Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Years Chicago Real Estate Thought Leadership for 2011

 New Years Chicago Real Estate Thought Leadership for 2011
Carpe Diem..The time to purchase real estate is 2011. We have seen the lowest point of the Chicago market in November 2010..
Fact: the cork has yet to un pop on many bank owned foreclosed properties and short sales will still be prevalent as 1/5 homes are underwater
Fact: Prices will adjust another 5-8% in 2011 but not in every area. Some areas will be flat and see small gains. Inventory is becoming an issue. The Case- Schiller index has shown us 13 months of inventory are available currently while average is 6 months.
Opportunity: It is more expensive to build a new construction home than purchase one..Buyers dream..
The luxury market is starting and will continue to sell again There are only 2 luxury developments in Chicago that are on the books and have been moving nicely. 2520 Lincoln Park West and the Ritz Carlton. Both are being marketed by Prudential Rubloff. The biggest declines have been in the condo market.
Opportunity: The market is here for Affordable single family homes.. Every 10% loss in price is equal to a 1% gain in interest rate. Interest rates will only go higher. My thought is by year end 2011 well be b/t 5-6%...

Happy Holidays! Ron


Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Challenge...

The Challenge..Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else's hands,but not you.
Happy Holidays! Ron

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Selling/Buying in 2011? Key Pointers and Immediate action items.

Savvy, regret-free homebuying can take weeks or months of financial and lifestyle research and planning.  If you want 2011 to be the year you become a homeowner, here are 5 things you should be doing, as we speak.

1.  Minimize your holiday spending and save your cash. Instead of using the holiday sales to acquire a new winter wardrobe of cashmere sweaters, hold the discretionary spending down so you can give yourself the gift of homeownership!  If you are serious about buying a home next year, don't run up additional credit card debt on gifts this year. Instead, make homemade cards or write holiday letters this year for everyone except the kiddos.  And even for the kids, consider scaling back on the stuff, spending more of your time with them than your money, and getting started now saving toward your home purchase. (I don't think too many folks would argue that a less materialistic holiday season would hurt anyone, at any age.) 

Kickstart your 2011 homebuying resolution by starting a "Home" savings account at an high-interest, online bank (the discipline-boosting goal is a bank that isn't super easy to transfer funds out of when you run low on cash), and set up an automatic deposit into it every payday. To get specific about your savings goal, if you're cash-flush, obviously a 20% down payment will get you top notch interest rates and provide you with the maximum ability to manage your monthly payments. If you're going to be more of a bootstrapping buyer, an FHA loan might be right up your alley - they offer a down payment of 3.5% of the purchase price. 

All buyers should plan to have at least 3 percent of the purchase price saved up for closing costs, even if you want the seller to chip in.  The lower-priced the home you want to buy, the more percentage points you should be willing to chip in for closing costs.  It's easy for closing costs on an $150,000 FHA loan to run as high as $4,000 or more, considering transfer taxes, inspections, appraisals and mortgage insurance fees. So, even the scrappiest buyer should have a savings target somewhere around 6.5% of their target home's price.  To buy a $200,000 home, for example, that would mean a savings target of $13,000.

Local real estate and mortgage pros can help you clarify realistic "cash to close" expectations and savings targets for your area - They should be the thought leaders for you in the industry,

2.  Research financing, areas homes, prices, agents and online. Smart homebuying takes a lot of research and knowledge-gathering.  Since most buyers find it much harder to qualify for a mortgage than it is to find a home you'd love to live in, start with studying up on home financing and what it will take for you to get a home loan (note: FHA loans are preferred by the average homebuyer on today's market who has less than a 10% down payment, so start your research there). 

If you're considering relocating next year, now's the time to start narrowing down states, cities and even neighborhoods that may or may not work for you. Take into account the job market, housing and other costs of living, and income and property tax rates, as well as the critical lifestyle inputs that vary from state-to-state, like weather and whether the place is a personality fit for you and the life you want to live, be it urban sophisticate or outdoors adventurer. 

Also, start to develop a feel for home prices in a what-you-get-for-your-money type way, and start narrowing down the home styles and even neighborhoods that might fit your aesthetic preferences and lifestyle.  If you're one of those rare buyers-to-be who is not already obsessively house hunting, hop on Trulia and start regularly checking out homes and neighborhoods, making sure to take advantage of the neighborhood ratings and reviews feature, which empowers you to surface what other folks think and say about an area. 

3.  Rehab your credit, if you need to.  Go to and check out your credit reports - from all 3 bureaus - for free. (Note - these will not give you your credit score for free - that costs extra, but it will give you the actual detailed credit reports.)  Audit them for errors and do the work of disputing inaccuracies to have them corrected. Pay particular attention to: accounts that are not yours/you never opened, derogatory information that should have "aged off" your report by now (i.e., 7 years for late payments, 10 for bankruptcies) and balances or credit limits that are inaccurate (i.e., your credit card balance is listed at $2500, but you actually only owe $250.)  These are the errors most likely to foul up your financing, so follow the instructions each bureau provides to correct them, stat. While you're at it, don't close any accounts, even if you are able to pay some down or off - actually, check out these tips for getting the bank to give you the best possible home loan, without unintentionally making your score worse!

4.  Run your numbers. In the past, some overextended homeowners complained that they felt pushed into a mortgage they couldn't afford. Pundits blamed that on the real estate and mortgage industry, but I have witnessed firsthand many a homebuyer push themselves or their spouses into buying too expensive of a home. Eliminate this issue entirely by doing this - run your own numbers, before you ever even talk to a salesperson or start looking at homes beyond your means. (I assure you, once you see the million dollar home you think you can afford, the $250,000 home you can actually afford will be underwhelming.)

Get your monthly finances in order, and get a clear read on how much your monthly bills are - outside of housing. Decide how much you can afford to spend every month for housing, when you buy your home.  Get clear on exactly how much cash you plan to have at hand to put into your transaction up front.  When, in the next step, you begin working with a mortgage broker, you'll want to share these numbers with them, early on in your conversation, to empower them to tell you what home price you can afford - not based on their rubrics, but based on what you say you want to spend every month and what you want to put down.

5.  Talk to a real estate and mortgage broker

Drop me an email, letting me know if  you'd like to work on putting an action plan together for buying a home next year, and would like to talk with me about what action steps need to go on the list. I can brief you on the timeline of a transaction in your local market, and to point out for you things like when along the process you'll need to bring money in, when you'll need to miss work and come into their office or the closing office, whether they offer conveniences like digital document signing, and generally the local standard practices about which buyers you'll need to know. 
In addition to chatting about timing your purchase vis-à-vis your other life events and plans for the year, make sure to ask for referrals to a local, trustworthy mortgage broker or two - preferably one that has worked with them and closed a number of transactions with their clients.  (In fact, many busy real estate pros will want you to talk with their trusty mortgage partner before they get too involved in your planning process.  You may think you only need a month to get ready to buy, but once the mortgage folks weigh in, it might turn out that you actually need a few.)  When you do get in touch with the mortgage maven, if you're serious about buying, you will want them to actually pull your credit report, check the actual FICO scores that come up on their system and give you their professional recommendations for what final tweaks you can do to your debts to get your credit score where it needs to be.


