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Violet and I

Chicagoland real estate purchases, real estate sales, short sales, foreclosures, first-time buyer representation, Illinois condominium association representation, estate planning for everyone, powers of attorney, quit claim deeds, landlord/tenant issues, forcible detainer/evictions, civil unions, foreclosure defense and more...

This office serves clients in real estate transactions of all types. I also assist clients with estate planning for everyone, including the GLBT community, and represent Illinois condominium associations as needed. I help real estate investors who are renting their properties deal with difficult renter issues, and I advocate for renters dealing with difficult landlords.
I work with clients in Chicago and all over the Chicagoland area, including Wilmette, Skokie, Morton Grove, Plainfield, Wheaton, Glencoe, Lake Forest, Naperville, Oak Park, Winnetka, Des Plaines, Orland Park, Berwyn, Carol Stream, Arlington Heights, Crystal Lake, Barrington, Palatine, Park Ridge, Gurnee, South Holland, Park Forest and more.

My goal is to give each and every client personal, friendly and competent service at a reasonable price. I also strive to use technology in the best way possible to keep my clients informed.
My legal background includes working for a major Chicago developer and working for a boutique firm in their real estate division. I am also a landlord of a three flat building in Rogers Park and I am managing broker of a small real estate brokerage.
I work with all different types of clients, including developers, first-time buyers, buyers of second (or third!) homes, all sellers and the gay, lesbian and transgender community.

My real estate blog is below. Please make sure to check back on a regular basis to check out what's new. I update my blog about once a week and welcome any questions that you may have.
Ask me too about help with personal injury, divorce, and any other legal issues! 

301 Greenview Drive, Crystal Lake, IL 60014

(Chicago office by appointment)
773.818.9054 office/cell
866.381.4238 efax

Recommend my site by clicking here!

Check out my interview, Expert Advice on Buying a Foreclosed Home on Illinois Homes, one of the top sites for Illinois homes for sale, including Wheaton, IL real estate. Illinois Homes also services Michigan homes for sale and Pennsylvania homes for sale.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Pending Home Contracts Exceed Expectations!

Pending home sales made an unexpected jump in February, leading contract signings to their second highest mark since 2006, according to the National Association of Realtors.

NAR’s pending home sales index showed a 5.5 percent jump in homes under contract, a surprising bump from its prediction of 2.5 percent. That puts February’s pending homes total at the highest level since April 2016 and the second highest level since 2006, according to NAR.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said February’s numbers were boosted by unseasonably warm weather that led to an early start to the Spring home sale market. The numbers are proof that 2017 could be another year of positive growth for the housing market.

“Buyers came back in force last month as a modest, seasonal uptick in listings were enough to fuel an increase in contract signings throughout the country,” Yun said in a press release. “The stock market’s continued rise and steady hiring in most markets is spurring significant interest in buying, as well as the expectation from some households that delaying their home search man mean paying higher interest rates this year.”

The trend may not last long, however. Because housing inventory is at historic lows across the country, there are not enough houses to replace the ones under contract, Yun said. That is especially the case with lower-and-mid-market homes.

“The homes most buyers are in the market for are unfortunately the most difficult to find and ultimately buy,” Yun said. “The country’s healthy labor market is translating to great job security, but affordability is not improving because home prices in some areas are still outpacing incomes by three times or more because of tight supply. How much new and existing inventory there is on the market this spring will determine if sales can reach their full potential and finally start reversing the nation’s low homeownership rates.”

Contract signings increased 11.4 percent in the Midwest, 4.3 percent in the South, 3.4 percent in the Northeast and 3.1 percent in the West, according to NAR.

12:13 pm cdt 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Helpful Pointers for First Time Home Buyers

Buying a home can be overwhelming. Sometimes you may feel like gathering paperwork and communicating with your team is another full time job! Here are some tips to help make the process more stress-free.

1. Don't Make Large Purchases Before You Apply For Your Loan: This is a big one. Lenders look at your credit score during the application process, and then again just before closing. Keep your credit profile clean. If you accumulate a bunch of debt just before, or during the process, it can cause your loan to be denied. Don't make any large purchases before your closing, either. Lenders will look at your score again just before closing, and it may cause issues.

2. Don't Worry About Whether It's The Right Time: Any time is the right time to buy a home. This time of year, people shy away from buying because of the holiday season. Don't stress. You can't predict the housing market, and you might miss out on a great opportunity.

3. Don't Focus Just On The Rate: There are other costs involved with buying a home. Don't focus on the rate only. There are HOA fees, insurance, taxes, and closing costs that need to be paid as well.

