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Has COVID19 helped the real estate industry or is it just me? 

I will never do business the same way again.

I haven’t felt creative for a long time. I used to thrive off coming up with the ultimate tag line, eloquent description of a home, or picture-perfect e-blast. However, the last few years have been exhausting. I have been working extraordinarily hard doing a ton of transactions but at what innovative cost? Business is good but when you aren’t inspired you are slowly fading.

COVID has brought something back into my life I lost a while ago, time. I’ve had time to think, time to cry, and time to feel. All things necessary in order to create. This has helped tremendously with how I interact, react, and approach clients and tasks. It has allowed me to go from checking the boxes to analyzing, understanding and appreciating again. It has shown me the light at the end of the microbe tunnel.

COVID has also brought time back to the real estate industry. Time to sell more homes in a way more efficient manner. We have always had Matterport and virtual tours but nobody looked at them, why? We thought it was a waste of time to view a 3D tour when you could jump in a car and see it in person. Was that the best use of our time? A few months ago the answer would have been, yes. But now we have discovered efficiency in the virtual world of touring homes. If a buyer can tour 10 homes in the safety of their living room and rule out 7 of them, why wouldn’t they? Scheduling, touring, and discussing those 7 homes takes a massive amount of time. Not just for agents, but for the sellers who need to get the home ready, the coop agents who schedule and show, and the buyer who carves out half of their day to see these homes. Why did it take a pandemic for us as an industry to realize this? We are dealing with the health issues of the virus but not the mental health of all involved that could have been enhanced by having all this time back. I for one, do not plan on going back in time to the prehistoric era of not looking at videos before previewing a home. I want all the time I can get, and you should too, for your health, family and friends.

We have a new way for selling homes, and I for one hope it sticks.

We love a happy ending!

When good people work together, good things happen.

We love referrals! It’s such a strong boost of confidence when you know that someone believes in you enough to tell their friends and family about their experience with you. Recently, we received a referral from one of our top lenders, Joel Schaub. We have done business with Joel for years and we know that if anyone is working with him, we want to work with them too! Fast forward to our listing that just closed at 1735 W George in Lakeview. The sellers were using Joel to purchase in the suburbs but needed a city agent to sell their home for top dollar, enter The Dowell Group! We showed up with our Lakeview expert agents.

If you don’t know how our team operates, it goes like this. We give TWO agents to every seller and they meet both from the beginning. We do this because we want to be available for any showing or need that our clients may have. They can contact us 24/7 and expect a timely response. We specifically tailor our team expert groups based off area, personality, experience and needs of the potential seller.

However, back to the story… We instantly connected with them and their family (+2 more buns in the oven) and we left covered in dog kisses with our fingers crossed hoping we got the job. Little did we know but we were NOT the only ones invited to interview with this wonderful couple.  Fortunately, we beat out another top team in the city and were hired for the listing. We were so excited and even more so when we sold their home quickly and efficiently even when COVID hit. We had a lot of long talks and kept our fingers crossed that it would all work out, and it did. Thank you Mike & Katie for believing in us and congrats on your big family/home in the suburbs! We wish there were more out there like you.

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Atypical Single-Family Home in Ukrainian Village

Click here for your virtual walkthrough of this atypical single-family home in Ukrainian Village. 5 bedrooms, rooftop deck, yard, and in Mitchell school district. Priced at $1,250,000 Contact us today for a tour or to sell your home this way.

 

Berkshire Hathaway Takes It Virtual

Watch Video: BHHS Chicago: Innovation, Ideas and Determination

Berkshire Hathaway and the Dowell Group are adapting with the times, with video calls, virtual walkthroughs, and much more. Technology in today’s world is keeping business moving forward, allowing access to homes without leaving your front door, and keeping everyone’s safety a top priority. While we are forever grateful to have access to devices that allow us to stay connected, from Zoom to Facebook, Instagram, and practicing our moves on Tik Tok, we are finding the best way to stay really connected is with a simple phone call. Take the time to reach out to a loved one, friends and family, or a long lost acquaintance who has been in the back of your mind. You will be surprised what a simple phone call can do to brighten someone’s day.

Curbside Closings With Fort Dearborn

At Berkshire Hathaway, our affliated title company is Fort Dearborn. See this article below published in Crain’s about how they are handling touchless closings.