It's resolution time, folks.  Last week, we offered some immediate action items for those who want 2011 to be the year they become homeowners.  By popular demand, this week it's sellers' turn!  Whether you are simply trying to decide whether to sell your home next year, or it's been on the market before and you are trying to revamp your approach to get it sold next year, here are 5 things you can do during what's left of 2010 to position yourself for home selling success in 2011.

1.  Reality check yourself . . . before you wreck yourself (and the sale of your home, that is). The age-old real estate advice to wanna-be sellers is to get real about pricing - and like my sweet Grandma's advice about always rinsing the cake batter out with cold water, never hot, the caution against overpricing is advice that will stand you in good stead. (And that cold water trick works, btw - rinsing with hot starts to cook the batter to the bowl!  But I digress)  Before you even get to pricing, though, first you should get real about what your goals really are. Why do you want or need to sell?  And how badly - how important is it to you?  What would it take to make selling make sense?  If you even think you may want to sell your home next year, get clear on these items in your own head before you even talk to anyone outside of your household. Your very next step is to look at your mortgage account statement online and find out what you owe, and find out what your payoff amount would be.

Step 3? Get a reality-based idea of what your home is worth - by talking with several local real estate agents who have a strong, recent track record of successfully selling homes in your area; these are the folks who'll have a strong idea of what recent sales are the most comparable to yours, and what a local buyer would agree to pay for your home, as well as what it might appraise at. If 3 agents give you one range, and one gives you a bizarrely higher number, be skeptical about the outlier; there are rare bad apples out there in the agent world who will tell you whatever it takes to get the listing.  Get real and stay there - don't fall prey to the fallacy that your home is worth more than others, for no substantive reason beyond the fact that, well, it's yours.

Then, move toward making a decision about whether selling actually makes sense for you. Whatever you do, don't let your mental GPS steer you anywhere near that fantasyland where all your plans for selling, moving, etc. rest on the hypothetical that you can get 25% more than your home's actual fair market value. That sort of magical thinking costs you and your agent the time, inconvenience and money it takes to try to conjure up a sale that just ain't gonna happen, and that doesn't even count the opportunity costs of other things you could be doing with those resources. If your home's current value is bizarrely less than you want or need to move on, consider a short sale and price it appropriately or consider staying put and sprucing up your home so it better suits your needs - but don't price it at your "wishful thinking" price and set yourself and your agent up for failure.

2.  Figure out the lay of your local land.  National blogs and media outlets offer all sorts of useful advice about whether, how and when to sell your home, but there's one thing that sort of advice cannot convey: what's going on in your local market. Get active in Trulia Voices, ask questions and read blogs in your local market and start talking with the real estate brokers and agents from your area who are actively blogging, listing properties and answering questions. They can give you the hyperlocal essentials you need to knows.  Sure, it's a buyer's market nationwide, on average.  But if you live in Omaha, that may mean that homes sell at or near asking in 45 days or less; in Mesa, Arizona, your home could stay on the market 6 months and sell for 30% below asking.  In my neck of the woods, it's not bizarre for homes to sell at 5 percent above asking, in two weeks - and that's still a buyer's market compared to the 20% above asking sales that were common in 2006.  

Every market is different, and you can neither know what to expect when you list your home for sale, nor implement smart strategies for getting your home sold without knowing what's going on in yours. 

3.  Tour nearby Open Houses. Your job, as the seller of your home, is to present a compelling package to buyers - compelling enough to make them sign away 30 years of their lives and the vast majority of their worldly possessions in exchange for your home (kinda ups the ante, doesn't it?). To do that, it helps to get inside the minds of your home's target buyers.  And to do that, you need to think how they think and see what they see.

Visiting the other homes your target buyers will also see online and/or in real life will give you a sense for how your home's price and condition will measure up to the competition.  Go view other homes that are for sale in your area, making sure you see at least a few that fall into each of these categories: (a) properties in your neighborhood or similar neighborhoods, (b) homes in your home's general price range, all around town, and (c) homes that have similar numbers of bedrooms, bathrooms and square feet - no matter what the price. You'll likely end up seeing homes in a wide range when it comes to price and condition; know that your home, to sell, will need to beat these on one or both measures. Also, if you try to go to at least a few open houses, rather than just asking your agent to show them to you at your convenience, you'll also get a sense for what sort of buyer traffic you can expect from open houses, and you can even chat with those home's listing agents about local market dynamics and what factors they believe may help or hurt that particular listing.

4.  Formulate a plan: in A-B-C order.  Collaborate with your broker or agent to put an action plan in place.  Make sure you address: list price, list date, showing arrangements and the property prep work (see #5, below) that your agent recommends you do prior to listing the place. To minimize the stress of a somewhat inevitably stressful experience (i.e., selling your home!), work with your agent on Plans B and C now, too!  What is the average number of days a home stays on the market in your area before it sells (DOM)?  (Hint:  don't look at the ones that never sold, because you don't want to be part of that group!)  Decide up front if your home sits on the market for X number of days with no offer, you'll lower the price to Y.  Also cover alternative marketing plans/vehicles for your home, and even calendar when you might start to offer transactional incentives, like closing cost credits, interest rate buy-downs, throwing in personal property and even making reverse offers to buyers who have expressed an interest but can't seem to get off the fence. At some point along the timeline, include a pause where your agent can interview buyer's brokers who have shown your home to collect buyer feedback, so you can course correct your pricing, marketing or staging strategies accordingly.

5.  Do your prep work - fix and pre-pack.  If you are sure you're selling in 2011, and want to put your holiday vacation time to good use, make a list of all those little repairs you've been wanting to do forever, call up your neighborhood handy person and get 'em done. Loose knobs and handles, double-hung windows that are painted shut, the frayed carpet on the steps, that broken bathroom tile - fixing those things can give your place just the patina and polish it'll take to compete with the ample, low-priced competition you'll have next year.

It may be tough for non-distressed home sellers to compete with foreclosures and short sales on price.  But one area where individual home sellers usually can best the competition is CONDITION! Your home can present to buyers in tip-top  condition in a way that most foreclosures and short sales cannot.  And this includes staging - most foreclosures will be shown vacant, and/or with the debris of the former owner's lives tragically littering the premises.  Short sales are usually (but not always) a bit better, but are most often shown fully occupied, furnished and cluttered - just as the owners live in them, because of the distressed nature of the sale.  As a non-distressed home's seller, it behooves you to ensure that your home's curb appeal is at it's best and that throughout the interior, the buyer is able to visualize the lovely life they can, scratch that, WILL live once they buy and move into your home.  Depersonalizing and decluttering are essential to this staging effort; in fact, one wise Trulia Voices contributor tells her sellers to go ahead and start "pre-packing" - put most of the personal items that make your home yours in a box, like you're getting ready to move (which you are!) and leave your place in as close to model-home move-in condition as possible. Get your property pre-appraised to support the value.

Lastly, hope is not a plan!

No Change can be a great thing!

