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Consider “Renovation Light” for a Faster-Selling Home

by Thomas Makinney

Most people know that when putting your house on the market, decluttering and a fresh coat of paint go a long way. And if your home has buckled linoleum and pink tile, you’re probably smart to consider a remodel. But there is a new trend on the market, halfway between staging a home and remodeling. Let’s call it “Renovation Light.”

If your home was remodeled in the last 15 years, renovation light might be something to consider. Those cherry cabinets that looked so great in 2010 aren’t necessarily what buyers are looking for anymore. Ditto for blond hardwood and the beige tumbled stone tile in the bathrooms.

This is where a renovation light comes in—rather than gutting your kitchen, you could paint the cabinets a trendy gray, refinish the floors in a gray neutral tone, and replace the track lighting with modern pendant lights. 

Replacing outdated backsplashes or shower tile can also make a big difference to updating a look. Other easy fixes are replacing built-in light fixtures and cabinet hardware. The look today is more minimalist and streamlined than it was 10 years ago, and the colors have switched from beige undertones to decidedly gray ones.

In the past few years, many agents have noted that homes with semi-dated finishes are taking longer to sell. These homes aren’t fixer-upper homes at bargain prices that require sweat equity, but they’re not quite what buyers are looking for in a certain price point. In fact, few buyers today are looking to put much work into a new house, preferring a home that is move-in ready. This is particularly true of younger buyers, but older generations are also tired of serious renovations and want to move in and move on. 

Some trends that date your home: Tuscan-style kitchens, travertine tile, pickled or glazed cabinets, brass or brushed nickel finishes, and even granite countertops (instead consider marble, soapstone, Corian, quartz, recycled glass or even concrete).

A good realtor will be able to tell you some easy fixes to bring your home into the 21st century and get it sold quickly. Here at Gracik-Makinney, we offer tips to all our sellers on ways to declutter and stage your home. But if you’re eyeing light maple cabinets and tumbled marble tile, you might want to consider a “renovation light.”

To find out more about what helps a home sell in your price point, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit our website, www.gmregroup.com.

What does the new tax reform mean for homeowners?

by Thomas Makinney

It might be hard to remember with all that’s been going on in the past month, but as of Jan. 1, a new tax policy goes into effect. Many of us will not see many changes until we file their taxes in 2019, but the tax laws could not only impact our paycheck (for better or worse) they also have the potential to significantly alter home ownership incentives.

We can’t speak for individual paychecks, but as far as how the tax policies relate to real estate, we can offer a few insights.

  1. Reduced cap on mortgage interest deduction.

What it is: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced the limit for mortgage interest rate deduction for new loans to $750,000, starting Dec. 15, 2017. Loans that were taken before this date are grandfathered into the previous tax policy, which featured a $1 million cap on the deduction.

What it means: Homeowners who want to refinance their existing mortgage can do so up to $1 million and still be able to deduct the interest, however, the new loan cannot exceed the amount of debt being refinanced. Nationwide, this should only affect 1.3% of all mortgages, however, high-priced housing areas will feel the impact.

  1. New limits for state and local tax deductions.

What it is: While homeowners previously had an unlimited itemized deduction amount, under the new bill, they can only itemize deductions up to $10,000 for the total state and local property taxes and income or sales taxes. The cap is the same for both individual and married filers.

What it means: Households that itemize deductions and pay more than $10,000 in combined state and local taxes will get a smaller tax break, and for others, having a cap on deductions may be the deciding factor for some as to whether or not to itemize.

  1. Capital gains time frame excluded.

What it is: The previous capital gains tax policy, which stated that homeowners must live in the home for two out of the past five years in order to qualify for the exclusion, remains unchanged.

What it means: Sellers who live in their homes between two and five years can list their homes on a more flexible schedule without fear of a potentially hefty tax hit. (An original Senate bill had proposed an increase in the residency requirement to five years out of the past eight, but it did not make the final version.)

  1. Home equity loan deductions qualified.

What it is: Taxpayers will no longer be able to deduct interest paid on home equity loans beginning in 2018. Previously, there was a cap of $100,000 of home equity debt.

What it means: By taking away a low-cost financing option, many worry that owners will end up paying more for their loans, which could impact the home ownership rate make it more difficult for struggling communities to reinvent themselves. This shouldn’t impact the rate of home ownership but may affect home renovations.

