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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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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Home Buyers Shocked to See Bidding Wars are Back

From yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

A new development is catching home buyers off guard as the spring sales season gets under way: Bidding wars are back.

From California to Florida, many buyers are increasingly competing for the same house. Unlike the bidding wars that typified the go-go years and largely reflected surging sales, today's are a result of supply shortages.

[BIDWARS] Peter Earl McCollough for The Wall Street Journal

Debbie and Bill Wetherell received multiple offers for their home.

"It's a little surprising because we thought bidding wars were done with," said Andy Aley, who is looking to buy his first home in Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood. The 31-year-old attorney was outbid this year when he offered up to $23,000 above the $357,000 listing price and agreed to waive inspections and other closing conditions.

Competitive bidding in the current environment isn't producing huge price increases or leaving sellers with hefty profits, as occurred during the housing boom. Still, the bidding wars caused by tight inventory provide the latest evidence that housing demand is starting to pick up after a six-year-long slump.

An index that measures the number of contracts signed to purchase previously owned homes rose in March to its highest level in nearly two years, up 12.8% from a year ago and 4.1% from February, the National Association of Realtors reported on Thursday.

"We very much believe we've hit bottom," said Ivy Zelman, chief executive of a research firm, who was among the first to warn of a downturn seven years ago. Earlier this week, she raised her home-price forecast for the year, calling for a 1% annual gain, up from a 1% decline.

The Wall Street Journal's quarterly survey found that the inventory of homes listed for sale declined sharply in all 28 markets tracked. Real-estate agents consider a market balanced when there is a six-month supply of homes for sale. At the height of the housing crisis, in 2008, there was an 11.1-months' supply. In March, there was a 6.3-months' supply.

Inventory levels in many markets were at the lowest level in years. At the current pace of sales, it would take just 1.5 months to sell all the homes listed in Sacramento, Calif., and 2.4 months to sell all the homes listed in Phoenix. San Francisco and Washington, D.C., each have 3.4 months of supply, while Miami has 4.1 months of supply.

Other markets have plenty of homes. Chicago, for example, has 9.4 months of supply, while New York's Long Island has 16.1 months of supply. Even in those markets, the number of houses for sale is edging down.

Increased competition is frustrating buyers and their agents. "We're writing a record number of offers, but we're not seeing a record number of closings and that's because it's so competitive," said Glenn Kelman, chief executive of real-estate brokerage Redfin Corp. in Seattle with offices in 14 states.

Nearly 83% of offers that Redfin agents have made on behalf of clients in the San Francisco Bay area this year and 71% in Southern California have had competing bids. Redfin represented a buyer that made the winning bid on a Gaithersburg, Md., home earlier this month after agreeing to adopt the dog of the seller, who was relocating and looking to find a new home for "Buddy," a white toy poodle.

Inventories are declining for a number of reasons. Some sellers, unwilling to accept prices that are still down from their peak by one-third, are taking their homes off the market in anticipation of higher prices down the road. Meanwhile, investors have been outmaneuvering consumers for the best properties, often making cash offers that are quickly accepted by sellers.

In addition, some economists say that inventory levels are being held artificially low because Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the nation's biggest banks have been slow to list for sale hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes they currently own. The lenders slowed down foreclosure sales and repossessions after record-keeping abuses surfaced 18 months ago.

Banks and other mortgage investors owned nearly 450,000 foreclosed properties at the end of March, and another two million mortgages were in some stage of foreclosure.

Inventories could rise, putting more pressure on prices, if the banks and other lenders step up their efforts to sell their properties. Real-estate agents say they aren't concerned. "There's an enormous appetite for foreclosures. Release the inventory. It will sell," said Richard Smith, chief executive of Realogy Corp., which owns the Coldwell Banker and Century 21 real-estate brands.

[BIDWARS]

The declining inventory of older homes is spurring sales of new homes. New home sales are up 16% so far this year, compared with a year ago, while inventories of new homes fell in March to their lowest level since record keeping began in 1963.