Amid all the ups and downs these days, "no change" can be a great thing

imageThe National Association of Home Builders reported that home builders' confidence in the outlook for what they do remained steady from last month to this. What slipped-- probably having to do with the vagaries of the home mortgage environment and their impact on those who are trying to get a loan--is the traffic index to new-home neighborhoods. Calculated Risk's take on the latest data, which has emerged as an important economic indicator, is "Confidence remains very low ... any number under 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as poor than good." Housing starts are due tomorrow. However, Builder Pulse's next issue will be December 21

Thursday, December 9, 2010


The cold is the most commonly occurring illness in the entire world, with more than 1 billion colds per year reported in the United States alone. Statistics say you'll catch two to four colds this winter. Here is some help to stave them off.


How it helps: Sleep regulates the release of the hormone cortisol, which stimulates cells that boost the immune system, says William Ellert, M.D., chief medical officer of the Phoenix Baptist Hospital. And a well-tuned immune system is crucial for defending against the cold virus. Getting at least seven hours of shut-eye is the easiest way to steer clear of the common cold. In fact, a recent study indicates that people who fall short are nearly three times as likely to catch a cold. To make bedtime even more healthful, try using a protective pillow cover, which can help prevent a stuffy, runny nose.

Good to know: If you have trouble falling asleep, try a mind-calming exercise. For instance: “Go over everything you did during the day, but do it in reverse order,” says C. Evers Whyte, director of the Center for Health Renewal, in Stamford, Connecticut.


How it helps:
Research has shown that moderate exercise—30 to 90 minutes most days of the week—increases immune function and reduces your chances of catching a cold. Key word: moderate. Prolonged high-intensity exercise can actually make you more susceptible to sickness, according to research from Appalachian State University, in Boone, North Carolina.

Good to know: Don’t swear off workouts if you do get a simple head cold. A 2009 study at the University of Illinois found that moderate exercise can also help you recover from a cold more quickly than normal.

A Hot - and Cold - Shower

How it helps: Temperature fluctuations jump-start your immune system, says Donielle Wilson, a naturopathic doctor in New York City. At the end of a shower, stand under the hottest stream you can take for 30 seconds, then turn the temperature to cold for 10 seconds. Repeat three times, finishing with cold.

Good to know: A steamy shower helps keep nasal passages clear and can prevent cold-causing bugs from taking up residence in your nose.


How they help: These mollusks contain more of the mineral zinc than any other food, and zinc has been proven to support and enhance the immune system. Eating just a single oyster will give you a whopping 13 milligrams of zinc. That said, since it may be difficult to work them into your diet regularly (oyster sandwich for lunch?), look to zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, baked beans, and pumpkin seeds to help you get the recommended eight milligrams a day.

Good to know: Zinc is also effective when taken at the first signs of a cold. Oral lozenges that contain the mineral, like those made by Cold-Eeze and Zicam, have been shown to decrease the duration of colds.

Vitamin D

How it helps:
According to a 2009 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people with low levels of this vitamin, which helps to regulate the immune system, are more susceptible to catching colds. (The vitamin has also been shown to increase calcium absorption and reduce inflammation.) Multivitamins typically contain 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D, which falls within the current recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 200 to 600 IU. However, experts now suggest taking a 1,000-IU supplement on top of a multivitamin, as strong evidence indicates that the current RDA is too low.

Good to know: If you drink a lot of milk; frequently eat fatty fish, like salmon; or live in a sunny climate, you are probably getting an adequate amount, says Ellert, since these all increase your body’s stores of vitamin D.

Nasal Rinse

How it helps: Neti pots and irrigators cleanse the nasal passages with a saltwater solution. “A daily saline rinse helps sweep bacteria, viruses, and irritants from the respiratory tract,” says Ellert. With a classic neti pot, the solution is poured into one nostril, travels into the sinuses, then drains from the other nostril. Today a battery-powered irrigator can be easier and more comfortable to use. A saline nasal spray offers similar benefits.

Good to know: Clean your irrigator or neti pot with soap and water after every use. “Without good hygiene, these can be vehicles for transmitting viruses and bacteria from person to person,” says Ellert.

Happy Holidays to all ! Ron

Chicago Employment Outlook 2011.. Optimistic

It’s a long, uphill battle, but it seems we are getting there.  Numerous surveys show a positive outlook for US hiring in 2011.   Several large companies have announced recent expansions and hiring in the Chicago area, and the rise in employment opportunities could mean a rise in the area’s Chicago real estate numbers as well. reports that “business leaders in the US are planning to hire new members of staff during 2011”, citing a research survey conducted by Regus, a company providing offices, meeting rooms, and virtual offices worldwide.  Ranstad goes on stating that:
“Research by Regus reveals 32 percent of firms expect to expand their workforces next year, suggesting companies are witnessing signs of recovery and sustainable upward growth.  Confidence in future outlook within the country also climbed, with the index rising by seven points over the past six months to 87.  Additionally, the bi-annual Business Tracker survey of more than 10,000 senior executives in 78 countries worldwide showed that 36 per cent of those polled planned to increase recruitment during 2011.  The report suggests global unemployment trends may be reversing following rising joblessness in recent years and Regus regional vice-president Sande Golgart said: “The intention to increase headcount is a clear indicator that businesses want to be prepared to grasp the opportunities that recovering markets may throw their way.

Another tremendous sign of success in the business world is the buzz surrounding Chicago-based Groupon, which was rumored last week to be in talks to be purchased by Google. Groupon is a social coupon service, offering a daily deal to customers on a variety of local services and products. An article in the New York Times last week said the talks between Groupon and Google could spark a new interest in Internet start-ups, including many in Chicago that may be overlooked. Tech executives said a sale to Google could be a “game-changing moment” for Chicago’s economy, making it known as a hub for technology and starting with local talent. 

A related article posted by PR Newswire provides a valid point of view that “These findings are particularly significant, coming in the wake of recent observations from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Labour Organization (ILO) that global unemployment has reached record proportions in the last three years (up to 210 million since 2007). These organizations have warned about potential problems for national economies if this trend continues.  Unemployment reduces national taxation income and increases public spending. The findings of the Regus Business Tracker provide important evidence that the world unemployment situation may be set to ease in 2011.”

