Disabled Stoughton veteran receives new house

Categories: New Homes Chicago, New Homes Madison, New Homes Milwaukee, New Homes Phoenix | Posted: April 10, 2016


Iraq war veteran and Stoughton resident Russell Dennison and his family are getting a new, mortgage-free house thanks to national nonprofit Homes for our Troops, complete with handicap accessible features and single-floor access.

An IED explosion in Afghanistan took both of Dennison’s legs in 2012, though Dennison, known for his positive attitude, is making the best of a bad situation.

“Before I had a chance to say anything, he goes ‘It’s all right, because it looks like I’m going to be taller than you now,” Grant Dennison, Russell’s brother, said. “It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard.”

Dennison heard about Homes for our Troops while at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, filling out applications between rehabilitation sessions.

While the organization has been active across the country since 2004, this is only the fifth house being built in Wisconsin through the program.

Piggly Wiggly and many other businesses from the greater Dane County area have donated to help build Russell Dennison’s home, including William Ryan Homes, which is taking on the majority of construction duties.

“Homes for our Troops sent us a video on Staff Sgt. Dennison and his experience,” Christopher Ehlers of William Ryan homes said. “We rallied and said we absolutely have to build this house for this gentleman.”

A groundbreaking ceremony was held at the VFW in Stoughton Saturday. Russell and his wife, Samantha, along with their two children, will most likely be able to move into their new home in nine or 10 months, according to the builder.

Source: Channel 3000

Tax Refund Used as a Down Payment to Buy a Home

Categories: New Homes Chicago, New Homes Madison, New Homes Milwaukee, New Homes Phoenix | Posted: April 7, 2016

Tax Refunds can be used as a down payment on a house on any type of home loan
During tax season, many renters use their tax refund as a down payment to purchase a home as a first-time buyer.

Down payment is one of the biggest obstacles for prospective first-time buyers to buy a home. So this time of year is an important one because so many people receive sizable tax refunds ranging from $2000 – $8000 or even more. This amount of money can contribute to some or all of the down payment for homes first time buyers would be interested in.

Source: OVM Financial Feb 2016

Forget Generation Rent: More Younger Americans Aim To Buy

Categories: New Homes Chicago, New Homes Madison, New Homes Milwaukee | Posted: March 31, 2016

Millennials are the single biggest group of homebuyers in the U.S.

“Renting is the new buying.” That became a kind of mantra after the housing crisis. Many Americans stopped believing that owning a home was a way to build wealth. As late as 2013, one report found, homeowners could see themselves becoming renters. And there were far fewer first-time homebuyers.

That’s still the case today; last year, only 32 percent of all homebuyers were first-timers. But there are signs that young people are warming once again to the idea of owning their own home.

In fact, more than one-third of all homebuyers these days are 35 and younger. More than Gen X’ers, more than baby boomers, it’s millennials who are taking the leap, according to a study this month by the National Association of Realtors.

They have some savings. They’re tired of renting. And while people 5 or 10 years older may still be shell-shocked from the housing crash, this younger generation seems ready to start that new chapter — even if it didn’t go well for their parents.

That’s the situation for Amanda Larsen, a 24-year-old from Kansas City, Mo.

She says she doesn’t want to “make some of the debt mistakes that they made.”

Larsen recalls how her mom messed up, taking on larger loans than she could afford. Now, her mother warns her to stay within her limits: “Get the exact number that you know you’re going to be approved for. And don’t go above it,” Larsen says.

So why does Larsen want to own a home instead of rent? Actually, she wants to get a dog. And her husband won’t agree until they have their own house. So for her, a driving force behind her house hunt is the less lofty American Dream of dog ownership, too.

For a few years, Lee Davidson, a 35-year-old in Tampa, Fla., felt like she had no business buying a house because her personal life wasn’t where she wanted it to be.

“I’m single, I’m not with someone,” she says. “I don’t have a partner. I’m not married. I’m not anywhere near being married.”

