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Steps to Take Before Buying a Home in 2015

Steps to Take Before Buying a Home in 2015

Originally posted on the Chicago Tribune

Buying a home probably isn’t a New Year’s resolution the way that getting in shape or getting organized is. But with interest rates low, credit easing, home price gains moderating and rents rising, purchasing a first home this year may be easier to attain than the ever-present 10 pounds is to lose.

Go ahead and start browsing online, but consumers who are serious about buying a home this year should leave themselves time to do the financial homework, number-crunching and list-making that will increase the chances of getting handed a new set of keys.
lRelated Bright spots in Chicago’s housing market for 2015

Potential buyers first need to consider their financial situation. Mortgage lenders say it’s easier to qualify for a mortgage than it was a few years ago, but there’s still a lot of paperwork and double-checking that goes into getting approved.

A mortgage banker or broker will pull a credit report on a prospective borrower and pre-qualify someone for a purchase sum up to a certain amount. Keep in mind though, that pre-qualification mortgage limits aren’t necessarily the same as the amount of money a buyer is comfortable spending. It might be more realistic to think in terms of how much of a monthly payment can someone be comfortable with.

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Prevent Frozen Pipes This Winter

Prevent Frozen Pipes This Winter

Winter is here, and with freezing temperatures could come frozen pipes. Plumbing breaks and flood damage can be incredibly costly, so preparation is key to keep your pipes from freezing. Follow these easy steps to prevent expensive plumbing repairs.

Prevent frozen pipes big Photo by: Shutterstock

Water Main: Locate your house’s water main shut-off valve. In case of a water emergency, you will need to shut off all water flow to the home, and this time-saving knowledge could save you thousands in case of a burst pipe.

Exterior Pipes: Locate all outdoor spigots and unhook, drain and store all your hoses, covering your spigots with insulated spigot sleeves. Locate all other exterior pipes like swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines and any other exposed pipes running along exterior walls of your home. On these, install insulated pipe sleeves that slip right over the pipes. You can find these at any home supply store, but you can also use bubble wrap, a towel or a blanket to help protect these pipes.

Attic, Basement and Crawl Space Pipes: Install pipe sleeves on both cold and hot water pipes in attics, basements and crawl spaces. You can also put in regular fiberglass insulation, or you can install a heat lamp in crawl spaces and cold basements. However, never leave heat lamps or heaters unattended for too long, and don’t allow them to get too hot or near combustible materials that could catch fire.

Cold Air Entry Points: Walk around the perimeter of your home and locate all the foundation and attic vents. Then simply cut foam board insulation to fit in these vents and pop them in. This will help keep cold air out and keep the warm air in. For larger areas such as attic peaks, install larger foam board insulation from the interior side. With caulk, seal all air leaks around the foundation or other places in your home that could be allowing in cold air, such as electrical wiring, dryer vents or pipe entry points.

Prevention Tips:

  • When you know temperatures will be dipping below freezing, simply allow water to run in all the sinks at a slow, constant drip. It only needs to trickle, and that tiny amount of water will keep the water moving through the pipes and prevent them from freezing.
  • Open up the cabinet doors in the bathrooms and kitchen. This will allow the heat from the home to circulate and warm up the pipes.
  • Keep the garage door closed to keep garage pipes from freezing.
  • Keep your house at a warm, consistent temperature both day and night.
  • If you leave your home for extended periods of time, do not set your thermostat lower than 55 decrees.
  • If you do end up with frozen pipes, a hand-held hair dryer or heat lamp can thaw them.

Long-term solution: Install R-21 insulation to your attics, basements and crawl spaces to maintain warmth in those areas.

Damage: If your home is damaged as a result of burst pipes or winter weather ServiceMaster Restore® can help get your home back to normal as quickly as possible with the following services*:

  • Water damage restoration
  • Drying, dehumidification and water extraction
  • Document drying and recovery
  • Mold remediation
  • Carpet, rug and upholstery cleaning

*Services vary by local provider.