This information translates into a greater chance at opportunities for upcoming college grads.  The 2011 Job Outlook Survey by the NACE shows that employers plan to hire 13.5 percent more graduates from the Class of 2011 than were previously hired from the Class of 2010.  The increased demand is greatest in the fields of engineering and computer science.  The West is purported to be hiring more than other areas of the United States, followed by the Midwest.
Even individual companies are showcasing their hiring interests for next year.  Last month Deloitte announced a plan to hire 50,000 employees each year for the next five years, so 250,000 employees total (5,000 of the 2011 hires being new college graduates). says Deloitte is “hiring across all of its major businesses in the U.S., particularly in its financial services industries” and that “the company is looking for candidates with ‘superior analytical and problem-solving skills’ as well as and team-building abilities”.
Manpower conducted their own survey, focusing on 2010 results and anticipated changes as the year draws to a close:
U.S. employers anticipate a slight gain  in employment levels for Quarter 4 2010, the fourth successive quarter of modest to favorable hiring plans, according to the seasonally adjusted results of the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, conducted quarterly by Manpower Inc.
Survey data reveals a seasonally adjusted Outlook of +5% for Quarter 4 2010, up from -1% during the same period last year and stable compared to Quarter 3 2010.
Employers’ hiring confidence nationwide experienced a noteworthy rebound in 2010 when compared to 2009:
  • A positive overall hiring Outlook was reported all four quarters of 2010, which followed three quarters with a negative Outlook in 2009, according to seasonally adjusted survey results.
  • Employers across all industries reported a mostly positive Outlook in 2010, whereas the Outlook within the majority of industry sectors was negative in 2009.
  • Across the four geographic regions, all reported four quarters of positive hiring plans, while 2009 results were mostly negative.
“Clearly there are signs of a softening labor market, but when we consider what we are hearing from our clients and by looking at our own business, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic,” said Manpower Inc. Chairman and CEO Jeff Joerres.  “The hiring intentions for the fourth quarter are not enough to break through the labor market sound barrier that we’re all eagerly anticipating, as 71 percent of employers indicate no change in hiring.”
Of the more than 18,000 employers surveyed, 15% anticipate an increase in staff levels in their Quarter 4 2010 hiring plans, while 11% expect a decrease in payrolls, resulting in a Net Employment Outlook of +4%. When seasonally adjusted, the Net Employment Outlook improves slightly to +5%. Seventy-one percent of employers expect no change in their hiring plans. The final 3% of employers indicate they are undecided about their hiring intentions.
“After a period of very negative hiring sentiment in 2009, we have seen greater stability for the employed throughout 2010, although with only modest increases in hiring plans. This stability is an important platform to establish for more robust labor market growth in 2011,” said Jonas Prising, Manpower president of the Americas.  “Looking back at where we were in 2009, the employment environment is more promising now, however many employers are still unsure about how the economy will fare and how robust the recovery will be. Until we move beyond this uncertainty, we are unlikely to see employers hire in a meaningful way, and this is evident in their consistently modest hiring plans.”
Employers in 11 of the 13 industry sectors surveyed have a positive Outlook for Quarter 4 2010: Mining (+13%), Wholesale & Retail Trade (+13%), Professional & Business Services (+10%), Leisure & Hospitality (+9%), Durable Goods Manufacturing (+7%), Information (+7), Nondurable Goods Manufacturing (+6%), Financial Activities (+4%), Education & Health Services (+4), Other Services (+3%) and Transportation & Utilities (+2%). The October – December 2010 Outlook is negative for two of the surveyed industry sectors: Government (-6%) and Construction (-8%). Employers in one sector, Education & Health Services, anticipate an increase in quarter-over-quarter hiring.
“As we enter a very busy retail quarter, it’s encouraging to see that Wholesale & Retail Trade employers anticipate a healthy Outlook of 13%,” continued Prising.  “This represents a moderate increase compared with fourth quarter 2009.”
Compared to one year ago, employers in all four U.S. geographic regions surveyed anticipate hiring increases. Employers in the Northeast and South have the most upbeat hiring intentions, with a Net Employment Outlook of +6%. Employers in the West are the most reserved, with an Outlook of +1%. When adjusting for seasonal variations, Northeast employers anticipate the strongest shift compared to one year ago at this time, with a considerable increase in hiring confidence year-over-year. Compared to Quarter 3 2010, employment prospects are stable in the Midwest and South, while employers in the Northeast and West expect hiring to decrease slightly in Quarter 4 2010.
Though it seems hiring in the short term may stay stagnate, perhaps decreasing, multiple sources are confident in the possibilities for 2011.  Whether positive or skeptical, we are all hopeful that 2011 leads us closer to recovery.  We need to bring the rest of Generation Y into the workforce so that these young minds can become capable, experienced professionals (and my future recruits!).  Current hiring frustrations come not from a shortage of available workers, but from a shortage of skilled workers.

 So where are the jobs?  First of all there are jobs, but not necessarily in areas that you are educated in or have experience.  This concept is here to stay.  What you are currently trained to do may not be something you can get a job doing, at least in this job market.  This is the reality that many job seekers will have to accept.  There are just not enough jobs in popular areas like teaching, marketing, advertising, accounting, finance, construction, human resources and customer service.

This is the time in your career to learn new skills by going back for education in the growth areas.  It's the time to volunteer and/or intern in these areas to build your network to get a job in your new career.  If you are on unemployment you need to treat your benefits as free money with no interest to help cover your living expenses while you get what you need to survive your career.  It's all about being flexible and learning new skills to keep up with the demand in the marketplace.

The trends in hiring in 2011 and in the foreseeable future are as follows:

1. Health care will remain to be an area that will see growth as many of the baby boomers are beginning to age.  This group has money and assets, though many lost some of their savings in the down turn in the stock market and the value of their real estate and may never recoup their losses.  Yet, they will need health care services, as do their parents, who due to better medication and care are living longer.  Many of them need home health care and many will be in Assisted Living and Nursing Homes.  Nurses, nurse's aides and caregivers are in demand.

2. Social Media experts are the rage as personal and business branding continues to remain a focus as they attempt to standout in all the internet "clutter".  Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn are changing the way we develop an audience to build a brand that reaches a large audience, with minimal cost.  Effectively advertising on Google and other less known search engines is an area that job hunters with an expertise in marketing, branding, and technology will be benefit.  It's where the work is in marketing and is still fairly new as a career sector.  All companies, whether they are small or large, will need to get into this space to survive in business.  Online content will be a huge area for growth as our population continues to get their news, information and entertainment online.

3. Technology is picking up with companies hiring more IT contract workers for updating their date's computer systems to stay competitive. The jobs are in hardware for contract work as in programmers and Database Engineers.  Selling software applications for wireless devices B-B is also hot right now and will continue as more applications are developed for the smart phones and Notebook computers, with Apple's I-pad leading the way. CRM(customer relationship management) and ERP (Enterprise resource planning) projects that have been on the back burner will resurface.

 My advice is to keep learning the right skills for the job market by watching for longer term trends for employment.  Stay focused on your career goals and stay informed by reading the abundant economic data available.  Keep meeting people by networking for potential opportunities. Perseverence and flexibility are key in surviving your career.

For more information on what the current Chicago market might mean to you, give me a call at (312) 771-7190 or email at

Monday, November 8, 2010

The art of placement or placement of art

Placing art in your home is an art in itself. Where do you start? Framing, lighting and the furniture all play a part in the proper placement and display of artwork. A few rules and some suggestions might help you show off your artwork to maximum advantage.
Art should always be at eye level. If you're hanging a large piece over the sofa, place it about three inches above the back of the sofa. It should not be floating somewhere near the ceiling. And art doesn't necessarily need to be centered. Consider the entire grouping, including the lamps, candlesticks and other parts of the arrangement.
A single small framed piece will look better if hung on a narrow wall, close to a door frame or over a small table or dresser to anchor it. A smaller piece left stranded alone on an otherwise barren expanse of wall will look lost and incidental.
Little framed pieces look nice on the wall below the line of the lampshade. The grouping draws attention and they'll be well lighted too. Lighting adds a finishing touch to artwork, yet illumination is frequently not where it should be. If you're building or remodeling, consider where art will be placed and install lighting accordingly.
Track lighting and recessed eyeball-style fixtures fitted with halogen bulbs are preferred for illuminating artwork. These fixtures bathe the work in just the right amount and right type of light. If possible, avoid the use of lights attached directly to picture frames. Heat and light so close to artwork can damage it.
Choosing the right frame is just as important as deciding where the artwork goes. Frames follow fashion trends. Equally important however to fashion trends is carrying through on the style of your home. Frame your artwork to compliment the general decor of your home.