But now, Davidson realizes, her career is solid and she’s sick of moving.

“I just feel increasingly boxed in, I guess,” she says. “I just have kind of moved from one little box to another.”

Homebuyer Homework Assignment

In the years since the housing crisis, high-quality free tools like online calculators have become available to help you calculate, based on your numbers, at what point it makes more sense to buy a home versus renting.

Should You Rent Or Buy?

None of them had come across these resources before, and they had less than 24 hours to do the assignment.

Then, each person had a one-on-one feedback session with economist Jed Kolko, who helped create the Trulia calculator.

Davidson says she was struck by how many numbers matter. It’s not just the sale price of the home and interest rate. It’s how many years you plan to stay.

“The asset side of it’s very important; the calculators actually do factor that in,” he explains.

Whether you keep the house 2 years or 15 will make a huge difference in how much of it you own — the equity you’re building.

But one big factor the calculator doesn’t account for: human behavior; that is, how likely you are to save versus spend, to put your money into a mutual fund versus a Frappuccino.

“If you’re the sort of person who has no trouble at all saving every month,” Kolko says, “then that advantage of homeownership might not mean that much to you.”

Davidson says she saves — but only minimally.

So for her, Kolko says, buying a home could be a form of forced savings — a way to make her save.

Limits Of Online Tools

The calculators ask something of an unfair question, too: how much will the home you buy go up in value? That’s really hard to know. Even the experts get it wrong.

Eric Shannon in Tulsa says some homes in his neighborhood are appreciating 10 percent every couple years. So he’s feeling optimistic.

“I’m seeing houses that are going on the market and they’re going off very, very soon thereafter,” he tells Kolko.

But the economist warns him: Tulsa is a one-industry town. And that industry, oil and gas, is hurting. So someone like Shannon — who works as an engineer there — could lose his job and see his home price crash, too.

“What happens to your home prices and what happens to your job prospects are correlated,” Kolko says.

Many housing economists agree: You don’t want to base your decision to buy a home on a gamble that it’s going to go up in value dramatically.

Home prices can drift up and down year to year, and you’re in a leveraged position when you buy a home. So if you have to sell after a year or two, that could be a big financial hit if prices have fallen even 5 percent.

That’s also a reason the experts say that you shouldn’t buy a house unless you plan to live there for five or more years. That makes a drop in home prices much less risky.

Meanwhile, Amanda Larsen discovered that she and her husband could buy bigger and still pay less than their current rent. He wants to buy and never move again.

Housing economists say you should definitely look at the cost of owning versus renting in the neighborhood where you want to live when you consider homeownership. Home prices have been rising again in many parts of the country. But rents have gone up a lot, too, and mortgage rates remain quite low.

As it was with Larsen, owning might be a better deal than you think.

“We can technically afford a little bit more,” Larsen says she’ll tell her husband. “And this way you get more what you want, and I get more what I want.”

Source: NPR.Org March 24, 2016

Record Number of Plainfield Students Named State Scholars

Categories: New Homes Chicago | Posted: March 24, 2016

plainfield article

PLAINFIELD, IL — A record-high 266 District 202 high school seniors have been named 2016 Illinois State Scholars because of their superior academic potential.

This is the most-ever number of State Scholars for District 202. This year’s total is 24 more than last year’s 242 Scholars – which was also an all-time high for District 202.The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) awards the honor each year to students based on SAT, ACT and/or Prairie State Achievement Exam scores, and/or class rank at the end of the junior year. High school guidance counselors work in conjunction with ISAC to determine the winners.

Each year’s State Scholar group comprises the top 10 percent of high school seniors from 652 high schools statewide

The Illinois State Scholar program recognized about 19,000 high school students statewide as 2016 State Scholars.

This year’s State Scholars include:

53 students from Plainfield High School – Central Campus
69 students from Plainfield South High School
89 students from Plainfield North High School
55 students from Plainfield East High School

Source : Scott Vaiu The Patch

Is there a magic window to sell your home?