Close on your house from your couch: It’s a COVID-era innovation

Early in the COVID-19 crisis, title companies launched curbside closings, but that still required a bit of physical interaction with other people. Get ready for the next frontier.

Closing on a home purchase has long required a notary public to be in the room with the buyers to confirm that the people who sign the documents are who they say they are. But this spring, being in the physical presence of unrelated people has become a potential health threat.

Some Chicago title companies are launching no-touch closings, where the notary public witnesses the signing via camera, which allows all parties to be in their own private space during the closing.

Curbside closings are a thing now in real estate

Early in the COVID-19 shutdown, closings went curbside, allowing buyers to sit outside in their car while somebody carried the signed papers back and forth between them and the office. “That still involved some touch or physical involvement with someone,” said Joe Stacy, senior vice president and sales manager of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Chicago. “We had to get away from that.”

The tightly regulated legal steps that closing a loan involves are already stressful and one of the least enjoyable steps in buying a home; making people feel safe during the process is essential.

In early April, Berkshire’s title company, Fort Dearborn Title, did its first no-touch closing, where the notary, a Fort Dearborn closing officer, watched as the mortgage borrowers, sitting at home behind their camera-equipped computer, held up their driver’s licenses and then pointed the camera at the documents as they signed. The notary then provided legal verification of what’s known in the business as “wet signatures,” and the borrowers sent the paper documents in via overnight delivery. The title company will keep the video of the signing for three years.

Later that week, on April 10, Chicago Title started doing remote, on-camera closings, Vince Hearn, the company’s vice president and sales manager, said in an email.

An on-camera closing is possible right now because of guidance issued by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office in the wake of Gov. Pritzker’s March 20 stay-home order. It temporarily allows Illinois notaries to use Remote Online Notary methods that notaries in 23 states were already permitted to use in the normal business climate.

Brokerages took a few weeks to roll out on-camera closings in part because of getting secure technology set up, and because all parties in the transaction have to agree. “Some lenders don’t want to do it,” said Grace Chakos, senior vice president at Baird & Warner, “and some county recorders aren’t accepting the documents” that have been notarized remotely.

As of late Tuesday, Chakos said, the recorders of deeds in DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties had confirmed they will accept the documents but the Cook County Recorder’s office had not yet confirmed.

Baird & Warner’s title company, Landtrust Title Services, will do its first no-touch closings within the next several days, Chakos said.

Stacy said Fort Dearborn has done four no-touch closings since April 6 and has two more scheduled. All are refinancings, which he said are one step less complex than home-purchase closings because they don’t require the presence of an attorney, as a home purchase closing does in Illinois. He said a home-purchase closing that was scheduled for April 15 has been postponed but that the firm expects to schedule one soon.

At @properties’ title company, Proper Title, it’s not yet possible to do a remote notarization, Kathy Kwak, Proper Title’s vice president of title and escrow operations said in an email. Proper Title is using curbside closings while it sorts out the secretary of state’s guidance, lenders’ requirements and other details, she said, but on-camera notarization is “coming soon.”

Independent Female Buyers Increase in Chicago Market

We work with numerous single female buyers who are purchasing a home on their own. “In 2019, 17% of homebuyers were single women, while 9% were single men.” Read the article below from the Chicago Tribune with what can be driving this change in the market.
Victoria Kent, 37, began house hunting in August, on the advice of her accountant sister. Within a month, she'd found a home that fit her needs in Avondale. Kent is among a growing cohort of single women buying their own homes.
Victoria Kent, 37, began house hunting in August, on the advice of her accountant sister. Within a month, she’d found a home that fit her needs in Avondale. Kent is among a growing cohort of single women buying their own homes.(Jeffy Mai)

The news that more single women are buying homes comes as no surprise to Chicago real estate broker Julie Harron.

Over the course of her 27-year career, the Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty vice president of sales found that even when working with couples, women are often the driving force and decision-makers.

“I have worked with women who have lost spouses or are divorced,” Harron said. “And I think younger women who know where they are in their careers and are financially stable are making concrete property decisions.”

