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.

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.”

On the Buy vs Rent fence?

With rental prices increasing every year, we’ve recently had many first-time buyers looking to convert their monthly payments into personal equity. Buying a home has many steps and with this blog we aim to provide practical information and user friendly resources for the lending process. Below, Jim Colucci and his team at Guaranteed Rate answer questions most every buyer has at some point. A great read for those of us contemplating purchasing, but limited time to research.

I think I want to buy a house, but how do I know if I am financially ready?

This comes down to running the numbers. Here is a link to our buy vs rent calculator. It’s an excellent tool to give you an estimate of how much your monthly expenses would be as a homeowner vs renting. It also calculates how much money you would be saving long-term by purchasing.

Link – https://www.guaranteedrate.com/mortgage-calculators/should-I-rent-vs-buy-calculator

Current buyers are also benefiting from record low interest rates and avoiding annual rental increases that have gone up steadily in the past few years. Other advantages are potential tax benefits, building your own equity and the freedom to increase property value from renovations or décor changes.

I’ve decided to stop renting and purchase. What documents will I need to secure a loan and how far in advance should I gather them?

You will need 2 month’s pay stubs, 2 month’s asset statements, 2 years of federal tax returns and the HR contact person for your employer. Further documents will likely be required throughout the loan process, but this is a great start. Because the documents need to be current, you should gather them right when starting the application process. A good first step is using our Digital Mortgage application to obtain your free credit scores, pick your loan program and receive a loan estimate. From there we will contact you, answer any questions and make sure you are picking the loan that is best for you.

Link – https://app.guaranteedrate.com/start

My friend told me I shouldn’t make any big financial changes when trying to obtain a loan. What are some of the things I should do to ensure a stress-free process?

Good credit is critical to procure the best interest rate and terms on a mortgage, so do continue to pay all bills on time. One late payment can compromise approval when trying to obtain a loan. Also, continue to use your credit like you presently do. A change in pattern could cause concern and lower your score.

The things to not do are a bit more plentiful. Here is a quick rundown of the major ones to avoid:

Don’t

Apply for new credit/co-sign for a loan – Every time your credit is pulled you will lose points from your credit score. This also applies for co-signing for a loan or credit card.

Max out credit cards/Consolidate your debt – While you might get a lower interest rate, consolidating onto one or two cards will likely push you above 30% of your available limit. Keeping the balance below 30% of your available limit on credit cards is essential.

Close active credit card accounts – Closing credit card accounts negatively impacts your credit. Keep those open even if they aren’t being utilized.

Payoff collections – This can be done through escrow when closing.

Withdrawal or deposit large amounts of money – Avoid this whenever possible and consult with your lender.

Change jobs – Don’t change jobs. Even if the new job brings in more income it could negatively affect your loan process. Consult your lender should this arise.

Make major purchases – This correlates with many of the above. Don’t: open new lines of credit, max out your current credit card or withdraw large amounts of money. Wait to purchase new furniture until after you have the keys to your new home.

What are closing costs and will I know how much that amount is before signing a contract to purchase?

Closing costs are everything from attorney fees to transfer tax. We go over each item with our clients, but also provide a wealth of information on our website to help our clients that are more comfortable researching solo in the beginning. As the closing of your homes nears will we be able to give you exact figures and let you know the amount you will need to bring to the closing.

Link – https://www.guaranteedrate.com/loan-expert/jimcolucci

Once I have signed a contract on a home how long will it take to close?

We estimate our loan process at 30-45 days. Of course, there are some transactions that might differ due to extraneous circumstances.

For more information on making the transitioning from a renter to a homeowner, please feel free to contact Danielle @ ddowell@thedowellgroupre.com or 312-391-5655. 

For all your lending questions or to review more valuable data about the loan process, Jim Colucci & his team at Guaranteed Rate are happy to provide any additional. Contact Jim @ jim.colucci@guaranteedrate.com or 708-302-4000.

 

 

 

 

Why Buy Now

The Benefits of Purchasing.

Increases in rental prices.
Rental prices in Chicago have increased around 8% in the last 2 years, making the standard practice of saving to become a homeowner while renting increasingly difficult. New buyer programs are introduced regularly, one just recently for just 1% down! (contact me for details) Programs like this and others, could be the difference between paying your landlord for another year of rent or building your own equity.

Investing in your future.
For most, purchasing a home is the biggest investment you will ever make. However, unlike most investments a place to live is something you will have to budget for regardless. Most people don’t realize they are actually ready to purchase because they don’t have the information easily provided through a few quick conversations. We will happily breakdown the steps of purchasing a home and get you moving in the right direction. In many situations, renting really is throwing your hard earned money away when you could be stacking it.

Tax Benefits.
Deductions make us happy! Getting a pat on the back from the IRS for investing in you is an added bonus of becoming a homeowner. Taking advantage of this is just another way to be money smart.

Pride of Ownership.
Financials aside, there is something to be said for walking into your home where you have the creative freedom to renovate, paint or change anything that you wish. Creating a comfortable environment that will only give back to you when it is time for the next journey. Pride of ownership is a real thing and it feels great!
More questions? Please send them our way and let us help you find your new home! Choosing the right team is essential. Whether buying or selling we are there for our clients to walk them through every step of the process and provide seasoned referrals for all of your needs. If you are a buyer are services are complimentary! Want to do a little Google research and see for yourself? Check out our reviews on Zillow. https://www.zillow.com/profile/ddowell/#reviews

5 Tips for Buying a Home

Looking to buy a home? Here are five essential tips for making the process as smooth as possible.

Get your finances in order.

Start by getting a full picture of your credit. Obtain copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you find. Next, find a suitable lender and get pre-approved for a loan. This will put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house.