4. Hire A Home Inspector: Do NOT buy a home without hiring a home inspector. This is NOT the area to be trying to save money. It will be the best $300-500 you spend. A home inspector will give you the complete picture of the condition of the home, let you know what maintenance items to budget for, and keep you from buying something you'll regret.

5. Hire A Real Estate Attorney: Again, no skimping on this. Lawyers are important to the process (and I'm not just saying that because I am one). You'll need someone to review title, deed and loan documents. You'll need an advocate for attorney review and home inspection items. The $400-800 you spend on a lawyer is another great investment to ensure things are right at closing.

6. Scope Out the Neighborhood: Before you make a purchase, check out the neighborhood. How close is it to things you need to get to? Do you need public transportation? Is it close to the grocery store? Your kids' school? Drive by the house at different times of the day and evening. You may love a neighborhood during the day, but may hate it at night.

7. Relax: Home buying is stressful. But it's also supposed to be fun. Don't stress about the little things, and listen to the people you've hired to help you - lender, Realtor, attorney, home inspector. We have done this thousands of times. We know how things go. Take our advice. 

9:16 am cst 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How Should An Unmarried Couple Take Title?

I have a lot of clients that purchase property together who are unmarried. They always ask me how they should take title. There are two choices for this: Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship, or Tenancy in Common.

When a couple takes property in Tenancy in Common, each person would have a divisible interest in the property. Typically this is a 50-50 split, but it does not have to be, and can be expressed in the deed as a different percentage split. Regardless, if one person passes away, the interest of the deceased would go to him or her estate and be distributed accordingly. If a judgment creditor wants to collect money from the deceased, the property can be sold to satisfy the debt, but only the deceased's half would be subject to the collection. The survivor may be required to sell the home, but he or she would get his or her portion of the proceeds from the sale.

In joint tenancy, there is not divisible interest. The party owns the entire property together, and if one of the owners passes away, the survivor would have ownership of the entire property without probate. If you are taking property in joint tenancy, please make sure that the phrase "with rights of survivorship" are always added, as every state's requirements for this language differ.

Some lawyers will recommend joint tenancy for couples, while others recommend joint tenancy. I make my recommendation on a case-by-case basis. If you do purchase property without being married, please consider a partnership agreement which would define what would happen to your property should your relationship end. And if you do get married, change the title of your deed to tenancy by the entirety to protect your assets against individual liability. 

11:03 am cdt 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Save Money and Energy With These Simple Projects

Do you have a heart attack every time you open your heating bill? There are a number of small things you can do around your home to save money and energy.

1) Get a programmable thermostat. These will lower the heat while you are sleeping or away from home. Ones like the Nest thermostat are even adjustable by an app on your phone. In cold weather, a 5 degree setback can save up to 5% of your bill.

2) Lay new insulation, or additional insulation in your attic.

3) Fasten foam or fiberglass panels to the walls of your crawlspace and cover with drywall.

4) Caulk exterior cracks around windows, doors, pipes and vents.

5) Replace windows that are faulty or old.

6) Replace old storm doors.

7) Insulate in unheated attic or basement by wrapping heating ducts with insulation. 

9:46 am cdt 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Millennials Finally Starting To Buy Homes

From - edited for content

As Millennials get older, they are increasing homeownership rates faster than in previous years, according to research from Fannie Mae.  

Fewer Millennials are buying homes than previous generations, true.  However as they get older, they are making up for lost time; The rate of increase for Millennials is significantly higher than the rate of increase for previous generations.

Now, as the housing market continues to recover, more Millennials are moving into homeownership. Some oft-cited reasons for the possible delays are commonly believed to be onerous student debt levels and a preference to renting

A study conducted by Genworth Mortgage Insurance at the 2016 Mortgage Bankers Association Secondary Conference in New York City showed that, while Millennials delayed homeownership longer than other generations, the industry expects that they are about to move into the housing market.

In fact, some are starting to realize that Millennials are the key to future growth in the industry. Credit unions are growing, and Millennials are both a key driver and a target market for sustained loan growth, according to a study by TransUnion.

There are, however, several problems holding Millennials back as they begin to enter the market. There’s an extreme shortage of inventory in the housing market. Hopefully this, too will soon resolve itself.

The most recent homebuilder confidence report recorded that homebuilders exhibited some optimism for the coming months. 

11:07 am cdt 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Home Prices Post Best Growth in Two Years

From Crain's Chicago:

Chicago-area home prices grew in May at the fastest pace in nearly two years, according to a closely watched index.

The region's single family home prices were up 3.7% in May from a year earlier, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices. It was the largest year-over-year increase in Chicago prices since an increase of 4.2% in July 2014.

May's figure improved on the 3.1% growth reported for April, which was the first time in several months that Chicago-area home prices had been up more than 2 percent year-over-year.

