Selling your Naperville area home during the holiday season may sound like a less than ideal game plan, but there are some advantages now present only at this time of year. It’s true that some extra effort may be called for, but it can be worth the endeavor: there are several factors that make showings at this time of year particularly promising.

The first advantage is the flip side of the greatest disadvantage: the slowdown in real estate activity we usually expect over the holidays. That relative scarcity of active prospects means fewer showings, so the number of times you’ll be called upon to put your area property in peak condition will be smaller. The other side of that disadvantage? The showings we do expect will be to particularly motivated buyers. If they are interrupting their own Christmas and New Year’s activities to go house hunting, they probably mean business. And it’s also likely that they are motivated by a timing deadline. This makes those showings especially promising.

Another positive aspect to selling your home at this time of year is how appealing the staging possibilities become—and with little extra effort. Your regular holiday decorations make the place festive and cheerful every year, anyway—usually little else will be needed to bring those enhancements into play for prospective buyers. Yuletide décor is automatically a kind of natural staging that brings out the cheeriest side of any home…and who doesn’t respond favorably to the scent of cookies in the oven or cider bubbling on the stove?

Along with those automatic holiday positives, owners selling their home in the western suburbs do need to be careful to avoid some built-in potential downsides. Right now the sun stays lower—even at noon—than at other times of the year, so it’s important to make the most of the light that is available. Keep rooms well-lit and window drapes pulled back to allow as much sunlight as possible. Even during daylight hours, most rooms show their best with all lamps and ceiling fixtures turned on. Fireplaces are sought-after features—and this is the best time of year to make the most of yours by keeping a cheery fire blazing.

When you are selling your home during the holiday season you should also make the effort to keep your own schedule as flexible as you can—even more so than would ordinarily be called for. Potential buyers will have their own holiday obligations to attend to, and are often forced to jam showings into tight spaces. It can be worth it, though, when you keep in mind that holiday home shoppers are motivated prospects.

If this December and January look like opportune times to be selling your own home in town, it’s not too late to give me a call. I will be active throughout the season, helping area prospects find the home of their dreams—the home they will be making holiday memories in for many years to come!

Let us put a “Sale Agreed®” on your new home this holiday season!

You’ve decided to sell your house. You begin to interview potential real estate agents to help you through the process. You need someone you trust enough to:

Set the market value on possibly the largest asset your family owns (your home)
Set the time schedule for the successful liquidation of that asset
Set the fee for the services required to liquidate that asset
An agent must be concerned first and foremost about you and your family in order to garner that degree of trust. Make sure this is the case.

Be careful if the agent you are interviewing begins the interview by:

Bragging about their success
Bragging about their company’s success
An agent’s success and the success of their company can be important considerations when deciding on the right real estate professional to represent you in the sale of the house. However, you first need to know they care about what you need and what you expect from the sale. If the agent is not interested in first establishing your needs, how successful they may seem is much less important.

Look for someone with the ‘heart of a teacher’ who comes in prepared well enough to explain the current real estate market and patient enough to take the time to show how it may impact the sale of your home.

Not someone only interested in trying to sell you on how great they are.

You have many agents from which to choose. Pick someone who truly cares.

Now that the housing market has stabilized, more and more homeowners are considering moving up to their dream home. With interest rates still near 4% and home values on the rise, now may be a great time to make a move.

Sellers should realize that waiting while mortgage rates are increasing probably doesn’t make sense. As rates increase, the price of the house you can afford will decrease if you plan to stay within a certain budget for your monthly housing costs.

Here is a chart detailing this point:

Buyer's Purchasing Power | Keeping Current Matters

With each quarter percent increase in interest rate, the value of the home you can afford decreases by 2.5%, (in this example, $10,000). Experts predict that mortgage rates will be closer to 5% by this time next year.

Act now to get the most house for your hard earned money.

Historically low mortgage interest rates have been a lifeline for many town first time homebuyers in recent years, keeping home ownership within reach for many who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to make the leap. For them, and for all the other than first time area homebuyers, the fact that home values have continued to rise has been an added boon.

But, as just about every mortgage industry expert will tell you, the gig is almost up for those rock bottom rates. Yet the question for many first time homebuyers remains: is it time to buy or not?