A new study from real estate agency Compass and mortgage lender Better.com named Chicago one of the top cities for single women to buy property, due to the high percentage of women applying for loans through Better.com.

Chicago ranked No. 3 on the list, with Atlanta and Los Angeles nabbing the top two spots. Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., San Diego, Houston and Oakland, California, rounded out the top 10.

Across the U.S., 1 in 5 homebuyers are single women, according to the study, which surveyed Compass agents and analyzed Better.com mortgage data. Even women who aren’t single — a cohort increasingly out-earning their partners — are securing loans without their spouses or listing themselves as the primary source of income.

Nationally, 58% of real estate agents surveyed said the majority of their clients were women. More than 80% said they have seen this number increase within the last five years.

Among the most dramatic shifts, single women of color are taking out mortgages far more frequently than a year ago, Better.com reported. Three-quarters of surveyed real estate agents said they are seeing single women entering the housing market earlier than their male counterparts as well.

Data from the National Association of Realtors suggests the same. In 2019, 17% of homebuyers were single women, while 9% were single men. A LendingTree.com study found that single women in Chicago own 312,997 homes, while single men are behind by about 100,000.

Kate Waddell, lead agent of the Compass-affiliated Kate Waddell Group, said about 10% of her clients are single women. She said while she doesn’t have concrete numbers, she thinks there has been an uptick specifically because of the city’s great job market.

“I think we are in a time where you don’t need a partner to buy property,” Waddell said. “A lot of women who have successful careers can do better for themselves with owning and not renting. I think today, women are a lot more bold, so they’re willing do things that, 10 years ago, women weren’t doing. I think it’s awesome.”

Victoria Kent, 37, recently bought a house in Avondale. Her sister — who also handles the publicist’s accounting — suggested buying property as a good investment. So Kent started looking in the late summer and ended up signing much sooner than she anticipated.

“I saw on this house on Zillow and after that, things snowballed from there,” Kent said.

She saw the house online on a Friday in August. The next day, she saw the house in person with her mother and a real estate agent, who also owned the condo where Kent was living at the time.

Within hours of seeing the house, Kent was pre-approved for a loan online through Guaranteed Rate — a recommendation of her real estate agent. By that Sunday, she put in an offer and signed the contracts. One month later, she moved into her home.

“I saw the house and it was what I was looking for — a single-family home with a yard,” Kent said. “I was looking online on what a house could be. This house was in my price range and was move-in ready. I realized that houses like this aren’t coming up often, and I knew I had to move fast on it.”

Kent describes her house hunting as smooth and virtually problem-free. She said she learned about the process by picking the brains of her parents and friends with home-buying experience. Her real estate agent also shared a handy graphic outlining the home-buying process.

“I am proud of being a homeowner — I never thought I would do it,” Kent said. “I wish I would have known the process wasn’t as scary as I thought, because I would’ve started sooner.”

As part of the study, Compass and Better.com offered tips for women who are entering the housing market for the first time. Look for agents who have recently closed on properties similar to what you’re looking for and lenders who can provide a pre-approval letter to strengthen your offer. Keep closing costs in mind when setting a budget, and factor in mortgage-related tax deductions before making an offer.

First-time homebuyers in the Chicago area can take advantage of coaching programs and down payment grants to ease the process, which can be difficult for millennials to weather when finances are bogged down by student loan debt and the market suffers from low inventory.

Kent says having the means to buy a home and a good credit score can move the process along. She said finding a real estate agent you trust is also key, because they can provide recommendations for getting the best rate possible.

Having gone through the experience, Kent is able to keep tabs on the market to further improve her situation as a homeowner.

“People should look now, because interest rates are dropping,” she said. “I am currently refinancing to get a lower loan rate.”

Green Home Upgrades That Make You $$$$

Thinking of doing some home renovations? Check out this article I was quoted in for upgrades that make you money.

Posted by the Washington Post, By Michele Lerner on March 4, 2020

Home renovation projects often begin as a solution to ongoing problems, such as fixing dysfunctional bathrooms or as ways to brighten your living space by adding wallpaper, fresh paint or new kitchen counters. But sometimes it makes sense to focus on spending your money on things that can improve the quality and functionality of your home as well as provide an environmentally friendly bonus.

Danielle Dowell, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Chicago, shared a few tips via email to help homeowners increase the functionality of their homes while also adding value.

