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

Archive for the 'Selling a home' Category

Congratulations to Anne West

Five Star logoWe are proud to announce that our very own Anne West, co-founder of Coldwell Banker’s Come Home North Shore Team, was once again chosen by Five Star Professional as one of the Chicago area’s Five Star Real Estate Agents for 2014. Less than 7% of Chicago-area real estate agents are selected for this special award which honors exceptional service to clients. Anne was featured, along with other award winners, in a special section of the October issue of Chicago Magazine which partnered with Five Star Professional in in the selection process.

Anne WestThe Five Star Real Estate Agent award program is the largest and most widely published real estate agent award program in North America. Agents are measured using an objective, in-depth research methodology with significant focus on customer feedback and overall satisfaction. Five Star Professionals research is extensive, with more than 10 million consumers, peers and other stakeholders contacted each year.

This is the fourth year in a row that Anne has been selected, proving once again that you are in great hands with Anne and the entire Come Home North Shore team! Join us as we congratulate Anne on a job well done!

Come Home North Shore is one of the top real estate teams on the North Shore. We are experts at marketing, negotiation and correctly pricing homes to sell and are experienced in the sale and purchase of new construction, lakefront and luxury homes. If you are thinking of buying or selling in the following communities: Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe, Evanston, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Lake Forest, Northfield or Glenview, give us a call at 847-881-6657.

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Who Answers The Phone When a Buyer Calls?

yard-signs If you’ve ever looked closely at a For Sale sign in someone’s yard, you’ll notice there’s a phone number to call if you want more information about the house.

In most cases this is the general number for the real estate brokerage that the home is listed with, but sometimes it’s the real estate agent’s direct number. When a prospective buyer calls the number on the sign, one of two things typically happens:

1) Someone at the brokerage working “floor duty” answers and will look up the listing online or in a big binder they have on the floor duty desk. (Floor duty is what agents do for a couple of hours at a time to try and drum up business from people who call in. Usually they are newer, less experienced agents who do not have many clients yet).

In most cases the agents on floor duty have never been inside the house and can only provide information that is on the listing sheet – which is the same information you can get yourself on any real estate web site: asking price, number of bedrooms and baths, etc.

or

2) The call goes to the agent’s voice-mail and if you leave a message you may hear back from the agent later that day or the next day …or never.

Come Home North Shore Yard SignThe Come Home North Shore Team has a Google Voice number that rings simultaneously on each of our phones. The first one to respond takes the call. Usually that’s Paula, because her cell phone is an extension of her hand and she has lightening fast reactions. Sometimes, if she’s in the shower or on another call I will be first to answer. In any case, the good news if you’re the seller of that house is that someone who knows the finer points of your home is taking the call and can talk up the house and at the same time determine if the buyer is a serious prospect.

And if you’re a prospective buyer the good news is you will actually reach a human being who can tell you what you want to know about the house…immediately.

We are North Shore real estate specialists and one of the top teams in the area. If you would like to schedule a buyer or seller consultation with the Come Home North Shore team, please call 847-881-6657 or send us a note here. We would love to help you!

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Getting Rid of Old Paint on the North Shore

old paint cansA couple of weeks ago at a final walk-through of one of our listings, the buyers were surprised to see that there were several paint cans left in the garage after our client had moved out. Some of the paint was relatively new, since our client had re-painted a few rooms to freshen them up before putting his home on the market. He assumed the buyers would want the paint for touch-ups. But they didn’t. They wanted it gone. All of it. They were planning to repaint the entire inside of the house a different color.

That was at 7:00 pm the night before the 9:00 am closing. My client had already moved and was not in a position to deal with the problem. Paula and I had to get rid of that paint and bring a photo of the clean (paint-less) garage to closing. Paint is not one of those things you can just chuck in the garbage. If it’s oil based it’s considered hazardous waste and must be taken to a collection site where it will be dealt with in an environmentally safe way. If it’s latex, it will need to be completely dried out before it can be thrown out.

Most people keep old paint around because: 1) they think they may need it sometime; or 2) they don’t know how to dispose of it. That’s why there are usually 10-20 cans of paint in everyone’s garage or basement.