It’s a good time to take a hard look a few of the known facts—

According to web giant Zillow, as of Q1 2015, potential home buyers should expect to spend about 15% of their income on a mortgage for an average home in the U.S. When you compare this with the historical averages, it makes today’s rates temptingly low: the typical percentage has been closer to 21%. In terms of dollars spent monthly, that’s a big (and terrific) difference!

At the same time, the historical average has a typical renter shelling out 24% of income. Today, that’s closer to 30%…making first time homeownership that much more inviting.

Taken together, Zillow’s new calculations definitely appear to make finding a home to buy the more affordable option. On the other hand, it’s also true that a number of factors work against first time homebuyers—in Naperville and nationwide. College debt, for one, is far more of an obstacle than it used to be.  And the other side of those all-time high monthly rents in many places are making it that much harder for would-be first time homebuyers to save for a down payment.  But with the widespread phenomenon of growth in rents outpacing growth in home values, the rental affordability problem isn’t likely to improve any time soon. With mortgage rates likely to be on the increase as early as this fall, the long term outlook may not grow rosier as time passes. The implied takeaway: strike now while the iron is hot!

Whether this real estate foray is your first or tenth, if you’ve been considering taking advantage of this summer’s Naperville home buying bargains, contact me today for an introduction to a qualified mortgage broker—and to discuss whether this might not just be the perfect time to start your search!

For years, there was little debate about the need for open houses in town: almost without exception, unless the seller of one of our listings objected, at least one or two open houses were an accepted part of how most real estate agents went about marketing the property.

Today, along with all the other changes that define modern real estate marketing, the potency of open houses is up for serious debate. Virtual online tours are increasingly popular among area real estate sellers and buyers—the ‘use’ statistics that tell agents how often the different parts of their sites are viewed prove that. Since open houses were formerly held in order to display a property to members of the general public—and since virtual tours do the same thing—it’s truly a question that deserves a hard look.

Here are three of the main reasons I see frequently cited for why open houses are still useful—and some both pros and cons for each:

  1. Open Houses Can Bring Higher Prices

Pro: Open houses are most important for high demand properties when there is low inventory for similar homes. It can be possible to stage open houses in combination with delayed offer reviews—in this scenario, the seller hosts several open houses leading up to a final date when he or she will review competing offers.

Con: The same is accomplished with well-produced virtual tours. Interested viewers then contact the agent, who is able to qualify the prospects who will be invited for an actual on-site showing. Competing offers are just as likely to develop.

  1. Open Houses Are More Convenient for Sellers

Pro: People want to sell their Naperville area homes as quickly as possible if for no other reason than they must keep their houses spotless and organized while on the market. Open houses are one way for sellers to have to prepare fewer times for their home to be displayed to buyers.

Con: Virtual tours accomplish the same thing for a far broader cross-section of the public. Professional photographers use their photo session to record the property at its spotless best, which is then on display 24/7/365—not just for one or two days!

  1. Open Houses are More Convenient for Prospective Buyers

Pro: Interested parties can pop in for an on-site tour without the hassle of contacting the agent and scheduling an appointment—basically, of making even a minor level of commitment in advance of knowing much about the property. Open houses thus broaden the property’s exposure.

Con: Serious home shoppers are going online en masse; the effort expended on an open house is better spent preparing for interested, qualified buyers.

Every home we have for sale presents uniquely individual marketing opportunities and challenges. Ruling out open houses (or ruling them in) as a one-size-fits-all solution is not the way I expand the reach and appeal of the properties I represent. To talk about how we can maximize your own area real estate opportunity, just give me a call!    BTW…I just sold a house at my last “Open” on Sunday!

Putting together a listing in Naperville is serious business. It has to be brief, to-the-point, and at the same time, engaging. The photos and language of our listings is the tip of the marketing spear: if it’s dull, and just a repetition of the specifics that are enumerated in the columns of numbers that follow, it’s less likely to get more than a glance from potential buyers.