Dowell’s recommendations include:

Invest in environmentally friendly upgrades. Prospective buyers are increasingly willing to pay more for homes that incorporate health and resource-efficient elements such as mold- and fume-reducing VOC paints and eHVAC systems. The term “clean living” has even been qualified by the National Association of Realtors’ MLS listing service, which recently introduced environmentally friendly designations to highlight energy-efficient, high-performance home features that reduce energy bills in the short term and increase return on investment over the long term. Examples of these projects include:

  • Installing tankless water heaters.
  • Replacing gas-heating systems with radiant heat.
  • Updating roofs with composite materials or adding solar panels.

Embrace the great outdoors. Outside areas can enhance curb appeal while also being sources of fun and wellness. Consider incorporating environmentally friendly and functional elements. For example:

  • Synthetic lawns give homeowners the perks of a yard without the work. Improved manufacturing and technology have made artificial grass look and feel more authentic. These lawns can be installed with drainage systems that redeploy rainwater to nurture natural planting areas, and they also eliminate carbon emissions and noise pollution created by maintenance equipment.
  • Stone structures and patios add durability, natural textures and functionality to outdoor spaces. They can be constructed with recycled materials and require little upkeep.

Make sure to get annual inspections. Easy maintenance and timely inspections are critical for the environmental safety and system efficiencies of your home. These simple fixes can save you thousands of dollars while also adding home sale value and return on investment as buyers, appraisers and inspectors evaluate the overall condition of your property. On their prescribed basis, be sure to:

  • Change air and water filters to remove particulates and maintain a clean home.
  • Have professionals do yearly inspections of HVAC, roofs, gutters and water systems.
  • Install LED lighting.

Original article here. 

Contact us today for more information on money making renovations you can do at your home.

Green Home Upgrades That Make You $$$$

Thinking of doing some home renovations. Check out this article that I was quoted in for tips on upgrades that will make you money.

March 4, 2020 at 4:30 a.m. CST

Home renovation projects often begin as a solution to ongoing problems, such as fixing dysfunctional bathrooms or as ways to brighten your living space by adding wallpaper, fresh paint or new kitchen counters. But sometimes it makes sense to focus on spending your money on things that can improve the quality and functionality of your home as well as provide an environmentally friendly bonus.

Danielle Dowell, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Chicago, shared a few tips via email to help homeowners increase the functionality of their homes while also adding value.

Dowell’s recommendations include:

Invest in environmentally friendly upgrades. Prospective buyers are increasingly willing to pay more for homes that incorporate health and resource-efficient elements such as mold- and fume-reducing VOC paints and eHVAC systems. The term “clean living” has even been qualified by the National Association of Realtors’ MLS listing service, which recently introduced environmentally friendly designations to highlight energy-efficient, high-performance home features that reduce energy bills in the short term and increase return on investment over the long term. Examples of these projects include:

  • Installing tankless water heaters.
  • Replacing gas-heating systems with radiant heat.
  • Updating roofs with composite materials or adding solar panels.

Embrace the great outdoors. Outside areas can enhance curb appeal while also being sources of fun and wellness. Consider incorporating environmentally friendly and functional elements. For example:

  • Synthetic lawns give homeowners the perks of a yard without the work. Improved manufacturing and technology have made artificial grass look and feel more authentic. These lawns can be installed with drainage systems that redeploy rainwater to nurture natural planting areas, and they also eliminate carbon emissions and noise pollution created by maintenance equipment.
  • Stone structures and patios add durability, natural textures and functionality to outdoor spaces. They can be constructed with recycled materials and require little upkeep.

Make sure to get annual inspections. Easy maintenance and timely inspections are critical for the environmental safety and system efficiencies of your home. These simple fixes can save you thousands of dollars while also adding home sale value and return on investment as buyers, appraisers and inspectors evaluate the overall condition of your property. On their prescribed basis, be sure to:

  • Change air and water filters to remove particulates and maintain a clean home.
  • Have professionals do yearly inspections of HVAC, roofs, gutters and water systems.
  • Install LED lighting.

 

Originally posted by the Washington Post, here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/04/these-home-upgrades-can-be-good-environment-your-wallet/