Even so, Chicago's home prices grew at a slower pace than the nation's. Home prices were up 5 percent nationwide in May, the index showed.

In several cities - including San Diego, San Francisco, New York and Washington - home-price increases have slowed, the report said.

Chicago's acceleration as other cities slow has moved it up the list of the 20 cities in terms of home-price growth. Chicago was at the bottom of the list in 2015 and most of 2016. 

The biggest home price increases were in West Coast cities Portland (12.5%) and Seattle (10.7%). 

3:01 pm cdt 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Home Warranties Can Be Worth It - But Read The Fine Print

From USA Today:

When Courtney St. Gemme-Chandler and her husband bought an older home in Aurora, CO, in 2012, they assumed it would need some minor TLC. But their elation at the closing table soon turned to frustration when the house started falling apart - and repair costs began piling up.

Right after they moved in, a pipe burst under the concrete in the basement. That was followed by a broken dishwasher, a non-functioning electrical panel and faulty electrical wiring. Luckily, the couple's real estate agent had purchased them a home warranty for a closing gift. 

None of these problems had come up during the home inspection. The home warranty, as it turned out, was a forutitous gift that saved them $2,000 on repair costs.

While homeowner's insurance protects your home against unforeseen circumstances, a home warranty, which costs an average of $550 per year, is a convenience program that covers the normal wear and tear on the major mechanical and electrical systems in a house, says Art Chartrand, counsel and administrator of the Nation Home Service Contract Association.

Your home's heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems, the water heater, sump pump and kitchen stove are some of the items covered by a home warranty.

Home warranties are nothing new, but more real estate agents have recommmended them in recent years as the housing market has been flooded with foreclosuresand short sales - properties that were often neglected or poorly maintained. 

"A home warranty is like an insurance policy that protects you after the home sale, but you have to pay close attention to what is and what isn't covered," says Tony Martinez, a real estate agent with RE/MAX North San Antonio. "Do your homeowrk and research companies online, and make sure you document all of your communications with the warranty company and the service technicians they hire on your behalf." 

Read the Fine Print

Consumers sometimes make the erroneous assumption that a home warranty covers the structural defects or insurable incidents, normally included in homeowner's insurance coverage, such as damage from natural disasters, burglary or fires, Chartrand says. Some also mistaknely believe that the policies function as emergency home service contract, meaning the problem will be diagnosed and fixed within hours, which isn't the case.

When you file a claim, your home warranty company chooses a local contractor that's been vetted and sends a worker out to diagnose your problem for a set service fee, which you're responsible for paying. If the contractor doesn't find an issue or you can disagree with the findings you can ask the warranty company to send a different contractor out to give a second opinion, Chartrand says.

Getting a claim approved comes down to understanding what your policy does and does not cover. Most home warranties expire after a set time period and don't cover every little thing in your home - think leaky faucets or peeling paint. That puts the onus on you to read your Contract and ask questions, says Katherine Hutt, national spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau.

You might opt for a certain level of coverage based on your home's size, condition and age. Beware of scammers who might offer a half-price warranty, and then disappear when you try to file a claim, Chartrand says. Consumers should be cautious of such offers and research home warranty providers before choosing one.

Negotiate Repairs in the Home Inspection 

A home inspection won't uncover every major problem, but it can lay the groundwork for getting the most from your home warranty. While Martinez recommends home warranties for his buyers, he also advises them to negotiate major repairs during the home inspection and ensure regular maintenance of their home's systems and appliances. Some home warranty companies, for example, won't cover an air-conditioning unit that hasn't been serviced within a certain time frame; that's an item worth negotiating with the Seller before closing. 

2:03 pm cdt 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Four Client Red Flags to Look For - Real Estate Agents

Love this article courtesy of Terri Small at BMOHarris. This applies to attorneys too! 

12:45 pm cdt 

Title Law Seminar June 14 and 15

I'm very excited to be speaking about the new TRID lender regulations at this seminar in downtown Chicago in a few weeks. Fellow lawyers, if you need Continuing Ed credits, please join us! 

12:05 pm cdt 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What Happens to a Mortgage After a Bankruptcy Discharge?
Recently, I had a client ask me what happens to the mortgage on their current home when it is discharged pursuant to a bankruptcy order. Contrary to what you might initially think, A debt that is secured, such as a mortgage, is dischargeable BUT if you want to keep the house or other secured asset, you have to pay the debt as you normally would. A discharge simply means that it eliminates the DEBT on the property, not the LIEN. So, if you were to stop making payments on the debt that has been discharged on your home, the bank can repossess the property, but it cannot pursue you for the money that is owed. As long as you remain current with the payments, you can stay in your home as you normally would. 
7:55 pm cst 

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