Monday, May 24, 2010
The median price of a home sold in the city of Chicago last month rose for the first time in 22 months, with all of that gain coming from the sale of single-family homes.
For the entire metropolitan area, the median home price didn't break the string of declines seen since March 2008. But with a decrease of just 0.5 percent, it was the best report in some time.
"I'm ecstatic about it," said Genie Birch, president of the Chicago Board of Realtors. "The free fall stopped. There's a bottom and then you make your way up. I think we are on the road to recovery if all the variables stay in place."
The news on pricing came as the Illinois Association of Realtors reported Monday that April existing homes sales in the Chicago area rose for the 10th consecutive month, year-over-year, to 7,071 single-family homes and condominiums sold last month. It was a 47.1 percent sales volume gain since April 2009.
Within the city, sales rose 41.1 percent, to 1,407 homes sold, in the eighth consecutive month of year-over-year gains while the median price increased 3.2 percent to $225,000. Sales of single-family homes rose 25.4 percent to 791 homes, which were sold at a median price of $155,000 -- a 14.8 percent increase.
Meanwhile, sales of condos within Chicago rose 53.9 percent, to 1,194 homes sold. The median price of $278,012 was a 3.9 percent decrease.
"For the first time since the recession began, the housing markets in Illinois and Chicagoland region almost presented positive indicators across the board," said Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, director of University of Illinois' Regional Economics Applications Laboratory in a statement. "Sales continue to exhibit positive increases through April, and the forecasts suggest a continuation of these trends through July."
All nine of the counties in northern Illinois recorded substantial double-digit sales volume gains of between 24 and 77 percent last month. But only Lake County showed a significant year-over-year gain in median home prices, with a 11.2 percent increase to $200,000 in April. The median home price rose 1.8 percent in Cook County, to $195,000. Other counties posted decreases.
Despite the good report, questions remain over whether the housing market can sustain any momentum generated by the now-expired home buyer tax credit. In order to qualify for the tax credit of up to $8,000, consumers had to have a contract signed on a home by April 30, and must close on the purchase transaction by June.
There's some evidence that those first-time sellers have now exited the market, as only 43.4 percent of April's home purchases were attributed to first-time home buyers, compared with 48.2 percent of buyers in March, according to a Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance monthly survey.
Last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that mortgage loan applications for home purchases for the week ended May 14 fell 27 percent from a week earlier, to the lowest level of applications in 13 years, and applications had declined almost 20 percent during the past month.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
April Showers Bring May Flowers
One of the joys of spring and summer is that you can grow your own garden. Whether you want flowers, fruit or vegetables the options are limitless. Read on for successful gardening tips and ideas:
1. Survey the area and plan. Decide where to plant and clean up any winter debris. Make sure your pathway is clear and you won't have to redirect your planting midway through.
2. Buy the proper tools and plants. This means quality. It will make a world of difference when planting. For early spring choose trees, shrubs and perennials.
3. Check the pH level of soil. The soil you are using should be enriched. If you want to increase the pH level in the soil, you can add dolomitic lime, and similarly to reduce the pH level, you can add elemental sulfur.
4. When planting new plants, prepare new beds and remove all the weeds and debris from the soil. Spread manure or compost over the soil, and cultivate to a depth of 10 to 12 inches.
5. Also, if you plant flower beds in a diamond pattern rather than straight rows, they'll look fuller faster.
6. Lastly, when new growth takes place, apply fertilizer around trees and shrubs. Fertilize perennials only when the active growth takes place.
7. Enjoy your beautiful garden!
There are those who can simply plow right into decorating projects and end up with something beautiful. But for most of us, it can be a daunting challenge without professional help. This is especially true when it comes to awkward angles and odd-shaped rooms.
Odd shaped rooms can actually bring character to your decor. Just pick a focal point such as a fireplace, arranging furniture and accessories to bring attention to the area. Take advantage of a window by arranging seating or beds that easily access the view. If your room has no outstanding features, make your own. Faux fireplace mantles and artwork thoughtfully placed on a wall will do nicely.
Create balance with items that bring harmony and a sense of scale. An armoire that reaches the ceiling will take up more visual space than a shorter piece of the same dimensions. Rugs that are too small will look cheap no matter what the cost. Keep that in mind when selecting new items
Rooms that are long and narrow can be especially challenging until you visually divide them by two. For instance, a long living room can have one area with sofa and chairs with a secondary area for dining. Or you could use the secondary area for reading and games with a setting consisting of a table, chairs and proper lighting. Place a chess set on the table and you have an inviting place for fun with friends.
Dormers, though charming, can be tough, especially if you're using wallpaper. Plaids and stripes don't usually work well in these areas. But if wallpaper is your choice, a small repeating pattern will make the angles all but disappear. Just make sure the lighting is sufficient for working and take your time.
Painting the walls and ceiling a single color will also fool the eye by not accentuating the area where the angles meet the ceiling. Or, you can use a slightly lighter hue for the ceiling. This will also act to blend the two areas. If, on the other hand, you wish to make the angle stand out, you can accent with a different color. This can be a dramatic effect.
When choosing colors for rooms that have only three walls, be sure to coordinate your paint choices to blend seamlessly. The goal is to make every room look inviting - a room you can't wait to enter and enjoy.
TIME VS MONEY
Most of us live quite happily with our home's little idiosyncrasies. It's easy to become accustomed to a leaky faucet or a door knob that falls off occasionally. And you may have covered that cracked tile with a small rug. We usually put up with it for quite a while, thinking we'll get it fixed later. Sometimes, later never comes. So, what do you do if you suddenly need to sell your home?
You obviously want top market price for your property, but potential buyers may be turned off by a house that appears to need repair. Or, they will want to pay less money, thinking they will have to invest refurbishing dollars later.
Resist the temptation to fix things on the cheap. Cover-up jobs never work and could come back to haunt you. Some homeowners are quite capable of putting in a new faucet or replacing the tile. If you are experienced and have all the right tools, go ahead and tackle it. If not, hire a professional to do the job for you. Why? Time and money! There may be many details to attend to and your time could be limited. Save your energy for the important issues that only you can handle. You may be faced with lots of small, but very important, decisions every day. If you're caught up doing an extensive repair job yourself, you may be too tired to make the right choices. It could also take you a lot longer to complete something a professional could attend to quickly.
It can be more expensive in the long run to try to cover up or patch a problem. The buyer will recognize it quickly and it could cost you a sale. It will probably be much more economical to hire a plumber to take care of that leak than to try to do it yourself. Professionals have the know-how to tackle any unseen problems. Attempting a repair job yourself when you don't have the skills could result in a much bigger problem later. Major issues with electrical and heating and air should always be looked at by a professional.
Consider the best use of all your resources (that time and money thing again). Get quotes for work that needs to be attended to by a professional and always get it in writing.