Looking for tips and advice when it comes to all aspects of buying or selling your home?
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Tips for First-Time Home Buyers, Part 1

There’s a first time for everything! When a baby takes their first steps-talk about a milestone! The first time you get behind the wheel of a car and drive down the street-huge life moment! First kiss, first time falling in love, first time traveling out of the country - we could go on and on with a list of significant milestones. But what about the first time a person buys a home of their very own? 

There are few decisions in life as meaningful as this, and, like any significant moment in life, it needs to be celebrated! But when it comes to buying a home, the moment for celebration must come AFTER the hard work is done. As with any big project, a successful home buying experience is all about getting the details gathered right from the beginning until the moment the movers bring in your furniture.  

Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind if you are buying a home for the first time. (Hint: Because there’s SO much to know, stay tuned for our next blog for even more things to know for first-time home buyers.)

Understand the Costs

NerdWallet details the main costs to consider when saving for a home so that you can know what you can afford and not go over budget. First, there’s your down payment. Your down payment requirement will depend on the type of mortgage you choose and the lender you select. Some conventional loans for first-time buyers allow as little as 3% down (but only if you have excellent credit). But that 3% still could mean high costs (that’s $9,000 on a $300,000 home, for example). On top of the down payment, closing costs typically range from 2 to 5% of your total loan amount. And don’t forget move-in expenses; it’s wise to set money aside for immediate home repairs and furnishings. 

Watch Your Credit Score

Your credit score determines whether or not you can qualify for a home mortgage. Not only that, but it will impact the interest rate a potential lender will offer you. The better your credit score, the lower the interest rate, and that’s good news for you! Strengthen your credit score by paying your bills on time, keeping credit card balances low, and keeping credit cards open.

Get a Preapproval Letter

This step is crucial in today’s competitive real estate market, where the inventory is low and sellers are going with the most competitive offer possible. A preapproval letter from a lender is their offer to loan you a certain amount of money under specific terms. This letter will show sellers and real estate agents that you are a serious buyer. 

Knowing how to navigate an intimidating and competitive real estate market like our current one takes an expert hand, especially if you are a first-time home buyer! Fortunately, Starved Rock Realty can help you navigate the process and get you in the home of your dreams. 

Starved Rock Realty prides itself on providing exemplary customer service and impeccable knowledge, our local area, and the current conditions of the market. We take every measure to ensure you are satisfied with all your real estate needs and will do whatever it takes to be worthy of your business. To learn how Starved Rock Realty can help you buy or sell a home, visit our website or call us today at 815-667-9990. Follow us on Facebook for the latest tips on navigating the world of real estate. 


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Is it Safe to Sell My House Right Now in La Salle County

In today’s real estate market, the buzz is all about how it’s a great time to sell your house. Buyer demand is high, and there simply aren’t enough homes available to buy to meet that growing need. This means now is the time to make a move so you can close the deal on your ideal terms.

Even in today’s strong sellers’ market, there are homeowners who are choosing not to sell due to ongoing concerns around the health crisis, financial uncertainty, and life in general. According to Zillow, here are the top three reasons homeowners who are thinking of selling sometime in the next three years are not putting their houses on the market right now:

· 34% – Life is too uncertain right now

· 31% – Financial uncertainty

· 25% – COVID-19 health concerns

If you identify with any of these, you’re not alone. Whether it’s the future of your employment situation or simply being uncomfortable having guests in your home for showings, life feels a lot different than it did at this time last year. The good news is, real estate professionals have spent the majority of 2020 figuring out how to sell homes safely, and it’s paying off for those who are choosing to move this year.

Real estate agents are doing two things very well to make selling your house possible:

1. Agents Are Implementing Technology in the Process

While abiding by state and local regulations as a top priority, real estate agents are making sales happen safely and effectively by leveraging key pieces of technology. Agents know exactly what today’s buyers and sellers need and how to put the necessary digital steps in place. For example, agents have capitalized on the technology buyers find most helpful when deciding on a new home:

· Virtual tours

· Accurate and detailed listing information

· Detailed neighborhood information

· High-quality listing photos

· Agent-led video chats

They’re listening to their audience and leveraging the tools that help buyers get an initial look at a home without having to step inside. This helps reduce the number of people entering your home, so only those who are very seriously interested need to take the next step: in-person showings.

2. Agents Are Facilitating Safe and Effective In-Person Showings

After leveraging technology, if you have serious buyers who still want to see your house in person, agents are following the guidelines set by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and utilizing safe ways to proceed. Here are a few of them, understanding again that the agent’s top priority is always to follow­ state and local restrictions first:

· Limiting in-person activity

· R­­­equiring guests to wash their hands or use an alcohol-based sanitizer

· Removing shoes or covering them with booties

· Following CDC guidance on social distancing and wearing face coverings

Getting comfortable with your agent – a true trusted advisor – taking these steps under the modern-era safety standards might be your best plan. This is especially important if you’re in a position where you need to sell your house sooner rather than later.

