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Showing posts from April, 2008

Little Details in the Big Picture

You've decided on a home! Your offer has been accepted!

Those are the big details in buying a home. But there are still some smaller details that you need to take care.

Often times buyers forget about these things and the results range from inconvenience to not being able to buy your home.

One of the first things you must do is call an insurance agent to set up home owner's insurance for your new home. This must be done within ten (10) days of the accepted offer date, per our Northern Illinois real estate sales contract.

You must have home owner's insurance in order to obtain your final mortgage and close on the property. Not having home owner's insurance means you cannot close on the property.

Be sure to contact all the utility companies to set up service to go into your name for the day of closing. If the closing date is changed, you need to contact the same utility companies again. Many of these services are now available to set up online.

Always return phone calls from …

No Grass to Cut, No Snow to Shovel

Townhouse Associations: What's Included For The Cost?

This varies from state to state, and from area to area within any given state.

In the Northern Illinois area, the "typical" monthly townhouse association fee covers the following:

Lawn care
Snow removal
Exterior maintenance
Common area insurance

If the community has a clubhouse, exercise room, a pool, or is located on a golf course - the monthly fee may be higher due to the extra amenities.

Part of the attraction to a townhouse is that you are not responsible for any outside maintenance. No lawn mower, no snow blower. You don't have to seal coat the driveway.

But with the convenience comes a few restrictions. You can't paint your front door a bold new color. You may not be able to have a charcoal grill on your deck, only a gas grill (for fire prevention and safety reasons).

You also have the assurance that your neighbor can't paint their front door some crazy color. If someone does break the rules, there is a manag…

Looks Can Be Deceiving

How are you deciding on which homes to see?

Sometimes, looks can be deceiving. Some homes photograph really well, other homes are more challenging. Perhaps there is a large tree in the way, or a really good size home comes across as looking small in the photo.

I take the photos of my listings myself, to try to maximize the home's appeal on the Internet. I also do the virtual tour myself. This allows me to have more control over how soon the photos and tour are available, along with the quality of the finished product.

But back to your home buying decisions. Some things can be easily fixed in a home, if they are not to your personal taste, and if the price is right for you. Things like paint and carpet are mainly cosmetic changes.

If the same home keeps coming up again and again in your Internet search criteria, you may want to check out this house. It usually only takes a few minutes to know if a home is a definite "NO" once you're inside.

But if the home has some possi…

Rainy Day Showings

Should you cancel your appointment to look at homes if the weather is rainy?

Definitely NOT. Although it may not be much fun coming in and out of the rain, it is a good opportunity to check out a home's basement.

Some homes experience the occasional trickle of water during a heavy downpour. Some homes flood during the typical rainstorm. Naturally, we are looking for a home without any water in the basement.

This is also a good opportunity to see if there are any leaks in the roof.

In the Northern Illinois area, the seller completes a "Residential Real Property Disclosure Report". The questions on this form include "I am aware of flooding or recurring leakage problems in the crawl space or basement."

The seller is required by state law to answer these questions truthfully and to the best of their knowledge.

There are many good waterproofing companies in the area, if a problem occurs or is discovered during a home inspection.

Seeing a home during a rain storm could alm…

Who's In Control?

In our current "Buyer's Market" - does one party have more power, the buyer or the seller?

There are many more sellers than buyers at this moment, so you might expect that the buyers have all the control.

To a certain extent that may be true. Sellers need to price their home very competitively and have their house in top showing condition. The homes with the best price and the best condition usually sell first.

But because of the competitiveness in this "Buyer's Market", some sellers are pricing their homes at their bottom line price. These sellers may move off their price by $500, but that's it. The reasoning behind this is to bring in more buyers, thus increasing the chance for an offer.

When a home for sale is priced so close to it's bottom selling price, it can be a little disappointing for a buyer. Buyers are hearing that it's a "Buyer's Market" and they can get a great deal. Many times these homes are a great deal, they are pri…

When Is The House Really Sold?

Buyers and sellers will ask me, "When is the house really sold?"

That answer would be at the closing, after all the papers have been signed, the money has been transferred and the keys are handed over to the new owner.

As we go through the sales process from initial offer to accepted offer to closing, several things happen that make us more assured of a closing.

1. After the offer has been negotiated out and accepted, any contract changes are initialed by the buyers. Then the contract is signed and initialed by the sellers.
2. The buyer's earnest money check is submitted to the listing office.
3. The house status is changed to "contingent" in the Multiple Listing Service.
4. The attorneys for each side review and approve the contract.
5. The home inspection is done by the buyers.
6. Any request for repairs are negotiated.
7. The appraisal for the buyer's loan is done.
8. The final loan commitment is issued for the buyer's loan.
9. The attorneys arrange for the tim…

Love At First Sight

Is it okay to buy the first home that you see?