If you are planning to sell your house in the future, you should be aware that most buyers do not want your old paint. So you might as well make a plan to use it up or dispose of it. You could give some rooms a fresh coat of paint. You could donate it to a local charity, theater group, school or church. Otherwise, here’s what you can do:

Oil-based Paint

You can’t thow it out. You must take it to an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency collection center. The closest collection center to the North Shore is in Gurnee:

Solid Waste Agency of Lake County
By appointment only on second Saturday or fourth Monday of each month
1311 N. Estes Street, Gurnee
(847) 336-9340
swalco.org

Or, you can wait for one of the one-day collection events that take place from time to time on the North Shore.

Latex Paint

Leave the paint can open in a well-ventilated area until it dries out. Then you can put it in the garbage- but leave the lid off so your garbage collector knows it’s dry. To expedite the drying-out process you can mix kitty litter or sawdust in with the paint. Even shredded up newspaper will work…anything that will absorb the paint. If you don’t have the time or inclination to do this, you can take it to a local hardware store (see list below) and, for a fee, they will take care of it.

North Shore Hardware Stores That Take Latex Paint

  • Millen Hardware, 1219 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette.   (847) 251-3060
  • Skokie Ace Hardware, 5035 Oakton St., Skokie. (847) 673-0700
  • Weiss Ace Hardware, 1560 Waukegan Rd., Glenview  (847) 724-3444
  • Craftwood Lumber and Hardware, 1590 Old Deerfield Rd., Highland Park  (847) 831-2800

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Making a Move Less Stressful for the Kids

Moving with kidsLife changes are difficult and stressful, and moving can be especially troubling for children. They are asked to leave behind their whole world and everything that is familiar to them. What can parents do to help children accept the move and view the changes in their lives as an adventure and not a nightmare?

Recognize the Different Age Stages

Really young children like toddler age, may not be totally aware of the changes that are taking place. However, children between the ages of 5 and elementary, understand the concept of moving, and that their lives are about to be different. They might take the news a bit harder, and will express their concerns more verbally. Letting them spend one special day with their friends before the move; take pictures and create a photo album can lessen the stress, and help make parting a little easier.

Teens are the most theatrical group, and will vigorously protest the need to move. Children in this age group have developed special friendships, and are socially involved at school. They will need time to process and cope with the ordeal of leaving their friends. They will also be worried about making new friends and fitting in at their new school. If possible, parents can agree to allow their child to visit with their friends at least a couple of times per year. Remind them that technology allows them to easily stay in touch via Facebook,  Skype. or another popular media website. To keep a healthy open relationship with children, and to keep communication channels open, follow these simple tips and advice;

Be Honest and Up front

No one like surprises. Share why you need to move, and why the move is important. Children don’t like to be deceived or tricked, so don’t avoid answering questions. Don’t spring the move on them at the last minute. Let them know in advance that a relocation to a new home, city or state is a necessity, and why. Answer any questions they might have, and don’t be afraid to share your own personal feelings.

Plan the Move Together

Children like to be a part of their parents’ world. Make moving a family project. Let children help prepare for the move, and encourage them to pack their own boxes. Talk to them about giving their extra clothes, toys or other items to Goodwill or to a friend or family member they will be leaving behind. If necessary, help children to write “Good bye” letters to their friends, teachers and classmates. Plan a going away party, and let children invite their neighborhood friends and classmates. This will help them with closure.

Share and Talk About Negative or Scary Feelings

Children might not bring up the subject of moving, as they may be angry, afraid or confused. However, initiating a conversation about moving, and how scary it can be can alleviate the tension. Children will adjust more easily if they can share their feelings and concerns. Let them know that everyone anticipates changes in their lives, and that moving is not a bad change. Let them know that while they are moving away, they still have their old friends, and now they will be making new friends, as well. Encourage children to get the names, addresses and telephone numbers of their old friends so they can stay in touch.

Scope Out the New Location Together

Bring children along to the real estate office, or to see the houses you are considering. If possible, allow them to choose their own bedroom. Ask them questions that encourages them to talk, such as,  “Where do you think your bed should go?” or “Do you think you need a new rug to match the colors in your new room?” These questions give children a sense of control and help them make the transition to their new life.

