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Showing posts from March, 2008

One Last Look

The Final Walk Through - What's it all about?

As your buyer's agent, I always try to arrange for the final walk through to be one hour before the real estate closing, if at all possible.

If you are buying a house that is owned by a relocation company, then we usually need to schedule a final walk through for three business days before closing. This is typically stated in the relocation company's addendum. This gives the relocation company ample time to work out any issues that might arise from the final walk through. But even then, we should do another walk through right before the closing.

We want to check out the condition of the house right before you buy it. As the buyers, you'll need to meet me at the house you are buying. We want to make sure that the sellers have completely moved out and that the house is in "broom clean" condition.

We will be checking to make sure that any appliances, light fixtures, curtains etc. that are supposed to stay with the house …

The Best Place on Earth

A lot of people ask me about living in a "good" neighborhood. Or where are the "good" schools?

As a Realtor, these are questions that I can't answer. First, because "good" is subjective.
What is good to me, may not be so good to you.
My wife, Susan, and I used to live in a new construction Grayslake subdivision. At the time, we liked that and thought that was "good". Then the kids went to college and we downsized to a smaller home, in an older neighborhood - and we think that is "good" (for us) now.
Our boys played lacrosse, so a school with a lacrosse program would have been "good" to us.
The second reason I cannot tell you what is "good" is because it would be considered a fair housing violation.
Only you can decide what makes an area "good" for you. So, take some time to think it over. Make a list and prioritize. All the information that you want is available on the Internet.

You make the best decision …

Free With Purchase: What Stays with the Home?

Part of the negotiating in buying a home, includes what is staying with the home and what is going. These details need to be specifically written into and included in the purchase contract.

As your buyer's agent, we will go through these details together as we fill out the real estate purchase contract.

In order to cover most items that are commonly left with the home, our standard real estate contract for the Northern Illinois area includes the following wording:

3.FIXTURES AND PERSONAL PROPERTY: All of the fixtures and personal property stated herein are owned by Seller and to Seller’s knowledge are in operating condition on the Date of Acceptance, unless otherwise stated herein.
Seller agrees to transfer to Buyer all fixtures, all heating, electrical, plumbing and well systems together with the following items of personal property by Bill of Sale at Closing: [Check orenumerate applicable items]

__ Refrigerator __ All Tacked Down Carpeting __ Fireplace Screen(s)/Door(s)/Grate(s) __ C…

Abel's Pizza & Mexican Food in Grayslake, Illinois

One of our favorite local restaurants is Abel's Pizza and Mexican Food in Grayslake, Illinois.

The restaurant is located right in the middle of downtown Grayslake. The address is 125 Center Street, Grayslake Illinois 60030.
My wife, Susan, and I frequent Abel's on a weekly basis. Abel's is divided with a wall between the bar and the restaurant.

We choose to sit in the restaurant and enjoy the big screen TV. There are big windows across the front of the restaurant too - giving you a nice view of the downtown.
Usually we pick out a table, sit down with our cribbage game, and order two margaritas on the rocks, no salt. Abel's serves complimentary chips and spicy salsa.
The service at Abel's is always friendly. The atmosphere is casual. We've seen all age groups at the restaurant, including families. Depending on if anyone is watching a TV show - you can ask for the TV remote and pick out your own show to watch on the big screen.
Our younger son, Jon, always told us t…

What's In A Name? MLS, NAR, ABR

I try to talk in a straight forward way. I want to give honest, direct, simple answers to people. Not because my audience or my clients aren't "smart" enough, but because I always appreciate a simple, direct answer to my questions.

Sometimes we get so used to our own industry jargon, that we forget that other people might not know what we mean.

Here are some of the common acronyms that are used in real estate:

MLS - stands for Multiple Listing Service

Definition: The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) (also Multiple Listing System or Multiple Listings Service) is a database which allows real estate brokers representing sellers under a listing contract to widely share information about properties with real estate brokers who may represent potential buyers or wish to cooperate with a seller's broker in finding a buyer for the property. The MLS combines the listings of all available properties that are represented by brokers who are both members of that MLS system and of NAR or…

Rudy's Mexican Grill in Grayslake, Illinois

If you're looking for an easy answer to a great meal out, try Rudy's Mexican Grill in Grayslake, Illinois.