You might find this surprising, but many of my clients end up buying the first home that they see. That's not to say that we only look at one house for sale. Sometimes we look at twenty or more homes, before the decision is made to go back and buy that first house.

You keep comparing that first home to all the rest, and that first house keeps coming back to you as the best house.

A good point to remember is that you probably started out looking at homes on the Internet. You checked your criteria against the thousands of homes available for sale in your search area.

From the thousands of homes for sale, we narrowed it down to your top choices. So we've already eliminated thousands of homes for sale. Now we have a short list of homes that fit your needs and your personal taste. From there, we go out and actually look at the homes.

It's okay to trust your gut feeling about the house you want to buy. And it's normal to feel a li…

Grand Opening: Grayslake Youth Center: April 11, 2008

Grayslake has a brand new youth center called "The Oasis" located at 151 Hawley in Grayslake.

The Grand Opening is on Friday, April 11 2008 from 6:30 pm to 11:00 pm. The event is open to everyone and admission is free.

From the website, the mission statement of the youth center is: "To be the place of choice for students ages 12 to 18 to go after school, evenings, and weekends. To provide a safe and stimulating environment to interact with others in the same age group."

You can find additional information about the youth center at their website

Additional details on the youth center from their website include:


"There will be study areas, movie areas (with a large screen TV), music areas, conversation pits and dining areas."


"There will be a stage for bands or small theater productions, a food preparation area consisting of refrigeration units and microwaves, a soda fountain, a smoothie station, and a …

A, B, C or D: All of the Above

Narrowing down your choices when you're looking for a home.

Part of my job as your realtor, is to discuss with you what you are looking for in a home purchase. We will focus in on what you must have and set up that criteria in a home search program for you. You will receive emails of homes for sale that are a match for your "must have" criteria. I will send you an initial email with many homes for sale. Then each day any newly listed homes will be emailed to you, along with any homes that have a price change.

When you are ready to actually go out and see some homes, I am going to ask you which homes you like and which homes can be eliminated. After we see the first two homes, I'm going to ask you which home you like better: the first one or the second? Through out the day, we will continue to compare homes for sale, to help you in your decision making. Depending on the number of homes we see in one day, we may end up with a "Top 4 Homes" for you to consider.

Lake County Fair July 22 - 27, 2008

If you have never had the opportunity to experience the annual Lake County Fair, I encourage you and your family to go.I grew up in Mundelein, Illinois and the Lake County Fair was an event that my family looked forward to every summer. We went to the fair each day and saw all the events. This year is the 80th Anniversary of the Lake County Fair and the last year that the fair is going to be held at it's current location at Route 120 and Route 45 in Grayslake, Illinois.In the future, The New Lake County Fairgrounds will be located at 1060 E. Peterson Road, Grayslake, Illinois. Near the intersection of Peterson Road and Midlothian Road.For additional information on the Lake County Fair, you can visit their website at: Village of Grayslake also has a webpage devoted to updates on the new Lake County Fair at:

Jim Starwalt Thinking of making a move? Log onto my website at www.StarHomeFinders.…

What's It Worth To You?

Deciding what you'll pay for a home.

Ideally, when you have found a home that would like to buy, your feelings will be somewhere between "I love this house and will pay anything" and "I really don't care if they accept my offer".
I say this because my goal is to help you find a home that you are excited about.
In the Northern Illinois area, buyers do not typically start out with their best offer for a house. Most sellers and buyers expect to negotiate at least a little.
My job, as your buyer's agent, is to give you some advice on where we should start with our initial offer. My suggestions are going to be based on what has sold recently, that are comparable to the home you are looking at. And my advice is going to be based on the current real estate market conditions, along with the physical condition of the home you are considering.
As your buyer's agent, I will provide you with the following information: what is for sale in the neighborhood, what has…

Grinders Cafe & Eatery: More Than Just A Good Cup of Coffee

I love a good cup of coffee - who doesn't?

And a good cup of coffee doesn't have to come from Starbucks. I do go to Starbucks from time to time as well, but I don't know why - when I can get a cup of coffee that I enjoy more from Grinders.

When you want something more "local" with a neighborhood feel, Grinders Cafe & Eatery is that kind of place. Located at 82 Center Street in Grayslake, it is in the heart of the historic downtown Grayslake area, on the corner of Center Street and Slusser Street.

My wife and I live about four blocks from Grinders and it is one of our favorite walking destinations in the summer. Weather permitting, Grinders has tables with umbrellas outside.

If you're not a coffee lover, Grinders also has a variety of other drinks including teas and iced drinks.

Their menu includes a variety of bagels and breakfast sandwiches. For lunch, my favorite is the Grinder Sandwich. Other lunch favorites include the panninis, the focaccia pizzas, the so…