  1. Standard deduction doubled.

What it is: The standard deduction for both single taxpayers and married couples filing separately used to be $6,350; that is being doubled under the new law to $12,000. Married couples filing jointly will see their previous deduction of $12,700 increase to $24,000.

What it means: This increase will most likely impact how many homeowners take advantage of their mortgage interest deduction. With a larger standard deduction and a decreased itemized deduction, many filers will no longer find it financially advantageous to itemize deductions. Under the current tax code, itemizing and claiming the mortgage interest deduction is financially worthwhile for about 44% of homeowners. Under the new law, itemizing and claiming the mortgage interest deduction will only be worthwhile for about 14.4% of homes nationwide.

Of course, it’s much to soon to tell how these new tax codes will affect anyone. According to research in the Wall Street Journal, it appears that taxpayers in high-cost areas (such as New York, San Francisco, Honolulu, and even Chicago) will feel much of the impact, and high-tax burdened markets will most likely receive a higher tax bill with the new limit. Low-tax states, however, may benefit from the new code.

Many thanks to RISMedia, realtor.com, and Zillow Research for the insight and analysis that contributed to this post. And many thanks to our CPA who proofed the piece for accuracy. 

If you have questions about the new tax code, and particularly how it will affect the Elmhurst housing market, please reach out to us. We’re here to help! Call (630) 441-5570 or visit www.gmregroup.com

Villa Park named one of best places to live in the U.S.

by Thomas Makinney

Our next-door neighbor Villa Park is getting some national recognition! Money Magazine recently released its ranking of the top 100 communities in the country, and Villa Park came in at number 28.

The magazine looked for spots that offered “a healthy economy, affordable homes, and a high quality of life.”

Villa Park was cited for its low unemployment, incomes that are among the highest in the state, and low housing prices.

Locals enjoy Sugar Creek Golf Course, a nine-hole golf course, along with running, cycling, and biking on a beautiful stretch of the Prairie Path. There are also numerous neighborhood shops and restaurants.

The town currently has 22,000 residents and boasts a diverse ethnic population. The magazine examined eight categories and evaluated 2,400 cities and towns with populations between 10,000 and 100,000. Criteria included cost of living, economy, education, housing, crime, amenities, and ease of living.

Villa Park was incorporated in 1914 and was famous for its Ovaltine chocolate factory.

Other Illinois towns that made the top 100 include Schaumburg (9th), Wheaton (27th) and Des Plaines (35th).

Fishers, Indiana was ranked the top city, followed by Allen, Texas; Monterey Park, California, Franklin, Tennessee; Olive Branch, Mississippi, Dickinson, North Dakota; Lone Tree, Colorado; and North Arlington, New Jersey.

Congratulations to Villa Park! For more information about life in Villa Park or in Elmhurst, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit our website, www.gmregroup.com

Chicago named one of top creative cities in U.S.

by Thomas Makinney

If you appreciate the creative flair of Chicago, you’re not alone. Chicago was named one of the top 25 most creative cities in the U.S. in a recent survey using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s probably no surprise to anyone living in Chicagoland. And Elmhurst residents are perfectly positioned to take advantage of all that the city has to offer: We’re only 12 miles from the Loop, with train service and highways easily linking us to a myriad of venues, schools, and jobs.

The study, compiled by RIS Media, defined creativity as original work within four factors: the person, the process, the environment, and the created product. Data was categorized into four metrics: creative jobs, creative schools, performing arts companies, and motion picture and video companies.New York City took top place as the most creative city in the country. Although the city didn’t win top seat in any of the specific categories, its overall scores reflected its combination of jobs, schools, venues, and opportunities for creative types. Other top five cities include San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis (yes, really.) Chicago ranked in 15th place.

Los Angeles rated highest for city with the most creative jobs. Not surprising considering it has the most artists and film-related jobs than any other city per capita. San Francisco ranked at the top of the list for having the most creative schools. Chicago placed a solid #15 on the creative schools list, ranking above Los Angeles and Miami.

Nashville is home to more performing arts companies per capita than anywhere else in the country. In fact, it has almost double the amount of the second highest city, San Francisco.  Not surprisingly, Chicago scored high on this list, ranking above New Orleans, Boston, and Washington.