Located at 55 N Barron Boulevard in Grayslake, right on Route 83 just past Center Street.
The people working at Rudy's are always friendly, greeting you with a smile on their face when you walk in.
The atmosphere is very casual. You would feel comfortable bringing your co-workers there for lunch or your three year old child in for dinner. (That is, if you can get your three old child to eat Mexican food!) There is a Kids Menu as well.
There is a daily special, lunch specials, desserts - including fried ice cream. Our favorite appetizer is the fresh guacamole with homemade chips. My wife and I like to order the enchilada special, with your choice of chicken or beef, hot or mild sauce. Plus we get a "real" Mexican Coke.

There is a wide variety of choices on the menu, ranging from your basic tacos, enchiladas or burritos to the house specials: Rudy's Tampiquen…

Buyer Representation Is Priceless

Some people don't really know how I get paid.

The seller agrees to pay their listing agent/listing office. The listing office pays out a co-operating commission to the buyer's agent that has the buyer for that house. So, I am paid by the listing office.

Even though I receive my commission from the listing office, as your buyer's agent, I am working for you. Your information is confidential and is not disclosed to the seller or their agent. I am working for you, on your behalf.

Confidential information includes, but is not limited to, the top dollar amount you are willing to pay for a house, how much you really want this house, your personal motivation, personal situation and reason for moving.

It is necessary to provide the listing agent with your mortgage pre-approval letter. This allows the seller and their agent to know that you are financially qualified to buy a house in the price range of your offer.

You may remember the "Priceless" credit card ads:
Lost Luggag…

Your Presence Is Requested - Who Goes to the Real Estate Closing?

In the northern Illinois area, if you are the buyer listed on the real estate purchase contract, you must be present at the real estate closing. You must bring with proof of identification, such as your driver’s license. You also need to bring with your proof of homeowner’s insurance and any money, in the form of a certified check, that your lender has told you bring.

In this area, real estate closings are scheduled on weekdays during business hours.

Typically, the attorneys for the buyer and seller are present at the closing. There is a representative from the title company at the closing. Occasionally, the buyer’s loan officer will be present at the closing.

In Illinois, as the home seller, you do not need to go to the closing, IF you have made arrangements with your attorney, or the title company, ahead of time not to be there. This means you will have signed all your paperwork in advance with your attorney.

As your real estate agent, I always go to the real estate closing, in case th…

Trust Your Agent

Some people don’t understand agency. As your buyer’s agent, I owe you confidentiality. You can be upfront and honest with me about what you are willing to pay for a house, what concerns you may have about a house, when you would like to move and why.

If I am working as a listing agent, I owe that same confidentiality to the seller.

If I end up showing you one of my listings, I am a dual agent and I will disclose this to you, before showing you the house. I owe both parties confidentiality and cannot disclose confidential information about either party, the buyer or the seller.

In order to help you get the best situation for you - whether that is the best price, the best closing date, the best house for your specific needs - you need to let me know what you need and why. I’ll keep this information confidential and get to work for you.

Jim Starwalt Thinking of making a move? Log onto my website at and search the Multiple Listing Service from over 150,000 homes for sal…

I Found It! Now What? You've decided on a home! What do you do now?

You've made up your mind, you've found it! This is the home for you!

Now what do you do?

The next step is to make an offer. In the Northern Illinois area, the initial offer on a home needs to be made in writing. As your Realtor, we will fill out a purchase contract.

After we complete the details of the contract together, I will present your offer to the listing agent. The listing agent then contacts the sellers.

After the initial written offer is presented, there is typically some verbal negotiating back and forth. Unless of course, the sellers accept your initial offer.

Once all parties have agreed on the details, any changes are made to the written contract. The changes are initialed by the buyers.

The revised contract and earnest money check are given to the listing agent.

The revised contract is then signed and initialed by the sellers. A copy of the signed contract is given back to me. I will notify you that I have received the signed contract.

At this point, we have five (5)…

In Good Faith - What is Earnest Money and What Happens To It?

When you are ready to make an offer on a home, earnest money is required as part of the sales contract.

Here is a simple definition of earnest money:

"Deposit made by a buyer toward the down payment as evidence of good faith when the purchase agreement is signed."

In the Northern Illinois area, there is not a set rule for the amount of earnest money that should be paid, nor is there a set percentage.

The lowest amount of earnest money I have ever seen accepted is $500. Typically, the minimal amount of earnest money would be $1,000. The earnest money can also be broken into two payments, with an initial payment made with the offer, and then an additional amount due at a later date, specified in the sales contract.

The earnest money is paid in the form of a check, made payable to the listing office. The check is deposited into an escrow account by the listing office. At the closing, this money is applied towards your down payment or closing…

The Right to an Attorney. Real estate attorneys are normally used in the sale of a home in Northern Illinois.