At the same time, every one of our listings has to be fastidiously accurate. If it exaggerates or mischaracterizes a property’s features, it will waste time and effort by creating traffic from prospects who were never going to be interested in the first place. They’ll be rightly annoyed. A well-crafted listing for a Naperville home will highlight the distinctive features that make it stand out from the crowd. It will attract qualified buyers who will want to investigate further.

As a matter of course, we in the real estate profession check out lots of listings from many other areas. It’s part of the job, keeping abreast of what is new elsewhere—comparing how others in other areas meet the challenges of language and imagery. Of course, after years of experience, you encounter few surprises.

But last week there was news of a listing unlike any other. I’m not sure that the details and language are going to be useful for describing our properties, since this detailed a foreign estate (on the Côte d’Azur) being put on the market by “a talented artist and musician.” The asking price is $33+ million, so it’s also a bit pricey for most buyers. But as an attention-getter, this listing ranks right up there at the top.

First off, the talented artist and musician is Johnny Depp, whose comings and goings generate headlines at all times. The listing language, in fact, is most precisely quoted by the Australian Domain real estate site—rather than a French source. The Australian public has been keeping track of Depp because of his continuing brush with authorities there over alleged dog-smuggling activities (his Yorkies, Pistol and Boo, are now safely out of the country). Domain tells us that the estate consists of “more than a dozen buildings, including a main house, several guest cottages, a chapel, a bar & restaurant, a workshop/garage, a staff house and much more.

Students of listing lingo might decide that this descriptor belongs in the ‘subtly understated’ category, particularly when the “much more” is teased out: the estate, it turns out, is actually a small Provençal village. More than a decade ago, Depp bought an entire early-19th-century village. It may have been a bit run down—but it did include its own church (the actor turned it into a guest cottage, with the confessional becoming a wardrobe). Depp took on the project as a sort of extreme DIY project. The restaurant became his dining room. He brought in a covered wagon for another guesthouse (it’s unclear how that worked out).

Not every local listing rates being quoted in a feature story in The Wall Street Journal, but this one surely did. “A wine cave in the main house has a Pirates of the Caribbean motif,” according to the Journal (as one reader commented, “Go get’m Sparrow!”).

You don’t have to have a French village, though, if you are thinking of adding your own estate to this summer’s local listings. Just give me a call!

People often ask whether they should buy a home now or wait. Recently released data suggests that waiting may not make sense as prices seem to again be on the rise. Let’s take a look at some of the data and commentary on the subject:

Ed Stansfield, chief property economist at Capital Economics:
“The current tightness of supply conditions would normally be consistent with much faster price growth. The continued steady growth in home sales that we expect this year will only add to this upward pressure on prices.”

Case Shiller Home Price Index
“The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a 4.1% annual gain in March 2015 … with a 0.8% increase for the month.”

Anand Nallathambi, CEO of CoreLogic
“All signs are pointing toward continued price appreciation throughout 2015… Tight inventories, job growth and the impact of demographics and household formation are pushing price levels in many states toward record levels.”

Danielle Hale, Director of Housing Statistics at NAR
“Even without further acceleration, the pace of price growth remains too high. Strong buyer demand and low inventories coupled with relatively low new construction are helping to push prices up, keeping the housing market tipped in favor of sellers.”

FHFA Principal Economist Andrew Leventis
“The first quarter saw strong and widespread home price growth throughout most of the country. Home prices are now, on average, roughly 20 percent above where they were three years ago. This run-up has been historically exceptional and is particularly notable in light of the limited household income growth and modest rate of overall inflation observed during that same time period.”

Bottom Line

If you are planning on buying a home in the near future, waiting probably doesn’t make sense from a purely pricing standpoint.