Tips for a Successful Less Stressful Move

Make the decision to move a family decision. Get excited about moving, and let it show. Involve children as much as possible. Take a weekend off and set a date for the entire family to visit the new location. Help children scope out the neighborhood and locate the park, gym, library, and other places of interest. Talk about what positive changes the move can mean to the family as a whole.

Thinking of making a move to Chicago’s North Shore? We can help make the move less stressful for everyone in the family. We’ll start with our Tour of the Shore, to familiarize you with the communities, schools, house values and amenities. Call us at 847.881.6657 to find out more.

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Real Estate Hidden Gems You Should Be Marketing When Selling Your North Shore Home

Ever wonder what the real hot buttons are for the prospective buyers of your house? Some things are obvious, like a recently remodeled kitchen. But there are the not-so-obvious things that could, quite possibly, put more money in your pocket if your agent were to focus more on them in the marketing of your house.

Based on a survey of 1500 agents around the country, this infographic highlights the most desirable features and which ones are the hidden gems that are often over-looked when pricing the house.

How would this infographic look if the survey were focused on North Shore Realtors only? I suspect that schools and neighborhood quality would score even higher, since these are the main reasons people move to the North Shore in the first place.

Amazing views would be less important, except to the few people who can afford lakefront property. On the other hand, a second floor laundry, which only scored 19% in the national survey, would certainly be higher here. And, after this past dreadful winter, I’m pretty sure that an attached garage would be pretty high up on the list, too. While this feature is taken for granted in many areas of the country, relatively few older houses here on the North Shore can boast that “hidden gem.”

We are North Shore real estate specialists and one of the top teams in the area. If you would like to schedule a buyer or seller consultation with the Come Home North Shore team, please call 847-881-6657 or send us a note here.

Data provided by ActiveRain.com.

ActiveRain is an online community of real estate professionals who exchange best practices, write real estate blogs, and get free education from the industry and their peers.

5 Reasons To Sell Your North Shore Home Before Spring

house with snowWith home prices finally on the upswing after five years of declines, many North Shore homeowners have gotten some equity back in their homes and are trying to decide if the time is right to sell, or if they should wait for further price appreciation.

Conventional wisdom says that the best time to list is spring, since that is when there are the most active buyers in the market. And, given that North Shore home prices are up 6% over last year, many are hoping that prices will continue to rise and that waiting til spring will net them more money.

But there are some compelling reasons for listing as early in 2014 as possible (i.e., early January), rather than waiting until March or April.

1. Only serious buyers are out.

At this time of year, only those purchasers who are serious about buying a home will be coming to see your house. You and your family will not be bothered and inconvenienced  by “lookie-loos” and tire-kickers. The lookers are staying warm inside.

2. There will be far less competition for those serious buyers.

According to a recent survey by Realtor.com, there are a lot of buyers still active in the market now because they were unable to find a home during this last buying season. They know what they want and they are on high alert for any house that comes on the market that meets their criteria. If you list your home before the rest of the pack, you can snag one of those eager buyers before you have too much competition.

3. The process will be quicker.

One of the biggest challenges of the 2013 housing market has been the length of time it takes from contract to closing. Banks have been inundated with both purchase and refinancing loan requests. Both of these will slow down in winter months, meaning shorter timelines and less frustration for buyers and sellers who are anxious to close a deal.

4. There will never be a better time to move up.

If you plan to move to a larger, more expensive house, you should probably do it soon. Prices are projected to increase 28% from now to 2018. If you are moving to a higher-priced home, it will only cost you more (both in down payment and monthly mortgage payment) if you wait. You can also lock in your thirty year housing expense with historically low interest rates now. It is inevitable that interest rates will rise in the years to come.

Besides, if you you sell in January, you’ll have “first dibs” on the plentiful spring inventory AND you’ll have more negotiating leverage if you already have a contract on your old house.

5. January is the biggest corporate transfer month.

Did you know that more corporate moves happen during January than any other month of the year? And corporate transferees are a “sure bet.” They need to buy a house and they need to buy it now. They have a short window to look for homes and tend to be more decisive than other buyers. It’s not uncommon for them to fly into town for 2-3 days, see 10-12 houses and put an offer in on one by the end of the weekend.