Monday, November 1, 2010


If you are looking for ways to green up your Thanksgiving celebration this year, look no further. Here are the top 10 green tips to make your Thanksgiving as eco-friendly as possible.

1- Go organic: An organic Thanksgiving feast is not only healthy and tasty, but can also help the environment. Free-range turkey, fresh vegetables from local farmers, and treats from the organic bakery are just a few choices for your organic cornucopia of food this year.

2- Shop locally: It’s been said that each ingredient in the average Thanksgiving dinner travels 1500 miles to get to our table. Shopping and buying from local farmers means your food travels less distance, using less gas, and in turn produces less carbon dioxide emissions. Plus it is usually fresher!

3- Packaging: When you go to the store, buy things that have the least amount of packaging and try to buy packaging that is environmentally friendly.

4- Use reusable shopping bags: When running around picking up all of your necessities for the big day, make sure you bring along reusable shopping bags.

5- Celebrate Thanksgiving at home: Avoid the extra emissions from traveling by plane or car, and plan your celebration at home this year. You’ll be helping reduce global warming simply by reducing your pollution quotient.

6- Send out homemade Thanksgiving cards: It’s an easy way to say ‘Thank You’ to friends and loved ones, and gives you yet another creative project to keep you (or the kids!) busy on those chilly days before the celebration.

7- Use soy candles to decorate with: Decorating your living and dining space with soy candles is an eco-friendly option, and you’ll find plenty of fragrant pillar candles, votives, and floating candles to complement your look.

8- Pick out natural or organic Thanksgiving décor: From bamboo placemats to homemade napkin rings, make a commitment to go green by decorating with an eco-friendly touch. Making Thanksgiving decorations at home is another way to get the whole family involved in a creative project.

9- Drink the green way: Lift a glass of organic or biodynamic wine, in recycled glasses of course, and give thanks to sustainability. Serve organic wine with “real” corks not plastic or twist off tops. Your eco-friendly Thanksgiving party will be helping preserve the cork industry.

10- Make a commitment to recycle: Make an extra effort to make sure you’re recycling all of the paper, plastic, tin and glass from your Thanksgiving celebration properly.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

OPEN this SUN.12-2. Come treat with us or send your clients.1400sf nirvana.Floor to ceiling windows.24 ft. private deck overlooking lake...Priced to enjoy living..1920 N. Clark 10B.. x.from Green City Mkt.. NEW LISTING..

One Magnificent Lifestyle!...Envision sunrise over the Lake as you dine al-fresco on your 24 ft. private deck. Stunning East,Lake/Park views from floor to ceiling windows of this 2BR/2BA.. 1400SF Nirvana across from Green City Market/Lincoln Park zoo. Hardwood flrs throughout, chefs kitchen, tons of storage/closets, updated baths. Carpe Diem..Priced to enjoy living@$437,500


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Open This Sunday.12-2..Featured on Chicago Magazine/Deal Irving Park

Envision yourself urban gardening in your 800 sf organic vegetable/herb landscape..Bring your bounty in to this light-filled Christopher Peacock inspired chef's kitchen. Live your often dreamt of life in this Arts & Crafts Victorian-style complete w/private coach house for all of your hobbies. Centrally located to all major transp..Many sustainable/eco-friendly finishes. Carpe Diem!

Monday, September 27, 2010

1400sf nirvana.Floor to ceiling windows.24 ft. private deck overlooking lake...Priced to enjoy living..1920 N. Clark 10B.. x.from Green City Mkt..

One magnificent lifestyle, envision the sunrise over the lake as you dine al fresco on your 24 ft private deck. Stunning east, lake/park view from floor to ceiling windows of this 2br/2ba, 1400 sf nirvana across from Green City Market/Lincoln Park 200. Hardwood floors throughout, chef's kitchen, tons of storage/closets, updated baths. Carpe diem. Priced to enjoy living @ $437,500.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010



Appraisers and real estate agents offer advice for adding curb appeal that both preserves value and attracts potential buyers.

Curb appeal has always been important for homesellers. With the vast majority of today's homebuyers starting their search on the Internet, the appearance of your property is more critical than ever. You only have a few seconds to catch their attention as they scroll through listings online to get them to stop and take a closer look.

But the role of curb appeal goes beyond just making a good first impression. The way your house looks from the street can impact its value. It can also shorten the time it takes to sell your house.

We asked real estate agents, appraisers, home stagers, landscape designers, and home inspectors which curb appeal projects offer the most value when your house is on the market, both in terms of its marketability and dollars. Here is what they told us:

Hands down, the most commonly offered curb appeal advice from our real estate pros and appraisers is to give the exterior of your home a good paint job. Buyers will instantly notice it and appraisers will note it on the valuation.

"Paint is probably the number one thing inside and out," says Frank Lucco, managing partner of Houston-based IRR-Residential Appraisers and Consultants. "I'd give additional value for that. If you're under two years remaining life (on the paint job), paint the exterior because it tends to show wear badly."

Just make sure you stay within the range of accepted colors for your market. A house that's painted a wildly different color from its competition will be marked down in value by appraisers.

Before you make the investment in a paint job, though, take a good look at the house. If it's got mildew or general grunge, just washing the house could make a world of difference, says Valerie Torelli, a California real estate agent with a background in accounting.

Before she puts a house on the market, Torelli often does exterior makeovers on her clients' homes, a service she pays for herself to get higher selling prices. Overall, she says her goal is to spend less than $5,000, with a goal of generating an extra $10,000 to $15,000 on the sale price.

Torelli specifies pressure-washing-a job that should be left to professionals. Pressure washing makes the house look "bright and clean in addition to getting rid of unsightly things like cobwebs, which may not be seen from the yard but will detract from the home's cleanliness when seen up close," she says.

The cost to have a professional cleaning should be a few hundred dollars--a fraction of the cost of having the house painted.

California real estate agent Valerie Torelli says she puts a lot of emphasis on landscaping, such as cutting down overgrown bushes and replacing them with leafy plants and annuals mulched with beautiful reddish-brown bark. "It runs me $30 to $50," says Torelli. "Do you get a return on your money? Absolutely. It sucks people in."

You also don't want bare spots. Take the time to fertilize the yard, throw out some grass seed, and if need be, add some sod.

It could be a flower bed of annuals by the mailbox, a paint job for the front door, or a brightly colored bench or an Adirondack chair. "You can get a cute little bench at Home Depot for $99," Torelli notes. "Spray paint it bright red or blue and set it in the yard or on the front porch."

It's not a bad idea, but don't plan on getting extra points from an appraiser for a red bench, says John Bredemeyer, president of Realcorp in Omaha. "It's difficult to quantify, but it does make a home sell more quickly," Bredemeyer says. "Maybe yours sold a couple weeks faster than the house down the street. That's the best way to look at these things."