As expected, Los Angeles was found to have the most motion picture and video companies per capita (approximately 6,000 in all), followed by San Francisco and New York. But what might be surprising is that St. Louis came at the top of the pack in fourth.

One of the aspects of Elmhurst that we love most is how easy it is to access the variety of offerings that Chicago has to offer. And our excellent schools and parks make Elmhurst the perfect complement to city living.

To find out more about all that Elmhurst has to offer, call us at 630-441-5570 or visit www.gmregroup.com

Millennials sticking with realtors when buying a home

by Thomas Makinney

Millennials are quickly heading into the real estate scene, with an impressive 56% planning to purchase a home in the next two years. (For more on this, see our previous post.)

But contrary to their heavy online presence, they remain decidedly traditional when it comes to buying a home. A recent survey found that 75% of millennials would rather work with a local real estate agent than use an online one, and 71% would choose a local mortgage lender rather than going through a website.

This shouldn’t be surprising, despite the proliferation of online services. As any homeowner knows, buying your first home can be overwhelming and daunting. And no website can provide the experience and expertise (and yes, peace of mind) that a real person can.

We like to joke that our job is half real estate agent and half therapist, but it’s true that buying and selling a home is an intensely personal and often emotional experience. And we don’t see that ever changing.

Of course, the internet plays an important part in anyone’s real estate transaction these days. It’s an invaluable resource for researching neighborhoods and a town’s amenities and schools.  However, when it comes to actually making a decision or working out financing, a personal touch is irreplaceable.

The best way to find a realtor is through referrals, and we have loads of happy clients. If you want to find out more about the full range of services we provide (including hand-holding), call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit our website, www.gmregroup.com

Millenials starting to embrace home ownership

by Thomas Makinney

It’s the beginning of a new era as millennials emerge onto the home buying scene. This group, roughly comprised of 28-35 year olds, is getting older and wealthier and is increasingly seeing real estate as a sound investment option.

But in true younger-generation style, their tastes and preferences are different from those of other eras.

Many want to live somewhere with a more urban feel, even if they’re not in an actual urban area. They’re less likely to want or need parking, and instead are drawn to public transportation and ride-sharing services. They also value a neighborhood feel and a sense of community when considering location.

This is good news for Elmhurst, which is right on the Metra line and offers an abundance of housing options, both multi-unit and single family, near transportation, restaurants, and shopping. In fact, we’re the perfect fit for millenials who want to get out of the actual city but may not be ready to commit to a large riding lawn mower.

In addition to the newer condos and townhouses encircling downtown, Elmhurst still has a wide variety of homes in the entry-level price range. And our excellent schools and parks (to say nothing of the numerous fitness clubs) make Elmhurst the perfect landing spot for millennial buyers.

Of course, interest rates are rising, which could impact how many millenials will be able to buy. After an initial rate hike in December, sales for that age group dipped, even though the rates remain at historic lows.

The reality is, however, that inventory for first-time homebuyers is also at a low point. And with the Federal Reserve indicating a possibility of two or three more hikes in 2017, millenials are expected to overcome their financial jitters and remain a force.

For more information about what it takes to purchase a home or condo, give us a call at (630) 441-5570 or visit our website, www.gmregroup.com. We’re always available to talk Elmhurst real estate!


Despite the influx of internet articles and do-it-yourself books on selling a home, the real estate industry is not only thriving but booming. And with good reason: A real estate agent is still one of the best investments you can make when you choose to buy or sell a home. 

If you’re wondering how a good agent adds value to your process, read on:

Experience – Not only are realtors educated on the many complicated aspects of real estate transactions, but chances are they’ve experienced some of the unusual scenarios even the most seemingly simple transaction. Buying and selling property can involve bullying tactics, bidding wars, counteroffers, all-cash offers, and tight competition. Realtors know how to handle these situations without losing their cool.

Neutrality – Sometimes a buyer falls in love with a house that is overpriced or needs more work than they realize, or they fail to explore possibilities outside of their comfort zone. Similarly, some sellers hold out too long for a higher offer or are afraid to disclose something about the house. A realtor is a neutral party who can help clients navigate the often tricky line between expectations and reality.

