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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, February 24, 2011

Sales on Foreclosed Homes in Area Drops
The Daily Herald reports today that the sale of foreclosed homes in suburban counties has had double-digit drops in 2010, compared to 2009, indicating a glut of distressed homes stalled on the market, according to a report expected to be released today by RealtyTrac Inc.

But the first six months of this year could see sales pick up for these foreclosed homes, the Irvine, Calif.-based online research firm said.

During 2010, Cook, DuPage, and Lake counties saw foreclosed home sales drop in the 20-percent range, while Will County’s plunged about 40 percent.

Some major reasons include the end of federal stimulus incentives for first-time homebuyers and the foreclosure document controversy that led some potential buyers to hesitate, said RealtyTrac spokesman Daren Blomquist.

“There is still a high level of inventory of foreclosed homes on the bank books that still haven’t sold,” said Blomquist. “But we’re expecting these sales to pick up during the first half of this year.”

But the “wild card” could be how quickly the attorneys general nationwide settle issues involving improper documents of foreclosed homes, especially those involving robo-signing. Other factors include tighter restrictions on getting mortgages and the high rate of unemployment.

“Eventually, they (bankers) will need to get them off their books,” said Blomquist. “Buyers are more cautious even if homes are listed as foreclosure sales. They’re more diligent before committing.”

RealtyTrac’s annual report shows that foreclosed homes accounted for nearly 26 percent of all U.S. residential sales during 2010, down from 29 percent of all sales in 2009. The report also said more than 831,000 such homes had sold to third parties in 2010, a decrease of 31 percent compared to the year before.

In Illinois, 29,194 foreclosed homes sold in 2010, a drop of nearly 22 percent from 2009. The average Illinois foreclosed home sold for $138,395. If it was already bank or real estate owned, then that property had an average discount of 46 percent, RealtyTrac said.

While surrounding counties here showed double-digit decreases, Kane County actually had a 7 percent increase in sales of foreclosed homes, possibly indicating that this area wasn’t hit as hard early on, but its foreclosures later accelerated. So it could be in a different selling cycle than other surrounding counties, Blomquist speculated.

The ongoing problem of so many foreclosed homes languishing on the market also continues to hurt the sale prices of other nearby homes, Blomquist said.

“The market needs to clear the inventory of these distressed properties in order for the market to truly return to health,” said Blomquist.

While RealtyTrac believes sales could increase over the next six months, another expert wasn’t as optimistic.

Homeowners continue to struggle and foreclosures will continue to mount here and nationwide. And the servicers, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, don’t have the staffing to handle them all. So the foreclosure crisis is likely to continue for at least the next five years, and the moratorium on whether a home was properly foreclosed will further complicate the system and stall many more sales, said Rebel A. Cole, DePaul University professor of finance and real estate.

“There is no light at the end of this tunnel,” Cole said.

2:37 pm cst 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Paying Down Principal - Does It Make Sense?

I often tell clients at closing to make one extra mortgage payment a year, because that will decrease a 30-year fixed rate mortgage into a 24-year mortgage. That's just one extra payment in a year! Here's an example of how it works:

Original mortgage amount: $200,000

Interest rate: 5.5%

30 Year term

Monthly payment: $1,135

Total paid in full on your loan is $409,131

By paying an extra payment of $1,135 or in increments of $1,135 over the year, you will reduce the total amount paid and the interest on your loan.

Total paid on your loan: $367,828

Money saved: $41,302

Term: 24 years

But is it worth it? Especially in this market?

Before you pre-pay your mortgage, you may want to consider these factors:

1) Consider your current interest rate. Is your money better spent on the mortgage or somewhere else? You might be able to refinance your current loan and save thousands on interest.

2) Consider your other debt. Do you have credit cards or other high-interest loans? Money is better spent on those items than the mortgage, which tends to have a lower interest rate. Pay off car loans, school loans and credit cards with a higher rate first.

3) Are you going to be selling your home soon? You may want to conserve that cash for the move, last minute repairs, closing costs, etc.

If you do decide to make extra payments toward your principal, make sure you always inform your bank that it is "principal reduction" or "principal curtailment."

 

10:42 am cst 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cash Buyers Boost Housing Market

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that buyers in markets around the U.S. are snapping up homes in all-cash deals, betting that prices are at or near bottom and breathing life into some of the nation's most battered housing markets.

Cash buyers represented more than half of all transactions in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area last year, according to an analysis from real-estate portal Zillow.com. In the fourth quarter of 2006, they represented just 13% of deals. Meanwhile, downtown Miami prices rose 15% in 2010 from a year earlier, according to the Miami Downtown Development Authority.