An upscale mail box and architectural house numbers or an address plaque can give your house a distinctive look that stands out from everyone else on the block. Torelli makes them a part of her exterior makeovers "I've gotten those hand-painted mailboxes," she says. "A nice one runs you $40 to $50." Architectural house numbers may run as high as a few hundred dollars.

Springfield, Va.-based home inspector and former builder Reggie Marston says the roof is one of the first things he looks at in assessing the condition of a home. He'll look at other houses in the neighborhood to see if there are a lot of replaced roofs and see if the subject house has one as well. If not, he'll look for curls in the shingles or missing shingles. "I'm looking at the roof for end-of-life expectancy," he says.

You can pay for roof repairs now, or pay for them later in a lower appraisal; appraisers will mark down the value by the cost of the repair. That could knock thousands of dollars off your appraisal. According to Remodeling Magazine's 2009-2010 Cost vs. Value Report, the average cost of a new asphalt shingle roof is more than $19,000.

"Roofs are issues," Lucco says. "You won't throw money away on that job. You gotta have a decent roof."

Stains and plant matter, such as moss, can be handled with cleaning. It's a job that can often be done in a day for a few hundred dollars, and makes the roof look like new. It's not a DIY project; call a professional with the right tools to clean it without damaging it.

A picket fence with a garden gate to frame the yard is an asset. A fence has more impact in a family-oriented neighborhood than an upscale retirement community, Bredemeyer says, but in most instances, appraisers will give extra value for one, as long as it's in good condition. "Day in and day out, a fence is a plus," Bredemeyer says. Expect to pay $2,000 to $3,500 for a professionally installed gated picket fence 3 feet high and 100 feet long.

Nothing sets off subconscious alarms like hanging gutters, missing bricks from the front steps, or lawn tools rusting in the bushes. It makes even the professionals question what else hasn't been taken care of.

"A house is worth less if the maintenance isn't done," Lucco says. "Those little things can add up and be a very big detractor. When people say, 'I'd buy it if it weren't for all the deferred maintenance,' what they're really saying is, 'I'd still buy it if you reduce the price.'"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Leased@full rental price!

Leased@full rental price! 2700 W. Bryn Mawr..3BR/2.5ba Townhome
Carpe Diem..Why not be next..

Friday, August 27, 2010

Apartment Building Owners see a rise in occupancy!

My insightful friend Kevin wrote this great article on the multi-family state of the market.. Let us know if we can assist you with some wealth management ideas.

Bad news regarding the residential homeowner creates investment opportunities for apartment buildings!
by Kevin J Rocio on Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 10:59am

With all of the bad news coming out right now about the U.S. economy many people are tempted to hide their head in the sand and pretend it isn't happening. From my experience investing in various markets, including commercial real estate, I have found that the most successful investors are always keeping a lookout for a unique situation. In my opinion, we are now seeing one of those unique situations inside of the apartment building market.

For example the New York Times published an article today titled "U.S. Mortgage Relief Effort Is Falling Short of Its Goal". Here is the "bad news":

1) The dropout rate from the Making Home Affordable Program was very high: 96,000 trial modifications were canceled by lenders in July. The number of canceled trials now exceeds 616,000.

2) Many modification seekers did not qualify for permanent status, either because their debt load was not heavy enough, they did not live in the house, their documents were incomplete or they simply failed to make the trial payments.

3) Critics say the program will provide little long-term relief.

In addition to the failing U.S. Making Home Affordable Program, the government now admits that as many and 1 out of every 3 home mortgages is now underwater. This is a startling statistic and it can only mean that we will eventually see more foreclosures.

So how does this affect the apartment building investor?

The answer is simply one of supply and demand. It is obvious that those families who are leaving their homes because of foreclosure will have to live somewhere. The best choice for many former homeowners will be to rent an apartment. This means that demand for apartment housing in the near future could outstrip demand.

As I continually stress to my apartment building investing clients, it is absolutely essential that the beginning commercial real estate investor educate him or herself thoroughly before deciding to invest their hard earned money and time into buying apartment buildings.

Get your head out of the sand and see the "bad news" for the opportunity that it truly is. Message me and I will recommend the best course to enroll in in your area so that you can begin to invest in highly profitable apartment buildings anywhere in the United States.

Apartment Building Owners see a rise in occupancy!

At least one group of housing-industry entrepreneurs are feeling a bit of relief in this dismal economy: the owners and managers of apartment buildings.

According to a new survey from, a growing number of apartment property managers and owners are seeing lower vacancy rates in their buildings this year when compared to 2010.

According to the survey, 42 percent of owners and managers are reporting lower vacancies this year than last.

It's also a bit strange that also qualifying as good news is the fact that 70 percent of managers and owners cited job losses as a major reason for the vacancies in their buildings. That doesn't sound like good news, I know. But when you consider that last year 90 percent of owners and managers said the same thing, it actually is.

The trend is now working in our favor and apartment buildings are poised to skyrocket in value over the next five years. The time to take advantage of this unique situation is right now.

Learn everything you need to know to buy, manage and sell your first apartment building. Feel free to message or call me if you have questions or want to know what courses you should take before you start to invest in apartment buildings.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010



A home that feels bright and light is sure to get a greater approval rating from any buyer. If yours feels a little lackluster and dull, get the sparkle going with the right light fixtures.

Making the right choice depends on the area served. Lighting falls into two groups: indirect (ambient) and direct (accent or task). The former sets a mood and the latter spotlights centers of interest or focuses on work surfaces.

Nothing beats a wonderful chandelier for creating glamour and ambiance. Wall sconces are perfect for an area where space is at a premium. Track, pendant and recessed lights are ideal for an area that needs more direct light. Use up-lights or can lights that sit on the floor for a wash of soft light behind a sofa or plant.

When you calculate how much light you will need, figure one watt of light for each square foot of space. Double the figure for kitchens and work areas. Buy lighting fixtures close to home so you can 'try them on' and return them if necessary. Make sure that the fixture you choose will fit any special mountings already in place in your home. If changes are needed, call in the electrician.

Make sure that every lamp and fixture you choose has passed the Underwriters Laboratories inspection. You will see a prominent 'UL' on the label, usually on the cord or base of the lamp or fixture. If there is no 'UL,' don't buy it.

Now turn on the lights and get ready for the compliments.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Negotiate your best house "buy".Carpe Diem


Keep your emotions in check and your eyes on the goal, and you'll pay less when purchasing a home.

Buying a home can be emotional, but negotiating the price shouldn't be. The key to saving money when purchasing a home is sticking to a plan during the turbulence of high-stakes negotiations. A real estate agent who represents you can guide you and offer you advice, but you are the one who must make the final decision during each round of offers and counter offers.

Here are six tips for negotiating the best price on a home.


Getting prequalified for a mortgage proves to sellers that you're serious about buying and capable of affording their home. That will push you to the head of the pack when sellers choose among offers; they'll go with buyers who are a sure financial bet, not those whose financing could flop.