Photo by: ServiceMaster Restore®

The technicians know the effects of water damage on a wide variety of structural surfaces and are experts at both damage mitigation and reducing overall severity. Even though burst pipes aren’t covered in the AHS coverage, SMR can help. If you need to reach a technician, call 800-Restore.

Should you find yourself with other plumbing-related problems, a Home Warranty Plan from American Home Shield can help protect your budget against expensive repairs. Learn about the different coverage options.

This post is by American Home Shield and was originally posted here.


12 New Year’s Resolutions to Maintain Your Home in 2015

12 New Year’s Resolutions to Maintain Your Home in 2015

New Year’s resolutions aren’t just about self-improvement. You can use them to get your house in shape, too. Here’s a 12-month program to tackle house projects in 2015.


January: First things first. Consider starting off the New Year by getting your valued systems and appliances covered by a home warranty. There are 365 days for something unexpected to go wrong or breakdown in your house – why not have a plan?

February: Change all incandescent light bulbs to ones that are energy-efficient and inspect bathtubs and showers for mildewed or cracked caulk. Re-caulk as necessary.

March: Check smoke detectors and replace batteries if needed. (If you can’t remember the last time you replaced the battery then it’s probably neccessary). An extra precautionary would be to install carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of the house.

April: If you have central air conditioning, have a professional inspect your unit so it’s ready for summer use.

May: Gather unused appliances, clothes, furniture and other items and hold a yard sale.

June: Inspect your roof and replace any damaged or missing shingles.

July: Create a first-aid disaster kit and keep it in a central location.

August: Inspect your gutters for holes, cracks or sags. Repair as necessary.

September: Have a professional inspect your heating system so it’s ready for winter use.

October: Use a pressure washer to clean your house, deck, and driveway.

November: Clean your carpets thoroughly by hiring a professional or renting a cleaning machine from your local hardware or grocery store.

December: Take stock of all your valuables and update your records. If needed, adjust your homeowners insurance.

This post is via American Home Shield. The originally post is here.


Quick Tips for Getting Started on Your Home Purchase

Quick Tips for Getting Started on Your Home Purchase

1040 screenshotBuying a home can be a complex process, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little preparation, you can save a lot of time and hassle by having all of your documents ready when your mortgage professional needs them.

To start with, the lender will need personal information to verify employment for you and your co-borrower (if there is one). They will also need information regarding all of your debts and assets.

In order to expedite the paperwork process, start gathering the following items:

– Most recent paystubs for one month.

– W2s from the last two years.

– Signed copies of your last two years’ tax returns, including all schedules that were filed.

– Homeowner’s insurance company name and number.

– Most recent bank statements for two months.

– Most recent statements from any retirement and investment accounts for two months.

What costs are involved?

Within 3 days of your application, your Loan Officer must provide you with a good faith estimate of closing costs. Along with any down payment, you will have to pay closing costs at your closing as well. This is a brief rundown of some of the fees that could be associated with your new mortgage:

– Application/Processing Fee – Charged by the loan officer to process your loan application.

– Appraisal Fee – Charged by the appraiser to determine the current value of the property.

– Closing Fee – Charged by the closing agency (escrow, attorney, title) to ensure the close of your transaction.

– Credit Report Fee – Charged by the credit reporting agency to provide your credit report to your loan officer and/or lender.

– Title Search/Title Insurance Fees – Charged by the title company to ensure the property is free from liens or title defects.

– Origination Fee – Paid to the originator to obtain a lower interest rate. This is usually expressed in the form of points. One point equals 1% of the loan amount.

– Discount Points – Paid to the lender to secure a lower interest rate.

– Miscellaneous Fees – VA and FHA loans may have other fees associated with them.

– Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), document preparation, notary, recording and tax service are other fees which may fall under this category.

Let us help you evaluate your personal situation and assist you in finding the loan program that works best to meet your individual goals and needs. This is brought to you by: Pamela Jackson, Mortgage Banker, PHH Homer Loans
Phone: (630) 881-4378  Fax: (630) 757-6622  License:NMLS#346456

Six Winter Home Energy Conservation and Insulation Tips

Comfort Control of Virginia, Inc.