Meritage Homes Corp., a builder based in Scottsdale, Ariz., reported Thursday a 36% increase in orders for the quarter ending in March versus the previous-year period.

Even though bidding wars are pushing prices higher, many homes are still selling for prices far lower than a few years ago. Increased demand is "entirely affordability driven, which tells me there will be strong resistance to price increases" by buyers, says Jeffrey Otteau, president of Otteau Valuation Group, an East Brunswick, N.J., appraisal firm.

Rents are rising at a time when mortgage rates have fallen to very low levels. The result is that the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced home is lower than any time since the 1990s. Freddie Mac reported on Thursday that mortgage rates fell to 3.88% for the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage, near its lowest recorded level.

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Rates are "so low that we can afford a house that was out of our price range before," said Aarthi Srinivasan, who is looking with her husband for a home around Palo Alto, Calif., one of the country's hottest real-estate markets.

Ms. Srinivasan says she fears that prices are being bid up too quickly. She says she had her "aha moment" earlier this year while touring a 50-year-old house that needed extensive remodeling. The home, listed at $1.1 million, received nearly 10 offers and eventually went under contract for more than $1.3 million to a buyer who hadn't even viewed the property.

"There are only so many buyers who are going to be in such a hurry, so we're hoping it'll top off soon," she says. On Monday, they offered to pay more than the $1.2 million list price for a four-bedroom, bank-owned foreclosure. They haven't found out if they made the top bid.

On the other side of those transactions are sellers like Debbie and Bill Wetherell, who had 17 offers in four days for their four-bedroom home in Danville, Calif. "I was floored. It was so fast, it was surreal," says Ms. Wetherell. The home sold on Wednesday for $796,000, more than $50,000 above the asking price.

Still, the sale is for nearly $180,000 less than what they paid for the house in 2005. Ms. Wetherell's husband has commuted to Reno, Nev., for five years and they have decided to relocate.

Housing markets face other headwinds. More than 11 million homeowners owe more than their home is worth. It is a big reason that the "trade-up" market has been stalled. These homeowners can't sell their current homes, let alone come up with the down payment for their next home.

Mortgage-lending standards remain tough. Real-estate agents say an unusually high share of deals are falling apart because homes won't appraise at the price that buyers have agreed to pay sellers.

Still, borrowers with stable jobs are looking to make deals. Kelly Pajela-Fu and her husband offered to pay the asking price of $600,000 for a four-bedroom home in Marblehead, Mass., within a day of the property hitting the market.

"We just knew this house would go quickly," says Ms. Pajela-Fu, a 31-year-old doctor who had lost out on an earlier offer. Their strategy to avoid a bidding war paid off: The sellers accepted their offer before having an open house.

 

10:26 am cdt 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fannie and Freddie Set Timelines for Short Sale Responses

Thanks to Garret Hiller and John Poast for providing this!

Beginning June 15, real estate agents working with distressed homeowners whose loans are backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should expect to receive a decision on a short sale offer within 30-60 days.

The GSEs issued new guidelines Tuesday that fall under the Servicing Alignment Initiative rolled out last fall and aim to bring greater transparency to the short sale process and expedite decisions related to these pre-foreclosure sales.

Not only is a short sale an effective foreclosure alternative when home retention is no longer an option, but it keeps homes occupied and helps to maintain stable communities, according to the Federal Housing Financing Agency (FHFA).

Addressing real estate practitioners’ No. 1 complaint about short sales, FHFA directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to establish a new uniform set of minimum response times that servicers must follow in order to facilitate more efficient short sale transactions.

The GSEs’ new short sale timelines require servicers to make a decision within 30 days of receiving either an offer on a property under the companies’ traditional short sale programs or a completed Borrower Response Package (BRP) requesting short sale consideration, whether it’s through the federal government’s Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative (HAFA) program or a GSE program.

If more than 30 days are needed, servicers must provide the borrower with weekly status updates and come to a decision no later than 60 days from the date the BRP or offer was received.