Categories: New Homes Chicago | Posted: March 9, 2016


If you’re looking to sell your home, is there an optimal window of time during the year — say a two-week period — when your listing is likely to sell faster and at a higher price than any other time? Put another way, could the ideal time for listing your house come down to a specific month or even a two-week span?

One group of researchers says yes. After sorting through 20 million-plus sales of single-family homes, condos and cooperatives that occurred between 2008 and 2015, researchers at Zillow, the real estate marketing company, concluded that listing times do indeed matter. List at the wrong time and you might take longer to sell and sell for less. Choose the optimal two-week period and you’ll do better.

Nationwide, researchers found that “homes listed in the late spring (May 1 through May 15) sell around 18.5 days faster and for 1 percent more than the average listing.”

Optimal times can vary, however, by location. In the Washington, D.C., and Miami-Ft. Lauderdale metropolitan areas, April 16 through April 30 produces faster selling times and higher prices, according to Zillow. In San Diego, the best two weeks come earlier — March 16 through March 31. In Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, they’re considerably later — May 16 through May 31. Other major markets, including as Chicago, track the national sweet spot time, May 1 through May 15.

Zillow, which is best known for its popular but sometimes controversial online “Zestimate” value estimates of millions of American homes on and off the market, has pinpointed ideal listing times down to the ZIP-code level. Individual Zestimates now include a “Best Time to List” feature that displays a bar graph showing the estimated selling price differences month by month.

I checked the Zestimate on my own home near Washington, D.C., and found that, according to Zillow’s calculations, I’d get anywhere from a $15,000 to nearly $20,000 higher price by listing this month or next and $35,000 to $40,000 more than if I listed in October or November. Curiously, if I listed in January or February — that’s when we get blizzards here — I’d do better than listing in June, July or any time through December.

Huh? That didn’t make sense to me, but Zillow says it has the hard statistics to back it up. Just in case I needed guidance on any of this, though, the “Best Time to List” tool comes with a handy “Contact an agent” button right below the bar graph. In an interview, Zillow’s chief economist, Svenja Gudell, maintained that this “is not meant to be a lead producer” for realty agents who pay the company money for advertising placements, even though that’s precisely who you’ll hear from when you hit the button.

So back to the original question: Is there any magic window of time to list your home for sale? Mary Bayat, principal broker at Bayat Realty Inc. in northern Virginia, agrees that “when the weather is good and flowers are blooming” — that would be the spring months — properties look better and, if they’re in good condition, show well, and are priced and marketed right, it’s an excellent time to sell.

But she told me that trying to pinpoint ideal two-week periods “is the wrong idea,” since houses can sell fast and for solid premiums throughout the year.

Alexis Eldorrado, founder and managing broker of Eldorrado Chicago Real Estate, says many factors can affect rapidity of sale more than timing of the listing. For example, she put a luxury high-rise condo unit on the market in the frigid depths of Chicago’s winter — this past February — and it sold in 11 days “close to list” after 10 showings. One key to that quick sale: The owner did a pre-listing upgrade of the kitchen to bring it up to the standards expected in that price range.

Kary Krismer, managing broker at John L. Scott/KMS Renton in the Seattle area, where Zillow is based, says the dominant factor in his market is the shortage of houses listed for sale. As a result, “the listing date is not currently a significant factor. Buyers are scrambling for properties” — it’s a seller’s market — so the week or month of the year is no big deal.

Source: Ken Harney Washington Post Writers Group, March 9th, 2016

Single Females Are a Growing Market Force

Categories: New Homes Chicago, New Homes Madison, New Homes Milwaukee | Posted: March 4, 2016

women buying home

Since the early 1990s, single women have outnumbered their male counterparts, snatching up real estate at nearly double the rate, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. But this year they’re on a roll, and experts don’t expect that to stop anytime soon.

