the market, the neighborhoods and home values and to network with her fellow agents to find out about houses that might be right for them.

Now, it just so happened that all three young families were looking for a house in the same price range. And it just so happened that there were very few good houses on the market in this price range. So when the agent for the third family went to her office meeting on Monday morning, she was listening carefully as the other 100 agents announced what new listings they had. She heard about a new listing coming on the market that sounded perfect for her clients and she immediately asked if they could preview the property even before it was in the MLS. When her clients went to see the house they fell in love with it and decided to buy it. The day it came on the market they put in an offer and within a day they had the house under contract.

The first family with the discount broker and the second family with the busy agent also loved the house, but by the time they got to see it, it was too late.  The third family (with the Coldwell Banker agent) had already snapped it up. They moved into the house of their dreams and lived happily ever after.

The moral of this story: the real estate brokerage you select to help you buy your home really does matter, especially in a busy market. It can mean the difference between success and failure in finding and closing on your dream home.

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Fabulous Family Home in Kenilworth Gardens

2347 Greenwood, Wilmette

This House Checks All the Boxes on Your Wish List

The Come Home North Shore team just listed this classic center entry colonial house at 2347 Greenwood Avenue in Kenilworth Gardens.  Listed for $849,900, it’s a great value for a house this size in such a desirable location. Here’s what we think is so special about this home:

  • A large eat-in kitchen with a two-sided fireplace it shares with the adjacent family room.
  • Five bedrooms, which is not typical of Kenilworth Gardens houses.
  • Updated decor and freshly painted.
  • French doors leading out to a lovely blue-stone patio in back
  • Less than a block to Harper School and Thornwood Park
  • An easy walk to the Kenilworth Metra station.

You can get more info and see photos here. We’re having an open house this Sunday, February 26th from noon to 3:00 pm so please come see this wonderful home. Or call us to schedule a showing  at 847-881-6657.

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Is Customer Service Important to You? There’s an App for That!

on holdIf you’ve ever tried calling Comcast and spent an eternity on hold, you will love this nifty new app for your smart phone.

It’s called Fast Customer. If you need to reach the customer service department of a company and want to talk to a real live human being, here’s all you have to do:  1) download the Fast Customer app onto your phone (it’s free). 2) Send a text message with the name of the company you’re trying to reach to 936-225-5757. 3) Wait a few minutes and you’ll receive a phone call from a customer service representative from that company. That’s it. No more phone tree or endless loops, no more waiting on hold. No more “Please stay on the line. Your call is important to us.” You can just get on with your life until a live customer service rep calls you.

Even if you don’t have a smart phone, you can use Fast Customer’s service through your Internet browser.

Of course, when you want to reach us at Come Home North Shore, you don’t need a fancy app. Just call us at 847-881-6657 and one of us will always answer your call. Now that’s customer service!

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Tax Benefits of Home Ownership

Given all the challenges homeowners have faced in the last few years, we often forget about all the benefits to owning your own home. Among the benefits are the tax deductions for those who qualify. Here are six of the top tax advantages of home ownership,courtesy of Buffini and Company:
house made of money

  1. Write off the interest you paid on a mortgage of up to $1 million, as long as the property is your main or secondary residence. This deduction really pays off during the first years of owning the home, when interest accounts for most of your payment, also known as home acquisition debt.
  2. Deduct the interest you pay on home equity loans of up to $100,000, so long as you are not subject to the alternative minimum tax or AMT (unless you use the loan for home improvements).
  3. Deduct your state and local property taxes from your federal income taxes, where applicable.*
  4. Deduct your home buying expenses, including loan origination fees, prorated interest on a new loan or prorated property taxes.*
  5. If you sold your home in 2011, you may not have to pay federal income taxes on the earnings from the sale, up to $250,000 for single filers or $500,000 for joint filers, as long as you used the home as a primary residence for at least two of the five years prior to selling.
  6. Rent your home out for up to 15 days and keep the income generated – it’s not taxable.

* Not an eligible deduction if you are subject to the AMT.

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Can’t Sell Your North Shore Home? Thinking of Renting it Out?

Ever since the housing bubble burst, many of us have become reluctant landlords. Unable to sell our homes for enough to recoup our investment in them, many would-be sellers have decided to rent until the market improves. Before you go down that path, consider these tips from Keeping Current Matters:

Set Up an Appointment with an Eviction Attorney

People rent their homes assuming their tenants will pay the rent every month. But in this economy, there are millions of people who can’t pay their mortgage, and there are also many who can’t (or won’t) pay their rent. But once someone is living in your home, it’s not easy to get them out, even if they have not paid the rent in several months. You should understand the legal challenges of eviction before deciding to rent your home.