According to the GSEs, this 30-day add-on will provide some leeway for servicers who may need more time to obtain a broker price opinion (BPO) or a private mortgage insurer’s approval for a short sale. All decisions must be made within 60 days.

In the event a servicer makes a counteroffer, the borrower is expected to respond within five business days. The servicer must then respond within 10 business days of receiving the borrower’s response.

The GSEs plan to use the new short sale timelines to evaluate servicer compliance with the Servicing Alignment Initiative.

Edward DeMarco, acting director of the FHFA, says the GSEs new borrower communication and timeline requirements for short sales “set minimum standards and provide clear expectations regarding these important foreclosure alternatives.”

GSE servicers must comply with the new minimum communication time frames for all short sale evaluations conducted on or after June 15, 2012, although servicers are encouraged to begin implementing the new requirements sooner.

“I applaud Fannie and Freddie for finally coming out with real guidance with real world timelines for their servicers,” commented Anthony Lamacchia, broker/owner of McGeough Lamacchia Realty Inc., which specializes in short sales. “There is no question that this will help short sales and the market as a whole.”

Last year Freddie Mac completed 45,623 short sales, a 140 percent increase since 2009. Fannie Mae’s short sale completions shot up by 101 percent over the same period, totaling around 79,800 in 2011.

9:14 am cdt 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

March Housing Starts Fall But New Permits Surge

(Reuters) - Groundbreaking on homes fell unexpectedly in March but permits for future construction rose to their highest level in 3-1/2 years, giving a mixed message for one of the economy's weaker sectors.

Housing starts slipped 5.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 654,000 units, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday.

The long-moribund housing sector has showed signs of an incipient recovery in recent months, and homebuilding could add to economic growth this year for the first time since 2005.

Despite the drop in starts, the data suggests housing construction could still add to gross domestic product during the first quarter, said Millan Mulraine, a macro strategist at TD Securities.

But an oversupply of unsold homes is depressing prices, creating a big hurdle for the sector, said Gregory Miller, an economist at Suntrust Banks in Atlanta.

"It's going to be rocky for a while," Miller said, adding the data pointed at best to a tentative recovery.

Some analysts speculated that a mild winter in the United States led homebuilders to start new projects ahead of schedule, and that March's decline amounted to a payback.

"Weather was so mild earlier in the year we might have pulled some of the starts forward," said Mark Foster, who helps manage $500 million at Kirr Marbach & Co in Columbus, Indiana.

"But the trend looks good, it feels like the housing market is trying to form a bottom."

February's starts were revised down to a 694,000-unit pace from a previously reported 698,000 unit rate.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts little changed at a 705,000-unit rate.

Stock futures pared gains after the data was published, while prices on government debt trimmed losses.

March's decline in housing starts was the biggest percentage drop since April of last year, although most of the fall was in the volatile multi-unit category, which declined 16.9 percent.

Starts for single-family homes eased 0.2 percent.

And brightening the report's message on the economy, new permits for home construction surged.

Permits rose 4.5 percent to a 747,000-unit pace last month, the highest since September 2008 and beating economists' expectations for a 710,000-unit pace.

"The rise in permits kind of offsets the disappointing data," said Omer Esiner, a market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.

Sentiment among home builders ebbed in April for the first time in seven months, a survey showed on Monday.

11:11 am cdt 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Rates on 30-Year Mortgage Slide to Under 4 Percent

From yesterday's Associated Press:

WASHINGTON — The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage dipped again this week, as the cost of home-buying and refinancing stayed near record lows.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on the 30-year loan fell slightly to 3.98 percent from 3.99 percent last week. In February, the rate touched 3.87 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage also fell, to 3.21 percent from 3.23 percent. That’s above the record low of 3.13 percent hit last month.

Mortgage rates have been below 4 percent for all but one week since early December. That’s helped lift the outlook for housing after four sluggish years of home sales. Still, most economists expect only modest gains.

 

1:18 pm cdt 


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