Single women accounted for 15 percent of all home buyers—the second largest segment of home buyers behind married couples, according to NAR’s 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Many experts predict their numbers will continue this increase in coming years, particularly as their average incomes have significantly risen over the last few years.

The median age of single female home buyers is 50, according to NAR. The majority are drawn to single-family homes with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Location matters, too. “They often want to buy to be close to friends or family,” says Jessica Lautz, NAR’s managing director of survey research and communications.

Mary MacDiarmid, a broker with @properties in Chicago, told The Chicago Tribune she’s worked with several single women purchasing condos. She says about a decade ago, this type of clientele routinely brought their parents to showings. Now, she says they do it on their own: “They’re not looking for someone else’s approval.”


Zillow Real Estate Market Reports finds inventory falling in Chicago

Categories: New Homes Chicago | Posted: March 3, 2016

housing supply down

Zillow Real Estate Market Reports finds inventory falling in Chicago
Throughout the nation, the supply of homes in January is 8.6 percent below 2015

According to the January Zillow Real Estate Market Reports, low inventory is still plaguing the housing market and causing home prices to continue to rise.

The U.S supply of homes for sale is 8.6 percent below where it was a year ago.
Markets in the West tend to lean toward sellers, but buyers have more power in the East.
National home values rose 4.2 percent to $184,000 in January.
Rents rose 2.9 percent to $1,381.
“Hopeful buyers in a strong sellers’ market should be prepared to move quickly, since homes don’t stay on the market as long. In a buyers’ market, they can afford to take their time and be more selective,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

Source: InmanInman Feb 26, 2016

The Most Appealing Aspects of Homeownership

Categories: New Homes Chicago, New Homes Madison, New Homes Milwaukee | Posted: January 18, 2016

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) just released their first issue of the Housing Opportunities & Market Experience Survey (HOME). In the report, NAR revealed what Americans believe to be the most appealing aspects of homeownership.

Here is a graph showing the results:

It is interesting to see that the two most appealing aspects had nothing to do with money, but instead, addressed the non-financial benefits of homeownership.

January 14th 2016| Keeping Current Matters

7 resolutions for an organized new year

Categories: New Homes Chicago, New Homes Madison, New Homes Milwaukee | Posted: January 11, 2016

new year blog
We’ve just come through the sound and fury of the holidays – and our homes, nerves, and bank accounts reflect it.

Relax. It’s a new year, and we can get things back under our control.

The 7 tips below are the place to start.

The best part?

They all build on one another.

1. downsize, darling!

Consider instituting this post-holiday rule: for every new item (bathrobe, earrings, slippers) that arrives, three things have to say adios.

Call it the get-organized, one-for-three rule. Before anyone puts away presents, he or she must fill a minimum of three bags for donation to childrens charities.

Now move on to your holiday stuff. Any decorations you didn’t use this year? Chances are you won’t them next year, either. These go in the donation pile.

Yes, you want to keep a few cozy T-shirts and jeans for Saturday sports or painting with the kids. But you don’t need two dozen. Donation to children pile.

And that collection of hotel shampoos that you’ve been working on for the last decade?

This is going to be an organized new year, remember? You don’t need them all (if you did, they wouldn’t be there.) Donate these to your neighborhood shelter.

2. divide, conquer, and label.

Label every box or bag you stash or store in the garage this year. It’s a key element to an organized new year. When you take down the tree and decorations, label each box before it heads into a year of storage.

Next, find a corner or area in the garage, basement or attic for storing these boxes. Apply the same strategy throughout the house, starting with closets and drawers, and ending with neatly labeled storage boxes from each.

3. resolve to have a neater, cleaner home.

7 resolutions for an organized new year.
A clean home will be a more welcoming home in 2016.
Now that you’ve decluttered and organized, cleaning should be a breeze.

Often, clutter is what really makes cleaning hard.

Start your organized new year cleaning routine by setting aside an hour or so several days a week to tackle essential tasks.

For example: Laundry is Monday nights; bathrooms are Saturday morning; trash is Sunday nights, etc.