"You have the right to an attorney ..."

That's a line we've all heard on TV many times, and hopefully never heard in person!

Depending on where you have lived and purchased real estate in the past, you may not have used a real estate attorney for your home sale or home purchase. In the Northern Illinois area, most home buyers and home sellers choose to use a real estate attorney for this transaction.

The right to an attorney review and approval is a standard contingency paragraph already written into the standard real estate contract that is used in the Northern Illinois area.

Your attorney has five (5) business days from the date of contract acceptance to review and approve the contract on your behalf. After the home inspection, your attorney will make a written request for any requested repair work - or if you are the seller, respond on your behalf to any repair requests.

At the real estate closing, your attorney will review and discuss with you the title paperwork, t…

If These Walls Could Talk. The Importance of Doing a Home Inspection.

My advice on this subject has always been the same: you most definitely should do a home inspection when you are buying a home.

Here in the Northern Illinois area, the home inspection contingency is written into and included in the standard Illinois real estate sales contract that we use.

As you are looking at homes for sale, you are certainly considering the condition. But an additional measure of safety on your behalf, is the home inspection contingency. In Illinois, home inspectors are now required by state law to be licensed. You may choose any home inspector you would like, or I can refer you to several home inspectors that provide excellent service.

Paragraph 10. PROFESSIONAL INSPECTIONS: Buyer may secure at Buyer's expense (unless otherwise provided by governmental regulations) a home, radon, environmental, lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards (unless separately waived), and/or wood destroying insect infest…

The 85% Rule

I'd love to help you find the perfect house! Unfortunately, that doesn't exist! What I can do is help you find the house that is most perfect for your needs.

Before we hit the streets and start looking at homes for sale, you need to take some time to seriously decide what you must have in your next home. Compare this to what you would like to have, but that is not completely necessary.

A few years ago, my wife and I decided to downsize. Our older son was away in college and our younger son was starting his senior year in high school at Grayslake Central High School. Our "must have" list was this:*Must be in Grayslake Central High School district.
*Must have room in the driveway for four cars (we each had a car and our older son came home in the summer, etc.).
*Must have a bedroom, bathroom situation for the boys.We ended up buying a great ranch style home in Grayslake, Illinois that had an extra driveway (for the kids' cars) and a finished basement with a bathroom i…

I Hear It's a Buyer's Market

Obviously, a buyer's market is when there are more sellers trying to sell their home, than buyers wanting to buy a home.

With all of the news in the media about the challenging real estate market, what does this mean for you, as a potential home buyer, when you are getting ready to make an offer on a home?
First, it matters what part of the country you are in (and by this I mean what part of the country you are going to be buying a home in). And beyond state, what county and what city you are looking at.

In the northern Illinois area, and specifically in the Lake County Illinois area, homes have sold for an average of 94% of the current list price. This list price to sales price ratio was based on 2,020 single family homes sold in Lake County Illinois from September 2007 to February 2008. More specifically, this data was received from the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois.
This doesn't mean that you'll have to pay 94% of the list price, for the home you want to buy…

Timing is Everything

You made the decision to buy a home this year. You've met with a loan officer and you're pre-approved. When should you start looking at homes for sale?

In the northern Illinois area, the typical time frame between when an offer is accepted and the home closes is thirty days. Other common closing time frames include forty five days and even sixty days. If you are making a cash offer and have a house that is already vacant, a quick closing would be fifteen days.

If you are seriously ready to buy a home, and you're loan is pre-approved, then you should give yourself thirty days to find the right house. As your buyer's agent, when you're ready to get serious about buying a home, I am available to show you as many homes as needed, to find you your dream home.

If you have several months or more before you are ready to buy a house, the Internet is a great tool to become familiar with what is for sale. At my website you can sign up to search th…

First things first

Like most things in life, if you start with step one before proceeding to step two, you'll find that everything comes together easier. If you're thinking that you are ready to buy a home, step one is to get pre-approved for a home loan. I know it's not as interesting as actually going into a house, but it will save you from some unexpected surprises down the road.
You can start with a phone call to your local bank, to ask about their mortgage programs. You can ask your family and friends who they used for a mortgage and if they were happy with their service. Or I can refer you to a professional, reputable mortgage loan officer.
The pre-approval process will let you know what price range you can afford in a house and what your monthly payments will be. It will also let you know if you have any credit issues that need some work or if you need to wait a little while longer to save up for a larger down payment.
Most sellers and their listing agents want to see a written pre-appr…