Find a house you can afford.

As with engagement rings, there’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to buying a home: two-and-a-half times your annual salary. There are also a number of tools and calculators online that can help you understand how your income, debt, and expenses affect what you can afford. Don’t forget, too, that there are lots of considerations beyond the sticker price, including property taxes, energy costs, etc.

Hire a professional.

While the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings and resources, many aspects of the buying process require a level of expertise you can’t pick up from surfing the web. That’s why you’re better off using a professional agent than going it alone. If possible, recruit an exclusive buyer agent, who will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.

Do your homework.

Before making a bid, do some research to determine the state of the market at large. Is it more favorable for sellers or buyers? Next, look at sales trends of similar homes in the area or neighborhood. Look at prices for the last few months. Come up with an asking price that’s competitive, but also realistic. Otherwise, you may end up ticking off your seller.

Think long term.

Obviously, you shouldn’t buy unless you’re sure you’ll be staying put for at least a few years. Beyond that, you should buy in a neighborhood with good schools. Whether you have children or not, this will have an impact on your new home’s resale value down the line. When it comes to the house itself, you should hire your own home inspector, who can point out potential problems that could require costly repairs in the future.

Dealing with Financing

As the events of the last few years in the real estate industry show, people forget about the tremendous financial responsibility of purchasing a home at their peril. Here are a few tips for dealing with the dollar signs so that you can take down that “for sale” sign on your new home.

Get pre-approved. Sub-primes may be history, but you’ll probably still be shown homes you can’t actually afford. By getting pre-approved as a buyer, you can save yourself the grief of looking at houses you can’t afford. You can also put yourself in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house. Unlike pre-qualification, which is based on a cursory review of your finances, pre-approval from a lender is based on your actual income, debt and credit history. By doing a thorough analysis of your actual spending power, you’ll be less likely to get in over your head.

Choose your mortgage carefully. Used to be the emphasis when it came to mortgages was on paying them off as soon as possible. Today, the debt the average person will accumulate due to credit cards, student loans, etc. means it’s better to opt for the 30-year mortgage instead of the 15-year. This way, you have a lower monthly payment, with the option of paying an additional principal when money is good. Additionally, when picking a mortgage, you usually have the option of paying additional points (a portion of the interest that you pay at closing) in exchange for a lower interest rate. If you plan to stay in the house for a long time—and given the current real estate market, you should—taking the points will save you money.

Do your homework before bidding. Before you make an offer on a home, do some research on the sales trends of similar homes in the neighborhood with sites like Zillow. Consider especially sales of similar homes in the last three months. For instance, if homes have recently sold for 5 percent less than the asking price, your opening bid should probably be about 8 to 10 percent lower than what the seller is asking.

1615 Burling – 15 New Luxury Boutique Residences

1615 Burling Exterior rendering

Welcome to 1615 Burling, a unique collection of 15 luxury-designed residences in a boutique setting and unmatched location. Comprised of two extraordinary penthouse residences, three expansive duplexes, and a mix of light-filled two and three bedroom homes, this building exemplifies the best of location, architecture, design, quality and lifestyle. Designed by the renowned architectural firm, Pappageorge Haymes, every detail of these homes has been thoughtfully considered.

1615 Burling Rendering Penthouse Living Room

Interiors defined by extra-wide, light filled spaces that are bright, graceful and welcoming. Each corner residence has been professionally designed with an eye towards generous great rooms, striking kitchens and dream bathrooms, along with extraordinary private outdoor space, elevator access and attached heated garage parking.

The exterior compliments the tradition of Burling Street yet fulfills buyers’ desire for a modern aesthetic and boutique lifestyle.

1615 Burling Rendering Master Bedroom

Nestled at the end of the Burling street cul-de-sac in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, 1615 Burling provides the best of a quaint neighborhood within steps of any city necessity, convenience or luxury.

penthouse terrace

Our anticipated delivery date is summer of 2016 and pre-construction prices range from $729,000 – $1,999,000. We have begun office presentations at our Koenig Rubloff office at 1800 N Clybourn 2nd floor. Presentations are held every Saturday from 10-1 or by appointment.

For more information contact Danielle Dowell at ddowell@thedowellgroupre.com or 312.391.5655.

1031-1035 S. Racine – New Project by ZOV Development

515claremont_reshoot_001_3081773-1-305707

 

Zov Construction’s newest development, 1031-1035 S. Racine, features eight expansive 2, 3 & 4 bedroom residences in the heart of Chicago’s Tri-Taylor/Little Italy district.

The qualities of old world heritage, and modern sensibility, create properties infused with cutting edge updates, indisputable style and timeless class.

Zov development modern kitchen

 

Taylor Street offers a mix of classic restaurants and interesting wine bars. The Italian eateries that populate the area, a nod to the neighborhood’s immigrant past, coexist happily with neighborhood coffee shops, populated by local residents and students from the nearby university.

The community’s charm, no doubt one reason for the neighborhood’s popularity, is further maximized by a centralized location and easy access to convenient public transportation. 1031-1035 S. Racine is minutes from downtown Chicago, the University of Illinois Chicago campus, and the University of Illinois Medical District.

Zov Development living room

 

The four story development straddles an impressive 50’X160′ lot, which allows for eight luxuriously wide and spacious, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom residences! Overall the property’s aesthetic is modern in concept. Large glass-paneled balconies accent a natural stone exterior facade which compliments sleek interior finishes. Custom cabinetry, quartz countertops, walk-in closets and designer bathrooms with radiant heated floors and steam showers are just a few of the luxuries standard to each unit. Multiple outdoor areas and garage parking are also included in the design.

Zov development bedroom

 

For more information about this exciting development, and other upcoming projects, please contact me, Danielle Dowell, with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services.