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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 LGBTQ 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! 

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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.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lenders Discriminating Against Pregnant Women?

Not too long ago I blogged about lenders pulling loans from clients who were pregnant during the course of processing their loans. Now HUD has begun investigating mortgage lenders to determine if they are discriminating against pregnant women because giving birth could diminish a family's income. The investigation was triggered by a New York Times article stating that maternity leave was being considered a factor in determining loan qualification. HUD has issued a statement saying the practice would violate Fair Housing laws.

9:52 pm cdt 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When You Buy a Home, Your Business is your Lender's Business!

This past Sunday the Tribune had an article about how home lenders are getting more and more data on their prospective borrowers, even going to so far as to seeing where you have your food delivered to make sure you're living in the home you said you would live in!

Lenders are also checking credit scores at the time of application, but then also again right before the transaction closes. So be careful if you plan to run up debt or buy that new big screen TV prior to closing! Your lender may deny your loan.

Lenders are even looking at where you shop. Someone who buys at Brooks Brothers vs. someone who buys at say, JCPenney, may have more disposable income.

You complete a form at application and at closing - Form 4506-T, which also allows the lender to pull up from the IRS your latest tax returns and verify your social security number. Borrowers have always been signing this document, but in the past, lenders were not verifying the information. 

The bottom line here is, BE TRUTHFUL! Don't exaggerate or stretch the truth, or flat out lie to your lender. You will get caught, and there will be dire consequences! Big brother is watching!

1:04 pm cdt 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Need a Mortgage? Don't Get Pregnant! (?)

Reprinted from today's New York Times:

Expectant parents shopping for a home are not the only ones concerned about the date of the baby’s arrival. 

Mortgage lenders are taking a harder look at prospective borrowers whose income has temporarily fallen while they are on leave, including new parents at home taking care of a baby. Even if a parent plans on returning to work within weeks, some lenders are balking at approving the loans.

“If you are not back at work, it’s a huge problem,” said Rick Cason, owner of Integrity Mortgage, a mortgage firm in Orlando, Fla. “Banks only deal in guaranteed income these days. It makes sense, but the guidelines are sometimes actually harsher than they need to be.”

Back in the slapdash days of easy credit, lenders were more likely to overlook the fact that a parent was out on maternity or paternity leave. But now that lenders have become more conservative, they are requiring new parents to jump through more hoops to prove their income will be enough to cover the mortgage.

So before some prospective parents start spending their Sundays at open houses, they should be prepared to deal with some complications. They may have to delay the purchase, deal with the banks’ bureaucracy (and requests for extra paperwork) or buy a home they can afford on one salary.

“Maternity leave or any other leave of absence often prevents a person from obtaining a mortgage,” said John Councilman, president of AMC Mortgage in Fallston, Md. “There are some who long for the days when such strict proof of income was not required.”

The lenders’ new attitude can be traced, in part, to new loan quality-control measures that went into effect earlier this year. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two quasi-governmental mortgage giants that buy the bulk of conventional loans from lenders, have not changed their rules for qualifying for a mortgage. But the system of checks and balances has been tightened, making lenders increasingly skittish.

Fannie, for instance, now requires lenders to recheck a borrower’s financial situation right before the loan closes. That includes calling an employer to verify employment. Before, lenders required only a statement in writing. Fannie’s new rules went into effect on June 1. Freddie’s similar rule took effect in January.

Both Fannie and Freddie have always required that borrowers have enough income to pay for the loan on closing day — and the lender must document that the income is likely to continue for at least three years.

But here is how some lenders are interpreting the guidelines for, say, a new mother receiving short-term disability insurance for a couple of months (new mothers may receive disability payments while on maternity leave, though the amount and length depend on state law and company policies).

Since the disability payments will not continue for three years, these lenders will not count it as qualifying income, brokers said, and will require the new mother to reapply for the mortgage once she returns to work. (The same logic may apply to an injured employee receiving worker’s compensation.)

That is what happened to Elizabeth Budde, a 33-year-old oncologist who lives in Kenmore, Wash. She nearly lost her mortgage after a loan officer learned she was home with her newborn.

With stellar credit and a solid job, Dr. Budde said she had been notified via e-mail that she was approved for a loan on June 15. But that note prompted an automatic, “out of the office” e-mail reply from Dr. Budde’s work account, which said she was out on maternity leave.

The next day, Dr. Budde received a second e-mail message from the lender, this time denying her loan approval. Since “maternity leave is classified as paid via short-term or temporary disability income,” the e-mail message said, it could not be used because it would not continue for three years.

The message also said the lender could not consider her regular, salaried income because she was not on the job. “I was really shocked,” Dr. Budde said. “At the time, they didn’t know how I was getting paid for my leave.”