Ask your agent for information to help you understand the sellers' financial position and motivation. Are they facing foreclosure or a short sale? Have they already purchased a home or relocated, which may make them eager to accept a lower price to avoid paying two mortgages? Has the home been on the market for a long time, or was it just listed? Have there been other offers? If so, why did they fall through? The more signs that sellers are eager to sell, the lower your offer can reasonably go.


Know in advance the most you're willing to pay, and with your agent work back from that number to determine your initial offer, which can set the tone for the entire negotiation. A too-low bid may offend sellers emotionally invested in the sales price; a too-high bid may lead you to spend more than necessary to close the sale.

Work with your agent to evaluate the sellers' motivation and comparable home sales to arrive at an initial offer that engages the sellers yet keeps money in your wallet.


Sellers favor offers that leave little to chance. Keep your bid free of complicated contingencies, such as making the purchase conditional on the sale of your current home. Do keep contingencies for mortgage approval, home inspection, and environmental checks typical in your area, like radon.


Buying a home is a business transaction, and treating it that way helps you save money. Consider any movement by the sellers, however slight, a sign of interest, and keep negotiating.

Each time you make a concession, ask for one in return. If the sellers ask you to boost your price, ask them to contribute to closing costs or pay for a home warranty. If sellers won't budge, make it clear you're willing to walk away; they may get nervous and accept your offer.


Great homes and those competitively priced can draw multiple offers in any market. Don't let competition propel you to go beyond your predetermined price or agree to concessions-such as waiving an inspection-that aren't in your best interest.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Eco tip of the week: Save Water & Money with a Rain Barrel


Using rain barrels to harvest rainwater from your roof is a simple, low-expense solution for conserving water and saving on your water bill.

Why pay to pour thousands of gallons of municipally treated tap water on your lawn and garden every summer if you can irrigate for free? That's the thinking behind the growing interest in rain barrels, which let you conserve water, protect the environment, and save money at the same time.

Considering that an inch of rain dumps 500 gallons on the roof of a typical 2,000-square-foot house, it's possible in most parts of the country to collect more than enough runoff for basic landscape irrigation needs. A rain barrel will save about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In a national survey by DC Urban Gardeners, a rain barrel lowered water bills by about $35 a month in the summer. For as little as $100 for the barrel and downspout fittings, a rain-harvesting system can pay for itself in just a couple of seasons.


The first step is to figure out the potential runoff amount from your roof. Multiply your area's average annual rainfall in inches by the square footage of your roof. If you don't know the exact roof area, it's fine to use the dimensions of your house's footprint. Then multiply that number by 0.623--the amount of water in gallons needed to fill one square foot of space to a depth of one inch. The result is the number of gallons you can harvest. (Keep in mind, though, that most rain barrel systems are set up to collect only a portion of that, depending on irrigation needs.)

If your main goal is to water flower beds or run soaker hoses during dry spells, one or two 55-gallon barrels will suffice. If you want to turn off the garden tap all together, you'll need multiple barrels or a cistern, a large tank that stores from 300 to 3,000 gallons. But cisterns cost considerably more (up to $2,500) and are more complicated to install and use, which makes them best suited for larger-scale rain harvesting systems that include such indoor uses as flushing toilets.


Commercial barrels cost between $50 and $200, though you can also make one yourself from castoff food-grade containers. One couple linked together five 55-gallon syrup drums they bought for $10 apiece from the local Coca-Cola bottling plant. Their blog is an amusing and instructive rain-harvesting primer.

A typical system consisting of one or two barrels and off-the-shelf parts such as spigots, downspout extensions, mesh screens, and soaker hoses costs between $35 and $600. Cobbling it all together might take a weekend or two, but it's not rocket science. The Maryland Environmental Design Program offers easy step-by-step instructions for building your own barrel with about $15 worth of supplies.

Unfortunately, most rain barrels are not very handsome, and it's not always easy to camouflage them. Some people like the folksy wooden water barrel look, but generally speaking, the more water you're trying to capture, the bulkier the containers--and the harder they are to make inconspicuous or tuck behind bushes, especially since they need to be located near a downspout on your house.


Rain barrels work via gravity, so the barrel must be level, stable, and elevated to allow water to move out of the tank. You'll want two spigots, one at the bottom to connect a hose and the other about two-thirds of the way down to fit a watering can or bucket underneath. If you want to move water to a higher level, you'll have to add a small pump ($50 to $150, depending on type).

You'll also need to take a few other precautions for safety:

Covers and screens: A secure cover keeps children, pets, and wildlife out. Fine mesh screens prevent mosquitoes from breeding (a mosquito dunk, which kills mosquito larvae but is non-toxic to plants or other animals, is also not a bad idea) and block leaves and twigs from clogging the works.

Organic growth: Water that sits for days or weeks, especially in hot weather, can start to grow algae. Try adding a capful or two of bleach to the tank and letting it stand for a few days before using. If that doesn't work, you may have to drain and scrub the inside periodically.

Overflow: A 55-gallon barrel (or even two) will quickly fill up, especially during intense downpours. An overflow system that diverts water to a storm drain or into a moisture-tolerant part of the garden is essential.

Restricted uses: Although good for plants and perfectly fine for washing cars or garden tools, water that comes off the roof is far from pure. It may be contaminated with dust, insects, bird droppings, pine needles, pollen, and other pollutants. Be sure to clearly label all rainwater-supplied fixtures as "Non-potable--Do Not Drink." Nor is it safe to mix fertilizer or garden chemicals in the barrel, even for garden use.


Collecting rainwater has numerous benefits apart from low-cost irrigation. Free of chlorine and sodium, naturally soft rainwater is superior for plants. Capturing roof runoff also lowers the risk of flooding and reduces the burden on storm sewers and local watersheds.
That's one reason why a number of local and state governments are offering tax breaks or rebates for rainwater harvesting systems. A few, such as Washington, D.C., San Antonio, Texas and San Jose, California, will even conduct a rainwater audit of your property, make recommendations, and implement rain barrels or other storm-water runoff strategies at a subsidized rate.

Short Sale but statuesque in N. Lincoln Square.

Short Sale but statuesque in N. Lincoln Square. Sophisticated Architecture frames this spacious extra-unique wide 3br/2.5ba town home set in a private gated courtyard.

Dramatic.. open.. light filled w/ 13 ft. ceilings..oak floors & stairs.. deck, common yard. Riverfront bike trail. Carpe Diem! Great value@397,700

Check out video tour@

1st time homebuyer to New Trier bound student to relaxful retiree.Northfield new listing

1st time homebuyer to New Trier bound student to relaxful retiree. Have your morning espresso overlooking garden area & pool. Eat in kitchen, W/D, garage pkg spot & pet friendly. Near major transportation, restaurants, bike & hiking trails & Edens expressway.

Check out vht link@

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sold @532K in 3 weeks.1920 N. Clark..Carpe Diem.Why not be next..

Sold @532K in 3 weeks.1920 N. Clark#14A..Carpe Diem.Why not be next..

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

1728 W. Diversey..New to Mkt..Duplex-up Penthouse

Come check out the virtual tour to a great new duplex-up penthouse..

Wednesday, July 7, 2010



If you’re looking to improve your home on the cheap, consider using salvaged building materials. Besides being less expensive than new materials, secondhand features can add character, quality, and value to your home. But note that the savings in dollars may require a greater investment in time and effort.