Now that we are seeing prices appreciate again, are you wondering what your North Shore home is worth? Give us a call at 847-881-6657 and we’ll provide you with a Pinpoint Price Analysis. Or, if you just want a ballpark estimate, you can get a quick and easy over-the-net home valuation by just giving us some basic information about your house. Just go here to submit your info and we’ll send you your home valuation within 48 hours.

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What To Ask Before Hiring A Listing Agent

“The best predictor of future performance is past performance.”

In the corporate world, if you want to know how well someone is likely to perform in a new job or assignment, the best way to tell is to look at how they performed in their last job or assignment. And it’s pretty much the same when it comes to hiring a listing agent to sell your home.

If you are like most people, you want to sell your home as quickly as possible, for as much money as possible. So the performance measures you should ask your listing agent about are:

  • Average market time for her listings
  • Sales prices as a % of list price
  • Sales price as a % of original list price (i.e., before price reductions)

If the agent has performed well on these measures for past sales, chances are she’ll perform similarly for you.

However, you should keep in mind that context is key! Numbers are meaningless without context.

In other words, how did this agent’s performance compare to the rest of the agents in the market? And what market is she comparing herself to? Is it the specific community where your house is located or is it the greater Chicagoland Metro area? And is it for the most recent 12 month period or all the houses she’s ever sold?

Let’s say an agent tells you that sells her listings in 100 days on average.  That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? It wasn’t that long ago that houses were languishing unsold for a year or more. In that environment a 100 day market time would be quite an achievement. But not these days. We have moved from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market (at least in some price ranges), and listings are selling more quickly than before. Today the average market time on the North Shore is 107 days, so you probably want to look for an agent who can get the job done faster than that.

Similarly, an agent may have an average sale price to list price of 92%, a big improvement over recent years where homes sold for 90% of list price (after several price reductions). But today North Shore homes are selling for 94% of list price, on average. You want to hire an agent who can get you at least 94% of list price, if not more.

Here’s the performance data for the Come Home North Shore real estate team:

performance stats for Come Home North Shore real estate team

Our team’s average days on market is 30. Our sales price is 96% of list price. That means we sell our listings over three times faster than the market average in the communities we serve and get our clients 2 percentage points closer to their list price.

Wow. Based on this data you may want to interview Come Home North Shore to list your home!

If you do (or even if you don’t) you will want to drill down even further and ask the agents you are interviewing  for their track record in your home’s specific price range and location, since market dynamics can differ dramatically.

Bottom line, make sure you are getting data and comparisons relevant to your own situation.

We are North Shore real estate specialists and one of the top Realtor teams in the area. If you would like to consult with the Come Home North Shore team about getting your home sold, please call 847-881-6657 or send us a note here.

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To FSBO Or Not To FSBO?

To sell your North Shore home by owner or not. That is the question many would-be home sellers are asking themselves these days.

That’s because they’ve noticed that inventories are low and good houses are selling quickly. So why not try and save on the real estate commission by going the For Sale By Owner route. After all, saving the whole commission on a $600,000 house could be as much as $30,000. No wonder it’s so tempting.

But before you go down that road, consider the following:

1. The data shows that the typical price a FSBO sells for is, on average, $40,000 less than a home sold by an agent.

FBSO price

Although the “typical” price is actually the average price in the survey, studies have shown that people are more likely to FSBO in markets with lower-priced homes. However, the fact remains that agents get more money than FSBOs for the same house.

2. Another thing to consider is that 89% of buyers use an agent to purchase a home. Which means that as a FSBO 9 out of 10 potential buyers will never see your house. Even if you agree to cooperate with (i.e., pay a commission to) the buyer’s broker, you’ve now cut your commission savings in half.

Nowadays over 90% of buyers use the internet to search for homes. Even if you put an ad on Craig’s List or even on the MLS, without an agent representing you your listing will never get syndicated on the hundreds of sites that buyers use in their home search. And forget advertsing in the newspaper. Only 28% buyers use newspapers in their home search. Most of the people looking at real estate ads in newspapers are other home sellers and real estate agents.