As Jeff Tucker, Senior Economist for Zillow notes:

“Homeowners who feel life is uncertain right now may think they can still get a strong price if they delay selling until they have more clarity. The catch is that waiting to sell may raise the cost of a trade-up. This fall’s record low mortgage rates, which make a trade-up more affordable on a monthly basis, are not guaranteed to last.”

Bottom Line

In this new era in our lives, things are shifting quickly, and virtual strategies for sellers may be your ideal option. Opening your doors up to new approaches could be game changing when it comes to selling your house while the market is leaning in your favor. As always, a trusted real estate professional can help you safely and effectively navigate all that’s new when it comes to making your next move.
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Buying or Selling a Home During a Pandemic

Have you thought about buying or selling your home in 2020?  

The real estate industry came to a stand still in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now is slowly recovering in parts of the United States . It is possible to buy or sell a home in the current market, but the process might look different as well as pose new guidelines and challenges. 

While no one knows what the “new normal” will look like, here are some things you may encounter when buying or selling a home.

Stricter credit requirements

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the availability of mortgage dropped 16% in March 2020; it's lower level since June 2015. This drop means many lenders have more stringent criteria for mortgage applicants due to COVID-19. For potential borrowers with smaller down payment funds and lower credit scores, it may be more difficult to qualify for a mortgage. While this doesn’t mean qualification is out of the question, you may have to shop around a little more. 

Open House safety protocols

Since the pandemic, buyers and sellers have tried out virtual tours which allows people to view a home online from the comfort of their home. This has resulted in an increase of buyers making offers without physically setting foot in the house.

Yet Showing Time through Midwest Real Estate Data MRED showed the following statistics: August 19, 2019 +17.3% from the year prior and 2020 +56.3% over 2019; September 10, 2019 +13.0% from the year prior and 2020 + 27.9% over 2019 and as of October 11, 2020, 2019% average was +0.1% from the year prior and 2020 is +25.8% over 2019.

Per Illinois REALTORS®, it is legal to hold open houses (as of May 29, 2020) as long as extra safety precautions are taken. Some of these measures include limiting occupancy to ten people or less, practicing physical distancing, wearing protective face coverings and gloves and frequent cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces. Sellers may take precautions such as opening all interior doors so potential buyers can look inside rooms and closets. Buyers tend not to touch surfaces during in-home showings. 

Prior to a physical showing, the buyer, seller, and real estate agent should decide on how and when the property will be shown based on Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations. 

Drive-by appraisals

A home appraisal is normally required for mortgage approval. However, nothing is normal in a post-COVID world including real estate. Some lenders are allowing desktop or drive-by appraisals so the appraiser doesn’t have to enter the home. To estimate the value of a home, the appraiser uses photos of the interior and exterior as well as market research data. 

Unaccompanied home inspections

Usually the buyer and real estate attend the inspection so they can ask questions about any issues and potential solutions immediately. Inspectors now are able to assess the home on their own and share their report, along with photos and video, with the clients. 

This is not an ideal situation as underlying issues can get lost in translation. If you’re a potential buyer, carefully review the report and ask questions about anything you don’t understand or seems unclear. For sellers, verify that your inspector is taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The American Society of Home Inspectors recommends that inspectors wear disposable shoe coverings and use hand sanitizer before entering homes, wash their hands after inspecting kitchen and bathroom(s), and sanitizing surfaces after inspection. 

COVID clauses

There are usually penalties for not meeting deadlines or for backing out or a purchase as outlined in a home purchase agreement. According to the National Association of Realtors, real estate agreements include clauses to protect buyers and sellers if they have to delay or cancel an offer due to COVID-19 circumstances. These clauses may include, but are not limited to, government-mandated closures and availability of inspectors or appraisers. 

Physically distanced closings

Prior to COVID-19, your real estate agent would attend the closing with you. Now only the essential parties are at closings - usually the buyer, seller, and title company representative - and documents are passed across a six-foot table. Although there have been closings performed outdoors and through car windows. Many documents also are signed electronically in advance to expedite the process and limit physical contact.  

If you’re looking for expert advice on buying or selling your home during the pandemic, Starved Rock Realty has more than 25 years of real estate experience and can provide you the support you’re looking for. To learn how Starved Rock Realty can help you with your real estate needs, contact one of our agents today or call us at 815-667-9990.
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Preparing to Sell Your Home

We’re all familiar with the story of the tortoise and the hare, but just in case you aren’t, here’s a quick summary. A speedy and confident rabbit decides to race a slow-moving yet motivated turtle. The hare decides to make plenty of stops along the way, confident that he will come out the victor in the end. But the tortoise never gives up, going as fast as he can for the entirety of the race, and eventually ends up the deserving winner. 

Fables are a great way to teach young kids important values, but the lesson from this famous tale can also be applied to the world of real estate; specifically, the process of selling your home. When you make this crucial and life-changing decision, it’s easy to think that you have to act fast in order to sell your home fast. That’s what the hare would do in this situation! But taking a moment to pause, evaluate the state of your current house, and taking the necessary steps to make it as appealing as possible to buyers will ensure that your home is off the market at a remarkably speedy rate. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to preparing to sell your home.