Remodeling with secondhand building materials has many fans. Some are owners of historic houses who improve their homes by adding period elements. Others follow green building practices and appreciate conserving resources and keeping materials out of landfills. And still others are looking for quirky elements that will break their homes out of cookie-cutter molds.

Recycled building materials are getting easier to find
According to the Building Materials Reuse Association, recycling is becoming more common in the construction industry. That means reclaimed building elements like doors, windows, plumbing fixtures, and wood flooring are increasingly easy to find.

Habitat for Humanity’s nationwide chain of ReStores sells recycled items, and many cities have architectural salvage yards. Online, neighbors advertise unwanted items on community bulletin boards, such as Craigslist, and national directories of recycled materials, such as EcoBusinessLinks, can be great sources for hard-to-find elements. And the price is right: reused pieces can be 50% to 75% cheaper than their new counterparts.

Searching for salvaged materials
Sounds terrific, right? But it’s not that simple. Using recycled building elements is like shopping at a thrift store: You can’t be certain you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for. Anyone interested in a good deal to spruce up their home—an ornate wood mantelpiece or a set of Victorian doors, for example—has to be willing to compromise on some of the details and commit some time to the endeavor.

If you live in or near a city and have access to a salvage yard, you’re in luck. Many receive multiple new shipments daily, and some, such as Seattle’s Second Use, post their offerings online.

But in most cases, there’s no substitute for regularly showing up in person to check out what’s available. If you’ve got something particular in mind, plan on spending a few afternoons at the salvage yard trying to track down what you’re looking for. The same is true if you’re exploring online: locating the right piece may take longer than you’d expected.

Before beginning your search, make sure you’ve got measurements in hand. It’s useful if you can allow for some wiggle room: unlike big home improvement stores, the items on sale are usually one-of-a-kind pieces. So while a recent truckload might have dropped off a beautiful old mantelpiece, the size might not be an exact fit; know in advance if you can manage with a slightly larger or smaller size.

Dealing with lead paint
Some old items need to be treated with serious care. Ruthie Mundell of Community Forklift, a salvage yard in Edmonston, Md., says that the staff tries to flag items that appear to be lead paint hazards—that is, anything painted prior to 1978, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned lead in paints.

Nevertheless, buyers of old painted items need to be aware of the potential hazards. Older paint doesn’t mean the pieces are unusable, but the paint must be thoroughly removed or sealed—never scraped or sanded. The CPSC offers guidelines for treating lead paint in the household.

Finding savings
Some salvaged pieces are better deals than others. The best is often flooring: careful shoppers can find used floor boards from quality old wood that’s difficult to come by these days. Sat Jiwan Ikle-Khalsa, a green living consultant in Takoma Park, Md., scoured a local salvage yard and found maple, white oak, and rare heart pine flooring at a low price for his renovated 1940s-era home. He estimates he saved more than $2,000 over the cost of new flooring.

Other useful finds are doors, particularly those already on a frame, and plumbing elements. Antique light fixtures can be a great bargain, but check whether they’ve been recently rewired before you buy; otherwise, you may have to do it yourself, or pay an electrician for the service.

Windows are common, but many older widows are single-pane and not energy efficient. These are better used for interior walls to add light and air flow between rooms. Stained glass panels are relatively common at salvage yards and cost from $50 to $500.

Sample price comparisons for various salvaged materials
Salvaged oak flooring: $1 to $3 per sq. ft.
New oak flooring: $4 to $10 per sq. ft.
Average savings for 12x16-foot room: $960

Salvaged interior solid panel door (basic): $20 to $50
New interior panel door: $200 to $400
Average savings: $265

Secondhand pedestal sink: $20 to $250
New pedestal sink: $100 to $800
Average savings: $315

Recycled crown molding: $.30 to $1 per lineal ft.
New crown molding: $.90 to $3 per lineal ft.
Average savings for 12x16-foot room: $72.80

Don’t forget to add in transportation costs. Not all salvage yards deliver, and those that do aren’t necessarily cheap: the cost of getting materials across town could be $100 or more. It might make more sense to borrow or rent a truck on your own.

The value of salvage building components
Salvaged elements may not add to a home’s appraised value, according to Chicago appraiser Tim McCarthy, president of T.J. McCarthy and Associates. An appraiser probably won’t include a home’s reclaimed heart pine beams in the kitchen or the bathroom’s antique plumbing fixtures when calculating the house’s value.

But that doesn’t mean the seller can’t use those amenities as selling points and boost the asking price accordingly. “It’s very market-specific,” McCarthy says. In higher-end neighborhoods, homebuyers may be willing to pay more for authentic elements that give a house personality.

McCarthy recommends talking with a local realtor before making changes; they’ll have a good sense of the housing market’s current demands and should be able to tell you whether a vintage element will boost your home’s market value.

Working with salvage
To effectively integrate salvaged items, Arne Mortensen, owner of Mortensen Design/Build in Seattle, recommends choosing a contractor who has a particular interest and experience in working with recycled building materials. Salvage yard staffs may be able to recommend someone; other sources for ‘green’ contractors include online sites like Angie’s List.

Nonetheless, the time-consuming legwork of finding good pieces generally falls to the homeowner. To make the process easier, spend time thinking about and researching online what you want before you begin to shop. And be prepared to be persistent; happy hunting takes patience

July Real Estate Update-5 Ways you can help resolve the foreclosure crisis

(HouseLogic) - With foreclosures at record highs, nearly everyone lives in a neighborhood where the mortgage crisis has influenced property values. While the U.S. government seeks foreclosure solutions at the federal level, here are five ways you can work at the grassroots level to help turn the foreclosure crisis around in your neighborhood.

1. Volunteer to teach financial literacy or budgeting classes. To teach people in your community to better manage their finances, get training from an organization like Money Management International. After six hours of MMI training, you can teach classes on money and credit when you have time available. Or consider local groups, such as Portland, Maine’s, Institute for Financial Literacy.

2. Contribute to an organization fighting foreclosures. Your donation to such groups as the National Community Reinvestment Coalition or to United Way’s financial stability program helps fund financial counseling and other programs for borrowers facing foreclosure.

3. Volunteer to help restore distressed and foreclosed properties. Local Habitat for Humanity groups help distressed owners prepare properties for sale—thus avoiding foreclosure—and turn foreclosed homes into affordable housing. Help a few hours a week or periodically for particular projects.

4. Make Congress accountable. Take a few minutes to write and send an email to your legislator about the foreclosure crisis. Members of Congress can have a huge impact on the foreclosure crisis by passing meaningful legislation to aid struggling homeowners and their communities. Legislators really do listen to voters—especially when a large number write in support of the same position.

5. Help the unemployed. Unemployment and underemployment are big contributors to the foreclosure crisis. Get at the root cause of the foreclosure crisis by volunteering at an organization that helps people find jobs or save money on expenses.

Those organizations might include local thrift shops, food banks, home improvement recycling centers, or job clubs. Goodwill Industries International volunteers help run job placement and training programs. The Corporation for National Service can help you find local nonprofits in need of volunteers for other tasks.