3. Finally, you should know that FSBOs have declined from 19% of home sales in 1991 to 9% today. There’s a good reason for that. The home sale process is much more complex these days and fraught with pitfalls. Many deals fail to close for a whole host of reasons: Buyers can’t qualify for a mortgage. Appraisals come back low. Inspections have become more contentious. Disclosure problems lead to litigation. And on and on.

Decline of FSBOsEven if you’re pretty sure you want to try selling on your own, you should probably interview a couple of agents first, so you are fully aware of all of the services, expertise and marketing exposure you will be foregoing as a FSBO.

graphs courtesy of KCM

We are North Shore real estate specialists and one of the top teams in the area. If you would like to schedule a buyer or seller consultation with the Come Home North Shore team, please call 847-881-6657 or send us a note here.

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Don’t Fall For Illinois Deed Provider Scam

IllinoisDeedProviderThis week area residents got an official-looking letter (like the one on the right) from an outfit called Illinois Deed Provider.

The letter stated that the U.S. Government website recommends that property owners should have an official copy of their deed. Illinois Deed Provider (which has no affiliation with the State of Illinois) offers to provide a copy of your deed for $79.50.

Now there is actually nothing illegal about this service, assuming they actually deliver the deed. (I’m certainly not going to pay them to find out).

However, did you know that you can EASILY get a copy of your deed in less than five minutes by going to the website of the Recorder of Deeds for your county? For example, if you go to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds site, you will see that you can downlaod a copy of your deed for only $2.50 by simply entering your property’s 14-digit pin number (which can be found on your tax bill). If you’d like a paper copy mailed to you it costs $10.00.

Most people don’t realize they can do this, which I guess is why outfits like Illinois Deed Provider can dupe so many people into paying $79.50. I just don’t want it to be you!

Thanks to Kenan Stevens of Burnet Title for this valuable tip.

We are North Shore real estate specialists and one of the top teams in the area. If you would like to schedule a buyer or seller consultation with the Come Home North Shore team, please call 847-881-6657 or send us a note here.

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How NOT to Find a Buyer For Your North Shore Home

An agent in my office told me a story the other day about a listing presentation she went on that highlighted one of the misconceptions North Shore homeowners have about real estate advertising.

She was talking to the homeowner about her marketing and about the benefits of listing with Coldwell Banker. The homeowner pulled out the local newspaper and opened it up to several consecutive pages of ads from a competitive brokerage and said, “Look at them. They do more advertising than your company. Why shouldn’t I list with them?”

My agent friend proceeded to show him the NAR (National Association of Realtors) research about where home buyers search for properties: 90% of them search on the Internet, while less than 30% look at print ads.

Use of Internet to search for homes

 

Then she showed him the graph from Compete.com, an independent source that tracks website visits across the industry. The graph shows that ColdwellBankeronline.com is far and away the most visited site by home buyers in our area (blue line in the graph). That other company’s numbers were way below, with only 6% of the traffic of Coldwell Banker’s local site.

Compete.com_May

She asked him whether he would rather his home be where buyers are searching or where other home sellers are looking.

He got her point.  And she got the listing.

You see, there are two main reasons why real estate agents advertise their listings in local newspapers and magazines, and neither of them have anything to do with selling your house.

One reason is to appeal to their client’s ego. I mean, who doesn’t want to see a picture of their home in print? It’s almost as gratifying as seeing your child’s picture in the paper. And, besides, a print ad is tangible evience your agent is doing something to market your house.

The other reason is self-promotion for the agent. She advertises her listings in the local paper. Other homeowners see the ads and think, she must be successful. I should list my house with her. There’s nothing wrong with self-promotion. Realtors have to eat too.  But that kind of advertising is doing nothing to sell your house.

Because the people who are NOT seeing those ads are the people most likley to buy your house.

So, if you want to sell your home, make sure you hire the agent that markets it to home buyers, not to other home sellers.

We are North Shore real estate specialists and one of the top teams in the area. If you would like to schedule a buyer or seller consultation with the Come Home North Shore team, please call 847-881-6657 or send us a note here.

 

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