Neighborhood Knowledge – One of the biggest mistakes that Sell-By-Owners make is to overvalue the worth of their home, leading to extra days on the market and more money spent. A good realtor will be able to recommend a listing price for your home competitively so that you get the most money and sell quickly. Similarly they’ll be able to tell you if a home you’re interested in purchasing is priced competitively for the neighborhood. And they usually know about homes not yet on the market or ones that aren’t being actively marketed, very helpful if you’ve honed in on a specific neighborhood.

Selling tips – Buyers often make their decisions within minutes of first seeing a home. For sellers, this means they need to do everything they can to make a good impression. Real estate agents can help sellers determine what work should (or shouldn’t) be done to their house before putting it on the market. Not sure if granite counters or real hardwood floors are worth it? Want to keep photos of kids and grandparents on the wall? A realtor can give suggestions, offer resources, and hire a professional photographer so that your home looks bright and inviting when buyers view it on the web.

Buying tips – A real estate agent can walk buyers through costs and issues to turn a home into a dream home. They’ll be able to estimate the cost involved with a new roof or knocking down a wall or re-doing a kitchen. They can also tell you local variances that would affect putting up a fence or raising chickens in your backyard.

Vendor recommendations – Most realtors have a handy list of service providers they have experience with and recommend. They can’t tell you whom to choose, but if you need a home inspector, general contractor, electrician, etc, chances are they have a list of names and companies along with some background to help you choose.

Legal paperwork – Real estate transactions today typically run ten-plus pages, and that’s not including the federal- and state-mandated disclosures. Someone with experience in the industry can make sure that the contract works in your best interest and that you are fully aware of everything you are signing.

And remember, realtors are dependent on referrals in order to make a living. It’s in their best interest to have a good relationship with their buyer or seller in order to get glowing recommendations for the next transaction that comes their way.

At Gracik-Makinney, we have a combined 40-plus years of experience helping buyers find their dream home, and sellers receive top dollar on theirs. Reach out to us for a free consultation or for more information, (630) 441-5570 or www.gmregroup.com

Chicago’s tech boom great news for Elmhurst market

by Thomas Makinney

Good news for Elmhurst’s housing market: Chicago has been named THE top city in the U.S. poised for tech boom. Why does this benefit the Elmhurst market? Located only 15 miles from the city and right on the Metra line, Elmhurst makes the perfect hometown for people in the tech job market who want to live in the suburbs.

According to RIS Media, cities with jobs in growing fields draw incoming residents in drove, with tech being the current in-demand industry.

Chicago was ranked number one in cities likely to experience large growth in the tech job sector, according to the survey, conducted by Modis, an IT staffing services provider. In fact, Chicago is more likely to attract young professionals who have worked in technology for five years or less than any other city. This is even better news for the Elmhurst market, as young professionals are the most likely to move to the suburbs to raise a family.

The survey ranks the top five markets for technology jobs as:

  1. Chicago
  2. Houston
  3. Boston
  4. Denver
  5. Philadelphia

Elmhurst offers easy access to the city via train or car and our vibrant downtown and excellent school system make it a natural landing place for people who live in the city.

Let us know if you want to talk more about the allure of our city and its great location. Call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit our website, www.gmregroup.com

Home Improvements That Offer The Most Value

by Thomas Makinney


Thinking of doing a remodel or upgrading a room? It’s no surprise that some projects are more lucrative than others when it comes to selling your home.

While you know best what your home really needs, it’s helpful to keep in mind which projects give you the best return on your investment. Is it better to do a minor kitchen remodel or go all out with a major remodel? Will you recoup the cost of a deck when you go to sell?

Remodeling Magazine just released their Cost Vs. Value Report for 2017 and tracked 24 projects that that offer the highest and the lowest value when you go to sell your home. They looked at 99 markets nationwide and checked out the average cost of popular remodeling projects with their average value at resale one year later.

Just to note, curb appeal projects continue to garner a higher ROI than work done inside the home. So changing out the front door, replacing windows, and updating siding are better bets investment-wise than remodeling the interior.