This ensures nothing is overlooked. It also spreads the work out into more manageable chunks of time throughout the week.

4. this is the year for simpler, saner lives.

We not only ricochet through the house – it often seems we ricochet through life just as madly.

7 resolutions for an organized new year.
Downsize and organize family activities so family breakfasts and dinners won’t be endangered times in the year ahead.
Breakfasts are a free-for-all-mad-dash most mornings. Dinners are endangered. Homework goes on into the wee hours of the night. We didn’t grow up like this.

What happened?!

We unwittingly veer into the fast lane of family life and can get stuck there – if we don’t take the driver’s seat instead of going along for the ride. This is fixable.

Here’s how to start:

Allow everyone in the family a maximum of three sports, activities or hobbies, not to exceed three commitments each (practices, meetings, etc.) per week.

If you have more than two kids, the limit might be two hobbies. Now look at your own hobbies and interests. A little tougher.

Parents not only have hobbies they love to do, but also commitments they should do (PTA, etc.)

Save at least two time slots per week for something you love to do. Limit volunteering to two more slots. 2015 is the year to learn to say ‘No’ — and mean it. It’s a crucial part of your organized new year’s success.

5. resolve to save money.

7 resolutions for an organized new year.
Resolve to save money this year for the things you really want and need.
If you faithfully adhere to resolutions 1 and 4, this resolution will wonderfully take care of itself.

After all, we’ve been spending money on things we don’t really need and on too many expensive extracurricular activities for the kids.

Pare down the essentials list and you’re halfway home. For the other half, list all the bills that have a fixed amount paid monthly, such as the mortgage or rent, health insurance, car payment, tuition, etc.

Finally, list luxury expenses: lessons, clothes, Starbucks, movies, dining, etc. Set a budget for each.

Include the kids in the process for this one. Tell them how much is budgeted for family entertainment and let each kid vote on how at least part of the money should be spent. Call this your resolution for an organized new year for the entire family.

6. resolve to take care of yourself.

The above resolutions are about helping take care of yourself, of course. After all, if your home is clean, efficient and organized, your time and money are well-managed, you are taking care of yourself.

And remember those time slots? Don’t cut corners here. Your slot could be as extravagant as an occasional day at the spa or as simple as taking a long soak in the bathtub. You choose – but do it!

7. resolve to be the best you can be.

If you have accomplished resolutions 1 through 6, this one too takes care of itself. If you find time to be good to yourself, you will find the time, energy and patience to be good to your loved ones. One just flows from the other.

But you can’t go directly to Resolution No. 7, unfortunately. These resolutions are like building blocks. If the bottom layer is unstable, you can’t build on top of it.

So take a deep breath and resolve to start anew with No. 1. Don’t expect to finish the resolutions in a day, week or even a month. This is a continuous process that will provide ample rewards in the year ahead.

Happy Organized New Year!

Source: CleanOrganizedFamilyHomecom

Minor Increase in Rates Give Home Buyers a Push to Buy Now

Categories: New Homes Chicago, New Homes Madison, New Homes Milwaukee | Posted: December 19, 2015


The Federal Reserve announced this week that interest rates will increase by 0.25 percent, or 25 basis points.

The last time the Fed raised rates, “the iPhone didn’t even exist,” says Mark Fleming, chief economist for title insurance company First American Financial Corporation.

Interest rates in the U.S. have been close to zero for the last seven years, intentionally kept low to allow employment and the market to recover from the crash in 2008.

For new homebuyers, the expectation of a rate hike spurred many to buy in the months leading up to the decision and encouraged a cycle of refinancing from existing homeowners.

But the moderate rate increase does not spell doom if you’re looking to buy a home – in fact, it may give you the push you need to get out there and buy your home before interest rates rise again, something economists are predicting for 2016.

How will rising interest rates affect you as a homebuyer? U.S. News asked experts to weigh in on whether you should be concerned about your ability to afford a mortgage and what you should know about interest rates in the next year.

