Halloween activities to enjoy around the North Shore

halloweenSince one of my favorite holidays is coming up this weekend, I thought I’d blog about some great activities taking place relating to Halloween around Evanston and other North Shore communities.  First of all, it’s great that Halloween falls on a Saturday this year so that kids can actually trick or treat on Halloween.  Trick or treating is open in Evanston this Saturday, 10/31 from 4-7 p.m.

The South Branch Library is hosting a costume party at 949 Chicago Avenue on Thursday evening from 6-7:15 p.m.  Let your children dress up and listen to scary stories.  Refreshments are provided.  Call the library at 847-866-0333 for more info.

The Fleetwood-Jourdain Center at 1655 Foster is hosting a “HallaDaze” party on Friday night from 6-8:30 p.m.  This party is meant for kids ages 4-12 with a magic show, face painting, and costumes encouraged!  Call 847-448-8254 for more info. 

Highland Park has trick or treating hours from 4-8 p.m. on Saturday.  The same hours are true for Wilmette.  In Skokie, trick or treating begins at 3 p.m. and lasts until 8.

If you’re in the mood to travel this Halloween and visit some haunted houses and yard displays, make sure to visit Haunted Illinois.  This great Web site provides a directory that lists these attractions throughout the state.  Some of the biggest haunted houses are located in Crest Hill at Statesville prison and the large Dungeon of Doom in Zion.  Gurnee also has their annual Fright Fest going on at Six Flags Great America.

I hope you have a very safe and fun Halloween this weekend!  Visit me online if you need any real estate advice.


Keep your home warm and your energy bills low

With some very cool temperatures in the Chicago area this week, I know most people aren’t ready to start worrying about snow and shoveling and below freezing temperatures.  Unfortunately, it seems like summer is over and those 30-40 degree temperatures are here to stay.  In order to save money on your electric and heating bills this fall/winter, here are some tips to keep your house warm without costing a fortune:

winterizedhome1. Check for air leaks and drafts around all windows and doors.  One poorly sealed window can cost you hundreds of dollars this winter in extra heating bills.  You can purchase inexpensive insulation kits at all major home improvement stores, as well as Walmart and Target.  The plastic makes sure that all windows are sealed to prevent any extra air from escaping in.  Also, take advantage of those sunny days.  Even if it’s chilly outside, if there is a day with a lot of sunlight, open your drapes to get the solar energy to warm the room for you.

2. Check for leaks and drafts everywhere else.  You don’t want to forget to close your damper on your fireplace when not in use.  Please remember to keep it open if you are burning a fire.  Wall plates, plugs, and switches can allow cold air in.  You can purchase pre-cut foam to place under the switchplate to keep that closed.  And check your duct work.  Duct tape can fall off or bunch up over the years.  Make sure there’s no open holes bringing cool air in.

3. Give your furnace a yearly physical.  Replace its air filter to get the most energy efficiency out of it.  Clogged filters can cost you a lot of extra money since the furnace is working extra hard to get the heat through those clogs.  Have it inspected by a licensed and bonded HVAC technician yearly.  This can save you money in the long run to prevent any broken furnace in the middle of the winter. 

4. Invest in a programmable thermostat.  This way you can keep the heat lower when you’re at work so it’s not as warm when you’re not home.  You can set it to start warming up just before you get home at the end of the day.  Or if you’re on vacation, you won’t have to worry about your pipes freezing (it does happen!) because your heat is completely off.  These thermostats are so reasonably priced now.  They can be purchased for as low as $20.

5. Consider running your appliances (dishwasher, washer, dryer) in the morning and evening when you’re home.  It will help to heat the house as its running.  While you’re at it, make sure that dryer lint vents are cleaned after every load and that you’re only running full loads of laundry and dishes.

More great tips for the winter can be found here and here. Make sure you read the tips on attic insulation, too.

Visit my Web site if you have any real estate needs or questions.


Location near Metra boosts sales

trainWhile the housing market is in flux throughout the country and the Chicago area, there is good news for those of you that live near a Metra station.  According to a recent survey by Re/Max, housing prices in 2009 declined less in the Chicago suburbs that were located near the Metra than in other Chicago suburbs.

Great news for those in the Evanston area and other North Shore suburbs with locations near the stations.  There were three lines that had the strongest results: North Line (that runs through Evanston, Winnetka, and Lake Bluff), the BNSF (Riverside, Western Springs, and Lisle), and Heritage Corridor (Summit, Lemont, and Lockport).  The number of homes sold in these areas were less than the rest of the suburbs.  They also showed housing price declines of less than 7% and an increase of market time as less than 10%, much lower than the rest of the suburbs as a whole.

More results on the study can be found here.

So what does this mean for those in the area?  This is what sellers should do if they are listing their homes for sale:

1. Include your location to Metra in all remarks and advertising.  Advertise if you can walk to the station.  Let buyers know it’s only a 5 minute drive.  This is a huge benefit to buyers, especially those that are moving in from out of state and aren’t completely sure how they’ll get to their jobs in the city.  Even those that have gotten a new job might not know how easy it is to get downtown if they’re used to a previous job in the suburbs.  This can be a huge selling point.

2. To go along with that, insert a map to the Metra station in all of your brochures that are created for your home.  Show how easy it is to get to, and you might even want to include a Metra brochure with all the different lines and train schedules for your buyer.  If you’ve got a great looking station near you, include a few photos of that in your brochures, as well.  A map will definitely help prove how close you are.

3. Post flyers of your home at the Metra station, if possible, or hand out cards with your Realtor’s information to people you sit next to on the train.  You never know if the commuter next to you is looking to buy a home closer to the line!

For all map, schedules, and ticket information to provide to your buyers, you can view the Metra’s Web site here. If you’re ready to sell your home on the North Shore and need the expertise of a Realtor who frequently sells in the area, please visit my Web site.

Knock on your door? It could be your mortgage company

In an effort to help delinquent borrowers on their home loans, Freddie Mac just announced that they will be going door to door.  Freddie Mac has hired Titanium Solutions, Inc. to knock on homeowners’ doors around the country if they are behind on their mortgage payments.  This is all in an effort to reduce the amount of foreclosures across the country.

door_knock_200x300If you have a mortgage owned by Freddie Mac, you could receive a knock on your door.  They are coming to homes where the homeowners haven’t responded to their phone calls or letters OR if they need to provide additional documents or information to begin their three month trial under Obama’s housing bill to get a loan modification. 

According to CBS Moneywatch.com, “By meeting with our borrowers, one on one, in their homes Titanium Solutions can help them overcome the roadblocks keeping them from starting their Home Affordable Modification trial periods,” said Ingrid Beckles, Senior Vice President Of Default Asset Management at Freddie Mac. “We believe this can give borrowers seeking Home Affordable Modifications the same type of personalized guidance they may have had when they were buying their home or applying for their mortgage.”

They are taking a step in the right direction in terms of gathering your personal information.  To avoid fraud, Titanium Solutions will not be allowed to accept mortgage payments from people in the house.  They’ll also carry a copy of the letter that was initially sent to the borrower.  In other words, don’t allow anyone into the house that doesn’t have this information.  You can click here to obtain more information on this and other programs that Freddie Mac has implemented to help stop foreclosures.

This is one of the newer ways that mortgage companies are assisting their borrowers.  Some will help you with loan modification programs by a phone call and with proof of an inability to make your payment.  Other people have found assistance by getting their local congressmen and women involved.  The upside to this program is that these agents will help you fill out documents to get your loan modified.  They aren’t just stopping by to hound you into paying.

What do you think of Freddie Mac’s program of going door to door?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave a comment or visit my Web site.