The percentage of buyers in Phoenix paying cash hit 42% in 2010—more than triple the rate in 2008, according to Raymond James's equity research division.

Nationally, 28% of sales were all-cash transactions last year, according to the National Association of Realtors. The rate was 14% in October 2008, when the trade group began tracking the measure.

The jump in real-estate purchases made with cash is another sign of the revival of animal spirits in the U.S. economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 69.48 points Monday, or 0.6%, to 12161.63, and the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 8.18 points, or 0.6%, to 1319.05.

Monday's announcements of $13 billion in acquisitions lifted stocks on hopes of more deals, share buybacks and dividends as companies regain momentum in an improving economy.

The two stock indexes have soared more than 80% since early March 2009.

The Federal Reserve reported that Americans increased their use of credit cards in December for the first time since August 2008, showing that consumers are getting less skittish about opening their wallets. Investors also were soothed Monday by encouraging signs in Egypt, including last weekend's reopening of banks.

Residential real estate has been slower to bounce back than stocks, but the presence of apparent bargains is luring in newly confident buyers.

Richard Stoker, a retired sales executive, recently plunked down cash for two condominiums in Miami Beach, and plans to close on one more in coming days. He loves the complex's ocean views, four swimming pools and activities such as yoga and Pilates.

But what also motivated the purchase, said the 73-year-old, was that "the prices were just irresistible. Florida's been hit pretty hard." To pay the $1.8 million, $1.2 million and $1 million prices on the condos, Mr. Stoker and his wife, Jane, cashed out of some financial investments and sold a Roy Lichtenstein painting and an Alexander Calder mobile.

Mr. Stoker could have taken out mortgages, but decided to pay cash. "It was a good time to lighten up in the art market and take on real estate at a favorable price," he said.

The harder a market has been hit, say economists, the higher the percentage of cash deals. Last summer, piano teacher Virginia Hall-Busch told a real-estate agent she met through the Rotary Club to keep her posted on deals on historic houses in Stone Mountain, Ga.

A few days later, Ms. Hall-Busch, 62, got a call about a 1918 bungalow with three bedrooms and one bathroom listed for "short sale," which in the real-estate world means at a price lower than what's owed on it. The home had been on the market for $159,000, then dropped to $129,000 and then to $79,900.

"I offered them 50," she said. "I figured, it wasn't like I needed a place to live. I can afford to be a little cocky here."

Ms. Hall-Busch closed in October for $52,500 and began renovations within weeks.

"When you have a bad economy, it's hard on lots of people," she said. "But right now if you've got the money to put down on a house, long term it's going to be good thing."

Some of the cash purchases reflect a tight lending environment, where even people with good credit and ample down payments are sometimes turned away for conventional borrowing.

"The rates are great but the underwriting is brutal," said Henry Schlangen, an agent with real-estate firm Pacific Union International who buys and sells for clients, mainly in Napa Valley, Calif.

"They hang these people upside down and shake them till they see what falls out of their pockets. So people are buying with cash and maybe they'll 'refi' later."

Mr. Schlangen, who deals in higher-end properties such as vineyard estates, estimated that 95% of his deals last year were all-cash, up from about half in previous years. "The deals that are consummating, these are buyers who feel they got a great deal," he said, noting a surge of buyers from China.

Cash buyers can often command 5% to 10% more off the asking price than a potential buyer using a mortgage, said Mohammed Siddiq, a real-estate professional in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Sellers prefer cash deals since they close more quickly and avoid risks such as a buyer's job loss or a bank's changing its mind.

And while many buyers making low-ball offers dig their heels, Mr. Siddiq said he has started to see bidding wars and slightly increasing prices.

Nationally, it isn't clear whether prices have bottomed. The Case-Shiller index of housing prices in 20 cities showed a steep decline in prices until 2009, when they appeared to bottom and began to trend upward. But in the second half of last year, prices began falling again. A Zillow index, meanwhile, never noted the uptick.

Since mid-October, Canyon Ranch in Miami Beach, the development Mr. Stoker bought into, has sold 35 units, with a third of the buyers from overseas and many others retiring from the Northeast.

The Stokers have a home in Potomac, Md., but spend most of the year in Florida. Mr. Stoker doesn't plan to rent out any of his new properties, saying he and his wife will live in one with two dogs, his son might live in another and the third will house an older dog and guests.

 

2:32 pm cst 


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