One-Question Exam: A Credit Report True/False Quiz

Here is a one-question True or False exam that every future first-time home buyer should take:
True or False:
One sure way to build a strong credit report is to pay your bills on time.
(Answer: False)
Particularly for a first-time Naperville area home buyer, being able to present a strong credit report can make the difference between being able to afford a quality home that satisfies all your ‘must haves’—or one you just sort of settle for.
It’s about how much you can comfortably afford. The interest rate you will be offered is directly related to your bill-paying history, and a percentage point (or more) can make a big difference in your monthly budget. Because lending institutions charge more or less based upon the degree of risk they believe a loan carries, the stronger your credit report, the “more house” your monthly payment will cover.
Of course, since a string of unbroken records of punctual payments is what lenders look for, you might think that the answer to my one-question True or False exam would be an unqualified ‘True’—but not so fast. There’s a small catch is in the unbroken records that they look for. The word records.
Just paying your bills on time doesn’t build a strong credit report unless there are records of it—and for area first-timers who have been paying rent for years, all those prompt payments could well be missing in action. The surprising reason lies in the nature of our whole credit reporting system.
It’s voluntary.
As the L.A. Times spotlighted last summer, landlords, phone and cable companies, “and many other creditors don’t report your payments” to the big three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). They aren’t required to do so. If you’re planning on becoming one of our west suburban first-time home buyers, that might be a big deal—especially since rent payments usually make up the lion’s share of what you buy on credit. But you can do something about it!
Recognizing the difficulty some first timers were having in qualifying for home loans precisely because of such missing data, about five years ago, the credit bureaus teamed up with services like RentTrack that enable tenants to pay their rents online—and get credit for them. TransUnion and Experian also introduced services like “ResidentCredit” and “RentBureau” that encourage property managers to report rent payments for their tenants. That makes sense for landlords, too, because when rent payments are recorded, it enables them to better gauge the creditworthiness of their next batch of applicants.
Making sure your payments are being recorded will put today’s renters ahead of the game when they eventually decide they’re ready for the next step: home ownership. It simplifies the answer to that One-Question True or False credit report question greatly…to a simple “True”!

Spring is definitely an inspirational time of the year. After a long, wet Winter, we Midwesterners are looking forward to some renewed energy and sunshine! With a change of pace we can’t wait to experience what Mother Nature has to offer. Bringing all that fresh energy inside couldn’t be easier with the crisp and homey color selections for 2015. Pantone always presents a true change in color and this year was no different with their regal red called “Marsala”. If that is too bold, Sherwin-William’s color of the year is Coral Reef which definitely adds a bit of spice to a room. In our case, we like a touch of green and that was satisfied by Benjamin Moore’s color of the year Guilford Green. It is a great choice to bring the outside in with a calming green that would be an excellent choice for welcoming family and friends in the entryway. Of course, neutrals always provide an extended scale of whites, browns, grays, blacks, and blues that allow for something new without going overboard.

How will you incorporate these colors into your Spring and Summer updates? Are you envisioning a Coral Reef accent wall or a Guilford Green backsplash in the kitchen?

Spring is in full force; the summer months are right around the corner. If you are debating moving up to your dream home, here are four great reasons to consider buying today instead of waiting.

1.) Buyer Demand is High & Inventory Is Low

Recent numbers show that buyer demand is at the highest peak experienced in years, and inventory for sale is at a 4.6 months supply, which is still markedly lower than the 6.0 months needed for a historically normal market.

The National Association of Realtors, Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun put it this way,“Demand in many markets is far exceeding supply, and properties in March sold at a faster rate than any month since last summer.”

Listing your home today can greatly increase exposure to buyers who are out in force and ready to act.

2.) Prices Will Continue to Rise

The Home Price Expectation Survey polls a distinguished panel of over 100 economists, investment strategists, and housing market analysts. Their most recent report projects appreciation in home values over the next five years to be between 11.7% (most pessimistic) and 27.5% (most optimistic).

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting for your current home’s value to increase before selling could price you out of your new home if you aren’t careful.

3.) Mortgage Interest Rates Are Still Near Record Lows

As we reported last week, interest rates have remained below 4% for some time now, and are substantially lower than the rate previous generations paid when getting a mortgage.

The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac & the National Association of Realtors are in unison projecting that rates will rise over the next 12 months.

An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. Even an increase of half a percentage point can put a dent in your family’s net worth. Whether you are moving up or buying your first home, your housing expense will be more a year from now if a mortgage is necessary to purchase your home.

4.) It’s Time to Move On with Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise. But, what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide whether it is worth waiting. Have you always wanted to live in a certain neighborhood? Would a climate change be just what the doctor ordered? Would you like to be closer to family?

Bottom Line

If the right thing for you and your family is to move up to your dream home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.