The Fed’s decision doesn’t affect your interest rate as much as you may think. While the interest rate policy changes will affect how interest rates are offered, mortgage rates function separately, and are in fact far more volatile than the Fed’s interest rate.

Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for, explains rates for new fixed mortgages not only fluctuate on their own, but have changed in anticipation of increased Fed interest rates, without any actual change in policy.

“When you look at the volatility of what rates have done around the ‘what is the Fed going to do’ all yearlong, we’ve had enormous movement in mortgage rates,” Smoke says. “We’ve had roughly 70 basis points of movement in the 30-year [fixed-rate mortgage] alone in the last 12 months when the Fed hasn’t done anything.”

Rising interest rates don’t mean you can’t find a mortgage that works for you. The rate hike by the Fed is minor and isn’t likely to squeeze too many consumers out of being able to buy a home. You might have to reconfigure what you put down versus what you pay monthly, but as Smoke emphasizes, mortgage rates differ from day to day and lender to lender.

“It’s like buying gasoline – it’s different by provider, it’s different one street to the next,” Smoke says.

Higher interest rates can give the push you need. Many economists are expecting interest rates to continue to increase throughout the next year by a total of 1 percent, and while they are small, steady increases, getting a mortgage on the lower end is always a better idea than waiting and paying more.

Steve Rick, chief economist for CUNA Mutual Group, which builds financial products for credit unions nationwide, says that extra push to get homebuyers and other consumers moving in the market could serve as an additional stimulus for the economy.

“We could see faster economic growth next year because the Fed is raising rates, because it will help with confidence, and it will help with people trying to get ahead of the rising rate environment,” Rick says.

Increased rates can help keep house appreciation in line with wage increases. As housing markets continue to recover from the recession, home values have been appreciating rapidly, outpacing wage increases and making it more difficult for everyone to afford them.

“When you raise rates you slow down the pace of house price appreciation,” Fleming says, noting mortgage rates will go up regardless of the Fed’s decision. By slowing the increase of home prices, the same people who could afford one house today will likely be able to afford the same house down the line, without being edged out by rapid property appreciation.

But at the moment, Rick notes, “housing is still relatively affordable,” and after such a long period of no interest rate changes, the Fed’s decision to increase rates by 0.25 percent isn’t going to stop people from making big purchases, like cars or homes, with financing.

If you already own a home, you likely don’t have to worry about adjustable-rate mortgages. Because chances are you don’t have one. “The majority of mortgages that were taken out in the last couple years were 30-year fixed mortgages,” says Svenja Gudell, chief economist for Zillow. “We’re talking 85 to 90 percent of originations.”

Gudell notes many homebuyers are overinsured with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage – because the chances they’ll stay in one home for 30 years are slim – but many are not willing to take the risk of facing higher rates down the line in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis.

But if you get an ARM, you don’t need to be scared. ARMs typically have a locked interest rate between five and seven years, so your interest rate is unaffected as long as you’re in that period. But even if you are in the floating rate part of your mortgage, Gudell and Fleming agree that rate hikes down the line will likely remain affordable.

“The increase in the mortgage rates are going to be so tame and so controlled that [homeowners] will be able to adjust over time,” Gudell says.

Fleming adds that a 1 percent total increase by the end of 2016 will likely bring your interest rate to 4 to 5 percent, equating to about $50 to $70 per month in additional payments, which is minimal. “You can find 50 bucks by going to Starbucks less often,” he says.

You should still shop around. Treat your mortgage like any other major purchase – weigh your options and compare rates before you sign onto one. The mortgage, and your ability to pay it off, are just as important as the house you choose to buy.

“Consumers will be able to mitigate some of the increases by putting as much effort into finding their mortgage as they do in finding their dream home,” Smoke says. “You don’t just take the first offer; you don’t just go to the lender that was recommended. Pursue and understand that you can get different rates.”

2015 U.S. News & World Report

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