Top 5 projects with greatest ROI in the “midrange” cost category nationwide:

  1. Attic Insulation (Fiberglass) (107.7% ROI)
    Average Cost: $1,343
    Average Resale Value: $1,446
  2. Entry Door Replacement (steel) (90.7% ROI)
    Average Cost: $1,413
    Average Resale Value: $1,282
  3. Manufactured Stone Veneer (89.4% ROI)
    Average Cost: $7,851
    Average Resale Value: $7,019
  4. Minor Kitchen Remodel (80.2% ROI)
    Average Cost: $20,830
    Average Resale Value: $16,699
  5.  Garage Door Replacement (76.9% ROI)
    Average Cost: $1,749
    Average Resale Value: $1,345

Top 5 projects with greatest ROI in “upscale” cost category nationwide:

  1. Garage Door Replacement (85.0% ROI)
    Average Cost: $3,304
    Average Resale Value: $2,810
  2. Entry Door Replacement (fiberglass) (77.8% ROI)
    Average Cost: $3,276
    Average Resale Value: $2,550
  3. Window Replacement (vinyl) (73.9% ROI)
    Average Cost: $15,282
    Average Resale Value: $11,286
  4. Window Replacement (wood) (73.0% ROI)
    Average Cost: $18,759
    Average Resale Value: $13,691
  5.  Grand Entrance (fiberglass) (70.1% ROI)
    Average Cost: $8,358
    Average Resale Value: $5,855

Top 5 projects with the lowest ROI in the “midrange” cost category nationally:

  1. Bathroom Remodel (64.8% ROI)
    Average Cost: $18,546
    Average Resale Value: $12,024
  2. Master Suite Addition (64.8% ROI)
    Average Cost: $119,533
    Average Resale Value: $77,506
  3.  Backyard Patio (54.9% ROI)
    Average Cost: $51,985
    Average Resale Value: $28,546
  4.  Backup Power Generator (54.0% ROI)
    Average Cost: $12,860
    Average Resale Value: $6,940
  5.  Bathroom Addition (53.9% ROI)
    Average Cost: $43,232
    Average Resale Value: $23,283

Top 5 projects with the lowest ROI in the “upscale” cost category nationally:

  1. Major Kitchen Remodel (61.9% ROI)
    Average Cost: $122,991
    Average Resale Value: $76,149
  2. Master Suite Addition (59.9% ROI)
    Average Cost: $250,687
    Average Resale Value: $150,140
  3. Bathroom Remodel (59.1% ROI)
    Average Cost: $59,979
    Average Resale Value: $35,456
  4. Bathroom Addition (57.1% ROI)
    Average Cost: $81,515
    Average Resale Value: $46,507
  5. Deck Addition (composite) (56.4% ROI)
    Average Cost: $39,339
    Average Resale Value: $22,171

We find that these statistics hold true for Elmhurst too, with the best investment returns from mid-range kitchen and bath remodels. Elmhurst homes also get a high ROI from mid-range finished basements and tear-off roofs.

If you’re considering doing a remodel or an addition, check with us first. We’re happy to advise you on ROI value for homes in Elmhurst. Call us at (630) 441-5570 or contact us via our website www.gmregroup.com.

@properties receives 2016 Merrick Momentum Award

by Thomas Makinney

 

We’re proud of what we do here at @properties, and it’s always gratifying when others recognize the hard work and innovation that we bring to the real estate world.

So we are both humbled and honored to be the winner of the 2016 Merrick Momentum Award from the Chicago Entrepreneurial Center and 1871 Chicago. The award celebrates entrepreneurs and recognizes innovators in Chicago’s tech community. Other finalists included SpotHero, Uptake, Learnmetrics, Rise Interactive, and Caremerge.

The Merrick Momentum Award is bestowed annually to a local company that shows momentum and is on track to be one of the next great companies to emerge from Chicago. Past recipients of the award include Avant, kCura, Braintree, GrubHub, Eved, and SAVVO among others.

@properties was established in 2000 and is already the largest independent real estate brokerage firm in Illinois, and one of the top 12 residential brokers in the U.S. We are locally owned and independent, and offer award-winning sales and marketing, industry-leading technology, and experienced, innovative brokers.

The awards were presented on Oct. 6 at the Radisson Blue Aqua Hotel in Chicago. Other honorees include Civis Analytics, which received the 2016 Merrick “Rising Star” Award; Comcast , which received the 2016 Corporate Champion Award; Impact Engine, which received the Chicagoness Award; and Jai Shekhawat, with the Entrepreneurial Champion Award.

To learn more about the award, visit the 1871 website. To learn more about our level of service and how we leverage our technology to guide you through the process of finding or selling a home, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit us at www.gmregroup.com

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