Consider Hiring a Property Manager

Unless you are a full time investor, you may want to hire a professional to find a qualified tenant, collect the rent and manage the problems. Otherwise you are opening yourself up to the possibility of receiving phone calls at all hours of the day and night to take care of maintenance issues or problems that a neighbor may be creating for your tenant.

Create a Realistic Budget

Sure, you will receive revenue in the form of rent. But don’t forget you’ll also have expenses:

  • Mortgage payment (unless there is no mortgage on the house you will rent out)
  • Property taxes
  • Maintenance expenses such as repairing or replacing the roof, heating and AC, appliances, etc.
  • Insurance – you may need to increase your liability coverage when you have tenants living in your house. Be sure and check with your insurance company.

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Has the Economy Turned the Corner?

economic indicatorsYou be the judge… below are some statistics compiled by Betsy Hanrahan of PHH Home Loans.

  • Consumer confidence is up to 56 from a low of 40.9
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been up every quarter for the past seven quarters.
  • Industrial production was up every month in 2011.
  • Inflation held under 4% for the past two years.
  • December jobless claims hit the lowest level since 2008.
  • The unemployment rate is down to 8.6%, the lowest in two and a half years.
  • Over 1,766,000 jobs were created in 2011.
  • Retail sales have gained every month for the past six months.
  • Holiday sales were up 3.8% over the last year and beat the ten-year average of 2.6%.
  • The home affordability index of 183.7 is the highest level in decades.

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Avoca Home Sales in Winnetka – 2011

There is one small part of Winnetka that does not attend District 36 schools and that is the unincorporated area that includes Woodley Road, Woodley Woods and part of Indian Hill. Most of this area is served by Avoca District 37 (and another small part of Indian Hill is served by Wilmette District 39, just to further confuse you). These are neighborhoods with expensive homes, as you can see by the average prices below, but not all of Avoca is this pricey. In fact, Avoca’s service area also includes parts of Glenview, Northfield and Wilmette, which tend to have more modest housing stock than the Winnetka part of the district.

Avoca Home Sales in Winnetka – 2011 vs. 2010

Avoca Home Sales (Winnetka only)Source: MRED llc- Single family home data – Deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

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Crow Island Neighborhood Home Sales – 2011

This is the third installment of neighborhood-level real estate stats for Winnetka. It covers the Crow Island School “footprint,” the area bordered on the north by Pine St., on the west by Hibbard Rd., on the east by Green Bay Rd. and on the south by Hill Rd. Although sales in this area were up dramatically over 2010, median and average sales prices decreased 14% and 15% respectively.

Crow Island Neighborhood Home Sales – 2011 vs. 2010

Crow Island Home Sales 2011Source: MRED llc- Single family home data. Deemed reliable but not guaranteed

Wondering what your neighbor’s house sold for? Just email us with the address of the property and we’d be happy to send you that information (caveat: only if the transaction has closed. Until then the information is not available).

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Hubbard Woods Neighborhood Home Sales -2011

Here’s the second in a series of posts providing hyper-local home sales data for Winnetka. Yesterday was Greeley. Today is Hubbard Woods, the area north of Pine St. on the west side of Green Bay Rd. and north of Tower Rd. on the east side of Green Bay. This neighborhood, whose sales were a bit lackluster last year, came charging back in 2011, posting a 31% gain in sales and a 17% increase in median price.

Hubbard Woods Neighborhood Home Sales – 2011 vs. 2010

Hubbard Woods neighborhood home sales 2011Source: MRED llc – Single family homes data. Deemed reliable but not guaranteed

Winnetka District 36 map

Wondering what your neighbor’s house sold for? Just email us with the address of the property and we’d be happy to send you that information (caveat: only if the transaction has closed. Until then the information is not available).

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Greeley Neighborhood Home Sales – 2011

Last week I provided some hyper-local home sales data about Wilmette’s neighborhoods. This week I’m heading north to Winnetka, where I have broken down the numbers by the three elementary school neighborhoods in District 36 and one in District 37 (Avoca). First up is Greeley, which covers the area east of Green Bay Rd up to Tower Rd.

Although Winnetka sales overall were down 4% from last year, Greeley’s were down 29%. Greeley’s median sales price, on the other hand, was up 5% while Winnetka on the whole declined by 9%. Days on market for those homes sold decreased 37% vs. 16% for Winnetka as a whole.

Greeley Neighborhood Home Sales – 2011 vs. 2010

Greeley home sales 2011 vs. 2010

MRED llc- Data for single family homes. Deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Wondering what your neighbor’s house sold for? Just email us with the address of the property and we’d be happy to send you that information (caveat: only if the transaction has closed. Until then the information is not available).

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