#1 Clean or replace your furnace filters

According to a recent article on winterization tips, you should clean and replace your furnace filters on a monthly basis. Dirty furnace filters prevent warm air from flowing through the ducts and vents into your house, which makes your furnace work harder and increases your utility bill. By cleaning and replacing your furnace filters on a monthly basis, you will save a little money on your bill and a lot of money in simply preventing the need for a furnace replacement.

You can also replace your temporary filters with a permanent filter. Electrostatic or HEPA filters trap around 90 to 100 percent of debris — and they control bacteria, mold and pollen from getting into the air where they may cause illness or irritation. While these filters can cost anywhere from $50 to $1,000, they’re a worthwhile investment that offers long-term benefits.

#2 Get your furnace serviced

You should have your furnace maintained and repaired as needed. Having your furnace serviced annually can cut its fuel usage by almost 10 percent, which can save you more money on your heating bill. If you didn’t have your furnace maintained by a heating professional in the early autumn, call one now to inspect your furnace and filters for any issues. A professional will also look at your radiators and elements for any dust, breaks and other problems and fix them as necessary. Having this done could save you from spending $3,300 to $4,600 on a new furnace or finding yourself in a freezing cold home in the dead of winter.

#3 Fix drafts and leaks

Leaks and drafts in windows and doors significantly compromise the insulation and energy efficiency of your home. Escaping air forces your furnace to work overtime to keep your home warm, which causes it to turn on every five to ten minutes. To solve this problem, a professional can caulk and install weather-stripping around your windows and doors for around $460. You should also identify and seal leaks around your chimney and any pipes leading into or out of your home.

#4 Lay down additional insulation

Tomahawk Pest Services, LLC

Your attic’s insulation should be between six and 13 inches of loose fill or seven and 19 inches of fiberglass. Measure how much insulation you have; if it’s below the minimum for the material used, add more to keep your home well-insulated and keep your utility bills down. It’s easier to go with loose fill insulation, as it’s made of a flexible material that can fill crevices and joists. You can rent a blower to lay down loose fill insulation, but it’s complicated, and you run the risk of stepping through your attic. It’s probably easier to have an insulation professional come in to do the work.

#5 Lower your thermostat

To conserve energy and save money on your utility bill, you should always turn down the heat when you leave the house. You can save up to 5 percent on your utility bill for every degree your heat is reduced. A programmable thermostat can also help regulate the temperature inside your home, which can save you as much as $200. Talk to your utility company about smart meters to help save money on your utility bills.

#6 Call a home energy auditor

If you make changes to improve your home’s energy efficiency and insulation and are still seeing expensive utility bills every month, you can call a home energy auditor to go through your home and identify any problems you may have. A professional will know how much energy your home consumes, where your insulation is lacking and what you can do to increase your energy efficiency. Look for an auditor that is sponsored by the government and may therefore charge less for an audit than others. After you perform a complete audit with the help of a professional, you can choose which projects to complete to increase your home’s efficiency.

Andrea Davis is the editor at HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free. Connect with Andrea on Google+

Palos Park Real Estate Property Sales – November 2014

Palos Park – Property Sales for Single Family Homes

November Property sales were 5, up 66.7% from 3 in November of 2013 and 25.0% higher than the 4 sales last month. November 2014 sales were at their highest level compared to November of 2013 and 2012. November YTD sales of 65 are running -5.8% behind last year’s year-to-date sales of 69.

Would you like to know specific market activity for your neighborhood or property type? Contact us via the contact form on the right side of this site.

Homer Glen Real Estate Property Sales – November 2014

Homer Glen – Property Sales for Single Family Homes

November Property sales were 15, up 15.4% from 13 in November of 2013 and -11.8% lower than the 17 sales last month. November 2014 sales were at a mid level compared to November of 2013 and 2012. November YTD sales of 192 are running -4.0% behind last year’s year-to-date sales of 200.