The lender suggested that she get a co-signer — her husband is a graduate student, so his income was not enough to qualify — or reapply after she returned to work. But with the help of a representative from her real estate brokerage firm, Redfin, Dr. Budde was finally able to explain that she was receiving her full salary during her time off since she was using accumulated sick and vacation days. Once she provided a letter from her employer, proving her case, she was able to requalify.

“The reason we were buying the house was because we were having a baby,” said Dr. Budde, who is now living in the three-bedroom home, bought for $300,000. “And now we got punished for having a baby.”

Janis Smith, a spokeswoman for Fannie Mae, said there was nothing in its guidelines that would prohibit a borrower on maternity or paternity leave from qualifying for a mortgage, as long as the borrower had proof at the time of the closing that his or her income would be adequate upon returning to work. Letters from a doctor (with a return date) and the employer (stating the return date and salary) should be enough, she added.

Loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration follow a similar protocol. Brad German, a spokesman for Freddie, said its guidelines required underwriters to make sure the borrower’s income was stable and could be expected to continue for at least three years.

But, brokers said, many lenders are clearly reading those guidelines through an increasingly conservative lens. “Lenders are picking and choosing what part of the Freddie and Fannie guidelines they want to use and how they will interpret them because one bad loan could put a company out of business,” said Jeffrey J. Jaye, president of the Upfront Mortgage Brokers Association, a trade group for brokers who disclose their fees upfront.

For some lenders, that may mean approving a loan only after the borrower is back at work “There is no real assurance that the new mom will come back to work after she has the baby,” said Marc Savitt, president of the Mortgage Center, a brokerage in Martinsburg, W.Va. “It’s just prudent underwriting to go ahead and approve the loan, but she has to be back before closing.” (Lenders cannot ask a woman if she is pregnant, brokers said, but they can ask borrowers if they expect their employment or income situation to change.)

Indeed, if Fannie or Freddie learn that a loan does not meet its underwriting requirements, it can require the lender to repurchase the loan. Both companies are performing more quality control checks on the loans they buy or package and sell as securities. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the number of repurchase requests has risen sharply.

The companies said they required lenders to buy back a total of $3.1 billion in loans in the first quarter, up 64 percent from the same period last year.

“While repurchase requests have always happened in the past, it’s never been to the degree that is happening now,” said Kevin Iverson, president of the Reed Mortgage Corporation in Denver, acknowledging that the repurchasing is obviously driven by the high level of defaults. “The end result is lenders are running a bit scared. So when in doubt, they just reject the loan.”

Dave Varni, a real estate agent with McGuire Real Estate in San Francisco, recently learned about lenders’ nervousness about borrowers on leave while working with a couple expecting a baby within weeks. They wanted to make an offer on a home, but they needed both of their salaries to qualify. Ultimately, a mortgage broker told Mr. Varni that the expectant mother would not be considered “employed” when it was time to close the loan, which would probably disqualify her.

“It was eye-opening to me and my clients,” said Mr. Varni, who said the broker explained that lenders were skittish about lending to a new parent who might decide to stay home. “We are going to assess our situation and may have to shift our search to something where he could qualify by himself.”

 

10:20 am cdt 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Multi-Unit Owners Get Slammed by Falling Values

Roeder on Real Estate in the July 7th Trib:

Hard times are hitting apartment owners in the Chicago area. "Serves them right," some Chicagoans will say, since landlords aren't sympathetic figures.

But if landlords are having trouble, maintenance suffers. Units and neighborhoods deteriorate and family life is disrupted. The supply of affordable and decent housing falls.

nd that's what's happening in Chicago neighborhoods, according to a study by James Shilling, finance professor at DePaul University's Institute for Housing Studies. Among his findings:

• Falling property values in Cook County have put about $13 billion in multifamily mortgages at risk of default, about 30 percent of the total debt. Most of the risky loans are tied up in buildings with six units or fewer.

• Foreclosures of apartment buildings fall heaviest on poor neighborhoods. For the 2-6 unit buildings, the foreclosure rate in 2009 was 13.9 percent for poor neighborhoods vs. 4.2 percent for regions with high incomes. For larger buildings, the comparative foreclosure rates were 7.8 percent and 2.1 percent last year.

• Within Chicago, rents don't cover operating costs for about 74,000 apartments, or one in eight of all units.

Shilling said the situation has forced lenders to play the "extend and pretend" game, delaying foreclosures while hoping that valuations rebound. Or in many cases, banks have foreclosed, taken possession and kicked out tenants, keeping the units empty and boarded up until the market settles down.