Depersonalize the Space

When a buyer tours your home through an open house or through a scheduled appointment, they want to envision themselves in the space. Having family pictures covering every inch of every wall makes it hard for them to imagine anyone but YOU living there! Consider removing family photos and excess clutter to ensure your house looks appealing to buyers.

Give the House a Good Scrubbing

While you’re hiding family pictures (and storing them neatly, of course) you might as well get out the vacuum, mop, and Windex, because it’s time to give every room a thorough scrubbing. Cleaning a home is a simple yet effective way to make every square inch of your house memorable. According to Forbes, that means washing appliances, dusting every room, polishing faucets, and cleaning every window. Cleaning also includes removing any unwanted odors from the home, such as the scent of pets, which can be off-putting. 

Focus on Landscaping

Sure, you need to impress prospective buyers with what is inside the home, but if they find the outside of the house unappealing, there is a chance they may not even go in! That’s why putting a focus on landscaping is crucial to selling your home fast. The importance of curb appeal and how it can make or break a home sale cannot be underestimated—even houses have first impressions!

When you decide to sell your home, it’s natural for impatience to kick in. But like the tortoise, if you take your time and do it the right way, your home will sell quickly to a worthy buyer. Starved Rock Realty prides itself on providing exemplary customer service and impeccable knowledge about the area. We take every measure to ensure you are satisfied with all your real estate needs and will do whatever it takes to be worthy of your business.  To learn how Starved Rock Realty can help you buying or selling a home, visit our website or call us today at 815-667-9990.

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What Are the Top Questions I Should Ask My Realtor?

When you are ready to make one of the biggest investments in your lifetime: the purchase of a house, you deserve to know whether your real estate agent is an experienced, top-notch pro that will help you land the home of your dreams at a price you can afford. Of course, not all agents are created equal, which is why Starved Rock Realty recommends you interview your agent before hiring them to help you with this important purchase. Below are some questions to ask a realtor you may want to consider. 

How long have you been in realty?

Realty professionals learn the business only through experience, so working with someone who’s been a realtor for at least a few years is essential.

Which neighborhoods do you cover?

Assuming you have an idea of the neighborhoods you’re interested in, you’ll want to find a realtor who is not only familiar with those areas, but can quickly tell you things about the area, like home prices, schools, cultural amenities, and more.

How do you determine what your buyers are looking for in a home?

Good agents provide clients with a list of questions that help narrow down the scope of their home buying search. They should also have a grasp on home prices  to let you know whether you are being realistic about the affordability of various home features or neighborhoods

Tell me about your schedule and availability.

Some agents work part-time or may not be available at certain times of the year, like holidays. Since homes can go so quickly, you want to assure your agent is available when you need them. Some agents work as part of a team rather than independently, so they should introduce you to the other team members and assure you feel comfortable with all involved. They should also inform you how they plan to keep in touch (phone, email, text, text), and how often. 

How many homes have you sold to home buyers this year?

Most real estate agents work both with home buyers and sellers. They often specialize in one or the other. In addition, there’s also an immense difference between working with home buyers and actually selling homes. Be sure to find out how many homes they in fact sold to home buyers as this is a clear measure of their success. 

With 20 years of experience, Starved Rock Realty has the knowledge and experience you’re looking for when you’re buying or selling a home in the area. Don’t just change your address—Change your lifestyle. Learn how Starved Rock Realty can help you find what you’re looking for by exploring our website or calling us today at 815-667-9990.


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Year-Over-Year Rental Prices on the Rise

Looking ahead, 2020 is projected to be a strong year for homeownership. According to the Freddie Mac Forecast,

“We expect rates to remain low, falling to a yearly average of 3.8% in 2020.”

If you’re currently renting, 2020 may be a great time to think about making a jump into homeownership while mortgage rates are low. As noted in the National Rent Report,

“the national rent index increased by 1.4 percent year-over-year.”

With average rents on the rise, this year-over-year increase may not sound like much, but it can add up – fast. The math on how much extra it will cost you over time surely doesn’t lie.

Here’s an example: On a $1,500 rental payment, an increase of 1.4% adds an additional $21 dollars per month to your payment. When multiplied by the twelve months in a year, it’s a $252 overall annual increase. The price continues to multiply when you rent year after year, as rental prices rise.

History shows how average rental prices have been increasing each year, and there doesn’t seem to be much end in sight. Here’s a look at how rents have grown since 2012 alone:

Courtesy of Keeping Current Matters

Why not
 lock down your monthly housing expense, and at the same time build additional net worth for you and your family? If you’re thinking about buying a home, consider the financial benefits of what homeownership can do for you, especially while the market conditions are strong and current mortgage rates are low.

Bottom Line

With average rents continuing to rise, now may be a great time to stabilize your monthly payment by becoming a homeowner and locking into a low mortgage rate. Reach out to a local real estate professional to learn how taking advantage of the current market conditions might work for you.

This blog was originally posted by Keeping Current Matters:
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