A South Side landlord, Carl Pettigrew, agreed that many owners have been backed into a financial corner, especially if they bought their buildings from 2005 to 2007, the years of record volumes in mortgage lending. "I have noticed there are more buildings where people are not putting money into the properties," said Pettigrew, member of New Venture Realty LLC, which owns more than 200 units. "It's often because they paid too much and when the market turned on them, they didn't have the free cash flow."

Shilling's report, a "working paper" for DePaul's housing institute, addresses the importance of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage guarantors that now hold about two-thirds of all loans on apartment buildings in Cook County. Policymakers have said the agencies should be forced to limit their exposure to multifamily loans, a move Shilling said would make the market more perilous.

But he speaks carefully when recommending solutions, mindful that the government already has spent $145 billion propping up Fannie and Freddie and may be called on for much more. Shilling suggests an expanded role for the Federal Housing Administration and wonders whether prolonging foreclosures isn't counterproductive.

"The sooner properties are removed from the housing stock, the sooner rents will begin to rise and the sooner the long-run equilibrium will be restored," Shilling said.

 

 

11:51 am cdt 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mortgage Applications Rise, but Rush is to Refinance

WASHINGTON (AP) — Applications for home loans rose last week as consumers raced to refinance at the lowest rates in decades.

The Mortgage Bankers Associations said Wednesday that overall applications increased nearly 7 percent from a week earlier. While they have been increasing in recent weeks, they remain below early 2009 levels.

Applications to refinance home loans were up 9 percent to the highest level since May 2009. But new mortgages taken out to purchase homes fell 2 percent.

Those applications have fallen in eight out of the last nine weeks, after government tax credits that spurred home sales ended on April 30. Applications were 35 percent below last year's levels.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed loan sank to 4.58 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac. That was the lowest since the mortgage company began keeping records in 1971.

Mortgage rates have fallen since mid-April. Investors, nervous about Europe's debt crisis and the global economy, have shifted money into safe Treasury bonds. That has caused the yields on those bonds to fall. Long-term fixed mortgage rates tend to track those yields.

Applications to refinance loans made up 79 percent of total applications, the highest share of refinancing activity since April 2009.

The Mortgage Bankers Association's survey covers more than 50 percent of all applications nationwide and has been conducted since 1990.

7:06 pm cdt 

Mortgage Applications Rise, but to Refinance

WASHINGTON (AP) — Applications for home loans rose last week as consumers raced to refinance at the lowest rates in decades.

The Mortgage Bankers Associations said Wednesday that overall applications increased nearly 7 percent from a week earlier. While they have been increasing in recent weeks, they remain below early 2009 levels.

Applications to refinance home loans were up 9 percent to the highest level since May 2009. But new mortgages taken out to purchase homes fell 2 percent.

Those applications have fallen in eight out of the last nine weeks, after government tax credits that spurred home sales ended on April 30. Applications were 35 percent below last year's levels.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed loan sank to 4.58 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac. That was the lowest since the mortgage company began keeping records in 1971.

Mortgage rates have fallen since mid-April. Investors, nervous about Europe's debt crisis and the global economy, have shifted money into safe Treasury bonds. That has caused the yields on those bonds to fall. Long-term fixed mortgage rates tend to track those yields.

Applications to refinance loans made up 79 percent of total applications, the highest share of refinancing activity since April 2009.

The Mortgage Bankers Association's survey covers more than 50 percent of all applications nationwide and has been conducted since 1990.

7:02 pm cdt 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

First Time Homebuyers Closing Extension Goes to Obama for Signature

Reported from CNNMoney.com late June 30th....

 First-time homebuyers will have until Sept. 30 to close on their purchases and land an $8,000 tax credit under a bill passed by the Senate late Wednesday.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill, which was overwhelmingly approved by the House on Tuesday. The deadline had been June 30.

The bill doesn't help anyone currently shopping for a home. Buyers must have signed a contract by April 30 to qualify for the tax break. At issue is when the deal must be finalized.

Qualified existing homeowners also have until Sept. 30 to close on new homes and receive a tax credit of up to $6,500.

Congress has been trying to pass the extension for the last month, but it got caught up in Washington politics. Only when it was separated from a larger jobs bill did deficit-wary lawmakers sign off on it. The extension will only raise the deficit by $9 million.

An estimated 200,000 people have missed out on the tax credit because they wouldn't have been able to close by the end of business Wednesday. Many are trying to take advantage of short sales, which are complicated deals to complete.

The Senate approved the stand-alone homebuyers tax credit shortly after a failed attempt to advance a bill that combined the credit with an unemployment benefits extension.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the chamber will take up the benefits bill again once a replacement for the late Senator Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., is named. Byrd, the longest serving member of Congress in history, died Monday at age 92.

12:12 am cdt 


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